Changing Life Roles…

October 22, 2017 - Leave a Response

I have just returned home from a wonderful afternoon with a friend who, a lifetime ago was my student. We were experimenting with tweaking the sound system in the church. He agreed to meet me and to put his considerable talents to the test to see how we might improve and make clearer the worship message. We ran wire and set up an amp and tested microphones and speakers and twisted dials and sliders for two to three hours. Overwhelmed by  rich, robust sound pulled from assorted electronic gadgetry spread out on the floor and on the table and desktop, we continued. I stand to learn much from him about the nuances of sound.

He was in my first class, Grade 5, when I began my teaching career in 1965. One of 37 young eager minds awaiting filling by me. A first year, fledgling teacher. I remember him fondly from that time because he reminded me of me at that same age. And, today I wonder about changing life roles. The student becomes the teacher! It is not just about him and me! I’ve thought about this before. At what point in our lives, do our children become our caregivers? Our teachers? It is a whammy! The realization that roles have reversed hits home and I delight in the knowledge that I have become the learner.

Today’s adventure into learning was about sound. It was about sound systems and making sound bend to our will. What I came home with is so much grander than just the mechanics of sound. As part of our finding stuff to use as test material, he introduced tome his favourite poet, Shane Koyczan. And I learned even more about the person he has become over all the intervening years since 1965. He has grown into a man of considerable depth and who finds peace and solace in the language of poetry. I rushed home to share my discovery, my learning with my wife.

Let me share it with you, too.

Affordable Care vs Canadian Universal Health Care

September 30, 2017 - Leave a Response

I grow weary of the news stories about Affordable Health Care (Obama Care and the repeal of…) featured in the news from the United States these past months. I just cannot understand why the US Federal Government cannot find a way to provide affordable universal health care for all of its citizens. Especially, when as of 2009 there are “…58 countries in the world with legislation mandating Universal Health Care, along with > 90% health insurance coverage…” upon which the US might use as models.

My guess is that none of the models is perfect. There will always be those in a society who attempt to take advantage of whatever system is put in place. And regardless of the coverage, for some it will never be enough. Yet, the good of the society’s health in these countries is the motivational factor. So, what is the problem with the leaders in the US Federal Government?

The Toronto Star recently reported, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence blasts ‘failings’ of Canadian health system. Comments made by the Vice President on the “failings” of the Canadian Health Care system were made to the listeners of a radio broadcast in Alaska. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had with some visitors from the US to northwestern Ontario, Canada this past summer. Our conversation turned to health care to which I responded with a comment about my sadness for the American people who cannot seem to convince their leaders that this is a basic need of all citizenry. I shared in our conversation that I cannot remember the last time I had a bill for any medical procedure including the birth of our children and all of the various medical attention required for the cuts, scrapes and broken bones that appear to follow active kids in judo, dance, acrobatics and foolish play. This would include the 12 hours we spent in Emergency at the hospital in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec when my son was injured during the Ironman competition in Mont Tremblant.  Or, the number of times I have had to go to the nearest hospital while away from home and have always received exemplary and immediate care (and no bill for service).

It is easy to focus on the negative comments. It seems that those comments are always the loudest and the ones that ‘make the news’. I have no doubt that the stories we hear about the ‘failings’ of our system are true, yet I hasten to add that I believe they are in the minority. I live in a small, rural northern community, 3.5 hours drive from the nearest urban hospital. I see my family physician (in community) and my diabetes nurse at least twice a year. I receive notice of the need to get my flu shot each fall from Public Health and from my local Health Clinic. When I am not well, and believe I need to see a physician, I have always been seen in a reasonable length of time either at Emergency, or by appointment at the local Health Clinic. I have had few delays in getting appointments with specialists in what I deem reasonable time. Other than producing my current government health card and a list of current medications, I need nothing else to receive health care in Ontario.

In Canada, everyone pays into our Health Care through taxation. The pool of money, managed by Federal and Provincial Health Agencies, while not infinite is available to support the needs of the population. Money I pay is available for those in need at times when I don’t need the care. At those times when I need professional health care the funding is available to cover my needs. That we share in ensuring one another’s well-being on a national scale, speaks to our concern for one another and helps strengthen  what some like to call the Canadian identity.

So, Vice President Pence, with respect I ask, before you denigrate the Canadian model of  Universal Health care again to your citizens, I would appreciate you engaging in both sides of the Canadian picture of public universal health care instead of focusing only on the negative aspects. It is always easy to dwell on the negative!

Tears Tonight for a Great Canadian Humourist

February 15, 2017 - Leave a Response

In late 1980 through the mid 1990s, I worked as an Education Officer for the Ministry of Education of Ontario out of Thunder Bay. My territory covered a large portion of that part of Ontario-about the same size as all of southern Ontario. It meant many long lonely hours on the road.

neys-lookout-001-a

Neys Lookout at the mouth of the Pic River

Just me and my truck and trees and rocks and breathtaking vistas along Hwy 17 along the north shore of Lake Superior. And, marvelling at the difference of the land on the northern run along Hwy 11 alongside the Palisades through Beardmore and Geraldton to Hearst and Iroquois Falls. It was quiet. Just the sound of the  tires on the road and the and the thrum of the powerful 7.3 Litre diesel engine for company. I learned to enjoy the solitude and the time to ponder all of the amazing things that were and are my life.

I wrote many papers in my head on those long journeys and as the technology improved dictated them to my computer as I drove. A dinner theatre script here, a manual to do something or other there, a script for a video. When that wore thin, I turned to my radio, dialed in CBC Radio One to listen to Stuart McLean on the Vinyl Cafe.

Stuart McLean was a master story teller; a person I aspired to be like. Stuart caused many kilometres to vanish beneath the tires of my ride and I spent five wonderful years of my life relishing his every word in the newest of his stories about Dave and Morley and their kids Sam and Stephanie. His skill with language and rhythm of the story forced me off the road frequently in gales of laughter about Dave’s misadventures. It was safer for both myself and the on-coming traffic that I made this choice. He was Canada’s Garrison Keillor.

Today, it was announced that Stuart McLean died and I felt a lament rise in my heart. My prayers are with you this night as I reminisce our times together on the long and wondrous journey of the highway of my life. Thank you for the lessons in Dave Cooks the Turkey. May God’s Spirit raise you up and release you from the agony of your illness dear friend of the road. The world is a much emptier place because of your absence in it.

 

The Sixties Scoop…

February 15, 2017 - Leave a Response

My wife and I are the parents of an adopted First Nations Child whose adoption took place within the time-frame of the legal action against the Canadian Government titled The Sixties Scoop. Details of the class action suit can be viewed here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixties_Scoop. This action, on behalf of indigenous children adopted by non-indigenous families, has been eight years in the process with the Canadian Government taking all legal actions available to avoid having this case heard. The absolute shame was the federal Government wanting to avoid the judgement to enable them to settle out of court-to set aside 8 years of process. I shake my head at our arrogance in attempting to avoid justice in this case.

Government asks judge to postpone ruling in ’60s Scoop case, outraging plaintiffs

This is a case more directly aligned with the concept of cultural genocide than about any other explanation, in my opinion. It is about the assimilation of indigenous children into the society of the day and is an off-shoot of the Residential Schools program in Canada that had it’s roots in “1860[,] Indian Affairs is transferred from the Imperial Government to the Province of Canada. This is after the Imperial Government shifts its policy from fostering the autonomy of native populations through industry to assimilating them through education. (see A timeline of Residential Schools)” In reality it began in the 1600s and the process of assimilation continued well into the late 1900s.

It saddens me that we, my wife and I,  were complicit in the continuation of this abominable program out of our ignorance as non-indigenous adoptive parents and the failure of the Canadian government and its agencies to inform us of their and our responsibilities to our child to maintain her cultural identity. The good news is we live on the doorstep of two First Nations communities, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Pic Mobert and many of our children’s classmates and friends were indigenous children. By osmosis, for want of a better term, our child spent considerable time in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg community with her best friends family. She was one of the lucky ones regularly exposed to her indigenous culture more by luck-of-the draw than by intent on our part or that of the Canadian Government.

I am overjoyed that the courts brought this case to fruition and yesterday, Valentine’s Day 2017 the “Federal government [was] found to have breached its “duty of care” by failing to protect cultural identity of indigenous children removed from their homes”. That we decided to add our voices to this cause, for justice for our adoptive child and all of the children of the Sixties Scoop, as witnesses for the plaintiff might have some small influence on this decision, helps to begin the healing process of right relations between us and our indigenous 10687098_10154816122320118_1482540786689546829_nneighbours and to apologize to our child for our ignorance.

Today, our chosen child is a strong beautiful First Nations woman who has chosen a career path to help other First Nations women of Northwestern Ontario reach their potential as healthy, proud indigenous women. As an aside, I was listening to a piece of music yesterday when a text arrived from a contact at the hearing to say the Judge ruled in favour of the Sixties scoop. The song happened to be Shed a Little Light performed by James Taylor. A prophetic moment indeed.

I am coming to HATE computing and Windows 10…

July 25, 2016 - Leave a Response

I cannot find sufficient words to express how much I dislike Windows 10. I am weary from attempting to customise this operating system so that it does not track my movements or feed me ads. I am tired of algorithms that attempt to anticipate my needs and feed me suggestions that it thinks I really want.I am weary of having to wait for updates to be installed when I least expect it. I am weary of having programs (not apps)that need to always know my location, contacts, access to my photos, my e-mail, my camera, my microphone, my storage devices when all I wanted to know is the weather, or that name of a book, or the depth of an ocean.

What I really want is an operating system that responds to my needs directly. When I do a search I want all of the possibilities that are possible answers to the original query. I am fully capable of deciding which I want to follow or read in depth.

Mostly I am tired of ads. I am tired of ads that tell me to play games that are of no interest to me; ads that constantly direct me to buy something that the system thinks I need to consume; ads that direct me to connect to persons that I don’t know, don’t want to know or that the system thinks I should be connected to in order to have a more complete life.

I know this will get some responses from the Mac users suggesting that I switch. The reality is that Macs are no better. Apple is forcing us into the same places as Microsoft. We need to be always connected, always buying, always commenting, always…

GRB

Success isn’t just a seven letter word…

April 13, 2016 - One Response

Recently, I posted a rant about the problem associated with living in a community that does not have home delivery of mail. I fairness I need to share with you a success story.

I found I was a bit low on necessary spices while preparing stock for Vietnamese Rare Beef Pho. This recipe requires spices that aPho-Beef-Noodles-2008re difficult to find in the rural community in which I live nor was I successful in finding them is the nearest city to me (some 3.5 hours drive away). The obvious solution was to see what was available on the web.

I found a Canadian company named The Silk Road – Spice Merchant in Alberta, Canada (http://www.silkroadspices.ca/). To my delight, they have all of the spices I required immediately and more. I placed an order. My order arrived today, in less than a week and unpacking it convinced me that this was a company who wanted my business and worked at meeting my needs. They also took the time to ensure that I would return and that I would likely tell my friends about the experience. I have many friends who share my passion for good food and the joy of spicing beyond salt, pepper and garlic. AND! They shipped to my Canadian Post Box Address! Hurrah! I immediately wrote a note of thanks.

Here are my thought shared with The Silk Road – Spice Merchant:

Thank you very much for this order. It is my first-time purchase from your company but certainly not my last. Let me tell you why.
  • Your web presence is delightful, well laid out and easy to manoeuvre around. I particularly appreciate the explanation and the suggestions that you have for each of the spices/blends.
  • Your service is prompt. Living in a rural/remote northern community, this is especially important.
  • Your pricing is fair. By that I simply mean that I truly feel I received value for my dollar.
  • The gift of Panch Poran you added to my package is a welcome treat. Thank you. I’ll be certain to try this with hash browns the next time I make them.
  • The crowning touch is the personal note written on my receipt thanking me for my order.
Your business is bound to success if this is how you treat all of your customers. Ten stars from me along with my gratitude. I will pass your web site on to all of my friends who share my passion for food preparation and the use of great spices. Feel free to share these comments in any way you wish if they serve to promote your business. Regarding the companies who were the subject of my rant about not delivering to Post Box addresses, take note. You could learn much from this on-line company and improve your opportunity for S-U-C-C-E-S-S.        GRB

How Would You Like That Delivered?

April 13, 2016 - One Response

Canada Post, in its wisdom, has chosen to phase out home delivery of snail-mail and mailbox-messreplace that system with curb-side Post Office boxes. While I believe it is an ill-advised change it will have little effect on me. I live in a community in Canada that has never had home delivery of mail. It is a comfortable walk (wasteful to drive) to the Post Office to check the mail each day. That’s what I’ve done each day for the fifty plus years I have lived here. Other than the obvious, what’s the problem?

As with many people these days, I have become an on-line shopper. This came about because at the best of times I dislike wasting the time to go in and out of stores. I recognize in today’s ‘consume more’ society I might be seen as some form of throwback; a consumer Neanderthal. Yesterday, I placed an order for coffee through a Canadian on-line company that I have purchased from frequently in the past. I processed everything in the same manner as before. The difference this time was that an error message came up indicating that they could not deliver to a Post Office box. Yet, they use Canada Post to deliver their products and my “correct” mail address is a Post Office box. As has happened in the past when companies do not include my correct mailing address I receive notification from the post office to update my personal details with the company from whom I make purchases. At issue is the Post Office could refuse delivery without the proper address on the package.

I called the company to let them know that there was a problem with their software not accepting postal box numbers as legitimate addresses. The response was that they knew about this and that they just could not ship to a post office box.

Does this make any sense in a country that is moving away from home mail delivery and forcing everyone to use a post office box for mail? Canadian business get with the program. Especially if you expect to do mail order business or Internet business and ship by postal service.

My second call yesterday was to an on-line company based in New York from which I recently did business and they shipped to my mailing address. As before, I placed my order only and again was told that they were shipping by US Postal service and couldn’t deliver to a post office box. I called the store’s  help line to explain that my mailing address was a box number; they accepted it on my previous order; where is the problem?

For some strange reason their on-line software no longer will allow delivery to Postal Boxes. What a dilemma! In Canada, many of us have two legal addresses–our street address and a mailing address. They are not necessarily the same. Perhaps the solution is to go back to wandering in and out of stores as I used to do when I wanted to buy an item. If that’s the case, I’ll save a lot of money by not shopping unless necessary. Problem solved!

 

 

Farewell Mr. Mayor…

March 30, 2016 - Leave a Response

Two stories have been dominating Canadian news of late; the run-up to the Presidential nominations in the States and the death of Rob Ford, ex-Mayor and Councillor of the city of Toronto. Both stories have all the elements required to be main features in the likes of the National Enquirer. Most significant to me at this moment is the Rob Ford story.

It is indeed sad that one so young as Rob Ford has died at the young age of 46! No question! But please, please Canada quit making him greater that who he was in life–at best a scoundrel. That is probably the kindest thought I’ve had about Mr. Ford since his rise to fame through municipal politics and his fall from grace at the same time because of his addictions and the antics in council. But please stop with the glorify stuff that is now creating a new-age hero.

I have been taught to respect those who serve in public office. And that Rob Ford presented himself to the people of Toronto as a candidate for council and later as mayor is commendable. And, I respect Mr. Ford for taking on that mantle. Public office is never an easy chioce for anyone to make. But once in office I believe it reasonable to expect our elected officials to behave with some element of decorum. We elect our representatives to represent us in what ever court they are seeking to serve.

That is where Mr. Ford failed.  All the good deeds attributed to him don’t make up for the absolue abysmal behaviour he displayed in council chambers, in the media, and in his private/public life. I was especially dismayed the day he made inappropriate sexual comments about his wife during a media scrum. The media have come 360 degrees in their comments about Rob Ford now that he has died; quite a shift from their villification of him while he as alive.

Mostly I am saddened that such a fuss is being made of a man whose contributions to society are questionalble at best yet we take so little notice of the quiet heros who embed themselves in our lives and leave us without fanfare; often without thanks or any kind of recognition.

Abandoning Social Media…

March 14, 2016 - Leave a Response

I’ve done it! I’ve dumped my Facebook account. It has been on my mind for a long time that as a tool for connecting to those whom I care about, Facebook was not the best choice for me.

Mostly I lurked. It was a place to go to check in and see what family members were up to in their individual lives. Seldom did I interact; it was an opportunity to reassure myself that all was well with the people I care about. I didn’t comment because I really didn’t want to have to connect with anyone other than the few I chose to follow. I am developing into a modern day hermit I guess.

I’ve discovered that I really do like to be alone and private. Heh! What a strange statement for one who is currently writing a post for a Blog. My paranoia with Social Media has been developing for over the past 37 years. In 1979, I was given the opportunity to attend a science and technology symposium in Toronto that became a moment of “foreseeing the future”. I recall leaving the symposium with a friend in a state of shock at the amount of meta-data already being tracked without our being aware. And, I became afraid. It was the beginning of living into the Big Brother world of Orwell’s 1984. And I was afraid!

In 1979, personal computers had just come onto the market. Remember the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor)? It had about the same computing capabilities as the early computers used in the American Gemini space program. Prior to that I used a mainframe computer at university in 1972 keying in fortran commands on a keypunch machine. It was great fun to send a boxed love letter to my wife typed on keypunch cards in the computer lab. How far we have advanced! Sigh.

The truth is we have bought into the idea of speaking about needing privacy and keeping the government our of our private lives but have been lulled into a time and life-style that tracks everything we do, say, write in a effort to convince us through ads that we need to consume more. So we blithely download and install apps on our cell phones, tablets and computer that must have access to our contact lists, our cameras, our microphones, our call logs, our text logs, our e-mails. This we do, without thinking about or wondering why it is, that an apparent cute app that does such simple stuff as letting us do jigsaw puzzles electronically needs to know so much about us.

More and more I am thinking that living a hermetic Howard Hughes lifestyle is appealing. Think aboutit! Disconnecting from the grid. Pass up the need for a cell phone that we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that we cannot live without. No more texts and distracted driving. No more e-mails. No more reality TV! I could go back to journalling with a pen and a journal. Give up debit cards and credit cards and once again pay cash for what we can afford. Now isn’t that a frightening thought?

It may be the only way that we can once again achieve even a modicum of privacy. Watch out Google +; I’m thinking that you may be the next to go.

GRB

So, You’re Electing a President…

March 14, 2016 - Leave a Response

It seem months have gone by with Canadian news stories about the upcoming Presidential elections in the USA. The fact is we have almost as much coverage of the American electoral system as we do the Canadian system at election time.

Of course, the biggest story is of the rise of Donald Trump as possible Republican candidate for the Presidency. What a fiasco that has turned out to be! I have been waiting to hear, from Trump and any of the other candidate hopefuls, something about their hopes for the nation. What economic policies do they hope to introduce? What foreign policy will cement relationships between the US and other world nations? How will the “American Dream” be lived out under the watch of any of the candidates leadership? Sadly, if there are any policy statements in all of the rhetoric, they are lost in the fall from grace that has taken place over the last months. All I see are a bunch of boys on the playground shouting one another down and name calling.

So, here I sit in Canada, smug in the knowledge that we are somehow better than that. Thank God the process is not so complicated as in the States. OH! Wait! Canada has just come through a federal election where the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper was soundly trounced by the Liberal Party. As memory serves, this was a long campaign, longer than ever before in the history of Canadian elections and was replete with rhetoric not dissimilar to that we are now hearing from south of the border. And suddenly I find I need to apologize to the people of the United States for my smugness.

I am sorry that you are having such a time in this election with representatives who, like many of ours in Canada, have forgotten that they are elected to serve the populace; not just the moneyed powerful, but all of us who elected them into power in the first place.

I am reminded that we, too, have our Donald Trump waiting in the wings for the Liberal Party to falter. Rumour has it that Kevin O’Leary is being touted as a possible candidate to lead the Conservatives in Canada. Take a look at the person and compare O’Leary to Trump and see how you assess that against what is currently happening win the Republican party of the US. Listen to Kevin O’Leary on CBCs “Dragon’s Den” and the language he uses when talking to his peers and to those who approach seeking financial assistance to take their dream to the market place. Count the number of times you hear O’Leary tell us the he is most interested in that which will make him wealthy. Wealthier!

To our American friends, I apologize for my smugness and in doing so thank you for reminding me that as the electorate it is our responsibility to be well informed and knowledgeable on the electoral process and about the people we charge to work for us in public office. We need to remember that not all of us are interested in doing the work of elected officials in our societies and that those who do choose to serve as elected and/or elected wannabes, deserve our respect for wanting to attempt to make a difference.  I am reminded of the number of people in the world who are not allowed to choose their leaders and weep for those of us who treat the process with too little respect.

GRB