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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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Our Night Life

With the continuing cold, we, two old dogs, Gage and myself, are going to stay up tonight and keep the wood stove going in the shed to keep the new piglets warm.

(click on the pictures to enlarge)

Gage isn't as enthusiastic as I am.

Gage can take up most of the bed by lying the other way, too.

He is dreaming of warmer days. No doubt hoping I forget to go out in the cold. (do dogs sleep with their eyes open. Gage does.)

Well I didn't forget.

While Gage rests his weiry bones I diddled with my computer and watched some latenight TV out of the corner of my eye. After a couple of comedy shows and an entertainment "news" show the lovely ladies with the spectacular decolletage come on the TV.

Before these fair damsels reminded me of my "loneliness "and encourage me to call for a chat, I know it is time to shut off the TV and turn on the overnight radio broadcasts, Netherlands International first. ( my favourite)

At 2:30 AM, it is time to brave the cold and make the trek to the shed. Before midnight the temperature was -16 C with the wind still howling. In effect, it was -27 C factoring in the wind chill factor. But now, the wind had stopped and it is -18 C (0 F for those that were away the day they taught the conversion from one scale to the other)

It is a beautiful crisp cloudless night. Without the moon I am left the glories of the heavens for to enjoy. I always look of the constellations, Orion, and the Big Dipper so I can locate the North Star. For those who live where there is light pollution in the sky, you are missing one of Nature's great shows.

Somewhat reluctantly, Gage is with me bounding about running ahead to wait patiently at the door. I leave him outside as he get the sows excited.

All is well. Three cows sleeping, 22 rabbits quiet and two sow sleeping. Ruby's young are laying along side her to keep warm. Babe's brood have finally discovered the heat lamp and are in a pig pile under it, with Babe sleeping nearby.

This wont take long as I split a couple blocks of birch and load the stove. No one is aroused and I quickly retreat to the night.

As is his custom, Gage is waiting and demands one of my gloves to carry to the house. I give it up just to stop him from bounding up and down all around me. "Take it to the house!" Off he goes with me quickly following at a carefull shuffle over the ice in the yard.

It is good to be back in the warm house. I feed the kitchen wood cookstove and pour myself another coffee. I should just settle in in time to listen to the BBC International.

Gage is back in bed before I can even sit in my chair. He has finally laid in a place were there might be room for me. He gives me that look, "Well! are you going to get in. I left you a place." He even left me my pillow, which he also likes to use.
I finally do lay down and rest my eyes listening to Deutsche Welle, the German International radio broadcast.
. . . . . "Damn it is 5:30 AM. I must have dosed off. Gage is sleeping with his head on my shoulder. Bless his doggy heart.
I'm up! time to make another trip to the shed. This time Gage doesn't want to leave the warmth of the bed. I go alone.
All is well in the shed. All the piglets are fine . I load the woodstove.I give the sows some feed and each cow a little grain as a promise I will return when the morning breaks.
The all night vigil is worth it. I read the weather is going to warm a little. We, two old dogs, might get to sleep tonight.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Winter Storm

Yesterday, I wrote God was merciful bringing mild weather for the birth of my piglets. Well! He changed His mind. I guess my insincerity was detected. LOL

What ever the reason we got some dramatic weather today. We are having a blizzard. It is not particularly cold -8C but with the high winds we are getting it feel like -20C. We may get as much as 5 inches of snow. Last night it was freezing rain and rain that knocked down the snow on the ground which left me with ice on my walk to the shed to look after my sows and their piglets.

(click on photos to enlarge)

View from my back door

I an not sure the photo reveals how miserable it is outside. With high winds and blowing snow it is a brisk trip to the shed.

Here is another picture of Babe and her litter of 15. She is doing fine but Ruby continues to have trouble. She doesn't seem to be able to get her pen organized. I have had a couple of more of her piglets die. The piglets have not discovered the heat lamp corner yet. I hope this means they are not too cold yet.

If the temperature continue to drop keeping the shed warm will be a problem. If the wind stays up when the temperature drops to -14C tonight it will feel close to -30C. We are on the southern edge of this storm. Thank God for small mercies. Further north the temperature may drop as cold as -50C with the wind chill factored. I guess I will be up all night again keeping the stove in the shed going to fight the cold. It is like this sometimes here in the "Great White North".

Here is a summer view of my beloved Temagami River, which crosses my land. It is taken at the point where my water intake is, about 300 feet from the house. It is looking upstream. Just beyond view around the curve is the log cabin.

Oh! for the lazy hazy days of summer floating on the river.

(Sorry about the underlining. I don't know how to stop it. It started on its own just below this last picture. One of those mysteries when blogging.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Little Farm Family Has Grown

Last night, it happened. My two sows farrowed.

I went to check on them at 2:00 AM, as I have been doing for a couple of weeks. All was quiet, two sows sleeping. I went again at 5:00 AM and, BINGO!. . . . both sows had litters making an appearance.

This is Babe and her family. I count 15 in total. One I removed and have in the house. It was very tiny and not competing very well for a tit. For a first time gilt, Babe has done herself proud.
I expected 9 or 10 piglets for a first time.

Ruby had problems. The piglets were scattered around the pen and 4 were dead. Four others seemed cold and weak so I took them to the house to warm up and get some personal attention.
Six remained with Ruby for now. She had 14 all together with 10 survivors. This was Ruby's third litter and I expected her to do better. She seemed stressed.

I will be returning to her the four I removed. I will also transfer three of Babe's piglets to Ruby. The piglets will all do better without having to compete as much for a tit.(Or should I say "teat". My refined English grandmother always referred to teats rather than tits which allowed one to discuss such things in polite company)

It is always disappointing to lose piglets; but, four out of 29 is not too bad. As close as I watched them I still was not with them for the beginning of the births. Perhaps, i should hang a hammock, for me, in the shed next time.

Below are four of the five piglets I took to the house to get warmed up and fed. One I returned to Ruby already. The little one third from the left is the runt of Babe's litter I removed because it was having trouble competing for a place at the titty bar.

Here is a good sample of the piglets. The first one on the left is large. It is brown and white. The black one is representative of the seven black and white ones in Babe's litter although it is the only one of that colour in Ruby's litter. And, there are white ones in both litters. I have a good chance to have the 25 piglets survive. They are at risk of being hurt every time the sows get up and lie down again. They seem to be managing this fine so far. If they remain calm they usually show great care to avoid laying on their young.

The four below are being fussed over my my housemate, June, who tends to love little critters to death. (Some may remember the drama with my baby rabbits.) For now, she is warming them on her ample breasts and feeding them with a baby bottle. I think her husband, David, is enjoying them too. He grew up on a farm and seems to delight in the animals. I shall be taking the piglets from her as soon as I think they are strong enough to return to their mother. I expect she will angle for one as a pet. That is how she got Babe. But a 700 pound sow does not make a very cuddly pet! Pigs can be house trained. . . . . . . . . . . . . .soooo! NO!!!!!

I hope you enjoy the pictures of the piglets.

God is merciful! It turned out the temperature today is above freezing rather that below -30C as it was last week. It would have been so much harder with the temperature so cold.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It has been a Depressing Dry Spell

It has been a week since I last wrote a posting to my blog. I am not sure why I hit this dry spell. It began with a frustration on not finding the right things I wanted to say on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

It continued when my computer refused to load the Operating System. I had to threaten a trip to the tech guy before it mysteriously worked. I defraged it and it has behaved itself ever since.

I have been depressed. . .need i say more!

I have not been very communicative with anyone.

My sows have not farrowed yet and I am exhausted from trips to the barn in the cold in the middle of the night. Still, no piglets . . .but soon. I heard another sow which was at Club Porcine with my two sow gals had a litter and was not too happy about it. . . .she attacked her landlord! I have never been attacked by a sow. (Something to look forward to. Gee, years ago my lady friend, Gayle had to shove her arm up a sows birth canal to dislodge a wedged piglet. She lived to tell about it! )

So pick the excuse you like best.

Here is what I decided to say about Dr. King.

He looms very large in my life. One of my heros from a time in my life when I was seriously trying to shape my own thinking on matters of the World. I am not one who displays many icons around my house , not even many family photos. I did for years hang Dr King's picture in my house.

When I was attending Boston University Theological School, I even referenced a copy of his doctoral dissertation. Like many of my generation he offered us leadership and hope with a vision of a better world.

Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr.

I am not very comfortable with there being a national American holiday in memory of Dr. King. So many people have good things to say about him who would at an earlier time have been in the front ranks of those who opposed him and his ideas.

Nowadays, everyone seems to be comfortable with him a a civil rights leader, it seems so right and just now. What was all the fuss about! For many of us it was obviously right and just back then with the Jim Crow segregation being a blight on the United States, and racism beyond contempt. I remember how he and others were persecuted for stating the obvious truths then. By celebrating him now his message and his life is coopted by many who would have been ready to denounce him at a previous time.

If he were alive today he would be in the front lines of the struggle against war, militarism and social justice. He would be being denouced as a radical, a liberal, (which I always thought was praiseworthy) and no double a terrorist!. So for me to hear politicians who have not done anything to further his ideas and choose to bask in the glow of his honoured place among us for political reasons makes me angry and sad.

It seems civil rights is a safe and acceptable issue to honour him today. BUT, his thought moved beyond the civil rights issue. He was more profoundly radical in his thought than any present day politician would want to be associated.

This past week, I honoured Dr. King by going back and revisiting his written ideas. Here are some of them you wont hear adopted by todays politicians. . . .sadly so!

"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. ... There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward [Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!' but will curse and damn you when you say, 'Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!' There is something wrong with that press! ...

"I'm convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. ... When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. ... True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation."

A sermon on April 4, 1967 at Ebenezer Babtist Church, Atlanta

Can you imagine any present day American politician signing on to Dr. King's agenda for change. Not very likely! How different the World would be if Dr King's message had been heard and implemented.

I choose to avoid the public praise for Dr. King, as shallow faint praise and privately revisit his life, dream and vision of what could have transformed out World. Hopefully, these ideas will lie dormant until a worthy leader appears to lead us, once again.

Besides, anticipating upon becoming a midwife to two litters of pigs, I continue to frolic with my dog, Gage. I made the above collage to celebrate his life with me. As you can see he does a lot of sleeping. When outside he doesn't stand still long enough for me to get a good picture.

Hopefully, I will post more regularly for the next little while.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

-40C and Rising

If you love weather, where I live in the perfect place. It the temperate zone the changes in climate is a daily thing. I have a friend in Venezuela and when I see the BBC give the temperatures around the world every evening, Caracas is always the same 31C. They actually have two seasons there, wet and dry. The temparature from one to the other is only about five degrees. In effect, they have very little weather, there is little change from one day to the next. For some, besides the 14 cents a gallon gasoline, the warm temperatures of Venezuela make it the place to live.

I like our four equal seasons and the fact within every season there can be big changes in the elements, which is what weather is. A couple of weeks ago we had Winter rain for several days which largely melted our foot of snow on the ground. We have since has several small snowfalls which helped to restore our snow cover.

Last night, the temperature on my back porch reached -40C (the point both scales are the same) .When I went down to the shed at 3:30 AM to check on the animals and put some more wood in the stove.; it was exquisite out: cold, crisp, windless, snow crunching under my feet, a clear sky with a full moon. (With the light from the moon and the pure white snow one needed no artificial light to find one's way.

As the morning broke and I watched throughout the morning, I noticed the changes in the light.

As the light increased and the temperature began to rise it was blue light and a cloud of ice crystal fog formed over the river, at the back of the field, to the North .

As the temperature rose the colour became grey and the ice fog began to move across the field toward the house.

The sky above the fog cleared to contrast the grey with blue.

In the short time I was in the shed looking in on the animals the fog cleared completely away leaving a bright clear blue sky with the temperature reaching -22C. A spectacular day to be outside enjoying some activity, ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling. ice skating. I played a little with Gage as he romped and played with his new toy, my left hand glove, now with its thumb chewed out. He seems to want to walk everywhere with it.

Tonight will be another clear and cold night illuminated by the moon. Just before dinner I put the cows in the shed and the temperature was dropping. it had reached -32C and I expect it will reach -40C again. I shall listen for the creaking of the porch lumber as it expands and contracts.

I don't expect to hear the nails in the house pop. That happens at -45C. When one lives alone close to the elements every sound become familiar and talks to you.

With the house warm : the stoves giving good heat, a steamy coffee, my comforter (and dog) and some intelligent radio to listen to, I am set for the night. Good night, all/ Bonne nuit, tous!Posted by Picasa

365 Days Left

In one year, the United States should be free of the War (criminal) President, George W. Bush. Historians, usually cautious in their historical judgements have already decared him America's worst president. Few would challenge this as he has done the World great damage and, sadly for all who once admired the United States, and hope to do so again some day, he has done his beloved country and its people, great harm, which will take a generation to undo, if ever.

It is a day for hope. Hope ,that out of a not too admirable group of people who seek the office of the Presidency, the challenge will polish a gem of a Leader.

My more modest hope is that we all survive the last year of GWB without him starting another war,-- with Iran, which still hangs over all the World as a possibility.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Refreshing Snow

Last night we had a snow storm. It was only about 4 to 6 inches but with the high wind and the snow blowing around it was enought to have them pull the school buses off the road. The temperature is quite mild at -6C so it became very pleasant after the wind died down. We are waiting for the cold to set in . By tomorrow it may be as cold as -25 C again. We are enjoying the same Arctic high that brought snow to Alabama and Florida as well as the US Atlantic coast.

I love the way the wind sculps the surface of the snow. After the recwent melt down of the foot of snow on the ground it is nice to have some refreshing snow to begin to replace it.

It looks nice looking across the back forty. The hills on the other side of the river are granite rock outcropings of the Canadian Shield. It is the edge of the valley. Farmland here is bottom land along the river. Under the soil is gravel: lots and lots of gravel. It was laid down when the river was much bigger and wider.

My dog Gage grabbed my gloves when I took them off to use the camera. He loves to play with them. Someone must have played a glove game with him so he acquired a glove fetish. I would like to correct this behaviour, but, so far the best I can do to prevent him from jumping after mine and risking having him knock me over, is give him his own glove to play with or let him carry mine in his mouth on the way back to the house.

We have been going back and forth frequently the last few days. I have been expecting my sows to farrow at any time soon so I make a trip to the shed every three hours, day and night, to check on them and keep the stove in the shed going. I want to be there when the piglets arrive. I have a hair dryer and heat lamps to warm the little porkers.

A trip to the shed at 3AM is sometimes daunting but I worry about my gals, and wouldn't be able to sleep anyway: I dress up and trudge out in the snow and cold. I never regret it for on a clear night the heavens make it all worth while and with a full moon the landscape in exquisite.
Beside! It is so nice to crawl back under the comforter in the bed upon returning after being refreshingly cooled.

With the snowstorm and the wind every trip to the shed I had to break the trail again, as the previous one had filled in.

Gage doesn't give up my glove easily. I will reach for it and he will leap away as it is a game he like to play.
Within a week I could have as many as 25 new additions to my barnyard family: piglets all. Stay tuned!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Not Exciting. . . . . . But Life Around Here

Here are few photo of Life around here.

(click on picture to enlarge)

This is an early morning shot of the school bus backed into a ditch. What was she thinking!

The students next door are the first to get on the bus. We had a few inches of snow overnight and the plow had not been along yet. The bus driver must have thought she could shorten her trip by pulling into the neighbour's yard and back out to return down the road. Bad choice! It is against the rules. The bus is not supposed to go on private property. The driver is supposed to go by my place and back into the lane down to the river at the other side of my property. She then comes back and picks up the students where they do not have to cross the road to get on the bus. Luckily, the bus could sit there for an hour and a half without another vehicle coming along.

I imagine the driver had a conversation with the boss when she got back to the yard.

My friend Denis headed out for his drilling job, again. I get to collect up his empties. Here are some I have set out on the porch.

Last week, Denis left for three weeks and ended up coming back when they found a problem with the drill when they were getting it ready to ship out of the yard in Timmins. So he is off again for Timmins. I thought originally the job would be drilling near Timmins in the gold camp but as it turned out they are off to Marathon, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, which is the site of some big gold mining properties. With gold worth over $900 an ounce, ( thanks to the faultering US dollar and the coming recession), there is a big interest in gold exploration. In Northern Ontario, base metals are bringing prosperity to some while the depressed lumbering business is inflicting hardship on others. Such is a cyclical resourced base economy.

Denis left me his tractor to use while he is away. he bought this and a four wheeler with the money he didn't spend on beer. Denis lost his driver's license years ago so he will be able to drive his tractor around. Tractors are not licensed to go on the road. If you put a slow moving vehicle sign on the back anyone over 12 can drive it on the road , driver's license or no driver's license. Somethings in life are not rational!

Meanwhile, Gage, the gentle giant, has taken to licking up a couple of the cats. They
seem to like it. I just hope doesn't decide it would be fun to lick me. I have my limits!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Pal Gage

My new dog, Gage, continues to meet all my expectations as a great dog. He is the first " biggish" kind of dog I have ever had. He came with his own bed I put down on the floor as the foot of mine, BUT. . .

He soon decided he liked my double bed. We now share!

Gage even like to use a pillow. See the foot space along his back. That is where I am allowed to sleep. With his long legs he has a way of taking up most of the bed. His legs fold up more like a young horse than a dog.

Once we divided up the space, 3/4 for him. 1/4 for me, he is very confortable to sleep with. He sleeps through the night, which I don't, and he moves little. I sometimes have to switch sides of the bed when he stretches out a little when I get up in the night.

For an afternoon nap Gage oftens has his pet cat join him.

With his long legs he can sit on the chesterfield with his front feet on the floor, although he seem to prefer curled up with his head in your lap. Now who can refuse him then.

When ever I am at my computer he rests and watches me. It seems we have bonded! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simone de Beauvoir 1908-1986

It was 100 hundred years ago that the philosopher/writer. Simone de Beauvoir was born.

There was a time in my life when I was very interested in her and her ideas. I shared her interests in atheism, socialism, marxism, ethics, French existentialism, Jean Paul Satre, and Hegalianism. She was a remarkable woman with a wondeful mind.

Most people would know her best for her book, The Second Sex, She is considered the mother of feminism. With her intellectual threads of interests, I mentioned above, she gave a profound understanding of the position of women in society and suggested a way to move foreward so that men and women might equally take their place in Society.

Her existentialist clarion call, "Women are not born but made" , (Essence does not come before existence) ,lead women in their feminist effort to demand and create for themselves a prominent and equal place in Society.

I have spent part of the day reading some more about Madame de Beauvoir and her thought. She is an example of another person from a borgeois background to lead a radical and revolutionary social movement of ideas. (The poor and the downtrodden seldom lead in their own cause. This fact has always fascinated me.)

Here is a brief broadcast on Deutsche Welle radio on Simon de Beauvoir:

Multimedia - DW-WORLD.DE

There probably is now a generation of young women who have not read her contributions to feminism and yet they are enjoying the fruits of her intellectual ground work. Since her death she has been recognized as a philosopher and not just writer/essayest of ideas she gleaned from Sartre with whom she shared a lifelong relationship. (A fascinating story in itself.) It may be time for a new generation to rediscover her.

Here are some websites in which you can read more about Simone de Beauvoir and her ideas.

Simone de Beauvoir (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Beauvoir, Simone de [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Days of Rain and Fog

The last four days we have had a warm spell. Ladt week the temperature dropped to -38 C while this week it has risen to as high as 9 C. We have been suffering from rain and fog. The foot of snow we had on the ground has largely disappeared.

In the fog, my cow decided to take a walk up the road. I search for them for a while until they appeared as gohostly figures coming out of the fog. They are quite tame and come when I call so getting them back to the yard was easy. They knew their would be a treat of cracked corn upon their arrival.

My dog, Gage, is loving the warmer weather. he wants to spend more time outside bounding about. As the snow melted his lost ball appeared so we could play a little catch and fetch.

I let the two sows out to enjoy the warmer weather. They cleaned themselves up in the snow and hay. I got a chance to go in and clean out their pens. They are getting close to farrowing, delivering litters. It is too bad they did not do it in this warm spell. No doubt we will be in the deep freeze when they do, making my job much more difficult.

This is the road in front of my house two days ago. It is bare now.

I have been recalling the "ice storm of the century " we suffered ten years ago this week.
Over five or six days of ice storms, Eastern Ontario, South Western Quebec and part of North Eastern US was overwelmed by ice which ruined the hydro electric network, destroyed countless trees and brought people's lives to a halt. I wonder how close we have come during these days of rain of having a repeat of the ice storm?

Here is a map of the area affected by the ice storm. ( Click on it to enlarge it.)

We were reminded how vulnerable we are to nature's wrath, partucularly in our urban areas dependent of infrastructure for heat, light, transportation and food.

Two of Canada's major cities, Ottawa and Montreal , were bought to their knees. In the depth of Winter they went without electricity and heat for several weeks., while the electrical grid was rebuilt.

This is a picture of a Montral street, during the clean up.

For those you might like to revisit this event here are a few sites.

The Ice Storm of 1998 - Disasters and Tragedies - CBC Archives Here is the source of CBC broadcasts about the storm.

Here is some reflections by Lucien Bouchard, the Premier of Quebec, leader of a separtist government, at the time. It must have given him pause to ask Canada to send in the military to aid the people of his province. The Canadian Press: Former Que. premier Bouchard recalls 1998 ice storm had it

A few pictures

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Toronto: An Civilized City

Toronto is the Canadian city that I know best. I grew up near it and saw it develop from a stuffy British puritanical city to the vibrant, multicultural , culturally rich and progressive city it is today. I have always liked the best that Toronto has to offer. When I was young their were few cultural venues to enjoy. I used to go to the Crest theatre, one of the few professional theatre companies at the time. Other than that there was Maple Leaf Gardens for hockey, wrestling, and concerts , or so it seemed to me. I do know, you could do nothing on a Sunday, as the city was locked down. Now there is a multitude of cultural institutions , as well as venues for opera, ballet and large theatre productions.

I will not sing Toronto's praise but I encourage you to read this article by an American visitor that is embarassingly glowing, although quite accurate. Toronto as a city reflects in it's lifestyle many Canadian values including multiculturalism and civility. The author of this piece obviously has in her mind the contrast with the US cultural values and its cities .

Enough said. For those who do not know Toronto or Canada well you would finds this article informative.

Toronto is not the best city in Canada. It is in fact the city the rest of Canada loved to hate. Vancouver usually ranks among the best cities in the World. Montreal is also a liveable, culturally rich and vibrant city. If I were looking for a Canadian city to live in it would be Ottawa, our National Capital which is smaller with the wonderful country side close at hand. It is not only the center of government but is disproportionately culturally rich with may of our National cultural institutions there. If I were fluent in French , I think Quebec city with it old world French charm (celebrating 400 years of settlement this year.) would be a lovely place to live. There are others, Halifax, Calagary Edmonton and Victoria. (Sorry if I left your city out). They all share Canadian values of civility based on the Canadian historic commitment to "peace, order and good government."

(click on photo to enlarge)

Here is Toronto's skyline with it's phallic CN Tower and the womb like sports venue next door, which on a summer day slowly opens its roof to everone's pleasure . These are very visible symbols fo Toronto's vitality. If you click on the photo and enlarge it your will see a low building with a half round green copper roof, in front of the black towers in the middle. This is the grand old hotel, The Royal York, when I was young it was still the tallest building in the British Empire. Most of the tall buildings in behind are bank buildings and other financial institutions. How time has moved on.

One of the nicest things about Toronto is life on the Harbour. The Toronto Islands are a pleasant refuge from the hubbub of the city, easily accessible by a short ferry ride. It is Toronto's playground, site of many cultural summer events, and places for everyone from a nude beach to sailing clubs to the family small scale amusement park, Centreville.

If I were considering urban life it would be to live in the heart of a city where you would not need an automobile and could easily access the culturally rich offerings of city life on good public transit. Toronto is such a city.

I offer a couple of more web sites I found interesting which you might enjoy. This is a portal site to literature that has used Toronto as part of its story line. What an interesting was to get to know a city: how it was preceived by writer with both its warts and glories over the years. This is a photographic site which has a series of photographs of Torontonians describing what they like about living in their city.

I hope you linger long on the hyperlinked sites in this piece and get to know Toronto and Canada a little better.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Awe Winter!

Post Christmas and New Year's has seen Winter settle in. We have had some nice snow falls and above normal temperatures. Life has felt easy and we have done a lot of resting, which is my only excuse for not blogging more.

Here is my friend, Denis, (aka Bin Laden) between cases of beer. (He drinks enough beer for both of us and then some). As an abstainer, I am an easy designated driver. Denis is on R and R from his work as a driller on a mineral exploration site in Labrador. In a week, he will be off again to work in the North, perhaps, drilling for Kimberlite , (diamonds) for DeBeers. I envie his trips into the real north country but I don't envie working in the deep Winter cold, exposed to the elements. He like to work the night shift. It can be dangerous work. On his last job, the helicopter that ferried him daily to his drilling rig crashed and killed the pilot. Fortunately, Denis was on a short vacation in Halifax, which carries it's own hazhards for Denis.

(click on picture to enlarge)

Yesterday, the weather turned cold, sub -25C. Here is what Jack Frost left on my front door windows. It feels like sub -30C with a little wind. This morning my thermometer on the back porch read -38C, luckily it is clear and calm, no wind. You know it is cold because the snow sqeaks when you walk on it where it is packed down in the path.

The deepening temperatures means no more laying about. Life becomes a battle. The vehicles are plugged into their block heaters. Getting dresssed means hat, mitts, boots and the overcoat zipped up. Dressed right it is very comfortable, except when I had to repair an electrical cable bare handed. I develop a frosted beard from my breathe which makes me look like "papa smurf". This only begins when the teperature drops to -25C.

The biggest job is keeping the wood stoves going. I have three to tend, two in the house and one in the shed. Yesterday, I also had to go and start my neighbour's stove, as he is away visiting family in the Deep South, (Southern Ontario, that is.)

Oh! by the way my water froze again! I forgot to plug in the pump house heater. Damn! Being smarter than the average bear, I have jugs of water stored in the basement just for such occasions. So add lugging water to the chores. Keeps the heart rate up!

This is the snow piled along the road by the plow. My dog Gage managed to get his nose in the picture. He never is far away. I liked the white and shadows of this picture. it is looking west on the road so the sun is to the right. After another good snowfall the plow will cut the bank back about a foot off the ground which will leave a shelf of snow that will tempt snowmobilers to drive on it. It's real purpose is to make room for the next snowfall's offering to be plowed to the side. This way they keep the road plowed wide. Our snow covered roads are better than city streets in the Winter. And as a bonus the snow is stays nice and white.

My cats know how to get in the spirit of Winter. It started with one small kitten finding the top of the woodbox next to the cook stove as a good place to sleep away the cold weather. Then there were two. The word must have gotten out for now I have a pride of a plethora of pussies sharing the heat.
When I come back let it me as a cat!
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Big Brother is Watching!

Privacy International recently published it's latest report and the trend to have our "free" societies become "surveillence societies".

(click on map to enlarge)

Canada is doing a little better at resisting this tendency than the US and Britain but our Conservative Government and pressure from the US over security issues has seen our country losing ground in this area. Once lost, and we give into the pressure to have government and its agencies snoop on us it is never reversed.
I hate the idea of officialdom constantly watching as I go about my daily life. This is the one truly conservative tendency in my progressive views which usually welcome positive government intervention to better serve people. Ironically, it it conservative countries that give in to this activity of bureaucracies. I don't understand why people aren't screaming bloody murder about it.
Cameras on our streets are being installed everywhere at an alarming rate. I read recently in Britain the average citizen going about his business in an urban area can expect to appear on 300 cameras every day. The US is rapidly following suit as well as bypassing the laws which we proposed to protect one's privacy and rights. In the city of Tronto they are installing thousands of cameras on the subway system. The only thing that makes me feel a little more secure is that people. ordinary people, watch the monitors and they probably do a bad job at this boring job of watching. Cameras are actually installed everywhere in the places we work, shop and play.
I wonder if all this invasion of our privacy actually increases our security? Do they every evaluate the success of such intrusions?
As I am writing this blog entry they are discussing on the radio how they use wireless technologies to watch methadone patients in the washroom to make sure they take their medication. Unfortunately, wireless devices can be picked up on the streets by anyone with the right equipment. What is supposed to be medical supervision is in effect public broadcasts. Luckily, Ontario's privacy commissioner sees this as a problem and some improvements will be made.
I don't this all this "security" is compatible with a "free society" To have Britain and the US in the same category as Russia and China should not make anyone feel good. Canada moving in the direction to join them I find dismaying.
We were warned! "Big Brother is Watching!"
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