Oh, Those New Year’s Resolutions…

Hate them.  However, I inevitably make some.  Usually this is an exercise in futility.  Since I just read my wordpress status report, I guess I need to blog more.  I am very influenced by the opinions of others, even if they are automated!  And anyway, didn’t I start blogging with a reason?  To keep my writing skills honed, to archive certain moments (even though I have a daily handwritten journal)?

What is the real purpose of a New Year’s Resolution?  It’s a reminder of who you want to be.  It’s never too late to improve, expand, stretch, contribute…

2014 will be a year of blogging, thinking, creatively engaging, and doing.  Now that’s a resolution I can embrace whole-heartedly.  The others (get thin, exercise, get healthy, eat better, cook more, blah, blah, blah) are ongoing and I have moments of happy success and moments of disappointing failure.  But this is, of course, a first world problem.  I have a roof over my head, a comfortable life, and beauty and pleasure abounds.  One should never forget the luck and fortune that has resulted in one’s being safe and sound.   Millions are denied the opportunity.



A Change Will Do You Good…

Since I was a student, and have been an instructor, for so many years, I have always loved September, and the idea of new beginnings, a new term, new textbooks.  Usually the summer is not the season of changes, but this year things were different.  I was ready to relax on our newly leveled patio (thanks Aaron!), and chill my way through my vacation.  Our lovely dog Chica enjoyed the outdoor space and slept there very comfortably for a couple of weeks.  I was spending a lot of time with her because she was occasionally having seizures due to her brain tumor, and I didn’t want to leave her alone.

After almost 15 years of good health, the last 11 1/2 of which were spent with us, we lost our dear girl.  While it was hard, we’d been preparing for a long time, and up until the last 24 hours of her life, Chica still had a great quality of life.

Because the Mitsubishi Pajero was bought to accommodate Chica, and we have so many great memories of her with her head out the window – ears flapping in the breeze and eyes blinking against the wind – we decided to buy a new car and let someone else clean and detail the old one.  It’s a Nissan Juke and a lot of fun to drive.  Well, the back seat of the new car was untouched for a week or so before we started letting our new dog, Gypsy, ride back there!  We survived a respectable two weeks without a dog.

Gypsy is a sweet mellow 8 year old mixed breed rescue from the SPCA, partially deaf, and extremely easy-going.  She is totally relaxed around other dogs, kids, and our cats.  She has already settled in after a mere week, adjusting seamlessly, and is currently curled up on her new plush bed while I’m working.  As one of the neighbourhood kids said after telling me he was sorry about Chica: “now it’s Gypsy’s turn.”  Indeed.  And what a great companion she is turning out to be.

So…a new patio, a new car, and a new dog.  It might be mistaken for a mid-life crisis, but it’s just the shifting pattern of life events and the result of being actively engaged in the possibilities that present themselves.


Headlines Woven into a Snapshot of Our World

This might be a useful writing assignment to give students.  Have them use three or four headlines and weave them into a coherent story that conveys something about the current state of our world.  Recent examples from the news…

Mystery of 56 Sheep Found Wandering Around a Village Where No One has Come Forward to Claim Them

Monstrous Whirlpool Appears in Latvian River Sucking Everything in its Path into a Watery Vortex 

Women to Blame for Earthquakes, Says Iran Cleric

Following the U.S. Down the Slippery Slope is Unethical


A recent article in the Huffington Post discusses the Canadian government’s current approach to terrorism.  In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Canadian Conservative Government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is revisiting the anti-terrorism policies that were ushered in post 9/11 but allowed to lapse after five years.   One of them would allow for “preventative detention.”  We all know what that means – an erosion of civilian rights in the name of national security.  Incarceration due to suspicion alone.  

Do we really want to follow the U.S. down this slippery slope – holding people without charging them, perhaps eventually condoning brutal interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture)?  Do we want to party in the streets when someone is murdered without due process, without the chance of arrest or the benefit of a legal trial?  Do we think assassination is an acceptable answer to violence?  

Clearly, if this can happen, we do not live in a democracy and we do not practice an ethical approach towards our fellow human beings.  It appears our leaders may be headed in the direction of the U.S.  Our southern neighbour, in its response to terror, has undeniably flouted international law and fueled already extant ire from those opposed to its political and economic treatment of other cultures and countries.  Being a struggling and declining empire can turn a country into a rogue nation blind to its own systemic violence.  That is a very dangerous place to be, and it is the dark side of characterizing yourselves as either invincible or as victims.  

I am not denying the perpetuation of unspeakable acts and the appalling deaths of innocent people.  No one should tolerate such brutality and despicable hatred.  I am arguing against a vindictive response that makes things worse rather than better.  What form should our intolerance of terrorism take?  Folding a sense of a people’s victimization into state policy is precisely what has happened in Israel, as if the terrible mistreatment of Palestinians in the present is justified if you belong to a people who suffered systematic eradication in the past.  So taboo a topic is the present manifestation of Holocaust history that many Jewish academics who have tried to criticize Israeli state policies have been mercilessly derided, while non-Jews who cast a negative light on these issues are cursorily dismissed as anti-Semitic.

What message do we want to leave the next generation in terms of what is appropriate as a stance against brutality and violence?  How should a nation respond to the threats against it?  Can it act responsibly within an ethical framework in ways that do not deny human rights, exacerbate conflict, or invite further violence?  This is a difficult and complex question that nevertheless demands urgent consideration before we devolve into a new world order of perpetual war.

Just Another Vancouver Day

ImageThis was the view from Caulfeild Cove yesterday.  The sun, though glorious, was not shedding much warmth, plus there was a cold breeze.  The sloped rocks were a bit treacherous as we were trying to have our picnic.  It was a bit cumbersome trying to put things on the bread with the dog two inches from our faces and nowhere to set anything down without it tumbling over the rocky precipice.  I spilled tapanade on my sock.

Childhood Fears Return…

Seeing and hearing North Korea’s puffed up posturing and increasingly threatening rhetoric, I’m reminded of my childhood fears of a Nuclear Holocaust.  I was quite anxious about it, particularly as I tried to fall asleep in my dark room (things were always scariest then).  I cursed the inventors of nuclear technologies, knowing my fears were warranted.  

I once heard Dr. Helen Caldicott speak at UBC.  Since she knew so much more about the nuclear threat than I did, her words concretized my earlier fears.  Apparently we don’t live in a “post-nuclear” age anymore than we live in a “post-colonial” one.  Do we really have to be dragged back to this dreadful place?  Why must we be revisited by this terrifying menace? Can’t we have banishment rather than brandishment?  Perhaps it’s time for a public screening of Dr. Strangelove.   Only this time it’s the nuclear missiles rather than Vera Lynn singing: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”  

This is Why I Love North Vancouver!

This is Why I Love North Vancouver!

I saw this pileated woodpecker on a tree less than ten feet away from me. I didn’t have my camera, so I had to draw him.


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