Blog Posts by Tori Floyd

  • Who needs birthday presents when you collect gifts all year long? Since becoming prime minister in 2006, Stephen Harper has given and received plenty of gifts, both when foreign dignitaries come to visit, and when he travels abroad, not to mention visiting the various regions of Canada.

    Harper isn’t allowed to keep all of the gifts he’s sent, though. In 2006, the Conservative government passed the Conflict of Interest Act, which led to the creation of a public registry for all gifts, that someone in public office receives, CBC reported.

    All gifts over $200 are required to be declared to the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner. And all presents over $1,000 can’t be kept by public office holders at all.

    Because it’s now a matter of public record, anyone can check out what gifts Stephen Harper has received through the public registry at the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner website. This is just a sampling of some of the things Harper has received in his

    Read More »from Forget his birthday, Stephen Harper gets plenty of gifts all year
  • Photos of birthday card for Stephen Harper via Tumblr user richardlazarusisgo.Photos of birthday card for Stephen Harper via Tumblr user richardlazarusisgo.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper is celebrating his 56th birthday today, April 30, and he'll be receiving well-wishes from many of his party supporters thanks to his wife, Laureen.

    Members of the Conservative Party of Canada received a letter last week from Laureen Harper, asking for donations ahead of the October 19 election. The mailout also included a card for the prime minister's birthday, which was shared on Tumblr. It reads, "Happy Birthday, Prime Minister! Wishing you another Happy Birthday on April 30th... and another Conservative Majority victory for Canada this October!"

    Stephen Harper birthday card, via richardlazarusisgo/TumblrStephen Harper birthday card, via richardlazarusisgo/Tumblr

    The Tumblr post showing the card was reblogged hundreds of times, and was spotted by leftist political news site Press Progress, who didn't think much of the gesture:

    "While it's not uncommon for political parties to use the birthdays of leaders as an opportunity to collect information from supporters, in this case, it's hard not to wonder if the Conservatives are worried no one will wish the Prime Minister

    Read More »from Stephen Harper celebrates birthday with cards sent to, mailed back from party supporters
  • Artist carves incredibly tiny miniatures on pencil lead tips

    Instagram logo carved from multiple pencils and glued together. (Tom Lynall)Instagram logo carved from multiple pencils and glued together. (Tom Lynall)

    Tom Lynall has a hobby that would drive most people insane: Carving the tips of pencils into intricate pieces of art.

    Reddit alien, in honour of the hugely-positive response Lynall got on Reddit when he shared photos of his work.Reddit alien, in honour of the hugely-positive response Lynall got on Reddit when he shared photos of his work.
    Rapunzel in her tower. (Tom Lynall)Rapunzel in her tower. (Tom Lynall)

    The Birmingham, U.K. man is used to working with tiny objects, as he's been a jeweller for the last 10 years. But five years ago, Lynall started making models from the fantasy series Discworld by Terry Pratchett. As the models got increasingly tiny and complex, Lynall connected with others on Facebook who were also creating tiny carvings. Some people shared with him their creations carved into the tops of pencils, and he was inspired.

    "I have noticed that a lot of people do them in one colour but I wanted to do them in multiple colours," Lynall told Yahoo Canada, so I carve each individual piece depending on its colour and glue them together."

    Triforce from the 'Zelda' series, which Lynall says is his smallest-ever carving. (Tom Lynall).Triforce from the 'Zelda' series, which Lynall says is his smallest-ever carving. (Tom Lynall).

    Lynall says the hobby isn't for those without much patience; the most challenging part is making sure they don't break in the process. Simple carvings like the first ones he attempted took only about 10 to 15 minutes, but as

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  • Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags flutter as thick cloud and fog roll over the area above Tengboche in Nepal. (AP)Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags flutter as thick cloud and fog roll over the area above Tengboche in Nepal. (AP)

    As images of the devastation in Nepal become more prevalent in the wake of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, one brightly-coloured symbol flies in stark contrast to the rubble: Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags.

    According to a 2011 census, approximately 2.4 million people identify as Buddhist in Nepal. Despite only being about a tenth of the country’s population, the community has had an outsized impact on the world’s vision of Nepal, thanks in part to the prevalence of prayer flags at the base camp of Annapurna and Mount Everest, as many of the mountaining climbers' guides are Buddhist.

    Despite their ubiquity, they remain somewhat of a mystery to many who are not as familiar with Buddhism.

    “The parts of Buddhism that everyone knows about are mediation and karma, and trying to reach nirvana… through good karma,” says Todd Lewis, professor of world religions at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

    “What is less known are the Buddhist words that were taught by [Buddha] to make the world

    Read More »from Prayer flags a symbol of faith amidst Nepal earthquake's destruction
  • We want to know: What makes you unhappy with your city?

    This file photo shows Vancouver skyline, pictured in 2009. (AFP Photo/Don Emmert)This file photo shows Vancouver skyline, pictured in 2009. (AFP Photo/Don Emmert)

    Whenever these lists of the best cities to live, or worst cities to retire in come out, there's always the caveat that they should be taken with a grain of salt; after all, no survey is going to take into account every single resident's experience, and no one city in Canada could possibly be bursting with joy or completely miserable all the time.

    However there is something to be said for consistency.

    Yet again, Vancouver has ranked poorly on a city happiness survey. Despite being the object of envy for many Canadians (mountains at your back door, the ocean a quick jaunt away, and temperate weather all year long), it looks like when it comes to overall quality of life, Vancouverites just don't seem to be finding much to smile about.


    Related stories:

    Vancouver is unhappiest city in Canada: study

    Edmonton: the saddest Canadian city on Twitter?

    Column: Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous


    In another survey, conducted last year and which identified Kingston as the

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  • Earlier this week, a school principal was filmed  having a discussion with the parent of a teen whose iPhone 6 she had confiscated. According to CNET, Linda M. Carroll took the phone for disciplinary reasons, and says she will return it to the student in "a few weeks" as per the school's policy (the school is not identified, but CNET found a Principal Linda Carroll at Northeast High School in Philadelphia).

    There are a lot of unknowns here: We don't know why the phone was taken, or if there was any prior interaction with Carroll and the parent who filmed the video. Raven Hill, a spokesperson for the School District of Philadelphia, did provide this statement to CNET when queried:

    According to the Northeast High School student handbook, which every student receives at the beginning of the school year, all confiscated cell phones, cameras, electronic and other telephonic devices will be returned at the end of each academic quarter. There are no exceptions. In this case, the end of the

    Read More »from We want to know: Do school administrators have the right to withhold phones from parents?
  • Seven times people sent weird things to space

    Once upon a time, traveling to near space was a privilege reserved for monkeys and dogs in Russian spacecraft. Now, people can send up just about anything with a weather balloon – and record the whole experience.

    The most recent object to reach stratospheric heights was a doughnut, sent up by Norwegian hobbyist group Stratolys last week in a bid to be the ones to send the first doughnut into space.

    It’s getting pretty tough to be the first anything in space these days, as it seems like every week, we’re seeing more inanimate objects getting a view of the Earth that many of us could only dream of.

    Here’s a look at some of the other wacky things that people have sent where no doughnut has gone before.

    First GoPro HD Hero

    This one isn’t weird, but it does make the list for allegedly being the very first GoPro device sent into near-space using a weather balloon (two devices, actually). Recorded by a group of engineering students in California, the launch took place on June 5, 2010. It

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  • (Photo via CBC)(Photo via CBC)

    Poor Darwin the IKEA monkey just can’t seem to catch a break.

    The world’s most famous monkey in a shearling coat may soon find himself homeless, if Story Book Farm, the sanctuary where he currently resides, can’t find a new site to relocate to in the next two months.

    The founder of the sanctuary, who started Story Book Farm 14 years ago, is now selling the house and land where the sanctuary resides and will no longer be able to host the sanctuary there. In order to relocate, Story Book Farm needs to raise $250,000.

    Many people found out about the Sunderland, Ont. sanctuary as part of the IKEA monkey saga, the viral story that started when a tiny monkey in a coat was spotted at a Toronto-area IKEA in 2012. His owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, ended up being fined $240 for owning an exotic pet, and Darwin was sent to Story Book Farm, although not before the Internet made as many IKEA monkey memes as possible.

    Despite Darwin’s worldwide fame, it didn’t result in significantly increased funding

    Read More »from Darwin the IKEA monkey facing imminent homelessness as Story Book Farm faces financial troubles
  • The nugget found by Brown weighs about the same as the Butte Nugget, shown here. (Reuters)The nugget found by Brown weighs about the same as the Butte Nugget, shown here. (Reuters)

    Sometimes, it pays to be in a bad mood.

    Australian Mick Brown, 42, had just given up smoking, and was not handling it well, according to reports. His wife, in need of a break from his poor attitude, told him to get out of their house for a little while.

    Brown, who is reportedly a gold prospector, took a walk with his metal detector in an area where he’d previously hunted for treasure. While walking through the patch of land near Wedderburn, Victoria, he found a lump of gold measuring 87 ounces.

    That’s worth about $141,000 AUD (about $136,555 CAD).

    “I thought, bugger me, it is, it’s bloody gold,” said Brown to The Age

    “Sometimes they do say gold is worth twice its weight in gold if it’s a really nice looking nugget.”

    Brown said he’s dubbed the nugget the “fair dinkum nugget” because when people feel how heavy it is, they say “fair dinkum this is huge.”

    He says he’ll be using the money he makes off its sale to pay off a tax debt, and possibly put a spa bath in for his kids.

    Read More »from Grumpy husband discovers gold nugget when shooed out of his house
  • A photographer found a seal and octopus fighting in the water in Victoria, B.C. (Facebook/Bob Ianson)A photographer found a seal and octopus fighting in the water in Victoria, B.C. (Facebook/Bob Ianson)

    When out for a stroll at Ogden Point on Family Day, Victoria resident Bob Ianson managed to capture quite the rare sight with his camera.

    The amateur nature photographer saw a harbour seal doing battle with an octopus in the nearby breakwater, and immediately started snapping photos, according to the Times Colonist.

    "It was incredible, it looked like he was bringing it up to show off," he told the Times Colonist about his surprising seal sighting.

    "I've never seen anything like it. I guess we were there at the right time."

    A photographer caught a seal and octopus fighting in the water in Victoria, B.C. (Facebook/Bob Ianson)A photographer caught a seal and octopus fighting in the water in Victoria, B.C. (Facebook/Bob Ianson)

    Ianson shared the photos on his Facebook page, where his daughter, Jenn, explained that the seal was the clear winner in this fight.

    "He got some good chunks," she posted.

    Ianson said he saw the seal repeatedly bringing the octopus up to the surface, prompting more people to gather around and snap photos.

    This isn't the first time a harbour seal in the area has been seen with an octopus as its prey. The seals have been spotted hunting young octopi in the area over

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