Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Zoom w a View: Does the weather suck big time?

Now that the first snow of the year has landed in my backyard, I need to do two jobs, instead of one, first thing in the morning.

I’ll need to first whisk off the birdhouse before adding seeds to the porch roof. (Note to self - buy a whisk, buy more mixed seed).

And because of the deep puddles in the backyard due to this week’s unseasonal rainfall, I should also buy a high pair of rubber boots to keep from getting soakers - as I did yesterday. (Both feet!)

Who once said, if you don’t like Ontario’s weather, wait five minutes?

I think whoever-it-was got it right.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Welcome to Harperville: “Still more smoke and fire up your pants”

[There will be no golden eggs in this winter’s federal budget for Opposition MPs with their hands out. Nov. 26, London Free Press]

Line Dance Minister Jim Flatulence, never short for words, said a lot of interesting things about his upcoming budget recently, “left little or no room for anyone looking to derail the government’s cost-cutting agenda”, but also left several things unsaid, according to Conservative Prime Minister Harper’s tight-lipped plan.

What was said?

“As we do every year, we will hear from various groups, including the opposition, calling for more spending, new programs and bigger government.” (Nov. 26, Free Press)

What wasn’t said?

The Conservatives will thumb their noses at the opposition in the spirit of co-operation with the majority of Canadians, and will keep really quiet about the ‘more spending, new programs and bigger government’ of their own as the mystery bills for their ‘Omnibush’ Crime Bill, fighter jets and last Economic Action Plan come home to roost in the future.

["While Harper spends, spends, spends - suck on this, Canada!": photo GH]

What else was said?

“Although we stand prepared to be flexible and pragmatic should circumstances warrant it, we will stick to our low-tax plan to create jobs and economic growth.”

What wasn’t said?

The Conservatives have no plan or money if there is no economic growth because their current low-tax plan has reduced the size of the government coffers considerably, and it will shrink even more once their next promised corporate-tax reduction comes into effect.

What else was said?

“If European leaders continue to dither, future generations will inherit unsustainable debt burdens.”

What wasn’t said?

Canadian Conservative leaders will continue to dither with their low-tax plan to create jobs.

PM Harper has no Plan B.

Canadians already carry unsustainable debt burdens and future generations will inherit even more.

PM Harper and his Line Dance Minister will blow even more smoke and fire up our pants in the spring.

Stay tuned.


Please click here to read “More smoke and fire up your pants.”


Newspaper Clippings: “Canadian wages keep falling”

[Canadian workers are failing to keep up with the rising cost of living as real wages continue to fall dramatically, new data from Statistics Canada shows. Nov. 25, Metro]

Average weekly earnings for non-farm payrolls fell in September. Many already know that.

When the “3.2 per cent inflation rate for the month is taken into consideration, the drop in real wages was more dramatic.” (Metro) Many already know that.

Many also know Canada’s unemployment rate is hovering around 8 per cent, with my home region of London suffering 9 per cent rates. Many know that because of the high rate of under-employment, low wages associated with part-time employment and lack of reliable full-time jobs with some semblance of benefits, the true unemployment rate is double or triple the reported number.

["I'd like something smaller than a Falcon, please."]

What many do not know is if governments and businesses have plans to create an alternative economy to the unsustainable, market-first, high-production-of-wasteful-goods model that is faltering in most countries of the world at present, and that will continue to do so into the future as easy, cheap oil disappears.

May I suggest The Small Economy, based on the culture of small (rather than the culture of big)? May I suggest the building of small houses (900 sq. ft. and smaller, not larger) and accompanying smaller-scaled appliances and furnishings, small vehicles (e.g., a three-wheeled, enclosed scooter with a small bed in the back for groceries) and necessary smaller-scaled parts and accessories, and small, energy-efficient apartments close to the downtowns of cities to save on fuel and infrastructure costs. (I’ll take a one-bedroom on the fifth floor - close to Gambrinus - as soon as it’s ready!)

Don’t hold your breath waiting for governments or corporations to promote The Small Economy or the culture of small. But - as real wages continue to shrink - prepare for it nevertheless.


Please click here for more reasons to adopt the culture of small.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One Year Ago Today: Two lovely birdhouses

With a few clicks I can find images on my computer that were taken exactly one year ago today.

No surprise, there are hundreds of pictures from my grandson’s birthday party. In three or four I look younger than I do now. Exactly one year younger.

The last picture of the day, Nov. 29, 2010, was taken inside my workshop. Two birdhouses. Lovely blue paint. The wood came from Value Village. I wish I had more of it!

["I could use a pile of blue boards!": photo GH]

When I saw them I also began to think... if I wanted to examine over 5,000 images on file, I suppose I could count how many birdhouses I’ve made since then. I bet I’d reach 80 - 100.

Forget it. I think I’ll just go out to the shop and continue working on the ones I’ve got on the bench today. That’s a better use of my time.


Please click here for more from The Workshop.


Ollie and Me: Never too young to love Bob Dylan

It’s raining cats and dogs and green frogs outside, so Ollie and I are listening to Bob Dylan tunes in my study.

He’s as cozy as a bug, drawing pictures on a magic board and asking endless questions about Bob.

“What is this song called? Why is it called that? What’s he saying? Why is he saying that? Can we play it again?”

I try to explain what an album is, what a CD is, that songs have one name and albums usually have another. When I mention the CD ‘under the red sky’ he wants to see it, so down to the basement we go to my Bob Dylan shelf.

“Why isn’t the sky red?” he asks when he sees the CD cover.

That’s a good question, I say, and later I play ‘Born in Time’ three times in a row upon Ollie’s request.

I did my best to explain the lyrics “You were snow you were rain, you were striped you were plain” but feel I came up short.

However, I may have found a soul mate - five years old on Thursday. Never too young for Bob, eh.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Next week, Tom Waits.

Please click here for more Ollie and Me.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

It Strikes Me Funny: Strange ‘Key Words’ find my blog

If you ‘googled’ Birdhouse London chances are good you’d be directed to my blog.

Other key words will also do the trick. E.g., 'buy nothing day’, ‘permafrost’, and for some unknown reason, ‘naked at Port Burwell.’ (Don’t ask. I don’t know. Even if I did I wouldn't tell.)

["Nothing but a few fishermen on the dock as far as I can see": photo GH]

Today, while checking stats related to my second blog (re prose, song lyrics), I discovered that a reader had found it by typing in the following string:

verse for a friend who has not kept in touch since you left w

w? wth? What does it all mean?

My first guess is, the string went on for a few more words but was too long for the key word record.

My second guess is, the missing words are “with my brother” and the reader found my Hit Single entitled ‘Lordie Lordie.’

And about ‘naked at Port Burwell’... still nothing.


Please click here for the lyrics to my Hit Single 'Lordie Lordie.’

Please click here to mead more It Strikes Me Funny.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Workshop: “I’d better make more big ones”

Because I’ve been asked the same related questions on at least a dozen occasions (i.e., “Do you put seeds inside a birdhouse to attract birds?” “Where do seeds go on a birdhouse to attract birds?”), I recently designed a simple house and feeder combo.

I thought, it’s brilliant and should satisfy some folks who not only want to watch birds as they settle into a nest for a season but feed them as well.

Shortly thereafter I was asked another question. I.e., “I like the combo but do you have a larger feeder?”

Back at the old drawing board, rescued lumber and a few pen scratches came to the rescue. Two nights ago I added red paint to easy-to-reach flat surfaces and later applied white pine trim and linseed oil (w a titch of maple stain).

I think they look really good together and the feeder, once placed upon a portable stand, will be a fine addition to my back deck (or someone else’s) this winter.

Though I really like the combo idea, I’m going to make a few more big feeders before the snow flies. Oh, and double my order of mixed seed from Home Hardware!

[Photos by G. Harrison]


Please click here for another stop inside The Workshop.


Zoom w a View: “Showing off tri-plexes”

That’s right, I’m showing off - uncharacteristically, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Someone recently wanted to see birdhouse tri-plexes and I had nothing to show for my labours except a few photos.

But even in photographs, there's something about red cedar that catches the eye, isn't there?


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


The Workshop: "I'll have it ready by Tuesday, no problem"

I said thank-you to the caller, hung up the phone and began to feel nervous. Someone was coming over in an hour or two to visit the workshop and look at a few cedar birdhouses, tri-plexes in particular, and I realized, upon hanging up the phone, that I might be all out of them.

A quick look in the basement and workshop proved me right. The four I had made the previous week had been sold.

What can I do? I thought. Show the caller a few pictures? Show her the one my wife bamboozled me out of selling and has sitting on the porch?

["I'll just show off this lovely picture": photos by GH]

That sounded fine to me. But, to burn off some nervous energy, I cut and sanded pieces for two more tri-plexes and stacked enough materials on my work bench to make it look as if I knew what I was doing and that I could back up my usual line to anyone who need things done in a hurry, i.e., sure, sure, I can have it ready by Tuesday, no problem.

There, I’m feeling better now. (Today is Saturday, right?)


Please click here for another trip to The Workshop.


Friday, November 25, 2011

My last word about London’s cargo hub

[Jamie Robertson, president of a local freight-forwarding company believes there’s “no ongoing business at the cargo terminal.” Nov. 19, London Free Press]

My last word? Readers are no doubt delighted. So I’ll make it quick.

No matter how Mayor Joe Fontana or London International Airport’s boss Steve Baker spin the numbers related to the amount of freight moving in and out of the city’s $11 million cargo hub, I’ll still think we’ll get a poor bang for the buck, maybe even lose our shirts and cargo pants.

As many in North America and Europe shift from the culture of big to the culture of small, and as fuel prices rise, the shipping of cargo by plane - the most expensive method - will become less profitable.

And what were the Mayor’s last words re the matter?

He said, “There’s no doubt the numbers are staggeringly positive.” (Nov. 19, London Free Press)

And Steve Baker’s last words?

Baker asked city councillors to urge the federal government to create a “free trade zone” to spur more shipments and more “remarkable” growth from London’s cargo hub.

My last word: The hub still won't fly. How remarkable or staggeringly positive are the numbers if one must urge the creation of a not-necessarily-for-free trade zone?


Please click here if you can’t get enough of the news about London’s cargo hub.


One of life’s little mysteries

I’m not going to say a thing.

I’m just going to share two very small items.

First, a small clipping I found on the floor under a side table in the room where I read my daily paper. Whatever I was going to say about it exactly escapes my mind, so I’ll just say nothing.

[London Free Press item from Sept. 28: photo GH]

And second, yesterday I mentioned the following statement in a post re one of my columns from 2003:

Canadian food banks assisted 295,228 people in 2002. Ontario’s food banks accounted for 40% of that total. 35 - 40% were children. (London Food Bank, Decade report)


Please click here for more related to food matters.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Prose: good defensive hockey

[The following was inspired by the excellent display of defensive hockey by Tyler Ferry of the London Knights (OHL) when he shadowed Nail Yakupov of Sarnia Sting on Oct. 30, 2011. A fellow I regularly play hockey against said the game was less enjoyable to watch. I heartily disagreed. gah]

good defensive hockey

stay on him
like dirt on an old dog
like the sticky on warm tape
stay on him

["Hockey equipment from the mid-1960s": photo GH]

coached repeated his plan to me
stick to him, that number 10
like spit on the sidewalk
like smell on your old man’s shirt
and I stuck to 10 that night

near the end of the first
he hacked my ankle and was sent
to the penalty box - I guess so!
but my team failed to capitalize
and my ankle tightened up
while I shook my head

period one ended, score one each


Please click here to read about periods two and three and the breath-taking conclusion of ‘good defensive hockey’ by G. Harrison.


“IT STRIKES” Again: Wisdom might have everything to do with feeding the birds PT2

[This column was originally published in April, 2003. There is a link to PT1 below. gah]

...Past government policies helped distribute more fairly some of our country’s wealth. Those days are gone.

Consider these clippings from March and April 2003:

The ranks of high-powered, high-salaried Canadian workers ballooned by more than two-thirds between 1990 and 2000, with almost half a million people in the exclusive club of those who earned more than $100,000 a year (Canadian Press)

Average earnings have gone up in Canada and they’re higher than they’ve ever been now. The reason - the upper end made big gains. But... the number of full-time workers who earned $20,000 or less also increased in the 1990s... (Canadian Press)

“What these figures show is we have a growing gap between the rich and poor,” said Rebecca Coulter of the University of Western Ontario. (London Free Press)

Canadian food banks assisted 295,228 people in 2002. Ontario’s food banks accounted for 40% of that total. 35 - 40% were children. (London Food Bank, Decade report)

["It's wise to feed the birds": photo G.Harrison]

London police are dealing with people who have a mental illness at an alarming and rapidly increasing rate... more of those people are being arrested because police have no other options. (Kelly Pedro, Free Press)

“Better housing, income and options are needed for people who are mentally ill,” says Lisa Heslop, supervisor with the London police victim services unit. (Kelly Pedro)

In a move that acknowledges some customers face genuine hardship, London Hydro announced... a $50,000 donation to THAW, helping low-income (earners) facing hydro cutoffs. (Mary-Jane Egan, London Free Press)

I think it wise to feed the birds.



Please click here to read ‘Wisdom might have everything to do with feeding the birds’ PT1


Are we expert enough to right our wrongs?

[“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall...” Mother Goose, 1803]

Perhaps we’ve listened to experts about the economy for too long.

I feel the mighty have fallen. And some mighty men and once mighty systems seem to be in free fall.

Consider the following from Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges:

Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal reserve Board, once treated with reverential deference by the power elite and the liberal class, announced in 2008, “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in their firms.”

Greenspan exposed the folly of the liberal experts and economists, who had promoted a baseless belief in the power of free markets to self-regulate and solve the world’s problems. In holding up what amounts to a strenuously defended utopianism, these leaders ignored three thousand years of economic and human history to serve a corporate ideology.

All the promises of the free market have turned out to be lies.
(pg. 153 - 154)

And still, we place profit ahead of people in the hopes of shared wealth. We place the economy ahead of our environment and leave reparations to future generations.We place unsustainable lifestyles now ahead of a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. And there are many signs we are not clever enough to see or right our wrongs.

Proponents of the free markets and globalization still rule the media.

[Link to images by Rene Milot]

Chris Hedges writes, “The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, a cheerleader for the Iraq war and globalization, became the poster child for the new class of corporate mandarins. And although Friedman was disastrously wrong about the outcome of the occupation, as he was about the effects of globalization, he continues, with a handful of other apologists, to dominate the airwaves.” (pg. 142)

As well, many North American political leaders are stymied, stuck in their ‘business as usual’ ways or just plain stupid.

Under the headline ‘U.S. lawmakers abandon deficit cutting efforts’ in Tuesday’s London Free Press I read the following:

...The admission of defeat by Republicans and Democrats on a 12-member congressional "super committee" is likely to cement perceptions among voters and investors that politicians are too divided to tackle trillion-dollar budget deficits and a national debt that now is roughly equal to the U.S. economy.

President Barack Obama has kept his distance from the talks, choosing instead to emphasize a job-creation package that has been blocked by Republicans. He said Republicans had scuttled the talks by refusing to consider tax hikes on the wealthy.
[Link to full article here]

Doesn’t it seem that there’s no end to the difficulties that strangle the U.S’s chance to move forward?

["GH mantra: Reduce spending, pay down debt, save money"]

And while that is going on, in Canada, our own Prime Minister shuffles about the globe hoping to find buyers of the costly crude that is squeezed - not gently, in more ways than one - from his beloved Alberta Tar Sands, a deep dark hole where reasonable environmental standards and thoughts of a healthy, sustainable future go to die.

Our experts are falling and failing, it seems to me.

Over 200 years ago people were entertained my Mother Goose and learned the fate of one poor egg that fell off a wall.

“... All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.”

Today’s experts may think otherwise, but we may suffer the same fate soon with our belief in free markets, globalization, and unsustainable lifestyles.

It’s time for breakfast. I’m thinking... omelette.


Please click here for information about Catch-44 and the progress trap.


I Ask You: Do adults suspend belief like children?

Grandson Ollie likes to consult Mr. Expert to hear the pronunciation of common words.

“How does you say ‘sock’?” Ollie asks.

Mr. Expert says, “Soock. That’s really how you say it, Ooollie.”

“What about ‘movie’?

“You should say ‘meevie’, Ooollivoor,” says Mr. Expert.

And the expert should know. After all, he’s one smart potato and has been to college. At least, that’s what I tell Ollie.

["How do you say 'cookie'?: photos GH]

Ollie loves little chats with Mr. Expert, and they will continue for a few more days, until the spud is needed to make Mr. Irish stew.

I like how children suspend belief and play along with grandfathers.

In the real world, however, I think adults have been suspending belief for far too long.

The way we run our economy and treat our environment has run its course, yet many still believe in ‘business as usual’ - as if prosperity will continue as it did in the past few decades on the back of cheap oil.

Mr. Expert would say, “Goood loock with that.”

I ask you: Do we suspend belief like children?


Please click here for another I Ask You.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“IT STRIKES” Again: Wisdom might have everything to do with feeding the birds

[This column was originally published in April, 2003. It was inspired by the short-sighted attitude [also hard-hearted in my opinion] revealed in a letter to the editor of London’s local newspaper. gah]

Wisdom might have everything to do with feeding the birds

Robbie Smink of St. Marys quoted a wise man in a recent letter to a local paper but left me none-the-wiser.

“If you put the bird food out the birds will come.”

Robbie wanted politicians to ‘wise-up’ because many people are lining up to ‘not pay’ their hydro bills (“The excuses seem unlimited... their ability to milk the system, uncanny.”). He sees “no end in sight” to those needing assistance through London’s THAW program.

“Why can’t politicians grasp this simple concept?” he asked. Smink fears government involvement in other areas of our lives because “there would soon be countless needs, chronic shortages, lineups and waiting lists as we already see in social housing, education, health care...”

I think governments understand Smink’s simple concept and have already enacted many seed-removal measures. Deep cuts to health care, education and social services are well-documented. Is it now time to stop feeding the birds entirely?

Smink intimated as much when he offered for our enrichment the wisdom of Quebec Premier Bernard Landry (another simple-concept-fellow who doesn’t approve of bird feeders); “If a small bird with a tiny brain can house and feed her young and look after herself, why can’t people?”

Both men should throw out a few crusts and observe what happens. As a variety of birds swoop toward the bread a natural pecking order will be seen and the offering will not be distributed evenly.

A wise woman said, “We should re-establish and strengthen our universal family allowance program, which Ottawa killed... leaving us without family or housing allowances. The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Canadians lining up at food banks is a commentary on how badly we need a program to help families pay for the most basic necessities.” (Linda McQuaig in ‘The Wealthy Banker’s Wife’).

It is not people in lineups or on waiting lists that should chiefly concern Robbie Smink. It is present-day, calculated, government policy meant to deprive people of assistance and a sense of equality. Past government policies helped distribute more fairly some of our country’s wealth. Those days are gone.

(Author’s note - do past government policies fan the fire under the Occupy movement today?)

More to follow.


Please click here to read the full letter that prompted the above column.

Please click here to read another exciting episode (How could it not be?) of “IT STRIKES” Again.


I Ask You: Is our empathy for people growing?

The following letter appeared in The London Free Press, April 2003;

Needs-based society knows no limits

A wise man once observed, “If you put the bird food out, the birds will come.”

Why can’t politicians grasp this simple concept?

Restrict Hydro’s ability to prevent cutoffs and people with excuses not to pay for hydro skyrockets by more than 200 per cent. The excuses seem unlimited, their challenges too daunting, their ability to milk the system, uncanny.

For seemingly all the right reasons, London’s THAW program began as a modest $10,000 proposal only four years ago. The cost to the taxpayer has already soared well past $200,000, soon to be $300,000, with no end in sight. Of course the need is always overwhelming.

There is no end to a “needs”-based society. There is no end to the “sacrifices” taxpayers are asked to make to pay for it all.

[Link to "One little junco, so quiet"]

Can you imagine if the government ever got involved in other “essential” necessities of life, such as food, shoes, clothes, automobiles or dentistry? Where once there was “plenty” and “lots of choice”, there would soon be “countless needs, chronic shortages, lineups and waiting lists”, as we already see in social housing, education, health care and now utility relief.

Wisely, Quebec Premier Bernard Landry said, “If a small bird with a tiny brain can house and feed her young and look after herself, why can’t people?”

Robbie Smink, St. Mary’s

The following week I wrote a response to Smink’s philosophy of life in The Londoner.

Stay tuned for another episode of “IT STRIKES” Again.

Meanwhile, I ask you: Is our empathy for people growing?


Please click here for more “I Ask You.”


Cartoon in Progress: “Life’s like that, eh” 40

"Ed soon discovered how the new burger chain could sell its Jumbo Deluxe for such a low price."



Please click here to view “Life’s like that, eh” 39


The Workshop: “How many have you made?”

I handed two birdhouses to Grace, another regular at the Red Roaster, and after receiving a fitting response to my claims about how brilliant they were (i.e., “My goodness. You do go on about them!”) I heard another person say, “How many have you made so far?”

I wish I knew. Hundreds, but not thousands, is a safe answer for the time being.

Two years ago, however, I met a man in Burgessville (he lives in my childhood home, just off Highway 59) who numbers each one he makes, and at the time, he was up to 2,900 plus. I tip my hat to his industriousness.

I noticed at the time his yard was full of birdhouses. Brilliant. He sells them at the end of his drive for “donations toward supplies.” Brilliant. He rescues his lumber (scrap plywood) from a local chair maker. Again, brilliant.

All that being said, he doesn’t add wood or tin signage, Coca-Cola machines, wee screw drivers or wrenches, or a wash of paint. In other words, his creations aren’t as fussy or, dare I say, brilliant as mine.

Wait. Did I say that out loud?

Sorry, I do go on sometimes.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for another trip to The Workshop.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pre-Occupied London PT 3: Rome wasn’t built in a day

I receive thoughtful responses to my posts at times, and I’m thankful for them, and a recent one forms the backbone of this post along with a few more of my own impressions.

The sender of the email below may not be surprised. He knows about my busy workshop, that I don’t throw anything out before I turn it over in my hand a few times, because - you just never know - it could be turned into something useful.

CL writes (in response to Pre-Occupied London PT 2):

Honestly, I'm conflicted by the Occupy movement, Gord. On the one hand, Occupy isn't presenting a coherent message and this hurts their cause. There are too many voices speaking about too many issues and it's tough to latch onto anything other than a feeling that people are pissed off for a hundred different reasons. That doesn't invalidate any of their issues, but the reality is that the rest of us need some focus. In short, they need a single voice (a single spokesperson?) and a concise viewpoint.

(GH interjects; the above is almost identical to many of my own thoughts. E.g., the lack of “coherent message” afflicts the cause, for certain. There are alos, however, a few eloquent spokesperson's for the movement).

The Labour movement (come on down Sid Ryan) seems to sense this and is attempting to insinuate themselves into the discussion. (I won't lump Glen Pearson in there because he's simply trying help Occupy gather and present their thoughts). My knee-jerk reaction to Big Labour here is that it's more of the same - the same old face, the same old strident voices, and the same old gripes. I don't think they speak for Occupy, but are using the opportunity to further their own agenda, which may or may not intersect with the Occupy message (it's hard to be sure sometimes). 

I don't where I'm going with all this other than to say I'm confused by it all. I'm willing to listen - but what is it I'm supposed to hear? Nov. 20, 2011

Raise your hand if you agree, for the most part, with the tone and direction of CL’s response. As I thought, along with my hand, I see several others. (If you’re wondering how I see your raised hands, all I can say is, it’s a gift).

I wrote back:

CL, you're not alone when feeling conflicted, skeptical (e.g., of Big Labour's intentions) and confused. The majority of observers, including me, can't easily pin down the Occupy movement. (The 'nail, Jell-o and wall' scenario springs to mind.) "Too many voices", as you say, is a big problem when looking for a concise overview (from Occupy London).

I'm glad G. Pearson volunteered to set up a panel of community-minded people and I look forward to the panel's first discussion in December. Come on along.

["Is there a '60s feel to the Occupy movement?": photo GH]

As per my first column re Occupy London, I can understand the intentions of some occupiers. My next one shares info re the upcoming panel. Though it's all a bit messy right now, what with Labour's involvement (full intentions unknown) and a myriad of voices, I feel there's some good being done and that will be done in the future.

(Honestly,) I'm reminded of some of the turbulence of the '60s, and apart from Dylan's squeaky voice, it wasn't all bad. GH

Today, allow me add a couple of other general thoughts about the Occupy movement.

One. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Two. You just never know, the movement could turn into something useful.

Please link to a recent related post by Glen Pearson.

As well, please link to recent related post by James Shelley, co-ordinator of City Symposium (incl. community-based panel’s first public discussion re themes connected to Occupy movement).


Please click here to read Pre-Occupied London PT 2


It Strikes Me Funny: Brilliant ‘reader email’

[Headline - Is London’s proposed air cargo gateway the way of the future?
That’s right. You heard it here first. I’m not sure if City Hall’s plans to turn London’s airport into a cargo gateway at a cost of $11,000,000 has long-term legs. Or wings. (Oct. 14, 2009, Column - It Strikes Me Funny)]

The following email arrived yesterday:

To Gord H. Your doubts about the cargo hub at London airport --- expressed before construction even began, I believe --- are proving to be right on.
Congrats on your foresight.
Cheers, Ken W.

I spun my desk chair in circles without falling, clapped my hands and said, “Brilliant.” (This type of email is rare).

Not only did I write two columns related to London’s $11 million cargo hub over two years ago, but updated blog readers about my sheer brilliance and foresight just a few weeks ago after learning lumps hits the air conditioner in the local news about the cargo hub's current lack of success, job production, no bang for the buck, etc.

The following lines from my initial column (Oct. 14, 2009) re the cargo ‘nub’ I still stand by:

“(T)oday I have a few questions about an air cargo hub. For example, many Canadian consumers (some of them surely right here in London) are worried about their wages and pensions and are reducing their spending on many types of material goods (ergo cargo) in their desire to save money and clear up their debt load.”

In my reply to Ken W. I said as much again.

“Thanks for the email, Ken. The city's intentions were good, i.e., create jobs. Surely they're needed.

But the city's ideas about how to create jobs may need to encompass people's changing habits related to consumerism. As more people adopt 'the culture of small', a future based on freight doesn't show promise.

But ‘where to next’, to create jobs? That's the question. Thanks again, GH

‘Where to next?’ Darn good question, eh?

Maybe another brilliant, insightful column is in order.

Hey, it could happen!


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny.
Link to this week's column here.

The Workshop: A long and winding process continues

After about 10 years in the workshop I’ve learned several important lessons.

A tight mask prevents dust balls.

The best lumber for birdhouses can be rescued from landfills, the side of the road, people’s garages or basements.

Pencils have legs.

And, among too many other lessons to list here today, I’ve learned that though the process of building an attractive, functional birdhouse - Oh, that’s the only kind I ever make! - is long, it’s also very interesting. Almost entertaining at times.

This afternoon I’ll attach hinges to back doors, paint several Coca-Cola signs, add a bit more trim and pack up two for delivery - right on time.

How entertaining is that!

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Please click here for another trip to The Workshop.


Zoom w a View: “There’s a swirl in the bucket, Dear Lisa”

There’s nothing like mixing up your own birdhouse colours in a bucket.

I simply take a few ounces of white, add a smidge of navy blue, give it a stir and - voila - a colour is produced perfect for antique-style houses.

I usually stop after the initial, hesitant stir to see what is happening inside the bucket. I’m sure most people do. We have learned that curiosity has its rewards.

We have learned to stop, smell the roses, keep an eye on the swirls.

[Photos by GHarrison]


Slow down and enjoy the view.

Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pre-Occupied London PT 2: Occupy movement has legs

[“Those who study social movements in Canada and the U.S. say the Occupy movement has just begun and has already had greater success than expected.” Nov. 16, London Free Press]

Tents have been taken down in some cities in Canada but the movement doesn’t seem to be going away.

This causes some to gnash their teeth and say, “They should go get jobs!”

Others hope for positive change to come out of the movement.

In perfectly average, pre-occupied London, the city in which tents were dismantled first, Occupiers’ general assemblies still take place in Victoria Park daily and a citizen-based panel has formed to take discussions a step farther by inviting Londoners to Wolf Performance Hall at the Central Library for a series of discussions re relevant issues beginning Dec. 13., 6:30 p.m. [Link to for more details.]

While the Occupy movement has relatively young legs, those legs appear to be sturdy and may be ready for a long-term march.

["Some have the spirit of persistence.": photo GH]

When asked about the possibilities of success with the panel discussions in London, panel chair Glen Pearson (Director of the London Food bank and former MP) told me the following:

“There is a chance this might not be a successful process. Citizens at large across the country aren't revealing a collective yearning for change - yet. I want to help my community to respond to the present economic and environmental challenges effectively, but it will be a long struggle. You do these things because they are the right thing to do, not because you are assured of success. I have a responsibility as a citizen - we all do - and I only seek to fulfill it.” (Nov. 19)

Like Mr. Pearson, individuals and groups who believe in doing the right thing are often not easily dissuaded from pressing forward. Believing that “the present economic and environmental challenges” are great keeps them in the game even though “it will be a long struggle.” And like Mr. Pearson, many feel a sense of personal responsibility as a citizen of Canada to face challenges head on and not back away.

Occupy Toronto doesn’t seem to be going away either.

A blog post entitled ‘Occupy Toronto Day 35: Labour solidarity rally’ by John Bonner shares the following:

At the C.D. Howe Institute, protesters filed into the building and walked to the second floor where they were met by building security who temporarily prevented them from entering a corridor outside the room where the roundtable assembled.

"It was you and the policies that you guys advocate that actually caused the economic collapse speculating with our futures," said Joel Duff, Communications Director, Ontario Federation of Labour.

"Why doesn't the C.D. Howe Institute want to listen to the people whose lives you are affecting with your policies?"

With the assistance of police, the protesters were allowed to enter the room in order to clear the fire exit.

"You can't just arbitrarily take away rights of workers and not expect any push back," said Sid Ryan, President, Ontario Federation of Labour, referring to Minister Raitt's "political interference" during the Air Canada and postal workers strikes.

"There's a price to be paid when you take away the right to free collective bargaining, the right to strike," said Ryan. "When you (Lisa Raitt) use bogus excuses to try and take away the rights from workers, you will find that we will dog you every step of the way across this country.", Nov. 19

[Please click here to read the full article.]

Perhaps in the face of government interference legs grow a bit stronger in order to push back. I think we’ll see more of this type of action. For example, I won’t be surprised if our federal Conservative government, confident in the light of its first majority, interferes in other ways, i.e., in other labour negotiations, hoping to take away the rights of workers, the powers of unions, etc. Other groups may also push back, so to speak, as the government strips environmental and social programs to reduce the deficit and pay for the next scheduled round of corporate tax cuts.

And, in my opinion, as more Canadian citizens see or sense injury to families, communities and natural surroundings, see the emptiness of an excessive consumption-based lifestyle, the more sturdy legs will appear in direct or indirect support of the Occupy movement.

C’est la vie.


Please click here to read Pre-Occupied London PT 1.


The Workshop: Batman and Robin will be pleased

A super hero I’m not (Flash Gordon? No, that’s not me), though Batman will like the bat houses that can be made from barn board.

I’ve learned that two good-sized bat houses can be made from one 8-ft. piece of wood, and a band saw is perfect for cutting bats out 1/2 inch thick cedar.

[Link to bat image for tracing.]

Robins will like - next spring - how easy a bird feeder comes together from just a few pieces of wood.

[“Only two pieces for the roof not showing”: Photos GH]

As well, ten bits of scrap are all a frugal bird house builder needs to make a rustic cube-shaped house suitable for chickadees or sparrows.

Anyone who enjoys rescuing lumber from the scrap heap will know the pleasure of banging together six pieces of old wood (in my case, barn board from Dorchester landfill site) to get a simple, rustic house together for a family of birds.

These two (above) require the addition of much trim and a wash of blue paint. Oh, and I need to add Coke machines, side windows and tin signage.

So, I guess my afternoon is planned, eh. Super!


Please click here for another peek at The Workshop.