Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Well. The infamous WikiLeaks about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are being rolled out. As promised.

What have we learned? Not much. Mostly details; mostly minutia, actually. Frankly, I think it's pretty pretty boring, but the bellophiles (people who love war and all its details) may find it fascinating.

The US got into a couple of wars for reasons not entirely clear. And it's stuck in its position — holding a Tiger by the tail.

There's not much difference between the "good guys" and the "bad guys." The primary difference is that the "good guys" will at least talk to us. But even they have their own plans, which may (or may not) correspond to the plans of the US, its invasion colleagues, and/or NATO.

The US military reports seem to indicate that American soldiers have cause a lot more deaths than they're letting on. Killing the people you're supposed to be helping is just so "not on." Very quick way to lose friends and influence.

I imagine this stuff is going to keep rolling out for a while. You can pour over it if you want; I'm going to try to hibernate. Let me know what happened when I wake up in the spring.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I was reading the latest version of The Globe and Mail on-line, and got a very significant shock.

There was a poll about the the effect of religion. The question: "Is religion a force for good in the world"?

Of the 7,500-plus respondents, only 230 said, "Yes." That's a whopping three (3) per cent. The rest, 97 per cent, said, "No."

It is, of course, not a statistically significant poll, in terms of involving the proper balance of participants. It is simply a "straw vote" among the participants in the poll — the readers of the newspaper.

Given, however, that The Globe and Mail is a major, national newspaper in Canada, the results important to consider. Simply because of the sheer imbalance in those numbers.

The poll was done in relation to a recent debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchins at the University of Toronto's interdisciplinary Munk Centre for Global Affairs.

Blair, the son of a "militant atheist" (in his owns words), an Anglican turned Roman Catholic, feels religion is a force for good. Hitchins, a "outspoken atheist," is dying of cancer in the throat, but is rediscovering his own Jewish roots, while claiming that religion is a source of social ills.

It would have made a very interesting debate. Not being in Toronto, I didn't get to see it.

For me, three issues stand out. First, the sheer numbers on the poll, which I have already mentioned.

Second, the short-sightedness of our social view of religion, at least in Canada. 

To consider Christianity for example, the "religious" have been the prime promoters of both health care and education. In the earliest centuries of this historic era, Christians were caring for poor, sick, and hungry, regardless of their religious persuasion. (In that time, the primary religion would have been the worship of the Roman gods.) That emphasis went with Christianity, wherever it moved.

Likewise, when Robert Raikes began his "Sunday Schools" in the mid-1700s, the emphasis was on working with children in the slums of England, teaching them to read and write. By the 1830s, about 1.25 million children were involved in such schools — about 25 per cent of the people of Great Britain. Out of that movement the English public school system grew.

Third, Christianity in particular, and other religions in general, have sometimes been co-opted —used — as a source of division, and even war. This s often in direct opposition to their major beliefs. On the other hand, Christians have also led the process of peace-making in the world.

Where this current debate is likely to end is not something I could possibly guess. But the process, including its inherent lack of social and historic understanding, will be both interesting and challenging.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Snuggled away
in his firm-grounded den
resting on layers of fur and fat
Bear dreams
of a greening world
springing forth as winter recedes,
fresh grasses
first leaves of flowers
last year's berries
and cones of evergreens
perhaps the body of
a deer which died overwinter
and has been frozen in the snow.

And through all
Bear relishes the warm sun
relaxing stiff joints
relieving tight muscles
bringing old fur to new life,
and smells the fresh,
soft-scented air.

Bear dreams of
a good world.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Just when I got into a deep, hibernal rest . . . the Solar Alarm Clock went off, AGAIN!!!

Bright light shining into my den, strong enough to almost blind me. Snow melting; water dripping everywhere; slushy and slippery when I try to stand up outside.

What's a Bear to do when he can't get into hibernation?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The Bear is sleeping;
please do not disturb!

I'll be back by spring,
if not sooner.

Monday, November 22, 2010


As a writer, I often draw inspiration from my readers. And I have many wonderful readers, whose presence and comments I appreciate. You really do make my day.

This is a case in I am drawing some inspiration from my dear bloggy friend, Joanne. And thank you, Joanne.

I'm referring to a comment from "Reasons" in relation to my post, "Hard Times Come Again No More". (If you're not reading Joanne at Reasons to be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3, you should be; she is one very gutsy lady, and writes very well, too!)

Her point, in my relation to my last post, was that things in Britain are a lot better than in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. And she is absolutely correct! Things are better in Britain. In lots of places they may not be. But in Britain they are. In Canada, too. And the United States. Still, there are lots of individuals, in Britain, Canada, and the US, for whom life is really terrible.

But there was one particular bit that made me stop and think. In reference to Britain's system of benefits (the "social safety net," if you will), she notes it is "under threat now due to abuse."

That word "abuse" always causes me to pause and wonder. Abuse of whom, by whom, to what end?

There has long been a myth, in the United States, and I think elsewhere, that people abuse the health care system. Yet good research studies by doctors themselves show this is rarely the case. I know that a lot more people end up in hospital Emergency Departments, often because their family doctors tell them to go there, particularly in evenings and on weekends. And often people end up in Emergency Departments because they do not have a family doctor, since many doctors have so many patients they will not take any more. (Why take on more patients than one can care for adequately?) The research is corroborated by the stories of "front-line" hospital personal with whom I serve on health care ethics committees.The matter is further confounded by a lack of specialists in the medical system (at least in Canada, and, I suspect, in Britain), when compared to the needs of patients.

So, when I hear of "the system being abused," I wonder what is really happening, and whether this is more perception than fact. I don't know, but I wonder.

I think the larger threats to the health care system in Britain (and in Canada, as well as the United States) have come from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are wars being fought for dubious reasons, with very mixed consequences.

I've always believed that, for any government, the first concerns need to be the health and education of its people. (When I say "health," I include effective access to good food and clean water.)

The problem is that wars are expensive. And the money to fight them has to come from somewhere. So, why not take money away from health and education to fight the war? And if that is being done, does that constitute "abuse" of people by their government?

And while I agree that "it was much worse then than it is now," are we seeing a significant reversing of the trend? How far might that go?

These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night, thinking. 

What's a Bear to do?

Friday, November 19, 2010


In this case, a poem written a few days ago, before the cold and snow of winter set in.

On rough rock outcropping
Bear surveys
the meadow below
wearing its autumn shawl
ere winter sets in.

Squirrels dart and chatter.
Rabbits nibble a little
of summer’s leftovers
then scatter.
The lone coyote lies low,
waiting for another chance
to dine.

Bear sees them all
living in their own ways
yet in some sacred harmony
that makes the view seem good,
and relishes their re-acquaintance
come spring.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


My long-time friend The Blog Fodder recently drew my attention to Stephen Collins Foster's plaintive "Hard Times Come Again No More."

It's s song of hope amidst hopelessness, I think. While the song dates from 1854, the images connected to Mavis Staples rendition come from the 1930s in the U.S.A. But as Da Blog Fodder notes, "I could find pictures every bit as tragic today here in rural Ukraine or any part of the FSU" (Former Soviet Union).

The song is posted on You Tube.  The words by themselves are cause for reflection.

If Stephen Foster's name seems familiar to you, I'm not surprised. You would associate him with such songs as, "Oh, Susanna," "Camptown Races," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," as well as "Old Black Joe," Old Kentucky Home," and "Old Folks at Home" (often called "Suwannee River").

Foster was born in Pennsylvania in 1826, and lived all his life in the Northern States. While he had some education, he never finished college. Though he did some musical writing during his youth, it wasn't until he became bookkeeper for this brother's steamship line in 1846 that he began to focus on his music.

Foster eventually married and moved to New York. Yet he made little money, as publishers often paid him nothing for his work that they printed. His wife, with their daughter, eventually left him, and he died with three pennies in his pocket, at the age of 37, in 1864.

Ironically, in 1854, the same year as Foster's song, British author Charles Dickens began work on his tenth novel, which he published in serial form that year. In it, Dickens described the effect of The Industrial Revolution on the life of England's poor, the working conditions of those who laboured in what William Blake called "the dark Satanic mills," and the massive gap between the life styles of factory owners and those who made the fortunes for those owners. It was the beginning of the industrial gap between "the rich" and "the rest of us" — the gap which still plagues our world today. 

Dickens' novel: Hard Times.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row, . . .

(Capt. John McRae)


I have an uncle buried there,

my Mom's oldest brother,

wounded in the battle for Vimy Ridge,

who died a few days later

from his wounds 

in a Canadian field hospital.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Not quite the Stanley Cup, or the World Cup of Hockey, or the Olympics. Just good old street hockey.

Yesterday, it rained. Then it snowed.

This morning, a wonderfully icy world.

But I don't think we are going to have it for long. The temperature is 1°C — meaning that everything is melting. Slowly. Very slowly.

While there might still be some wonderful options for hockey, driving is a totally different matter. Will I be taking the car out today? I don't think so. We'll wait until the city crews start to do some sanding on the main streets.

Instead, my beloved J, Her Ladyship, Miss Sadie, and I will be resting at home. I can turn on the gas stove to keep the basement warm. We've got lots of books to read, and there are a few household chores to which we can attend. Or we can just sit and visit. The joys of being housebound. Well, briefly housebound.

First, though, I'll make sure the walk is cleaned a bit, to our letter carried doesn't fall on our walk while trying to deliver our mail.

(For the French version of this story, you can check today's edition of Le Jour en Français.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

LE JOUR EN FRANCAIS (The Day in French)

If any of you have doubts about my sanity, this should remove those doubts very quickly.

I have started yet another blog. But it is going to be very different.

It will be entirely in French!

As I have mentioned to some (perhaps all) of you in the past, Canada has two official languages: English and French. Particularly at the national level, one can ask for, and expect to receive, assistance in the language of your choice: English or French. If, as a government employee, you hope to reach the highest levels in government service, you need to be fluent in both official languages. That is even becoming true in middle management — at least the process is beginning.

So, to improve my French, as a retirement project, I'm going to work intentionally on my French.

I realize this new blog will hold very little interest for many of you who follow the Bear's adventures, and misadventures (especially misadventures). But for some, whose first language is French, or who have learned French over the years, it may hold mild interest (and an opportunity to help an old Bear learn his nation's other official language). And, yes; I would really appreciate any help you could give me!

There are translation buttons available, so you could have the computer translate the French to English, for your reading "enjoyment" (which is to say your chance to laugh at the Bear). Unfortunately (or fortunately) none of those translation services works on a Mac (so far as I know).

Bye of now. Or, in French, A la prochaine!

Friday, November 5, 2010

GOING . . .

Going . . .
Going . . .

Yes, 'tis true!
Our trusty Volvo Estate Wagon has gone to "the great parking lot in the sky," or wherever old, crushed vehicles go.
It never had a name. We never thought to give it one, referring to it only as "The Wagon." Almost seems a bit disrespectful, in retrospect.
Anyhow, it was burning oil that was leaking through the turbo-charger. It would have cost about four times what "The Wagon" was worth to repair the turbo, and the mechanics couldn't guarantee the replacement turbo would work properly. Besides, it wasn't entirely easy on gas consumption. 
Now, the government, in its wisdom, had developed a plan, a scheme, to get older vehicles of this type off the road. It was called "Retire Your Ride." (No; that didn't mean putting on a new set of tires.)  
The process was simple enough. Turn in your vehicle, and get cash, or bus passes, or other "rewards." In our case, Cdn$300.00. Because I'm now eligible to get senior's bus passes, getting the cash and then getting bus passes worked out best.
So now we're down to one car. And two bicycles. If my son, his wife, and our grandchildren (gasp!) can ride their bikes 12 months a year, in rain, sun and snow, why can't I? I do have to be a bit careful about that; my beloved J might conclude that such behaviour on my part would warrant getting the chaps in white coats to come along and take me away (ho ho hee hee ha haaa). Seriously, though, a senior's bus pass is a lot less expensive than licensing, and insuring and, maintaining a car or wagon for a year. If we lived on a manor (or small holding) in the country, we'd probably need two vehicles, But in the city, no. 

If you're in Canada, have you considered recycling you old ride?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


What is this bright light shining into my den?

What's this puddle of water beside where I'm sleeping?

Spring already?

Can't be; I haven't lost any weight.

OK. I'm out of my den, but the sun is way too bright. It's hard on my eyes. I'll look the other way.

Right. Clear blue sky — gorgeous! Sunny and warm. I'll bet it's 15°C. And the snow is all gone.

Time to stretch way up, and yawn, and shake my head, and try to come alive.

There are a couple of squirrels, running around the spruce trees, checking for any more seed cones.

I hear a chickadee, and a nuthatch. There are two thieving magpies chasing each other, practically right in front of my face. I hear a Blue Jay, right, . . . oh, there he is.

There's a Mountain Ash tree, with quite a few bright orange berries. I must have missed that one. Yeah; I was getting pretty dozy.

Seeing as I'm up, I might as well have something to eat. Those berries will be tasty.

Oh, but I'm stiff already. Grumble, trundle, mumble, trundle, mumble. …


I really hate it when my solar alarm clock goes off at the wrong time!