Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year of the Road Trip

I like looking back at year end, to see what happened, what registered as being important. It's all part of setting myself up for a new year, new adventures.

Biggest of all in 2011 had to be the road trip in The Rattler. Coast-to-coast and then some, exploring North America. If you'd like to follow along with our travels, click here to see where they began.

I saw so many places I’d never seen before - Amelia Earhart’s birthplace, the Grand Canyon, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Royal Tyrrell Museum...

Even better, I saw so many friends I hadn’t seen in years – Bob, Betty Joan and John...

Best of all, everyone in my family stayed healthy - with appetite, desire to go places, do things.

And as kind of bonus, I had a new book published, fiction at that – a new step for me.

It seems a good time to count the good things that have happened. It's probably a good way to start gathering more good things for 2012. Try it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


A quote in a friend's Christmas card has had me puzzling for an answer. The query she posed (from a novel by Colm Toibin) was this: "Tell me something you are sure is true..."

At first it seemed easy enough, but the more deeply I thought on it, the more difficult it became.

But because one thing is pretty-much-true -- this is my week 'off' -- I've been playing at another kind of puzzling. I'm hoping by week's end, I'll be able to reclaim my table for more substantial things than 'puzzling' with pieces of jigsawed cardboard.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Return of the light

In this time zone (PST) the winter solstice occurred twelve hours ago. From here on in, so long as the clouds aren't too thick, there'll be more light in the sky each day, leading us into spring towards summer.

Those of us who observe the Solstice aren't the only ones lighting our homes. The menorah candles are casting light for Hanukkah (Chanukah); trees and windows and eaves bear coloured lights.

These traditions seem to be so ingrained, it's almost as if they're part of our genetic heritage. But whatever reasons we have for illuminating our homes, light brings hope and joy to our celebrations.

Whatever you choose to do this time of year, enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An early visit

Look who I spotted!

He was just arriving at a local day-care centre. I must admit I was a little surprised to see him stepping out of a car (snowy white, at least), and I asked him where the sleigh was. He explained that the reindeer weren't feeling very well, so he'd let them stay home to rest up for the big night.

This sighting was almost as exciting as when I was little and came home from the Santa Claus parade with this lie for my mother: Not only had Santa waved to me, he'd called out my name in greeting. Wasn't I the lucky one not to get a stocking full of coal.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The good, the bad, and the sometimes-ugly

The past week has seen the deaths of three people who represented each of the attributes above.

The good, Vaclav Havel. Man of the arts, leader of his country as it moved out from under the Russian thumb. If ever there were a combination of intelligence, creativity and integrity in a leader, he'd get my vote.

And then there's the matter of the unquestionably bad, Kim Jong-il. It's hard to think of a leader who might present a greater contrast to Havel than this man. Dictator, suppressor of human rights, threatener of nuclear war -- how awful could one person be? And oh yes, the propaganda about him was always amazing, like the story of his first game of golf, when he shot the Superman score of 38.

And then there was Christopher Hitchens. Although he was no world leader, he certainly exerted a broad-reaching influence with his books and other assorted writings. And though his work was always thought-provoking, he did express a few sometimes-ugly opinions. To my mind, the worst was his support of the unnecessary war in Iraq that G.W.Bush created. (If only that trillion dollars could have been put to better use.)

And while Hitch certainly didn't expect any kind of afterlife, who knows what conversation might be if these three were to meet up? Wherever they may be (or not be), may they rest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's so smart about smart meters?

I haven’t been able to figure out what, exactly, is supposed to be so dumb about the old ones.

They seem to track our power use just fine. BC Hydro hasn’t complained that it’s not tracking accurately, so what’s the trouble?

Supposedly the new ‘smart’ one will let me know when I’m being wasteful. Only hang on, I can figure that out. Or, if I’m not sure, I can go outside and look at the meter. If it’s whirling too fast, I know there must be something on that’s eating the power. The clothes dryer? an electric heater?? something to check, or maybe turn off?

One goal of the new ‘smart’ ones might be to make a bunch more human jobs redundant. Yet even that won’t be much of a savings. Meter readers don’t make big-time wages, and most of them now serve double-duty, reading gas meters at the same time they check the electricity consumption.

Oh, Hydro's got their promo up and running (what did that cost us?) and even claiming this will make our power cheaper. But if that's the case, why were they seeking a rate hike? Maybe to pay for these? Meters that a lot of people seem to not want?

Many groups and individuals have posted information about the perils posed by these new devices. Here’s a link to more information. Here’s even one with information about how to replace your ‘smart’ meter with an old one; this same article also contains links to forms for making official complaints to Hydro – and more.

The old meter that’s outside my house still seems to be working just fine.

Whatever happened to the concept, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Or, is this just some deal cooked up between BC Hydro and the company that supplies these? Because if it is, I suppose that might qualify as some kind of (even if dirty) ‘smart’.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Not-quite-winter walkabout

The calendar says December. The morning sun is so low in the sky, it enters the window almost horizontally. Easy to see that Solstice is near.

Today was cool, but without a breath of wind -- perfect for taking a long, lazy walk.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


I’ll bet there’ve been times while you’re paying for a purchase when someone has asked, “Would you like to give $2 to the food bank? ...breast cancer research? ...your local hospital?”

Of course you would. You’re a good person. But wait a little minute before handing over your money.

Next time a cashier asks whether you’d like to donate a couple of bucks to X or Y charity or noble cause, think about where it’s going and why they’re collecting it.

The first place it’s going is into a bundle of dough handed over by kind-hearted souls like you. And the supermarket (or Post Office or other fill-in-the-blanks corporation) is holding onto it, counting it, and getting ready for the day THEY get to donate it to charity. Such presentations are often accompanied by plenty of frou-frah – frequently, even a photo op for the local paper.

They’re using YOUR money, then getting the credit. And that credit is not only of the feel-good variety, but also the tax credit for making a charitable donation.

If this practice annoys you, don’t take it out on the cashier. That person has been directed to ask – in fact, MUST ask every single customer, and can be reprimanded for not doing so.

These days when I’m asked, I say: I’m sorry you have to ask me to make a donation. I prefer choosing my own charity and then making a direct donation – that way I not only know where it’s going, I’m the one getting the tax credit, not your employer.

And where it’s just turned December, this is a good time to think about who you’d like to share with, where you’d like your charity dollars to go. Without the coercion of yet another corporate ploy.