Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Luckiest(?) Man Ever

In the course of my random reading, I recently came upon the story of one Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a Japanese citizen who found himself visiting the city of Hiroshima on the morning of August 6th, 1945, just in time to admire the spectacle of the world's first atomic detonation up-close and personal.

Mr. Yamaguchi was one of the fortunate ones who survived that particular holocaust so, on the morning of August 9, 1945, he returned to his home town of Nagasaki, only to have a second atomic bomb dropped on him, which he also survived.

In fact, he lived on for many years after the war, finally passing away on January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

The Halmanator salutes Tsutomu Yamaguchi, simultaneously the unluckiest and the luckiest man ever to have lived.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

You Are So Loved

I wasn't going to blog about the shooting of corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was gunned down as he guarded the cenotaph at the National War Memorial, not far from the Parliament Hill, on October 22, because I don't see the point in writing about something that everybody else is already writing about, unless I feel that I have something unique to contribute.  But I was especially touched by a story that I read about an Ottawa lawyer who stopped to help the dying soldier, particularly by the words that she spoke to him.

As originally reported by the Canadian Press, Ottawa Lawyer Barbara Winters was on her way to a meeting when she heard the gunshots and she ran to help. A small group of people were already gathered around the dying soldier when she got there.

Winters could see that Cirillo was still alive, though badly wounded, and she began to talk to him, telling him "You're a good man, you're a brave man."  As Winters continued working with the group of people trying to save Cirillo, she continued talking to him, saying "You are loved.  You're family loves you.  You're a good man ... Your family loves you.  Your parents are so proud of you.  All the people here, we're working so hard for you.  Everybody loves you ... We're all trying to help you."

As I thought about these words, I realized that they had a two-fold purpose.  For one thing, they gave the dying soldier a reason to hold on and try to resist death.  It is commonly believed that those who want to live have a much better chance of surviving critical injury or illness than those who give up and resign themselves to the inevitability of death.  Winters' words reassured Cirillo that he was loved and cared for, and they reminded him that there were people who needed him and depended on him.

Sadly, neither Winters' words of encouragement nor the medical assistance provided by those who tried to save Cirillo prevailed, and he ultimately succumbed to death.  And yet, the words were not spoken in vain.  If I must die (as we all eventually must, some day) the end of my life would certainly be made immeasurably easier to bear, if the last words I hear could be such as these; "You are a good man.  We all want to help you.  You are loved."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wealth vs. Happiness

A friend once e-mailed me the following joke:

An investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in cottage country when he noticed a fisherman, sitting at the end of a pier, his legs stretched out, smiling contentedly.

"Here on vacation, I presume?" asked the investment banker.

"Nope, I live here most of the year round," replied the fisherman.

"Ah, so you own the place?" asked the investment banker.

"Just my cottage, my boat and my fishing gear," replied the fisherman.

"You look awfully young to be retired," observed the investment banker.  How do you spend your time?

"Mostly fishing," replied the fisherman, "and sometimes taking walks or boating on the lake with my wife, or playing with my niece and nephew and teaching them to fish when they come visit."

"But what do you do for money?" asked the investment banker incredulously.

"I have all I need," replied the fisherman, "or, when I don't, I do odd jobs here and there and sometimes rent my boat out to vacationers like yourself," explained the fisherman.

"But don't you want to earn more than just enough money to get by?" pursued the investment banker.

"Why would I want to do that?" asked the fisherman.

"To become financially secure," explained the investment banker.

“And what would I do once I became financially secure?" asked the fisherman.

"Why, whatever you wanted to!" answered the investment banker.

“But I`m already doing that,” answered the fisherman with a wink and a smile.

I also found a related post on  It had to do with people who earned a Ph.D. degree and wound up being janitors or doing similar menial work.  The question was asked why this happens. One answer, posted by Joseph Wang, who boasts a Ph.D. in computational astrophysics and, ironically, is also an ex-V.P. of an investment bank, proved quite surprising.  Mr. Wang aspires to be a janitor,  He calls it the "perfect job" and goes on to elaborate:

He talks about an "F.U. Number", which he defines as the amount of savings you need in order to be able to tell your boss "F.U.".  The more alternate sources of income you have, the smaller this number becomes. If being an investment banker or an astrophysicist or whatever is your full-time occupation and therefore your only source of income, the "F.U. Number" is fairly high. However, even a modest alternate income source reduces it drastically.  Note that the implication is that you don't much like either your current job, or at least your current boss.

Secondly, Mr. Wang points out that you don't need as much of an income to pay down any student debt that you might have accrued in getting a Ph.D. in astrophysics, since it costs a lot less to achieve that degree compared with getting through medical school or law school.  Being a doctor or lawyer may pay more than being a janitor or an astrophysicist, but you generally need that income just to pay down your student debt, unless you have very rich and generous parents.

Janitorial work is low-stress.  You generally work during off-hours so you tend to be left alone, which is great if you're an introvert, and you don't normally have a supervisor or boss looking over your shoulder.  There are no deadlines or quotas or time limitations.  As long as the facilities you look after are presentable and everything works, everyone is happy.  You're not ruled by the clock.  If you're efficient and can get your work done in four hours, you can go home and still be paid for eight. Nobody knows or cares whether you actually put in your time.

You can do janitorial work and theoretical physics at the same time.  There's nothing to stop you from pondering quantum field theory while pushing a broom or mop or floor buffer, unlike other jobs which demand much more of your attention and thus keep your mind from wandering.

Of course, what the joke about the fisherman and the investment banker and the post about the would-be janitor with the Ph.D. have in common is they make us think about what really gives us satisfaction and makes us happy.  Too many people think that it's about accumulating wealth, but it isn't.  I don't entirely subscribe to the old adage that money can't buy happiness.  I believe that it's much easier to achieve happiness with money than without, The reality is that you need money in order to access the basic necessities in today's world, and if you're not content with just the basic necessities, then you need more money.  However, we need to remember to treat money as a means to an end, rather than as the goal itself.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Book Of Austria

My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this month.  To mark the occasion, we treated ourselves to a weekend getaway in picturesque Niagara On The Lake, Ontario where we stayed in a charming bed and breakfast called Cecile's House.  Our accommodations were both comfortable and elegant.  The large house was built circa 1840 and decorated in a stylish French Provincial style. Our host was a former chef, complete with a charming "Pepé LePew" French accent, who had a particular gift for attention to detail.

In our room, on the night table next to my side of the bed, was a musty-looking hard-cover book, probably meant more as a decoration than a remedy for guest boredom, entitled "The Book of Austria".  The book captured my attention for two reasons; firstly because of the seeming incongruity of its subject matter amidst otherwise French surroundings, and secondly because I happen to be a native-born Austrian.  It was almost as if our host had some sort of sixth sense where his guests were concerned and placed it there specifically for my benefit.

Intrigued, I picked up the book and began leafing through it.  It was published in 1948, shortly after the war, by the "Österreichische Staatsdruckerei" (Austrian State Printing and Publication House) in Vienna.  After only a brief perusal, I was so taken by the book that I immediately set about Googling it on my return home, and I quickly found an on-line vendor that offered a copy, in very good condition, at a reasonable price.  I wasted no time in ordering it.

The book is full of interesting facts about Austria; its history, its geography, its culture and its people.  The very first chapter begins thus:

"He who would find Austria on the globe must turn the round ball of the Earth slowly on its slanting axis, otherwise he might easily overlook the Austria of the 20th century."

In truth, Austria today is a fairly small country.  Its entire geographical area would fit neatly into Lake Superior.  Politically, its global influence is negligible today.  Yet, in not-so-distant historical times, during the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, its geographical boundaries were considerably larger, and both its political and cultural influences notably stronger.  Even after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire seemingly unimposing Austria had a role to play in the outbreak of yet a second world war.  Adolf Hitler, who forced the world to go to war for a second time was, in fact, Austrian by birth.

The Book of Austria pays homage to what the country was and what it is today (or, at least, to what it was in 1948), including:

The Geography of Austria:  Small as it is, Austria is further divided into nine provinces.  From the cosmopolitan Vienna, which is considered both a city and a province simultaneously, to mountainous Tyrol, home of Innsbruck, one of the world's skiing Meccas, Austria exhibits an astonishing diversity for so small a geographic region.  Styria, the province in which I was born, is poetically described in a word-palette that illustrates something akin to a merger of J.R.R. Tolkien's woodland elves and mountain dwarves:

The Music of Austria:  During the 19th century, Vienna was, for a time, considered the music capital of the world.  Some of the world's most renowned classical composers, including Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Strauss were Austrian.  Several other classical composers, while not native-born Austrians, were nonetheless strongly influenced by Austrian music, such as Ludwig Van Beethoven, who studied under Mozart.  The Christmas Hymn "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" (Silent Night, Holy Night) was written by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr, both Austrian.  According to The Book of Austria, "Vienna in the Biedermeier Age," the period during which art and music were enjoyed by the middle class as opposed to being the sole purview of the aristocracy, "had found its most perfect form of expression" in its music.  Today, musical societies and organizations remain in Austria which were established for the purpose of encouraging music in all its branches, including the "Gesellschaft der Muiskfreunde" (Society of the Friends of Music), the world-famous "Wiener Sängerknaben" (Vienna Boys' Choir) and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Karlskirche, Vienna
Austrian Culture:  One chapter in The Book of Austria discusses Austrian Baroque.  In the words of the author: "If you wish truly to understand and to appreciate this curious country, to unravel the living mystery which is Austria, you must learn how to experience the most intimate and most glorious manifestation of her spirit, as it exists in legend and song, in literature and painting, in architecture and in the great festivals of the country.  It is in our Baroque that you must seek it."  I've visited Vienna twice in my lifetime, and both times I was struck by the gothic architecture, the ancient churches and buildings, festooned with gargoyles and friezes.  Everything in Vienna seems to be presented with a certain flourish.  North American architecture, by comparison, seems bland and soulless.

Austrian People:  The Book of Austria describes Austria as being, in a sense, "the first attempt to create a European citizen - a world-citizen.  What is elsewhere so often but a vague longing, an illusion, or the unrealised dream of isolated individuals, has long been anchored in Austria among a wide circle of people."  The "typical" Austrian is described an an "everyman" who feels "mysteriously at home in another world which lies beyond their fellow citizens ... We may consider this will and this ability to live humanly among other human beings as the call of Austria to the whole world."  The typical Austrian, declares the book, "has a passion for 'wandern' - for hiking - deeply engrained within him. His mouth demands to breathe in the air of the great mountains, his foot the soft carpet of mossy slopes and his eye continual change, now drinking in the green of near-by forests, now reaching out to the distant lines which the silent horizon has etched against the bright sunshine."  I can personally attest to this.  Some years ago, I visited the beautiful Banff national park in my adopted homeland of Canada. Even though I had left Austria at the tender age of three and consider myself to be fully Canadian, yet as I hiked along a mountain trail overlooking Lake Louise, I felt a profound sense of well-being, like I had come home.  Perhaps this is why so many Austrians who have immigrated to Canada have settled in British Columbia.  With its towering mountains and its lush woodland, British Columbia is extremely reminiscent of Austria's Styria province.

In the book's forward, the author states "In contrast to other books, the Book of Austria does not wait until you encounter it by chance.  It comes to you, approaches you in word and picture - and in many another way."  I must admit, it certainly found me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Reform or Punishment?

I recently came across one of those news articles that's simultaneously funny and thought-provoking.  It's about a man by the name of Cornealious Anderson who was convicted of armed robbery in St. Louis, Missouri back in 2000 and sentenced to 13 years in jail.  Well, it's now 2014, so my keen mathematical skills tell me that he should be out by now, right?  Half-right.  He's out alright.  In fact, he never went in.

It seems that, at his sentencing, Mr. Anderson was sent home and told to await instructions as to where and when to report for his incarceration.  So he went home, undoubtedly in a bit of a funk, said his good-byes to whatever friends and family he had, called the boss and told him that he wouldn't be in to work for the next 13 years or so, and waited...

A day passed.  A week.  Two weeks.  A month...  and no police officer ever appeared at Anderson's doorstep nor did anyone ever call him on the phone to tell him when and where to report for prison.

Eventually, Anderson got tired of sitting around watching daytime soaps and Opra, waiting for the phone to ring, so he learned a new trade, started a business, met a nice girl, got married and fathered a daughter.  He did not make any attempt to leave the county, change his name or otherwise conceal his identity and he definitely did not return to his former criminal ways.  His brush with the law had scared him straight.  He paid his taxes, registered a small business, renewed his driver's licence as needed and, when he was pulled over for a couple of minor traffic violations, gave the officer his correct name and address.  Nothing in the system ever flagged him as being a convict who was somewhat overdue for incarceration.

Until last year.  Ironically, at just about the time that Anderson would have been released from prison (not taking good behavior into account), the Missouri Department of Corrections discovered the clerical error that had kept Anderson out of jail all these years.  The news article that I read doesn't explain how they discovered the error, but I have to suspect it probably had something to do with some computer read-out announcing that it was time to let Cornealious Anderson go, and only then did the law discover that he had never been locked up anywhere to be let go from.

In any case, when they discovered the error, the Missouri law enforcement community, no doubt somewhat embarrassed by the oversight, decided that "better late than never" is a valid policy where incarceration is concerned, and belatedly sent Anderson his instructions as to when and where to report for prison.  In fact, just to ensure he received the message, they sent a SWAT team to deliver it.

As Anderson tells it, there he was one fine Wednesday morning in July of 2013, feeding his three-year-old daughter breakfast and otherwise minding his own business, when a number of very stern-looking men sporting automatic weapons knocked rather insistently on his door.

It should be pointed out here that Cornealious Anderson never committed any acts of violence.  To be sure, he threatened to when he held up a Burger King restaurant with a BB gun in August of 1999, but the assistant manager there wisely decided to hand over the cash without a struggle and no-one was hurt.  In any case, over the 13 years that ensued, it appears that Anderson has clearly demonstrated that he has mended his ways and has become a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen.  As such, he and his lawyer, Patrick Megaro, argue that incarceration at this point serves no purpose.  Unfortunately, the American Statute of Limitations wasn't quite designed to handle this particular situation.

Asked why he didn't turn himself in, Anderson explains that he just figured that the law didn't care about him any more.  Besides, I have to wonder what, exactly, the law expects a man in this situation to do.  Can you imagine the phone call?  "Hello, Missouri Department of Corrections?  Yeah, my name is Cornealious Anderson.  I was convicted of armed robbery about a month ago and someone was supposed to tell me where to report for jail, but I... what?  Sure, I'll hold..."

The Missouri Attorney General argues that the state is justified in requiring Anderson to serve his full sentence after all this time, and I have no doubt that there are those who would agree.  He committed a crime, he was duly convicted and he has not yet paid the penalty.  But here we have to ask ourselves what is the purpose of prison?  Is it to reform or to punish, or is it both?  If the purpose of prison is to reform, then incarceration is completely unnecessary in this case.  The former criminal has clearly been reformed.  In fact, it might be argued that locking the man up now, taking him from his family and his job and throwing him in amongst a community of hardened criminals only creates the risk of turning him back into a criminal.

If, on the other hand, the purpose of prison is to punish, then I suppose it can be argued that Anderson has not been duly punished for his crime.  I'm not sure exactly what purpose punishing him serves at this point.  Perhaps someone should find the assistant manager of that Burger King that Anderson held up and ask him what he thinks should be done.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Darth Vader's Suit

I recently found myself watching Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in which Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader and is first given the infamous suit after his unfortunate butt-kicking at the hands of Obi-wan Kenobi, and I found myself wondering how it was that Palpatine happened to have the Vader suit conveniently ready.  I mean, the suit looks like a pretty impressive bit of technology so it wasn't something that was likely slapped together in a couple of hours, yet Vader couldn't really afford to wait a long time for the Imperial techs to design and build a life support system, so I have to assume that it was already available.

It's unlikely that Vader's suit was standard issue and that the Empire kept a supply of them ready in case of emergency because it appears to be very much one of a kind.  We never see any others like it, so it was almost certainly a prototype, and most likely a less than successful one at that, since it doesn't appear that any more of them were ever made.  Or maybe the other Sith Lords were just better lightsaber duelists than Vader, so only one was ever needed.

Which brings us back to the question of how it was that this one-of-a-kind prototype life-sustaining suit happened to be conveniently ready just when Vader needed it.  Maybe after seeing Darth Maul get bisected earlier (again by that troublesome Kenobi guy) Palpatine said to himself "I lose more apprentices that way.  I should really come up with some sort of life-sustaining suit for the next time this happens".  A nice bit of pro-active planning although, had he asked me, I might have suggested he simply try converting Kenobi over to the dark side in which case there might have been no need for the suit.

I wonder how long it took Vader to learn to use the suit.  I mean, look at all the buttons and lights on the chest panel and belt alone!  How do you know what they're all for?  Did the suit come with a user manual? If so, and if Imperial user manuals are anything like the ones we're familiar with, it might have read something like this:

Congratulations on choosing the E-3778Q-1 mobile life-support system.  Please read this manual carefully and follow all instructions to ensure years of trouble-free life support, armor protection and physical enhancement.


The E-3778Q-1 helmet and face mask are made from the finest durasteel, obsidian and plasteel components and are highly resistant to dents, scuffs, scratches and water spots.  To preserve the fine woodoo hide lustre, we recommend polishing the surface with a soft, lint-free, Wookie hair cloth treated with bantha oil as needed.

Caution: Avoid exposing the transparisteel eyepiece lenses to bantha oil, as this may cause them to become clouded, impairing vision.  Remove the helmet and face mask for cleaning only within the confines of a Qabbrat meditation chamber (available separately), as life support functions become inoperative when either is removed.

To remove burn or scar tissue from internal suit components, we suggest gently sponging soiled components with Jawa cloth moistened with warm water.  BE SURE TO DEACTIVATE ANY AND ALL ELECTRONIC COMPONENTS BEFORE APPLYING MOISTURE, AND THOROUGHLY DRY BEFORE REACTIVATING.


Your E-3778Q-1 is powered by four rechargeable Kovordian battery packs.  The right eyepiece HUD includes an indicator showing the status of packs 1 and 3 and the left eyepiece HUD includes a similar indicator showing the status of packs 2 and 4.  When either battery bar falls to the RECHARGE indicator and changes from yellow to orange, it is time to recharge the batteries.

Caution:  Do not engage in combat or excessive physical activity when either battery indicator is RED.  If the indicators reaches this status, batteries should be recharged at the earliest opportunity; immediately if possible.

When the battery charge indicator no longer reaches FULL, even after hours of charging, it is time to replace the battery packs.  Replacement packs are available at your local Imperial supply depot.  DO NOT INCINERATE OR DISCARD USED BATTERY PACKS BY PLACING THEM IN A TRASH COMPACTOR.  Used battery packs should be returned to an authorized disposal facility.



The E-3778Q-1 breath mask is designed to deliver nominal oxygen flow while maintaining environmental integrity and comfort, even in extreme environmental conditions.  The two mandibular atmospheric sensors automatically analyze gases and micro particulates in the immediate vicinity, filtering out harmful emissions and purifying breathable gases. The olfactory sensors can be conveniently deactivated in proximity to bantha poodoo and similar harmless, but unpleasant, odors.

An enunciator linked to an electronic voice processor facilitates verbal communication.  Vocal timbre, pitch and inflection can be adjusted to achieve the desired cadence. VoicePak add-ins are also available, enabling you to emulate the voices of any of several popular Imperial celebrities including Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus, Morgan Freeman and James Earl Jones.

Please Note:  Owing to the face mask's life-sustaining respiratory functions, a certain amount of respiratory overlay with the vocal unit is unavoidable and normal.  Please do not call Technical Support regarding this issue.  Our Imperial designers are working to eliminate this artifact in future revisions of the suit.


The control panel positioned over the solar plexus contains controls for regulating respiratory, cardiopulmonary and neural functions.  Take time to learn the various controls and exercise caution so as not to confuse them as doing so can result in unpredictable behavior on the part of the suit and/or the wearer.

The blue switch activates the suit's auto control functions.  Use the red switch for manual override.  The rightmost switch, located at the bottom, is the system reset switch.  Avoid crowded spaces in order to prevent controls from being inadvertently tripped when brushing against others.

The data slots accept RepMed wafers for treating illness and injury, as well as delivering more recreational pharmaceutical substances, as desired.

The control panel also doubles as a universal remote control device, enabling you to activate and operate electronic components at a distance without expending valuable Force powers.


The belt contains secondary controls that provide redundancy for the control panel.  It also features a magnetic clasp which keeps the plastisteel briefs in place.

The EVAC 1 button causes the door in the codpiece to slide up in order to facilitate expulsion of urinary waste.  The EVAC 2 button serves a similar function for the rear door.  Be sure to remove the ornamental cape before activating the EVAC 2 button.


The gloves are made from a Micronized Mandalorian iron weave which is designed to protect against glancing lightsaber blows and, theoretically, can even deflect blaster bolts.  We highly discourage using them in this manner, however, as it requires unusual speed and dexterity to successfully intercept blaster fire with one's hands.

There would be more, of course, but I won't bore you with the full manual.  Besides, let's be honest - nobody ever reads those things anyway; not even Darth Vader.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Canada: Land of the Rolling Rims

It's mid February in Canada, and that means that we Canadians are at the start of that special time of year that transcends the boundaries of race, creed and colour and unites us all by virtue of that one unbreakable bond that all Canadians share.  Yes, tomorrow marks the dawn of Canada's annual Roll Up the Rim season.

For any non-Canadians who may stumble upon this post and scratch their heads, wondering just what exactly a "Roll Up the Rim" season is, allow me to explain.  Roll Up the Rim is a contest, of sorts, held by Tim Horton's, a Canadian donut franchise, which begins every year around mid February (the contest, not the franchise).  It's affectionately known as "Rrrroll Up the Rrrrim", owing to a long-running advertising campaign in which some guy with a really bad fake Scottish accent makes a point of really rrrolling those "Rrrrr's" every time he says the contest name, although neither the contest, Tim Horton's nor Canada itself (excepting the province of Nova Scotia) are in any way Scot-related.

Roll Up the Rim gets its name from the paper cups in which Tim Horton's coffee is served.  Their rims are rolled up into a rounded lip.  During Roll Up the Rim, Tim Horton's patrons are given special cups which may or may not have a prize hidden under that rolled-up paper lip.  Roll Up the Rim cups are marked with a brightly-coloured arrow that indicates roughly what part of the paper lip the alleged prize may or may not be hiding under although, in my experience, the arrow is a wide approximation at best.  The contest runs until the end of April, or until the prize cups run out; whichever comes first.  In fact, around mid April, Canadians are known to drive hundreds of miles out of their way, looking for those last few Tim Horton's restaurants that still have Roll Up the Rim cups.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of eager Canadians, having finished their coffees or teas, eagerly roll up the paper rim of their cups in the place indicated by the arrow, hoping to find one of several fabulous prizes which could include an SUV, a gas grille, a laptop computer, money, Tim Horton's gift cards or, more likely, maybe a free coffee or donut or, the most prolific of the prizes, the ubiquitous "Please Play Again" (or, for those who didn't quite interpret the yellow arrow correctly, "...ay Again").  Just how Tim Horton's manages to hide an entire SUV inside a rolled-up paper rim is a carefully-guarded technology secret, right up there with how Cadbury gets the caramel inside their Caramilk bars.

Non-Canadians may understandably wonder why all the fuss over a silly contest.  To tell you the truth, I've often wondered myself.  I personally have never known anyone, even indirectly, who has won a prize of any significance and the paper rims aren't exactly easy to roll up with your thumbs.  A lot of people use their teeth and it's for this reason that Tim Horton's employees aren't even allowed to handle the prize-winning rims when customers redeems them.  Instead, they present a plastic container for the customer to drop (or possibly spit) the paper fragment into.

But I don't exaggerate when I say that Roll Up the Rim has become a cultural phenomenon.  Sure, lots of franchises have lots of different contests, offering lots of different prizes, but Roll Up the Rim is the only one I've seen that has people comparing their winnings around the office water cooler on a daily basis, and even has radio DJ's publicly keeping score on the air of who among them has won the most free coffees so far. The elated reactions I've seen coming from people who have managed to win a free coffee or donut are hardly justified by the prize.  The only comparable phenomenon that I can think of is the jubilation of lottery ticket purchasers who win nothing more than a free ticket; in other words, second opportunity not to win anything.

The Roll Up the Rim phenomenon seems to me an extension of that of the Tim Horton's franchise, which is a Canadian cultural icon in itself.  As a franchise, "Timmy's" enjoys a love affair with Canadians that simply can't be explained logically.  They make a good cup of coffee, although some of their competitors are offering serious contenders in the java department.  Their prices are more or less the same as those of their competitors, except for maybe Starbuck's which appears to cater to those who just don't feel right if they pay less than five bucks for a cup of coffee (Williams is the Canadian answer to that particular franchise). Tim Hortons' flat, plastic coffee lids have been criticized as being loose-fitting and prone to spills, yet they (Tim Horton's) steadfastly refuse to adopt a more spill-proof design.  Although the franchise has tried to expand into the United States, they've never been able to attract the kind of customer loyalty that they see in Canada even though the American franchises offer exactly the same product that the Canadian ones do, all of which reinforces my opinion that Canadians' loyalty to Tim Horton's is culturally driven.

Some years back, when the American donut franchise, Dunkin' Donuts, expanded into Canada, Tim Horton's actually worried enough about the new competition to adopt their box format. The low, wide Dunkin' Donuts box plagiarism that serves as the standard Tim Horton's twelve-donut container today was preceded by a shorter, deeper, shoe-box shaped compartment in which the donuts were lined up on their sides in two rows of six.  They needn't have worried.  The astoundingly apathetic Canadian reaction to the Dunkin' Donuts "invasion" resulted in most of the franchises being torn down as quickly as they were erected. I haven't seen that kind of American butt-kicking by Canadians since we went down there and set the White House on fire back in 1814.  It would be enough to bring a patriotic tear to my eye, if it weren't for the fact that, like most "Canadian" icons, the Tim Horton's franchise is owned by Americans anyway.  But let's not split hairs, eh?