DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011 .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, December 29, 2010

20 Years of the Internet

It seems like we have always had computers and access to the Internet. Our lives have been transformed by it in many ways. We have become dependent on it. It is hard to believe, the Internet is only 20 years old. It was in December of 1990, that Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet, (more correctly the World Wide Web (WWW.) ,composed and sent the first web page. He was a software engineer at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory) in Switzerland, when he proposed to that organization his idea of what became the WWW. He had been working on programs that were suggesting to him that this was possible. When CERN seems not too interested he went ahead on his own along with his colleague, Robert Cailliau. Finally, he created a browser and a server and the three program elements that make the WWW work: html, (hypertext mark-up language) http, hypertext transfer protocal) and url (universal resource locators.) Tim Berners-Lee wrote the software code of each of these. Html allows links in text and pages so they can connect); http allows a document to be sent and url allows there to be a unique address for each web page. Luckily, most of us do not have to know how these work. We just enjoy the easy use of them and the other developments since. Berners-Lee has gone on to create and lead the agency, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that sets the technical standards of the WWW and continues to oversee improvements in it.

The World Wide Web is an open source project. Lets hope it continues to be free to all and equally shared. There are those who would like to see it otherwise, having control over all or part of it as a for profit service. There are also governments who want to have control of it for national security, political power, or prestige. Let's hope we resist this successfully, our feedom of access to information and even our freedom of speech and assembly (vitually) is at stake.

Recently, it has been noted that Canadians are the biggest users of the Internet. This is interesting but not surprising. Previously, we were the biggest users of telephones, so it seems we as a people seem to be comfortable reaching out through technology to communicate with one another. I also like to think that it reflects our interest in ideas, and the World. Perhaps, it is also because of our vast geography and our long winters. For our many immigrants it must be a wonderful tool to keep in touch with distant relatives and friends and the news back "home". The values and uses of this tool seem to be increasing still.

Tim Berners-Lee is an interesting person who was quite young when he fathered the World Wide Web. Anyone who has read about the history of the computer knows that most of the major contributions to the hardware and software was developed my young people, many became very rich which other where happy to have created their small piece of the puzzle necessary for computers to work for us.

I am particularly interested in Tim Berners-Lee because he is a member of my denomination. He is a Unitarian Universalist. He has written about how his understanding of our religious view and the democratic way our organizations work dovetails with how the Internet works. It makes for interesting reading. It is always generally interesting to me when people are reflective about their life: philosophizing and theologizing about who they are and what they do that gives it shape and meaning.

I came late to the computer. I am hooked now. As a person who is a news junky and a compulsive researcher of anything that catches my attention it is an important tool and a source of excitement and joy at times. It keeps my life expansive in spite of living a little out of the mainstream.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Homelessness. . .A Fear

It may be irrational but I have a fear of eventually being homeless. This, in spite of the fact that I live alone in a rather large house on a lovely big piece of farm property. I do have a small mortgage (by today's standard) which so far I have been able to continue to pay. For some this would be luxurious living.

I live close to the line economically which is no secret to my family and friends. In spite of a fine education, I have not accumulated the resources that middle class people expect to have to live out their retirement without the fear of homelessness or poverty. I arrived in this postion as a result of a series of life choices of my own choosing, which I do not regret. I accept the judgment that I am in a situation economically of my own doing. I don't expect people to feel sorry for me. I am quite happy to live in a very simple way. I can afford my way of life for now but it would not take much to push me over the line.

A homeless man. But not a hopeless man. He has some essentials: a companion, a book, adequate clothes and it look like he just finished a fresh orange. He looks clear eyed and content, not beaten down by his circumstances.

I lived the latter half of my life thinking I would die around 60 years old. (perhaps becasue my mother died at 61 unexpectedly) To my embarassment I am still here and in reasonable health. Being as an occasional depressed person, at times, I have thought if I was not dead by this time from natural circumstances I would take matters into my own hands and escape life and relieve family and friends of the burden of worrying about me. As a result, I did little planning for a retirement. Money was for the living.

Part of the fear of homelessness is the prospect of being dependent upon others or having to ask for help. I could not bring myself to ask extended family in particular for any assistance. For me, they have made it clear, over the years, such a request would be an imposition. It would be demeaning to be dependent on the kindness of strangers. So my worry goes.

Canada has a modest social safety net, so being homeless does not mean you are without financial resources, as long as you have an address, just not enough to become the "not homeless". As a life long socialist this is a disappointment for me as I believed in the ideal of government supporting people "from the cradle to the grave." Even our left wing party gave up this plank in their platform many years ago.

Recently, I have been reading a blog by a homeless man, Tony. It is very interesting. It is actually written, with his permission, by his friend, Philip, a Harvard grad (sounds like me but I identify with Tony.) who took an interest in him. They are a kind of "odd couple" of friends that meet on Tony's terms.

It is interesting to look in on Tony's life.: his daily struggle and his ideas on the World. I have often thought a lot about strategies which one could use to survive homeless in the city or in the country. If I were homeless I would prefer to be homeless in the country, where I also have some survival skills.

Tony's blog is a dose of realism of life on the street life of a homeless person.

The blog is not without humour. Tony often ends his short entries with the phrase "if you know what I mean." At least he avoids the shorter form "eh!" which so many Canadians say. If enough people read his blog it may become fashionable if you know what I mean! It made me think of the other blog I enjoy by Margaret and Helen where the entries end with "I mean it. Really.", which is hard to avoid using at times.

I recommend to you both of the blogs I have mentioned.

For now, for me, life is good, but I bet the fear of homelessness will continue to visit me in the occasion restless night or depressed time of despair. I am commited to toughing life out.
"In mean it. Really, if you know what I mean!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to All. . . . .

If you are one of the few who have not viewed this Flash Mob event (below) in a Mall near Niagara Falls, Ontario I invite you to listen to it now and let it raise your Christmas Spirit.
(It has been viewed more than 6 million time, some kind of a record).

I like these Flash Mob events when they are well done. They are a celebration in song or dance or drama performed in the midst of everyday like to the delight of the impromptu audience.

Sadly they are sometimes co-opted when a company puts them on as Air Canada did recently in the Vancouver Airport or when they are pubicized ahead of time so that the venue is overcrowded and may have to be vacated for fire regulations, (which has also happened.)

This video is a seasonal delight. How much better than the annoying usual Mall Muzak.

My Great Dane, Heidi, wants to send you all this winter video to cheer you up at Christmas.
(If I can only get her to stop laying her head on on keyboard) I might have made a video of her enjoying the snow except we do not have very much and " her long legged ellegance" is not one to roll and jump in the snow. She is a mellow tip toe around kind of dog in the cold snow. So we hope you enjoy the antics of Bailey and the singing of Harry Connick, Jr.

Merry Christmas/Joyeux Noël/Feliz Navidad !

Natale Hilare et Annum Faustum!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Islam: the Qur'an

The Qur'an (Koran) as the sacred book of Islam is a truly "holy" book it that it is believed to be the literal word of God dictated by Allah to Mohammed , the Prophet, in the seventh Century. Mohammad was illiterate, he recalled God's words so his followers could submit them to memory and eventually write them down.

The word of God came to Mohammad in Arabic. It is certainly obvious how the Qur'an is so revered by Muslims as they read and recite the word of God as delivered to them throught the last Prophet Mohammad.

I tried reading the Koran many years ago and found it daunting. It was not an easy read with little of no knowledge of the context, history and references in it. I have recently thought I should make another effort being more knnowledgeable and motivated. It is truly a profound book with much in common to the Jewish sacred texts and the Bible of the the Christians. Muslims revere much of what it shares with Judaism and Christianity, they share the wisdom of the old testament prophets and recognizes Jesus as a great prophet and Mary as a great model for all women.

I recently came upon the video below of a lecture on the Qur'an by Lesley Hazleton. It is interesting to note that just as detractors of Christianity and Christian Fundementalists
"proof- text" passages from the Bible to justify their extreme views so Radical Islamists and Islamophobes rest their arguments on isolated texts from the Qur'an. I hope you will listen to Ms. Hazleton' s charming and wise words on the Islam's idea of Paradise, so often misrepresented by Islamist terrorists as well as Islamophobes.

Lesley Hasleton writes an interesting blog, The Accidental Theologist. She is the author of a book on the relationship between the two broad branches of Islam: Sunni and Shia,
After the Prophet. I look forward to reading it soon. Thanks to the American Invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, I have become very interested in Islam particularly the Shia branch of Islam which is prominent in Iran and Iraq , most of it's holy shrines are in Iraq.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Weather and Food

Today we are having a snow storm. It has been snowing all day and it will snow tomorrow also. By the time it is over we may have 30 cm of snow (1 foot). There is a good wind so there will also be come drifting.

I like these days. It is interesting to watch the weather. It is nice to not have to go anywhere. I keep busy keeping the wood stove going at a level to handle the cold. In an old farm house windy cold weather works it's way through the house. Hence my wearing my tuque and a heavy sweater in the house.

This cold and snowy weather is a good time to do some food preparation in the kitchen, near the wood stove. In the last few days I have made some things. (see below) Today, I am making pickled carrot sticks.

I put on Heidi's sweater to take her out in the weather. It is not on very well Gram (the creator of the sweater) I will do better next time.

This is Red Root Relish (beets, cabbage and onion)

This is cinnamon biscotti to dip into my coffee.

Peanut Butter Cookies