Not my boyfriend's computer. Photo © Marta Manso, via flickr, Creative Commons, and www.facebookcom/LadyPainPhoto

Somehow, during the years when I mucked about with rocks and critters, and poked at bones of extinct species, being a geek became, well, cool.

I use the word “geek” with the great respect it deserves. My world is peopled by persons passionate about things odd or overlooked, by collectors of specimens, information and ideas, by those who make it their lives’ work to turn over rocks just to see what lies beneath, to grasp what is remarkable in it, and to remark on it. These people never outgrew the childhood need to ask “What?” ‘Why?” and “How?” that is stifled in so Caffeine on T. Photo © Javier Aroche, via flickr, Creative Commons, and javieraroche.commany others.

Sometime during the last 20 years, smart became the new black. Brainy people with focused, intense interests showed that thinking off-centre and poking about in odd corners can mean opportunity, vision and, sometimes—and of particular importance to how our society measures worth—wealth…

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist

Photo © Rebecca Pollard, via flickr and Creative CommonsSeven of Victoria’s video-game studios recently launched new games. The games, which include TinyMob’s Tiny Realms and GameHouse’s new version of Slingo, highlight the industry’s growth in the region.

The 20 or so Victoria-based studios employ 240 people and spend about $25 million annually. Eight years ago, about 40 people worked in local game studios.

On a global scale, gaming revenues are predicted to grow to $78 billion in the next two years.

The industry’s growth mirrors that in other digital technology industries. As the Internet advanced in sophistication and conquered both the wider, geographic world and our personal time, so have video games.

We’ve come a long way, baby, from Pokémon, Doom and The Legend of Zelda.

Game designers have also become more sophisticated in attracting and retaining players.

In many games, designers intentionally manipulate players to keep them online and to keep them returning to play more, again and at higher levels. They design consequences into games to prevent players from stopping play, and build in rewards for players who stay in the game, move up to higher levels and to subscribe to advance the game….

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Orca breaching and blowing. Photo © digicla via Creative Commons and flickr

Among groups of people, ignoring somebody is often considered a sign of disrespect. The word disrespect itself means disregard, overlook, to not acknowledge or look at something.

Over the last dozen years, we have seen disrespect for federal legislation. The Species at Risk Act became law in December 2002, but for most of its existence it has been disregarded by the very government responsible for enacting the law.

No wonder citizen groups are striking out independently. For example, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, the Dogwood Initiative, Northwest Wildlife Preservation Society and South Vancouver Island Anglers Association recently announced they would start taking their own action to save the region’s orcas.

The feds declared southern resident orcas endangered 12 years ago. The Species at Risk Act requires the government to develop recovery strategies and action plans for the species within a set period. However, the required federal action plan to protect orcas remains incomplete….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Clover Point, site of one of Victoria's primary sewage screening plants, from across Ross Bay. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

Clover Point, site of one of Victoria’s primary sewage screening facilities, from across Ross Bay. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

The new sewage-treatment schedule that the Capital Regional District proposed earlier this month contains tight deadlines.

In order for this latest development to pan out, proponents for building a secondary treatment plant in the region must determine a new timeline and acquire all approvals and a site for the treatment plant by this time next year.

At stake is an $83.4 million grant from PPP Canada for a facility to handle material removed from liquid sewage.

Project opponents may see the extension as yet one more year to cause delay.

Of course, if the CRD or either group of municipalities that is exploring sewage-treatment options doesn’t meet the March 2016 conditions, the larger initiative will churn on. Two other federal grants, worth $170 million, and the province’s contributions have roomier deadlines that may accommodate the region’s revised forecast for completion by 2023.

Delay, in fact, may result in better sewage treatment options. For example, researchers announced this January that they had identified and successfully extracted appreciable amounts of rare metals from biosolid samples collected from cities across the U.S. Their study focused on 13 high-value minerals, including gold, silver, copper, iridium, and platinum. Extrapolating their results, the researchers estimate $16 million dollars worth of metals could be accumulating every year in the sewage of a city with one million residents.

Of that, the researchers say almost $3.5 million could come from gold and silver alone….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Clover Point, from the west. Photo © Blake Handley, via Creative Commons and flickr

Photo © Ray Frances Ong, via flickr and Creative Commons


I hope the organic food I purchase is “organic,” even though I KNOW all the food I eat is organic.

I realise that sounds confusing, but the word organic has many definitions.

The B.C. Government recently announced it would introduce regulations to govern the word’s use by food producers.

As we know, some farmers undergo extensive and expensive certification to demonstrate they’ve eliminated chemically made fertilizers, hormones and pesticides and genetically altered seed from their operations. Under B.C. and Canadian law, these producers may legally call their products “certified organic.”

Some other farmers eliminate the nasty stuff, but aren’t certified organic. These operations tend to be small and often lease farmland instead of owning it. Current regulations permit them to call their products organic, unsprayed, or pesticide free, provided they don’t market or sell their products outside B.C., or claim certification.

A third group of producers and sellers may exist who don’t use organic practices, but market their goods as such. The intended regulations mostly are meant to stifle these claims.

In these examples, we use Merriam-Webster’s definition of organic—“of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically made fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.”

The dictionary’s other definitions of organic encompass broader meanings—for example, “of, relating to, or derived from living organisms” and “of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds.” These definitions turn the organic word-world into a muddy, microbe-infested swamp of connotation and implication….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Orion nebula. Photo © NASA

Orion nebula. Photo © NASA

Ring Nebula. Photo © NASA

Ring Nebula. Photo © NASA

Next weekend, a few hardy members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Victoria chapter will mark the start of spring with a little-known ritual. Clear skies willing, they will stay up until dawn on Sunday to participate in an astronomical test of endurance, knowledge and night-sky navigation skills.

Their marathon differs from most. Instead of running long distances, participants will spend the night hunched over their telescope eyepieces, twiddling knobs and adjusting their instruments by hand.  They seek not to cover territory on the ground, but in the sky. Their goal is to locate 110 very specific heavenly objects before dawn. The objects were first catalogued by a French astronomer named Charles Messier more than two centuries ago….

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Single-serving bags of chips. Photo © m01229, via flickr and Creative Commons

Nature Boy waved a bag of potato chips at me.

“No, thanks. I’m not hungry,” I said.

“But when you see this bag, how do you feel? Do you feel a twinge of guilt? Do you feel nostalgic?”

“Actually, right now, I feel puzzled and exasperated….”

Nature Boy’s household psychological experiment came after he’d read about neuromarketing, a field of study that examines how the sight of certain products triggers specific and not always expected emotional responses deep within people’s brains.

That’s the neuro-part of the field. The marketing part comes when companies use that information to design, package and position products to increase sales….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

Royal Roads shoreline outside Esquimalt Lagoon. Photo © David Stanley via flickr and Creative Commons.

The year has begun amidst a series of earth-shaking events.

Three earthquakes were reported for the Vancouver Island region on January 2. The biggest, at magnitude 5.4, occurred 211 kilometres west of Port Hardy, while two smaller tremblers occurred west of Port Alberni. Five days later, a 4.8-magnitude quake west of Port Alice shook the coast.

They form part of a regional swarm of earthquakes that began late last year, as the tectonic plates beneath Vancouver Island released rock-bending pressure. To add perspective, about 4,000 earthquakes occur in B.C. every year. Of these, only a few—like the larger January quakes—are felt by people.

As solid as the ground beneath our feet seems, when the forces that shape the our planet’s surface start squeezing it, the granites, basalts and sedimentary rock on which our region’s municipalities are built take on the consistency and strength of something like fine, aged Cheddar….


Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….