Whales, ravens and squirrels….

Well, whales, anyway. Whales made the local news yesterday. Humpback whales are huge. Typically when they come around, they are just passing through, sometimes they stay for a bite of marine tapas or take a deep dive to look around and then, mosey off. Humpbacks don’t hang around much. Yesterday was different.

The largest Humpy I have ever seen was blowing real close to shore a few times before I went out to look. There was just the one whale…sometimes Humpy’s travel in pairs. And there, about fifteen to twenty feet from shore just near the shallows was this great, black, barnacled whale doing a head-down dive complete with fully exposed, high-out-of-the-water flukes rising majestically before slowly descending into depths I didn’t know were there. It was incredible. I was stunned. Too stunned to run in and get my camera….sorry.

Once he came up right in front of the house and emerged head up, looking at the shore and so close that one big fluke-flip and he would be beached. I could see every scar and scratch. I could count the barnacles. I swear I even looked down his throat for a second but I am inclined to hyperbole so don’t take that statement without some sea-salt. But I was very close.

I watched this guy who never wandered more than fifty feet from shore dive, make bubble-cones (which drives the smelts and silvers up) and then he followed with his mouth wide open to catch them while his head rose about ten or so feet out of the water. And this is all done in the original slo-mo way that whales have. It is very impressive.

Humphrey (?) was chilling out front for the better part of half an hour. Odd behaviour for a whale. Half way through his visit, I started to think of my recently deceased friend, John. And that weird mental association stayed with me for some time – most of the day, actually. I just had a feeling……but I am inclined to sentiment and fantasy and even the spiritual so don’t put any stock in that.

I have a reader with an untidy mind. She inquired as to the loss of a few Canadian readers from her blog recently. And that noted absence would be Sid and J. And that is because the aforementioned friend (part of the last blog news) currently in hospital in critical condition is Sid. Sid will soon be joining John. He has a very slim chance, none at all, really. I’ll soon lose Sid.

I half expect Humphrey to come back soon. He may have a friend this time. We’ll see.

It has been hard to write….

I lost a good friend last week. Cancer. Fabulous guy. When he left, there was only a massive vacuum, an unfathomable hole in mine and many lives. He will be hugely missed (by hundreds, maybe thousands).

I won’t write too much more about it. Kinda feels like I am just sharing the news but he was so much more than just a news item. I do not want to diminish his loss in any way – even by writing in a blog about him.

But most of you never met him, anyway. And he wouldn’t mind. He rarely commented on the blog (occasionally…always anonymously…but never unrecognized) and that’s because we saw each other every week. Grumpy, old, septuagenarians do not, I think, have best friends – as in a ‘BFF’ kinda way. We are lucky to have any friends at all so we love ’em all equally. But, if I classified my friends that way, he’d be at the top. Still is, actually. This guy was always happy to see me and he always shouted a happy greeting. That’s a wonderful way to feel accepted and loved (every time!). Always made me smile. The memory of it still does.

I am writing now, a week plus since he passed, because I kinda have to…..the only thoughts I have had this week have been about him and, well, a lot of wood that needed moving…..the two thoughts, of course, are not directly related but, to be honest, just doing some heavy, bull work with more logs helped take my mind off it. I guess I am either going to miss him a lot or get a lot of work done. Life, eh?

I do have a little something to say….I have another friend in hospital (critical), another showing some bad signs (serious). And we also lost a family member (in-law) two weeks ago. Mortality has made itself too-much known lately.

I am not generally morbid by nature but you can understand if I seem a little oriented that way right now. Nothing like losing those you love to remind you of their gift, your own vulnerability and, of course, the inevitability of it all. And, if loss doesn’t do it, aging will. Every year is a renewal of reminders by way of aches and pains and the like. I may not go gentle into that good night, I may even rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light but, regardless of my departure style, depart I will.

But not too soon, I hope. I mean, there is always the danger of the next power tool taking a bite, the next big log asserting it’s weight, an errant propeller or even your basic everyday drowning opportunity but other than competing for a Darwin award, I am still chugging along fairly well. I am a septuagenarian looking ahead to my 80’s (I will not be looking much further ahead until I get there). I am more than lucky, I am blessed. I am triply blessed because Sal is good, too (she is easily worth two of me – thus the math that gets ‘triply’).

“I live in heaven with an angel.”

I’d like it to stay that way.

Economics for dummies

Apologies – this qualifies as a bit of a rant. I am writing in an attempt to answer my own question posed in the last blog: Why do I feel so confused?

Given my knowledge of the subject, I am qualified only as an Economic dummy and so that is who I write for. And that is who I am. I know nothing and that is what I have to share. Read at your peril.

Firstly, I think we can all agree that supply and demand are no longer the primary price setting metrics for much of anything. House prices, for instance, cannot be explained by supply and demand (did we get 50% more people in Canada last year?) but interest rates, mass hysteria, altered statistics and desperation certainly come into play. Food prices? Same kinda thing (are we all eating more all of a sudden?). We are all driving less – but look at gasoline prices….?

Of course, supply and demand are still factors but in say, avocadoes, the drug cartels also play a big role. Like the marketing boards. Like the CRTC does with internet services. Like the oil cartels do with fuel. And, of course, the government messes with the fundamentals all the time with money supply, interest rates and various policy mandates, not to mention taxes.

National budgets are now based more on threat and extortion, not basic scarcity or abundance. Or, better put: national budgets are based on taxes (whether they are affordable or not). Government first looks after government. Some pundits even theorize that inflation is a tax (of sorts) and the government plays with (or tries to) with inflation as an income stimulant (for them). If a country like Canada has an almost 50% tax rate, isn’t supply and demand altered/diluted by that?

Of course it is. Basic marketplace fundamentals (supply and demand) can no longer – nor have they ever been able to – fully explain economics despite what Samuelson wrote back in the 50’s. Paul said that it was all about scarcity and maximizing resources in a free market system. It just ain’t that simple anymore.

Now it is rigged.

Mind you, rigging the system is what we do. Always have. Fishermen, loggers, doctors, nurses, the whole enchilada constantly work to maximize their own, personal resources and do so with regulations, professional credentials, licenses, permits, laws, unions, corporations, political donations, monopolistic practices and, sometimes, just your basic cheating. Like the hockey player using his elbows in the corner, they push the limits of tolerance to maximize their position even if it means cheating. Samuelson never taught his students about cheating and cheating is a big part of any business or any ‘system’. “If you don’t cheat on your taxes (permits, regulations, payments, etc.) you will not succeed”. That has been the Capitalist ‘secret’ for as long as there has been money. See: Trump.

Bottom line: trying to figure out economics is now more than just a social science based on the behaviours of the buyer and the seller. Now it is a complicated soup of lying, cheating and manipulation as well.

“Dave! That is NOT news.” True. In fact, all the miscreants and parasites that influence our basic economics have been known for a long time and that is why some of the laws and regulations were originally written. That is why some standards and qualifications were required. Of course, that just means we are trying to control strong deviant forces with toothless regulators, cobwebs and some ‘stinkin’ badges’. They are there just for show and to shake down the little guy. They are largely ineffective. We are more corrupt than ever.

Which brings me to my point: something shifted awhile back. It was a morality shift. It was significant. The collective ‘we’ embraced lying and cheating even more so than ever before. It was like a collective side-step onto the dark side. Looking back, I am going to suggest that the start of the ‘slippage’ occurred starting in the 80’s and got a leg up, as it were, in the 2000’s.

This is a hard thing to describe but, when I was growing up, lying and stealing were not only heavily frowned upon, they were rarely encountered. And bear in mind I lived in more than a few ‘bad sections’ of various cities and towns. Naturally, lying and cheating and stealing were present but there was a larger ‘morality’ that influenced people – especially those in the same neighbourhood. Today? Not so much.

Side note: a lot of older people feel the Gen X’ers and Millenials have lost that earlier quasi moral compass. X and Millenials are supposedly marked by the ‘what’s in it for me’ maxim. Do I believe that? I don’t know. I am OTG. But it is a somewhat popularly held denigration.

The drug cartels in Mexico are now so entrenched, embedded in society, they are now the arbiters of much of Mexico, the de facto governors. Mexico is a narco state and it is failing as a society. So is the USA. Even Canada has a growing gang society. Six year-olds swear like Lenny Bruce, ten year-olds are over-dosing, 16 year-olds are shooting each other and petty theft is so common the police do not even look for the thieves or the stolen goods anymore. Hell, half the murders in the country are done by the police!

The previous president of the United States was and still is an unabashed liar and cheat who is infamous for also being selfish and narcissistic. He gave license to this mental and moral erosion. He enables it. He is followed by millions of dupes, trolls and propagandists who ‘in their heart’ support all that. They do NOT tolerate all that, they SUPPORT and PRACTISE all that!

We have always been bad. We have always lied and cheated. But NOT at this scale. This is different. We have, it seems, evolved and reinforced our worst ‘resources’ and lost much of our better ones. We have abandoned goodness and ethics and integrity to make (or steal) a buck. For some reason, we have slipped further than ever. We have become a society of porch pirates, car thieves, con men and cheats. How did that happen? And how do you plan, predict, manage and live in an economy based way too heavily on lies and deception?


Is it me?

I wanna finish my little deck extension and new storage shed but lumber prices tripled and they are still ridiculously high. A 2×4 x8′ long at Windsor Mills was, a year or so ago, just under $5.00 a stick. Today, it is around $11.00 and two months ago it was $13 or $14.00. Plywood sales are worse, they haven’t moved down at all yet. They are still three times what they used to be. That means a $33.00 sheet of half inch ply is now and it remains close to $100.00 a sheet. That makes my 8×8 shed expensive. So, I am half way done and I will not finish. At least not yet. I am confused.

Gasoline has hit approximately $1.70 a liter. That, too, is ridiculous.

But, maybe it is me? Maybe everything goes up in price? Maybe I am just an old fuddy-duddy…you know? Ranting about the world going to hell in a handbasket…that kinda thing?

I guess what I am saying is: adjusting, changing, judging, evaluating and regularly altering one’s perspective is all part of being mentally healthy and seeing and dealing with reality. But that ability to adjust is predicated somewhat on the changes being incremental and, somehow, in the context of a generally perceived (societal) ‘normal’. To be honest, my sense of ‘perceived normal’ went out the window with Covid. Things were NOT normal last year. Hell, the weather wasn’t even normal last week!

Things are not normal.

And that is my blog topic today: My sense of normal is missing, my sense of crazy is rising. And my sense of confusion is wandering the halls with a lamp looking for an honest man. I not only find it hard to plan, I find it impossible to understand….much of anything, actually. What happened to this new world to become the one I am living in now that, in so many ways, does not resemble the world I was in just a few months ago? What changed THAT much?

Of course, Covid changed a lot but Covid did not change plywood or framing lumber. And yes, I read the ‘explanation’ for that (supply and demand crap) and I don’t accept it. And gasoline so expensive? Not because of supply and demand – no one is driving, flying or boating (not like before Covid, anyway). Housing has gone insane! Food is rising in price daily and still half the restaurants are closed or just starting up again. How did ‘commodities’ inflate to that extent because of a pandemic? How does Capitalism work in the new NOW?

The USA is a radically and racially divided country – so partisan as to having corrupted the entire democratic process. Trump is insane and yet STILL an influence! The GOP now state publicly that their main function is to screw up anything the Democrats want to do – regardless of whether it is good for the country or not! How does that digest in the stomach of the larger society? How do we defend democracy in a situation like that?

The USA is in a dangerous place.

Canada lost Jody Wilson-Raybould (not so surprising given our leader-centric party system) but then we lost Jane Philpott, too. And JWR is now getting further out by not running again! The Greens have self-immolated on the pyre of political correctness, the Cons are lost in Neanderthal land and the poor old NDP are in the same hallway with a lamp looking for an honest man. Simply put: we are led by a simple-minded, spoiled, drama queen and he may be the best we have.

That puts Canada in a weak and vulnerable place.

No one has an idea, no one has a vision, no one has even a direction in which to look for hope. This feels like a world gone way too far astray. Admittedly, Climate Change is looming larger every day and that puts us all in bad place.

“Geez, Dave, you losing it, dude? Depressed, maybe? Early onset, perhaps? Or are you just overly sensitive to lumber prices?”

I don’t know. Could be anything, I suppose. Maybe it is everything. That is the point: I do not feel as if I have a handle on much of anything right now. Everything feels off. Nothing feels right. Could just be me. Could just be age. I really don’t know but I am definitely feeling confused about any kind of future.

That ol’ set o’ wheels

They are now working! Working great! Got that old (1990) van working and rolling and doing what old vans are supposed to do. Sal and guests (plus dog) went on a ‘touristy’ drive around the island yesterday (all dirt/logging roads). Had a great time. It’s a Toyota, all-wheel drive van, under 185,000 kms, good tires, mechanically sound, everything working well and even the air conditioning blew cool!

I am 73. Sal a few years younger. If Sal or I drive that van as much as anyone else does their car on this island, we will be challenged to put on 1000kms a year. A more realistic estimate is 250 – 300 kms a year, maybe less. The old Toyota (already 31 years old) is reputed to go, on average, close to 500,000 kms before joining the old jalopies at the junk yard. Do the math: that puppy should run for over 300 years!

Realistically, neither it nor I will last 300 years. In fact, I am sorta counting on just 15 more (if I am lucky). The point of all this? Even tho Sal will last closer to 30 years (she comes from a great gene pool) that truck will see her out and the next generation after us……seriously, it will not have hit 200K kms before I leave this mortal coil and it, as the bard might say, “will have no doubt about it’s being”. ‘To be or not to be?’, is not a question for an old Toyota.

It’s a JDM Previa, the precursor to the now ubiquitous Toyota Sienna, the ‘family van’. 1990 was the first year they were ever made and then it was repeated as launched for a number of years until the last one rolled out in 1997. Right-hand drive. Automatic.

Our island is approximately 17 miles long, tip to tip, but the road system does not go all the way. As the raven flies, the main-track goes maybe 12 or 13 miles down the middle (North-South) and the secondary road, (off the Y intersection at the old Maple) goes for maybe half of that again in another direction (NE- SW). There are little overgrown pathways that spin off the two main roads but they don’t go far – usually nowhere (they were just ‘access-to-trees’ roads). I suppose that If I spent the day driving every passable road that actually went anywhere, going out and coming back, I might accumulate 50 miles tops. A typical ‘trip’ would be eight miles out and eight miles back (see a friend, visit, etc). And we might do that once every three months. It will be hard to put on the miles.

“Why bother?” Well, there is always a reason to go somewhere on the island and, while walking is OK for most of our contacts to be reached, walking back in inclement weather or at night is prohibitive. Cougar-prohibitive. Plus we are always carrying something. Always. Plus we are getting older. Vehicles on the island are necessary but not used often. In fact, for the most part, all the traffic happens on Friday.

Friday is when the food-delivery-boat arrives and people are now trundling down to the dock in the early afternoon in old, rolling, rust-buckets to get their order and, usually, a neighbour’s or two or even three others. Given that the old logging roads are barely two vehicles wide, we can get a bit of a traffic jam on Fridays but there is never any road rage. Traffic jams are social occasions out here.

We are not quite as sanguine about the community docks, however. Our most critical dock on the neighbouring island (car-park) holds only six vessels 18 feet and smaller. We tie-up twelve vessels by rafting up two deep or even, maybe 15 small vessels if a few are willing to climb over two boats to get to the dock. Dock space is at a premium and, when you arrive, the pressure is on. “Why?” Because no one goes there unless they are embarking on some kind of longer drive-the-car type mission. Most such sorties involve catching the ferry an hour away. To arrive at the dock with no place to tie up throws the mission’s plans off track.

There are maybe 250 people in the general area on average spread over 250 square miles and 5 separate islands (all OTG). That translates into maybe 60 or so separate vehicles. Maybe 80 households? Our parking lot is jammed. But dock space for only six vessels is where the real bottle-neck is. We need a bigger community dock.

Anyway, we have wheels on one island, wheels on another and two boats to go get to them. And, in keeping with the logic, there is no road anywhere near my house (water access only). Weird!

Air conditioning OTG

One of our neighbours, during the worst of the heat wave, strung up white sheets on tight lines outside her house as a kind of reflector of the sun. That did not work, of course, but it likely did deflect some of the sun’s direct in-the-window rays. She may have kept the heat down a degree….

Because we have swallows nesting on a gable end right smack-dab on the hottest part of the house, I usually water down that side of the house a few times a day and also wet the decks. The swallows seem to be doing OK.

I also have an air conditioner. I bought it two or three years ago. It is a cheap Danby portable and it blows out air at 17 degrees C. The problem is that it blows out 17-degree cool air kind of weakly into a 26+ degree room and it had no real effect. Still, by the end of the day, the room was still 26C and the immediate outside was 33C. It must have helped some.

We live OTG. All electricity used has to be first ‘made’ by our panels and then ‘managed’ by our equipment. Basically, we can only handle about 30 amps of draw at a time – and only 20 amps on any one circuit. The AC took 15+ and, of course, we have all sorts of other minor draws that add up and so, if we used the chop saw or, way worse, washed clothes (water pump and washing machine), we’d threaten to pop a breaker not to mention suck down the batteries. In the worst of the heat, I was thinking of getting another few ACs. But the math just doesn’t work.

OTG’ers have to be mindful of their power use and, of course, we are. If you are not, you go dark and that serves as a stark reminder in real time. We are good power brokers, so to speak. But, but, but…..when the sun is high in the sky and beating down mercilessly, that makes for gobs of power. With surplus power at the ready, you can use it to…..(wait for it)…run an AC! One would think that an AC is one of the top verboten appliances living OTG but, because of when it is needed there is also gobs of power to run it, so it works out just fine.

But not two of them. I am gonna have to think on this challenge a bit more. One untested plan is to string up a line of misters around the house and over the roof. The water is pumped (big draw but somewhat intermittent) up through the pipes and it then ‘rains’ on the house all day long. That might be effective to some extent….better than white sheets on tight lines, not as good as 3 or 4 ACs.

During the hottest days, we pretty much stopped working but, of course, as soon as the temperature became normal we got back at it. You’ll never guess what our then-current chore was….? Yeah, you guessed right…firewood! Those piles of logs we pulled up and I blogged about some time back are now reduced to half what they were. Our wood shed is full! We have more to do but the pressure is off. We have enough in the shed for a whole winter.

This blog on the elements wouldn’t be complete without a water report. And, as you likely guessed (God, you know me so well) the water stopped flowing again. We weren’t really surprised. Heat waves do that kind of thing. But our source is pretty reliable so Sal went off to climb the stream and see. Walking along to her boat, she heard a heavy gushing sound…one of the pipes had broken. She stuck it back together and we are now fully water-backed.

Living OTG is all about the simple things. Keep the water running, keep the place warm in the winter and cool in the summer and keeping the larder full. Keeping all machines operating perfectly is virtually impossible so ‘live with it’ but learn to fix everything. And the icing on the cake? It takes an amber-coloured liquid form from Scotland or a similar purple form from a variety of grapes and places. Anything more complicated is not really welcome.

Catherine McKenna is leaving politics

CM is currently our minister for Infrastructure and, prior to that, she was an influence (for three months) on the Covid 19 effort. Her longest stint was as Minister for the Environment. But she has now had enough. She’s quitting politics. It turns out that CM was greatly affected by the Covid pandemic and it made her reflect on what was important. Her kids are important and Climate Change is important. She is quitting government (by not running again) to focus on kids and climate.

Think about that…….

Most of us think that, to get anything done on climate change, one should be in government. If one was to be as influential as possible on such issues, being Minister of the Environment would be ideal. Being a minister in the most influential ministry for climate for four years just might be the best use of one’s time. Cathy got that. CM was the minister of the Environment for four years from 2015 to 2019.

But, apparently, she’s leaving the Liberals to work on Climate Change. It screams the question: what more can Cathy do on Climate Change that she could NOT do as Minister of the Environment?

It is the hottest day on record here in BC. We are two days from Canada Day. And Cath decides today is a good day to announce her departure and leave her influential position in the Liberals. She seemingly has more important things to do. But her departure speaks volumes….I think…but volumes of what?

“Government is a waste of time…nothing gets done…I’m quitting?” “My party couldn’t care less about the environment?” “I got my pension so screw everyone else?”

Or could it be something else? I just find it quite perplexing….there may be all sorts of reasonable motives behind such a decision…..how could I possibly know? All I know is that a person who achieves the second highest office in the land, who gets the highest office on the topic she is dedicated to and who has been in on all the inner cabinet meetings is now quitting that ‘opportunity’……

Isn’t that odd?

Kreegha, Bundolo Tarmangani!!

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the novel, Tarzan, and, in so doing, invented a language for the Great Apes. In that language (Mangani) the words in the blog title mean: “Warning! I come to kill the White man!”

I had some tenuous acquaintances back in the 70’s with some Black Panther-types in Seattle. They hated basic whitey and talked nasty alla time but, for the most part, it was just talk and posturing for each other. They were nice enough to me and Sally and our mutual friend (who was married to one of them). We got along.

One day when we were visiting, Malcom X (or whoever) had just come over with his brand new, purebred Afghan hound. A beautiful dog. He had come over to get help with registering it as a purebred in the American Kennel Club (AKC). Seems each dog requires three names. So the brothers were all throwing out names but agreeing on none of them. I suggested they call the dog, Kreegha Bundolo Tarmangani.

Six or so black, angry, militant faces looked at me like I was mad. “Wha..de hell yo’ talkin’, white boy?” I explained what the words meant and where they came from. They screamed with delight and that became the name of the guy’s new dog.

Now a careful PC reading of the above two paragraphs can find white, male privilege and even, maybe, some racist sentiments running rampant there. Firstly, I was using my paltry education and my penchant for reading to ‘teach’ them what I knew. I suggest that, at the time, few if any of them had read Tarzan and/or all of the works of E.R. Burroughs as I had. I’d opine that a few may not have read much at all. Clearly, I was manifesting white privilege and being patronizing. That was not my intention, however, and they knew it, but an ignorant, modern, PC advocate might chide me for it. I would definitely be rebuked for writing their question to me in psuedo-black-speak.

However, the name, suggesting that the dog will kill the white man, is clearly also a form of hate mongering to any PC Karen. I would have fingers pointing at me and them on that, for sure. After all, I was obviously suggesting the white somewhat-equivalent of the N-word to name the dog. To be fair, Malcom X joining the AKC was intended as a rebuke to the AKC collective major whiteness as well but that might be OK – he was ‘of colour’, after all, and was allowed to openly hate the white oppressor under the Black Panther banner.

But all that tedious analysis of the petty and picayune was not in fashion back then and they loved the name and elected to use it. The AKC was, at the time, 99.999% white (maybe more). Kreegha Bundolo Tarmangani was a subtly veiled threat to the club. But the Panthers were OK with that. So was I. And, as it turned out, so was the AKC. They were either very tolerant or equally as ignorant of Burrough’s work.

One can analyze all of the above in any number of ways but if the analysis did not put a huge emphasis on intent, it would miss the mark completely. My intent was to help them name their dog in a way that they would like. My intent was not to be patronizing but helpful and, I confess, amusing. Despite walking into a verbal minefield amongst potential enemies, the good intention was what was heard and no harm was done to me, the dog, the AKC or to Sally.

My point? Intention is a huge part of communication. My intention yesterday was to address the now-popular misconception that Canada waged REAL genocide on it’s indigenous peoples. Canada did not. Canada did not intend to kill thousands of their children and Canada did not actually kill any of them, not intentionally, anyway. As in the US schools, TB killed virtually all the victims. Canada’s crime was one of neglect, perhaps reckless endangerment, maybe even criminal negligence by some individuals. It was not pre-meditated mass murder.

I did not ignore the harm Canada did. I did not sweep any crimes under the carpet. I simply clarified the word, genocide. To be fair, I might even have hinted that Canada’s intention was basically good (for the era, given the times, and even delegated to churches) but that it was wrong-headed, mismanaged, mishandled, cruel and destructive in the result.

Intent, tho a huge part of the plan to assimilate, is not enough of an excuse if the actions taken were so bad and the intent – from the start – was wrong.

By the way, our intent wasn’t even well thought out. Ryerson basically copied the US model of Mission Schools for Native Americans. The US closed their last such school in 1984.

Canada is guilty of being bloody stupid, slow to fix what must have been obvious after a while and even stupider in doing what they do now – now that they know what happened. Canada has stumbled badly on this, no question. And they continue to do so. But genocide was not then nor was it ever on the agenda. The goal was indoctrination and cultural erasure….ignorant and nasty but not homicide, not genocide.

Money and effort have been spent in great gobs over the years and more is planned in future*. Those compensatory monies and efforts have been judged inefficient and unproductive but the native population has remained relatively stable. Ergo: NOT genocide. (*anyone who attended a Residential school is currently entitled to additional government compensation. The range is from $10,000 to $200,000 depending on the level of abuse).

Indigenous peoples still suffer more than they should (i.e. just in having clean drinking water on reserves). If some readers think the Residential schools were waging genocide, what do they think of the ten-times-the-normal rate of contaminated water, boil-water-advisories FNs suffer every year? If killing them off is the plan, dirty water might have been a better weapon than very poorly managed Residential schools.

Tilting at sacred cows

For some reason, I have been taking a slightly different-than-PC stance on some sacred matters lately. I do not apologize for that and, to be clear again, I am not opposed to all things PC – ish or even bovine. It just feels to me that some of it has gone too far. I will not bore you with repetition but it seems I, now, might go too far again….

WARNING! I am about to say something that may get me in hot water. Hot water I can take. I can also take criticism and correction if I am wrong so feel free with your slings and arrows. All I ask is that you do not consider me heartless or cruel. A heartless Pinko is a man who has lost his way.

Here we go: Because 215 children’s graves were found at the Kamloops Residential School DOES NOT constitute genocide. Moreover, it may not indicate much of anything! Of course, the Residential Schools were ill-conceived, seemingly poorly run and maybe even criminally negligent and cruel at times. But 215 children’s deaths over the 88 years of the Kamloops operation with as many as 500 kids in residence at a time when the First Nations were suffering greatly from Tuberculosis is likely close to the normal mortality rate for those unfortunate times. That works out to approximately 2.5 children per year from amongst 500 annually enrolled, underprivileged, unhealthy children. By my poor math that is .5% per year. Coincidentally, the Canadian child mortality rate in 2019 was 4.9 deaths per 1000 children or .5%.

Yes, I know that we can lament and grieve the situation they suffered and that we should. Those kids died separated from their families and were discarded heartlessly. Many of those that survived described the schools as cruel, inhumane and they clearly did not achieve what was intended, namely assimilating, educating and training the students in becoming ‘white’. Residential schools were a mistake.

But even the coldest, cruelest and stupidest of the staff, even the pedophiles (if there were), even the bullies and creeps were NOT waging genocide. They were up to all sorts of no good and definitely not enough do-good but they were not engaged in genocide.

Sometimes (most times) this nonsense of handwringing, self-flagellation and exaggerated, misplaced apologies over every perceived wrong done in the past is, at best, a dramatic self-serving (politically) apology of sorts. Sometimes it is merely stating an ugly fact about what our ancestors perpetrated in their ignorance. And maybe that is a necessary component of reconciliation. But, not only is it not working, it is making matters worse. If Trudeau admits to someone else’s genocide, then that is tantamount to pleading guilty to murder on a grand scale on behalf of someone long dead. Trudeau is accepting guilt for something he wasn’t even around for and those that were are no longer alive to defend themselves. Not in any way.

A.E Ryerson is considered the ‘father’ of modern education in Ontario and that included the concept and creation of the Residential schools. That his mission failed is fact. But, so far, that seems to be the only fact that I can discern. He did not have a mandate for genocide, he had a mandate for education. He was also a strict Methodist preacher born in 1803 to a well-off family in Ontario and was very likely not so-very-much understanding of the First Nations due to his somewhat removed and privileged place in society and politics. We have had more than our share of those kind of out-of-touch politicians. I probably would be disinclined to like A.E. Ryerson but his life history is not one of murder and cruelty.

Trudeau assuming Ryerson’s guilt (and J.A. McDonald’s) is stupid in itself but, of course, the modern politician also assumes to distribute compensation to the victim’s ancestors. Trudeau will provide money from the taxpayer, not his own pocket (how sincere and heartfelt can that be?). How does giving millions of dollars today make any sense in this matter anyway? Some 35 year old can now get an F-150 to make up for the long lost cousin who died 100 years ago in a Residential school from TB? Maybe, just maybe, some compensation might be justified for any ex-student still alive. Maybe. Sometimes, however, a mistake is just a mistake and it was unfortunate and we should all just do better now that we know better. FULL STOP.

I wouldn’t make this rant if the so-called compensation and acts of contrition weren’t clearly having the opposite effect of the intention. First Nations do not accept all the money and apologies and then say, “Oh, gee. Thanks for the moolah. Let’s be friends now.”

Of course not. They do what most people would do, they say, “Hey, you owe me even more money than that last amount. We found more evidence of wrong doing by your ancestors hundreds of years ago and now we want even more money, more apologies and more concessions.” In other words, we are perpetuating the mistake by feeding into ridiculous expectation that also DO NOT HELP the people, First Nations or General Population. This current policy of buying forgiveness is really just a separation pathway that leads to more conflict.

Put another way: I do not blame a young German for Hitler. How can anyone? My father was so shot up in the second world war that he had a 100% disability pension. Our family lives were made very difficult as a result of his war injuries. Should I sue Germany? Does Merkel owe me an apology? I think it is time to ease up on the mea culpa craze, don’t you?

More building….(part one)

We made a nice workshop a few years ago. It is good. But then I filled it up. And that, too, was good because I prefer to ‘work’ outside anyway and being cooped up in a little building does not appeal to me very much. That semi-claustrophobic quirk of mine was also okay in the circumstance because I had also built a nice, large work deck alongside the workshop on which the tools would be used — only a few feet away from their normal resting place. Workshop plus deck makes for a good workspace. Level, open workspace is good (especially if you live on a 30 degree slope).

But man is man and if one tool is good, then two tools are better and, after awhile, that maxim changes to: If twenty tools are good, forty tools are better. And so it goes. I now have more tools than I have space – inside and out! For the last few years I have had to place my bigger tools outside on the workspace deck….the ‘work’ deck now accommodates the bandsaw, planer, table saw, chop saw, a 2800 watt and a 5500 watt generator. I have those six, good-sized tools outside and at least four more good-sized tools (sand-blaster, air compressor, welder, alcohol-producing still) that are still making the workshop feel crowded inside. I really need to have more room to store more tools and none of them on the workspace deck because the workspace deck is supposed to be for the actual working!

“Hey, Sal…? Got a few days?”

“If it means more construction work then the answer is NO!”

So, the other day I started to build a deck extension and a smaller shed for the bigger-tools by myself.

After the first day, I said, “Hey, Sal, got a minute to hold one end of the tape?”

Sal came to watch at first and then . . . lend a hand with the tape. And then . . . and then, well . . . we have been building the new ‘space’ together every day since (except for book club and Sal’s sewing class at the school). Whatta team! One thing is very clear: we are an older and slower team and, despite our experience, we are no better than we have ever been – which is to say, barely adequate.

In keeping with being adequate (in a Green way) we are recycling some old wood. As most readers know, getting in supplies is one of the frequent and always larger challenges of living OTG. Getting in the wood means so much more out here. Firstly, one has to get in the firewood by salvaging logs and doing what one does to eventually get warmed by them. Secondly, one has to get in any needed lumber and fasteners so as to build things and things always need building it seems. Thirdly, one has to pay barge services and lumber yard delivery fees for remote island deliveries and so it is almost double the cost when prices are normal. And prices aren’t normal in the lumber business right now. The cost of materials has tripled in some cases and doubled across the board.

OTG’ers (generally speaking) are also kind of inclined to salvage and re-use and ‘make-do’. Yes, part of that is the result of reduced income but a large part is also that the ‘old board’ under the house with 3/4 of it’s life still available is a lot easier to access than by way of the nice Building supply-lumber-town-delivery-barge process. If the old board will still do the job, we re-use it. Old boards can increase in perceived value, too (especially as old men diminish in their own time) . . . the board does not have to make the 30 year rule anymore.

And I have some old boards. Over the years – when I rebuild a deck or a set of stairs or something – I save what might be used again in a pile of mismatched lengths, widths and uneven thicknesses. I have a mix of old store-bought two-by boards (1&5/8″ thickness) and also some locally-milled old boards (varying to almost 2″ in thickness but usually around 1&3/4″). I keep anything over 14″ in length because ‘blocking’ between rafters, joists and walls requires that. Actually, I am on 24″ centres this time so the minimum length to save is 22.5″ ….but you get the principle.

So, I run the old boards through the planer and square new ends. This allows me to see how much rot or ‘bad wood’ is in the board. It’s really quite interesting. Most of the old 17 year-old, rough-cut, locally-milled wood is even better than new store-bought! An old board 7 feet long will still span six feet (I have joists on two-foot centres for the shed floor) and so I can cut it to the right length and examine the ‘core’ from both ends. Surface planing it a bit also gives me another look at it and helps bring all the different thicknesses closer to one another. I am making the shed floor with reclaimed boards. Yes, I am oiling them. That is saving me well over $500.00 not counting the time, the purchase, taxes, delivery and the barge. Given that the average shed of this size (not counting the stairs to the ground and underside, deck extension, railings, workbench and Cedar siding) costs ‘on average nationally’ around $5,000 (more like $8,000 today) to build (more than my car cost) and that my final tally will be around $2,000, utilizing reclaimed wood went a long way to reducing the cost.

And oiled, old boards-for-flooring looks pretty funky and is perfectly adequate for a storage shed.

Part Two will follow eventually but that requires more wood. I need about 100 square feet more of treated 2×6 to finish up plus some 80 sft of tin roofing. But, like everything we do, it will get done. Key word: eventually.