DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009 .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.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Baking Today

Cornbread and a Scottish Scone

I got up this morning deciding it was a good day to do some baking. Other than a couple of times a week making muffins, I have not done much baking in quite a while. Being a single father for so many years I learned to cook like the other "mothers", more correctly like the mothers of my mother's generation as so many of the women I have know did as little cooking as possible, and even less baking.

In my house, June does the shopping and she feeds herself and David and I take care of myself.
June "cooks" a lot of easy prepackaged food and only once in a while makes what I would call a meal. There is only so much Kraft dinner and wieners, one can eat.

I like to cook from scratch using basic foods, not only for the reduced cost of it but also because preparing the food is part of the experience of eating. But recently, I noticed there were few basic items in the house, with which to make a meal so I went shopping yesterday to replenish the pantry. I feel a need for some properly prepared food so I started today with a little baking.
Besides the cornbread and the scone in the picture above I made a banana bread, which I can smell baking in the oven as I write this.

I think it is time to once again make some yeast breads, as I used to do weekly. I also have the urge to make some pies with the berries from last summer's picking. I had planned to make some puff pastry ( I would have made it today if I had not forgotten to buy some real butter yesterday) to use in making some "pigs in a blanket". This will have to wait.

The problem with giving in to the urge to bake and cook is that there are not enough of us here to eat it all. David certainly enjoys it and is a pleasure to cook for. June, like myself, could do with eating less baking. I may have to share some of it with a neighbour. I am sure my dog, Heidi, will eat some baking if it starts to go stale.

I must find something other than a cook book to read! . . . . .or at least start reading the soup section.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Christmas Reading

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The last of the three books my sister sent me for Christmas finally arrived. It is "The Ascent of Money : The Financial History of the World" by Niall Ferguson. It is a fascinating read if one is interested in money and how it affects our live. It is up to the minute in that it discusses the financial bubble that led up to our present economic crisis. All bubbles finally burst. Economist and others who deal with money know this; and yet, they in their greedy quest delude themselves into thinking it will not be the case this time , not yet anyway.
The book also gives some insight into the Enron bubble that burst a while back. Interestingly, Cheney and Bush had some involvement in this. This event should have been a warning for what finally happened this last time as the stripping away of government regulations allowed truly criminal behaviour to take over.
The book is about a lot more than these economic crises as it is an historical survey on how money has become so important through the ages.
This book gives more technical knowledge to compliment Margaret Atwood's Massey Lectures, "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth" which I had just finished when it arrived.
For those who are interest in understanding our present economic crisis this book is a good place start. It is not a dry read but quite a stimulating understandable one.
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Robbie Burns Day

Particularly, to the McArthur Clan within my family. I trust you are all wearing your kilts.

Americans may have their Irish but Canada has it's Scots dating back to the beginning for they Highland Scots often were the Hudson Bay Company managers. To this day many native Canadians have Scottish names and among the Hudson Bay Lowland Cree the fiddles still play Scottish tunes.

Robbie Burns, Beloved Scottish Poet

It seems on this day everyone is Scottish. Navdeep Singh Bain, member of parliament for where I grew up joins fellow Parliamentarian, Peter Milligen, in the spirit of the day.

The humble but noble haggis. Looks like a giant cooked slug to me.

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A sentiment Burns poem, the favourite of all florists.!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama is Coming

While the actual date has not been set, President Obama is coming to Canada for a formal visit, "sooner rather than later." He has promised a visit to Canada which will be his first foreign visit.

Traditionally, Canada is the first foreign trip for American presidents. George W. Bush didn't come either out of ignorance or as a snub. He went to Mexico instead. I guess from Texas (part of greater Mexico:) ), America's southern neighbour seems to be the most important neighbour.

I assume George W. Bush just did not know. After all he did not know the name of Canada's Prime Minister before he became President, even if then. Canada is very important to the United States. It is the biggest supplier of energy to the US, oil, gas and electricity. It is a stable well govern neighbour along the US northern frontier. Canada has been a close ally over the decades on most issues, ( much to my chagrin, often). Canada is also the biggest trading partner of the US. And, of course, we have taken in American citizens not welcome in the US from United Empire Loyalists, to slaves and draft doggers and deserters and others throughout our shared history. So it is fitting that the US should acknowledge Canada's importance by having the new President visit here first.

There are issues of concern between Canada and the US that may come up during the Obama Presidency. The NAFTA free trade deal may be revisited if Obama has his way. Hopefully, this time Canada will negotiate a deal that leaves us with sovreignty and control over our oil and gas industry. With the Arctic rapidly losing its year round ice cover, Canada may have to defend it's sovreignty over the arctic archipelago and northwest passage, which the US does not recognize.
Hopefully, issues over the southern border can be rethought so that it is less ridgidly controlled. The American inordinate fear of terrorism and an inability to differentiate between the problems of the Canadian and Mexican borders, has complicated the easy transborder flow of Canadians and Americans , which historically has been enjoyed. I am sure Canada's role in Afghanistan will be a topic of discussion. I think there are reasons for concern that the American increased military involvement in that country may draw Canada into their war effort which may be different from the goals of Canada and NATO, particularly spreading the war into Pakistan.

The one issue I hope gets settled with Obama's visit is the repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada. Hopefully, Obama will pressure Canada into taking Khadr off the US hands. I am sure he does not want it on his record that his administration prosecuted a child for war crimes particularly when both Canada and the US are signers of international agreements and UN protocols to treat child soldiers as victims in need of rehabilitation and not prosecution for crimes. Omar Kadhr should have been sent home 7 years ago and not have had to be tortured at the hand of the US.

I hope Obama asks Canada to take some other prisoners at the Guantanamo Prison Camp. Several European countries have already agreed to take in some of these victims of the "war on terror". Canada has been silent. The one group I would like to see Canada take in are the Uyghars, the Muslims from Western China. They were declared innocent and no longer enemy combatants two years ago, yet they remain imprisoned. They do not want to return to China where they will be persecuted and no country has been willing to take the final group. Apparently, Canada has considered doing so previously. It is time Canada stepped up made a firm commitment to help this group.

On a lighter side, I hope President Obama will get a chance to meet the creators of the Blackberry, Mike Lazarides and Jim Balsillie, which is the Canadian device for which he has a great affection. A visit to the plant of Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ontario is probably out of the question.

Also, It would also be nice if he were presented with the 50 songs the CBC contest chose as the best Canadian songs for his playlist on his ipod.

I am sure President Obama will be warmly welcomed in Canada as he is much admired here across the whole political spectrum. We wish him and the US well during his Presidency.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Demise of the Service Man

I just had a knock on the door, a fairly rare event here. It was a tradesman from Hydro One, our electrical utility. He said he was here to install our "Smart Meter" and the power would be off for a few minutes while he did this. We apparently are among the first in the Province to have them installed, for reasons for which I have no understanding. Maybe there are a couple of rural areas they are testing their procedures.

In a year, when they are made operational, smart meters will allow the customer to pay for electricity usage at different rates at different times of the day. Later evening hours, night hours and weekends will have the lowest rates. Hydro One will be able to electronically read the meter which, or course, means we will no longer have a person stop by to personally read the meter periodically.

Both Hydro One and the customer will be able to realize a financial savings. The wise consumer will shift electrical usage to the off peak hours. Voluntarily, the wise consumer may shift such things as clothes washing and drying, baking, welding etc to hours where they get the lower rate.
The smart consumer may put timers on other high electric usage devices so they do not automatically come on during high rate hours. Hot water tanks, air conditioner, pool heaters, and even electrical heaters may be controlled so that only by over riding the timer will they operate.

The meters will also be good for the environment for they, in conjunction with wind generation of electricity, will allow Hydro One to continue to close down the coal fired generating stations in the Province.

I have digressed!

The service man at the door made me think that the meter reader may be the last service man to come to a residential home. When I was was a child there were many. We lived in a semi rural area, my mother was a stay at home mom and did not drive a car. Lonely you say! No! She could count on a parade of servicemen coming to the house; daily, weekly or monthy. There was a paper boy, of course, which some people may still see. The mail man came six days a week and for five of those days he came twice. (I think I am correct about this. If not my sister will let me know.) We had a milk man, twice a week. And a breadman, twice a week. The ice man delived ice once a week and just came right into the house and put it in the ice box, whether we were home or not. My mother's favourite was the egg man, Mr Parkinson who had a farm where Pearson International Airport is now. Monthly our hydro meter was read and a man came by to collect the fee for the life insurance policies my parents had on us, (three children). Occasionally, the coal man came and manually dumped bags of coal down the chute into our basement coal bin. I think that is the list. . . . .No, there are more. My mother had some Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon missionaries drop by. There were, also, an assortment of peddlers: vacuum cleaner salesmen, encyclopaedia salesmen, knife sharpeners and ice cream sellers (in the summer). And now they are no more.

My mother who was always very affable and ready for a cup of tea often invited her favourite tradesmen in for tea and cookies and conversation. She certainly never had an excuse to be lonely. Some of these tradesmen silently went about their task, others passed with a look of recognition, a smile and an hello. But many ,at one time or another, were welcomed into the house for a pleasant break with my mother over tea and biscuits.

How times have changed. We now live in times when people live isolated from one another. My mother's open and vulnerable life seems almost foolishly dangerous in our present day. We lived lives that were amazingly safe. I never remember a crime ever taking place in our neighbourhood. Our house was never locked, even when we went on vacation for a couple of weeks. Even today, I do not lock my house. ( Old habits die hard.) Ironically, I think part of the security of our neighbourhood when I was a child was the very presence of all the tradesmen. To be a tradesman who came to people's homes you had to be honest. Your job depended upon it. Also, these men were seen as part of the neighbourhood and saw what was going on , discouraging those who might be a problem, usually children up to some mischief. Those days are gone forever, sadly.

Say hello to your electrical meter reader the next time he drops by, for he many be the last of the tradesmen once so necessary in bringing services to our homes.

Monday, January 19, 2009



Sunday, January 18, 2009


Martin Luther King, Jr is one of the thinkers and activists who I have admired over the years. He was a hero for many of my generation, an inspiration and a guide to a higher road to tranform society.
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. "
(Acceptance speech for Nobel Peace Prize, 1964)

Canada has been connected to the struggle against slavery and civil rights over the years. Dr King acknowledged Canada's unique contribution to the struggle against slavery in his Massey Lecture, "Conscience for Change", given in Toronto just a few months before he was killed.

“Canada is not merely a neighbour to Negroes, . . . . . .

Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the north star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom.”

It has been a long and ongoing struggle for equal right and civil rights for Afro-Americans from the days of fugative slaves reaching Canada, many returning to post Civil War America to help fulfill there destiny of freedom, to today on the threshold of the elevation of the first Afro-American, Barack Obama, to the highest office in the land, President.

One likes to imagine the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr hovering over these days call out to all as he did so many years ago in Memphis. . . . .

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God once more for allowing me to be here with you.”. . . . . . .

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

("I've Been To The Mountaintop" April 3, 1968)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Heidi and Her Balls

Yes, this bitch has balls!

You will notice she also has a bed, my bed.

I got Heidi a new ball for Christmas to replace the one that got mislaid. Then we found the lost one, so now she has two.

Heidi has not seemed too interested in the game "fetch the ball". I figured in the Spring I would try to teach her.

She has decided to "mother" her two balls. She carries them around in her mouth and tries to keep them with her. She like to lay with them and actually goes through the motions of preparing a "nest" for her and her puppies (balls) (pawing away at my bedding). She even brings them to bed with her at night so now I have to find not only a place for me to lie down but I have to try not to disturb the pups.

This has been very amusing to watch until I notices she was developing milk glands. She was starting to lose her sleek undercarriage profile. Humm! Will she produce milk for her balls. Should I "disappear" her balls.

I finally phoned the vet to find out if her mothering these balls has triggered hormones??? Say oxytocin, my favourite "the love hormone" which I used to give to first time cows. It turns out that dog's bodies once they have been in heat react as if they are pregnant. It was two months ago that Heidi was in heat and if she was pregnant she would be ready to welp. Well she isn't but her body has started to prepare for pups. So the changes in the milk glands has nothing to do with the balls. On the other hand, she may be mothing the balls in anticipation to having pups. It is possible she might actually produce milk but not likely.

Sows, on the other hand, are signaled by their body that they are pregnant so that the developing piglets are not discharged during their monthy cycle.

Well you learn new things all the time!

A final check on the puppies (balls) before laying her head down on the pillow

Using her tail to hold the puppies (balls) close

Puppies have slipped out from behind her tail.

When she is feeling really maternal she holds her puppies (balls) under her chin. Lucky them, the fur here is soft and feels like velvet. It is my favourite place to pet Heidi.
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Friday, January 16, 2009

I Have Returned

I have neither died or gone into hiding. On January 6 I lost my Internet connection . Since then I have been in an increasingly annoying tussle with AOL. I was told on January 9 the problem would be repaired on January 13. In fact a nice chap phoned to tell me that and I believed him!

Since the 13th came and went without any further explanation I have been a very annoying and annoyed customer. I have been bcoming less and less laid back and long suffering. I have even been pestering the Bell Telephone Company, although it turns out it is not their problem to fix.

I learned that both companies now have their tech help located in Lahore, Pakistan. I was disappointed to learn this as AOL used to be in Moncton, New Brunswick and I always enjoyed chatting with the tech people there, usually comparing the weather.

Of course, the information and tech people in Lahore cannot give you the information you want. I wanted someone to tell me what the problem was and when it would be repaired. I spent a couple of days being passed around from one supervisor to another at AOL in Lahore, likewise with Bell. I kept insisting I wanted to speak to someone in Canada, that knows what is going on.

I even had trouble reaching anyone in Canada connected with Bell.

As my patience was wearing out they kept urging me to be more patient and wait, which just annoyed me even more. I wasn't even sure my problem was being worked on. I was told someone came to my house on January 14 and no one was home. Which is ridiculous as David is a virtual invalid and there is always someone here. The four dogs are more than eager to annouce someone at the door.

Finally, I went to the telephone book and dialed the number for customer service for Bell Telephone. This is located in Canada. While the women here could not solve my problem they certainly informed me more than the Lahore Bell and AOL information services. They were also sympathetic.

I would have been more civil and understanding if someone had called me when the problem was not fixed on January 13 as promised and told me that the problem was greater than they had indicated. The problem for me was I lost faith in them telling me the problem was being worked on. Well, just a couple of hours ago I was sitting at my computer fiddling with the wallpaper and an annoucement popped up for a new version of The Weather Network program. With a quick glance at the modem to see the flashing ready light now steady, I realized I was back on line. I was beginning to think I would have to spend another weekend without the Internet, which has come to be more a part of my life than I care to admit both for the blogging and the constant feeding of my political and intellectual curiosities.

From the beginning of the year until January 6 I fretted to write something for my blog about the Israeli criminal assault on Gaza and the Palestinian people. Sadly, this news is not yet old news. It has just become even a greater war crime. With Canada and the US's unconditional support for whatever Israel does brings shame on us all. Canada, at least, used to have a more even handed policy toward this middle east struggle. I may yet try to write something on this topic. This writing block makes my absence from the Internet seem even longer than it was.

I did manage to ease the withdrawal symptoms. I read the two books I mentioned earlier as being Christmas gifts; Margaret Atwood's Payback (Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth) and Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road. Both interesting books. I look forward to reading the second book on Boyden's trilogy, Through Black Spruce. I particularly enjoyed Boyden's use of Anishanabi spirituality and customs to enrich his story. While living here I have learned a lot about tradition native values and his references to these confirms the truth of what I have learned.

I have been kept amused with Heidi. She got another ball to play with for Christmas. She has been treating these two balls as if they are pups, carrying them around in her mouth and bringing them to bed and laying with them in very maternal ways. She has also been developing milk glands which alarmed me so much I call the vet. I will write another post about this with some pictures.

A real distraction these days has been the frigid weather. We have had several nights when the temperature dropped to -40C and some days when it felt even colder than this when the wind chill factor was accounted for. As romantic as it is to live close to Nature and use older technologies, like heating with wood, It can be a struggle at times. I have had to work hard to keep the house warm enough for David and June and try to care for the animals who are exposed to some of this cold. I have also lost the running water in the house so I am melting snow to get the water we need. I find this preferable to annoying my neighbours, hauling water from their place. Hauling it from the river is very difficult and dangerous, although there have been winters when I have had to do that for 30 head of cattle. I was young and virile back then.

Finally, two days before Christmas my neighbour's youngest son (25) was killed in a car accident
This has filled us all with sadness and worry for him at this difficult time.

(click on photo to enlarge)

The above photo is what it looks like at about 8:00AM when the temperature is somewhere below -35C. This is a ice fog which eventually burns off in the sunlight to reveal a cloudless blue sky.

I am very touched by those blogging friends who have been concerned with my absence from the Internet. Some have left comments of concern or sent emails and a couple, who were able, actually telephoned me. I did not expect this and it is nice to be missed.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Beginnings, Day One

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May your tobaggan ride of Life this year be straight and true,

avoiding the trees and rocks along the run,

with the wind of excitement bringing thrill and chill to you,

with only the occasional bump.