Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Case of the Missing Cliché

The name is Rick O’Shea. I’m a Private Investigator, a professional snoop, no cushy job by any stretch. I got 8 slugs in me, two lead and 6 cheap Scotch. Things have been a bit slow since 2020 so I can’t afford 18-year-old Glenmorangie anymore. People stayed home, nobody was slipping around, looking for love in all the wrong places, so no business.

I used to be just another Mick in a city detective squad but the cops were too busy committing crimes to ever solve any, so I quit and went into business on my own. Now I get paid to do stuff that skirts the law. Skirts being the operative word. Nothing but trouble.

Anyhow, I was sitting in my office minding my own business since there was no other business to mind. Suddenly, this tall blonde walks past my window. I knew she was tall because my office is on the second floor. Five minutes later the door burst open, and she waltzed in, (must have been playing Strauss on her iPhone). Good looking woman, well built, could have played fullback for the Rams. She wore a thirty-eight. She had a gun, too.

She flashed some green at me, (spinach in her teeth from lunch), and laid out her problem. Actually, if she had laid her problem out cold, she probably wouldn’t have needed a Private Investigator. Her husband had a lazy eye, and she was worried he was seeing someone on the side. If I would check it out, she would make it worth my while. I told her I was more interested in money.

Her husband had phoned and said he’d be working late at the office that night so this was the opportunity she’d been waiting for. She told me where he worked and the car he drove. I hung around the office parking lot and sure enough at 7:00 a guy walked out of the building and drove off in the car. I followed. He was not headed for home.

You can never be too careful. A pair of headlights flashed in my rearview mirror. I was being tailed. Pardon the pun. There was more to this than met the eye. The dame didn’t give me the whole story. Hard to shake my tail and keep my quarry in sight too. He pulled up at a three-story Brownstone in a seedy part of town and I drove on past. Took me 5 minutes to lose the other car and I doubled back.

Parked a block away and slipped back, staying in the shadows. Saw movement in the upstairs window so I climbed a conveniently located tree so I could see better. And I had never seen anything better since the clubs in Germany in 73. Had to get a firm grip on myself to keep from falling out of the tree.

Suddenly the branch broke and I came off my perch and hit the ground like a wool sack full of gravel. The mugs in the other car hadn’t stayed lost and had followed me. They started beating me like a rented mule. Finally, they got tired and left me lying there, more dead than alive. A full brass band was playing 76 Trombones inside my head. I thought this kind of stuff only happened to Jim Rockford.

Crawled to the car, found the magnum of whiskey under the seat, and the .45 Magnum under the hood. Tucked one into my pocket and the other under my left arm pit. I needed to find that dame. She had set me up. Then it hit me. She was the woman in the Brownstone house. The guy I’d followed was not her husband. Who was he? Did she even have a husband? What was the point of all this? I needed clues and I needed them fast. If clues were shoes, I was barefoot.

The dame’s goons were coming back; I could see them about half a block away. The tire irons they carried didn’t look very friendly. Reached under my arm for my trusty Magnum, drained it in two long gulps, threw it away and unlimbered my revolver. This time I was ready for them.

Tune in next week, when you’ll hear Dr. Bob say, “Please add hackneyed detective clichés in the comments section and maybe he can figure out how to end our misery.”

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The Source of Covid 19 is NOT the Wuhan Virology Lab


Covid 19 virus CDC library
Since Covid 19 (SARS-CoV-2) was first identified, the question has been asked, "Where did it begin?" With the exception of the sceptics, the general conclusion based on available information was a bat to human transfer at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China. Of course the Chinese managed to destroy/block/obfuscate as much evidence and information as possible, as is their usual approach to anything. 

This led to a great deal of speculation among Sinophobes that the virus was accidentally or deliberately leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the only lab in that city known to have an active research program on coronaviruses. They did research on bat viruses, including what is known as Gain of Function where viruses are deliberately made more infections to study spread and mitigation. Some of that research was apparently funded by USA and in some way involved Dr. Fauci, currently a favourite Republican villain. 

The source of Covid 19 is back in the news because The DoE reversed an earlier conclusion to say now that they believe the virus could have come from the laboratory, giving it the same "Low Confidence" that they had given their earlier conclusion. Of course the Republicans jumped all over this, ignoring the "Low Confidence" the same way they ignore 'a well regulated militia'.

I've been a sceptic myself because of one thing. The Wet Market Source people say that the DNA analysis of the virus indicates no connection to the lab, while the Lab Source people claim that a cleavage point in the virus is at exactly the same spot that a research proposal from the lab wanted to put one. Neither side gave any sources to back up their claims. I did question an article which touted research proposal and cleavage points only to have the messenger shot rather than the issue dealt with.

So I turned to my Blogger friend Cheryl Rofer who writes The Nuclear Diner. Cheryl is a 'retired' nuclear scientist who has been and done so many different things in her career. She knows all stuff scientific so I run all my favourite conspiracy theories past her because I trust her. This time I got the goods I was looking for. I sent her the following article from WaPo.  I suggest reading it for background information. Also because one of the authors is from Veterinary and Infectious Diseases Organization (VIDO) locate on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan.

An earlier article argued that focusing on the lab leak rather than natural spillover from animals to humans was the wrong way to look at it.

Consider one implication you might draw from a lab leak: We need less science, especially of the sort that fiddles with dangerous viruses. And from a natural spillover: We need more science, especially of the sort that studies dangerous viruses lurking in wild animals.

Cheryl came back with the following information: She referred me to an article she had just written for Scientific American explaining to difference between an intelligence agency report and a scientific report.

An intelligence assessment isn’t a scientific conclusion. They are different beasts. The summary itself observes that different agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications differently. The important factor for intelligence assessments is the veracity of sources, whereas scientific conclusions depend on data and the coherence of the argument the data support. However, data from a scientist who has proved unreliable in the past will weigh less heavily in scientific conclusions, and intelligence analysts will regard fanciful stories from an otherwise reliable informant skeptically. The scientific data are available to the public, unlike the reporting that underlies the intelligence assessments.

Then she referred me to a Twitter thread in which she explained that the research proposal touted by the Lab Leak people did in fact NOT say what the Lab Leak people claimed it said. Finally, an answer. I read the thread which begins here. I did not understand three quarters of it as it is a long way from cows to SARS-CoV-2 research proposals but I understood enough to know that the Lab Leak people were out to lunch in their interpretation. "I do not think that word means what you think it means,"

So now I am quite happy with my understanding of the source of Covid 19, given that because of Chinese recalcitrance we will never know the whole truth. And I do hope that the world is better prepared for the next one because as long as people and animals are in close contact with each other, viruses will mutate and jump species. 

Isn't it fun?

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Some thoughts on day 377 of Russia's War on Ukraine

 People ask me how and when do I think this will end. I do not know. As Michael McFaul, former US ambassador in Moscow said, “I don’t know what Putin will do if he starts to lose in Donbas or Crimea. And so don’t you. But we all should recognize that he is not suicidal, he is not crazy, and that he has options.” Based on that premise, I do not think he will use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. 

The war continues, day after day with no let up. Maps show little or no change in territory as the war resembles in many ways WWI trench warfare.

The daily tally of Russian losses

Location of active fighting

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 6, 2023 | Institute for the Study of War (

After 220 days of continuous fighting, Russia is making small incremental gains in the Bakhmut area but at the cost of 10s of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of pieces of hardware.  

They attack day after day hurling  hundreds of soldier into determined Ukrainian fire, while Russian artillery takes its toll of Ukrainian military. Fall back defensive positions on higher ground are ready if or when Ukrainians make an orderly withdrawal. However at the moment there is no intent to retreat  President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — Official website of the President of Ukraine

In the south east, Russia continues to attack Vuhledar, using much the same tactics as at Bakhmut, sending waves of soldiers and large numbers of tanks etc. up the same road time after time and having them destroyed.  

The following is lifted from the Tweets of NOEL (@NOELreports) who reports on daily on conflict zones, especially #Ukraine. These were posted a few minutes ago on Twitter.

Complain, complain, complain. How on earth after one year of lying are there still video's popping up of Russians that are genuinely surprised about what is happening to them. How surprising. Mobiks from Belgorod complain that they are treated like cattle, were lied to regarding their duties (instead of public order tasks they are thrown in battle as meat), got taken away all their documents and didn't even meet their commanders.

General James Hecker, Commander of the US Air Force in Europe, confirmed that the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is already using JDAM-ER guided bombs. Ukraine's stockpile of these bombs, which can hit targets up to 45 miles away thanks to their pop-out wing kits, is currently relatively small. However, they could already present real problems for Russia's military.

Poland will deliver the remaining 10 Leopard 2A4 battle tanks to Ukraine this week after handing over its first four units on Feb. 24, according to the Polish Minister of National Defense Marius Blaszczak. Poland is setting up a maintenance hub for Leopard tanks

Ukraine needs aircraft capable of becoming an element of air defense. That is why the F-16 fighter is a priority compared to the outdated A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov said in an interview with Liga.

130 Ukrainian military men returned from Russian captivity under the exchange procedure. Among them are 87 defenders of Mariupol, as well as those captured during the defense of Bakhmut and Soledar. Among those released were four female servicemen.

#Bakhmut city - No attacks by Russian troops were observed on the (north) east side. This makes sense as the AFU has now entrenched itself behind the natural barrier of the river. To the west, the AFU counterattacked at Khromove and pushed Russians back at least 1 km.

Front lines around Bakhmut

Serhii Haidai reported on Luhansk which ties in with our report from yesterday. The fighting on the Russian side has slowed down and there are reports that Russian troops are being repositioned to Bakhmut. Around Chervonopopivka, the AFU regained ground.

End of today's report. NOELreports is your source for daily, fast and reliable news on conflict zones (

Putin retreats deeper into his labyrinth This article from WaPo is worth reading. It also quotes a good article from the Financial Times which is heavily paywalled if you have used your limit of freebies.

Yesterday, a Ukrainian prisoner knew he was going to be killed. His last words were Слава Україні (Glory to Ukraine) and he was gunned down. There is a 23 second video of the murder and I watched it. I will not post a link. If you want to find it, it is up to you.

There will be a Ukrainian spring counter offensive. Where and when are subjects of conjecture but of course remain secret and plans may change several times in response to shifts in Russian tactics.

So how will it end? If Russia is simply driven back to 1991 borders, sanctions continued and Russian assets used to rebuild Ukraine, there will be no peace. Russia's friends, China, India, Iran, will help Russia get round the sanctions. Their economy will adapt even to a full wartime basis. Russia will harass Ukraine from within the shelters of its border and threaten nuclear response if anyone dares to cross it. Everything within 25 km of the border will be subject to incessant shelling and large centres to rockets and missiles launched from the Black Sea or Russia itself. Russia will rearm and the war will start again in less than 10 years.

Russia must be destroyed in such a way that it can never threaten the peace of Ukraine and Europe again. Ukraine must be allowed to join NATO, along with Finland and Sweden.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Shea Butter, The Environment and Saskatchewan Ingenuity

 Russia's genocidal war on Ukraine is now in its second year. The media is full of stories about the war and I am sure you can find them if you wish. So this post is about some good news for a change, turning a miniature environmental problem into a win-win situation.

Shea Butter is a rich emollient produced from the nuts of the Shea or Karité trees that grow all across the African Sahel. The top shea nut–producing countries are Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo. Shea Butter has been called “women’s gold” because it provides employment and income directly and indirectly to some three million women across the continent. Shea butter exports from West Africa garner between $90 million and $200 million a year.

Using traditional methods, women, often organized in cooperatives, harvest Shea fruit. They then crush the nuts inside to extract the precious butter, which is boiled, cleaned, and sold as raw or unrefined, at the local markets or exported. They may also sell unprocessed nuts to large commercial companies which use expellers and solvents to produce a refined product which is colorless and odorless, and lacks the natural skin regenerating benefits of unrefined Shea Butter.

Shea Butter production is roughly 1/3 unrefined, 2/3 refined, with 65% going into food and beverage (chocolate and confectionary eg Kit Kat and Milky Way), and 30% into cosmetics and skin care. Ghana is the largest exporter of unrefined shea butter. The most effective body creams and lotions will contain at least 20% of Unrefined Shea Butter in their formulas.

My friend of many years, Wayne Dunn, a farm boy from Big River, Saskatchewan, married a woman from Wa in Northern Ghana, whom he met in Ottawa. In 2011, during a visit to Northern Ghana, one of the women leaders said to Wayne, “Can you help us earn income?” Those words launched Baraka Impact which began buying unrefined Shea Butter from village women and exporting it to Canada for resale. Demand steadily grew, largely due to the story of the hardworking women who made Shea Butter and the dignity of income it gave them. You can read about the company, the products and the people at the above link.

After Shea Nuts are roasted, pounded, then boiled, the solution is manually whipped to coagulate the shea butter. This leaves behind a solution which is 60% solids. Normally this is just dumped on the ground, creating a huge mess, though it eventually dries. In the meantime, the women are buying firewood usually from chopped down Shea Trees to roast and boil the shea nuts.

So this year, Wayne, the farmer, logger and fisherman that he was, thought there has to be a better way. With lots of input from the local women making the Shea Butter, he and they came up with a process to turn the waste product into fuel. The women love it as it burns hotter and cleaner than wood. It saves trees. It cleans up a mess. It requires no fancy equipment.

The wastewater is dumped into a settling pond where it dries out. The solid waste is dug out of the settling pond, transported by wheelbarrow to a level piece of ground and formed into bricks or balls which then dry in the sun. It isn’t perfect, is labour intensive, and requires a rethink for the rainy season. But it is an environmental blessing.

I will post some pictures and videos here to illustrate but for the real professional explanation see the Baraka Impact blog post here:


Roasting shea nuts
the residue bricks burn hot and clean

Wayne always sends me pictures of cows, which are in the background of this video.

Our family use Baraka African black soap which is a mild version of Grandma's lye soap. We love it as it not only gets us clean, if you rub it on really grimy areas like greasy collars before washing, they come out spotless. We also use Kombo Butter rubbed on sore muscles and aching backs or knees which brings long lasting relief. It is now available as a premixed cream in a fancy jar.

Friday, February 17, 2023

An odd assortment of memes

 Found a folder the other day called 'Other" with a bunch of unrelated memes and photos. So here we go, some with explanations.

Pieces of rockets launched against Kharkiv

Other than Pyongyang, Korea is dark at night

Sent this to my son's partner for my young grandson's benefit

Hingston Harbour. Genealogists have not figured out
which Hingston nor why  the harbour was named after him

I have the entire old book scanned as PDF
When Stalin deported whole peoples, this is where they were sent

Europe c 1300

Kyivan Rus c1015-1113. Long before Muscovy existed

Ukraine in the time of the Cossacks c1600?

When the Black Sea was a Greek Lake

Ukraine 1919 during a brief independence

The birth of conspiracy theories

Projectile Dysfunction

Pony Express Route 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Joyce Olivia (May) McLachlan Sept 5, 1947 - February 5, 2023

 Back in the day, when cousins lived close enough to be your friends, Joyce was one of my best friends. Three weeks and three days older than me, she lorded that over me until we were old enough for it to be my turn to tell her how much younger I was.

We celebrated our 50th birthdays together with my other best friend cousin on the other side of my family, Lorne Dale, born Dec 1, 1947, who died of cancer in 2005. 

Joyce and I celebrating 75 Years
For our 75th, her sister Judy organized a small party for the two of us in late November after Tanya and I returned from Ukraine with Lucky. She and Judy had lived together after Joyce retired and when Judy retired, the two of them moved to Saskatoon. 

Joyce was not well at the time of our party, with symptoms similar to Congestive Heart Failure, though it was not that. She spent several weeks in hospital before they were finally able to diagnose as something on her heart that they could not operate on as she would not survive the operation. She was sent home with oxygen and heavy meds to alleviate the fluid on her legs and some of the associated pain. 

Judy looked after Joyce the last few months of her life. She was not prepared for Joyce's death to be so sudden nor were any of us, for that matter.  But Joyce is no longer in pain and is at peace so Judy said in a way it was a relief. 

I first met Joyce when we were very young. My grandparents who had a reliable car, drove my folks, my brother Ross who was a toddler, and I, to Beverly, near Swift Current, where my Uncle Vince was a grain buyer at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator. A few years later he transferred to run the Pool elevator at Merid which is west of Kindersley, close to the Alberta border. We got to see each other more often then and even spend a week at their place sometimes. How Aunt Betty kept her sanity while we were there is beyond me. 

Joyce 1961 age 13
Uncle Vince's next Pool elevator was at Fiske west of Rosetown where the family spent many years. Aunt Betty worked at Miller's General Store.  Joyce and her sisters Helen and Judy grew up in Fiske, finished elementary school and went to high school in Rosetown. Ross and I used to spend a week there every summer before we were in our teens.

The families of the three Johnson sisters got together for meals several times a year, especially when our grandparents were alive. There were 10 cousins in all and there were great times. One time when Joyce was at our place, we took the old car up to the pasture to check the cattle. I got out, opened the gate and was so tired I got back in to the car in the backseat. There is a joke about a drunk who did that and thought someone had stolen the steering wheel. Joyce was going to make my life miserable over that I could tell. Anyway, she wanted to drive. So I let her. She put it in forward not reverse and not only drove into a tree but drove up the tree. I had to cut the tree down to release the car. Neither of us told anyone about anything.

Uncle Vince had been offered the Pool elevator in Kindersley a few times and turned it down but eventually gave in. The family moved to Kindersley in 1967. Joyce graduated from highschool in 1965 and her first job was with SaskTel as a switchboard operator in Rosetown. Her Uncle Frank said she was a "call girl". Joyce married in 1968 because all her highschool friends were getting married. That marriage lasted 10 years which was sort of the average length of the marriages of all her highschool friends, too. She did not make that mistake again.

Helen married Dick Preston, a farmer from the community of Brock which is about half way between Rosetown and Kindersley. They have a daughter, Amber. Judy married John Holland and they had two sons, Shane and Chris. Shane followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a grain buyer at Flaxcombe. John passed away several years ago.

Joyce 2008
Joyce moved to Edmonton and worked there many years, I did visit her there once as I recall but that was it. Then she moved back to Kindersley in about 1999. She worked at several different jobs and cared for her parents who were not getting any younger. Uncle Vince passed away in 2006 and Aunt Betty in 2011. The house was too much for her and she sold it and moved into an apartment until she retired and moved to Lloydminster to live with Judy.

I'm sure my two best friend cousins, Joyce and Lorne will share a couple of laughs on the other side and Joyce will reunite with our cousin Sandy (Baker) Parsons who passed away only a couple of years ago. I will sure miss you, Joyce. That I know.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Random Musings on a Cold Sunny Sunday

 Ukraine got its tanks. Finally. Over 300 main battle tanks (MBT) have been promised to Ukraine. Many of them Leopard II which will take Ukrainian tank crews about a week to master Whether they get enough of them in time, master the training, and establish the logistics to launch their long anticipated counter offensive before the Russians launch their offensive is the question. Negotiations are fast tracked for F16s and other fighters as well as long range ATACMS missiles which will complete the AFU strike capability. While the Russians keep hammering at Bakhmut with the regular army reportedly taking over for the wiped up Wagner Group, Ukraine keeps inching towards Kreminna in Luhansk to fully cut supply lines from the northeast. Ukraine continues to attack along the Zaporizhzhia front, hitting the usual high value sites with HIMARS and artillery, while Russia launches missiles and drones against civilian targets. 

I will not comment too much on Canadian politics other than to say the 4 conservative governments in AB, SK, MB and ON are doing their utmost to destroy publicly funded education, health care, and social services. The intent is to privatize them to the greatest extent possible to the benefit of their wealthy friends and donors. Ford was elected in Ontario because no one came out to vote. Alberta has an alternative with experience in Notley's NDP, waiting for an election to be called, Why Moe is popular in Saskatchewan is beyond me but he may well win the next election too. 

My grandson, Grayden, will be 6 months old on Feb 3rd. At least with social media I can keep up with him even if I cant actually hold him. He sits by himself and is eating real food, stuffs his bare feet into his mouth. Has not quite mastered rolling over. He is the smilingest kid ever. Hard to catch him without a smile. 

Morning smiles

Look what I found

A dear friend of ours celebrated her 99th birthday this afternoon. We had planned to go but our landlord was supposed to come by to fix a cabinet drawer in our kitchen. We told our friend we would come to her 100th party instead. I'm sure she will be there.

And we are still waiting for the repair people. I'd fix it myself but cannot figure out how to release the drawer from the glides. There is a fancy apparatus at the far end of the glide but I don't want to break it by forcing it. I do not fit well in the cupboard space under the drawer. Emailed the manufacturer but of course have heard nothing back. I never understand why they even have email for general inquiries as they are consistently ignored.

The end of the drawer glide.

Our back door does not open into our back yard, so we had to take Lucky out on a leash and then shut the gate and let him go. I built a moveable fence across the walk so now he can run out when he wants. Except of course he wants us to go out with him to keep him company. He will run to the front and bark at people, then run to the back and bark just because. Best if someone is on the street and in the alley at the same time. He races back and forth. Sometimes he even remembers why he is out there and does his business. When he wants outside he will bring a stuffed toy to take with him, which he usually forgets. A dog training video I saw said all dogs have ADHD. The need a job to keep focused. If you don't give them one, they will make their own. Lucky's job is to bark at every sound and movement, lunge at big vehicles and people. He never bites. And when we get visitors, he will settle down and accept them. If we aren't around he will be the friendliest dog you ever saw.

The front fence/gate

Back gate

Tanya is using my older Dell computer with Windows 10. She works in Russian language which a friend switched it to last spring; I work in English. She showed me how to switch languages back and forth and I spent two days cleaning it up for her. Uninstalled Malware Bytes which speeded it up a great deal. I used it for years and thought it was good. Apparently not. I installed something with the dumb name of Restoro ( which I have been using to keep my computer clean and operating at capacity. It works quite well. Takes about 30 minutes to do a clean up and then a reboot to finish the job by deleting all the garbage. It took about 6 hours to reboot and works like a dream. Will reboot now in about 2 minutes.

Tomorrow cold or not, I have to walk Lucky.