Eric Back on July 7th, 2008

So how are we doing as a nation at the close of the Bush presidency.  Take a look at these statistics reflecting the USA’s place in the world according to a number of vital parameters for an established and developed nation.  All of these scores were culled from another site that had compiled them throughout the Bush years, some of them have worsened over the past few years.

What will it take to make America truthfully, ”the greatest nation on the earth?”

1) Adult Literacy:
USA #9, Sweden #1, Norway #2

2) Healthcare Quality Index:
USA #37, #1 France, #2 Italy

3) Student Reading Ability:
USA #12, Finland #1, South Korea #2

4) Student Problem Solving Ability:
USA #26, South Korea #1, Finland #2

5) Student Ranking on Mathematics Ability:
USA #24, Hong Kong #1, Finland #2

6) Student Ranking on Science Ability:
USA #19, Finland #1, Japan #2

7) USA Ranking on Life Expectancy:
USA #29, Japan #1, Hong Kong #2

8) USA Ranking on Political Corruption Index:
USA #17, Iceland #1, Finland #2

9) USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability Index:
USA #45, Finland #1, Norway #2

10) USA Ranking on Infant Mortality:
USA #32, Sweden #1, Finland #2

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Eric Back on July 6th, 2008

Wondering what to do with all those leftover party balloons?

Don’t miss the video of Oregonion, Kent Couch’s launch for a 200 mile journey across the Oregon desert! He made it successfully, unlike the tragic flight of Brazilian Priest, Adelir de Carli whose body was recently found 100 km off the Brazilian coast after his helium balloon powered lawnchair was caught by high winds.

lawnchair launched

Eric Back on May 10th, 2008


A new Canada West foundation study has been published this month concerning public spending priorities.

When Canadians in the four western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and manitoba were asked to rate their priorities for public spending according to a 5 point Likert scale, their top 3 for increased spending were in the areas of healthcare, the environment, and reduction of poverty.  Healthcare was the only area to be awarded a ”very high” rating by a majority of Western Canadians.

Interesting findings include greater support for creating employment opportunities for aboriginal peoples than for importing foreign workers. Sixty percent agree that the economy should be left to the free market and of these, only around 16% felt strongly so.  Eighty percent felt that some sort of protections should be in place for rural economies. Ninety per cent support increased government spending for research and development but only 40% felt strongly so.

A PDF copy of the Canada West foundation study is available here.

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Eric Back on May 10th, 2008


Click on this text for a link to a question and answer article interviewing Canadian guitarist Randy Bachman about his experiences with late guitar legend, Jeff Healey.

Eric Back on May 3rd, 2008


One of Canada’s best kept secrets is a folk singer/country singer named Stompin’ Tom Connors.  Fiercely Canadian, he returned a number of Juno awards one year in protest of those artists who had shifted their emphasis to the ”south of the border market.”  Stompin’ Tom earned his name for the way that he kept his beat by rythymically stomping his foot as he played.  After receiving complaints about wearing down stage floors he began to bring his own sheet of plywood to stomp on.  Generally ignored by pop radio, Stompin’ Tom nevertheless acquired a huge, inter-generational following and along with Don Messer, Tommy Hunter, Hank Snow, and others, has become an icon and source of national pride.

Here’s a recent snow sculpture of Stompin’ Tom that was an entry in a snow sculpture contest and below it is Stompin’ Tom’s response.


”To Abram, Asher and Ben Waterman, and Team Prince Edward Island. All I can say is WOW! And Congratulations on the great job you guys did on the Snow Sculpture ”Stompin’ Tom & the Hockey Song”. Your theme could not be more ”Canadian” and I hope you win the competition. It’s awsome!”

Eric Back on November 7th, 2007

Check out the site of freehugsfinland, a group in Helsinki with a mission to spread the spontaneous expression of human affection through appropriate forms of personal touch.  In a nation of people who are reputed to be almost monolthically, ”melancholic,” and ”shy,” the free-hugs folks create some surprising moments of joy.

Check out the video!

Eric Back on October 20th, 2007


Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson will release both cd and dvd versions of ”Dreamboat Annie Live,” on October 23rd.  The show was recorded in April of this year during the ”Love Rules,” tour.  Also of note, Ann Wilson released her first solo album on September 11th this year.  Check out the news at


A new Stevie Ray Vaughn, signature model Stratocaster will be released by Fender on December 12th. It will be called the Stevie Ray Vaughn, ”Lenny,” named after Stevie’s wife, Lenora. The total number available of this new model will limited to a batch of 185.  The Stevie Ray Vaughn signature is rumored to be priced at $17000.00–a little steep for my wallet.

Eric Back on August 30th, 2007

In searching for a definition of ”särskrivning,” I came upon this anonymous post below which gave form to my observations that the Swedish language uses compound words quite freely and creatively.

”The concept of what in Swedish is called ”särskrivning” is becoming a very large problem in Sweden. Combined words are in general not written as separate words in Swedish. A good example is the word ”Rökfritt” which in a direct translation means ”Smoke free” (or a more proper english translation ”No smoking”). If we apply a ”särskrivning” on that word, we get ”Rök fritt”, which in a direct translation means ”Smoke freely.”  As you can see, the meaning of the phrase is completely reversed, by inserting that simple space. Still there are more and more people in Sweden writing that way. There is a Swedish campaign to stop this abuse, which can be found at: ”

Eric Back on August 18th, 2007


This poem, bogland, has been published elsewhere on the internet.  Seamus Heaney, the author, is another great Irish writer in a long tradition of Irish writers.  He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.  Here’s a link to his biography at the Nobel site. Enjoy!


for T. P. Flanagan

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening–
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encrouching horizon,

Is wooed into the cyclops’ eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They’ll never dig coal here,

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

Every layer they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Eric Back on June 13th, 2007


Pepsi, with only 15% of the Japanese cola market, has released ”Pepsi Ice Cucumber,” a product that sells the image of the favored, summer, salad gourd though containing no actual cucumber essence.  It is artificially flavored to simulate ”the refreshing taste of a fresh cucumber,” according to Aya Takemoto, spokeswoman of Japan’s Pepsi distributor, Suntory Ltd. ”We wanted a flavor that makes people think of keeping cool in the summer heat,” said Takemoto. ”We thought the cucumber was just perfect.”