Changes Delay

December 1, 2021

Good morning. For those regular readers who would be expecting to find a new edition of the Changes on the Drive series here today, it will be available later on Thursday. The torrential downpours of the last few days have kept me indoors. I believe tomorrow will be dry, so I’ll do my survey walk in the morning.


What Better City?

November 30, 2021

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I just received a mailing from Ken Sim for Mayor: A Better City. I suspect this went to every household as his well-heeled 1% backers can afford to spread their money around.

It is a full page letter in both English and Chinese, and in that full page there is not one word — not even a passing reference — to any policy statement. Nothing about housing and homelessness, nothing about development, nothing about the opioid crisis, nothing about transportation or economic development or public safety, nothing about schools or parks or indeed anything else.

Why would anyone want to donate to a candidate for Mayor who is only interested in talking about himself?

Our city is far too valuable to be put in the hands of someone who just wants to play personality politics.


Poem: Five Definitive Movements

November 29, 2021

 

Childhood is

a flat green blade growing from the stem of a plant,

the absorbing and digesting of

a body of myths

 

Adolescence is

the property of becoming self-luminous

in the recognition of

fire and hunger and strong desire

 

Adulthood is

the acceptance of the heat and light caused by burning;

a steady flow that rises

as the tide, and ebbs

 

Wisdom is

known only to those of special comprehension,

something very white,

a leaf blown across the firmament

 

Death is

the beginning of all things, the nape

that links the body of one life to

the head of the next

 


Image: Sky Diving

November 27, 2021

Christmas In Grandview Park

November 26, 2021


Fidel Castro. A Hero For Our Times

November 26, 2021

fidel-castro

Fidel Castro has been dead for 5 years today, and the world is so much emptier for that fact.

I didn’t support Castro’s politics (though much of it tended to be better than most — look at Cuba’s health care system, for example, a success against every barrier the US could throw against it), but I supported the bravery of standing up for fifty years to an imperialist Superpower that had missiles and a huge army less than a 100 miles away.

More than the military threat, the US for two whole generations attempted to destroy the Cuban economy and people by sheer economic terrorism. Luckily, the world would not stand for that, and even Canada never flinched from business and tourism with Cuba.

Whenever self-righteous Americans point to the wreckage of Cuba’s economy and the poverty of the people (compared, say, to most parts of the US), remind them that this was caused directly and deliberately by American leaders.


Image: Library Exterior #6

November 25, 2021

Flash Fiction: Damn Stupid Idea

November 25, 2021

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“Damn stupid idea, if you ask me, naming a basketball team after the damn grizzly bear! Jesus!”

He pushed the empty bottle of Glacier beer across the bar and wiped the back of his hand across his moustaches.

“It’s no surprise the kids are going crazy and shooting up schools like Columbine. They see themselves surrounded by adults making stupid decisions – Give me another beer, eh – and they’re not dumb these kids; they know we’re setting them up, most of them anyways, setting them up to be the packhorses of modern industry. Drudges. Laborers and data entry clerks and burger flippers and retail sales associates. Jesus, I don’t envy them. Thanks.”

He paused just long enough to lift up the bottle by the neck and carefully pour almost half the contents through practiced lips. “Ahh, that settles the dust, sure it does.”

Thin strands of late summer sunlight cut like razor blades through the bar’s perpetual gloom. Cigarette smoke from an ashtray at the far end of the bar curled serpentine trails towards an invisible ceiling. The barman, a drudge himself, lazily wiped down the bar with a wet rag. He wished he were anywhere else.

“I came in on the float plane from up the coast. Good connection that. Should have had that years ago, I’d have been here more often. Damn! We saw a great storm just after we took off. Flying up there, we could see the lightning in the sky and its reflection in the sea at the same time. Damn that was neat!”

He chuckled with the memory, chugged the rest of the beer, returned the bottle to the bar. To his right stood a massive fireplace and he walked over to it, to examine the huge basalt slabs that formed it, smooth and cold to his touch. And in his memory he heard the owls rustling in the trees and the dry wood crackling and hissing and the shadows playing in the firelight on the cabin floor the last time they had shared a full moon weekend. She had wanted to stay an extra night and he had told her it was a damned stupid idea.

And here he was now, drinking alone.


How We Got Frozen Food

November 24, 2021

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Business Insider often has short little historical pieces about industries or processes. I enjoyed this one about how Capt. Birdseye put frozen foods into every freezer in North America.


The New Finds The Old

November 24, 2021

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After twenty-five years of fine service our washing machine died last week. The new one arrived this morning.

As the old machine has been an unmovable fixture for a quarter century, we were sure we’d find a lot of grime and maybe a pile of missing socks down there. There was grime aplenty but no socks. There were, however, THIRTY-SIX white plastic hangers strewn behind, beside, and under the machine! Who knew they were even missing?


On The Origin of Origins

November 24, 2021

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On the Origin of Species - Wikipedia

First published on this day, 24th November 1859. Rarely has any book had such an effect on human knowledge and understanding.


Image: Puerto Vallerta Sunset

November 23, 2021

Happy Fibonacci Day!

November 23, 2021

1123 — the first numbers in the Fibonacci sequence — allows us to celebrate November 23rd as Fibonacci Day. This is in honour of Italian Leonardo Bonacci of Pisa who discussed the sequence in 1202.

The Fibonacci sequence goes as follows: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 and on to infinity. Each number is the sum of the previous two. They were known in India well before Fibonacci and were called Virahanka numbers.

It might seem just like a simple mathematician’s trick, but the Fibonacci sequence is found throughout nature. For example, the petals on flowers follow the sequence — most flowers have three (like lilies and irises), five (parnassia, rose hips) or eight (cosmea), 13 (some daisies), 21 (chicory), 34, 55 or 89 (asteraceae). Spirals, such as in pine cones or conch shells, are also built up in Fibonacci sequences.

One could spend an entire Fibonacci Day finding more examples, from spiral galaxies to DNA sequences to fractal diagrams.


False Memory Syndrome

November 22, 2021

Fifty-eight years ago today, my mother and father visited their closest friends, Ron and Betty, who lived a few miles from us in West London. I was in the backseat of the small black car.  It smelled of leather and my parents’ cigarettes. I was sullen because I was just turned 14 years old and I had far better things to do than visit my parents’ old fogie friends to play cards.

I remember this all so clearly because, just as we pulled up outside Ron and Betty’s row house, the car radio broke off its normal programming and a solemn voice replaced the happy chatter.  The voice announced that President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been shot and probably killed.  I can still feel the goose-flesh that crawled over my skin. I remember the loud gasp as my father realized what had been said.  John Kennedy was one of my father’s heroes, and he was mine too. He was our hope for the future, and now he was dead. Nothing else about that evening do I remember. I’m sure my folks and their friends discussed the assassination, but that has passed from recall.

Within two years of that day, though, JFK had — in my eyes at least — fallen from the pedestal upon which his charisma, his beautiful family, and his martyrdom had placed him.  He was quickly revealed as just another centre-right US politician who was happy to send the boys to war, who was happy to squander the nation’s wealth on weapons and imperialism, who had no answer to segregation but brother Bobby’s federal agents.  We also learned (perhaps we always knew) he wasn’t quite such a great family man, either; that Camelot was an expensive sham.

Kennedy and his people lived in the tuxedoed world of High Society that was soon to be swept away by the real world of Soul on Ice and Revolver.  We might have hated that big Texas bully who followed Kennedy, but it was Kennedy not Johnson who pushed the US into South Vietnam, and it was Johnson not Kennedy who brought forward the Civil Rights Acts. Looking back, we can now see that both Kennedy and Johnson were equal participants in the cabaret that is America the Superpower. Unfortunately for the truth, Kennedy will always have the smile, the beautiful wife, the cute John-John and Caroline, while Johnson will always be pulling the ears off those damn beagles.


Poem: Martyr

November 22, 2021

 

He had long ago accepted the loss as permanent,

but that acceptation was merely a gloss, as yet skin deep,

 

not yet having bled into the very marrow of his being,

nor led him to that place of serenity.

 

His bitterness lay as deep as the roots of cedar in shale,

following tracks as distant and serpentine as the staged attacks

 

of true hackers working their miraculous juju through the internet

ether, and forever ending in a sad soiled grace.

 

And, though he could choose to confuse his loneliness with tragedy –

as if he were the sainted prophet of his own persecuted

 

exarchate in exile — it was but loneliness nonetheless,

and it hurt as bad as the arrows of martyrdom.

 


The Five Sandwiches that Made America

November 21, 2021

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I always find the Conversation has an eclectic mix of essays, many of which will pique my interest. A recent case in point: the history of five sandwiches — tuna salad, the chow mein sandwich, club, peanut butter & jelly, Scotch woodcock — and what they say about American social history.

The histories of these foods run through the 1890s for the club sandwich — perfectly described as “a blend of elegance and blandness” — through the early years of the 20th century for tuna, pb & J, and the woodcock, and much more recently for the chow mein sandwich of the 1970s.

Image: Alena Haurylick

“As food historian Bee Wilson argues in her history of the sandwich, American sandwiches distinguished themselves from their British counterparts by the scale of their ambition. Imitating the rising skylines of American cities, many were towering affairs that celebrated abundance.

Well worth the read.


Image: Rope #1

November 21, 2021

What Gives You Satisfaction?

November 20, 2021

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The Pew Research group’s latest findings are on what gives life meaning, or at least 17 nationality’s views on that subject. While “family” was almost invariably considered the most important, the range of other sources of satisfaction was quite diverse.

Outside of the United States, religion was barely mentioned.

I was rather surprised at how few people mentioned spouses (or similar):

I was less surprised to find that the Brits were keen on hobbies:

The urge for personal freedom and independence was quite low, even in Trump’s America:

An all-together interesting study.


The Broadway Plan: Wow!

November 19, 2021

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As time goes by we get better and more detailed analyses of the Broadway Plan. It sounded bad — a developer’s wet dream — from the very beginning, and ever-closer inspection reveals the horror show that could be inflicted on our city if it continues on its present path. With rumours afoot that the dreamed-up SkyTrain extension to UBC is getting pushed further and further back into the infrastructure priority queue, the entire Broadway Plan along with its attendant subway — the $3 billion hole to nowhere — seems more like development profit driving transit building rather than the other way round.

The always-diligent CityHallWatch have been digging into the bones of the so-called “shoulder areas” along Broadway which, they show, will soon “look like the downtown core.” And these are not insignificant little patches:

They further note that “most details” are still missing, and that Planners give no rationale for the identification of so much land as “shoulder areas.”

Their article goes into great detail about the problems inherent in this Plan and rather than try to summarize their excellent work I urge everyone interested in the future of Vancouver to give it a read.


Image: Hanging Gardens

November 19, 2021