Friday, September 30, 2011

South Africa kow-tows to China; Zambia warns China

What is it that the ANC does not get?  This week, Desmond Tutu decried, yet again, the government's refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, for fear of angering China.  China needs South Africa's mineral riches and its place as the most strongest economy in Africa.  You would think this would give the ANC a negotiating advantage.

With a change in leadership in Zambia, the Chinese are being put on notice to do a better job with workplace conditions and hiring Zambians rather than bringing in Chinese workers.  President Sata has been so critical of China in the past, that the Chinese had threatened to pull out of Zambia if he were to be elected.  Let's hope that his leadership on this issue will give some backbone to other leaders in developing economies in their demands that the Chinese act more ethically and with greater integrity in their economic/resource development policies.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Job creation in the 'other' sector

With all the talk of bankers sitting on piles of cash, employers squeezing out the last ounce of productivity in order to avoid hiring new workers as that would mean paying more in benefits, here is a story of niche-filling, job creating, seeing a need and filling it.  An article in a recent issue of the Weekend FT tells of a high powered business woman whose wardrobes (she has many homes and many closets) so overwhelmed her due to her travel schedule and very important events that she created a service that stores, barcodes (so you can see what clothes you have in storage) your clothing, alters, shops, and even delivers via personal jet whatever items you may need for whatever event you are attending in whatever part of the world.  This business is called Vault Couture.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Moon Rise over Astotin Lake

The posts below had photos of the beauty of the sunset at Astotin Lake, Edmonton, Alberta.  No less fabulous is the moon rise.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Edmonton Highlights

Edmonton is a city in flux.  There are a few older buildings which reference the city's past as a frontier town and legislative centre of Alberta.  There is also much evidence of the Alberta oil boom: construction and supplies businesses, plenty of buildings recently and currently under construction.  Like many western cities, the blocks are large, many are empty, the streets are broad:  very little of the city seems of pedestrian scale.  The University of Alberta has a few older buildings, but most are built since the 1960's.  One of the newer buildings on campus is a centre for foreign students: a block long, four story structure that contains housing and all services a student might need.  See photo below.
HUB Building on U of A Campus, Edmonton
The Art Gallery of Alberta is another new building of interest.  Those in Seattle might describe it as a successful version of the EMP mess!  The main exhibit on the Conceptual movement in Canada was as ho-hum as the movement itself.  The new exhibit, Up North, however, was a fantastic multi-media installation.
Edmonton is also the home of the West Edmonton Mall, self-described as the largest indoor mall in the world.  The sensory overload of so much muzak, canned scents, and white lights is overwhelming.  The mall contains theme parks, hotel and conference centre (in the European Quarter), a Chinatown (see photo below) that is mostly a grocery store (resembles Uwajimaya in Seattle) where Asians actually do shop, an ice skating rink, and mostly international brand name stores of the "aspirational" variety.

On to things of a more organic and human scale nature.  There are several successful farmers' markets in Edmonton; we visited the oldest.  Great fruits and vegetables, crafts, baked goods, and excellent people watching.

Alberta is home to a large Ukrainian community, going back to the late 1800's.  The Ukranian Harvest Festival is housed in a replica of an Albertan Ukrainian village.  The various buildings are originals, replete with great furnishings and household items, that have been moved to this location, which also features demonstration wheat fields, farm animals, etc.

Near the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is the Elk Island National Park, home to woods buffaloes and plains buffaloes.    There are camping, hiking, picnicking, and driving opportunities amongst the buffalo.

Other wildlife opportunities are to be found in Edmonton:  jackrabbits are found on people's front lawns!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Observations Along the Road: Seattle to Edmonton and Back

The route and major stops:  Seattle - Colville - Kalispell - Glacier National Park - Waterton-Glacier - Fort McLeod/Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump - Calgary - Edmonton - Jasper - Osoyoos - Seattle.  This trip was about 2400 miles in ten days with 4 nights in Edmonton.  The beauty of the North Cascades Highway, the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, the weirdness of rural Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia , and the strangeness of urban Edmonton, all in all made for an interesting swing through the West and Pacific Northwest.

Here are some notes I made along the way:
 The Mountain Pine Beetle seems to be marching across the Cascades, is in evidence throughout Glacier, and in parts along  Blewett Pass, WA.  If the dead trees we saw were not the result of the beetle, then something else is causing huge swathes of trees to look grey and dead. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see grey trees.
Glacier National Park

The orchards of gala apples in the Okanogen valley were plentiful and beautiful.
There is plenty of evidence that Omak, WA is anti-government country.
From Colville to Usk to Newport (the latter two places are also in Wales!) the hay was looking good.  Washington hay is highly prized, especially in Japan.
Somewhere between the middle-of-nowhere Washington and the middle-of-nowhere Idaho, we saw a drive-through convenience store!
Driving through the magnificent beauty of Alberta, all I could think about was the Rape of the Athabasca Oil Sands and the Plundering of the Arctic Tundra.

In Jasper, the mountains are so steep, the pine trees have had a tough time taking hold:  they were marching up the slopes one tree at a time.  See photo below.

We had the opportunity of staying at the Observatory B&B in Osoyoos, BC and having a tutorial on the night sky as seen through a 16" telescope.  The most beautiful sight was a close-up of the moon at night and the sun in the morning.  Below is the photo taken by Jack Newton of the sun and seen by us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A good holiday read

Sunflower (Virago Modern Classics)Sunflower by Rebecca West

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was written in the mid-1920's and published posthumously in 1986.  It is pure Rebecca West in acerbity and incisive observation.  It is clearly written out of incredible frustration caused by her relationship with H.G.Wells.  It is equally frustrating for the reader, because the work was never finished and her description of the protagonist (herself but the opposite of her) is so harsh.   As social commentary, it is interesting and damning.  Well worth reading.