Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mind Your Pennies

The old joke goes something like this: What international incident occurred when the waiter dropped the platter of turkey on Thanksgiving day? Well, of course, the downfall of Turkey, the destruction of China, and the overthrow of Greece.
It seems the Greeks do not need any help from a waiter, thank you very much. After generations of living in debt, subsidizing business, and getting paid for not working, it is time to pay the piper, so to speak.
Promises are cheap, and the Greeks have offered up another promise so that the IMF will re-structure their debt to avoid defaulting. (going bankrupt)  Too bad, but they are already 
 bankrupt. So what is the promise? To raise $110 billion over the next 5 years with new taxation and austerity programs. (read less spending, and that is what the riots are all about) But this amount would not even repay the $157 billion bailout the EU and IMF have already provided.
$110 billion over five years is $22 billion per year. But just last year their shortfall was $34 billion and the year before it was $52 billion. And of course, any shortfall is added to the debt, which has to be paid back, but in the interim, interest has to be paid on it. Right now, Greek bonds are yielding 17%! What an investment, you say. But would you buy Greek bonds? Talk about a risky investment.
Back on our side of the globe, our neighbours to the south are in the same predicament. Why do they not have rioting in the streets and a call for refinancing or default? It is because they are avoiding the inevitable by printing money, something the Greeks cannot do because they do not have their own currency but are tied to the Euro.

I say we hang on to our hats, because when the huge austerity measures come to a country near you, watch out for the same riots amid fog banks of tear gas.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another Good Read

It may look, lately, as though this blog is turning into a book review club. I just happen to be doing a lot of reading now that hockey is done with for the season.
Our church library is undergoing renovations so we were encouraged to take a lot of books home for the summer to eliminate the problem of storage. One of the books we brought home is pictured above. The author, Tass Saada, was a PLO sniper and Arafat's chauffeur, a Muslim immersed in anti-Israeli activity. As a young man he came to America, where he started a family, changed his faith, and began reconciliation with Jews. Later on he returned to Qatar to face his family and former boss, Arafat, with stories from his new life in Christ. The encounters are astounding. This is a very engaging story. His conversion story is very compelling and his biblical teaching regarding Arabs and Ishmael are very enlightening. This is a story about a radically changed life and gives interesting insights into the Palestinian/Jew conflict and the possible solutions.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Six Oh

The big six oh is history for me, but I seem to hang out with mostly younger people than myself so I get to see the angst from an experienced point of view. Such was the case on Saturday afternoon when a childhood friend was thrown a big party to mark the milestone. There were plenty of people, a band, a lot of good food, and a good old fashioned sing along. There were a few folks there that I had a history with, including the birthday girl. Just to make it interesting, I might add that my father told me, when I was 18, that I should marry that girl. In fact, I did date her, once. She was and still is a fantastic person. Her husband, who was also my good friend at the time, said that he hesitated in dating her for a few years because, in his words, "she was too nice". I thought he kind of nailed it with that expression.
Observing the friends of my youth after a long absence is a bit disconcerting. After talking with many of them for the first time in a very long time, I realised that not much has changed except their appearance. The voices, the sense of humour, the friendliness, or lack of it, the attitudes and expressions all had such a familiar ring. It was as though time was standing still, at least for the afternoon.
But then, as we got past the small talk, I discovered that 'life' has hit everyone of them in a unique way. I was told of things that I knew I would have great difficulty enduring, yet there was a perseverance and maturing that shone through, and in every case it was a testimony to their faith. I might add, that this was our young people's group from church in the mid to late sixties. It was so encouraging to learn what an enduring faith can do to ease one into a life that is now passing middle age.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

     This in not the kind of book I would usually choose to read, but a friend recommended it and after the first page or two I was hooked. It is Bill Brysons' account of his attempt to walk the famous Appalachian trail, a hiker's paradise (or not) that runs north to south through the Eastern USA.
There are four very interesting elements to this book. From least to most captivating, firstly, it is a diatribe against the intervention of man in the wilderness. I have never taken kindly to the rants of tree huggers and greens and there is some of that in the book. It is well intentioned but gets tiresome.
Secondly, it contains some fascinating history of the trail itself and the counties and states that it meanders through. This was quite absorbing in places and I learned some very interesting things about  these areas. For example, in the late 1800's, 70 % of the country through which the trail goes was farmland. Today, 70% of it is wilderness! You have to read the book to understand how that happened.  
The third aspect of the book is the unusual friendship that developed between the author and his unlikely travel mate. The twists and turns are very humorous and at times heart warming.
The very best parts of the book, and they are in abundance, are the adventures and  experiences the author had, and the people he met as he was hiking the trail. Always interesting and 'laugh out loud' funny, I could not wait to get to the next episode.
The next time I am out on the trail, walking through the woods, I will no doubt be recalling the antics and adventures of the Appalachian trail story and will be a bit sad that I am not there. Having said that, I am positive that such an adventure can be more than duplicated on our own trails here on the West Coast.  

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Deal

Prime Minister Harper: Hey Gordy, tell you what. Right after you get elected, spring the HST on the people of BC. We will both make a lot of money.

Premiere Gordon Campbell: I cannot do that Steve, it would be dishonest. I did not have that agenda in my election platform.

Steve: Hey, that never stopped a good politician from doing what is good for the country. How about I sweeten the deal. I will transfer a billion or so to BC. We will make that back in no time even though we will tell the people it is revenue neutral.

Gordon: The voters in BC are not stupid. I could probably lose my job over this. I don't think it's worth it.

Steve: OK. Here's my final offer. If you lose your job, I will give you a plum. The sweetest assignment a politician could want and it even pays more than what you are getting now. You will get to live in England, have your own chef and chauffeur, a really nice residence, get to hobnob with Queen Lizzy, and drink all the warm Guinness Ale your heart desires. I'll make you ambassador to Great Britain or whatever they call it.

Gordon: Did you say Guinness?  I'm in!   

Thursday, June 23, 2011


What will the future hold for Liam? This is a question every generation ponders when watching their child or grandchild at play.
I remember my first playground experience, and the equipment was not much different. I threw up on one of those spinning platform things that are designed to make kids through up in the playground. Those engineers knew what they were doing. 
Many things do not change from generation to generation, perhaps only the distractions from the important things in life get increasingly more sophisticated and intrusive. I think that most parents fear for their kids in one sense or another, in spite of the fact that there is much to be optimistic about. 
Watching Liam soak up life like a thirsty paper towel is a good lesson. Everything that is said and done in his presence is a small tool in his arsenal of  learning experiences that will help him to form an attitude, a character, a world view, and will shape him into the man he will someday be. 
There are so many aspects to raising a child that must be kept in balance, and must be thought through, that it is amazing that people who have never had children before are even capable of doing so.
But that is the beauty of being a grandparent. It is called experience. But, just when the wisdom kicks in, the energy runs out. I could never keep up to any of my grandsons full time, but in the small doses that I get, I marvel at what a good job their parents are doing with them.  


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oriole Park

We had the pleasure of hosting our youngest grandson for the weekend while his mom and dad took a little sanity break, out of town. I cannot say how wonderful an experience it is having him under our wings for any length of time, but a weekend was just long enough. He is developing so rapidly that we notice his vocabulary and his length of sentences improving daily. What fun? He is entering the question stage and is very curious about everything, asking many times, to confirm and to learn.

On Saturday evening we walked with him to a local playground that I did not even know existed. It is tucked in between, and completely surrounded by houses, in a small sub division, a few blocks from us. It is heavily forested and right in the middle is a playground. The light was wonderful and I was so fortunate to have brought my camera with me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Back in the Saddle

'Back in the saddle' refers to getting back to work, and is a rather old expression from the days when work was actually done from the back of a horse. My 'saddle' is not work but one of the things I do regularly and enjoy, and that is my life on the computer. My old Gateway had a massive technological event which resulted in a very negative downside. Being the heartless fellow that I am, I packed it in a box and will be rid of it soon. Of course, I kept its heart and soul, stored on an external hard drive, and breathed new life into a new HP Pavillion desk top PC. It is an ordeal to get a new system up and running, but I think we have accomplished that with most of the settings in order and all programs in place and operating smoothly. I am quite pleased that I am, for the first time in my life, on the leading edge of things techie. The computer I purchased was in the store only two days and I was the first to purchase one of these new generation monster machines. It has more speed than a bullet, twice as many processors as all my other computers put together, and more memory than a herd of elephants. And did I mention that it is wireless? No more hard wired cable connection! Now I can carry the tower, the monitor, the keyboard, the speakers, (including the big floor mounted woofer) and the mouse around the house with me, with twenty five miles of tangled cables and cords dragging behind me, shedding dust bunnies in its wake. And with an additional twenty five feet of extension cord and a multi octopus plug outlet, I can sit in the backyard and compute on my lawn chair. But, maybe not. I don't think it is waterproof. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Great Read

    Few people have not heard of or read John Steinbeck. He is the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning American writer of  "The Grapes of Wrath" fame. I read his book "Travels with Charley" this last week and cannot remember when I have enjoyed a book so much.
    The author was 60 years old when he decided to circle the USA with his dog and a camper on a truck, something novel for its day. He took the trip in 1960 so it was very interesting to not only get his take on things American, but with a 1960's setting. I was 12 years old at the time and was well aware of the cold war, JFK, nuclear proliferation, and the race riots in the deep south. As evidenced by his observations, it certainly was a different time, and yet, he was way ahead of his time in his ideas and his take on things.
    He is an excellent writer and I caught myself reading and re-reading many times to savour the delicious way in which he expresses himself. Unique is not a strong enough word. Rare is the gift to be able to so capture a scene in so powerful a way that the reader has to blink his eyes to assure himself that he is not actually there. His sense of humour is wonderful, understated and not always apparent, but clever in the most subtle of ways. I found myself laughing out loud several times.
    Even though the book is really about a moment in time, the literature is timeless in its form and beauty. It gave me visions of going back to school to learn to be a truly great writer. After all, he was my age when he wrote this delightful, yet thought provoking book.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Missing a Limb

   I feel like I have lost my right arm. Actually, it is only my computer. After weeks of freezing and crashing, and trying to find the problem, I must finally admit that there has been a death in the family. I could race out and get a new one, or I could wait patiently for someone who knows someone who will come when he is ready and do what might be a cheap fix for me, replace the hard drive. In the meanwhile, I am using the laptop, which limits me. So, sorry, but no photos until this situation is resolved.

   The talk about the Vancouver hockey riots just will not go away. It has sunk in, that more than physical damage has been done to the city. After glowing on the world stage, as a result of our wonderful winter Olympics, we seem to have sullied our reputation world wide. Funny what a handful of goons can do with a lighter and a hammer.
    What will happen to the hundreds of perpetrators, who apparently will be easily tracked down and caught due to all the social media publicity of the event? They say that there were 100 arrests made on Wednesday night with more to follow. If the last hockey riot we had in 1994 is a precedent, let see what will happen. 
    There were 100 charges laid with only a dozen or so going to court and all with guilty pleas. Of those, there were only two convictions with any jail time served. One of them was the ring leader who was brain damaged by a rubber bullet and sued the Vancouver Police. With civil libertarians coming out of the woodwork  already, you can guess that the scenario this year will be similar. There will be little or no restitution by those convicted, and if any of them are punished in any way, it will surprise me greatly. The lawyers and the special team of crown prosecutors who have been assembled will make a lot of money, of course, at the expense of the tax payer who will already be hit in the wallet with police costs and other expenses covered by the city and the province. 
   This all adds up to zero deterrents for future rioters. The politically correct thing to do would be to cancel the hockey playoffs next year to avoid tempting the hooligans again. Or at least hold them in secret and only announce the results in the dead of winter during a snow storm so nobody wants to come to the city core to riot.     

Thursday, June 16, 2011


No sooner had I finished yesterday's post when I went back to the TV and watched, with great dismay, the riots in the streets of Vancouver. There was constant references to "Canuck fans" who were angry and frustrated. Excuse me, but as the night wore on, it was evident that it was not Canuck fans but the usual gang of thugs that are always looking for an excuse to pillage and destroy. It did not help matters that those who were not participating would not leave. They were interested onlookers with camera phones held high. 
These images are going world wide and the timing could not be worse. We are on the verge of tourist season and you can bet that there will be potential tourism dollars lost. 

I am perplexed why this kind of thing cannot be stopped. It was evident that game seven had the potential to create an atmosphere that would foster this kind of activity. Those who were in the public venues in the downtown core were witness to unprecidented drunkenness at 4 pm and the game did not even start until 5:20!

So here is the first hint to the police. Be proactive and arrest or haul away anyone who displays any signs of inebriation. No exceptions. And announce it ahead of time. Closing liquor stores in the early afternoon is not enough. These goons were priming themselves all day. 

Today there is talk of finding and identifying the culprits in the following days, mostly from video tape and photos. Here is hint two. As the police march down the street, they continually encounter confrontational individuals. We witnessed on the live TV shots that they would just continue to press them on down the street, hoping they would disperse. How about grabbing each hooligan as he confronts an officer and cuffing him, hand and foot, and leaving him or her lying on the street behind the police lines. Clean up the mess after. Each one you take out is one less to loot and burn public and private property, and it sends a message to others who have intentions to do so. 

Firefighters were not putting out the fires in a timely fashion and the chief said today that it was because the water supply was not secured by the police and he did not want to put his own men in harms way.  Do they not have tanker trucks and extinguishers? If the rioters even approach the fire once the firemen are there, they get hosed. Plain and simple. 

If and when these people are apprehended, the full force of the law should be applied and there should be judgements against any future earnings of these people so they pay back every cent it cost the city. There is enough anger in the city over this riot to avoid the usual political correctness that attends the aftermath of the riots. (These poor young people cannot help it because they had a rough upbringing.)  Today there were concerned citizens helping clean up in the downtown war zone. They were sending cards and flowers to the police, in support. They are outraged at what has happened. Again I say, it was a few that ruined for the many. These people should all be identified and not allowed downtown for any reason when there is large event happening. After all, do you think the city will ever let 100,000 citizens gather in one place in the future? I doubt it.     

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We Lose ..... Again

It was fun thinking we could actually win the Stanley Cup. In the end, it came down to goal tending. If Tim Thomas had been a wee bit less efficient, and Roberto Luongo a wee bit more efficient, we would have won. I think that overall, we were the better team. As in other games of this best of seven series, the team that scored the first goal, won the game and try as we might, we could not get the puck past Tim Thomas.
Now we get our lives away from hockey and back to normal. But what is normal? Hockey has become normal. We will have to re-invent normal. For starters, I could tackle the huge 'to do' list staring at me on my desk. We could maybe work an actual 8 hour day for a change. I could re-introduce myself to busylizzy. I could get outside for some fresh air for a change. I could have an intelligent conversation with my customers that does not include the word 'playoff' or 'Canuck'.  But first things first. I will go into a prolonged period of mourning and contemplate next season and if I will be willing to wait another forty years for a crack at the cup.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Hockey?

This is the Stanley Cup, the Holy Grail in the sport of Ice Hockey.
Tonight it could be awarded to the best team in the National Hockey League, the most elite hockey league in the world. Why am I excited about this, and does it matter?
I grew up playing hockey so have known and loved the sport all my life. Even when I played, as a kid, I idolized the players in the NHL, in particular, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Later in life, when I moved from the prairies to the west coast, there was a new expansion team in Vancouver called the Canucks. Being even farther away from Toronto now, I changed allegiance to the Canucks. That was forty years ago.
In those forty years, 'my team', has come close but has never won the ultimate prize. If not tonight, then Wednesday, it could actually happen.
Now moving on to the other question: does it matter? I have been thinking about this for forty years so I have a few answers.
I have, for most of my life, been subjected to the learning principle of delayed gratification. It is a valuable tool as it teaches one that anticipation, in many cases, is more delectable, than actual attainment. This is so because there is so little in life that lives up to its billing, in other words, gives ultimate and lasting satisfaction. I think that the anticipation is what is exciting so many people. If and when it actually happens, Canuck fans will have bragging rites for a short while, but then summer will proceed, next hockey season will start, and it starts all over again. In sports, you are only as good as your last achievement. So, there really is no sense in making it too large a part of your life, because in the great scheme of things, it is unimportant, especially to the fan. 
For the players, it means a ring, your name on the cup, and more money. For the owners, it means more revenues and profit. What is that in light of the more pressing issues of life? 

We all have this emptiness in our lives that craves satisfaction of the lasting variety. Some try to fill it with sports, others with money, fame, adventure, or pleasures of the body. One does not have to be very old to understand that achieving any of these give only momentary satisfaction. It wears off. I guess you could say that these things are false gods, in that they do not do what they are supposed to do. They are impostors with their enticements wrapped in very glittery paper and promising happiness and joy. 
If the Canucks win, the fans eventually will say, "Now what? How can we get that excitement back in our lives now that Hockey is over for the season?" 
If the Canucks lose, the fans will be, for the most part, angry and frustrated. In '94 when we got to game seven of the final and lost, there were riots in the streets of Vancouver. But they eventually got over it. 
So, you see, win or lose, nothing is solved. The big issues of life continue to stare us in the face and we will have discovered that hockey is not the answer to life.      

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mirror Image

busylizzy salvaged a slightly broken mirror from the garage sale a few weeks ago and like all the junk she scrounges, it ended up in the garden. The inside of our house is not an eclectic collection of knick knacks and doodads from here and there and everywhere, but our garden most certainly is. 
She placed it in the back corner, under the big cedar tree, where it is not too obvious, but when one does chance upon it, it has the effect of expanding the view of the garden, and giving a little peek to the backside of things. When Liam and I first discovered it there, we were surprised and after a while, delighted. So much so that we had to pose in front of it and have our picture taken. Of course, being a garden variety of mirror, it does not give the most perfect reflection.   

Friday, June 10, 2011

Andrew's Birthday

Today is Andrew's birthday. I have two sons, one by marriage. Andrew is my flesh and blood. I have friend's who are envious that we can work together. Many father/sons cannot, for various reasons. Here are some things I like about Andrew.
He is : hard working
 attentive to detail
tech savvy
tolerant of an annoying (at times) father
a wonderful uncle
a wonderful brother
sticks to his convictions
a man of faith
a guy who loves fish and chips so is easy to treat on his birthday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cool Dude

There is so much I love about this cool dude.
I love his happy nature.
I love his willingness to try new things especially new words or correction on mispronunciations.
I love when he tells me all about fire engines.
I love having breakfast with him on Mondays and Tuesdays.
I love his enthusiasm for trains, especially 'Thomas'.
I love his enthusiasm for the outdoors.
I love how he is willing to pose for photos, and then runs back to see the preview on the camera.
I love when he sings, and he does a lot of that lately.
I love his hugs.
I love his kisses, whether the smoochie ones on the cheek, or the little 'blown kisses' from afar.
I love the way he says milk (moke) and then how he tries to do the 'l' with his tongue on his top teeth. It just will not work, but he concentrates hard when trying and is a good sport.
I love how when I say "See you later, gator." He says "After a while, crocodido"
I love reading books to him. He is so very attentive.
I love the way he puts his head right down on the floor to watch his toys in action .... a worm's eye view.
I love how he goes down so willingly for nap.
I love how absolutely sweet he is when I get him up from a nap.
 I love him in his cool sunglasses. 
And this list is just for starters.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Auditory Incredulity

It was a warm Sunday afternoon and I was in my lounge chair, in the back yard, soaking up the rays of the late breaking spring. Although my book was interesting, the warmth of the sun and the fresh air got to me and I began to doze off, half in and half out of clarity.
Way back there, in the recesses of my mind, something was nagging, no, aggravating me. It was familiar, or at least the general sound of it was. But it was familiar in an odd sort of way, incongruous, not a right fit for what it should be. I tried to ignore it but something told me something was amiss. I shook myself to a waking state, to put my mind at ease as I solved the mystery my drowsy brain was presenting to me. Yes, that's it, it is that pesky ice-cream truck. Annoying, but one of the sounds of summer that one just has to put up with if one is to enjoy the outdoors on a sunny day. But wait, something is really wrong here. I listen, and I listen some more. Can it really be? I sat bolt upright as I called to busylizzy to confirm my greatest fear. Yes, it was true. The 'Pop Goes The Weasel' style of monkey grinder music emanating from the truck was none other than Handel's Messiah Hallelujah Chorus!  Will I ever eat ice-cream again?  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Canuck Street Party

You could hear the noise for miles. No sooner had Alex Burrows scored the winning goal in overtime and it began. Fans from all over the city flocked to the 'main drag' in our city.

Our 'Boston Pizza' restaurant has been temporarily renamed.

Party time means time to get silly. All in good fun.

These crazy party goers were really wild and woolly. Hey, these are my friends Ken and Jan.

There was no shortage of flag waving.

And a chance to show of your wheels.

Mostly families here, celebrating and just having a great time.

I think these folks got caught in the wrong parade. They were flying Canada flags. Maybe they thought it was July 1.

The fans are going to the dogs.

All decked out in team logos and colours.

An East Indian band with drums and the whole works. I would say that most fans in the parade were of this ethnicity.

As sunset approached, the party just kept on going. What will it be like when we win the final game? An all-nighter no doubt.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Erv's Bench

Today was the one year anniversary of the death of our dear friend Erv Doerksen. His family paid a very special tribute to him. As you can see by the photo, we went for a walk in the rain to participate in this special tribute.

After a 15 minute walk on the lush forest trails, we came to McKay Creek, which empties into the Sumas River.

It is beside the footbridge over the creek, and overlooking the Sumas River, where Deloris and her family had a memorial park bench installed in Erv's memory.

It is in a very restful shady spot, with a great view. We were the first to arrive.

Soon there were fifty people there, all caring enough to come straight from work to walk down a muddy path and through the rain.

Deloris was there with her kids and grand kids.

Erv's very best friend, Ernie, was there.

Erv's mom was a real trooper and braved the long walk with her cane.

If I said that I have thought about Erv every single day since his death, it would not be 100% accurate, but it would be close. My memories are strong enough, recent enough, and fond enough to almost accomplish a perfect score, but what really does it for me are all the reminders in my everyday life.

Every Sunday night I think about Erv. It was our Care Group night, and he was our leader.

Every Sunday morning, I glance over to the section of seats, in church, where Erv and Delores usually sat. As the service progresses, I often think, "Erv would really dislike that music." Or, "Erv would really like that sermon today. We have to discuss that at Care Group or on one of our walks." 

Every time I see Deloris I think of  Erv. I often see the strain in her face and know that she is still struggling. 

Whenever I see Erv's grand kids in church, I think of Erv and how much he would be enjoying those beautiful children. 

When I hear Jazz, I think of Erv. 

When I see a kayak, I think of Erv. 

Whenever I used to pass a Scamp truck, I would strain to see through the windshield to see if it was Erv, and sometimes it was. When next I saw him, I would ask if he was in such and such a location on a certain day at a certain time, just to confirm. Today, when I see a Scamp truck, I look, not for Erv, for I know he is not behind the wheel, but because it has become a habit and I like to be reminded that I used to be able to see him by chance, anytime, anywhere. 

I recently bought one of his books at our annual Mwanza fund raising garage sale, and I will be reminded of him every time I see it or pick it up. 

And now, there is another reminder. There is a park bench, strategically placed in one of his favourite places to walk, a marvelous place to contemplate life with Erv, and life without Erv. It will be particularly meaningful to me because Erv and I used to walk past that very spot on our way to MacDonald Park. Whether through rain or sunshine, we would eat up the miles, deep in meaningful conversation, but always stopping to marvel at the beauty around us. He would bring his binoculars along, eager to see a rare species of water fowl, or an eagle on a distant treetop.

One time, before we knew it, we had walked six kilometres, and it dawned on us that we were a bit tired, but now we had to walk back. After a brief rest, we headed back. When we finally returned to the parking lot where our vehicle was, it hit me how 'done in' I was, but never once on the walk did I notice it. Conversation with Erv was like that. Totally engrossing. 
Henceforth, when I walk to Mackay Creek, or beyond, I will not walk past the bench. I will sit and contemplate. I will remember Erv, and then I will take great delight in imagining what it will be like to see him again. I know I will.    

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Game 1

With 20 seconds left in the third period, Torres scores the only goal of the game. We are three games away from the Stanley Cup. What more can be said?