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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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Culture of Multiple Faiths

Wrestling over religious issues has been central to my life. I can remember as a very young child avoiding saying bedtime prays ( which my mother thought were important) and then lying in bed waiting for some dreadful punishment to happen.

As a teenager I was quite religiously rebellious as I tried to understand the meaning of life and death, understand the existence of evil and question the exisitence of God. Apparently, many teenagers go through this. For me, I felt very much alone. I thought I was the only one to have such doubts. It left me feeling I disappointed my mother by denying a lot of the religious ideas she took for granted. At school, I became known as the class atheist who refused to recite the Lord's Prayer as well as the pledge of allegiance, leaving me sitting while my classmates routinely and apparently unquestioningly did what they were told. I am not sure where my rebelliousness came from for I was an otherwise ,"wanting to please" kind of person. I have always been intellectually curious. This along with having several of my friends die in vehicle accidents at a young age, keep me exploring the religious significance of life.

I had abandoned the Presbyterian Church, at last, in spite of my mother's pleas to continue going so my brother would still want to go. I finally found a spiritual home when I discovered the Unitarian Church. Here I was accepted as an adult even though I was only 17. Furthermore, my religious struggles were admired and encouraged. Being a community of seekers rather than believers left the Unitarian church on the fringe of the Christian church, in spite if deep roots in Christianity. Most of those who attended were "come outers" from mainstream Christian churches and even other religious faiths. What held us together as a group was not some creedal covenant but the human seeking of meaning in life. Most seemed satisfied by a humanistic faith with a strong ethical motivation.We were Christian in behaviour if not belief. As some have said it is "deeds not creeds" which reveal the nature of people's true faith.

The ultimate act of rebellion for me was to decide to explore the possiblity of become a clergyman. ( A counter revolutionary act) Off to seminary I went. I think some friends and family were a little more than surprised. My mother quickly bought me a Bible, a lovely one bound in red Morocco leather, which I still keep by my bed. (It could do with more reading)

I soon found myself in Boston, discovering there were Christian Unitarian and not all had come late to membership in the church as Humanists. I remember still discovering that "the Prayer of Jesus" was the Lord's Prayer and I was expected to recite it in front of a congregation. What had I doneI I did learn a lot and mellowed in some of my objections to religious form over substance.

I, at least, learned that for some people the form of familiar faith practices and rituals was meaningful and a comfort at the same time some of it made me uncomfortable. But I found that if you looked behind the outward religious practice there was the unuversal human quest for spiritual meaning.

I have long been interested in faiths other than Christianity. I remember visits to Toronto's only Buddhist temple back then and thinking I might become a Buddhist. Then I visited a Reform Synagogue and thought I would join if only they would ask me. Years later I visited a Trappist Monestary in Massachusetts. If I had not been a single parent at the time I might have considered spending more time there. As you can see I had moved beyond rebellion at Christian ritual and rather enjoyed the prayer services several time a day. While I remain loyal to the Unitarian Church I would seek out one of the peace churches it I was starting over. I could easily be comfortable among the Quakers.

Where am I going with all this?

Our Society in Canada and the United States is changing. It is harder to claim to be Christian based societies ( with acceptance of Jews in our misdst). We have rapidily become much more multi-faith communities and the trend will continue, partly with the demise of a lot of Christian religiosity and the rise of secular and new age faiths; and, more significantly the rise of World religious faiths in our midst though immigration from, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. This will change our society significantly. Conversely, our Societies will eventually bring change in the practices of these other faiths.

We have just past though the significant religious days for Muslims and Jews, Ramadan and the High Holy Days, respectively. I usually spend some time about now reading about these yearly religious events and their significance. I am particularly impressed with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for Jews. How we could all find our need for atonement and benefit from by asking forgiveness to those we have injured and from whom we have become estranged. Ultimately, we all need to seek atonement with God. Our imperfect lives often find us estranged from the Holy and the spiritual essence which is at the core of all humanity. In their own way the Faiths of the World answer the human need to be "at one" (atonement) with the Sacred in order to be most human.

Most of us have some familiarity and comfort with Judaism as part of our culture. In the US Jews have a long history. One congregation in particular has been very significant. The
Touro Synagogue in Newport Rhode Island is where George Washington promised them and all of the United States, religious freedom. On his first visit to Newport as President he wrote them a letter where he promised the in the United States we would "give bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.". Here was the root to separation of church and state.

The Touro Synagogue is a fascinating place to visit. If you get anywhere near Newport I recomment a visit. This synagogue was founded by Sephardic Jews. They are the Jews with their tradition rooted in the Iberian Peninsula. In 1492, not only did Spain send Columbus off in his great exploration, but it expelled the Jews from the country, the Edict of Expulsion. They were given the choice of leaving or converting to Christianity. Many left for North Africa and around the Mediterranian fleeing persecution ultimately even further afield. Finally, a group learned of Roger William's experiment in religious freedom in Rhode Island and they settled in Newport, where they were allowed to practice their orthodox faith in peace. The Touro Synagogue is the oldest one in continuous existence in the US serving the historic Jeshuat Israel Congregation.

North Americans are less comfortable with the Muslims in our midst. Muslims in the US now out number Jews, I recently read. They are a growing part of North American society. Interestingly the oldest Mosque in North America is in Edmonton Alberta. The Al Rashid Mosque. It was organized by Syrian farmers who had come to Canada. It is interesting that their Mosque was build on land donated by the city and both Christians and Jews help this fledgling community built their Mosque. In the US, the oldest purpose built Mosque in the US is in Cedar Rapids, Ia. surprisingly.

I recently discovered a web site that is fascinating reading. I recommend it to you. I read the whole thing. Two men in New York set about to visit 30 Mosques in 30 days during Ramadan.

They were present in each when they broke the daily fast and shared a meal. They also participated in their service. It is amazing the variety of Mosques in New York City, most catering to one ethnic community or another but all welcoming of visitors. A few are grand buildings but many are humble and struggling to create a space for worship out of industrial and residential buildings in neighbourhoods around New York. This website shares the observations of these two fellows about these Mosques. There are also photos of them and the food eaten in breaking the daily fast. What is striking about this website is that for those who have no experience with Muslims and what their faith means to them, here is a peek into it. How Muslims love their Mosques as a place to pray, share with their community and learn. We often only see on the news the grand Mosques of the Middle East and hear of the calls for political action by powerful Imams. We have come to see Islam as a fierce and scary faith. Here in this website we see the reality of most Muslims as they live their religious lives around their Mosque not too dissimilar from Christians around their church or Jews around their synagogue. Read it. It may alter your misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.

Finally, (Ever since I taught myself to touch type my blog entries seem to be getting longer)
here is another very interesting website, the Pluralism Project by Harvard University. Here you will find information about the vast majority of different faiths that have blossomed among us.
They are in small towns and big cities. They range from the ancient world Faiths to Paganism.
There is increased interest in Interfaith groups where there is mutual respect and understanding. Is there an interfaith group in your community? In this website you will find information on the amount of different faiths that are adding to our communities, religious and social. Things are changing. We need to come to undertand and welcome a wider variety of faiths in our midst that just Christianity and Judaism. ( The fact the Unitarianism is not included as an other faith is a kind of recognition of the establishment status of it. Or in Harvard's view it is since so many Unitarian ministers were trained at Harvard.)

I hope you enjoy these two fascinating websites. Knowledge of other faiths can enrich your life.
We need to know and understand something about them for they will become an increasingly
visible part of our multifaith societies.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Next Year in Canada

Next year the G 8 meeting of countries will be in Canada. Recent news is that the G 8 countries will focus on issues of security. The G 20 group of countries, which just met in Pittsburgh, will become the international institution to focus on the World's economy. I assume both fiscal and social. It has been announced that the two groups will be held at the same time together next year in Canada. The G 8 may eventually disappear, replaced by the G 20. Time will tell.

These organizations of World leaders will meet at a Muskoka resort near the small community of Huntsville, which is a two hour drive south of where I live as you travel toward Toronto from here.

They will meet at the posh Deerhurst Inn Resort. The video below will give you a bird's eye view of this first class resort. I am sorry, I see such developments as a scar upon the landscape and with two golf courses is has to be bad for the environment. I guess the rich and famous need places to play. It can't be all bad. Shania Twain got here start as a big time performer here.

If you squint and try to ignore the resort you will get some idea of the beautiful countryside of water and forest upon the Canadian shield. Just north of Huntsville is Algonquin Park, Ontario's first Provincial Park is a highlands area of forest and lakes in which eight local rivers have their headwaters. It is a wonderful camping and canoeing park.

This video is largely a golfing commercial. The resort has a full range of activities for everyone.
If you would rather see a video about the range of activities at Deerhurst go here,

Huntville is all abuss about the meeting at Deerhurst as it is a great economic boost for the area. It apparently costs $300,000 to put on one of this meetings. I guess it goes without saying that Deerhurst is in the political riding of a leading Conservative politician, Tony Clement. Gee, what a coincidence.! With any luck our Conservative government will not be in power next year and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will have lost his job and been sidelined.

Last time one of these meetings, was held it was in one of Alberta's extensive resort areas Kananaskis in the foothills of the Rockies. I think I read they spent $400,000.

I imagine one of the reasons for picking a remote rural setting for this meeting is that it makes security a little easier. Protesters will have trouble finding housing nearby and a security parimeter around this private property can be set up more easily established than in a city.

Unfortunately, by Canada hosting these events in a rural setting reinforces the international reputation of Canada as a resource based economy and Canadians as hewers of wood and drawers of water." An urban setting would have been more representative of the reality of the lives of most Canadians. For Torontonians Huntville is the "North Country" and few venture further. As one who lives a little beyond there I hope they don't find their way further North for
many years to come. The Temagami Region is quite spectacular and even more wilderness than the Algonquin Park region. For now, we are left alone but the day is coming with the highway improvementsand eventually a substantial upgrade of the Ontario Northland Railroad, our region may become Toronto's new "wilderness" playground.

For now, I can be left with my fantasy life as a hewer of wood and drawers of water, living close to Nature.

Note: Here are a couple or literary references to the phrase, "hewer of wood and drawer of water." They both speak to me and my ambiguous feelings about life and its meaning for me.

No,' said Nicholas, 'and for that reason poverty should engender an honest pride, that it may not lead and tempt us to unworthy actions, and that we may preserve the self-respect which a hewer of wood and drawer of water may maintain, and does better in maintaining than a monarch in preserving his.
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Dickens, Charles View in context

I, who preached contentment with a humble lot, and justified the vocation even of hewers of wood and drawers of water in God's service--I, His ordained minister, almost rave in my restlessness.
Jane Eyre by Bronte, Charlotte

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thinking of Pittsburgh

I have just had the pleasure of a visit from an American friend from Pittsburgh. I first connected with Jim when he left a comment on my blog and I responded. He has been thinking of moving himself and his family to Canada. We have exchanged emails as I answered his questions and sent him information on immigrating to Canada.

It has been nice to finally meet him in person and show him a little hospitality. We seem to have an easy relationship and share values. I think he and his family could make an easy transition to Canadian society. He, a psychiatric nurse and his wife, a mathematic teacher, would be able to find employment here I have no doubt. But to leave one's country behind is a big decision for anyone. I wish them well in coming to a decision and am ready to sent them as much helpful information as possible.

Here is Jim as he is ready to leave.

Jim left with a couple of large jugs of Temagami River water. I had written him that the water is soft and leaves your hair clean and silken. His wife just had to try it. I hope it lives up to my praise.

Before leaving he drove to the town of Temagami and climbed the 100 foot fire town on top of Maple Mountain where he would get a wonderful view of the Temagami wilderness. I must do that myself some time.

Come back any time Jim!

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Speaking of Pittsburgh

I have been following the events in Pittsburgh with the meeting of the G20 there. As has become the tradition with such international meetings of heads of state and leading politicians, the city center has turned into a fortress by security forces and a form of street theatre for those who want to express their concerns to these politician by trying to assert their right to free speech and assembly, seen as a challenge by the security forces.

It is telling that the security forces are there to protect the polticians. They do it in a way which sees them as battling the protesters. I wonder if there is ever an occasion when the security forces might be at such events to protect the protesters and their rights of free speech and assembly, not to mention access to the politicians who claim to represent them. It seems to me this would be more appropriate in a democracy, (government by the masses). But, of course,
democracy is largely a myth when real power and influence is at stake. Security is always there for the privileged and property class.

It would be nice at these international meetings if the politicians would come out of their "fortress" and meet and address the people protesting. I guess I am a dreamer!

It is interesting that Pittsburgh was chosen for this meeting so World leaders could see the economic recovery of this city after it had become the center of the "rust belt" with the collapse of the steel industry. I wonder what they might be shown? Certainly, they will not visit the nearby town of Braddock.

Braddock is one of the poorest towns in the United States. Once a working class community of workers in the steel industry. Now after, losing 90 % of its population it is a very desperate community. Braddock is an historic town. It is the home of the first Andrew Carnegie steel mill. It also has the first Library that Andrew Carnegie had built as his legacy to the country as a successful Robber Baron. It would be an interesting tour stop for the politicians sorting out economic matters at the G20 meeting. Here is a stark example of what happens when an industry collapses. The working class play the economic price while those who have become rich, filthy rich, as a result of the industry, leave public funds for public institutions so their legacy will be that of a great philanthropers rather than exploiter and destroyer of the working class. In Braddock, this is still visible in stark terms.

For a NYT article go here,
You may have register to read this article but it is worth it

Here is another informative site,

Braddock is only 8 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. It is hard to understand why it is not prime property for redevelopment, or why it did not survive as a bedroom suburban community with the demise of the steel industry. In Canada, I don't believe we have any such communities so near an urban center. They would undoubtedly come to share in the successful economic life of the larger community as they were trasformed after their major industry is lost. Some if this on a much smaller scale happens in Northern Ontario when towns lose their major industry, usually in mining or forestry. Workers move and the town shrinks or even become a ghost town. Many one industry town are just torn down and disappear all together.

A few towns find new life , and a reason for being, as was the case of Elliot Lake, Ontario, when its uranium mines closed. This town with the infastructure of 30, 000 people, transformed itself into a retirement community attracting retired people, who enjoyed the outdoor life of hunting and fishing. The cheap single family homes, available as miners left, attracted many initially. Now the town, even in a recession, advertises for workers to move to Elliot Lake to do the work made possible by the high retired population.

But in Canada, a town in decline within 10 miles of a major city would be snapped up for redevelopment. How something like what happened to Braddock, PA. comes about it hard to understand. There is something wrong about the political system. In the US, Braddock is not unique. Not long ago, I spend some time looking up some of the poorest communities in the US. There are many of them, both rural and urban. They are the sad underbelly of the weathiest country in the World.

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Some of my critters

Here are the porcine girls, Ruby and Babe. They have had a lovely summer and have eaten themselves into great condition. After some dry weather they have cleaned up quite a bit without mud holes to lie in.

A couple of my cats love to snuggle up to the coffee pot.

And, of course, here is Heidi.

I am rubbing her face and neck on the away side. (I do not have my hand down her throat). She loves to be rubbed around the face and neck. I am always willing to oblige. Here her fur is soft and silken. You can see by her closed eyes and and satified look she is luxuriating on this shared affection.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

My Ongoing Firewood Meditation

Well I am really getting into it. Firewood Meditation that is. This week I am working myself into shape cutting and splitting wood for my wood stove. It is painful but slowly I am feeling stronger and in a couple of weeks it should be an easy form of recreation. :)

Here is a lesson in firewood! I have been asked some questions about it.

The basic measure is the cord. A cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet of "air and wood". This is a pile 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. In metric this is 1.21m X 1,21m X 2.43. Done confuse this with the Metric Cord 1m X 1m X 1m which is only about 0.276 cord (Imperial)

In a pile of lumber a cord is 70 cubic feet (no air).

Buying wood can be a tricky thing. In some places it is sold in 1/4 of a cord. Around here it is sold by 1/3 of a cord, (which how I have piled mine 3 rows 4 feet high, 16'' long. Every 8 feet of pile length is a cord., of row length, a face cord. (1/3 of a cord. ) Unfortunately they call it a cord when in truth it is just 1/3. There is not a legal 1/3 of a cord measure. There are also long cords or 1/2 cords where the pieces are two feet long, which would be useful if you had a wood furnace to feed rather than a wood cook stove.

To really get esoteric 1 cubic meter is also called a stere and a third of a cord is a rick.

You can dicker with sellers of wood over the price of firewood by volumn but really what is important is the BTU's (British Thermal Units) it produces. This depends on type of wood and the proper curing of the wood. The price of wood may vary when these quality of firewood is taken into account. I am sure you are all confused by now.

My wood is poplar ( a low grade hardwood) and birch (a better grade of hardwood). I have lots of this on my property so I use it. I have not gone after, maple, oak, walnut cherry wood, the better grades of wood that produce higher BTU's.

I resist using a log splitter. I enjoy splitting the wood with a maul and one man power, me!
Splitting wood is both an art and a science. I enjoy finding the lines of the block of wood that allows it to split the easiest. Sometimes it is a struggle. The wood even defeats me on occasion if there are too many knots.

Above is the beginning of the pile. I am trying to do a better job this year at piling it. Invariably my piles fall over. It is embarassing . There are old hands around here whose wood piles are perfect and a work of art. I will settle for it staying upright until it is time to move it into the basement.

The three rows underway.

Here is the pile as of today. It is just over 20 feet long. When I finish what wood I still have in logs it should be over 24 feet long, probably about 10 or 11 cords. I will get another set of logs skidded out of the bush to continue splitting for a while yet.

Heidi keeps me company but does not seem too interested in my activities. She like to jump up on the raised garden I built for Dave and lie there enjoying the sun. In this picture she is choosing a place to lie down. This usually involves a little scratching to prepare the spot. A couple of cats come and join her, making a cozy scene I have yet to catch on my camera.
May you master the fine art of wood splitting.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yearning for Culture

As much as I love living in the country, along way from the big city, I have my moments when I yearn for a little culture beyond tales of hunting and fishing and country music.

Most of the time, I feed my cultural needs reading books, looking thing up on the Internet and listening to intelligent and stimulating radio. This is done for the most part all by my lonesome as most of my local friends and neighbours are not interested and often don't know what I am talking about. Occasionally, I inflict my interest in something in the way of a lengthy email to a distant friend or blogging pal. I enjoy what results in an exchange of emails.

On occasion I hear on the radio that a cultural event is coming to Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal, the large urban centers within a long reach of here. I wish I could attend. But alas distance and finances keeps me country bound.

Currently, the Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing in Toronto, The beautiful people are there and there are a plethora of interesting films to take in as well a some stimulating conversations and workships. It makes me think of the summer school course on film and religion I took years ago , watching films late into the night and spending days discussing them under the tutelage of a truly obsessesed film Professor who wanted us to shout and throw our shoes when he inflicted a truly bad religious film upon us.

I learned this morning that on Saturday they are going to screen an old film staring Mary Pickford, the silent film, "Sparrows". What fun it would be to watch this is a theatre with other film buffs.

Mary Pickford (Gladys Louise Smith)

Mary Pickford was a Canadian who was raised in a house in Toronto on University Avenue where the Hospital for Sick Children stands today. I knew a little about her as a child for my mother often mentioned her and her career in silent movies. She was a star that my mother, as a child, would have known and loved.

I remember my mother talking about the days of the silent movies. She as a child was a very good reader. She read at speed and with understanding. As a result she said many of the kids wanted to sit near her as she read the dialogue strip at the bottom of the films. It was the era of the great movie theatres, of which only a few still exist, usually because they have been restored like the Elgin and Winter Garden in Toronto.

Mary Pickford became America's Sweetheart and a Sweetheart to the World outside of the US. Here contribution to the naissant film industry with the likes of Charlie Chaplain and Douglas Fairbanks (to whom she was married of 15 years, known as Hollywood Royalty. She was the first widely know and admired actresses. It is hard to realize now how big a star she was in the early years of film.

Here is a site of many stills of her in the movies she stared in.

Mary Pickford was a builder of the Industry. She was a business woman and a director. She was one of the one to start United Artists and she was a founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sceinces. She also brought some of her friends, Dorothy and Lillian Gish) into the industry who went on to have wonderful careers of there own. She also was concerned for the welfare of struggling actors and help got the Actors retirement home constructed. Sadly, like many of the actors of the silent films, she did not transition to talking films.

Below is a video of the beginning of the film "Sparrows". It will give you a feel for the movie. If you wanted to watch it all You Tube has a series of videos which together make up the whole film. You will also find videos of her film " Coquette" for which she won a Oscar for best actress.
which would also be another film to view in a cinema filled with fans.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Doing Firewood

With the nice weather I have a chance to do my firewood. For now "God's grace is shining on me." There is an element of panic here since normally this should be done in the Spring to allow for sufficient time for the wood to cure.

The tools of the trade, plus the safety pants and safety boots. Having cut wood for a living I have come to understand only a fool would use a chain saw and fell trees without the safely equipment. In spite of wearing the proper equipment I have know two wood cutters who have died in foresty accidents. My hard hat has saved me twice against possible death or serious injury. In spite of the equipment I have managed to cut through my safety boot and cut half way through my big to with the chain saw. OUCH!

After I cut down a number of trees, 30 or so, my friend and neighbour came over with his skidder and skidded them out of the bush and dropped them at my back door.

Here is a view of the pile from the porch.

I have begun as you can see. I have some trees cut up into blocks. This will be followed by splitting the blocks into pieces that will fit in my stove. Then the wood will be piled outside until November when I will put as much as I can into the basement. (Hopefully, cured enough by then.) After I finish this batch I will skid out a second lot of trees to cut up.

I always smile when people say how lucky I am to have a "free" source of heat for my house.
There are real costs involved. Wood is not free. Besides the cost of equipment to cut wood there is lot of sweat equity in every cord of wood. Luckily, I enjoy cutting and spitting wood as a physical activity. It is also a kind of spiritual medication if you believe "work is a form of prayer."

When ever I am doing firewood I find myself thinking of "Lady Chatterley's Lover, the wood cutter. See how a good education continues to feed your soul.
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Remembering 9/11

This weekend I have been remembering the destruction of the World Trade Centre and the horrible surreal quality of that experience as I stood alone in my kitchen.
First the collison of the aircraft into the buildings left one shocked and then the buildings collapsing as they did seem so unreal and yet horribly real.

A friend of mine stopped during all this and made a careless and thoughtless remark when I told him the US World Trade Center was under attack. "Good, the American deserve it!" In an instant my opinion of this person I have know for years changed. I have never felt the same about him since.

I remember the 3,000 or so innocent people who died that day just going about their daily routine. I also think of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who have died in the two wars started by the US in retaliation, in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, I think of the prisoners who have suffered torture and confinement for as long as seven years. In spite of the claim they were the "worst of the worst" they were and are mostly innocent people some continuing to suffer. When you think of their plight you cannot help but feel the deep horror of being caught up in a hopeless situation with no justice in sight.

I don't don't know how one evaluated the balance of justice between the attack on the US and the dreadful events since in retaliation. Sadly, there is no justice or justification for either.

I also remember the other 9/11 event in 1973. It was the day that the democratic government of Chile was overthown and their progressive leader Salvador Allende, after addressing his people, commited suicide rather than be captured by the forces of Augusto Pinoche, who become dictator and murderer of so many of the Chilean people. The United States was backing Pinochet. The US has often been on the wrong side of history in Latin American. For this alone, Henry Kissinger and Richard NIxon shall always be war criminals in my mind. It was followed by the American backed "Operation Condor" in which the group of South American dictators agreed to form death squads to kill each others opposition members as they sought sanctuary in other counties. Many innocent people paid the price to remove a government of which the U.S. government did not approve.

These two events on 9/11 are not without similarities. When I hear the question posed, "Who could do this and why do they hate us? Well sadly the answer is the same; people just like the rest of us who have the power to do anything to affect change in a country they have come to view a threat and come to believe they have a right to try to strike out. We never seem to learn that violence is no solution to resolve a problem.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Painting the Verandah

Inspired by the warm weather, fortified with pain killers (I finally gave in and took some to ease my painful knees, tired of tripping over the gallons of paint on the floor and being moved by conscience to get on with it, I have been painting the front porch.

Not having a woman in my life to nag me about these things (one of the few benefits to being single) , I get around to them in my sweet time. The porch has been in need of painting for 25 years, so I guess it is time.

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

I love a red door. It reminds me of an Anglican Church. They always seem to have red doors.
Mine got a refreshing coat. I am not sure if you enlarge the picture you could read the sticker on my window. It reads "My Canada includes civil liberties." It is a kind of display of my politics I guess.

I am always offended with my Catholic neighbours, many of whom have a sticker that reads, "No Peddlers or Jehovah Witnesses." I am always polite to the Jehovah Witness chap who comes to my door. It is a lovely person and we talk about everything except religion.

I even painted my farm bell. My friend, Veronica, insisted on leaving the bell when she left. It had been her grandparent's bell from their farm in Amish country of Pennsylvania. I cherish it. Here you can see one of the improved painted posts. I have plans to replace the wood on the handrail. It is too weathered to paint over.

I have also begun to cut firewood. This job should have been done in the Spring so there is an element of desperation in doing it now.

My neighbour was away all summer and he had promised to skid the wood out with his skidder. (Well that is my excuse). He is home now and will make good on his promise. I will have to purchase some cured wood for the early part of the Winter. Hopefully, what I am cutting now will cure for use in the last half of Winter.

Dave used to help me a little with the wood. I think he enjoyed it. He would pile some pieced of wood on his walker and move it to the pile to put it on. We had a running joke that he was the trucker and I was the logger, as I cut and split the wood. Dave is now confined to the hospital. I will have to take some pictures and take them to show him. I enjoyed his company during this otherwise solitary job.

Below you can seem Heidi encouraging me and letting me know I missed a spot.

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Some Summer, A Little Late

Finally, some summer has shown up. It is a little late but much appreciated. Lots of sun, no rain and warm temperatures during the day. We are reminded that it is late in the season with the usual cool nights, (great for sleeping).

I have been working hard, inspired by the warmer weather, no doubt, so I take time for a wonderful refreshing bath in the river mid afternoon.

(click on the photo to enlarge)

The skies are blue with just a puff of cloud here and there.

My bathing spot at this small sandy spot on the edge of the river.

This is what the water is like. It is 2 feet deep here, crystal clear, cool, refreshing, pure and so soft (washing your hair is in leaves is silken.) I pump the water from the river to the house and use it unfiltered and untreated. Sadly, there are so many places where the water can be this good but isn't. It is among the most precious resources.

I love the wild iris , (Blue Flag/Iris Versicolor), that grow along the river next to where I swim. There are not as many this year due to the water level remaining high for so long.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

US Healthcare Mess

I have been following the American efforts to find a way to reform their health care system. It is a painful thing to watch. While there is widespread agreement that change is necessary as the costs are rising out of control leaving an increasing number of people unable to afford coverage or even with coverage risk going bankrupt in the face of major illness. But what must be done to solve the problem?

The problem with the American health system has not been adequately analysised and explained. Instead there is an effort to frustrate the process of change with the best efforts money can buy. Those with a vested interest in doing nothing, the insurance and drug industry, have the deepest pockets. There money has corrupted the system of reasonable debate though advertising using all the illogical arguments possible: distortion, exageration, straw man argument, fear, lies etc. They also have swayed politicians with their campaign funding. Such seems to be the American way of doing politics.

In broad terms the discussion is between whether private insurance or publicly funded and administered insurance, or some combination of the two, is the best way to achieve a goal of having more people covered by health insurance while realizing ways to lower the cost. (Americans costs per person are about $7,000 a year which is twice what Canada's are and Canada get better overall health results.)

Like Canada, all other wealthy industrialized countries, except the US, have some form of government funded health care. Even the US does in the form of Medicare for the elderly and veterans medical coverage. These seem to be seen as exceptions, for government funded health coverage is widely criticized.

President Obama was to be the agent of change for the US. On the healthcare issue from the beginning he has been less than a real advocate for basic change.
While at one time he supported the idea of a single payer universal government funded health care system he settled for tinkering with a combination of private and publically funded health care program that basically had the public purse funding private insurance. In fact from the beginning a truly universal government funded health care program was kept off the table. It was not one of the options. Those that favoured it were denied a voice. And yet, time and again I have read that as many as 62% of Americans would like a health care system similar to Canada. It seems the politicans do not want to give the people what they want. The fix is in. As things stand today, there may not be any kind of public health care insurance system. At best the US may end up with a largely privately funded system with a weak public option for those in need of charity.

Americans need to see the healthcare system as a moral problem for the Nation.

"How do we best care for each other as a community!" Here is one Presbyterian minister's discussion of this point.

Health care needs to be understood as a right and not a privilege. As long as a government funded health care program is seen as a charity there will always be the division between those who can afford private health care and those that they feel they must fund (and begrudge) out of public taxes.

The fact of the matter is that private health insurance is a large part of the problem and offers little solutions to the health care problems of cost and coverage. Obama and the Democrats should have stood for real change rejecting the dominance of private insurance.They have had their chance to offer coverage and in the process of corporate greed have shot themselves in the foot. Private health care needs to be pushed aside and a truly universal single payer system implimented. Private insurers might still have a role in insuring for the luxuries of medical care but the basic, and a broad base it should be, needs to be government funded. Only this way will there be universal coverage and financial savings.

The advantages of a universal single payer health care system are obvious. Everyone is covered. No one will go bankrupt as a result of health care expenses. Parasitic agencies like HMO's and Insurance companies are pushed aside. Doctors can focus on practicing medicine to all who seek it rather than trying to guarantee they will be paid for their services. Business will be relieved of the burden of having to offer health insurance to their workers which often leaves them at a competative disadvantage in the market place. Patients are more likely to seek care early rather than in at a chronic stage. And of course, preventative medicine can be practiced and paid for. If is beyond my comprehension why Americans would want to hang on to private insurance health care.

There are many kinds of government funded programs. Few of them are truly "socialist". Canada is government funded but privaely run. Doctors and hospitals are not government employees. Doctors are private entrepeneurs who are paid for their services to patience by government funds at a rate acceptable to doctors and the government. Overall,the French seem to have the best system.

The best article I read about the US health care system and Canada's health care system was sent to me by an American friend. It is well worth reading.

Who should pay? Americans seem to be obsessed about taxes. I was taught that it was a privilege to pay taxes and contribute to the well being of the country that we cherish and which meets so many of our needs. Of course, Canada is a country that places a high value on "good government" (and for the most part get it). We expect our tax dollars to pay for the services we require and not be lost to corrupt practices. Well, the government does not have a separate source of income. Health care will be paid for through taxation. Businesses and individuals, above a certain income level will pay taxes according to their ability to pay. The tax burden should be a lot less than private insurance. In this way we fund a health care system in which we care of one another and meet our moral responsibility for the health of the community.

It will be really sad to see the US miss the opportunity to develop a truly progressive health care system. There are many countries with excellent health care systems from which the US could learn in order to develop an excellent one of their own to cover everyone at a reasonable cost.

For background information of the World Health Organization's ranking of health care systems visit their site

For a simple chart comparing the health care systems among industrialized countries scroll to the bottom of this web page.