Sunday, November 23, 2008

Margin Notes: Snow, Soldiers, and Sweeteners

The first snow accumulation of the season was noted at Bâby Point Road in Toronto on 20-November-2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I've never been a big fan of early winter. Frankly, I find forests denuded of leaves and a fundamentally brown landscape to be ugly. I'll never forget the first time I took a trip at this time of year outside of Boston, Massachusetts toward Providence, Rhode Island and wondered how people could stand it. So, for me, the early snow accumulation this week in Toronto was a rather pleasant white dusting that remarkably improved the landscape. The scene above in the nearby Bâby Point neighborhood certainly wouldn't have been worth presenting had everything still remained brown like it was last Sunday.

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Just last Sunday I was listening former Member of Parliament Peggy Nash talking about social justice and getting Omar Khadr out of the Guantanamo Bay prison. She made a point of saying that she wasn't certain what she was going to do next and wasn't in a hurry to decide. It didn't take long. By Tuesday, it became public that she will be returning to a $135,000-a-year position as assistant to the president of the Canadian Auto Workers. While I was surprised, it only took me about fifteen seconds to come to the realization that even at that salary, the CAW is getting a bargain--if Nash works as hard for the CAW as she did as MP, they will get more than their money's worth. I really don't understand the anti-NDP outrage that followed--if someone can provide value to an organization, why shouldn't they be paid for it? And, for the record, the first I heard about Nash's new job was from the local NDP Riding Association. They didn't see any need to hide the news.

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Nash probably would have liked an idea put forward by Seattle talk show host Dave Ross. The KIRO-FM commentator stated that the election of Barack Obama should mean that the era of "human labor as a commodity" like soybeans or razor blades would come to an end. Unfortunately, the debate over the fate of the three major North American vehicle manufacturers this week didn't show much sign of such a change.

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A different kind of change was on my mind this week. Many times over the years, I would be going through a roll of quarters from the bank, trying to do my laundry, when I would discover that the reason the machine wouldn't take my coin was that it was a Canadian quarter. For the first time this week, I had the opposite experience--finding a US quarter in a roll of Canadian quarters. Of course, this time I was happy--I had C$0.32 before me at present exchange rates.

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The Monument to the War of 1812 by Douglas Coupland was observed on 22-November-2008

Douglas Coupland, of course, would like to remind everyone why there are two kinds of quarters. I finally found the Monument to the War of 1812 mentioned here two weeks ago at Bathurst and Fleet streets near Fort York yesterday. Interestingly, I saw no way to immediately intuit that the standing soldier was British and the fallen soldier was American, which was supposed to be the controversial nature of the piece. Instead, the use of board game-like soldiers seemed to be sending the message of troops as helpless pawns in a political game.

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Lest that leave a bitter taste in one's mouth, a new, zero-calorie sweetener may be on the way. Chemical and Engineering News has reported that Cargill intends to introduce a natural sweetener called Truvia. A purified form of the Stevia rebaudiana plant grown in Paraguay, it has been used as a sweetener in unpurified form there for hundreds of years, and it has been on the market in Japan for about thirty years. A naturally-derived zero-calorie sweetener? The FDA approval process is ongoing.


w6mpb said...

Stevia has been available here [California] for a long time. Available in many forms from Trader Joe's

Glitch said...

"Stevia" supposedly leaves a somewhat bitter aftertaste. "Truvia" apparently removes the bitter component in the purification process so that it does not. Not having experienced either, I really cannot attest to either.