Curiosity is terminal

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas

RossK and the fine folks at Payday are doing wonderfully with the Christmas carols. I encourage you to visit both blogs for some musical cheer.
 Various societal, political and environmental events have made me alternately too maudlin and furious to post nicely. But I do want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy season full of love and kindness and hopefully, some peace.

Thank you all for being part of my life.  You improve it vastly and I am more grateful than you can know.  I wish you all good things for the season and the new year.  

Here is my favourite carol on one of my favourite instruments:

The video doesn't load on some iPads for some reason , I think you can see it here.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Yes, Virginia, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

So.  That time of year again.  This year I received a copy of this:

        It was taken in about 1970.  That's my mom and dad.  Every year my dad would buy a couple of extra boxes of mandarin oranges and a big bag of ribbon mix candy, and on December 24 he would get into that suit.  One of the other dads in the neighbourhood would take him all over the neighbourhood on a snowmobile (I grew up in Almost The Middle of Nowhere, where a snowmobile was a common method of winter transportation, not just a recreational vehicle.)  At all the houses with kids there would be a gift for each child at the foot of the front porch.  Dad would pick it up on his way in, stuff it into his sack of gifts and Ho! Ho! Ho! into the living room of all the wide-eyed kids I grew up with.  Everyone got a gift, an orange and a bagful of hard candy.  I grew up with the notion that Santa Claus was my father. 
         I learned to read at 4.  I am quite certain I could not read well enough at 4 to read that famous editorial,  but I remember reading it in ATMON's local paper when I was a little girl.  I vividly remember sitting on our forest green living room carpet, with the paper spread out before me, and reading these words:
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.  Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus."
and knowing how right Francis Pharcellus Church was.  My father was Santa Claus.  He was (and is) kind and knowing and generous and helpful to a fault.  I knew that the workshop at the North Pole was a fiction, but I understood with every fibre of my being that Santa Claus was a state of mind. 

          It's a state of mind that is easy to lose.   Obligations and expectations and commercial manipulation conspire to make it easily the most disappointing and difficult season of all.   Today was our annual union Christmas party for the carpenter's children.  There is food and music and crafts to keep the kids busy till Santa arrives to hand out gifts and candy.  There are about 10 of us that put the thing on, and we can't seem to get anyone else to help.  But Santa said today, before he put on his suit, that it doesn't matter.  The 10 of us care.  We are the ones who organize and participate in all the stuff in our lives, and we like each other and its really for the kids, so who the hell cares if its always just the 10 of us? Today's Santa is a man who has been my foreman on many a scaffold job and I was thrilled to attend his wedding this summer.  He and his wife have the Santa Claus state of mind.  Today, his grandson recognized him in that suit, and his daughter didn't know how to deal with it, so she told him he can't do it next year.  Which is dreary and  kind of breaks my heart, because growing up with a Santa Claus dad (or grandpa) is a special kind of security.  But it's okay, too, because my partner happens to have a Santa Claus state of mind.  So he is going to wear the suit next year.  And I am going to get to be Mrs Claus.

I never could figure out what the big deal was with that song.  Who else would he kiss?

Monday, 14 October 2013


Remember the picture of the snowy tree I posted in April?  Here it is in October.  

This is the prettiest I have ever seen it.  I have lived behind this tree now for 24 years.  As I said in April, all the seasons are different.  Last fall, it turned an odd milky brown.  This past spring, right after it bloomed (and I put off taking a picture too long) it was attacked by tent caterpillars.  It took a terrible thrashing.  All of its leaves were eaten and the caterpillars were spinning long, strong threads to parachute out of the tree again.  It looked like something out of a horror film.  It recovered.  

We had a hot summer.  I don't like the heat; at over 30 degrees I get lethargic and a  heatwave makes me disoriented.  If I remember correctly we had about 8 days all summer with rain. We spent as much of the summer at the lake as possible, and I tried to pretend that all was right with the world, at which I mostly failed on account of I am addicted to newspapers and the CBC.

We had company from New Bruswick for a few weeks in August and we took them to Jasper for a week.   I love seeing people seeing the mountains for the first time.

So now summer is over and everything is back to normal.  The Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance took a bit of a hiatus over the summer, and now is back to showing films and responding to Enbridge and Joe Oliver.

Have you seen that Enbridge is writing poetry these days?  And that they and their government spokesthingies are promising all kinds of advanced technological spill response procedures?

Newspeak.  Don't believe a word of it.

Here is my response to their world-class spill response, which you may have seen me posting elsewhere  as a comment:  

I teach fall protection, scaffold inspection and construction and forklift operation.  The main component of all of our courses is safety. We hammer hazard awareness.  While I was researching the curriculum for my scaffold courses, I learned that in the last 20 years, the rate of on the job safety incidents has not decreased.  We have more safety regulations, more policies and processes, more and better safety equipment than we had 20 years ago.  Every industry has a morning safety meeting and everyone in all trades knows what a job hazard analysis is because we all fill one out at least every day, and sometimes several a day.  And yet the rate of on-the-job safety incidents has not decreased.  The one thing that has not changed is people.  We still all go around in our own little bubbles of awareness (or not as the case may be) and we still have myriad things to distract our attention, especially the things we do by rote.  The Enbridge oil spill in Michigan was signalled by their spill response technology, but human error misread the signal, and turned up the pressure, allowing dilbit to spill into the Kalamazoo for 17 hours.  The Exxon Valdez ran aground because the captain of the ship was distracted.  The Queen of the North ferry  sunk near Hartley Bay because someone did not attend to warning signals.  The MM&A train rolled down a hill and blew up Lac Megantic's downtown because humans decided to have fewer engineers responsible for the train and mislabeled the contents of the tank cars.  Stupidity, personal problems, inability to pay attention, greed: none of these things are going to be solved by a world class spill response.

I think the Northern Gateway is a bad idea. I think Line 9 and Keystone XL are bad ideas.  I think expanding the tarsands is not just a bad idea; I think it is a monstrous, disastrous idea.   I have no idea whether we have passed a climate tipping point or not, but evidence seems to suggest we have, and evidence suggests that spewing more carbons into the atmosphere by burning more fossil fuels is going to turn up the heat even more.  If we can invent the technology for a world class spill response, we can invent the technology that doesn't need such a thing.

It was an unusual summer in Atmon.  It was an unusual summer  all over the globe.  Unusual is probably the new normal.  How I wish I could pretend that all is right with the world.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

My Blackberry Has a Mind of Its Own


It is NOW time to listen to RossK.

I have a two year old blackberry.  It has no music, no funky ringtones.  I don't use any apps on it.  It sends and receives phone calls and text messages.  I use its browser, and it has an RSS feed with about two dozen blogs on it.

I was just blackening chicken (cajun, not burning, smarty pants) and my blackberry, across the room began to spontaneously play the first playlist from the link above.  I have no idea why.  I do listen to the music on that post quite a bit, so I recognized RossK's voice covering the Lumineers immediately, but I have never used the phone for that purpose.  On inspection, I also could not find any of the phone's programs open.  Just RossK's voice and guitar.   It is a mystery.  

But a very fine idea for music by which to blacken chicken, toss a salad and drink wine.  Cheers!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013



I just finished a bunch of slippers for my east coast family.

Pardon me?  They look a little large?  Why, yes, as a matter of fact, big red noses do run the family!

Actually, you wash them in hot water and agitate them quite hard and they turn into this:

I agitated these by reading Stephen Harper's Canada Day address to them.  

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Jobs and Prosperity (or Round Holes, Square Pegs)

I am in the skills training business.  I work for a growing scaffold company.  I research, write manuals and teach scaffolding.  Scaffold is part of the carpentry trade (except when it is part of the boilermaker's trade, but that is another story), and it is covered in the classroom time in a carpenter's apprenticeship.  It gets a whopping 2 days-max.

This is the kind of thing that scaffolders do routinely these days:

I think it takes more than 2 days to learn how to do this safely.  Of course, my job kind of depends on me believing that, so feel free comment on cognitive dissonance and give me hell...

So we do more extensive training than two days.  Mostly we offer it through the carpenter's union.  But we have recently been approached by some First Nations training providers.  Now, the provider that called us here in BC and offered courses was a private outfit.  They do all kinds of extensive training, including something called life skills and work readiness.  They really screen the applicants for the scaffold training to make sure they have a good shot at success.  We ran a class for them in 2011.  All the students passed and were immediately hired for a local shutdown.  Several of them were called back for subsequent shutdowns. (Generally and historically scaffolding is not continuous employment.  Like all construction projects, the job eventually gets finished and you have to find something else.  Scaffolding is even more short term than framing houses or pouring concrete high-rises.)    Not all of them kept their memberships in the union.  One or two had other trades and work back and forth.  But three of them  have been continuously employed ever since.

Now a First Nations training provider has called from Saskatchewan.  This one has direct involvement with the provincial government and twice we have talked to someone from the Saskatchewan government about what we offer and what they need.  This is my take and my concerns on what we have heard.  There is a lot of potash to mine in Saskatchewan.  I don't know just what scaffolding goes on in mines, but it does because we have a good number of employees working in mines at any given time.  And Saskatchewan apparently has a shortage of people to put scaffold up in mines. But an abundance of unemployed First Nations, also apparently.  So this government rep tells us about a program they had where they screened candidates, sent them to live in a mine camp for some number of weeks, put them in training in the mornings and had them working on the mine site in the afternoons.  In the end I think 3 or 4 of 12 kept at it.  Some quit early, and some finished but didn't carry on.  

Personally, I think work camps are a sociological nightmare.  I have never lived in a camp, but I have been a carpenter since 1994, and I have worked with hundreds of men - many of whom have lived in camps and been broken by them in one way or another.  Deep, soul destroying boredom breaks them.  Substances break them.  Marriages break.  Relationships with children suffer.  I don't know a single man who worked in camps, has good relationships with his kids with an intact marriage who didn't have to fight like hell to come back from the brink of disaster. 

So I am not surprised at all that this program lost such a lot of its participants.  When you take people away from their home and support, I don't think you are doing them any favours.  But the person we talked to is surprised.  It is good paying work.  Period.  That's it.  

I wonder how long we can labour away at this from this precise mindset?  Here is some earth-raping that some far-removed corporation can make money from.  Lets build some kind of huge industrial earth-raping process that will require a lot of man-power (although significantly less manpower than we might use if we did the job in a less mechanical/technical/earth-raping way) and then train people to do these industrial processes, in artificial and simulated communities. And then wonder why society is unwell.  

What if it's not the workers who won't behave?  What if the hole we are trying to hammer them into is absolutely the wrong shape and toxic to boot?  

Here is a blasphemous statement: I don't really want a job.  I want a purpose. I want to contribute.  But not to someone's stupid abstract economy.  I want to contribute to your life. And to the earth.  What if I am not alone? 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Pardon My Tinfoil Hat

I have a suspicious nature. 

The BC Liberals are either liars or they cannot keep promises.  I am not suspicious about that, but I am suspicious about everything they say.  They were not going to tear up contracts, sell BC Railor bring in the HST, and they have no deficit.  Those are all lies.

Just now  Her Unelectedness has announced that BC does not support the Northern Gateway Pipeline.  She has not cancelled the equivalency agreement, which means that BC's opinion doesn't mean much, and it's kind of a toothless announcement.

Perhaps all those letters that LeadNow bestirred BC's residents to write had something to do with that.  Maybe she has been swayed by this. 

But I kind of doubt it.  She does not have a seat in the Legislature.  She has to win a by-election to get one.  At least one person has promised to make it the fight of her life, and I bet he'll have help. 

Will this be yet another broken promise?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Learning Curve

I have had three violin lessons.  I am reading music a little,  and I can find 4 notes on the A and E strings.  I can play a halting but recognizable "Twinkle Twinkle." Moving from one note to the next is not quick, but my teacher says I am faster and my ear is coming along. I am trying to trust her on that.  

It's not music yet.  Don says he can "hear" my tension, but that I am more relaxed today than I was three weeks ago.  

I have had enough years of learning new things that I can be amused now at my tension and frustration.  I know that when a skill is sufficiently out of my comfort zone I feel absolutely wooden in the steps and I feel like I might never get it.  Not that that makes me less tense or frustrated, but perseverance is easier now.  

Whenever I am learning something new, or when I am teaching someone a skill,  I remember Rhonda from my first job.  

When I was 17 I got a job as a carhop at an A&W drive-in.  I was so thrilled.  When I was a child it was a great treat to go to the A&W with my parents.  I  always thought the carhops looked so confident, walking down the walk with trays full of rootbeer in frosty mugs.  I learned right away that the trays are slippery and the mugs are heavy, that the change clip on my belt would jam at inopportune moments and that it was not easy to manipulate the small sheaf of paper money we wore wrapped around our middle fingers with just one hand.  I watched Rhonda, who was incidentally also tall and graceful, carry a tray in each hand and be able to set one deftly on a window, manage payment for the order with one hand and then take the second to it's destination.  She  was calm, cool and collected.  I was in awe.  It took me three days  to even have the nerve to talk to her.  "How long have you been doing this?"  I finally asked her, expecting her to tell me months and months.  I was floored when she answered, "Since last Wednesday."

Carhopping was easier than driving, knitting, sewing, building a house or decently mentoring a carpentry apprentice, parenting and just about everything else I can do. And carhopping was definitely easier than learning to play the violin.  But I still think that moment with Rhonda, and the fact that in a week I was as good and confident a carhop as she was one of the most instructive ones in my life.  

Hey Rhonda?  Wherever you are: Thanks.  

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Hand That Feeds Us...

Yesterday was Earth Day.

The Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance had a little gathering.  We started at 5:30 pm in the parking lot of the Enbridge office, which, by the way, has no signs identifying it and has 2 surveillance cameras on each side of the building.  That's it in the left of this picture.

There were some DIY and waste reduction demonstrations going on at a local community space a few km away, so we walked there together with our signs.  We walked on the main street that runs through town and we got quite a few honks and thumbs up.  

The Liberal campaign office happens to be on the way, so we thought we would stop and say hello.  We had big cards for our local liberals asking them to join us in defending our coast.  We had called the office to see what time they close and we were told 7 pm.  We arrived around 6.  

We took a few pictures and then a member of the group tried to go in and say hello and deliver the cards.  The doors were locked, and they forgot to turn the sign over.   

So we just left the card.  As we were about to leave, a Liberal supporter or volunteer arrived with doughnuts.  As she was approaching the door she said, "biting the hand that feeds you, are you?" 

We were not confrontational with her, and we told her we thought it was rude of them to lock her and her doughnuts out, wished her a happy Earth Day and continued on our way.  I meant to go back before 7 to see if they unlocked the door, but I was having a rather nice time at our celebration and I forgot.  

The Liberal whose sign can be seen in that last picture was once upon a time a School Trustee.  She was the trustee for the elementary school the Offspring attended. Said school was about 100 years old and it housed the neighbourhood public school,  the Programme Cadre French program, and the YMCA's daycare.  We had a thriving community association.  It was a beautiful old school.  (remind me sometime to tell you about the aesthetics, or lack thereof,  in Atmon) It had 12 foot ceilings and soaring windows. It had tall raised panel doors with transom windows over them.  It had wide hallways   and some wood floors.  It had character.  Beginning around 1990 the district stopped doing major maintenance to the school and it was beginning to suffer.  It had an old boiler that was not being properly maintained, its paint was chipped and peeling  and they stopped replacing windows.  The floors were not getting regular maintenance. It looked kind of slummy if you didn't love it.  (Aside: I also attended this school when I was 10.) In 1996 the district started trying to close it.  One of its infuriating arguments was that it was going to be too expensive to perform all the necessary repairs and maintenance.  The district's stated objective was to have a few superschools and close most of the neighbourhood schools.  We started a group called Save Our Community Schools, and we fought hard to keep our school and the others open.  All the community schools were housing other programs and I think we all had programs that brought in some revenue, like the Y in our school.  

Having Programme Cadre in the school was so wonderful.  We shared all our celebrations and in the english program we had the opportunity to learn about Quebec culture.  One of the celebrations we looked forward to every year was Carnivale, which gave us a whole week of fun activities, beginning on Monday with a pancake breakfast.  We invited our trustee to breakfast, and to show her all the wonderful things we were doing in that school.  I will never forget greeting her and welcoming her and thanking her for coming.  She had brought two men with her, and she was shaking as she took my hand. She did not meet my eye.   She was not gracious.  She was not friendly.  She did not make any attempt to engage with any of the parents or the children.  I thought then, and I think today that she is a coward and a small, small human being.  

We meant no violence, no harm whatsoever in visiting that office.  Some of us are constituents.  But we are certainly not represented.  Everyone at our rally cares deeply about the planet and our ability to exist on it without destroying it.  

I have to wonder, who is biting who? 

h/t to my friend Adam for the pictures  

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Winter and Spring on a Merry Chase in Atmon

The seasons in Atmon are completely unpredictable and unreliable.  Last summer was hot and bright and unrelentingly green.  Some summers turn brown and dusty by July.  Everything looks to be tired of the sun, gasping for a bit of rain or fog that never arrives.

This past autumn was very weird indeed.  The leaves turned colour on one side of a lot of trees, and there was a lot of very bright, but almost translucent yellow.  In the evening sun the trees that line the next street over seemed to have their own internal light source.  It was eerily beautiful.  A lot of trees turned a kind of soft brown, like milky tea, and the leaves stayed on all winter.

I love winter.  I am mostly fine with  the cold, and it can be very cold, although it seems less cold than the winters of my childhood.  I remember long stretches of -20 and -30 and -40 were not unusual at all.  I can't remember the last time it was -40.  We did have a few intermittent weeks of nearly -30 this year.  If it is cold it is usually sunny and bright, and if it is not, we can have everything covered in a glittering coat of hoarfrost, which is really beautiful, even if I never do seem to get a picture of it.   But winters can be long, sometimes getting underway early in October and lasting until April.  And we are all tired of it by then, no matter how much we like to ski or  snowshoe.

Spring some years makes the winter worth it.  Some years it is spectacularly colourful and fragrant.  Two years ago it even drowned out the smell of the pulp mills.  Instead of sulphur, you smelled apple blossom when you went outside. I don't remember that ever happening before.

This year winter and spring are having a hell of a good time with us.  Spring has started two or three times already.  Four weeks ago we went out to my  parents and shovelled  3 feet of snow off the north side of their roof.  It had been melting at the top, but the melt water was cooling and freezing by the time it got to the north overhang. Under the 3 feet of snow was a 12 inch ice dam. Three weeks ago we had 3 feet of snow in the yard, and then the temperature rose to 11 or 12 and the snow receded a foot from the edge of the sidewalks.   Then it snowed for 3 days.  Back and forth for three weeks.  Yesterday I had a tenacious little bump of snow around the trees in the front yard and bare lawn.  My vegetable gardens are completely bare and begging to be tidied up.  This morning I opened the door for the cat.  He saw this:

He gave me a look and a noise that I am quite certain was, "WTF?" and went back to bed.  

Two weeks ago we started the  tomatoes, which look like this this morning:

I don't suppose they are going outside in any hurry.  

One of my favourite harbingers of spring are the Seville oranges that turn up in the grocery store.  My grandmother always made marmalade in the spring, and my mom does too, occasionally.  I made marmalade once a few years ago.  Its a big job.  Slicing all that fruit nice and thin takes a long time, and a Seville orange has nearly as much mass in seeds as in peel.  It needs to be soaked, then reduced, then mixed with sugar and cooked.  Nothing much happens in the cooking for more than half an hour, the whole thing is just reducing.  But after 35-40 minutes or so, the caramelizing is obvious, and if you don't watch it it gets too dark and rubbery.  That was my first batch.  I still thought it was delicious, even if it was overcooked.  This year I spent nearly 2 days on a whole batch.   I'm happy with it.  

 Just as the first of our short warm spells started, I finished these

plus a second pair of the striped gloves for my mom, and we all laughed that it was good I was finishing up the gloves and mittens just in time to put them away for the year.  I guess winter got the last laugh on that one.  

I know the first day of spring is in March, but it is almost never "spring" here then.  Today is my parent's wedding anniversary (50 years!) and in the 36 years they have lived in their current house, this is one of only 3 years that the snow is not gone entirely from their front yard by their anniversary.  This day is always the beginning of spring for me.  Have a happy one.  

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A Disturbance in The Force

I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging communities.   I started blogging after 10 years of reading and lurking and sporadic commenting, because I wanted to fully join the conversation.  Over the years I have learned about bloggers,  and grown to know their voices and to care about them.  I really like the community of progressive bloggers and it is a relief to know there are others out there who care about the things I care about.  

A few bloggers have disappeared lately.  A few of them have announced their departures.  A few not.  In some cases, there was a change in tone before a disappearance which may have led more bloggers than myself to wonder if someone was okay.  Last week Lorne talked about the nature of this community and about missing people we have never met. 

Today  Jymn  posted a letter that made me ashamed.  Gretchen wrote to him to tell him that she was alarmed at the tone his blog had taken.  She said things that you should say when someone you care about is melting down.  I nearly quit reading Jymn’s blog this week.  It alarmed and frightened me.  And I didn’t know what to do about that.  I have been thinking about the way his posts make me feel- frightened and small and misunderstood- all week.  And also wondering what the hell to do, because if I felt frightened and misunderstood,  Jymn, saying these things, must feel really really bad. 

This sounds unrelated but it is not:  Last fall at a community meeting about serious city budget cuts, 0.002% of our population turned up.  Maybe it was apathy that kept some people away.  Maybe it was ignorance.  But I bet two big reasons were: "I had something else even more important," and "I don't know what to do to help."  After the meeting, discussing this with my partner I said, "what we need is a movement where we all turn to someone else and say, 'What can I do to make something easier for you?' "

I think of myself as a caring individual.  And someone I cared about was in pain.  If I want a movement, maybe I gotta start it myself.  

Jymn: What can I do to make something easier for you? 


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Help Me Out Here

So I am wondering if one of my four* readers can help me out?

I am trying to understand this nonsense about the Pacific Carbon Trust, and the notion of carbon offsets.  

As I understand it, a carbon offset is money paid by a polluter to a non polluter to keep not polluting, or possibly to some person or business to do some green thing like put a scrubber on a smokestack or plant a tree.

And the Pacific Carbon Trust is some kind of an exchange for these offsets?  So schools and hospitals are supposed to give the trust money so that  businesses like pulpmills can replace polluting equipment?

To editorialize that question: And the Pacific Carbon Trust is some kind of an exchange (or racket?) for these offsets?  So schools and hospitals (which have no income) are supposed to give the trust money so that businesses like pulpmills (which have quite a bit of income) can replace polluting equipment?

Maybe I will just disclose this:  I happen to live across the street from a hospital.  While I cannot possibly tell you how much energy it consumes, though I would guess it to be a lot, I can tell you that it does not seem to be a great provider of atmospheric pollution.  Likewise the two schools that are five blocks from me, one east and one west.  I also happen to live in a nice little geographic bowl, surrounding which are three pulpmills, three chemical plants and an oil refinery.  Let me tell you, they are definitely providers of atmospheric pollution.  People here in Atmon have been known to speak of the smell of money.  One of those mills was the recipient of a very very large amount of money with which to replace a big part of the mill last year.   When the prevailing winds are just right, and the clouds are just right,  our little hamlet still smells right "rich" if you get my drift.

I suppose I can kind of see that if I plant a tree, it might possibly "offset" the carbon emissions of my natural gas furnace, although I wonder how many trees it might actually take.  But this trust business I don't get.  I think it was supposed to help BC and its people, but if it takes tax money from schools and hospitals (which do not generate income) and gives it to privately owned companies (which are presumably turning profits), how does that benefit BC and it's people?

If someone can explain this to me I would be grateful.  I feel a little funny asking, because, well, it looks to me like the emperor is naked.  And that can't be right can it?

*I actually have 5 readers, but one of them lives in my house and we have talked about it, and we agreed that we didn't understand it.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I have decided to learn another language.  My first lesson is tonight.  

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hope Springs Eternal. Despite Moronic Government Pronouncements.

John Baird has recommended that Canada leaves the UN Droughts and Desert Convention.  And apparently we have.

Apropos of that,  I saw an interesting Ted Talk on the subject just last week.  It seems Allan Savoury doesn't think the solution to desertification is all that daunting.  I find this quite hopeful, despite the nonsense of the moronic Harper Government.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Books, Covers

The other day we were grabbing a quick take out sandwich, and I offered a meal to a youngish man/still kind of a boy who was sitting in a corner.  He turned it down.  He seemed slightly insulted, and I suppose on second thought scruffy, grubby, morose looking young men eating cheerios out of a baggie don't necessarily have to be down on their luck.  I have been depressed most of my life and I often think I am seeing sadness.   I'm glad I am wrong sometimes.  

The episode reminded me of two other episodes where things were different than they looked.

Once upon a time I used to make the Offspring play soccer.  The league she played in was pretty large and lots of local businesses and groups sponsored teams.  The teams were always known by their sponsors and had the sponsor logo on the t-shirt. One year she was on a team sponsored by the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club.  And one Saturday morning that year, we were working at a hotdog sale just outside the grocery store and Offspring was wearing her soccer shirt.  A couple about my age came out of the store and bought hotdogs and pop, and they noticed the logo on the shirt.  "Hey!  That's us!  I didn't know we sponsored a soccer team.  Can we come to the games?"  I said I thought so, and we filled them in on the schedule and they went on their way.  Later that day I was sitting on the sidelines with other parents and I feel this frisson of excitement down the way.  I looked to see what was going on and couldn't see anything, but I could hear jangling and when I leaned back to look down the crowd between the fields, I could see all those poor middle class parents parting like the Red Sea as a crowd of bikers in full regalia strode toward our field.  The couple from the hot dog stand recognized me and the whole bunch of them sat down on the grass with me and cheered the team on.  I will never forget the electricity in the air as those bikers walked down the field, the dignity with which they walked  through the crowd, and their wonderful enthusiasm for a bunch of 11 year old girls playing a game.

When the Offspring was 17 she became a punk.  All her friends were punk too, and most of them looked the part.  They were pierced and dyed and mohawked and shaved and tattooed and wore leather or rags.  Or leather and rags. Or leather rags.  They looked pretty motley if you didn't look too close.  If you bothered to look closely you could see what a bunch of pixies and cherubs they all were.  And they  were smart and informed and thoughtful.  Way smarter than I was in my teens.  Something like 17 of them were renting a house on Freeman Street and they were constantly having parties (to which they always invited the neighbours).  One day Offspring (who had two different colours of  hair and was pierced but not yet tattooed and who was probably wearing three crinolines with her doc martins because she was making and wearing crinolines at the time) and I were in the grocery store enduring the looks of people who clearly thought I was a bad mother for having this obviously delinquent  kid, when a crowd of her friends runs in and surrounds us.  They were all jumping up and down and yelping like a bunch of joyful puppies and the adults in the store were scandalized by this gang and casting aspersive looks at us.  What all the kids were all worked up about was that they had just received a letter from Foster Parent's Plan.  They had been sponsoring a child somewhere and had just been notified that their sponsorship had contributed to building a school in their child's village, and the village had decided to call it the Freeman school.

Things aren't always what they seem.  Sometimes they are even better.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Can't Get Enough

Roo Pane's video for I'll Move Mountains, from Groundswell, the surfing film I saw on Friday night.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

"Man did not weave the web of life - he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

I went to the Skeena Wild Film Festival last night. It was brought to Atmon by the Sea 2 Sands Conservation Alliance and SkeenaWild.

Skeena Wild are celebrating Shell's abandonment of their coal bed methane project in the Sacred Headwaters. But they are certainly not resting on their laurels now that the one threat has been cancelled. Enbridge's project, the Trans Pacific Pipeline, fracking  and now a copper mine are still threats to the area.

There were two features of under 30 minutes, "Art for an Oil-Free Coast" and "Groundswell."  Both were beautiful. Of course. The whole northwest part of the province is stunning. I have only been as far as Kitimat, and I have not been very far off any highway, but it really is unlike any other place I have been.

Art for an Oil-Free Coast is a too short documentary  about 50 artists on a tour of the Great Bear Rainforest. They talk about why the area is precious, why none of these industrial projects should go ahead, and you get to see some lovely art in progress. It is a bit of an advertisement for the art itself which is apparently touring the country. There is a book of the artwork available too.  I think it was this film which started with the quote by Chief Seattle in my title.

Groundswell is also too short. It is a small documentary about surfers on the north coast. Like Oil-Free Coast it is beautiful. It spends much more time on the water, though, which I enjoyed. The surfing is really wonderful.  One scene is paired with a beautiful song by Roo Panes called Move Mountains. Its a nice match: guitar, violin and surfing.  Much of the film is narrated by a young surfer from California named Trevor Gordon.  Early in the film, he quotes John Muir: "It is not blind opposition to progress, it is opposition to blind progress."

There were also a bunch of really short films, all of which have some representation in the film fest trailer. They were funny (fishing as art: think chest waders and ballet)  or poignant (canoeing on running water)  or exciting (skiing at Shames Mountain, or kayaking down falls) and they were all beautiful.

It was a great way to spend an evening. If it comes to your area, go and see it. Or, better yet, organize one in your community.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The BC NDP and the Conservative Machine

On my way home from work on Thursday, I heard a report that the Conservatives in Alberta are getting antsy about the possibility (the inevitability) of the NDP forming the next BC provincial government, and they are holding fundraising dinners for the BC Liberals. They are also repeating their schtick about having to better inform BC about the benefits of pipelines and the importance of the oil industry to us.
I was mad but not surprised. By the next morning, it was in the Times Colonist, the National Post and the Globe and Mail.
The Disaffected Lib, and Big City Lib both blogged about it and I see today that Montreal Simon and Creekside have it covered too.

I was mad,  and then I thought it was funny because I don't want Alberta telling me how I should vote and I suspect a lot of other BC'ers don't either, and then I read a comment  on an article in the Tyee. The commenter said it was part of the plan. The Liberals want the NDP to inherit the mess they have made.  BC has very few money making assets left. In my opinion it is not going to be easy to run this province in the next few years (and candidly: I really like the two NDP candidates in my area, and I trust them both but I don't trust Adrian Dix even as far as I could throw him.) It is entirely likely that things will be bad and people will be unhappy and then they can blame the NDP. And so once again just as the NDP start to sort shit out, the Socred horde will come along and fuck things up for the general population.

I work for the training division for a good sized scaffold company. We have the only extensive scaffold training available in the province and we have trained nearly 400 scaffolders since I started the job in 2009. I  instruct and do the curriculum development, and I wrote the only scaffold manual being used in BC today. We have been trying to get the training recognized all this time. The current government has had us chasing in circles for most of it. Last spring we started to work on the NDP, and my partner got a meeting with an industry critic, who connected us with the education and training critic. I went in to let our boss know and he laughed at me and wanted to know what good that was? I told him I thought that having an ally in opposition was sometimes as useful as one in government, but also that I believe that the NDP will form the next government. Again he laughed at me. "If the NDP gets elected, industry will just leave the province," he said.

Frankly, its a stupid thing for him to say. We are a scaffold company. We build scaffold in mills and mines and refineries and gas plants, as well as for bricklayers and stucco-ers and siders in commercial and residential work, and we build scaffolds on city streets to keep the public safe from construction mess. Its not like all those buildings can just pick up and move to Wisconsin. Trees and minerals are already being sent unmilled and unrefined to other countries, but they have to be extracted here.

But it was chilling nonetheless, because my boss, who is not in fact a bad guy, really thinks that it is okay to close up businesses if they don't like the government we have. I think it is a sad illustration of the greed and fear of the Conservative machine.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

New Year

That is Mispec Beach on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick.  I took that picture on December 26, 2012.  My partner is a BC transplant from New  Brunswick and my Offspring is a student in Nova Scotia. We decided to spend Christmas on the east coast this year. I spent a few days in Nova Scotia with the Offspring and then she and I  drove to Saint John to spend Christmas with his family. It was lovely. We walked all over and I took hundreds of pictures and my partner and his uncle told me all about the history of the place.

But this post is not about my trip. This post is about the credibility of the words of certain people and bodies.

In the right of the photo above are three large tanks.  They are part of an LNG terminal. When Irving was looking for community support to put them there, they asked for support for one tank and possibly a second in the future.  My partner is a carpenter.  He knew carpenters who built the concrete forms for the pads on which those tanks sit.  Two pads were built, and the rock was blasted out with crushed rock  in place and levelled for a third, before the public meetings were complete, before the community agreed to even one tank.  Someone from the LNG proposal stood in front of that community and promised that there would only ever be two tanks. My partner stood up and asked why there were two pads and preparations for a third. Just in case, he was told. My partner called the man a liar and the liar took heated exception. My partner said, you are going to put three tanks there and I do not support this project. But a whole bunch of good people did, and there they sit. Three tanks, where they promised there would be one.

I live in Canada where a reformer is a Conservative. Pardon? I watched as SH put a creepy smile on over his spots and asked a whole country to disregard the terrible disparaging things  he had said about the people in this country. I watched sadly as a whole bunch of good people did.

I live in BC where a socred is a Liberal. Pardon? I watched GC put a plaid shirt on over his spots and ask the province to believe his spots were gone. I watched sadly as a whole heap of good people did believe him.

I live in the north, where Enbridge is trying to tell us that 60% of the First Nations support the pipeline and that it is a straight shot from Kitimat to the Ocean (Perhaps Enbridge magic has transformed those missing islands into First Nation's supporters). Happily, I see people questioning this. People. Not institutions, not media, but people.

It looks to me as though there is a concerted program of Orwellian doublespeak in this country and it makes me sad to think that there is a portion of the population that believes every advertisement they see for our jobs and prosperity programs. And it makes me sad to think that there is a portion of the population that thinks it cannot believe anything a politician or government says and then disconnects. But I am also scared that a portion of the population will look at all the lying and manoeuvring and say, well if its okay for them, it must be okay for me.

So there I am, sad and fearful and deeply skeptical. But hopeful too. Because I am involved with the Enbridge opposition, and I support the Idle No More movement, and these are people who are questioning the status quo, and demanding better.  And they are starting to make a lot of noise.

Here's to 2013 and noisy questions.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Talking to Strangers

Opit,  in my comments, said something about a stranger being a friend you haven't met yet, which reminded me of a story.  So, apropo of Opit's comment:

I talk to strangers. Everywhere. All the time.  Oh, I try not to be tiresome, I pay attention and I let people off the hook if they don't want to talk, but I will talk to anyone. The secret is to ask them questions. Lots of people want to talk. (Somewhere kicking around in my life is a bookmark that says, "What most people need is a good listening to." Believe it.) and you learn cool stuff listening to strangers. It can be pretty amazing how much people want off their chests.  (Come to think of it, this is probably why I read blogs, too.) When my Offspring was little, I schlepped her around everywhere, of course, and she watched me talking with servers and cashiers all over town. Finally, when she was 14 or so, she said to me on the way out of the grocery store, "Mom, do you have to make friends with everyone you meet? Cashiers don't want to be asked a thousand times a day how they are!" Well! Didn't they? Really? Had I merely been an annoying intrusion all these years? So I began conducting surveys.  I asked cashiers and servers: "How is your day going?" And then, "do you get asked that a million times a day? Do you hate being asked?"  No one said they don't like it, but most of them said it surprises them when someone asks, because it SELDOM HAPPENS. Ha. Take that, Offspring. And almost all of them said they like talking with the customers. And so I continue talking to strangers.  Because I figure there is no one stranger than me. (ba-dum-ba!)