Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

23 February, 2017


Cobalt-60 is an isotope that emits gamma rays essential to the medical community for cancer treatments and the sterilization of medical devices, while it also helps to prevent the spread of disease through an innovative insect sterilization technique. Cobalt-60 emits a blue glow called the ‘Cherenkov effect’ when removed from a nuclear reactor and placed in water, which protects the surface from its radioactivity. The Cobalt rods spend up to two years in Bruce Power’s nuclear reactors before being shipped to Nordion in Ottawa, where it is processed and shipped worldwide for various uses.

A high-tech form of insect birth control connected to nuclear power could solve a devastating pest problem for Ontario farmers and this is good news because, whether we know it or not, we are literally being "bugged" to death in this province.

Bruce Power, the world’s largest operating nuclear facility located in nearby Tiverton and Nordion, a global health science company, have announced funding and support for a multi-year study on sterilizing pepper weevils using Cobalt-60.  The project will be led by University of Guelph Professor Cynthia Scott-Dupree.

The researchers hope to control pepper weevils, which can burrow into farmed peppers and destroy them from the inside.  "It is very difficult to control these insects when they are hidden inside the pepper,” Scott-Dupree said.

According to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, pepper weevils ruined an almost unbelievable $83 million worth of crops in 2016 – a figure that does not include the costs of management, suppression initiatives or cleanup of the pest.

Cobalt-60, which is produced in four of Bruce Power’s eight nuclear reactors, is used for the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), and could be a powerful strategy for controlling the weevil, said Scott-Dupree, of the university's School of Environmental Sciences.  “We want to move away from insecticide as much as possible, and SIT provides us another tool in our pest management toolbox,” she said. “It fits well with biological control programs that growers already have established in their greenhouses. While no strategy is 100 percent effective, using nuclear energy to sterilize insects is an environmentally friendly method of controlling these pests. There is no danger of the pepper weevils spreading any radiation following sterilization, so it is also safe for people.”

Scott-Dupree, the Bayer CropScience Chair in Sustainable Pest Management at U of G, will send pepper weevils to Nordion, an Ottawa-based supplier of medical isotopes and gamma technologies, which receives its Cobalt-60 from Bruce Power. Gamma radiation from Cobalt-60 will sterilize the insects before they are released to mate normal, unsterilized pepper weevils in greenhouses.

“We will only release pepper weevils that have all the attributes of normal, unsterilized weevils, except that they are sterile,” said Scott-Dupree. “When they mate, the eggs will not be viable, no progeny results and the pest population will decrease.”

Families and businesses in Ontario rely on low-cost nuclear for 60 per cent of their electricity each year and this is a major development with great potential for wide-spread impact. Pioneered in the 1950s, SIT has been successfully used to control the codling moth, a pest of apples, in the Okanagan Valley in B.C. since 1992. Scott-Dupree has also recently conducted research which has found that SIT has potential to control American serpentine leafminer, an insect pest that feeds primarily on chrysanthemums.

Cobalt-60 harvested from Bruce Power’s reactors is already used to help sterilize 40 per cent of the world’s single-use medical devices and treat brain tumours. “This innovative research could improve Ontario’s agricultural sector by reducing the impact of pests on produce, while also providing a possible gateway to the future of farming,” said Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s President and CEO.

Scott-Dupree and her team plan to determine the optimum radiation dosage that ensures the sterilization of pepper weevils before testing SIT releases in greenhouses.  “The study will take some time, but the potential it has makes it worthwhile,” she said. “It is exciting to think of all the benefits this study could mean for farmers, Ontario’s economy and the environment.”

Nordion’s facilities will be used to sterilize the pepper weevils. “We are excited to see a technology like SIT, which has had wide and successful application in other areas of the world, help us here in Ontario,” said Ian Downie, Vice-President of Gamma Technologies at Nordion. “Our partnership with Bruce Power helps us support these kinds of scientific advances using Cobalt-60.”

Stories like this often fly under the media radar but I think that it is important for us to know of the scientific advances that are being taken in our virtual backyards -- and for the ultimate benefit of us all.

Now, if they could only find a way to kill off the Emerald Ash Borer that is taking a devastating toll on all the Ash trees in my area.

13 February, 2017


A prized gift from one of my daughters.
The administrator of a nostalgic "Baseball 1857 through 1993" web site recently asked followers for memories of the first Major League Baseball game that they ever attended and I could not help but follow up with a brief submission of my own.  For the edification of a number of baseball-follower friends who are in the habit of checking out my ramblings on Facebook and Wrights Lane, I thought that I would elaborate a bit on the first "Big League" game I ever saw in 1949 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.

I was just 11 years old and I was so taken with all that my wide eyes beheld on that warm July afternoon crowded into the hard green slab bleacher seats along with some 30,000 other screaming fans, that I cannot even remember the final score of the game.  I do remember, however, that Detroit Tigers' lefthander Hal Newhowser was the winning pitcher in the game against American League arch rival Cleveland Indians.  The Indians incidentally, with player/manager Lou Boudreau at the helm, were defending World Series champions.  Red Rolfe was manager of the Tigers.
Tigers owner Walter O. Briggs' pride showed in

his immaculate stadium which opened in 1938.

He installed the most elaborate cast-iron figural

end seats in all of baseball. The rare ornate ends
included the symbol of a tiger as seen above.

I attended the game along with my dad Ken, Dresden Boy Scout Master George Brooker and his son, Donnie. There is a possibility that Bruce Huff also joined us, my memory fails me on that score too but I am sure Huffie will enlighten me in due course if he did in fact tag along (it would be just like him to even remember the score of the game). The Brooker's were like second parents to Bruce in those days.

The highlight of the game had to be a first-inning triple play initiated by Tigers third baseman George Kell.  The Tribe's Joe Gordon scorched a one-hopper to Kell who in one motion stepped on third base to force out Dale Mitchell and got off a perfect throw to Neil Barry at second, doubling off a sliding Boudreau.  Barry's relay to Don Kalloway at first base was in time to beat the speedy Gordon by a step.  It just happened to be the Tigers' 433rd triple play (at the end of the 2016 season, that total had grown to 709).

Kell also connected for several key hits and turned out to be the star of the game. The 1949 season, in fact, was by far and away his best in 15 years in the majors.  He won the AL batting crown with an average of 343, a mere 0002 better than Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and denying "The Splendid Splinter" his third Triple Crown.

A young catcher, Bob Swift, was Newhowser's battery mate on this particular day.  Other strong arms in the Tigers rotation that season, belonged to Virgil Trucks, Dizzy Trout and Ted Gray. Bullpen stalwarts were Fred Hutchison, Stubby Overmire, Art Houtteman and Marv Grissom.
Tigers' George Kell

Vic Wertz, Hoot Evers, Pat Mullen, Dick Wakefield and rookie Johnny Groth were diligently spotted in the outfield by manager Rolfe.  While he did not figure in the triple play, shortstop Johnny Lipon was the infield cheerleader following the memorable fete by his teammates.

He did not pitch in the game, but I remember being impressed with Indians ace Bob Feller as he ran sprints and did exhausting exercise routines in the outfield during his team's batting practice.  I also got a kick out of watching an aging Satchel Paige, never a fan of physical exertion beyond throwing a baseball, as he sat on the grass watching Feller, occasionally slowly bending forward to touch his toes, then falling back on his elbows in a resting position for long periods of time.

The 1949 Cleveland roster was loaded with excellent hitters to complement a strong pitching staff, in fact a remarkable 11 players from that particular team were destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame, some kind of a major league record I'm sure.  The infield for this particular game included Mickey Vernon, 1b; Joe Gordon, 2b; Boudreau, ss, and Ken Keltner, 3b, with Jim Hegan behind the plate.  Al Rosen, 3b, and Bobby Avila, 2b, also saw frequent infield duty with the Indians that season and were difficult to keep out of the lineup.

Larry Doby, Bob Kennedy, Dale Mitchell, Luke Easter and Minnie Minoso patrolled the outer pasture for the Indians.  In addition to Feller and Paige, stalwarts Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Gene Beardon rounded out the mound corps.

Unable to overtake pennant-winning New York Yankees and runner-up Boston Red Sox, the Indians finished the 1949 AL campaign in third place, just ahead of the Tigers.

On reflection, I was so wrapped up in the Tigers vs. Indians game itself that I do not remember much else about the day and the hour-long trip to Detroit and back.  Little did I know then that in seven years time I would step foot on that same Briggs Stadium turf as a player in a Tigers prospects game. I would return again a decade later as a sports writer conducting on-field Press Day interviews with manager Billy Martin, pitcher Mickey Lolich and Canadian Mike Kilkenny.

Memories, yes I have a few!  I just wish I could remember the score.

12 February, 2017

When I Grow Too Old To Dream - Nelson Eddy

This post is intended for lovers, young and old. When I was growing up I wasn't impressed with Nelson Eddy's voice...What does/did a kid like me know anyway? Now, I've reached that stage where a certain kiss "lives in my heart" and good old Nelson's beautiful baritone gives special meaning to it. But I'm not too old to dream, am I?

Life has been beautiful, we have been young
After you've gone, life will go on
Like an old song we have sung
When I grow too old to dream
I'll have you to remember

When I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

10 February, 2017


It is easy to point fingers when things don’t go our way. We find anything and everything to blame for not achieving what we want. Rare is the person who points inward and says, “That’s all on me…it was my fault.”

It is my experience that the more we blame circumstances for what befalls us in life, the more we begin to feel sorry for ourselves.  We feel victimized and subsequently depressed, bitter even, sliding ever deeper on a slippery slope of self-deception.

In all honesty, as I look back on a myriad of personal failures and disappointments, I can blame none other than myself (Dick Wright) for things that happened to me and where I find myself in life today. In retrospect, I could have done better in most aspects of my life and I am required to live with that acknowledgement, regretting only that as my 80th year approaches, I cannot turn back the clock and do certain things differently.  

I at least find redemption in believing now that it was in me to do better if I had only applied myself just a little more, having the foresight to take that one important step or attitudinal adjustment that could have made all the difference. With acceptance comes grace!

The Bible says in Psalm 62:12 that God renders (gives, provides, supplies) to each of us according to our own work. It doesn’t say that He gives (whether that’s money, daily provision, authority or friendships) just because we feel entitled or deserving.

This biblical verse speaks to the heart of our blame-shifting mindset.

Will there be circumstances where we put in maximum effort, yet situations do not work out as planned?  Of course.

Will we make mistakes?  Of course.  We are only human, and there is something to be said for learning from our mistakes.

You cannot account for what others may do or say. You cannot win if others are not putting in the same effort.  You can not anticipate what unforeseen events might come your way or that someone might simply be better than you.  A rational coming to terms with the facts, will always stand us in good stead in the end.

But this is an undeniable truth no matter the circumstance…You cannot succeed if you are putting in minimal effort to just slide by or to accommodate a particular moment or situation.  Work ethic is the key, determining factor in being given what you deserve.

You cannot expect to achieve satisfactory results without having been willing to do the climbing...And you cannot justly blame everything and everyone but yourself when things do not work out to your best advantage.   

Without exception, we are masters of our own destiny.  It is all about how we apply ourselves.

Of course all of this is easy for me to say now, in hindsight.  If only I knew then what I know now!!!

09 February, 2017


A peek through the trees at Fairy Lake from my back yard last Fall.
 Limb by limb, trunk by trunk, approximately 500 to 550 dead and dying Ash trees are being culled from around Fairy Lake in Southampton in a harvest called “tragic”. The cull began Feb. 6, and could take up to six weeks to complete.

The culprit: An infestation of the deadly Emerald Ash Borer that has been known to kill more than 50 million ash trees in North America.

My property backs onto Fairy Lake and I am devastated every time a new gap opens up in what was a wonderful tree scape between my backyard and the lake.

“We're removing all the White Ash trees that were marked as dead or dying with blue or red markers,” said Jared George, one of six Ontario Line Clearing and Tree Experts staffers who began working on Monday. He said it was tight work as they don't want to damage any healthy trees or have any debris fall into Fairy Lake. The smaller limbs are being dragged to a chipper and larger logs will be saved, possibly for future use.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) probably infected Saugeen Shores trees two or three years ago, and only this past summer was the devastating extent of the damage clear, especially at Fairy Lake.

“It moves very quickly and that's what caught us at Fairy Lake,” Burrows said, adding the loss of bark is the first obvious visible sign of disease, often caused by Woodpeckers attacking the diseased trees.

“We know EAB is in other areas of Saugeen Shores, but it is not showing itself, yet, so we don't have a specific map of EAB-diseased trees, but are constantly monitoring and as trees deteriorate and become a hazard we take them down,” Burrows said, adding they are “pondering internally” whether the Town should develop a forestry plan with a more systematic assessment of trees to better forecast any issues.

Within Saugeen Shores, Ash trees are native species in woodlots, hedges and fence lines. A 2015 inventory of trees on Town streets – not parks, other public lands or private lands – found six per cent of the 7,301 trees were Ash, and of those, 45 (9.3 per cent) had signs of EAB infestation and could be dead within three or four years.

The ash borer is indigenous to Asia and known to surface in China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the Russian Far East, and Taiwan.  It was probably introduced to North America in wood packaging. The insects' spread has been aided by the movement of nursery stock and especially firewood commonly found at camping sites.

Removal of the Ash trees at a cost of $85,000, is phase one of a $250,000 Fairy Lake restoration project. Phase two includes rehabilitation of the trail ringing the lake, two new pedestrian bridges, a second water fountain and a lookout – all with a Canada Day opening target. So, in the end, improvements will be made to the woodlot surrounding the tranquil lake and I am trying to be optimistic and hope for the best.

Such a shame though!  One really has to question the workings of Mother Nature at times like this.

08 February, 2017


“My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.” -- Harry S. Truman

I was nonsensically teasing old friend Bob Peters yesterday on a totally unrelated subject and happened to mention the name Harry S. Truman.  That got me to thinking about some funny Harry Truman stories that are just too good not to share on Wright Lane.  For some reason, there was always something just a little different about the candor and wit of the 33rd President of the United States that always intrigued me.

When President Harry Truman picked up his "Washington Post" early on December 6, 1950, to read a review of his daughter Margaret Truman's singing performance, he was livid. Though conceding that Miss Truman was "extremely attractive," Paul Hume, the "Post's" music critic, stated bluntly that "Miss Truman cannot sing very well" and "has not improved" over the years. The president wrote the following letter to the 34-year old Hume, whom he compared to the columnist Westbrook Pegler ("a rat," in Truman's view).

Mr Hume:

I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert. I've come to the conclusion that you are an "eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay."

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.


Wow!  In retrospect, Donald Trump was not the first U.S. president in recent memory to take the press to task.

Then there's another priceless story about Truman's association with the renowned Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall.

A sitting American vice-president entertaining a Hollywood star? Sounds like something that could have happened to former v-p Joe Biden. But a moment starring vice-president Harry Truman, back in 1945, got renewed attention after news broke recently that actress Lauren Bacall had passed away at the age of 89.

Before Bacall was truly a big star, she paid a visit in February of that year to the National Press Club in the nation's capital as a surprise guest for U.S. troops. “The story is that during World War II the club was open on Saturdays for servicemen to get free hot dogs and beer,” explained Gilbert Klein, an American University journalism professor and the chairman of the press club’s history committee. “Politicians could come, but they weren’t allowed to talk for more than two minutes.”

Truman, at that time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s veep, tried something a little different from talking: He decided to tickle the ivories in the club’s ballroom. “At that time, Truman didn’t have much to do – he was vice president, he was presiding over the Senate and had speaking engagements, but he wasn’t nearly as busy as he was when he was a senator,” said Randy Sowell, an archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (there you go Bob). “And so he had some free time on his hands and he enjoyed going to events like that.”

Bacall popped out. Her press agent suggested she jump on top of the piano. She and the vice-president posed for photographers. “What disturbed many people was that Truman appeared to be having such a good time, which he was,” wrote historian David McCullough in his enormous biography, Truman. “Bess (Mrs. Truman) was furious. She told him he should play the piano in public no more,” McCullough wrote of the vice president’s wife.

But apparently Bacall did appear with Truman again. “Thereafter, she was sort of associated with Mr. Truman and she and her husband Humphrey Bogart were two Hollywood celebrities who supported Truman in 1948,” Sowell recalled.

And finally, poor daughter Margaret who always seemed to get a bad rap in spite of the fact that she was a professional singer, eventually performing at Carnegie Hall, a TV personality and author of 32 books, including biographies of both parents and 23 mystery novels in a popular series all set in and around Washington.
When the Trumans moved to the White House, they brought Margaret's piano with them. In the summer of 1948, a leg of the piano fell through the floor of her room. The incident further proved that the White House needed major structural repairs. An engineer commented that the house was still standing only "out of habit."

In her 1981 book she recalled "Because of my father, I was more easily able to obtain important engagements. But I also received more attention by first-string critics and more demanding audiences who felt that because my father was president, I had to be not better than average, but better than the best in order to justify my appearing on stage."

Margaret thought her performance at Constitution Hall in Washington in December of 1950 to be one of her better ones but the aforementioned critic Paul Hume thought otherwise, prompting her father's scathing and combative rebuttal. 

In the ensuing uproar, reporters pressed her for her reaction to the highly publicized letter.  "I'm glad to see that chivalry is not dead," she told them.

In "Harry S. Truman", she wrote: "Dad discussed the (Hume) letter with his aides and was annoyed to find that they all thought it was a mistake.  They felt it damaged his image as president and would only add to his political difficulties. 'Wait till the mail comes in,' Dad said. 'I'll make you a bet that 80 percent of it is on my side of the argument.'

A week later, after a staff meeting, Truman ordered everyone to follow him into the mailing room. "The clerks had stacked up thousands of Hume letters in piles and made up a chart showing the percentages for and against the president," Margaret recalled.  "Slightly over 80 percent favored Dad's defense of me.  Most of the letter writers were mothers who said they understood exactly how Dad felt and would have expected their husband's to defend their daughters the same way.

'The trouble with you guys is,' Dad said to the staff as he strode back to work, 'you just don't understand human nature'."

Margaret adored her father, whose directness and sense of humor she inherited; and she credited him with prophesying her literary career long before it began.  She said he told her in 1946 that "you write interestingly" and added that perhaps, with the passage of time, "you can be a great story writer."

Note:  Margaret also made headlines with her marriage to a dashing newspaper man, Clifton Daniel Jr., who eventually became the managing editor of The New York Times.  Together they had four sons.  Mrs. Truman-Daniel died on January 27, 2008, at 83 years of age.

06 February, 2017


What does your DNA, aging, health, passion and purpose have in common?

According to Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn,"everything!"

The chromosomes are where all our genetic material is packaged in the form of DNA and telomeres, are the very special endcaps at the ends of each chromosome that protects against deterioration. Stress wears down the protective endcaps and makes you more susceptible to disease. The more stress, the more wear and tear.  Makes perfect sense!

The good news is that telomeres can be built back up and lower your chances of getting Alzheimers and other serious diseases.

So how do you rebuild your telomeres, prevent diseases and rapid aging?

Dr. Blackburn says that a growing number of studies indicate meditation and exercise repair telomeres. And the more different kinds of exercise you do, the better the results.

When asked how her research changed her thinking, she said she used to think that aging was an inevitable march toward succumbing to disease and that it was about gradually taking it easier and easier. She has her own exercise program and “now, what I’ve found personally is that what I really needed was purpose.”

The bottom line is that when you get clear about what most fills you up, gets and keeps you excited --i.e. your passions -- you will be on your way to living your purpose.

I certainly buy into that line of thinking...I am passionate about my writing and my purpose, it would seem, is looking after my ailing wife; now all I have to do is learn to meditate and start exercising in order to live longer. Damn if there's not a catch to everything!

03 February, 2017


Bill Vigars helped organize Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope in 1980. On Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 he 
was in Port Coquitlam, B.C. for the Annual Terry Fox Run with a replica of Fox's artificial leg.
Bill Vigars was an unusual kid, but in a rather good way. He was impish, funny, clever and prone to the unexpected.

Growing up in the then "railroad city" of St. Thomas, ON in the 1950s and '60s, he was a member of a salt-of-the-earth Catholic family that was firmly entrenched in the community. It was while a student at St. Joseph's High School that Bill began to come into his own as a think-outside-the-box creative thinker. You just knew that, with a twinkle in his eye and a hint of a permanent smirk indicative of something mischievous going on in his mind, he was destined to march to the beat of his own drummer. And, boy, did he ever! 

He cut his teeth in communications as a student reporter/announcer with CHLO radio in St. Thomas at a time when I was toiling as sports editor for the local Times-Journal newspaper. I was secretly fascinated by the hidden potential of the young man, but little did I expect that four decades later the Toronto Star would call the same Bill Vigars "one of the Top Ten Public Relations People in Canada” and “The Rainmaker” and a publicity "guru" by Maclean’s Magazine.
Bill Vigars today

As fate would have it, Bill somehow stumbled into acting early in his career, among a number of other notable achievements in a remarkable span of 40 years, and counting.

His first thespian venture was on the 1980's CBS late night series "Night Heat", where he acted in more than 25 episodes as, oddly enough but not too surprisingly, either a drag queen or wino. He also worked with a wide range of talent from the Bowery Boys' Huntz Hall, to Diane Lane, Phyllis Diller, Buster Rhymes and Donald Sutherland.

But I am getting ahead of myself just a bit at the risk of not doing justice to the best part of The Bill Vickers Story -- his remarkable, abbreviated, behind-the-scene involvement with the iconic Terry Fox and the historic Marathon of Hope for Cancer in the summer of 1980, all of which was later chronicled in two movies "The Terry Fox Story (1982) where Bill was portrayed by Hollywood's Robert Duvall and the 2005 CTV version "Terry", where his character was portrayed by Canadian actor Matt Gordon.

In 1980 it seems, Bill landed the job as Director of Public Relations and Fundraising for the Canadian Cancer Society's Ontario Division. He explained in an interview his fateful brush with history this way: "I had only been with the Cancer Society for three months, when I received a note around mid April, from my boss about Terry's quest. At that point I began following him through the news at the beginning of his Run. My first interaction with Terry came when he called from a payphone in Nova Scotia. He was a little down, as things weren't going as planned and I wanted to boost his spirits. I asked him how I could help him in Ontario and he mentioned events that might involve the CN Tower, the Toronto Blue Jays and his hockey heroes Darryl Sittler and Bobby Orr."
It was in Edmundston, NB, that Bill first met Terry. With approval of the Cancer Society, he left his work behind in Toronto and drove east to meet Terry, his brother Darryl and best friend Doug Alward. "After sleeping for awhile in the back of my car, I rolled out of the vehicle at 4:00 a.m. to be greeted by Darrel Fox who inquisitively asked, 'You're the guy from the Cancer Society?'" Bill recalled.

The next four days Bill spent in the van, trying to get routes down pat and organizing an itinerary for the trip through Ontario, even arranging meetings with Terry's favorite hockey players, the aforementioned Orr and Sittler, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He never left Terry's side for the duration of the marathon and became a close friend and confidante. He said that Terry struck him as a regular guy who was incredibly determined, focused and who saw the run as an athletic feat. "Terry moved people as he spoke from the heart and had an incredible intensity of purpose. He also really enjoyed the company of children, a good debate and had a great dry sense of humor."

One thing that impacted Bill along the tour, was how emotional it was. "We heard stories all along the route from people who had lost friends and family to cancer. You could see the emotion in their eyes as they gave support to Terry. It was tough".

Throughout the Run, an interesting trend was noted. Dollars that were collected in hats, garbage bags or anything else, were often crumpled. "What was happening," Bill explained, "is that people waited along the routes, sometimes for a few hours and there was so much emotion in anticipation of seeing Terry, that they ended up clutching their donations in their hands until he arrived."  By contrast, today the Terry Fox Foundation has raised more than $700 million for cancer research, thanks in large measure to volunteers and organizers of the 9,000 runs across Canada each year, 

Bill remembers the heat of that summer — thick, wet, insufferable heat that would glue a shirt to your back in minutes. He remembers the crowds, too. Everywhere they went, folks waving and grinning from the sidewalks, kids standing on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the man skip-hop running down the highway.

But by far the most vivid memory Bill has of that celebrated journey is the July afternoon at a motel on Highway 7, when Terry Fox threw a clubhouse sandwich and fries at his head.

This was a little more than halfway through the now-legendary marathon that began in St John’s, Nfld., on April 12, when Fox dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and headed west. He crossed into Ontario at the end of June.

Battling bone bruises, blisters, shin splints, cysts on his stump and extreme exhaustion, Fox ran a staggering 42 kilometres — pretty much a marathon — every day. He would do 20 km before breakfast, another 12 after a mid-morning break and the final 10 after a noon nap.In the evening, he would do brief public appearances, have dinner and go straight to bed.

The sandwich-throwing incident took place at a motel somewhere along Highway 7 in late July. Bill can’t remember the name of the place. He recently tried to find it by navigating the street view on Google Maps, but said he kept getting lost in all the new subdivisions that have since been developed.

Coincidentally, I stood curbside in a crowd on Queen Street East (Hwy. 7) in Brampton that same day in July as Terry and his entourage passed through. I vividly remember the feeling that I was witnessing history in the making as Terry hippidy-hopped three feet in front of me with a sense of purpose. He had a lopsided gait, dubbed the Fox Trot — two hops with his good leg to match the longer stride of his artificial leg. He was expressionless, as if in a trance, his eyes focused on the road ahead. I instantly detected a haunting aura about him that defies description to this day. As Terry disappeared into the distance with the red lights of his police escort flashing behind him, I just stood there for a few minutes processing what I had just experienced. I later purchased a Marathon of Hope T-shirt as a souvenir of the occasion.

The Highway 7 that Bill remembers was just a simple two-lane road with gravel shoulders in those days. Fox would run along the edge of the pavement with a police cruiser trailing behind him. His friend Doug and brother, Darrell, travelled ahead in a van. Fox’s trick to keep himself going was to run to the next telephone pole, then the next one, and the next one, a short stretch at a time.

After passing through Brampton, the crew had stopped for a break along Highway 7 near Keele St. in Woodbridge, just east of the city. Fox went to take his daily nap break in a small nearby motel. Meantime, Bill apparently popped into a restaurant to grab him a sandwich.

While he was waiting for the order, Bill got word of a problem. There had been a mix-up with the schedule and Fox was somehow committed to making two public appearances that night in two different places.

The dilemma meant the crew would either have to cancel one appearance and disappoint the crowds that showed up to catch a glimpse of the famous runner or ask the exhausted 21-year-old to do both events. The latter was a lot to ask of a man who was experiencing intense physical pain and in a constant state of exhaustion. The very same booking mistake — two events in one night — had been made 10 days earlier, too, and organizers had promised Fox it wouldn’t happen again.

In those days, without cellphones or Internet, there was no simple way to cancel or reschedule an event. Poor Bill ran outside to a pay phone, called head office in Toronto and explained the situation.

"You have to make him do both," Bill was told by a superior..."Or you're fired!"

Slightly agitated, he grabbed the sandwich wrapped in a tinfoil takeout package and walked back across the parking lot to the motel. He went into Fox’s room and sat on the bed across from him as he was waking up. Then he handed Fox his lunch and explained the situation.

“Terry, if you don’t go, I’m going to get fired,” Bill exclaimed

A pause...and Bill ducked as the takeout container sailed past his shoulder, flinging fries and toasted bread and bacon all over the room.

Forced to end his run after cancer spread to his lungs, 
Terry Fox prepares to board a flight from Thunder Bay,
to his home in British Columbia on September 2, 1980. 
Nearby, Terry's parents are embraced by Bill Vigars of
the Canadian Cancer Society.
Bill doesn’t want people to get the wrong impression from this story, however. “That wasn’t the usual Terry,” he says. “It was a combination of the heat and the stress.”  Fox did the two events, in the end. He made peace with Bill a few days later and the tour continued. At the time, neither could have predicted their journey would end abruptly in September when Fox’s cancer returned; that he would never finish the Marathon of Hope.

But on he went for the rest of that summer, running along the old Ontario highways, taking it one telephone pole at a time. When it was found in Thunder Bay, that Terry's cancer had returned, Bill was devastated. "I didn't see it coming and I was lost for weeks." *Take a few minutes to view the videos below for more first-person remembrances from Bill himself.

Reluctantly, Terry was forced to abandon his run after 143 days and 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi). He refused offers to complete the run in his stead, stating that he wanted to finish his marathon himself, all the while promising to be back when he recovered.  He passed away on June 28, 1981 at 22 years of age.  There is not apt to be another like him in this lifetime!

Today, the 70 year old Bill Vigars resides in Vancouver, BC where he operates an extremely successful public relations business. He has also been CEO of major business associations, Director of Communications for two of Canada’s largest hospitals, Director of Communications for the Ontario Pavilion at EXPO 86, Director of Communications and Corporate Sponsorships for the Ontario Lottery Corporation and Director of Communications for the British Columbia Ministry of Small Business, Tourism, and Culture. Most recently, he played a key role in building the David Foster Foundation into a respected national charity.

In the entertainment industry, his clients have included many of North America’s most successful companies such as MGM, Lions Gate Films, and Alliance Entertainment. He has handled publicity for numerous hit TV shows and feature films.

As I say: "I knew Bill Vigars when..."

...and my brief glimpse of Terry Fox remains indelibly etched in my mind.

01 February, 2017

Further to my previous Trevor Thompson post (below):  Detroit Red Wings goaltender and Perth, Ontario native Jared Coreau had a special guest in the crowd during Detroit’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators on New Years Eve.

In addition to several dozen friends and family, Coreau’s 92-year-old grandmother, Patricia, took in the game and saw her grandson play for the very first time. Fox Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson caught up with her and captured her feelings on the occasion.

“It’s the highlight of my life!” she exclaimed. What a remarkable lady!

31 January, 2017


The perils of a big league sports reporter, part of the job for Trevor Thompson.
When someone from your home town reaches the pinnacle of a chosen field of endeavor, one cannot help but feel a natural sense of pride.  Such is the case for me in following the remarkable career of Detroit sports broadcaster Trevor Thompson who just happens to be a native of Dresden, ON.

In fact, the very personable Trevor has become as much a celebrity in the Motor City as most of the athletes he covers in his reports and commentaries.  He follows in the footsteps of such Detroit broadcasting greats as Harry Heilmann, Ty Tyson, Ernie Harwell, Van Patrick, Bud Lynch, Paul Carey, Ray Lane and George Kell, to name but a few.
Trevor Thompson doing rinkside interview.

Consider for a moment that soon after receiving the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association "Ty Tyson Award" for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting in June, 2015, he actually became president of the association. He has been a member of Fox Sports Net and Fox Sports Detroit’s on-air broadcast team since June, 2000.  A four-time Emmy winner, he has served as a network reporter and host in Detroit for the past 15 years.

Trevor's list of sports journalism credits include in-depth coverage of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and MLB’s Detroit Tigers, serving as a host and reporter on programs like “Red Wings Live” and “Wingspan”, as well as taking a leading role in the network’s post-game coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  He exudes enthusiasm and has built strong personal relationships with players, managers and media counterparts alike.  (For a sample of his work and style, click on the attached video clip featuring an on-ice interview with Detroit Red Wings defenceman, Nik Lidstrom.)   He is as much at home on the ice and in a dugout as he is during an interview and behind a studio microphone.

Not bad for this son of Sandra and Al Thompson who graduated from Lambton-Kent District High School in Dresden and went on to attend Ryerson University in Toronto.

Make no mistake about it, "Trev" is no johnny-come-lately to the sports broadcasting scene...having spent several years with CTV Sportsnet and another three years with Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment in Vancouver before landing his job with Fox in Detroit.

Trevor Thompson is truly a class act and a guy who has fun doing the job he loves.  He also makes his job fun for his viewers and listeners.  Ya gotta love him!

30 January, 2017


The following was written by H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun, 97 years ago. It eerily forecasts the results of the recent presidential election in the United State, especially the last paragraph as depicted in the above image.

"All of us, if we are of reflective habit, like and admire men whose fundamental beliefs differ radically from our own. But when a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing idea, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of motion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or count himself lost. All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folk of the land will reach their heart's desired at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."          
-- Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)

Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956), a life-long resident of Baltimore, was an American journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of  American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements.

As a scholar, Mencken is known for The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States. As an admirer of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, he was a detractor of religion, populism and representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. Mencken was a supporter of scientific progress, skeptical of economic theories and, oddly enough critical of osteopathic and chiropractic medicine.

It is too bad he was born 60 years too soon. He would have a field day with today's American politics. One thing for sure, he would not be invited to any Donald Trump press conference.

26 January, 2017



1) I have been sucked in by the unusual essence of the man Donald Trump. Try as I may I cannot pass up any news story, commentary or video clip involving this controversial 45th President of the United States of America.

2) While I have not always sided with him, I have long-held respect for the intelligence of Bob Rae who was elected 11 times to the federal House of Commons and the Ontario legislature between 1978 and 2013. He was NDP leader and Ontario’s 21st Premier from 1990 to 1995.

3) I have an ongoing fascination with George Orwell, the English novelist, essayist and critic, most famous for his sharp satirical fiction of the 20th century. 

You can imagine then my interest in an op-ed item penned by the aforementioned Bob Rae in the January 26 edition of the Toronto Star.  He contends that Orwell's insights into politics, propaganda and the uses of abuse of power have never been so apt as they are today and on reflection, I tend to concur.
Bob Rae

"Were the possible consequences not so serious, one could enjoy a good laugh," Rae suggests while adding that the ugly face of European populism after WW2 did too much irreparable damage for anyone to just walk away from the conceits and exaggerations that dot the landscape of current U.S. presidential utterances."

The underlying premise of  Donald Trump's rhetoric is that he alone understands the interests of The People, and that The People are a single unit to which he has a unique pipeline.  As The Leader, he alone knows how to communicate with The People.  A government which allegedly for the first time in history, has been returned to The People will be run by a cabinet dominated by millionaire businessmen and he sees nothing ironic with that, because the only humor he understands is sarcasm and character assassination.

Donald Trump
Rae points out that the dark, grim nature of Trump's views can be found in his book Crippled America, and in that extraordinary dark rift in his inaugural address where he described the "carnage" that had come to America, and which single-handedly he would bring to an end.  Threats to The People are perceived as threats to The Nation, which leads to a Mexican wall and anti-Muslim policies as well as the appeal to protectionism.  The media, meantime, is expected to support the president in his role as Unifier of The People.  Transgressors will be punished.

The first press conference of Trump's new official spokesman, Sean Spicer, presented an outline of the administration's attitude to dissent or differences of opinion and in a follow-up, another spokesman/woman for the administration passed off Spicer's inflated estimate of the inaugural crowd in Washington as "alternative facts," giving rise to a new phrase "alt-facts" to match the "alt-right" catchword.
George Orwell

The art of propaganda that Orwell taught the world, is not just to lie, but to repeat it over and over again, so that it will enter the lexicon as arguably true.  And, as he put it so aptly, there are times when simply telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

The central experience in Orwell's life was his exposure to the Spanish Civil War.  He learned that the propaganda and lies of the Stalinists could only be countered by the bitter tonic of reality.  All courageous people could do in the face of the totalitarian lie was to tell the truth.

"But it is also a reality that the U.S. government leads the largest economy in the world," states Rae. "It is the one with which we (Canada) do the most trade.  Since the end of the Second World War Canada has been committed to building a world base on the rule of law, not just because we're good guys, but because a rules-based trading system works for us better than one dictated solely by power."

It is clear from his speech that Trump's vision is a world system dominated by American self interest, and every president before him has completely failed to protect American jobs and values.  He attacks companies that do business in other countries.  He thinks that trade and investment are zero sum games.

Rae's conviction is that Canada has to do what it can to weather the storm south of the border, but it should be under no illusions.  "We shouldn't worry so much if Theresa May (UK Prime Minister, known to be soft on Trump) is the first in line to make the journey to Washington...We should be more self-confident in our values and the wisdom we can bring to the table.  We need to be working with other countries to see how to bring more perspective to these discussions," he adds.

In all of this, our Canadian government has to remember that rationality will not necessarily be on its side in future talks with the U.S. because the president operates under a different logic.

And remember Bob Rae's words:  "The first things a bully smells are fear and uncertainty."

Over to you, young Mr. Justin Trudeau!  Why not give Mr. Rae a call before your first sit-down with
The Donald...A nation is in your hands and you will need all the help you can get in the crucial days ahead!

23 January, 2017


As you get along in life you spend a lot of time wishing -- wishing that you'd accomplished more, wishing that you'd done some things differently, wishing that the world was a better place...At least I do.

But you know what?  Wishing alone never accomplishes anything.  It is what you do with those wishes that counts for something in life...and it is never too late to start doing your small part to make the world, at least, a better place.

The following poem "Wishing" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox was recently brought to my attention and I could not help but "wish" that I had written it myself.  I'll simply do the next best thing by sharing it here for the edification of my friends and others who may stumble upon it.

Do you wish the world were better?
Let me tell what to do ...
Set a watch upon your actions,
Keep them always straight and true.
Rid your mind of selfish motives,
Let your thoughts be clean and high.
You can make a little Eden
Of the sphere you occupy.

Do you wish the world were wiser?
Well, suppose you make a start,
By accumulating wisdom
In the scrapbook of your heart;
Do not waste one page on folly;
Live to learn ... and learn to live.
If you want to give men knowledge
You must get it, ere you give.

Do you wish the world were happy?
Then remember day by day
Just to scatter seeds of kindness
As you pass along the way,
For the pleasures of the many
May be ofttimes traced to one.
As the hand that plants an acorn
Shelters armies from the sun.

I strongly believe that we all tend to begin our reforms too far away from home. The persons who wish improvement strongly enough to first set to work on themselves are the persons who will achieve results.

22 January, 2017


"I don’t know if J. D. Vance attended Friday’s Inauguration (in Washington). I don’t even know if this best-selling author even voted for the 45th American President. I do know his recent book, Hillbilly Elegy (HarperCollins, 2016) is purported to explain one major reason why Donald Trump is now making himself at home this weekend in the White House," writes Bob Johnston in the Saugeen Times.

Rev. Bob always impresses me with the amount of reading and research that he does and I found his reference to Vance and Trump to be particularly fascinating.

You can justifiably say a lot of negative things about Donald Trump, but he is no dummy.  He secured unexpectedly strong Presidential support among the so-called forgotten Americans, those most affected by the loss of well-paying factory jobs right across the “Rust Belt” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. He shoots from the hip; he’s not constantly afraid of offending someone; he’ll get angry; he’ll call someone a liar or a fraud. This is how a lot of people in the white working class actually talk about politics and politicians. Trump set himself up as a champion of the underdog, got their attention and eventually their vote.
J.D. Vance is the man of the hour,
maybe the year. His memoir 

Hillbilly Elegy  is a New York
Times bestseller, acclaimed for
its colorful and at times moving
account of life in a dysfunctional
clan of eastern Kentucky natives.
It has received positive reviews
across the board, with The Times
calling it “a compassionate and
discerning sociological analysis
of the white underclass.” In the
rise of Donald Trump, it has
become a kind of Rosetta Stone
for blue America to interpret that
most mysterious of species: the
economically precarious white

To her peril, in taking the high road, Hillary Clinton did not listen, or chose to ignore, this under-estimated and forgotten segment of the American population.

It should be explained that J.D. Vance is a self-described “hillbilly” whose grandparents migrated from Kentucky Appalachia country to Middletown, Ohio. Their goal was to secure a better economic future for children and grandchildren. These were the descendants of the millions of Scots-Irish immigrants who came to the United States in the eighteenth century and, finding the seaboard already occupied by earlier immigrants, pushed on to the vast backwoods, that mountainous hinterland from Georgia and Alabama and northward to New York State and Ohio.

Vance defines this sub-culture as fiercely loyal to family, faith and country. They are the “poor whites,” lacking a college degree and mostly left behind by massive manufacturing job losses in today’s American economy.

Vance’s grandparents, his beloved Papaw and Mamaw, escaped the poverty of Jackson, Kentucky, in 1946 to find better-paying work in the industrial town of Middletown, Ohio. Papaw was 16 and his new bride was 13 and pregnant.

Hill people like the Vance family were actively recruited by Ohio factories and the young father quickly found work at Armco, a thriving steel company, one of four major local factory employers. Gaining employment proved easier than finding social acceptance among the urban, more educated, already established white population. These reluctant 'now-neighbours' looked askance at the unsophisticated thousands of newcomers descending into their cities and towns.

Two generations later, the transplanted 'hillbillies' have fallen on hard times. Drug use is rampant. (The exciting new reality show, Southern Justice, documents this widespread use of meth, heroin and other illegal chemicals. On camera, the local police spend most of their shifts chasing drug dealers.) Family life has become fractured. Those good jobs in Middletown have moved off shore. The “blue collar economy” has never recovered following the recent Great recession, leaving Vance’s sub-culture pessimistic but also angry.

Vance outlines two options for America’s forgotten Appalachian workers: education or government-dependent welfare. He chose the former path, encouraged by his indomitable Mamaw who pushed school success as the ticket out of poverty and despair. After a stint in the Marines, Vance went on to study law at Yale. He has little sympathy for those able-bodied employables who have chosen the welfare route rather than work, describing how many have learned to scam the food stamp handouts.

One seeming purpose of Hillbilly Elegy is to provide a cathartic journal for Vance to publicly ventilate a mix of love, resentment, fears, sense of loss, anger and other deeply-held, troubling emotions. Emanating from his dysfunctional culture and disrupted family life---five “father figures,” Vance had carried these memories into adulthood.

A second thesis of Hillbilly Elegy is to explain how these “forgotten working class white Americans” gradually shifted their political allegiance, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s presidency, from Democrat to Republican. The Scots-Irish have always been fiercely independent, patriotic, pro-military and anti-establishment—a natural voting base harvest for Trump as it turned out.

Vance as an author is far more successful in achieving his former goal of catharsis than the latter one of socio-political interpretation. In Bob Johnston's view, a far better depiction of the Scots-Irish influence on the shaping of American culture is Born To Fight (Broadway Publisher, 2004), written by the former Virginia senator, Jim Webb. He illustrates how such diverse characters as Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Teddy Roosevelt and general George Patton were each from Scots-Irish stock.

With Trump’s presidency comes the revived hopes of those “hillbillies” whom Vance has described in his poignant and informative bestseller. In his inaugural address, the new president once again decried those closed American “factories scattered like tombstones across the land.” To the millions of forgotten ones, he thundered: “You will never be ignored again.”

Time will determine whether Donald Trump’s promises will be kept. He may not listen but his advisors will surely and gently remind him that many of those disappeared jobs were lost, not to China or Mexico, but to robots and better industrial technology. The Kentucky coal miner’s “enemy” was not Obama or the EPA. If and when off-shore jobs do return to the United States, it may happen not as a frightened response to Trumpian threats, but as a reaction to Chinese pollution, endemic corruption and frustrating red tape in many off-shore countries, rising wage demands by off-shore workers and escalating transportation costs to ship finished manufactured goods back to the USA.

In the interim, along with J. D. Vance’s transplanted Appalachians, the world anxiously awaits the dawning of this unprecedented new chapter in American history.

What my friend Rev. Bob did not realize when he wrote his piece for the Saugeen Times is that, surprise of all surprises, Vance did not vote for Trump (he voted for Evan McMullin, an independent candidate supported by anti-Trump conservatives) and he has a couple of reasons why..."He (Trump) used rhetoric that's not in the best interest of the party or country. I happen to think that conservatism, when properly applied to the 21st Century, could actually help everybody. And the message of Trump's campaign was obviously not super-appealing to Latino Americans, black Americans and so forth. That really bothered me," he explained in a recent interview. "In some ways even more importantly than that, while I think Trump had clearly diagnosed very real problems, I didn't see any real evidence that he had much in the way of positive solutions that would address a lot of these concerns...I'm sort of taking a wait-and-see approach, but if he doesn't [provide solutions], that's going to leave people in an even worse position than they were four years ago," he added.

I could not agree more, but isn't it ionic that a writer who undoubtedly strongly influenced Donald Trump's controversial election victory, is not convinced about the new president's ability to deliver on out-spoken election campaign rhetoric and chose not to vote for him?

Indeed a crazy time in American politics.  It will undoubtedly get crazier in the next four years and that is a frightening prospect even for those of us watching from a vantage point ever so close to the Canada-U.S. border.

I'm not sure I'm up for it!  Are you?

17 January, 2017


I have an old friend that I have been neglecting for a good 70 years and I recently thought that I should dust him off and feed him something just for old times sake.  I'm talking, of course, about my childhood piggy-bank that has held its age remarkably well considering the passage of time.  In fact the eight-inch tall, hand-painted, molded clay figure it is now considered "vintage" in the antique collector's world.
My 76-year-old piggy-bank.

To tell the truth, I do not recall when I first opened a bank savings account but I do remember saving quite a bit of money in my "piggy", a penny and nickel at a time starting from about three or four years of age. Regretfully, the savings habit of those formative years seemed to fall by the wayside as I grew older.

These days the piggy bank is taken for granted. Kids still love them, but where did they really come from? Why do people around the world stuff loose change into small plastic pigs? Research has revealed some interesting history.

The origin of piggy banks dates back nearly 600 years, in a time before real banks even existed. Before the creation of modern-style banking institutions, people commonly stored their money at home -- not under the mattress (or hay rack), but in common kitchen jars. During The Middle Ages, metal was expensive and seldom used for household wares. Instead, dishes and pots were made of an economical orange-colored clay called pygg. Whenever folks could save an extra coin or two, they dropped it into one of their clay jars -- a pygg pot.

Vowels in early English had different sounds than they do today, so during the time of the Saxons the word pygg would have been pronounced “pug.” But as the pronunciation of “y” changed from a “u” to an “i,” pygg eventually came to be pronounced about like “pig.” Perhaps coincidentally, the Old English word for pigs (the farm animal) was “picga,” with the Middle English word evolving into “pigge,” possibly because of the fact that the animals rolled around in pygg mud and dirt.

Over the next two hundred to three hundred years, as the English language evolved, the clay (pygg) and the animal (pigge) came to be pronounced the same, and Europeans slowly forgot that pygg once referred to the earthenware pots, jars and cups of yesteryear. So in the 19th century when English potters received requests for pygg banks, they started producing banks shaped like pigs. This clever -- albeit accidental -- visual pun appealed to customers and delighted children.

Early models had no hole in the bottom, so the pig had to be broken to get money out. Some people say that’s where we get the expression “breaking the bank,” but serious academics disagree. The idiom “break the bank” means to ruin one financially, or to exhaust one’s resources. The term is believed to originate in gambling, where it means that a player has won more than the banker (the house) can pay.

So that explains where the “pig” part came from, but how about the word “bank.” Way back when, the word “bank” originally meant the same thing as “bench.” You see, when money first started changing hands in Northern Italy, lenders did business in open markets, working over a table. These Medieval Venetian banks were set up in main squares by men who both changed and lent money. Their benches would be laden with currencies from the different trading countries. The Italian word for bench or counter is “banco” from which the English word “bank” is derived. (Some argue this is where the term “broke the bank” comes from. The Italian expression “banca rotta” means “broken bench,” with a broken bench possibly symbolizing that a money lender was out of business.)

I readily admit that this is probably much more than you ever wanted to know about piggy-banks. Like every other tradition, there are those today that maintain that piggy banks are not an effective tool in teaching children wise money-handling habits.

This is where I bow out...I was never a good money handler, but I can't blame it on my vintage piggy-bank who served me well.  I just never earned enough folding money to handle properly after piggy retired!

06 January, 2017


Even the most pragmatic and boringly practical among us, in moments of nostalgia, must confess to having done crazy things on a whim. Ironically, the realistic kind of people often romanticize about those moments in their lives where they followed their hearts and did things in the name of a craze, love or passion which they wouldn’t dream of doing now.

But an eccentric person, in the true sense of the word, is not one who follows his heart and does unusual stuff once in a while. Definition of the word is someone who deviates from an established or usual pattern or style and from conventional or accepted usage or conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways. Edith Sitwell says that geniuses and aristocrats are called eccentric because "they are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

Many of us wish we had courage and originality to be able to live life on our own terms. We may have creativity, but responsibilities and the fear of the consequences of non-conformity make us suppress that fantasy.

Psychological studies point towards certain signs of eccentricity. Some of these could be: a non-conforming attitude, idealistic, intense curiosity, happy obsession with hobbies, knowing very early in his or her childhood they are different from others, highly intelligent, opinionated and outspoken, unusual living or eating habits, not interested in the opinions or company of others, naughty sense of humour and being usually the eldest, or an only child.

Eccentricity is often associated with being unusually gifted. This could mean genius, intellectual giftedness, or creativity. The unusual behaviour could be an outward reflection of extraordinary intelligence, talent or passion. The minds of eccentrics are so original that they cannot conform to societal norms. Eccentricity is also believed to be associated with great wealth. Stories of wealthy business tycoons or celebrities with peculiar idiosyncrasies are legendary.

In this regard, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, with his outrageous pronouncements, penchant for mistruths, disrespect and illusions of grandeur,  fits the "eccentric" bill perfectly.  Americans voted for The Donald because, down deep they saw a little of themselves in him.  In protest to the status quo in Washington, they made a statement by voting for change -- perhaps the most controversial and potentially dangerous change in political history, bringing with it a general increase in public aggression.  In was not as much a vote for Trump as it was a vote against Obama and his time in the Oval Office.

Closer to home, a still wet-behind-the-ears Justin Trudeau swept to an upset victory in last year's Canadian federal election because he represented a new direction and breath of fresh air.  Several months after the fact, Trudeau bashers are proving to be alive and well. The novelty is wearing off and hostile criticism of "the Trudeau government" is mounting, however warranted or unwarranted.

It is now clear to me that in North America we are increasingly stuck in a cycle of political hostility bordering on outright hatred. Political parties encourage citizens to “take a side,” and taking a side too often entails becoming irrationally defensive over that side, while ruthlessly bashing the other.

This aggression has ultimately resulted in a range of violence, from citizens being assaulted at political conventions for supporting a candidate of their choice, to students being ostracized in classrooms if they dare to share a political view that opposes the majority. Day after day, Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds are filled with one-sided political messages which fuel anger and polarization, while leaving no trace of collaborative solutions to pertinent issues.

How will defending a political party, mainly because it’s “your side,” and hating on the other side, make our country a better place to live? Bashing others, whether it be a person or a political party, does not lead to solutions.

This vicious cycle of aggression is serving as a barrier to collaborative solutions and rational compromise.  So what can you do?

The answer: Stop being a hater! Every citizen has the power to break this cycle of aggression, and to fuel a new cycle of collaboration. Here is how to start:

1) Recognize Defensiveness

We are all guilty. If we have chosen a political party, we have unfortunately become accustomed to being defensive of that party, even before we know the facts (not to mention that the “facts” are often difficult to come by). The first step to ending the cycle of aggression is to recognize our own defensiveness. Ask yourself these questions:

• Do I understand the wants and needs of both sides?
• Do I have all of the facts?
• Can I be sure that my “facts” are viable?
• Will being defensive of “my side” make this country a better place to live?

2) Stop Reacting, Start Listening

Once we recognize that we are being defensive, it is essential that we stop defending and start listening to what others have to say. Ask yourself these questions:

• What is the underlying want or need that is being argued for?
• Do I understand the want or need of all parties?
• Is that want or need a human right?
• Will that want or need cause harm?
• What might be a logical and fair compromise?

3) Recognize Flaws of political parties

Every political party is flawed, including our own. Every political party is guilty of repeatedly committing acts of hate and aggression. And every political party is failing at collaborating with one another in order to reach compromises and create positive change. It is essential that we choose to see and acknowledge these flaws, so that positive progression can be achieved.

Ask yourself these questions:
• Is my political party collaborating across the political spectrum to reach rational compromise and create positive change?
• Is my political party causing harm to anyone or anything?
• Is my political party discriminating against anyone or anything?
• Is my political party respecting human rights of all people?

4) Post Mindfully

What are you posting on social media? We are responsible for fueling the cycle of aggression. One-sided political posts often fuel anger and hate without providing opportunities for collaborative solutions. Instead of posting or sharing one-sided comments, problems or solutions, focus on the need and eliminate the bashing on others.

Before posting something to social media, ask yourself these questions:
• Will this post fuel anger, hate or defensiveness?  Will it offend (even some of my friends)?
• Will this post provide or deter an opportunity for collaborative solutions or rational compromise?
• Does this post bash anyone (a political party or a person)?
• Does this post focus on the need, or focus on the hate?

5) Choose Collaboration

The paradigm of “us versus them” serves as the greatest barrier to progress and solutions. Instead of focusing on the best interest of our political party, we need to focus on the best interest of all citizens, and the nation as a whole. We all have the power to choose collaboration by working to understand all sides of the want or need at hand, and by exploring and inviting compromises and solutions.

Political leaders, regardless of party affiliation, are failing to work together to understand all angles of issues in order to produce progressive solutions. Instead of commending the bashing between political leaders or candidates, ask for collaboration. Recognize that every time a political leader bashes another, they are perpetuating the cycle of aggression, and creating a barrier to collaboration.

Personally I am not impressed, yay I'm offended, by exposure to unsolicited opposition or criticism unaccompanied by the suggestion of a reasoned solution and note of conciliation.  Otherwise, please spare me!  I do not need the aggravation...I already have enough uninvited and unwelcomed negativity to last a lifetime.