Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

29

Jul

2022

Twenty-nine years and still counting

Author: Jim Taylor

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.


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29

Jul

2022

Fisheries Dept. needs to think like a fish

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 24, 2022

 

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.


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29

Jul

2022

Birds and trees want to be appreciated

Author: Jim Taylor

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.


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29

Jul

2022

Poster child for emergency ward closures

Author: Jim Taylor

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. 


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15

Jul

2022

Pronouns display our language proficiency

Author: Jim Taylor

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…”


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Language, pronouns

11

Jul

2022

Peering over the edge of Seneca’s cliff

Author: Jim Taylor

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. 


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Categories: Sharp Edges

Tags: Seneca, Baldi, collapse

9

Jul

2022

Making sense of meaningless words

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday July 7, 2022

 

        Every storyteller runs into difficulties. A retired Ontario minister told me his favourite children’s story disaster. He started, like me, with a question: “What is furry and runs up and down trees?”

            No answer.

            He tried again: “What hides nuts for winter?”

            Still no answer.

            Somewhat desperately: “What has a big bushy tail and beady eyes?”

            Finally one girl held up her hand. “I know the answer is always supposed to be Jesus,” she said. “But it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”


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9

Jul

2022

’Originalism’ gives too much credit to ancients

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday July 3, 2022

 

One of my former computers had an operating system that allowed me to recover my settings and data if I made a catastrophic mistake. I could “restore” the system to a date before the mistake.

            Recent news suggests that Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the U.S. Supreme Court run on a similar system. They want to restore America to a previous time.

            Donald Trump’s preferred “restore” date is fairly evident. His “Make America Great Again” campaign wanted to go back to the 1950s, when America was the world’s uncontested and most prosperous superpower.

            He hasn’t rebooted his mind since.

            The Republican Party, equally clearly, wants to reset America to before the Civil War. When white men still exercised authority over women and other lesser beings.


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9

Jul

2022

On having power, or not

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday June 30, 2022

 

Two scenes. Or maybe two sides of the same scene.

            My street has been torn up for several weeks. The municipality is installing a new water main. I don’t know why -- the water pressure coming into my house already exceeds municipal standards.

            Installing the new pipes involves ripping up several blocks worth of paving. Digging a ditch. And filling the ditch in again. All of which involves a lot of heavy equipment. And because it affects traffic, the construction company requires flaggers.

            Flaggers do not have an enviable job. Aside from low pay, they either stand around feeling useless most of the day. Or they get abuse from impatient drivers, angry at being delayed for no apparent reason.


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9

Jul

2022

Guilty of trespassing

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday June 26, 2022

 

“Forgive us our trespasses,” says the most familiar prayer in Christianity, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

            If those words are so important, why, in 80-odd years of attending worship services all over the world, have I never once heard a sermon connecting them with colonial peoples’ treatment of Indigenous inhabitants?

            Indeed, I doubt if any preachers focussed on those words from the Lord’s Prayer even this week, which marked National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.

            Because there can be no doubt that we are trespassing on lands that did not originally belong to us. 


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