DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

800th Anniversary

Mongolia is celebrating the 800th Anniversary of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongolian country and historically the conqueror of the largest land empire in the world. At its fullest extent it ranged from the Caspian Sea eastward across Asia to the Pacific. 700 tribes and cities were under his control. This area was a "free trade zone" under a form of globalization. After he united the tribes of Mongolia, he conquered this vast territory with 150,000 calvalry. He introduced the East to the West for the first time. He drew back from Europe because, after getting as far as Poland and Hungary, he decided it was not worth conquering. It is a fascinating story that most of us in North American know little about. Radio Netherland Worldwide broadcast this story RNW: Mongolia celebrates its 800th anniversary

Genghis Khan

Those who aspire to create an American Empire and world domination must be envious of this great achievement. Then again, few of them are students of history or they would know even great Empires pass away. ( Anyone who has not read about this plan cannot begin to understand how the great American Republic got itself into so much trouble and who is part of the "cabal" which highjacked American foreign policy.)

One of the interesting legacies of Genghis Khan is the number of desendants he has. Not only was he the father of Mongolia and the great Mongolian Empire he was literally the father of a very large percentage of the people within the boundaries of his conquest. Being all powerful he had large number of women with whom he passed on his genes. We owe it all to superstud Genghis UK News The Observer One in every 200 people alive today is related to Genghis Khan. Now that is a legacy!

Genghis Khan is one of the great personaities of history. He was a great leader and warrior , tolerant of religions, enemy of the rich and privileged and yet magnanimous to those who followed him.. Only through loyalty could he rule such a large Empire.The Biography Channel - Genghis Khan Biography The World should be celebrating this 800 Anniversary of Genghis Khan.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Morning Company

Yesterday the freezing rain started and turned to snow overnight to be followed by more freezing rain. At least it isn't the over a foot of snow in La, La Land (Vancouver and Victoria) or the very cold temperatures of the Prairies. All the same, it is a good day to stay home.

I wonder if Paulo will show up. My peacock has gotten into the habit of coming to the back door.

He is one handsome fellow with his tail continuing to grow longer. I have yet to get a good picture of his beautiful b;ue/green tail feather with the characteristic "eye" on them. By next summer I expect his tail to be fully developed.

He is quite dramatic in flight. He flys up and back to the shed in the background.

I share a little bread with Paulo. It will not be long before he will eat out of my hand.

Compare this earlier photo with the first one above and notice how much longer Paulo's tail is.

The radio just announced the school buses will not be running today. It must be really nasty out there. Winter is staring us in the face!

Got to run and feed some more wood into the cookstove.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Praise for the Military

I seldom have anything nice to say about the military. As a pacifist, I reject the premise for the existence of the military. I more often feel pity for soldiers for the aweful price they pay in giving up part of their humanity to become killers for the State. Seldom is their reason for being to protect us. Most of the time it is to protect economic interests and meddle in the affairs of other States for some political agenda of those who will never be required to fight and die.

In spite of these views of mine I have found occasions to admire soldiering. Here are two examples.

I recently revisited the speech Lt, Col. Tim Collins, of the British Army, gave to the 800 soldiers under his command just before the invasion of Iraq. It was a truly remarkable extemporaneous speech by a hard nosed very professional soldier. He got it right. He understood the mission and how it should be fought: tough in battle, sensitive to the culture and compassionate for soldiers that surrendered. I urge you to read it in the 22 March item in this article Lt. Col. Tim Collins address to his troops Read the whole article. I was particularly impressed by his tellingf his men that they were entering the cradle of civilization and the historic "Garden of Eden".

This professional soldier of the first rank was later falsely accused by an American soldier of a war crime. He was exhonerated but left the military out of disappointment in the Army's lack of support in this matter. It is the British army's loss.

The second instance of a military action that I admire is in an account of the Battle of Tarin Kwot. This was a key battle between a small group of Americain Special Forces with loyal Afghan troups against a larger force of the Taliban in the overthow of the Afghanistan government. Hamid Karsai, who was the American hand picked person to become President in the new government was involved. I admire these soldiers for their professionalism and courage under fire. They were so honoured by the American military. Here is an account by Radio Netherlands Worldwide (always with very interesting programs) RNW: Five years after the battle of Tarin Kowt. This battle was pivotal in the quick overthrow of the Taliban regime. Unfortunately, five years later the Taliban are back and stronger than ever. Canadian forces are prominent in fighting and dying in this Pastun region as part of a NATO force there at the request of the Afghanistan government..

We read much of the less than professional behaviour of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a fine line professional soldiers must walk. I don't envy them for to be wrong can cost them their life or the needless killing of non-combatant. Which ever choice they make they pay a terrible price: loss or life or loss of their humanity.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Burdens of Administration

There was a time in my life when I thought it would be wonderful to work in a University, not necessarily teaching but may be in administering student affairs, working with and for young adults. Alas, I was seduced for a wider calling and the idea of quiet study in a lovely oak lined office, the Ministry. That was a fantasy that soon ran into reality.

Below is a letter from a student affairs administrator at Durham University in Britain. I burst out laughing when I read it. I can only imagine having to write it. What makes it doubly funny for me is that it is signed by "P. Robinson". No! it is not me.

Click on picture to enlarge

Friday, November 24, 2006

American Militarism

In Canada, when I was in school, American history was taught in a very positive uncritical way. It was superficial and tended to reinforce the myth of America. In short, American is a special unique country, a "light on the hill", a nation under God fullfilling a mandate to be a country which is democratic, where individual have great personal freedom and very extensive rights.
The United States believes itself to be a moral country, and a political model for the world.

At best this view of the United States is a series of half truths. I say this as one who admires much of the United States and its self correcting and organic political system. it is a work in progress, even if it presently has lost it way away from its highest ideals.

If as Canadians we are taught about the United States in its mythical form, One can appreciate how American youth are taught it largely uncritically.

I find this most stiking when Americans speak of their country as the best in the World. This always brings a smile to my lips. They sincerely mean it as if it were more than just pride of country: it is existentially true. Well, there are several countries in the World which by many measures are superior to the United State. I would point to all of the Scandinavian countries, Britain, Ireland, some European countries and, yes, even Canada are better countries. The United Nations rankings of countries on various scales confirms this.

Part of the American myth we are taught is that our neighbour is peace loving and the great defender of freedom and promoter of peace around the World.

The reality that is overlooked is that the United States has a long history of militarism and interference in countries around the World. The current efforts to create an American World Empire, with over 700 military bases around the World and claiming for itself the right to unilaterally interfere militarily in other countries where American interests, political, social and economic may be the apex of the American military audacity.

Click on the program below and see the long military history which is a direct challenge to the American image of itself as a peace loving, example for others.

A Visit to the Cabin

It looks cold and stark in November. This is not the prettiest time of the year as everything has died down and all seems to to waiting for the coming of the Winter snow, that forms a warm cover of the land and plants. The cabin continues to be a work in progress and is not yet winterized so it sits silent waiting for the Spring and Summer with lots of activity around it as we enjoy the River and the lush landscape, of flora and fauna.

His is a feature in the cabin that seemed to work well. The stairs go up through a trap door to the loft, where the kids will sleep in hammocks.

The plank wall and door of the only enclosed room I built out of some Ash lumber my neighbour sold me. It turned out better that expected.

The mirror I liberated from a Yale University dorm room. Enough said.

This is the kitchen corner. I built the counter out of old lumber from Parker's fence. That would also built our privy. The counter top is just lumber from the lumber yard verethaned. The double sink I found in the dump. Usually, don't "shop" at the dump but I could not resist this time. The cistern pump was a Christmas gift a couple of years ago for Parker. It allows us to pump water from the river. This coming Summer we should complete the cabin, as we continue to enjoy it: this memory place for the grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


To my family and friends in the United States. . . . .Happy Thanksgiving!

My years of living in New England and sharing fully in American culture, I have come to appreciate the significance of the Thanksgiving celebration for all of you. In New England, where the first Thanksgiving has its origins, real and mythic, I thought this holiday had more significance that Christmas as a family and cultural celebration.

Each year, I re-read the account of the celebration of the Pilgrims and natives of Cap Cod on those first couple of Thanksgiving feasts. I am always impressed with the role that Squanto and Massasoit played in those festivities. In reality they were a celebration of these men and the native community that through their generous efforts has helped the Pilgrims to survive in the harsh New England country (Winter's I believe were more severe than they are today.) If these native represent the native population of the new land it is worth reflecting how their friendship has been repayed over they years. It is a sad and terrifying history for which we should be all ashamed.

Here is a nice account of the first Thanksgiving,

Some of my loveliest memories of my years in the US have been the Thanksgiving celebrations I have shared with friends. They were always wonderful family and friendship circles around the wonderful traditional foods. These occasions were created "sacred spaces" which were not often recognized but experience by all of us I am sure.

My thoughts and best wishes will be with you this Thanksgiving. I shall think of you celebration being with each other and over eating. Happy Thanksgiving y'all! , from you Canadian neighbour, eh!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Weekend Guests

I do not often have guests come and visit. I am never sure why not because I usually try to be a gracious host. I certainly work hard when they do show up. I do live at some distance from friends. Family and friends in southern Ontario seem to have a mental block against traveling north of the Muskoka Lakes district which they consider the "North", which of course it is very much Southern Ontario. Even where I live should not be considered the North. The real north begins 500 to 1000 miles north of here. I live on the crease of the Ontario Road map. The top edge of the Southern half and the lower edge of the Northern half. For American friends it is a particular challenge to travel to a "foreign country". Whatever the reason I seldom have house guest, I do enjoy them when they do come, as was the case this past weekend.

Me, Mary, Sabrina and my neighbour Leo. We enjoyed a meal and an evening together.

This past weekend I had a lovely weekend with a visit from some friends from Vermont. Mary and Sabrina were two women I have only know online so it was interesting to meet and know them in person. Online friendships are only partially revealing of who we are. It is always interesting to see when the full reality is. I was not disappointed of shockingly surprised when we met.

Sabrina had her two children with her: Katrina, her 14 year old daughter and her son James, 23.
James travelled on to Toronto to be with friends there.

Iwas pleased they seemed willing to accept me as I am and enjoy my place as it is, a little rough around the edges. this weekend found me hauling water as my pump quit last week. One of the joys of rural living.

A first effort to learn to milk the cow Daisy.

This is Katrina at her first tentative efforts to learn to milk a cow. She readily caught on to it and was quite fearless near the cow. With a little more practice she could get her speed up. In the near future she will have an opportunity to milk goats which I imagine is a little easier.

The lovely Katrina.

This delightful girl/woman impressed me with her manners and charm. She loves animals and spent some time with my kittens at the peak of their "cuteness". While the other adults enjoyed themselves, drinking and getting silly, I (the non drinker), enjoyed sitting and chatting with Katrina watching a movie while enjoying my favourite treat, popcorn.

Life is now back to normal: alone and dealing with the daily problems and challenges of living on the margin. Aloneness is good as well and the togetherness of company.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lessons of History

Empires come and go. The unsuccessful attempt at creating an American Empire will never succeed. Those who aspire to create one can only read, with envy, of the great Empires of the past. I suspect they don't read much history at all for the lessons are not being learned.

Big Brother is Watching!

Recently, there was a report by Privacy International on the degree to which a number of countries have become "surveillance societies". In short, this means to what degree citizens are under surveillance in their daily lives by agencies of the State. This report got little press in the US as far as I can determine. There was an article in a Canadian newspaper. Canada near top in protecting privacy rights: survey. The report is very revealing.

In the report, countries were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5. Germany scored the "best" as the country with the least surveillance at 3.9. Canada was second at 3.6. The US was at 2.0. What was shocking to me was that Great Britain was near the bottom as the country with the most surveilllance of its citizens along with Russia and China ; 1.5, 1.4, 1.3 respectively. These latter three were labelled endemic surveillance societies and the US was seen as an extensive surveillance society.

Instinctively, I dislike the idea of government keeping watch on it's citizens. Just because technology has made it possible does not mean that government should do it. There has not been sufficient debate on whether we want our government to be watching us. In Britain, every day a person is seen by 300 camera. I don't want to give government that kind of power. Britain, is a benevolent society which honours human rights for the most part. Russia, largely a criminal society and China, a politically controlled society are not as benevolent. Britain may not always be so honouring of human rights. I am sure a Muslim in Britain these days does not feel as trusting of government surveillance as they once were.

I am please that Canada is near the top of the list being a country with less surveillance than most. But this may not always be the case. The present Conservative government, in imitation of the US, or even under pressure from the US, is increasing surveillance. Just the other day they announced millions to increase cameral surveillance on the subways in major cities. 10,000 cameras on the Toronto subway alone. There is also talk of Identity Cards which reminds me of the system they used to have in South Africa. Increase border surveillance is coming into efffect. Apparently, the police have radar cameras that can view multiple vehicles, read their plates, look up information on them and record their speeds very fast. And the list goes on:-- suggestions of DNA information gathered and microchips implanted in our children, and centralized data banks, lists of people who can and can't fly, or who belong to organizations of which the government disapproves, etc. If Britain is the future for all of us I do not want it and think there should be wide discussion in Canada about the direction we are going.

As a person, who has been under surveillance in the US (having my phone wiretapped) I do not feel more secure in my person knowing what the government does do and is capable of doing. There is part of me that is very conservative: I want to be left alone. I do not want the government agencies snooping into my life.

A Society is always a compromise between the individual's freedom and the communities security. The pendulum is swinging too far in the direction of security, (ironically making us feel less secure). A free man in a free society must accept some risks. Such is the nature of true political and societal freedom.

Here is Privacy Internationals information in map form[347]=x-347-545269&als[theme]=Privacy%20and%20Human%20Rights

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

My generation of Canadians may be the last who had to learn to recite the above poem in school as part of our education. I finds this sad, as sad as the aged Veterans just now at the end of their lives willing to share the horrors that traumatized them as they struggle to visit the countless graves of their comrades , long passed but not forgoten, scattered over Europe. Our cultural memory will continue to fade. This poem for me is a full expression of the day and I am glad I can still recite it.

Today is Armistice Day. It celebrates the end of the Great War, "the war to end all wars" in 1918. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11 hour the war officially came to an end. I prefer to remember this day for this event for their is an irony in it for us all. It did not end war. Some would even say it set the wheels in motion for WWII.

In Canada, we could not leave this holiday alone so it is now celebrated as Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who died in the two World wars and other military misadventures, including our present involvement in Afghanistan.
Our attention today is focused on individual soldiers and their lives lost answering the call of their country in war. They certainly deserve our respect but their deaths are also a judgement on the rest of us. Where the wars justified? Did we do all we could to avoid war and build a lasting peace? We should remember these nagging questions , as well; and, pledge to ourselves and each other that we will do better.

To the credit of the Canadian veterans, their slogan has always been "Never again". They speak with the knowledge of the horrors of war. All my life, I have heard veterans say that because of their experiences in the two World Wars. This was the lesson they brought away from their experience. It is a noble resolve!

Today, I remember. . .we remember!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Life Around the Woodbox

Yes, it is another picture of my L'Islet wood cookstove.
We have had a love affair for the 25 years I have enjoyed her company. (A longer relationship which has kept me warm and filled my nostrils with lovely smells more than any female company that has come my way.) It only failed me once when it set my house on fire and burned up my back wall and destroyed my roof. Thanks to insurance, all is repaired and all is forgiven.

The season is beginning when life will hinge around keeping the stove going. There was a time I slept on a cot in the kitchen all Winter so I could keep it stoked with wood. I gave up on that a number of years ago to enjoy my bedroom and sleeping under my down filled counterpane. To be truthful a lady friend got me off my cot and out of the kitchen. I installed electric heaters so I would not have to get out of bed to a chilly room. Not very rugged I know. We all make accomadations in Life.

See the scrappy wood by the stove. "V" before she left for warmer climes wanted to contain the mess from wood piled by the stove. A new woodbox was the order of the day.

And here it is: a new woodbox knocked together out of scrap wood. Rustic, don't you think.? I used to have one a few years ago that was not as lovely.

I even put a lid on this one. It is to the left of the stove across from the entrance to the basement which will be the route to fetch wood to keep it filled.

From my position by the woodbox I can keep the stove fed, watch things cooking on her and glance out the window toward the barn. Did I mention the washroom is just to the left.

I suspect the top of the woodbox will find many uses. A place to set my coffee, a perch for a cat or two, a surface to dry a few damp clothes, etc.

From now until the end of April, life in my home will center around the woodbox. I am ready. . . .Bring on the Winter weather!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day USA

Well today is the day. Have enough Americans seen the light? The Republicans and the Bush Administration have been a disaster for the United States on all fronts. The worst and most emotional is the criminal war in Iraq. The destruction of the American economy with massive debt may the longest lasting disaster. For every resident of the US and those who like to visit that country the loss of civil liberties and the development of the US as a "surveillance society" is most troubling in their daily life.

From the beginning, Canada refused to join the US in it's illegal and criminal war in Iraq, for which we can be dully proud as normally Canada would have stood shoulder to shoulder with our American cousins. We were berated by the US ambassador Cellucci at the time. He question our friendship. What kind of friend would not stand with the US in the war. Everytime I heard his strident remarks I wished I had an opportunity to reply to him. "What kind of friend wants to involve his best friend in an illegal and criminal enterprise.?" History has proved Canada right and the US wrong. It has been a painful thing for those of us who admire much of what the US has been as an ongoing experiment in developing a democratic, humane Society.

In the hands of a corrupt, fascist administration the US has been damaged in ways that will take a generation to overcome. Today, could be the beginning of the turn around if enough Americains have figured out what has been obvious, for a long time, to friends and allies around the World. One can only hope and pray it is.

For me, it will never be right until those responsible for the criminal rule and destruction of the best of America are arrested, tried and imprisoned. Realistically, this is too much top expect. I am sure members of the Bush administration will be too fearful to travel outside the US for within many counties they can be arrested, charged and sent to the International Criminal Court to be tried as war criminals. There is some satisfaction that they will live under a form of "house arrest' for the rest of their lives.

It is worrisome to know that the Democrats have failled to be effective opposition legislators defending the best of the US. Will this election see some quality leadership come to the fore. America needs effective leaders like never before.

Good luck to the Americans. The World is watching and hoping for the best.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Sad But Necessary, Goodbye

The above picture is the last one of Veronica with me. Shortly after this she left to return to her home in Alabama. I was sad to see her go and told her to the end she did not have to go. She felt she did. We continued to disagree on the prospect of getting married. She wanted to immediately: I wanted to resolve important issues in a process that would take time before making such a decision. If she was too impulsive: I was perhaps too cautious.

I shall remember our times together with great affection. Our daily lives and expectations of each other were quite compatible. Knowing her has enriched my life and helped me to refocus my life that was adrift. For now, this seems to remain. As I said last time she left, "She got out and I got on with it." For the short term I have things I want to accomplish around the farm and animals to care for which give me pleasure and satisfaction. Going through life alone is not a new experience for me. I shall be doing it again for the foreseeable future.

The occasion of the above picture was the wedding in my library of mutual friends of ours. Veronica was very fond of the bride and the groom was a friend and co worker over the years. I am sure Veronica watched this modest casual wedding and wished it was her and I marrying. I was aware she had brought a wedding dress with her this trip and just before the wedding she showed me a lovely peasant style head dress she would have worn at her wedding.

I wish Veronica had worn her Amish simple dress on this occasion. With my outfit we might have been viewed an Amish farm couple. Me with my suspenders and collarless shirt and her in her bonnet, long modest dress and apron. My full beard and the fancy darts in my pants would indicate we are not that couple. Amish men shave off their moustaches as they are seem as symbols of warriors. (It seems nearly every Iraqi man under Saddam had a handsome moustache. . . .Interesting!)

I hold the Amish in high regard along with most of the Christians in the Anababtist tradition. The peace churches with their modest humble view of the Christian life which emphasized the Beatitudes as well as the Ten Commandments, is so much more satisfying that the Calvinist "fire and brimstone" tradition. If I had not become a Unitarian (which I believe shares some tradition with the Anababtist as well as historic Calvinist roots, now rejected) I probably would have found a spiritual home among Quaker Friends. My time with Veronica was a time i revisited some of these issues of religion. The deserve regular revisiting.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Roadside Scenes

I love the passing scenes along the road. There is always something interesting in the details, if you care to look. Luckily, we have little traffic here or I would have had many accidents by now. I have a bad habit of watching the ditches for local flora and fauna and looking out at the changing vistas. The Autumn of the year is particularly interesting with the many changes in plant life and the greater visibility for creatures, large and small on the move.

This picture is one of contrast between the yellow Tamarack and the dark black spruce. While the Tamarack, or Larch, has needles and looks like an evergreen, it is not. It drops its needles after they turn this lovely colour.

The black spruce bog is on the edge of town. I have picked Labrador tea there, a native herb which grows in abundance among the moss.

The same day , Veronica and I stopped and she took this typical picture of lichen and moss covered rock out of which trees seem to find a way to grow. The colours, creatures and contrasts in the detail are endlessly fascinating. Have you ever seen the intricacies of moss and lichen up close? Beautiful.

What a difference a week makes. We caught the edge of the significant storm that passed through the North Eastern United States and South Eastern Canada. We were to get 20cm (8") but we only got about 10cm of very wet snow. We did get some strong winds causing our electricity to fail for about 4 hours. Good weather to be snowed in with a friend. If the snow had been dry even this small amount would drift to considerable depths in places.

We often get just the edges of storms here. as the track either North of South of us depending whether they move from West to East across Lake Superior of Lake Huron. The worst weather comes out of the Mid-western US which bring moist air that meets the cold northern are aloong a front, as this last storm did.

Well it did not last long. Today, after a couple of days of warm weather the snow is all gone and we are back in the mud. We had our foretaste of Winter weather which allowed us to check out our Winter survival strategies before the real Winter arrives in a month or so.

Note: I am still wrestling with the new and "improved" blogger beta program. Some glitches have been solved. I still would not recommend anyone shifting to it yet. I still cannot "blog this" from my picasa photo storing program. When I try either as a draft or to publish all is lost to wherever things go in the cyberspace lost and found. Twice since my last posting I have tried to publish a new post and lost it. This is so frustrating I avoid trying for a couple of days. There are lots of things to do around here that bring more immediate rewards of satisfaction and completion.