DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008 .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, February 27, 2008

I'm Back. . .I Think!

To those who send me comments on my previous post and offered sympathy for my persistent illness, Thanks! I appreciate it. Some even went so far as to write me an e-mail, which was unexpected and unnecessary but very touching.

I am not a big user of the National Health Plan. I avoid doctors and take no pills. So far I am reasonably healthy in spite of the aches and pains that seem to go with age. The last time I spent time in a hospital I was 5 years old with polio. If my illness persisted much longer I might have taken the advice of several people and sought out a doctor.

I woke up this morning feeling quite a bit better. My low grade fever seems to have gone as has my hacking cough. I suspect I had a touch of pneumonia. My sore back has improved enough so that I can put my socks on with relative ease and no pain.

Now if it will only can warm up. Last night with the wind it felt like -35C. This temperature keeps me busy keeping the two stoves in the house fed with wood and the one in the shed going. I put the cows in last night and kept them in part of today to help keep the shed warm. For those who have not spent time around cows they give off a lot of heat. This should be the last of the bitter cold weather.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some friends have asked me about my opinion of the American selection process for candidates for the election for President.

The process goes on far too long and has become corrupted by money. This seems to be the American way. Setting this aside. . .

If I had a vote I would have voted for Denis Kucinich. He was the only progressive liberal among the candidates. What clinched it for me was the fact that he still lives in the modest home , in a working class neighbourhood, he bought for $21,000 years ago. He is not one of the multimillionaire politician that seen to find ways to make their fortune in and around politics.

Sadly, he is no longer in the running .

I also admire Ron Paul for his consistent political views which are classic conservativism. He may very well be the only conservative in the race with his 19th Century Conservative Liberal views, often identified as a Libertarian.

I could never vote for him for his view ignores a 100 years or more of progressive political views that see government as being a positive force to help people.

Of those left in the running I could only vote for a Democrat. The Democrats should be able to run a goat and beat the Republicans this time round. John McCain seem to be the aged sacrificial goat selected. He offers nothing more than a continuation of the program of George Bush, militarism and tax reduction as the solution to all problems. In the balance between security and liberty always err in favour of security. He seems to be an honourable man but lacks any new vision for the future.

This leaves Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton began her campaign for the Presidency with the idea that it was her destiny to become President. She put in her time through her husband's presidency and waited out the Bush presidency learning her political craft as a Senator. Who could deny the fact that it was the time for a woman as President.

Well it hasn't worked out. She amassed her supporters early but reached a point where she seemed to have little room to grow her support. She ended up running against Barack Obama rather the for vision of hers.

Barack Obama from the beginning appeared to be a young fresh face after eight years of the dismal Bush years not only with the war crimes, fear mongering and attacks on the Consitution and the values it was meant to protect but also political scandals largely among the Republicans.

He developed a vision of a different America which offered hope and change. He has caught the imagination of a new generation for which race is no longer a factor. It seems to be his destiny to become the next President of the United States. The next few weeks will tell the tale.


With regard to the idiot radio talk show host, Bill Cunningham, who wanted to make some critical point out of Barack Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, he seems to have wanted to say he is not a "real" American, possibly even a subversive, possibly a Muslim terrorist in Democratic disguise. In any case it was a racist remark. To his credit, John McCain disassociated himself from these slanderous views.

I draw you attention to Dr Juan Cole's views on this issue. in his February 27 blog entry. He goes to great length to inform us of all the Semitic names of people in American history. He argues that Barack Hussein Osama is very much an American name. The article is well worth reading and shows us how much more rich our understanding can be if we know more than one language.

It turns out the Barack means "blessed one" and Hussein means, "good one" he is therefore the blessed good one. Let us hope so.!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No I Didn't Die!

. . . . . . . . I just wish I had! I feel so ill it is hard for me to focus on writing a blog entry.I think I may be on the mend, hence this brief entry. My cold is gone but it left a hacking cough behind. I also am exhausted between chores after only moderate exertion. As a result I can often be found in bed. Much like Gage, who likes to join me and hogs the pillow. . . . .taking advantage of a sick man.

As I look about the room, we are not alone. One of the cats has taken over the desk.

Another two have found a good place for a nest in my drawer in the bureau.

Even after I drag myself out of bed, Gage likes to stay behind and rest. He only get up when he hears me pulling on my boots and coat to make a trip to the shed to check on the animals. He seems to like to play with the piglets,. . . . they are less sure.I did have a nice moment on Saturday. My so brought the grandchildren out to share a cake with me for my birthday. There short visit tired me so I weas back in bed as soon as they left.Hopefully, whatever I have will pass soon. I hope no one else is suffering.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Coal Energy

One of the startling things I have noticed on American TV, which I have been able to view this past year, are advertisements for coal. They make it sound like coal is the energy source of the future: cheap, clean, environmentally safe. Common sense tells one this is all lies. Coal is dirty, expensive if you factor in the cost of the damage it does to the environment and its extraction and air pollution is doing permanent damage to our invironment.

I tried to look into the place of coal as an energy source. It is widely used in the United States, producing more than 50 % of their electricity. I know it is not clean for in Ontario we get a lot of air pollution from south of the border from the coal fired electric plants along the Ohio Valley.

What I was not very aware of is the coal mining in Appalachia. I had know of the mining of coal by hard working coal miners going into the the mines. Well, this is coal mining from the movies.

Coal mining in the present day is strip mining. Mountain tops all over Appalachia are being blown up so that coal can be strip mined. Mountains are destroyed in a way that they can never be restored.

Here are some interesting statisitcs.

Watch the video below on Mountain Top Removal Strip Coal Mining.

It is a sad destruction of a wonderful landscape and ecology which can never be restored.

The Bush Administration has encouraged coal mining in this destructive fashion.

The last time I heard an advertisement in Canada for coal was on some old radio tapes I have for the radio show, The Shadow. The ads are as interesting as vintage radio as the programs are.

I grew up with coal. Our house was heated with coal. I think we were the last people in the neighbourhood to have a coal furnace, a great monster that took up most of the basement. We had a coal bin that held a couple of tons of coal. I have vivid memories of the coal man delivering it in 100 pound bags he dumped down the chute. Coal definitely was not clean. The coal man was the only door to door tradesman my mother didn't invite in for tea. He was filthy dirty with coal dust. I remember my mother sifting the ashes to recover any unburned coal before the ashes were dumped. (Thriftiness learned in the Depression) She must have seen the coal furnace as another child that needed to be tended to in such a way that it didn't kill us with coal fumes. She certainly worked hard to keep the house clean in the face of coal and ash dust.

Our nieghbour was an executive with the Canada Coal Company. He was the source of coal oil every time our neighbourhood had a block party. It was used to start the pile of brush in the middle of the street. My father, locally know as "fire-bug Robinson" (He never was happier than when he had a little fire of sticks and leaves buring in a ditch. Once he set the forest on fire around our house, hence the nickname) was the only one who dared to set a match to this explosive coal oil to get the celebration underway.

As I teenage. I worked one summer in the family electrical business at the building site of the Lakeview Generating Station on the shore of Lake Ontario. It was a coal fired electric generating station. We were sub-contractors to sub contractors to sub contractors on this large project. We ran the electrical grounding to the caissons than were the base to the pier that held the piles of coal shipped in from Northern Michigan. We also disconnected and reconnected 100 welding machines as the building went up.

The government of Ontario has commited itself to discontinuing the coal fired generating stations in Ontario. In spite of years of effort and modification to make them "clean", they continued to be a source of pollution. Coal could not be made environmentally safe. I believe there are 7 unit. The original commitment was for them to be gone by 2009. Now it seems they are fudging and it may be 2014 before they are gone. None too soon.

The Lakeview Generating Station was the first to go. Below are pictures of the destruction of the "four sisters", the smoke stacks. Not long after, the building was demolished.

To view this on you tube YouTube - Four Sisters go to Sleep

And the demonition of the Generating Station YouTube - Demolition of Lakeview Generating Station

I hope Nanticoke Generating Station down on Lake Erie is the next to go. It is the largest coal fired generating station in North America and the biggest polluter in Canada.

Ontario has a plan to make up for the loss of these coal fired plants. It is a combination of decreased electrical useage and the introduction of clean alternative sources of energy. One can only hope it is a big success.

Our American cousins have a problem with such a large dependency of coal. One can only hope they can perfect "clean" coal. Their pollution is not only their problem but one for us in Eastern Canada and of course for the World in the face of global warming.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Miscellaneous Photos

(click on photos to enlarge)

At the Porcine Dairy Bar

A tit for everyone and everyone on a tit: two rows, no waiting.

Snow on a rail at midnight

After a day long snow fall.

Needle of Ice

The Good Old Days
"When hard work brought results!"
I cannot tell a lie. . . . . this is a doctored photo.
I found this photo on a vintage postcard as part of a site that tells the history of our area illustrated with post cards.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

It had been my intention of writing something for this day about the remarkable woman I have been privileged toromantically love in my life. Discomfort from being ill has made it difficult for me to focus well enough to put my ideas together. So this idea will incubate longer to perhaps emerge at another time.

In short, the women of my life have all been strong independent women who I always respected and continue to do so. Virtually all of them continue to hold a special place in my memory, a couple even occasionally live in my real life. I continue to love them and what we shared. I am never tempted to speak ill of them. I don't know if that says much of them or much about me. . . . perhaps, both. Only with one women did I ever end the relationship, not because of her but how she and her former husband treated their children.

The risk of loving independent women is that they never really ever need you. You cannot possess them. So they seem to have all outgrown me and moved on. One learns to cherish what we had and to celebrate what they went on to accomplish. I learned to absorb the pain of the loss of their presence in my life and the little bit of my soul torn away with each departure.

There is no love in my life these days. It would be nice if there was but I am content to live off my memories for now.

One news story refreshed my Valentine's Day. Perhaps, you saw it. It is about Gorilla love in the wild rarely witness in a face to face position. It left me smiling. Read for yourself.,8599,1713215,00.html

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Piglets and More Piglets

Some people have asked me about my piglets. They are two weeks old. (Below are some photos I took on my last trip to the shed to put wood in the stove.)

The weather here has turned cold for a few days. It was -35C on the back porch this morning. It is to warm up to -15C today . It is clear, cold and crip out, really quite nice as it is very still with no wind.

Lying in bed this morning with my dog, Gage, sharing the pillow, I hear on the radio that a bunch of fellas are trying to set the world record for the longest continuous hockey game, during these deep cold nights. They are having a wonderful time, although some have been treated for frostbite. Then, they announced a big pond hockey tounrament getting underway. I don't know how many teams are involved but these are played on natural pond ice cleared off so that there are several ice hockey rink size sheets of ice. Believe me, a geat time will be had by all. Finally, they announced that up at the tri -town area they are having a golf tournament on the ice of the lake. (Golfers are a crazy lot) They have laid out a nine hole golf course and are using tennis balls instead of golf balls. Teams will compete and they will raise funds for a local charity. For those who live in warming climate this may all seem like insanity. Well it is. . . . . . but it is better than cabin fever and depression. To enjoy the North one has to celebrate the Winter weather by playing it it.

Feeling guilty for laying in until 7:00AM, I got up, for there are three wood fire boxes that need tending and animals to feed. Lucky, I am a cheerful riser, and have my most energy in the morning.

If life takes a lull, I can always go watch the piglets for amusement.

A pig pile, the best way to keep warm

They are beginning to wander. Some even got out of the pen and got Gage really excited!

Sharing the warmth under the heat light can be fun, too

But still, the family that sleeps together. . . . . .

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Black History Month

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Dresden Ontario

Henson was the fugative slave upon which Uncle Tom was modelled

I couldn't let Black History Month pass without some comment. When I lived in the US. I was very involved in the Black community (I lived in the black neighbourhoods in Boston and New Haven over 10 years.) and their struggle and history. So much so, I was once interview for a church job and from my resume they assumed I was Black.

Few Americans seem to be aware of the history of Blacks in Canada. I heard Oprah express surprise when she learned that their were Black Nova Scotians. ( I hope she was just feigning ignorance for effect, if not; shame on her.)

From the beginning, there have been Blacks, even some in slavery, in Canada. Through the decades,there have been waves of immigration from the US, the Caribbean, Haiti, and Africa. Our mix of black population writes a different historical story to the Americans. In the US, the history of slavery taints all of the American Black experience. In Canada, there are other significant threads woven in the fabric of our Society.The Underground Railroad and fugative slaves coming to Canada has had its own powerful history here. At the time, when Fugative Slave Laws saw escaping slaves hunted down in the US and returned to their masters ,Canada was a land of refuge with laws that protected Blacks rights as full citizens, owning property, having families, going to school and voting in elections. In the 1790's Lord Simcoe had made it illegal to bring slaves into Upper Canada (Ontario). Later in 1834, slavery was abolished in Canada. So prior to the American civil war, Canada was a shinning beacon of hope for fugative slaves. For a short time, they were a growing immigrant population. After the civil war many returned to the US to locate friends and relatives and participate in Reconstruction, a tribute to the pull of home and country. This was Canada's loss and Americans gain for many of these former slaves and their children, returned with significant educations and skills learned in their generational stay in Canada.

In the 1960's I read a book about one remarkable story of a black settlement in Canada, the Elgin Settlement. (Not to be confused with the settlement the Henson's were on) The book, "Look to the North Star" tells the story of a white Presbyterian Minister who inherited slaves from his wife, freed them and brought them to Canada, where the Free Presbyterian Church supported the creation of the 9ooo acre Elgin Settlement.

click on picture to enlarge

The Elgin Settlement demonstrated that away from slavery Blacks could thrive and succeed.

I used to tell my American friends that this community was a model of Black Power ( in those days Black Power was debated in the US). It was a temporarily segregated community such that the residents could not sell their land to whites for at least 10 years. If it had been the model for reconstruction the racial and social tension in US history would have been much less.In the Elgin Settlement the influence of Scottish Presbyerianism shaped it. It was stricked, hard working, disciplined and sober. Families were granted land and had to work it hard. There were rules. For example, the house had to be close to the road with a porch across the front and a picket fence in front. (I imagine they looked much like the Uncle Tom's Cabin House in the picture above. There were awards for the best looking homestead.The school started by this community had a remarkable success. It was the first integrated school in Canada when local whites shut down their school and sent their children to the better Eglin school. The first six graduate of this school , former slaves, went on to higher education and made significant contributions in Canada and the US. At one time, this school of the children of former slaves even taught Greek as a subject. (Should this not be a lesson to all those who set low achievement standards for disadvantaged black youth.)The Elgin settlement grew and prospered in agriculture. It also started some industries, sawmill and brick works.

With the outbreak of the Civil War and the formation of a Black Regiment in Michigan 70 men from the Elgin Settlement went and signed up to fight for the North and the end of slavery. the end of the Civil War, many returned to the US. One became as legislator in Alabama and two Canadian trained doctors, started the Freedmen Hospitals in Washington and Chicago.It is a wonderful history to read about. If you read nothing else during Black History Month, read the story of the Elgin Settlement. I was so fascinated that I once went to North Buxton to visit the remnant community of this historic community.!

There are other significant Black immigrants who have come to Canada, most notibly from the Caribbean. If you want a good time come to Toronto during the Caribana Festival.

With Canada having a French official language our country is connected to f French speaking countries around the world, particularly in Africa and the Caribbean. Canada has large populations from these countries also, particularly Haiti, from where our Governor General Michaelle Jean came. (The Governor Genreral is the Queen's stand is, She is the Ceremonial head of the government and the commander-in-chief of the military)

Canada has welcomed the contributions of all the Black immigrants to the multicultural mix that is our culture.

For links to 400 sites on the history of blacks in Canada visit this Canadian government website. Read on! It is an interesting history.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pain Continues

For those who might care to know my back pain continues. I also have acquired a cold thanks to June for bringing it into the house. It has generally been a miserable week, too painful to blog.
I am now feeling a little better.

I got a call from my friend Denis to pick him up at the bus station in Sudbury at 8:45 AM Saturday. He was coming home from his drilling job at the Hemlo Goldfield north of Lake Superior.

I managed to muster enough energy to recover him and drive the 1 1/2 hours to Sudbury to meet him. He had a bus trip of 10 hours overnight. As is his way, he was drunk when he got on and slept throught the whole trip.

Ontario is certainly a vast province.

He left the job at Hemlo because it was not going will. The drill had a gas engine and at -40C gas engines don't work. it was taking them twice as long to do the small job, which means for him lots of down time and no bonus payment for production.

He is going to a job a Chibougamau, Quebec.

Denis was home for a day. Long enough to do his laundry, visit some friends, get drunk, get his tractor stuck twice.

This morning I drove him to Sturgeon Falls to meet his ride at 7:00 AM it has been snowing for a day and a night. The road were plowed. I heard the plow pass in front of my place at 5:30 AM . (Nice of them to send the plow to plow me out.!) I drove the 26 miles to Sturgeon Falls and back without seeing another vehicle going in either direction. This always amazes me: at certain times of the day there is not traffic. The roads are well plowed and travel is easy I always drive in the middle of the road so that if I do spin out I have lots of room before the snowbank catches me.
As it worked out it was an unevenful trip.

Chibougamau is a Northern town on the edge of Parc LaVerendre, a magnificent wilderness park. it is about 650 miles from here so Denis has another long trip today ; 14 or 15 hours.

My friend Denis. On our trip home from Sudbury we heard on the radio the Canadians lead the industrialized world in pot smoking. Apparently, we toke up four time more than other countries. Could this expain why Canada produces so many Comediens for the American market. We are a funny people. We are more laid back than our American neighbours. We have a more accepting "live and let live" attitude than our American cousins which is ironic when you know the Americans are great believers in individualism.

If I wasn't so opposed to injesting pollutants myself, I might have toked up to ease my back pain. Denis who has chronic pain from an industrial accident is a regular toker (That is his story and he sticks to it.)

Here is a good looking hydroponically grown pot plant.

Drying some good looking bud.
Pot cultivation is a cottage industry across our fair country. It must drive the American drug Czar crazy. Wait until the Liberal Party comes to power and fulfills it pedge t0 decriminalize marijuana!
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Monday, February 04, 2008

Life is a Pain

I am in pain!!!!!! The only good thing you can say about lower back pain is that it reassures you that you are still alive. . . . . . .you only wish you were dead.

It seems I am not alone in suffering from back pain. Just google images on Google! There are endless depictions of back pain and cures for back pain and care of the back etc.

I know and understand my back pain. I have lived with it since my teenage years. I have visited the doctor and the hospital and seen the X rays years ago. No need to now. It is just time to tough it out. I know it is bad when I give in and take pills for pain. (I generally refuse to join the pill taking crowd). When a double dose of aspirin offered no relief this time, I got something stronger from June which decreased the pain by half. All I can think of is the Bill Cosby standup routine he used to do about being an man an go to the drugstore for some Mydol. (I used to find this terribly funny) I might be tempted to try it if I knew someone who used it. At my age you have no female friends young enough that they would use Mydol.

I have had all the advice of how to care for my back . As much as I have spent a lot of my life doing heavy work, (out of choice) and enjoying it, I have managed to protect my back with careful lifting technique.

There was a time I could swing my 70 pound canoe onto my shoulders while wearing a 50 pound packsack and carry both across a fairly long portage. (The longest was 3 km which is another story and a unique kind of self inflicted pain.)

My current back pain seemed to have flaired up without cause. Friday night, I did take a tumble on the ice on one of my mid-night treks to the shed. I fell in such a way I thought I dislocated my shoulder. That was painful and I thought I might just stay down and freeze to death rather than try to move. I mustered the courage and got up and made it to the house. It turned out something was torn in my upper left back and shoulder. I moved gingerly the next day and it largely went away. I don't think this fall triggered my lower back pain.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up with the kind of lower back pain, with which I am very familiar . I have one leg shorter than the other and this can cause a stress fracture in a bone in my back. (On the X ray the bone looks like a scotty dog and their is a crack in it's neck.) I learned all this when I was 17 and an orthopaedic surgeon diagnosed it. It apparently is just one of those things and not related to my suffering polio when I was 5 years old. I have learned to live with it. For many years, I wore special orthopaedic shoes that made the difference in my leg length more tolerable. I abandonned them years ago. Mainly careful lifting and proper rest when it occured managed the pain for me. So this pain in the back is just something with which I am occasionally inflicted.

It is very inconvenient to live with back pain the way I live. While I have two other people in the house , I am the only one able to do the more physical tasks. (keeping the three wood stoves supplied with wood, shovelling up manure after the cows, hauling feed bags, etc.) So I am moving in slow motion today. Unable to pull my own socks on (June did it or me before she went to town). I am managing although it is painful to stand, to lift, to sit, to lie down. . . . . . .TO LIVE!

In a day or two I should be better. In the mean time say a BOO HOO for me.