Monday, 23 December 2013

Signing off for the Holiday: See You in the New Year

Barring the unforeseen, I expect to be too busy  having fun to doing any posting.  So here's a link to our Christmas blog in the meantime.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Saturday Photo: Celebrating in Cuzco

This was taken in a Cuzco grocery store, which a month ago was already decked out for Christmas.  Love the idea of locals dancing to Andean harps while it's summer outside.

Music that Goes Beyond the Season

Okay, this seems to be an ad for a supermarket chain, wrapped in a tribute to Nelson Mandela, but it really is lovely.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Educating Kids in Science, Math and Reading--and Making Sure They Get a Good Start from the Beginning

The New York Times analyzes why American school kids performed in such a mediocre fashion on the recnet OECD school  success rankings.  Three regions are singled out for comment: Shanghai where an effort is being made to equalize opportunitiy for kids, Canada where many provinces don't use property taxes to fund schools, but provincial revenues, and Finland, which seems to be doing just about everything right.

The take-home lesson is that giving schools equal fiunding and making sure that every kid has access to decent schools are important.  Income inequality is deadly.  Residential segregation doesn't help the overall performance of a nation's young. Investing in common  goals produce results.

One of the things that is not mentioned is the way that Finland looks out for its offspring from the very begininng.  For 75 years Finnish families  have been receiving a "baby box" which provides just about everything a small child needs in its earliest days--."bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

"With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby's first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box's four cardboard walls.

"Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it's worth much more."

And, as the mother in this clip from the BBC notes, little kids are often dressed in the same clothes which helps even things out.  The items are of good quality too: she says that her mother saved her baby box, and the sheets are still good enough to use for a new baby today. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Songs from Brazil...

As I try to get back to work, how about this for the run up to Christmas

Monday, 16 December 2013

Not Politics, Just Pastry Today

Or maybe just food.  I spent the morning making making 10 dozen spritz butter cookies and cutting up 30 salt herring to put in marinade for pickled herring.

Yesterday it was another 10 dozen papporkakor.

 Now to go out in the snowy streets to look for more holiday stuff....

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Saturday Photo: Looking Back in Brasília...

There will be more photos and comments from my South American trip, but here's something to start things off: two images that made me laugh.

The first is the big statue by Brazilian artist Roberto Ceschiatti that has pride of place in the second floor open air garden at the Palacio do Itamarty.  The ample charms of the two women fit very well in the sumptuous space.

The second is of a mannequin used in an open air shop.  It was not the first time I'd seen one of these forms with a very prominent rear, but it was the first time I'd had an opportunity to take a picture.  Compare and contrast with the skinny forms that are used to display clothes in North America.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Requiem for the Postie

The Canada Post announcement that it will be doing away with home mail delivery over the next five years is just another example of the mess the Conservatives have led us into. 
Why should a service like the post office break even?  It is something that we ought to support with our taxes.  And when it comes to forward-looking business models, cutting out parcel delivery is a non-starter. 

That's where the growth in mail service is going to come...but of course the private courier service will take up the slack to the joy of Stephen Harper's business-friendly supporters.

In the meantime,while opposition organizes take a look at a delightful short novel by Quebec writer Denis Thériault, The Postman's Rounds.  It takes place a few years ago when the postman actually delivered the mail and was a part of everyone's life. 

By the way, I went looking for stamps featuring Marie-Louise Gay's children's books for our Christmas mailings to discover that there were none.  Canada Post has withdrawn its permanent stamps, of course, because they want to boost the price of letter mail.

Get Desire Lines in Time for Christmas!

There are just three days left to enter the Goodreads Giveaway of two copies of Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography.  

Goodreads will tell me Monday morning who won and I'll get the books in the mail that day.  With any luck the winners should have them before Christmas.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Sometimes the Right Things Get Done: The Positive Benefits of Protecting the Ozone Layer

Global warming would be a lot worse than it is, were it not for a protocol agreed to in 1989 that cut back the cloroflurocarbons that attack the earth's ozone later.  That's what The New York Times is reporting today about the Montreal Protocol, which it calls "The Little Treaty That Could." 

It banned about 100 subtances, many of which, besides destroying the ozone layer, "also happen to be exceedingly powerful greenhouse gases," Justin Gillis writes.

"If production had been allowed to continue, a batch of scientific studies show, the planet would most likely be warming a lot faster than it is. The latest of these studies came out only a few weeks ago... In fact, the evidence suggests the protocol has done far more to limit global warming than the better-known treaty adopted for that purpose, the Kyoto Protocol."

Now changes to the treaty to ban some replacement gases which also are green house gases are under considertion, which leads Gillis to quote  Durwood Zaelke. He heads a Washington advocacy group  that is pushing for the treaty amendment, and says that  "the drew a simple lesson from all this: However overwhelming global warming may seem at times, we are not powerless in the face of it."

That's worth remembering when the fight seems impossible.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Merry Christmas: Analyses to Chill Your Holiday Spirit from Krugman and the Toronto Star

Paul Krugman can be counted on for setting things straight, and in his column today he talks about the holiday present that the US is preparing to give the long term unemployed on Jan. 1, 2014: "1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December."

"Merry Christmas," he adds.

The culprits, as usual, are those right wing politicos who combine a vindictive spirit with bad economics, he says.  "The point is that employment in today’s American economy is limited by demand, not supply. Businesses aren’t failing to hire because they can’t find willing workers; they’re failing to hire because they can’t find enough customers. And slashing unemployment benefits — which would have the side effect of reducing incomes and hence consumer spending — would just make the situation worse."

But don't think this attitude is confined to the US.  The Toronto Star today has a tabulation of all the programs that the Stephen Harper Conservatives have cut since they came to office.   The story quotes former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow:

“It is changing Canada,”  he says of the current federal approach to social and economic policy.
 “Unchecked, if we continue down this path, the big danger is a more regionalized and more unequal nation,” Romanow, who headed a royal commission on the future of health care in 2002, told the Star.

"Social programs long valued by Canadians are in the Conservatives’ crosshairs.

"Federal health-care spending is to be reined in. Canadians in future will have to work two years longer before receiving old age security — a measure Harper said was meant to address Canadians’ disproportionate focus on “our services and entitlements.”

"And at a time when 1.3 million are without jobs, the federal government has toughened the criteria that employment insurance recipients must meet to hang on to their benefits. In all, only 37 per cent of jobless Canadians are eligible for EI benefits."

Ironic, isn't it, that right after Black Friday when we were exhorted to buy, buy, buy, it's getting harder and harder for millions to keep food on the table and shoes on their kids' feet.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Saturday Photo: Cuzco Rooftops

The 254 photos I took on my trip have been whittled down to 85,  I've transcribed 49 pages of notes, and there's a Power Point made to show unsuspecting friends and relations.  Guess that means I must return to regular llife.

Here's one of the pictures I like particularly.  Taken from the open staircase in the small hotel where  I stayed in Cuzco, it echoes tile roofs around the world.  It rained a hard while I was there, and the efficiency of the way the tiles channeled the run off was impressive.

Friday, 6 December 2013

When Nelson Mandela Visited Montreal: When Canada Made a Difference (Are You Listening Stephen Harper?)

In June 1990, only a few months after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he came to Canada to thank Canadians for their support in the fight against apartheid. 

This was not a simple goodwill turn: Canadians and Canadian politicians played a crucial role in pressuring the South African government to end the cruel and discriminatory system.  Two of the most influential politicos were Progressive Conservatives: John Diefenbaker who led the fight to get South Africa expelled from the Commonwealth and Brian Mulroney who was a leader in maintaining economics sanctions against the country.

Apparently Mandela was scheduled to visit Toronto and Ottawa, but not Montreal, until city officials with the help of Mulroney and company, arranged a lightning appearance on the Champs de Mars on 36 hour's notice.  Some 15,000 or more showed up to welcome him, and we were among them.  It was Lukas's idea that we go.  Then 10, he had already formed very definite ideas of what was right and who merited being considered heros.

I don't remember a lot about the event, aside from it being a beautiful late afternoon and early evening and the atmosphere was exhultant.  In retrospect it seems even more important because I can't imagine the current version of Canadian Conservatives going out on a limb for decades on a princple as initially unpopular as fighting apartheid.

Stephen Harper, are you listening? 

The tiny picture, by the way, is among the few I could find on the web.  Seems that the even was not as mediatized as it should have been.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Working through the Trip

Today I started working through the photos and began transcribing the pages and pages of notes that I took on my trip (No laptop when I travel: it's just one more thing to keep track of, and I was travelling by myself.)

Here's a shot through the front window of the bus I took from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonaldo in Peru.  We are approaching the second pass on the route across the Andes, and should be about 4,500 meters high.  The mountains of the cordillera are still snow covered even though it is late spring--but, after all, they're 5,000 meters or higher.

More later when I get more of the grut work done. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Signing Off for a While!

Lee's holding down the fort, the freezer is full of suppers, tomorrow I'll water the plants, and then I'm off.

I'll be back in about two weeks with pictures of my great South American adventure.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Count Down to Take Off:

Because I'm heading South on Friday, here's a little preview:

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Another Launch Party!

So tonight it's out to Pointe Claire on Montreal's West Island to celebrate Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography.  Should be fun!

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Lesson for Today: Give Peace a Chance

Yes, I know that we are not to forget the Great War and the other ones because we don't want to repeat earlier mistakes.  That at least is the official line. But when the jets flew low over Montreal at 11 a.m. this morning this is what I thought of:

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Saturday Photo: At the Launch..

My friend Jack Ruttan took this at the launch of Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography last Wednesday.  It was a good party!

We'll have another good time on Tuesday at Librairie Clio in Pointe Claire, too, I suspect. Here's the link to the details.

And while you're at it, here are the links to two good reviews/interviews.

The Montreal Review of Books
"Soderstrom offers sensitive, attentive, and compelling portraits of relationships...It is precisely this “press of emotion” that is so beautifully expressed in these stories. The emotional tension makes the release of narrative conflict brought about by skilfully written endings all the more satisfying."

And The Gazette: "Love in all its forms"

Friday, 8 November 2013

Another Index of Climate Change: No Snow by Nov. 8

In the 45 years I've lived in Montreal, there has always been snow before Nov. 8 and the leaves have been swept from the trees.

Not so this year, which leads me to believe that all those Climate Change deniers have got it all wrong. (As if I didn't already think that!)

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Good Bad News: Desire LInes Is Sold Out at First Launch

Sold out!  Every single copy of Desire Lines went out the door last night  at the Montreal launch in Librairie Drawn and Quaterly.  Thanks to all the friends who came to hear me talk about the book, and who (I hope) had a good time.

More good news: the bookstore received another shipment of books this morning (a box had gone to Edmonton) so come on by 211 Bernard West to pick a copy up at the same 10 per cent discount they were offering last night.

Thanks to Jack Ruttan who took the picutre of me with Dina Sakali, and to Edwin Holgate who painted the nude 90 years ago or so.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tonight's the Night: Desire Lines Launch in Montreal

Be there or be square!  Drawn and Quarterly Bookstore, 7 p.m. 211 Bernard West, Montreal

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The World of BD, or How Cartoons Go Serious

This morning Le Devoir has turned over the  entire paper to cartoonists.  The occasion is the opening of a new show of graphic illustration at the Musée des Beaux arts de Montréal, but it also is a sly way of commenting on the recent municipal election.

Instead of the usual photos accompanying news stories, the newspaper has asked the cream of Quebec's bédéistes (from bandes dessinées, the French term for cartoonists) to illustrate the news.  Some of them are right on, indeed.  And some of them are suitably méchant like the one above which shows mayor-elect Denis Coderre as the somewhat buffonish Asterix from the famous series of "comic books."

In the French-speaking world, illustrated books have long been considered seriously.  I remember being aghast when an artist friend suggested a book group I belong to read BDs for one of our monthly meetings.  But she presented a  number of beautifully drawn and produced books with story lines no more silly than many literary novels, and explained how the art work was of very high quality.

Since then I've taken "graphic novels," as they're called in the English-speaking world, far more seriously.  It's clear that the books frequently treat themes of substance, and are far from being the refuge of the semi-literate.  (Drawn and Quarterly, in whose bookstore I'll have my book launch Wednesday night, is a very successuly publisher of this kind of book.)  But the genre also always for much very  interesting comment on the state of the world.  Check out Le Devoir for sure today.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Stories of Love and Geography: One about Linnaeus

Another one of the photos behind Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Desire.   This is Sara Elisabeth Morea at the time that she married Carl Linnaeus.

Not such a pretty face, but today's standards, but apparently she was attractive for Linnaeus to pine over her when he was away for two years in Leiden at the Hortus Botanicus, working on his system for classifying the world.

Their romance lies behind the story "On the Prelude to the Wedding of the Plants."

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Saturday Photo: What's Behind a Story

Ordinarily I use only pictures that I've taken for this feature, but today I'm pirating (well not really, they're bot WikiCommons pix) two photos taken by other people as the launch of my new collection of short stories Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography approached.

The longest story is one about the friendship of two women, set against some  massive geological events.  These include the eruption of Mount St. Helens, and volcanic activity in Hawaii that creates the sort of spun glass-like rock called Pele's Hair.

What to find out what the connection is?  Come to the book launch at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at Drawn and Quarterly Bookstore, 211 Bernard West, Montreal. or 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Librairie Clio in Pointe Claire Centre.

Friday, 1 November 2013

First Copies of Desire Lines Arrive!

And there is singing and dancing chez les Soderstrom! 

Lee, who hadn't seen the cover, says, somewhat hopefully, that maybe it will be considered pornographic and will sell well.

I reply that since the image is from a painting by Group of Seven artist Edwin Holgate, it's high culture, not sleaze.  But I'd like it to sell well too!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Looking for a Scary Story: Check This Out

Just in case you're looking for a little light literature, here's a link to a story I revised and read last night at the Drawn and Quaterly Haunted Bookstore event:

Nothing But Good Times. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New from the Harper Pizza Shop

Maclean's blogger Aaron Wherry quotes from Hansard today.  He says that Stephen Harper's Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra likened  the Senate expense scandal to stealing from a pizza shop till, but suggests that there is much, much more at stake.

"It is Stephen Harper, challenged as never before, perhaps struggling as never before. A man who beat Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and Jack Layton, out-maneuvered the press gallery and outclassed his most wild-eyed critics, now struggling to beat Mike Duffy, one of his own appointees, a celebrity who travelled the country singing the government’s praises, assailing its opponents and raising money for the Conservative cause. A Prime Minister having to answer not for any official policy or action or inaction of his government, but for some tawdry agreement with a political appointee. A politician who has survived or sidestepped so many questions about what he and his government have done, threatened by a deal to make $90,000 disappear. And a Prime Minister’s Office facing precisely the sort of scrutiny it is not supposed to attract."

Don't think we'll order in tonight. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Little Pause While We Played with Jeanne and Thomas

Elin and Emmanuel were in Winnipeg over the weekend, taking part in the activities commemorating the 275th anniversary of Fort Rouge and the French presence in Manitoba.  This meant that Jeanne stayed with us, and Thomas and his parents spent some time here too.  Great fun for all.

That's why there were posts on my part--no time to sit in front the computer!  They kept us busy!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Snow in the Air? Finally It's Getting Cold

This morning we turned the furnace on and when I went out walking it was shiveringly cold.  I think that fall is finally upon us, and winter is not far behind.

To make it seem all the more seasonal, city workers were putting up the boards for the outside skating weeks in one of the parks.  It's likely to be a while before we see scenes like the one in the photo where a small one is learning how to skate.  But the time is coming, climate change or no climate change.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Getting in Right in Municipal (and Other Politics): Bill de Blasio in New York City

Corruption, integrity, and transport are all being mentioned a lot as the Montreal municipal election winds toward its close, Nov. 3.  But I'd like to hear a lot more talk about making the city stronger economically and a better place for all levels of society, as is happening in New York City.

The elcction there will come only a few days after the one here, and The New York Times reports that almost certainly the Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio will win: it cites a poll giving him 68 per cent of the vote.  What is amazing about this support is that it is coming from across the economic and social range despite the fact that his platform is--hold on to your hats!--frankly left wing. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Sorry Result of 400 Years of Colonialism

The UN Reporter who just investigated living conditions in Canada's Native communities found some pretty sorry stuff.  Makes me very sad to read about the lack of sanitation and clean water in so manyplace.

Unfortunately Canada is not alone: here's a bit from theexcellent 1994 New Zealand movie Once Were Warriors. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Saturday Photo: Repeat Performance

I've posted this photo before, but here it is again, because I like and because today is exactly like this.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Fiscal Crisis in US and the World Over? Should We Get Happy?

Like many folks I breathed a sigh of relief when the Republicans ever so reluctantly agreed to step away from the precipice on Wednesday. But we're not out of danger, as this column "The Long March of the American Right" by Simon Johnson in The New York Times  chronicles. 

The American Right (followed by the Canadian Right a few steps behind) has been working toward destruction of government for years.  Johnson writes: "The mainstream narrative is that the problem is “dysfunctional government” or “paralysis in Washington.” That’s true, up to a point, but the real problem is the steady decline in legitimacy of the federal government – and the way this is related to what has happened on the right of the political spectrum."

Some how people have to come to understand that government is there it govern, and that everyone of us has a stake in its success.  Otherwise the breather that the last minute arrangements this week are just a temporarily successful reanimation procedure, like this one from the series House. MD.  I don't think  we have any right to "get happy."  The Judgment Day is still looming--in January when the current US arrangement comes up for renewal or in October 2015 when Canada is supposed to elect a new government.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Day to Get Rid of Stuff: A Trip to the Eco-friendly Dump

Got rid of three dozen old batteries, a Mac that dates from 1995, several cans of paint and paint thinner, a dozen rotten planks that Lee took out of the front steps, and some other garbage by taking them all to the Ecocentre not far from where we live.

Probably many cities have similar sites, where residents can leave off various kinds of no longer used stuff for recycling.  Ours are called Ecocentres, and I'm quite impressed by how well organized they seem to be.

Much better than stuff going into land fill. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Women to the Rescue? In the US Female Senators Come up with a Plan

There certainly are examples of women leaders who are just as tough, misguided and unsavory as their male counterparts: Sarah Palin,  Margaret Thatcher and Bev Oda are examples.

But sometimes it seems that the Old Girls' Network can come up with good stuff.  That may be the case in the current  mess in Washington.  The New York Times reports that the authors of a plan that may save the US from default on its debts and put government back to work are a handful of women of both parties who've worked together in the past on legislation.

The story says:  "In a Senate still dominated by men, women on both sides of the partisan divide proved to be the driving forces that shaped a negotiated settlement. The three Republican women put aside threats from the right to advance the interests of their shutdown-weary states and asserted their own political independence."

It goes on: "Of the 13 senators on a bipartisan committee who worked on the deal framework, about half were women, even though women make up only 20 percent of the Senate. Senator John McCain of Arizona joked at several points in their meetings, “The women are taking over.”"

Good on them.  But it remains to be seen if the Tea Party types will put the good of the country before their ideology. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

SOS: Reverse Dixiecrat Solution Needed

As usual Krugman comes through:

"The question for the next few days is whether plunging markets and urgent appeals from big business will stiffen the non-extremists’ spines. For as far as I can tell, the reverse-Dixiecrat solution is the only way out of this mess."

What he means is this: that in the next few days resolutions on continu"such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.:

Will Boehner put the welfare of the country and the world economy before his fear of being unseated by the radical fringe of his party?  I'd like to think so, but I'm afraid he won't.

Saturday Photo: Getting Ready for Thanksgiving at Jean Talon Market

Spent most of Saturday and all of Sunday either preparing for and eating our annual Thanksgiving feast.

For maybe 12 years we've had friends and family over for a buffet that is always a lot of fun.  We do turkey, some side dishes and a reserve dessert, and everyone brings something they'd like to share.  As the years have past the kids have grown up, new ones have been born and the rest of us had become, ahem!, more mature. 

The big surprise this year was  Jake, who was two at the first of these dinners and now is the size of a line backer.  Our Thomas was last year's baby, and now he cruises around, looking for interesting things to do.  This year's baby, the little brother of Sivan who has the baby two years ago, is still in the  hospital, but he was well represented by other members of the family. 

And the new addition to the table was over-roasted field tomatoes with garlic, oregon and basil. Don't know why I didn't think of doing them before: delicious!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Urban Gardenener: Foraging in Kansas City and in the Woods

Great story in The New York Times today about serious use of invasive and otherwise normaly uncultivated plants for cooking.  Linda Hezel supplies several trendy restaurants in Kansas City with "bedstraw, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, wild bergamot, red clover, dead nettle, lambs-quarters, wood sorrel, purslane,  plantain (the leafy variety, not the banana)" as well as chicory (see photo taken here in Montreal.)

She grows them on her organic farm, not far from the center of the Midwestern town, but apparently at least one other farm outside New York City also provides experimenting chefs.

Last year I collected some dandelions to cook like spinach, inspired by the elderly Mediterranean folk who still gather them all over Montreal as soon as they appear in lawns.  We thought them not bad, but a lot of work, as even the ones that grew in our small backyard required a lot of work to clean.

What I liked about the NYT's story is its emphasis on nuisance plants, unlike another elegy to foraging that appeared in The Globe and Mail last summer.  It lauded forest foraging which, in my book, can be just another name for forest rape.  All you need is a small army of city folks collecting rare forest plants to wipe out a species in an area.  Look what has happened to ginseng in a number of areas: in the US gathering the plant on public lands is now illegal in several states because of over-foraging.

Invasive, foreign imports are another story however.  Raspberries, blackberries and some grapes sometimes seem intent on taking over the world, and who's going to mourn the dandelions that get dug up in lawns?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Well, Not Really Flying Down to Rio, But Something Similar

Went this morning to the Brazilian Consulate in Montreal to apply for my visa to go to Brazil in November. I wont' be flying down to Rio--won't go anywhere near it, actually--but the tickets are bought and I'm now working on lining up the interviews. Rather excited. More later. In the meantime check out the amazing dance routines om this 1933 film.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Saturday Photo: Self-Censorship

This is the photo that I'm using on the hardcopy invitation to my book launches for my new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography next month.  

It's appropriate, in a way, because this sinuous path crossing the Champ des possibles open space near where I live started me thinking about the resonances of "desire lines."  They are, urbanists say, the paths people choose to make when they want to get some place.  They frequently have nothing to do with formal layout of streets and sidewalks and almost always they say a lot about  people's aims.

But I can't say I'm too pleased with myself for using the photo to promote the two parties we're planning to launch the book.  The cover, which I love, is a little racey and it's been mentioned to me that it's not the sort of thing that librarians and others might like to find in the hands of kids.

Since the image is a detail from a painting by Edwin Holgate, a member  of Canada's legendary Group of Seven parinters, it shouldn't get much flack.  But just the same I've buckled.  The e-mail invitation will use the book cover, though.

Whatever, you're all invited to attend one or both of the launches:
Wednesday November 6 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Drawn and Quarterly
211, Bernard ouest
Mile End, Montreal
(80, 435 and 160 buses)


Tuesday November 12 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Clio
245-N. Boulevard St Jean
Pointe Claire, PQ,
Plaza Point Claire

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Required Reading:Don't Let Anyone Run on Your Left

Great opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun (the Vancouver Sun!!!) that compares the recent BC election and the New York City Democratic  primary which saw the front runner crumble before Bill de Blasio who ran on an unapologetic left wing platform.

There are lessons here not only for BC but also for the federal NDP.  And it may be that Obama's people finally go the message which is the reason for him hanging tough on the budget issue right now.

Here, in part, is what political strategist Mira Oreck writes:

"Rather than a race to the centre, de Blasio offered a confident and courageous vision that spoke to New Yorkers, from the upscale brownstones in Brooklyn to public housing projects in the Bronx. He called for “an act of equalization in a city that is desperately falling into the habit of disparity.” De Blasio’s campaign blasted TV ads across the city describing him as “the only candidate that will raise taxes on the rich to fund early childhood education and after school programs.”

"It’s not often you hear a candidates say they’ll raise taxes and see their poll numbers rise.De Blasio’s primary campaign broke new ground...

" Rather than hurting him, however, de Blasio’s Tale of Two Cities surprisingly earned him more votes than his opponents in areas where the average income was upward of $170,000.

"His vision of a city that addresses income inequality spoke to people across the social spectrum.

She continues:
"A Tale of Two Cities rings true not only for New York City, but also for cities across the United States and increasingly for Canada. In British Columbia, where one in four children have lived in poverty for over a decade, every progressive campaign must place inequality — and the solutions to it — at the core of their message.

"De Blasio’s campaign proves that a strong, clear and unapologetic position on addressing inequality can draw support."

Are you listening Tom?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

US Shutdown: You've Got to Laugh if You're Not Going to Cry

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz has been posting daily about the ridiculousness of the tragedy unfolding South of the Border. 

What about this:

"In a special Sunday radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a health tip to the American people, advising them to delay getting cancer for a year.
“We’re involved in a high-stakes fight over our freedom from centralized government control of our lives,” said Mr. Boehner, speaking on behalf of his House colleagues. “You can do your part by delaying getting cancer.”"

And this:

UNITED STATES (The Borowitz Report)—Millions of Tea Party loyalists fled the United States in the early morning hours today, seeking what one of them called “the American dream of liberty from health care.”
Harland Dorrinson, 47, a tire salesman from Lexington, Kentucky, packed up his family and whatever belongings he could fit into his Chevy Suburban just hours before the health-insurance exchanges opened, joining the Tea Party’s Freedom Caravan with one goal in mind: escape from Obamacare.
“My father didn’t have health care and neither did my father’s father before him,” he said. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let my children have it.”
But after driving over ten hours to the Canadian border, Mr. Dorrinson was dismayed to learn that America’s northern neighbor had been in the iron grip of health care for decades.
“The border guard was so calm when he told me, as if it was the most normal thing in the world,” he said. “It’s like he was brainwashed by health care.”
Turning away from Canada, Mr. Dorrinson joined a procession of Tea Party cars heading south to Mexico, noting, “They may have drug cartels and narcoterrorism down there, but at least they’ve kept health care out.”
Mr. Dorrinson was halfway to the southern border before he heard through the Tea Party grapevine that Mexico, too, has public health care, as do Great Britain, Japan, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, New Zealand, Slovenia, and dozens of other countries to which he had considered fleeing.
Undaunted, Mr. Dorrinson said he had begun looking into additional countries, like Chad and North Korea, but he expressed astonishment at a world seemingly overrun by health care.
“It turns out that the United States is one of the last countries on earth to get it,” he said. “It makes me proud to be an American.”

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Saturday Photo: Dahlias

I used to think that the best flowers were those of early spring.  Perhaps that's because spring is when I'm really thinking gardens. 

But late summer and fall also have their gorgeous blooms, like these dahlias. Quite lovely!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted: What's Next?

Paul Krugman in The New York Times writes about  the Titans of Finance comparing uproar about their huge bonuses to lynching or Nazis invading Poland:

"Sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in “Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against, redistribution — redistribution from the 99 percent to people like them. This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn Rand; it’s ancien régime."

Makes you wonder how we can bring about real change, since the record of recent revolutions has been pretty dismal. 

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hijab Power: The Muslim Fashionista Who's Gone Viral

Just spent an hour watching videos made by this irreverant young Muslim woman who specializes in make-up and popular culture.  Here she is with her husband answering questions about their lives, it's one of 130 videos she's posted on YouTube.  . 

Some might say that deep down she's quite shallow, but she's also a kick.  Here's how she describes herself on her Facebook page, which BTW has nearly 40,000 likes:

"  Hey! My Name is Nura, born and raised in the US. My fathers Moroccan and my mother is Swiss-Lebanese ! :) IMMMM OBSESSSED WITH MAKEUP!!:) I speak Moroccan! My baby girl's name is Laila shes my worrrrld! Ive been married to the world most handsome man mashallah for 2 years! Ive gotten the privilege to travel the world thanks to my father! OH and im a twin !"

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Bixi: Shouldn't Be for Profit, Should Be a Public Service

Montreal's famous bike rental system is undergoing a liquidity crisis, it seems.

The program is wildly popular here, and has had success in New York and London, but the financial return hasn't been what was expected.  The province may come up with some short term money to help out until payments roll in (it seems $5 million from New York is on the way) but as Quebec minister for Montreal Jean-François  Lisée says "It's a success in Montreal. It's an international success but we seem not to have been able in the last few years to come up with a business plan that makes this a sound and permanent success in Quebec."
As Louise Harel, one of the leaders of a new coalition trying to win November municipal elections says: "The root of the problem is that Bixi was run like a business, but the city is not equipped to run as a business. It is a good corporation and we can be proud of it."

Okay, let's face the fact that the public sector doesn't really know how to run a public service.  It would have been much better if Bixi was started as a  public service, with the idea that it would need public financial support just as the bus and Métro system do. 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Siege in Nairobi: Why We Support the Aga Khan Foundation

Twelve years ago this week I was getting ready to go to East Africa to research my novel The Violets of Usambara. I've been thinking of that sadly this weekend as I followed the siege of a shopping centre in Nairobi.  As it happened, I spent a couple of days in that city, both at the beginning and the end of my trip, and I was able to look around a bit.  Most interesting, but that's another story.

What I kept turning to this time was the description of the Shabab, the besiegers, as a militant Islamist group, one of several now operating in Africa.  That was not the brand of Islam that I saw  in Tanzania, next door to Kenya.  In several villages I saw schools run by the Aga Khan Foundation, the charitable organization of the Ismaili branch of Islam,  where girls and boys studied and played together.  There were clinics too, and mother-child health programs. They appeared to be well-run, grass roots organizations without the proselytizing mission that most of the NGOs I saw that were run by Christian groups.

An Ismaili Muslim friend who had been born in Kenya told me about the foundation and the Ismaili brand of Islam when I got back.  Ismailis hold that if  a family can only educate one child, that child should be a girl, he said.  Looking a little further, I found that the Foundation says on its website that the four educational objectives of the programs it supports are:  "ensuring better early caring and learning environments for young children; increasing access to education; keeping children in school longer; and raising levels of academic achievement. In common with other donor agencies, the Foundation intends that girls, the very poor, and geographically remote populations should receive special attention."  (The picture is of graduates at a Aga Khan Foundation-supported secondary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.)

In a world where fundamentalist Islam is finding converts and supporters in many places, an organization of moderate Muslims should be encouraged, I think.  That's why, when we figure out how much money we can donate to various groups at the end of the year, the Aga Khan Foundation is on our list.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Saturday Photo: Street Flowers

We had cold weather and warm weather this week, followed by rainy weather right now.  Many of the summer flowers are looking a little bedraggled, but the cosmos continue to shine.

I've always loved the name and think the ease which they grow almost anywhere there's sun to be absolutely wonderful.  This group was blooming in the small space next to a street sign.  They probably were planted--they're annuals and must be started fresh each year--since the nearest house had clouds of them blooming in its little front yard.

Their only drawback is that they want full sun, and our shady yard means that I've never have had any luck in growingthem.

Love it when other people succeed, though.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Too Much Money Department: House in Westmount and Desmarais Marriage

Life is not easy for some people--just take a look at the unemployment rate and the growing disperity between the rich and poor--but others are doing just fine, thank you very much.

That was brought home to me in the last few days with 1) the marriage of Jacqueline-Ariadne Desmarais, the granddaughter of both billionaire Paul Desmarais and former Prime Minister Jean  Chrétien to a Belgian princeling and 2) a feature this morning in The New York Times about a house for sale in Westmount at $3.2 million.

The house I've passed many times: it looks like a truly lovely place, and I know there are several other multi-million dollar places around Mount Royal.  But the wedding takes the cake!

It cost several million bucks too, it seems, and the guest list included Nicolar Sarkozy and at least one Bush, close personal friends of the grandparents.  The reception took place on Ile Ste-Hélène, the site of Expo 67, and work was stopped on the bridge linking it to Montreal for the weekend, apparently to facilitate the comings and goings for the rich and famous. 

One always wishes a young couple good times, but it would be nice if other couples starting their life together had even a fraction of what this one has.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Cooking Today, Wine Tasting Tonight

My cousin Mary Lynn Thompson and her husband Mark took us wine tasting in the Walla Walla are when we were there last month.  It was a great experience.  From a wine culture that began with Italian agricultural workers at the beginning of the 20th century, the region has developed to produce some truly excellent wines.

So of course we brought some home with us.  The kids got bottles, but we kept some for ourselves, and tonight we'll have the first to two tasting dinners.  Rack of lamb (which Mary Lynn's father introduced to Lee and me more than 50 years ago at a toney restaurant in San Francisco), crab cakes (that aren't sticking together, but maybe I can salvage them) pear and spinach salad (with pears from our two pear tres), cheese, local tomatoes in confit and of course wine.

At the moment I'm just sitting down for a moment: must get back in the kitchen.  Nothing weighty as a post today therefore.  But one's life should always stop for good wine and good food.

The photo is from the Pepper Bridge blog; with their grapes in the foreground and the Blue Mountains in back. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Snot Suckers, Antibiotics, and Healthy Kids

By the time my kids were the age my grandkids are now they'd taken many courses of antibiotics.  Both of them had ear infections at an early age, and Lukas had H.flu meningitis at four month, a disease that babies are vaccinated against now at 2 months. 

But neither Jeanne nor Thomas has had an ear infection, and Thomas at a year has never had a whiff of an antibiotic (Jeanne did as a precaution after she was born for rather arcane reasons.)

Why is this? I wondered as I sat in the waiting room yesterdaya while Lukas took  Thom in for a well-baby visit.  Is it because of the "snot sucker" that young families are using these days to clear their children's nasal passages of mucus. 

The picture gives the idea of how it's done, which looks rather gross.  But it works, even if most kids scream when they see the tube coming.  Certainly the child doesn't have a lot of mucus collecting in the inner ear, which is where the ear infection usually start.

And the result of not taking antibiotics for this kind of infection is underlined in studies reported in The New York Times today.  Over use of antibiotics has led to the developoment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which in turn leads to the death of any average of 23,000 people per year, the US  Center for Disease Control and Prevention says.   Some of this resistance is due to use of antibiotics in animal feed, but unnecessary use for human disease is also a major factor.

So, not only have Jeanne and Thomas so far escaped the fevers and pains that their parents went through due to ear infections, they're also part of a new vision of health. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Fallout from War: Connecting Former US Soldiers with Their Offspring in Vietnam

One of the books I've re-read recently is Ru by Kim Thuy, a Vietnam-Québécoise, who tells in a most poetic way a story of "boat people" who ended up here. 

Told in very short sections, she circles around her own family's story while giving glimpses of war and exile and immigration have done to people.  At one point she writes about the sad case of a young woman whose mother was Vietnamese and whose father was an African American GI.

There was some mention of this section when the book discussion group at the Pierrefonds libraray met last week to discuss the book.  None of us were sure what were the regulations governing relationships between Americans and Vietnamese.  Obviously it was no easy to maintain one, and probably 90 per cent ended, like the backstory to Madame Butterfly, when the guy shipped back Stateside.

But obviously some of these men have long felt remorse over what happened.  Here's a link to a story in The New York Times about how some--now past middle age and closing in on their end of their lives--have gone looking for their children.  Quite interesting.

Here's a clip from the London cast of Miss Saigon, BTW.  Apparently there will be a new film version out next year.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Saturday Photo: Desire Lines' Cover

Today's photo isn't.  Instead its the cover of my new collection of short stories that will come out in November, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography.

WhenOberon Press sent it to me my reaction was: Hey, not bad!  But then I blushed.  It's a little racey perhaps....

Can't say I was surprised at the basic art  since I'd suggested the painting "Nude" by Group of Seven artist Edwin Holgate.  Michael Macklem, the founder of the press, designs its covers personally, and I knew he likes to use Canadian paintings wherever possible.  For the last two books I'd published with Oberon--one other short story collection The Truth Is and a novel The Words on the Wall: Robert Nelson and the Rebellion of 1837--I'd also suggested a couple of works that might be appropriate. 

Told to suggest three possiblities, this time I came up with the Holgate, plus details from works by Ed Bartram  (Zebra Rock, bottom right) and Tom Thomson (Forest, October, 1916. top right)  I liked the  Holgate best, particularly because there are two stories that take place in the rocky wilderness.  As well the nude reflects a theme that recurs throughout the book.

But, as you see from the small image that I'd photoshopped as a sample, I didn't think Oberon, a rather staid house, would go for so much flesh and I put the print in a couple of strategic places.

Macklem obviously disagreed and used far more of the nude as well as placing  the print to the side.  He also toned down the palatte so that the lines of the nude are almost abstract. 

But, wow! 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Family Photos: The Wonders of the Internet

This summer one of my cousins and I sat down for the first time in years and talked family.  She's started doing geneology and told me she'd come up with some picturs of our grandparents.

Lucky me!  Here's one she just sent me by internet: our maternal grandparents John Frederick McDonald and his wife the former Mary Belle Deckman about 1926 in Portland OR (I think.)

This was a high point in their lives, when he--who didn't get further than third grade and started out as a train brakeman--had struck it rich in real estate.  She, as always, was smartly dressed: she always looked stylish even when they had no money.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Demonstration on Saturday against the Proposed Quebec Charte des valeurs québécoises

Here'a the link to info about the demonstration.  As one of the people say they're going, one woman asks if she should wear a hijab, a kippa, or go as the cross on the wall of the Quebec legislative assembly?

Questions, questions.  Think I'll just pull out one of my scarves and tie it around my head.  If someone shows me how to do it properly, so much the better,

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Hidjab Files: Banned Sign Is Also High Fashion

The current Quebec government just released its plan for a "Charter of Quebc Values."  Chief among them is the "neutrality" of the state when it comes to religion.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?  But the way this neutrality will play out involves forbidding all government employees from wearing any "religious sign".   Small cruxifices or Stars of David on a chain will be all right, but the Jewish kippa, the Sikh turban, and the Muslim hidjab will be banned.  Hospital and day care workers as well as  teachers are covered by the ban.

What absolute nonsense!   Besides being hardly likely to survive a constitutional test, it raises a hornet's nest of issues.  Anyone who's visited a hospital or day care centre in Montreal lately has noticed the many competent, well-intergrated Muslim women working there who where the hidjab.  They should not be penalized for their beliefs, particularly since the head scarf is as much cultural as it is religious.

If you don't belief that last assertion, take a look at just what Muslim fashion is.  Rather nice, and certainly no more un-Canadian than a sari or African kanga.    And here's a link to some high fashion from Tehran.  Plus a YouTube video that isn't quite as edgey.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Saturday Photo: Harvest Time

The Jean Talon Market was full of tomatoes and people this afternoon.  As the harvest comes in, the outdoor market attracts hundreds who  buying cases of tomatoes for making sauce, as well as hundreds more just shopping for the best of the end-of-season vegetables and fruits.

There are few things as good as a vine-ripened tomato or just-picked corn, both of which we're going to have for dinner.

As for our garden, I gave up on vegatables several years go because the backyard is just too shady and the squirrels, too pesky.  But the pears have been abundant.  I picked most of them before we went on vacation, and now I'm bringing them out a few at a time to ripen.  Not bad at all!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Minimum Wage,Fast Food and Finding Something Good to Eat

The New York Times reports this morning on the growing protest among workers at fast food outlets (restaurants is hardly the proper description, I think) for a minimum wage of $15 in the US.  Seems that on Thursday there were walkouts at about 1000 outlets in 50 cities.

They've been supported by the Service Employees International Union since they began a month ago, a fact which "should reinforce the labor movement as something new and relevant to the young workers of today,” the NYT quoted Jeff Rosenfeld, professor of sociology  and labour  at the University of Washington. Its story continues: "pointing to the use of the Internet to spread the strike call, he added, 'The combination of old and new organizing strategies really seems to have paid off here.'”

That's really interesting, and perhaps a harbinger of a sea change in public opinion.  I'd like to think so.

But it also may have an impact on perceptions of the role of fast food in North American culture.  The French call it "la malbouffe," literally "eating badly."    We certainly found that on our little trip in August.  Most of the time we picnicked or ate with friends and twice we really dined at nice restaurants ( Anthony's in Bellingham WA and Offshore Seafood  Restaurant in the BC village are both recommended. )But a few times we were forced to look for a quick meal.

A Pizza Hut in a largish Nanaimo striip mall was expensive and really bad.  That started me thinking about the best small restos around here.  None of them are in high rent premises, and most are ethnic, frequently run by relatively recent immigrants following a dream.  Among them is Kim Bob Cafe in Dorval: it has a breakfast menu that caters to workers at the nearby Trudeau International Airport, and Korean lunches that are really good.  That suggested that a non-franchise resto in an ordinary strip mall mght mean better food.

I asked my foodie niece what she thought of the idea, and she answered that the best food they'd had on a recent trip to Hawaii was in strip mall Indian place.  So we tried the Mongolian Grill in Mukilteo, WA.  Very good, and not a franchise (although apparently it may have started out as one.)  Run by a Chinese family with help from a Latino couple, I hope they're making enough for a living wage. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Honest Mayor Says Cities Need Municipal Political Parties with Idea and Principles

Given the orgy of revelation about political contributions and corruptions in the construction industry around here and in Quebec cities, it probably should not be surprising that political parties have been bad-mouthed.

Certainly parties which are only mechanisms for amassing election funds have been found wanting.  But parties where ideas and principles are debated and carried forward, I've always felt, are extremely important.  That's part of the reason why I've stayed out of muncipal party politics: few of the players around me have had either ideas or principles and I've fond it more useful to be free to attack any or all of them.

But occasionally a good political party develops on the municipal level.  The one led by former Quebec City mayor Jean-Paul L'Allier is one.  That's why I was delighted to read about him saying just that in Le Devoir today. 

With a real political party "you have 1500, 2000 people who watch very closely what you're doing  because what you do is being done in their name.  That's a big protection," he said. 

I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

School's Started...

This is the kind of thing you'll be seeing around you this week as kids go back to school--this one is near where our kids did elementary school.

But what I remember is Chuck Berry singing "Hail, Hail Rock n Roll."  Here are the lyrics:

Up in the mornin' and out to school
The teacher is teachin' the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You studyin' hard and hopin' to pass
Workin' your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won't leave you alone

Ring, ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunch room's ready to sell
You're lucky if you can find a seat
You're fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom, open your books
Keep up the teacher don't know how mean she looks

Soon as three o'clock rolls around
You finally lay your burden down
Close up your books, get out of your seat
Down the halls and into the street
Up to the corner and 'round the bend
Right to the juke joint, you go in

Drop the coin right into the slot
You're gotta hear somethin' that's really hot
With the one you love, you're makin' romance
All day long you been wantin' to dance,
Feeling the music from head to toe
Round and round and round we go

Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feelin' is there, body and soul.

And here's the man himself

Monday, 2 September 2013

Recovering Today: Happy Labour Day

We had a triple threat birthday party last night for Lukas, Jeanne and Thomas.  Most pleasant and the two cousins (three and one) played together for the first time. 

Now Grandma is loafing: too much of a good time!!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Saturday Photo: Street Furniture on a Late Summer Morning

The Montreal borough of the Plateau-Mile End has been rather agressive in trying to make its streets pedestrian and bicycle friendly.  Among the initiatives has been the addition of rather attractive street furniture on some streets to encourage community life.

Walking around yesterday morning I found these two scenes.  The right one is of the official stuff, being used at 7:30 a.m. by only two women in front of bagel shop.  The left was two streets over where no one was out yet, but the lawn chairs were set up in the sun, waiting for the first loungers. Inside you'll notice the man with his coffee, almost looking like a healthier version of the famous Edward Hopper lunchroom painting

The summer is so short here that you've got to take advantage of every minute.

Thank You, David Cameron, For Being a Klutz: The Syrian Files

It's always interesting to watch while political maneuvering backfires.  That was the case this week when Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron tried to rush things and get Parliament to approve military action in Syria before the UN had fully reported. 

Within hours, if not minutes, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper did an about face, and stopped beating the war drums, so it looks like the US (with maybe a little help from France) will go it alone

The last time the US rallied the Western World was 10 years ago when it led the invasion of Iraq.  Canada stayed out of that one, largely because of huge demonstrations in Quebec. Then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien rightly read the signs and bowed to public pressure: at the time I said I was never more proud of having chosen Quebec and Canada as my home.

This time around the lack of participation by the Brits and Canadians will not be due to truly high-minded principles.  Most observers suggest that Cameron might have won his vote if he hadn't tried to rush it.  And Harper, well Harper is such a toady, such a monarachist suck-up that he'll follow Britains lead. 

Besides he may also be rather glad not to face a wave of protest at home were he to go to war  without a debate in the House of Commons here.  He's prorogued it until October, doesn't want to call it back before then, and probably would have forged ahead anyway if the British House had voted yes.  But it didn't, so now he can kiss some babies on this long Labour Day weekend.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

What Happens When Old Lefties Get Older

Yesterday I wore the button I got 50 years ago at the March on Wshington for Jobs and Freedom.  It elicited only three comments, which surprised me.

Either people on the Metro etc. had no idea what it was or were too polite to ask, or I'm invisible.

I'd like to think it was a matter of context--people didn't expect to see this old broad in bermuda shorts, sandals and a Tilley hat wearing a button from such a major event.

But maybe it really is a matter of the young(er) population choosing not to see their elders.  In that case, maybe I should carry a sign reading: "In my head, I'm really 19." Which is the truth.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sandy Beaches: An Increasingly Rare Commodity?

One of the delights of our trip was walking long distances on the beaches of Vancouver Island at low tide.  They seemed to go on forever, with rocky outcroppings punctuating the landscape every kilometer or so. 

Such beaches are increasingly rare in places where tourist infrastructure has been developed to cater to beach lovers.  A recent New Yorker had an article about the problems of protecting the New Jersey shore, and the havoc wreaked by Hurrican Sandy last year. 

Today The New York Times reports that ocean-front communities in South Florida are running out of sand to rebuild the beaches for which they are famous.  "Where Sand Is Gold, the Reserves are Running Dry" says that "The problem has... been worsened by sea-level rise and the number of jetties, or cuts to build seaports, that have proliferated, which causes sand to pile up on one side of the jetty but not the other."

Don't mess with nature, in other words.  As if we haven't heard that before....

The photo was taken on Combers Beach when it was so foggy that we couldn't see the little off short islands where sea lions like to hang out.  We went back another day as the tide began to go out and were able to see them settling down for a rest through binoculars. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Catching up on the News: Not Hard at All

While we were on holiday we didn't watch television, listen to the radio and looked at a newspaper only twice.  We checked email a couple of times and used the internet for reservations, but aside from that I didn't go near any of the social media.

Result?  We were completely out of the loop for two weeks, and didn't suffer from it at all.  There was a large stack of newspapers to go through when we got back and a pile of relatively important messages that may need some action.  But it looks like the world went on its troubled way quite well without my scrutiny.

I'm trying to figure out the message here.  Is it that we don't need to be plugged in all the time? Or that the grand events will unroll whether I want them to or not?

Perhaps both. At any rate, I'm going to have to make a list of actions that I should undertake to follow up on things that have happened, but strangely I don't feel any imperative to hurry to do so.

A positive effect of taking time off, perhaps.

The photo, BTW shows a graphic juxtaposition of time scales: the deformed sedimentary rock that dates from millions of years ago and the kelp that is covered and uncovered by the tides twice a day.