Friday, December 23, 2011

Rare Family Photos: “I must have a metal plate in my head”

One of my sisters must have one too.

In this rare family photo (def’n. - rare, adj. uncommon, no one will ever see it again), taken at the “Norwich District High School Fashion Show” - as per my mother’s neat script on the back of the photo - circa 1958, you’ll notice that my older sister Dale and I are tilting our heads toward Mum while wearing plastic smiles. We must have had metal plates up top, and Mum a magnetic force under her hat.

Why else would we be smiling? I for one hated the fashion shows. My true feelings are plastered all over my youngest sister’s face. (Jane didn’t start smiling until she figured out her date for early retirement a few years ago. Now she can’t stop).

And brother Kim? I can’t tell whether he’s happy or sad under that goofy grin.

I’ll soften my feelings for this particular fashion show for just a second. I do recall liking the jacket, cream coloured with burgundy ribs and I think Mum bought it for me. I was wearing it (or something else with burgundy dye in it) during a freak rainstorm and, instead of jumping under the protective awning of a Main St. store in Norwich, I stood - mesmerized - and watched a wall of water from the sky (the wet wall reached from one side of the street to the other; it was blue to gray in colour; it made an unforgettable noise, like a modern street-washing machine) move slowly down the street before me. By the time I awoke to the fact I was getting drenched (the rain felt very warm and fresh), completely drenched, burgundy dye was dripping from my fingers and running across the sidewalk and into the gutter.

I remember Mum’s question to me after she saw my ruined jacket. “Why didn’t you get out of the rain?

I can’t recall my exact answer. Something about a magnetic force controlling my head.


Please click here to view another Family Photo.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ollie and Me: “He makes me laugh”

We all need one special talent to help us make our way through the world with some confidence. Ollie has at least one.

Though he’s cute, that’s not his special talent. I dare say every child is cute at age five. But wait ‘til they’re 13 and want their own car.

Ollie can turn his eyelids under (Or is it ‘over?’) to make me laugh. How he figured out how to do it escapes me.

Maybe he’ll outgrow the special talent once he has his driver’s license.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Any special talents in your household?

Please click here for more Ollie and Me.


Link and Learn: How to stop squirrels. WTheck?

It can actually be done?

For readers following my series about “a squirrel-proof feeder” and who are not buying a word of it, please be aware that there are others among us who study the problems related to squirrels in far more detail than I ever will.

I mean, I just want to beat them (badly), keep them from my seed mix and design a feeder that will one day, maybe soon, grant me entrance to the hall of mighty minds.

Reader G. Howell recently left the following comment:

“I admire you for trying; and I know that somewhere, someday someone will come up with the perfect squirrel proof bird feeder that is actually squirrel proof yet not bird proof. When that happens, that individual will become very wealthy. Keep trying, I look forward to perhaps purchasing one from you.”

I add it here in its entirety for three reasons:

First. I look forward to becoming very wealthy.

["One more squirrel walks away - empty - from my feeder"]

Second. Because of Mr. Howell’s positive support I want to go on record and say he’ll get the deep discount.

Third. Mr. Howell provides a wealth of very good information about squirrels at the following website,, and anyone interested in defeating the cleverest of squirrels (even some of the not-so-clever ones) would do well to link to the site.

Keep up the battle!


Please click here to read A Squirrel-proof Feeder PT6


A Squirrel-proof Feeder PT6

That was then. This is now, Day 9

Thirteen months ago, on Nov. 18, 2010, on a wet, dreary day much like today, I set up two sturdy bird feeders on the clotheslines that cross my back deck.

Thirty seconds after the fact, a stealthy band of rabid squirrels (well, they looked rabid to me) raided the fresh seed that was meant for birds hiding in my spruce trees. I growled, gnashed my teeth and fell to the floor after watching one squirrel give me the thumb's up whilst hopping across the clothesline on one foot, sans balance bar or frilly umbrella (like in the cartoons).

"Easy ka-peasy," it seemed to be saying.

["At least I had a great view from my window"]

That was then. This is now.

On Dec. 13, 2011 I paraded onto my back deck - confidently; I hummed a marching song - with my latest feeder. It sported a wide metal collar, i.e., an $80 exterior lamp shade, the most expensive squirrel-guard in Canadian history.

Am I proud? Of course I’m proud. Am I expecting trouble? Of course I’m expecting trouble. Though squirrel-free (as far as I can tell after making an untold number of visits to my back window every day) for 8 full days, I know that somewhere on a nearby fence rail, or amongst the spruce branches in my yard, huddles a band of malicious thugs with paper, pencil, measuring tapes and expensive grappling in hand.

Thirteen months ago they quickly triumphed.

But that was then.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Will Gord succeed where few have gone before? Will Gord one day take his rightful place in the hall of mighty minds?

If you can stand the suspense, stay tuned.

Please click here ("It's easy ka-peasy") to read A Squirrel-proof Feeder PT 5.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bird Watching: Mr. Blue Jay

By moving my camera into position I scared off half of the pair of blue jays that visited my feeder this morning. Perhaps they will return together later in the day, or tomorrow.

Many birds are jittery, so I think I’ll cover the window closest to the feeder with a piece of cardboard, leaving one circular hole in the center for my camera lens.

Is Mr. Blue Jay visiting your feeder? Any other birds?

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Bird Watching.


Family Photos: “Get me outta here! Really”

I think the photo below was taken in 1957. Maybe 1958. I can’t be sure. Perhaps my oldest sister can recall the year she had white- or cream-coloured spectacle frames. Perhaps my second-oldest can remember when our mom decked her out in a straw hat.

Mom wrote the following on the back of the photo:

Back row - Dale Harrison, Liane Harrison, Gordon Harrison
In front of Liane - Kim Harrison
Fashion show Norwich
Thompson? Kibler? Edwards girls

So, she provided a few names. That helps identify most of the victims, i.e., of her plot to embarrass not just her own children but others as well. But she didn’t record what I was thinking. Surely she knew.

“Get me outta here!” immediately springs to mind. “If my school mates see me in this matching hat and jacket I’m as good as off the scrub team.” (My pant legs are turned up three or four inches as well. That wouldn’t help.)

Karen Thompson, far right of photo, wants out of the fashion show as well, and seems to be checking out the nearest exit, stage left.

My brother Kim (center) seems to be handling things better, but he is three years younger, perhaps content to be wearing something other than my hand-me-downs.

The youngest girls I don’t know. The Kibler twins? But the girl to my brother’s right is Gloria Edwards, the inventor of the mini-skirt.

Recently I received a written comment from my oldest sister about an earlier family photo. She said, “hey, what's with all the homely family pictures? don't tell anyone which one is me..ha, ha..those where the days.”

My answer... it’s time the world knew. And about hiding your identity? Too late.


In the above photo I also seem to be saying, “I’ll never do another fashion show for Mom.”

Au contraire mon ami.

Please click here for more very rare Family Photos.


Friday, December 16, 2011

It Strikes Me Funny: PT 5 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see

["The lone black squirrel ate up Plan A"]

[“Sure, I regret the loss of seeds and manly pride (what’s left of it, anyway), but the lone raider at least quashed my dreams before they got too big for my head.” G. Harrison, PT 4]

When I caught a lone black squirrel eating seeds in my bird feeder, I half expected it.

Earlier on the fateful day I’d imagined myself as a squirrel and thought of a way to thwart the green metal barrier attached to my feeder pole. And I felt, deep in my heart and feeble brain, if I could do it, a squirrel could do it. And it did. Rather quickly too, I might add.

So, on to Plan B.

["A larger, very expensive feeder guard.Is it worth it?"]

I took the feeder back into my workshop, removed the feeder from atop the pole, removed four small pieces of wood holding the green lamp shade in place, slipped off the metal shade, and turned my attention to an antique lamp frame with a metal shade attached, one that was significantly larger than the green one.

Within minutes I had the larger shade in my hand. It felt heavy, durable, ancient (likely it had thwarted many a devious plot by some one or some thing), and very expensive.

The 40-pound frame and shade, with original thick copper wiring still attached, had cost me $80 at an antiques dealer. And I was just going to use the one part of it, the rare fluted shade. What I held in my hand was likely going to become the most expensive squirrel guard in Canada., and I didn’t care. I just cared about beating the squirrels, one black one in particular.

I slipped the shade onto the pole, spent 15 minutes making four wood blocks to hold it in place, reattached the bird feeder and carried the new and improved stand outside.

I whistled a marching song as I stood the stand triumphantly upon my deck, filled the feeder with fresh seed and walked confidently into the house.

["Stop in the name of the law!": photos by G.Harrison]

A week has gone by. Not one squirrel has reached the feeder. I think I’ve won the game this time.

I say, three cheers!


Could this be the end of the squirrel saga? Is man cleverer than the squirrel?

Please click here to read PT 4 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see


Thursday, December 15, 2011

It Strikes Me Funny: PT 4 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see

[“Surely, however, with months of training on lesser (bird feeder) stands, once the critter has a good hold of the rim it will find a way to scramble over. But will it then be stuck, with nowhere to turn? I can only hope.” G. Harrison, PT 3]

["What's happening in my feeder?"]

I actually thought my new bird feeder would withstand raids from a local band of squirrels for at least a few days. Heck, I would have been happy if the feeder had remained squirrel-free for even a few hours.

Soon after I filled the feeder, however, with a lovely selection of mixed seed, I visualized how one ingenious squirrel might get past the metal lamp shade that I’d attached on the support pole to fend off attack. And, shortly after I visualized the scene, a black squirrel visualized the same scene and was up and into the seed bed right under my nose, i.e., while I stood at a nearby window - watching and shaking my fist.

["Drat! You rat!": photos by GH]

Sorry, I lied. I have to admit that it wasn’t ‘shortly after,’ it was ‘very shortly after.’

I say this knowing the admission will cause friend Don to laugh into his cereal bowl and wish I’d taken hid $5 bet.

That being said, with Don and others like him in mind, i.e., people who feel a squirrel-proof feeder will never exist, allow me to say I’m actually glad the attack happened early, and that I saw it happen. Sure, I regret the loss of seeds and manly pride (what’s left of it, anyway), but the lone raider at least quashed my dreams before they got too big for my head.

Plus, I already had a plan B firmly planted in my mind for the time when Plan A crashed and burned.

Wait ‘til you see it.


Please click here to read PT 3 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see


Zoom w a View: Family photo circa 1958

On the back of this old picture are the words ‘Doug and Edith Harrison and family, December 1958.’

It was cold outside but warm inside the house, at least where we were sitting and standing, i.e., in front of the oil stove. The one stove pipe exitted the house; the upstairs, where we all slept, was not heated until a basement was dug under the house and an oil furnace installed.

My brother Kim (on Dad’s lap) and I - both in warm pajamas - seem to be looking into the next room, perhaps toward the Christmas tree. Kim seems happy with what he sees and I look a little sad and worried.

Did Santa discover I had cut the spokes on Sonny Bucholtz’s bicycle? Likely. My folks knew for certain.

Not that I would be without toys, however, on Christmas day. I could always play with my red building bricks (note cardboard tube at right edge of photo) or play Battleships with a piece of paper and pencil.

This year I’ve asked for Meccano. I hear it’s a step up.


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Christmas without snow? WTHeck?

I want snow. Two feet of the white stuff or more.

The idea of a Christmas season without snow looms... and already I feel blue.

Even a neighbour’s Grinch is feeling depressed about the notion.

[Photo by GH, one who feels the same]


Please click here for another WTHeck moment.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Zoom w a View: Circa 1959

It didn’t happen often. So few families could manage it.

It would take hours, even days, to get everyone into their Sunday finest, hair combed, teeth brushed, standing still in the side yard.

My family managed it only once as I recall.

[Reproduced photo by GHarrison.]

Though I can’t remember who snapped the picture, I’m sure the person said, “Say cheese everybody, and look directly into the sun. Excellent.”

[GH is standing in front of his mother.]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Monday, December 12, 2011

It Strikes Me Funny: PT 3 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see

[“ Before I could say ‘what the heck,’ the squirrel bounced off the drift, sprang toward a support pole (used to keep the feeder seven feet above the deck), catapulted from it toward the feeder.” Dec. 11, G. Harrison]

Last winter I fed birds in my yard on a very regular basis. Darn squirrels made out like bandits on many occasions as well, after one of them figured out a way to do the triple-jump.

This year’s attempt at a squirrel-proof feeder may be my best yet. In the last two days I’ve seen squirrels at its base but nowhere else. Still, I fear an assault at any minute.

["Will this tall model keep the squirrels away? We'll see."]

Three will race across the deck and, with a well co-ordinated leap, hit the support pole at its mid-point and get the stand swinging back and forth. Then another, in charge of ropes and pulleys, will add his weight just as the stand is nearing its tipping point. Two will jump out of an eaves trough, two more will spill out of a tree and my squirrel-proof feeder - so I thought! - will come crashing to the ground.

If the stand doesn’t tip - by hook or by crook - one clever squirrel will find a way to climb past the metal lamp shade.

I can see it now. A squirrel will shinny as high as it can, grasp the pole with its hind legs - muscular little beggar - lean backwards and grab, desperately, the metal rim with one tiny paw. At least I hope it’s ‘desperately,’ and fear of falling will cause its eyes to glaze, its narrow brow to sweat. Flop sweat. The worst kind.

["Both black and gray squirrels are stymied... for now"]

Surely, however, with months of training on lesser stands, once the critter has a good hold of the rim it will find a way to scramble over. But will it then be stuck, with nowhere to turn?

I can only hope.

Will Gord’s latest feeder save his precious seed for the birds only? Will several families of squirrels pack their bags late one night - soon - and slink away into the darkness, never to return?

Stay tuned.

[Photos by G. Harrison]


Please click here to read PT2 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Workshop: Cedar feeder and its lifespan

Some readers will know I use new and rescued lumber to make birdhouses and feeders and that I’m particularly fond of cedar.

One 8-foot long board is all that is required to build a 14-inch tall, 18-inch long feeder, as per photos, and even boards from Home Depot don’t break the bank if rescued boards don’t suit the design.

So I know the cost and what lumber I like to use, but what I don’t know is how long such a feeder will last. I suppose in another 30 years I’ll have part of the answer, but that’s a long-time to wait.

Do you know how long a cedar bird-feeder (5/8th-inch, unfinished) will last? And if I coat it with linseed oil, will that add 10 years to its life?

["I shouldn't cut cedar. I should frame it as art!"]

I bet I’ll know more when I’m 100, but help me now if you can.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for another trip to The Workshop.


It Strikes Me Funny: PT 2 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see

[“There is some argument - soon to be resolved - concerning my standing in the halls of those determined word workers who have produced squirrel-proof bird feeders without expensive tools, fancy materials or any instructions from NASA scientists.” GH, Dec.10]

To hinder squirrels from feasting on seeds inside last year’s feeder, I attached bottles, cans and wooden barriers to the clothesline, and upped the code to 7-7-7-7 to thwart the many advances in the diet and conditioning of London’s squirrels.

["Someday, I should put a feeder on top of a greased pole.": photo GH].

While I waited to see the results of my ingenious plan, a friend told me he was willing to bet five bucks on the squirrels. He said I wasn’t onto something other than the path toward another failed attempt. Yes, he admired my diligence, but felt I was deluded if I imagined myself cleverer than a squirrel.

I’m glad I didn’t take the bet.

One day I saw three squirrels huddling on a fence rail, then turn and approach my deck, and while two served as lookouts, the biggest and brightest furry beast, after one last look at his notes, ran toward a snow drift - away from the feeder.

Before I could say ‘what the heck,’ it bounced off the drift, sprang toward a support pole (used to keep the feeder seven feet above the deck), catapulted from it toward the feeder. In midair it twisted to right itself and - unbelievably - grabbed the feeder with two front paws. I gasped. It lifted a hind leg, clutched the feeder’s edge and rolled itself into the seed bed.

Standing alone in the back room, I spontaneously applauded, then caught myself and cursed. Good grief. Back to the drawing board I went.

How’d I do?

Stay tuned.


Please click here to read PT 1 A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see


WTHeck? Lost treasure found

I didn’t go looking for treasure. It fell into my lap.

In brief, here’s what happened: My son called on the phone and mentioned his wife would like a jewelry box for Christmas. Something small. I thought of the small box inside my study closet that once belonged to my son’s grandfather. I retrieved it while talking. Voila.

Inside were a few coins, including a couple of my dad’s old silver dollars and one U.S. 50-cent piece with J.F.K.s likeness stamped on one side.

I said to myself, I thought the U.S. coin had been stolen. Welcome back!

Because the 50-cent piece was minted in 1971 and is in very good condition, I bet it’s worth at least a dollar now. And since I found it years ago on the floor of a local grocery store then that one dollar is pure profit.

Talk about your treasure!

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Now, if I could just find my glasses.

Please click here for It Strikes Me Funny.


Favourite Things: A pair of cedar birdhouses

A friend called this week with a request.

“Do you have any birdhouses? I need a couple for Christmas?”

Does the sandman have sand? Does a hobby horse have a wooden neck? Isn’t Tinker Bell just the cutest little thing?

“Come on over,” I replied.

I arranged a selection of birdhouses in the living room, scanned the crowd, and my eyes landed on two of my favourites - side by side.

Aren't they just the cutest little things?

[Photo by GH]

Tell me about one of your favourite things.


Please click here for more Favourite Things.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

It Strikes Me Funny: A squirrel-proof feeder? We’ll see

There is some argument - soon to be finally resolved - concerning my standing in the halls of those diligent, determined word workers who have produced squirrel-proof bird feeders without expensive tools or any instructions from others, including NASA scientists.

Now, for those readers who would say that such a thing does not, cannot and will never exist... don’t be too hasty. Because I think I’m onto something.

["My new feeder stand is about the right height... I think"]

Friend Don K. is one who will not agree. He’s usually the first to say that I’m not onto something other than the path toward another failed attempt. And though he admires my diligence, he feels I’m deluded if I imagine I myself cleverer than a squirrel.

Admittedly, there have been many failed attempts in the past.

My first bird feeder (hung on the clothesline near a wooden pole) will go down in history as merely sturdy, usually well-stocked, and with a Level 1 or lowest rating in the ‘difficult to reach’ category, as far as dozens of locals squirrels are concerned. I’m pretty sure some of the older squirrels still talk about it while sun-bathing together on the fence rail closest to my back door and deck.

["Will a few seeds attract squirrels? We'll see."]

Shortly after building it I attached it to our clothesline outside the back door, but was unaware of the 6-6-6 placement code, that a feeder must be 6 feet above the ground, 6 feet from the nearest vertical surface (e.g., a window ledge or other jumping off point), and six feet from the nearest over-hanging tree branch. I was also unaware that squirrels work in teams to overcome the 6-6-6 code, are able to draw complicated Venn diagrams in the dirt and have been known to laugh out loud at Level 1 feeder placement.

["No squirrels today, so I'll attach the new feeder to its stand."]

My second attempt was more successful. I applied the code more carefully, even went so far as to modify it to 6-6-6-6, to remind me to keep my feeder 6 feet away from building materials. The squirrels were stymied until they discovered they could reach my feeder by traversing clothesline hand over hand... rather, paw over paw, while upside down. One agile pest travelled atop the wire right side up without a balance bar or umbrella (like in the movies).

I thought that was crossing the line, so I attached bottles, cans and wooden barriers to the clothesline and upped my code to 7-7-7-7 to thwart the benefits of my squirrels’ abundant inner city diet.

How’d I do?

Stay tuned.


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny.


The Workshop: A winter refinishing project

My oldest son called this morning to discuss his Christmas wish list, and when he mentioned his wife would like a small jewelry box I heard a ‘ping’ in my head.

I walked toward my study closet with the phone to my ear, looked inside the door, and on a bottom shelf I spotted the small wooden box that had once belonged to his grandfather (my wife’s father) - the source of the ‘ping.’

“I have something she might like,” I said. “A small box, like you said, no more than seven by five (inches). It once belonged to your Grandpa Bob.”

“But it’s painted a light green,” I said while turning it over in my hand. “Nice old hinges. And it comes with a silver U.S. half dollar. Very nice.”

["A winter refinishing project. Lovely.": photo GH]

We decided to put the idea of turning the old box into something suitable for jewelry on hold, until we knew what shopping my wife had done already.

But the idea of refinishing the box (removing the layers of paint, cleaning the hinges) is not on hold, because I am now very curious about what kind of wood has been hidden from view for dozens of years or more.

Birdhouse making has slowed to a crawl now, and though I have other things on the go (a squirrel-proof - - insert laugh track here - bird feeding stand needs a coat of paint), by mid-January a short refinishing job will likely be front and center.

Readers of this blog will be the first... no, second, to know what hides under the paint. Stay tuned.


Please click here for another visit to The Workshop.


Zoom w a View: Warm rings in winter

As I walked toward the Red Roaster in Wortley Village yesterday (a hot cup of dark roast had my name on it, as did a snug corner with a view of the street) I spied a yellow ring.

It had snow round about it and inside its center.

A thought sprang to mind, i.e., a maple-iced donut would go well with my coffee.

I then put the camera back inside my pocket and stepped on the gas.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Is winter here to stay?

On the first day of winter so cold I feel the need to put on longjohns you’ll find me a very happy man - for more than one reason.

First. I get to wear my old red longjohns and experience a special feeling, i.e., after owning them for about a dozen years, I’m finally feeling I’m getting my money’s worth.

["Fresh snow stays longer upon the rooftops": photos GH]

Second. The cold weather that drives me to put on a second layer might also allow the snow to stay on the ground and upon rooftops, tree branches and fence posts and railings.

["My walk to the Roaster is a squeaky event"]

When the snow piles up in the backyard I tend to cut back on my hours in the workshop and increase hours on other pursuits.

I’ll read, write, draw, think and stay a bit longer in a snug corner of a local coffee shop. Winter is a time to hibernate, after all.

Once Christmas is over, hear me snore!


Please click here for information about one winter time project I am enjoying each day.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Climate Change Concerns: Canada’s cold voice sends a chill

[“The Conservatives want to play alone in their oilsands box.” Interim NDP leader N. Turmel, Dec. 6, London Free Press]

Thirty-five per cent of Canadians will be delighted that Peter Kent, former news reporter and now Canada’s Federal Environment Minister, delivered in full Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s climate change policy at the climate conference in Durban, South Africa.

The majority of Canadians, not delighted, felt the chill in Kent’s steady, practiced voice as he read the following, like just another nightly news report, thus confirming Canada will not be a supporter of a second Kyoto Protocol:

“We believe that ultimately a new agreement that includes all of the world’s major emitters (of greenhouse gases) in both the developing and the developed world is the only way to materially reduce annual mega-tonnage to the point we can work to prevent global warming hitting or exceeding two degrees.” (Dec. 6, London Free Press)

After he spoke, he likely placed Harper’s neatly typed memo, or ‘policy’ to some, back inside his briefcase and sat down in his still-warm chair to a smattering of applause from other long time high-emitters of greenhouse gases, e.g., Japan, Russia and the US of A.

The upshot of such a stance will undoubtedly result in continued extensive emissions worldwide, as the developed countries (who have emitted most of the CO2 found in the atmosphere today, or who have had the highest emissions per capita for so long in order to live in big houses and drive luxury cars, e.g., the US, Japan, Germany, Russia, Canada) preach the message that “cleanliness is next to godliness, so get your emissions under control” to the developing countries that have attempted, for a relatively short period of time, to develop a richer, western-style lifestyle of their own.

Of course, Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister Harper already anticipated as much (his cold, terse memo to Kent’s audience in Durban would have no other major result), and will now bask in the realization that his plans to masterfully develop the environmentally toxic tar sands will continue unimpeded for many years, strengthening Canada’s petro-dollar and the illusion that unsustainable practices are good for Canada and then the world.

In order to keep the Canadian reputation as world-class thinker from slipping entirely from view on the world stage, Kent later added that ‘Canada would continue to pursue a modest target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.’

Translation, for those who can’t understand Canadian Conservatives: “It’s the very least we can do, so we’ll do it.”

Kent also announced ‘Canada would increase its funding to $600 million a year for the next two years to help developing economies adapt to global warming in the future.’

Surely, a few sharp minds in Durban saw some irony in PM Harper’s decision to raise the amount of ‘hush money’ from $400 to $600 million.

The western tar sands are generating more income for the Conservative government along with higher levels of toxic emissions in the land, air and water in Alberta and beyond, so Canada is now better able to afford to help developing countries adapt to the fearful consequences of global warming.

In my opinion, after Environment Minister Kent closed his briefcase in Durban, he stepped off the world stage perhaps for the last time.


Please click here for more Climate Change Concerns.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Zoom w a View: Drip drop drip drop

[Photos G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


What does the future hold? “Le cose cattive”

Lessons from Italy: Non c'è problema a venire!

I think things look bad and there’s trouble ahead in North America, if recent events in Italy can teach us anything.

Italian PM Monti ‘unveiled a $40.3-billion package of austerity measures on Sunday... in a drive to stave off a crisis that threatens to overwhelm the euro zone.’ (Dec. 5, London Free Press) But if the euro zone weakens there will likely be many repercussions in tidy old North America, home of an excessive lifestyle that rests firmly on the back of cheap oil and an unsustainable free market economy.

The news article re austerity measures in Italy reveals what will likely occur on the N. American side of the Atlantic in the years ahead.

[Please click here for full article]

“Monti said... the package was painful but necessary.”

What our future holds: N. American austerity measures will be painful for many, but not all.

“We have had to share the sacrifices, but we have made great efforts to share them fairly.”

["Things look bad."]

What our future holds: The sacrifices will not be shared fairly.

“Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero broke down in tears as she announced an end to inflation indexing on some pension bands, a move that will mean an effective income cut for many retired people.”

What our future holds: There will be signs of sympathy from those in power toward the poorest in society but that will be about it.

“As well as an end to inflation indexing for many pensioners, the measures will see the minimum pension age for both men and women raised in stages to 66 by 2018 with incentives to keep workers in employment until 70.”

What our future holds: N. Americans will soon get used to hearing news about ‘Freedom 75,’ maybe ‘80.’

“Contrary to expectations before the announcement, there was no increase in income tax but a new property tax, expected to raise some 10-12 billion euros, will account for the bulk of the new revenues.”

What our future holds: N. American Income taxes will be slow to increase because corporations will effectively block the government at every turn. However, more families on tight budgets will have to seek smaller accommodations.

["There's trouble ahead."]

“The package also cut a number of local government functions in a bid to reduce the cost of public administration. Measures to boost growth include tax incentives for companies to employ workers and special measures to favour women and young people.”

What our future holds: The public sector will continue being under attack in Canada and the US but the private sector will get more tax incentives because of the short-sighted belief that corporations are job creators ahead of being profit takers and down-sizers.

“But Monti left for a later date the vexed question of reforming of contracts that hinder companies from laying off workers, a measure seen as key to overhauling the labour market, but which is bitterly opposed by unions.”

What our future holds: N. American governments will continue to suppress the powers of unions as they drive to depress wages and remove workers’ rights.

Some readers may believe that the Italian and N. American financial and economical situations are far removed from one another, and things that occur on one side of the Atlantic need not be repeated on the other side. They are partly correct.

The same types of unfair, short-sighted measures applied in Italy need not be applied here, but many already are as N. American corporations strive to increase wealth (at the expense of workers’ wealth and rights) with the assistance of government policy.

Things look bad. Le cose cattive.

There’s trouble ahead. Non c'è problema a venire!


Please click here for news about smaller lifestyles.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Like Father Like Son: “Catch the resemblance?”

I hit a gold mine.

Prior to Remembrance Day I was looking for old copies of my hometown newspaper (my dad’s column about why he joined the Merchant Marine was in one of them) when I came across an old manilla folder filled with a large nugget of Harrison family history, i.e., my dad’s hand-written notes pertaining to his naval memoirs and a typed copy, 21 pages long. Better than one Norwich Gazette column, it is!

["Better than one Norwich Gazette column, it is!": photo GH]

I am now making an effort to turn the notes into a book that will include 2 - 3 dozen photos from dad’s war years, from 1941 - 1945, and while reading his notes the phrase ‘like father like son’ has crossed my mind several times.

He writes, “I was from a family of seven, three girls and four boys. My mother needed a new door sill for our home so she somehow procured a lovely board from a lumber yard. I stole the board and Sonny Bucholtz and I hollowed it out and used it for the main part of our first ship, the Bluenose.”

I recall visiting his mother, my grandmother, in my dad’s family home when I was 5- or 6-years old, and the house was no palace. It was one poor family my dad grew up in, especially after his own dad died when my father was a 10-year old. In humble surroundings he learned the value of a dollar, didn’t part with any dollars easily, and I’m much the same way.

He and I are similar in other ways as well. We both like working with wood (he turned out scores of birdhouses in the 1990s), but I don’t steal mine. I rescue most of the lumber I use for chairs and birdhouses and, as some readers know, I buy the rest in order to save time with cutting and sanding.

Like my dad, I enjoy a good laugh and don’t mind (too much) if others laugh at my expense.

I don’t think dad will mind if I share the following from his naval memoirs:

I quit my job at potteries (in Hamilton, 1941) because of a small misdemeanor of taking a smoke. I was called to the office and reprimanded but the foreman wanted me to stay on, but when I quit, I quit, and he knew where he could stuff his clay, which was formed and molded, then enamelled and heated at high heat for use as electric fence insulators, toilet and sink bowls and for electric stove elements.

I can understand dad’s feelings of indignation, his stubbornness, getting his back up, so to speak. I’m still laughing, however, about all the things he learned to do with clay before, or was it after (?), stuffing it where the sun don’t shine.

That was one great sentence you cooked up, dad. Thanks.


Please click here for a laugh on me.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Get ready for smaller lifestyles by 2020

A minority of people in North America has already adopted a smaller lifestyle (e.g., live in a small house, drive a smaller car or predominantly ride a bike or walk, purchase fewer clothes, shop for groceries with shorter list in hand, etc.), and has done so out of necessity or because of the many benefits,

Below is a small news clip that affects the vast majority of people and lifestyle, whether it be considered normal or excessive.

[News clip from Nov. 5, London Free Press]

The “forecast price for a barrel of oil by 2035” is $212 (according to the International Energy Agency). Methinks, the 'new normal', as far as lifestyle is concerned, will likely come into play far earlier than 2035.

For example, by 2020, when average debt per Canadian family will be at $160 or higher per $100 of income (it’s at $150 at present), many people will be considering far more than dropping TV cable, cancelling their newspaper subscription, doing without a family pet or ordering Chinese every Friday night. Many will be considering selling their big house in the burbs for something smaller that’s close to work or a good grocery store. Quite a few will definitely get rid of their second car.

Many North Americans will be caught by surprise because governments, corporations and media do such a good job at propping up the illusion (now fading in the eyes of growing numbers of people who have little hope of finding a decent job in their lifetime) that progress will continue unimpeded for as long as they hold the reins of modern society.

[“With higher fuel prices, get used to pushing.”]

Read the last line of the news clipping, i.e., the report’s forecast for 2015 is up about 10% from the same report just last year.

Hmmm, what’s happened in the last year? And have things improved since then? How does 2016 look?

Let’s hang in there for another 4 - 5 years, then we’ll all know. And while we’re waiting, let’s shift our lifestyles down a notch or two.


Please click here for more high-priced concerns about the future.


The Workshop: Cedar feeder, dry ‘tri’

I finished a large bird feeder recently and as soon as I washed the red paint off the brush a thought came to mind: I should build more of them.

Two cedar feeders are now assembled and, once painted and oiled (w a titch of maple stain) and are dry, will go on display on the porch or in a local shop.

(Feeders - approx. 15 in. tall at peak w four 11 inch supports sitting on base 16 in. long by 9.25 in. wide. Two roof panels are each 18 in. long and 7.5 in. wide.)

Next up: I need to add roofs to two more tri-plexes so that they’ll be ready for the spring rains. Winter has just arrived, so I have lots of time... I think.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for another trip to The Workshop.