[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Sunday Newsletter 2001-07Su
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Sunday Newsletter 2001-07Su.

February 18, 2001.

The short biography below on Grant Allen allows me to highlight one of the stated aims of FactsCanada.ca as outlined in our newly-published Mission Statement at this link -- that being the hope that you "... will also use the Web site as a stepping stone to investigate in more detail those articles which pique [your] interest." I hope we are effective in this endeavour. So far, through comments I have received either by word of mouth or e-mail, I feel we are having the desired effect. I hope to continue using this method of promotion of this great land we proudly call Canada. Today I extend my warmest greeting to those new subscribers who have joined us by becoming aware of our undertaking through Joe Edelman, the Useless Infomaster at UselessKnowledge.com. Through your continued support we hope to build our site into one of the best places to find interesting and sometimes forgotten facts about Canada, its land, its people and its history. I do need your help though, by passing this newsletter along to others to whom you may feel it may be of interest. For those of you receiving this e-mail from your friends, relatives or acquaintances, it's an easy process to subscribe -- there is a simple subscription form on every page on the Web site.



= Question of the week
= Biography -- Grant Allen
= Aurora borealis (northern lights)
= Place names -- Needles, British Columbia
= New area code clarification
= Humour for the week
= Movie trivia
= Recipe for this week -- Fish pie
= Words of the week
= Answer to this week's question
= Preview
= Links and resources
= Legal and subscription information



Below I have written a short article on the northern lights or, as it is known in Latin, the aurora borealis. My question is: What is this phenomenon's equivalent in the southern hemisphere?



Grant Allen (Charles Grant Blairfindie).

Born in Alwington, Ontario, on February 24, 1848, this writer, historian and scientist is all but forgotten today. Although he spent most of his youth in Canada, Allen moved to Europe with his parents to complete his education. He did this by studying in France then Britain, where he graduated from Merton College at Oxford in 1871.

In his tragically short life, Allen was able to write on a variety of subjects using a number of pseudonyms or, as was fashionable to call them then, noms de plume. These works included some of his scientific postulations that led to his penning works such as "Physiological Aesthetics", published in 1877. This tome dealt with the controversial biological theories of Charles Darwin and John Ruskin. He started writing regularly for the "London Daily News" in 1879. Within five years he published the first of more than 40 novels, starting with "Philistia" in 1884 and quickly followed by "Babylon" the following year. He wrote romance stories that took place in exotic settings and that were interspersed with adventure, as well as mysteries. He also made a lesser effort at satirizing British culture using the dystopian style. Along with these works of fiction he was also able to continue his release of non-fiction writings, adding 30 titles to his already considerable output. These works included scientifically-based essay collections and writings on naturalism (the practice of describing precisely the actual circumstances of human life through literature) such as "The Evolution of the Idea of God" (1897) and "The Hand of God", published ten years after his death.

Allen also wrote on travel, and it was a trip to Europe that eventually lead to his demise. He contracted a disease there which eventually destroyed his liver, bringing him to an early death at age 51. He passed away in London, England, October 28, 1899.

Please see today's resources (link at the bottom of the page) for a site that gives an in-depth and excellent account of Allen's life and his writings.



This phenomenon is neither dictated to nor controlled by national boundaries -- even though Canada's north is home to this anomaly, it is also shared by all the northern countries. The word "aurora" means "dawn", or "streams or bands of light appearing in the sky" and comes from Roman mythology -- she was the goddess of the dawn. "Borealis" is from Latin and means "northern".

This display of multicoloured light appears in the night (and sometimes the day) sky in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. The auroras are displayed along a band called the "auroral oval", with the north geomagnetic pole near its nucleus. The band is normally 500 to 1000 kilometres wide, and its usual position (while over Canada) lies roughly between Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and Grande riviere de la Baleine (Baleine River), Quebec. During intense activity the oval may expand as far south as Florida in the United States (when over North America) as was witnessed in August 1972. This was a most unusual display, as it usually remains exclusively in the far north.

Auroras originate approximately 100 to 300 kilometres above the Earth's surface in the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere ranging between 50 and 400 kilometres above the Earth's surface. They are caused primarily by energized electrons which are accelerated towards the ionosphere from a region 5000 to 20 000 kilometres distant. These electrons bombard the upper atmosphere and "excite" atmospheric particles. When these particles return to a less excited state, they emit light: green or red light comes from excited atomic oxygen; purple light from excited molecular nitrogen. The intensity of the light show oscillates, particularly near the local midnight hour of the individual experiencing them, when explosive bursts of activity called substorms are triggered. Activity also varies with sunspot and solar flare occurrences.

Current theory states that the energy that nurtures the auroras is obtained from the solar wind, a gas composed primarily of protons and electrons flowing away from the sun at supersonic speed. A magnetic field is embedded in the gas and is pulled by the wind deep into interplanetary space. This "wind" interacts with the Earth's magnetic field, distorting it to form the magnetosphere -- a comet-shaped cavity inside which the Earth is protected from the solar wind. The magnetosphere is breached near each pole, allowing some of the solar wind gas (slowed and heated by interaction with the magnetosphere) to enter the breached area and penetrate directly to the ionosphere, causing the day-time auroras. However, most of the particles leaking into the magnetosphere are trapped behind the Earth (away from the sun on the night side) and, through a process similar to that of convection, end up flowing down towards the Earth. Some of these particles are accelerated into the night ionosphere causing brilliant auroras.

As Gordon Rostoker (on whose information I based this article), professor of physics at the University of Alberta puts it, "The Northern Lights have haunted the imaginations of spectators for centuries. To the Inuit, the 'arsaniit' are the sky people enjoying a ball game. Some natives view the lights as ancestral spirits dancing before the Great Spirit." In an unusual anecdotal turn, the Japanese (great travellers that they are) firmly believe that children conceived under the northern lights will have an auspicious future.

We have some great pictures of the northern lights on our Web site at this link. My special thanks to Dick Hutchinson, who gave us permission to use some of his spectacular photographs of this phenomenon. After viewing the pictures on our site, take a look at Dick's site. His photos have been selected twice by the NASA astrophotography site for release as "pictures of the day".



Needles, British Columbia.

Needles is located 70 kilometres northwest of Castlegar in BC's West Kootenay region. It took its name from the patterns formed in the sand spits of the deltas that formed as water currents lead into Arrow Lake.

Needles was a major stern-wheeler stop on the west side of Arrow Lake serving the Canadian Pacific Railway. (A stern-wheeler was type of steam paddlewheeler.) Later a car ferry began crossing to Fauquier on the east from this same site. There was also a small agricultural settlement in Needles, originally known as Fire Valley (named as a reminder of the region's frequent forest fires). The orchard and town were abandoned upon completion of the Keenleyside Dam in 1968. Much of the area, stretching over 230 kilometres to the north into the Revelstoke area, became flooded and became part of the dam's reservoir. Several populations of the small communities, including those of nearby Fauquier, Burton and Edgewood, were relocated. Today Needles is classified by Natural Resources Canada as an unincorporated area, and it is only sparsely populated.

Visit today's resources for a map that will show where Needles is located in relation to Castlegar, Nelson and Vernon, British Columbia.



Last week I reported to you on a new telephone area code being implemented in the coming months in British Columbia. After receiving a couple of e-mail messages and having a discussion with one of our readers, I feel my interpretation of some of the information I had was not conveyed properly. Here is a condensed version of the facts:
  • Starting May 26, 2001:
    • Callers in the 604 area code will be required to dial ten digits in order to reach numbers within the 604 area code.
    • There is a six-month grace period during which a recorded voice will remind you of the need to dial ten digits (if you only dialled seven). Following the reminder your call will be connected. After the grace period seven-digit dialling will not be permitted.
    • Nobody in the 250 area code will be affected by the change.
  • Starting November 3, 2001:
    • The Vancouver "Extended Area of Service" (the Greater Vancouver Regional District [GVRD] and Abbotsford and Mission) will begin to use two area codes (this technique is called "overlay").
    • The new area code of 778 will be introduced.
    • All telephone numbers in the 604 area code will remain the same.
    • All new applications for phone service will be given a telephone number in the area code 778.
    • Callers in the 604 and 778 area codes will be required to dial ten digits in order to reach numbers within and between the 604 and 778 area codes.
This means that long-time residents of any given street will have a 604 area code, while new residents moving in next door will be given a 778 telephone number -- unless they are moving within an exchange where their old phone number will be supported. It will even be possible that a single house with two phone numbers (personal and business numbers, for example) will have phone numbers in two area codes.

For further clarity, here is the summary of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission order:

The Commission approves the introduction of a new area code in the region currently served by area code 604. The new area code will be implemented in a "concentrated overlay" over the exchanges in and around the Greater Vancouver Regional District as well as the Abbotsford and Mission exchanges. All existing customers in the 604 area code will retain their current telephone number. Once implemented on November 3, 2001, new numbers can be assigned from the new area code. At that time, unassigned central office codes in the 604 area code will be dedicated exclusively to locations outside of the new area code.

Here is the summary from the Canadian Local Calling Areas site:

The CRTC has announced a concentrated overlay to provide relief for area code 604, effective November 3, 2001. The new area code (778) will serve the exchanges in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (Aldergrove, Bowen Island, Cloverdale, Fort Langley, Haney, Ladner, Langley, New Westminster, Newton, North Vancouver, Pitt Meadows, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Richmond, Vancouver, West Vancouver, Whalley, White Rock, and Whonnock) as well as Abbotsford and Mission. Other exchanges will retain area code 604.

Here are some interesting facts on area codes gleaned from the above Web sites:
  • Ten-digit dialling already works in the 604 area code! Try it out by dialling a local number that you would normally dial using only seven digits, only this time dial 604 before the number. You will be connected. You might as well start reprogramming your phones, fax machines and computers now.

  • The 604 and 778 area codes will be exhausted within a decade, when we'll have to do this all over again. The 250 area code is predicted to be exhausted by 2005.

  • The community of Hyder, Alaska, USA, receives telephone service from and shares a prefix (250-636) with Stewart, British Columbia. Point Roberts, Washington, USA, used to have local calling with Ladner-Beach Grove, British Columbia. That link disappeared in June 1988 when Whidbey Telephone Company took over from BCTel (now Telus) as the local telephone company in Point Roberts.
I hope this clears things up a bit. Craig (as usual) seems to have been one of the only people to fully grasp all of these details. He is so sharp sometimes that I think I could hire him out as a needle! Please see today's resources for links to the sites mentioned for more detailed information, and for information on what is happening in your own area code. Toronto residents are going through a similar process.



Most of us (especially the gals out there) are familiar with the saying, "Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman", or "Behind every successful man is their true catalyst, a woman." Well, this week's humour looks at a quotation from the wife of one of our former prime ministers.

"Behind every successful man there is a surprised woman." --Maryon Pearson, wife of Lester B. Pearson.



When one takes the number of movie screens in a country and divides it by the population of that country, we get a statistic which naturally shows how many people are serviced by each movie screen. Surprisingly, the United States does not occupy the number one position in international rankings -- this special acknowledgment goes to Iceland. Some of the other results may surprise you as well. Here are the top ten countries listed in order of movie screens per million inhabitants:
1.  Iceland        165.2
2.  Sweden         131.3
3.  United States  128.3
4.  Norway          89.2
5.  Australia       86.1
6.  Azerbaijan      85.8
7.  France          81.1
8.  Canada          81.0
9.  New Zealand     78.1
10. Switzerland     75.8
There we are, Canadians proudly standing in the eighth position. Still, I told you there would be a few surprises.



Fish Pie.

It has been a while since I featured a recipe, so here goes.


1 1/2 lbs white fish or salmon
2/3 cup of oil
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
3 or 4 large peeled russet potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley
Butter to taste
1% milk (volume needed will vary with type of fish selected)


Saute the green onions with mushrooms in 2/3 cup of oil. Add your peas and continue to saute for an additional minute or two. Poach selected fish in water or wine and water until just done, reserving the liquid. Make your white sauce using half the reserve of poaching liquid and an equal amount of 1% milk. Flake the fish and mix in your green onion creation, adding tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. Grease a deep pie dish and fill with fish mixture. Top with the potatoes, which have been cooked and mashed with butter and a little milk. Smooth potatoes and then use a fork to create a pattern on top. Brush the top with melted butter. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. until bubbly and brown. Discard remaining poaching liquid. Pour on a little bit of the white sauce to taste. Enjoy!



By Craig.

This week I throw in an extra word (over my usual three); a better-known antonym of a word used in this week's biography.

Anomaly -- (noun) 1. a departure from a general rule; irregularity. 2. something abnormal. 3. (Geology) a local departure from the prevailing characteristics of an area. 4. (Astronomy) the angle between an orbiting body, the previous point at which it was closest to the sun, and the sun.

Dystopia -- (noun) an imaginary place or state where everything is bad and people lead a wretched life. (Coined by English philosopher J.S. Mill. 19th century.) The opposite of "utopia", defined below.

Phenomenon -- (noun) 1. a fact, event or circumstance that can be observed. 2. something or someone extraordinary or remarkable. 3. (Philosophy) a. something known through the senses rather than through thought. b. something as it is observed through the senses and understood, as distinct from the thing itself.

Utopia -- (noun) 1. Utopia, an ideal commonwealth where perfect justice and social harmony exist, described in "Utopia" (1516) by Sir Thomas More. 2. an ideal place or state with perfect laws. 3. a visionary, impractical system of political or social perfection.



Above I have written a short article on the northern lights or, as it is known in Latin, the aurora borealis. My question is: What is this phenomenon's equivalent in the southern hemisphere?

The aurora australis. The opposite of "borealis", "australis" means "southern".



On Friday Mike and Craig take turns looking at the plight of those consumers and small businesses who are in the market for high-speed Internet access. If you are a cable (@Home mostly) or ADSL (Telus mostly) customer, or want to be, then this article will be of great interest to you.


Due to editing deadlines I will have to feature my article on disc golf (or "frolf") next week. I wanted to fulfil my obligations as stated last week, but once again real life intruded on my research time. I hope you all enjoyed this week's articles. I will invade your e-mail once again next week.



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