Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday musings

Well this posting is by necessity a bit disjointed due to the fact that we are in transit from our Island to the Sandwich islands via aeroplane.
So accept my apologies for any "jumping" around or indeed the shortness of the blog this week.
All forms of media are now completely saturated with either fond/bitter/nice/mean/nasty/hopeful remembrances of the year quickly ending and while I am not in the same league as those blatantly overpaid self centered news experts/pundits (heck, my blog is free!) I will put forth some thoughts.
Death is a part of life for humanity and we lost a number of folks this year. I will only mention two. One made an impact on mankind that hopefully with endure and grow through time - Nelson Mandela. Another was a man that was everything to his family and the people he touched in his life. Not a world famous personage, no, not he, but in his own way, just as important as Mr. Mandela, and that was my uncle Karl K.
Both heroes left us better for knowing them.
What next for the world?
America stares at the consequences of the drastic changes to its health care system both in terms of the impact on citizens and the very real, apparently incorrectly figured out fiscal impact. It seems a rule of governing that all programs are over hyped and inversely low balled as to cost. Sadly politicians all over the world assume the voter is stupid and cannot figure out the truth as to cost vs promise. What happens now to the USA economy? Anybody who says they know, well, I think they are just guessing and hoping. Will further budget cuts (and they are coming) hurt the economy? What about the military? For every spokesman that says a cut will destroy the functioning capability to respond to outside threats, a reports emerges about abandoned,never used multi million dollar facilities in countries like Afghanistan alongside newly delivered airplanes and armoured vehicles being mothballed in the American desert lands and never having ever been used. America needs (as does the world it protects) a strong healthy military but it also has to have a cost effective one and that should be a focus for the coming years.
For the rest of the world?
Does any person see changes for the better in the Middle East? North Korea? Europe?
Sadly, probably not my friends.
One can only hope for so much and instead strive to improve the life they live and the impact that they have on others and the part of the world they live in. That includes the environment. I was taught that each persons responsibility to the land was to leave a place they stayed at or used - better than they found it. And I have always tried to do so. Maybe a promise each can make to the world is to try and do the same. That being said, blind hatred of change and a myopic fairy tale view of a world that can not exist harms all good causes. Too many folks for example decry oil usage but cannot or are incapable of understanding the role oil based products play in their lives. They boycott big oil - while talking on their plastic based cellphones. They cry about forced labour but refuse to but local produced clothing because they do want to pay that much money. They scream about high taxes but want safe streets and cheap almost free electricity - because they are of the generation that seems to have a birth right to deserve everything for almost nothing. Their elders and great grandparents that struggled to live during the Depression of the 1930's would be dismayed.
You know what though?
Now that I am a self proclaimed grizzled old geezer, I still am an optimist.
I still enjoy a golden sunrise.
I still enjoy the look of joy on kids faces at playtime.
I still believe this world can and will get better.
Let's see if WE can make 2014 be a good year for you and for the world.......
from the magical Sandwich Islands,
A hui hou

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday musings

So, just a few more days until Christmas and time for a few thoughts and reflections instead of my usual rants and moans about this and that...
One of the things that is common to all majour celebrations regardless of culture or religion is the time available to reflect and consider friends, family and one's life in general and that is a precious commodity in this high speed 24/7 electronic invasive no mental “downtime” society. People have become too immersed in the “commune” life of interdependent consciousness provided by Facebook, Twitter and the like to be able to sit back think alone and quietly it seems.
So this time of reflection is a good thing.
Time for an update.
I have mentioned in earlier blog columns about the three young ladies that I consider my adoptive “daughters” because of the influence they have had on my life since I first met them.
Last week we were fortunate enough to have a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with our “daughter” the realtor here on the Island and later reflected on our good fortune to have had her enter our lives last year,
She is a really great person.
I had news this late fall where another one of my “daughters” is continuing on her life path and is starting to re-enter the work force, but on her own terms – she is an independent and strong willed young lady.
She is a really great person.
I have heard from my third “daughter”, the author that yet two more books are being published and continue to be in awe of her talent and super personality.
Here is a link to her web site - worth a visit-
She really is a great person.
All three have so enhanced my life, that words fail to express my gratitude towards them.
I am fortunate to have them as my friends and “daughters”.
We had a small gathering the other day and sometimes you forget how nice it is to get together with people and just enjoy the moment, something sadly lacking in many of the Christmas Season's office and home parties as office politics play a huge corrosive role in those.
And that is too bad.
I was able to stand back and observe just how much pleasure people got by being just themselves, because all of the guests were past the age where they needed to impress anyone with their lives or status or “toys”. No, these folks were comfortable in their “skin” and at peace with themselves at this stage in their lives.
My thoughts go out to a friend and his mother in Germany whom I have not seen in many a year but still are close friends and at this, their first Christmas without the family patriarch. A sad and lonesome time and hopefully they will do well.
Here on the Island, where snow hardly if ever falls in my little town, it is somewhat different to drive around at night and see so many houses ablaze with festive lighting and not see any snow on the ground. But, with this being our second Christmas here, it is starting to have its own appeal. And indeed, one experiences a mellowing of spirit unknown when we lived on the Prairie flatlands covered in its many feet of snow and really darn cold temperatures. And yes, here on my Island we are fortunate in that regard.
But I will gladly accept small mercies these days.
So what thoughts/message can we take from this time of the year anyway?
Well, as long as man exists, sadly there will be war, strife and both good and evil. It is part of our makeup unfortunately. But maybe that is part of the meaning of Celebrations like Christmas ( and yes, I know that the occasion is the celebration of the birth of Christ) where if we take the time for reflection and thought, maybe, just maybe, we can become better as an individual and that may slowly change humanity for the better.
And that would be a good thing.
So, a merry Christmas to all – those that believe in the meaning of Christmas and all of the others that accept the message and meaning of the season of “Peace and Goodwill” to all mankind.
My next column will be posted from the Sandwich Islands, so until then,
A hui huo”

For those interested, the illustration is the work of an emerging Saskatchewan artist, V. Morhart

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday musings

Last Sunday was the 72nd anniversary on the bombing of Pearl Harbor by forces of the Empire of Japan. Just reading that sentence gives one pause, it is as if one is seeing literature from another era in front of you. First, Empire of Japan? How quickly time has changed that aspect of Japanese society. And second, it happened 72 years ago?
How is that possible?
This points out to me the biggest change in modern society, indeed a change that is more sweeping than perhaps any other in history. And yes, I do apologize if after reading this you conclude that the observation is over the top, but, it seems correct.
The change I refer to is the way history is recorded starting at the time of the First World War. In majour wars and events in world history, the pattern was for the event to occur and then oral history would emerge supported by archival documents such as treaties, letters and occasional learned texts on the topic for historians to peruse. And for some, the only glimpses of it would be artifacts in various museums.
Film making, black and white and colour photography has changed that forever.
Now no event is ever lost in the mists of time or fading memories of our elders as they pass on.
You can get video CD collections of the Second World War on-line, and on Remembrance Day, the TV is filled with grainy images of trench and aerial warfare from the First World War. Normandy beaches are stormed forever and that mustachioed evil monster from Nazi Germany struts the stage over and over again.
How many times will America have to see their President Kennedy assassinated?
A popular saying that "history forgotten will be repeated" rings a little hollow when one reflects on how many evil and bloody wars have raged since 1945 (yes - 68 years ago - almost 3/4's of a century!).
Did mankind learn anything?
No, not really it seems.
Uganda, the Ukraine, Bosnia, Korea, Ethiopia, Argentina, Syria, the list is almost endless and nothing is changed. And just a year ago that horrible massacre of children at Sandy Hook elementary school, America.
Yet we will have this digital memory to watch for as long as technology exists.
Even in movies this trend exists.
Now in the Christmas Season the old ones with Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby and the like are re-run endlessly and these people have long passed on, in some cases decades ago but there they are - still on the video screen.
Does it make sense to you?
Anyway, in America some sort of budget compromise has been reached where possibly the country can function for a while in a non crisis mode. This fragile, soon to be voted on deal secures money flow for 2 years - which would be a strong step forward in many peoples' thinking. It should give some stability to world financial markets and possibly encourage American employers to re-invest in staff and equipment which would be a win-win situation all around. More employment, more factory orders, more taxpayers and less people needing public fiscal assistance and more revenue flowing into collapsed city coffers to pay for essential civic services.
Only good can come from that.
The spin off effect for that is if the American economy starts revving up - all the world will feel an economic impact and improvement. America is still the economic engine of the world and as soon as it starts humming again, the better things world wide will be. And indeed that is great potential news for all the unemployed in Europe no matter how much their myopic politicians say about how America does not matter.
It seems that the Chinese have successfully landed a lunar probe on the moon. In some American news outlets "talking heads" mutter about "dark" intention and yet one has asked the question that if the so called security of the moon (strange concept given the distance and more importantly the cost to get or do anything there) is so vital to American interest, how come successive Administrations have in essence starved the space agency NASA to fiscal death?
Here in Canada we have the same silliness where our armed forces have been trying to replace a helicopter fleet, apparently designed and built by Leonardo Da Vinci for decades only to be flummoxed by politicos of successive different administrations
No, the blame finger never points to those in charge, nope, the fault is in laid at the feet of a previous administration. Really, do politicians actually believe the nonsense they dish out to the citizenry?
In that great democratic country, the DPRK or North Korea, reports say that the uncle of the Leader, Mr. Kim Jung-uns has been dragged from office and executed.
Cool - true democracy at its finest, at least as done by the North Koreans.
Who needs criminal charges, fair trials and nonsense like that when a swift firing squad saves money and time.
Snow fell this week in the Middle East. Somehow while many might see that as "so nice for the Christmas season" many folks in central and eastern America that are up to and beyond their limits in snow will not concur. It has been a tough year for snow for a lot of folks around the world. Of course the climate change folks will now say that since the change is not a dessert world in the making, it is instead a wet, rainy, and snow filled world in the making.
Will they ever make up their minds do you think?
A sure sign (as if we needed it) that political correctness is so, so overdone and tiresome comes from a report in the BMJ journal, while purportedly "tongue in cheek" reports that James Bond, the super spy was an alcoholic.
Sigh, an imaginary book character being analyzed this way?
Wonder how much that report cost the taxpayer.
It ranks as silly as the broadcast reports that detail where Santa Clause "personages" residing in shopping malls have been directed by the management folks to refrain from saying Merry Christmas as it would, maybe, might, ahhhh - offend, hurt, alienate those that do not partake in the Christmas tradition. I wonder if these functionaries issue such stern edicts when events like say, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanza and the like come up? Heck there is even the story out of the small town of Saskatoon, Canada where a loud and proud atheist had taken local council to the Human Rights Court (oops, Tribunal) because local buses had Christmas greetings on their scrolling messages boards and it hurt his precious feelings. He never filed any complaints when other greetings (see Kwanza, Ramadan, Hanukkah) were posted.
Poor baby.
Folks, there is a lot more grief and sadness in this world to correct than worrying about the politically correct egos of some folks. People like some here on the coast of British Columbia who are determined to flee the evils of society by living on islands that dot the coast BUT demand things like electricity - free of course, roads - free of course, and multiple ferry service sailings to and from their island so that they can visit, buy things, have a job, that kind of thing, While it may be a stretch to say free, they sure as heck want everyone else to subsidize their way of living instead of paying the piper themselves.
I would rather focus efforts on all the victims of HIV/Aids in Africa for one.
Well, just under 2 weeks until Christmas and so next week I will talk a little about some things near and dear as well as thoughts on the season itself.
So until then,
take care out there,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday musings

   Never ever
      should he be forgotten,
            remember this man.
The pages and air waves have been full with tributes to this man and they barely touch the depth of him.
Nelson Mandela.
A hero to all of humanity.
A hero and beacon to all of us that try to make a good difference 
in the state of mankind.
My hero.
Words are inadequate and indeed they fail me as I try to write about Mandela and his meaning to me and South Africa and the world.
Suffice it to say that he breathed different air than we mortals, that he saw things invisible to our eyes and he understand things we cannot grasp.
As a person grows and ages, you can judge the growth of their character and morality by the people they call “their heroes”. And I mean no disrespect to the individuals I will mention but I believe you see what I mean as I progress. As a young child, cowboys strode tall – the Autrys's, the Wayne's, heck even the Zorro's. Then later, The Beatles and later still, for some, the Bieber's and the Kanye's and the Kardashian's. Eventually we (usually that is) all grow up and outgrow these one dimensional people and with luck become attuned to the Mandela's and the Tutu's and the others of this ilk.
I will not be the only one to miss this man.
Rest well Nelson Mandela, you have earned your sleep – and thank you.

I will return next week for a full column but somehow the cares of the world just seem a little less important than they were a few days ago.

Take care out there,
flatlander 52

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday musings

I have had a number of readers criticize me over the years (yes, hard to believe but this blog is almost 3 years old!) on what they see as my tendency to "love" America as compared to other countries around the world.
Sorry, that aint gonna change soon.
As a counterpoint to their argument, may I present a recap of what has happened recently in that great bastion of human rights and democracy - the DPRK - or as is commonly referred to, North Korea.
That august country has seen fit to imprison an American tourist for over a month now.
Did I mention that this person deemed a criminal by the North Koreans is 85 years old?
His "crime" was that he fought on behalf of the United Nations ( cue my feelings about that body!) in the early 1950's in the so called police action to halt the illegal invasion of the South by the same North Koreans.
He has been shown on state media reading a prepared "apology" for his criminal acts.
And yes, I know life in America has a pot full of warts and bad things, but ya think that this kind of behavior would occur?
Don't think so.
Anyway... seems like things are heating up in the seas around China where that country and Japan are embroiled over claims as to the ownership of a couple of tiny uninhabited islands that just happen to be directly over some potentially vast reserves of natural resources. The Chinese have officially expanded their national airspace  claims over the islands and in response to this, American, South Korean and Japanese air forces have done overflights - just to remind the Chinese that just saying something is not the same as having actual ownership. One outcome may be actual joint ownership of the resources by both nations.
That being said, that might be too sensible a thing to expect isn't it?
In Canada this week we had, what could be called a story that is a bit of a head scratcher in my opinion. There is a national world class, respected police force called the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and as part of its reason for existence is the enforcement of laws of the land.
Sounds simple right?
Well....  here in Canada people can get medical permission to smoke "pot" after strict conditions are met ( sadly for some observers, not so apparently in America, especially California where merely having a sore wrist can qualify one apparently) without fear of arrest and prosecution. That being said, basic common sense would dictate that the consumption be done by the individual in a discrete manner both in location and away from areas where the fumes/smell/stink can affect those that do not want to inhale this products air borne byproducts. Similar to the reasons why smoking of tobacco has restrictions when done in public areas these days. But there seems to be a driving need for many of today's' folks that they demand special treatment for them so as to not bruise their delicate emotions. A member of the force decided to try and basically embarrass the force in front of conveniently assembled media carnivores by smoking a "joint" while in full ceremonial red serge uniform while demanding that exemptions be made for him because of a medical (PTSD) condition brought on by his employment. First off, this is not to dispute his condition, not one bit. However what is/was he thinking of by promoting the use of an illegal substance in the uniform of a police force?
It seems like once again, someone wants rules just for them - and too bad for everyone else in the process.
You think youth unemployment is tough in your area?
Try Italy where in the 15 - 24 age bracket, the rate is 42.1%.
Yes, 42.1%.
Unemployment has affected 3.2 million Italians this year as compared to 2.9 million a year ago.
 In a burst of joy the Spanish government has declared that the current recession is officially over as it has stats that record that the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) grew this past third quarter. What was not said was that the growth was a staggering  0.1% and the unemployment rate is at 25.98% and that means 5.9 million folks are looking for work.
Something like the old medical joke where the punch line is "the operation was a complete success but the patient died."
One weeps for those people.
The mayor of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mr. Macri, had grim news for his taxpayers this week. As a result of inflation running at 30% (his numbers as compared to the "official" government number of 10.4%) he will have to raise property taxes by a staggering 40%. Time seems to be running out on the hopes of keeping inflation and possible social unrest at bay. And that is a tragedy as that wonderful country has just recently crawled out of financial grief and after a short invigorating burst of prosperity faces a potentially grim future. And yet the government, just like in next door Venuezala keeps saying all is well and any problems come from "outsiders".
Tough to swallow.
Seems like the Ukraine has decided to sign an economic pact with Russia instead of the European union this week. It seems the turning point was the insistence of the EU that the government release from prison a former Prime Minister which was not negotiable with the Ukrainian government. I admit to not knowing whether the former politician is guilty or innocent but once again there is the sight of an economic deal being conditional of what could be called interference of an outside body into a sovereign country's legal system.
The more I learn about the world, the more I am perplexed by it.
This week America celebrated Thanksgiving and the strangest of cultural phenomenons called Black Friday. This is a day of sales nation wide that showcases deals on all kinds of merchandise not normally available during the rest of the year. People camp out overnight in front of stores. People storm entrances at store opening. People knock others down in the actual run through the shopping aisles. People even shoot each other for crying out loud. One sees news videos of people with actual blank looks in their eyes, honestly it is both scary and saddening.
Supposedly a great American tradition but honestly, the more I see of it, the more I am perplexed by it and what it says about the society that takes some sort of pride in it.
One of the strangest things about Thanksgiving in America is the yearly reports where people have "accidents" when they prepare their turkey meal. No, not in the traditional oven cooking method, but in the newfangled method of having a large drum full of cooking oil and deep frying the bird. Sadly many folks seems to think that you can drop the bird - frozen - into the hot oil and have no consequences. Right, so each year you have 4,300 fires, 27 million in damages and 15 deaths as a result.
Boggles the mind doesn't it?
Oh well....
 So on my Island this week folks have started to decorate their yards with Christmas (nope, never going to call it Holiday in submission to the Political Correct wimps) lights and figurines. Even thought this is now our second Christmas time here, it is not getting easier to see all this without snow and biting cold all around.

Actually, it is kind of nice!
take care out there,