Category Archives: Education

Debt is BC’s Biggest Issue

Our provincial debt is now at record levels.  In the coming weeks leading up to the election, understanding the full extent of the provincial debt, including any and all outstanding obligations, should be a primary focus of the election coverage.  ”

“Every BC resident needs to understand the connection between our provincial deficit and their own financial well being.  There is a direct correlation.”

Quite simply, the deficit is the single largest issue.  Without fixing this, we will not have funding in the provincial coffers for healthcare, education, infrastructure and other important programs.    If we are broke, we will have no options to protect the environment, educate our children and preserve our way of life.  We are seeing first hand consequences in Cyprus this month.  The utter devastation of the economy in Cyprus has resulted in private wealth being seized to pay down sovereign debt.

If we elect a government in 2013 that continues business as usual, BC will be setting a dangerous precedent by allowing special interests to mortgage our future.

As for the current budget, it would be good to also get a clarification of what assets will be sold on page 135 of the BC Budget in years 2013-2015.  These total over $700 million. As a taxpayer, I want to know what these are.

The budget also contains contradictions with other statements being given to us.  I would like to see an explanation of the projected increased in natural gas production on page 134.  The budget projects a growth in gas volume from 1461 petajoules (2011) to 2025 in 2015 (approximately 30% increase).  I am not saying it is not true, just wondering why our government is telling us the carbon tax is working while GHG’s are going up.  This needs to be explained.  BC residents are too smart to allow such a double standard.

Balanced budget legislation is worthless if not followed.   Asking why the Health funding is running a budget deficit of around $5 billion despite the BALANCED BUDGET AND MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ACT.  This act (Statutes BC 2001, Chapter 28) received royal assent on August 16, 2001.  It clearly states in section 2

The main estimates for a fiscal year must not contain a forecast of a deficit for that fiscal year.”

The following health funding report is from page 110 of the BC budget.

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Pay close attention to the bottom three lines.  Health care is important. If the true cost is $17, 266 million, then let’s budget that.  It is also fair to expect that the accounting for this be completely transparent so BC residents who can find ways to improve the efficiency of health care are able to help our province.  Having a budget that does not reflect reality just confuses everyone.

I’ve run business and started companies form nothing and grown them to be sold to Fortune 500’s.  This is not hard to do if everyone is transparent.  We need a change in BC on May 14.

Higher Taxes in Vancouver – Point Grey?

I had just written about my concerns with the new Provincial budget and the propensity to tax the high income earners.  While I thought this would come from the NDP, it turns out that it is coming from the Liberals.  According to Mike DeJong, if you make a higher amount of income, you will pay more.

He also says Doctor’s can expect less income, schooling will remain flat and a number of other measures.  Family friendly?  West Point Grey- Kitsilano residents are the key family demographic.  Of course our Premier sends her kids to private schools but most of our kids go to public schools that have Asbestos in the main hallways and are at the highest risk of collapse in a seismic event.


I had just written about my concerns with the new Provincial budget and the propensity to tax the high income earners.  While I thought this would come from the NDP, it turns out that it is coming from the Liberals.  According to Mike DeJong, if you make a higher amount of income, you will pay more.

He also says Doctor’s can expect less income, schooling will remain flat and a number of other measures.  Family friendly?  West Point Grey- Kitsilano residents are the key family demographic.  Of course our Premier sends her kids to private schools but most of our kids go to public schools that have Asbestos in the main hallways and are at the highest risk of collapse in a seismic event.

We, as British Columbian’s, must pay close attention to this budget.  This is our children’s futures we are talking about.  This is our future.  If our children are not given a proper education and are relegated to menial labour jobs, how can we expect a tax base to support our retirement?  We will be at the mercy of large multinational corporations who seek our resources.    So how do we do that without raising taxes?

Smarter spending is part of the answer.  Our children do not need smart meters or fast ferries.  We do not need $15 million taxpayer funded government advertising campaign.  We do not need a Carbon Tax that neither reduces carbon or invests in renewable energy.   We do not need to subsidize special interest groups or business.

We do need asbestos free environments for our children to go to school in.  Is prioritizing this too much to ask?

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Feb 24, a Dark Day in History for Canada

It was February 24, when Japanese Canadians were denied some very basics rights.  On this day in history, the Canadian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister King, brought forth a number of orders to immediately gather all persons of Japanese origin to “protective areas.”  Even those who were 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians, who had fought for this country, were denied the right to own property.   Ten days later, the British Columbia Security Commission removed the first 2500 Japanese to Hastings Park. They were also denied the right to own land or grow their own food.

Within our own province, Ian Mackenzie (Liberal) returned to Cabinet as Minister of National Defence where he had the responsibility for pre-war rearmament.  World War II began in 1939 and MacKenzie was moved to the position of Minister of Pensions and National Health.   This was partially done because of his role in a scandal involving the awarding of a contract to manufacture the Bren Gun (seems to be a pattern within our provincial government). The ultimate shock for me though is that in 1944,  the increasing pressures of war led Prime Minister King to decide to delegate some of his responsibilities in the House of Commons to the new position of Government House Leader, he chose Mackenzie as the first MP to hold that responsibility. During the war, Mackenzie pandered to anti-Japanese sentiment in British Columbia by declaring to his constituents at his 1944 nomination meeting “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.‘”

This sounds like fiction from another country three centuries ago.  The fact is that we must never forget our basic humanity.

In a second year on this date, an ironic twist happened.  Tommy Douglas died of cancer on 24 February 1986 at the age of 81 in Ottawa.  Douglas was one of two MP’s who opposed the introduction of the War Measures Act in 1970, believing that it took away some basic rights and liberties of Canadians.  The act was introduced and passed in response to the Quebec FLQ crisis.

Both of these events had a similar effect.  We disenfranchised many people for the small actions of a few.  We must recognize that liberty and freedom apply to all in Canada and that it is non-negotiable.  It is a slippery slope when a government starts limiting the rights of it’s constituents.  Government must learn to act and no re-act without reason.

Schools – Kitsilano, Point Grey’s Urgent Need

In Vancouver, Point Grey and Kitsilano,  we have many old schools that are in extreme danger of collapse in a moderate to high seismic event.  My own children’s school, Bayview Community School, was built in 1914. It’s a Heritage A building, which means it has significant historical value.  Bayview’s age has led to both maintenance concerns (lead pipes, asbestos, outdated heating systems, etc.) and to seismic concerns. The Vancouver School Board ranks Bayview at high risk for structural damage in the case of an earthquake. Engineering reports have identified poor brick and concrete quality. The school doesn’t come close to meeting current building codes.  The bathrooms look worse than the one’s I encountered at a public bus depot on my last trip to Bangalore, India.  Don’t believe me though, watch this video.  I guarantee you will be horrified.

Why are our children near Asbestos?  This is not the only school in Vancouver, Point Grey and Kitsilano either.  To see the problem in it’s completeness, study the chart below.  The engineers have categorized schools into five categories, H1 being the highest risk.


Now take a look at this list.   It turns out that the Vancouver, Point Grey, Kitsilano areas have the following schools in H1 and H3.  These are the most dangerous in terms of being at risk for structural damage during a seismic event.

Bayview Elementary
Henry Hudson
Charles Gordon Elementary
Lord Tennyson Elementary
Point Grey Secondary
Prince of Wales Secondary
Quilchena Elementary
Southlands Elementary

Carnarvon Community Elementary
Lord Byng Secondary
Queen Elizabeth Elementary
Queen Elizabeth Annex

As part of its ongoing Seismic Mitigation Program, the Province has committed more than $122 million to address structural upgrades at 14 high-priority schools. The 14 projects are spread throughout 12 B.C. school districts. Schools were selected from most-recent district capital plans and represent top-ranked projects based on an updated assessment of seismic safety risk. School projects approved for funding:

Aberdeen Elementary, Abbotsford (SD 34)
South Delta Secondary, Delta (SD 37)
Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith Elementary, Vancouver (SD 39)
Dr. George M. Weir Elementary, Vancouver (SD 39)
Sir Wilfred Grenfell Community School, Vancouver (SD 39)
Alpha Secondary, Burnaby (SD 41)
Banting Middle school, Coquitlam (SD 43)
Argyle Secondary, North Vancouver (SD 44)
Quadra Elementary, Victoria (SD 61)
Sangster Elementary, Sooke (SD 62)
Deep Cove Elementary, Saanich (SD 63)
Georges P. Vanier Secondary, Comox Valley (SD 71)
C.E. Barry Intermediate, Fraser-Cascade (SD 78)
École des Pionniers, Conseil scolaire francophone (SD 93)

While I applaud this action on these schools, politicians needs to make the rest a priority and pull out all the stops.  Why are the Liberals spending $15,000,000 on ads claiming our job programs are working instead of creating jobs through the infrastructure upgrades?  True, it is a complex logistical problem involving temporary relocation of students, compliance with proper tender processes, engineering and feasibility studies and even municipal government interactions.   The fact is that this process is not happening fast enough.  We have BC companies willing to bid on this work and a highly skilled workforce.  The investment into this infrastructure will pay for itself (educated children become tax paying citizens) and our legacy must be higher education for our children.

I also found out that apparently our Premier Christy Clark sends her sonHamish to private school.  While I cannot verify this with an absolute accuracy,  it seems to have substance.   I live in Vancouver – Point Grey – Kitsilano with my children.  They attend a public school and will continue to attend a public school.   Parents in other school districts want their schools upgraded too.  This cannot wait any longer.

What can you do?

Please sign this petition.  These buildings are also an important part of our community and serve as safe havens in the event of a disaster.  Every school needs to be standing and equipped not only to teach our children, but to also be an integral part of our community.  There are no shortages of construction materials or labour and investing into schools pumps money into our local economy.  Tell you MLA that you want these schools upgraded now.  We deserve this.

Talk to your neighbours.  Raise awareness.

Share the video.

Write a letter to our Premier.

Free Technology Training in Vancouver

I am a huge fan of technology and believe for BC to prosper into the future, our schools need to be updated with cutting edge technology.  We need to follow India and China’s leads to start our children programming at an early age.

This is a lofty goal and will be something I will continue to push forward.  In the meantime, our city is rife with an abundance of free training.  I myself will be co-presenting at an event on Feb 25, 2013.  Anyone can attend and it is free.  The session is:

Neo4J 101: What it is, How to Get Started and Whispr, a Case Study

An incredible opportunity to hear Neo Technology’s Pernilla Lindh provide an overview and introduction for Neo4J. Pernilla is a Community Manager with Neo Technologies, the company behind Neo4J, the world’s most popular graph database. Pernilla self describes herself as “An Hippie-Information Architect who works with graph databases, will save the world through technology and open data” which will resonate well with Vancouverites.

Attendees will also be provided with a business decision for using Neo4J.  This will be in the form of an overview of Whispr. is a Decision Management and Analysis platform supporting RACI/DACI models that is built on Neo4J and the reasons why Neo4J was chosen will be illustrated.

Finally, there will be an overview of how to get started with Neo4J and then provide code samples.

More on:
Neo4J –
Pernilla –
Whispr –

11 Tips for Saving Energy in House Design

I got an email asking about solar and wind options for housing. Since I am planning to build an energy efficient house north of 49 degrees (in Canada) and have done a lot of thinking on this topic, I decided to share the following and now make it available as a blog post.

1. House design is essential. I plan to re-route all hot air evacuations (bathroom fan, kitchen fan, clothes dryer (if we get one) exhaust etc.) into either a thermal bus or to tie them directly to a year round greenhouse to use the thermal energy for growing food.

2. IMPORTANT: Always do the “Net” energy calculations. For example – having cheap, Chinese made solar powered, LED lights to power your walkway instead of investing in a proper system is a waste of time and an affront to the environment if you have to throw out something that broke in one year and took 25 times as much energy to make as it saved. For example, I bought these little solar powered lights at Home Depot, which lasted only about 250 days. When I took them apart, I discovered the culprit – a single AA rechargeable battery was the only power source. These usually do not last more than 250 charging cycles and if you connect one to a daily charge routine, it will burn out in less than a year. Net result: I actually polluted more by buying cheap products to save energy.

3. I also plan to use wood heating with a proper catalytic converter (avoids most carbon pollution) to warm the house on winter days as we have ample wood for cooking etc. The house we are choosing has a small horizontal footprint and is 2.5 stories high, which allows thermal energy to be more efficient.

4. I’m putting the shower and kitchen on the top floor then using a diverter valve to reroute the entire waste water into the flooring for either keeping the house cool in summer or heating in the winter.

5. After the electrical inspectors give the final OK, I am moving to 12 or 24 VDC power for all lighting in the house and possibly some USB outlets. All lighting will be 12/24 VDC LED indirect. This saves tons of energy over trying to convert a 12/24VDC battery array into 110 AC (or in your case 220 VAC, which would be less efficient). Most solar and wind systems use 12 or 24 VDC as the charging output. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed and it is a lossy process to convert energy. The biggest culprit is usually thermal energy as an unwanted byproduct (think of hot transformers). If you must convert, try to capture the byproduct (place the converters in a place that needs heating).

5. My wife and I are investigating thermal heating systems. These seem to make a lot of sense as they can be used in both the summer and winter. In North America, there is an relevant organization that has members; there might be a similar system in the UK –

6. In order to use wind energy in a micro manner, there are lots of manufacturers and the kits are not that hard to figure out. The first thing you have to do is check out the MET office to find out if it will work in your location. Wind speed must be at a minimum of 5 metres per second to work. The Canadian map showed us that in our case, we have sufficient wind.

7. Solar kits are also not that complicated. Study up on it and note the major components – collectors/charge controllers, battery array/inverters or converters then do the calculations. You have to figure out what you want to use the property for before you can plan a system. In our case, assuming we only go there on the weekends, we can go with less collections and a bigger battery array as the battery array will recharge during weekdays. If we lived there full time, we would have to use more collectors. Most manufacturers of repute (Siemens, etc/) will have all the calculations available. There are some good resources online for this too. Here is one:

8. Look into evacuated solar tubes. These work in very low temperatures (as low as –40 degrees Celsius) and can deliver off grid water at 65 degrees Celsius. They work by having no gas (a vacuum) in between the outer tube and the inner collector. This collects energy radiated from the sun without the atmosphere moving the heat away and harvests it via the manifold. These can take care of big things like hot water tanks.

9. If you use your property for weekends only like me, you might want to consider a Linux micro kernel running a small routine that can be used to “wake up” the house. For example, if you have a grid tied-hot water system, you could invoke a cron job that turns your hot water heater on and off remotely so you’re not paying for energy you don’t need. Another option is to move to a EU style JIT hot water heater (tank-less system).

10. For certification, The SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation) is the key solar collector certifying body for the US and Canada. Make sure everything you use has passed the minimum criteria for this.

11. My thoughts on this are that when I buy my supplies, I want to do it with a company that has been around, been certified and is backed by a manufacturer with a warranty and good history, and someone who has a physical office I can identify and walk into. Too many snake oil vendors on the web.

My Great Uncle Kenneth MacKenzie

When Ken began working in the Radiation Laboratory, the 60-inch cyclotron was nearing completion. He became involved with the radiofrequency (RF) system which produces the D-voltage. With this beginning he became an authority on RF systems. He made a major contribution to the design of the system for the 184-inch cyclotron which was completed in 1947. It was the first machine capable of producing mesons. He also made significant contributions to the system for TRIUMF, the meson factory which was completed in 1974. RF systems can be temperamental. Ken had an uncanny knack in getting them to perform properly.

Ken contributed to the development of cyclotrons from day one. He was in Berkeley when the first tests of large-current Uranium mass spectrometry were made in late 1941. He participated in the full scale tests which were made in the recently completed 184-inch magnet, beginning in mid-1942. An accelerating voltage had to be held constant with great precision. The system developed, involving RF signals, is described in a chapter which he contributed to a book in the National Nuclear Energy Series, Manhattan Project. Ken also went to Oak Ridge where he participated in the process of getting the production plant into operation.

In 1964 Ken wrote a paper titled “Space Charge Effects and Cyclotron Beam Enhancement.” Cyclotrons had been in operation some thirty years and this effect had been overlooked. Near the center of a cyclotron there can be appreciable loss of particles which are near the surface of the circulating current due to repulsion by those particles within the body of the beam. Once the effect was recognized, steps could be taken to reduce it. As a result, several large synchrocyclotron laboratories were able to increase their research output.

McMillan and Veksler, during World War II, predicted means of increasing the upper energy limit of cyclotrons. The first test of the proposal was made in Berkeley in 1946. The 37-inch magnet was modified for the test. Ken participated, not surprisingly, in the design of the RF system, which now involved frequency modulation. The prediction was confirmed.

After World War II, UCLA was interested in establishing a program in nuclear physics. It was decided to move the 37-inch frequency-modulated cyclotron to UCLA to begin the new program. After a year at the University of British Columbia, Ken joined the UCLA faculty in 1947. Over the next 10 years he and his students performed positron-electron scattering experiments, stopping power measurements, precision range-energy relationships and a final increase of the “37-inch” energy to 20 Mev protons.

In about 1960, Ken initiated the UCLA Department of Physics program in experimental plasma physics. Over the next 15 years, with various colleagues, he published some 20 papers in this field, many involving various aspects of large quiescent plasmas. Early on, Ken and his students lined the walls of a vacuum chamber with permanent magnets of alternating polarity to suppress plasma electron losses. “MacKenzie buckets” are now universally used as plasma sources. He initiated an introductory undergraduate course in plasma physics and an accompanying laboratory (which used a restaurant size cooking pot as an ion bucket). He invented simple physical pictures for a number of plasma wave phenomena usually described in complex mathematical terms.

Ken can be given much credit for the impressive status of experimental plasma physics at UCLA today. Studies of plasmas in the ionosphere (Alfred Wong); the physically largest Electric Tokomak (directed by one of Ken’s students, Robert Taylor); and physically large plasmas for wave studies (Reiner Stenzel and Walter Gekelman) are examples of important work in progress.

For a period of about two years Ken was the president of a small company, Meva Corp, which was formed to build cyclotrons. After producing one for an undergraduate laboratory at Pomona College, the company was sold to Hughes Aircraft.

After retirement, Ken continued a long standing interest in Special and General Relativity. Some results are described in an unpublished monograph titled Einstein’s General Relativity in Three Dimensions. He also wrestled with the dark matter enigma.

Ken made very significant contributions to the Department. In a broad sense, being one of eight new faculty appointments following World War II, he participated actively and fully in every aspect of the Department’s development. Over the years he saw to it that the electricity and magnetism laboratories were kept up to date. He introduced the plasma physics curriculum. He took the course in “Physics for Non-Science Majors” seriously, devoting a great effort to make special relativity understandable. In the mid-70s he served as chairman.

What kind of a physicist was he? He could of course use mathematics to formulate and solve problems. Beyond that, he could see through the most complex situations to their conceptualization and solution. As a person, he was gentle, kind, understanding, pleasant and modest to a fault. He rarely, if ever, raised his voice. He had a considerable range of interests outside of physics, both physical and intellectual. Verna, his second wife whom he married in 1981, gave him great care during his decline. Other survivors are his children, Robert, Maryann and Wallace. They miss him dearly as do all who knew him well.