Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Well, things have certainly changed.

My second doc (yes, I've got two of them now) is trying to help me handle on all this pain with different medications. And you know I've got a lot of it. Pain, that is.

Well, she has helped me reach a significant improvement! Can it be that the Bear is actually pain-free?

OK, not quite, but getting there. Bear is beginning to recover his long-lost vitality! There is some new energy here! Bear may actually start being human again. (Only that would mess up his identity; need to rethink that language.)

Uh, well, hmmmmmm. Lets not get over-excited. But! We'll take a few simple steps first. We'll keep watching the progress. We'll keep celebrating small improvements. And then, one day. . . .


Also brought to you by the letter V:
• vigilant
• vexatious
• vanquish
• very
• volume

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet, V for la France.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


"Unemployment isn't working." ~ Anon.

Yes, it's true. Sigh!

For the first time in a very, very long time, Bear isn't working. Bear is unemployed.

Of course, I'm retired, and drawing several pensions. I'm not facing the hard times most people face when their work ends.  But that's not the point.

I've been writing (with some friends) a regular column for a Canadian newspaper for about ten years. I was told last week, just before I submitted my latest piece, that the paper is making changes, and there is no space for us because of the changes. So our contract is ended, at least for the time being, after my last column. Sic transit gloria mundi.

There really was a shock to the whole thing. One day I had a job; later in the day, I didn't.

I can begin to feel what others have felt with such news.

Ironically, I was the one who ended up comforting our editor. She genuinely felt badly about letting us go. She hated the idea of talking to us about the situation. I said I would break the news to my colleagues, and we might come back to her with something. She called me "kind" for doing that. But that's just Bear being Bear. You know that.

Just because I'm retired, there's no reason why I have to give up everything in the wording world; the working world.

I suppose I could go on looking for work. The little bit of income (pocket change, really) was useful. It would mean more research, queries to editors, etc.

Or I could be content just to do my volunteer work with several different ethics committees (about one meeting a month, on average). And, of course, keeping up with my blogs. There will be two of those starting sometime in July.

Honestly, I've done enough of working. I have other goals to accomplish with my beloved J. That's what I really want to do. Other things come after that.

Lawrence Peter Berra put it succinctly: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Guess what, Yogi. It's over!


Also brought to you by the letter U:
• understanding
• ubiquitous
• unsettled
• ultra
• unlimited

And in the New Phonetic alphabet: U for me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


A couple of days ago, we marked the Summer Solstice. It was also National Aboriginal Day and Treaty Day. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said of the occasion, "Today we honour and celebrate Aboriginal people in Canada on this, the 15th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day."

He continued, "Our government is committed to working with Aboriginal communities, as well as provinces and territories, to provide aboriginal people with the education and tools they need their full potential and achieve a higher quality of life for their families."

The words ring hollow. A national agreement had been worked out, covering what the prime minister described. But when he came to power six years ago, he cancelled the process, before it even got started. But then, Prime Minister Harper and his ultra-Conservatives are quite good at cancelling helpful programs.

But it IS still Treaty Day. And time to party.

Across Prairie Canada, when government forces subdued native peoples in the late 1800s, a series of treaties was worked out.  They are the so-called Numbered Treaties, eleven in all, numbered one after another. (Treaties with peoples living in the East had been negotiated earlier.)

One of the elements in various Treaties was an annual payment per person of $4.00 to $5.00. When the treaties were signed, that would have been worth about $100.00 in today's money. Today, the money will buy a burger or package of cigarettes.

But it is still paid. There was an assembly of First Nations people right across the river from us, at the same time as the Solstice.

It happened under the watchful eyes of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in their bright red serge jackets. Individual after individual received payment. If, for some reason, people had missed the payment in a previous year, that was added to this year's entitlement.

And then it was party time. That was done elsewhere, out of the driving rain. And it isn't just the First Nations people who enjoy themselves. Increasingly, non-First Nations people take part. For as the government reminds us in its commercials, "We are all treaty people."


Also brought to you by the letter T:
• tenacious
• trifling
• tipsy
• thorough
• troublesome.

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: T for two.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It's summertime, and the livin' should be easy.

I expect it will be in this part of the world.

All you have to do is think about "How green is our valley."

This is across the street, east of our apartment. You can see a number of condominia behind the trees, and far off in the distance, a 22 story senior's complex. Its about 20 stories higher than the surrounding homes. The home owners fought the development some 40 years ago, arguing that something 22 stories tall was totally out of character with the neighbourhood — which was true. City Council allowed the project to go ahead.

Also, on the right side, near the top you'll see the old Westminster United Church (Presbyterian before it was United). It was sold when the folks at Westminster amalgamated with Grace United (formerly Grace Methodist) — which was named after one of the early church leaders, Grace Fletcher. Westminster has been owned by several church groups; the current congregation is trying to sell the building. It's a big barn of a place, and I suspect it costs a lot of money to operate, particular to heat in the winter.

This is just a bit further up the river bank. The houses you can see in the midst of the urban forest are on Saskatchewan Crescent — a premier address in the early days of the city (and still trying to keep up). There are huge homes up there. HUGE!

The bridge in the foreground, the Broadway Bridge, is one of seven bridges in River City (eight, if you count the one currently under construction). It was built in the 1930s. It was a depression era bridge, built as a "relief" project — you had to be a married man to work on it (i.e., someone with family responsibilities).

The north end of downtown is on the left or west side of the river (and out of the picture). The University Bridge is there, north of the Broadway. University Bridge was designed by an early class of engineers at the University of Saskatchewan, which takes up the east side of the river bank, and runs further east for miles. The one building you can see clearly, in the upper right, is the Arts Tower. It has numerous classrooms and offices used by those in the College of Arts. Less clearly visible is part of Royal University Hospital — long-time teaching hospital, which provided (and still provides) the best care in the Province.

So, that's our view of the valley on Summer Solstice Day, 2011. Solstice, btw, arrived at 1:16 p.m.. I would have taken the pictures then, but there was a mammoth rain shower in progress. Something like a giant fire hose that was spraying water all over the city, trying to extinguish a great mass of tree and grass fire. (Trees and grass, yes; on fire, no.)

Right across the river, to the north, . . . but that's tommorow's story.


Also brought to you by the letter S:
• surreptitious
• sizzling
• supple
• strange (like the Bear)
• sartiorial

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet, S for Williams.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Sonia, at Gutsy Writer, challenged us (her readers) to develop a "Life List."
A life list can be a list of things you would like to do, sometime. It can also be a list of things you have done (as in a life list of birds seen). In my case, putting together a life list meant thinking over my life, various experiences, and various hopes, or dreams. It was an interesting review of years, decades.
My list is a bit of the past, and a bit of the future.
I call it: Things Done, and Awaiting.

* Teach myself Welsh, including a visit to Wales. Fortunately, I know some great bloggers in Wales. (They show up in the "Other Thoughts Worth Considering" part of my blog — left margin.)
Fly in a glider
Live passionately — Trying to do that all the time.
Visit Australia — If I can travel that far. I know lots of fair dinkum bloggers there, too.

* Get more fully involved in the life of our city, particularly in the downtown. (I know the city councillor for the area.)
* Visit the Holy Land (Israel and Egypt) — 20 years ago; a great time. I'd go again, but that part of the world is so unsettled, thus unsafe. (We were only stoned once the last time we were there.)
* Have a lot of fun — Been a bit short of that for a while.
* Learn to paint with watercolours.
* Watch birds — That’s the different kind of “life list.”
* Inspire/encourage others — One of the most important things any of us can do
* Live in an Intentional Community — similar (in some ways) to monastic community, but with the option of including married people; participants need to be enthusiastic about life, eager to learn, and eager to serve.

* Buy a motorcycle — Do you know how much a good motorcycle costs? (Hint: more than a car costs.) Dubious about this one.
* Get people together for dinner, and talk about really important things in the world, and how we might become involved.

* Go Whale Watching - Belugas, at Churchill, already; would really like to see Orcas along the British Columbia coast.
* Watch a sunrise or sunset -  We do that lots of days from our apartment — amazing view of sunset over the city.
* Watch a meteor shower - Long ago, when I was in my teens; more since.

* Watch the Aurora Borealis — The shifting colours always amaze me. Often very visible in July or August.
* Climb to the top of the Brock Monument at Queenston Heights, Canada — several times; great view of the battlefield. (We turned back the American invaders there in 1812, but lost our best General — Sir Isaac Brock.)

* Hold a snake — Held garter snakes a couple of times. Almost stepped on a rattlesnake, once. Lived to tell the tale.
* Visit the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa — have done that, maybe would do it again.
* Visit the Lincoln Memorial — In 1990 , my first (and only) trip to Washington, D.C. (I've been to other parts of the U.S.)
* Visit the Great Wall of China
* Visit Paris - On our way back from the middle east; only one evening, sadly — would be nice to go again, for a week or two. (I'd like to have Genie, and Holly, and M as tour guides.)
* Have my own business — Been there; done that; have the scars. Not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

* Get back to riding my bicycle.
* Sit by a camp fire with friends and sing songs — would love to do this again — and talk about interesting/important things.
* Fly in Hot Air Balloon — Did that a few years ago.
* Take a martial arts class - Have always wanted to study Ken-Do. Now I’m probably a little old for that.
* Start my own blog - several, actually
* Sleep under the stars -  as long as it doesn't rain and the mosquitoes aren't around.
* Slept on an overnight train - Heading down towards Aswan, Egypt, and towards Churchill, Canada.
* Serve in a soup kitchen — during  my teens, in Toronto.
* Contribute to a Food Bank — regularly
* See Niagara Falls, Canada and US — Several times, might do it again
* Go to a play at the Shaw Festival, Niagara on the Lake, Canada — done it already, would love to do it again.
* See a total eclipse of sun or moon - Several times, for both.
* Save a favourite childhood toy - my Teddy Bear (from my first Christmas, in 1945). Must post a picture, sometime
* Sit on a jury — Sadly, this won’t happen. Because I’m pastor, I cannot serve; likewise, because I’m a journalist. But I’ve sat through a number of trials as a reporter. Boring, mostly. Not at all like what one sees on tv or in the movies.
* Read the entire Bible — again
* Publish a book - My memoirs, perhaps
* Kiss in the rain — Married for almost 42 years; what do you think?
* Join a book club - Did in the past; we didn’t meet often enough to keep up my interest. But maybe this year.
* Hold a praying mantis - When I was growing up. Beautiful creatures.
* Have my portrait done - Expo 86, Vancouver, Canada (picture using coloured pencils). I still have it.
* Have my picture in the newspaper - Several times.
* Have enough money to be truly satisfied - just about all the time

* Grow my own vegetables - Done that before; might try again. We’ve got a herb garden on our apartment balcony, but it’s mostly J’s project this year.
* Go to a drive-in theatre - Done that.
* Go sky diving - A bit ambivalent; one never knows.
* Go skinny dipping - Oh yeah.
* Go scuba diving or snorkelling — A bit of very shallow snorkelling when I was younger; would like to try scuba gear.
* Go rock climbing — In the Canadian Rockies; I'm getting a bit (something) for that kind of activity.
* Fly in a helicopter — Years ago.

* Fly in a single engined plane — With my dad, and mom, when I was very small. (Dad used to have a commercial pilot's licence, number 101.)
* Donate blood - Used too; taking too many meds now (sadly). Donating blood is an important way of contributing to community.
* Climb a mountain - Again in the Rockies.

* Build a snow fort - I live in Canada; what else can I say? But I have yet to build an igloo.
* Buy a brand new car - We have, but we're really a used car kind of family. 

* Ride on a motorcycle - Several times. Which is why I would like to own one, though that isn’t likely to happen.
* Go on a cruise - As an educational project; up the “inside passage” from Vancouver to Alaska, or across Canada's North West Passage.
 * Be in a movie - Hosted an educational video, actually. I’ve also produced a couple of movies, one of which won an international award. (Blush!)
* Take better pictures — Taken lots, but I want to take BETTER pictures.

That seems like about enough. More, later (perhaps).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


My favourite piece of the New Phonetic Alphabet: Queue for Everything.

Albert Noradunkian was a designer and creator of jewellery. He was Armenia before he was Canadian. His daughter was one of my class mates in high school. They lived one block over from my parents' home.

He was the one who designed and made our wedding rings. For a very reasonable price.

But he was also an observer of life. One of his more memorable comments was that our lives are controlled by the clock and the line.

Think of your own life. How is it controlled by the clock?

You have to get to work or school at a certain time. So you have to get up at a certain time. You have to get ready by a certain time, meaning having breakfast, and getting dressed. You have to leave home by a certain time, to get where you're going by a certain time. Lunch is determined by the clock. Meetings and appointments happen according to the clock. The trip home is scheduled by the clock. Evening activities and even bed time are usually scheduled by the clock.

Or think of the lines in your life.

Driving to work? Follow the lines on the road. Going by bus? What bus route takes you where you want to go? Morning coffee or afternoon coffee – get in the lineup at the coffee shop. Grocery shopping (or shopping elsewhere)? Get in the checkout line.

Think of your life. How many things are determined by the clock? How many by the line?

So, how much control do you really have over the day to day events in your life?


In other news:

Trouble South of River City
Trouble with a T that rhymes with P that stands for pools

People south of River City are heading for higher ground. Roughly a thousand acres of crop land are being flooded.
The Watershed Authority says the spillways at the Gardiner Dam on Lake Diefenbaker have been opened, to reduce pressure on the Lake.
The River, already well above normal, will rise another few feet. But that will be enough to flood low-lying areas between the Dam and River City, which is about 75 miles north of the Lake.
The River is already flowing at the fastest rate in history. There is no indication the flow will increase.
The opening of the Dam has been spurred by heavy rains in Alberta.


Also brought to you by the letter Q:
• quizzical
• quandary
• queen
• quality
• quit

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: Queue for everything.
(Oh, I've already said that.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Probing. Inquisitive. Thoughtful.

The doctor's hands run over my abdomen, checking here and there. He wants to know the source of my pain. When he knows the source, he can likely identify the cause. 

But he is uncertain. He has an idea, but the pieces don't seem to fit.

We discuss the options, the possibilities. Neither of us is satisfied.

Probing. Inquisitive. Thoughtful.

The journalist is less than satisfied with the answer he has received in the interview. It doesn't make sense. It almost seems dishonest.

He has never trusted this kind, with their slippery answers, seeping out like rancid oil. Like vultures, they make their living on the misfortune of others, others who have shrivelled up as their will to work, and to live, has flowed out of them, now they have lost everything.

Like the doctor, I keep probing, trying to find the answers.

But, again, the pieces don't seem to fit. I have to leave it at that.


Also brought to you by the letter P:
• pewter
• pesky
• platypus
• palliative
• provinçal

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: P for whistle.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I try to be optimistic. I try to be confident and hopeful about the future.

In the past I have told you being positive. But I'll refresh your memory.

John: "Only fools are positive."
Frank: "Are your sure?"
John: "I'm positive."

Well, that's one way of dismissing the positive, the optimistic of the world.

But in truth, what is optimism?

I believe it is an attitude that looks at each day, saying, "Where are the good things which are going to happen today?" The follow-up question is, "How can I be part of these good things, or at least some of them?"

I often find myself in a less-than-optimistic frame of mind. Constant pain, depression, and fatigue have a way of doing that to a person.

My goal, now that I am beginning to feel better, is to find ways of focusing on the good things which could or will happen, and making sure I am part of whatever they are.

And I think I can be optimistic about that approach.


Also brought to you by the letter O:
• oblique
• obscure
• olive
• overloaded
• opportunity

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: O for you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


"Noice" is a word I picked up from some of my fair dinkum Aussie mates. I may not have this entirely right, but it roughly means "nice," but a very nice sort of nice (if you catch my drift).

Being able to talk to people all around the world is noice. It keeps the Bear out of a kind of "provincialism" — an unsophisticated narrow-mindedness — which ignores the rest of the world, and pays no heed to the wisdom of others. To recall an old quote: "If you've got all the answers, you haven't asked all the questions."

What I've discovered in the process is something which fellow blogger Nancy shared recently. She is a great blogger, by the way; if you're not following her blog, you should be. In her last post, she wrote about the reality that we all want the same things, basically — food, shelter, meaningful work, etc. That said, we also want some different things, or (more specifically) some "variations on the theme," because we are individuals. I'm particularly interested when people share their individuality, their differing personal choices, what brings them meaning.

Sonia, another blogger you also should read, raised an important point listing the things we want, and sharing those lists. It's an opportunity for people to express their individuality, but it's also something from which one could learn. It's the "I never thought about that before" experience.

That's one of the major reasons I enjoy blogging. A chance to learn some new things. From people all over the world. Getting to know these people and share in their ideas of what they think is noice!


Also brought to you by the letter N:
• navigation
• new
• nimble
• nothingness
• nuts

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: N for mation (I think).

Sunday, June 5, 2011


"Problems are solved by moving ahead." ~ Anon.

Verbs. Verbs are what carry the action in any story. Not linking verbs like "is." Not passive verbs. Active verbs. Verbs are where the action is.

As regular readers to the blog know, I have lived with depression most/all of my adult life. In addition, about six years ago, I went through a heart and soul-destroying experience, which left me unable to work. I struggled through my life on a disability pension. Then, I experienced forced retirement when I turned 65. I also have been suffering with truly debilitating physical pain. Then, I was challenged by the move from a home to an apartment.

The pain continues, only slightly better-controlled.

Recent experiences, however, have transformed me.

1. The first transformation arrived in new medication, which changed my thinking and did a little to ease my pain. 

2. The second transformation arrived in a new attitude, after moving homes. I'm not going to sign up for the Boston Marathon, or anything like that, until I see just how much energy I have (for more than a day or two).

In the meantime, I'm going to just keep on moving.


Also brought to you by the letter M:
• mission
• multilateral
• maze
• moss
• medical

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: M for size.

Friday, June 3, 2011


A while ago, somebody asked whether education is a right or a privilege. (I can't remember who it was: I can't find the piece among the blogs of the "usual suspects"; perhaps someone could remind me.)

Education may be a privilege, but learning is essential. It happens without formal education. It happens all the time. The trick (so to speak) is to pay attention while it's happening. Otherwise, all the formal education in the world won't help us.

Robert Fulghum understands that, and made it plain in in the first essay of his book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. We learn from the world around us, other people around us, about sharing and caring, and other important stuff. And, in a very real sense, we learn how to learn, if we pay attention. 

One of the major problems is that we can become so insulated from the world that we quit learning, and don't adjust to the new life lessons which we meet. The result is our being obviously out of touch with the world. We get so focused on one thing, we miss the messages in the rest of life. Politicians, with some justification, are often accused of being out of touch. They get so wrapped up in their careers, and what the party says, that they start missing real contact, and real wisdom, offered to them by ordinary people.

I say this because our grandchildren are coming for a sleep-over tomorrow night. They teach me lots of important things, which I would never learn in a classroom (unless by chance).

I believe formal education is important. That's why I have two and a half university degrees. But the most important lessons usually come while we're doing something else. 

Learning happens; education is optional.


Also brought to you by the letter L:
• lively
• likely
• lucid
• lugubrious
• left

And from the New Phonetic Alphabet: L for leather.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


All right friends, here we go.

A for 'orses. What do horses eat? Hay, of course.

B for mutton.  If you don't like pork, what do you eat? Beef or mutton.

C for the Islanders. Well known military group? Seaforth Highlanders.

D for ential. The gears in your car's transmission? Differential.

E for brick. What to do when frustrated? Heave a brick.

F for vescent. Want something bubbly? Try a drink that's effervescent.

There you go. Really, how much simpler do you want?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Well, there have been several thoughts and questions related to the New Phonetic Alphabet (NPA). So I've decided to set aside the normal course of events, and take a side-trip through the NPA.

We'll consider two of those elements:
• J for oranges
• K for John

First, it will help you if you understand British accents, which are quite different from Canadian and American. (The NPA is a British construction.)

Second, if you really want to understand these bits, it's best to pronounce them aloud.


J for oranges. When pronounced, the first part sounds "Jayfer." Jayfer is close in pronunciation to "Jaffa"; thus J for oranges become Jaffa oranges.

K for John. Again, when pronounced, it sounds like Kayfir. The Kafir are a tribe of people who have historically inhabited the Hindu Kush mountains, in what is now north-eastern Afghanistan. So, one of those tribal people could be K for John, meaning Kafir John (if his name were John).

See how absolutely simple this is?

Hmmmm. I sense that you're still struggling.

Well. Here are a few more examples for YOU to try.
A for 'orses
B for mutton
C for the Highlanders
D for ential
E for brick
F for vescent

Please let me know how you get along with those. (I should have a prize for the best answers, but nothing comes to mind at this moment.)

Yes, yes; I know. Only Bear would do something like this.