Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Are we in a recession yet? Is Canada recession proof?

Do I dare look at my investment portfolio?

Was that sound of a loud flush from my bathroom or the bank around the corner?

Or both?

So many questions.

I wish I could say I never worry about finances because I retired with a guaranteed pension and think I have my financial house in order (is that even possible now?) and, according to our Prime Minister, we aren’t in a recession because he would have told us already.

But I do worry on occasion.

We have an old economy dependent upon cheap fossil fuels, a PM who strongly supports ‘business-as-usual’, an environment that may soon be beyond repair and close to heaping greater costs upon our heads, and an invisible, ineffective Conservative Minister of the Environment - you know, old what’s his name.

And so I try to think of ways to get good and ready to face the tough times and hard rains ahead.

Can I save money by becoming more self-reliant in the kitchen?

["A True Canadian cooks oatmeal and whole wheat pancakes."]

Can I lower my needs related to clothing?

Can I sell things I don’t use or need very often and not replace them with things I’d like or want?

Can I learn to enjoy simpler pleasures?

To be continued...


I Get Mail: The porridge drawer may still be in use in Scotland

After a recent post re my love for porridge (the thicker the better, eh) jesse wrote:

“My father told me of a story about a university student in Scotland in the 60s who was diagnosed with scurvy.”

“The reason he had it?

“He'd made a huge drawerful of porridge, let it go hard and cut a slice off when he was hungry. That's all he ate.

“I've just done a google search and apparently there are references to the "porridge drawer" where you'd put the leftovers of breakfast to cut off a slice for snacks.

“I thought it was just a tall story (my dad had lots of them) but maybe there's some truth in it.”

Oh, there’s truth in it and somewhere in Scotland a wee old man is opening a porridge drawer and saying,

["opening a porridge drawer": photo in context]

“Aach. If oonly I heed a handful of raisins ta thrrow inta this last wee bit, it would be soo fine noo wouldden it, ehh.”

Yes, it would.

Have you bought your own rolled oats yet, people?

Get moore than a wee bit though, would ya, ehh.

[And while you’re at it, find out what some students did (related to oatmeal) on turn-around week.]


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Powered by Oatmeal: Becoming a True Canadian one heaping bowl at a time

What makes a True Canadian?

A million things, I’m sure.

But if you’re becoming more self-reliant, have a desire for world peace, a pair of ice-skates near the front door and a love for homemade oatmeal then you’re on your way.

And the thicker the oatmeal the better, eh?

["Oatmeal with maple syrup, please." photo link]

After writing about oatmeal recently Londoner Greg F. said the following:

“There's seldom a week that goes by in which I don't make myself at least one bowl of oatmeal. I've never tried making up a large batch and storing it though. Is it as good reheated after being in the fridge?”

Since I only make big batches at a time, enough for 10 - 12 servings, I’m the perfect guy to answer that last question.

I’ve learned it is 95 per cent as good when reheated and have kept it as long as 10 days in the fridge.

I put cold oatmeal into a bowl, slice it into small pieces, add milk and nuke it for about 2 min. 22 sec.

I’ve learned by experience that a day (in fall and winter) without oatmeal is like a day without sunshine.

Is there a heartier, more Canadian breakfast than oatmeal?

I’d like to know and wait... spoon in hand.


My Point of View: True Canadians make their own pancakes

I love self-reliant people and hope to be one someday.

And while my whole wheat buttermilk pancakes are browning up I’ll type this quick post that proves I’m moving one step closer to my goal.

About two weeks ago I turned my nose up at a batch of PC pancakes because I questioned how healthy pancakes could be if I only had to add water to the mix.

Though a line on the box proclaimed “Excellentes avec du Sirop d’erable pur a 100% PC” I thought, sure, it’s delicious with 100% Pure Maple Syrup - but so is the cardboard box.

[Maple syrup: photo link]

I made an omelette instead, posted a few salient thoughts and was later sent a recipe for whole wheat pancakes by Jesse.

Speaking of, I’d better flip my breakfast. Be right back.

A few minutes ago, while mixing healthy ingredients, I wondered how people came up with the correct amounts when adding eggs, butter, baking powder or soda.

Was there a lot of the following in a country kitchen several years back?

“Here Billy, try this one. It’s got less baking soda so you won’t wince.”

“How about this one with a touch of oil. Does it slide down easier or still make you gag?”

Gotta rush. My own breakfast is ready.

While I eat, read over Jesse’s recipe.

She halves it, using the whole egg, for herself and two children and I did the same for my wife and I.

Whisk together:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons butter or oil
 A bit more milk if necessary.  Cook.


Gord’s conclusions:

My wife and I poured maple syrup on two pancakes each and really enjoyed them.

I’ll definitely make them again, and not just to use up the buttermilk.

(I can’t drink it from the glass. It makes me gag.)

The PC factory farm pancake mix is out the door.

And now I’m one step - and stack - closer to being a True Canadian.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Powered by Oatmeal: You decide - Is this a recipe for success?

Many years ago, after returning home from my paper route, I’d be greeted with a warm hello from my weary mother and some type of hot cereal in a bowl.

Par for the course:

Cream of wheat, Vita-B, Red River cereal or oatmeal.

(Honey Nut Cheerios had not yet been invented and if they had my mother would only have purchased the plain - if at all. Pennies mattered in the 1950s and ‘60s. Still do.)

Fast forward.

It’s 2008, I read the paper but don’t deliver it and cook big batches of rolled oats to get me through fall and winter.

I should sew the following onto my hockey jersey:

“Watch Out! Powered by Oatmeal.”

Last time I put my recipe in print I received the following email:

“Gordon, what’s with the nonsense of cooking up your oats for a whole week and adding cream of wheat and bran etc.? Just doesn’t add up to oatmeal.” Pearl S.

Come on, Pearl. Give it a try.

Gord’s Hot Pot Oatmeal:

Put 1.5 liters of water on the boil. (More as needed)

Stir in 1.25 cups of rolled oats; 0.25 cups of wheat bran, corn meal and/or cream of wheat

Reduce heat to low-medium

Add, as desired, diced raisins and cranberries, whole currants, sesame or flax seeds, ground almonds or walnuts and enough water to keep the mix slightly runny. (Martha Stewart I’m not!)

Cooking time - 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 10 - 12 hearty servings.

Readers, does this sound to your liking?



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gord’s Workshop: Everybody needs to retire to a workshop

Because of an ongoing monster of a house reno I have felt inclined to stay close to home for several months.

This summer I had planned to take a 9-day trip by motorcycle to three Ontario parks (Killarney, Temagami, Algonquin) but didn’t go.

I wanted to hike to Port Bruce and camp for a week but stayed put.

I had planned to bike to Halifax but... didn’t go.

However, I have no regrets.

I travelled in other ways.

I climbed ladders and pumped insulation into the empty walls of my house, took old windows to the dump and drove to Home Depot thirty times.

Best of all, I collected scores of lumber scraps, walked out back to my workshop and built birdhouses, LP album frames, old-style carpenter’s toolboxes, birdhouses, boxes, coat racks, more birdhouses and a few other items.

I have a great time out there. While the dust flies lemons become lemonade.

I’m now ready for a monster of a yard sale.

Do you have a workshop?

Dare I ask - what goes on out there?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is It Just Me? Stephen Harper gives me the willies

willies - n. pl. (sl.) nervous feeling of discomfort or fear. [19th c.; orig. unkn.]

Though I think he’s about as normal as acid rain falling in my living room he’s going about the country in a blue shirt and vest trying to come off like a Wimpy.

Wimpy - n. (colloq.) hamburger served in plain bun. [P]

I think Mr. Harper can wear a blue sweater and vest, sit down at the piano or play catch on the front lawn with his kids all he wants, but as soon as I see some of the grown ups he welcomes into his fold I realize he’s the kind of man who can strip paint off the hood of my car with one cold stare.

Like acid rain.

For example, Harper’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said dealing with the media and the issue of deaths related to deadly listeriosis was “like death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts.”

And when informed the latest death was in PEI Ritz said:

“Please tell me it’s Wayne Easter,” the Liberal agriculture critic. (Link to newspaper article)

That’s a good one, Gerry.

Rather than dismiss Ritz, Harper stands by him.

The willies, I say. The willies.

Howz about you?


Grocery Store Blues: ‘Tis the season to make oatmeal fa-la-la-la-la

On Sunday morning, the first day of autumn, and the day after my son’s wedding, several family members and friends met at Hellen’s Diner for breakfast.

(It’s off Highway 35 near Fenelon Falls. Ask me for directions).

A few leaves were turning colour and I caught the smell of oatmeal in the outside air.

Once inside the diner I noticed our group dominated the small space.

I was greeted nervously.

“How many more are coming?” Hellen asked, wide-eyed.

“Maybe a few more, but we’re all easy to get along with.”

Normally, I’d order a good-sized and meatless breakfast but fall and winter are my oatmeal seasons.

Unfortunately, oats weren’t on the menu, and because I seldom eat manufactured cereals (one reason; 6 types of sugar in Kellogg's Muslix) I instead ordered and enjoyed two eggs, beans and toast.

This week I’ll walk over to Quarter Master in the Village to pick up bulk breakfast supplies for the next few months; rolled oats, dried currants, cranberries, raisins, cornmeal, cream of wheat, bran, almonds and walnuts.

I like to make oatmeal you can stand on.

Is it on your menu?


Monday, September 22, 2008

My Point of View: Canada, be prepared. We cast our vote in 22 days

Dear Canada,

The Emmy Awards have been handed out, it can be proven conclusively that no Canadian baseball team will play in the World Series and hockey season hasn’t officially started.

So, I think it’s a darn good time to get serious about the federal election.


our old, unsustainable economy is struggling

a greater effort to develop a new economy that isn’t dependent upon fossil fuels is required

reparations to our degraded environment must begin soon

smaller lifestyles must be encouraged at the political, educational and business level

our present government won’t address our country’s staggering environmental disasters or needs (How do you smell... er, spell ALBERTA tar sands?)

[Photo in context: Excellent article @ Treehugger]

and, there’s a good chance, if Canadians don’t vote strategically, that a clear-minded alternative choice won’t be elected.

Since the New Democrats, Green Party and Liberals haven’t yet combined to form the New Green Grits party as I earlier suggested we must take things into our own hands.

Vote Liberal this time round and I’ll get Jack, Elizabeth and Stephane to sit down at the same table and hash things out.

Really, it’s on me.

Respectfully Yours,



Friday, September 19, 2008

Motorcycle Miles: Postcards from the Side of the Road

Over the last few years I have developed the habit of stopping in the middle or at the end of a bridge to take pictures of scenes not visible from the driver’s seat of a car.

Though motorcycling isn’t for everyone I’d recommend that every driver park their car at the side of the road every once in awhile, walk back to the middle of a bridge, especially a tall one, to see what lies below.

Or beyond.

Or under.

Rare natural scenes await.

And stories.

Any bridges on your favourite drives?

(And now, off to a wedding I go. See you Monday.)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zoom w a View: It’s true - nature almost had a negative impact on me

In 1965 I visited a friend in Dundas, Ontario, the summer after meeting, training and bonding with him and a cabin full of other teens at Couchiching Athletic camp - and almost met my end.

And had it handed to me on a platter.

Charlie (now a lawyer and gifted wood-worker in Fergus) was a year older than I, had his drivers license and thought I’d be impressed with the sight of a herd of buffalo at a nearby farm.

I probably would have been too if I had been able to see them after arriving at the farm, wading through knee high grass in a ditch and perching on the top of a fence post.

“They’re too far away,” I said.

We saw several No Trespassing signs attached to the fence but ignored them and were soon running boldly across an open field toward a small herd of shaggy beasts.

Were we nuts?

The owner of the farm thought so and was soon whipping down his laneway in a pickup truck, honking his horn.

He caught the two of us seconds after we’d retreated to the safe side of the fence.

“Can’t you read the #&%!* signs?!” he yelled.

Still bold I answered, “We didn’t see any signs.”

“Don’t you know buffalo can out run you and kill you?”

We had to admit we didn’t.

The bison farmer let us leave only after several more words of warning and Charlie and I were happy to get home in one piece.

Do you ever ask yourself:

How did I get out of my teenage years alive?

Do tell.

[See post below for context and photos]


Zoom w a View: I’m sorry - I had a negative impact on nature

I took the following photos of bison while motorcycling about 3 months ago.

The large creatures were staring at me coldly until I pulled out my camera.

I guess I shouldn’t have said, “Stand still, guys. I want to shoot you.”

They’re probably even more jittery around people with guns.

I honestly don’t know exactly where they are located if you want to shoot... er, snap them yourselves.

Sometimes I hop on the bike and follow my nose (a bit crooked due a deflected puck) and discover side roads I’ve never travelled.

All I can say is, travel south east from London toward Tillsonburg, take roads you’ve never been on and sniff the air.

[View from bridge over Otter Creek, Highway 3, SW of Tillsonburg: GAH]

You know, follow your nose.

Link to Written Inc., view NATURE photos from others and SHARE your own.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Live Small: All this talk about the economy. What’s happening?

Like a worn wooden soldier on a five-pin alley I felt nothing but the rush of air as Stephen Harper bowled a tired philisophical statement passed my red stripe.

He said the following about the economy:

His party will “stay the course of lower taxes and prudent economic management... Canada is on the right track.”

[“nothing but the rush of air”: Link to photo in context]

Nope, I thought. You missed more than me.

Canada’s economy, based on a Market-First economic philosophy (we don’t have an economic plan), is in a state of correction, not as drastic as the US’s, but it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

We’re not on the right track when so many products are wasteful, larger than necessary, petroleum based and produced unsustainably.

With per capita debt at an all-time high our economy is heavily based on an all-out lie.

Harper added, “My own belief is if we were going to have some kind of crash or recession, we probably would have had it by now a year into the (financial) crisis.”

How confident are you in his Market-First philosophy?


A hard rain’s a-gonna fall before Harper pitches Sustainability-First.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zoom w a View: I’d love PEI but close to home is grand too

My sister recently returned from a visit to PEI, a place she plans to retire to in a few years.

She sent me a photo (below) and said I’d love it there.

[Photo: By Jim Senechal]

It got me thinking.

I would love PEI.

Walks along the beach, life in a farmhouse close to a bay, woodworking in a converted barn just down a short path from the kitchen door, breathing fresh air - every day.

Yup, I could move.

But I’ve now been retired for 6 years and London, frequent visits to Long Point and my backyard work shop please me to no end.

[Old boat houses: Fishing channel, Long Point. Photo - GAH]

Plus, I helped a buddy move some furniture last week and said, “I never want to move my stuff again.”

Unless someone else does it all for me and just throws me into the back of the truck once everything is loaded.

Unless the farmhouse in PEI already has the renos finished.

[Rietveld chairs, circa 1934: My latest workshop project - GAH]

And there's lots of lumber waiting.

Do they have lots of scrap lumber on PEI?

I could be persuaded.


My Point of View: Should we ‘Cool it’ or ‘Heat’ it up re global warming?

I was recently asked the following:

“Have you read Cool It - The Sceptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming? It's rather thought provoking.”

I admitted I have not, though I have no doubt read many articles with a similar tone, and referred the reader to George Monbiot’s book Heat: How to keep the planet from burning.

In it is a concise chapter re the source of many of the arguments aimed at global warming.

“Follow the money,” I suggested.

[Link to other informative information]

I provided the reader with the above link, checked the graph again, noticed (again) average annual global temperatures and the five-year mean are heading north and read:

“Global warming is now 0.6°C in the past three decades and 0.8°C in the past century.

“More specifically, there was slow global warming, with large fluctuations, over the century up to 1975 and subsequent rapid warming of almost 0.2°C per decade.”

“Recent warming coincides with rapid growth of human-made greenhouse gases.”

“The observed rapid warming thus gives urgency to discussions about how to slow greenhouse gas emissions (6).”

In my opinion, the urgency remains - even if some want to cool it.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Grocery Store Blues: The daily dance with salt and sugar continues

At lunchtime yesterday I poked my head into the fridge to see if anything would speak to me.

(“Hey, I’m that leftover soup from 6 days ago. Wanna live on the edge?”)

I noticed a bit of spaghetti sauce. Two days old.

Pasta it is, I said to myself.

I was starving so I bumped up the amount of sauce by adding more sauce, plus mushrooms, green pepper and onion.

I know there is sugar in Hunts Thick and Rich sauce (7 grams of glucose-fructose and/or refined sugar per 125 ml or 38 g per can), too much for my taste, so I like adding veggies to lower the ratio.

Once the pot of sauce was on the burner I grabbed PC spaghettini from a side cupboard.

I wondered if the directions still included one about adding salt to the water even though most Canadians know there is too much salt (and sugar) in just about everything we eat.

[Did you know? Windsor Salt now adds sugar to their boxes of salt. Sweet!]

Instruction 1 read (in part):

“Bring water to a boil. Add 15 ml of coarse salt.”

I said, fugettabouttit.

There’s way more than enough salt (and sugar) just in the sauce.

Way way more.


Is the salt shaker still on your kitchen counter or table? Does it need to be?

Do you like sugar in your salt?


Motorcycle Miles: Discovering Canada in one pair of pants

I wouldn’t care if my wife and I didn’t own a car.

I can get along without one 6 days of every week.

(“And on the seventh day Gord needed supplies.”)

Seven days most weeks if I really tried.

[What is this!!]

I would care if I had to live without a motorcycle, though I can smell a day coming when I would actually make that sacrifice.

(“Mr. Harrison. You’re 87 and blind in one eye. Give it up!”)

But I definitely wouldn’t care if I never passed another RV again on a bike or had one pass me on a curve.

RVs for some reason remind me of so many things that are outta whack in our North American society.

Now, I didn’t say RVs are wrong or evil or stupid... but they’re something... a big, fat something.

What are they?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Is it just me: Are toxic herbicides and fewer butterflies a bad thing?

Should city dwellers, safe as safe can be from nature’s ups and downs [“Thank goodness for miles of tarmac, tall protective buildings and huge, enclosed shopping centres!”], be concerned about the problems facing the monarch butterfly?

“Daddy? What’s a butterfly?”

[Cities protect us from the real world?: Photo link]

“I’m not sure, Appalachia. Eat your cocoa-flavoured Rice Krispies and ask your teacher.”

[You think Appalachia is a bit unusual? Click here for unusual.]

You’d be concerned if you rued the day they vanish from the planet.

And well they could for several reasons.

From The Canadian Press:

“Experts warn this could happen within 20 years”

“North American monarch population has been in steady decline in recent years”

“Illegal logging (in central Mexico) eliminates the insulation that helps protect the butterflies from lethal winter storms”

“Widespread herbicide use helps destroy milkweed, the only plant monarch caterpillars will feed on”

“Daddy? So what if they vanish? Can’t we just cut out paper butterflies at school?”

“Sure you can, Sweetheart.”

But only if Appally can survive the degraded water, land and air quality.

How are you and the kids doing so far?


Recommended Reading: A Sense of Place transports you away

My wife bought me a copy - so it was free.

(“Thanks, Dear. You’re spoiling me. Keep it up!”)

If that happens to you - great.

If not, buy it yourself.

Or email me and ask politely for my copy.

Michael Shapiro interviews two dozen well-known travel writers and while you read from the comfort of an easy chair you’ll be carried to Europe and beyond.

["You'll be carried to Europe... or maybe St. Mary's": photo GAH]

E.g. Michael asks Paul Theroux: How do you prepare for an assignment?

Paul: Lots of map reading.

Michael: What’s the worst thing that has happened to you during your travels?

Paul: I would say having a nervous teenaged boy pointing a very old and unreliable looking rifle into my face, with his finger on the trigger.

Geez. Maps and rifles up your nose. I can’t get enough.

Shapiro says to Arthur Frommer, an experienced traveller:

“Throughout your life you’ve said, the less you spend, the more you enjoy.”

Arthur responds:

“I still believe that. When you live lavishly you’re really living a kind of life which only a small fraction of the world enjoys, and which is enjoyed primarily for reasons of self emulation. You want to impress other people.”

Great answer.

["Live small, travel small: photo GAH]

It inspired my next column.

Please tune in next Wednesday.

[Link to A Sense of Place]


Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Point of View: My New Green Grits party could have a big lead

Oh, the election is going to be close.

Closer than my hand is to my wallet after gas prices shot up recently.

Last I heard the Conservatives held a 5 per cent lead over the Grits (Liberals), Elizabeth May was delighted to be finally part of televised debates and 37 per cent of Canadians planned to vote for Harper - meaning the vast majority want someone else at the political helm.

So, if I was King of All The Land and magically united the three parties that actually have the word “environment” in their vocabulary (i.e. the New Democrats, Green Party and Grits), they would not only win by a landslide but go on to demonstrate a principle that is much needed in Canadian politics - co-operation at the top.

[Vote responsibly]

Issues related to the economy, environment and employment are so pressing that, in my humble opinion as King, one party cannot make decent headway on its own.

A united front is necessary.

And sustainable economy, environment first and decent employment have to become part of everyday language.


Grocery Store Blues: Excellentes avec du Sirop d’erable! Maybe not.

Yesterday, I worked through lunch in the shop and when I walked into the kitchen at 2 p.m. I was starving and could have eaten anything.

Well, almost anything.

Nothing jumped out at me from the fridge so I looked in a cupboard, saw pancake mix, the picture on the box of three fat syrup-covered ones (add blueberries and I might live on the stuff) and had it in my hand when I read the following:

“Excellentes avec du Sirop d’erable pur a 100% PC”

Because I didn’t fully understand I read the English translation which included “just add water!”

And I immediately thought:

How healthy is this PC stuff, and what is it made of, if all I have to do is add water?

No milk or eggs? Blueberries?

Sure. It’s delicious with 100% Pure Maple Syrup but so is the cardboard box.

[A better idea: Photo link]

I put it away for a future motorcycle trip (for a morning when I’m too lazy to walk to a store for fresh supplies) and cooked up a three-egg omelette - with corn, Parmesan, red pepper and onion.

Was I better off?


Friday, September 12, 2008

Live Small: Is your retirement money a concern? Already gone?

“You idiot!”

“You spent our savings on a jacuzzi?”

“We’re going to have to downsize our lifestyle?”

“I’ll kill you first.”

Those thoughts and others (some less dramatic) went through my head after reading that “nearly 30 per cent of Canadians nearing retirement are less than confident the money they’ve socked away for when they leave the workforce will help maintain their standard of living.” [Link to article]

I love retirement and I want others to love retirement too so I’m going to take a few moments and politely share a few opinions related to the subject.

(I bet you never saw that coming, eh?)

[“Open a savings account!”: Photo link]

No matter what your age, open a savings account.

Start putting money away for the future even if you don’t think you have one.

How much money?

Five bucks per week. Maybe ten. Whatever you can afford, no matter how little.

The important thing is to develop the habit of putting something away for the long winter ahead. Even if you’re not a squirrel.

Downsize your things or belongings rather than your savings while you’re young. Live small.

And forget the jacuzzi idea right now.

Other thoughts?


My Point of View: Tories a distant 2nd to the “New Green Grits” party

This morning’s headline in the Free Press [Tories take charge] was way off base.

And the first sentence made me laugh when it said:

“... Stephen Harper (is) posting stratospheric leadership scores compared with his opponents.” (according to a recent NANOS poll)


Not a chance.

Even the 2nd sentence agrees with me when it said:

“With one in five Canadians surveyed saying they will cast their vote based on who’s the best leader the results give the Tories an extra edge.”

“Extra edge” from 20 per cent of voters doesn’t sound so stratospheric now, does it?

I mean, 30 per cent might vote for the leader with the nicest hair. Who knows?

[It ain't stratospheric: G. Harrison]

And the actual leadership numbers don’t favour the Tories at all - a story the Free Press missed completely.

(They don’t have my unique point of view. Or calculator).

Sure, the poll shows Harper with a slim lead over Dion and a bigger lead over the other leaders but when looked at my way, 54 per cent of Canadians - a stratospheric majority - would vote for a New Green Grits party any old day.

And it’s not because of Harper’s hair colour.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Point of View: Elizabeth May, Green Party, should play ‘Let’s Make a Deal’

She’s now going to be seen on TV during the Leader’s debate thanks to a variety of factors including the following:

A loud hue and cry (“Unfair! Unfair!”) was heard across the land on May’s behalf

Prime Minister Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton folded up like cheap tents, as they should - because they’re cheap tents

The media consortium in charge of debates woke up to reality

And now, Elizabeth should wake up to reality as well, realize she has a snowball’s chance of even forming a recognizable opposition party in the next 80 years and that the environment can’t wait that long just to hear her party’s voice in the Commons.

She should advance her environmental agenda by partnering with the Liberals.

[Layton should do the same but he sees himself atop the Big House.]

By creating links with the one major party that actually cares about the state of our air, land and water she would do more for the environment than almost any other person in Canada.

On TV, or with a few seats in the Commons - not so much, if anything.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Live Small: City grass feeds country horses for free

You heard it here first - if you didn’t see it in the local news one month ago.

In brief: local hospital, didn’t cut grass, farmer saw it, baled it, fed it to horses, I was happy.

Great story, eh?

One of those rare everybody-including-some-horses-wins stories.

[Photo by KEN WIGHTMAN/Sun Media]

And when I say everybody I mean more than a farmer and horses.

The guy who usually cuts the grass - a three day process, 3 times per month - was a winner.

Also, by avoiding several lawn trimmings the hospital reduced emissions and saved money used for fuel and pesticides.

“You’ve got to figure the savings are in the thousands,” said a hospital spokesperson.

Let’s put our thinking caps on. Are there similar ways we can save dough and help the environment simultaneously?

I’m thinking out loud here:

“less lawn, front yard garden, fresh tomatoes, reduce water and pesticide usage, convert grass clippings to something useful (golf tees, fuel?), feed goats or sheep and get milk or sweaters in return, etc.”

Any ideas?


My Point of View: PM Harper, I have an opinion about diesel taxes

And - apparently - you’re welcome to it.

If I held the swing vote and Prime Minister Harper tried to buy me with his flimsy “two cent per liter cut in the cost of diesel fuel” he would lose the election faster than he could grease a skid.

“Clean out your desk,” I’d tell him.

“Diesel fuel is a stinky component of a noxious substance that fouls our land, water and air and is almost better off left in the ground.”

[Air pollution:see photo in context]

He’d likely try to sway me with his concern for farmers (they burn a lot of it) and truckers (they burn a lot of it) and the economy (though unsustainable it burns a lot of it) - especially in these tough times.

“As fast as we’re burning diesel and other fossil fuels we’re burning our bridges for the future,” I’d say. “How about putting that money into transition costs.”

I’d add, “Let the old generation of fuels pay for the next generation of sustainable fuels, research and development, and reparations to the environment.”

That’s my two cents worth, Mr. Harper.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DIY Project: Hang Bob Dylan on your wall

I like my small workshop.

Actually, ‘like’ is too light a word.

If I wasn’t typing right now while listening to Bob sing ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’ I’d love to be in my shop - grooving to Highway 61 Revisited while putting the finishing touches an my second Rietveld chair (based on a 1934 design) or umpteenth LP album frame so I can hang another Dylan album cover on the wall beside my desk.

I can always find room for one more.

Check out today’s issue of M Magazine for more photos of frames and step by step directions.

Contact me if you hit a snag while trying to make your own frame.

My next batch of 9 frames will come from 2 red cedar 2 by 4s.

Easy as pie and inexpensive.

How can you not like that?


Grocery Store Blues: How do we keep up with higher food prices?

Crap. Where’s my wallet... again?

We may have a record wheat crop worldwide but prices will remain high, says the Canadian Wheat Board and US Dept. of Agriculture.

Many people’s wages or pensions won’t rise as quickly.

[“Kiss my penny collection good-bye!”: photo link]

Add in costs related to gas, home heating, rents and mortgages and we’re living inside the perfect storm.

Recently I whined:

“I’m up a pant size and my son’s wedding is just around the corner.”

So, at least in the food department, I will try to eat and spend less and it will honestly do me good. (And the recent addition of extra insulation in the attic and walls of this old house will hopefully save me more).

I think as bread and pasta prices rise [“during the past decade the price of bread has increased by 87 per cent”] I’ll balance things out by eating fewer restaurant meals and cutting back on pork and beef.

It helps that I’m motivated to lose 10 pounds.

["Harrison dekes around the defence..."; Photo in context]

My son’s wedding and hockey season approach and if you think new suit pants are expensive check out the price of hockey pants!

How are you adjusting to rising food prices?


Monday, September 8, 2008

My Point of View: Why does our election look boring?

That’s easy.

The question was asked and answered in three simple words this morning in a newspaper’s headline.

It read:

Why does our election look boring compared to US? [The Canadian Press]

Certainly, compared to the US election, ours looks boring, and will for the next five weeks unless the 3 writers left in Canada (the CP article originated from Washington, DC.) can find pressing issues to write about - and there are several.

Look closely and there’s a lot going on - and not going on - even more so when compared to countries on par with Canada in size and economic clout, who burn fossil fuels and produce garbage as quickly per capita, who line store shelves with petroleum- and chemical-laden products from around the globe and think sustainable development is too costly and therefore a dirty word.

Wait. Son of a Gunderson.

[Photo link: Highland Energy Inc. Garbage to Energy]

There aren’t any countries our size who, per capita, burn fossil fuels as quickly or bury themselves as deep in trash, plastic and toxic chemicals.

I suppose that does make CNN and the Obama - Palin Show seem more entertaining.

But not more important.


The Grocery Store Blues: Ocean Spray Craisins too sweet by half

Crap. I’m up a pant size and my son’s wedding is just around the corner.

So, this morning I bought a new pair of pants for my suit, size 35 waist, and when I returned home made salad and soup for lunch.

Okay, I know about salad dressing. Lots of fat in many cases.

[Photo link: Obesity and cancer]

But I didn’t know how much sugar was in the Ocean Spray sweetened dried cranberries I sprinkled over my lettuce.

Nutrition facts:

In a 40 gram serving (or 1/3 cup) there are 26 grams of sugar.

When Ocean Spray proclaims that Craisins are “the sweetest way to eat a cranberry” they aren’t kidding.

No wonder they call them Craisins. After 14 grams of cranberries soak up 26 grams of sugar they are - legally - no longer cranberries.

And what’s a craisin?

Some manmade hybrid that’s sweeter than raisins by a long shot.

Ocean Spray should add:

The fastest way to shoot syrup into your butt

Instead they say - Fat and Cholesterol-Free

Whoop-dee-doos... I got the sugar blues.