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by Mary Soderstrom

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Monday, 31 December 2012

An Anniversary Unremarked, and Happy New Year

Our house was built in 1912--first permits issued in late 1911, and occupation, it would appear, in the fall of the following year.  I'd meant to make a little bumph about the house's 100th anniversary.

The year 1912 was big one for residential construction in Montreal--lots of attached houses, triplexes and duplexes were built in what is now the center of the city.  It also must have been a good year for building elsewhere in the world: when Elin was studyiing in The Hague the attached  triplex she lived in was built that year also, and was designed along lines that would be familiar to any Montrealer. 

But I forgot to note our houses's birthday in the flurry of ordinary life.  It has gone through some changes since this picture was taken--after the fire next door in November 2010 about half the interior walls had to be pulled down to get ride of smoke damage.  From the outside, though, you'd never know the difference, and the basic plan remains the same and very well suited for urban family living with a small garden in front and back.

So, happy belated birthday, house.  I love you, and I love the many eventful years we've lived in you.  May you shelter us  for many years to come, and afterwards, may you welcome others who will be as rich in the things that matter as we have been. 

And for everybody else, Happy New Year.  May your body and soul find rest and fulfillment in a chez soi that suits you as well as ours suits us.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Saturday Photo:The Storm of the Century,, Trout and Me

Tha's me and our dog Trout Fishing in Canada on March 4, 1971.  The storm in progress was a big blizzard, called by some The Storm of the Century.  It left 43 cm of snow, a record which was broken on Thursday when 45 cm fell,

I'd forgotten about the photo--can't even remember who took it, but I don't think it was Lee since even though he was doing a lot of photography, even then he went for landscapes and not people.

The pix was taken near the corner of Prince Arthur and Aylmer in what was/is called the McGill ghetto which is where we lived then.  Took a long time to clean up the snow, but I don't remember being inconvenienced much.  Part of that has to do with being 28 at the time (28, can you imagine!  Much younger than my kids are now) and also because we really didn't have to go very far for anything.  The advantages of living in the center city is a lesson I've never forgotten and which has guided my choices of where to live ever since. 

By the way, Trout couldn't wait to be let off her leash.  She just loved snow and would go dolphining into snow banks up until the winter before her death at 13.  A wonderful dog, who taught us a lot and who was great with Elin and Lukas when they came along.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Brilliant Sunshine: The Calm that Follows the Storm

When people learn that we came to Montreal from California, they often say what a big, disappointing change it must have been, given the difference in climate.  But I've always liked the difference.  Not only are winter storms frequently exhilarating, particularly if you're in no hurry to go anywhere, the high pressure systems that follow can be marvelous.

Usually the temperature drops after a storm as a cold front moves in from the north.  Today it's not particularly cold for winter, but the sun is out and the light is absolutely fabulous.  I've often tried to capture it in a photo, but it seems to be beyond my skill. 

This photo, taken two winters ago, gives some idea of the pleasures of sunny winter days, though.  Why not take a sunbath, after all?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

And what it's like with Brazilian soundtrack...



Muito obridgada para a Immigrercom.

Back at Work...But Not Really

Lots and lots of snow today--glad everybody made it home yesterday from the holiday festivities.  I was out for a while this morning, and ended up taking buses on a route I usually walk because the sidewalks hadn't been plowed. 

Therefore it's a good afternoon to stay inside and work on stuff I should have done some time ago.  It won't  be until the storm stops and the snow removal crews are out that the going will be easier.

(The picture was taken several years ago after a really nice, bit storm. )

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas to All

Dear Friends

Got to wrap a few presents and make potato sausage before everyone comes over, so there won't be much blogging for the next few days.

Best wishes from our house to yours, and here's the link to our holiday blog, in case you're interested.

Mary  

Doomsday Prophets Have Got It Wrong: Krugman"s Got It Right Again

Fiscal conservatives and the Mayan calendar nuts: both wrong in their prophecies, Paul  Krugman says once again:


" The key thing we need to understand, however, is that the prophets of fiscal disaster...are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They...will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis.


"So we cannot and will not persuade these people to reconsider their views in the light of the evidence. All we can do is stop paying attention. It’s going to be difficult, because many members of the deficit cult seem highly respectable. But they’ve been hugely, absurdly wrong for years on end, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously."


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday Photo: Christmas Tree 2012

So this is Christmas...  or at least the Christmas tree as it looked when the gang finished putting it up last Saturday.  There are some presents under it now, to which will be added quite a few more, I expect, before Tuesday morning.

The reasons we put the tree up last weekend was so that Sophie and I could make pickled herring, which requires at least a week to marinate for optimal eating.  But, as it turns out, we made the right call: Jeanne, who usually comes over to play with us on Saturday while Elin teaches here, is home with a cough and Lee is dragging around with a fountain for a nose.  Much better for all of us to rest and not share microbes so we'll be in fine form for the holiday itself.

Hope your end of year festivities are shaping up well.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gangnam Syte Means the World is a Small Place: One Lesson Learned in the Last 60 Years

About ten years ago, I started my travels with a trip to Aisa. My first venture outside of North America was to Singapore, which meant involved taking Korean Airlines from San Francisco to Seoul and changing there ot Singapore Airlines. I was charmed by the Koreans, and emboldened to try a small escapade that one of my guidebooks suggested.

Since I had 5 hours between flights, I got a temprary visa and took a local city bu into downtown Seoul. It was about 7 a.m. local time when I started and it was obvious that the pasengeres were regulars with nearly everyone nodding greetings to the others.

 I tried to take in as much as I could, and when we got to the centre of the city, I got off thinking I could take the same bus back to the airport. Alas, it was not to be. Given more than five hours I mih have found where to take the return bus, but I had much less time.

So I decidend into the subway system, trying to remember exactly what the subway map had said about getting to the airport. As I stood in the car, staring up at the subway map, a yount man asked in very good English if he could help me. He didn't understand my accet, but when I showed him on my map where I was headed, he was most helfpful.

There, he pointed out, that's where I should change trains. And there was the spot where I'd be just steps from the airport check in section. How much he understood of my English is unclear, but what is certain was his delight in helping me. What a contrast with the heavy weapons on the bridges over the rivers, andmy own memories of the Korean War.

When the gangnam style video began makin its appearance in the cybersphere, I  wasn't keen on seeing it,.  Yet this is wha is coming out of that country, 60 years after that war.

The moral?  Well, maybe that if fi you wait long enough popular culture will triumph.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Kids Are All Right: Voter Participation Rates Go Way up among Quebec Youth

Young people in Quebec voted in large numbers in the September provincial elections, according to a study reported today in both Le Devoir and The Gazette.

"According to the study, the biggest single increase in voter participation in the Sept. 4, 2012, election was among youths age 18 to 24," The Gazette story says.

"In 2008, only 36.15 per cent of voters that age cast ballots. In 2012, the number was 62.07 per cent, an increase of almost 26 percentage points....Voting was up among 25 to 34-year-olds, too. In 2008, only 41.83 per cent voted. This time around, 66.36 voted, an increase of almost 25 per cent."

Pretty impressive, it seems to me.  So is the difference between the headlines in the two papers.  Le Devoir talks about a "spectacular bound"  while The Gazette says the change is just "part of a return to the norm."  True, in the 2007 election, participation was higher than in 2008, when voters were not happy about being called to the polls after only a year.  But any way you cut it, this time the participation rate was higher than it's been in a long time, reflecting the rise in political awareness among all levels of Quebec society after the protests of the Maple Spring,



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Winter Wonderland Department: A Moose on the Roof, No Weapons Please

This photo was doing the rounds of my friends yesterday, with a tagline saying it was taken in Blainville, north of Montreal.  Seems that it probably isn't, but it's great fun anyway.

What wouldn't be fun would be to have a hunter take aim at the animals. 

You laugh?  Not really, given the gun culture in the US and in parts of Canada.  Maybe the slaughter on Friday will give rise to more restrictions on weapons South of the Border,  at least outlawing assault weapons.  But I've been appalled by 1) those who say, well, the principal should have had a gun and 2) let's blame it on mental illness.

The first statement is completely unacceptable.  The second has a little more validity: a number of massacres have been committed by mentally troubled individuals.  But, as Richard A. Freeman points out in The New York Times today, the vast majority of people with mental illness don't hurt anyone.  One large study "which followed nearly 18,000 subjects, found that the lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness — like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — was 16 percent, compared with 7 percent among people without any mental disorder. Anxiety disorders, in contrast, do not seem to increase the risk at all."

He continues; "You can profile the perpetrators after the fact and you’ll get a description of troubled young men, which also matches the description of thousands of other troubled young men who would never do something like this."

More cooboration that the problem is complex, and a warning that those with mental troubles should not, once again, get the rap for a society that doesn't know how to behave.


Monday, 17 December 2012

The New Town Kllings: When the Social Safety Net Protects Everyone:

Why do mass killings in the US happen? Partly because of the culture of violence there, but also because of problems with the social safety net.

Having mental problems is always difficult, and therapy is frequently not very effective. But things are much, much worse when there is no public system to help. Adam:Lanza's mother, as far as I know, didn't write or talk about her son's difficulties, but another woman has--most eloquently.


After telling about the latest in her son's explosions, Liza Long writes about how she had to head for the emergency room and the police when he came at her over something silly.  "Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer."

Finally he was subdued, but the chances of finding good help for him are not very great.

"With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011," Long writes.

"No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

"I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal."



Gun control would help too, but never forget that the Right Wing agenda is not good for people, either.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Saturday Photo: Phantom Doves

Tbere are times when chance tells you more than you expect.  This was a busy weekend with the gang coming over on Saturday to decorate the tree, make pickled herring, make music and general have a good time.

Before they came, I put a decoration on the front door.  It was simple, just a couple of branches and some of our old, but favorite tree ornaments.  One of them is the dove that my sister sent as the Christmas card from her, her husband and her daughter Kris years and years ago.  I've always liked it, and place it somewhere in the house during the holiday season.

Laurie died 10 years ago suddenly just a few days after her 56th birthday.  I've been thinking of her a lot lately, since Elin had a chance to catch up with Kris when she was on the West Coast last month.  How very sad that Laurie didn't live to see her grandchildren.  What I'd give to be able to sit down with her and discuss how marvelous they are.

So I suppose that was on my mind when I put the dove on the branch and hung it on the door, and maybe even why I decided to take a picture of the decoration.  It was snowing and the camera apparently thought it was too dark, because subsequent snaps all tripped the flash.  This first one, though, shows the dove flying bravely, and in these sad days I'd like to think it's a hint at what we ought to be doing.

The question is: hint from whom?  Our better nature, if nothing else.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Good News on a Day That Is Full of Not So Good

I've always loved Oreos and thought that prophets of doom weren't looking in the right places.  Why do we need to invent the devil when we've got ourselves?  Why worry about the end of the world, as predicted by the Mayan calendar when we're raising the temperature so steadily?

But now it seems that the whole business is a marketing gimmick.  Or at least, the Mayan calendar looks an awful lot like an Oream cream sandwich. 

Maybe we should eat it, the way that serpent eats it tail, which is supposed to represent eternity....

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas is Coming, Herring Are Bought

Sophie wants to make sil, Swedish pickled herring, this Christmas so on Tuesday she, I and Thomas went to the Poissonerie Jean-Talon to buy salt herring. 

On Saturday the gang is coming over to decorate the tree, and she and I will do the honours in the fish.  It take a good week before the herring have pickled enough, so you have to begin early...

But that's part of the fun of Christmas, isn'it it?  All the anticipation and preparation...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Two of My Favourite Things: Recycling and Music

A perfectly wonderful video about music produced on instruments made from recycled materials by kids in a slum. A little like steel drum bands, but with a real classical bent.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Another Giant Falls: Oscar Niemeyer

This is a little bit late, but it took me a while to come to grips with Niemeyer. Still not sure about what he means in terms of urban planning, but he certainly was an original

Monday, 10 December 2012

When "Cheap Asian Labour" Isn't Enough--Robots Work for Even Less

Some big North American outfits are moving production back to this continent for various reasons.  Among them is the perceived need to shorten the supply line, but also because it's no longer as cheap in China, for example, as wages rise.

My reaction when I heard this was: hey, that's good.  Why shouldn't everyone have better wages, and if the Chinese have reached that point, more power to them.  Some of us remember when "Made in Japan" was synomous with "cheap." That hasn't been the case for decades, thanks to the intelligent way the Japanese managed their post-WW II recovery.

But it turns out that the story is much more comples because, in large part, of increasing robotization of manufacturing, according to The New York Times.  On Friday Catherine Rampell had a very intersting analysis of the situation. Relatively cheap energy costs in North America are part of the story, and so is the decreasing gap in wages. 

"Inflation-adjusted average wages in China, for example, more than tripled over the decade from 2000 to 2010, according to a report released Friday by the International Labor Organization," , she reports. On the other hand, "in the developed world, wages are just barely higher than they were in 2000. In the United States, other studies have shown that median household income is lower today than it was in 2000."

Yet the coup de grâce may well be coming from robots doing the work--and making the machines that make the machines that do the work.  As Paul Krugman says:  "...the most valuable piece of a computer, the motherboard, is basically made by robots, so cheap Asian labor is no longer a reason to produce them abroad." That's not an isolated case: "...similar stories are playing out in many fields, including services like translation and legal research. What’s striking about their examples is that many of the jobs being displaced are high-skill and high-wage; the downside of technology isn’t limited to menial workers."


This is not something new unders that sun. In 1817 the  economist David Ricardo  wrote that "the new, capital-intensive technologies of the Industrial Revolution could actually make workers worse off, at least for a while — which modern scholarship suggests may indeed have happened for several decades."

And that might well be what is happening here.  Be warned.  



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday Photo: What Do You do When There's No Snow?

Skate, of course.  They've put up the boards in the outdoor rinks in the parks near us, but we're not ready for skating yet. But you can skate elsewhere.  The outdoor rink in Old Montreal opened a week ago, for example.

I took this pictures sometime ago in Toronto, which I find very gray in the winter.  Sure, it's warmer than Montreal, and their Bixi bikes are available all year round whereas our season ends November 15, but the lack of snow makes things pretty grim, I think.

Neverthless, a lone skater was out at 7:30 a.m. that Saturday morning, making lovely, solitary circles on the ice.

Friday, 7 December 2012

NPD Outremont Annual General Meeting Saturday

The NDP Outremont riding association will hold its Annual General Meeting beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 8, in the café/bar La Grande Gueule, 5615 A, Côte-des -Neiges Road. (Metro Côte-des-Neiges, 165 Bus.) The entrance is by the door at 5611 Côte-des-Neiges.

The executive committee for 2013 will be elected at the meeting, and members of the current executive will present their reports. Coffee, soft drinks and tea will be served, and members can order beer and wine.

The posts to be filled include

Statutory positions:
President
Associate President
Treasurer
Secretary
Vice President for Organization
Vice President for Communications (
At least three women must be elected to these posts.)

2. Representatives to NDP Quebec Section commissions on cultural communities, women, youth and LGBTT. A person responsible for environmental issues is included in this group.

3. In addition, NDP Outremont welcomes persons who would like to work on specific issues as ad hoc members of the executive. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Anniversay of the Poly Massacre: Not a Time to Think about Weakening Gun Control


"A monument was built to the young women not far from the site of the massacre, just off the university campus. ... There are benches around the edge the park, and a path down the middle with  several granite  blocks—waist high and not immediately identifiable as sculptures or tombstones—on either side of the path.  Arcing away from each granite block is a low curve of stone with what might be letters engraved on it.  A bronze plaque with a date—1964-1989 for example—is set in the earth at each place.  The last date is always 1989, but what is on the  granite varies.  It took Frances two visits before she deciphered the meaning. Each block is sliced in such a way that the shadow of a letter can be seen: A, or M or B....  Then as you stare, the pattern of dark and light, high and low, can be seen as letters, spelling out the name of one of the girls.  There and not there. In the earth, but not."

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Take Five for Dave: Tribute to a Great Musican

This just in: Dave Brubeck dies at 91; This is a great version of the classic "Take Five" from a Montreal appearance four years ago when he was still going strong.  


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Return of the Cold: No Day to Think Creatively

It's been four weeks now that we've been dragging colds around.  Thought I was over it and had made plans to make fruitcakes with Sophie and play with little Thom a bit today.  However, the cough returned last night, so I'm laying low today.  So no post more interesting than this unless something drops in my lap.....

Monday, 3 December 2012

Icelandic Star Bjork Interviews Arvo Pârt: Preparation for a Great Concert of SMAM

The past and the present, as everyone knows, are intertwined in all domains.

Music lovers will have a great chance to see just that  when The Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal mixes Bach and Estonian composer Arvo Pârt Thursday in a concert that promises to be great.


Time and place:  7:30 pm., Immaculée-Conception Church

Works: Magnificat by J.S. Bach and Berliner Messe by Arvo Pärt

Artists:  Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal
I Musici de Montréal Chambre Orchestra





And in the spirit of musical and temporal mixing, here's an interview with the Icelandic pop star (not  dim light, at all) with Pârt.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Saturday Photo: Snow Fallling on Nearly Bare Branches

This photo was taken a couple of winters ago, but I don't think I've ever used it as a Saturday photo.  It seems particularly appropriate today, when the snow is lingering and the temperature has plummeted. 

Tomorrow, however, will be another day, with the forecast for rain and temperatures well above freezing.  Such is the up and down world this year. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

In-laws and Jane Jacobs: Densifying the Suburbs

Jane Jacobs at the end of her life was all in favour of densifying cities by allowing "in law apartments" and the like on single family lots.  In her last book, she advocated doing that in existing suburban neighborhoods, and some city planners have listened to her.  The economic troubles following 2008 have reinforced the appeal, it seems.  Boomerang young people and aging grandparents are apparently increasingly sharing space .

The New York Times reports today that some new housing developments are taking that into account. High end houses with separate entrances for either offspring or patriarchs and matriarchs are a coming trend, some developers think.

Jacobs would probablly be appalled, however. She was not in favour of more urban sprawl, but less. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

First Snow!


We've had a few flakes at least three times, but yesterday was the first snow that lasted.  Not much on the ground, but still...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Are You Listening, Politicos? Health Care Is What Matters to Canadians

Most interesting survey got quite a bit of press yesterday: Canadians hold  the health care system more important than any other characteristic of their country.

As the Globe and Mail reported: "The online survey of 2,207 respondents by Leger Marketing found universal health care was almost universally loved, with 94 per cent calling it an important source of collective pride – including 74 per cent who called it “very important.”

"At the other end of the spectrum, just 39 per cent of respondents felt the monarchy was a source of personal or collective pride, while 59 per cent were royally unimpressed. In fact, 32 per cent of respondents found the monarchy “not at all important” – the most popular singular response. "

I do hope that Canadian politicians are listening.  Stephen Harper may not be winning the fight for the hearts and minds of Canadians when it comes to the monarchy!  He's not going to be able to cover over the hole in the ozone layer with the Queen's portrait, as this Le Devoir cartoon suggests he'd like to do.

 And politicos of other persuasions should muster more support for the health care system, too.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Is This the End? History from Taticus to The Doors and Sandra

Very interesting meditation on time and the river(s) flowing by James Atlas in The New York Times, entitled "IsThis the End?"  A sample:

"History is a series of random events organized in a seemingly sensible order. We experience it as chronology, with ourselves as the end point — not the end point, but as the culmination of events that leads to the very moment in which we happen to live."

Yet: "Every civilization must go. "  He contiues, after quoting Tacitus about a  eruption Mt. Vesuvius: " But of course it wasn’t the end of the world: it was just the end of them."

Atlas also quotes New York governor Governor Cuomo:  “'we have a 100-year flood every two years now,' which doesn’t stop rents from going up in Battery Park City. "

The message?  Is it too late to stop the rising tides? Or is time to think about moving on?

And by the way, what was the ecological damage of all that defoliation in Vietnam? We got out of it, can we get out of our current messes?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Saturday Photo: Holly, a Harbinger of Holidays

I had always thought that you couldn't grow holly in Montreal, that the climate here is just too tough for the lovely shrub.  But I found this vigorously growing stand near the Université de Montréal not long ago.   Obviously there are some varieties that can take the cold.

Given that the markets are full of Christmas trees already and that we've been overwhelmed this week by hype about Black Friday, it's good to look at one harbinger of the holiday season that proceeds at its own lovely pace. 


Friday, 23 November 2012

What I Read During My Fall Vacation

Well, it really hasn't been a vacation, but I've been attacked by several little viruses, generously shared with us by Jeanne who picked them up at the day care centre.  The upshot is that I've been taking it easy more, and reading more light stuff than research material.

A list of what I've just finished or am part way through :

Books for various book clubs I'm involved in:

Caleb's Crossing by Genevieve Brooke
The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
Les derniers jour de Smokey Nelson by Catherine Mavrakakis
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock


Gifts and Loans:

The Theft of History by Jack Goody
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowlings

Three Finalists from the Quebec Writers' Federation awards:

Straphanger by Taras Grescoe
Tell It to the Trees by Anita Rau Badami (also a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Prize)
All the Voices Cry by Alice Petersen 

Sometimes feeling rotten can be productive!




And Further to Thanksgiving

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving: One Thing the US Accomlished That Maybe It Shouldn't Be so Thankful for...

Always knew this, but videos of Hillary Clinton explaining how the US funded insurgent forces in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and earlyl 1980s to defeat the Soviet invasion have been bouncing up on my radar recently. Another "mission accomplished," as George W. Bush so famously said?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

"The rich stay rich and everyone else churns around in the bottom."

Interesting analysis of the Fraser Institute's recent study of income mobility just put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The right wing think tank suggests that four out of five low income Canadians moved up the income ladder over the ten year period of 1990-2000. But, CCPA (often a welcome counterweight to the Fraser bunch) points out that most of the "mobility" was from "very poor" to "poor."

Not what you'd hope for when you're trying to make a country a place here income inequality is minimal.  The CCPA's Daniel Macdonald comments: "Although this isn’t the report’s conclusion, my conclusion from the same data is that the rich stay rich and everyone else churns around in the bottom."

Doesn't surprise me in the least...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Twinkies in the Service of Science

Great story in The New York Times today about the use of Twinkies, those disgusting little cakes, in science experiments.  Seems they don't burn, can be shown to be made up mostly of air, and several other things which demonstrate how to measure materials and how to test  hypotheses.

The company that makes them, Hostess, has declared the death knell for them (or so it seems),  There probably are substitutes, though.  Just got to go on another sort of scientific expedition....


Monday, 19 November 2012

Why Historical Novels? Why Not Just History?

For my various book groups I found myself reading two historical novels this week end.  One is Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and the other is The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich. 

The first is the first person tale of a 17th century woman on Nantucket, growing up Puritan  where Native American society is just a stone's throw away.  The second takes place about 100 years earlier in Venice where a Jewish midwife has discovered how to use forceps to help in difficult deliveries.  Both appear very well researched, and present moving stories of plucky women.  Childbirth features prominently in both too.

My friend Ann Charney  once said she didn't see the point in historical novels.  "Why doesn't one just read history?" I remember her as saying.  At the time--and it wasn't too long after I'd strugged with fictionalized biography of the Lower Canadian Patriot Robert Nelson--I was surprised.  A fiction about the past seemed to me to be a great way of making an imaginative leap in time.

However, I've become more critical of the genre lately.  It is true that sometimes an historical novel can present fascinating facts that would otherwise be accessible only through extensive research.  Sometimes, also, the story told can be worth reading.  And, frequently, I suspect, a reader may feel  less ambivalent about reading a page turner when an otherwise-cliched story is coated with a nourishing coat of fact.

But to find out what really happened during the time evoked in a novel, you really have to read some original documents and good history yourself.  If an historical novel is not well written  there's just no reason to read it.




Saturday, 17 November 2012

Saturday Photo: Upside of Climate Change Is Longer Biking Season

Let me say straight out that I don't ride bikes unless my life depends on doing so--got hit by one when I was little and was traumatized.  But I appreciate that more and more people around here are using them as a means of transport.

That's good in ecological terms and might do something to improve our sorry situation concerning green house gas emissions and their consequences for climate change.  Consider what Michael Kesterton reported in Monday's Globe and Mail on a "a ground-breaking method for turning ordinary foodstuffs into fuel.” 

He quotes  Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan of Grist.org. “The potential is boundless as practically any food item will do – pumpkin seeds, cereal and salmon fillets can all transform into the energy required to get you almost anywhere you need to go while emitting almost no extra greenhouse gases. Here’s how it works: Eat food. Allow your digestive system to turn it into glycogen, which provides energy to your muscles that can be used to power physical motion. Then walk.”

Same thing for biking.  The irony is that with milder winters brought on by climate change also lengthenn the cycling season.  Could this be the start of a benevolent circle as opposed to a vicious one?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Part of the Story Behind the Montreal Super-Hospital Projects: Residential Developoment of the Mountain?

For some time I've wondered about the reasons why many parts of the Montreal community were so gung-ho for building two new super-hospitals.  The story goes back nearly two decades, with years of in-fighting over the sites and assurances that there would be both English and French hospital centres.

Now I think the answer lies in the real estate adage: Location, location, location...and greed.

The original arguments for the new health facities were that new structures were needed to meet the technical challenges of cutting edge health care, and replace aging infrastructures.

There was no discussion at all of the effects of closing down three existing hospitals, the Royal Victoria, Hôtel-Dieu and the Shriners.  All three are on prime real estate, either on Mount Royal itself, or just beside it with grand views of Montreal's most striking topographic feature. Now extremely troubling news is coming out about the way these projects got underway and the profits to be made by construction companies, developers and their friends.

The most serious involves Dr. Arthur Porter, brought in about a decade ago  to captain the McGill University Health Centre project.    La Presse reported last month that  he is implicated in $22 million in doubtful payments made by the engineering consulting firm SNC-Lavalin  during the awarding of the contract for the hospital project.   This last is part of the puzzle that Quebec's commission on corruption in the construction industry is now putting together.  Payments, kickbacks and death threats have been asserted daily since the Charbonneau Commission began sitting in September.

(It should be noted that Porter  also headed Canada's top spy agency, but resigned last year after The National Post reported he had "wired $200,000 in personal funds to Ari Ben-Menashe, a Montreal-based businessman who often acts as a middleman in negotiations between the Russian Federation and developing countries.")

This month McGill started proceedings to sue  Porter for $287,000 for non-repayment of a "housing loan" which has involves a condo right across from the soon-to-be-vacated hospitals.

But Porter is nowhere to be found.  He left post office box addresses in the Caribbean, and when La Presse sent reporters to check out one of properties he owns in the Bahamas, he answered a telephone call, but responded to no questions and said he was "out of the country."

Hmmmm.  Very interesting.  So is the fact that Université de Montréal sold for a vertiable song a convent buildiing it had acquired as  part of an elaborate plan de expand  its medical school to one of the suspect construction companies implicated in the construction scandal.  It should be noted that in this case the building also is prime real estate on the flanc  of Mount Royal. 

The watch dog group Les Amis de la montagne is calling for public hearings on the future of Mount Royal next spring, but it is probably too late to stop more infringements on the mountain.

And it certainly is too late to stop millions being made by speculators and others using  public money and playing on our desire to have good health care to cut themselves some nice deals. 

Building on a Swamp Doesn't Make It Not a Swamp, Or My Mother on Rising Sea Levels

The New York Times has an opinion piece today arguing that rebuilding along the New York and New Jersey shoreline in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not a good idea.   "Retreat from the Beach" it's called, and it points out that people know what locations are chancey, and have a for a long time.

"Respecting the power of these storms is not new," writes Orrin H. Pilkey. "American Indians who occupied barrier islands during the warm months moved to the mainland during the winter storm season. In the early days of European settlement in North America, some communities restricted building to the bay sides of barrier islands to minimize damage. In Colombia and Nigeria, where some people choose to live next to beaches to reduce exposure to malarial mosquitoes, houses are routinely built to be easily moved. "

My mother, who loved the beach and delighted in living not far from one in San Diego, also was careful to buy a house on high ground.  "You can build on a swamp, but that doesn't make it any less a swamp," she said many times.  It was good advice decades and decades ago,  and it becomes more pertinent as sea levels rise with climate change.

BTW, the picture is of Sunset Cliffs, where she loved to sit and watch the surf, but where she would never have bought. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Super Rich, Austerity and Life in the These Difficult Times

Chrystia Freeland says that the top .01 per cent control about 8 per cent of the world's wealth.  So crazy that's is probably true!  Check out her interview on CBC's The Current  or her book. The Plutocrats.

So why should anybody be surprised that, finally, protests against austerity for everybody else are coming together in Southern Europe

Maybe the next revolutionary slogan should be: ordinary folk of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but you bosses.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Jeanne Visitng, Grandma Busy...

Elin and her friends are heading for Victoria today, to round out their Western tour.  They got a lovely feature in Vancouver's Georgia Straight, and sounds like their audiences have been most appreciative.

Jeanne and Emmanuel have done quite nicely in Elin's absence, but he's doing school workshops this week, so Jeanne has come to spend some quality and quantity time with Grandma and Grandpa (or Mana and Bada as she calls us: go figure.)  That means that my posts will be sporadic this week while we have a good time together....

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Saturday Photo: The Burning Bush

Don't know the name of this shrub, but it has been spectacular over the last week or so.  The leaves are falling now, but for a while they blazed.

Gorgeous, and perhaps a harbinger, which we didn't see, of the end of the long slog toward a slightly left  of centre election in the US.


US--Finally, Perhaps--Becomes More Secular, But What Does That Mean for Science?

The results of Tuesday's election seem to show that the appeal and influence of the Christian right wing, both Catholic and Protestant, is waning.  Maybe not a lot, but enough so thata Obama won as did measures to legalize same-sex marriage and decriminalize marijuana possession.  The New York Times today has an interesting analysis of this trend.

But if the US is becoming more secular, will that have any effect on the striking scientific nay-saying that shows up in attitudes toward evolution?  A poll released last summer showed that 46 per cent of Americans believe in Creationism,  32 percent believed in theistic evolution and 15 percent believed in evolution without any divine intervention.

There's a lot of talk about making Ameicans cutting edge when it comes to science and technology, but when one of the foundation blocks of scientific thinking is so roundly denied, one can't have much hope.

BTW,  61 percent of Canadians and 69 per cent of Britons think human beings evolved from simpler life forms.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Small World Dept: The Walter Art Museum Shows a Portrait of Africans in Europe Long Ago

One of the things that fascinated me in my research for Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure was the evidence of contact on a nearly-equal basis between some Europeans and Africans  following the great European wave of exploration. 

For example, after the Portuguese reached Kongo at the end of the 15th century, Dom Affonso, the Kongolese king, sent his son and other members of his family to study in Portugal, and he himself wrote quite acceptable Portuguese.  

And  the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was the grandson of a man from an African royal family (sometimes recorded as being from Chad, sometimes Abyssinia), who was captured, sent to the Turkish capital of Constantinople in the mid-eighteenth century, and then sold to the Russian Tsar.  His elite status was recognized from the beginning; he was sent to France for military training and ended up marrying into a wealthy land-owning family.

 These contacts left traces in a number of works of art, many of which are on display at recently opened exhibit ‘Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe,’ at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.  The portrait of the  thoughtful woman above dates from 1580: she was a slave but her steady, intelligent gaze says much about her character and about what the painter (probably Anibale Caracci) thought about her. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Getting Things to Work: It's up to the Republicans

First question of the day: how will Obama convince the Republican majority House to sign on to his plans?
 
Probably the only way that  will happen is if the Republicans themselves change.

Second question of the day: Will they?
Maybe, with two "ifs." If they decide to change in order to appeal to a broader base, and if they realize that big money can't buy elections.
 Place your bets, Mesdames, Messieurs.

Google Annoys Me with Birthday Greetings

How does Google know when my birthday is?  I have very deliberately avoided listing it on Facebook (although apparently you can find it: a friend did yesterday) and in replying to those who ask to include me on their birthday calendars.

Nevertheless, this morning when I opened Google I was greeted with "Google" spelled out in cakes and candles.  I presume they got that information from my registry info but I certainly never gave permission for them to use it in any way.

Bah humbug!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Krugman Speaks from the Other Side of the World: Obama Won't Do Anything Stupid

Seems that Paul Krugman was in Singapore yesterday (must have voted in an advance poll or by mail.)   He had some most interesting things to say, as quoted in the Bloomberg newsletter:

“If it’s possible, we could use some modest additional stimulus, mostly in the form of aid to state and local governments.

“A lot of what’s required right now is just plain not doing anything stupid that derails the recovery. We can count on President Obama not to do anything stupid.

“We have a still very extreme Republican party so legislation is going to be very difficult to pass and there are going to be sharp limits on what Obama can do. To the extent that he is going to have big achievements in his second term, it’s mostly because he’s already passed the legislation.”

Work on the Ground Wins Election for Obama

Mitt Romney helped Obama a bit with his stupid comment about Big Bird, but what really won the election was slogging in the trenches, that is work on the ground.

You have to connect with the voters, have to be on the game all the time if you want to get them out to the polls.

Occasionally there are crazy sweeps, like the Orange Wave in Canada in 2011, or times when public enthusiasm runs ahead of the ground game.  That happened in 2008 with the Obama victory, but this time around it was just plain, hard work.

There's a lesson here for all of us political junkies.  Now let us hope that the Obama team turns it attention to wresting the country away from the Republicans in Congress, and listening to people like Paul Krugman who really have the interests of the country and the world at heart. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Politics in November 2012: Now in the Autumn of Our Discontent...

Shakespeare was has Richard III say "winter"  but the sentiment is appropriate this season.  Not only has a liar got a chance at winning the White House, Gerald Tremblay, the mayor of Montreal, has resigned after flurry of revelations about corruption in city government.

To give Tremblay credit, I don't think he ever was as self-deluding a prevaricator as Romney seems to have always been.  And in this legal system, a person is innocent until proven guilty.  But it is tragic that politics has once again thrown up evidence of the way twisted men can manipulate the system.

Tremblay began his resignation speech by saying, in French,  that "When I was a young man, my father told me not to get into politics because it was dirty and would destroy me."  The current scandals do nothing to change that impression among a large percentage of the population, unfortunately.

Politics should be a high calling.  Politicians have the well being of everyone in their hands.  That millions will wait in line to vote in the US today, and that thousands around here are looking for change for the better is a tribute to faith in the system.  Let us hope that faith is respected.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Hello There, Are You Listening? Obama for President

Four years ago I spent the three days before the US presidential election telephoning to prospective voters in a several states, particularly Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Nevada.  The message was a general get out the vote one, much like what we use around here, and I figured that calling where my accent wouldn't be offensive might help the cause. (I'm a dual citizen and vote by absentee in California, so I feel I have every right to campaign in the US for president)

This time around it seems that the phone banks are even more efficient, but people aren't answering.  In an evening of calling into Ohio last week, I only got one person who picked up, which according to The New York Times is par for the course. People are tired of getting calls, although someone knocking on your door still gets an answer.

Campaigns are about getting out the vote as much as they are about issues.  As a foot soldier in many, many elections, I know what a slog it can be, but also just how important it is.

Needless to say, I was discouraged after my evening's effort, so despite the fact that I expected I'd spend quite a bit of time helping out with telephones, I'm reduced to keeping my fingers crossed when it comes to the US.

But the unspent energy may come in handy here, where we've got a big battle ahead of us, three years down the line...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Milestone Passed for 2012

Snow flakes this morning!  Reprieve from the worst?

My birthday is Nov. 8, and ever since we've been in Montreal, the first snow flakes have fallen before then.  Lee was sure that we wouldn't get any this year--not with temperatures in the 20s last week as warm air was sucked north by Sandy. 

But this morning, as we were preparing to go for a walk with Jeanne, it flurried for about 10 minutes.  Nothing on the ground, but still....


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Saturday Photo: Leaves Almost All Gone...

Frost forecast for tomorrow.  The season is finally changing...

Friday, 2 November 2012

Come Talk about Richler's Best--Barney's Version--in French and English

I'm nearly to the end of Barney's Version, Mordecai Richler's last novel.  It's not the first time I've read it, but next Tuesday I'll be leading a causerie littéraire at the Bibliothèque Robert-Bourassa in Outremont on the book.

It was suggested by one of the core members, and since the group is mostly Francophone, I imagine that the French translation, Le monde de Barney,  will be in front of participants Tuesday. 

In a way that's too bad, because the translation doesn't do Richler's work justice.  I switched over the English original after about 100 pages in frustration.  But the work is very interesting, the best thing Richler did after Duddy Kravitz, who BTW makes a cameo appearance in the book. 

So I'd like to extend an invitation to everyone who hates or loves Richler to come discuss this funny, provoking book at 7:30 pm. Tuesday, November 6 in the Salle Joseph-Beaubien of the Bibliothèque Robert-Bourassa (and wouldn't Richler love that irony), 41, St. Just, Outremont. 

Go Figure Department: Gas Shortages in New York/New Jersey But Rises Low in Montreal

If you ever wondered why or how gasoline prices are determined, your questions should get deeper this week.  We've been told that spikes in prices comes from shortages:  shutting down production at various drilling operatons because of hurricans has been given in the past as a reason for summertime increases.

Over the last couple of weeks prices in Montreal have been as high as $1.43 a litre--not as high in the summer of 2008, but almost.  Then came Sandy, and you'd think the price would continue to rise.  Certainly The New York Times notes this morning that a scarcity of gasoline in the greater New York agglomeration is making life more difficult for people trying to cope with Sandy's aftermath.

But, hey, last night the price here was around $1.26  a litre!  Makes no sense at all, even if you take into considertion  the fact that Montreal and New York aren't the same market. 

And last week I bought gas at $1.36 a litre, thinking I was doing well.  We haven't driven much since then, so there was no point in trying to fill up yesterday, one of the ironies of not driving much being that sometimes you can't take advantage of a bargain.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Pumpkin Pie Coming Up, One of These Days

No, I haven't made the pie yet.  The pumpkin with the face that Jeanne and I carved last weekend is still on the front porch.

But never fear, it will be used to make pumpkin pie whenever I get a few minutes.

Waste not, want not: I was appalled at how many pumpkins were sitting out to be collected by the trash man today.  In busy, two career families, I can see how making pies can disappear in the cracks of daily living, but it still makes me sad to see the waste. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween 2012: Pretty Scary Time

The photo shows the kind of low level Halloween decorations I like.  Seems that the holiday has overtaken Christmas when it comes to expenses for store bought goodies.  That's a frightening thought, but not as frightening as what is going on around us.

Three examples:

1.  An American election campaign where nobody talks about climate change until New York city takes it in the teeth from a very strange storm that might be a harbinger of the new world order. 

2. The Conservatives in Canada are falling all over themselves, trying to imitate the US Right Wing.  Latest example: it looks like they want to privatize the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation.

3.  The Republican candidate for the US Presidency still says that the federal government should a limited role in dealing with disaster.

4. Those weather satellites which at least warned folks what was coming are old and need replacing, but Congress has dragged itself feet at doing so.  

I could go on, because it's too depressing,  Better to think about the cute little beaver costume Jeanne is wearing....

BTW,  here's a link to some ideas for decorating, in case you still feel in a party mood.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

La Folia--Great New Music Coming Your Way from Elin, Cléo and Tawnie

Attention all of you in Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and Gabriola Island: you have a crazy treat in store! New music for flute, hyper-flute, viola da gamba and harpsichord is coming your way. Fiolûtrôniq--that is Elin Soderstrom, Cléo Quentin-Palacio and Tawnie Olson--will be performing new works on the theme, La Folia, over the next two weeks in a hall near you.

 


Here are the details

Les Folles Alliées – On tour !

______________________________
EDMONTON
Folles alliées – Concert
Friday, November 2 @ 8 pm
Muttart Hall, Alberta College
10050 Macdonald Drive, Edmonton, AB
http://newmusicedmonton.ca/
Masterclass at University of Alberta
Saturday, November 3 (exact time and room t.b.c.)
______________________________
VANCOUVER
Events @ Western Front
303 East 8th Ave., Vancouver, BC
New Orchestra Workshop Improvisation Series
Workshop given by Cléo Palacio-Quintin
Monday, November 5 @ from 4 – 6pm and 7:30 – 9:30pm
http://www.noworchestra.com/workshops
Composers Workshop with Fiolûtröniq and Katelyn Clark
In collaboration with CMC and LCC
November 7 @ 7 pm (Free)
Folles alliées – Concert
Thursday, November 8 @ 8 pm
Western Front, Vancouver (co-presented by Music on Main)
Advance Tickets: $12 General / $10 Students & WF Members (Processing fees apply)
Door Tickets: $15 General / $12 Students & WF Members
http://front.bc.ca/events/folles-alliees-fiolutroniq/
______________________________
GABRIOLA ISLAND
Folles alliées – Acoustic Concert
Friday, November 9 @ 5:30 pm
The Net Loft
______________________________
VICTORIA
Folles alliées – Concert
Thursday, November 15 @ 8 pm
Open Space
510 Fort Street, 2nd floor, Victoria,

Monday, 29 October 2012

Romney on Diaster Relief: Preferably Privatize It

I didn't think this was for real when I first saw reference to it, but here's the clip. According to the Huffington Post, his staff today, as Sandy raged, reaffirmed this position.

 "Absolutely," Romney said in this primary debate. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?"
 

Waiting for Sandy: Storm Surf

Well, actually it's not supposed to be so bad here. But I couldn't resist.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday Photo: Woodside Cottage on a Busy Street

I must have walked by this house on  Chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine thousands of times, literally, but always on the other side of the street.  This week I took a closer look though, and discovered that the house is 135 years old.

There's a plaque in front, saying that it was built in 1867-68 by a pioneer in the neighborhood   David Edward who was the first mayor of Outremont after it was incorporated in 1875.  The house now sit on a busy thoroughfare, which still follows a curving track made by    Native Canadians  who took it around Mount Royal.

This time of year the trees surrounding the house are turning colour, and the flower beds are full of autumnal asters.  But it hasn't turn so cold that the fountain has been turned off, so the splash of water competes with the traffic noises.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Silliness Because the US Election Is So Close and So Scary: Wintergreen for President

The first time I heard this was in 1960 when George and Ira Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing was performed  at UC Berkeley with the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign in the background. 

I was charmed and I've always thought that the spoof had many interesting things to say: remember it was first performed in 1931 when Hoover was president, and FDR was preparing to run for the office.  The musical ran for 441 night on Broadway, and what FDR accomplished ran four nearly five decades (check out Paul Krugman on that.)

Anyway, with the Romney-Obama face lurching toward its conclusion, this is worth laughing at, it seems to me.
 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Wages of Sin Are Hard to Spend, Or Why the Bad Guys Have Caches of Cash

What you see to the left is part of the cash that Guy Suprenant, the Montreal engineer who accept wads of money for boosting payments to dishonest contractors, turned over to police before he began testifying to the Charbonneau commission on fraud in the construction industry.

He's said that he received more than $600,00 straight out and another $100,000 in jaunts and dinners and golf trips.  Part of the cash he used to buy presents for his children, but he didn't know what to do with the rest.  Finally he started spending it at the Montreal casino, because at least thata way it would go back int he province;s coffers, he's said.

Then yesterday the anti-fraud squad seized the contents of several safety deposit boxes belonging to Gille Vaillancourt, mayor of Laval, the suburb north of Montreal.  It has not been officially confirmed, but the boxes also contained lots of cash.

And then there's the weird case of Brian Mulroney who had several hundred thousand in a safe at his home: how it got there is an interesting story, why he kept it there is probably even more interesting. 

Because the fact is that it's really hard to get rid of ill-gotten gains.  You can't declare them on your income tax, deposit them in the bank, invest some for a rainy day  and  then just spend a bit at a time.  You'll be leaving a paper trail that is hard to deny.  You may even feel guilty...


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Paying for Writing: Douglas & McIntyre and The Globe and Mail

The celebrated Canadian publisher Douglas & McIntyre has  just announced that it is filing for protection from its creditors.  In other words, it is trying to avoid bankruptcy and complete meltdown by reorganizing financially.  This means, most likely, that its creditors will be forced to accept only a percentage of repayment, which further means that writers once again are going to be standing with their hands out, hoping for a few pennies.

At the same time, The Globe and Mail is going to a protected website where you'll have to pay for on-line access after you view 10 stories in a month.  There is a way out: subscribe to the print edition.  Fine, if you can get home delivery in your area, but otherwise it's another blow in the battle for the future of publishing.

Presumably those writing for the Globe will be paid for what they're doing.  The wars over compensation for articles done from a newspaper and published on the web seem to be over.  Some back pay for articles stolen  was won.  Newspapers are back using  freelancers, it seems, but nobody is making the kind of money that used to be paid for a good, meaty article 15 years ago, according to my friends who continue to that sort of writing.

 No, it's hard to see just where publishing is going, but the future doesn't look bright for anybody who hopes ot make a living at it.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Conrad Black, Vito Rizzuto, but Not Omar Khadr?

Vito Rizzuto who recently finished a prison term in the US for involvement in a gangland killing, was whisked back to Canada as soon as he stepped out of jail. Conrad Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship before his financial shenigans landed him in jail, came back on a temporary permit as soon as he was released.

But Omar Khadr, arrested at 15 in a war zone,  had to wait in the Gitmo prison for years before he was re-admitted to the country where he was born. 

Another example of the Law of Very Important Persons, it seems to me. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Planting Daffodils: Confidence in the Future?

Time to do something about the garden.  I spent most of the morning cleaning out the compost bin, including watering various places with the compost tea that collects in the bottom of our system.

The stuff is stinky, and must be diluted about 1 part to 10 parts of water, or it burns plants.  One of my nightmares is that for some reason I don't empty the gunk in the fall, the liquid freezes furing the winter, and bursts the recipient so that come spring, the potentially good stuff pools around the bin, killing everything it touches. 

But that job is done for this year, as is planting  a dozen daffodils in front.  They are my favourite flower and are supposed to naturalize in a garden like mine.  That's never happened, but I keep hoping, putting in a few bulbs each fall to come up along with the tulips, snow drops and scylla, all of which return year after year with no help from me. 

The planting and preparation for the next year are a gardener's magical investment in the future.  There, you are in effect saying, we'll get through this winter all right, the sun will come up tomorrow morning, and life will go on. 


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Saturday Photo: The Last of the Roses

Roses are related to apples. I always that was an interesting fact, one of those things to tuck away to bring out when playing a trivia game. 

But this picture of rose hips shows just how much the mature seed pod of the rose looks like an apple.  They're also supposed to be full of vitamin C, so that drinking herbal teas made from them is touted as being very healthy.

They're pretty too, particularlyl this time of the year, just before the rose leaves fall.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Advertising Offensive, Or Offensive Advertising?



The newspapers I read have been full of advertising from the Canadian  Association of Petroleum Producers with pictures of attractive "real" people extolling the virtues of the Alberta Oil Sands projects.

 This is one of the videos that go with the ads: Chelsie Klassen, who works in community relations for Imperial Oil, telling just how much good the oil industry does. Posted about a month ago, it goes hand in hand with a blitz to convince Americans that Canadian oil is "ethical" oil.

 The idea is that since Canada is better on the human rights front than other oil supplies--the example given is Saudi Arabia where women "can't even drive"--everyone should get behind the efforts to exploit the oil sands and bring the oil to the US.

All garbage, if you ask me. Aa is the pussy-footing that both Romney and Obama did when asked about oil in the debate earlier this week. The bottom line is that we have to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel products, because there's no way to develop them in a way that isn't doing more harm than good.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Person's Day: When Women Got Recognition in Canada

One of the shocking things about life in the 21st century is how we quickly forget the fights of the past.  Today is Person's Day, the anniversary of the British Privy Council (yes, it was the highest tribunal with jurisdiction over Canada at the time) declared that women were persons in the eye's of the law.  The year was 1929, which wasn't all that long ago...

The Famous Five who challenged women's "non-person" status were  Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby.  Mothers of the country, indeed.




Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Virtual Mothering from the UK: A Tradiition Continues

Spending time first with Jeanne and now with Thomas, I'm much more aware of the ways that the virtual world affects life.  Among them is the ease with which you can Google information about development steps, childhood illnesses, child-rearing practices and other things.

But I hadn't heard of this UK group with considerable political clout, Mumsnet until The New York Times had a story about it.  Very interesting the way the group uses polls to decide who advertises and what issues to champion, all the while providing an on-line forum for advice and comfort. 

The British mail order retailer Mothercare was a great source when our kids were little: glad to see that the tradition continues in a different form. 

And by the way, so does Mothercare with the great terry cloth diapers that are the best reusable ones still (or so I think, having looked rather closely at what's available here.) 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

As Exciting as "Garbo Smiles"

Thomas Edouard Soderstrom has begun to smile, and his Grandma spent most of the day playing with him. Therefore no post today, but lots of happy smiles.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Thinking about Maybe Going to Brazil in January

I've got a new non-fiction book project running around in my head.  Called Road through Time, it will be about the marks we humans leave on the world, and other things.

My plan would see me go to Brazil to, among other things, take a two day bus ride from Rio Branco in eastern Amazonia across the Andes to Cuzco. Don't know if it will work out, but I'm going to have to get back to working on my Portuguese. Here's the original Orfeu Negro, the great movie from the 1950s that introduced me--and many others--to the country. Don't be fooled by the 1990s remake, this is the real thing.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Saturday Photo: The Season Advances

It's not even the middle of October, but the Halloween decorations are out, and Reno Depot already is showing some Christmas decorations. 

But the colour are nice, so I suppose instead of railing against crass comercialism, maybe we should enjoy the show.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Apple Time: Caillou, Jeanne and Me

One of the great times of the year is when local apples start arriving at the markets. My favourite is the Cortland, which doesn't arrive usually until mid-October. They were a little early this year, as were most fruits around here, and I've already made apple pies.

Jeanne helped me last weekend. The pies were for Thanksgiving, and she rolled out the pastry dough, in her own wonderful, two-year old fashion. All along she was telling me about something that happened at the day care centre that I really didn't understand until her mother explained later that they'd picked apples (hung from the trees in the little courtyard before hand) and then made some kind of pie or crumble with them.

 Obviously the whole thing made a big impression on her, and perhaps this weekend we'll watch the following episode in the Caillou series. She's currently very taken by the little bald-headed kid, who made a fortune but ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada when it came time to share the profits.

 Is there a lesson there? Don't know except to acknowledge that little kids can be powerful