For the past few days, we’ve basically had fog. That in itself is not so much a problem. However, it can have interesting implications for above ground electrical transmission lines. The buildup of dust and stuff on wires and insulators through the winter months provides ripe conditions for excitement.

Tonight so far, there’s been a power spike that was enough to confuse my desktop computer. I had to hard power it off for about half a minute before it would reboot. It also caused my server colocated at the office to reboot but then it’s not on UPS power, either. At least it rebooted.

Then, about half an hour ago, there was a loud bang and a bright flash of light outside the window. The power didn’t flicker that time. Near as I can tell, the buildup of dust and stuff combined with the fog caused the power lines along McKnight Blvd to short to ground. It looks like it caused the traffic lights at Edmonton Trail to get confused; they’ve switched to flashing red four ways. More worrying, though, is the fact that you can see periodic arcking around the insulators on the power lines. It makes for a pretty show but it does make one wonder just how safe things are.

Well, all we need is a nice heavy rain for a bit to wash everything clean. Too bad it’s March and that’s not likely to happenfor a while.

Back to watching animé now.

Election Day

Canada had an election today (January 23) and the results are mostly in.

Well, as I write this, most of the results are in for the federal election. There was no real surprise in the results. Stephen Harper will be the next Prime Minister with a minority government. It’s not a large minority, though, so things could be a bit dicey.

The polls going in suggested a larger minority, or possibly a slim majority. However, those numbers simply didn’t materialize. This is probably because many of the younger voters simply didn’t bother to vote. I know when I was under 25, I didn’t go out of my way to vote either. This is unfortunate, but it is the way of the world.

Even with the lower than expected numbers, there were encouraging signs. The Conservatives gained seats in Québec, which is significant. It doesn’t look amazing in the overall scheme of things, but it does mean that there is a possibility of more gains next election, whenever that ends up being. Also, we now have a Prime Minister who is not from Québec, which should be a benefit for the rest of Canada. Hopefully, Harper will have enough of a chance to prove himself in the minority government and these gains will grow next time.

Now I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction about when the next election will be. I think we’ll survive 2006. In early 2007, the opposition parties will trump up an issue and they government will be defeated on the 2007 budget. My prediction is that we will have an election in May or June of 2007. My reason for saying that we will survive 2006 is that whichever party spearheads the downfall of the Conservatives will not gain any good will from Canadians. We don’t want another quick election, dammit.

Now that I’ve made my prediction, we’ll see how it stands. I would be happy to be wrong and see the government survive longer. However, it is a minority.


I received a most interesting email message on Thursday. Because I feel that it should be published and also agree with the sentiment, I have decided to reproduce it in its entirety with the exception of the email headers. The message was entitled "commentary — Earth Day — People Progress and Planet" and appears to be from Paul Driessen. Please note that all links were in the original email I received.

Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day. Many will celebrate the extraordinary environmental achievements we have made over the past three decades. But many others will use the occasion to justify gloom-and-doom stories, and demands for still more burdensome regulations that will bring few health or environmental benefits – and may even cause more harm than good.

My commentary this week offers some fresh perspectives on Earth Day – on what we should celebrate and be thankful for, and on the dire situation still faced by billions of people in our world’s poorest countries. It suggests that we focus less on distant, hypothetical dangers of concern to well-off, healthy, well-fed Americans and Europeans and more on the real, immediate, life-or-death dangers faced every day by billions of our less fortunate fellow human beings. In other words, let’s inaugurate an annual “People Day,” and get our priorities straight.

I hope you can use this timely and provocative op-ed.

Permission is hereby granted to translate it, edit it for length or tone or to give it a local perspective, post it to your website, email it to colleagues, or submit it for posting or publication by newspapers, newsletters and other organizations that might have an interest in this important issue – as long as you provide proper credit for the article.

Paul Driessen
Fairfax, VA

People, Progress and Planet – Earth Day 2005

This year, let’s remember that billions still face real, life-threatening dangers

Paul Driessen

Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore says the environmental movement "has lost its objectivity, morality, and humanity." This Earth Day, let us dedicate ourselves to restoring those essential virtues.

When I helped organize the first Earth Day on my college campus in 1970, I never dreamed we’d be celebrating #35 this year, or that we’d come so far in clearning up our environment. But the improvements are remarkable.

Since 1976, airborne sulfur dioxide has been reduced 72% … carbon monoxide 76% … lead 98% — according to the Pacific Research Institute’s annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators. Automobile tailpipe emissions are down 95% from 1975 levels.

About 80% of US community water systems had no violations of health-based EPA standards in 1993. Last year, 95% had no violoations.

For the past five years, our wetlands have increased by 26,000 acres a year — reversing years of decline. We’ve gone from 500 nesting pairs of bald eagles in 1965 to 7500 today, including a half dozen on the river where I grew up, less than a half mile from a big paper mill whose effluents once contaminated the area.

Progress since the "good old days" is even more dramatic. In 1905, average US life expectancy was 47 years; today it’s 78. Few homes had electricity; instead, coal and wood fires created clouds of pollution, and the average home generated 5,000 pounds of wood or coal ash a year.

Over 3 million horses worked in American cities – producing 11 million tons of manure and 9 million gallons of urine annually. Most got left on streets or dumped into rivers; during summers, manure dust was a primary cause of tuberculosis. In New York City alone, crews had to remove 15,000 horse carcasses from streets every year.

The arrival of automobiles changed all that. It also meant we no longer needed vast forage and pasture land for horses, modern farming began increasing production per acre, and we’ve been able to add a million acres of new US forestland annually since 1910.

All is not rosy, of course. For instance, Alaskan stellar sea lion populations continue to decline, though exact causes are unclear. But overall – in sharp contrast to gloomy reports from some activist groups and news media – environmental progress has been steady, not only in the US but throughout the developed world.

So celebrate! Thank an environmental movement that initiated many of these improvements, before it lost its moral compass. Try to separate our true remaining ecological problems from those that are analyzed incorrectly, exaggerated or simply concocted to promote activist agendas.

Most importantly, remember that our remaining problems are relatively minor. Today’s truly serious health and environmental problems are in the poorest countries. That’s where we should focus our attention. That’s why we should have an annual People Day, when we can resolve to address real, immediate, life-or-death problems that threaten poor nations — rather than fixate on minor, distant, fashionable, theoretical problems.

The reality is, impoverished countries have little to celebrate.

Two billion of their people still don’t have electricity. Four in ten Indian families — 150 million households — do not. In sub-Saharan Africa, it’s nine of ten families.

The consequences are far worse than merely doing without modern homes, hospitals, schools, offices and factories. These families are forced to burn wood, animal dung and agricultural waste in unventilated homes — and live with constant toxic pollution that causes up to three million children to die every year from respiratory diseases.

And still radical greens conjure up specters of catastrophic global warming to justify their demands that the Third World not build coal or gas-fired power plants. Others use Earth Day to justify their campaigns against hydroelectric projects and nuclear power. The inevitable result, of course is perpetual deprivation, dung fires, poverty, disease and premature death.

Nearly a third of the human population likewise does not have safe drinking water. Families get water from distant wells, rivers and lakes that often teem with bacteria and pollutants. As Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg points out, for the cost of implementing the Kyoto climate change treaty for just one year ($150 billion), we could permanently provide sanitation and clean, safe drinking water to everyone on the planet.

Mosquitoes, flies and fleas spread malaria, yellow fever, typhus and sleeping sickness to over a half billion people annually. Tens of millions become too sick to work, cultivate fields or care for their families for weeks or months on end. Each year, up to 4 million die.

It should be easy to control these diseases. We have the knowledge and tools — and we used them to eradicate these diseases in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. But extreme environmentalists, and even the World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development, refuse to support, promote or fund a vital weapon in this war: pesticides — especially DDT. They say the chemicals might harm fish or be detected in mother’s breast milk.

"African mothers would be overjoyed if that were their biggest worry," says Uganda’s Fiona Kobusingye. She may not know that modern instruments can detect one part per billion — a single second in 32 years. But she knows she lost her son, two sisters and two nephews to malaria. She knows her people are fed up with the death and eco-centric attitudes.

She also knows we support a monumental double standard. Americans and Europeans worry incessantly about pesticide residues on produce, and conjectural estrogenic effects of chemicals on women. We can afford to, because we no longer have to worry about killer diseases that still ravage Fiona’s continent. And yet, we still spray pesticides to kill mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus, which kills about 100 Americans a year.

"We have to become white, before we can become green," states a new African proverb. Poor nations must first enjoy modern technology, health and prosperity, before they can focus on concerns that are important to the world’s lucky elites.

Obviously, eco-imperialistic western standards, ideologies and priorities are not the only cause of this monumental human tragedy. War, endemic corruption, and horrid political, legal and economic systems are also to blame.

We cannot easily fix these latter problems. But we can do something about our own misguided policies. We can rein in the runaway environmental Horsemen of the Third World Apocalypse.

So celebrate our progress. But at the same time, resolve to help poor nations reach our technological, economic, health and environmental status, so that more of their children live past infancy and can enjoy some of the blessings we view as our birthright.

As Congress of Racial Equality national spokesman Niger Innis notes, "There is no more basic human right than to live. Without life, the other rights mean nothing. Saving, sustaining and improving lives is the most fundamental form of environmental justice and corporate social responsibility."

Earth Day was originally about our planet and its people. Let’s restore that common-sense approach.

© 2005 Paul K. Driessen

The following description about Paul was also attached to the article:

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Congress of Racial Equality and Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death (

Note that I have made every effort to make the transcription above completely accurate to the original that I received. However, there may be some errors. I also removed a few things like Paul’s email address and phone number.


Hurricane Juan cut a path of devastation through Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island late Sunday night. Much more than many would have expected.

Even now, thousands of people have no electricity. The sheer destruction people are recovering from is mind boggling. Frankly, I am glad I live in an area that has a very low chance of experiencing a storm of that magnitude.

To all of you reeling from Juan, my best wishes are with you.

Memory Failure

You wouldn’t think that memory that was working perfectly for two years would up and fail causing a computer to stop booting. And you would be wrong. I had just such an event happen to me.

It manifested itself as randomly crashing software initially. This meant the problem could be anything from the processor to the memory to the hard drive to the software on the system being messed up. Eventually it got to the point that I could do nothing with the computer so I decided to troubleshoot it. I made sure everything was assembled correctly and found nothing wrong there. I checked for overheating and found no heat problems. Then I swapped the memory with that from another computer. And lo, the other computer started crashing and the first one became stable.

So now I’m $100 poorer but have shiny new memory in my computer.

I hate when computer hardware fails.

Stupid Verisign Tricks Redux

Reactions to the actions taken by Verisign as described in my blog entry from September 16 have been heated and varied. It currently appears that Verisign has no intention of ceasing this nonsense. However, certain internet authorities have finally been heard from today.

The Internet Architecture Board has released an analysis of the use of wildcard DNS records at high levels in the DNS hierarchy. Anyone interested in this situation and its implications is encouraged to read this analysis. Perhaps the best part of the article from my perspective is this: "Proposed guideline: If you want to use wildcards in your zone and understand the risks, go ahead, but only do so with the informed consent of the entities that are delegated within your zone."

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has also finally broken its silence with the following advisory about the situation. While I usually disagree with ICANN’s tactics, this particular one of actually studying the issue and asking for feedback from other organizations is good. In particular their call for Verisign to voluntarily suspend the operation of their wildcard until the investigation is completed.

As things go, this issue has been little more than a minor technical annoyance to many of us in the industry. However, it was the sheer gall it took on the part of Verisign to say that they were doing this for the good of the internet when they, by their own admission, were profiting from it that got up most of our noses. Not to mention the protocol breakage that is mentioned in the IAB article noted above.

In fairness to Verisign, it should be noted that they were not the first ones to introduce a wildcard into a TLD, simply the most prominent one.

Stupid Verisign Tricks

On Monday, Verisign, the company that manages the contents of the .com and .net zone files, hijacked all non-existant domains to point to an intermittently functional search service. This does not affect any top level domain other than .com and .net.

Apparently, Verisign has decided that any DNS query for an A (IP address) record for any second level domain in the .com or .net top level domains will now resolve to an IP address controlled by Verisign which then attempts to guess what the user is trying to do. While this sounds like a great idea on the surface, and is, in fact, markedly similar to what many web browsers and online providers do, this is a horribly bad idea. When my web browser offers to search for the domain I misspelled, it affects me and me alone. When an online provider does this, it affects only the customers of that provider. In both cases, there is the possiblity of using a different browser or service. However, the the case of Verisign doing it using the DNS system, it makes it impossible for anyone trying to access a .com or .net domain to opt out of it, regardless of provider or web browser or any other consideration.

In addition, the DNS system is designed to respond with a negative answer when a request is made for a name that does not exist. This allows web browsers, email servers, and so on, to do something useful in this circumstance, like tell the user the domain does not exist. However, by adding an A record for non-existing domains, it is now impossible for a mail server to know that the domain really doesn’t exist. And while the use can likely figure out that the web site they requested does not exist based on the response from the server Verisign is point it to, automated systems that rely this negative response behaviour have no way of deducing this. And relying on this negative response is by no means broken since that is the only way the system can indicate that a domain does not exist.

To make matters worse, Verisign provided no notice to relevant internet community groups, such as NANOG, that such a change to the standard operating procedure was going to be done. In fact, the first notice many network operators had was that nonexistant domains were suddenly resolving. Many other learned this via discussion threads on NANOG which can be read in the NANOG archive at the above link. Many others in the internet community would have learned of this from the Slashdot article and related discussion on the issue.

The uproar on this issue shows no signs of dying down any time soon either as messages fly around the internet an amazing rate.

I hereby call upon Verisign to do the right thing and cease and desist this reprehensible attempt to hijack the .com and .net domains as their own personal playground. It is high time that Verisign started acting in a manner befitting an orgranization on whom a public trust has been bestowed!

Update at 1645: It looks like the authors of the BIND name server software are creating a patch that will allow users of BIND to bypass the Verisign brain damage. See a news report here. BIND is available from the ISC.

Update at 1435, Sept 17: Debate continues to rage about this issue. Some folks have taken actions which may or may not help. The ISC has released a patch to BIND which allows people to work around the problem. In addition, one person has publicly sent a formal complaint to ICANN (the body supposedly in charge of .com and .net overall) which is worth a read for those interested.


I just love the weather in Calgary. It’s so predictably unpredictable. I mean, today they’re forcasting snow (and have a heavy snow fall warning out) for Calgary. It’s apparently supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow then warm up some by Thursday. Well, I suppose that isn’t so bad. But it’s only the middle of September. It just doesn’t feel right for it to snow.

I suppose I should stop whining about it though. We’ve had years where it snowed in July.

It takes all kinds

For my weekly constitutional this week I walked around the Glenmore Reservoir. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t comment on this but this stroll was more eventful than most.

Not long after I got started, working counter-clockwise from “Parking Area A” of North Glenmore Park, I was flagged down by Piers (the boss’s son) and a pair of girls who were apparently doing some sort of scavenger hunt. Apparently they needed someone to sing a nursery rhyme. I declined to assist them since I couldn’t think of any nursery rhymes at that point.

Then, I encountered a fellow who was walking along the pathway with no shoes on. He seemed to have decent clothes so I have no idea why he was doing so. I never stopped to talk to him since he gave every indication of not wanting to talk to anyone.

When I was about three quarters around the reservoir, at Heritage Park, I stopped for a rest (one of many rests I took along the way since it was rather hot) and had a most unusual conversation with a fellow called Michael (if I’m remembering his name correctly). He seemed to be a nice enough fellow and probably just wanted to talk to people as he sat around on the bench since as I continued on my we, he started up with another person who had just arrived at the rest spot.

The preceeding only notes the most exceptional people encountered along the four hour trek around the reservoir. There were people of all sorts, young and old, availing themselves of the pathway. At a few points, there was a veritable traffic jam due to all the people on the path. All in all, it was an interesting day.

Fire Alarms and Nights

I was just rudely awakened by the bloody fire alarm going off in the apartment building I live in. What is it about the middle of the night that seems to attract fire alarms? And what is it about Saturday night/Sunday morning that is so attractive to fire alarms in this building? I mean, I think much more than half of the alarms since I’ve lived here have been on Saturday night. Oh well, I guess life will be life. Too bad there really was a fire of some description this time, although I missed the explanation of exactly what it was.

What really sucks, though, is that now I need to go out for an hour or three to wait for the smoke to clear so I can breathe easy.

Update at 06:00. It seems it was a fire in the above ground parkade. Apparently a car was on fire. Thankfully, it was on the other side of the parkade from my parking space.