Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Season for Endings: Gil Courtemanche Service Today

A writer friend just asked me if I were going to the ceremony for journalist and novelist Gil Courtemanche who died two days before Jack Layton did and whose farewell is this evening.

"Did you know him? Do you want to say good bye?"

No, I replied, I only met him once. To go would probably be presumptuous, although I greatly admire his work. His novel A Sunday in Kigali is probably the best evocation of love and ethnic war that I've ever read. And up until his daeth the day after his 68th birthday Courtemanche pointed his finger at evil and spoke out strongly. He will be missed.

Are Books Dead--and What about Writers?

The Guardian has an interesting piece by Ewan Morrison on the end of publishing, and the rise of "free." Worth reading if you're a "content creator" or a reader.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Pears Are Ripe: A Case of Benign Neglect?

Sunday evening in the middle of Irene, a young man knocked on the door and asked if he could climb in our backyard to take down some of the pears that remained on the trees in back. I said no because I knew just how hard the remaining fruit would be to get and I didn't want him to break his neck on our property. On Friday morning I spent nearly an hour perched on a laddler harvesting, and what remained was clearly out of reach.

He was the second person this year to ask about harvesting the pears: a woman up the street also asked if she could "get up on a little stool" and pick some. I told her my concerns about the dangers of what was left and brought her some that I'd sucessfully picked. As for the young man, I told him to take whatever was on the ground since the high winds were shaking loose some of the fruit on the highest branches.

All of this is rather strange, since the pear trees got zero care this year. We always get some fruit, and sometimes get more than the squirrels can eat, but this year there appears to be a bumper harvest. There are two that are ready to eat for lunch today (you pick pears a little green and then let them ripen,) and we'll appreciate them all the more, knowing that they are an unexpected, unearned. bonanza.

Photo: not this year's crop, I must admit, but the one three years ago which also was a good one.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Good Sense from The Gazette, for Once: Leave the Car at Home

We've not been readers of The Gazette on a regular basis for years (long story, having in part to do with a class action I'm involved in against it) but today I was tempted to take a peek when Radio Can mentioned an editorial that for once makes sense.

"An autumn resolution: Leave the car at home" reads the headline. It goes on: "... while we all know that using public transit is the proverbial Good Thing, too many of us still don't do it. Faced with the prospect of squeezing ourselves in with many dozens of other people in a jammed bus or métro car on a sweltering day, it's pretty appealing to instead get behind the wheel or into the passenger seat of a comfortable, quiet, air-conditioned car. It's the wrong choice, but many of us do it anyway...

"If just five per cent of the population used public transit, even some of the time, it would get 400,000 cars off the road every day.

"That's an astounding figure - and one worth aiming for."


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday Photo: So This Is an Idea of What it Looks like..

This is probably the most eloquent pair of pictures before and after the fire. The small photos are what the staircase looked like the day afterwards, and the large one, what it looked like this week.

Much remains to be done, but we're back in and even hanging pictures on the walls.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Krugman on the Complicated Question of Economic Recovery: A Remiinder That We Also Need Hard Headed Ecomonic Goals

Paul Krugman as usual has some interesting things to say today. This time he asks why Ben Bernanke, head of the US Federal Reserve, doesn't do what Ben Bernanke, economist, recommended for Japan in 2000.

At the time, Bernanke advocated : "purchases of long-term government debt (to push interest rates, and hence private borrowing costs, down); an announcement that short-term interest rates would stay near zero for an extended period, to further reduce long-term rates; an announcement that the bank was seeking moderate inflation, “setting a target in the 3-4% range for inflation, to be maintained for a number of years,” which would encourage borrowing and discourage people from hoarding cash; and “an attempt to achieve substantial depreciation of the yen,” that is, to reduce the yen’s value in terms of other currencies."

Sounds complicated, doesn't it? But that's part of the problem with economics: it sometimes seems above the ken of ordinary mortals. Yet economic policy and strong economic goals--like full employment--are what we need. It's going to be up to the NDP in Canada to push for them since for sure the Harper Conservatives won't come through with them.

When the tears are dried, it has to be back to work for the Dippers and their supporters. The country needs and wants strong opposition, a fact which should not be forgotten in sadness surrounding the near-Greek tragedy of Jack Layton's death.

A Laugh Because We Need One: The Air Farce Remembers Jack

With apologies to our American friends who apprently can't access Ari Farce material for copyright reasons.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Why There's Not Much of a Post Today

Little Jeanne is coming over to play today, the day before her first birthday. Got to wash the kitchen floor because her way of getting around is scooting on her bum (unless, that is, you hold her hands so she can walk.)

Funny, I feel worse about having a dirty kitchen floor with her around, than I did with my own kids. Of course we had a dog then who was a real chow hound and perhaps the floor never got as dirty!

Photo: one of the world's best dogs, Trout Fishing in Canada (1972-1985.) She was a collie/shepherd mix who was terrific with children, loved ot swim, and kept our kitchen floor clean.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Jack Would Approve: Radio Nederlands Series on Protest Songs

One of the brief uncomfortable moments at Monday night's vigil at the foot of Mount Royal in memory of Jack Layton was the interminable version of "This Land Is Your Land" by a group of well-intentioned Anglophone musicians. The song's a good one, but even though they sang the Canadian version (not "from California to New York islands" but "from Bonavista to Vancouver Island") I wondered about the choice. It was written by folk music legend Woodie Guthrie, whom I revere, but, damn it, he was American. In addition, the group didn't have a song in French prepared and it was up to a few stalwarts Monday night to start a rendition of "C'est à ton tour" by Gilles Vigneault (also called "Gens du Pays.)"

Perhaps the Guthrie song was one of Layton's favourites, and that was the reason for the choice. I don't know. But I'm pretty sure he'd have loved a series on protest songs by Radio Nederlands which I just came across. Here's the link to the part about Brazilian protest music, featuring my hero Chico Buarque.

Save Sept. 19 for an Interesting Evening of Reading and Love

Last winter in the depth of our despair the Quebec Writers' Federation asked me if I'd like to be one of two writers to present a favourite novel that has been translated into the other official language as part of the Festival international de littérature. The date proposed was September 19 which seemed epochs away, but I was extremely pleased to be asked and settled on Neil Bissoondath's The Unyeilding Clamour of the Night.

But time passes, and yesterday the festival's programming was announced, so I can officially invite you to Reading: Un Acte d'amour (or Lire : An Act of Love, depending on your linguistic preferences. ) François Barcelo will be presenting Tarmac by Nicolas Dickne and Sherry Simon, noted translater and literary theorist, will animate the evening. Both novels have been translated elegantly, the Bissoondath by Paul Gagnon and Lori St-Martin and the Dickner by Lazar Lederhendler.

So save Monday, September 19 for a interesting evening: 7:30 p.m. at the Sala Rossa, 4848 St.Laurent in Mile-End.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jack's Reach...

Just a note--I got more hits on my blog yesterday than I ever had, all with search terms like "Jack Layton House." (Most went to a posting from shortly after the election about Rick Mercer's item visit to Jack and Olivia chez eux along with a photo of Stornoway.) A man who was loved by many and obviously people want to find out details about his life.


Monday, 22 August 2011

Saying Good Bye: Jack's Last Letter and a Link toward a Page of Condolence

Here are a couple of links that may be useful to people saddened by the loss of Jack Layton.

The official condolence page in English

Et en français

And here's the last letter he wrote:

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Our Jack of Hearts Is Gone...

The country and the world will have tougher going now that Jack Layton has left us.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Saturday Photo: Flowers, Native and Otherwise

This is the season for Brown-eyed Susans, Rudbeckia or whatever you want to call this fantastic golden flower. They are native North American perennials and given some sunshine will bloom for several weeks at the end of the summer. A great flower which lifts my heart when I see it.

Other plants in other places will grow wild, and I was reminded of the impatiens I saw in Tanzania when I passed this little tree-garden. In the East Usambara Mountains where I had gone to look for wild Africn violets, impatiens were everywhere: can't find the pictures at the moment but when I do, I'll scan one and post it. There the plants will reseed, if not live for years. Here course winter will kill them. That's one of the somewhat sad things we must deal with in this climate--summers like the tropics but winters full of ice and snow.

Some people deny this--or perhaps use seasonal differences to flaunt their buying capacity. For three years this garden has featured palm trees which, unlike the figs that some old Italian gardeners overwinter by burying in the ground or bringing inside, were left to die in the cold. Seems to me it is a waste of gorgeous plants, and an affront to Mother Nature.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Basement Is Clean! Or How to Have 35 Years of Construction Scraps Recycled.

Of course, one of the things about moving back into a "restored" house is the sharp contrast what was left over makes with the clean walls etc. Lee now has his basement workshop back, but as he organized and rearranged, the six sheets of 3/8 inch Gyproc bought maybe 15 years ago for one project, plus all the metal bits he'd saved just in case and the odds and ends of wood seemed less and less essential. In addition, the workers had left a lot of scrap which they probably should have taken away, but hadn't.

What to do? It was too much and too messy to take to the borough's drop off site, so I went looking on the web. What I found were several services, and more or less on gut feeling (can you speak of that when dealing with people virtually?) settled on

I'm happy to say that after our several unpleasant experiences with contractors and services these past few months, we were extremely pleased. You register on-line, pick your time, and wait. As it was, the two young men arrived exactly when promised, cheerfully loaded up our stuff, explained what they would do with it (the Gyproc they'll keep because they're renovating a warehouse, the wood and metal go to local dealers, the electronics likewise.) Pleasant, efficient and certainly less expensive than renting a van to haul the stuff ourselves. It's not a franchise either, and I'm always in favour of encouraging locally grown entrepreneurs. To be recommended...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

For the Record: The Gazette Says No to Making the Armed Forces "Royal"

The Montreal English language daily The Gazette fell all over itself welcoming William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a few weeks ago, so you might think it would also be wowed by the idea of reintroducing "royal" into the names of Canada's air force and navy. But that's not the case.

"Surely there is no need for adding the term "royal" to make Canada's servicemen and women stand a little taller, as MacKay put it. The country owes its armed services a debt of gratitude that should be paid in decent wages and solid support, not the currency of nostalgia," the newspaper editorialized today.

Not the reasoning I'd give, but I'm glad to see another voice raised against the change.

Thursday in the Park with Jeanne and More Than Thirty Years of Subsidized Day Care in Quebec

Today Jeanne is spending the day with us, the first time she's passed a whole day away from her parents some place not her own home. It's momentous in a way, but she will be a year old in a week so she's quite ready for the experience, as are Grandma and Grandpa.

We spent much of the morning in Parc Outremont, three blocks from here where I passed many hours with Jeanne's mother and her uncle. Some things are the same: the babysitters with their charges who are often not all that good at sharing toys, the grandmothers ready to make contact with other grandmothers partly in order to share grandkid stories, and the troops of kids from the neighborhood daycares.

Anong them were the Garderie Querbes, where Jeanne's mother was the young child when it opened in September 1978. Before I knew who they were I noted how the kids looked out for each other and shared toys, and once I'd had a chat with one of the educatrices I saw that cooperation still seems to be a value encouraged there: they cheerfully packed up their sand toys when it was time to go, and raced to help wheel the big cart full of equipment back.

The Garderie Querbes was started by a group of parents as part of the big demand for child care that surfaced in the 1970s. Quebec's $7 a day, provincially subsidized, certified day cares are the lineal descendant of that period of social action. A generation of kids have passed through the system, and now many are sending their own children to daycares in this outstanding intiative. The rest of Canada should do likewise.

Certainly the demand for this kind of reliable, affordable child care is huge: Jeanne's on several waiting lists, but it may be months before there's a place for her. In the meantime, Grandma and Grandpa will help out now and then.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Further to Warren Buffet: The Gini Coefficient, a Measure of Income Inequality

When talking about taxing the rich and the effects of inequality, it's useful to look at a country's Gini coefficient. That is a measure of household income inequality where 0 would be complete equality and is based on the distribution of household incomes. The CIA makes some interesting calculations--after all, if you're an intelligence agency you ought to look at all factors that might affect a country's stablity and instabilty.

In 1994 Canada's was 31.5 and in 2005, 32.1. which isn't too bad, compared to France's 32.7 in both 1995 and 2008. The USA had 40.8 in 1997 and 45 in 2007, definitely a trend in the wrong direction. Brazil on the other hand is going in the other direction, with 60.7 in 1998 and 56.7 in 2005, after a few years of Lula's social programs.

Royal Canadian Air Farce, Or Harper Really Doesn't have the Interests of the Country at Heart

A Nanos poll reported in The Globe and Mail says that Stephen Harper's decision to add the designation "Royal" to the names of Canada's Air Force and Navy would boost the fortunes of the Bloc Québécois and Quebec nationalism. That, of course, is a major reason for the move, although Harper's strategy of targetting parts of the electorate with specific measures surely plays a role here. The Monarchist vote may not be terribly large, but it's another piece of the Conservatives strategy.

And I'm outraged. As I've mentioned before, I'm no friend of the monarchy. I even hesitated a long time before taking out Canadian citizenship because I thought I'd have to swear allegiance to the Queen (in the end it was just to uphold her laws.) This is a country whose roots were both French and English, and that now welcomes people from all over the world. We do not need this kind of silly nod to a past which wasn't all that glorious to begin with.

Bring back the Royal Canadian Air Force? No. But maybe a modern day version of the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Life Goes on Department: The Ducks Did It Again This Summer

As I said earlier, I've been catching up on my usual walks now that we're back in the house. Last year I was delighted to find that ducks had raised a couple of families of ducklings in Parc Pratt, and I wondered if they'd been successful this year.

Yesterday Lee and I saw that they had--not in Parc Pratt, but the fountain in Parc Beaubien had a small flotilla--about 8--paddling around. It was particularly nice to see them as we were on the way to the funeral of a dear friend who died last Friday after an absolutely furious battle with multiple myeloma.

Then this morning I saw a small group of ducks paddling in Parc Outremont, another sign that life does go on...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Why Warren Biuffet's Advice Is Good for the Rich Too.

On Sunday friend and neighbor Adrienne Jones handed on this link to a article on why it is in the interest of the rich to be taxed more. Basically, the idea is that in societies where inequality is high, the rich don't have it proportionallly better. In fact, they may live in fear, wrote Glenn Greenwald: "If you've visited some rich areas in Latin America, particularly when times generally are bad, marksmen on the roofs of houses are a norm. Living in fear of your physical safety is not a pretty existence.

"Japan, which made a conscious decision to impose the costs of its post bubble hangover on all members of society to preserve stability, has gotten through its lost two decades with remarkable grace. "

Then the next day Warren Buffet asserts in The New York Times that he thinks governments should stop "coddling" the super-rich. "I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

"But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate."

The amount of money involved is beyond my comprehension: $1 million a year!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Observation for Today, a Day of Finishing up Odds and Ends

Despite 35 years of metric in Canada, construction is all in the old inches and feet mode, while temperature, speed and some kind of food are metric. What accounts for the difference?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saturday PHoto: The Beauties of Mount Royal and the Cemetery

The gates to Mount Royal cemetery don't look like this now. About a year and a half ago fissures were found in the mortar holding the big stone blocks--put in place in the 1860s--together. Since then there have been various steps at correcting the problem. At the moment there is a wooden framework under the arch and straps holding the arch elements in place.

I felt a bit like the gates this morning, as I walked for the first time from the house up to the cemetery. Knees acting up, but spirits bright as I saw the loveliness.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Music and Images: Where the River of Music Can Take You

Back to working on the next novel, called River Music. One of the main characters is a Canadian woman pianist who becomes celebrated, in part because her version of Debussy"s "Girl with the Flacen Hair" is used in one of the rare NFB feature films to win prizes outside Canada.

This is a lovely rendition of the song by an unidentified pianist with a montage by a young Korean Kim dong kyu. Apparentlly this was a graduate exhibition in 2008. Quite lovely.

Some Sounds Only Emerge from Cooperation: Montreal's Musical Swings, a Lesson for Us All?

These musical swings (each one produced a particular tone) were around for a short period this spring, and I had hoped to try them out, but each time I passed they were full of delighted folk.

Let's hope they're put back at some time after the festival season is over. I like the idea of making music cooperatively a lot.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

As We Adjust to Our New/Old House: A Story about a Hobbit's New/Old House

As I ran around trying to find what I've put away while admiring the nice things about our reconstructed house, I came across a story in today's New York Times about a house for Hobbits in Montana. You can rent ilt for $245 a night, if you feel like paying that much to be charmed. Here's the link to a slide show featuring it.

Which reminds me of one of Lee's old friends Gene Zelmer. An architect, he designed and built a number of projects which were wedded to the earth. Here's an example.

But there's a problem with all attempts to build replicas of things described in books. Every reader has his or her own idea of what they looked like, so the new thing is often only a shadow of the vivid image in the reader's head. Something similar is going on in our house: the verdict is that it's the same, but different. Anbd there are moments when I forget the months of disorder.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Putting out the Fires in Britain--and Elsewhere--Is Not Going to End Trouble: What Happens When the Social Contract Fails

The pictures of burning buildings in Britain are extremely disturbing, not least because we know first hand how much damage a fire can do. But the question arises: why? It seems too simple to blame it all on hooligans, because even hooligans have a rationale for what they do.

The New York Times talks of "troubled youth", and La Presse carries an Agence France-Presse piece that blames budget cuts for much youthful disaffectation today.

Yesterday The Globe and Mail ran a story by Doug Saunders from London in which he says that Britain has a "'lost generation' of young high-school dropouts far larger than most countries." He adds that one European study found that "17 per cent of Britain’s youth are classified as “NEETs” – for Not in Employment, Education or Training, in other words high-school dropouts with no prospects of employment – the fourth-highest percentage in the European Union. There are 600,000 people under 25 in Britain who have never had a day of work."

This is appalling, and likely is a legacy of the Thatcher cuts of the 1980s that were not redressed sufficiently by the Blair years. One shudders to think what the current wave of cuts in the US and elsewhere will leave behind 15 years from now.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Stephen Harper's in Brazil: Dilma Smacks down Standard and Poor

Stephen Harper was in Brazil yesterday, and met with dthat country's former guerilla president Dilma Rousseff. He listened, apparently, while she told reporters about how solide Brazil's economy was and how Standard and Poor's downgrading of the US was "rushed."

Of course, "listened" maybe isn't the proper word because while Harper gets along all right in French, it's doubtful that his Portuguese is all that good. Too bad, because he might learn a lesson or two from this country whish continues to stick, more or less, to the left-centre policies started nearly 10 years ago with the election of Lula.

Here's her interview, for those who want to practice the language of Camões.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Importance of "Legacy" Media in Telling It How It Is: The Case of The New York Times


On of the pleasures of being back in an almost-settled house is that we have more time to intersting things. Friends called yesterday to ask if we'd like to see Page One, the documentary movie about The New York Times, and for the first time in ages we could say, "yes."

The movie was interesting, if somewhat out of focus as it jumped from person to person, worry to worry. But it brought out the importance of having what one of the commentators called "legacy" media to help provide the context, background and analysis essential for making sense of the world. You're not going to get that from Twitter, or the infotainment on many media platforms.

A case in point is Paul Krugman, whose columns in the NYT and blog on its website provide absolutely essential reading. Today he comments on the Standard and Poor's downrating of the US credit status, and once again he's worth quoting. "America’s large budget deficit is, after all, primarily the result of the economic slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. And S.& P.....played a major role in causing that crisis, by giving AAA ratings to mortgage-backed assets that have since turned into toxic waste.

"Nor did the bad judgment stop there. Notoriously, S.& P. gave Lehman Brothers, whose collapse triggered a global panic, an A rating right up to the month of its demise. And how did the rating agency react after this A-rated firm went bankrupt? By issuing a report denying that it had done anything wrong."

And: "The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized."

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Saturday Photo: Fruit Salad for an August Night

First special dinner since we've moved back. Jeanne and her parents, paella and fruit salad with Ontario peaches and BC cherries. What a nice prospect!

Friday, 5 August 2011

More Jobs, Maybe, But the US and the World Are Worrying about the Wrong Things.

Just in case you wondered if things were getting better, here's a link to a breaking story in The New York Times. The job figures for July in the US were better than expected, but did that stop the fall in stock prices? No. After a brief rally, the descent continued.

This is because the people running the show are worrying about the wrong things. As Paul Krugman says this morning: "To turn this disaster around, a lot of people are going to have to admit, to themselves at least, that they’ve been wrong and need to change their priorities, right away.

"Of course, some players won’t change. Republicans won’t stop screaming about the deficit because they weren’t sincere in the first place: ...

"But the policy disaster of the past two years wasn’t just the result of G.O.P. obstructionism, which wouldn’t have been so effective if the policy elite — including at least some senior figures in the Obama administration — hadn’t agreed that deficit reduction, not job creation, should be our main priority. ...

"Well, it’s time for all that to stop. ..It's now time — long past time — to get serious about the real crisis the economy faces. The Fed needs to stop making excuses, while the president needs to come up with real job-creation proposals. And if Republicans block those proposals, he needs to make a Harry Truman-style campaign against the do-nothing G.O.P.

"This might or might not work. But we already know what isn’t working: the economic policy of the past two years — and the millions of Americans who should have jobs, but don’t."

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Excuse Me While I Pause for a Little Rest: the 400 Boxes are Unpacked...

The guy in this video is a piker--on 64 boxes. But we had similar surprises as we opened boxes. Perhaps it should be no surprise that I've filled 8 large garbage bags with stuff from files I've kept forever and ever, but never looked at.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Houses, Trips and the Way Ideas for Living Get around

Last week Elin and company spent time in Greater Chicago. She taught at the Viola da Gamba Society of America's annual Conclave, and the rest of the family spent some time exploring the environs.

One of the places they visited was Robie House (1910), Frank Lloyd Wright's visionary private residence now next to the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. They came back with a nifty placemat and some coasters in a design from the stained glass in the house.

I was much impressed by the house when I was there researching Chicago for Green City. At the time I didn't appreciate how much the decoration in our house was influenced by trends started by Wright. But the lighting fixture in the dining room (dating from the 1920s probably) definitely show how widely Wright's ideas spread, not to mention the millions of low slung suburban houses of the 20th century which were knock-offs of the Prairie style, like the one on the right in Montreal.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Connection with the Universe Re-established, the 400 Plus Boxes are Opened...

but the stuff hasn't been put away yet. The house is nearly as big a mess as the state of the world.

I'll be back with before- and after pix as soon as I can find my camera. In the meantime, I'll continue to sort and wonder why Paul Krugman's and The New York Times' warnings have fallen on such deaf ears in the US.

As Joe Nocera says today about the way the Tea Party gang have done a number on the country and the world: "Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them."