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It was Friday January 1, 2021. New Year’s Day. I thought I should start the new year by tackling some old business.
For the last 20 years, Joan stored her growing collection of murder mysteries in our spare bedroom. One set of books caught my eye – by P.D. James, the undisputed queen of British murder mystery writers. A publisher’s promo calls her the author of 11 books, but I counted 20.
Including her one foray into science fiction, The Children of Men, published in 1992.
I had never read it before. I opened the book. On Friday the first of January, 2021, the opening words were, “Friday 1 January 2021.”
What were the odds, I wondered, that Ms James would have chosen to start a book published 28 years ago with the very date on which I would open that book?
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: probability, P.D. James, coincidence
Sunday January 10, 2021
Years ago, I started writing a summary of the good things and bad things that had happened that year.
At first, I had little difficulty separating good from bad. My two lists – good and bad – bore little connection to each other.
But as time passed, I discovered that different aspects of the same situations were showing up in both lists.
This year, the overlap is almost total. Bad things occurred, certainly, but part of each parcel included good things. And vice versa. Like Frank Sinatra singing about love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other.
Take Donald Trump. Please. (A line borrowed from stand-up comedy.)
How can his behaviour be a ”good thing”?
Easy -- he proved I was right about him, all along. (I never said that the good and bad had to be equal, only that they were intertwined!)
Tags: Trump, extremes, good/bad
Our Christmas tree traced the 60 years of our marriage.
In the beginning, all we could afford was tinsel, draped like icicles. Over time, we added a variety of glass balls, gradually getting bigger, brighter. We bought souvenirs, brass or crystal, sometimes ceramic, to remind us of our travels.
And Joan embroidered -- her passion -- dozens and dozens of, I don’t know what to call them, cloth ornaments to hang on the tree.
Sometimes the tree itself was almost invisible beneath its decorations.
But one thing remained constant, for all those years. The ornament at the very top of the tree, was a blown glass spire, pointing upwards.
Joan brought that spire into our marriage.
But when I went to slip Joan’s fragile spire onto the top of the tree, it imploded in my hands.
Tags: Christmas tree, ornament, tradition
The salmon are coming back! The salmon are coming back!
Where’s Paul Revere when we need him?
Last year, a fish ladder, left inoperable after the Penticton dam at the foot of Okanagan Lake was built in the 1950s, was restored by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. For the first time in 60 years, sockeye salmon ascended from the Columbia River into Okanagan Lake.
At the same time, kokanee socks are rebounding.
Kokanee are land-locked salmon. Unlike their sockeye cousins, they don’t go down to the sea. They spend their lives in lakes. Some spawn along the shorelines; some return to the lakes’ tributary streams, just like the ocean-going salmon.
A small item in the regional newspaper reported that an estimated 388,000 kokanee had spawned this year, either in streams or along the shoreline. That’s more than double last year’s 185,000. Better yet, it’s more than double the ten-year average.
Tags: Salmon, Kokanee, environment
This coming Thursday, December 10, 2020, the world honours the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UN Declaration states, “Everyone is entitled to [these] rights and freedoms … without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
And, in another article, that no one shall be subjected to coercion: “torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
It offers no exemptions for religious beliefs.
Yet it is precisely certain religious beliefs, which violate the principles of the UN Declaration, that generated federal Bill C-6 about conversion therapy.
Tags: conversion therapy, Bill C-6, UN Human Rights
Most people seem to be complying with the provincial order to wear masks indoors. I see people parking their cars, heading barefaced for their preferred store, and then going back to get a mask to wear. Unwillingly, perhaps, but they’re doing it.
A few people blunder in without a mask, and are given one by a clerk. They may grumble, but they wear it.
And a few refuse. Utterly and totally.
If the authorities can’t make up their minds, the skeptics might say, if their recommendations keep changing day to day, why should we believe them?
I use the word “believe” deliberately. Because at its roots, this is an argument about belief systems, an argument that goes back several hundred years to what historians call “The Enlightenment.”
Tags: belief systems, science, Masks
I think my dog is paranoid. If she thinks she hears something that might be a doorbell – such as, say, clinking pots together as I prepare a meal – she launches into a paroxysm of growls and howls, races to the front door, and barks furiously at nothing at all.
\ Her behaviour makes me suspect she’s been watching too much social media.
Most social media postings are, in my opinion, basically Pablum for adults. Bland meaningless chat. But there’s a subgroup of users who can see conspiracies under every news report.
As a journalist, I subscribe to several non-mainstream news sources. Sometimes merely following a link, to check the authenticity of a story, is enough to put me onto someone’s mailing list for a steady stream of fear, anger, and venom.
Tags: social media, conspiracies, misinformation
n all the hoopla about the U.S. election last week, a couple of significant events sneaked by. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that corporations are not persons. And the U.S. media acknowledged that they have ethical responsibilities.
First, the media. Friday night after the U.S. election, still-president Donald Trump ranted for 16 minutes of outright falsehoods and accusations without evidence, that he had won the election. At least six American networks cut him off in mid-sentence.
For the networks to pull the plug on a sitting president is an unprecedented act.
In the second piece of overlooked news, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, in certain situations, corporations are not persons.
Tags: Trump, corporations, networks
Jeffery Sachs has access to far more facts and figures than I do. He is an economist, professor of Political Economics and International Development at Columbia University, and has been a special advisor to the last two UN Secretary-Generals. So I’ll let him make the case for America’s decline.
Sachs told a conference on multilateralism held at the Vatican, “The U.S. was a dominant economic and technological power in the world for decades. This is no longer the case. It is still a powerful country economically and technologically, but it is no longer a dominant power. The European Union is a larger market, China is a comparable market, and the spread of technology is worldwide.
“I’m sorry to say it -- it’s my country -- but this is an imperial power in decline.
Tags: U.S.election, American empire, Jeffrey Sachs
The day after the election in BC, the same day as the election in Saskatchewan, another vote took place at the other end of the Americas.
The people of Chile voted overwhelmingly to abolish the constitution imposed by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973, after his military coup deposed elected president Salvador Allende.
The two Canadian elections didn’t change even the flavour of government in the two provinces, let alone their ideologies. The Chilean vote changed the direction of a whole country.
Chile’s current president called it “the beginning of a path that we must all walk together.”
Tags: change, Chile, Pinochet, constitution