DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day

Let this be a day to remember what has been accomplished since the first Earth Day and think of how much more there is to do.

May we and our Nation's leaders find the wisdom, courage and leadership to redouble our efforts at loving our planet and saving our home, Earth.

Earth Day Flag

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Houston! We have a solution.

Thirty years ago, the Apollo 13 crew on their way to the moon spoke those fateful words, "Hey, Houston, we've had a problem" Or as Tom Hanks recalled it, "Houston, we have a problem."
(No Tom Hanks was not a crew member.)

The Apollo 13 mission suffered an explosion of an oxygen tank, which created a serious problem which might has left the astronauts stranded in space where they would perish. Mission control scrambled to find solutions to problems which would allow Apollo 13 to return to Earth. From the movie, which Tom Hanks was we all probably know something of this real life drama. perhaps, more than any other mission.

I am sure in the United States. as well as Canada, today there is some remembrance of this incident in the space program 30 years ago. If that was all I would not feel it interesting to blog on this but, for my American friends I doubt they heard the some Canadian engineers were instrumental in recovering the Apollo 13 capsule and crew.

Today, in Canada, these engineers were honoured. They were academics at the Univesity of Toronto. They were contacted by NASA to do some critical calculations which would allow the safe separation of the Capsule and the Lunar Lander. There were under pressure to work out the calculations in a short period of time. They came to a conclusion they thought would work. If the calculations were wrong, either too high or two low, the Apollo 13 capsule and crew would be doomed. As it turned out they were correct.

It is worth remembering that 30 years ago there were no personal computers. The computers available to NASA were probably less powerful that a good personal personal computer today.

The Canadian scientists did not use a computer to help them make the calculations. They had a slide rule to assist them. I doubt there are many engineers today even own, let along know how to use a slide rule. Without a computer the task before the Canadian engineers would be more difficult than if they were doing today.

I wonder if Americans know of Canada's contribution to the space program. American news seldom refers to any other countries contribution. I am sure they have at least know of Canada Astronauts who have been part of the building of the space station and experiments conducted there. A few might know that Canada's expertise in robotics created the Canadarm the crane on the Space Shuttle and the Canadarm II on the Space Station. Officially is is known as the Suttle Remote Manipulator System. Without these the space station would not be able to be built. Well now some of you know that some Canadians, modestly but reliably, made it possible for the Apollo 13 astronauts to come home to mother Earth.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Monumental and the Incidental History

Today is an interesting historical anniverary for two quite different events. Today is Vimy Ridge Day, the 93 anniversary of the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadian troops in WW I and the anniversary of the first time in American history that a white woman touched a black man on a TV show in 1968. The first will never be forgotten by Canadians for it was a defining moment for our country. The latter will no doubt be a trivial question on some game show largely lost to history. It probably should not have even been noted but it was very controversal at the time. The reaction to the touch was more noteworthy than the actual touch. During a duet Petula Clark reach out and placed her hand on the arm of Harry Belafonte to the consternation of the sponsor Chrystler Corperation. If it had not been for the fact that Petula Clark owned the rights to the show it may not have aired. Here is part of the story on BBC

Today in Ottawa at the war memorial a ceremony was held to commemorate Vimy Ridge Day and all the Canadian soldiers who died in WWI. This year the last Canadian soldier from that war died so this was the first year Canada has no living military connection to that war.

At Vimy Ridge, part of the Battle of Arras in the Nord Pas-de-Calais region of France, next to the Belgium border, the French and the British has tried several times to dislodge the German troops dug in along the ridge. The Canadian Expeditionary Force, (part of the British Army, as Canada was a colony) under the leadership of a Canadian Maj. General, Arthur Currie, and Lt. General Julien Byng , with their innovative tactics, (Canadian Strategy) and much courage and sacrifice by Canadian soldiers representing all regions of Canada, got the job done. For Canada, this is perhaps the most significant battle ever fought as it shaped our image, to ourselves and others that Canada was more than a colony, it had won itself the recognition that it was a sovereign country. Canada was so recognized as it was a signer of the treaty that ended the war and went on to become a member country of the League of Nations. For more information of Canadians at Vimy Ridge read:

(click on photo to enlarge)

This is the monumental war memorial at Vimy Ridge. This May when I am in Belgium I will cross into France and visit this memorial and the cemetaries of Canadian soldiers who died in the area in WWI.

This is a very interesting memorial. It was commissioned in 1920 from a design by Walter Allward from Toronto. It took French craftsmen 10 years to build it. It has on it several interesting pieces of statuary and the names of 11,285 Canadian soldier whose remains were never recovered carved in the stone base. It is also a memorial to the 66,655 Canadian soldiers who died fighting for the liberation of France. It was officially opened to the public in 1936. I believe I read that Hitler visited it and liked it so it was not destroyed in WWII.

This statute carved out of a single 20 ton block of stone represents Canada.

The view from the war memorial overlooking the plain. In the distance on the left you can see piles of coal. It was to protect the coal fields that Vimy Ridge was so important.

I look forward to visiting this region of France and the Flanders region of Belgium with all its history of great significance to Canada.

I wonder if American Television will show Petula Clark's spontaneous touching of Harry Belafonte. It would be a bitter/sweet thing to see: it should not have been worthy of comment but perhaps it was a small step of maturing as a society for Americans.

Sadly, both wars and racism continue to involve our lives far too often.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Just an Update

I feel I must apologize for not posting on my blog for a while. I have been resistant for some reason even though I always have things buzzing around in my head I might like to write about.

I was away in Mississauga for a week celebrating a birthday with a friend and her family. Since I have gotten back I find myself unmotivated. It may be the nice weather, which is a distraction or more likely it is dealing with the stressful situation between my friend and tenant, June, which will be resolved today when I give her an eviction notice. I expect that will increase the stress until she finally moves out. At least, I will see an end to a situation which is not good for either of us. Sadly, I suspect it will end our friendship of 20 years.

Those who have been interested in my brother and sister in law's trek of the Appalachian Trail might like to know that they are now in the southwest corner of North Carolina , enjoying themselves. They have had some challenging weather and at one point in the Smokey Mountains the trail had about a foot of snow on it. Hard to imagine with our mild winter here and currently summer like temperatures, two months early.

There is a tradition among those on the trail to eventually give each other a Trail name. Richard and Carol are now known as "The Canadian Geese" (Goose and Gander) Apparently, they earned this because they are Canadians treking north and the Spring and Canadian Geese mate for life. How nice is that!

Those who might like to read some of their journal you can find it here. You can read it from the beginning or click to the "last" entry and go back a few entries and read about their recent days. They can only post when they are near a town and can access a computer in a library.

I am trying write something more extensive but I decided to post these brief remarks to show that I am still here, and I will try to get a further blog entries done.