Saturday, May 31, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: Gas prices rise but serious carpooling is years away

Will more people carpool as gas prices rise?

In my most recent column I say it will happen - but at a painfully slow rate.

I wrote the majority of Deforest City drivers (51 per cent) won’t let anyone else near their car on a regular basis until the price of fuel hits $3.15 per litre.

Not only did I scientifically and mathematically proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt (in my humble yet brilliant opinion), I briefly mentioned the three main reasons why we change so slowly to beneficial driving habits.

I’d like to expand on one of the reasons here.

When I said many folks spend extra money on a fat list of various goodies and will shed some of those items (kicking and screaming at times) long before they carpool I meant some of the following things:

Some folks will give up 2 - 3 helpings of street meat per week in order to afford the higher cost of a fill up when gas hits $1.50. (I know I’m right).

When gas passes $1.75 a few others will play less golf, drop bowling from their schedule, cut out movie night or say “I pass” on the latest designer jeans and try to squeeze into last year’s model for another season.

Will more people carpool at $2.00 a litre?

[Click here to see photo in context]

Not very many.

People will hold yard sales, raise the a/c two degrees, not buy a third big screen TV, drop newspaper delivery, return to Basic Cable, take in a boarder, BBQ a few less times per week, eat less beef (more chicken), buy more lottery tickets, postpone new roof shingles for one more year or buy cheaper paint for the basement walls.

But the majority won’t carpool until gas hits $3.15. [However, it will happen faster than we think.]

What will you give up before you carpool?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Do Less with Less: OIL CHANGE site provides climate change news

And it’s not good news even though we score 90 per cent.

Go to OIL CHANGE and you’ll read that global emissions of carbon dioxide need to be reduced at a far greater and faster rate than predicted just a few years ago.

* Reduced by 90 per cent.

The only other place I’d read the figure of 90 per cent was in the book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, by George Monbiot [see recommended reading in right hand margin].

I thought George was referring only to his homeland, Great Britain, because they’re all so bloody wasteful over there, eh what?

Apparently, they're not alone.

Hang onto your seatbelts, we’re all in for a rough ride, especially those who have contributed least to Earth's problems.

[Alternatives to fossil fuels are only slowly gaining support]

At OIL CHANGE’s Global Warming link I read the following:

“Climate scientists have, for the past decade, foreseen the need for a 60-80% reduction in the global emissions of carbon dioxide, in order to stop global average temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.”

“Latest predictions are a need for 90% reductions by 2050 (344KB PDF)”

“While the vast majority of those emissions happen in the North, it will be the poorest countries, those can least afford to adapt to a changing climate, who will suffer first and worst.”

We all have to learn to do more with less, maybe even less with less.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: Out of the cage and into the ditch to wax poetic

I once said that bikers of all stripes enjoy soaring outside the cage.

In other words - we like traveling on the open road outside the protective confines of a car.

As well, I occasionally joke about the lure of motorcycling:

“I like to feel the wind blowing through what’s left of my hair.”

And you’ll often catch me on my bike with a camera because I can easily stop for a few minutes at the side of the road or in the middle of a bridge to enjoy a view one would seldom see from behind the wheel of a car.

after stepping off the bike
and into a common roadside ditch
I saw a burst of spring,
stood on a green floor of unfurled leaves,
then smelled a breeze
uncommon to my city senses.

Click here for more Motorcycle Miles.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Illuminating Quotes by US environmentalist, biologist Barry Commoner

Though the first quote I read by B. Commoner remains my favourite the three that follow are near the top of the pile:

“In every case, the environmental hazards were made known only by independent scientists, who were often bitterly opposed by the corporations responsible for the hazards.”

“The environmental crisis arises from a fundamental fault: our systems of production - in industry, agriculture, energy and transportation - essential as they are, make people sick and die.”

[Click here to see photo in context]

“The environmental crisis is a global problem, and only global action will resolve it.”

Dear Mr. Commoner,

I couldn’t agree more with your quotes.


G. Harrison

Read more about Barry Commoner, the man who developed four valuable laws of ecology.

Click here to read more Barry Commoner quotes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recommended Reading: Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

I am writing a few posts about Elmore’s rules of writing because he keeps them very short - and at 5 ft. 5 in. tall I like short - and the rules will very likely help me become a better writer.

I dedicate these posts to other struggling writers as well. I know you’re out there.

By the way, I forgot to mention that the main characters in post 1 re the 10 rules are both real and fictional at the same time and will be featured in a short story that should win me big bucks.

This particular post is about rule number two and concerns a part of a story that sometimes gets in the way at the start of the story. I thought I should mention that right up front.

But sorry, I say too much. I should just tell you the rule and you can figure it out yourself.

Rule 2. Avoid prologues

“They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword.”

Do you agree with Mr. Leonard?

[I said, "No prologues." See photo in context here.]

[Learn more about this American author and his brilliant books here. And you know I don't use the word brilliant lightly.]

[You will find my brilliant post re Rule 1 at this location.]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Memoirs: There is nothing to do but sort the countless memories - Part 1

I biked to my hometown of Norwich yesterday and after turning onto one of two main thoroughfares a familiar saying came to mind that relates to many small villages.

“You could shoot a cannon down Main Street and not hit anybody.”

I’m not sure if anyone has actually tried to prove those words but trust me - no one in my hometown will be harmed in an attempt at about 2 o’clock on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Another familiar saying was likely uttered two seconds after the first one many, many years ago:

“There’s nothing to do.”

Because there were five children in our family I will hazard a rough guess and say that my mother and father heard those statements about five million times during their lives from Lannie (the oldest), Dale, me, Kim and Jane (the youngest).

(Add ‘there’s nothing to eat’ to the mix and I’d up my guess to 6.5 million in a snap.)

I strongly felt so many times I had nothing to do, loudly complained to anyone who would listen and even emphasized different words to get my point across.

If ‘there’s nnnooottthhhiiinnnggg to do’ didn’t get the point across I would try ‘there’s nothing to doooooooo’.

And if that didn’t work I’d try the ever-popular combo-complaint - there’s absolutely nnnooottthhhiiinnnggg to doooooooo.

["Ollie, in 50 years you'll fondly remember your first ride with Grandpa."]

Just about every time mother and sometimes dad came up with a quick response.

'Go outside and play' was their favourite, followed by ‘go see one of your friends’ or ‘have a drink of water’.

After my own children started to complain I realized that ‘go outside and play’ was code for ‘I don’t want to listen to you complain anymore - so git’.

I must have listened to my parents on occasion because I can now recall thousands of childhood experiences and adventures that prove there were lots of great things to do in a wee village on the other side of nowhere and, like old cheddar, seem better with age and every telling.

* Next Monday - There is nothing to do but sort the countless memories - Part 2

[Read more Monday Memoirs here]

The First Law: Everything is related to everything else

I stumbled upon four laws of ecology while searching for more information re the author of a thought-provoking quote by Barry Commoner in The Little Green Handbook.

As recorded @ Wikipedia, they are as follows:

1. The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

[These two are definitely related!]

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no "waste" in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. In nature, both sides of the equation must balance, for every gain there is a cost, and all debts are eventually paid.

Read more about Barry Commoner, the man who developed the four laws of ecology.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Besides enjoying fowl weather, keeping chickens runs in the family

My dad kept chickens in a small coop attached to a medium-sized barn inside the village limits of Norwich for many years.

No one ever complained about them, including anyone in my family - especially while tucking into a Sunday supper of chicken, potatoes and vegetables picked fresh from our well-stocked garden.

As I recall, the pleasant aroma of roasted chicken on my plate was a tad better than the smell of the coop.

From my first book of prose, January 1974:

“Chickens of Ordinary Stature”

chickens smell like
the dickens.
usually, they lay
eggs between their legs.
from chicken coop
to chicken soup,
nothing left but
chicken poop.


Hazel Nut says more about our family’s fondness for chickens @ Can You Crack It?

Go visit. I mean it. Go visit. [I’m just trying to egg you on.]

Recommended Reading: Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing

Elmore keeps his rules short.

You can open his book at 5 p.m., marvel at his wit and honesty, study the illustrations by Joe Ciardiello and still be home in time for an ice cold beer before dinner.

Rule 1. Never open a book with weather

Crap. I wish I’d read his book sooner because my most recent short story begins as follows:

It was mid-afternoon and the sun was hotter than hell.

I felt as if a hole was being drilled through the back of my neck with a pick ax.

At the same time the woman who had just backed into my motorcycle was drilling a hole into my forehead with a stare so cold I swore my whole body was immersed in ice, except for the back of my neck.

“Git out your wallet,” I spat. “You scratched the paint and I don’t care what you say to me - you pay up today.”


I think the weather stays in this one case. And I think the hot photo helps deliver my message as well.

Any thoughts about Elmore or my brilliant intro?

[Please visit Monday Memoirs: Still missing a croquet mallet for more brilliant writing]

[See the photo in context]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I have one question about the economy

And I wanna know the answer before we crash and burn.

Why are we driving the economy so darn fast?

See photo in context at this site.

[Also see Cartoon In Progress below]

Barry Commoner Quotes meets Cartoon in Progress

Barry Commoner Quotes: created over many years by US biologist, environmentalist, former candidate for President of the USA and developer of four laws of ecology [e.g. 1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. Visit Wikipedia for # 2 - 4]

Cartoon in Progress: created over the last 20 minutes by G. Harrison, retired Canadian teacher, columnist, former candidate for high school student council and developer of 10 theories about long distance running [e.g. 1. When you feel you have run far enough for one day the finish line is usually 2 miles farther down the road.]

If you wish, you can read more Barry Commoner quotes at this site.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Barry Commoner Quotes: This one from the Little Green Handbook

A quote from Barry Commoner (1917 - ), US biologist and environmentalist, was used to introduce the first chapter of The Little Green Handbook, a book I finished reading recently and now highly recommend to others.

The quote is as follows:

“Sooner or later,
wittingly or unwittingly,
we must pay
for every intrusion
on the natural environment.”

Wise words from a man, now 91 years of age, who once ran for president of the USA.

Read more Barry Commoner quotes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More Recommended Reading: The Little Green Handbook... again

The following is a bit of what I read from the site I’ve linked to in the right hand margin [see Recommended reading...]:

While debates about the state of the global environment rage on many fronts, it is often hard to get accurate and relevant information about what is happening.

Just how serious are our environmental problems? And are we doing enough to deal with them?

[Canada's Environment Minister at work]

For example, how many people can the planet sustain? What are the long-term effects of continued environmental damage? How fast is the process of global warming? What are the implications of our continued dependence on fossil fuels? How much fresh water is available, and how long will it last?

The Little Green Handbook has the answers. Based on a massive amount of research, this user-friendly narrative is filled with up-to-date facts and figures about the most serious trends facing the planet.

[I paid $5.99 at Chapters. So don’t pay attention to the price listed at linked site.]

Also, visit Recommended Reading at Four Mugs for a few words about Heat by George Monbiot

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: The lure of the open road, exceptional rides and more

Last Friday evening I met several members of the Ontario Sport Riding club (OSR) at a charity event in London and though my classic Virago and I were surrounded by many sport bikes and much younger riders I realized, after a few conversations, all of us enjoy many of the same things related to biking.

For example:

- The lure of riding two wheels on the open road

- Exceptional rides on stretches of curving or hilly highway

- The thought (for some of us) of the wind blowing through what’s left of our hair

- The gleam of hard machinery

- Motor muscle, enough to get our butts from A to B as if by jet aircraft

- Soaring outside the cage

The ability to stop for a few seconds in the middle of a bridge to enjoy a view one would never see from behind the wheel of a car

- Thoughts about our next bike (there’s always the ‘next’ bike) and how we can adjust to higher fuel prices e.g. smaller engine, shorter tours, more shared rides

And much more.

[Visit more Motorcycle Miles at your leisure]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Toronto Maple Leaf fan says, Some Sundin statistics suck

I occasionally feel sorry for Mats Sundin.

Though big and strong enough to take care of himself on or off the ice the poor guy owns a hockey stat that he likely doesn’t want to be reminded of as he’s heading out the door to smack a few golf balls 1,000 feet over the nearest hazard.

According to Steve Simmons “Mats ranks fifth among active NHL players for most regular season games played (1,305) without winning the Stanley Cup.” (Sunday, London Free Press)

And if that’s not cheery enough news, Simmons continues, “But if leader Luke Richardson (1,415), Trevor Linden (1,382) and Teppo Numminen (1,315) all retire, Sundin will move to second behind Jeremy Roenick.”

Wow. Second.

[The Early Years: Before Mats had accumulated depressing stats]

Thankfully, Simmons knew when to quit.

I mean, how would Mats feel if he had added... “So, logically, it goes without saying, if Roenick also retires for some reason, say old age, or deep depression caused by reading my stats, then Mats would be number one.”

Have a good day, Mats.

[Read Monday Memoirs by Gord Harrison below]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday Memoirs: One week late and still missing a croquet mallet

The game of croquet almost tore our family apart.

Four brightly-painted wooden mallets could send four matching wooden balls sailing across our expansive and bumpy yard at over 100 miles per hour and if you took the game seriously, which my four siblings and I did, someone of us would interrupt each and every game by loudly howling a complaint after an egregious foul or near-death experience, then rush inside the house to find a parent or other suitable referee.

["This shot is going out of the pond and over the barn!"]

Mom or Dad would often simply yell at us through a screen window or, if someone had been banged on the head, admonish those at fault (Who? Me?) from the back porch.

Tensions would settle down for a few seconds until, for example, I made contact with my younger brother’s ball - even though I didn’t need to in order to stay ahead or win.

I would carefully line up his ball and whack it so hard it would sail into the chicken coop or right through our thick hedge and over the road and into Mrs. Kelly’s flower bed.

The poor lad got so angry one day he screamed and chased me into the house with his mallet. Thank goodness a referee was on hand just inside the back door.

I think I can safely say, because of our competitive spirit, if we had been given lacrosse sticks to play with there would not be a family member alive today.

But my siblings and I are alive, and I’m happy for it, and our wide yard was also the scene of many happy memories, most of which took place without a mallet in our hands.

We had ample room for swings, lawn chairs, picnic tables, bikes, trikes, gardens, chickens, dogs, massive shade trees and games of catch. Even room to practice my wedge and chips shots after I bought my first set of golf clubs. (No deaths occurred.)

We had one of the few in-town barns, and though dad used it mainly as car park, chicken coop and storage area, it offered many more exciting opportunities for play when he was at work.

[Watercolour of the barn by our mother, Edith J. Harrison]

I practiced my wrist shot for hockey against an inside wall. I improved my throwing arm by hurling hundreds of pitches toward a target that I’d chiseled on an outside wall. I chipped golf balls over the roof.

As well, I shot marbles through the windows and doors with my slingshot, swung on a rope tied to a rafter, carved my initials on a few boards and kissed a girl after the two of us had climbed into the loft.

The barn was torn down a few years ago and according to prearranged plan, the new owner called me so I could rescue some of the lumber for shelves and bird boxes before it all went to the scrap heap.

[The earliest set of initials, A.C.b. from 1877]

I scavenged rare, very wide pieces of lumber that were at least 140 years old and lovely, narrower boards on which were carved the initials of several of our seven family members.

Not surprisingly, the well-used but ever-dangerous croquet mallets were long gone.

[Read more Monday Memoirs by Gord Harrison at It Strikes Me Funny]

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When you mention Al Gore you get interesting feedback - Part 1

In a recent column I mentioned that federal Liberal MP Glen Pearson had met with Al Gore, participated in a week-long climate change project and would, at some point in the future, make climate change presentations of his own in London.

It seemed fair to ask Mr. Pearson if Gore was a worthy spokesperson for environmental issues.

According to my notes he replied, “Absolutely. You could tell that just by the presence of key scientists in Montreal. David Suzuki was also there giving his endorsement...”

It also seemed fair to think that, 30 seconds after my column that linked Al Gore, David Suzuki and climate change hit the streets, I’d hear from detractors.

And, fortunately, I did.

One person (Peter Pauper) wrote:

“I never know whether to laugh or cry when I read Gord Harrison’s musings on climate change, but his April 23 column took the biscuit... I don’t know which subjects Gord taught before he retired, but he is clearly no more a climate scientist than Mr. Gore is.”

After returning from the kitchen with more biscuits to go with my morning coffee I began typing my next column. It almost wrote itself. [Available next Thursday in The Londoner.]

[Read another person’s response to Peter Pauper’s views at cartoon life by Doug Rogers]

And please read When you mention Al Gore - Part 2 at Four Mugs and a Crock.

See you there.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Recommended Reading: That part about front loaders in Leslie’s book

Geez, I talk like I actually know Leslie.

Because I do. We met while training for a long-distance run. I eventually qualified for the Boston marathon and Leslie got published. (An upcoming interview should make for a good column).

And in The Virtuous Consumer she writes:

“Buy a front loader if you’re in the market for a new washer.”

At the moment I’m not. But if I was I would.

You might ask, Gord, why are you so excited about a front loading washing machine at your age? Fall off your motorcycle or hit your head once too often?

No and no. I’m feeling just fine.

It’s because Leslie continued:

“I did - and my clothes come out of it practically dry. It uses at least 40 per cent less water and 65 per cent less electricity...”

But that’s not the kicker.

“What’s more,” she wrote, “if every US household used the most efficient washers, the equivalent of up to 40 million barrels of oil a year could be saved.”

It’s about the oil. I can’t even ride my motorcycle 35 - 40 km. to St. Marys without thinking about the oil and gas I’m using.

The Virtuous Consumer promotes a positive change in our thinking about many common consumer goods. [see Recommended Reading in right hand margin for the link to a short book review]

And please visit Four Mugs to see a stunning photo from that ride to St. Marys]

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Recommended Reading: Chapter 9 from Heat - for those who love air travel

Love to fly? Hawaii is next on your list of destinations?

Read Heat: How to stop the planet from burning, by George Monbiot [see link in right hand margin], especially chapter 9, that ends with the following words:

If you fly, you destroy other people’s lives.

Not because you’re a terrible pilot and can’t tell a runway from a hole in the ground (geez, sorry. Pleasant thought, eh? I hope you’re not reading this while circling an airport) but because air travel is responsible for so much greenhouse gas and the amount is growing and George thinks the best way to travel is by blimp (not kidding) or not at all unless you stay on the ground.

And, I have to agree with him.

Radical restraint is needed, and just as we know the best time to plant a tree is 40 years ago we know the best time to start keeping our feet on the ground is a long time ago too.

I know you can’t walk to Hawaii unless you live there but have you ever thought of just watching Blue Hawaii, a movie starring Elvis Presley?

Walk to the nearest Blockbuster and check it out.

It might be all you really need.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Changing Climate: Wayne Gretzky carries a lot of weight

I don’t mean the weight of his body, but the weight of his words.

Soaking wet and in full hockey gear I might be one or two ounces heavier, but when Wayne tells us to live small i.e. trade in our SUV for a compact car, move to a smaller house, eat less meat, take vacations closer to home, and more, his words certainly pack a lot more punch than mine, maybe more than Al Gore’s or David Suzuki’s too.

So, I’m going to write to him and ask him to tell us all of the above, and more.

Dear Mr. Gretzky,

Would you please say the following on my blog or on national TV?

“The scientific evidence is clear: Surface temperatures on Earth are warming at a pace that signals a decisive shift in the global climate, one expected to last for centuries.”

“Previous epochal changes in climate, such as the Ice Age that ended 11,500 years ago, were set in motion by natural causes... this episode is different.”

“Climate is changing more rapidly than ever before. Human activity is the main cause”.

[All quotes are from a National Geographic publication]

A lot of people, not just hockey fans, will listen to you.


G. Harrison

PS Got any tips to make my wrist shot the envy of my recreational hockey league?

[Visit Four Mugs and a Crock for Cartoons in Progress and much more about the price of gas]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Live Small and Prosper: Self-restraint is easy and we all need easy

I entitled a very popular recent post [especially to the persistent J, whoever he may be]
Live Small and Prosper: The latest reason for practicing restraint out-shadows all others.

I suggested that eating less meat results in many positive benefits and that the absolute best reason is:

“It takes less effort than leaving the car at home to conserve fuel (our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels is another reason grain prices are on the rise) and we need an easy way to practice restraint over and over and over again until we get really really good at it so we’ll be ready for the hard hard times when they come.”

I know I’m right too. You can quote me on it.

(I mean, if we can give up cheeseburgers we can certainly take public transit.)

A great comment soon followed.

Theresa said...

That J dude is persistent, if unimaginative. 

Going vegetarian is one of the best things I've done as a human, I think. It was one of the easiest changes to make too, and one with a lot of positive consequences for me and for the world. Way easier than driving less or not using any plastic. When I found out how much food could be going to humans instead of animals, how much I lowered my risk of colitis and colon cancer (which runs in our family), and how I didn't want to be responsible for the de-beaking, and otherwise and inhumane practices of factory farms, I was just so done with meat.

Being vegetarian has actually broadened my diet, not restrained it at all! May 5, 2008 7:00 PM

[Photo: "Where does our business as usual philosophy end?" G. Harrison]

I told theresa I’m still a flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) and feel better for it. And it’s easy.

And we need ‘easy’.

[Visit below for more easy-reading Monday Memoirs]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: Postcards from the Side of the Road

Weather turned warmer yesterday so I finished work in the attic earlier than expected, grabbed a coffee at the Red Roaster and took a short spin on the Virago.

The fresh air and green spaces did me some good.

I'm not sure why a narrow space is left between two fenced-in spaces.

Do horses lean over fences and bite the competition?

And should I back up a bit next time?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Memoirs: The move to Norwich is considered a happy landing by this wee boy

I was six-and-a-half-years old when my family moved all of five miles from Burgessville, my first home, to the booming metropolis of Norwich in 1956.

And though I remember Burgessville fondly (Who wouldn’t? I stole my first quarter from the milk money envelope and comic book from the corner store and almost drove a tractor into the creek) I still consider Norwich my hometown.

[Burgessville P.S.; a two-room schoolhouse when I attended Grade 1. Now a museum. Photo - 2007]

We moved into our new house as quickly as a swarm of wild bees and it seemed interesting enough from my limited and immature point of view.

It was made of wood and had several windows and big rooms and Mother was happy about the kitchen for about two minutes before she started tearing out a long, old-fashioned wall cupboard with a pull-out bin for flour or potatoes or whatever mothers would stick in there (that cupboard would be worth a pile of potatoes today), and Dad liked to crawl under the house with his pal Gord Bucholtz and drink beer and eat peanuts while talking about plumbing or electricity or whatever fathers do when wiggling around in what I thought was just a dark hole in the ground.

If not for the lure of salted peanuts I’m sure I wouldn’t have climbed down under the floor with them.

The new village seemed interesting too once I figured out where the school and playground were located (directly across the street from our small front porch and one block away from our back door respectively) and learned the names of a few kids in the neighbourhood.

Gary, Tom, David and Ken were my favourite pals. I still have some contact with two of them but we’re much older now and don’t go outside to play together very often.

There was a great advantage in living 12 giant steps from the schoolyard.

After a quick bowl of porridge in the morning I could rush out to the porch, slam the screen door, jump off the front steps and start playing soccer or baseball in less than 5 seconds - or shoot a few of my thousands of marbles out of a slingshot over Mr. Minor’s fence at 1,000 miles per hour.

And because afternoon classes didn’t start until 1:30 the kids who ran home, ate lunch in under ten minutes (which was easy - if our mothers got distracted by other kids at the table or The Three Stooges weren’t on TV - nyuk nyuk) would often get back to school and play scrub for over an hour.

I’m not kidding. Each young boy would get a chance to play every position in baseball at least twice before the bell rang for first class, even if we had five or more fielders.

Many kids lived for baseball in the summer and snowballs in the winter and though we had the longest lunch breaks in the history of early childhood we still groaned when the bell rang and it wasn’t unusual for teachers to yell at a hectic group of children several times before any pretended to hear them for the first time.

Miss Walker, my Grade 1 teacher, was probably a wonderful instructor and deserved as much respect as the next person but I wasn’t old enough to quickly figure out how closely she wanted me to listen to her every word and my lack of attention didn’t impress her much at first.

While other students were busy watching her point at important material on the blackboard I liked to stare at the black alphabet cards, press my fingers against the sides of my eyeballs and wait for bright, techno-colored circles to float around inside of my head like a psychedelic display.

["Like a psychedelic display and it wasn't even the sixties!"]

One day she noticed I wasn’t paying any attention to her well-prepared language drills and snuck up on me before my vision had cleared enough for me to see her standing beside my desk with a ruler raised over her shoulder.

Ouch! That hurt!

“Recite the alphabet, Gordon Harrison.”

“Okay. Where is it again?”

Though embarrassed at the time I got even.

I didn’t send her a card on Valentine’s Day.


Norwich Fun Fact: The population from 1955 - 2008 has remained unusually steady. As long as I can remember the number of births and deaths in my hometown have been the same each year and the sign outside town has read 1,600.

Know any others?

Live Small and Prosper: The latest reason for practicing restraint out-shadows all others

I said in my most recent column that a quick look at the four main reasons grain prices are on the rise will reveal that our personal fingerprints are all over them.

One reason, greater meat consumption globally, is directly related to the beef, chicken and pork found in our refrigerators and freezers and since summer is approaching and big BBQs sit on 99.99999% of the back decks in North America I thought it would be a good time for us to start showing some restraint in our eating habits.

[Over-consumption is like planting a tree in concrete - GH]

There are many good reasons:

The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people - more than the entire population of the planet. [The Virtuous Consumer by Leslie Garrett]

Eighty per cent of agricultural land in the US is used to raise animals for food. [Ibid]

Less meat on the plate equals more crops for people and/or more land for Mother Nature. [Me]

A vegetarian diet is credited for providing a longer life with reduced risk of such diseases as diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease and some cancers. [The Virtuous Consumer - link to Leslie's personal website]

The animals live longer too and their numbers would decrease to more natural levels. [Me]

There is an even better reason to eat less meat.

It takes less effort than leaving the car at home to conserve fuel (our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels is another reason grain prices are on the rise) and we need an easy way to practice restraint over and over and over again until we get really really good at it so we’ll be ready for the hard hard times when they come.

I mean, if we can give up cheeseburgers we can certainly take public transit.

If we can say no to a tenderloin we can, with new internal fortitude, walk to the variety store for smokes and a bag of chips.

If we can eat fewer chicken wings and more beans and brussel sprouts - my gosh, hold onto your hats - we’ll find the strength to trade in the monster pickup for an electric scooter. Yowwzzah.

Practice does make perfect.

[Did you know that climate change will lead to fashion faupas? It surely will. Visit Four Mugs]

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Global Warming: Climate change or climate instability quickens its pace

Many people say that a bit of change is always good, so we won’t get stuck in a rut, eat the same leftover casserole for a week or walk around in bell bottoms for the rest of our lives.

I agree, of course (I’ve got short legs and no behind so bells don’t fit right), even when it comes to some aspects of the earth's climate, but the pace of climate change over the last number of years concerns me.

As well, most scientists are concerned about the quickening pace of climate change, especially in the Arctic, according to a new summary of the most recent research. [Link to The London Free Press, April 25]

Earlier predictions now appear too conservative, except perhaps to the Canadian Federal Conservative government whose mantra is - economic limits and environmental concerns are for sissies and grandmas.

“The dramatic impacts on the Arctic that are now being observed challenge the magnitude of the predicted impacts of climate change at both Arctic and global levels,” says the report. The reduction in Arctic ice cover has “massively accelerated” since 2005.

Our Market First or Business As Usual economic philosophy will lead to our bankruptcy.

["I bet my pants won't get wet today, Mom!"]

Bell bottoms out - flood pants in.

[Visit Four Mugs for The Last Days of Driving free book give-away]

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Live Small & Prosper: But we can’t do without drag racing, can we?

Peak oil? The rising price of fuel? Not to worry.

This is Canada and federal Environment Minister John Baird knows more about the environment and oil and gas and the positive economic impact of drag racing than any other person from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

He must. He’s a Minister. Of the Environment.

As well, he must have many very sound reasons to extend a reprieve on a total ban of leaded fuel for drag racing purposes in Canada. [Linked to The London Free Press]

In fact, I bet he’s got 29 million of them.

Baird’s motto: Go ahead, boys. Start your engines, fly down a quarter mile track and break some kind of speed record. Racing’s economic impact - $29 million worth - is vital to all Canadians.

Well, not all Canadians. Though a ban on leaded fuel for competition was to be banned as of January 2008 and was given a free pass until Jan. 2009 by Baird a few months ago and extended recently to Jan. 2010, I think the original ban should be upheld and drag racing teams expected to find another way to compete in vehicles with four wheels.

I wonder, what else can they do for good times?

[Visit Four Mugs for The Last Days of Driving free book give-away.]

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: Deforest City free book give-away

I’ll keep this post to 2 minutes and 45 seconds - I’m heating up homemade soup in the microwave.

I’m almost finished a signed copy of The Sink: The last days of driving, by W. Messer, author from Gravenhurst, and if you’d like it after I’m done leave a comment.

I’ll leave the book behind the counter at The Little Red Roaster in Wortley Village with your name on it. Say hello if I’m there. Chances are good.

The book was a slow starter in my humble opinion but as it progressed I got more of a kick out of it and laughed out loud on a few occasions.

The book is not in pristine condition. I read while riding on a recumbent bike and make marginal notes every once in awhile (e.g. funny blog, rare wit).

I wrote ‘funny blog’ after reading one of the headlines Pappy had cut out from the local paper and pasted up at a driving seminar for all to see:

Car kills man in barber chair (That wasn’t it. I laughed at the last one.)
Three officers hit investigating same accident
Gas jockey incinerated
Backs over whole family: “I thought they were seed potatoes.”

I know. I shouldn't laugh. But some people are really bad drivers.

[Photo: "I thought my car would fit into the space."]

So, good luck out there and I hope you get the book next.

[Visit Four Mugs for another cartoon in progress and It Strikes Me Funny for my most recent column]