Destination Weddings Offer A "Stress Free" Celebration!

I have been invited to be a part of several wedding parties for friends and family over the years, and for many of them, they quickly experienced the level of stress and the amount of time consumed in planning and organizing their local ceremony, not to mention the amount of people who were also involved.

For the very reason above is why I wanted to go in a different direction and have a Destination Wedding when I decided to get married, and I was hoping my future wife would feel the same!

There are so many time sensitive arrangements to take care of with traditional weddings, and if one critical element is not right on schedule, it can turn the day into a complete inconvenience for everyone, and not only for the bride and groom, but also for all the guests attending as well.

Spending Quality Time with Family and Friends is Important!

What happens when you have too many guests attend your wedding? I witnessed this first-hand where the bride and groom seemed to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying their hardest to talk to everyone they possibly can, and the conversations seemed so rushed, plus it was inevitable that they were continually interrupted by other guests wanting to get their own conversations in before the night and event was over.

I understand that some couples believe in family traditions, which seems to be passed on from generation to generation, and they of course would not change their tradition for anything else in the world. However, times are changing, and there are a growing number of newlywed couples thinking differently, and they don’t want to go through all the stress and tedious planning that is involved in a local wedding.

They’re looking for convenient alternatives to fit their current lifestyle, needs, and budget. They’re thinking that a relaxing week on an exotic island or a cruise may be the option for them. They want to be relaxed, stress free, and they also want to spend quality time with their loved ones, and special invited guests.

Comparing Destination Weddings to the Traditional Wedding Ceremony!

Now talking with experience, we took part in our own destination wedding, where we exchanged our vows in Varadero, Cuba back in 2004. We had the traditional ceremony, where we renewed our vows back home, and went through much of the traditional planning many couples would experience.

You might be asking us, why did you do both?

All I can tell you it was a decision we made at the last-minute to accommodate our families that could not make it to our wedding in Cuba, and the best situation we got out of this was the ability to provide many of our newlywed couples a true comparison between the both options.

When talking about the two styles of weddings, with a destination wedding, imagine sitting down in a relaxing environment ready to experience a gourmet style dinner with your loved ones. Having ample time to talk, and then later taking a leisurely stroll on the beach while taking in the view of the Caribbean Sea. Now does that sound stressful to you? As the days go by in destination we would spend quality time by the pool with friends and family as this was all leading up to our special wedding ceremony day.

All this without having to take care of any details of our ceremony! The fact that we didn’t have to exhaust any of our time with arranging our wedding, we were able to spend as much or as little quality time with all our invited guests, and never had that guilty feeling of wishing we had more time to spend with everyone that attended.

With the Traditional Ceremony we found it to be the Complete Opposite!

It did feel somewhat stressful, even if we tried not to let it get to us. Family came in from other cities, such as Windsor and Toronto, and many of them were staying with us, so we needed to not only accommodate them, but we also had to ensure they were entertained as well.

We actually had to deal with some last-minute cancellations, and do what all the other wedding couples had to do, and that was unfortunately absorb the cost of unused plates. Plus the fact that we had worry about time as our ceremony was at a Catholic church that as many miles from the banquet facility where our reception was to take place that evening. I will be honest with you, it was not as stressful as I thought it would be, but I did notice that we were so concentrated on the time, and making sure everything was going smooth, the entire day and evening for me to this day is still a blur.

If I were to compare the two scenarios, one being our wedding in Cuba and our ceremony back home in Winnipeg, I actually can still make out conversations in my head that I had with family and friends in Cuba, but if you were to ask me if I remembered one conversation I had at our ceremony back home, I would not be able to come up with one that I clearly remembered.

Now I can go on and on about the convenience of having a destination wedding, but let me tell you the benefits of costs and flexibility…

A Destination Wedding Is Not Only Affordable, But Offers Complete Flexibility!

If you agree, a wedding that is planned from beginning to end can easily run from $20,000 for an average sized ceremony to almost having to take out a second mortgage for a more elaborate event. Such factors to take into consideration when planning a wedding at home are; How many guests would be attending, where your ceremony and reception will take place, plus all the other venue decisions and expenses, such as photo sessions, and pre-ceremony dinners and related parties. Whew!

Okay, now with a destination wedding, you can easily spend far less for a very exotic and romantic ceremony, and if you’re a couple who really like to have that luxurious Caribbean style wedding, you can easily achieve your dream ceremony for less than $10,000.00.

As mentioned, our wedding ceremony and reception took place in Varadero, Cuba, where our total cost was under $2,500.00. We did some research and found a beautiful luxurious 4.5 Star all-inclusive resort that offered a “free wedding ceremony” and reception if we stayed at their property for 6 days or more and had a qualified amount of guests stay as well. The good news is, there are so many other destinations and quality resorts that offer this to couples looking to get married, or even for the couple that are looking to renew their vows. You even save more money if you plan to have your honeymoon at destination as well! No mental stress and of course no stress on the budget.

In conclusion no matter what direction you go in planning your once in a lifetime event, I agree that a destination wedding is not for everyone, and believe it or not there are still those traditionalists that firmly believe that a wedding at home is the only option. But if you’re someone who does not believe in the passed down from generation traditions, and you want that stress-free planning experience, and you want to avoid having to apply for a mortgage for your special event, then a wedding at destination has your names written all over it. Go for it, as I assure you it will be something that you will both remember for the rest
of your lives!

Pilots And UFOs: Death In The Skies

The phrase “unidentified flying objects” suggests that UFOs have an affinity with our terrestrial pilots – both fly and share our airspace. Thus, terrestrial pilots should have seen and reported a goodly proportion of UFO events. And that indeed is the case. There’s been many an interesting close encounter between military, commercial and private pilots. No great news there. However, there have been several UFO incidents that have resulted in the death or disappearance (and presumed death) of the pilot(s) and sometimes crew too. That ratchets up the seriousness ante quite considerably.

UFO sightings by airline pilots (military, civilian, and private) now number in the thousands. Unfortunately, there have been instances of pilots who have died or who have gone missing (presumed dead) while witnessing, pursuing or otherwise involved with some form or other of UFO-related activity. That alone suggests that UFOs are not only a serious business, but also at times a deadly business.

The list of pilot encounters with UFOs is now so extensive that it would take several book length volumes to adequately cover the subject. There is however that deadly subset of those pilot-related encounters. Here are a few of the better known case histories and fortunately, to the best of my knowledge, they are relatively few.

MAURY ISLAND INCIDENT (1947): This incident is only indirectly related to ‘pilots and UFOs’ insofar as it involves an alleged UFO incident and the death of two military officers piloting a military aircraft, but there was no direct encounter between the UFO and the aircraft. While there is a massive amount of material related to the Maury Island Incident, from conspiracy theories and cover-ups to threats by the Men in Black, to the disappearance of witnesses and evidence (photographs), even something approaching an outright hoax that ended up involving several of the early pioneers in the ‘flying saucer’ business, most of that story isn’t relevant to the deaths of the military officers and is omitted here.

The basic tale revolves around Harold A. Dahl, his son Charles, and a dog. They were all out boating near Maury Island in Puget Sound near Tacoma Washington on or about the 21st of June 1947 (which actually precedes the ‘official’ beginnings of the modern UFO era by a few days). They claimed to have spotted an overhead fleet of what we’d now call (doughnut-shaped) UFOs flying in formation and surrounding another UFO which seemed to be having some sort of difficulty. The object that was in some distress or that was malfunctioning ejected some solid slag-like material which, obeying the laws of gravity, fell earthwards, struck and damaged Dahl’s jointly owned boat, caused some minor injuries to himself and his son, but alas killed the dog. Samples of the ‘slag’ were recovered. Via a roundabout route, two military (Army Air Corps) intelligence officers were ultimately called in to investigate. The two investigating officers, Captain William L. Davidson and Lieutenant Frank M. Brown of Army A-2 Intelligence, arrived and conducted interviews and obtained samples of the ‘slag’ before boarding and piloting their B-25 aircraft, destination Hamilton Field in California. The plane carrying the two investigators and the slag crashed near Kelso, Washington, shortly after leaving Tacoma, killing both men. Two others on board, one an aircrew the other a military ‘hitchhiker’, Sergeant Elmer L. Taft and Technical Sergeant Woodrow D. Matthews survived by parachuting from the airplane after it lost its left wing and the tail section due to a fire in the left engine.

An FBI report into the incident noted that investigators from McChord Field near Tacoma had investigated the wreckage and were convinced there was no sabotage involved. It’s noted that one of the leading USAF UFO investigators, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, chief of Project Blue Book in the early 1950s, wrote in his 1956 book “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects” that he was convinced that the entire UFO sighting story was a hoax. The initial FBI field report concluded the story was a hoax as well. Regardless whether the incident was true (as some still believe), the cover-up of an advanced, classified but nevertheless terrestrial aerospace craft, or a hoax, the death of Capt. Davidson and Lt. Brown was real enough.

MANTELL INCIDENT (1948): If there was ever a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, then the Mantell Incident qualifies.

On the afternoon of the 7th of January 1948, Godman Army Airfield (at Fort Knox, Kentucky) was notified by the state highway patrol of a strange circular object they could not identify some 250 to 300 feet in diameter that was flying along a westward course. Being conscientious officers, they saw it as their duty to notify the nearest military base – Godman Field.

Military personnel, including the Commanding Officer, spotted the unknown object in question from the airfield’s control tower. It was also witnessed from other Army Airfields (Clinton County Army Air Field and Lockbourne Army Air Field, both in nearby Ohio). Witnesses collectively described the movement of the object ranging from stationary to 500 mph; ranging in altitude from near ground level to 10,000 feet. The lone object appeared to be white, but with a reddish fringe on the bottom.

Unfortunately, a formation of four P-51 Mustangs of the Kentucky Air National Guard just happened to be in the air and in the vicinity – that vicinity being the wrong place; wrong time for one of the pilots, the flight leader, Captain Thomas Mantell, an experienced pilot (over 2000 flying hours) and veteran of World War II. Anyway, the P-51 flight was directed to get up close and personal and determine what this unknown object was.

Not all of the P-51’s were able to comply with that order to the maximum extent possible. One was low on fuel; two others didn’t have an adequate oxygen supply and had more sense than to climb too high though they kept pace with Mantell for as long as they could. Mantell, without an oxygen supply, however, being the flight leader and no doubt an alpha male, threw caution into the wind, boldly went ahead, outdistancing his wingmen when he shouldn’t of. He kept in hot pursuit, stating the object was moving at only half his speed and he was closing in for a better look. He allegedly described the object as metallic and of tremendous size, in contrast to some of his wingmen who described it as small and indistinct.

To make a long story shorter, Capt. Mantell climbed too high, blacked out from lack of oxygen, and the rest, as they say, is history. His plane began spiraling back towards the ground. A witness later reported Mantell’s Mustang in a circling descent. His plane crashed at a farm south of Franklin, Kentucky, on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. Some interested parties have suggested that while Mantell was an experienced pilot, he was rather new to the P-51 Mustang, and that this relative inexperience could have been a factor in the crash. Regardless, Captain Mantell was, as of 3:18 p.m. that date, the late Captain Mantell.

So what was the object that ultimately led to Mantell’s death? Well the first half-hearted explanation was that everyone had sighted, and the P-51’s had chased, the planet Venus! It’s obvious that no plane can climb high enough to get up close and personal with a planet that’s millions of miles away, so if Venus it was, it’s no wonder Mantell failed to close in on it. Desperate in the attempt, he climbed too high and passed out from lack of oxygen, that being the major factor in the resulting crash and his death. So went explanation number one.

Now Venus, depending on where it is in its orbit, can been seen in daylight, if one knows exactly where to look. However, it’s going to be quite faint as a daylight object at the best of times, and 99.999% of people, while quite familiar with Venus as the celestial object called the morning or evening ‘star’, have never seen the planet in broad daylight. I know I haven’t. That all of a sudden so many people, the highway patrol, other civilians, ground based military personnel, Capt. Mantell and his wingmen, zeroed in on Venus is absolutely astounding – too astounding to be credible. In any event, what Venus would look like in the daytime sky, and the description of the object in question, just don’t mesh. Scratch Venus.

The next best option was, at that time, a top secret US Navy Skyhook weather balloon. Why a weather balloon should be top secret is beyond me, but classified it was. The general characteristics of the Skyhook are reasonably consistent with the appearance and movements reported by Mantell and other witnesses, the sticking point being no particular Skyhook balloon could be conclusively identified as being in the area in question during Mantell’s pursuit according to some; facts disputed by the skeptics who said that multiple Skyhooks had been launched that day about 150 miles away. Regardless, if the object was a Skyhook, it’s little wonder nobody could identify it as such seeing as how it was a classified project and object. Of course it wouldn’t have been very politically correct to admit that a secret American military program resulted in the demise of an American military pilot!

The cause of Mantell’s crash remains officially listed as undetermined by the Air Force.

In 1948 flying discs or saucers were still pretty unique and so the first death directly attributed to a flying saucer was Big News and it was widely reported in the press. Unfortunately, some more lurid sections of the press suggested that Mantell had been shot down by the UFO and/or that his body was riddled with holes and/or his P-51 aircraft was found to be radioactive. These reports were false.

In the end, it matters little what the object was – bona-fide hardcore UFO or something more prosaic like Venus or a Skyhook weather balloon – Mantell was just as dead.

KINROSS INCIDENT (1953): On the 23rd of November, 1953, First Lieutenant Felix Moncla (pilot) and Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson (radar operator) were scrambled from Kinross Air Force Base in their United States Air Force (USAF) F-89 Scorpion to investigate the incursion into American air space, just on the American-Canadian border and over Lake Superior of an unknown aircraft that had been detected by Air Defense Command radar at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. At roughly 8000 feet elevation, after being guided by ground radar tracking that was also required for an intercept, an intercept was accomplished. Ground Control tracked the F-89 Scorpion and the unidentified object as two separate blips on their radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they seemed to merge as one return blip. Assuming that pilot Lt. Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that moments later, the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips. There was little actual fear that the two objects had struck one another in collision. To their astonishment, rather, the now single blip disappeared from the radar screen, and then there was no radar return at all. The F-89 apparently merged with the other mystery radar return. Its IFF signal also disappeared after the two returns merged on the radar scope. Attempts were made to contact Lt. Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but found not a trace of the plane or the pilots and radar officer.

The USAF reported that Lt. Moncla and Lt. Wilson had crashed and that the ‘unknown’ object was only a misidentified Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) aircraft. The official USAF Accident Investigation Report identified the unidentified second aircraft as a RCAF C-47 Dakota VC-912, crossing Northern Lake Superior from west to east at 7,000 feet en route from Winnipeg to Sudbury, Canada, that had traveled off course.

But, on multiple occasions, the RCAF refuted their involvement in the intercept incident, in correspondence with members of the public asking for further details on the alleged encounter.

So, like the Valentich case below, did a bona-fide UFO make off with an aircraft and crew? No trace of the F-89, Lt. Moncla or Lt. Wilson has, to this day, been found despite the alleged ‘crash’ in the official report.

SCHAFFNER INCIDENT (1970): United States Air Force (USAF) pilot Captain William Schaffner was on an exchange program serving with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in September 1970 at RAF Binbrook. On the 8th of that month an unknown objected was picked up by radar at various locations, and aircraft from various bases in Iceland and Scotland were directed to take off and investigate it. However, the object in question kept playing hide-and-seek, appearing on and off radar scopes as various aircraft approached, thus forcing them to ultimately abandon the chase and return to base.

When it became Capt. Schaffner’s turn to investigate and intercept, piloting a Lightning, the object quit playing games allowing the officer to make visual contact. He spotted and described a dazzling blue conical-shaped object minutes before his plane then disappeared off the radar. It would seem at first glance that his plane and the object merged, the object then moving off at high speed, but that was only apparent as the disappearance of the Lightning aircraft off the radar was because for one reason or another Capt. Schaffner was flying way too low and actually flew directly into the North Sea. And that’s when the real puzzles start.

The aircraft was located (within three weeks) and recovered from the bottom of the North Sea shortly thereafter (within three months) of the incident. The Lightning aircraft was largely intact with minimal damage; no explosion, in fact no signs of any mechanical failure that would have led to the crash. The canopy was in place and closed. Unfortunately, there was no body of Capt. Schaffner within the plane. Capt Schaffner’s body has never been found – and he did not eject from the cockpit into a survival dinghy.

So was the missing pilot snatched by aliens? The Board of Inquiry came to the conclusion Capt Schaffner manually abandoned the aircraft, but because he has not been found, he was presumed to have drowned during or after his escape. But, since the aircraft canopy was in place when the Lightning was lifted out of the sea (and pictures confirm that), how did the pilot exit the craft? So, regardless of what the unknown object was, and some say it was nothing but a slow moving Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft that had lost radio contact with the outside world that Capt. Schaffner was trying to intercept and not a bona-fide UFO at all, you still have a UFO incident and one missing, presumed dead pilot. Of course if aliens did somehow manage to abduct Capt. Schaffner while in the air, that would explain why his now unmanned jet landed in the drink!

VALENTICH INCIDENT (1978): America, the U.K., so why not Australia? One of many, many highly unexplained UFO cases is the events surrounding Frederick Valentich on 21 October 1978. It’s more a case of where there’s smoke, there’s smoke, but smoke there certainly is, and lots of it.

In a nutshell, on the evening of that date, in perfect weather for night flying, Mr. Valentich piloted a private plane from Melbourne, intended
destination, King Island in Bass Strait. He took off only to shortly thereafter radio in repeatedly asking if there was another aircraft in his vicinity. That was a negative according to air traffic control. This ‘aircraft’ ultimately started hovering or orbiting over him. Let’s now call a spade a spade here and state the ‘aircraft’ was a UFO. The UFO was also spotted by several independent witnesses. While radioing in his observations, ultimately acknowledging at the end that the mysterious ‘aircraft’ was not an aircraft, all contact ceased; all communications abruptly ended. Mr. Valentich, plane and all, vanished without trace. An extensive air and sea search failed to find any sign of Mr. Valentich, or his plane. No oil slick, no floating wreckage, no body – nothing, zip, bugger-all. No trace has ever been found of pilot or plane – not then, not since, not ever.

One obvious explanation was that Mr. Valentich staged his own disappearance, although friends and family could offer no reason why he would do so. Of course many people voluntarily disappear themselves for various reasons; many eventually are found, are caught or reappear voluntarily. But keep in mind; it wasn’t just Mr. Valentich who disappeared. One entire aircraft vanished as well, never to be seen again. Surely if Mr. Valentich wanted to ‘drop out’, there were easier and way less conspicuous ways of doing so. If he had deliberately gone walkabout, in these decades since of security cameras and computer facial software recognition technology, it would be hard to remain an unknown walkabout in any populated area.

Was suicide a motive? Again, no wreckage or body was ever found, and who would go to all the bother of reporting a non-existent UFO overhead – a non-existent UFO that happened to be independently reported by others. Anyway, no suicide note was found.

And what of the plane since no wreckage was ever found floating on the surface of Bass Strait; washed up on beaches, or found on the ocean bottom – Bass Strait isn’t that deep.
It’s a mystery, and while it doesn’t prove aliens nicked off with Mr. Valentich and plane, there’s not that much wriggle room.

Interestingly, despite my (and others) asking for a copy of the Valentich ‘accident’ case report in an official capacity related to my employment at the time, the Department of Transport (Air Safety Investigations Branch) refused. To this day, to the best of my knowledge, that report has never been publicly released. A summary report was issued mainly giving the transcript of Valentich’s final conversation with air traffic control with the conclusion being that they could not determine the exact cause into the mishap.

In conclusion, there really is no common high strangeness thread here (though I’d suggest a few of the above incidents are individually in a high strangeness category), just a UFO incident and a dead pilot, sometimes pilot and crew. But that alone is enough to strongly suggest that UFOs are a serious business indeed.

Presenting: Calgary – Canada's Heart of the New West

During our upcoming ski trip in the Alberta Rockies this March, we’ll be visiting Calgary for the first time. As a matter of fact, it will be our first time in the Canadian Rockies ever. We’ll have a brief one-day layover in Calgary before we move on to skiing in Banff and Lake Louise and will try to get a sneak peak at Alberta’s capital.

To prepare us for our compact discovery of Calgary, I have talked to Paul Newmarch from Tourism Calgary to get a lay of the land so to speak, to give us an overview so we’ll be able to explore Canada’s New West.

1. Please provide us with some general information about Calgary. How large is the city, where is it located, what is the weather like?

According to the civic census, Calgary’s population was 956,078 in April 2005. Calgary is located in the province of Alberta, 145 Km east of Banff, and 250 km from the US border. Calgary’s average summer temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter, average temperature is -8 Celsius. That said, there is a local saying in Calgary that if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.

2. How can one get to Calgary and what is the best way of getting around in Calgary?

Calgary is accessible along the TransCanada highway, or by direct air from a number of cities, including the following:
Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, St. John’s, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Yellownknife.

The following US cities have direct connections to Calgary:
Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Maui, Minneapolis, New York (JFK), Orlando, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

You will find direct flights to Calgary from the following European cities:
Frankfurt, London and Manchester.

The best way to get around would be to use the Calgary Transit System. Train service is free in the downtown core, and a one way adult fare is $2.25. Otherwise, taxi cabs are available to and from all areas of the city.

3. Please tell us a bit about Calgary’s history.

Calgary’s history as a city began in 1875 when a detachment of North West Mounted Police (NWMP) arrived. The NWMP established Fort Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers in an area that, at that time, had few permanent inhabitants. Except for local native peoples who used the area for hunting, the only full-time occupants were Sam Livingston, a homesteader, and his family.

Calgary was named by NWMP Colonel James Macleod after Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. (Although there has been much discussion on the topic, it is believed Calgary is derived from the Gaelic Cala-ghearridh meaning “bay farm.”)

On Nov. 7, 1884, Calgary was officially incorporated as a town and less than a decade later, on Jan. 1, 1894, the town became a city. Harness-maker George Murdoch was the first mayor of Calgary. The CPR was delivering a continuous supply of settlers to Calgary by 1885. These new immigrants had an impact on the established ranching life surrounding Calgary as they moved on to the range formerly inhabited by large herds of cattle. Although the ranching industry changed significantly after its arrival, the presence of the CPR led directly to the importance of the processing and exporting of meat to Calgary’s economy.

4. Please tell us about some of the major attractions, museums and galleries in the Calgary area.

Perhaps the best known Calgary attraction is the Calgary Stampede, a 10-day western extravaganza of rodeo, chuckwagon races, pancake breakfasts, square dancing and more. It always kicks off the first Friday of July, this year it runs July 7-16.

In addition, Calgary is home to Western Canada’s largest museum, the Glenbow Museum. With exhibitions that change twice a year, and a permanent exhibit on the history of some of Alberta’s first nations people, the Blackfoot, it is an attraction not to be missed.

Calgary is also home to the world renowned Calgary Zoo. The Zoo has more than 1,000 animals, and the new Destination Africa and Canadian Wilds Exhibits.

There is also Canada Olympic Park (one of the host sites from the XV Winter Olympic Games), Heritage Park, (Canada’s largest living historical village), Spruce Meadows, a world famous show-jumping facility, Fort Calgary, the birthplace of the city , the Calgary Tower and the Calgary TELUS World of Science, a family attraction offering hands-on exhibits.

In addition, there are numerous art galleries, and live theatre organizations. The best resource for this is [http://www.reallivearts.com]

5. Our readers would like to find out about the festivals and special events in Calgary.

Outside of the Calgary Stampede, there is also the Calgary Dragon Boat Race & Cultural Festival August 25-27, 20006; The Calgary Comedy Festival, FunnyFest April 28 – May 13, 2006; GlobalFest, which is a multi-cultural festival and international fireworks competition August 17 – 20, 2006; and the Calgary Folk Festival, July 27-30, 2006 .

There is a helpful calender of events on the Tourism Calgary website.

6. What about restaurants and entertainment / nightlife areas in Calgary?

There are a number of dining areas in Calgary, including Stephen Avenue walk (8th Avenue), the 17th Avenue District, and Kensington. As far as nightlife, your best bet would be along 17th (web as above) or there are a few clubs along 1st Street SW, or 9th Avenue SW, including Mynt Ultralounge which was recognized as best new nightclub by enRoute Magazine in 2004.

7. Please give us an overview of the performing arts on offer in Calgary.

Everything from puppetry to the philharmonic, Calgary’s art scene is growing and thriving. Here is a listing of various performing arts organizations:

Theatre Calgary

Alberta Theatre Projects

One Yellow Rabbit (cutting edge theatre)

Vertigo Mystery Theatre

Alberta Ballet

Calgary Opera

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

Theatre Junction

Loose Moose Theatre (improv)

Lunchbox Theatre (longest running lunch time theatre company in the world)

8. What are some of the shopping opportunities in Calgary?

The Uptown 17th District (as above) is also a upscale clothing district. As far as unique products from Calgary and area, there is Alberta Boot, Alberta’s only western boot manufacturer, Crave Cookies & Cupcakes (they’re to die for! ), Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut , Alberta made art at The Croft or Art Central. There are also two large malls – Chinook Centre and Market Mall.

9. What are the outdoor, recreational and sports opportunities in and around Calgary?

Calgary has a 635 Km long system of paved pathways on which you can walk, in-line skate or bike. Many of the pathways are cross-country ski accessible during the winter, but more than 95 km is cleared in winter months.

There is also hiking and biking in Fish Creek Provincial Park, skate boarding at Millennium Park and The Source Skateboard Park which is one of the largest indoor skate parks in North America, skiing at Canada Olympic Park during the winter, and downhill mountain biking in the summer. There are also a number of guest ranches where you are able to horseback ride.

Just outside of Calgary in Kananaskis Country, which is a 45 to 60 minute drive, there are all sorts of activities, including horseback riding in the mountains, hiking, biking, and white water rafting.

10. What type of accommodations options are there in Calgary?

There are numerous options, from high-end 5 star hotels to bed and breakfasts to hostels to motels. The best resource is the Tourism Calgary website’s accommodation search function.

11. What are some of the major events and big news stories coming up in 2006 and beyond in Calgary?

There are a number of exciting news relating to Calgary and surrounding areas.

Calgary was rated #2 in the world for business travellers by the Economist Magazine. Calgary’s transportation, infrastructure and perceived safety were all factors in Calgary’s high marks.

Lake Louise has once again been named among the top 50 ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine, along with Vail, Whistler and Jackson Hole.

Lonely Planet’s Blue List – 618 Things to Do & Places to Go in 06-07 has selected the Canadian Rockies as the number 1 Most Spectacular Natural Attraction in the World. They also chose Rocky Mountaineer as number 3 on the Classic Train Trips list and Banff National Park as number 5 on the Most Extreme Environments list.

Here is a brief overview of major events coming up in Calgary

2006

World Figure Skating Championships

Players Championship of the World Curling Tour

CIS Women’s Volleyball Championships

World All-round Speed Skating Championships

2007

World Power Lifting Championships

Alberta Provincial Games – Special Olympics

2008

Canadian Gymnastics Championships

Thank you, Paul, for this overview. Now we can start planning our personal visit of the Heart of the New West.

Myths of Housing Market Crashes

According to the news media, we recently experienced one of the worst real estate market crashes on record in North America. As we listen to the stream of bad news, we are forced to accept and believe that we have undergone a crisis. Yet, does that mean that all of us have been crushed by the economic collapse of the housing market?

In the early 1980s, mortgage and loan rates skyrocketed, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners forced to give up their real estate dream because of the debt burden. Many times that number of aspiring buyers was crushed by the reality that they could not afford to purchase that dream home immediately.

In early 2008, the outlook for real estate sales & purchase across North America was the most optimistic in decades. Houses were being built and bought at a frantic pace.

By early 2009, the outlook was the most pessimistic in decades. Houses were being defaulted into bankruptcy and construction projects abandoned at a furious pace.

Such is the nature of a housing market bubble bursting. Yet, there are significant flaws in the “universal housing crash” stories.

Without a doubt, millions of North Americans have been deprived of their homes, and the real estate industry has suffered a huge hit.

In the US, cities like Memphis have seen as much as 30% of its housing stock subject to mortgage default, while places like Phoenix have been struck by declines in home values exceeding 60%. Condominium construction in Las Vegas has been decimated, with a huge overstock of unsold homes.

In Canada, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton & Toronto have experienced pressure on home prices, even though cities like Regina, Winnipeg and some Maritime communities have seen continual upward climbs in home prices.

But, in cities where sales have escalated, there are communities and market sectors where the “bubble has burst.” And, in the housing “death zones” of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, there remain vibrant segments of the housing market that have continued to do well in the crisis. In fact, the crisis never actually reached the magnitude in Canada that many experts were predicting. The bubble that stimulated the federal government to change mortgage financing rules may not have posed the threat that the media suggested, either.

Even with the market poised to collapse in 2008-09, the real threat was not to housing stock or to the existing homeowner, but to the financing of home ownership. So, if the quantity of houses continued to climb, there must be an opportunity in that market! Indeed, an astute buyer, throughout the past 3 years, could find a real bargain in most cities hardest hit by the downturn.

The crash of the 1980s, too, was caused by financing problems, rather than housing availability. Still, homes were available, at great prices, for the person who had saved enough for a sizable down payment.

Much of the media focus on the impending housing bubble burst is directed to pockets, or areas that are at risk. Rising prices have moved many homes out of the reach of first-time buyers. But that has happened in the past, and the market has corrected. Yet, new homeowners continue to show up, as they adjust their budgets and saving habits to enable their purchase.

Those corrections are not immediate. When a mid-range price market folds, new construction may move to entry-level or upscale homes. When new homes become too pricey for many of us, older homes, character homes, or existing starter homes fill the gap.

The media succeeds when people view, read or listen. People view, read or listen when the news is exciting. The media hype would have had us believe everyone was going to die of Ebola 15 years ago, Legionnaires disease 25 years ago, West Nile Virus ten years ago, or terrorist-generated anthrax five years ago. As serious as the threats may have been, catastrophe was not inevitable. As serious as the economic collapse of the past two years may be, home ownership collapse is not inevitable.

With the challenges that the housing industry faces, the reality is that, like Julie Andrews says (paraphrased) in the Sound of Music, “Whenever a door closes, somewhere a window opens.”

Today’s housing market should be looked at not as a wasteland of crises, but a field of opportunities, where, in the right area, the right market, at the right price, there are fantastic prospects for acquiring your dream home, or making a lucrative investment. Perhaps, even, you may be on the vanguard of a new real estate “gold rush.” The window is open.

Coffee News Franchise Review

Coffee news started, by Jean Daum, in Winnipeg, Canada is a weekly news publication that is delivered to restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, motels and other small eateries and shops.  Coffee news was created to offer small bite size amounts of news and advertising to the customers of individual stores and was built upon the belief that when consuming information and advertising in small amounts you have a better return.

Coffee news has benefits to local advertisers that larger print publications cannot offer.  The ads are less expensive, they advertiser has exclusivity in their area the week there ad is running, ads are being read three times per day as people are eating different meals, all ad sizes are the same allowing fair exposure and the reader typically reads the entire print due to it’s small size. 

One unique component to this business is the home based nature.  This franchise was designed to allow a person to start a desktop publishing company from home.  As with any franchise you have access to the system that has proven to work.  From ad copy, to print layout, vendor contacts, marketing cooperatives, ad slicks and support the Coffee News Franchise allows you to start with no experience. 

This franchise system is a good part time business for someone looking to make some extra income.  However, looking at the model it is limited to the growth you can achieve.  As a local publication you will be limited to your ability to grow locally and will not have the ability to expand beyond 20 licenses.

The cost for the franchise fee is $8000 and is good for four years.  In addition to the up front fee you will pay an ongoing fee of $80 per week for each license you are awarded. 

It is important to fully evaluate all businesses prior to making a decision.  Understanding the strengths and the weaknesses of the model will allow for you to position yourself for business success rather than business failure.

The Challenges Faced by International Business

This article examines how the environment affects and creates conditions for either the success or failure of business organizations and how it operates to demand effective strategic thinking on the part of decision-makers if businesses are to survive and thrive.

Take the classic example of Mark & Spencer PLC, which began in 1894 as a single high street store owned by two men, selling all items said to be costing no more than a penny to the customer. Over the years it conquered the retail sector with branches in prime locations all over the UK, and in overseas territories, totalling more than 885 stores. Not only did Marks & Spencer evolve into the giant corporation which it is today by reading the changes in the environment well, and meeting the growing needs of more and more affluent consumers, it also influenced the shopping habits of its clients. The business firm is not a faceless entity; at best, it can be an icon of social and economic progress, and at worst become vanquished by its inability to read the environment, Woolworths and MFI being two recent examples of such failure.

How the environment impacts on the fortunes of the business firm is nowhere more evident than in the collapse of many business enterprises including financial institutions (e.g.banks) in the current worldwide economic downturn. Even starker is the effect of continuing bad weather either in the form of floods or snow on the viability of a whole range of firms in the UK. Had the environment represented by the UK government not provided a lifeline to some of the major banks in the form of taxpayer subsidies, or buy-outs, they would not have survived. Different political ideologies at different times affect the business enterprise in different ways. The collapse of communism and the breaking down of the Berlin wall in 1989, coupled with the Internet phenomenon resulted in the abolition of legislation preventing global communication and industrialisation. Since then there has been a plethora of international mergers, acquisitions and alliances which saw transnational corporations (TNCs) grow in size and economic power as never seen before. Denning (1993) has identified the interaction between ownership advantage (OA) brought by the TNC and the location advantage (LA) of the countries where TNCs seek to invest. Researchera identified synergies sought by TNCs in foreign direct investment (FDI) as being motivated by strategies for market seeking (MA), efficiency seeking (ES), and knowledge seeking (KS) respectively, depending on their reading of the business environment.

Before going any deeper, it is necessary to take stock of what is meant by the business firm, and what its objectives are, and proceed to analyse the process and effects of this rapid globalisation. A business firm is a legal entity. Unlike a sole trader, or partnership, it is required to be incorporated with rules and objectives that are documented. It may be capitalised with borrowings or by shareholder contributions. While the shareholders own the enterprise and have claims to sharing the profits, it may be managed day-to-day by paid employees. The objective of the firm is ‘to maximise its value to its shareholders’ (Van Horne, 1974). Historically, ‘maximisation of profits is regarded as the proper objective of the firm, but it is not as inclusive a goal as that of maximising shareholder wealth’ (op. cit.). There are difficulties even in this conceptualization where ‘maximising market price per share’ is preferred by some to ‘maximisation of earnings per share’ (op. cit.).

A business firm currently in the news is Blacks Leisure, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, when the current adverse weather conditions improved its fortunes by providing a market for its thermal wear products. Now it is planning to expand further. Meanwhile the adverse economic environment has encouraged Poundland offering cheap goods to fill the gap left by Woolworth’s demise. The British salt manufacturing firm Ineos Enterprises chose to cancel a 12, 000 ton shipment of industrial salt promised to Germany, diverting the stock to local authorities in the UK in dire need of supplies to grit roads covered by snow. It is a good example of the environment influencing decision makers of private firms to act in a socially responsible manner. This upholds Van Horne’s (1974) assertion that even at the risk of not maximising shareholder wealth in the short term, management of business firms ought not to ignore the need for ‘social responsibility’ which brings long term benefits although perhaps not immediately apparent.

As related to business firms, social responsibility concerns such things as protecting the consumer, paying fair wages to employees, maintaining fair hiring practices, supporting education, and becoming actively involved in environmental issues like clean air and water… However, the criteria for social responsibility are not clearly defined, making formulation of a consistent objective function difficult’ (op. cit.).

It is now generally understood that a business does not, and cannot function in a vacuum. It has to react to events occurring outside its factory and office walls. The very first concern should be a close awareness of competitors’ strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis its products and services. Additionally, most analysts require awareness of the environment in terms of political, social, economic and technological factors which impinge on the business firm.

Other analysts have expanded these to: Political – how changes in government policy could affect decision making in the firm. For example, the UK government’s concern over clean energy has resulted in a decision to invite foreign firms to bid for the supply of offshore windmills over the next several years. Not only do the windmill suppliers but also a host of firms required to supply ancillary products and services could take advantage of this decision. Social – how consumers beliefs and interests change over time. An example is the changing demography of many more senior citizens being present in the population and concerns over their health. Economic – how taxation, (e.g. tax holidays), interest rates, exchange rates, and the ‘credit crunch’ affect individual firms. Technological – how product innovations, and new technology like the proliferation of mobile phones, (iPads), change consumer preferences. Legal – how changes in law, enforcing of minimum wages, and regulating working hours, affect business. Last, but not least are the Ethical concerns that underpin social responsibility issues. An example is the refusal to trade with regimes known to contravene human rights legislation. All these factors influence to change markets which businesses need to take into account and respond to, if they are not to lose market share and jeopardise their long term viability.

A business firm, although incorporated by law as an entity is by no means monolithic. More than its shareholders, it has other stakeholders with different, if not competing objectives and interests within its ambit. Starting with the managers, there are other employees who may, or may not be trades union members, along with the community where it is situated, and which it serves, having to take into account local authority strictures on waste disposal and other similar regulations.

Discussing foreign direct investment (FDI) of transnational corporations, Robert Pearce defines the global business environment as ‘the environment in different sovereign countries, with factors exogenous to the home environment of the organization, influencing decision making in resource use and capabilities. This incl
udes social, political, economic, regulatory, tax, cultural, legal and technological environments’. Pearce accepts that business firms do not have any direct control over this environment, but that their success depends on how well they adapt to this environment. As seen earlier in the case of Blacks Leisure and Poundland, a firm’s ‘ability to design and adjust its internal variables to take advantage of opportunities offered by the external environment, and its ability to control threats posed by the same environment determine its success’ (op. cit.).

Firms also take advantage of savings offered by outsourcing. Careful consideration of the variables of communication networks, cultural compatibility and reliability, needs to be addressed. There are offshore development centres which offer call centre provision and other web related customised professional services with appropriate infrastructure support.

How an American firm adapted to cultural diversity in France is discussed by Daniel Workman (2008). He says that the Euro Disneyland, a ‘transplanted American theme park’ near Paris had lost $34 million over the first six months since it opened in April 1992. Even before it opened there was strong local opposition that it threatened French cultural sensitivities. A strict employee dress code and the outlawing of wine in the park, among other things, angered the Parisians. Eisner, the CEO of the parent company in Florida commented: “What we have created in France is the biggest private investment in a foreign country by an American company ever. And it’s going to pay off”. Workman avers that ‘Eisner has since learned to recognize French cultural traditions and quality of life, rather than focus exclusively on American business interests, revenues and earnings at the expense of the underlying French culture'(op. cit.).

Disney found that the first American CEO of Euro Disneyland even with the capacity to speak fluent French, with a French wife, and a recipient of awards from the French government was still unable to make it a going concern. It was only after Disney replaced him and 23 American-born senior managers with local staff, that Euro Disneyland began to make profits.

Banning wine in a country which believes that ‘a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine’, made Euro Disneyland an unwelcome proposition even before it started. American-style hot dog carts were not attractive to a populace famed for its culinary and gastronomic sophistication. Later deciding to use French language rather than English, was also a more than reasonable accommodation made by Disney. It was one of the essential components of its later success.

Cultural encoding also requires that the Americans respect the more feminine French culture’s dominant need for a friendly atmosphere, cooperation, low stress levels and group decision-making instead of focusing exclusively on money and materialistic success (Workman, 2008).

Another aspect of business life is the support (or its absence) from the state as an unavoidable component of the business environment. Like most developed countries, Canada provides government funding to business firms seeking to expand into international markets. The government body responsible is the Small Business Finance Centre (SBFC). The funding is in the form of grants and loans which could be between $1500 and $10 million. Success stories abound. A $34,500 grant enabled a Winnipeg firm, K9 Storm Limited to export body armour for police dogs to 12 countries, in North America and Europe. Another Winnipeg company, Airport Technologies received $12, 500 to develop a snow plough called ‘Snow Mauler’ now being exported to the USA. The most successful has been the Garrison Guitar Works of St. John’s, Newfoundland, which received a grant of $250,000 to develop five guitar prototypes, and now, as a multi-million dollar company exports 20,000 guitars a year to 29 countries. They also own 350 retail stores in North America.

An interest free loan of $8700 enabled Keith Longmire (Nova Scotia) to develop his hand-painted birdhouses enterprise to establish itself in the US marketplace, while Domaine Pinnacle (Quebec) received a $300,000 loan to fund equipment to ferment high-quality apple cider and achieve sales of over $1 million a year. Meanwhile, Agribiotics of Cambridge, Ontario, was awarded a $44,570 loan to develop a vaccine to protect corn from pests and win a contract from the University of Wisconsin. The Canadian government also helps individual firms with their business plans as a precursor to obtaining a grant or loan (Workman, 2008).

In an earlier paragraph this essay introduced the idea of foreign direct investment (FDI). This stood at $14 billion in 1970 ‘but increased over 140 times to almost $2,000 billion by 2007. A large part of the upsurge in global FDI has been due to mergers and acquisitions (M&As). It is these cross-border mergers and acquisitions which have deepened the economic integration of developing Asia with the global economy. Researchers investigating the increasing M&A activity in this region decided that financial variables in terms of liquidity in the source country and the perception of risk (environment) influenced the level of cross-border transactions. They also conclude that the ongoing global financial crisis is likely to sharply curtail the extent of cross-border M&A transactions although this is not entirely proven.

Analysts hypothesised five ‘waves’ of M&A activity in the past. These waves occurred during periods of economic downturn. Currently, a ‘sixth wave’ is recognised with China, India and Brazil emerging as global players in trade and industry. One of the main reasons for M&A activity to be at its height in a recession could be the rapid drop in the stock value of target companies. A major factor in the increase in global outward foreign direct investment (FDI) stock increasing from $150 million in the early 1990s to $1200 million in 2000 may have been due to the above factor. However, it is not possible to generalise when one saw the attempts at a hostile takeover of the UK firm Cadburys by the US firm Krafts and its final, more amicable outcome. Cadburys was far from being a struggling firm. Its share price was holding up and its asset value had not in any way decreased before the takeover attempt.

A recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Industry (UNCTAD) report stated that 29 of the world’s largest economic giants are transnational corporations (TNCs). The annual value-added business performance of the 100 biggest TNCs exceeded that of some nation states. How the rise of TNCs transformed world trade over the last 30 years can be seen from the following statistics. In 1970 there were about 7000 non-financial TNCs investing directly in other developed or developing countries. By 1992 there were 37,000 with 170,000 foreign affiliates. The latter accounted for $11 trillion worth of output. Against this, the total world trade amounted to only $7 trillion.

An important variable in the success of transnational corporations, mergers and acquisitions is the facility with which managers, employees and customers with differing linguistic backgrounds communicate with each other. The total number of languages spoken around the world has been estimated at 6913. This is the reality of the language environment. However, there are two ways by which the language problem has been addressed. One can establish a common language for business, the most widely spoken international language being English. Although numerically more people in the world speak Chinese (Mandarin), it is confined to the People’s Republic of China whereas English is used in countries as far apart as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, UK and almost all Commonwealth countries.

Increasingly however, there are language intermediaries who could be engaged to conduct business in the local language. The volume of the global language service industry is estimated to be somewhere around $12 billion and handling around 500 million pages of translation and localization every year. An example of a language services provider of this type is Lionbridge with ’50 offices, $375 million revenue and about 4000 people on its payroll’. Specialised software products such as ‘recycling the translators’ knowledge-base (called translation memory)’ are among many new developments in the language translation industry (op. cit.).

Another reason for keeping up to date with changes in the environment is that a business firm’s operational effectiveness can be jeopardised by not paying heed to such changes. ‘Due to the rapid diffusion of best practice, a productivity barrier is soon reached… Japanese car firms… dominated in the 1970s and 1980s… Lack of a strategic perspective has since held them back while other Japanese businesses like Sony and Cannon flourish (because they) did not sit back with a ready formulated strategy that worked in the past, but revised their strategic thinking taking into account the changing realities of world trade. Obviously, their resource base and mix would have had to alter, and continue to change in the light of changing circumstances.

Writing about mergers and acquisitions Robert Heller contends that buying another business is the easiest task for management in most businesses. However, more things can go wrong in hasty acquisitions as has been proved in the literature. Here too, it is strategy and continuous scanning of the environment and competition which can ensure success. Heller talks of the need to achieve ‘superior organic growth’ once the merger has been accomplished. His answer to how this is to be achieved is to have a ‘visionary’ at the helm. Neither the conservative who wants to retain the status quo, nor the pragmatist who wants change but relies only on those tried and tested somewhere else, can succeed. Only the visionary, often battling against the odds, (could) drive the company into the future.

Heller explains why the Silicon Valley companies have enjoyed acquisition success far beyond the norm.The buys, have been slotted into a receptive culture, in which new ideas are the currency and visionaries dominate -led by a visionary chief executive who has delegated all operating duties to others.

The permeability of the firm to the increasingly global business environment has been demonstrated with examples, throughout this essay. Vision and strategic choice determine the ever changing nature of viable and successful enterprises. A final example below should convince even the most sceptical of the truth of the above conclusion.

United Technologies Corporation is America’s 20th largest manufacturer and the 43rd largest US Corporation according to Fortune 500 list (2006) with 215,000 employees. UTC makes Otis lifts, Carrier heating and air conditioning, Hamilton Sunstrand aerospace and industrial systems, Sikorsky helicopters, Pratt and Whitney jet engines, and Chubb security systems. UTC has thousands of branch offices throughout the world. Internet and IT is the key to UTC’s success. It is obvious that the UTC chief executive’s command over the organization’s resources around the world accounts for its superior productivity and competitive advantage. But it is equally clear that his control over resources is the result of well-thought out strategic decision-making of someone in close touch with the realities of business in the 21st century.

References
Denning, J. (1993) Multinational Enterprises and the Global Economy. Wokingham, Addison-Wesley.
Van Horne J.C. (1974) Financial Management and Policy. Prentice-Hall.
Workman, D. (2008) Disneyland Resort Paris Lessons; American Management Adapts to Cultural Diversity in France.quoted in ‘Boss is the King of Cool’ (The Sunday Times, 18th March 2009).

Warning the Gullible About Global Warming

Isn’t it strange that, with all the talk about Global Warming (GW), we
just had one of the coldest winters we’ve had in a long time? The 2007
Farmers’ Almanac, whose predictions are up to 85% accurate, predicts
frigid temperatures, as much as 20 degrees below seasonal norms (and
nearly 40 degrees colder than last winter), for Montana, the Dakotas and parts of Wyoming. For the Gulf Coast up through New England,
unseasonably cold, or “shivery,” conditions are expected. Snow, and
lots of it, is also forecast for the nation’s midsection, parts of New
England, and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. “The Great Lakes
and Ohio River Valley may be the only area spared the extreme cold,”
reveals Sandi Duncan, Managing Editor, “but this is not to say this area
won’t be without its cold spells and significant snowfalls.”

Wonder why THAT hasn’t made the news!

We recently ministered to an 11-year old who was literally in tears
with fear over the GW scare they’d been discussing in school. The
child reasoned that, “If the world is ending; why bother with anything
but huddling together with my family?”

Every natural disaster that takes place these days is being blamed on GW.
Many world leaders are accepting GW as Gospel truth. A recent survey
revealed that 33% of Americans see GW as a very real threat to our
existence. TV shows such as Discovery’s “Planet Earth” are showy,
elaborate propaganda pieces for the GW agenda.

A MATTER OF FAITH

A news headline recently read: “Global Warming is not due to human
contribution of Carbon Dioxide.” Dr. Tim Ball is the Chairman of the
Natural Resources Stewardship Project, is a Victoria-based
environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the
University of Winnipeg. In a February 5, 2007 article entitled, “Global
Warming: The Cold, Hard Facts?” Ball writes: “Global Warming, as
we think we know it, doesn’t exist. And I am not the only one trying to
make people open up their eyes and see the truth…few listen, despite
the fact that I was one of the first Canadian Ph.Ds. in Climatology and
I have an extensive background in climatology, especially the
reconstruction of past climates and the impact of climate change on
human history and the human condition. Few listen, even though I have
a Ph.D, (Doctor of Science) from the University of London, England
and was a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. For
some reason (actually for many), the World is not listening. Here is
why.

“What would happen if tomorrow we were told that…the Earth is flat?

It would probably be the most important piece of news in the media
and would generate a lot of debate. So why is it that when scientists
who have studied the Global Warming phenomenon for years say that
humans are not the cause nobody listens?

“Believe it or not, Global Warming is not due to human contribution
of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). This, in fact, is the greatest deception in the
history of science. We are wasting time, energy and trillions of dollars
while creating unnecessary fear and consternation over an issue with
no scientific justification. For example, Environment Canada brags
about spending $3.7 billion in the last five years dealing with climate
change almost all on propaganda trying to defend an indefensible
scientific position while at the same time closing weather stations
and failing to meet legislated pollution targets.

“…if we don’t pursue the truth, we are lost as individuals and as a
society… there is no evidence that we are, or could ever cause, global
climate change…So how has the world come to believe that something
is wrong?

“Maybe for the same reason we believed, 30 years ago, that global
cooling was the biggest threat: a matter of faith. “It is a cold fact: the
Global Cooling presents humankind with the most important social,
political, and adaptive challenge we have had to deal with for ten
thousand years. Your stake in the decisions we make concerning it
is of ultimate importance; the survival of ourselves, our children, our
species,” wrote Lowell Ponte in 1976.

“I was as opposed to the threats of impending doom global cooling
engendered as I am to the threats made about Global Warming…I am
not denying the phenomenon has occurred. The world has warmed
since 1680, the nadir of a cool period called the Little Ice Age that
has generally continued to the present. These climate changes are well
within natural variability and explained quite easily by changes in the
sun. But there is nothing unusual going on.”

TRUTH OR…SOMETHING ELSE?

Is GW a fact? Yes, actually. As Dr. Klaus Toepfer, executive director
of the United Nations Environment Programme, remarked, “More and
more, people around the world are aware that there is climate change.
Nobody is questioning that any longer.”

But don’t buy every opinion being pitched by Hollywood “scientists”
like Alec Baldwin, Leonardo, Tom Hanks, Will Farrell and movies like
“The Day After Tomorrow.” They’ve taken the bate being offered by
everybody’s favorite ex-Veep-now-Movie-Maker Al Gore and his
global warming crusade. More on him coming up (you’ve been warned).

Is GW OUR fault? No, it’s not. Though the European Parliament has
called for trade sanctions against the United States unless it agrees to
curb its CO2 emissions, more and more scientists are speaking out
AGAINST those who say mankind is to blame. Climatologist Pat
Michaels of the CATO Institute stated, “Climate changes, yes…but
climate has changed in the past without human beings having anything
to do with it…”

If we were to embrace what environmentalists say, we’d all believe
the polar ice caps are melting and America’s coasts will be submerged
soon. Don’t start building an ark just yet. If we consider that the North
Pole is a giant ice cube floating in the ocean, if that melts at Summer’s
end, that means nothing to sea level. The South Pole, is the largest ice
mass on the planet. Experts say it is gaining ice, not losing it.

The temperature of our planet has been fluctuating, at least, since the
invention of the thermometer. They say it was warmer 1,000 years ago
than it is today, but that it started cooling. Colonial America was gripped
by the last days of The Little Ice Age, with some of the deepest snows
and coldest temperatures in recorded North American history. Remember
Valley Forge? Jefferson wrote about life during the tail end of this climate
change. In his book, “Notes on the State of Virginia”, he wrote, “The snow
used to lie on the ground for months at a time; now it only does so for
weeks or days…”

It lasted into the 1800s. 1816 was known as the “year without summer.”
Today, some climatologists are more worried about another ice age than
global warming. CBN News reports that, ” these experts have been
drowned out by a worldwide movement that has branded global-warming
skeptics as evil, even comparing them to people who deny the existence
of the Holocaust.”

CBN goes on to say, “At least part of the European Left’s hatred of
George Bush is his refusal to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol (KP), an
agreement among industrialized nations to lower their carbon dioxide
emissions as a way to fight against global warming. But it is not all
President Bush’s fault – under President Clinton, the Senate killed the
treaty 95 to nothing. But at the 2005 G-8 summit in Scotland, British
Prime Minister Tony Blair pushed President Bush to finally join the
global warming fight.

Though he symbolically signed it, Bush declared, “America’s
unwillingness to embrace a flawed treaty should not be read by our
friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility. To the contrary,
my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of
climate change … Our approach must be consistent with the long-term
goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.”

It’s been stated that the reason the U.S. won’t ratify the agreement is that,
unlike Europe, we recognize that the Kyoto Protocol will do nothing
measurable about global warming. In other words, “G. Dubya” hasn’t
fallen for the whole GW-thing. By one estimate, it would make a
difference of only seven one-hundredths of one degree Celsius after
50 years – an amount too small too measure. The European response
seems to be, “At least we’re doing something!”

Yes, they are doing something. From the Bush administration’s
perspective, they’re wasting money that they could use to invest in the
technologies of the future, throwing it at solar energy and windmills. It’s
been pointed out that the biggest supporters of KP in the industrialized
world have the worst economies, most with double-digit unemployment
(the US is at a mere 4.4%, incidentally). Critics of Kyoto say signing on
would take from our gross domestic product billions annually. New
technologies could eventually replace fossil fuels, if these nations don’t
first cripple their own economies with concepts like KP.

CBN reports, “Stephen Milloy, who runs JunkScience.com, says
corporations have been caving in to pressure from environmentalists.
He said, “Global warming pushers are going company by company,
getting corporate management to be supportive of either the KP or other
GW provisions. And eventually, they’re going to develop enough political
support among corporations that corporations will begin forcefully
lobbying for GW restrictions in the U.S.”

AN INCONGRUOUS TRICK

“Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the
truth as they see it,” Al Gore insists in his film “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Very true, Al. Let’s ask ’em: “What do world climate experts actually
think about the science of Al’s movie?”

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James
Cook University, says: “Gore’s circumstantial arguments are so weak
that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are
commanding public attention.”

Carter must certainly be part of what Gore sites as a tiny cadre of
“climate change skeptics” who disagree with the “vast majority of
scientists.” Y’think?Actually, according to Tom Harris, Executive
Director of Natural Resources Stewardship Project, Carter is one of
hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby
group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions
of CO2 are causing significant global climate change. According to
Harris, “Climate experts” is the operative term here. Why? “Because
what Gore’s “majority of scientists” think is immaterial when only a
very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.”

Though many scientists focus their global change studies on everything
from polar bears to poison ivy, they are not all to be considered climate
change experts.

Carter writes, “We should listen most to scientists who use real data to
try to understand what nature is actually telling us about the causes and
extent of global climate change. In this relatively small community,
there is no consensus, despite what Gore and others would suggest.”
He gives a sampling of the side of the GW debate we almost never
hear:

Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson – “There
is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth’s temperature
over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten
times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet
was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion
years…how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small
increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century’s
modest warming?”

“Patterson concluded his testimony by explaining what his research and
“hundreds of other studies” reveal: on all time scales, there is very good
correlation between Earth’s temperature and natural celestial phenomena
such as changes in the brightness of the Sun…Antarctica has survived
warm and cold events over millions of years. A meltdown is simply not
a realistic scenario in the foreseeable future,” said Carter.

Gore tells us in the film, “Starting in 1970, there was a precipitous
drop-off in the amount and extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap.”
This is misleading, according to Ball: “The survey that Gore cites was
a single transect across one part of the Arctic basin in the month of
October during the 1960s when we were in the middle of the cooling
period. The 1990 runs were done in the warmer month of September,
using a wholly different technology.”

A paper published in 2003 by University of Alaska professor Igor
Polyakov shows that, the region of the Arctic where rising temperature is
supposedly endangering polar bears showed fluctuations since 1940 but
no overall temperature rise.

Dr. Wibjorn Karlen, emeritus professor, Dept. of Physical Geography
and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, Sweden – “For several
published records it is a decrease for the last 50 years,”

Carter goes on to say, “Concerning Gore’s beliefs about worldwide
warming…in addition to the cooling in the NW Atlantic, massive areas
of cooling are found in the North and South Pacific Ocean; the whole of
the Amazon Valley; the north coast of South America and the Caribbean;
the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caucasus and Red Sea; New
Zealand and even the Ganges Valley in India. …”

“Gore’s point that 200 cities and towns in the American West set all time
high temperature records is also misleading,” Carter asserts.
Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at The University of
Alabama in Huntsville – “It is not unusual for some locations, out of the
thousands of cities and towns in the U.S., to set all-time records,” he
says. “The actual data shows that overall, recent temperatures in the
U.S. were not unusual.”

Carter adds,”The man [Gore] is an embarrassment to US science and its
many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but feel unable to state
publicly) that his propaganda crusade is mostly based on junk science.”
How’s that for a critique? Hollywood gave this film an Academy award
for Best Documentary – which speaks volumes to me – and Gore has been
nominated to receive the Nobel Prize in October for his wide-reaching
efforts to draw the world’s attention to the dangers of Global Warming.

Deception is everywhere, all the time.

As others have already stated, just follow the money and those who
worship it to find out what’s really happening here. Whether its Gore’s
‘carbon offset’ concept that would make him the richest man in town
(by the way, he owns a company* you’d buy credits from that would
help us each to reduce our carbon “footprint” – a concept intended to
get us accustomed to paying a usage fee for fossil fuels), or a proposed
CO2 Tax intended to reduce emissions do solve a problem that’s not
even proven to exist, somebody’s cranking up their money machine over
this supposed catastrophe.

*The offset provider invests your money in tree planting projects and
other similar projects that take the place of the environmental impact of
your emissions – car, business, air travel. An offset purchased through a
nonprofit company might help preserve a forest in the Northwest, or it
might help with rainforest restoration in Ecuador. That does NOT mean
there will literally be a tree in the Ecuadorean rainforest with your name
on it. Unfortunately, customers will not get to choose how their donations
are distributed. One possible place where your money may go, for
example, is to project intended to reduce CO2 emissions at truck stops
would allow drivers to plug in their trucks at night rather than leave them
idling.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

Environmentalists say we cannot continue to spew CO2 into the air. I agree
that we should be the best stewards of the planet that God has given us.
But I’ve also read that more air pollution is coming from the open cooking
fires of Chinese villages and gas omitted by the world’s farm animals than
by our cars and factories. Not kidding!

The skeptics answer that the world is doomed. Such talk instills fear in
people and fear is faith in the devil. As Christians, our faith is SUPPOSED
to be in God.

Be anxious for NOTHING!

Fear not, the Lord is with you!

The extreme views on both sides of the aisle are all any of us ever hear
about in regard to this issue. It seems to me that there is always something
we can ALL always do better. But I can live the healthiest lifestyle ever
known to man, eating right, exercising, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, but
I could be run over by a beer truck at any moment. Likewise, we can take
wonderful care of this Earth, but when we’ve had our run, our run is over.
Heaven and Earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away,
Jesus said. Prophecy WILL be fulfilled. Things WILL get worse before they
get better.

In the meanwhile, we, The Church, have a Great Commission with which to
keep ourselves occupied. We won’t change this world by lobbying, debating,
making propaganda films, taking shorter showers or car-pooling. That’s not,
after all, what Jesus directed us to do.

I love this planet. I really do, but let’s make sure to worship the Creator and
NOT merely His creation.

Every blessing…

Bad Boy Birmingham Bulls of the 1977-78 WHA

The 1977-78 seasons was the second last for the World Hockey Association. The Birmingham Bulls were maybe trying to take a page out of the Philadelphia Flyers book from a few years before. However, Birmingham’s intimidation and gooning did not win them a championship.

The Bulls were led by Ken ‘The Rat’ Linseman who scoring 38 and assisted on 38 more for 76 points in 71 games. Birmingham had leadership of veteran players Paul Henderson and Frank Mahovlich but the team finished sixth out of eight teams with 75 points over the 80 game schedule. The Bulls then lost in the first round of the Avco Cup playoffs to the Winnipeg Jets, the eventual champion. The team was coached by Glen Sonmor. Sonmor would lead the Minnesota North Stars to the Stanley Cup finals just two years later.

The top four players with the most penalty minutes in the WHA in 1977-78 were all members of the Birmingham Bulls.

Steve Durbano – 284 PIM in 45 games

Steve ‘Demolition Durby’ Durbano played his only 45 WHA games with the Bulls in 1977-78. He also contributed offensively with six goals and four assists for ten points. Durbano played junior hockey in the OHA with the Toronto Marlboros from 1968-69 to 1970-71.

Steve was a first round pick of the New York Rangers in 1971, going 13th overall in the NHL Amateur Draft. He played 220 games in the NHL between 1972-73 and 1978-79 with the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies.

Frank Beaton – 279 PIM in 56 games

Frank ‘Seldom’ Beaton was an undrafted player that appeared in 153 WHA games with the Cincinnati Stingers, Edmonton Oilers and Birmingham Bulls. Along with his 279 PIM, he also scored six and totalled 15 points. Beaton appeared in 25 National Hockey League games, all with the New York Rangers.

Gilles Bilodeau – 258 PIM in 59 games

‘Bad News’ Bilodeau provided very little offense for the Bulls with just two goals and two assists in 1977-78. He was drafted into the WHA by the Toronto Toros in 1975, selected 121st overall in the ninth round.

Gilles Bilodeau played in 143 WHA games with the Bulls and Quebec Nordiques. He played in nine NHL games with the Nordiques when they joined the league for the 1979-80 season. In 1975-76, with the Beauce Jaros of the North American Hockey League, Bilodeau sat a league record 451 PIM in just 58 games.

Dave Hanson – 241 PIM in 42 games

The only ‘Hanson Brother’ from the movie ‘Slap Shot’ who was actually a Hanson. Dave played Jack Hanson in the 1977 cult movie. Despite his high penalty minute total in so few games, Hanson contributed the most among the four offensively with seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points.

WestJet Becomes International

Good news for WestJet fliers. As of October 20, 2010 travelers booking flights from Asia into Canada will be able to connect with WestJet flights on a single ticket. WestJet has partnered with a Hong Kong based airway, Cathay Pacific. WestJet will not be selling direct tickets to Hong Kong.

What Does This Mean For The Airlines?

This is WestJet’s first major ticket-sharing partnership. Cathay Pacific will allow travelers to connect directly to WestJet flights once landing in Toronto or Vancouver (where they already have a hub), under one ticket. It is also expanding to six new Canadian cities: Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal. This is a significant milestone for them since it is the first successful international ticket arrangement.

This will also bring more travelers to Vancouver, simply because more people will be coming through their airport. Many will be passing through to other destinations but some will stay in Vancouver, which will be great for the tourism in the city.

Where Else Will WestJet Be Going?

Since WestJet is a Calgary based carrier, it will be most beneficial to the company if they can get a successful partnership with a company based out of the US. Most of the fliers that WestJet attracts are North American. They still plan on expanding through partnerships with more global carriers.

The vision at WestJet is: “…to become one of the five most successful international airlines in the world.” There has been talk of partnering with other airlines (Southwest Airlines) which have been called off. They are still determined to reach their goal and partner up with more international airlines. WestJet is planning for a similar partnership with Air France and has been discussing also with British Airways and Delta Air Lines.

Why Has It Taken So Long?

One of the delays they have encountered is with their reservation system. They needed to implement a new system which could handle the complex coding of the new arrangements. This has caused two years of headaches for the airways, but now that they have it in place hopefully new partnerships will be made quickly and effortlessly.

What Does This Mean For Travelers?

This partnership will most strongly affect North American travelers. Having the option to use a local airline will make international travel (Asia for now) will simplify the process of traveling. WestJet pioneered discount airfares in North America, and hopefully they can do the same internationally. As WestJet branches out and creates new partnerships with other international airlines it will also increase tourism to international destinations. North Americans will be more likely to travel to foreign destinations if they know and trust the airline they are traveling with.