Sunday, November 27, 2005


Talk about being unaware of the concept...

Sometimes - too many times - I wonder about the human brain's thought process, especially after a night of heavy drinking. Police in Illinois received a tip about a riding lawnmower that had been reported missing. Thinking further on this stolen item, how many people would report that their lawnmower was stolen, anyway, even a fancy one with a seat? Chances are (and I probably fall into this category) if my lawnmower was missing the first thought that would spring to mind is that I lent it to somebody at some point, who forgot to bring it back. Even IF it was stolen it's doubtful I would call the police and make a report. Jewelry yes. Lawnmower? Doubtful.

Anyway... Following up on the "tip" the police saw this guy riding accross a corn field on a lawnmower and took off after him in their police car. They went by the book identifying themselves as the law and called out for him to stop but instead the "perp" just took off. Examining this logically any (sober) person would immediately realize that a police car goes faster than a lawmower, ergo, give up the chase and call it a night.

But noooooo....

So the police officer got out of his car and just...jogged along side of the "mower man", warning him all the while to stop. The "mower man" finally agreed to stop when the police officers threatened to stun him with a Taser. The kicker to this tale of lawn fury or silliness is that the "mower man", who was out on parole and wore an ankle monitor, had a handwritten bill of sale. Unfortunately for the former owner and "mower man", the police haven't been able to trace down the owner. What a surprise.

Perhaps had "mower man" cut a few lawns of townsfolk while on his "night of the lawnmower" he might have been forgiven. It also makes you wonder who called in the "tip" to the police in the first place.

Friday, November 25, 2005


It’s no coincidence that airline companies and travel agents place print and electronic ads promoting winter getaways to a warmer setting during severe cold spells. By and large, people don’t have to be sold on the idea of a short sojourn in the sun but the reality is that many of us spend the winter close to home base. This means being more or less dependent on the capricious nature of storm systems and the probability of them landing on our doorstep. An outdoorsy friend who is at one with nature in all four seasons, counsels everyone within listening range that the best way to deal with winter is not to fight it but to join in the fun. There are many words that spring to mind describing winter most of which can’t be printed in a family newspaper, but “fun” is definitely not on the list.

Foretelling the weather is chancy at the best of times and there is the tendency to blame the weather forecaster for an incorrect forecast. These days modern technology has progressed to point where meteorologists understand the formation of weather systems yet they still can’t with 100% certainty predict the weather from day-to-day. Television “weather presenters” standing in front of a map bandy about terms like stationary front and cold front to explain a sudden spell of unexpected adverse weather.

There is an abundance of weather-related sites on the Web offering a plethora of interesting weather-related information for anyone who wants an explanation for winter conditions. Important essentials that enquiring minds need (or want) to know about freezing rain for example, in that it freezes on impact and forms a coat of ice on the ground AND on the objects it strikes. Go figure! This is very important information for all of us who navigate un-salted and un-sanded sidewalks like a tightrope walker under the influence. Moreover, snow is composed of star-shaped hexagonal ice crystals. Can’t speak for others but it’s rare to see people waiting outdoors with magnifying glass in hand, to ascertain the molecular makeup of snow. It’s not so rare, however, to hear people curse out accumulated falling snow or a misdiagnosed weather forecast.

In the way of “I-didn’t-know-that!” information, there is a difference between snow pellets and snow grains. Snow pellets are brittle and easily crushed when they fall on hard ground, they bounce and often break up. Snow grains on the other hand are minute white and opaque grains of ice that do not bounce or shatter when they hit hard ground. This is the type of trivial fact to keep for special occasions to impress people.
“This looks to me like snow grains and not snow pellets,” a person with snow knowledge could opine, after bringing in a sample of snow taken from outside, indoors. “Notice how it doesn’t break up when dropped on this beautiful, expensive and imported Indian rug. It merely leaves a big mark.”

As a matter of interest Environment Canada has introduced a new wind chill index for Canadians, people who know about snow and cold, based on the way the human body loses heat in the cold. So the new method signifies how the temperature would feel on skin if the wind were reduced to a walking pace of 4.8 km/h. Let’s say if the outside temperature is minus ten Celsius and the wind chill factor is minus twenty, an exposed face would feel as cold as it would on a calm day when the temperature is minus twenty Celsius. Logically when the temperature drops to this level we should be bundling up with warm head coverings and scarves to avoid frostbite. However, logic and fashion don’t mix and many pedestrians – me among them – shun headwear in fear of being left with the dreaded “soup bowl” look upon removal of a hat.

According to another source it could be (notice how the word “could” is featured prominently in forecasting?) colder than normal this winter due to cold Arctic air. In other words - same old, same old. Meanwhile word has it that there’s a great seat sale for a Florida escape. Where else would we get to see our neighbours during winter?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Flushing Success

By Eleanor Tylbor

Chances are this went by unnoticed by most people but there are people who feel the necessity to organize a World Toilet Day. Toilets as a rule are taken for granted as a means to (or for) an end and few of us experience a flush of excitement answering nature’s call. However in some circles it’s an important issue worthy of a summit and further exploration.

For the uninformed World Toilet Day takes place every year on November 19. The aim of establishing this special day is to encourage people to take action and increase the awareness of the rights of toilet users to a better environment. Furthermore according to information gleaned on this fascinating subject on the Internet the powers-that-be behind (or in front depending on the user) hope to get all toilet users involved and practice toilet etiquette. Presumably this would include washing hands with soap for as long as it takes to sing one chorus of "Mary had a little lamb..." and then waiting politely with dripping wet hands until a hand dryer is free.

Two years ago a World Toilet Expo and Forum sponsored by the World Toilet Organization was held in Beijing, China, and attended by delegates from around the world to discuss…toilet-related issues. A non-profit group comprised of seventeen members from all over the globe, The World Toilet Organization’s objectives include among others:

- establish a world body to coordinate and promote sanitation issues
- to continuously generate awareness for the importance of good toilet environment-
- provide and promote a community of all toilet associations, related organizations and individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas, health and cultural matters

The group puts out a fact sheet and there is some interesting data worth noting like “the female visits the toilet three times longer than the male.” This begs the question as to how this statistic was obtained. Were there ‘WTO’ volunteers stationed outside public bathrooms with hand-held counting devices, monitoring women and men entering and leaving the bathrooms?

There has also been some toilet-related research carried out. For example, again something difficult to prove is an average person visits the toilet – wait for it – 2500 times a year. The conclusion was although no formula is provided to back up this statistic that people spend approximately three years of our lives in the toilet. One wonders whether refreshing makeup, combing hair or staring into a mirror and/or checking teeth, factored into the final equation.

As a person who has used public toilets while travelling, there are some interesting differences worth noting. I’m the type of traveller that judges the civility of a country by its bathrooms. Some of the higher end hotels feature automated devices that dispense toilet paper to cover the seat surface. Once the user stands up the previous cover disappears…somewhere, and a new one rolls out ready for use. Still other toilets feature a sensor device that flushes automatically without ever having to push or pull a handle. Then those are bathrooms where an attendant waits to hand post-toilet users a real cotton towel. I've lined up to use facilities in high end concert halls where talking is hushed and flushing is relegated to an unobtrusive whoosh. In Cannes the line up to use a cubicle on the beach required a 10 minute wait only to discover that I didn't have change to pay the attendant.

For those interested in taking toilets to a higher level the World Toilet College (WTC) has been established to respond to the needs of creating an independent world body to ensure that the standards of toilet design, cleanliness, maintenance, quality of work and sanitation technologies are met. Among the courses offered are restroom design, restroom special training and an ecological sanitation course.Can’t speak for others but I’ve already put aside November 19 in order to mark next year’s World Toilet Day. I’m already experiencing the urge to go.