Saturday, November 12, 2016

"We" vs. Trump

Who do “we” think “we” are?

In the wake of the recent U.S.A. elections many people are rethinking previously held beliefs and assumptions. The political pundits are busy providing their take on events, and journalists are writing feverishly. I cannot speak for others, but my personal assumption is that many or most are like me, in that they read the various articles, and nod wisely and agree that not only has something terrible taken place, but that “they” did it. They being the opposite of we – they being the ignorant low class uneducated manual laboring rural hayseed rustic bigoted intolerant rednecks that supported Trump and voted him into the office of President of the U.S.A.
This viewpoint is supported by countless articles and interviews – how did we let this happen ? – how did we not see this coming?, and by various rather humerous putdowns of the Trump supporters such as the email relating the Stephen Hawking statement when his original comments containing big words was translated into “Trump bad man – very bad”.
Even Garrison Keillor wrote depicting the Trump supporters (They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls).
I am ashamed of my self for accepting these views without thinking, perhaps partly because they came from people I respect. I am ashamed for passing them on, and chuckling at the putdowns. I am ashamed for automatically accepting those stereotypes. I am ashamed of what has to be called by its real name BIGOTRY – the “we” I associated myself with are bigots! Upon any kind of deeper examination it becomes apparent that what that means is that WE are the holders of all right and light and truth and intelligence and good judgement, and those on the other side (They) are just wrong and bad! Is that not bigotry? Just who do we think we are to make these judgements?
Again I say, I am ashamed of myself!
I am no Trump supporter. I think he is a dangerous and deranged buffoon. I dislike him as a person, as a politician, and as the next President. I would probably dislike many of his followers if I knew them, and despise their political views. But I cannot accept that those who voted republican can be described as above, that they are automatically of limited intelligence, and that they are somehow less than full citizens with full rights, and that everyone else who did not vote republican are part of the great righteous WE and empowered to make this judgement. “They” have made their voice heard clearly, and it is a legitimate voice.

Recently, a Toronto Star columnist wrote about Kellie Leitch (a Conservative leadership candidate) who has called for screening immigrants for “anti Canadian values”.
He referred to “Ms Leitch and her ilk”, and cited various emails he had received from supporters of Ms Leitch after he had criticised her in an earlier column. Of course, the emails were of the absolute worst kind possible. You know – the kind that rant about killing someone with whom they disagree -and their spelling was bad too. Ergo, supporters of Ms. Leitch are the dangerous lunatic fringe.
 He also stated that Ms. Leitch was pandering to the fears of Canadians in order to get votes.
The real reason behind the article was that a poll had just showed that 67% of Canadians supported that proposal.
If we put aside our feelings about Leitch’s specific proposal, and consider any topic that gets a large percentage expression of interest, would we agree with this columnist’s portrayal?
Some might say that 67% is a pretty good indicator that Canadians are concerned about the subject, any subject, and that politicians and journalists should look at those concerns, not dismiss them out of hand, or accuse the politician of pandering.
Some might say that to say “Ms Leitch and her ilk” is close to slander and unacceptable.
The journalist managed with a few words not only to brand Ms. Leitch in a very negative way, but also to inform readers at the same time that if they had any sympathy for her proposal, they are of a similar ilk, bigoted and fear mongering - and all of us are certainly sensitive to not doing or saying anything that makes us politically incorrect, and puts us in the “they” category.
 I guess that more care has to be taken before including myself in any group. Perhaps I can not be part of any “We” – perhaps I can only be “I” and do my own thinking.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed 2016

Plant it and they will come
Two years ago we gathered some milkweed seeds in the fall from local plants. In the early spring I planted the seeds indoors and then transplanted them outside when the weather was right. They did not do much that first year, but this year the plants are huge and healthy.
I have seen only one monarch this year, and was very lucky to get the picture of her laying the egg on July 27. I did not even realize it until I downloaded the picture into the computer, and then I could see that her abdomen was curled under the leaf. I then went back to the plant and looked, and sure enough, there was an egg. 2 more eggs were spotted on a different leaf. I looked at the eggs with a magnifier, and they are beautiful and unmistakable.
We watched the 3 eggs hatch on the 5th day. The caterpillars are very tiny, not much bigger than a hair, and we saw them starting to chow down on the milkweed leaves.
The next morning they could not be found. Hoping they had migrated to different leaves we watched and waited. Nothing appeared and no evidence of leaves being chewed.
Finally we concluded that all three were the victims of predators, of which I read on the internet there are plenty - wasps, spiders, lady bugs, ants, and so on.
That lone Monarch is the only one I have seen this year, so we are grateful that we at least had the opportunity to watch the eggs mature and hatch. I doubt there will be another chance this year. The small miracle is that she found our milkweed!
The next time the leaves with the eggs will be brought inside and put in a container until maturity.
BUT WAIT – August 27, one month after the first Monarch visited and laid her eggs, we saw another Monarch, and watched as she laid one perfect little egg.
Double click or triple click pictures for full size 
She Lays (see abdomen curled under leaf)
The Egg
This one I took in the house on the leaf and put it in a clear plastic container. 5 days later (September 1) the
egg hatched, and the tiny creature immediately started munching. 
Sept 1 – hatched & eating
Sept 1 size comparison
Sept 10 size comparison
On September 10 the caterpillar headed to the top where it attached itself and hung there.
Sept 11 at 6.43am
20 Minutes later (almost complete)
10 minutes later – done!
Sept 19 (8 days later) the empty chrysalis
First picture early morning - still hanging from chrysalis
5 hours later – just before she left (for Mexico?)
Who would have thought a monarch would find that one lone milkweed in our yard? 
I guess the lesson is “Plant it and they will come!”.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Notable Books of 2015

Notable Books of 2015
This is not intended as a review or critique. By their inclusion in this list they are books that have made strong impressions on me, above and beyond the other 120 books read during the period.

1. Edge of Eternity – Ken Follett. Nearly 1100 pages in this third book of the century trilogy. All the major events, the Berlin Wall, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, race riots, Kennedy’s shootings, etc. are here. Great book!
2. Auto Biography – Earl Swift. Non fiction, but stranger than fiction. A great tale of an classic automobile, the people who owned it, and the rough cut people that restored it.
3. Gray Mountain – John Grisham. A thriller yes, but more importantly, a scathing look at the mining industry and its impact on one area of Virginia. I am reminded of John Prine’s song – Paradise, and the chorus - and daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County - Down by the Green River where Paradise lay- Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking - Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away! While the song is about Kentucky, the impact of coal mining is the same.
4. The Fifth Heart. - Dan Simmons. A great story involving Sherlock Holmes serves as the platform to inform the reader about a great many things especially including the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.
5. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. A book about people during WW11 that will remain in my mind for a long time.
6. Kill Me – Stephen White. A very different kind of thriller, one that poses lots of questions you will continue to ask yourself long after reading. Some of the parts do not stand up to logic very well, but all in all a good intriguing read.
7. Anna From Away – D.R. MacDonald. A totally captivating story taking place in the Cape Breton of today, but with the Cape Breton of the past always present.
8. The Truth According To Us – Annie Barrows (co author of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society). A story of 1938 high society and blue collar. I found it delightful as a society deb uncovers small town West Virginia secrets while working for a New Deal organization called The Federal Writers Project.
9. The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebank. A captivating non fiction look at the current and past lives of real shepherds in the Lake District in England. Real people producing real products and keeping a small bit of England real.
10. Copper Mine -  Keith Ross Leckie. Canadian historical fiction based on the real life events surrounding the trials in 1917 of two Copper Inuit for the murders of two Catholic priests. Intriguing subject matter well worth the read. (note- book published in 2010
11. A Siege of Bitterns – A Pitying of Doves – Steve Burrows. 2 books by the Oshawa author called “birder murder mysteries”. I find myself comparing these books and their hero, Dominic Jejeune, to Commissario Guido Brunetti, the character from the Donna Leon novels, and also to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec by Louise Penny. In the birder murder novels, we learn a great deal about serious birders, ornithology, salt marshes and their ecology, and also some grammar lessons courtesy of Jejeune’s girlfriend, a journalist. Incidentally, the books take place in England. Somewhat frustrating are the various mentions of previous cases without any particulars. I suspect a hook for future novels – I hope!