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Thursday August 11, 2022
I made a momentous decision a few months ago. I decided to quit playing minister.
A few people may be surprised that I’m NOT a minister. Because I often write about religious topics. I also write about evolution, life, economics, politics, and occasionally even mathematics. Somehow, no one suggests that makes me an economist, biologist, or mathematician.
Perhaps they assume that no one could possibly be interested in theology unless they were being paid to do so.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: decisions, minister, ordained
Sunday August 7, 2022
Is it just my imagination, or is there a predictable pattern to news coverage these days?
The pattern starts with someone accusing, say, Hockey Canada for covering up charges of rape. Or attacking the Canadian Armed Forces for sex discrimination. Or a charity comes under fire for misusing donated dollars. Or a TV program unearths evidence that a renovation firm’s labyrinth of corporate connections defrauds both its customers and Canada Revenue.
The accusers are willing to go public with their names and faces.
The accused are not. They decline personal interviews. Instead, they issue carefully-worded statements which assert, essentially, that the conduct in question contravenes their code of ethics, didn’t happen, and if it did, won’t happen again.
The language used is numbingly bureaucratic.
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: Jan White, hierarchy, human interest
August 4, 2022
Zoology 101 was a favourite first-year course at the University of British Columbia. My class probably had 250 in it, enthralled by from Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan’s witty and profound explanations of what animals were, and how they related to each other.
As I recall those classes, McTaggart-Cowan talked more about animals than plants. Certainly it’s the animals I remember. Everything from single-celled amoebas to humans.
A lot of it dealt with taxonomy – the formal classifications of animals. That we humans, for example, are a species, Homo Sapiens. Of the genus Homo. Of the family Hominidae. Of the order Primates. Of the class Mammalia. Of the phylum Chordata. Of the kingdom Animalia. Of the domain Eukarya.
Taxonomy, however, doesn’t answer the question, “Why?”
Tags: Zoology, taxonomy, fours
Sunday July 24, 2022
There is only one event worth writing about this week -- Pope Francis’s “penitential pilgrimage.”
“Penitential” means doing penance -- making amends for having done something wrong.
The name alone acknowledges that the Roman Catholic church failed its indigenous members.
Church doctrines have long taught that Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. Figuratively, Pope Francis chose to do the same with his church’s involvement in residential schools.
People have mixed feelings about his trip and his apologies.
Tags: Pope, Indigenous, Francis, pilgrimage
Thursday July 28, 2022
Last weekend marked a significant anniversary. Twenty-nine years ago, on July 23, 1993, Joan and I moved into our new home here in the Okanagan Valley.
It’s the longest I have ever lived in one place.
The previous longest was 25 years in Toronto – equivalent, I sometimes joke, to a life sentence without parole. Then we moved west. Back west, actually, since I had grown up in Vancouver, and Joan in the Kootenays.
So we watched our worldly possessions disappear into a moving company’s container, locked up our now-empty home, and set out across the country in a Honda Accord packed full of suitcases, house plants, and two panicky cats.
The cats yowled for 100 miles, and then became – dare I put it this way? – catatonic. They shut down. They didn’t eat, drink, pee or poo for five days.
Tags: alone, Anniversary, moving, retreats
Earlier this week, the B.C. Wildlife Society released a disturbing report. Steelhead are headed for extinction.
If you’re addicted to fishing, you’ll know what a steelhead is. It is considered a world-class sport fish for its spectacular size and fighting capabilities,
Steelhead fall into the crack between migratory fish and resident fish. Indeed, the federal Department of Fisheries (DFO) oscillates between defining them as salmon and as trout.
DFO has historically based its classification on the “looks like a duck” principle -- if it looks like a salmon, and acts like a salmon, it must be a salmon.
Except that it’s not.
Tags: steelhead, trout, fisheries
Thursday July 21, 2022
One morning this last spring, I went out for my morning walk. Unexpectedly, bird song surrounded me.
“Where did all these birds come from?” I wondered.
Then I realized they had been there all along. I just hadn’t been able to hear them. Because I had new hearing aids that let me hear the higher frequencies of bird songs.
As time has passed, I’ve learned to recognize some characteristic songs. The American Robin’s cheer-up, cheer-up, cheer-up. The goldfinch’s ti-dee-dee-dee. The doves, always in pairs, making cooing sounds at each other. And, of course, the magpies, which are capable of imitating every other bird, but prefer to sound like nails on a blackboard.
They were all there before. I just couldn’t hear them.
Tags: listening, Bird songs, hearing aids, mindfulness
Sunday July 17, 2022
I have a soft spot in my heart for the community of Clearwater, about 125 km north of Kamloops on the North Thompson River. The Clearwater River runs deep and clear (of course) out of Wells Gray Provincial Park – one of the best fly-fishing rivers in British Columbia.
The town of Clearwater is postcard pretty.
Sadly, though, Clearwater has become a poster child for emergency ward closures.
The hospital is supposed to have eight full-time nurses on staff. It currently has four.
Tags: triage, Clearwater, Helmcken, emergency
Thursday July 14, 2022
The other day, I heard a CBC announcer intone, “between you and me.”
I was shocked. He got it right!
Pronouns, it seems, have become the litmus test of language competency.
Back when Joan I and I were buying our first house, the real estate representative told me, oozing sincerity, “I would like for you and I to be friends.”
I considered any such friendship unlikely. Him and I were not grammatically compatible.
Back in high school, English teacher Jean Skelton made our entire class chant, over and over, “between you and me… between you and me… between you and me…”
Tags: Language, pronouns
Sunday July 10, 2022
Do you ever get the feeling that the world is heading for hell on a handcart? And that the handcart is rolling down a steeper and steeper hill?
The U.S. has already had more than 300 mass shootings in 2022, barely past its halfway point. One recent figure states that 22,618 Americans have died by gun violence this year.
Climate change keeps accelerating, even as governments sign pacts to stop it without actually doing anything about it.
Instead of reducing violence, black movements seem to exacerbate it. Retaliation for rattling the presumptions of white supremacy, perhaps.
That sense of things going wrong, faster and faster, has been around for a long time. A reader introduced me to the Seneca Effect, also known as Seneca’s cliff.
Tags: Seneca, Baldi, collapse