A Reminder of My Youth
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
Longest Unarmed Border in the World.
Beginning next week. Canada will begin arming Canadian custom agents at the border with the US.
As children we were taught that the 4000 mile border between Canada and the United States was the longest unarmed border in the World. In the time of the Cold War with tensions between and among states we took great pride in this fact. It stood as a symbol of the trust and affection with which we held our southern neighbours, and them, us.
Crossing the border was a routine casual affair. "What is your citizenship". "Where are you going?" For what purpose?" "When do you expect to return?"
Fine. Welcome to the United States, Have a nice trip." That is about how the conversation went when traveling into the US. On the return trip, when one identified oneself as a Canadian the agent may ask, "How long have you been out of the country? Do you have any goods to declare?" Then a wave of the hand would send us up the road, relieved of any tension we might have crossing through the no man's land between border agents. Invariably someone in the car has some undeclared contraband thatwent undetected.
In all the years, I have crossed the border, only once did I ever see an armed border guard. It was years go, circa 1970, we were returning to the US at Calais Maine. When the American agent stepped out wearing a gun in a holster my anxiety level went way up. It turned out our vehicle was throroughly searched for reasons I was too anxious to ask about.
Since Canadian border agents are not armed my one incident coming back into Canada saw me pulled over by the police as I was going up the highway toward Toronto. On the pretext I was driving badly my papers were checked and with my friend taking over the driving we set off again. With lights flashing we were pulled over again. The officer was kind enough to tell us it was all a ruse. Apparently, we fit the description of someone INTERPOL was looking for. Whaaaaa! How many volkswagens with a red canoe on top and a couple with two children are of interest to the International Police Organization??
Well the days of easy and relaxed border crossing is over. The panic concern for border security as a result of the 9/11 tragedy has seen Canada give in to the pressure from the US to "beef up" the border. For the Americans this only means guns and more guns!
The reality is that no Canadian border agent has ever been killed. They have for years handled issues at the border without resorting to firearms. Such problems are for the police to handle. The RCMP seems to have done a credible job such that the head of the RCMP was not in favour of arming Custom agents.
Peacefull settlement of border disputes is part of Canada's mythology of itself. The famous Northwest Mounted Policeman, Sam Steele by his very presence, interpersonal skills and the rule of law settled issues in the West including keeping rowdy Americans in line who wanted to bring their side arms into Canada.Sam Steele Days.org - Who was Sam Steele?
We will now have border agents with guns, who are not police officers with all the training they get being in the position to let themselves be drawn into a potentially violent border confrontation. More likely, they will be expected to try to stop a fugitive being chased by American authorities for which they have no training. I predict in the not too distant future Canada will have its first shooting of a border agent. Guns beget guns!
Immediately, after 9/11 when the border security issue was being discussed Canada was to be inside the security shield. In the end, the US decided that Canada was a porous source of potential terrorists that they had to strengthen the border against us. The neighbours we once casually shared our lives with are now "secure" in their "gated country", not able to tell friend from fow. We have obliged them by arming our customs agents as a second line of defense, thus accepting their model of violence for handling problems. I find it all very sad.
Well we still have the longest undefended border in the world. Canada ocean coastline is 243,042 km long. The Atlas of Canada - Coastline and Shoreline I bet that keeps the American Homeland Security people awake at night!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Could This be the Bush Legacy ?
"The (US) dollar clearly remains vulnerable to a sudden loss of private sector confidence?"
This past week the Canadian dollar rose in value above $0.96 US. Only four years ago it was worth about $0.63. The major reason for this increased value in the Canadian dollar is largely due to the decreased value of the US dollar to which our currency is linked.
Over the last four years the US debt has risen a trillion dollars a year as the war in Iraq is funded on borrowed money. while the rich got tax breaks. People with more knowledge than I on monetary policy have been trying to raise the alarm. My opening text is from a report by the highly respected Bank of International Settlement. This is seen as one of the economic problems which may trigger a world wide Depression. BIS warns of Great Depression dangers from credit spree - Telegraph
Currency has no intrinsic value (not since we went off the gold standard) so confidence in a nation's currency is critical in its evaluation. (Ron Paul, the radical conservative candidate for the Republican candidate for President, has for years argued the US should go back on the gold standard) The End of Dollar Hegemony)
Canada's stable society and its economy that has achieved 12 years in a row of balanced budgets, which includes a legislated plan to pay down the debt, should be good reason for confidence in Canadian currency but this is less important in affecting the value of the Canadian dollar than the increasing loss of confidence in the US economy and currency. We are not alone. The falling value of the US dollar can be seen in the rising value in other currencies such as the Euro and the currencies of Australia and New Zealand among others.
American dollars are highly prized by governments as they are used for the trade in oil around the world. It is an interesting coincidence that Saddam Hussein was moving to stop using US dollars for oil, instead using Euros, just prior to the war. (No doubt a factor in the Invasion of Iraq) Venezuala which has also considered switching to Euros is continually vilified by the US in a verbal war not to mention supporting the attempted coup in 2002. (I think the US would have invaded Venezuela by now if it was not so busy in the Middle East. The loss of US influence in Latin American is another Bush legacy.) If the oil industry switched away from US currency it would cause a dramatic fall in the value of the US dollar. This would be devastating to the US economy and unfortunately would affect Canada's currency and economy as well.
This problem is worrisome as well as fascinating reading matter
Federal Budget Spending and the National Debt
Debt and the dollar: The United States damages future living standards by borr
United Stated National Debt
Is The U.S. Already Bankrupt?
Perhaps, it is time to buy gold and bury it in the back yard!!!!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Hot Days of Summer
After a cool and damp July we are into the hot days of summer finally. Since mid June the weather has frustrated efforts to do haying. The farm community is now madly trying to get it done. Our season is short and hay has already passed it prime. Further delay will see the nutritional value drop off. On the other hand, with the damp cool early summer the hay has grown thick and tall.
Here are some bales on the headland of the field next to the house.
My neighbour is doing my hay this year. I miss not doing it myself but glad I am not out in the dust and heat. Here he is discharging another 75o-1000 pound bale.
Acorss the river on the cattle pasture I tried to take a pictures of some sandhill cranes. The pair on the right are the adults and the pair on the left are immature young. Without a better camera, or being able to get closer, this is the best I can do for a picture. These birds showed up about 15 years ago. They are normally more western birds that traditionally migrate the central flyway. They are quite dramatic being large and noisy. They have thrived in good number in our area adding another interesting scene to our natural environment.
Here is where I like to be in the heat of the day. Drifting about in the river. I have mastered the art of floating on my back motionless. On occasion, I have even fallen asleep doing this. Come on in the water is lovely!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Living With the Animals
The Noble Grey Wolf
Wolf Trust - About Wolves
Last evening, late, I heard shooting outside. At first I heard two shots, then a third, then two more. With that I heard two more outbursed. There were probably a dozen in all.
My dog had been barking earlier but with the shooting he came in the house rather than stay on the verandah, as I went out to hear the ivestigate and hear the last few shot.
I am not a hunter and I do not own a gun. This makes me an oddity around here. Virtually, everyone owns at least one long gun, usually more. Huntering for grouse and moose in season is part of the rural culture. (Hand guns are illegal although I have been shown a couple of them.) In the country and around farms a gun is viewed as a tool not a sign of machismo. I don't think I have ever seen anyone swagger or brag about a gun. But still I see no use to own one myself. The few times I have had to put down an animal I call a local skilled hunter or trapper and have him do it. So much for the editorial!
I phoned my neighbour to ask him what all the shooting was about. When he called me back he told me he had a pack of wolves (about a dozen) in his back yard. He said he shot two at least including what he thought was the alpha male. I told him I hoped he wasn't too scared but I didn't think one could legally kill a wolf. he said he didn't care, for in his life foxes, coyotes, and wolves had killed some of his livestock. He seemed to hold to that old fashioned idea that "wolves are vermin". I wasn't going to debate it with him. I disagree and don't approve of killing wolves.
We have been aware of the local pack of wolves. Occasionally, a single one or two is spotted and they howl at night. Why a dozen showed up in his yard is a mystery to me unless they were following his path from the back field to go to the river.
My neighbour has no animals and he wasn't personally in danger. In Ontario, there has never been a case of a healthy wild wolf killing a person. Are wolves dangerous to people?? Wolves are extremely shy. I wish they had been in my yard for it would have been a wonderful opportunity to observe them. Maybe not, I do have livestock. They may have decided to make a meal of "Babe" June's pet pig. I would rather face the wolf that incure her wrath.
So now we have a damaged pack of wolves with two of it members missing, including, perhaps. the leader of the pack. There may also be injured wolves out there. Not a pleasant thought.
I am not sure if anything will come of this. The wild life officer may be around. Killing a wolf may be a offense. Also discharging a firearm at night may also be a violation of the regulations.
In the country, you " go along to get along". Neighbours are few and you need each other occasionally. Other that letting my neighbour know I don't approve of killing wolves, I have no desire to make a fuss over this.
Here is a less feared critter around the place. This one of the two kittens is trying to win a permanent place in the house. It is being dreadfully cute and purring up whenever it sees an opportunity. Yesterday it slept against the top of my head while I napped on the chesterfield.
How cute is that!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
So You Thought You Invented Parenting
As a single father I used to think I invented the art of parenting. I certainly researched it and went about it with a plan in mind. (I think I was trying to prove to myself and others that fathers could do the mothering and it wasn't all that difficult.)
Reading a list of momism such as those below is humbling. In many ways I became my mother. I said many of these words of wisdom and admonition, not all for I had only one child who was a remarkable agreeable child to be with and raise.
One my mother used to say which is unique she shouted through the bathroom door. "Make sure you force back your foreskin and wash it good.?" I can't remember when she stopped doing that. It makes me smile even now. No wonder "smegma" became one of my favourite words.
How Smegma Serves the Penis
A partial list of Momisms
A little "birdy" told me!
All I do is follow you around, picking up after you like some maid.
Am I talking to a brick wall?Are you deaf or something?
Are you lying to me?
As long as you live under my roof, you'll do as I say
.Beds are NOT made for jumping on.
Call me when you get there, just so I know you're okay.
Close the door! You don't live in a barn.
Did you brush your teeth?Did you comb your hair?
Do as I say, not as I do.
Do you think I'm made of money?
Do you think your socks are going to pick themselves up?
Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back.
Don't eat that, you'll get worms!
Don't go out with a wet head, you'll catch cold.
Don't make me get up!
Don't pick that scab, it'll get infected.
Don't pick your nose in public.
Don't run in the house.
Don't sit too close to the television, it'll ruin your eyes.
Don't talk with your mouth full!
Don't walk away when I'm talking to you!
Eat your vegetables, they're good for you.
Enough is enough!
Go play outside! It's a beautiful day!
Going to a party? Leave a phone number in case I need to call.
Going to a party? Who's going to be there?
Going to a party? Will the parents be home?
How do you know you don't like it if you haven't tasted it?
I brought you into this world, and I can take you right back out!
I can't believe you can sleep in this filth!
I didn't ask who put it there, I said "Pick it up!
I don't care what "everyone" is doing. I care what YOU are doing!
I don't have to explain myself. I said no.
I hope someday you have children just like you.I just want what's best for you.
I will always love you - no matter what.
If God had wanted you to have holes in your ears (eyebrows, tongue, etc.) He would have put them there!
If it were a snake, it would have bitten you.
If wishes were horses...
If you could stay out last night, you can get up this morning.
If you don't do it NOW, then when are you going to do it?
If you stick your tongue out again it will fall off.
If you're too sick to go to school, you're too sick to play outside.
I'm doing this for your own good.
I'm going to skin you alive!
I'm not going to ask you again.
I'm not your cleaning lady!
I'm not your waitress!
Isn't it past your bedtime?
It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't trust everyone else.
Life isn't fair.
Look at me when I'm talking to you.
Money does NOT grow on trees.
No child of MINE would do something like that.
Nobody asked you.
Over my dead body!
Pick that up before somebody trips on it and breaks their neck!
Pick up your feet.
Put that down! You don't know where it's been!
Say that again and I'll wash your mouth out with soap.
Shut the door! I'm not heating (air conditioning) the entire neighborhood!
Shut your mouth and eat.
So it's raining? You're not sugar -- you won't melt.
So what if Bob's mom let him do it? If Bob's mom let him jump off the Empire State Building, would you want me to let you do it too?
Someone is going to end up crying.
There's enough dirt in those ears to grow potatoes!
This hurts me more than it hurts you.
Turn that racket (music) down!
Watch your mouth!
Well, I haven't figured out how to cook "cold" yet.
Well, people in Hell want ice water too!
What did I say the FIRST time?
What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
What part of NO don't you understand?
When I was a little girl...
When I was young we had respect for our elders, now look at the world!
When I was your age, I had to walk ten miles through the snow, uphill, by myself, to go to school.
When will you be back?
When you have your own house then you can make the rules!
Where do YOU think you're going?
Who died and left you boss?
Who do you think you're talking to?
Who taught you THAT?
You didn't learn that in this house!
Wipe your feet!
You can't find it? Well, I can't find it for you - I didn't wear it!
You can't find it? Well, I can't find it for you - I'm not the maid!
You can't find it? Well, if you'd put things where they belonged, you wouldn't have this problem.
You can't find it? Well, where did you leave it last?
You can't start the day on an empty stomach.
You don't always get what you want. It's a hard lesson, but you might as well learn it now.
You have an answer for everything, don't you?
You kids are trying to drive me crazy!
You must think rules are made to be broken.
You won't be happy until you break that, will you?
You'll understand when you're older.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
True North "Stoned" and Free
It appears Canada leads other industrialized nations in marijuana use. Another first for our most civilized country. We seem to function fine with it or is it that we function fine because of it. One of those chicken and egg problems.
globeandmail.com: The true North, stoned and free
This is marijuana growing hydroponically under a 1000 Watt grow light. Unusual colour don't you think.
This is a young healthy pot plant.
Here are marijuana bud drying. "Far out. Man!"
Before I get myself into trouble here, the disclaimer. I do not smoke marijuana, cigarettes, or drink alcohol. Coffee is my addiction. I tried it once in the '60 while vacationing on Prince Edward Island. After about three puffs sitting in a circle "navel gazing" expecting a religious experience, I broke the mood by saying "this is nuts I don't feel anything and I don't even smoke so why would I want to fill my lungs with this stuff." ( I never was one for going along with the crowd) . I left the joint sharing to my wife and our friends. My minister friend grew the stuff in the basement of his church in Boston and has continued to this day in the parishes he has served.
I do defend people's right to use marijuana. Compared to tobacco and alcohol it is relatively harmless. In terms of personal and social cost alcohol out strips all other drugs combined.. Tobacco is just evil with no social, medicinal or nutritional value.
I also support the increased growing of industrial hemp, related to but not marijuana. It is a miracle crop with wide uses, grows like a weed, needs no pesticides and can replace forests in papermaking and could replace corn in biofuel production. Anyone who cares to read about this crop that was once grow on all farms for its practical uses, (ie rope and fabric making) will learn that a industrial conspiracy saw it banned my associating it with the devil weed, marijuana. (Canada is slow to get hemp into production and the US still bans it)
Marijuana Conspiracy - by Dough Yurchey
Welcome to Jack Herer's Home on the Web
Around here marijuana growing is a cottage industry. Users grow their own and share it with friends. Canada apparently is a big exporter of marijuana to the US. In exchange the US sends US guns and cocaine. We send them "peace and love" and they send us "violence and hard core addiction". This illegal free trade does more harm to Canada unfortunately.
In the UN study I am surprised Canada uses more than the Netherlands another country laid back about marijuana use. it is still one of the best sources for marijuana seed for growers. And we use more than Jamaica that country we see and big "ganga" users.
I am surprise that marijuana use in the US is so high in the face if their draconian laws. So much for the "war on drugs", that other failed war effort. American article on this UN Report sing the praises of signs of decreased world wide drug use. . . hummm I wonder if they get their views from the War on Drugs Czar.
McClatchy Washington Bureau 07/05/2007 Experts: Global drug abuse largely
Canada has come close to decriminalizing marijuana use. When the next Liberal government comes to power I suspect they will fullfil their promise. In the meantime, mere possession is ignored and growing for distribution gets you a mild penalty. The police still try to shut down large grow operations by organized crime. It makes them look good and vigilant but doesn't decrease the availability of the "weed". There are too many home growers.
It is curious that Canadians use so much marijuana. It has been suggested that because of it we are less ambitious and aggressive than our American cousins. This is another one of those chicken and egg problems. Maybe the truth is because we are less ambitious and aggressive than Americas we take time to puff the weed for a little pleasure now and again. Eh, share a joint, smell the roses."
The UN study on drug use around the world is interesting reading.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
In All Hubris "the only true church!"
The Roman Catholic Church in a recent document by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has reasserted it prideful claim of being the only true Christian Church. Begrudgingly, Orthodox Churches are recognized as "churches" although flawed as they do not recognize the authority of the Pope. Protestant denominations are not worthy of even being considered true churches but as merely eccleciastical communities. Catholic Church Only True Church: Vatican
It seems just when we in North America have accepted the that the Catholic church has accepted religious plurality and respect for all branches of the Christian community. it wants to once again say " we are the only true Christian Church and all others are inferior and below us. As in the satirical anti-totalitarian novel, Animal Farm, "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others." It seems the conservative mood of bureaucratic Catholicism wants to return to pre Vatican II day. with this doctrine as well as others like the bringing back of the Latin Mass.
As one who has roots in the Mainstream Protestant Reformation and the Radical Reformation I am deeply offended by this Catholic position. My brother and his family and my son and his family are Catholics. The thought of some unenlightened parish priest teaching that my denomination and my
faith are inherently inferior offend me. More importantly, just when Catholics who are beginning to learn a little about other branches of Christianity and World Faiths they may come once again to feel this is not necessary as their Faith is the "One and only true church.."
Eclessia means , "gathering of the called out one". Prrotestants often use the phrase "communion of saints". To claim that there is only one church and one way to be "called out" to serve God is arrogant in the extreme. For it to be a doctrinaire authoritarian model is politically incorrect in our democratic pluralistic Society.. There are other polity models.
In congregational polity, the local church is complete within itself. The authority rests with the local church to fulfill all functions of the church as it comes to understand them in scripture, the Word.. In Radical polity, the authority rests with the individual or group as they understand God speaking to them directly. Churches can be inderstood as to where authority lies. Priesthood (Pope), Scripture (the Word and Individual (or small group) through direct revelation. ie. Roman Catholic, Congregationalists, Quakers. To say that one way of being the ecclesia is superior to the other is not acceptable and can lead to barriers in understanding or worse.
The Catholic Church you would think would want to downplay the dominance of the priesthood. Just today we hear of another massive financial settlement in cases of child abuse by priests. Since 1950 in North American the Roman Church has paid settlement totalling 2 billion dollars. This is not because of a few wayward priests it is because of a long standing systemic problem within the Church that has gone on for decades and has been covered up by the Church. It is amazing that the priesthood and the Pope have any religious or moral authority left. Diocese to settle sex-abuse claims for $660 million - CNN.com
The abuse problem in the Catholic Church has been so bad I have often thought it should be deemed a "criminal organization" and have the State step in to clean it up. If this has been going on in North American and Europe you can be sure it is going on, unchallenged, in Africa and South American and Asia. The idea that the church that has allowed this wants to claim it is the only one and true church would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
Even in the Catholic Church doctrine ultimately, not even the Pope, can stand between a person and God . We all must find our own way to "walk humbly with our God." and stand with the "community of saints".
Saturday, July 14, 2007
"Is it 'traveling' or 'travelling'?"
As a native English speaker when I try to decide how to spell a word I try it various ways to see if it looks right.
After I finished my previous post I had a moment of doubt about "travelling". It looked right but I think I had seen it as "traveling". I then read it in a blog of a former teacher, who I respect for his language skill as "traveling". So I went back to my post and edited it.
After living with the one "l"" traveling" for a while I couldn't get it out of my head "Naw, it doesn't quite look right!" So I did what I usually do to check my spelling. I google the word. You know I found it both with one "l" and two "ll"s. Damn! that is no help. I guess it is both ways.
In my head, I keep reciting the rule as I remember it "When adding an ending. If the word ends in a consonant preceded by a long vowel, you double the final consonant." Something like that, after all it has been over 50 years since I learned the rule. That would mean the double "ll" would be correct. But what of the single "l" version?
It must be a British and American English difference I decide. Well, as a form of protest against American cultural empirialism, I go out of my way to use the Canadian spelling (or word). So you will always see me include the "u" in such words as colour , "z" instead of "s" in some words, cheque instead of check, programme rather than program, etc. I even decided years ago to resort to using the archaic word 'gaol' in place of jail.
Now the confusion in my mind on the two ways of spelling "travelling" is really frustrating me!
I get out my Oxford English Dictionary and look up "travel". (My mother insisted that to speak the Queen's English correctly the OED was the ultimately authoritative one). Well, my small version is to cryptic in its explanation showing only "~led". Well that only handled "travelled" for sure. Still a grain of doubt on adding "ing". What is the rule for sure which would allow both English and American spellings???
I google "English Grammar" and find a few sites where I find the rule.
Rule 4: When adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, sometimes you must double the consonant.
a. When a one-syllable word ends with a consonant preceded by a single vowel, double the consonant. This only applies, however, when the suffix begins with a vowel.
b. When a word of two or more syllables ends in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, and when the final syllable is accented, double the consonant when adding a suffix.
c.When a word of two or more syllables does not have the accent on the final syllable, the consonant should not be doubled.
Well, there it is!!!! "b" applies. But do the Americans pronounce the word different so they use "c". I find myself trying "travel" out loud with the accent on the first or second syllable.
In my quest for certainty on this issue I cannot decide. (Damn! if I had been this fussy as a student, I would have been a great scholar. Age must be driving me toward perfectionism.)
I look at another googled English Grammar. It just flatly says "travelling" is British and "traveling" is Amercian useage. I re-edit my post and reinstate "travelling".
There it is settled! The Americans break the rules and use simplified spellings.
It seem my years of living in the US has left me conflicted on more than a few things. This in itself is so Canadian!!!
If you want to drive yourself mad explore the differences between British and American English
(Don't even mention Australian English)
Differences Between American and British English
Thursday, July 12, 2007
After our recent family reunion I decided to go home on the train, The Northlander. It has been years since I traveled on a regular train. I believe it was back in the 70's on a trip to Switzerland, where trains are well used, integrated into all other forms of public transportation and run "on time" all the time. By contrast, Canadian rail travel has shrunk back and has been largely forsaken by the government, the rail industry and people. How sad in our time when inexpensive mass transit is needed in our country of vast distances. Some time past, decisions were made to subsidize road ways for motorized vehicles and air travel through government funding of infastructure. The golden age of rail travel has long past. The future of expensive energy and concern for the environment may see a renaissance of rail travel.
I missed connecting with the commuter train from the east side of Toronto so my nephew drove me to downtown Toronto to the magnificent historic Union Station. In the hay day for train travel the rail companies built wonderful stations and magnificent destination hotels. Some of them remain today. Union Station in Toronto and Union Station in Winnipeg are wonderful examples. Across from the Toronto station is the wonderful Royal York Hotel. Unfortunate many of the small stations, gems of architecture, have been torn down.
I made it just in time as I got my ticket in the great hall of Union Station, My plan was to finish reading my book on "Nixon in China" on the trip. As it turned out I spent the five hours watching the scenes of the countryside fly by, fascinated by it all.
I tried to take some pictures along the way. With a little snapshot camera it is almost impossible. The scene passes before the camera is ready. Below is a picture of the "Canadian" train passing. It is the Toronto to Vancouver train across Canada. All I managed to catch was the obervation car at the end of the train. That is a great trip particularly through the rockies.
click to enlarge photo
I wanted to take a picture of the CN Tower but I was caught on the wrong side of the train. I did not realize the Northlander went East instead of West before it turned north on the Ontario Northland Railroad. The ONR was the government subsidized railroad which opened up North East Ontario to development. It runs from Toronto to the shore of James Bay at Moosonee. The last several hundred miles travels across part of Ontario without roads. The train from Cochrane to Moosonee is call, the Polar Bear Express. It is the lifeline for the remote comunities along the James Bay and Hudson Bay coast. It is still a train that you can have stop for you to let you off at some remote spot. It can also be flagged down to pick you up with your gear which may include a canoe in the summer or a snowmobile in the Winter. There are some independent souls you live remote lives along the line.
There are not many such trains left. In Canada, the transcanada train, The Canadian, will do this above Lake Superior and the Algoma Central line from Sault Ste. Marie to Hearst still stops for people as it acts as the local form of transporation for remote people and camps. Some day I would love to take the Polar Bear Express and the Agawa Canyon trip on the Algoma Central Railroad. For now. I am just travelling across southern Ontario on the Northlander.
The train leaves the city travelling up the Don River Valley, a wonderful green belt through the city. Once it had industry in the valley using water power. Now it is mostly parkland. It has been used by homeless people to camp out in and live a rustic country life in the heart of the city. We passed under a couple of long bridges over the Don Valley. The most infamous is the Bloor Street viaduct. It was the bridge of choice for suicide jumpers in large numbers, second only to the Golden Gate Bridge across San Francisco Bay. It now has extensive net barriers to frustrate these upsetting events.
Finally we are free of the urban scene and the farmland north of the city can been seen. Some of it is rural land in transition, doomed by urban sprawl. There are horse farms for the wealthy and remnants of historic small family farms which once were part of a vibrant rural farming life on some of the best land in Ontario. There are lots of grain farms. Corn is plentiful. With the interest in biofuels it is a good cash crop currently. Hay is being harvested everywhere. What struck me is that I saw very few cattle. I think I saw one dairy farm. The truth is this land is too expense to graze cattle on. Cattle raising has moved to the North or gone to Western Canada.
The first trainstop was at Wasaga, a small town where the Muskoka district begins. Here Southern Ontario residents, particularly Torontonians vacation on the lovely lakes of Muskoka. I spend many summers here on a small lake swimming and canoeing. Now it has become the playground of the rich. No longer can average people have a modest cottage here.
Below is a picture I took of some canoes and backpackers, waiting to be loaded on a train to take them North for a canoe tripping experieence, perhaps to the Temagami Wilderness near where I live. They were not loaded on my train. I guess, they had made arrangements to be put on a freight train. I smiled when I saw these teenagers hurrying to get their last junk food meal of hamburger, fries and a milkshake before they spend a week or two eating noodles, noodles with flavouring, noodles (with fish if caught) lots of gorp, wild berries and drinking lots of tea and coffee. It takes careful planning and skillful cooking to have an elegant meal in the bush. Children's camps don't bother. These kids will be bitten by bugs, sunburned, cold at night, wet some days, get to wear smelly dirty clothes and have the time of their life to tell recount to their children years from now. A lucky couple may even find some romance and some wonderful out door sex.
It all makes me wish I were going canoe camping, too. Although I have never gone with a group. I have occasionally go all alone which is a special kind of experience, experiencing the holy in Nature with one's Self.
Our next stop was Gravenhurst which is on the shore of Gull Lake. I had my heart broken here as a teenager as my girlfriend toosed me aside for some camp counsellor. I experience a little heart ache as I sit there remembering. I was glad when the train moved on up the line.
The next stop was Huntsville. The town on the north edge of the Muskoka Lakes District. It is a town on the southwestern edge of Algonquin Park, Canada's oldest National Park, a highland area of lakes and rivers in which some seven rivers have their origins. It is a well used park for southerners who want a taste of canoe camping "wilderness". I make the longest portage of my life in this park carrying my canoe and backpack in one trip back to Lake Opeongo. When I finished the trek I thought I would never be able to lift my head again as the thwart had been resting on my neck. It was a great trip. Lucky the longest portage was at the end and not the beginning. I worked up to it. Besides, I had to do the long one or retrace my trip. I wish I was physically able to still do it but age and a bad shoulder now limits me.
Below is the front of the station. A very functional but older building. If you enlarge it you will see the mileage on the sign.
Huntville represents the the limits of vacation adventures for most Southerners. They think it is the North. They are willing to travel up to three hours to reach a cottage and weekend fun but only a few are wiling to go further north. They are in reality still in Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario begins at North Bay where there is a different lifestyle closer to the natural world. Here people have more rustic camps rather than cottages. Fishing and hunting are more important than boating, waterspots and looking good at the beach or on the dock.
The train stops briefly at South River where the station is just a little shed to keep one out of the weather. Leaving the station the train traverses the Almaguin Highlands. This is a very hilly area with some hilly farms and lots of forest, small lakes and a couple of rivers. Below a a river and fen we traversed after a hilly section on our way to North Bay.
Finally we reach North Bay. Our train waits on a siding as the southbound Northlander leaves the station heading for Toronto . It came down from Cochrane while we travelled north. The station in North Bay is a new one which also is used by the buses ,both city and greyhound. It is next to the large Mall in North Bay so we are once again, briefly in an urban setting. although unlike Toronto you can look across to the skyline above the town and know the trees are part of the Natural environment beyond.
The train ride was very intersting. It was cheaper than bus or plane but took longer than a trip by car. It would be nice if it were faster but an impoved railroad bed would be required. the best way to travel to Toronto is to take the limo service to the airport as if you were going to fly. This is fairly cheap and as fast as driving yourself. A short cab ride gets you to the end of the Subway and then fast to downtown Toronto. I think I will use the train again so I can watch the scene past going south.
My ride met me and in another 1 1/2 hours we were in River Valley,. . . . . home again!
Monday, July 09, 2007
At our recent family reunion we watched the film, Sicko, by Michael Moore. I guess enough of us are political animals it was a good thing to do on such an occasion.
One of my nephews was cleaver enought to pirate a copy off the Internet before it was released to the theatres.
This film, which is a criticism of the Health Care System in the US is well worth the viewing. Hopefully, it will fuel the debate in the US to bring about significant changes in their heath care system which fails to meet the needs of far too many of its citizens.
Watch SiCKO and Call Your Congressman in the Morning - CommonDreams.org
I like to refer to most universal, single payer (government) health care programs as "socialist". In Canada, it is not seen as radical as some Americans might think socialist implies. Even Conservatives, in Canada, know that to radically alter our much loved but much criticized health care system, would be political suicide. They try to tinker with it and would like to see a two tier system of privately and publically funded programs. They also can be pressured by American private health care providers to open a place in our system for them to exploit. We resist so far!
A two tier system will result in creating a two quality system, one for the rich, one for the rest of us. I hope our American neighbours come to understand this in their deliberations for even the "progressive" Democrats seem to be only suggesting ways to have private health care delivered to everyone rather than a universal single payer (government funded) system. Time will tell.
Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ Leaves Top Democrats Ill at Ease - CommonDreams.org
In the film other countries systems are applauded. The British, the French and the Cubans seems to have found ways of guaranteeing health care to all. This takes the economic anxiety out of the concerns for getting better.
The French seem to have perfected this as Moore illustrates with one fellow who felt that he was not fully ready to go back to work, so the doctor gave him a perscription for three more months rest, which the system paid for. His salary was paid for those three months 60% by the government and 40 % by the employer as the fellow went to the Riviera to recover his health with some fun in the sun. (even I found that enormously generous) . In France, you can order a house call from a doctor the way you might order a pizza! That was novel not me. Cuba, for all its economic struggles has managed to create a very good health care system. In fact, they have so many doctors they export them for economic advantage and for foreign aid such as the 12,000 doctors in Venezuela in exchange for oil. They were even prepared to send doctors for relief in the Katrina disaster but were bared by the Bush administration.
What is common with all these systems is that for the patient the doctor can say. " Don't worry about the money, your job is to get better." The doctor also is relieved of the economic burden of collecting funds for his services. His job is to serve the patient to the full extent of the system. The system can do more in the area of preventative medicine which has very little short term profitability (which is of little interest in a "for profit" system) but which in the long term can save money and create a healthier community.
Before a Society can come to create such a common welfare system it must see health care as a right not a privilege. Surely this is not a great leap as even the US recognizes education as a right and not a privilege. They are not dissimilar.
Second, a Society my also believe that we are in fact, "our brother's keeper". Surely a nation that celebrates itself as a Christian nation should have no problem with that.
Third, money is not the problem. If Cuba can do it the wealthy US can do it. If spending more on the military than all the rest of the World was not their first priority, it would be easy.
There are other advantages to such a health care system for industry no less. Industry will know its costs for supplying health care for its employees which is universal and "transportable "from one work place to another." a healthier workforce is to everyone's advantage. In Canada, our health care system is an economic advantage in convincing companies coming here rather that in the US.
Also, it would be nice if my aged aunt could visit her property in Florida where she lived for many Winters among her friends there. She dare not to go as she can no longer get private health care insurance there and she does not want to get risk the cost of sudden illness and being transported home for medical care. There must be other Canadian "snowbirds" who would love to be spending their money and retirement years in the US.
I hope the next few years sees the US develop a health care system which serves the people rather than corporations and limits the profit/greed motive, recognizing that health care is not a commodity to be sold to some and denied to others.
BlueCross Secret Memo Re: ‘Sicko’ - CommonDreams.org
Friday, July 06, 2007
Here is a little more about our recent family reunion.
This is my sister, Joanne's birthday. She was my parents first child, born July 6, 1939. I can only imagine how thrilled they were.
Sadly, she lived only one month. I cannot imagine how sad they were.
Our family never discussed this tragedy very much. (I am not even sure I have the birth and death dates right. I assume mother dated the poems for those days.) It was a precious memory shared by my parents. There were times in the year like today when you might see them glancing at each other, knowingly. Once on the anniversary of the baby's death I remember overhearing my mother ask my Dad if he knew what day it was. He said, yes! and little more was said. Only a couple of times did my mother ever tell me the events of her death. It was a SIDS death. Mother always referred to it as a "blue baby". My father went out to the carriage to bring the baby in after a little fresh air and she was dead.
August 7, 1939.
After my parents died my sister, Penny, discovered two poems my mother wrote which none of us had ever seen: one on the birth and one on the death. Below is the one she wrote on the birth of her first child. The other, which is just as touching I will not publish here.
(Click to enlage)
My mother had a talent for writing poetry. She wrote lots of dogril to celebrate family and friends at eventful times. If she were alive now I would not have been surprised to have her show up at the family reunion with a poem in which every person was included and named. Did I mention, she also loved to perform and often enlivened a party.
I am not the only sentimental one in the family. My grandchildren took some delight in presenting the plaque below to my sister, their aunt. It seemed amasingly approriate for the occasion. I am sure their mother Sandra was instumental in helping them find it.
I was quick to point out to Penny she was the Matriarch of the family, at which she winced: but was very pleased with the gift. Since I am the only one with grandchildren, Penny and David, have sort of come to share mine: attention the grandchildren enjoy, I am sure.
And, here she is, the Matriarch herself, giving that ernest look as only an "Oh so First Child" can give. (We spend some time at the reunion reflecting on the personality traits encouraged my birth order in the family). The idea always has fascinated me and the typology sees to fit our family.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Happy Fourth of July
To our American cousins. . . .All the best on the Fourth of July!
I like to think it is the day to celebrate all that is best about the US. In spite of recent history, there is still much to admire in the Great Republic. We have faith that the future will bring change and a reaffirmation of the great notions of Statehood and Statecraft that can be a model for others.
Canada will always try to be a good neighbour. On this day, I like to remember great events of friendship between our countries, more importantly between among individuals. . . . . . . between friend/entre amis.
I think of the response of the people of Boston to the great Halifax disaster. The people of that city just loaded up a train with medical and manpower resources and came to Halifax. Similarly, in the wake of the 9/11 disaster, Canada accomadated US bound aircraft and took care of the passengers. Individual familes took strangers into their homes as if they were long lost relatives. It seems we are at our best in emergencies and person to person help. I am sure there will be such occasions in the years to come and our two peoples will rise to the occasions.
Click on the dove poster in the sidebar for an American salute.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Some Photos of the Robinson Family Reunion 2007
My mother and father, Bessie and Harold Robinson, has four children. My eldest sister, died at a month old from SIDS. I had an older sister, Penny and a younger brother, Richard with whom I grew up. So we are a small family. We had a gathering of 20 people, (no 700 plus as showed up at my daughter- in- laws French Canadian family.
This is my sister, Penny Mc Arthur and her clan. Robert, Calli, (Robert's wife), Donald, Penny, Elizabeth, Scott and David (the Dad) .
Michelle, (Scott's wife) had another family occasion on her side of the family to attend so we wished her well on meeting that obligation and missed her being with us.
This is my brother Richard's gang. Heather, Colin (Heather's beau for many years), Laura, Richard, Carol, (the Mom) and Andrea.
This is my group. This is my son, Parker's family, Olivia, Travis, Sandra (the Mom), Dylan and Parker. I am a little shy so I am not in this picture. Beside's someone had to take it.
I thought the three flags for Canada day was a nice touch. My brother and his family are naturalized Americans and my son Parker has dual citizenship, The rest of us are Canadians some of English/ Scottish and some of French ancestry.
The Australian flag is in recognition to the fact that Laura, my brother's eldest daughter, (the lawyer from North Carolina), will be moving to Australia to share her life with Dominic, her beau.
The reunion was a big success. The fact that they could get me there was a major accomplishment. I had a good time! I may post more about the well planned and run reunion which enriched us all.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
HAPPY CANADA DAY
I hope everyone is having a lovely Canada Day, 140 years young and still feelings our oats. We have done well but we all know how much better we could do if we commit ourselves to caring more for each other, our wonderful country of which we are the lucky stewarts and the World we share with others.
I am off in the big town, Toronto (pronounced "trawna" if you want to fit in as a native) sharing a rare family reunion. All is going well. I have behaved myself so far!
I will be home to hopefully share some Fouth of July moments with Veronica.