Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fun and Fitness: “Walking with birds on my mind!”

Though I faithfully ride my recumbent exercise bike 110 miles (or, for 7 - 8 hours) per week on average, and enjoy reading while the miles pass by, it dawned on me recently that spring is coming and I should head outside and walk a few miles per week as well.

I can’t be exact at the moment, but it takes me about 15 minutes to walk one mile and not far from my house a walking and biking trail exists that leads be throughout the city.

I spotted nests of mud under a bridge downtown and shortly thereafter noticed a purse-shaped nest in Harris Park. If you’d like to hazard a guess as to who made it, let me know.

Outside of a shop in Wortley Village, about 6 minutes from my front door (Let’s see; that’s about one-third of a mile from home.), I saw a lovely tin-roofed birdhouse sitting in a patch of ivy and myrtle. It may provide inspiration for another round of birdhouse building.

If so, you’ll be the first to know, as usual.

[Photos by G.Harrison]


Are you feeling the urge to get outside and walk a few miles this week? I recommend the walk/bike path through Harris Park.

Please click here for more Fun and Fitness.


Welcome to Harperville: “Robosmoke and fire up your pants”

[Harper brushed aside accusations of sleaze... Feb.28, London Free Press]

Is it true? Canada may have a Robo-Prime Minister?

Yes, it’s true.

Canada may have a Roboprime Minister and all that goes with it, i.e., Robovoting for major bills and policies that affect all of Canada, a Robogovernment that includes such illustrious features as a Robofinance Minister (Jim “Nuts” Flaherty) and Robominister of Foreign Affairs (John “Bolts” Baird).

And why would Roboharper and his Robopolitico Machino stoop to include robocalls (automated phone calls to misdirect voters) in their bag of election strategies?

One can only imagine... and so I did.

I imagine the Conservative politico machino is so thirsty for power (like a robot thirsty for it’s life-giving oil from the tarsands) it is willing to do anything to achieve prominence.

I imagine the Conservative politico machino looked at Roboharper’s minority numbers before the last election and realized it needed something more clever than speech and policy writing to turn the tide in his favour.

I imagine the Conservative politico machino looked at the riches pouring into its coffers from Conservatives across the land, felt great pressure to succeed (“This may be our best chance ever! Hoorah!”) and considered a few less-than-stellar brain waves.

I imagine many Robomembers of the Conservative party had no idea how serious was the affront to democracy they considered, blinded as they were by the possibilities of political victory and subsequent power.

To those who believe that one little kid is responsible for the Robocall incident currently making headlines across this wide and wild land of ours, I can only say they have grown far too accustomed to our Roboprime Minister blowing smoke and fire up their pants.

Welcome to Harperville. Next stop, Judicial Inquiry!


Please click here to read more Smoke and fire down your pants.


Monday, February 27, 2012

2,012 Challenges in Modern Times: “Let’s flaunt our clean oil image?”

[“It’s a good start toward reversing the push by the zealous but grievously under-informed environmental lobby to stop oilsands bitumen production.” Feb. 25, London Free Press]

Word is spreading. Coal is the dirtiest fuel on the planet, and it’s so dirty that some people now want people across the globe to believe that tarsands oil is squeaky clean by comparison.

Cigarettes don’t kill people, proclaimed tobacco producers and cigarette manufacturers not too many years ago. And their bogus claims ruled for decades while lung cancer and respiratory illnesses shortened and ended lives around the globe.

DDT is great for killing weeds, proclaimed chemical producers in the 1940s and ‘50s, as post-war agriculture boomed. And their claims about DDT’s benefits and their accompanying silence concerning its ill-effects resounded for decades while the land, lakes, rivers and streams, and upper atmosphere stored its poison for future generations to deal with.

The list goes on, and today the common man must deal with headlines in local papers that read ‘(It’s) Time for Alberta to flaunt its new, ‘clean’ image’ and accompanying articles that hold out good news concerning the multi-billion dollar oil industry on the one hand, and hold out no information on the other about the industry’s ill affects upon the land water and atmosphere, as if to say ‘it’s all good, all the time’.

In other words, the truth about the oil-industry comes up half-empty, and business-as-usual becomes the order of the day. About the environmental lobby being “under-informed” (as reported by the Edmonton Sun in the Free Press article): It’s no wonder the lobby and the rest of Canada doesn’t know everything about the oil industry, especially the harm done. It is never fully reported for common consumption!

And that is but one challenge of many to deal with in modern times. (We’re really not so modern as we think, are we).

In my opinion, to combat the ‘oil is good, business-as-usual' approach to life, we must adopt the following principles:

Reduce spending

Pay down debt

Save money for tough times ahead

Replace shopping skills with social and survival skills

Consume less, commune more with others and nature.


Please click here to read more 2,012 Challenges


It Strikes Me Funny: “Oh, that shirt looks nice on you”

It came as no surprise, that an hour or so before going to our friends’ house for supper on Saturday night, my wife presented me with a new shirt.

She knows I don’t often make the effort to buy new clothes because - not that I don’t appreciate them - new duds are far down on my list of needs or priorities in life.

In the late 1960s, early 1970s, I was a very impulsive shopper, especially related to clothes. They make the man, I thought. And the shopping habit makes one poor as well, I slowly learned.

‘Live small and prosper’ is now my motto and my ‘saving habit’ is now much stronger than my ‘spending habit’. (E.g., in the last year I’ve saved enough to train across Canada in ‘The Canadian Train’, from Toronto to Vancouver, in an upper berth, all meals included. And I’ll look pretty snappy in my used jeans and T-shirts).

However, when my wife buys me a new shirt, to make her man, I won’t turn it down, especially if it’s plaid - my favourite colour.

[Photo by GH]


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny


Zoom w a View: Hattie Cove sunset

Currently, I’m trying to put together plans related to biking or taking the train out west in a few months.

Perhaps my first view of the prairies, Kicking Horse Pass and Strait of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and the mainland) will be as spectacular as the first sunset I viewed at Hattie Cove, Lake Superior in 2007.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

[Photo by GH]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View


Saturday, February 25, 2012

It Strikes Me Funny: “So, you think you got problems!?”

While checking my computer’s photo files today I found this picture.

I must put it in the category of ‘World’s best shots’ or ‘You think you got problems?’ And what's happening? I'm glad you asked. Read below.

“The Shot Felt Around the World!”


Please click here for more It Strikes me Funny.


Welcome to Harperville: “Curses! More smoke and fire down our pants”

[“The government has kept tight-lipped on details of its plans, only releasing bits of information in dribs and drabs.” Feb. 22, London Free Press]

If I wanted to sneak up behind you to steal your wallet, I’d probably try one of the oldest tricks in the book called ‘Hey, look over there. Is that your sister?’

Though you may call the trick by another name, it works like this: I don’t want you to see me slip ten bucks out of your wallet and into mine so I distract you. I point to your left and, in a very serious tone - to make myself sound very believable - I ask you to see if that person walking by is your sister.

Now, this ploy works very well if you in fact have a sister and want to engage her in a long conversation. If you don’t have a sister, then I get caught with my hand in your back pocket. Whoops.

While we speak, Prime Minister Harper is trying the same trick on all Canadians as he makes plans to reform Old Age Security (OAS) by making some or many older Canadians work longer, e.g., to age 67 (for now), before collecting hard-earned benefits.

["Is it out of this world to pay a bit more now than later?": Toon by GH]

Why, only last Tuesday, Conservative Human Resource Minister Diane Finley “tried to persuade Canadians that those changes are indeed necessary, warning doing nothing would create an undue burden on future generations of Canadians.”

Finley’s trick is very slick. She warns that we will all place an undeserved burden upon the shoulders of our grandchildren if we don’t follow the Prime Minister’s plan. Though there’s not a word about anybody’s sister, many Canadians will at least be a little more fearful now of the prospects facing children and grandchildren across this once mighty land. And when people are fearful, they’re a little more willing to sacrifice, a little more willing to spend a few more years at work in their later years.

In my opinion, though the information about PM Harper’s plan is only coming out in ‘dribs and drabs’, at least that’s better than the zero amount of information Canadians are receiving about all the reasons why revenues on the government ledger seem unable to support OAS benefits.

Yes, we hear about how people are living longer (from conservative think tanks, no less) but nary a word about how revenues have been affected by the Conservative decrease in the GST. We hear about more boomers “coming down the pipes” (Feb. 22, Free Press) but about how recent corporate tax breaks have affected the coffers - nada, as in ‘not a word’.

To help with giving Canadians even more useful information, maybe the Conservative Federal Government could conduct a poll and ask how many Canadians would like to see corporations pay 1 per cent more tax now, and be willing to spent one per cent more on the GST now, rather than work longer in the future.

Don’t hold your breath.

If you feel more heat around your ankles than usual, that’s just the smoke and fire our Prime Minister is blowing down your pants.

Get used to it, for now.


Please click here for More Smoke and Fire


Friday, February 24, 2012

It Strikes Me Funny: “Dude, what are you cooking?”

Out of curiosity I recently checked one of my favourite blog stats, i.e., the top ten ‘search keywords’ or words that people ‘Google’ that lead to my lovely site.

And here they are, for those readers who are curious as well.

Search Keywords

solar oven plans 858
1996 everest disaster 626
northern lights 581
ants 534

["Henry, one of the big bad bug brothers, might be a hit"]

how to make a solar oven 406
permafrost 190
rob hall everest 165
how to build a solar oven 164
squirrel meat 148
squirrel 145

Some will notice - out of 3,817 total hits under consideration - my brilliant ideas about solars ovens burn the other entries, and receive 37% of the traffic. My Mt. Everest stories collect 21% of traffic; substantial, but a distant second in my opinion, and I think it deserves better. (I’ll get on it right away).

Some will wonder, as do I, why cute ants are so popular.

Other readers may be looking at the last two entries in my top ten, i.e., ‘squirrel meat’ and ‘squirrel’ and wonder what the heck I’m planning to have for supper, or what that smell is coming from my solar oven!

I can explain. I wrote a song - very popular I guess - about squirrel stew in a Mason jar, as well as a few entries about how squirrels always seem to find their way into my bird feeders.

I can’t explain the ‘permafrost’ entry definitively. I guess I’ll have to Google it to find out.

And if you’ve already done so, thanks for stopping by.


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Motorcycle Miles: PT 6 Vancouver Island or Bust

["As per usual, a snippet from a ’60’s song will be stuck inside my head, repeating itself as the miles disappear. And I’ll be singing as part of a skilled background chorus, my rhythm in sync with the Virago’s pistons." PT 5 Vancouver Island or Bust]

In July, 2012 I’ll leave Wawa with a full tank of gas in my motorcycle at about 9 a.m. The weather will be lovely (says the author, optimistically), as it was the first time I drove that piece of highway north of Sault Ste. Marie in August, 2007.

["A biker, having just past Wawa and its giant goose, heads toward me."]

I’ll head west 93 kilometers, so says my map, and reach White River about an hour later. While I sip coffee outside one of the town’s few restaurants, I’ll review a few photos I took back in Wawa. Maybe I’ll have one of a moose, if I spot one like I did in ’07 somewhere along the just completed stretch of lonely highway.

["The cold, wild water of Hattie Cove, west of Wawa and White River"]

After my last swig of coffee, I’ll detour north (103 km.) on highway 631 to Hornepayne. At 11:30 I should be standing beside an old CN rail station in that town (“now unused and in disrepair” says Wikipedia re the station), stretching my legs, sipping from a thermos, and wondering if my dad saw much of the town when he and at least five other merchant mariners (members of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve) stopped there in January or February, 1944 on their way to Vancouver Island. I’ll look around, form some impressions, and wonder if he formed some that were similar.

Right around noon, my stomach will probably tell me to form an impression about how good a hamburger might taste at a local diner.

Off I’ll go to lunch. I’ll talk to a few locals. Maybe I’ll show them an old photo of five of my dad’s friends (‘oppos’ the sailors would say) outside their station. Maybe an old-timer will recall the year quite a few sailors passed through on their way west, while he lugged lumber in a nearby yard.

["From the side of the road, near Terrace Bay."]

After one last stretch of the legs I’ll ride back to the Trans-Canada highway 17, then point myself west and aim for Terrace Bay, about 460 km. total from Wawa, including the detour to Hornepayne. The bay is a pretty little spot, thanks to the fact it’s situated on the north shore of magnificent Lake Superior and has an unrestricted view of some of the prettiest wild, cold water in the world.

If, from my home base in London, I’ve biked to Massey, Wawa and then Terrace Bay, I’ll have covered about 1,350 km. in three days. I’ll be on my 5th tank of gas, down between $500 - 600 and sleeping like a rock, with thoughts of sugar plums - and the 3,500 km. still to go - dancing in my head.

[Photos by G.Harrison, 2007]


Please click here to read PT 5 Vancouver or Bust


Rare Family Photos: Rare photo. Rare bicycle?

The last rare photo posted here, showing my mother working on a tobacco farm in 1939, is still a puzzle.

For example, I don’t have answers to the following questions: Who is Mr. Lee, one of five gentleman in the picture? Did my mother and I work for the same family during our youth, though 30 years apart? Why didn’t I inherit her good looks?

And a person I turned to for help left me with another puzzle. How did mother get to work?

["Mother relaxes on or near her childhood home, circa 1939"]

I don’t know. However, I do know her mother and siblings were penny-pinchers because they had to be. I know an uncle who lived nearby shared produce with them from his garden. And thanks to today’s rare photo, I know my mother could have biked to work, though, because she wasn’t typically known as an early riser, she might have grumbled at the 20 - 30 minute commute after a very early start to the day.

The photo is likely from the late 1930s and contains a few details about my hometown of Norwich. It’s Main St., running left and right one block north of mother, was dominated by the two-story red brick Post Office, and its clock tower is visible over mother’s head. (The telephone pole almost completely hides the round face of the clock, and from inside the square tower, for many years, the clock chimed to mark each quarter-hour. Also behind mother’s head is a round globe atop a street lamp pole; the pole bears a very distinctive design, and the next rare photo will show it more clearly.

Just out of the picture and to the left stands her uncle’s house, with a healthy garden to be sure. Beside it is the Knox Presbyterian Church (both it and uncle’s house remain today), and though the church was close by, my mother was known to attend the Quaker meeting house, two miles away on Quaker Rd., now the site of the grave yard in which my mother is buried.

["Metal emblem on my 1964 Raleigh"]

If you can, tell me what kind of bicycle mother owned. A Raleigh? I’m not at all sure. But I’d be interested in knowing.

Wouldn’t it be nice to toot around Wortley Village, London on such a bike in spring? I think so.

[Photos by GH]


Please click here to see more Rare Family Photos


It Strikes Me Funny: cardinal in the treetop

cardinal in the treetop
sings his clarion call
“I’m as buff as other birds,
So Girls, come one, come all.”

cardinal in the treetops
puzzling o’er the odds.
“Will I find my true love?
Or join the sods and clods?”

[Prose and photos by GH]


I’m sure things will turn out okay. Keep singin’.

Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zoom w a View: “Shades of gray”

I’m back on home turf again. I love it.

I didn’t even mind that snow pellets filled my hair, i.e., what’s left of it, when I arrived home this morning from the Little Red Roaster, refill and camera in hand.

When my front steps are dampened, hundreds of patterns emerge from the gray stone. Distinct designs disappear as they dry or as the snow deepens.

[Photos by GH]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View from Fenelon Falls.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Fenelon Falls: "Time to go"

By the time I have my two small bags packed and the car warmed up the sun will be on my son's back deck and glass fence panels.

By the time I stop for coffee at the half-way point (Milton) on my drive home to London, the frosty designs will have melted.

Do you take pictures of natural scenes on a regular basis?

{Photos by G. Harrison]


Please click here for more 'free' photos from Fenelon Falls.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Zoom w a View: What do you see here?

I enjoyed the scene enough to snap a few pictures. But as I peered through the view finder I wasn't sure if the scene would be recognizable to others.

Do you see what I was seeing by studying the first photo alone?

How about now?

Do you see art work completed by nature with snow upon the ice?

[Photos by GH]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Fenelon Falls: Free hop rhizomes

When I visited Fenelon Falls in the fall, I spotted wild hop flowers during a morning walk. I was unprepared at the time to dig them up and cart them home.

For those wondering. No, if I dig up the hop rhizomes quietly, and don't kill the mother plant - the flowers contain no seeds, just flavour for beer - and don't get caught, my action will not be considered theft.

Here I am again in Fenelon, but now it is too cold to do the digging. I must content myself with snapping photos of the river and hoping for an early spring in the land of opportunity.

For if I can dig up the rhizomes early and successfully replant them in London, I may have vines laden with hop flowers growing upon my backyard fence by September.

And if opportunity knocks twice, I'll be sipping an IPA homebrew by October.

[Photos by G. Harrison]


Please click here for more photos from Fenelon Falls, the land of opportunity.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

It Strikes Me Funny: "Why, when I was a boy..."

After a great supper at my son's house tonight, I volunteered to do dishes. (Don't let my wife know. As a general rule, I pretend to fall sleep after supper when at home, and wake up at 6:29, just before Coronation St. begins).

While scraping leftover lasagna out of a pan, the large spoon I was using bent almost double around my hand.

["Cheap spoon! What's this world coming to?": photo by GH]

I didn't want to complain. I might get sent home early, I thought. So I straightened the spoon and tried scraping from a different angle. Again it bent almost double.

Good grief. You don't get good cutlery these days.

Why, when I was a boy, one good sturdy soup spoon was all the cutlery I needed at scout camp. I cooked and ate every meal, scraped every dish and fought every battle with it. When Ron Manicom tried to steal my eggs I chased him into the woods and pinned him against a fence with nothing more than an angry look and my dirty spoon.

You know, looking at the bent spoon in my hand, I think my fighting days are over.


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny


2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 4: "Have a senior's moment when you're 12!"

["Phasing in 70 as the new retirement age at the rate of one month per year for 60 years should give everyone plenty of time to adjust as well, especially if everybody agreed with Sonneberg's hasty editorializing. Do you?" G.Harrison, Feb. 15, 2,012 Challenges PT 3]

By now some readers are wondering, if Gord doesn't like M. Sonneberg's "hasty editorializing" in the London Free Press and ability to "grease his own rails" concerning the withholding of Old Age Security Benefits for Canadians until they're 67, what does he like?

I like clarity, for one thing.

When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the withholding of benefits isn't for now, "it's for 2020... maybe 2025", he doesn't seem to have much of a handle on his own plan. I mean, Jim, do you know when you're going to afflict some seniors with a longer work life or don't you?

'Flaherty's clarity' is lacking in other areas as well. He is quick to tell us that OAS will cost us a lot of money in 10 years (Oh, it will be millions.) and even more in 20 years (Oh, it will be gazillions.), but he has said nary a word about how much PM Harper's drop in the GST has lowered government revenues (Oh, it will be billions.) or how much PM Harper's corporate tax cuts have lowered revenues that could support pensions and OAS benefits (Oh, it will be gazillions.).

And if we could get a clear answer from the Conservative Government about the price of just one F - 35 stealth fighter jet it's planning to buy, we would learn two very valuable pieces of information.

One, we would learn how the cost of one jet compares to the increased cost of OAS benefits the government is railing about. Two, we would learn how much the cost of 65 jets (the government's current plan) will rip out of government coffers during the same years the Conservatives want to keep seniors at work longer.

Here's what I propose that is as clear as clear can be.

Raise corporate taxes by 2 per cent and put the additional income toward the OAS benefit program.

Raise the GST by 2 cents so that Canadians - even kids buying their first iPhone or whatever else they spend their allowance on - will be supporting their senior years when making many purchases.

I also recommend the money from these changes be put into designated accounts for pensions so that it doesn't get spent on prisons.



Please click here to read 2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 3.


It Strikes Me Funny: If I had a hammer...

In the past, when I visited my son in Fenelon Falls, I pitched in whole-heartedly with certain hard tasks.

For example, I helped attach strips of lumber - whilst perched atop a tall ladder - to many exterior walls before applying new siding. I helped level stony earth - whilst standing at a precarious angle - to support cribs for cement. I helped build the cribs and pour cement for footings to support posts for an exterior balcony. I helped cart a lot of lumber up and down a hilly path. I helped build a deck outside his back door.

After every task, my son thanked me for all my work. And surely it goes without saying, I come highly-skilled!

Last night, shortly after I arrived in Fenelon for a visit, he mentioned that he'll probably start a very big job related to expanding his dock in the spring.

So, between now and then, whenever he and I are together, I'm going to grab my back ("Oh, I think it's twisted!) a few times per day and drop any tool I can find on my toe. Maybe his.

As a matter of fact, I'm looking for a hammer right now.

Photo by G.Harrison


Please click here for more It Strikes Me Funny.


Fenelon Falls: "The snow falls quietly..."

When I stood on an upper outdoor balcony at my son's house and looked up river toward Fenelon's lock system, about a mile away, I heard not one sound.

I felt the steady snowfall. Hundreds of cold wet flakes melted on my unprotected neck, face and hands.

I listened intently for any sound. None came, except for muffled noises from inside the house.

Is it snowing quietly in my hometown, London?

Photo by GH


That reminds me. I should call my wife to say "all is well."

Please click here for more wintry scenes.


Zoom w a View: There's no business like...

There's no business like snow business.

Now, if I can find a coffee shop open in Fenelon Falls I'll be a very happy camper.

Does a layer of fresh snow lift your spirits?

Photo by GH


Please click here for more Zoom w a View


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 3

[“Now that we live longer, some people do want to work longer, for various reasons, as mentioned in PT 1. But our longer life span is not a compelling reason to deny benefits longer. There are 4,367, 892 better things to do than slug it out at work for an extra two years, and that’s just in Canada.” GH, 2,012 Challenges PT 2]

I don’t buy for a minute that “Canadians have to come to terms with the idea of a higher retirement age” as expressed recently by M. Sonneberg, London Free Press (Feb. 7). Just because the title of his news article (Pension reform requires sacrifice from everyone) seems to suggests he’s offering a balanced viewpoint doesn’t make it palatable to me.

[2,012 Challenges in Modern Times - a brilliant book: photo GH]

Years ago my parents took my siblings and me to an Anglican Church pot-luck picnic in Otterville, a village in the southern part of Oxford County. As I recall, after sitting on a cannon that overlooked a bridge near the picnic area (During my turn astride the barrel, I pretended to blow up the people coming across the bridge who were not carrying large picnic baskets. “No free food for you!” Boom!! “No free food for you!” Boom!!), my ten-year old eyeballs grew as round as saucers when a saw all the desserts spread upon one particular table.

I was asked to eat a sandwich first, which didn’t sound reasonable at the time. So I ate one containing round bologna slices, very quickly, but when something got caught in my throat I began to cough and splutter.

I imagine my mother said, “Don’t eat so quickly.”

Tears streamed from my eyes. I gasped and gagged.

I imagine my siblings said, “Snot is coming out your nose. Ee-yuck.”

I turned beet red.

I imagine my father noticed and smacked me on the back.

Fortunately, though I couldn’t speak, I had enough sense to reach as far back into my throat as I could to grab onto the offending material. I’m sure the scene is one my folks remembered for some time. They likely wondered what on earth I was doing with three or four fingers in my mouth.

["I didn't make that sandwich. Maybe Gladys Cole," says Edith Harrison, circa 1959]

I almost made myself throw up. But I snagged what I knew hid deep inside. I caught the end of the thin plastic wrap that someone had forgotten to peel off the bologna slices and pulled it up from my esophagus, past my wind pipe (or out of my wind pipe) and out of my mouth.

Very few onlookers were impressed as I held it up for inspection.

And I could finally breathe. How lovely. I took several deep breaths.

If I had the mature presence of mind then that I have today I would have said, “Well, it’s time for some dessert, eh.” I likely just wiped my nose on my sleeve and finished the sandwich.

As a result of that experience, however, I no longer eat bologna without looking at it very carefully first. And in my estimation, Sonneberg’s bologna doesn’t pass the sniff test, and greasing the rails of his hasty editorializing doesn’t help matters.

Greasy Factoid 3: “As a means of helping Canada balance its books, it is not asking too much of an aging population to log two more years of work before collecting the federal pension.”

Gord says... In all the years that the government’s books have not been balanced, and there have been more than a few, how many times has a Prime Minister talked about making people “log two more years of work” in order to create a revenue stream for himself? And once the door is open, when will he ask for three, then four more years of work so that we can all work together to balance his books?

Before any senior citizens reach for their wallets they should ask, why are Conservative PM Harper’s books so out of balance that he must with-hold their long awaited benefits? What has happened to his primary revenue streams over the years? Why does this smell like bologna and social engineering all in the same sandwich?

Without answers to the above, Sonneberg and the PM may in fact be asking way too much to help Canada balance its books.

Greasy Factoid 4: “The Canadian economy is not as labour-intensive as it was 40 years ago. And workers today are in better condition in their 60s than their predecessors.”

Gord says... Just because workers are not breaking their back as often (machines are doing more of the work in some cases) doesn’t mean they have to work longer to help PM Harper balance his budget. And because people are reaching their 60s in better shape could also mean they will benefit more from the benefits they supported through taxation policies. (Thus the term OAS ‘benefits’.

Greasy Factoid 5: “Phasing in 67 as the new retirement age at the rate of one month per year for 24 years should give everyone plenty of time to adjust.”

Gord says... Phasing in 66 as the new retirement age at the rate of one month per year for 12 years should give everyone plenty of time to adjust too. Let's do some more math. Phasing in 70 as the new retirement age at the rate of one month per year for 60 years should give everyone plenty of time to adjust as well, especially if everybody agreed with Sonneberg's hasty editorializing.

Do you?

Stay tuned. More to follow.


Please click here to read 2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 2


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 2

[“It may just be a coincidence, but I have created a list of 2,012 challenges we face in modern times, and here it is, the year 2012.” G.Harrison, Feb. 13, 2.012 Challenges]

Recently, a writer cleared his throat, did some hasty editorializing (aka Challenge in modern times #412) and informed readers that “Canadians have to come to terms with the idea of a higher retirement age.” (Monte Sonneberg, ‘Pension reform requires sacrifice from everyone’, Feb. 7, London Free Press)

Really? That’s the only direction we can go as a nation? Make people work longer before receiving some benefits?

["2,012 Challenges in Modern Times - a brilliant book!"]

Though Monte doesn’t impress me much with his opening gambit, he tries really hard to convince people he’s right by sharing a compilation of related facts and details, in his opinion. His facts can be called ‘greasing the rails under hasty editorializing’, or ‘Challenge in modern times #413.’

He writes the following:

Greasy Factoid 1: “Age 65 has historically been used to determine eligibility for Old Age Security. This milestone was set at a time when seniors considered themselves fortunate to live till their 70s.”

Gord says... Now that we live longer, some people do want to work longer, for various reasons, as mentioned in PT 1. But our longer life span is not a compelling reason to deny benefits longer. There are 4,367, 892 better things to do than slug it out at work for an extra two years, and that’s just in Canada.

Greasy Factoid 2: “Today, thanks to improvements in health care, seniors routinely lead active lives into their 80s.”

Gord says... Yes, health care is improved and most workers have helped pay for the improvements. Some may, as a result, wish to be active at work until they’re carried out in a pine box. Let them. But ‘better health care’ that doesn’t mean all Canadians must consider staying at work longer. Many may wish to enjoy their good health while expanding their garden, or while doing one of the other 4,367,891 other worthwhile activities.

While readers check the veracity of my figures (I.e., is it “4,367, 892 better things to do” or some other huge number?), I’ll prepare a comment about Greasy Factoid 3.

More to follow.


Please click here to read 2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT 1


Zoom w a View: “One of the greatest old general stores in Ontario”

This photo from Wawa, Ontario is going on five years old, and is from a motorcycle trip I took in August, 2007 to Thunder Bay.

The subject, one of the greatest old general stores in Ontario, is about 100 years old, I think. I’m only going by fuzzy recollections.

As well, I can’t recall it’s name. I know it’s not Robinson’s General Store, because I’m pretty sure that one is in Dorset, Ontario.

It might be Young’s General Store, situated just off the Trans-Can 17, as one enters Wawa.

Maybe you can help. Does the moose or old guy in the flannel shirt look familiar to you?

[Photo by G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Motorcycle Miles: PT 5 “Vancouver Island or Bust”

[“If I notice any new metal sculptures beside the highway in Massey I’ll stop for photos. Adding an extra five minutes to my journey won’t bother me in the least.” G.Harrison, Feb. 10, PT 4, Vancouver Island or Bust]

This summer, in July, after leaving the unique metal sculptures of Massey behind me, I’ll ride toward Sault Ste. Marie, my first glimpse of Lake Superior and the town of Wawa on Trans-Canada highway 17.

["Sweet campsite" (one of many): Agawa Bay, August 2007]

My Virago 1100 will be humming like a finely tuned Swiss watch and with two days of riding behind me I’ll feel at home with the bike, the tarmac, my leather coat, gloves and heavy black boots. As per usual, a snippet from a ’60’s song will be stuck inside my head, repeating itself as the miles disappear. And I’ll be singing as part of a skilled background chorus, my rhythm in sync with the Virago’s pistons.

["View opposite my campsite": Agawa Bay]

Before reaching Wawa I will stop for certain at three places for breaks. The first - along the side of the highway near Batchawana Bay, for the view. The second - at Agawa Bay Park, home to some of the sweetest camp sites in Ontario, also for the view. The third - at a full-service center near Pancake Bay, for gas, because there aren’t too many places with gas along the way and in 2007 I only reached Wawa thanks to fumes.

While at the gas station I’ll also buy, as per habit, a few sundries for later in the day. (Definition - sundries, n., two cans of cold beer for the motel room in Wawa.)

["Sunset at Agawa Bay": Photos by G.Harrison]

And while in Wawa, I’ll walk down the street from the motel to one of the greatest old general stores in Ontario. Once inside I’ll take a few pictures of the camp and fishing gear on display from the early part of the last century, and one or two shots of the largest metal stove or store furnace I’ve ever seen.

I know I’ll drift off to sleep easily at the end of Day 3, with another 440 km. in the books, and with quiet thoughts about the next day’s detour to Hornepayne on my mind.


Please click here to read Motorcycle Miles: PT 5 “Vancouver Island or Bust”


Monday, February 13, 2012

Zoom w a View: Symmetrical Snowdrifts

As a child I grew used to seeing countless snowdrifts caught by the snow fence placed yearly at the edge of farmers' fields.

If my mother said to me, "Go outside and play in a snowdrift," I'd have millions from which to choose.

Yesterday morning, while peering out my back door, I was reminded of such times.

Q: How did I help create a few symmetrical drifts?

A: By not hanging up my aluminum ladder.

[Photo by G.Harrison]


Please click here for more Zoom w a View


2,012 Challenges in Modern Times PT1

It may just be a coincidence, but I have created a list of 2,012 challenges we face in modern times, and here it is, the year 2012.

The list - a fat tome, really - is based on opinion, speculation, suspicion, the odd fact or detail, and indigestion, or the feeling I get as soon as I hear a certain type of writer, politician or prognosticator clear his/her throat.

["The tome just keeps getting fatter": photo GH]

Let me give you an example from one of the middle pages.

Challenge in modern times #412: Hasty editorializing

In Monte Sonneberg’s recent ‘point of view’ (‘Pension reform requires sacrifice from everyone’, Feb. 7, London Free Press) a few good points about pensions are shared.

He writes, for example, “Given that companies are stockpiling the proceeds of recent corporate tax reductions, perhaps pension reform could coincide with an increase in the corporate tax rate.”

If that’s how he'd started his article I’d have initially thought Monte was sticking up whole-heartedly for the little guy or at least trying to get corporate Canada to take carry a fair load.

But nope. The article starts with the following:

“Canadians have to come to terms with the idea of a higher retirement age.”

WTHeck? Really? Is ‘a higher retirement age’ for the majority of Canadians the key plank in pension reform? Did I miss the referendum, straw vote, memo or nation-wide telephone poll?

Phffft! I don’t think so. Monte is just taking a quick stab at telling us what to believe, but he misses the mark with me.

Admittedly, there are people who want to work past the age of 65 and retire when they’re more ready to hang up the old apron, or sell the old metal lunch bucket at a yard sale, so to speak. They have various reasons for doing so; e.g., they like their job, they want to be active as long as possible and make their own decisions about work and retirement, they have kids in college, they’re saving for a trip to Disneyland, they have a big mortgage, etc. But that doesn’t mean Canadians, or even the majority of Canadians, have to accept or ‘come to terms with the idea of a higher retirement age.’

Monte later tries to get more people on board re Freedom 67 by concluding that “a lot has to change before Canadians will accept (phasing in 67)”, e.g, the aforementioned change or increase to the corporate tax rate, MP pensions, etc. But before doing so he greases the rails under his hasty editorializing, which highlights, in my opinion, another challenge in modern times.

Challenge in modern times #413: Greasing the rails under hasty editorializing

Stay tuned...


Please click here to read “Smoke and fire up your pants”


Zoom w a View: “Frosty fingers were soon gone”

Shortly after opening the back door recently to take a picture of small snow drifts upon my deck, my fingers began to tingle from the cold.

[“I shut the door and frost upon the glass began to melt”]

I snapped a photo and shut the outer door. Then I noticed a frosty design upon the outer pane of glass and, hurrying - the warmth from inside the house not only warmed my fingers but attacked the patterns of frost - I caught one wintery scene.

And then it was gone.

[“The frost melted and disappeared, the spruce tree came into focus”]

With the frost melted, only a light covering of miniscule droplets remained, and the camera focussed more easily on the outdoor scene beside the back fence.

Winter. Lovely.


Please click here for more Zoom w a View.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Motorcycle Miles: PT 4 “Vancouver Island or Bust” (or VIB)

[Details regarding a June or July trip (likely July) are slowly coming together. I’m learning there are many things to consider, including the usual, i.e., route, accommodation, money, how many pairs of jeans to pack, more money, etc. Feb. 9, Motorcycle Miles: PT 3 “VIB”]

Sometime in July I’ll wake up early in the morning (oh, about 7:30 a.m.; earlier if I hear a rooster crow), stretch and rub the sleep from my eyes, slowly figure out why I’m in bed alone (“Where’s my wife? Where’d that cheap painting come from? Where’s my coffee? What the... oh”), that I’m in a motel in Massey, north and west of Espanola, and about to start Day 2: VIB.

[I'll be "absolutely delighted that I am not in a tent"]

I’ll roll out of bed, stretch once or twice and be absolutely delighted that I am not shivering in a tent, like the last time I was in Massey, in 2007. And 40 minutes later - showered, clothed, fed - I’ll be riding west on my way to Wawa, my next destination.

For certain I’ll also be looking forward to catching my first possible glimpse of Lake Superior, from the top of a hill north of S.S. Marie. With a relatively easy 440 km. to travel and the knowledge that I only need to make one pit stop for gas (at Pancake Bay) along the way, I’ll be whistling a happy tune, accompanied by the hum of a bike engine and two tires.

If I notice any new metal sculptures beside the highway in Massey I’ll stop for photos. Adding an extra five minutes to my 5,000 km. journey won’t bother me in the least.

[Photos from 2007, by GH]


Please click here for Motorcycle Miles: PT 3 “VIB”


Climate Change Concerns: Less news means less time for repair

[“We might stabilize the population by the end of the century, but by then we will have to feed almost three times as many people as there were in 1970.” G. Dyer, Feb. 9, London Free Press]

I don’t know how some articles find their way into The London Free Press.

Here we are in London, trisected by a mighty river once fit to swim in, living at the very heart of Conservative Ontario - one can almost see Harperville from my front porch - and every once in a while, perhaps to suggest there is an open mind about such things in Deforest City, a Gwynne Dyer article finds its way into the editorial section, and matters related to climate change are addressed.

Thank goodness. It’s about time, I say.

Unfortunately, it happens only about once per month now. Dyer’s appearance is less frequent than in the past, I suppose because Free Press owners have other, more important agendas to pursue, i.e., Sports, Fashion, Crime, Entertainment, and the call for reductions in public spending so that the private or corporate sector can get on with the business of saving the world via consumption.

Population growth, food production and costs, rising temperatures and other essential matters are left for some time in the future, or a slow news day.

Take yesterday, for example.

Though a recent UN report estimates we’ll be able to feed a growing population, at least until we hit 9 billion, “if crop yields rise by 1% a year and the world’s farmland expands by 13%,” Dyer says “it’s a forecast that ignores the impact of global warming on food production... Since we are virtually bound to see an increase of two degrees C before global average temperature stops rising (if it does) and that’s one-fifth of the world food production gone.” (Feb. 9, Free Press)

He goes on to suggest we make food production, “especially meat production”, independent of climate by growing meat in a less carbon or emission intense manner.

Mr. Dyer says, “If half of the meat people eat was ‘cultured’, greenhouse gas emissions would drop sharply (one-fifth of global emissions from human sources comes from meat production” and suggests “about half the land that has been converted to grain-growing in the past century could be returned to natural forest covers.”

Of course, there are other ways we can help to repair the incredible amount of damage humankind has visited upon the planet:

we could ear less food, especially meat

we could reduce carbon emissions substantially by living in smaller homes and driving smaller cars

we could dust off our bicycles

we could our spending on material goods by half

we could educate people about the benefits of the above issues via local media

The odds are very slim indeed that positive public education related to climate change will take place with the help of even a few newspapers.

And what about the odds of ‘cultured’ food becoming commercially available in greater amounts, to reduce carbon emissions?

“There is very little funding,” a biological physicist, Sweden, told a newspaper recently. “What it needs is a crazy rich person.” (As reported in Dyer’s article yesterday)

The way things are going, don’t hold your breath to read about future developments in the local news.


Please click here to read more about Climate Change Concerns.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Motorcycle Miles: PT 3 “Vancouver Island or Bust” (VIB!)

Details regarding a June or July trip (likely July) are slowly coming together. I’m learning there are many things to consider, including the usual, i.e., route, accommodation, money, how many pairs of jeans to pack, more money, etc.

Today I thought it would be nice to visit my son and his wife in Fenelon Falls on “Vancouver Island or Bust”, or VIB: Day 1. A 340 km. ride from London, easy - kapeasy. Free accommodation, a nice supper, play time with my twin granddaughters, a cold beverage on the dock, a good sleep.

["The view from my son's dock. Add a cold beverage. Perfect."]

Though it adds a day to the journey, making it a 12-day ride in all, it makes my first day shorter and not a repeat of TB: Day 1 on a 2007 trip... to Thunder Bay. It keeps me off the Chi Cheemaun ferry that crosses Georgian Bay or off Highway 69 that takes me around Georgian Bay and to Sudbury, routes I’ve taken in the past.

Though it bumps my overall mileage to Courtenay, Vancouver Island past 5,000 km., it may be worth it overall.

["Early morning, north shore Lake Superior, 2007 TB:Day 7"]

Of course, the ways things are going, I could change my mind and come up with something new next time I open my Canada road atlas. And why not? I’m only riding to British Columbia once. Might as well do what feels right and get more bang for the buck.

[Photos by GH]


Please click here for Motorcycle Miles: PT 2 “Vancouver Island or bust”


The price of oil and the century-old cheap ride

The screech of brakes outside my house often sends me scurrying to the porch. The four-way stop at a nearby corner is often the cause of the smell of burnt rubber and worn brake linings that greets my nose.

Unfortunately, there is no worrisome screech of brakes as the global economy quickly slows as a result of rising oil prices. A loud screech might actually wake some of us up to the fact that we’re entering tough times.

Thanks to meticulous book-keeping records re oil prices, we know that we’ve been on a wonderfully cheap ride for at least 110 years. From 1865 to about 1975 the price of a barrel of oil was under $5. Now it costs, on average, 20 - 30 times as much and continual increases in price per barrel are likely for the next several decades.

[Please click here for more oil facts and figures]

While the family wallet expanded in many places around the world, particularly in Canada, USA, Europe and some oil-producing nations, and material goods went from experimental (early automobiles) to exciting (the first colour TVs) to excessive (remember the Hummer?), generations of people learned - what seemed to be inevitable truths for many - several adages:

hard work will lead to prosperity

economies will grow annually and forever

bigger is better

Earth’s resources belong to industry

a free market economy is the way up

and sustainability... not so much

... and so on. (Please, chip in your own ideas about other lessons learned during the era of cheap oil).

Today the price of oil stands at $99.81 and our Canadian Prime Minister is in China trying very hard to keep our resource-based economy alive (by, in large part, selling tar sands oil to Asia), thereby keeping Canada’s petro-dollar, healthy lifestyle and dreams afloat.

Since oil is so integral to our economy’s success, i.e., here in Canada, the nature of the line that represents the price of oil on the graph above seems to me to suggest what our future holds. In fact, I would predict violent shifts and ups and downs in our economy, uncertainty related to prospects for jobs and wealth, increases in costs for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, communication and recreation, and higher prices in almost every other area of life that we’ve slowly grown used to since the 1860s.

Though I don’t think we’ll hear the actual screech of brakes, we’ll continually feel, as if we’re riding in an aging car, a significant difference in the ride over the next few decades.

We’ll certainly hear many howls of discontent, e.g., from those who have grown used to many privileges, creature comforts and material goods over the last many decades of growth). We’ll hear more abrasive and often short-sighted calls for deep cuts in public spending, especially from those who think only the public sector is at fault and that the private sector has no need to sacrifice more for the sake of others around us who will need support in these tough times and more ahead.

Over the next number of years, as we transition from an “oil-based, economy first” society to a more sustainable one, I look forward to hearing admissions from Canadians from coast to coast that less is actually more, that by living small one is able to live more fully in intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual ways, etc.

[“Live small, get out of the LIVE BIG clamp”]

Truthfully, someone is bound to learn in the next year or so that they are actually a slave to their house or car and other material goods, and the ‘must-have’ lifestyle and associated debt is giving them stomach indigestion!

A loud screech might be needed for others, and it will come.


Please click here for more about ‘live small and prosper.’