Archive for September, 2006

Currently I am living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My apartment is in a high-rise on the north side of the North Commons, which is a huge flat field. It was designated an emergency gathering area soon after the Halifax Explosion, and the construction of permanent structures was effectively forbidden up to today. So we have a large open space within the centre of the largest city in Atlantic Canada. Hmm.

So local entrepreneurs organised a concert featuring the Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Kanye West, and Sloan. It was to be held on Saturday, September 23, 2006. Tickets were advertised at about $100 for entrance, about $300 dollars for VIP seating (bleachers), and about $500 for seating in the stage wings. To me, the concert was a potential problem. Outside my front door and across the street, the largest rock concert in Nova Scotia history was to be held, with upwards of 60,000 people attending. On the first day of ticket sales, 35,000 were sold, making me wonder if 60,000 was a conservative estimate.

What would it be like in my building, which has a great view of the commons from the upper southeast-facing balconies (I’m on the north side, so no luck there)? What would happen to the Commons? What would traffic be like, and what would the crowds be doing? While I like some of the music, I dreaded the potential disruption. I decided it might be time to get out of Dodge.

I decided to stay away from home on Saturday, and to either rent a car and play tourist, coming back to Halifax after midnight, or to do something else.

The weekend before, I had three successive night shifts, ending 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. When I got home, I saw the first activity out on the Commons. It looked really surreal and interesting against the lights and the low cloud overhead, so I grabbed my camera and took a look around. This is what I saw.

Stage 0
Click Image For Slideshow

Then I went to bed and woke up in the afternoon.
That evening drizzle and fog moved in, and during my sleep the Stones’ work crews had been busy. There was a giant structure rising through the mists, tents were appearing, fences were going up, and port-a-potties were sprouting like mushrooms. I went back out, and in between constant wiping of my camera and the lens, and trying to aim away from the drizzle, managed to get some surreal views of the site.

Stone Henge
Click Image For Slideshow

Wednesday I was busy, but on Thursday night I went for another stroll to see what the Rock trolls had accomplished. This night was cold and clear, with a strong breeze blowing to add that little extra edge to the experience. A lot had been accomplished. All the bleachers were up, they had started adding the panels to the stage frame, and a lot of the fences and barriers had been put into place. Security had tightened up, but a bit of politeness and a willingness to talk to young, bored, lonely and cold guards went a long way. Finally, all 500 port-a-potties were in place for the 50-60,000 spectators; you do the math. In about 48 hours the Rolling Stones would walk on stage.

Thursday Night-09
Click Image For Slideshow

I’d started to get interested, but the Wednesday and Thursday forecasts had rain for Saturday, and the weather guidance seemed pretty consistent on this point. So I decided to rent a car on Friday. After getting the vehicle, I dropped over to the Commons after school to have a look around. Things were really rolling, and the stage was looking almost complete. The local merchants were moving in, and the number of gawkers had increased a hundredfold.

Backstage T-24 hours
Click Image For Slideshow

That night when I walked in the front door, I noticed lights over by the stage, and some spectators with cameras. I went upstairs, grabbed my camera and tripod, and went across the street. They were testing the light show on the stage. So I set up and started going click-click-click. A few of us started gabbing, and I met Sean O’Brien from Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. We had a grand yarn about mutual acquaintances, the weather back home, and the new school system. After taking way too many pictures of rapidly flashing lights, we all headed off.

Testing the Lights-05
Click Image For Slideshow

Saturday morning dawned sunny with increasing cloud. There were a couple of dozen people at the gates already, waiting to get to the front near the stage. One gentleman had camped out there the previous night, until security told him to go home at 4 a.m.; he was back at eight. The itinerary was that the gates would open at one, Sloan would start around 4:30 p.m. followed by Kanye West and Alice Cooper, followed by the Stones around 9 p.m. The show would end around eleven, but then the bars in town would stay open until 4:30 a.m. the next morning. Major party time.

Morning Before the Storm
Anticipation and optimism over the weather.

The ONLY Port-a-potty Not at the Rolling Stones Concert
The Only Port-a-Pottie missed by The Rolling Stones Concert.

For most of that day I wandered around west of Halifax, and came back near sundown. It had started raining and drizzling that afternoon, and when I arrived in town it was fairly miserable and the wind had picked up, but it was still warm. I went to Dartmouth to take a picture of Halifax across the harbour, to show what the weather was like. I could hear the singing from 2 km away . Then I wandered over to the Northwest Arm, and from the Armdale Yacht club, through heavy fog and drizzle, I could see the spotlights.

Listening to the Concert From Dartmouth
The weather has deteriorated somewhat but the music was fairly clear from 2 km away.

Seiing the Concert Lights From the Northwest Arm
The spotlights as seen from the Northwest Arm, about 2 km away through the mist and rain.

Anyway, that evening at about 10:20 p.m. I decided to try to get my car back to the apartment before the concert ended. I missed seeing the end by about five minutes (the Stones started early to allow the audience to get out of the rain early), and had no trouble getting back to my parking space. Then I looked out the front door and watched about 50,000 people soaked to the skin, muddy to the knees, and wearing everything from t-shirts to garbage bags to full Gore-tex; but most people had huge grins, you could feel the adrenaline, and the happiness was contagious. Maybe I should have watched it; but I had enjoyed my day in a different way than them, and 10 hours inside the Commons with about 7 hours of rain to make thing interesting would be better for someone younger.

My Front Door
Homecoming from the concert, wet, windy, and wildly ecstatic

Morning After
Remains of the day. Many people weren’t ready for the weather, and entrepreneurs took advantage of it.

Within 24 hours the giant stage was on the 78 trucks, and the 100 workers were making their way to the next gig. In the next day or two the local people removed the fences, bleachers, tents, and the port-a-potties. Part of the Commons is mud, but a lot of it is still grass and not much the worse for wear. If they do it again with U2 or Dire Straits I’ll probably try it.
Sunday morning. Check out the people on the high steel.

Almost Done
Sunday evening, and the Stones and their stage are gone.


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A Little Trivia

Wisdom recently revealed to me in fortune cookies of especial provenance. Peruse these profundities at your leisure

  • Hawaii has 3 Insterstate Highways (think about it).
  • Bimonthly can mean 1) every other month, and 2) twice a month.
  • In Saudi Arabia, there are solar-powered payphones in the desert.
  • Do you know how long it takes for the Earth to go around the Sun? 46% of Americans don’t.
  • Worldwide, Christmas has been celebrated 135 days out of the year (we’re being short-changed on holidays).
  • Mosquitoes hibernate (Damn it!)
  • World’s best selling cookie: Oreo.
  • Top five causes of home accidents: stairs,  glass doors,  cutlery,  jars, power tools (in that order)

P.S. Sorry, I’m a little wonky today.

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Today at sundown I gave my 77th blood donation (hence the title, ;-)). I’ve been doing this off and on since I was 17, and I have never regretted it. First, I’m lucky in that it never seems to affect me much. Second, my blood type is O negative, which is an incentive to give since it makes me a universal donor. Third, I am CMV negative; this is a virus that most children get before they are five, and most adults carry the antibodies for. However, when young children or people with immune deficiencies need blood, they often need people without CMV, like yours truly. So I know that my blood is appreciated, and that I am making a difference to others, especially with the shrinking numbers of blood donors these days.

There are also some personal benefits. I lose 585 grams every 8 weeks (at least until I drink a bit of water), my blood pressure goes down, and if I drank alcohol it would make me a cheap drunk! The other major bonus, and almost pre-eminent in my thought, are the Oreo cookies and other sweet snacks offered to the willing victims.

I have never had a problem with the procedures, and the donations have been relatively painless. There is one minor ouch when they prick your finger to get a drop of blood that they test for iron deficiencies; then there is a second lesser ouch when they insert the main needle for the donation. The only downside is having to read about AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis, SARS, and the West Nile Virus every time I donate. They also ask you questions about illnesses, possible situations where your blood could be affected (unprotected sex, living in or visiting certain countries, etc), and your general health. Finally they keep refining the procedures to ensure even more safety.

Anyway, I am looking forward to a good hefty supper without any guilt. Ah, when you give you get back a thousandfold (I wish)!

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From September 23-30 is Banned Book Week. I’m going to read either a Banned or Challenged book this week, and I invite you to join in. This type of censorship has annoyed and aggravated me since I was twelve, and anything to fight this movement is a step towards enlightenment.

Here are some of my favourite selections from this genre. Let’s start with the 2005 American Library Association’s List of Banned Books. From the top ten, the only one I have read is J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In my own defense many of the others are children’s books from after my time. From those off the list this year but perennially listed I own and have read Of Mice and Men and Huckleberry Finn. The latter is my favourite anti-slavery, anti-racism, and anti-prejudice book of all time; Twain is brilliant, insightful, feeling, and supremely sarcastic.

The American Booksellers for free Expression (ABFFE) have put out a list. From this list I recommend:

  • I know Why the Caged Bird Sang by Maya Angelou
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (they banned THIS?!)
  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  • The Color Purple
  • Jean Aul’s Earth Series: I found it okay but not great, but I don’t think it should have been banned.
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle; another great favourite of mine. I found it to be one of the most inclusive, non-sectarian, and non-threatening expression of faith and hope I have ever read. So some groups banned it for not expressing their exclusive and rigid beliefs. You can’t win, but L’Engle’s book is an affirmation of why we keep trying.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Growl!)
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Why?)
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Sometimes I think the banned list gives a good idea of books you should choose. Given the important classics above, I can almost justify this statement.

If you choose to partake in a good banned book this week, enjoy!


I found my book. It is Beloved by Toni Morrison. She is a Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and the book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Of course it would be banned!

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Further to the post of yesterday, I recently noticed two discussions that add some other useful insights and information, mixed in among some fairly creative theorising.

The first is from the Sir Robert Bond Papers, and is called Monkey Tossing for England. It is fairly insightful and the author’s access to useful information is great, albeit expected from his career. The title was also an eye-catcher. Part of the discussion revolves around provincial versus federal responsibility for environmental cleanup and an indemnity for Inco’s possible future contamination of the work site chosen; it seems Ottawa is responsible for the cleanup in Argentia from the American military base and is currently working on it, while Newfoundland and Labrador is responsible for the cleanup in Long Harbour from the Erco phosphorus plant. He also addresses Inco’s reasons for wanting the move to Long Harbour, and indicates the sensibility of them. Hollett also believes there will be benefits for both communities, regardless of the choice.

Part of the environmental reason for the move is the safe movement of waste water around ecologically sensitive habitats in Argentia. There is a risk of contamination, then clean up costs and lawsuits. In Long Harbour the tailings area is already contaminated and there is a previously contaminated wastewater pond directly adjacent to the proposed work site. Basically, at Argentia there is a higher chance of harming the environment, while at Long Harbour the damage has been done and there is little chance of it spreading further. There is also some question about the time and effort needed to clean up the worst damage done to the Argentia area from the Americans.

The discussion is the recent article in the Independent, which argues for provincial party politics as possibly being the main impetus, in that Long Harbour is (barely) in a Liberal provincial riding, while Argentia is 33 km away in a PC riding.

Originally Long Harbour and Placentia/Argentia worked together to propose a site in the area, with tax benefits being shared between the communities. Also, both communities will benefit from jobs and other support companies coming into the region to work. Hopefully all this controversy will not give Inco an opportunity to cancel a processing plant in the province. Currently they are committed to a plant somewhere in the province, but if the provincial partners aren’t acting in good faith, maybe there will be an out for Inco?

Personally, I prefer Long Harbour, but at least let’s try to get together on a choice quickly, and try to avoid a three way dispute between us, the feds, and Inco.

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Regarding the Argentia-Long Harbour controversy over the site for the nickel refining facility, I’ve only had a cursory examination of the news, but I tend to support Inco on this. I visited Long Harbour before the phosphorus plant closed in 1989, and the forests for kilometres downwind from town were dead white sticks from the pollution. Also, as with St. Laurence there were a large number of environmental illnesses, including breathing problems. On the other hand, Argentia has more severe toxins in the soil that Inco is afraid may combine with their chemicals, creating pollution lawsuits in amounts they are not willing, or able, to cover. My impression is that the Argentia environmental impacts are potentially much more dangerous than for Long Harbour.

Both areas are heavily polluted, both are in about the same geographical area, both have similar population bases, and both have good ice-free harbours with established docking facilities. Also, as in the time that the phosphorus plant was in Long Harbour and Argentia benefited from it, both communities should benefit to an extent from the new plant. Finally, I think both communities are supposed to get some of the tax benefits from the plant, and they aren’t that far apart..

I have a background in meteorology, and am familiar with the wind climatology for the Avalon Peninsula. Long Harbour pollutants will tend to affect areas to the east to northeast of the harbour. Argentia will do the same, and because it is further south will be slightly more likely to affect Conception Bay and St. John’s. Also, the fact that Inco is scared of what might happen with Argentia’s toxins from the American base make me think that the environmental dangers are worse there (when a company as large as Inco gets worried about pollution liability, so do I). Finally, as a minor point, a significant number of tourists land at Argentia and some look around at the beautiful local scenery before heading to the TCH. Do we want their first view of Newfoundland to be an industrial wasteland?


I also hear that there is speculation that there is a political drive to choose Argentia from the provincial government. It seems that Long Harbour is in a Liberal Riding, while Argentia is Conservative. I am also under the impression that Long Harbour’s riding is more economically depressed, especially since the phosphorus plant pull-out in 1989.

So, primarily for environmental reasons I would argue for Long Harbour. As a second benefit economic benefits would give a better boost to the Long Harbour riding than they would to the riding containing Argentia, which is already better off. And both areas will benefit to some extent from either choice.

This is just an opinion. Other views are welcome.

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I Sit and Think
  I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

Gate of the morning

JRR Tolkien

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