Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Ban the Bomb

If Spectator contributor Sean Howard has raised your awareness (and the hairs on the back of your neck) about nuclear weapons and the need for disarmament, you may well be wondering, “But what can I do?” (Other, of course, than dismantling your own stock of intercontinental ballistic missiles, something The Spectator is pleased to report it did months ago.)

One option would be to fly to New York and join The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb, scheduled for Saturday 17 June. Participants are to assemble at 12:30 pm at Bryant Park along W41st street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway before marching to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.

If New York just isn’t a possibility for you that weekend, the women of Peace Quest Cape Breton have another suggestion: they’re inviting people of  “all genders, sexual orientations, ages, races, abilities, nationalities, cultures, faiths, political affiliations, and backgrounds” to a “teach-in held in solidarity with the marchers and in support of UN negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

The event takes place on Saturday 17 June at 1:00 p.m. in the Multiversity Room, Cape Breton University.


Summer Transit

CBRM Transit bus displaying "Free Bus" sign

A free bus from summer 2016. This summer, Transit Cape Breton will experiment with $1 trips.

The Spectator is a proud patron of public transit (read: The Spectator does not own a car) so news that Transit Cape Breton would be experimenting with new pricing and services raised a cheer here in the offices (read: I cheered).

I don’t know if service to Louisbourg and “loonie” rides throughout the system this summer will be successful, but there’s only one way to find out — try them.  And I’m delighted Transit Cape Breton will do so.

The Louisbourg bus (especially combined with free entry to the park this summer) seems like a great idea for locals and tourists alike. Not all tourists arrive by car or rent cars once they do arrive. Backpackers, for instance, rely on public transit to get around and will be more likely to visit places that offer good public access to tourist sites.

Best of all, Transit Cape Breton has other experiments in the pipeline, as the CBC reported:

Other projects under consideration by the transit service include an express service this fall from the North Sydney and Sydney Mines area to Cape Breton University, expanded service to New Waterford, and a new route through the First Nations community of Membertou.

I hope the experiments are successful, but the very fact they’re being attempted is a success in itself.



World's largest lobster statue, Shediac, NB. (Photo by JAKclapclap47, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

World’s largest lobster statue, Shediac, NB. (Photo by JAKclapclap47, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The high price of lobster means McDonald’s, which according to their regional communications manager, is “committed to offering Canadians quality and affordable food” is “currently unable to offer this menu item at a reasonable price for our guests.”

That manager clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of either “quality” or “guest” (which must lead to awkward moments at her house, like when children at her child’s birthday party are asked to pay for their cake — which was actually just a hot apple pie with a candle in it).

The news reminded me of something I’d read about lobster by James Surowiecki. It was written in 2013, a year in which lobster catches were up and prices down. I’d forgotten that Surowiecki began by pointing out that lobster wasn’t always a high-end commodity — its being served in a McDonald’s would have made perfect sense to the poor of Colonial New England (once you’d somehow explained everything else about McDonald’s to them) who ate so much of it “servants, as a condition of their employment, insisted on not being fed lobster more than three times a week.”

In the nineteenth century, it became generally popular, but then, as overharvesting depleted supplies, it got to be associated with the wealthy (who could afford it). In the process, high prices became an important part of lobster’s image. And, as with many luxury goods, expense is closely linked to enjoyment. Studies have shown that people prefer inexpensive wines in blind taste tests, but that they actually get more pleasure from drinking wine they are told is expensive. If lobster were priced like chicken, we might enjoy it less.

The result is that even in years when lobster is relatively cheap, Surowiecki says it usually remains expensive in the kind of restaurant that doesn’t have plastic tables or play areas.


The Jiger

Brave but unnamed soul test-driving the Jiger in Sydney harbor, 1968. (Raytel photo)

Last week, I wrote about research into the environmental damage done by off-highway-vehicles like ATVs and snowmobiles, and it reminded me of a picture I’d seen of an off-highway vehicle called the Jiger (pronounced “JIGGER”).

It was an amphibious six-wheeler invented in 1966 by one John Gower who, according to the Toronto Star, had “tired of trudging through the snow-covered northern Alberta forestland” and so “invented a vehicle that looks like a bathtub and can roll over anything on its slit fat wheels.”

Gower produced 3,337 of the bright yellow machines in his Toronto plant before going bankrupt in 1968. That same year, according to a website dedicated to the Jiger:

[A]n unnamed group with funding from the Canadian Government, re-licensed the trademark JIGER and opened under the name Breton Versatrek. Two new plants were constructed, one in Sydney Nova Scotia (to build the fibreglass bodies) and one in Brampton Ontario (to assemble the new drive system).

That’s how the Jiger, with a little help from the Cape Breton Development Corporation (DEVCO), rose like a fat-tired phoenix from the ashes and ended up on the front page of the 23 December 1968 Cape Breton Highlander under the headline: “Jiger will go anywhere. Anywhere? Well, almost anywhere.”

The accompanying story was short and sweet:

Actually, the peppy little amphibian produced by Breton Versatrek will go anywhere. It was just that the shore of Sydney harbor, chosen for last week’s demonstration, isn’t just anywhere. A greasy embankment, steep and littered with flotsam and jetsam necessitated a little prodding but otherwise the Jiger worked like a bomb and impressed assembled newsmen and DEVCO directors no end. Production at Breton Versatrek’s Point Edward plant got under way last week and local fishermen were reported looking longingly at what could be the biggest thing since the skimobile for outdoorsmen.

Sadly, the history of the Versatrek Jiger was also short and sweet: Breton Versatrek went bankrupt in 1971.




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