Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday musings

This is an abbreviated post today. We are in Vancouver heading out to the Island ferry in a short while. I will post later today a full column after we have arrived and settled in to our temporary accommodations. See you in a while!
AGGHHHH..... I attempted to update the blog and hit the delete rather than save key!
And yes, I do know better.
Anyway here is a brief recap of this week and it deals solely with the trip we have made from Regina to Nanaimo.
Wednesday off to Calgary on an 8 hour drive. We spent that night and the next day there. We had the sad duty to attend the funeral of our good friend that I have mentioned before who was getting progressively sicker and sicker since the beginning of this year. I have had a number of friends pass away these past few months and each passing rips another incurable hole in my soul when it happens.
 The above shot is approaching the so called foothills past Calgary which we went through Friday morning on the way to the higher up mountains on the way to Kelowna. We arrived there mid afternoon and had a wonderful pub style lunch (with tonic water for me!) at an outdoor cafe. Then we spent some time walking the lakefront boardwalk and looking at the sites downtown.
Then Saturday off to Vancouver and spend an afternoon looking and buying a pair of sandals my better half saw on line and just had to have! Had a wonderful evening and meal with a dear friend of ours and then Sunday morning time to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island.
Most people take the REALLY large ferry over but we got a heck of a deal on this mini 2 car ferry!
Now we are resting before meeting with the lawyers tomorrow to sign off on the new house and take possession.
Sorry for such a short and me oriented blog this week, but this is my complete world right now. Next Sunday, I will update you further as to our travails and adventure!
take care out there,

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday musings

OK, I understand the passion Americans have about the Second Amendment to their Constitution and the right to bear arms. And their fierce and almost violent opposition to any attempts to limit this “right”or to implement any type of gun control measures. But really, how in the name of reality can they continue to do so after the latest insane killing rampage at a cinema showing a late evening screening of a movie in Aurora, Colorado? I read a report in an online news site, I believe it was Fox, that indicated for every 100 citizens, 94 had guns! Then postings on the web from Americans said that people should carry concealed weapons and if they did, then many people could have stood up in the cinema and starting blasting away as soon as the deranged gunman did. Say what? A shooting gallery would be the answer?
I suggest that maybe the people of America might want to look at what weapons were available when the country was founded. There were musket rifles and musket pistols as well as some cumbersome cannons. Not AK 7's, semi automatic rifles and handguns with projectiles capable of blowing a hole through body armour as there is now. Perhaps they should look at laws stopping the sale of these weapons and also make enforcement of existing registration laws a reality.
Make the evil doers carry muskets and have automatic 10 year prison terms for any person owning or using the deadly weapons now freely available.
Sadly, the poor Americans will pound their chests in a media driven frenzy of grief for a week or less and then fall back into somnolence once again until the next tragedy happens.
Oh America, why?
I see where security agencies in the United States are proposing to be given the power to have unmanned Predator drones equipped with lasers overfly and spy on citizens in the States. What the heck is going on with that? I thought that this type of electronic snooping was done over so called “enemy” countries in the search for terrorists. Come on America -spying on your own people now? Is this the start of a police state?
Syria is descending into chaos and madness as the civil war spreads and engulfs the land. Suicide bombings, assassinations, death squads and indiscriminate murder abounds. Reports of Islamic militia who seem to migrate from country to country in the Middle East to spread war abound. It seems that they have decided to hide behind religion as a means to kill and establish a religion based government in countries, and that the religion is what they say it is, regardless of what religious leaders say. Talk to religious scholars and they will say that things like Sharia law are not what is actually professed in the tenants of the Faith. Or the treatment of women and those of other faiths.
In Spain protests continue to escalate as the unemployed protest government austerity measures and protests in other European countries such as Greece and Italy also grow. And amid this spreading unease and fear the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said that the euro was not in danger despite some analysts' worse case scenarios for a break-up and said that greater financial, budgetary and political union among euro zone countries was inevitable.
Again some official issues bland platitudes and the governments sit on their fat rear ends.
Are they really going to continue to ignore reality and accept that chaos will probably be the answer?
Remember the Great Depression of the last century and that only a World War ended it. Is this what the politicians want? A international war to solve the problem of their making?
For shame if this is the case.
For shame.
In Argentina sniffer dogs at an airport in Buenos Aires uncovered a well disguised shipment of heroin from that country to Nigeria for transit to America. It seems all drug roads now lead to America.
Great news for nostalgia buffs, singing group “The Spice Girls” will re-unite to perform at the London Olympics. Almost as exciting as watching lint grow in your navel one could say.
Is it the sad state of music today that is the cause for reunions of many old time bands to do lucrative tours to sold old venues? Kind of amusing to see all the grey hairs attending these shows put on by various groups that are in their sixties or later and as grey haired or balding as well.
And this is now the first anniversary of the horror inflected in Norway by the madman (the coward will forever be nameless in this column) upon defenceless citizens on his murderous shooting spree.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined a grand vision for alternative energy usage a year ago, shortly after her government had decided to shut down all nuclear reactors by 2022 after the Fukushima accident.
Germany was to put itself at the forefront of the fight against global warming by radically expanding the use of renewable energy to 35 percent of total power consumption by 2020, rising to 80 percent by 2050. Currently, it represents 20 percent of the country's energy mix.
However two ministers, Environment Minister Altmaier and Economy Minister Rösler, have asked whether the targets are reachable and said their priority is to make sure that electricity prices don't rise too much.
Altmaier, cast doubt on whether Germany will be able to cut its energy consumption by 10 percent by 2020 as planned -- a precondition for reaching the 35 percent renewables target that year.
Sometimes reality intrudes on optimistic green energy projections that politicians grasp in order to curry favour with the electorate when the costs start coming in and the same people that want to go green do not want to have to actually pay for it.
Well, all of a sudden the clock is seeming to speed up for us as we are within 3 short days of our road trip to the West Coast to sign possession papers for our new house and get the keys to the place as well as leave the car when we fly back to Regina later. As well I have a mental list of things and places I wanted to see and do in Regina before leaving this first time and of course have not done so at all.
But the house continues to empty, moving boxes are now filled and very little remains to be packed and the fridge and freezer are almost empty these days.
A ghostly feeling at times walking through the empty halls and rooms.
And yet because we have to wait and wait time seems to drag on as well.
Go figure.
It will be a fast but long distance travelled drive. 8 hours to Calgary then another 8 to Kamloops and then a final sprint to Vancouver of about 6 hours. Then a day to rest there before heading via ferry service to the Island and then to our new location. While there, to say we will be busy would be an understatement.
Hopefully I can take some pictures along the way to share with you.
That is it for this week, so remember to take some time for yourself along the way.
Take care out there,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday musings

Talk about brain cramps. For the last 2 weeks I decided to list the date on my blog - and now after looking at last weeks came to the astounding realization that the date is also posted automatically - duh! Really - sometimes I wonder about my thought processes.
Oh well, back to no date stamp.
I was so thrilled to hear that the UN has said that the "conflict" in Syria is now civil war. I am sure that all the murdered peoples relatives are relieved to hear about this upgrade. What a farce the UN is. They have stood by and did squat about this war and yet have no problem in blacklisting Israel or appointing rogue leaders to humanitarian boards or to criticize countries like Canada for perceived problems. Where are the Arab countries in this anyway? Is not one of the tenants of the Muslim faith peace and charity to people? You would think with all the petro dollars floating around that they would be in the forefront of efforts to improve life in their region. Instead they do squat and build resorts massive skyscrapers and golf courses in the dessert. Great priorities indeed.
I read where a group of women in the Middle East are organizing a movement to restrict the ability of "western" women to dress in the way they are used to at home while in the Middle East. Instead they want the women to dress "appropriately" - in other words as if they were also Muslim.
Interestingly there is no outcry about this attempt to restrict women's right of dress from so called libertarians in the West, whereas they immediately jump to the attack when attempts to stop the spread of the hajib and chadri in the West occur.
Typical of these hypocrites I would say.
 You know my feelings about the upcoming Olympics in London and the following 2 stories show how out of date this circus is today. First the American political right has discovered that to their horror the uniforms for their country's athletes were manufactured in China! Oh the shame! One august person said that the uniforms should be burnt! OK, that is so rich, if this was such a big deal, where were the self same patriots when the companies set up shop in countries other than the United States? They were actually in the forefront of passing laws to maximize profits and reduce taxes for these companies - which probably were major money donors to their election campaigns.
The other story is, as in the famous scene in the movie Casablanca where the police inspector states that he is " shocked" to discover gambling while pocketing his winnings at Ricks' Bar, that the company responsible for the security of the Games has been "shocked" to discover that they are 1200 people short of full staff for the Games! Shocked I say! And they find this out now? So of course the British government will have to station armed forces as security for the event now. And all the while all the money given to the company for the security contract will have been paid and will probably not be returned and the owners/ shareholders will profit quite handsomely and not be held accountable in all probability.
Ah this modern world where accountability is no longer a sacred trust.
In the United States the Presidential election race continues and yet at this time, it seems that only media such as CNN and Fox really care whereas the rest of the country suffers under an extreme heat wave and drought. A report the other day listed the per person debt of several countries and that of the States was in the top 3. And the debt continues to grow and the lawmakers sit on their butts and blame everyone but themselves for the mess they are in. Many say that the problem started with the Bush era tax cuts, done at a time when the country was actually running a surplus and lawmakers were concerned about having too much money in the bank! No one has the courage to let these so called temporary measures stop - they think it is easier to bribe the voter with on the surface "tax cuts" while actually deferring the day of painful reckoning to someone else. Preferably after they have retired with a fat public paid for pension.
Where is the leadership that once was a hallmark of the American political system?
Would something like the New Deal or the Marshall Plan for Europe ever happen in today?
We both know the answer, and that is cause for sorrow.
What country will fill the moral and political leadership role in world affairs that the United States seem to be retreating from?
I despair.
In a country I have enjoyed visiting ( and yes, visiting is different than actually living there ) Cuba, an outbreak of cholera has been reported and authorities say that it is no longer spreading. Hopefully this is accurate. Cholera is a terrible disease. A report also has come out where in a sign of improving relations between Cuba and the United States, a shipping line has reopened after 50 years between the 2 countries. A ship called Ana Cecilla carrying humanitarian aid from the US to Cuba is set to be a weekly shipment, sailing some 16 hours from Miami to Havana, include charitable, religious and humanitarian groups, as well as relatives of people living in Cuba.
In Argentina a bus strike by the union UTA has ended and now people can take their mid winter vacation break by visiting the countryside resorts. Hard to believe it is mid winter there while here in Canada we bake in mid summer heat.
 On the home front, our house keeps getting emptier by the day. Today sees the departure of our 110 year old dining room table and chair set to family members from out of town, to leave a hole in the dining room and in our hearts. Two bedrooms are vacant and many cupboards are empty. Almost like living in a ghost house. It feels a little strange going through the motions of maintenance and yard care to know that in little over a month and a half someone else will call this place theirs.
The roses are in full bloom and we even have a robin who built a nest on our roll out awning ( which we cannot now open because of his construction site) as a neighbor. Every day my better half has a "chat" with her/him - not too sure about the sex of our avian friend.
 This past few days have seen the annual Big Valley country and western jamboree held at a town called Craven. For a short time this town becomes the provinces fourth largest city with all the campers and visitors. Rivers of beer are consumed with gallons of insect repellant sprayed while country music supplied by local, national and international stars is enjoyed by the sunburnt and probably slightly tipsy spectators. And every year there is remarkably very little mischief done at the Jamboree.
I would be remiss if I did not offer happy birthday greetings to KHK in B.C., a faithful reader who will be celebrating ,  I believe his 25th birthday (OK- maybe a bigger number actually!) among friends and relatives.
I lost another dear friend this week, this is happening more and more these days and I know will accelerate as time goes by. No one every tells you this when you are young and invincible do they?
On the fun side, we purchased new flatware for the new place in Nanaimo this week. Ooohhhh, I never realized how fun something like this is! Really? Really? Time to look at power tools to get back to the real world I think. I bet you Harrison Ford (70 this week!) never was excited by buying flatware.
 Well, time to shut this column down for another week but before I do, an update about the newest book from my favourite author, Deb Dalton. Her latest book is, as we say in the publishing industry, at the printers and will soon be available for purchase. Once this happens, I will shamelessly post a link again to her site so if you want to order it, you can. I promise you will not be disappointed!
Take care out there,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday musings - July 8, 2012

For the first time in decades, a free and open election has been held in Libya. Whatever the results and they are probably headed towards Islamic parties rather than those with so called “western” ideas of democracy, this is a good thing. Many reporters are bemoaning the fact that the majority of elections in the Middle East are resulting in governments that reflect a religious background. Well, what the heck did they expect? After all this is a region rich in history of Islam and its teachings and followers. To expect a democratic government resembling those in North America or Europe is foolish. You might as well expect the Americans to elect a President who espouses religious rights over other rights, hmm some might say that could be the Republican Party, but I digress. What is important is how these new governments act on the world stage.
Iran has threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz if embargoes and sanctions are not immediately lifted by the international community. That is what is termed “whistling in the wind”, all talk but really, no action. If they close the Straits, then all the oil they ship to customers stops and that will hurt the country and its people worse than any minor impact on the world at large. Indeed, a poll commissioned by the Iranian government – later denounced as a ploy of the evil Western powers (cannot figure that logic out) – found that the majority of Iranian people wanted the country to end its nuclear program immediately. Little embarrassing for the radical hard liners to say the least.
And in Greece, the head of the socialist party (ah here we go again with the socialists!) has issued a demand for the agreed to reforms to be phased in over three years rather than the original one year. I have yet to hear of any politician in Greece standing up and saying that it is about time to enforce tax collection in that country. Many pundits believe that an overwhelmingly number of Greeks simply refuse to pay taxes, indeed some consider it a national sport. One can see why the hard working tax paying German people are a little angry at continually bailing out the Greeks who seem not to care about debt – after all the rest of Europe always gives them more money – right?
In Spain, the annual running of the bulls in Panpolna happened this week. Strange event but then again is it any stranger than the annual Calgary Stampede held in Canada?
In England, security forces are making arrests daily of possible “terrorists” who are believed to be targeting the upcoming Olympic games for death and destruction. Maybe, just maybe, the world should just end the Olympics. After all, what good comes of it? Indeed one of the wonderful sports highlighted by the Games is woman's beach volleyball. Then there is spectacle of professional Americans playing in the “amateur” basketball games. Interesting how this and ice hockey in the Winter Olympics can have professionals from North America in it – all to drive viewership and ratings in the United States which then pours money into the coffers of the IOC – truly a reflections of the purpose of the Games – ah, who am I kidding anyway?
Money talks, end of story.
In the science world, confirmation came this week about the existence of the so called God particle – or the Higgs Boson particle. Supposedly the original building block particle that made life possible on this planet. Well, forgive me if I do not jump up and down for joy at this bit of news. Does this change the world we know at all or for the better? Not really. I would rather hear that the unemployment rate in the States had dropped by 4 per centage points and house prices were up and the economy was red hot again – that would be GREAT news indeed! As the American economy goes, so does the world economy go.
A report in many American news columns this week breathlessly stated that the economic center of the planet was shifting from the States to China. Once again, another case of the reporting agencies making up an agenda and driving it forward with probably no basis in fact to support their claims.
Speaking of organic and free range products, how come when there are less additives in products – you get charged more? Someone somewhere is a genius for marketing the benefits of organic and conditioning people to gladly pay more for that. Some would say all things are organic anyway, with some having a little less in its composition than others.
Speaking of America, a TV legend passed on this week. Andy Griffith left us a little sadder with his death. If you are old enough to have seen a show called (of course) The Andy Griffith Show which cast him as a small town Sheriff (the town was named Mayberry) in rural America circa the late mid fifties. He portrayed a kind hearted folksy single father (son was called Opy- in real life the later to be famous Ron Howard of Happy Days fame and directing career) who always managed to find good in all possible situations in life. Sure the show was idealistic, but yet it just seemed to feel right - and there was and is nothing wrong with that. 
It was a good show.
Shot another round of golf this week. Probably the best game score I have had in over 10 years. Just wish I could remember what the heck I did so I can do it again. But it does not matter, all I can say is that I am enjoying these last few games here in the flatlands before we move and treasure every moment and every glimpse of scenery that I get.
Speaking of the move, boy the time is speeding by now. In a couple of weeks we go out to the Island to sign papers and get keys to the new house. Then we fly back to sign papers to sell our present house in mid August and then do the last little bit of packing and then hit the road west for the last time.
Where is the summer going to?
Our dear friend in Calgary is slowly getting worse. I do not know what else to honestly say. Nothing prepares you for this. And every time it happens to someone you know, the hurt gets worse. When you are young, life is forever but as you age, you realize just how short and fleeting it is. The lesson from this is simple. Enjoy each moment as if it were your last, treat people with respect and dignity for you may never get the chance to say you are sorry if you wait too long to apologize for an ill timed action.
Go for a walk or sit on a park bench and enjoy life.
You just might be surprised at how you feel.
Take care out there,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday musings, July 1, 2012

Kind of a different column this week to start with at least.
The other day someone said to me that it was too bad we never had children. While some might say that such a comment might have been a bit insensitive to my feelings on the topic, it got me to thinking of young people that I know that have had an impact on my life.
And as such, there are some people that I want to share with you. And not in order of importance because they all are important and all have had a lasting impact on us.
We have our friend the realtor on Vancouver Island who actually is like an elder daughter to us. She is fun to talk to, has a super attitude with values that mirror ours and she truly cares about the needs of people she deals with. She has made the transition to becoming an Islander stress minimal and is just a good person.
We have someone on the mainland who is like a sister to us and whose door is always open to us when we descend out of the blue to visit her. Her opinions and thoughts are valued and respected.
I have a former co-worker here in Regina who is like a daughter to me and I enjoy her company in the all too rare tea sessions we have. A hard working young mother of a sweet 2 year old girl with great values and outlook on life and people. I am honoured to know her and will miss her when we leave the city for good.
My friend the writer in America is someone whose friendship I treasure. Just being able to give her some help in a minor way in her projects pleases me to no end.
All four continue to enrich our lives and I am so happy to have the pleasure of knowing them.
They make me a better person.
So, sometimes not having children is not the end of the world or a great sadness, indeed others can, and if you are fortunate as we have been, be there for you.
Got my second game of golf in this week. And what a game it was! The wind was blowing up to 100KPH (63 miles per hour) and I swear I saw birds flying sideways all game long. Indeed the flag marking the hole on the greens was almost horizontal on every green. I had one shot go 255 yards (OK I am exaggerating the distance just a tad) ahead into the gale force wind and then seem to hit a wall inflight and then actually began flying back at me and ended up about 20 feet in front of me at the end! Needless to say my score will not go down in history as a low score but possibly as a course high score.
Still, it was fun in a way.
All the things we have wanted to sell or dispose of before we move later this summer are gone and the house and yard seems empty to a degree. The footsteps in the basement echo where once there was furniture all around, now empty. The back patio and front sun room are bereft of furniture except for 2 forlorn lawn chairs for us to sit in – which we really do not feel like doing at this time. Some rooms are nearly empty and one tends to shut the doors to them to avoid looking in. Everything is in a holding pattern until the move finally begins. And it feels different to do things like mowing the lawn or yard work knowing that soon the house will be for someone else to deal with.
After 25 years, the house no longer seems ours and I feel like a visitor/guest instead.
Such is life.
My better half worked her last day on the last day of June and is now officially “retired”. And do you think anyone sent me notes of condolences now that I am no longer at home alone to rest and be able to take it easy? Not one person! Is that fair? No, I think not. Now I can look forward to things like walks in parks, tea shop breaks and dear lord – not shoe shopping – please no!!!!!!!!!
Oh well, we are both looking forward to this new phase in our lives and indeed, we have worked hard, sacrificed many things in order to get here and so will enjoy it.
So there is probably national mourning in Germany these days. And no, not about the continuing soap opera called the Euro disease but more importantly the fall of the national soccer team to Italy in the Euro Cup 2012 playoffs. The Germans just cannot seem to be able to defeat the Italians in championship play and that has been for quite a while.
Things in South America seem to be heating up. Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman of Argentina announced today Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay’s decision to make Venezuela an official member of the Mercosur trade bloc. In addition, Paraguay was officially suspended, until the country’s authorities are renewed.
You may want to look up what the Mercosur trade bloc is all about but it seems that instead of being solely a trade focused instrument, it is now becoming politicized by the present (Argentinian) President and with apparently the illegal admission of Venezuela (according to membership protocols).
Something to keep watching.
Islamist Mohammed Morsi was sworn in Saturday before Egypt’s highest court as the country’s first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak who was ousted 16 months ago. In his speech to the people he indicated that he would have a woman and Christian in his government with the position of vice president possibly to be filled by one of those. Time will tell where or what road this country now will travel in the way of the governing of the people. Will democracy (and really it has been very limited with army rule for so long) remain or will hard line Islam Sharia law prevail and be the end of rights for women in the land? Will they revert to non educated illiterate chattel to be dealt with by their husbands and men in general? It has always seemed to me that men who are so ignorant and cruel in their dealings and treatment of woman are basically insecure in their own manhood and incapable of totally rational and compassionate behavior.
Just saying.
Yitzhak Shamir, a former Prime Minister of Israel died this week at age 96. One of the true “giants” in the creation of that country and its modern history. Say what you want about him, he possessed a rare trait for a politician – he spoke plainly and honestly with no evasions and half truths. This enraged many in the Arab world but at least with him, they knew where he stood.
In the United States, the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the so called “Obamacare” Act much to the anger of the Republican and Tea Party people. It seems to add 32 million to eligible health care at public expense and this angers those people. Three things about this come to mind. First was the number of comments on social media forums from people who seemed to hate this so called socialist state health system that are vowing to move to Canada for freedom – do they not know about Medicare here? The second is do not these people know they are already paying for the uninsured by way of those crazy bills they get for items used for them while in hospital? Things like $500 bags of fluid used in iv treatment or $1000 staplers for stitches or $300 sutures? Then the third thing is with all these new potential patients coming on stream – where are the Americans going to get the doctors, nurses etc. for the increased demand?
Anybody think of that?
The city of Stockton in California has declared bankruptcy this week. It blames decline house values resulting in lower house taxes, state funding cutbacks and owed pension payments to retirees for this. So it now washes its fiscal hands of this and says to heck with the retirees – let them find their own way to live as the pension money is gone and so sad, too bad.
Is this right?
July 1st is Canada Day. A day of celebration and reflection on what it means to be a Canadian. Of course the nay-sayers will point to Quebec and possible separation, student unrest, treatment of the First Nation peoples, the poor, the elderly and a whole raft of other things BUT you know what? This is one hell of a country, the envy of much of the world and compared to much of the world, deservedly so. Yes there are problems but look around, and Canada compares pretty darn well I would suggest. So yes on Sunday we will be out and proudly sharing our passion for this land with other proud and grateful citizens.
Once a year is not too often to show our pride and appreciation of this great country I believe.

Have a great week and take care out there,