Canadian Geography, eh?

According to a map inlaid in granite on the lobby floor of the new CBC building in Ottawa, Canada, Alaska is part of Canada, and Vancouver is not an island. But wait, according to Art Tallis, the building’s general manager, it doesn’t need fixing, because “‘It’s not a map of Canada, it’s a piece of art. And it’s not just Canada, it’s essentially north of the 49th. Let’s be clear, that this is not a map for people to find their way around the country. That’s not the intent of it.’ He added that the piece was ‘not representative of Canada, per se.’” I think we should buy some geography coloring books and set a play date for him and W… :-p

By the way, I’m not knocking Canada in particular, because according to a recent National Geographic Global Survey, the United States finished next-to-last among nine countries, so any finger-pointing belongs on squarely on the American educational system. Pretty sad, actually…

W Going To England

W is visiting England this week, causing the presence of “more armed men on the streets of London this week than at any time since the end of the Second World War.” Additionally, the Secret Service made other “substantial demands, some of them accepted, but the more outrageous courteously deflected by the Palace.” Some of the more “outrageous” demands included closing all Tube (subway) stations underneath wherever W was travelling and roving Blackhawk helicopters continually patrolling over his destinations. I’m sure that the citizens of London would have welcomed those minor inconveniences, though. 😛

I think that this whole visit, although designed to showcase England’s alliance with the U.S., is doomed to backfire on both fronts. Cost estimates to the English taxpayers alone are running £5 million ($8.5 million); who knows how much this trip is costing Americans? W isn’t even going to address Parliament as his predecessors (“including Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Francois Mitterand”) have done in the past for fear that he might get heckled again. I’m not certain I see any benefit to his going over there just for some photo-ops. Take a look at the Metafilter thread for some more rants…

I think that these people definitely have the right idea: Bare Your Bum at Bush!

Church and Beer, Part Deux

Since we are talking about places of worship and Brewing, why not take this opportunity to join the Beer Church? The tenets of their faith seem simple.

As a unified association of beer drinkers our potential to affect positive social change is enormous. Be kind and giving, love one another, care about one another, and help one another. Use beer as a way to do those things. That’s what Beer Church wants to do.

“The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know”

Fast Company has a very informative article about the corporate behemoth known as Wal-Mart. Although I knew it was an immense company, I had no idea that “It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.” Wal-Mart’s ostensible goal is to “bring the lowest possible prices to its customers,” and while admirable, this is not a purely philanthropic endeavour; lower prices obviously also mean greater profit to Wal-Mart.

After reading this article, I was somewhat surprised about the tactics that are used in this neverending pursuit of profit. Unfortunately, despite the many restrictions and profit-cutting measures imposed by Wal-Mart on other corporations, “For many suppliers … the only thing worse than doing business with Wal-Mart may be not doing business with Wal-Mart.” The article observes that

In the end, of course, it is we as shoppers who have the power, and who have given that power to Wal-Mart. Part of Wal-Mart’s dominance, part of its insight, and part of its arrogance, is that it presumes to speak for American shoppers.

I think that if more people were made aware of how Wal-Mart wields its allegedly benevolent corporate influence, they might think twice about shopping there. But I’m not holding my breath…

Pittsburgh etc.

Well, I’m back from Pittsburgh, only slightly worse for wear. Two other colleagues and I had to drive up from southern Maryland, so the two 360-some mile drives were a bit tedious, especially considering we took separate vehicles. Still, I made good time each way (go figure), so it wasn’t all that bad. The Oldsmobile Alero I got as a rental did surprisingly well in the hills, so that definitely made the drive more bearable.

The facility where we attended our training courses was a good half an hour south of Pittsburgh proper, so it wasn’t until the last day of class that I got to see any of the city. It was worth the wait, though. Shaft recommended checking out the Pittsburgh Incline Rails that travel up the hills surrrounding the city, and that was definitely a good choice. The view from the top was an expansive, panoramic view of the Pittsburgh skyline and the confluence of the Ohio, Alleghany, and Monongahela Rivers, although (unfortunately) predictably, that kind of view was incompatible with my fear of heights.

Even though I appreciated what a great view I was experiencing, I couldn’t bring myself to get close enough to the overlook to take some pictures, mostly because by the time we got up there it was relatively dark, and pictures meant setting up a tripod, something I was loath to do in my addled state. My friend Chong took some for me, though; once I get the film developed I may post some of the pictures, although I’ll no doubt be extremely disappointed that I couldn’t take them myself. 🙁 Anybody heard of a good way to combat a fear of heights? I know it’s a totally irrational fear, but that makes it all the harder to overcome…

After the Incline, we went to a very cool restaurant/micro brew called The Church Brew Works. The name comes from the fact that an actual church was remodeled to incorporate a brewery and restaurant. Although I felt somewhat blasphemous, I must admit that they did an impressive job of restoring both the interior and exterior architecture. I took some pictures, and once I get those back I’ll try and post those as well. I think that this is the first restaurant I’ve visited that did pyrohy AKA perogies justice, although they still can’t compete with my grandmother’s. :-p Their microbrews were all very good, although the Celestial Gold was my favorite. I of course sampled their pizza, and it was one of the best ones I’ve had in a while. My friends gave high marks to their meals as well, so I can highly recommend it if you’ve haven’t been.

Hopefully I’ll be more into the swing of things this week, but it may take me a day or so to catch up with everything. Thanks again to Shaft and Czar for holding down the fort last week…

Baby Names Gone Awry

I’ve seen my share of unusual, weird, and plain unintelligible names, but a new trend is going to get annoying very quickly. According to psychology professor Cleveland Evans, a significant amount of recent baby names are gaining inspiration from brand names and popular culture. I think it’s horrible that these children will forever be known by names like Infiniti, L’Oreal, ESPN, Timberland, and Courvoisier.

Many of the most popular names are fairly run-of-the-mill, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being a little different can be fun, but there are limits, people! It just bothers me that rather than trying to carry on some kind of family legacy or tradition, people are copping out and naming the newest addition to their family after their favorite liquor or automobile. This should not be a trivial decision, and I bet if they imagined themselves with that kind of horrible name they would rethink their choice…

The Ball is up for auction

The baseball that changed history for the Cubs (or kept history the same way it’s been for 58 years) will be sold at auction with a starting bid of $5000. The money won’t be going to the Cubs’ least popular fan, but to a lawyer sitting near him, who ended up with the Ball. As a side note, Mark McGuire’s 70th home run ball sold for $3 million.