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

31 December, 2016

TRUMP PATRONIZING THE NEW YORK TIMES...SUCH FUN!

I try very hard to avoid political commentary on my web sites, but I am fascinated by what is shaping up as a war of words waged against the American press by Donald Trump.

U.S. President-elect Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer is rubbing the legacy media’s nose in its irrelevance by telling them it won’t be “business as usual” once Trump takes office; that he cares more about what American workers, families and businesses think than what some elites at a dinner party say about him.
But here’s the ultimate backhanded compliment: Spicer told an American talk show host that they will maintain “some traditions” of talking to the press, because even though they’ll never get a fair shake, “we recognize that there’s, you know, a few thousand readers or so left that still look at The New York Times, and so it’s worth, probably, talking to them.”

It should be noted, however, that the New York Times has long been regarded within the industry as a national "newspaper of record".  It has been continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851, and has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. The paper's print version has the second-largest circulation, behind The Wall Street Journal, and the largest circulation among the metropolitan newspapers in the United States. NYT is ranked 39th in the world by circulation and has a weekday circulation of one million daily.
I don’t know which is Spicer's deepest burn: that the NY Times is “probably” worth talking to, or that that’s because they still have “a few thousand readers left.” There are going to be some awfully huffy barbs about Sean Spicer bandied about at cocktail parties during the weekend in the Hamptons!

The next four years are going to be very interesting, because we ain't seen nothin' yet. It it will be fun watching from this side of the border (wall?).  

I would not be surprised to see the Trump empire go into the newspaper business before it is all over.

26 December, 2016

UNLIKE MY LANCE, I AM BENT BUT NOT BROKEN

Unsubdued

"Poems that Have Helped Me"

                                      
I have hoped, I have planned, I have striven,
To the will I have added the deed,
The best that was in me I've given,
I have prayed, but the gods would not heed.

I have dared and reached only disaster,
I have battled and broken my lance,
I am bruised by a pitiless master
That the weak and the timid call Chance.

I am old, I am bent, I am cheated
Of all that Youth urged me to win;
But name me not with the defeated,
To-morrow again, I begin.


11 December, 2016

AN OLD SANTA'S REFLECTIONS ON CHRISTMAS PAST...AND PRESENT

Contrary to what many believe, Santa Claus as we know him today – sleigh riding, gift-giving, rotund and white bearded with his distinctive red suit trimmed with white fur – was not the creation of the Coca Cola Company. Although their Christmas advertising campaigns when I grew up in the 1930s and '40s, were key to popularising the image, Santa can be seen in his modern form decades before Coca Cola’s illustrator Haddon Sundblom got to work. Prior to settling on his famed red garb and jolly bearded countenance, throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Santa morphed through a variety of different looks. From the description given in Clement Moore’s A Visit from St Nicholas in 1822, through the vision of artist Thomas Nast, and later Norman Rockwell, Mr Claus gradually shed his various guises and became the jolly red-suited Santa we know today.

For most of my life I have enjoyed perpetuating the Santa Claus myth while integrating it with the traditional celebration of the birth of Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

As a youngster with a vivid imagination, I fully immersed myself in the idea of a workshop somewhere in the North Pole where a jolly old man employed elves to help him make toys for girls and boys which he in turn delivered in a sleigh driven by eight tiny reindeer on Christmas eve. Happy, harmless thoughts that brought joy to an impressionable young mind and helped instill the spirit of true Christmas giving.
A young Santa Me with then three-year-old
 granddaughter Alyssa.

As a father, I derived equal joy in reliving those happy Christmas memories with my children and making it become real for them.  So taken was I with all things Santa Claus that in time I became a professional "Santa's helper" in department stores and shopping malls, even making appearances at Christmas concerts, company parties, special events and community parades.  I prided myself in being as authentic and believable as possible, even going so far as to memorize the names of all Santa's reindeer just in case I was tested by an inquisitive youngster -- and I was.  A Santa's voice and trademark Ho, Ho, Ho was cultivated. When I donned that red suit, white beard and ample belly padding, I actually found myself taking on the persona of Santa Claus.  It was an exhilarating, magical experience of theatrical proportions.

Expressions of excitement and the wonder that was evident in the bright eyes of clamoring, awe-struck children made it all worthwhile for me.

I do not play the role of Santa anymore but if I did, I would not need a fake beard, wig and fat belly...I have ironically grown my own; in fact I am often called "Santa" by friends and strangers alike and I quite enjoy the recognition, especially the "you would make a good Santa" comment to which I respond "been there and done that!"  The other day a fellow took one look at me, stopped in his tracks and said: "You look like someone who might come down my grandson's chimney in a few weeks."

With a degree of remorse, however, I cannot help but think about how commercialized the concept of Santa has become today at the expense of the true reason for the celebration of Christmas.

The downside to the "stuff" of Christmas

Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Winter Solstice, Yule, Pancha Ganapti -- you name it -- December brings with it a host of traditional holidays across the religious spectrum. Winter, for much of recorded human history, was a time for families to come together to enjoy the warmth of the hearth as they anxiously awaited the return of spring.

It seems that in recent times, however, a new holiday has arisen that has quickly supplanted all the rest, one that a fellow Universal Life Church writer calls (for lack of a better term): “Stuffmas”. Shoppers flock to retail stores during the “Stuffmas” season which has become the frenzied month-long celebration of jingle-y music, sweet pastries, and above all, stuff...lots and lots of stuff.

Throughout this season people around the globe are bombarded with advertisements to buy all of the latest, greatest, and newest pieces of plastic. Our quest to accumulate “stuff” has become so ferocious in recent years that shopping can be a deadly affair – literally. Each “Stuffmas” season kicks off with the aptly named “Black Friday”, an event where otherwise innocent people risk getting trampled to death as they rush to grab bargain-basement deals from their local superstore.

Indeed, devotees of “Stuffmas” are becoming increasingly fervent. One could easily argue that the secular celebration of giving and receiving is more than just a holiday, that instead it has become a full-hearted embrace of Earth’s true largest religion: Materialism. Has the true meaning of Christmas been lost to the worship of stuff?

Previous generations of children were taught to be on their best behavior because God was watching.
Today, the lesson remains the same – children are still encouraged to behave. However, the stakes are much different...God isn’t watching anymore, Santa is. Sins are punished not with eternal torment, but with the threat of withholding of presents. When kids are taught that their actions are monitored by a toy-bearing fairy-like man, and that good behavior is always rewarded with shiny new things, how could we expect them not to start worshiping the idea of stuff and the mythical old gent who delivers it while they are in bed sleeping at night.

Society created this new religion and, with some clever marketing (pioneered by the Coca Cola company), we indoctrinated ourselves into it. The entire course of our lives has been painstakingly engineered by economists to ensure maximum output, following this general course: We’re Born > We Work > We Buy > We Die. Too often a person’s value is determined not by the content of their character, but by the monetary value of their assets.

As mentioned earlier, winter has customarily been a time for reflection. Perhaps we should take some time to do just that this year.  As we look around at the world we created, are we happy with what we see? Regardless of what your traditional practises are, there is no doubt that “Stuffmas” is touching your life in some way. While it certainly does bring some feelings of joy (who doesn’t like receiving gifts?), there are some evils associated with it as well. Most of us have friends or loved ones that struggle with anxiety over finances, and these issues are always made worse during the holiday season when there is constant pressure to spend money on new things for ourselves and others.

Personally, I have experienced pangs of guilt as resources have gradually limited my Christmas spending. My wife and I have even agreed to not exchange gifts with each other.  Time with family (when health and circumstances permit) and a good Christmas dinner with as many traditional trimmings as possible, has come to suffice.

I truly feel that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who did not think that perhaps it is time that we wind-down “Stuffmas”, at least by some degree. The question is: how? Actually, the question is, can we? Have we become so invested in our materialism that there is no true exit?

Sadly, it is beyond the comprehension of this old pretend Santa!

In this day and age, our entire economy depends on people continuing to buy stuff.  In many cases businesses actually depend on the month of December alone to make the difference between a good and bad year from a financial ledger standpoint.

...And the buying public takes the next 12 months to pay off their associated credit card debt so that they can put more stuff on it again next year at this time.

Somehow we have lost sight of the fact that Christmas is a "holy day" and was not intended to be the generic, free-spending, commercialized "holiday" that is now generally accepted in a politically correct world.

Oh well, Happy Holy Days everyone...and a Merry Christmas too!  I hope your particular Santa is good to you!

Enjoy your stuffing -- turkey variety that is.

07 December, 2016

THE FAKE NEWS INVASION

The line between truth and fiction has become blurry. As phony articles spread like wildfire across social media, our society seems more divided than ever.  People can say anything online and get away with it.  

In our internet age, there is a plethora of information available at the click of a button. So much so, that it’s hard to know what to believe anymore and leading me to ask "Is truth under assault?" The latest development on this issue involves reports of “fake news” circulating online. Some websites have been masquerading as legitimate news outlets and publishing outlandish articles that grab people’s attention. 

Writers create stories full of false claims from “unnamed sources”, slap on sensationalist titles, and then share them with the world. And it works! Curious readers can’t help but click on these catchy headlines. Most of the misinformation floating around on the internet is relatively harmless. However, given the contentious times we live in, fake news stories run the risk of further dividing us.  Consider too, that I am not even touching on the hate and bigotry that is frequently spewed on social media (a subject unto itself).  I am equally bothered by the malicious, mean and hurtful personal attacks levelled against individuals -- public figures or otherwise -- with gay abandon and often without deserved provocation.  But that too is another story and I digress...

Historical Context
A fake news article about Abraham Lincoln

It is worth noting that fake news is not a modern creation. In fact, news publications have been writing bombastic stories and stretching the truth for years. Known as “yellow journalism”, it became a popular strategy for selling newspapers around the turn of the century. Even today, yellow journalism continues in the form of tabloids. For example, a well-known British tabloid recently claimed that “Prince Charles has seized the British throne in a palace coup.” He didn’t, of course. The entire piece was fabricated.

Dark Side of Social Media

So, what’s the big deal? Fake news has been around forever. Why are people worried about it now?  Partly, it’s the times we live in. The newspaper industry is in the midst of a decline, and more people than ever before are relying on the internet to keep them up-to-date. However, only a minority of people choose to read online versions of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Toronto Star or Globe & Mail --increasingly, North Americans are turning to social media for updates on current events. In fact, studies show that roughly 62 percent of adults are getting their news from Facebook.  How unfortunate!
Facebook has been accused of spreading fake news
Fake news articles are thriving in the Facebook environment, where users scroll quickly through their feeds looking for interesting stuff. People often share links based on the headline alone – without bothering to look at the authenticity of the source. This allows phony articles to spread like wildfire as they get shared over and over again.
Some fake news outlets even use legitimate-sounding names to further confuse people. For example, an article posted by “The Denver Guardian” was shared over half a million times on Facebook.  As it turns out, “The Denver Guardian” doesn’t exist. A curious news reporter decided to visit the listed address, and all they found was a tree sitting in an empty parking lot.  

Moving Forward

There’s no getting around it: a lot of nasty rhetoric has been thrown around over the past year and there is a sense that many of our brothers and sisters are feeling increasingly divided. However, the last thing we need moving forward is more finger pointing and name calling. We’ve now entered the holiday season – a time for coming together and spreading good cheer. Let us put aside any lingering animosity and make an effort to unify. There are many problems in the world, but we don’t stand a chance of solving them unless we work together.

Upholding Values
Upholding the virtue of truth

All the hubbub surrounding fake news also serves as an important reminder about staying true to one’s values and beliefs. One of the core tenets is “to do that which is right”. This means upholding a standard of truth and honesty at all times. Especially in these politically polarized times, it’s important to engage honestly with one another – even if we disagree. Starting a dialogue and listening to opposing ideas is the first step toward developing a mutual understanding.
Sure, there may be people out there seeking to make a buck off of spreading lies and misinformation – but that does not mean we have to stand for it. As individuals, we are obligated to resist these petty efforts to create divisions in our society. We cannot assume everything we read on the internet is true, nor should we allow ourselves to pass judgment without getting both sides of the story.

Do your due-diligence research before jumping to conclusions on any issue or cause.  Truth still matters...and eventually wins out in the end!

23 October, 2016

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THOSE EMAIL ATTACHMENTS

Internet fraud is not something that only happens to other people...If own own a computer for any purpose, there is no doubt that you have been victimized -- many times.

I found the following information released by the Ontario Provincial Police, to be most informative.

Reading the contents of an email should be safe if you have the latest security patches, but email attachments can be harmful. Email phishing scams can trick you into opening attachments or giving up personal information. They appear to be emails from people, organizations or companies you know or trust, but they're often the gateway to identity theft by automatically installing malware, viruses, worms, and trojans.

In some instances, email attachments are disguised as letters of reference, resumes or information requests and can infiltrate and affect businesses that are involved in legitimate hiring processes. Also known as “spearphishing campaigns”, high-value corporate and governments have been targeted through email attachments to take advantage of previously-unknown security vulnerabilities.

Many email servers will perform virus scanning and remove potentially dangerous attachments, but you can’t rely on this. The easiest way to identify whether a file is dangerous is by its file extension, which tells you the type of file it is. For example, a file with the “.exe” file extension is a Windows program and should NOT be opened. Many email services will block such attachments.

Other file extensions that can run potentially harmful code include “.msi”, “.bat”, “.com”, “.cmd”, “.hta”, “.scr”, “.pif”, “.reg”, “.js”, “.vbs”, “.wsf”, “.cpl”, “.jar” and more. In general, you should only open files with commonly-used attachments that you know are safe.

For example, “.jpg” and “.png” are image files and should be safe. Document file extensions such as “.pdf”, “.docx”, “.xlsx”, and “.pptx” should also be safe — although it’s important to have the latest security patches so malicious types of these files can’t infect systems via security holes in Adobe Reader or Microsoft Office.

If you or a business suspects they’ve been a victim of ‘spearfishing’, contact your local police service, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online at http://www.opp.ca/index.php?id=132 or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) athttps://www.tipsubmit.com/start.htm.

For helpful tips and links during Cyber Security Awareness Month, follow the OPP on Twitter (@OPP_News), Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtags #CyberSecurity, #CyberAware and #OPPTips.

Insecure, infected or unencrypted email attachments can risk injecting a number of information and data security threats to your home or workplace environments. Your personal information and business systems need to be safeguarded and it starts right at your inbox.

"When it comes to email attachments, even those from innocent friends and family members, you should exercise extreme caution and assume the worst. Do NOT actually download or run an attachment unless you have a good reason to do so. If you’re not expecting an attachment, treat it with healthy suspicion,” says Superintendent Paul Beesley, Director of OPP Behavioural, Forensic and Electronic Services.

08 October, 2016

A "FULL GLASS" ON THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving is an opportune time to consider whether we see our glass being half full or half empty. Why do we tend to focus on what is going wrong in our lives but ignore what is going right? Why do I take for granted the faithful rhythm of my heart or the continued function of my limbs, as painful and slow as they may be most of the time? Do I remember with gratitude that I had the good fortune to be born in Canada and not hurricane-battered Haiti, that I have a roof over my head and food on the table or that my wife, while now invalided, still thinks that I am the greatest guy in the world despite the fact that I am often frustrated and feel that we have been deprived by the way our life has "unfairly" unfolded in recent years? 

In spite of trials and tribulations, my “glass” is far more than half-full, when I just take time to rationally assess it.

Each of us can always find some ailment or problem to complain about. Yet, even in these late-life years, chances are that we have much more for which to be thankful. On this weekend of Thanksgiving, let us raise that overflowing glass of blessings and propose a toast, giving thanks for our good fortune.


Here's to your full glass, dear reader!

Can you smell the turkey in the oven?

22 September, 2016

CHRISTIANITY IN THE CONTEXT OF TODAY'S CHANGING WORLD

I believe: “The writing of the Bible was conditioned by the language, thought and setting of its time. The Bible must be read in its historical context.”

We cannot hold on to the past. We know that traditional structures disappear; however, these disappearances have cost dearly. We have responses in ourselves to which we must attend, if we want to appropriately encounter the new world that is bearing us into rapidly changing times.

As a reforming Christian who has withdrawn (temporarily?) from active church participation, I do not believe in scripture as the literal and inerrant word of God. I have come to understand that scripture was inspired by God, but written by human beings who were, just as much as we all are, limited by psychological, sociological, cultural and historical circumstances.

I was recently taken with the words of old friend Wes Denyer: "Scripture is the best ‘word’ we have in trying to understand the will of God for us, but it is not inerrant, and we should not limit God to the words of scripture."

In other words, is it possible, as we gain knowledge and insight, as our vision of humanity is expanded and as the circumstances of the world change, that we may be able to see more clearly the nature of the God who called us into existence?

I believe God is the same yesterday, today and forever, but is it possible our ability to understand who God is, and what God requires of us, may change, develop and grow? For example, in the sixth chapter of the Book of Joshua, after the fall of the city of Jericho, by order of the Lord (the will of God) “they devoted to destruction by the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old.”

I do not believe for one minute that God ever commanded the slaughter of babies and old people! However, what I can understand is that people who lived in a time of continual fear and danger of violent death, and where life was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short” – would would be consistent with the nature of their own lives. They could imagine a God who called upon them to kill every man, woman and child, because that was the kind of world in which they lived.

To say that our understanding of who God was in the darkness of those times should continue to be the God we worship in 2016 is to limit God. We cannot continue to impose those cultural, historical and physical circumstances of the past on our understanding of God today.


As a for-instance and as society has advanced, in the past century our North American churches (to their credit) have moved away from gender bias and male-only leadership, racial bigotry and anti-gay positioning. Apologies have been made and reconciliation, in a number of instances, is ongoing.  

So, still staying within the Old Testament, we find the same Hebrew people who believed God told them to commit genocide, developing and growing into a new understanding of God.  We read things like:

• “They will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3).

• “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

• When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. Love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:34).

We learn and we grow, albeit slowly and often reluctantly.  We have a way to go...We should all attempt to understand our world and its people in new ways, allowing us to live with greater compassion and justice, with more freedom and opportunities for all. In so doing, we set God free from our old and limited (religious) prejudices, narrow-minded thinking, intolerance, racism and hatred.

God doesn’t change…but we can!  So must our churches, if they wish to remain relevant.


Sadly, however, I have to concede that we'll never completely catch up to the speed of change in our brief lifetimes.  We're only human, limited by circumstances that are not necessarily of our own making.

We tend to blindly cling to, even fight for, centuries-old traditions and belief systems because we think that archaic biblical scriptures still apply to us in the 21st Century.

Give the God of today more credit than that!  Look at the reality of the world freely and without prejudice.  The wise individual is the one who sees reality as it really is and who looks into the depths of things. We are not taken out of the world but thrust into the midst of the fray for that is the place that, in Christ, God has made his own.

Dream the impossible dream...We need to continually pray individually and corporately for an understanding that has universal acceptance.  

08 September, 2016

A SWAN SONG: INTUITION TELLING ME IT'S TIME TO MOVE AWAY AND BEYOND

I find it difficult to have anything resembling a real conversation with younger people today...Two or three-word utterances at best.  Equally unsettling is the reality that, for the most part, anything I write is taken with a grain of salt as coming from an old man who espouses old-fashioned ideas and values and is, at best, tolerated and given quick dismissal.

This morning I happened to eaves-drop on a conversation between a couple of folks in my age category. They mutually agreed in lamenting that "minding their own business" had become a reality in their lives and besides, "no one really listens anymore."  I could not help but think "Welcome to the club!"

For some time now I have struggled with the thought, or intuition, that I am wasting my time (countless hours of mind-rendering preparation) in writing pieces that in reality go absolutely nowhere.  The gratification in pride of authorship wanes in the isolation of advanced age and the realization that more and more as life progresses, one tends to talk primarily to oneself.

Is it healthy to listen to, and act upon, intuition?  I truly think so!

I read recently that "Intuition tells us intimate and important things nobody else will—and it will also tell you things your own mind will argue with." As a culture, we have learned to believe that being rational is what should prevail when making decisions. But what about our “inner voice,” our gut feeling -- that “little something” instinctual from within, which tells us how we feel beneath those layers of logic?

Intuition can be either a moment where you instinctively know if something IS right—or isn’t right. It’s our inner voice that “that just knows,” and it does understand what uniquely, sometimes seemingly illogically, will make you happy. It bridges the gap between between instinct and reason, between the conscious and unconscious mind.

Science tells us that only 20 percent of the brain’s gray matter is used for conscious thoughts, while 80 percent is dedicated to non-conscious thoughts.

What is Intuition?  Albert Einstein once said that it is our most valuable asset, and one of our most unused senses. He described it as “a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance of something.” Sometimes it is referred to as gut feeling, sixth sense, innate wisdom, inner sense, instinct, inner voice, or spiritual guide.

Many people will have an intuitive flash as they’re falling asleep or just waking up. It’s often described as a flash of understanding that can cut through our defense systems and allow a deep truth to be revealed.

Commonly, one's real life experience is that we walk into a house for rent or sale, and instantly know it’s the right place to live. For some married couples, it took just one look to recognize their partner in life. Dogs are known to howl at the moment of their master’s death, even if they’re separated by thousands of miles. And time after time, women will say that they had ‘a funny feeling’ about something or someone dangerous. Throughout history and in every culture, the communication of our intuition happens repeatedly in ways that current science can’t explain.

When you talk in depth to people about how they made their important life choices, the story often includes plot twists due to unplanned serendipitous coincidences, magic happening, and “going with their gut.” At some point in life, the journey gets kind of loose, and it is at that moment that the intuition is the right navigating tool -- it is alert to signs of change and opportunity.

We read the signs and omens of what life is saying to us through our intuition. Just as a movie director hints early in a film about a future plot development, hooking us into the story with a glimpse of how things might turn out—the intuition hooks us into our own journey in life. It’s a point at which we understand something new, or know something to be true.

Usually, the intuition comes and goes, informing abruptly, but it can also be called up at will. Whether out-of-the-blue or consciously conjured, it can be instantly there for you once you begin to exercise it.

The intuition’s most important role is that it alerts us to the path, people, and circumstances that we will uniquely find fulfilling. Using intuition or sixth sense is just like working a muscle. It will get stronger the more you use it. We often hesitate to follow our intuition out of fear. Usually, we are afraid of the changes in our own life that our actions will bring.

Let's face it...The inescapable realities of aging are no laughing matter. Even worse, there are a host of environmental and lifestyle factors that are constantly preying on the youth of every cell of our body. Things that turned my crank even five, 10 or 15 years ago ultimately lose their appeal and take effort to sustain, particularly in regards to relationships and communications.  The all-too-noble impulse to motivate and impart reasoned thinking on the outside chance that at least "someone out there will relate" suddenly becomes an idealistic expectation that cannot be justified.

Don't get me wrong, however.  Writing has been a passion for me...It filled a need.  For the most part, it was a labor of love that allowed me to express otherwise suppressed emotions and to share bits of human interest that held special meaning for me.  Every one of the now more than 800 posts on Wrights Lane in the past nine years was a sincere expression of myself. I am grateful for the modest following of readers that stayed with me and, I think, understood where I was coming from most of the time.

This is all by way of saying that my intuition is telling me that, while there is certain gratification in written pontification, a price is being paid -- a price that I can no longer afford.  I have no reason to fear necessary change because it is in my best interest.  It is now time for me to, as much as possible, eliminate stress-inflicted physical and mental clutter and part of the solution is to cease trying to influence the thinking of others who I barely know (or do not know at all) and to stop worrying about resultant perceptions.

I have very little left to offer these days and when I do, the over-riding impression is that no one listens anyway and very few really genuinely care about the message(s) I try to impart.

Why waste time that is better expended closer to home...Like keeping sane at a time in life when new focus is required, when personal needs and responsibilities increase in concert with diminishing coping mechanisms.  Sought-after gratification is better derived from kindly and thoughtful first-person intercourse with those I encounter on a daily basis, fully prepared still to win some and to occasionally lose some.

Intuition can be life-preserving, if only we listen to it and ultimately accept change when warranted.

If my posts on Wrights Lane are increasingly few and far between in the future, you will now know the reason why.

I am bowing to age-acquired intuition and the associated reality that comes along with it!

05 September, 2016

DRESDEN BLOG SITE SPRUCE UP

Anyone who has followed my "Dresden: Father and Son Turn Back the Clock" musings may be interested in checking out recent changes I have made to the web site.  Just click http://dicktheblogster3.blogspot.ca/
The downtown Dresden that I remember.

30 August, 2016

ON BUILDING A TRUST BRIDGE TO INTIMACY

She lived on an island which, over time, had been formed between two rivers. This island was named “Safety” because it provided sanctuary for those seeking its shelter. One river was called “Hurt” because its bubbling rock-laden rapids and swirling whirlpools had inflicted long-lasting injury on anyone whose boat had capsized during a past voyage. The second river, a wider one, was known as “Fear” because its deep, uncharted waters evoked anxiety in any would-be traveler thinking of crossing it to reach the unexplored far shore.

She had systematically built a strong buttress, a stone block wall around her island to prevent the river waters from touching her. Unintentionally, but unfortunately, this defense also resulted in keeping herself isolated from the outside world. Daily life on her island passed uneventfully as she kept busy fulfilling her responsibilities and duties.

Yet, despite her security and hours-filling activities, she yearned for something more, something intimate, a deeper closeness to another human being with whom she could finally be real and transparent. This dream could only be realized on the mainland. There was certainly nothing to be gained by seeking to cross the River Hurt. That would only take her back in a wrong direction and reawaken old pain.

She resolved to attempt a crossing of the River Fear. Several times she approached its shores, only to turn back in understandable panic. What if I drown? What if I get injured in my voyage? I have no map to guide me around any hidden shoals. Several times she convinced herself to stay put, to continue to live on Safety Island. In doing so, she would never have to risk disappointment or worse, if the crossing failed.

Half asleep, but on her knees in prayer, in the middle of a cloudless, moon-brightened night, she at last found the answer. Rather than attempt a dangerous crossing alone by boat, she would build a bridge across the Fear River. But what materials could she find to construct this span?

All the while, an answer had literally been all around her; she would take down the protective stone wall, block by block and use those sturdy rocks to build her bridge. She would name it “Trust Bridge” because she would need to rely on its strength to carry her across to the far shore. This new challenge would now have to be given its rightful priority. She resolved to set aside some routine daily tasks and hurried through other distracting demands on her time. The real work could then begin, albeit not without residual anxiety and doubt.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, another human being, admiring her effort and feeling compassion, began to work on the far end of that bridge, resolving to help by meeting her half-way. In time and with much expended energy and emotion, their work was nearly completed.

As she began to set the last stone in place to close the span, she looked down at the River Fear rushing by far below. She hesitated and might have turned around to regain that familiar sanctuary now behind. But the helper reached out a hand which she grasped and held tightly. Together they carefully laid the last rock in place and rested side by side, being present for each other.

Once the Trust Bridge had been completed, she returned to Safety Island, not to stay, but to retrieve her belongings. In one suitcase she carried her negative baggage: her anger, her fears, her guilt and her sadness, emotions which she had kept locked away on the island. Crossing the Trust Bridge, she now opened her suitcase and unpacked these feelings in the presence of her friend. The friend quietly listened, tried to understand and then accepted these difficult emotions without judgment, condemnation nor rejection.

In her other suitcase, a lighter one, she brought her unmet needs for affirmation, recognition, companionship and love. Her friend again listened, then responded with empathy, reassurance and unconditional love. Together they had discovered intimacy.

As their eyes were drawn to Safety Island, they saw the river waters slowly encroaching on the now-defenseless land until, at last, it disappeared beneath the waves. She watched without concern. She no longer needed its protection. The Catholic theologian, Henri Nouwen, would have understood this allegory: He stated:

"If fear is the great enemy of intimacy, love is its greatest friend."

The “She” in this story is any of us who hides behind protective walls of a self-constructed sanctuary to avoid the pain of past and future hurt. In doing so we also deny ourselves the hope of future love and intimacy.

“Other person” is the helper: maybe a spouse, a friend, a therapist or for some religious others, the Christ figure. To risk intimacy -- to risk being real in relationship, to become transparent -- we must first build that bridge we call trust. We always need someone at the other end, someone who will invite us into intimacy. To walk across that bridge can be scary but almost always well worth the risk.

We are about to move into a new Fall season. May we also, as opportunities arise, be able and willing to enter a new season in our life journey -- a period of time in the calendar year that offers hope and potential for the intimacy we all crave, if only we have trust in building a bridge that will enable us to reach out and grasp a receptive hand...A hand that may well have been there all along.

28 August, 2016

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO GOOD OLD LETTER WRITING?

Letter writing is truly a lost art -- a vintage skill, if you will. The flow of the pen gracefully etching out your thoughts to someone…

The mere idea of letter writing gives me cause to pause. I fully acknowledge how crazy it is today to think about letter writing in this text-crazed society where attention spans are about five minutes long and where we can’t be bothered typing full words, using proper grammar or punctuation.

Letters used to be a staple of communication. Sending news, keeping war-separated lovers connected, sharing a tasty bit of gossip or a way to make a friend half way around the world. Letters record our thoughts, our history. Letters, in the day, helped maintain life-long friendships and nurture family connections.

There is nothing quite like the personal touch of a handwritten letter -- the paper filled with the ink of someone’s pen; and the handwriting that is unmistakably their own. Handwriting takes effort and a degree of practice (or lack of it).  It is not a font downloaded from a computer program. There is simply nothing quite as personal as someone’s handwriting.

A text or an e-mail is not usually well thought out. It is merely a convenient way to send a hasty greeting, a few thoughts or a list of details of some kind in a business sense. But letter writing takes time, effort and reflection to convey thoughts, emotions, expressions of love and news of importance.

Long after we are gone, no one will care about the million electronic texts we may have generated. But a letter will last like a saved treasure. It can even be passed down to future generations. Can you think of a single email that would be worth printing out and storing away for posterity? Letters are legacy!

I have several letters written almost 100 years ago by a grandparent and an aunt and uncle, all of whom passed away before I was born, but I cherish them as a link to the past and an otherwise missed family connection.  I know them through their written words.
Gladys (left) and Jeannie, life-time pen pals.

I came across a story earlier this week that exemplifies the impact that letters can have in people's lives.

There was a time when people became what was known as 'pen pals' and wrote letters back and forth. In the back of magazines, there were classified ads that also had a category 'Pen Pal Wanted'. You could have the magazine post your name and age and a postal box to which replies could be made.

When Gladys Diacur placed an ad in 1943, little did she know that it would result in a life-long friendship.  "I must have had 100 responses," says Diacur, "and I met approximately 11 of them but we never hit it off. Then I met Jeannie O'Reilly and 73 years later we are still the best of friends."

For 73 years, from the time they were 12 and 13, the two women corresponded almost weekly, although one lived in Hamilton and the other in nearby St. Catherines.

O'Reilly now lives in a Southampton home for seniors and, when she had her own home, Diacur drove from the city almost every summer to visit. A stroke resulted in her not being able to drive her car any longer but, on Tuesday, August 23rd, she was driven by a friend and the two pen pals got together once again to reminisce over old times.

They laughed and talked about all the boys they had written about in their teens ... things that only teenage girls share with each other.  They kept all their letters over the years but, unfortunately, a fire destroyed O'Reilly's copies some time ago.

For Jeannie O'Reilly and Gladys Diacur, now both in their eighties, those good-time days are gone but they remember writing the letters as though it were yesterday and, for them, they've had a friendship to treasure and one that very few people today will ever know.  Good for them!...Too bad for most others who live in today's cold world of electronic technology and abbreviated, impersonal communications.

21 August, 2016

AUGUST 16, 1977: THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

August is a significant month for fans of Elvis Presley. In August, 1953, a young man nervously entered the office of Sun Records in Memphis. His only ambition was to record a song for his mother. In August 1977, at age 42, that same man died, but far too soon.

Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley came from very humble beginnings and grew up to become one of the biggest names in the history of rock 'n' roll.  His early years have been widely documented -- his family’s financial struggles, his unpopularity at high school where he was considered to be “strange”, his belonging to a Pentecostal Church where he was first exposed to lively Gospel music. Like many of us in the 1950s, he slicked back his thick black hair with Vaseline. He loved playing his child-sized guitar.
An original photograph of Elvis Presley autographed
 and inscribed to songwriter and composer Irving
Berlin on auction in 2012 in New York City. 

I can easily recall that hot, afternoon in July, 1954, when I was in my bedroom listening to CJBC Radio 1010 in Toronto on my Northern Electric box radio. Around 4:30, the deep-voiced announcer introduced a recording by some new singer who was beginning to make a name for himself south of the border. "I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more from this new artist,” he advised his audience.

The song was "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", a bluegrass standard which Elvis sang with his own unique styling. (Wikipedia notes an earlier encounter where the youthful, would-be singer was confronted by a receptionist during his initial foray into Sun Studios. She asked him who he sounded like. His laconic reply? “I don’t sound like nobody.”)

My next vivid memory of  hearing an Elvis song comes from the summer of 1956 when "Blue Suede Shoes" was a popular juke box selection in a restaurant I frequented in St.Thomas, ON. I remember thinking how different the lyrics and music were, not to mention the then unconventional, warbling voice of the young man singing it.   Blue Suede Shoes remains one of my favorites to this day.

"Well
it's, one for the money Two
for the show Three
to get ready Now
go cat, go, But

don't you step on My
blue suede shoes You
can do anything But
lay off of my blue suede shoes..."



Blue Suede Shoes was written by Carl Perkins in late 1955. There are two versions of how Perkins came to write the song. Perkins had said that he played for a high school dance in Jackson, Tennessee, on December 4, 1955. During the dance, he spotted a boy with blue suede shoes dancing with a gorgeous girl. The boy told her, "Uh-uh! Don't step on my blue suede shoes!" Perkins couldn't get the image out of his mind. He awoke at three o'clock the next morning with the lyrics to Blue Suede Shoes and wrote them down on a brown paper potato sack. Originally, the first line was "One for the money, two for the show, three get ready, and go, man, go". But while recording the song at Sun Records, Perkins substituted the word cat for man. That opening phrase was borrowed from Bill Haley's 1953 recording What 'Cha Gonna Do (Essex 321).

Interestingly, Johnny Cash told a different story about the origin of Blue Suede Shoes. While Perkins, Elvis, and Cash were performing in Amory, Mississippi, one night in 1955, Cash told Perkins about a black sergeant he had in the Air Force by the name of C.V. White. Sgt. White would frequently step into Cash's room and ask him how he (White) looked and then say, "Just don't step on my blue suede shoes!" (Never mind that Sgt. White was wearing regulation Air Force shoes). Perkins thought that Cash's story was a good idea for a song. While Elvis was performing on stage one night Perkins, his close pal and frequent member of the Presley band, is said to have written Blue Suede Shoes.

Whatever the true story, Perkins's Blue Suede Shoes (Sun 234) was released on January 1, 1956. By March it was #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, #2 on the country chart (Heartbreak Hotel kept it from being number one), and #2 on the rhythm and blues chart, the first song in music history to reach all three charts. Needless to say, the first true rock-a-billy hit, Blue Suede Shoes was a million-seller.

I followed The Pelvis' early TV appearances on then-popular programs the Dorsey Brothers, Steve Allen and Milton Berle. Yet, it was his infamous performance during the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956, which provoked a controversy which has now become a legend of pop culture. Naturally, I am referring to his “obscene” gyrations which Sullivan insisted not be shown to the watching audience. To my deep disappointment, I saw only Elvis’s top half! On that historic night, an unheard-of 82 per cent of all American television sets were tuned in to that show.

One of my few regrets in life was missing Elvis’s only Toronto appearance when he performed in Maple Leaf Gardens on April 2, 1957. Local conservative music critics and church leaders were appalled by the adulation he received from hysterically-screaming and crying young female fans.

Elvis’s army induction, his movie career and turbulent marriage are too well-known to need any review here. I would sooner focus on his tragic final years. My memory this time is that of a morbidly overweight, sequined, drugged, sweating, tragic figure performing in a gospel concert. As he sang the old Thomas Dorsey hymn “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” I had the distinctly-sad impression that he had at that moment returned to his childhood faith. He was asking God, through this song, to deliver him from the pain and emptiness of his life.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.


Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. A candlelight vigil was held at his Graceland home earlier this month. If he were still living, The King would be 81 years old.  It hardly seems possible.

With his innovative and flamboyant piano playing style, the unforgettable Jerry Lee Lewis (left) also emerged as one of rock music’s early showmen in the 1950s, along with Elvis Presley. Lewis eventually ended up in Memphis, Tennessee, where he found work as a studio musician for Sun Studios. In 1956, he recorded his first single, a cover of Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”. Lewis also worked on some recording sessions with Carl Perkins at the time. While at Sun Studios, he and Perkins jammed with Elvis and Johnny Cash, as seen in this historic, collector's-item photo. The impromptu session by the “Million Dollar Quartet” was recorded at the time, but it was not released until much later. Lewis is the only member of the famous chance collaboration still living. He too remains one of my all-time favorite and controversial raw-talent music personalities...To me "The Killer" represents the epitome of rollicking, infectious, toe-tapping fun music. He still maintains that there was no rock n' roll before he came on the scene and that Elvis was just a country boy by comparison.  Far be it from me to enter that debate.

15 August, 2016

THERE'S A "DASH" IN EVERYONE'S LIFE SPAN

I frequently incorporate a "dash" in things that I write...While dashes are almost never required by the laws of grammar and punctuation, the use of a "--" has become part of my writing style and a convenient way of placing emphasis and combining follow-up thoughts.

However, after reading Robert (Uncle Bob)  William Caster's self-composed obituary in The Toronto Star last week, I will never think of a dash in the same way again.  In fact, I will hereafter remember the late Bob Caster every time I type a dash in any of my text.

In his unusual obituary which took up more than 16 double-column inches in The Star (must have cost a small fortune), Bob talked about the uncomfortable reality of the subject of death.  He recalled listening to a minister speaking at the funeral of his aunt and referring to the dates appearing in her obituary and no doubt eventually on her grave marker.

The minister noted that first came the date of the aunt's birth followed by a "dash" and the date of the her death. Bob went on to elaborate: "The dates told us how many years she lived on earth, but what mattered most of all was the dash between those years because it represented the passing of time she spent on this earth and only those who knew and loved her know what that little dash contained."

This all started our Bob thinking about his own dash -- who he was and what were the highlights of his life -- so he decided to write a brief summary to fill his dash and to represent the passing of time he spent on earth.  That carefully crafted summary, "The Dash in my life", formed the basis of the obituary that stood out so prominently from all the stereotypical others published in the newspaper that day.

Strongly resembling TV producer and host Elwy Yost, Bob's was a simple but busy life, outliving two wives, always surrounded by loving family and good friends.  A committed Christian, he was very active in his church and community.  He received "an average education" and worked by his admission at many different and interesting jobs.

"I never became President or CEO but I experience(d) and enjoy(ed) great wealth -- not in a monetary sense but in the sense that I was able to see, feel, hear, talk, walk and taste.  I never went naked, cold, hungry or without love.  I never experienced war or hatred.  I had freedom of speech, expression, religion and travel, the opportunity to make a living and to enjoy my 20-year retirement," he empathized.

I can totally relate to Bob Caster's "dash."  He lived life to the fullest.  He lived and let live.  He was fair, honest and accepted others as he wanted others to accept him. I never met Bob but he sure sounded like my kind of guy!

At his request, cremation took place before his obituary actually ran for two days in The Star.  He insisted on no floral or monetary tributes.  "If for some reason you wish to remember me, please do it with a kind smile, deed, word, a simple phone call or by a visit to someone who needs you..." were the heartfelt, concluding words in Bob's obituary.

A Memorial Service and Celebration of Bob Caster's Life, more correctly his "dash" (June 4, 1937 - July 27, 2016), was held on Thursday evening, August 11, 2016, at the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia.

As I put together this item for Wrights Lane, I realized that while all dashes are identical in appearance, everyone ends up with one that is completely unique.  I wondered too what my own dash would eventually look like...Quite frankly, I have a feeling that it would not be worth a dash, but that's another story and we won't go there!

I hope that you derive a degree of satisfaction from your own dash, dear reader...After all, it will someday represent your life -- start to finish.  It is never too late to add a small legacy to it!

10 August, 2016

SEX THE SECRET TO A STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM; GO FOR IT IF YOU CAN

If you are reading this and you are 15-20 years younger than me, there is a possibility that you are someone who is committed to a healthy, spiritual lifestyle of meditating, yoga, exercise, practicing loving kindness and eating organic non-GMO foods. Chances are you are focused on supplying your life and your body with things that have the highest-level of nourishment. What you probably don't know is that there is something that quickly wipes out the benefits of all of this.... Having toxic and judgmental thoughts about your spouse!

Research shows that these negative emotions and thoughts actually suppress your immune system.

The latest science also shows that the #1 thing that will extend your life and contribute to the quality of your life, for many years, is a happy marriage!

Known as "the marriage effect" it is now proven that happily married couples are:
-- More likely to live longer.
-- More likely to be physically and mentally healthier and happier.
-- More likely to recover from illness quicker and with greater success.

And for men, this is really important to know: A 2007 study found that the rate of death of single men over age 40 was twice as high than that of married men. Marriage for men it would seem, is a lifesaver.

And for those of you of the generation that would prefer to shack up over getting legally married, you need to know that living together is not the same as being married to each other. It was found that happy couples who are living together in a committed, unmarried relationship don't receive the benefit of The Marriage Effect.

When Harville Hendrix (love expert extraordinaire, whom Oprah calls The Marriage Whisperer) was asked about it, he explained that it has to do with safety and security. On the unconscious level, those committed but unmarried couples do not experience the same level of safety that married couples do. Safety is one of our most profound human needs.

What about those couples who lived together for years very successfully but then got married and ruined a perfectly good relationship? Harville says the reason stems from the emergence of the real work of marriage only after we take those sacred vows. It seems that we have to work for our security, but the pay-off is longevity and a more stable lifestyle.

More good news: Sex can save your life! Just as you commit to eating right and exercising for your well being and health, it's important to make sure you are having sex.... the more the better. According to leading sex expert and researcher, Dr. Pepper Schwartz of the University of Washington, studies shows that for women, sex provides lower anxiety, more vitality, a higher quality of life all while building immunity.

For men, sex one time a month of more will reduce his risk of dying by 60%. The men who had sex twice a week (or more) were least likely to die and sex provides protection for men against cancer and heart disease.

So go for it you youngins!  Love your way to good health -- and a long life!!

I'm assuming that the aforementioned studies and (s)experts are all addressing people who have yet to reach the ripe old 70s and 80s when the mind may sometimes be willing but the body, not to mention the significant other, may not always share the same inclinations.  Perhaps when it all starts to go down hill sexually, we've lived long enough anyway. 

Heck, I don't even worry about meditation, yoga, exercise and non-toxic foods anymore -- what's the use?  It's like putting fuel in a vehicle with a battery that has worn out and no longer capable of holding a charge.

29 July, 2016

THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN WANTS AND NEEDS

It has been said that the most basic concept of economics is want vs. need. 

Just to be clear:  A need is something you have to have -- something you cannot do without in order to survive.  On the other hand, a want is something you would like to have but it is not necessary for survival.

One day, some time ago, a husband and wife were shopping in a department store, simply browsing and admiring all the pretty, shiny and sparkling things on display. As they looked through the glass cabinet at a diamond bracelet, a very elegant man behind the counter, asked if the woman would like to try it on. She immediately said to him: "Oh no thanks, I certainly don't need anything like this."

The man's instant reply came as a surprise to the couple: "Madam, this is not about 'need,' this is all about 'want'."

He was right, and in that moment the salesman gave her a distinction she had never thought about -- the difference between "need" and "want."

Our basic needs: air, food, water, shelter, security are obviously the most important human requirements and essential to life. But, what about everything else?

Some examples:

-- You want to eat cheesecake, red velvet cupcakes, macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies and gobs of pasta. Unfortunately, you may be gluten and sugar sensitive, so you need to eat healthy foods. The choice is up to you. Your "wants" can hurt you.

-- You want to drive the big, expensive Tesla sedan, but you work from home and only need a very small car with which to get around town.

-- You enjoy a good bottle of wine but you don't need to have one every day, nor to drink all of it in one sitting...Re-cork the bottle and finish it up another day when you may want/enjoy it more. 

Now, does that mean you can't ever have your "wants?"

No, of course not, but knowing the difference is very useful when making decisions (and, you can indulge that sweet tooth every now and then, but limit your treat to a few small bites).  It is not a matter of depriving yourself of the pleasures of life, it is more a matter of recognizing when the choice is necessary to your survival and having the wisdom to govern yourself accordingly.

It's often hard to discern between a want and a need. One way to do it is to ask yourself the following question: "Will this want/need contribute to my long-term well being?" If this answer is yes, then you would do well to put it in the "need" category.

Quite honestly, I think that if you were to ask both my wife and I what we wanted most in life, we would simultaneously and impulsively answer: "To win a million dollars!"  But in retrospect, what good would that amount of money do us if we did not have the physical health sufficient to enjoy it?  We'll go on living without it anyway! Truth be known, we can't afford to gamble.

I have spent at lot of time recently contemplating the way in which my life has unfolded in the twilight years. It has not been an altogether happy exercise because certain present conditions are not what I would have wanted in a perfect world.

I have learned over the years, however, that the more I let go of my "wants" and get comfortable and committed to handling my "needs" knowing that I always have sufficient to get by, makes my life easier, more acceptable and certainly more peaceful.

We would all do ourselves a favor in making a distinction between what we need, what we need in certain conditions, and what we want.

25 July, 2016

A FARM BOY REMEMBERS MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHONE

I enjoy people who can tell a good story, particularly if the tale is about a subject I am not all that familiar with or on an aspect of life that, due to circumstances, I have not experienced.  Bob Johnston is one of those people.  In many respects our lives have paralleled, but with one major exception -- Bob grew up on a farm.

He was talking the other day about the old expression "making hay".

That oft-repeated proverb reminds us to “make hay while the sun shines.” Of course, as Bob pointed out, "on the farm, we also made hay on cloudy days. And while those heavy gray clouds graciously offered some relief from the oppressive July heat, darkened skies made tanning efforts less successful."
"Muffets" of  hay.

As an insecure, shy, high school boy, young Bob counted on those summers in the hay fields as an opportunity to remold his scrawny six-foot-plus (to this day) frame. "I was hoping to create a more appealing physique to attract any one of those good-looking girls who, up to that point, had been ignoring me. The first goal was to cover my sun-starved, pasty, winter-white skin with a deep golden-brown tone. Dangers of excessive UV rays were not widely-known. We simply took off our shirts and waited, sans sunscreen lotion, for the inevitable painful sunburn. Once the skin had blistered and peeled we knew that further sun exposure would turn us brown, not red," he explains. Short term pain...

A second goal for Bob was to gain muscle. Daily rides to the boss’s farm and back on his old, battered, one speed CCM bike did produce strongly-sculpted, buff legs. Unfortunately, in that era no young fella would wear shorts to school. "My curvy, bulgy calves remained unnoticed by the world. Efforts at remaking my upper body failed miserably. ‘Nuff said!," he adds with a laugh.

Bob also recalls the pleasant interlude of bodily rest on top of a swaying wagon load of bales moving slowly between the hay field and the barn. "Once on site, we reluctantly sprang into action. I’ve never resolved which task was more challenging---the elevator or the mow. Each load of a hundred or so sixty-pound bales had to be placed one by one and end-to-end onto a moving elevator track which carried them up into the hay mow.  The sun beat down relentlessly, an overworked back grew stiff and the bales grew heavier as the day wore on,"

Life in the hay mow was apparently no picnic either. He continues, "Here, the farmhand stacked bales in neat rows as each one tumbled off the top of the elevator. Often, when I wasn’t paying attention, an errant bale would land on my head. Standing on each layer of piled bales brought me closer to the barn’s sun-scorched, galvanized tin roof, where stifling heat quickly became the enemy. No cooling breeze penetrated the windowless space. Did I mention the swirling clouds of chaff (hay dust) which stung my eyes and lungs?"

Yet, long after he exchanged adolescent summer work on a farm for the adult world of white collar desk jobs, he still yearned to be back on that hay wagon. "Every year from mid-June to Mid-July, I would plan a day or two away from the desk. We had family friends who farmed and always welcomed an extra pair of willing hands and a strong back."

Years ago, when he wrote for the Peterborough Examiner, he once penned a column entitled “Farmer for a Day” in which he encouraged city folks to offer volunteer help with hay crops in nearby fields. "I doubt if anyone took up my challenge, given the issues of legal liability and possible unwanted intrusion into a farmer’s routine and privacy," he readily acknowledges.

"Just as my sweet-smelling crop of loose hay gradually gave way to tightly-packed bales, so did those small, manageable bales eventually make room for the latest innovation -- giant bales which look so much like huge breakfast cereal "Muffets". Now, instead of hired hands, the farmer calls upon his front-end loader which never needs mid-afternoon lemonade breaks or complains about chaff in its eyes. Just as I could never comprehend how the baler ties knots, I have no idea how a baling machine can wrap each mega-Muffet in white plastic to be safely stored outside even in rainy weather. Farming technology has surely passed me by," says Bob with a degree of resolve.

His last memory of haying season is a bitter one. It was 1959 and the family farm was about to be sold for developers to erect three high-rise apartment towers. "The old, now-rusting rake and cutter sat silently and forgotten in the pasture. a remnant of hay in the barn lay moldy and encrusted in pigeon poop. Where I once biked to be a summer farmhand was now transformed into a CPR terminus for freight cars."

Yet, every June when Bob smells the sweet fragrance of newly-cut hay, it seems he can once again hear the sound of children playing in the family barn and feel the heat of summer sun on his bare back. He was young and life was simple then.


Life back then was simple for us town-slicker-kids too.  We didn't know any different.  We "made hay" in our own way!

22 July, 2016

WHETHER IT'S 4+5 OR 5+4 THE ANSWER IS STILL 9...I THINK

Writing in the Quora Digest to which I subscribe, William La Chenal poses an interesting question: "Is there any difference between 4+5 and 5+4?" La Chenal then proceeds to answer his own question in an uniquely interesting way that only a fellow mathematician could fully appreciate or understand...I think.

He sets the stage for his rather convoluted explanation with the following story. "It's 9:51 a.m., and a mathematician has a train to catch, and an important phone call to make at 10:00. The train leaves in four minutes 35 seconds. That's four minutes to get to the train and board, t..hen five minutes to find a seat and get comfortable before reaching for his cell phone and making the important call."

"Or, it's five minutes to get to the platform in time see the the train vanishing in the distance, and four minutes to find a bench to make the phone call whilst waiting for the next train." It took a while for me to wrap my brain around that one.

In abstract algebra an Abelian group (after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, 1802-1829), also called a commutative group where the operation is invariant to the order in which the operands are written (commutative). Abelian groups generalize the arithmetic of addition of integers so the operation is commonly denoted by (+) plus.

If like me you are not a mathematician, it should be explained that integers are like whole numbers, including (0) zero, but they also include negative numbers -- but no fractions.

The Albelian group satisfies five axioms: closure, associativity, existence of an identity element, existence of an inverse element for each element of the group (the negative, or additive inverse), and of course commutativity -- that is, A+B=B+A for any A,B in the group.

In this context, which includes integer arithmetic,
5+4 has the same result as 4+5. Mathematicians are very keen on precise definition and context. Often altering conditions makes a big difference.

Meanwhile, a teacher in one of our North American schools is marking tests for common core maths. "The answer book says 4+5," our friend La Chenal astutely points out.

By the same token then, perhaps that is why they call a piece of lumber a two-by-four instead of a four-by-two?  Then again, I may digress.

I don't know...Like I say, I'm not a mathematician! I still have trouble with grade school multiplication and fractions. Niels Henrik Abel may well have been my kind of guy.


My next assignment is to examine the conceptual integration process with respect to arithmetic word problems and how it compares to conceptual integration for sentences and other meaningful sequences. Arithmetic word problems are unique in that they combine elements of language and math and provide the opportunity for analogical alignment or misalignment between the semantic relations and the arithmetic relations in the problem.  Know what I mean?

Bet you can't wait for another definitive explanatory expose in the down-to-earth, every day language for which I have gained a reputation.

16 July, 2016

Look at the cute little old lady in this photo as stars arrive for a movie premier. While others rush to post photos, she was able to soak up and enjoy the entire experience. It’s the best reminder I’ve seen to log off Facebook and occasionally put down the cell phone.
This lady may or may not have a Facebook account but as a former frequent user myself, the popularity contest of trying to get the most “likes” just isn’t that appealing when compared to other productive things a person can do with their time.
Oddly enough, this touching picture of a pensioner living for the moment was re-tweeted more than 1,200 times so maybe I’m not the only one ready to log off social media a bit more often.
Image courtesy of Google