Sunday 30 November 2008

winter driving

winter wonderland

Winter driving can be an iffy proposition. Sudden snow squall can hamper even the careful driver. I have blogged elsewhere about senior drivers, who have become the most at-risk group.

There are some things to remember specifically in winter. The Ministry of Transportation provides some tips:

Transport Canada warns of those in intersections being the most at risk. Current stats, in the recent Ontario move to more severly curtail teen drivers, reveals statistics that demonstrate seniors are more risky than newbie teen drivers:
  • 6.4 % of fatal accidents caused by those less than 20 years of age
  • 7.3 % caused by those over age 65 (with fewer km traveled).
  • With 16 - 19 yr. olds have accident rates of 2.47 per 10,000
  • Adults over the age of 65: 2.9 per 10,000
Drivers make 8 - 12 decisions every km, with only seconds to respond in some cases. The wise driver practices defensive driving habits. We know that speeding kills. We know that almost one in five drivers age 16 - 24 were speeding at the time of a crash. Also, while total deaths are down, attributed to Ontario graduated licencing rules, more pedestrians and motorcyclists are dying.

Please be careful out there. Drive according to road conditions. Let those more inclined to speed to pass you. There is no sense stressing out both you and the guy tailgaiting you in his determination, and self-importance, to get to his destination before you do. If you spot someone driving erratically report them to the police. You could prevent a fatality.

Friday 28 November 2008

Blue Heron

The blue heron at risk in B.C. - so much of what we do to our environment has an impact on nature. This is a CBC video that tells part of the story.

Thursday 27 November 2008

in honour of American Thanksgiving

With a husband (and cat) addicted to NFL, and sitting gloriously happy in front of the TV, I am grateful for the day.
In the photo you can see the flashlight readily available. The power went on and off several times. The snow and the sleet were bad - I drove into town and home in the dark. Not a great drive: I was between a cement truck, a min-van and 3 big pick-up trucks. One pick-up passed me since he thought I wasn't going fast enough in the freezing temperatures. I was glad to get home safely.

Wild turkeys are no where to be seen today - I caught them on tape in October (see the video below!). They had the audacity to appear the day after our Canadian Thanksgiving, but have not reared their ugly little heads~! We still have mallard ducks in our bay, and mergansers swimming and diving for fish in the lake.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Young drivers and the law

I laud any new safety laws for young, or old drivers!
When our kid were young we gave them rules. We know enough about safe driving habits that they take years to happen. We have to be vigilant until they learn responsibility. They all took lessons from reputable driver's education schools.

That said, we know enough about the brain, and brain development, that new drivers are still too unsteady to be trusted with other families' children. When we drive, as adults, we have put the safe operation of a vehicle into the lower part of the brain, where we can automatically respond, as required, to unsafe driving conditions, and sudden noise or interference by moving or immovable objects.

But new drivers are still using the prefrontal cortex to operate a piece of machinery capable of wiping out a family in a minute. Their brain cells are madly generating new ideas, new thoughts, creating new patterns, as they attempt to mast the complex operation of a vehicle: checking for blind spots, distractions within and without the vehicle, backing up, parallel parking.

When I look at the dangerous driving conditions on our road in the sleet and ice of November, I believe that we cannot be too safe. In Muskoka the end up in the lake, having drunk too much, and driven to quickly. I am continuously passed by young men in vehicles driving too quickly, on curves, crossing double lines.

It amazes me that the young people (ages 15 -19) can rise up on Facebook and protest a few rules, with much of an uproar. Yet when we see victims of the carnage of our roads, we see little response. They do not have a vote. We are the ones who pay through taxes, rising insurance costs, and loss of life. You tell me how any kid was hurt by having rules? Never. Our kids were not allowed to take passengers. They distract the driver. Kids have to show off. They can not be depended upon to drive safely. They risk all of our lives and need to have limits on the privileges, as driving is not their right.

These deaths can be prevented. Traffic laws and the system should be able to predict behaviour, demonstrate serious issue that can be forecast, and protect our citizens. Those who love their friends should speak out when they see them exhibit dangerous behaviour. For those with demerit points, parents need to be proactive and take responsibilty. We forbade our sons from driving with friends until they demonstrated that they had earned the privilege to drive. Graduated licensing is a good idea. Limits never hurt anyone. If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. You can help protect society. Speak out and save a life.

Monday 24 November 2008

reading about writing

When I was teaching Language Arts to my gr. 8 students, I scoured the book shelves to find sources of inspiration. I toyed with writing a book about teaching! An acquaintance, who writes fiction, rather than my non-fiction, suggested I read Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986). Natalie Goldberg. This marvellous book opened up my mind and let my pen fly.

I ended up writing some poems, and joined a poetry group in Ottawa. The Canadian Poetry Association has chapters all over the country. It is a great place to go and listen to other, better poets read their works. There are some who publish their own chap books, and this is a great way to share in an inexpensive way.

There isn't much of a market for poetry, unless you are an established author. If you have a poem to publish, you can enter your name and poem into various contests. The League of Canadian Poets provides links for contests. Putting a poem into an anthology is an inexpensive way to publish, and to embed your poem with other's works.

Top of My Lungs is a book of paintings and poems. It is a beautiful book.

Ms. Goldberg's latest: Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir, looks to be a good one, too.

But the best is Wild Mind. It really helped me to teach writing in a better manner than before. Much of our writing as adults consists of reports and business-related writing. I found that it is much easier to teach kids to write about what they know, rather than fiction. Some bright lights will choose to go the fiction route, but most found it easier to write 'how tos' about building a campfire, or making a peanut butter sandwich.

Goldberg, N. (1986).Writing down the bones: Freeing the writer within, Boston: Shambhala.
Goldberg, N. (1990). Wildmind: Living the writer’s life. New York: Bantam Books.
Goldberg, N. (1993). Long quiet highway. New York: Bantam Books.
Jilks, J. (1998). Ice storm ’98. Retrieved December 8, 2007.
Jilks, J. (2004). Reading buddies: 2003/4. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
Jilks, J. (2005). Literacy and technology infusion: Multimedia projects for teachers and students. Retrieved December 8, 2007 .
Jilks, J. (2006). Literacy strategies. Retrieved December 8, 2007.

Sunday 23 November 2008

MTM - Muskoka Victim Services

For ten years now, those who have been victims of crime, violence, personal or sexual assault, or other trauma, have been able to access Muskoka Victims Services. The purpose of the program is to ameliorate the impact of crime or tragedy for anyone involved. This can include victims, as well as their families. The program is available for anyone age 16 years or older (otherwise Children's Aid Society is contacted). Our teams are on-call 24/7, and will arrive on the scene within 45 minutes of police notification. A great video explains more about the work we do.

To apply or for more information, please call:
Muskoka Victim Services
705-645-5444 or 1-877-224-2217

We work with Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), hospitals, and EMS crews to respond to emergency and determine immediate action. If you have experienced trauma, you can phone our offices to seek our help. We will, with permission of the victim, assist victims in timely, short-term support to access services that will help them work through a traumatic incident. We empower the victim to take action and seek the help of community resources.

Some of our calls include: sudden deaths, medical crises, sexual assault, break and enter, property crimes, disasters, missing persons, drownings, suicide, criminal harassment, motor vehicle accidents, domestic abuse, elder abuse or neglect, death notification, fire, personal or family crises, homicide, robbery and vandalism. Volunteers are provided with training, and supportive team leaders dispatch volunteers who guide victims to determine their needs, and access community services that will change them from being a victim, to becoming a survivor.

Our SupportLink program assists those at risk of domestic or sexual assault and stalking, in developing a personal safety plan, that could include the use of a wireless phone, and referrals to other services, such as Women's Shelters. Safety plans include information while travelling, at work, at home, the creation and enforcement of court orders, and safe communication.

These services are paid for through court awarded Victims' Justice Fund money, collected through a provincial victim surcharge, and monitored by the Ministry of the Attorney General. Funds are supervised by a Board of Directors, and that operates as a Transfer Payment Agency through Ontario Victim Services Secretariat (OVSS). The OVSS is a division of the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) that works to ensure that victims of crime are treated with respect and receive the information and services they need. Community grant money is available to address gaps in services, to ensure quality services, accessibility, to support community development and to increase an awareness of victimization, victim's issues in hospitals, sexual assault clinics, when testifying in court, and after becoming victims of crime.

With 48 regional offices in Ontario, and 10,000 volunteers across the province, victims are able to access the support of a team in man regions. You can call the Ontario Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888. If you, or someone you know has been a victim of crime, this web page gives regional numbers. If you think you can use our services, please call. If someone you know fits the profile of our clients, give them our number.

Saturday 22 November 2008

thin ice

Be careful out there. The ice is very thin and very deceiving. Our cat, Oliver, had a wet tail and a sad tale. But children and pets should be monitored carefully. He seemed to slow down at the edge of the water, shaking the moisture off of his paws, but the water is well over his head there! The duck eyed him warily, but still seemed to chuckle as he trod across the ice.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Numb in November

We are all numb with the cold. What a shock to have this cold front move in. Our temperatures are much colder than normal Novembers. Mind you, what is normal anymore?

What a shock. Our temperatures have dropped quite suddenly to double digits in the negative Celsius range, rising to single negative digits. Last year's data from the Weather Network indicates that Muskoka temperatures are about 5 degrees colder than averages. We have several cm of snow, much more than the average 3 cm.

The cats walk outside, shaking each back paw to get rid of the snow that sticks to warm pads.

We were fortunate. The towns both north and south of us experienced that dreaded lake effect snow: winds whipping the moisture off of the great lakes and dumping it on many door steps and driveways. We do not have much snow in comparison, but many had 20 - 30 cm! There were 30,000 customers without their Hydro One power. Just like Ice Storm '98, the trees bent then broke with the weight of the snow. It was cold and dark, with low light levels of the fall solstice.

It started with much rain, then slowly it changed to sleet and snow. Big fat snowflakes, with huge clumps that stuck to the trees.

I drove home in this fierce precipitation. The streets were slippery as the rain froze on the ground. Many cars went off the road.

The rain has collected in puddles, and low points. The ground cannot absorb the rain all at once. The snow punctuates the picture, framing the scenery.

Icicles glistened in the sunlight as things thawed somewhat the next day. Overnight temperatures are much colder than expected and the trees remain heavily laden with ice and snow.

Monday 17 November 2008

Renewable energy and jobs

I just watched a most interesting Fifth Estate broadcast. It is called The Gospel of Green. There are those who have taken up the torch, but we need someone like Germany's Herman Scheer, to pass it on to our politicians and our local power companies and industries. Ontario needs to manufacture environmentally-friendly goods and create services that will take us into the future. Another soon-to-be-released video, here is the trailer, has clips featured in the aforementioned documentary.

The Fifth Estate speak of the millions of barrels a day that countries use:
  • USA - 20.7 million barrels
  • China - 7.2
  • Japan - 5.2
  • Russia - 2.8
  • Germany - 2.7
  • India - 2.6
Mr. Scheer, a member of German parliament, with 85 million citizens, speaks truth to power - power companies. HThe Solar Economye has taken East Germany's troubled economy, after the wall came down, and turned it around. Scheer's Law, named after himself, is that those generating renewable power must be paid MORE than the going rate for power - to encourage development on renewable power sources. In The Solar Economy, he writes of the possibilities that await this generation for real regeneration of our economy and our renewable energy sources.

In Canada, the powers-that-be continue to set back new developments and charge huge fees for those attempting to connect to Hydro's power grid, and expect them to purchase the equipment to be placed on government land. Yet, the privately owned Bruce Nuclear Power Station in Haldimand-Norfolk region of southern Ontario, is apparently good to go. The solution is not bigger, more powerful and risky project but a series of smaller, independent renewable sources that can support the entire system.

Forward thinking Canadians, in their pursuit of clean energy sources, have only been stymied by Ontario Power Generation, and the old boy's network of power generators, manufacturers or energy and American cars, who insist that nuclear power and oil is the way to go. In Ontario, the Bruce Nuclear Power StationMcGuinty government has committed to phasing out coal-fired generators by 2014. Unfortunately, time is running out and the only immediate answer is nuclear generating stations (like Bruce in the photo) that, inevitably, go over budget, put Ontario more in debt for power, and result in leaving us with storing spent nuclear waste - an insolvable problem.

There are solutions. This documentary speaks of wind, solar and biofuel sources. One company, Arise Technology, travelled to Germany where the Germans gave them 50% of their start up costs ($35 million) and created a plant, with jobs and are building solar panels. Why did we not do that here?

Trillium Wind Power has been trying to establish a wind farm, potentially investing $2.5 billion for a wind farm off the shore of Lake Ontario. All THEY met was opposition from politicians, and entrenched bureaucrats with inertia. They are shallow shores, with a potential 938 watts / sq. m of power, and not on a migration flyway. There are more than 1000 wind power companies world wide, all we need is to buy into this project and create the opportunity. Time is running out. Fossil fuels will run out.

Interviewing George Smitherman, the new energy minister, he stalls and speaks of Ontario power that costs 6 ¢/ KWh, compared to Germany's 23 ¢. He hums and haws around the cost of a new nuclear generating station ($27 billion), which we know will experience cost over runs. This is typical of politicians who can only think in terms of PR moments and 4-year election periods. Those of us who are worried about this issue have been reading and writing about it for 30 years. Elementary teachers, which I used to be, have taught Reduce/Reuse/Recycle to many, many students. But it is time to go further. We need the vision of someone like Herman Scheer to take us into the future.

Jackson's Toyota, in Barrie, ON, is trying to install a wind power station, but the locals are quite opposed. Rodney Jackson's Facebook site reflected their problems. The same is true on the Scarborough Bluffs, which I have blogged about previously. Unless we stand up and make politicians take notice, we are going to burn our way through our non-renewable fuel sources before we are ready to get off grid.

A Swiss farmer, trying to harness his farms waste, and put it back into the grid, is only finding blocks on the part of the bureaucrats. He wants to take a waste product and turn it around to recycle it. What is the hold up? We can move from a dysfunctional agricultural system to one that functions, and adds to our economy, making money for our precious farmers.

We need to encourage fuel-cell-powered vehicles, like the ZENN car - legal to drive in some states, but Ontario sits on its fuel cell, in a puddle of non-renewable oil, while Rome burns. The automotive industry, pleading poverty, still manufactures gas-guzzling vehicles (necessary for some) rather than responding to city folks who could drive a Zero Emission No Noise car and help to save our planet. Until we stand up and say YES in my backyard, we will not make progress. This is the answer to the state of Ontario's economy. We need to be building things that consumer want to buy AND that are good for the environment. We need a hero, like Herman Scheer, to step up in Canada.

Sunday 16 November 2008


Signs are everywhere in Muskoka and around Ontario.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Automotive Industry Bailout

I hope not. This industry is not viable. It they built cars worth driving: reliable, fuel efficient, and affordable, yes. Vehicles that use Canadian ingenuity, such as the ZENN car and renewable energy sources. But since the North American car industry, and CAW, have been building undependable trucks and SUVs, in lieu of the more cost efficient, and less profitable cars that N.A. car owners want and can afford, it is not an industry that should be propped up like the corpse in Weekend at Bernie's.

CAW is partially to blame. They ought to have demanded that the industry be accountable for previous loans, they should have counselled employees to prepare for the future. They have millions of dollars and rather than spending it fighting for more tax dollar bailouts, they could have invested in lobbying for local jobs and local initiatives, such as the ZENN car.

We need to spend tax payer dollars ($8 million dollars?) on retraining, in manufacturing goods and creating services that Canadians want and can afford. No more outsourcing every industry and service to help businesses make more profit and to pay cheap labour. We need to pay employees what they are worth - and not pay people $30 /hour to build cars. We will pay a few more dollars for clothes, appliances, IT support but will be able to avoid potentially contaminated food (i.e., pet food) and toys made in China that do not meet Canadian standards and contain lead. We will be guaranteeing jobs and we will be able to invest at home. I am tired of phoning a company and having to speak to a service rep who cannot speak English and whom I cannot understand, with no concept of where I live.

We must pay better EI benefits while those laid off seek work. We must increase welfare in order to allow families to have better lives. Poverty and ignorance go hand in hand. We must educate our citizens and help them establish a good standard of living.

It is time to invest in Canada, Canadian ingenuity and Canadians.

Monday 10 November 2008

Violence against women

We woke to a soft, falling snow. We have snow, yes we do! The cats are so upset. They walk out on the deck, shake their back right paws, then their back left paws.
The lake is 400m (437 yd) across and I cannot see it for the blizzard. There is a soft dusting of white on the trees - as if Mother Nature painted the tips of the dark green pine trees. Then I read my on-line news as is my wont.

Today, there is another news report. What I think we can conclude is that these husbands, lovers and boyfriends are not obviously sick and violent to others. At least, that is what Mr. Vallée concludes. The violence is specific and targets the women, who have little defense. The men go on-line and in chat rooms share information about how not to leave marks. They work at not revealing their anger except in the intimate relationships in their lives. They are angry with life, their failures, their jobs, or lack thereof, and take it out on defenseless women who lack the wherewithal to defend themselves.
Another statistic: a woman is dead, her husband charged with murder.

I read the book, The War on Women, by Brian Vallée. A powerful story of two women who fought their abusive husbands The statistics he cites are appalling. Between 2000 to 2006, he tells us that 4,588 American soldiers were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 101 Canadian soldiers have been killed.

What is shocking is that in this same 7-year period, 8,000 women were shot, stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death by the men in their lives. This statistic holds true for those wounded. The cost, in terms of the delivery of Primary and Mental Heath Care for these wounded women, as well as lost productivity, is in the billions.

As with bullying, an issue I have researched much, the solution is to control the access to tools weapons (computers, knives, guns) but, more importantly, bystanders must be vigilant and speak out on the part of those who are affected by bullying, violence and unfair treatment. For my part, I am committed to participating in the Muskoka Victim Services Program. An organization that seeks to support victims, and help them to deal with immediate crises. This is a non-profit agency, with government support, and many volunteers who work with front line response teams to provide a shoulder in a traumatic incident. We have come a long way since we blamed women for their rapes and for being victims. I look forward to working with those who make a difference in women's lives.

Animal escapes

I decided to write about my region. I live in Central Ontario, not far from Bracebridge on this map. I spent the first 25 years of my life in Toronto, the 2nd 25 in Ottawa. We have had some animal stories here in Ontario.ducks The animals are quite restless, as are humans. Hunters are out and the police are warning drivers.

Firstly, a wallaby escaped from its pen after a tree fell on the fence. The poor wee thing has been tracked all over south eastern Ontario from its home in Kingston. Their website tracks its sightings. It has made the news as it pops up in orchards and travels around. The first woman who sighted it didn't really believe what she saw!

Next, the Fallow Deer Reserve, near Kingston, had someone vandalize their fence and shoo their 13 rescued deer outside of the pen. A damn shame during hunting season, especially. They managed to herd 6 of them back in, and another returned, but the others are AWOL. What are people thinking?

We have had some wicked rain, and have gone from balmy 20+ Celsius (68 F) temperatures, to single digits in a day. It sure changes your perspective. The leaves are down and the November Lake Effect rains have been coming in. The winds whip across Georgian Bay, from across the Great Lakes, and our lake is slowly filling up with rain in preparation for the winter freeze. The water and the snow protects nature, both animal and vegetable, in Mother Nature's blanket. However, I know what the Spring will bring (YouTube video) and laud it, too.

That said, the sunrises have been exquisite. Each change in temperature, sun and light levels paint a different picture.

Ollie's friends have flown away in a southerly direction. He would watch them from the dock in the summer. We called them Eva and Eddie (here is their Spring story!). I shall miss them.

The ducks, now grown, still hang around our frontage, eyeing warily the hunters that pass by in their boats. The warm temperatures have delayed their trip.They are a bit jumpy and the ducks that formerly approached when they saw me move towards the barn, and the cracked corn supply, fly off until I put out the food and move away.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Media Shows restraint?

Blackout on reporter's kidnapping posed dilemma for media

Abducted CBC journalist released in Afghanistan

Holy smoke. hard to believe. What is more interesting is that the 'comments were closed' for this story. I would like to comment. We see that journalists and, more importantly, editors and policy makers, are able to show restraint.

Could they not show restraint in the face of grieving parents, for example?
I would be ever so grateful if they would not shove microphones in the faces of those who deal with unbearable grief and ask how they are feeling.

This agreement crossed two news agencies: CBC and Global. Can they not agree on some standards in the industry? CBC has a code of ethics, being an agency funded by taxpayers one would hope so! The Media Watch website says:
"CBC has developed its own voluntary policies and guidelines for programming, covering issues such as violence, multiculturalism, racism, and the portrayal of genders and the disabled".

They speak to journalistic principles; legalities and ethics: accuracy, integrity (unbiased reporting - hmf); fairness; balance, and protecting the identity of suspects, accused, sex offenders and crime victims.

What is lacking is a sense of humanity.

Journalistic Standards and Practices ought to be upheld more stringently.

In this section:3.2.5 IDENTITY OF CRIME VICTIMS

Broadcasting the identity of a crime victim most often only adds to the person's grief, anguish and trauma.

They will identify a victim if
  • the victim consents to the disclosure (in writing or on tape);
  • the victim volunteers his or her story for broadcast;
  • the public interest is an overriding consideration.
Where do they take into consideration the impact on the victim? Not only that, but victims of similar crimes can experience PTSD when viewing interviews of crying, angry victims who have yet to deal with their emotions.
I find it hard to watch some stories. What is peculiar is when one of their own

Friday 7 November 2008

Our N.A. Continent is in shock

What a surprise to wake up and hear the challenge not to bear arms, but to stand up for one another.

Ronald Wright says in What is America? A short history of the new world order:
"Few nations have clung so much to their own mythology and historical patterns."
His text follows the development of the USA on the North American Continent. From a tradition of Puritans escaping British rule, and a history of colonization, to ...well, sail over the pond and colonize America. You live what you know. It makes me think of my toddlers running out of the room, plunking themselves down in the yard yelling, "You're not the boss of me!" to their playmates who were there first. I guess I've been reading too much Rick Mercer!) As the Americans trade Presidents, they trade their values and fundamental beliefs fairness and liberty. The pendulum has swung again.

The Puritans, fundamentalists, and evangelical white Christians left the UK in the 1600s in the same sort of protest. Once they arrived, having contributed small pox and measles to the Native population, seeking land grants and rich furs, were assisted by their future victims in surviving and adapting to the extreme winters of North America. The Aboriginal Peoples; the Six Nations in Canada, Creeks and Cherokees further south, with a strong government and agricultural system, and a literacy rate higher than the whites that invaded their territory, proceeded to be decimated by disease, or herded off the land like the now long-gone buffalo that sustained their central brothers and sisters. Their decimated towns and cities were taken over by the invaders. They moved into their homes, ate their winter corn, and planted crops in Native-cleared fields.

The great white hunters needed slaves and workers, in that time-honoured British Class system in which you hired those below you for any job too lowly for you to perform. That the early Americans had to import slaves set them up as the colonizers they long-sought to escape. One of the most powerful books I have read is, The Hanging of Angelique. It follows the early years of the slavery movement in Europe to the hanging of a woman in Montreal. A class system, now applied to those with different colour of skin, were voluntold (Mercer's non-volunteerism word!) that they were inferior and set to work. The great Canadian myth of the Underground Railroad is grossly exaggerated by Canadians who want to believe themselves better than their siblings to the south.

These Libertarians brought with them the sense of personal freedom that allowed them to rape the land as much as the people they found inhabiting this continent. This is the difference between Libertarians and liberals. The Americans who fought so hard in 1812 to escape British rule, created a ruling system that emulated that from which they fled. The American Empire, having ruled their own, have ceased to move into the new millennium as has the rest of the world. European countries have granted independence and divested themselves of their colonies resulting in cooperation, human rights, but the US has yet to buy into this world view. American presidents having exploited the voters, have failed to protect them from the vagaries of the environmental, economic and human issues which we now face.

Small l liberals who are concerned about health care, education, poverty, jobs, foreign debt, increasing numbers of immigrants and migrant workers, who help shape a country, fight with those in central south America who want the right to bear arms. The intellectuals (Jefferson and Franklin) who wrote the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, in the more sophisticated cities, liberals fight with the Libertarians who want more. The rich fight to keep their personal freedoms and their wealth, while the poor get sucked into this vortex of haves and have nots. Wright cites "serial relapses" as various presidents suck voters into supporting their aggressive, isolating, arrogant attacks on human and financial resources designed to replicate the wealth and freedom built on the slaughtering of public finances to undermine public programs and give the middle class a tax break.

The power of the almighty dollar and profits remain the bottom line with the previous Administration. I will do with a little less to help those with little reason to have faith in 'The Man.' It is my fervent hope that President-Elect Obama puts an end to the isolation, cruelty, miserly domination of the infrastructure that is based on the backs of the many working class who pay taxes, and demand that the very rich be accountable to their brother and sisters. In this new world order we must be held accountable for our neighbours, our our environmental footprint and the state of this world. Those businesses who take advantage of their power (see the Wal-Mart Effect) to kowtow to investors on Wall Street need to be stripped of their power and held accountable for outsourcing policies that result in cheap goods that poison our children and elders. Our current economic crisis is due to many factors. I blame the recent spike in oil prices, as well. As I worry over those who demand bail outs for the automotive industry, and their unions, who denied the changing nature of this world. We need fewer, smaller, better built dependable vehicles that need not be out of the reach of many. This was seen coming a long way off and it was ignored as greedy bankers gave loans to a failing sector of the economy.

I am haunted by those who are unmoved by the momentous occasion afforded the American people. I am comforted by the young, old, rich, poor, people of many colours and ethnic origins who identify with this fine man. They - no WE around the world - laud this man, no matter our faith, homeland or creed, as a harbinger of hope, who tells us, "Yes, we can."


The Hanging of Angelique. by Afua Cooper (2007)

What is America? A short history of the new world order by Ronald Wright

The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--And How It's Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman and Alan Sklar (2006)

Thursday 6 November 2008

US Ballot Measures - 2008

The recent US election included the election of state governors, as well as referendum questions. The result were scary in some ways. Already accepted laws were rediscussed (e.g., Banning gay marriage in California, abortion issues), as well as other human rights that transcend religion and should be the purview of the state.

Canadians for Equal Marriage says that there are about 12,000 same-sex married couples since the laws were changed. Trudeau said, in 1967: 'There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation' and I agree.

There were many discussions in Canada around the same-sex issue. We became the 4th coClip 1untry in the world to legalize it on July 20, 2005. There was much fear-mongering about repercussions and implications for religious institutions who feared being forced to marry same-sex couples. This has not been found to be an issue. The current Canadian law makes sense; it is a matter of equality and human rights.
Clip 2
Mr. Harper, when he took power in 2006, tried to open up the issue again, but Parliament voted 123 - 175 to let it be. he campaigned on this issue, and chose to fulfill THIS promise, but failed to look at other issues such as Senate reform. One wonders why.

Some Americans are fighting Proposition 8 in California. It seems a bit bizarre that one day Clip 2someone has such an instrinsic, legal human right and the next day it is determined illegal. offered up an intriguing video clip. It hearkens back to the racism of the past, which determined where black and whites could sit, eat, drink and do their business.

Focus On The Family, a US-based group, has made inroads to Canada and began a $1.5 million ad campaign against equal marriage. It is appalling, to me, that this groups purports to know the definition of a family. When I divorced in 1993 I faced a certain amount of ignorance and was ostracised for 'breaking up my family', despite facing emotional abuse. I thought we were beyond that and that a 'family' was redefined by Free To Be. Free to Be You and Me and Free to Be a Family

Arizona Proposition 102: Ban on Gay Marriage 56% voted in favour.

Arizona Proposition 202:Prohibit Hiring of Illegal Immigrants 59% voted against this.
Arkansas Initiative 1: Ban on Gay Couples Adopting Children 57% said Yes.

California Proposition 8: Ban on Gay Marriage a slim 52% margin wanted the ban.

California Proposition 4: Requiring parent's be informed of Abortion on a minor 52% said no.

Colorado Amendment 46: End Affirmative Action 51% said no.

Colorado Amendment 48: Human Life from Moment of Conception 73% said NO.

Florida Amendment 2: Ban on Gay Marriage 62% said yes.

Maryland Question 2: Allow Video Lottery 59% said yes.

Massachusetts Question 1: Repeal State Income Tax 70% said no.

Michigan Proposition 1: Allow Medical Marijuana 63% yes.

Michigan Proposition 2: Allow Stem Cell Research 53% yes.

Nebraska Initiative 424: End Affirmative Action 58% yes.

South Dakota Initiative 11: Abortion Limits 55% disagreed with this notion. They wanted to prohibit all abortions in the state except in cases where mother's life or health is at risk or in cases of rape or incest for pregnancies of less than 20 weeks.

Washington Initiative 1000: Allow Doctor-Assisted Suicide 59% were in favour.

driving safety

Our OPP has sent out warnings to motorists. There is danger in that with moose hunting season wildlife is on the move. In a collision with a moose, we lost one of our finest in 2005. These animals are huge, and you do not always win since moose hunting season is on. Later in the month, once snow covers feeding grounds they have to forage and extend their territory.

One problem is the bright headlights of the vehicles, therefore, at dawn and dusk, when they are on the move, you really must drive more slowly.

Huntsville OPP say,

"There are a number of locations in the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment area where motorists are apt to encounter animals on the roads, including County Road 6, Highways 12, 93, 400 and area roadways that are adjacent to wooded areas."

They like to feed on the edge of a meadow, crossing convenient roadways to find more forage.
  • Use eye lead time and be aware when you are in an area that has wildlife, especially if signs indicating animal crossing are posted;
  • Do not overdrive your headlights; this will allow you to see an animal and stop in time to avoid hitting it;
  • When animals are observed ahead, slow down until safely past them;
  • Search for a second animal, close behind, after the first animal has been passed safely;

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Yes, we can

We have witnessed an historical moment in this time. Senator Barack Obama has been declared president elect. On January 4th, 2009, he will take office. As a Canadian, I can witness this occasion with great hope and excitement. I heard a collective sigh of relief as he was declared.

Many worldwide have participated in this process. People from around the world have travelled to the USA to assist in campaigning on Sen. Obama's behalf, including Canadians, and those with dual citizenship.

It seems as if the economic crisis, after artificially raised oil prices, the below-prime mortgage collapse, and the slowing of vehicle sales has parted the waters for an intelligent, forward thinking, intelligent man: Barack Obama, to enter the now roiling waters and make change. For a time, the water have calmed and we all watched and held our collective souls motionless. It is only through these changes that we will be able to move forward. If not for the grassroots, the young and old, rich and poor, and a rainbow of people who believed in his message and his methods. The waters have parted and he can move forward to recreate, renew and inspire every person. It was moving to see this united group of people standing before him as he calmly, firmly and carefully prepared US citizens for what will come next. Many will follow him through the path he has cleared. Despite hardships, we can hold fast to dreams and principles of fairness, equity and belief in the human spirit.

What a rousing speech it was. Words meant to adopt a collaborative all-embracing approach.

"to look after ourselves and each other"

"To those who would tear apart our world we will defy you. To those who wonder if America's beacon still burns as bright... Yes, we can."

"Tonight we proved once more that the might of our nation comes not from the might of our arms, or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, hope, opportunity and unyielding faith."

Yes, we can. There is hope and optimism.

catch & release program

We have seen the hunters go by in their boats again. I do not know any hunters personally, but have had many female friends who lauded the November breaks they had as husbands took off with their buddies for hunting camps, or led others in their pursuit of game to fill their freezers.

Our cat, a well-fed sleek little guy, loves to troll the woods for game. Ollie, and his sister, Sady,were bringing home various mice, moles, chipmunks and, lately squirrels. Those little tree-rats of the forest. I was explaining to my husband that Native communities knew about hunting. They would move into an area, live there for 50 years, exhaust the game and move on, leaving the area to regenerate and regrow. It is the cycle of life.

My Ollie goes farther and farther to find his prey. I'd like to convince him to participate in the catch and release program, but he insists on playing with his prey, throwing it up in the air and tenderizing the wee things. But I continue to see new ones moving in. There is a squirrel nest in a near-by tree and the critters have been cruising the bird feeders. The raccoons continue to be patrolling. Their nocturnal antics make us all laugh. The cats do not so much hunt them as have an understanding.

Hunters have been helping the fallow-deer reserve to recapture their missing deer. George and Gulliver returned home, but Ty succumbed to capture myopathy. Such a shame. People have been asked not to interfere. Animal in the wild need to be left alone. In this situation, the reserve should have been notified.

Sunday 2 November 2008

biofuels and renewable energy

wind turbine
We create 75% of Ontario's power from Niagara Falls &Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, according to Ontario's energy Minister, George Smitherman.

They are determined to reduce dependence upon wind turbinecoal-fired generators, which provide about 18% of our power and tons of carbon.

The provincial Liberals campaigned on this principle.

Ontario Power Generation map shows the various stations involved in reducing our dependence on coal-fired energy and moving towards wind turbines and hydro projects, as well as generally reducing our dependence upon electricity by changing our behaviour and attitudes towards energy. One Millions Acts of Green is a good start!

Unfortunately, what is good for the province does not seem to be what locals have in mind. Those living in and around the Scarborough Bluffs are having the same problem with NIMBY as the Dambusters. A Google search brought up over 15,000 postings on the topic! The Toronto Star estimate that the proposed 60 turbines could power 50,000 homes.

John Barber, in the Globe article Not in My Backyard, part 1: Wind farms off the Scarborough Bluffs: Great Lake View. Shame About the Turbines, said, "Aesthetics over infrastructure is always a lousy bet." For our environment's sake, we have made decisions about policy. Those who built the city of Toronto care not a whit about aesthetics. The buildings are huge; they clutter the sky. How on earth does Mr. Barber feel justified making such a complaint?

We are having a similar battle here in our small town along these lines...this must just be the tip of the iceberg! There is a lot of buzz around. This protest has gone long and far! What is amusing is that Bracebridge Council are considering enhancing signage to celebrate their hydro dam and draw tourists while Bala citizens are protesting development.

I have written in my blog 5 times about this project as I tried to come to terms with the issues. There are two Facebook groups around it:
1) Save the Bala Falls & 2) Bala Falls.

The is a major website created by business owners ( in town. I call them the dambusters, who are hell-bent on not rebuilding the dam. The dam was working until 1957, when it was taken off-line because they thought it too small. In the ways of the current climate, any part helps. The Ontario Ministry is basically outsourcing such projects to bidders. There are medium, small and large private companies, like Swift River Energy, that are keen on getting involved.

Swift River Energy Ltd., who has won the contract through the Ontario Government, is having a hard time getting fair coverage through biased local media. Messages posted on-line by those in favour of the Hydro Project are deleted, and any photos posted are erased.

Things are really heating up around here!

In nearby Gravenhurst, the buildings crowd the shoreline and the beautiful view has been covered up. The new buildings (Grace & Speed; condo developments) obstruct the view. But this, apparently, is progress.

There are many stakeholders in such a process. They must be respected. NIMBMuskoka WharfY only reflect immediate residents and/or business owners. I am shocked with the power (excuse the pun!) such folks seem to hold over the press.

My Town Monday - Fort George

I thought I ought to look at places I have been. We do not travel far, however! We visited Fort George, as our son was acting in The Stepmother, at near-by Shaw Festival, in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Constructed by order of Lieutenant Governor Simcoe 1796-99, Fort George served as the HQ for Major-General Brock in 1812. In May, 1813, it was bombarded and captured by the Americans who constructed fortifications of their own on the site.
These in turn were retaken by the British in Dec., 1813. Mine, yours, c'mere, get away...

In 1815 Fort George was falling apart and was ordered abandoned.
The Fort is a reconstruction dated 1937-40, it resembles the way it looked in 1733-1813.
Parks Canada offers a 3-D tour of this, and other people, places and things: species at risk, technology, migration, women in history, northern parks, and ethnocultural communities.

These are all my photos from our 2008 trip. Hooray for virtual field trips!

The photos speak for themselves. Our interpreter spoke for those who have passed.

Intolerable conditions, with people divided into classes, cold, poverty and hunger.

The rank and file lived in flea-infested quarters.

The officer's mess was quite lovely. As were their quarters in separate buildings.

Immortalized: King George's lovely wife.

The officer's sitting room.

I wish I had had this photo (below) when teaching gr. 8. I needed, often, to explain:

"Here is where the pot called the kettle black."

The reloading took a long time. They had poor aim, these guns, and could be off by 9 feet!

They stored ammunition in a building outside the wall. This is the 'powder room!'