Cross Country Skiing

I can save you a lot of time and energy with the following advice. If someone invites you to go cross-country skiing for the first time -- DON'T! If you are forced to, the first rule of thumb is to choose a small, flat country.

If you see cross-country skiers on television or watch other people doing it, I am here to tell you that it is a trick. It is the most inefficient way of travelling on snow since I tried to convert tennis racquets into snowshoes.

When you see someone blissfully gliding along on skis, they are either a ballet artist out exercising or have developed the special muscles necessary through years of practice and thousands of grueling hours of torture on the cold snow.

Yesterday we all kitted up and off we went for a blissful day in a sylvan outdoor setting. The Lovely One and our friends are all accomplished cross country skiers. I am not. I am a friend of gravity. All the skiing that I have ever done involves alpine skiing. There is much less effort. All you do, is point your skis downhill, push off, and suppress the screams. It also helps to wear dark snow pants to hide the stains.

This cross country skiing is an optical illusion.

I strapped on my gear pictured above, and we all headed out. The Lovely One and our friends were soon shushing along, gliding effortlessly across the snow. I watched them disappear over the horizons as I huffed and puffed and made less progress than if I had taken the skis off and walked.

After five minutes I was soaking wet with sweat. I carried on flailing in the snow. My companions charitably stopped and waited the half hour for me to catch up. They weren't even breathing hard, and I had done the equivalent of a couple of marathons.

Then they decided to bushwhack -- cut a trail through the bush. There was a small incline about a foot and half high spread over four feet. Normally it is one step. It took me a full five minutes to navigate that very small impediment. In the meantime, my friend Wally ditched his poles and began cutting branches to clear the way for us to ski. He was making better progress than me, without poles and cutting down small trees and overhanging branches and making a path through the bush. That's when I gave up the bush-whacking.

I quickly came to the realization that cross-country skiing is not a wussy sport for people with fear of heights. The conditioning required is more demanding than I thought. If I am to get good at this sport, I will need a lot more practice and conditioning.

Above, messages are left in the snow for me to find my way and for the teams needed to rescue me

Tree -- the other way of stopping.

Fearless Predictions for 2010

Cosmological Cabbage Fearless Predictions for 2010

At this time of year, everyone makes predictions about the coming year. I will join in the fun and and make a few myself. Here we go.

Interest Rates To Remain Flat

It is my prediction that interest rates will remain flat in 2010. That means that there won't be inflation, but there will not be huge returns from certificates of deposit. It also means that the US dollar will be weak in 2010.

Corporate Profits Remain on the Low Side

It is the Cosmological Cabbage prediction that corporate profits will be sluggish in 2010, reflecting a sluggish economy. Corporate bonds will have higher yields as investment vehicles, but associated with the higher yield will be higher risks of default.

The Price of Gold Will Drop

The price of gold will drop. Gold is traditionally a hedge against inflation or as a safe haven during war. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will become less scary, and with low interest rates there will be low inflation, so I see the price of gold dropping.

Real Estate Will Remain Sluggish in 2010

I can't see real estate rebounding in a big way in 2010. Real estate is a good hedge against inflation, but with real estate still down big time across America, there will be no rally in 2010. There is not enough demand and still a huge supply.

Non-Traditional Forms of Investment
There will always be rich people, and as the returns on traditional forms of investment dwindle, you will see a rise of non-traditional investment again such as art and sports memorabilia. I am reminded of the POG collecting craze of the 1990s and the big prices paid for collector POGS.

A Resolution To The Osama Bin Laden Mystery

Finally the Osama bin Laden mystery will come to an end in 2010. It will probably be this way:

Cracks Appear in China's Facade

China's growth and economy is unsustainable. Planned economies in Communist countries will eventually outgrow the ability to manage it. China is already on the verge of an environmental disaster, as well as human unrest.

Nutbars Will Proliferate

Unfortunately, a long term trend is the further niche fragmentation of society with more and more nutbars popping up. The trend is irreversible. Instead of a monolithic society, there will be more and more smaller groups, and technology has evolved to sustain these niche groups. So sadly we will have continual threat to the orderly operation of society from the nutbars that arise in these fertile grounds of societal fragmentation.

Warfare Changes Direction
In the entire past of human history, war was waged by men comprising of standing armies facing each other in battle. Beginning with the Vietnam war, we have seen a trend whereby a standing army faces guerrillas or an ad hoc army in a series of deadly skirmishes with no clear cut battles.

This trend will grow and the country fielding the army will be forced to conduct irregular warfare against civilian clerics preaching radicalism and hate, nests of enemies with some civilians and some not, and a blurring of the line of who is a combatant. As a result, war will be changed for ever. An army will have to conduct hostilities against a non-clearly defined but deadly army. The doctrine of war will have to change as well as the rules of engagement. War will become more localized and bloodier for those caught up in it.

This is our Cosmological Cabbage predictions for 2010.

Tracks in the Snow

We woke up in the Gatineau Hills to these tracks in the snow. The footprints are all single file and they petered off into the woods. The tracks are connected. They were too large to be rabbit and deer have four feet. These were obviously made by a bi-pedal or two footed animal.

Then it struck me. These were wild turkey tracks. Wild turkeys have flourished in this neck of the woods in the past few years. A couple of weeks ago, there were eight wild turkeys pecking at the dead grass before snow covered the ground.

With the ice storm that we had on Saturday, and the snow yesterday, it must be tough for the wild animals, turkeys included to find food.

People On The Dock

I was on Woodes Rodgers walk in Nassau near Prince George Wharf. There were people everywhere. Everyone seemed in motion. Everyone was there for the moment. This is my mini photo essay called "People On The Dock".

The man pictured above was an old man, and an extremely classy dresser who moved with grace.
Younger people always pick the most challenging path to walk.
The tee shirt was hilarious. It said "If you see da police -- Warna Brother". An obvious take off on the Warner Brothers iconic logo. Note the "Vote Obama" sign on top of the boat.

Slimey Gift For Christmas

I was slimed for Christmas.

I got a real slimey gift.

It was green slime.

It is a perfect gift.

It is called Cyber Clean.

When you open it up, it is a huge mass of green slime.

You can squeeze it. It is slime.

The whole idea behind this is that you squeeze this into places where conventional cleaners cannot go, and it gets out all of the dirt and bacteria. The manufacturer says that you use it on computer keyboards, car dashboards and anywhere where there are dirty grooves that are difficult to clean. You press the slime into a surface and it picks up all of the dirt.

This reminds me when I was a kid, and I actually conducted experiments in a similar vein. I come from a large family and I had to do the dishes regularly. I once got the bright idea that I could clean dirty forks by plunging them into a ball of plasticine. It worked perfectly. Except when I was a kid, plasticine left an oily hydrocarbon residue on your hands and it tasted funny. I am sure that any fork cleaned with plasticine, would make the food taste yucky the next time that you used it. But I thought that it was a good idea. Thus I was amazed when I saw this product.

The can said that I could go to the website for more details. I did. The website is: . This is the graphic on the website:

As it turns out, the company that invented and licensed it, is a Swiss company called JOKER. They are a toy company and they are located at this website:

This is the main graphic on their page:

They are a toy company and now a cleaning company. They also distribute a line of candies that suspiciously looks a lot like their slime products. Hmmmmmm. This is significant because they market Cyber Clean as non-toxic (and perhaps edible?).

The container of Cyber Clean that I have says it is manufactured under strict supervision in China. The website also has pictures of fake products or knock-offs. I rather suspect that if you get anything made in China, shortly thereafter you will get knock-offs appearing on the market. It is the way that the Chinese do business.

But back to this Cyber Clean thing. I looked at the ingredients label. The main product is diazolidinyl urea. I Googled it. Diazolidinyl urea is an antimicrobial preservative used in cosmetics. My uderstanding that Urea is found in pee. How ironic that a pee component is used as a cleaning and anti-microbial agent. Did I mention that it was non-toxic? Excuse me, but I have to go and wash my hands. I was handling the gel.

New Homeland Security Paradigm

I don't know about you, but I am getting sick and tired of these stone age jihadist Muslim terrorists walking onto a plane and trying to blow it up with improvised explosives. In a previous humorous treatment of this deadly serious subject, I suggested that everyone has to swear on a slab of bacon that they are not terrorists as they board an aircraft. These intellectually-impaired Muslim terrorist morons would never dare touch a good slab of pork.

With the latest incident of the Nigerian lighting a bomb as they approached the US, the increase in airline security has become onerous again. I say that it is time for a new security paradigm. This is the proposed Cosmological Cabbage security paradigm.

The bottom line is this. There is not enough security agents to monitor everything and everyone. For example, the city of London in England has put in 10,000 CCTV security cameras at a cost of £200 million. The results have been so-so. There is only a certain limit as to how many humans can monitor any number of cameras.

There are two approaches. The first approach is to try to develop image recognition software to help the authorities monitor the cameras. This is an expensive approach.

Instead, you get the crowd on the internet to watch the cameras for you. And you make it financially worthwhile. Right now people spend a lot of time on Facebook, or or dating sites or many other time-wasters. Suppose that you put all of the cameras on the internet, and let the mob watch them. If they see something suspicious, they report it. If it turns out to be a terrorist, they get a cash windfall of say $100,000.

Now of course, the level of false alarms would be initially high, because of folks trying to cash in, but you let the "crowd is always right philosophy" work for you. A single report of a possible terrorist in Des Moines Iowa is not to be taken seriously, but 10 reports of a terrorist getting on a plane in Nigeria is worth investigating. Thus the authorities who now watch the cameras would be employed to investigate the reports, instead of watching cameras. You would develop metadata as to what reports would be taken seriously.

I can see this concept being extended to lotteries and crime fighting. Various locations such as convenience stores and ATMs would be put on the internet and people would pay a small amount to a central kitty and watch these cameras. When they averted a crime, they would win the pot.

But in the meantime, the search giant Google would not be idle. They would develop a video search engine that would monitor these images, and as an observer, you could search CCTV with the parameters of white windbreaker, blue jeans and Columbus Ohio, and you could watch your husband or lover delivering flowers to his other sweetheart, as he cheats on you.

This could open up a whole new range of businesses and money-making paradigms. But I would be content if it paved the way for less security at airports. However, the real issue at hand now, is protecting ourselves during air travel. The new measures punish the wrong people -- the travelling public, instead of the socially-retarded, uncivilised few terrorists.

As it stands, I am in favour of banning all radical Muslims for any air travel to and from and within North America. And that takes me back to swearing on a big slab of pork that you will not carry explosives onto an airplane.

Clack Skates

Raised in the cold winter climes of Canada, we skated very early in life. Every kid had skates and there were arenas, back yard rinks and ponds where skating was accessible by anyone. I even made a back yard skating rink one year. All that was required was a snow shovel and a hose connected to an outdoor faucet.

In all of the years that I have skated, I have never heard of "clack" skates. The company Salomon, in the French Alps town of Annecy near the Swiss border makes these skates as part of their cross country ski line. Essentially they are long blades that clip onto the front of your cross country ski boots and convert your boots into skates.
If you are skiing through the woods and come across a lake, you unlatch your cross country skis, dig out the blades out of your back pack and away you go across the ice.

They are called clack skates because the blade is not attached to the heel, and as you skate, they make a clacking sound on the ice.
They took a bit of getting used to. You cannot skate backwards with them. You have to lift your feet high because the heel is not attached. You can't be fancy on your feet. To stop, you have to drag the blade sideways, but you cannot be too aggressive because of the single point of attachment. The most efficient way of skating is pushing off in the traditional ski-skate move of cross country.

If you are just travelling straight ahead on ice, these skates are great. There is less resistance because of the long blade length. You can get quite a speed. As a matter of fact, because there is so little resistance to moving with the long blade, the slightest breeze would push me.

The ride is really smooth over rough lake ice, and these would be great for trekking. They did take some getting used to, and when I was skating against the wind for several kilometers, the boots started to loosen. The boots, instead of traditional tie-up laces, had a tension-spring lace arrangement where you just pulled the laces through a gizmo and a spring-loaded stop held them in place. Needless to say, it was hard to skate with your boots becoming loose on your foot.

All in all, clack skates were wonderful if you are just going forward from one place to another over rough ice. And you don't have the bother of lacing up skates. They just pop on and off. Apparently a lot of people use these things on the Rideau Canal in downtown Ottawa. It is the longest skating rink in the world, at eight kilometers, and many people skate to work. Clack skates work wonderfully for that.

UPDATE: I am getting a lot of hits about CLACK SKATES because of the winter Olympics. If you want to buy some clack skates, here is where you can get them:

It is a store called TRAILHEAD in Ottawa Canada, and their contact info is:

Phone: 613.722.4229
fax: 613.722.0245

On Christmas Day In The Morning

The Lovely One and I were surprised this Christmas morning by our friends who live on Meech Lake, a few kilometers from our house in the Gatineau Hills. They invited to go for a Christmas morning skate on the frozen lake. This is so typically a Canadian winter thing and reminds us of our northern winter heritage.

Here, we leave our tracks across the surface of ice:

The rocks and trees fall to meet the shore of the lake:

There is open water where a creek meets the lake, not far from this picturesque house:

A child's playhouse graces the shore of the lake:

Wally and I sit on the shore near a chapel in the woods on Meech Lake:

When we first got on the lake, the Gatineau Hills were shrouded in a winter morning mist:

At this point of rock, the wind has swept the surface of the ice:

The Lovely One enjoys the weather and the skate on a perfect Christmas morning:

The tree-tops in the mist are like smoke on the hilltops:

Our group heads up Meech Lake towards the Prime Minister's cottage, which was still a long way away:

A stately home hugs the shore:

Downward shot of me skating backwards:

Our cheeks were rosy and red. The skate was a good work out and it was a perfect way to mark a Canadian Northern Christmas. Merry Christmas everybody!

Merry Christmas

I extend a Merry Christmas and the best wishes of the festive season to all of the readers of the Cosmological Cabbage. Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you have a joyous and peaceful holiday season.

Northern Lights Were Running Wild

My flight north from Nassau was delayed by two hours. There was a huge delay in Toronto, because each and every plane had to be de-iced. So I got home late at night. As we were driving to our house in the hills, it looked like there were spotlights arising into sky. However as we drove we couldn't catch up with them. Suddenly we realized that we were seeing a rare sight -- the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis.

As soon as the car stopped, I jumped out with my camera and snapped a frame. Unfortunately the northern lights were dancing across the sky and they moved out of the frame. What they did though, was light up the snow on the garage roof. That is what showed up in my picture (above).

It was a heck of a way to be welcomed to the north -- with the Aurora Borealis streaming across the skies. I have not seen them in at least 8 or 9 years. I wonder what the portents are. The Japanese seem to think that the northern lights are extremely lucky. Me -- I think that it is bad luck to be superstitious.

Christmas in the Tropics -- Carols

When we think of Christmas carols in the streets up north, perhaps we think of a Salvation Army band playing on a snowy street corner in the cold air. You can see the breath of the trumpet players even in the darkened streets as passersby hurry on their Christmas tasks, while Christmas lights shine on city sidewalks and the snow gently falls.

In the tropics, the brass band plays carols in the sunlight by the wharf of an emerald sea, while ships in the background ply their trade and a gentle zephyr blows in from the sea. When I snapped this pic, they were playing "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen".

The good news is that last night was the shortest night of the year -- the winter solstice, and from here on in, the days will slowly get longer and longer.

Tourist Scene Tourist Seen 9

My continuing series is Tourist Scene Tourist Seen. It is a photo essay depicting tourists. Normally tourists take pictures of everything including me in Nassau, so I am reciprocating and taking pictures of tourists.

This woman was waiting in line for a refreshment truck by the cruise ship wharf.

To see the entire series, please click HERE.

Cabinet Ministerial Notes

I recently found myself at a gathering of luminaries. A cabinet minister of the Bahamian government was present. I gave him my business card as we sat at the table. He immediately took a provided notepad and the pen and appeared to make voluminous notes.

When he was gone, I noticed that he left both his notepad and my business card on the table. He did not rip off anything from the notepad. It was a little bruising to the ego that he left my business card behind.

Then I looked over his notes. I couldn't believe it. I pinched the notepad and a scan of it appears above. He was copiously making notes about nothing. He was faking it. All there was, was the figure 1 circled.

This note says a lot about him.

Book Review -- Blood And Fire -- The Murder of Sir Harry Oakes

One of the biggest stories emanating out of the Bahamas ever, was the 1943 murder of Canadian mining millionaire, Sir Harry Oakes -- the richest man in the British Empire. The murder mystery managed to knock off World War Two off the pages of the newspaper. Sir Harry made all of his money by discovering the largest gold mine ever in Canadian history. To this day, officially the murder is unsolved. But Nassau being the tight community that it is, everyone knows who did it.

The author is John Marquis. He was for years the managing editor of the Tribune newspaper here in Nassau, and he has just recently retired. I have always admired Mr. Marquis, because he called a spade a spade. He revealed the corruption, the hypocrisy, the criminality of the political ruling class and the peccadilloes of the people in power who hoodwink the working classes every day in the Bahamas. Those people tried to get his working permit revoked and tried to get him out of the country, because he dared to put the truth in print.

I have always wanted to read this book, but at $39.95 (US dollars) it really wasn't worth it. However, recently a local book store was selling it at $19.95 and I relented and bought it.

Essentially everyone in the Bahamas knows that Sir Harry Oakes was murdered by his "friend", Harry H.G. Christie who went on to found the biggest most prestigious real estate company in the Bahamas that exists to this day. HG Christie eventually got a knighthood in spite of being an unmasked murderer.

What the author details in this book and adds to the knowledge of, is the complicity and the criminality in the cover up involving Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor and the abdicated King of England. The Duke gave up the English throne in December of 1936 for American divorcee Wallace Simpson. The Duke was sent to France with his new re-treaded wife, but they were an embarrassment to the British because they were frigging Nazis. To get them out of the way, the Duke was appointed Governor of the Bahamas for the duration of the war.

Oakes was murdered by HG Christie in association with a Walter Foskett who was Oakes' Florida lawyer. Oakes had just discovered that Foskett was embezzling and double dealing with Christie. Oakes was going to set them straight. Marquis the author contends that Oakes also had a stash of gold destined for one of his Mexican banks, and that gold disappeared after Sir Harry was murdered. HG Christie also got very rich after the demise of Oakes. When the Oakes will was probated, there was only $12 million dollars, while when he was alive, it was estimated that his worth was $200 million. There is speculation that Sir Harry converted a lot of his cash to gold, and it disappeared after his murder.

The book contends that the Duke of Windsor was of the belief that the Germans would win the war, and he started to illegally move his money into Oakes' bank in Mexico. This would be a felony as it contravened the war time restrictions of moving currency outside of Britain and her allies.

The Duke was also a friend of HG Christie -- who was also illegally moving money into Oakes' bank as well as screwing Oakes in property deals, all the while maintaining a facade of friendship. Just before his murder, Oakes became aware of Foskett's criminality, but no one knows if he knew that Christie was double dealing against him. This would certainly come out if Oakes straightened out Foskett. If Christie was unmasked as the murderer, the Duke's criminality and currency transactions were to be exposed. Hence the Duke was involved in the cover up of the murder of Sir Harry Oakes. The Duke went to great lengths to pin the murder on de Marigny, the hated son-in-law of Sir Harry. They even ordered the rope for his hanging.

The frame-up involving the Duke of Windsor never worked out, because the detectives that were hired by the Duke to frame de Marigny were caught out in court faking fingerprint evidence.

The book also contends that there was a string of mysterious deaths of people investigating the murder after the fact.

Even after all of these years in Nassau, the truth is elusive. The author contends that skewing and subversion of truth seems to be a hallmark of the Bahamas to this day.

Tourist Scene Tourist Seen 8

In my continuing series "Tourist Scene, Tourist Seen" photo essay of tourists in Nassau, I came across this scene on Woodes Rodgers Walk along the wharf. A taxi driver dressed in a suit engages a tourist in deep conversation. In the background is a tug boat, The Cassandra 5, out of Singapore. And behind that, is a Carnival cruise ship with just one of the stacks showing.

For the entire series of Tourist Scene Tourist Seen, please click HERE.

Social Networks Do Have A Use

I found the latest contest by DARPA fascinating. DARPA is the US Government's Defense Research Projects Agency. They fund amazing things and as a result of their research, we have had some amazing technical advancements for mankind. Right now, among the advanced research at DARPA is how to keep soldiers who are wounded alive with artificial blood and various technologies. They do things right out of a science fiction magazine. It is a unique agency that thinks outside the box. It is one of the few government agencies' that can do this.

DARPA conducted a contest whereby they put up 19 balloons such as the one pictured above. These balloons were spread across the entire continental USA. Then they offered a $40,000 prize to the first group who could give the locations of all of the balloons.

Students from MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) won the prize. They used the Internet, Facebook and Twitter to recruit spotters all over the country. Then they distributed the potential prize money to whoever spotted balloons, creating a financial incentive. They were incredibly successful at doing so.

The whole idea is to use this methodology to find things like terrorists, missing planes, downed satellites or whatever that needs to be found in the US without spending a lot of money in fruitless searches. It is an algorithm for using social networks to find the needle in the haystack.

So social networks do have a use -- other than being an all inclusive time and life waster for connected young folk.

Groom Lake, Area 51, Spy Planes and Me! The Aurora TR-3B

This is going to get a little weird, but I think that I might have seen for myself, evidence of the super secret new US spy plane. It is supposedly a flying triangle called the Aurora TR-3B.

I watch a lot of science shows and the Discovery Channel and I was always intrigued about Area 51 or Groom Lake. UFO sightings have been reported since the 1950's there. It is a known fact that the stealth fighter, the Blackbird spy plane and various other secret projects took place there.

During one of the television shows, they had an aviation expert who was shown contrails from flights originating from Area 51. Below is such an image that is freely available on the internet:

The expert explained that this was definitely not for public eyes yet. It was a new type of engine called a pulsed detonation system. This type of engine was not in production, and being tested secretly by the US. Apparently the detonation produces the scram jet effect. This was supposedly the propulsion system for the new class of super spy plane called the Aurora TR-3B.

I found this all very very interesting and thought nothing more of it -- until last Sunday. I was sitting up front on a boat coming back to Nassau from a successful spearfishing trip. The evening sky was gorgeous. I had my camera handy and snapped a pic of it. Then I noticed the weird contrail across the sky.

The contrail was interrupted by a huge cloud. X marks the edge of the huge cloud, and the contrail continued to the left (south) of the huge cloud.

On the other side of the cloud, the contrail was fresh, and the detail was disturbing. I immediately recognized the weird pattern from the TV show on Area 51 that I saw:

I zoomed in on it. It definitely was not an ordinary jet contrail.

Further magnification showed that I in fact was seeing the contrail of a pulsed detonation propulsion system. I was fascinated and snapped many pics of it. So the rumors of the Aurora TR-3B seemed to be true. It would be a natural to test it over the Bahamas. After all, there is already a military facility called AUTEC, and every once in a while after AUTEC activities, whales are found dead on Bahamian beaches.

The Aurora has been photographed in the UK at a test facility.

Below is a photograph of the Aurora on a test flight in the US:

The graphic below, is supposedly a schematic of the new plane:

I am amazed that while I was on the ocean, I would actually see the contrail of a pulsed detonation system that I saw on TV. And it was over the Bahamas. Strange !!!!