Sunday, March 30, 2014

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

   The last Truth and Reconciliation session is being held in Edmonton , Alberta this week.

    Canada has a long history of an  Indian Residential School system. There were many very negative practices that went on in this system. The government set up a system that let churches set up residential schools. The government was happy with this system as they didn't want to organize it themselves. Churches received some government grants.

    First, the Indian children for the most part were taken away from their parents without permission. Worse than that many of the children were taken from their families by force...force of law. Families were split and isolated. Some kids didn't get back to their parents for years. They would be taken back to where they were picked up and the parents had moved on. Children missed their parents terribly and parents missed their kids.

   When the children were away they did not use their own language and did not learn their culture. Stress? You better believe it.

    Second, the education system was designed to strip the Indians of their language and culture. Students were not allowed to use their own language. They didn't know English so it was traumatizing as little communication could take place.. They were told that their traditions were evil. 

    Third, churches ran the residential schools. The government more or less farmed out the education system. They were very happy to have the churches  take on educational  responsibility. What was in it for the churches? Souls! The churches wanted members.

     Fourth , physical and sexual abuse was rampant in these institutions. Kids were horribly scarred from these experiences.

    As a result of the Residential school system, a culture and several generations of Indians were horribly scarred and has resulted in major social problems today.

    To be fair there were schools that were better than average and there were some kids who received a good education and were proud of it.

   Now Prime minister Steven Harper, made an apology on behalf of the government for the wrongs of the Indian Residential School system and then set up the truth and reconciliation commission. The idea was that people would tell their stories and a healing process would begin.

    Much good has come of the truth and reconciliation commission , but their is a glaring omission. The Canadian government has thousands of documents related to Indian Residential schools. The government would not release the documents. So 50% of the truth has not been  told. This is sad and the commission will be only partly successful. It's sad that our government made a apology that has been weakened because they would not release documents and tell their part of the truth.

    It was important that we get these things right and we didn't. So, much more work will have to be done.

    I taught in a government residential school. I was in the residence many times. I will never forget going into a room where 80 little boys were sleeping on cots. It was dreadful to think that these kids were on their own and far from home and family.

    I am somewhat happy for the good that has come out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but far more disappointed for what it didn't do.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

     There' only one thing wrong with this scenario. It ain't Christmas!

      Yesterday we had 10 cm (4 in) of snow. Not heavy wet spring snow but dry powdery winter snow. To add to this we get about the same amount of snow over the next two days.

My standard snow post

      Now I know that 10 cm is not a lot of snow for some places. The Canadian Maritimes had 50 cm (20 in) yesterday. However, some years our winter total of snow is only  10 cm. 

The juniper always catches a good load of snow

    As  for now, I might as well enjoy the snow and not crab so that people will look the other way.

My lamp shade is another standard for measuring snow

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Furnace Thermostat Crashed

     When most thermostats die they have the decency to quietly give up and not create a scene. Sometimes we can tell that the thermostat is on it's last legs and replace it. Sometimes it just quits and we notice the house cooling off or we notice that the furnace isn't running.

     Not my thermostat. Nothing quiet about it's demise. It went out kicking and screaming. 

     One night about six weeks ago my wife got up and hollered , "Red, the roof is caving in." It was at a time when there was much snow on the roof and some roofs were caving in. She said there was ticking and she was sure the roof was caving in. I ignored her as long as I could. I could not hear any ticking. If a roof was caving in there would be loud bangs. I finally turned over so my good ear was off the pillow. I could hear ticking, but it wasn't a roof caving in. I got up quickly to find the source of the ticking. I just stepped in the hallway and realized it was the thermostat. It was shorting off and on. I also noticed that it was quickly turning the burner off and on. That wasn't good so I raced downstairs and turned off the power to the thermostat. 

    Well, it was minus 30 C and the stores weren't open so I fiddled with the thermostat and finally got it set to keep the furnace on.

   Now that was a lot of excitement for a 74 year old at four AM.

   We checked with the company which thermostat would be correct for us and went out and bought it. I quickly installed the thermostat . I found the print on the new thermostat was very small I had to use a magnifying glass. Well, what do you do?  We kept the thermostat. About 6 weeks later a gremlin showed up in the new thermostat. "Return" would appear in the afternoon and turn the furnace off. I couldn't get rid of this gremlin. I could set the furnace to run but I wanted the automatic feature.

   So I took my crazy thermostat back and bought  one with big print.

   Now I have a thermostat like my new car. It's a lot smarter than I am. This thermostat will tell me when the filter needs to be cleaned???

   Needless to say,  I've had a crash course on furnace thermostats and my wife has been given the nickname "Chicken Little."

Monday, March 24, 2014

We Have Never Heard of You

      In the mid sixties my Dad decided to go to Europe with a friend. Dad was in his mid fifties and had not been to Europe.

      Dad had to apply for a passport. He did all his paper work and sent in the application. He was expecting to receive a pass port in the mail. A letter came and it did not contain  a passport. There was  letter that said, "Mr. Kline, we have never heard of you!"

     Dad was amazed. He had filed income tax forms for at least thirty years. Dad gathered information to prove who he was and sent it off. He used his school attendance record and I think a baptismal certificate. This time the passport came.

     Now it's quite a shock to hear from your government that they have never heard  of you. Dad thought it was a hoot.

     One answer this gave to him was that  during he war all of Dad's friends received a letter inviting them to join the forces and fight in the second world War. Dad never got a letter. Now he knew why. The government had never heard of him.

    Most people Dad's age did not have birth certificates. First Dad thought that his Dad had failed to register him when he was born. Dad was born in harvest time and he thought his Dad had maybe for got to get the paperwork done. 

     In Canada, the provinces register the births and then pass the information on to the Federal Govt. What Dad didn't know is that in Saskatchewan  the birth registrations from 1910 to 1912 mysteriously disappeared. Dad was in this group. The federal government was never informed of his birth. 

    Only my Dad could take this situation in a humorous way and tell me about it so that I wouldn't forget it..

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Most Bizarre thing I Ever Bought

    Sometimes the road your life takes ends up with some surprising purchases.

    In 1978 I bought a recreation lot at a lake. The lot was solid native bush , just the way I wanted it. I had the romantic idea that I would build a rustic cabin. I would not have power...just the basics. 

    I started out by building  a small garage. My plan was to use the garage for a kitchen living room while I built my snug cabin. I wanted a stove and fridge. Of course, they had to be propane. Very few propane fridges were made in 1980 and they were expensive. I thought I'd look for a used propane fridge.

   One day I saw and add for a propane fridge. I made arrangements to look at the fridge. I took my utility trailer so that I could haul it back. The fridge I went to look at was really ancient. It had a wood frame. It was also from the time before freezers.  The old fellow said he knew an neighbor back on the farm who might have a propane fridge. He phoned his old neighbor. Sure enough, she had a fridge and wanted to sell it.

   Off we went. The lady took us to an open shed where the fridge had been stored. She bought it in 1948 before she had electricity. These were the days when refrigerators were like small boxcars. This thing was huge. She used the fridge until 1975. The fridge was covered with many layers of dust.  Drawers and racks were missing. The lady went around the yard looking for the parts of the fridge. Ever few minutes she came back with fridge parts. One of the drawers had obviously been used to feed the chickens. It was a mess with many layers of you know what. The other stuff was in similar condition.

   Well, we couldn't find another fridge so we bought this one! The lady assured me it would work. She explained that I had to use a propane torch to start the fridge.

   My wife worked hours to clean this wreck up. She used brushes and steel wool. She kept it in the sun for a week. She soaked it in javex. Finally, the fridge was proclaimed sterile.

   I took the fridge out to the lake and hooked up some copper tubing to a propane bottle. I used my torch and lit the fridge and away it went. I used the fridge for 25  years.

   Oh, I never did get my rustic cabin built. I did have a lot of fun in my garage turned kitchen living room.

  Last summer when I was selling the lot I put the old tank on Kijiji to see if someone would by it. I had bites right away. Two guys really wanted it. I sold it to the first guy for $75.00. The guy who wanted it was a refrigeration mechanic. He knew exactly what he was buying.
    Now before I lose all credibility, I have to tell you that this story was not made up. It really did happen as I described.

   So this fridge was a very bizarre thing to buy. It had a past.

    Have you ever bought anything this weird?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Can't Spin My Wheels Anymore the land of the clear new snow where it's 99 below... 

    Yes, here in the land of ice and snow we still have to travel from place to place. We have to get to work, go shopping and take our kids to hockey. We  get where we want to go quickly, efficiently and safely. We have some different driving skills and have modified our vehicles. We have such things as winter tires that do a great job. 

      About 7:30 AM this morning an odd snow flake was floating down. By 8:00 AM it was snowing heavily. By 9:00 AM the wind had got up. The first snow melted on the pavement so the road was wet. Things cooled of and snow stayed on the road so we had a sloppy mess. 

     Now in the good old days you could step on the gas and the wheels would spin. You would sort of test to find the condition of the road. Was it icy? How icy was it? And then if you go farther back in my time some people (maybe me) would purposely spin the wheels and turn the steering wheel and put the car or pick up in a spin. You could make some very attractive tracks on the road and you could brag to your friends about the skid marks. We rarely went in the ditch. There was nobody else out there to run into. Fun times!

     So this morning when I left, I wanted to check the road condition. I pressed the accelerator sharply and nothing happened. The wheels were not going to spin. How come? Well I bought a new fancy dancy car a few weeks ago. It's like one big sensor. There are sensors for everything. One sensor turns my radio volume up and down. At high speeds, when the driving is noisy, the volume is automatically turned up. Slow down and the car is quieter and the volume mysteriously is turned down. 

      So this fancy car has sensors on the wheels that will not allow one wheel to spin. What a disappointment! I can't spin my wheels anymore. But wait a minute. Didn't I read in the 385 page manual that I could turn the wheel sensors off? I'll have to try it when I get the urge to spin my wheels.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What Should We Ask Our Elders?

     On my last post I confidently stated that we should make a list of questions to ask our parents and grand parents. After I published the post I thought, " What would I write down?" I had to stop and think about it. Maybe it's not so easy to make up a list of questions. We have the nagging thought in the back of our head that we would like to know more of our parents and grandparents. But what do we really want to know?

   So the first thing I considered was the age of the son or daughter and parents and grandparents. Questions kids would ask would be different than what adults would ask.  Answers would be different depending on the ages. These days some grandchildren are not that familiar with grandparents.

   I would make up a list of general areas I would interest me. Then I would  say tell me something about the games you played as a kid. This can be a conversation where one answer leads to another question. at home, school or with friends.

    School would be a big one. My Dad lived less than half a mile from the country school he went to. For some time he lit the fire so the school would be somewhat warm when the other kids got there. I heard this story many times. I didn't hear about his teachers or what they learned. He spent one year in high school where he boarded in town. He wasted his time in the pool room. He did not return to high school. He had regrets about wasting this opportunity.

    He talked about the food they ate and how good it was. What was the food?

   My Dad road freight trains. What was it like?

   I knew small pieces of Mom and Dad's life but not much detail. Our best hope is to fill in some of the detail.

   I have children in their 40's and grandchildren in their teens. What would I want them to know? Remember, I'm going to have to prompt them to ask questions. Funny situations have come up. My Mom kept all my report cards . My daughter was looking at the report cards and said,"Dad, you had poor marks!" I think we have to be ready to tell some things we are not proud of. 

   Other areas I would pencil in for ideas would be: happy times, sad times, work as a child, travel, disappointments, favorite people in their lives, challenges, friends, siblings, grand parents. I like to hear about daily life. My kids should hear about how I milked cows or road horses. They should hear about harvest and cutting hay. They should know about my shenanigans. I was a rascal. 

   This is by no means a complete list. It should grow.

   What questions would you put in your list?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I Should Have Asked Questions

     A few days ago I did a post on my great grandfather who could heal horses by looking at them. My great grandfather died ten years before I was born. The only way I knew of the story is that for a while four generations lived in one house. One of his great grand daughters recorded the story.

    I started to think that there are many things I do not know about my ancestors simply because I didn't ask.  I can think of things I would ask Mom or Dad now if they were living. Why didn't I ask when they were living? There are many things I should have asked my grand parents but did not.

   Part of the problem is that for most of us , by the time we think of things we are older and guess what? Our parents or grand parents have passed on.

   I was in my sixties when my Dad was still living. I asked him about some things. They were things that I knew about. He was very fuzzy on the answers and some of the things he could not recall at all. I was too late. I found  that he may not have answered the question I asked , but it would remind him of something else. One day out of the blue he told me how he and my mother began seeing one another. Dad was working in an area where he knew many young people. The young people got together at people's houses. Since none of them had cars, they walked home in a group. They were in the country and it was pitch dark. Somebody took his hand in the dark. It was our Mom. I was fascinated with the story and it would have been something I would never have dreamed about asking. Dad was shy when it came to the opposite sex. Guess What ? That gene was passed on to his four sons. The four daughter-in-laws sometimes have a good laugh about us when they get together!

    My grandparents came from Europe. It was a gigantic move. They were peasants and had never traveled very far. Many of the sea voyages were close to tragedy. I should have  asked and found out how brave they were. What was their trip like? What did they see that impressed them? They made the trip without English so it must have been terrifying.

   My Mom died at age 59. Females are better at relating family stories ( My opinion only). I'm sure I would have been told many things without asking. Maybe I would have got the other side of the romance.

    So I would urge all those younger than I am to make a list of questions and be prepared to ask parents and grand parents questions. For every answer you get there will be another question.

    I'm emailing my kids to give them a heads up about asking questions.

   Am I the only one who didn't ask questions and regrets it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Canadian Forces Left Afganistan Today

     After 12 long painful and difficult years Canadian forces have left Afghanistan. We lost more than 150 service personnel. Hundreds were dreadfully wounded physically Others were horribly wounded mentally.

     The original aims of an Afghan war were to catch some bad guys and help the country so that the people could stay away from the bad guys. And yes, we wanted to establish a democracy with all the institutions we have. We also hoped to leave some infrastructure for the citizens to use. Has this happened? Our form of democracy and institutions were completely foreign to the Afghans. Their culture and history did not contain any experiences which would allow them to practice democracy.

    As time went on we could see that the opposition to western forces was much bigger than had been estimated. It became a matter of hanging on and not getting beat up badly. Some of our allies pulled out much earlier in the war. This created a greater challenge for those who were left.

    Canada paid a huge price for participating in the Afghanistan war. It was something we could not afford. Many of our other projects were put on hold and will probably never be built.

    The war was entered into with more bravado than good sense. The enemy proved to be much tougher than was thought. The PR job with the locals was poorly done or not done at all so we upset people rather than get them on our side.

    I did not want to see us get involved in the Afghan war. We would be interfering in a country more than anything else. Yes, the Taliban were evil to their own people. It will only be a short time before the Taliban are back.

    So it is with mixed feelings that I see our troops come home. Our troops were brave and suffered extreme hardship and they should be honored and remembered for their efforts. I'm appalled at our government's treatment of the veterans. Steven Harper's government has cut a number of extremely important veteran services. It's cowardly on the part of our government to expect troops to serve and when they are finished neglect them.

    I hope that this situation will never happen again. We should have learned that certain operations are completely useless. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What's Happened to our food?

     I'm reading Michael Moss's Salt Sugar and Fat. This is a Pulizter prize winning book and I and see why it won the prize.

    Last night I read the chapter on convenience foods. Moss covers the history of convenience foods and how the big companies used it to sell more food. After the war more women began working out of the home. They needed some help in preparing meals. The food companies were all too ready to oblige. Television was established and for the family to watch an evening of television, food preparation had to be more convenient.

   This got me thinking about food when I was a kid. I was raised on a small farm. I was born just before the war started. At that time most of our food was produced on the farm. Very few things were bought from a store. Mom bought, flour, tea, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, yeast, baking powder, rolled oats and probably a few more items at odd times. All of our food was prepared on the farm. Mom canned hundreds of quarts of food...beans,corn,carrots, peas, fruit, chicken, beef and probably many more. One more that's special would be sauerkraut. Several large crocks of sauerkraut were made and lasted all winter. Mom baked bread, pies, cakes and cookies. We made our own butter and I can remember crying about having to turn the churn. Then I would fight with my brother as we both wanted to be turning the churn when the butter formed. Mom and Dad grew a large garden which more than supplied them with enough food. Potatoes, turnips, beets and onions wee stored in cold storage. 

    So in one way you can see why women looked for convenience foods. This was a tremendous amount of work for my Mom. We also had much better food than the convenient foods that are full of sugar, fat ,salt and a multitude of strange chemicals.

   I know that when I look back nostalgia sets in. Was the food really that good. I think we would be much better off with food that had a lot less fat, sugar , salt and weird chemicals..

Monday, March 10, 2014

And It Went Viral...

    We quite often hear the term "it went viral." I don't watch TV and I don't watch videos so I miss most of the stuff that goes viral. 

   So here's the back ground to my story. Western Canada had a bumper crop in 2013. In fact, it was a record crop. Farmers thought they were off to the races. What happened next is unbelievable. Railroads hauled very little western grain to ports. There were complaints . As time went on complaints grew louder. Finally the Steven Harper government became aware of the problem and made a meaningless pompous statement.

    I was listening to an interview of a farmer. He explained how he had not sold any grain and he knew why. The railways were hauling oil instead of grain. This farmer was 76 years old and had been through tough times but never anything like this. At the end of the interview he was asked what he thought should happen. his reply was, "Harper (prime minister) should get off his ass and put his big boy pants on and make the railways haul grain."  Today I heard that the comment went viral!

   So there it was. A hardworking old farmer had something to say that went viral.

    So that's about  as close to anything going viral as I'll ever get.

    It makes one wonder what it takes to have something go viral.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

No Green Grass for me yet!

     Some of the blogs I follow keep up  a running account of spring and how flowers are blooming and grass it turning green. Similar posts got me thinking about "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb."

The only thing green is the spruce trees and they are mostly black

    So here there's not one tiny piece of green grass. I'm still living in a white world.

     It was a dull overcast day so the photos are rather dull.

   Today out temperature got up to plus 8 C (48 F). It hasn't been above 0 C for about 6 weeks. Some of those weeks were brutally cold. We had many over night temperatures below minus 30 C (minus 22 F).

    The sun rose at 7:05 this morning and set at 6:27 tonight. And I'll be setting my clock ahead before I go to bed.

    So I even though I might  envy those with green grass I hope you enjoy it. Our time for green grass is coming very quickly.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Horse Healer

     I wanted to post another folklore post but Putin got in the way. I had to make a statement on Putin.

     I was recently sent for some physiotherapy and I began thinking about physiotherapists being healers. 

     I was reminded of a horse healer.

     My great grandfather was known as a horse healer. He would look into the sick horse's face and eyes and the horse quite often was healed. Sick horses were brought to him all the time. Two days before he died they brought a sick horse to the house steps. Great Grandpa came out and took a look at the horse. The horse got better but Great Grandpa died two days later.

    Now this healing ability was hereditary. It would skip a generation and show up in the opposite sex. So one of Great Grandpa's grand daughters would have had healing power on horses. Now I don't know if any of these women every realized they had this power or used it.

    My great Grandpa was a very influential man. He was a leader. He brought all of his adult children and their families to home stead in Canada in 1905. Also many of his children's in-laws came. Since the Lutheran church was not organized and they had no pastors , he was the lay reader. 

   I believe this must have been an old German folk lore belief. I've tried to find information on this belief but came up blank. 

   Does anybody else know about healing horses by looking at them and then passing  their ability to heal horses to a family member in the next generation?  Are there any other folk lore situations where the power is hereditary?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Disputin' Putin

     It was a very sickening feeling to hear that Russian troops had entered the Crimea.

      The Ukrainians were beating each other up which is not the correct way to solve problems. They  would have resolved some of their problems if they had been left alone.

     For Putin to march into the Crimea without permission was going to compound the problem rather than promote a solution. Putin had some debatable reasons for entering the Crimea. None of them were an emergency and could have been dealt with in other ways. Like , let's try talking.

   Putin seems to be gambling that no one will confront him and send him home. The Ukrainians are not in  position where they can take action. It would give Putin reason for stronger action. Putin has some of his own territory where people don't like him. These people could decide to take action while Putin is busy.

   Putin entering the Ukraine  is an all  round bad situation. 

    Now Putin has some poor examples to follow.

    I can make some self righteous comments but if I examine what we've  (Canada)  been involved in, we haven't been a good example. We waltzed into Iraq in the first Iraqi war. We gleefully entered Afghanistan where we were going to clean up all the bad guys. I know we said we had reasons for these two actions. But were they the right reasons? Were we asked to come into these countries to help them?  Have these actions accomplished anything ? Did they make it better or worse for the people? They were certainly poor examples for others.

    Now just because some one else entered other countries doesn't excuse Putin for his actions.

    All of us need to sit down and take a deep breath and try to find a suitable solution before armies become involved. Peace is so very valuable. You'd think we could work harder for peace.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

March: In Like a Lion...Out Like Lamb

       Since it's March 1 and weather is on my mind, the little saying about March 1 came to my mind. I began to think of the origin of the saying. I wondered  about the  accuracy the statement.

      I have more than a passing interest in weather. Yesterday I did a whole post on weather. I have my private pilot's license and a good part of our training was weather and I found it very interesting. The grade eight science course had a unit on weather. I had fun with this unit. To wind up the unit we took a field trip to the radiosonde station and watched them prepare a weather balloon and send it up. It as a spectacular end to a unit. Now the radiosonde is obsolete.

     March definitely came in like a lion here. If you check my last post you'll know that conditions were definitely lion like. We had a low of minus 38 C (-24 F) last night  and a wind chill of minus 52 C (-33 F)

    So today I had to check the statement. I was very surprised to discover where the statement originated. It's based on astronomy. The constellation Leo rises in the east  in early march. The Aries constellation sets in the west in  late March. So there you have the lion in early March and the lamb in late March. Yes, it was conveniently applied to weather.

    Those who follow the Farmer's Almanac will find that the March statement is a standby.

    Since I have a bit of a science background , I wonder what the stats are on what happens. What are the odds of this statement being accurate? Does anybody know how to calculate the odds on this statement?

    How do you handle statements like "in like a lion and out like a lamb?" Do you have other weather statements that you swear by?