Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On a rock on the Rock


Newfoundland is as far east as we can go while still being in Canada -- quite a trek from our home on the west coast. The rock I'm standing on is along the East Coast Trail, where we took a mini-hike yesterday.


This trip here is to promote the new Amelia book, but it's also an opportunity to explore. Besides, the people are friendly, and the sights are magnificent. We've even managed to find a few icebergs!


But now, onward!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Eeny meeny miny no

This is just a sample of the crazy bouquets of signs that were lined up on nearly every boulevard and median in our neighbourhood. I'm sure this was a common sight all over the province as we prepared for the election held here in BC earlier this week.

Results of this election proved one thing to me: we are ready for (and need) some form of proportional representation.

If we use stats reported (as of May 10), the percentages of votes cast would suggest a legislature caught in a tie. The BC Liberals and NDP would each have 35, rather than their current respective 43 and 41. But the Greens, rather than having 3 members elected to the legislature, would have a whopping 15 seats. Even those 'other' candidates, based on the 2.55% of votes they received, would have elected 2 members instead of none.

I find it of interest that it was exactly 8 years ago today that British Columbians went to the polls to vote on a referendum that might have given us a proportional system.

Needless to day, it didn't pass, or we wouldn't be facing the unsettled confusion we have today.

There had been an earlier vote on the issue in 2005, though if you look at the conditions that passage required then, it almost appears to have been rigged to fail. Revision of the voting system required 60% approval to pass, (It seems worth noting that a far bigger issue, the Brexit referendum, passed on a simple majority.) But because it only got a 57.7% approval, it had to go to a provincial referendum. In that referendum, the one that took place on this date in 2009, the motion failed -- for any number of reasons.

There are still plenty of votes to be counted, especially absentee ballots. And I'm sure there'll be a number of ridings where a recount will be needed. There's one instance where the current margin determining the winner is only 9 votes. But even that illustrates the point -- every vote counts, yes -- but in a first-past-the-post system, pretty well half of voters are not represented. Maybe by the time the next election takes place, we'll have a system that better reflects the wishes and beliefs of the people. Here's hoping.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Be prepared

If I'm not mistaken, for years this was the motto of the Boy Scouts. A quick search revealed that it's now the motto of Scouts Canada, which has morphed into an organization for boys and girls.

Looking to origins of the sentence, it's attributed to Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement. The motto turns out to be perfectly appropriate for Canada's Emergency Preparedness Week.

This is a week when we're supposed to be updating (or establishing) our emergency kits -- maybe even talking with neighbours about how we can plan for ways to get through a natural (or other) disaster.

This was one of the topics at the recent Permaculture event I attended. One of our activities was to list those skills or materials each of us has -- ones that might prove useful in a disaster, especially if the situation proved to be a long-term one. We quickly realized that, by pooling resources, our group had access to tools, books, water supplies, barbecues, firewood and more.

Even though the items in the photo above are good ones for in an emergency kit (don't forget that manual can opener), these were simply a part of our normal, non-emergency Sunday supper. The dark stuff on top of the beans isn't a mistake. I like to add a dollop of molasses to tinned beans, as I think it always makes them taste better.

Right now there are a lot of people in Canada who are doing their best to get through actual disaster situations, as almost unimaginable flooding has occurred in so many places. We can only be grateful that our emergency kits (including those shoes under the bed, a flashlight in the nightstand, bottled water at easy access) are, at least for the time being, just a part of being prepared.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Almost...

The April rains, traditionally reputed to bring May flowers, have nearly lived up to expectations. Although the daffodils have long since come and been, the tulips are still standing and even the stalwart daisies have started asserting themselves. As for the lilac, you can see that it's still in the 'almost' category, just about ready to pop open, with that wonderful once-a-year scent.

But the garden isn't the only place where 'almost' is the operative word. It's almost time for our provincial election, one we can only hope will bring about a more positive direction for people here.

My happiest 'almost' is the fact that my new book about Amelia Earhart is now at the printer and is expected to be ready for take-off later this month. One of the most exciting parts of that particular 'almost' is the fact that I will be launching the book at Harbour Grace in Newfoundland -- the same town where Amelia took off for her history-making transatlantic solo across the Atlantic -- and on May 20th, exactly 85 years after her departure from there.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Every day needs to be Earth Day

It's wild how quickly the days keep flipping past -- with me only now finally getting around to saying a bit about how I spent Earth Day. Where the theme of this year's observance was Environmental and Climate Literacy, it was appropriate for this to also be the day when scientists marched, with the goal of science being respected again as the basis for decision-making.

As for my day, I was lucky enough to be invited to a conference on Permaculture. It seemed like an appropriate way to spend the day, even though much of the time was spent indoors. Topics addressed ranged from disaster-preparedness (and forming community in our neighbourhoods) to understanding the nature of currency. For the currency session, all 50 of us walked down to nearby Crescent Beach, where our history lesson included rocks and a stick with notches carved into it.

I first heard about the permaculture movement when I lived in Australia, back in 2002. I suppose it's taken a while for it to take hold here. But, the same way I like to think about postings on this blog, better late than not at all.

It was encouraging to see a range of ages represented at this event -- for a nice change, there were more young people than older ones -- certainly a positive sign for our future.

And I was especially happy to come home and be reminded of the ways we practise so many of the tenets of permaculture in our little yard -- our rain barrels, our compost bin and of course, our 'kitchen garden' which will soon again be providing our summer salads. Yep, those tender green shoots in the image above are some of the seedlings we've started for our outdoor salad bar. Yummm!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pot is on the table


At last! It was 1969 that the LeDain Commission was called -- an official government inquiry into the non-medical use of marijuana.

Over the course of the early 1970s their findings were reported, and -- surprise, surprise -- even back then, their conclusions were that it was time for marijuana laws to change.

Finally, with Thursday's Cannabis Act, Canada has begun to move forward towards legalization.

Sure, there are still kinks to work out. I plan to follow as this process unfolds. I'm just hoping there isn't any back-pedaling from the government. Considering how they've backed out of other promises they've made, I'm going to pay close attention.

One thing I am sure of is that next week's 4/20 events will truly have cause to be celebrations!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Women vote, because we can


It was only 100 years ago today that women were granted the right to vote here in British Columbia. The only reason I know this is because Daphne Bramham, one of the excellent columnists for the Vancouver Sun, brought it to readers' attention. Weirdly, I'm not able to find the piece in question online, though many of her other columns show up in a search. I'll do my best to not be paranoid about this.

Something she mentioned in the piece (it does exist; photo is of the print version which appeared on Saturday) is the fact that it was only in 1964 that women were permitted to open a bank account without their husband's permission. Strange though it seems, I recall being asked for my husband's signature when I applied for my first credit card (if memory serves, it was called 'Chargex') in the early 1980s. The thing is, I wasn't even married. My partner was a common-law spouse and wasn't the primary breadwinner in our household. Somehow I worked around this -- or, who knows, maybe I caved.

Today, on another errand, I needed to stop in at my Member of Parliament's office. While there, I mentioned the significance of the date, and I might as well have been looking at the deer in the headlights. Not a clue. And my MP is female.

We need to know more about our history, especially our history as women. And with an election coming up in our province on May 9th, it's important to support whichever party we most believe in.

It's simple: because we can vote, we must.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bananas for spring!

It's finally rounded the corner and turned into spring. I've been outside pruning -- the blackberries and rasps stand tidier than ever before. The quince and plum trees look ready to bloom. I even snipped the dead bits off grapevine and trimmed the little peach sprawled against the wall of the house. The only ones I left alone were the fig trees, spoilsports that they seem to be, so rarely bearing fruit.

Earlier this week I managed a trip to two of our coastal islands -- always a good way to get into the swing of feeling the seasons change.

Nope, I'm not foolin' (nor would my birth buddy, Debbie Reynolds have joked) when I say I go bananas for spring.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

In among the animals

It's been a wilder than usual week. Not just because of those photos of animals on the walls,though they contributed too -- in a positive way.

The woman is Bonnie Nish, the primary force behind Pandora's Collective, a long-standing group that promotes the arts in the Lower Mainland.

One of the many ongoing events established by Pandora's is 'Word Whips in the Gallery', a gathering that this time I was lucky enough to be a part of.

The way it works: several poets (and usually a musician and/or a dancer) are invited to visit the Zack Gallery at Vancouver's Jewish Community Centre on or around the opening of a new exhibit. Following that, they go home and prepare work that serves as a response to images in the show.

This time, the exhibit, "The Intersection of Science & Art" contained photos taken in South Africa and on the Galapagos Islands. Also included were realistic sculptures of various fish and birds, mainly ones that live here on the West Coast. Both elements served to inspire some strong responses -- not only from the poets who'd officially been invited, but from participants in the Open Mic, such as the talented Sho Wiley.

Of the pieces Bonnie read, the one that resonated solidly was one containing a line, easy for me to identify with, mentioning "days we all want to /crawl into our shell". This is particularly appropriate for Nish, as she's the editor of a book about concussion and brain injury. Not only was she the compiler of (and a contributor to) the book, but she's a survivor of concussion, unafraid to talk about it.

The work presented by the other poets offered the always imaginative range one encounters at readings, although just about everyone seemed to have a poem responding to the photograph of the blue-footed booby with its always-fashionable bright blue feet.

The imagination: surely one of the best traits of our species!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Not quite there yet

These daffodils serve as a good example of how I'm feeling ''not quite there yet" on a number of fronts. Even though I bought them a week ago, they've only barely begun to open -- and in truth, I'm not confident that all the buds will make it.

Oddly, the same thing occurred with quite a few of the bulbs I tried forcing this year. Specifically, it was members of the narcissus family, including the usually reliable 'paper white' variety' that disappointed. They formed what looked like normal buds, but they simply didn't open. And it wasn't just the set of bulbs I'd potted, but ones that came as a gift from a friend -- a friend who's a professional gardener.

But flowers aren't the only case of my feeling "not quite there."

Tomorrow is International Women's Day, and I'm seeing far too many instances of women being nowhere near "there" especially if 'there' can be defined as a place of equality.

I'm thinking specifically of recent court cases where sexual assault charges were not taken seriously, where the judge ruled that being passed out drunk could still signal 'consent'. If there can be any good news in this, it's the fact that the decision has raised an outcry and that today an appeal has been made.

As for wage inequity or glass ceilings, I'm not even going there. Sadly, that's not news.

And maybe I'd feel less edgy about all of this if it weren't for the fact that even spring seems to be on hold. Yep, instead of daffs outside, there's still more snow.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vigilance required

Today marks the first day of Freedom to Read Week. The books above are on display at my local library. I can't help but notice that several of them are considered science fiction -- books from writers who think about the future, and who often write books that serve as warnings. When writers hit too close to the mark (think Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book that's currently high on best seller lists), what happens? Their books are banned -- or, as we prefer to call it here in Canada, 'challenged'.

This year it seems more urgent than ever to speak out against censorship, even when the battle about 'fake news' is across the border from us. That's much too close for comfort.

The absurdity of the term hit me when I was watching this week's episode in the History of Comedy series (ironically, produced by CNN). In talking about some of the traditional family-comedy shows, Larry David used the term 'fake life'. I can only suspect that the guy complaining most about fake news probably knows quite a bit about it.

We've seen things go from bad to worse regarding Trump's non-relationship with the press, a group he's labelled an enemy of the people.

This week his 'shut up' statements to various reporters have been upped. In effect these now apply to several entire news organizations, notably CNN and the New York Times. If this were in a science fiction novel, it would be scary enough (maybe even enough to get the book banned). Only it isn't fiction; it's reality -- and a frightening one.

It's one thing to ban books -- a horror, to be sure. But it's quite another to disallow writers from gathering information and formulating the words. If I'm not mistaken, the Americans even have an amendment to their constitution which enshrines, among other essential rights, freedom of the press.

Dangerous signs in precarious times? You bet. Vigilance. Probably both meanings are in effect.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What's wrong with this picture?

Earlier this year we treated ourselves to a quick holiday (too short, but that's another story) in Cuba. I spent a lot of time strolling along the beach. Initially, my beachwalks were of the standard variety, keeping an eye out for shells or pretty rocks. But it didn't take long for me to decide there were far too many rainbow straws littering the beach.

Because one of my daily practices is picking up a piece of litter, it was easy to bend and pick up the first pink plastic straw that greeted me. But I soon found these littered straws were in abundance. And these were just the ones still on the beach. How many others had made their way out to sea?

In a place where plenty of drinks are being served, practically 24//7, I understand that hygiene is important -- thus, straws are inserted into just about every glass (even the plastic 'glasses') the bartenders hand out. I suppose the colourful straws also present some aesthetic appeal, and no doubt are cheaper than tiny umbrellas would be.

But, the abundance of these plastic straws along the shoreline got me worried about how much ocean contamination they were causing.

The pipe coral in my photo was washed up on shore, yes. And I'll admit to inserting some of the straws I'd picked up into the hollow tubes. I hope the juxtaposition of the natural and the man-made helps make a point -- a point I first heard about from an action in Tofino called 'Straws Suck.'

Plastic doesn't break down well, not even in the sea. Where tourism in Tofino is all about nature and the ocean, folks there take their stewardship seriously. The Straws Suck campaign is simple: avoid straws if you can, but if you need to use straws, use paper ones instead. Something to think about next time you're sucking up a drink.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ridiculous

When I was little (like, five) I used to play store. This involved getting tins from my mother's cupboards and arranging them on the steps outside the front of our house. I never sold anything, but I remember taking great pleasure in setting up the 'store' and taking some kind of strange pride in how it all looked. Plentiful, secure. Who knows.

Looking at my kitchen counter, I realized it still looks like I'm playing store -- only the display isn't on the steps outside, and the line-up doesn't consist of beans or corn or soups.

The set-up this time is an assortment of the various remedies I have tried to get through this ridiculous coughing flu, the manifestation of this winter's flu that's decided to pay me an unwelcome visit.

It probably looks as though I've decided to play drugstore. Frankly, it's nowhere near as much fun as playing 'ordinary' store. I'm just hoping I'm not going to need to rely on these supplies for much longer. But excuse me, please, while I go to find another lozenge.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Snow job

It was sunny here on Thursday, Groundhog Day, so I suppose the little critter saw his shadow and ran back inside. Even though snowdrops were blooming in the garden, I guess I should have expected 'six more weeks of winter' -- just as the local groundhog must have predicted,

Still, when the snow started falling on Friday morning, I was less than enthusiastic. Mostly I've taken comfort in the fact that I don't really have to go anyplace this weekend, so I can stay home and hunker down for a few days. Besides, I can blame it on the groundhog.

If only I could blame the other snow job on a character as innocuous as a groundhog.

I'm talking about the second of the big campaign promises that have been dashed by our prime minister, who once seemed like such a beacon of hope.

Many British Columbians must have voted for Liberal candidates on the basis of promises made on that party's behalf by its leader, Mr Trudeau.

Elements of their policy platform (still posted as least as of today's blog posting) include the promise of electoral reform -- in other words, as they put it: We will make every vote count, with Trudeau telling us many times that the 2015 election would the last we'd see of the first-past-the-post system.

People believed the Liberal promises in the last election, as evidenced by the fact that the party's dismal results in 2011 (when only 34 Liberal MPs were elected) were more than reversed by their resounding success in 2015 (with 184 elected, 17 of them from here in B.C.).

But electoral reform isn't the only promise that's already been put aside.

Trudeau campaigned on protecting BCs coastal waters. There was even a proposed moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic. Apparently that sort of ban doesn't apply to the waters of Burrard Inlet or the Strait of Georgia, as another broken promise came when Trudeau approval the Kinder Morgan pipeline plan.

The third big promise was the plan to legalize and regulate marijuana. At the rate he's been going with breaking his commitments to the citizens of Canada, I fully expect this one too will turn out to be too difficult for him to follow through on.

A snow job from the skies above? I can pretend to blame it on a rodent. A snow job from the government? I object.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mr. Jaws and others who come to mind

Today marks the start of the Lunar New Year, this time the Year of the Rooster. Since I didn't have a live rooster handy in my neighbourhood (and I didn't think you'd like the pic I took of the dead one on the street in Havana), this image of the little rooster box must suffice.

Thinking about roosters, I must recall one our family owned briefly many years ago. His temperament was none too friendly, so we named him "Mr. Jaws". Sadly, he met an untimely demise at the jaws of an animal bigger than he was.

I also can't help but think about the personality to the south who has invaded the White House. Right down to (or should that be 'up to') his flamboyant hairstyle, it's hard not to think of a cock's comb when I see him.

Of the several rooster-related quotes I've checked out, the most appropriate seems to be one attributed to Jeff Foxworthy: "The more excited the rooster gets, the higher his voice gets." Or, though certainly darker, this descriptor from the work of Stephen King, "a banty-rooster sort of guy -- the kind that likes to pick fights, especially when the odds are all their way."

So, aside from thinking about that particular rooster of sorts, what's inside the box?

Although it might appear empty, I'm sure this 'New Year's Box' contains a number of wispy plans, at least several unspoken dreams and of course, as always, plenty of hope.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Peace starts here

I'm doing my best to remind myself that mindful intention can be nearly as powerful as action, especially when it's combined with time devoted to a meditative practice. But even with such self-reminders, I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about not going into Vancouver today to be part of the Women's March there.

The closest I've come to being part of this weekend's social actions was participating in yesterday's virtual march in Surrey, the city where I live. The little guy in the photo above was one of the marchers in that. Again, intention, intention.

Especially if you've never tried meditating, here's a website that provides some solid guidance. Because it's by subscription, please know that I'm not necessarily promoting it, just saying it's a good place for learning.

But now I'm moving beyond intention (in my own small way) and heading out the door for a private march for peace in my neighbourhood.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Post-performance notes on an evening of song and light

All right, the photo is duller than most of the pics I post, but that doesn't mean that what I'm writing about was dull in any way. I'd have taken photos of the presentation if I'd been able, but cameras weren't allowed at the event.

Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre offers a program where certain of the plays they put on in the city circulate later at theatres in the suburbs. I've been a subscriber to this series in Surrey for several years, and last night's show was one of the best I have seen.

I'll admit, beyond knowing that the play had been written by Tomson Highway and that it was essentially a one-woman show, I knew almost nothing about The (Post)Mistress in advance.

The playwright's bio states that he grew up speaking Cree and Dene. So it wasn't too surprising to find the interplay of languages playing an important role in the script.

The main character, Marie-Louise Painchaud (indeed, that means 'hot bread'), who plays the all-knowing postmistress in a small Ontario town, spoke and sang in French, English and Cree. The French was easy enough for even me to understand, though English sub-titles appeared on a screen for both the Cree and the French. So yes, the show was wonderfully inclusive.

Beyond being inclusive, the message of the play was powerful. It probably sounds simplistic to say the focus of its themes was the importance of love, kindness and laughter, but that would be true.

The show seemed to be the quintessentially Canadian play -- from its use of language to its portrayal of life in a small town. How very appropriate for this, our country's 150th anniversary.

Marie-Louise was played by the remarkable Patricia Cano, who has a voice big enough to blast away anyone's winter blahs and a stage presence that nearly overfilled the theatre. She had all of us in gales of laughter and also drew us to tears (even hard-hearted moi, who rarely cries, even privately).

There are elements of the play that I can't give away; I can only encourage anyone who has the opportunity to see it to do so. Because truly, as the show ended, as I and the rest of the audience rose with applause, I could only feel that it had been an honour to be able to attend this amazing show.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Are they mating yet?"

Some things in life just don't make any sense. Today's stumper for me is the mystery of the mismatched lids-and-containers.

How is it that when they get washed and put on a shelf, top and bottom are intact, but when I go to tidy their chaos, more than half of them are loners?

I haven't heard any arguments coming from their shelf, so I can't blame this disconnect on domestic discord or messy divorces. As for my question at the top of this page, some may recognize it from the film version of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. However it is that this disconnect occurs, I'll admit to being puzzled. After all, I don't think anyone's been sneaking into the laundry room and stealing lonesome bits of plastic for the re-use phase of recycling. If they are, I wish they'd take the lids to go with all those missing bottoms.

And while I'm not exactly saying that there's a black hole behind the washer (though who knows, maybe there is), if there is, maybe it's a companion to the one behind the dryer that keeps chomping down those singleton socks.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Celebrating and Un-

Today is Orthodox Christmas, so it seemed like a good excuse for a bit more celebrating. I'd heard that the British call it 'Little Christmas,' but when I checked, it turns out that was yesterday, and that it sounds to be more of an Irish tradition than an English one. Today is also a friend's birthday so it was a good excuse to visit with her and have a celebratory cup of tea.

But along with celebrating went a bit of 'un-celebrating' as today was the day for packing up the ornaments and taking the wreaths down from the doors. Un-Christmasy, I suppose, but in my own homely way, practical.

Still, perhaps today's best celebrating was taking in a matinee at the local bijou, a place that's actually called the Rialto. This name proved to be more than simply nostalgically traditional, as the cinema featured within the film we saw had its own Rialto a scene which got an appreciative chuckle from the audience.

And yes, the celebratory fantasy was LaLa Land, a fitting title if ever there was one.

At first, I was hesitant, especially with the over-the-top (literally) opening scene (though it did present a nice alternative to road rage), but I soon fell under its charm (or maybe Ryan Gosling's).

Oh, it's corny, to be sure, with numbers reminiscent of Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. But it's also a lot more than that. There's a story, an actual story, a story that even has layers.

The music, much of it terrific jazz -- especially piano, the instrument I'm the biggest sucker for -- may well be the real star of the film, though Ryan Gosling's piano playing is certainly in the running.

The film's been praised like crazy and has also received nearly as many pans. I'm on the praise side and can't help but think that -- like so many things -- it's all about the timing.

Maybe this little movie, with its clever (even if not-quite Cole-Porterish) lyrics and peppy dancing is a dose of exactly what we need right now.

As 2016 was winding down, it seemed nearly every source was reporting doom and gloom, telling us what a dark time it is. Well, maybe it doesn't have to be. I'm all for un-dark.