Murder most foul.

April 22, 2016

April 22, 2016
Calgary, Alberta

Murder trio are sentenced to life for murder of young father Ryan Lane.

Sheena Cuthill-Rempel, her husband Tim Rempel and his brother William Rempel convicted of first-degree murder earlier this week in the murder of young father Ryan Lane were sentenced today to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 25 years.

The victim Ryan Lane, 24 years of age, was the father of the child he and Sheena had from their relationship. He was murdered and his body burned in a trash barrel in 2012. The three plotted and carried out his killing as a simple way to solve the custody dispute.

Obviously this is not the way to settle custody disputes. Many mechanisms exist to settle disputes resulting from marital break-ups, murder should not be one of them. It never ceases to amaze me how barbaric and evil humans can be when relationships go bad.

For whatever rationale these three twisted scum decided to kill another human being to settle a custody dispute. The mother, her new husband and his brother took it upon themselves to kill the father of the woman’s child rather than deal in a civilized way with custody. As a result the father is dead, the three are in prison for life, and the child is left motherless and fatherless. This will affect the child and other family for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps more education and publicity needs to be done to make society aware of free services available to them in times of conflict and marital troubles. It’s not obvious if it would have helped in this case, but maybe it would help others make better decisions. Criminal minds being what they are, small and shallow, it’s likely it wouldn’t have changed the mindset of these evil individuals. At least they won’t be a part of society for a long, long time if ever again.

This was murder most foul and for such a senseless reason. Prayers and thoughts to the young child and her family.

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Energy: Why we need it? Where do we get it?

April 5, 2016

060801_trafficjams_hmed_1phmediumReading all the articles against fossil fuels and for renewable energy sources has been both fascinating and frustrating. As a retiree who worked in the petroleum sector both for industry and government regulators for over 35 years I have my opinions. Note that when I refer to “energy” I’m referring to all sources of energy not just oil and gas and coal (fossil fuels).

First I urge all people and organizations involved and interested in energy and its impact on the environment and the human race to get educated. Obtain your information from a variety of sources not just the media. Use government, industry and scientific sources to read up on the subject. Next look at where you and your family use energy and products derived from petroleum in your daily life. Ask intelligent questions and make sure you get answers. The entire realm is getting far too emotional and needs more realism injected.

Facts to remember,

  • Society requires energy to maintain our lifestyle.
  • Energy in all forms is needed to ensure the health, welfare and survival of the human species.
  • Energy is needed by humans to feed us, heat us, maintain health and allow us to transport goods, services and people from place to place.

The key question is how to obtain this energy in a way that is economical and yet environmentally friendly. Energy sources must also be sustainable to ensure society continues to progress.

Renewable sources of energy are important, but it will take time to develop them so they are reliable and cost efficient. Crude oil and natural gas will continue to be extremely important for a long time to come, however, much can be done and is being done to produce and utilize these in a more efficient and environmentally sustainable manner. Reducing the carbon footprint is good business for petroleum producers.

Revenues obtained from fossil fuel production will enable us to investigate and perfect the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. It will not be cheap at least initially to convert and move toward more dependence on other sources of energy. On the plus side this will be exciting and many economic opportunities will be available over the coming years related to the more intensive use of renewables.

One point that seems to escape activists is that government and industry are buying into the need to become more efficient and reduce that carbon footprint, but the other side of the coin involves the consumers of the energy. Individuals, industrial operations and governments who use the energy have to do their part to reduce energy use, and most of all to use energy more efficiently. Both sides must work together. Energy producers are in the business of supplying energy because there is a demand and a need for it.

Where we as a society need and use energy must be clearly identified and prioritized. Once this is done it will ensure we don’t leave ourselves short of what we need. It will allow us to concentrate our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint where it is most effective, obviously in those areas where it is consumed in the greatest amounts at the present time.

Myths that need to be dispelled,

  • Energy producers don’t care about the environment. False. Real people work for these companies and let me assure you they do care deeply. All human operations and activities impact safety and the environment in some way. The goal is to mitigate and minimize these impacts.
  • Energy producers don’t care about spills and other threats to the environment from their operations. False. They do care for several reasons, it is very expensive to have a spill and it is terrible to the operators reputation. Reputation is a huge financial asset to a good operator. Environmental protection and the safety of the companies employees, contractors and the general public is priority one.
  • Regulatory approvals for energy development such as pipelines are just rubber stamped by governments. False. In fact the opposite is true. Laws and regulations governing energy development in Canada are the toughest in the world. I know because I worked for both sides over my career. I was with the Regulator and educated and enforced these rules and regulations. I also worked for energy operators in obtaining these approvals and in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements for all our operations. Regulatory, safety and environmental compliance is the number one priority for both energy operators and the regulators in this country.

So the next time your commute to work, drive your vehicle, buy groceries, purchase goods for you home or your leisure activities think about the energy required to produce those goods and services, and to transport them to the store near you.


Power Generation in Alberta: Changing the mix.

February 16, 2016
Solar Power plants in Spain

Solnova Solar Power Station, Spain/Abengoa Solar

Our new government here in the resource rich province of Alberta intends to diversify the energy sources used in the large scale generation of electricity. The primary reason is to attack the issue of climate change and associated global warming. While this is an admirable goal, it won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap.

The present energy mix is primarily coal with some natural gas. Hydro-electric contributes a small amount and wind is increasingly being used, but once again still contributes a small amount of the total energy requirements. Nuclear power is not in use in Alberta.

Coal
Alberta is rich in deposits of coal, so much so that it exports large amounts. Most of the coal found in Alberta is low in sulphur. Therefore it burns comparatively clean and doesn’t pollute to the same extent as other types of coal. The coal is found close to the plants so transportation cost is low and the mining technique is open-pit so extraction costs are low.

All newer coal-fired generating plants use what is referred to as “clean coal burning technology”. In this method the coal is pulverized into a dust before combustion which effectively increases the surface area of the fuel (coal). Combustion efficiency is increased so that close to 99% is burned making for much less pollution and green-house gases (GHG) leaving the stacks at the plants.

Coal in Alberta is the most cost-efficient fuel for the generation of electricity. The downside is that even with the cleaner technology it results in higher pollution and GHG release than other fuels.

Natural Gas
Alberta is rich in natural gas. We have an abundant supply, enough so that we export large amounts. A transportation infrastructure is in place already. Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning and most efficient fuels in the world. For example, converting a coal-fired plant to natural gas would immediately result in 50% less GHG being emitted and close to zero pollution from the combustion.

However, converting existing coal-fired plants to natural gas is difficult. In fact it will likely be necessary to build new plants and mothball or demolish the coal plants.

Hydro-Electric
Alberta doesn’t have many more suitable sites to construct dams and associated generating plants. This is not an option to replace coal in my opinion. Even if sites could be found public opinion is against daming rivers and flooding land.

Solar
The sun, our star, has great promise and seemingly unlimited power for the taking. Definitely worth exploring, but it too has several downsides.

Although Alberta is know for its sunny days, the sun doesn’t shine anywhere near as often as other climates such as southern California or Africa for example. It obviously doesn’t shine at night, so the plants don’t produce power during these times. Energy has to be used when it is produced, it is difficult to store energy using present technologies. This is a problem for the grid which must furnish power on an as needed basis. The other problem is the vast tracts of land needed for a large scale solar power generating plant. I don’t see any areas here that the general population would be willing to cover with the large number of solar panels needed to replace coal or natural gas generating plants.

Wind
Once again great promise and as long as the wind blows power is generated. Downsides include the large number of wind turbines required to produce the required amounts of power for Albertans. The wind doesn’t always blow, so again power generation would be intermitant. The wind turbines we see in southern Alberta and in many places in the United States require regular and frequent maintenance. Large tracts of land are also needed to erect these wind farms. Environmentalists and others protest the appearance of these machines and also the land use required. I see wind as a viable source of power for Alberta, but only as part of the overall power production.

Nuclear
This is actually one of the  cleanest methods of producing large amounts of electricity. The downside is two-fold, one is the disposal of radioactive waste and two safety or the consequences of an accident. The nuclear plants of today are extremely safe to operate, but the consequences of an accident can be catastrophic. Accidents have occurred. Three-Mile Island in the States was almost of an unthinkable magnitude. The inquiry found human error and outdated equipment were the contributers. This was also true for Chernobyl in Russia which did result in a large number of fatalities and the sterilization of many square miles of the country. The nuclear plants that failed in Japan weren’t protected adequately from earthquakes and tsunamis. Nuclear power for Alberta? I think not, Too many safer alternatives and the entire issue of nuclear is just too emotional. Even the word gets some people thinking of mutants and glowing in the dark.

In summary I believe that alternative sources of energy should  developed. It’s not a bad thing to diversify the sources and methods of providing electrical power to individual Albertans and industry in the province. New technologies will be needed to perfect these methods and an orderly transition will be needed to keep up with power demand in Alberta. There is also opportunity for Alberta to be involved in the development of many of these new technologies. However, Albertans must realize this won’t happen overnight.

Note: Constructive comments are always appreciated.


Gun violence in Calgary.

November 6, 2015

WeaponsSeizureCouttsBorderJan8-2009

Calgary has seen a epidemic of gun violence this week and over the last few months, yet Canada has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world so what is happening. It sure isn’t the legitimate gun owners who are the problem.

For a Canadian to possess a gun they must complete a safety course and have a background check. Those with criminal records are not allowed to own guns. Having the proper approvals they must present the documentation at the time of the purchase. Guns can be sold only through licensed dealers and not at flea markets. Even private sales have to meet this criteria. Gun owners are required to notify the police of a transfer of ownership. This applies to rifles and shotguns. Military weapons, machine guns, full automatics and others are completely restricted. Handguns are totally restricted unless a person has a special permit to have one. These are extremely difficult to obtain. Gun owners are also required to keep guns properly stored under lock and key. Ammunition must be stored separately under lock and key.

Well I hate to tell you this but bad guys aren’t going to get permits to have guns. I can see it now. Joe Gangmember getting ready to do a drive-by shooting tells his boss gee I need to get a permit otherwise the hit is off. God forbid I go stick-up that bank without proper permits. Yeah right.

Simple Answer – keep the guns out of the hands of criminals. That`d be a start. Easier said than done, but we have to try. How to do that is a big question, but the police and justice system better start figuring a way. We are reverting to our wild west days and someone is going to get hurt or killed besides the bad guys. You know when it comes right down to it I don’t care if bad guys kill bad guys, that’d be a good thing, but the bullets fly in public places and hurt innocent people. So unless we can get the bad guys to kill each other in a private place away from the public we need a solution.

The bad guys get guns from two main sources. First from break-ins or thefts from homes and businesses where there are firearms. Second from other criminals who smuggle them in from the neighbouring USA where gun laws are much looser. Handguns are easy to obtain in the USA. It is illegal to bring them into Canada, but that is obviously happening and on a large scale. Every once in a while we read of a seizure of guns at the border crossings, but the authorities can`t catch them all. So here`s some suggestions for the police and justice system.

Potential solutions to these shootings in the city,
– increase scrutiny at the border crossings.
– charge gun owners who don`t store firearms and ammo properly.
– clamp down on break and enters, especially where firearms are known to have been taken.
– concentrate police resources on criminals known to use firearms.
– deny bail to those who use firearms in the commission of a crime
– increase penalties to perps who use firearms in the commission of a crime.

We need answers. Do you have any ideas? I`d love to hear them.


Big bad corporations? Wait not so fast.

October 3, 2015

Business logo pic-PublicDomainHow many of you are employed by a big corporation? Millions of Canadians and Americans are employees of corporations. This means the salary you earn feeds your family and pays your taxes among other things. The taxes the corporations and you the individual pay to governments goes toward education, health services, infrastructure and other essential services.

The taxes collected by local, provincial (or State) and Federal governments comes from individuals and corporations. These monies pay for health care, education, infrastructure and many other services most of us take for granted. Government in and of itself has no income except taxes.

This is the reason I can’t understand why big corporations are always being bad mouthed. They’re the first to be blamed when things aren’t going well, not governments, but corporations. There is no doubt corporations aren’t perfect. Under the law they are basically like individuals, well individuals aren’t perfect. There are good and bad in all things.

Corporations are accused of:
– Being unregulated and therefore running wild.
– Being a drain on society.
– Not being good citizens.
– Being polluters.
– Having no empathy.
– Being uncaring of the world they operate in.
– Making excessive profits.

Facts About Corporations society often fails to recognize:,
– They are in fact over-regulated in most cases.
– Taxed to the maximum.
– Employ millions of people.
– Give millions of dollars to charities.
– Support the arts.
– Support cities and towns wherever they operate.
– Work with governments and others to reduce their footprint.
– Actively work to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and have been for many years     now.
– Their operations comply with and in most cases exceed government environmental and safety regulations.
– A large percentage of their profits are re-invested in research and development and expansion which benefits society and employees.
– Are governed and held accountable by shareholders, governments, and society for their behavior.

Corporations deserve a little more respect. Before you condemn them make sure you have the facts. Sure they aren’t perfect, but they are a key part of our sustainable society.


RCMP Service Dog Training Centre

August 20, 2015
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Handler with his dog. photo SB Davis

My kids and I visited the RCMP Police Dog Service Training Centre yesterday. It’s located in Innisfail, Alberta just south of Red Deer along Highway #2. This is the national centre where all service dogs and their handlers are trained. The centre has been located here for 50 years. Prior to that several centres were located across Canada. For those non-Canadians reading this RCMP stands for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They are the federal police force of Canada, but also are contracted by eight provinces to do their provincial policing. The only existing provincial police forces are in Ontario and Quebec.

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Some of training apparatus with teams in foreground. photo SB Davis

Every Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 pm during the summer months of July and August the centre puts on a free demo and information session open to the public. The day we were there it was very well attended, around two thousand persons. The grandstand was filled to capacity with standing and sitting room only on the grass next to the fence.

The sessions last about 45 minutes and include search and apprehension skills. There is usually a chance to meet a dog up close and sometimes there are puppies, but this isn’t guaranteed.

Training is done on site, but the majority of the training is conducted outside in the real world, nearby farmer’s fields, wooded areas, industrial areas and residential areas.

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Police Service Dog Memorial. Plaques have info on each dog lost in service. photo SB Davis

Finally near the entrance and the grandstand there is a memorial (pictured) to all the dogs lost during service. Adjacent to the memorial are the graves of some of the dogs.

Overview:
RCMP members occasionally used privately owned dogs to assist them from 1908 to 1935. Then in 1935 the force acquired three German shepherds. Later in 1937 satisfied with their performance a training school for dogs was established in Calgary, Alberta. The first case won with dog search evidence occurred in 1940. The present training centre was established in Innisfail in 1965. Staff consists of officer in charge, one program manager, one senior trainer, five sergeant trainers, one acquisition sergeant, two corporal pretrainers and support staff of six.

The Dogs:
German shephards and Belgian shephards (Malinois) in perfect condition are used. These are considered best for police work as they are adaptable, versatile, strong, courageous and can work in extreme conditions. We were told that a dog entering the program only has a 17 percent chance of becoming a police service dog. This is due to the high standards of the RCMP. The annual cost to maintain a police service dog is less than $1000 per year. Most police dogs retire at the age of seven which was surprising to me.

Dogs start training anywhere from 12 to 18 months of age. Basic training is 17 weeks, but training is on-going to maintain physical and mental fitness. Dogs and handlers are validated on an annual basis.

Dog Handlers:
Handlers are regular members of the force who volunteer for this duty. There is a long waiting list. Candidates are screened for selection. Obviously they must have a tolerance towards animals and appreciate dog instincts. The handlers and dogs go through the training program together and form a team.

What police service dogs do:
Police service dogs locate lost persons, track criminals, search for narcotics, explosives, crime scene evidence and lost property. In addition they provide VIP protection, crowd control, and assist with hostage situations. The dogs are great with police and community relations.

A search dog is trained for a specific skill in some cases. For instance a dog trained for sniffing out explosives only does that. Same with a dog trained for narcotics otherwise the nose get confused. The officer presenting to us said the officers need to know what’s in the package a dog finds. If a narcotic dog finds a package the officer must be assured it’s not anything else such as explosives.

Fascinating facts about police service dogs from the website,
A dog can search a car in about three minutes.
Dogs can work up to four hours with rest intervals.
At present there are 112 RCMP dog teams across Canada.
The estimated cost to train a handler and dog team is $60,000.

An interesting thing we found out is that the RCMP has its own breeding program at the centre. All the dogs are bred via artificial insemination. Private individuals nearby keep the females during their pregnancy until they’re ready to birth. At that time they are brought to the centre where the puppies are born. Once the puppies are about 8 weeks old they are given to handler candidates on the waiting list to be raised and looked after until they are ready for training at 12 to 18 months of age. Many of these member candidates in waiting have raised several puppies. I think it must be hard for them to give the puppies back I know it would be for me. By the way we were told they don’t receive any extra renumeration for doing this on behalf of the force. Dogs that are found unsuitable for training are sold and the demand is high.

We found the centre well worth the visit and went away with a new appreciation of these magnificent animals and their humans.

Further Information:
RCMP Dog Services


Calgary pedestrians: Cross at your own risk.

January 24, 2015

crosswalk signBackground:

In 2014 there were 411 pedestrians injured and 7 pedestrians killed on Calgary streets. This means at least one person per day is hit by a vehicle and injured in Calgary. The city boasts that pedestrian injuries and fatalities have declined over the last several years. I say so what. Any injury or fatality is one too many.

Calgary is not a safe place for pedestrians to be at large. Many factors contribute to this. Calgary is a major city now with a population of about 1.2 million persons. There are many more pedestrians and drivers in the city. Both pedestrians and drivers are at fault.

How are pedestrians protected?

Assuming pedestrians don’t jaywalk and cross at crosswalks or street corners, the law protects them by specifying vehicles must yield the right-of-way to them.

Crosswalks are marked with signs, markings on the pavement, and sometimes flashing lights overhead or next to the crosswalk. Most if not all intersections with traffic lights also have a walk light indicating when it is safe to cross.

The fine for driving through a marked crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing is $500. You’d think that’d be adequate deterrent for a driver, but unfortunately many don’t stop, or in many cases even slow down. On roads with multi-lanes this is all too common. Some drivers in some lanes stop, but drivers in other lanes keep driving oblivious to why the drivers in the lanes beside them are stopped.

How can pedestrians protect themselves?

Pedestrians can take proactive steps to mitigate some of the danger,
– Indicate to the drivers you want to cross by extending your arm. This is the accepted signal that you are about to enter the crosswalk or intersection.
– Look on-coming drivers directly in the eye ensuring they see you.
– In multi-lane crosswalks be alert for drivers in other lanes as you cross. Make sure they’re stopping too. Don’t assume. Again look directly at them as you cross.
– At night try not to wear dark clothing that decreases your visibility to drivers. Many crosswalks and intersections are not well-lighted.
– Don’t be a distracted pedestrian, don’t talk or text on your cellphone, shut-off the music in those headphones before you cross.

How can drivers ensure pedestrians are protected?

First of all let me make it completely clear – you don’t ever want to hit a pedestrian. Lifelong guilt and remorse along with expensive lawsuits will result.
– Watch for pedestrian crossings
– Slow down when approaching crossings.
– Be alert when you approach crossings for pedestrians about to cross or in the crossings.
– If cars in adjacent lanes are stopped, guess what they’re stopped for a reason. Watch out for that pedestrian.
– At night watch extra closely for pedestrians who may not be as visible as they should be.
– Don’t drive distracted. Get off that cellphone. For goodness sake don’t text and drive. I like music when I drive too, but turn it down in the city.
– Don’t speed.
– Don’t drink and drive.

How can the City of Calgary protect pedestrians?

Here are some suggestions for improvement.
– Markings on the pavement should be in phosphorescent paint to increase visibility for drivers and pedestrians, especially at night.
– Markings on pavement should be re-applied yearly or as required so as to remain visible
– Heavily used crosswalks should have pavement markings and overhead flashing lights.
– Much more police enforcement needs to be done at crosswalks. The statistics reflect this need.
– More education of drivers and pedestrians should be done in the media or through hand-outs. Many pedestrians don’t know the correct and safe procedures for crossing a street. Children get this information through the school system, but adults have either forgotten or never learned the steps. The City of Calgary and Calgary Police Service have brochure available and the link is below.

Finally as one who is a driver and a pedestrian I urge pedestrians, drivers, and the City of Calgary to be proactive. There is a lot of room for improvement in this area. Let’s make it safer for everyone.

Related Links:
Calgary Herald-Hundreds of pedestrians hit and injured on city streets in 2014
http://calgaryherald.com/news/traffic/hundreds-of-pedestrians-hit-and-injured-on-city-streets-in-2014

Calgary Herald – Distracted Pedestrians
http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/pedestrian-awareness-campaign-targeting-distracted-walkers-discussed

Calgary Herald-Pedestrian Strategy to come before city council in 2015
http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/transportation-planning-in-2015-to-focus-on-pedestrians

City of Calgary-Pedestrian safety campaign
http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/Roads/Pages/Traffic/Traffic-safety-programs/Pedestrian-safety.aspx

City of Calgary and Calgary Police Service brochure
http://www.calgary.ca/Transportation/Roads/Documents/Traffic/Traffic-safety-programs/pedestrian-safety-brochure.pdf


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