DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012 .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.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

American Politics from Here

Watching American politics from outside the United State is best described as bewildering amusement. It would be just funny if the stakes were not so high. If Americans get it wrong the World will pay the price.

We have been watching the band of clowns that have been seeking the Republican nomination. It is hard to understand the lack of truly serious rational intellectual debate among this bunch. It seems they are either ignorant or catering to the lowest intellectual level of the American people with their talking points. Virtually all of them are college graduates so I have I think they are not just ignorant so it seem the latter is the case.. . . they are catering to their base which seems to have little understanding of the issues and reacts out of prejudice, ideology or ignorance. The potential Republican Presidential candidate, whoever it is represents a scary alternative to Barack Obama.

My biggest concern of a Republican President is that he will declare war on Iran, if Obama does not beat him to it. It makes me wonder if they know much about Iran. I would suggest they at least read the CIA book on Iran. It is not another Iraq. It is a much bigger country with a military that can put up a fight. What we are hearing these days is that Iran must be stopped from getting an nuclear bomb. . .at all cost, apparently. The fact of the matter is Iran does not have a nuclear bomb, nor a program to acquire one soon. The Iranians have been telling us this all along. To have such a weapon, the Ayatollah has called it un-Islamic ( Of course, I think for American to have such a weapon is un-Christian.); it being a weapon to only destroy the innocent in an act of terror. While nothing is certain, the American and Israeli intelligence agencies say that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. It seems the politicians either do not believe them or think it is advantageous to lie to the citizens.We have seen this before many times but the last time was when they told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and "we know where they are". I can hear them now saying Iran has a nuclear bomb and we know how to stop them from using it. Well, we know that will not work out well.

As for Obama, the only real choice for President, unfortunately, he has proven to be a big disappointment. He has failed to deliver on all his good ideas, beginning with closing the prison camp at Guantanamo. He has proved to be powerless in seeing this through even though he is the most powerful man in the United States both as the President and Commander in Chief. Makes one wonder who is in charge if he is not. He has conducted his presidency in a gentle way seeking cooperation from the Republicans and taking the Democrats for granted. It early on appeared that this gentle way of doing politics was not working as the Republicans were determined to never give up anything to help the President do the best for the country. All I can say is Barack Obama is not Lyndon Johnson, who was a skilled wielder of power, who during another war also managed to get his social programs for the country made law. Sadly Barack Obama has carried on far too much of the Bush program for the country, rooted in fear. He could have done much better. One can only hope he has learned some lessons to make a second term more productive, beginning with resisting going to war with Iran,. . .a truly stupid idea.

For what it is worth below is a little levity. Here is a gentle suggestion from Canada to have Canada run for the the Presidency. Believe me, while Canadians are amused by American politics we wish our American cousins well in their endeavour. You may not know it but we need one another.

If you were amused by this video you might like to seen the second one about "The Candidates."
May the best man win. Canadians will be struggling against our own gentler regressive government.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finally some significant snow

How is this for a lot of snow? No this is not the road in front of my house. This is a section of the Trans Labrador highway. They get a lot of snow in the interior of Labrador. This is in a location along the highway where the snow drifts over the road. What impresses me is that this picture is in April when the road was finally opened.

We have had three small snow storms in the last 10 day. There is about 1 1/2 feet on the ground with some drifting.. I love it with everything being white and clean looking. It is lightly snowing now when I took most of these photos.

I just love my mukluks. They were a gift from a friend who bought them for me when he was working as a driller near the remote northern First Nations commuity of Webequie.

My house in Winter

Looking up the road toward the Temagami Forest Reserve

My Ojibwe Snowshoes

My woodpile catching a drift. My shoved path has disappeared. I had begun moving some more wood into the basement.

I just looked outside and it is snowing heavily such that I cannot see my neighbour's home.
Time for another coffee by the fire. I hope wherever you are you are enjoying the Winter.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Belated Christmas Gifts

Parker showed a couple of days ago with my Christmas gifts from him and his kids. We were not together for Christmas.While I spend Christmas and New Year's in Mississauga, Parker and his kids went snowboarding at Collingwood's Blue Mountains. Afterwords, he and his wife Sandra went to Las Vegas, which they enjoy. . . . I just do not understand the fascination for that place. I have places I would like to go that hold no interest for anyone else! Everyone to his own.

Well here are my gifts. I now have a pair of lovely leather "go to town" gloves. I also got a tin of chocolates and a tin of Belgium cookies, many with chocolate icing. I quickly eat them all.

The tin of coffee is the wonderful brand served at Tim Horton's, our national institution of a coffee donut shop (it also sells some sandwiches and soup now). It's reason for being is the coffee. It is the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin Donuts, but much better (a Canadian opinion).

I also got two more books to read. I just love books of how to do homesteading kinds of things which is what the "Country Wisdom Almanac" book is all about. The other book, "Inside of a Dog: What dogs See, Smell and Know" is a examination and an appreciation of the mind of dogs by a scholar on the subject, Alexandra Horowitz. I have so wanted to read this book. I purchased it last summer to give to Jenny my dog sitter as a gift for taking care of Heidi. I read part of it before I gave it to her and asked her to loan it to me when she finished it so I could finish it. Now I have my own copy. Yippee! I thought the hound dog on the front look like Heidi, my Great Dane.

Well I can now put Christmas behind me for another year.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Life is mostly quiet around here.. . .except. .

After the excitement of Christmas and New Year' Day my life had returned to its quiet reality.

One of my kittens wonders what I am doing at the computer

Today we are finally having a little snowfall. Could this be Winter, at last.

Heidi sleeps away the afternoon in her favourite spot


Well life is not always quiet and dull. Here is my neighbour's garage burning to the ground yesterday.
It brought out not only the local volunteer crew but also another company from the community of Field, 10 miles away.

It reminded me of my house fire that required rebuilding the attic and roof a few years ago. It is a horrible experience to go through.. My neighbour's house was spared.

Well back to my reading..

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 07, 2012

My Christmas Reading

For me, Christmas morning would be a great disappointment if I did not get a book, hopefully more than one. This year I have gotten three so far, (I have yet to exchange gifts with my son and his family.)

I can usually count on my sister for a book, or two. Her present comes in the mail directly from Chapters before Christmas. I have been know to have her present (s) read before Christmas morning. Not so this year as I was spending time at Lynne's home, enjoying each other company and touching base with her family and some of mine. I am just now finding the time to do some extensive reading. The books I have to read look like good and substantial stuff to keep my brain alive and well.

My Christmas selection of books

My sister, Penny, send me "A Fair Country", by John Ralston Saul and "Salt, A World History",

by Mark Kurlansky. I was know of the former, having heard the the author interviewed , so I am aware it is putting forth the thesis that Canada is a "metis" society. It is a discussion of the early orgins of the blending of European people and First Nation's people in such a way as to create mythic understanding of the shaping of Canadian value which persist to this day. As I am always interested in Canada and it's similarities and differences culturally with the United States, I look forward to a close reading of this book by one of Canada best know, public philosophers.

The second book, "Salt", I know nothing about. I am aware of the importance of salt through human history and that it has been a form of currency as well as an essential item in human sustainable history. I have also been very interested and read quite a bit about the Tuareg people of the Sahara , berber pastoralists, who to this day still trade salt by transporting it in camel caravans across that great desert. If you have been following the political struggles in Libya you no doubt recognize the name as a fierce warrior people who live, in part ,in southern Libya.

I am also interested in how salt has been used as a preservative in history, before refrigeration.

I have been wanting to try this method of burying raw meat in salt and later recovering it, washing the salt off and preparing it to eat. Just a few generations back this was a common way of preserving meat over time.

So I am interested in reading the book about the history of Salt and learning more of how it was important in so many ways, politically, economically, nutritionally and culturally.

The book by Niall Ferguson, the historian, " Civilization, The West and the Rest" will be a intellectual challenge I am sure. This was my Christmas gift from Lynne. Ferguson is a conservative and is supporting Mitt Romney for the Republican Presidential ticket, which I will try to overlook. I am sure what he has to say is much more profound , with a ring of truth, than what politicians say. I previously read his book "The Ascent of Money, The Financial History of the World" and found it interesting and challenging. I expect this book to be an interesting challenge also.

I hope everyone got some stimulating reading for Christmas and is starting off the new year enthralled with an good story, some wonderful poetry, humourous delights or a challenge to your understanding of the world of ideas. I get the next month or two of Winter reading ahead of me, by then it will be my birthday resulting in another book or two.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I Have Returned!

I am back after a two week holiday visit at my friend Lynne's place in Mississauga; which is my excuse for the lack of posting items on this blog. If you missed me, blessed your heart; if your did not. . . . well that is what I expected.

I had a lovely time in the South, that is southern Ontario in Canadian speech, in Mississauga,  near Toronto.  Lynne has a lovely home in the neighbourhood, I grew up in so some things are familiar while there have been dramatic changes over the years that do not make it feel much like home.any more.

Over the time I was there I got to share in some of the holiday celebrations of Lynne's family and also meet up with my sister and some of her family for a visit.

Here are some notes on my visit.

The weather was quite mild in Mississauga with little or no snow. I am sure in my youth it was colder and snowier over Christmas.  I had checked for anticipated fairly mild temperatures even back in River Valley. I took some modest efforts to make sure there was enough heat in my house so that the water would not freeze while I was away. When I saw that the temperatures had dropped to  -22 C feeling like -32 C back home I was feeling a little panicked. I phoned Parker and he went over to check on the house. All was still well and he did some more things to make the house less draughty and warmer to protect against my plumbing freezing.  What a relief for me.  Except  just before I came home I learned it had even gotten colder at about -36 C, which left me worrying again.  When I got home all was well except I had forgotten how long a cold house takes to truly warm up.  You not only have to warm the air but also the walls and ceiling as well as furniture. I ended up sleeping a  blanket on top of my bed covered with a comforter dressed in my outside clothes the first night as the mattress was very cold.  It is like camping out. I had forgotten about this. The last time I did this was when I had just bought the farm and commuted on weekends the first Winter.  It did not take long to heat the air with my two wood stoves going and the electric heat on in the two rooms I spend the most time in, my bedroom and the library.  By the next day, with the outside temperature warming and the house fully heated all was back to normal.

Christmas Eve Lynne and I went to her eldest son's home not far away for a soiree
with his partner and teenage children, his younger brother and a couple of relatives of Lynne's former husband.  It was a pleasant time; a family tradition when gifts can be delivered. The children can spend Christmas Eve with their father and Christmas Day with their mother.

Christmas Day, Lynne and I headed out for her daughter Kyla's home in Brampton. She has a delightful two year old daughter, which promised to make Christmas morning a little of what I remember as a child.  It occurred to me that Christmas now is more often the gathering of six or eight adults  to watch one child be delighted about Christmas.  This was the pattern at for my sister's Christmas  as she and three of her four grown children  celebrated with her son who has the one young child.  It seems people are having fewer children, or am I at an age out of touch with young families?

At Kyla's home, her partner, her younger brother and Lynne's brother and partner were there to watch Leigha play with her Christmas presents, chat up each other and have a traditional Christmas dinner.   It was nice to finally meet Lynne's younger brother, the school principal. 

 Does not one get married any more? All the adults at these gatherings has partners and not spouses.

It was a nice time and Lynne's granddaughter is a truly a delight.  I finally felt comfortable enough to take a peek at their pet boa constrictor when I found myself sitting next to the terrarium it was in.   I had suggested we bring a live mouse to feed it but Lynne likes mice even less than she likes snakes.  I am really nervous around snakes.  Is the word out that in my youth I was very cruel to snakes, something I am ashamed of and feel snakes have a reason to pay me back.

Lynne and I went to the large Chapter's bookstore to allow me to do some last minute shopping.  It is a very large bookstore, like Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.
The "big box" kind of store that puts out of business small delightful bookstores owed and run by people who love books and know lots about them, literature and authors.  I guess they call these stores, progress! I am not so sure.  There certainly was a large selection although to my dismay they had virtually no books in French not to mention any foreign language.  Given the demographic of Mississauga and Brampton you might expect not only some French books (we are a bilingual country) but some in Urdu, Farsi,  Tagalog, Mandarin,  Punjabi,  Tamil, to name a few languages spoken by many new immigrants.  I was thinking of getting my granddaughter a french book, perhaps one of the best known French Canadian novels, since she is my grandchild who identifies the most with the French Canadian culture she partially participates in.  It turned out this would have required me to go to Toronto to one of the two or three French language bookstores I was aware of.  ( I learned of them  years ago when I tried to buy a French Canadian cookbook that had a picture of my wood cookstove, L'Islet, on the cover. It proved to be out of print.)  I ended up getting her a fun book to read, called, The Book of Awesome.  I am tempted to add to it by writing in it that, "to have a grandfather who passed on his genes to her father, it truly "awesome".  Then again, I may not.

For Travis, my  youngest grandson, I purchased, Tom Sawyer.  I previously gave him my copy of  Huckleberry Finn.  These two classic novels, I thought he would enjoy. They were ones that my mother and I read together a couple of times when I was young. Travis is the biggest reader in the family, a quality that endears him to Lynne.

For Dillon I got the highly recommended hockey book,  The Game, written by Ken Dryden, a former great goalie with, " Les Canadiens".  It is not new but recommended on Canada Reads. It is more than just a hockey book.

I had planned to get Lynne the latest book by Joyce Carol Oates. A Widow's Story and knew I could find in a Chapters.  This is about the mourning experience of Joyce Carol Oates, when her husband of 46 years unexpectedly died.  There's was a great love and marriage.  What I knew of the book I found interesting and thought Lynne would also and it might resonate with her experience when her husband died suddenly a few years ago.  As I have learned more of  her experience,  I have admired how she coped with it and came to admire the quality of the marriage she shared in for so many years   Bill was  a man I never met but believe we would have enjoyed each other.  I suspect  I have some of his qualities which recommend me to Lynne besides her confessed admiration of me when we were in school together from the third grade through high school.  (Why I never asked her out,  I don't understand.  As I looked back I didn't date many girls that lived me for some reason).  I hope she enjoys the book and maybe she will want to read more of Joyce Carol Oates, large collection of published works.  I tried to get her novel Blonde ( a story built on the events of Marilyn Munroe's life) but it was out of print.  I thought my sister would have enjoyed it with the renewed interest in Marilyn Munroe with the current movie out about her.

I was also shopping for a book for my sister, no! two books for my sister as she has a birthday just after Christmas.  I decided to give her a book about Charles Dickens life, this being the bicentennial year of his birth.  It is a wonderful history of his life wonderfully full of pictures and pockets of facsimiles of documents and letters to examine.  For her birthday I got  Truth and Consequences: Inside the Life of the Madoff Family.  I read most of this fascinating account of the Madoff Scandal and how it affected his immediate family  when I was at Lynne's place. She had gotten it as a gift. I ended up reading much of it too her.  I thought Penny might find it as interesting as I did and share it with her husband who had spend his working life dealing with finances.  It is more about the effect of Madoff great evil's effect on his family than the actual financial story of his 50 billion dollar debt when the ponzi scheme collapsed.

After leaving Chapters Lynne and I went for lunch. We do a lot of eating out when we are together.  Lynne enjoys this as a way of socializing and it a rare and fascinating event for me.  We went into the restaurant of Jack Astor's.  It was a large comfortable restaurant with lots of video screens to look at.  It seems these days we need distractions at a time when people traditionally had conversations and enjoyed a meal together.  I thought the screens were used in the evening for sports events with the video images on loops were turned off. transforming the place into a sports bar.

In looking around I admired the young women servers all with long hair and matching uniforms.  It did not take me long to realize there was something uncomfortable for me in this.  I pointed it out to Lynne. Besides all the girls being dressed alike and having long hair I realized in some ways they were all the same. They were all young, slim probably between 5' 3" and 5' 6". Most startling to me was that with the exception of a couple of  Eurasian girls they were all white.  I found this jarring.  Mississauga is a very mixed ethnic community. Here was a large community restaurant and there were no servers of visible minorities.  Having twice in my life lived in minority ethnic communities where I was  in the white minority, I am sensitive to such obvious discrimination.  In Mississauga for the restaurant  to reflect the community there should have been Caribbean, Chinese, South Asian, Middle Eastern, girls working there. I would even expect some girls wearing hijabs.  There were also no older women,  overweight, handicapped or even plain looking girls.

We had a lovely blond server who was very pleasant and it turned out in school training to be a teacher. I stopped her and asked her what the hiring prolicy was at the restaurant.  She sat down and told that it involved a  personal interview (with a man) and that there were a couple of things required of the girls that I had not thought of. They must have long hair worn hanging down. Apparently, short haired girls need not apply.  The uniform  tops were deliberately designed to show some cleavage, which was modest but for a man no doubt tantalizing.  I did not see any big busted girls either so apparently they were screened out.  I pointed out to the girl that such employment practices are wrong and could be illegal. She pushed my button by say, "Well, this is the way it is."   I hate this answer to the acceptance of a wrong in society  which implies that the way things are,  are unavoidable and cannot be otherwise. Such an attitude defends all kinds of injustices against minorities.  I ended up giving her my little speech that social. political, financial, not to mention familial, organized structures are not written in stone but human creations that can be changed. The ageist, sexist, racist policies of the restaurant could and should be challenged.

After the server left Lynne says she got spoken to by one of the managers and may have gotten into some trouble to socializing with us. We liked her and appreciated her frank comments.  Lynne, I think, left her a larger than normal tip.

I found this all very interesting and I still thinking I may write to this restaurant chain with my observations and complaint.  While I enjoyed the food, I will not go there to eat again.  My form of protest I guess.

We had one more event to attend. My sister suggested we get together at the Epic restaurant for lunch before I go home.  The Epic is an upscale restaurant of the lobby of the Royal York Hotel,  the beautiful historic railroad hotel across the road from Union Station. It is now a Fairmont Hotel. The Queen always stays here when she is in Toronto.  It was once the tallest building in the Commonwealth and now is dwarfed by the bank towers and the new hotels and condos that are the modern face of Toronto.  The Royal York was midway between us with Penny coming from the East side of Toronto and me coming from the West. Lynne and I came by the GO train from Port Credit, the station a couple of blocks from Lynne's house.  It was a lovely restaurant, of course, and we all decided to eat from the brunch buffet.   Penny and David, their son Donald, daughter, Elizabeth (home from London, where she works, and son Scott, with is new lady friend made up the group. Son, Rob and his wife, ( the parents of the young child in the family were too exhausted  from Christmas  to come.  It was a nice gathering.  I swallowed my socialist pride and did not say it was too expensive a place for me.

After lunch Scott was flying to Montreal where he lives. The downtown Billy Bishop airport was handy.  Lynne and I  jump on the subway and went up to Maple Leaf Gardens to see the transformation of this abandoned shrine to hockey. The former home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  It is now a very large Loblaws grocery store and the sports facility for Ryerson University.  The grocery store is very interesting with great quantities of food. I was most impressed with the size of the cheese department.  There are several acknowledgement to it's past glory.There is a large blue maple leaf  construction on a wall made out of blue seats from the arena There were other old seats to sit on to rest.  We looked for the spot on the floor, in isle 25  which was center ice in the old rink.  I guess this was a kind of pilgrimage to see this iconic spot. I was not sure whether one was supposed to get down and kiss it.   It would have been nice if they had made a slit in it and we could have deposited a loonie coin as it has become a tradition for Canadians to bury a loonie at center ice in a tournament (if they can get away with it), as good luck.

I enjoyed being able to spend the time with Lynne over the holiday.  Heidi was enjoying her stay with Jenny my neighbour and dog lover who seems to love my dog and welcomes her at her place along with her six dogs. (or is it five).  I do not worry about Heidi when she is at her place which is like a resort for a dog.

I hope all my readers had a wonderful holiday season and will find many interesting challenges and unexpected joys in the new year.