Who Am I?

I’ve been arguing with my computer for about a week, and losing!  It needs a good spring-cleaning.  First it wouldn’t let me access my blog-stats via the front door.  I had to sneak in the Manage My Blogs back door and access them that way.  Now it won’t even do that.  Because of that, I’ve read more Fresh Pressed blogs than I would normally.  One was from a 100% Chinese female, born in the USA.  Who does she root for in the Olympics?  Aha!  A blog theme, and off we go.

Who am I?  I’m a Canadian mongrel mutt, and proud of it.  I am everyman, and every race.  I have the blood of so many races and ethnicities flowing in my veins, I feel like a bowl of Skittles.  I don’t understand “racial purists”, whether redneck white supremacists, or Sikh exclusionists.  There may be a few lost valleys of uncontaminated human DNA in the world, but, more and more, the rest of us are being run through the societal blender.  A recent study said that within a hundred years, the world skin color will be beige.  Even Hitler was one eighth Jewish.  People like the above-mentioned supremacists often are, unknowingly, what they claim to hate.

With three proven Scottish ancestors, for years I’ve told people that I’m one quarter English and three-quarters Scottish.  I am afflicted with the family name Smith, the second-most-common English name.  A surprising free week of study by my daughter on Ancestry.ca revealed that my “English” male ancestor was actually a Hessian who came over to fight for the British in the American War of Independence around 1776.  He survived the war, but didn’t want to return to Europe and managed to stay.  My English side started with a German named Schmidt.  He married a newly arrived English girl, and so did the next several succeeding generations, till Schmidt was changed to Smith, and one of them wandered north into Canada.

The remaining three-quarters Scottish is even more complex and interwoven.  The term Scottish is geo-political, and didn’t exist much more than a thousand years ago.  There is no Scottish race.  The Picts held most of what is now Scotland for centuries.  They fought and interbred with Gaels and Britons.  The Romans tried to sweep up into Scotland, and were swept right back out.  Over the centuries, invaders have found what the Russians, and many others, have learned about Afghanistan.  They could not take and hold the wild mountains and wilder inhabitants.

Many “Roman” soldiers were actually from other countries around the Mediterranean and Europe.  After the Romans left, the Celts and Welsh tried invading the Northland, with about as much success.  Later, the Anglo-Saxons tried invading, in an attempt to form one cohesive kingdom.  The northern tribes amalgamated to preserve their freedom.  Irish Gaels rowed over and slowly brought Christianity to the pagans.  This is why there is an Irish, and a Scottish Gaelic language, incomprehensible to each other.

The Vikings, from three or four Scandinavian countries, roamed the isles and mountains for many years.  Each of these waves of invaders left behind some men, and genetic deposits with local females.  The Spanish Armada, like the Roman Army was actually crewed by sailors of a wide variety of races, including black Moors, from North Africa.  When it was decisively defeated in the English Channel, several of the ships were driven north to the Scottish shore, where the survivors were integrated among the anti-English population.  The Moors were the origination of the term Black Scots.

My maternal grandparents came to Canada from Glasgow, where they were both weavers.  My grandfather was the Keeper of the Patterns, responsible for the production of all Tartans at his mill.  He was a Lowlander, living near the sea.  Several times he had ill words to say about highlanders, descendents of Gaels and Britons.  He claimed they were all stupid, useless oafs, good only for fighting among themselves, and with others.  Grandpa was a short, powerful, dark-haired man, unlike the tall, rangy, fair-skinned, red-haired uplanders.

It is possible (likely?) that he was descended from the disappeared Picts.  One day, when I was about four, our family visited Mom’s family.  The women were inside, doing women things.  My Dad and one of the uncles had started a game of horse-shoes.  The conversation had included another example of Granddad’s disdain for Highlanders.  Another uncle went into the house to get another beer, leaving me sitting on the ground next to the old man.  He was an intelligent, educated and well-read man.  Years later I remembered him speaking, if not to me, then near me.  If memory serves, he said, “They came among us with fire and sword, and drove us from our homes.  But we, the small folk prevailed, and live among them still, unbowed, unnoticed!”  The quote would probably be from a book, rather than from him, but it supports the Pictish background theory.

Who am I?  I am an inclusive citizen of the world.  The blood of countless races and cultures flows through my veins.  I am the result of great plans, and great failures.  I am like a fine Scottish whiskey, the synergistic total being more than the sum of the merely good parts, and the product being both pleasing and stimulating.  Not as hokey as Bill Shatner but, I am Canadian.  I am Me, and I am proud of both, and all the parts it took to make me what I am.

I Would Appreciate It….

….if you would read this blog….and comment on it….and tell your friends about it.  Hello??!  Is anybody out there?  Is this mike keyboard on?

Every blogger appreciates getting comments and feedback from their posts.  We all want to know that we’ve reached someone, gave them some new information, or a new way of looking at something.  Clicking *like* tells them that we’ve read the post, and felt it was good/interesting/worthy, but, stopping to make a comment tells a blogger that we’ve been more intimately involved with their thoughts.  Whether it’s just a little throwaway joke, or a deeply philosophical review of a complex subject, writers like to know that they’ve affected someone.  The more comments they get, the more connected they feel to their readers, and the happier they are.

There’s a new spate of blog awards making the rounds.  One of my newer Best Blog Buddies, Nicole, over at www.nmnphx.wordpress.com, despite being busier than usual, both at work, and just with life in general, has had four different blog awards lobbed at her in the last week.  After reserving one free minute to take a deep breath, she has managed to deal with all of them.  As usual, the terms of all of them are that, if you receive it, you must scatter copies of it, like flower petals in the wind.

She and I have been making free with comments on each other’s posts.  I have appreciated seeing her bright words below my prosaic posts.  Apparently she has felt much the same about my inane pigeon droppings responses.  So much so in fact, that she has deemed me worthy of the prestigious Reader Appreciation Award.  This award is bestowed upon blog visitors who are regular and reasonably intelligent commenters.  Well, I got one out of the two nailed.  I’m working to be sure I have my brain in motion, before I engage my mouth.

At least all I have to do for this award is appreciate it.  None of this telling you seven, or ten, or the square root of 144 things about myself.  I’ve already listed so much stuff about me that even I’m surprised.  Aside from blogging, the last new thing that happened to me is still carved into the cave wall.  I am supposed to pass this award on to five to ten visitors to my blog who make me feel good by regularly commenting.  Five to ten sounds like a prison sentence, and I’ve already got my five hardened criminals blog-friends picked out and will notify them as I post this.  If the following folks don’t feel any sillier than I do, feel free to mosey on over to the Archon’s Corral and pick up a pretty little picture to hang on your blog wall.

I want everyone to know that I really appreciate the comments, the following, and the support of;

The delightful, and only slightly profane, KayJai at www.kayjai.wordpress.com

Ted, the IT genius, hiding behind a rock at www.sightsnbytes.wordpress.com

Repairing a wall with one hand as she holds a loaded Glock in the other, it’s http://whiteladyinthehood.wordpress.com

The gently opinionated neighborhood axe-murderess Madame Weebles at www.fearnoweebles.wordpress.com

And Canada’s native son from the land of the midnight sun, www.theharemsmaster.wordpress.com

There are a few more that I could mention, but I’m too damned lazy right now.  There’s more exciting Olympics to get back to.  If you feel your name should have been included but don’t see it, please don’t be offended.  These blog awards come around more often than door-to-door driveway sealers.  The next time I get swatted with one, I’ll list some different names.  BrainRants comes to mind, but his comments have fallen off a bit because he’s busy saving the world from power-point presentations.  After he gets back I’ll see if I can find a logo that features a tank, or at least an M9 Beretta handgun.

How you please yourself or your significant other, in the privacy of your own home is your own business, but if you want to please a bunch of bloggers, wash your hands and leave a few nice comments.  We’d all appreciate it.

Yay! Olympics!

When I was about eight years old, my father bought a camper-trailer.  Unlike today’s lightweight units, this one was built like a small shed, heavy as sin.  Being trailering tyros, we took along four full-sized concrete blocks to support the corners.  Thank something, that the days of heavy, powerful cars were not past.  I don’t know how we pulled that monster, but from then till I was 14, we went somewhere every summer.

I need to clean out the paint locker at the back of my mind and offer up another story of how a small-town boy had his horizons widened a bit.  In the meantime, this story isn’t about a trip.  It’s about who we saw when our trip was interrupted.

This was the summer of 1953, or ’54.  We had been camping here and there for almost two weeks.  We were moving from north to south, somewhere just east of Toronto.  We almost reached a main east/west highway and were stopped by a Provincial Police officer.  He told us we’d have to go back and around another way, or find a place to park at the side of the road until “She” went through.  She, who??  Queen Elizabeth, of course!  He took pity on a family of campers, and told us how to get down to the little city ahead, and where to park, but insisted that we could not cross the main road until after the parade.

We followed his directions, and decided that, if we were stranded, we might as well get a vantage-point on the sidewalk.  Mom and Dad piled up at the back of the crowd.  Mom was 4’ 11”, I don’t know if she saw anything.  Dad was 6’, he might have.  I was about eight or nine.  I just insinuated myself through the crush until I was right down front.  The crowd ran right to the curb, and wasn’t allowing any room, even for a little kid, so I just stepped off the curb and stood in front.  As the Queen and Prince Philip rolled regally through town, I was only eight feet away from her.  Big F…..ng Deal!  Can we get back to camping now?

It happened again last Friday night.  The wife and I went down to the Rec room, to watch Jay Leno, and there was that damned woman interrupting my planned enjoyment again.  The Tonight show was delayed by an hour for a broadcast of the opening of the Olympic Games.  Well, it wasn’t just her.  I got to see David Beckham, a man who makes his living on dry land, row his boat up the Thames and pass off a fancy cigarette lighter to some other guy, who gave it to a passel of pre-teen arsonists, who managed to start a big fire on the ground.

Get the feeling I’m none too impressed, yet??  How observant!  Actually, as shows go, it was a decent show.  The pacing fireworks as Bend-it’s boat raced up the river, how the individual copper leaves on the ground rose on gas-pipes, to amalgamate and form the Cauldron, the fireworks that went off after the flame was lit, all of these were grand theater.  At least they went off in a timed display, not like San Diego’s 10-second, Fourth of July, boom and fizzle.  But theater was all it was.  Bread and circuses for the masses.  Proof of this is the fact that responsibility for the show was given to a Hollywood director.

Owned, sponsored and controlled by multi-national corporations, it reminded me of the movie Demolition Man.  Do you know that attendees’ clothing style was restricted and controlled?  If you were wearing a tee-shirt mentioning Pepsi-Cola, you would be prevented from entering, because Coca-Cola bought all soft-drink promotional rights?

Perhaps it’s because I learned early that I can’t compete, but I’ve always been more of a fan of co-operation.  For every competition, there’s only one winner, and all the rest of 203 countries, are just a bunch of losers.  It’s all just a feel-good societal ego sop.  Millions of dollars poured into each country’s athletes’ training and transportation.  Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of hours spent training for this soap opera, and when it’s all over, even if “we” garner a few fake medals, not a job has been created, our GNP has not increased, nor the national debt reduced, and banks still need bailing.

Us vs. Them prevails.  Tribalist chest thumping.  I wouldn’t be so cynical if people watched simply to see top-level athletic performance.  They’ll tell you that’s why they watch, but, the same folks who haven’t even driven past a swimming pool in the last four years, are suddenly experts on synchronized three-meter diving.

These games are supposed to promote international fellowship but their very competitive format prevents it.  It all boils down to, “Our team doctor is better at masking performance-enhancing drugs than your team doctor.”

Some of the “sports” that are getting in are just ridiculous.  One person synchronized swimming?  I could send over a dictionary so they can look up the meaning of synchronized.  And the little girls running around on gym mats, waving sticks with ribbons on them??!  Are they just so chi-chi that they got kicked out of drum-majorette school?  Trampoline?!  I thought the kids down the street were just playing.  Good Lord, what’s next, Tiddly-Winks and pie baking?

Ah well, it is the middle of the summer, and there’s almost nothing else on television.  Everyone can watch what they want but, I don’t watch chick-flicks.  If I watch something by a big movie director, it better have some adult language, rock-‘em-sock-‘em Kung Fu action, car chases, explosions, and maybe a little gratuitous nudity in it.  Why is Victoria fully clothed??!

I’ve kept my eyes tightly closed for a week now.  It’s half-way over.  Soon I won’t have to worry about this meaningless display for another four years.  What’s that??  What Winter Olympics in two years??  Will it include competitive Sno-Cone Serving?  Where’s a good movie when I need one?

Feel Free To Think

I’m sitting here staring at my own title with ironic amusement.  I know what I want to say.  I just can’t seem to marshal my thoughts to say it clearly and tactfully.  Well, that’s the beauty of electronic editing, I can always change it.  Here goes.

I took the daughter to another meeting of the Free Thinkers Society.  It is possible to be a free-thinker and still be a Christian, although many “Good Christians” and all “Good Catholics” will deny that.  Free Thinkers, atheists, agnostics and *science* don’t wish to be enemies of Christianity, but they are all thinkers, and Catholicism in particular, denies the right to think for yourself.  I commented to my *recovering Catholic* wife, one time, about reading a Bible passage when she was a child, and was astounded to find that Good Catholics are not permitted to read the Bible.  They might *misinterpret* it.  They had to wait for a priest to tell them what it meant.

With the Catholic Church at the top of the list, all Christian denominations present their particular set of views, as a monolithic whole, indivisible, and unquestionable.  The Catholic Church rails against “supermarket religion”, and says that its followers can’t pick and choose what they will and will not believe.  Yet the same church picked and chose among divinely inspired gospels, written at the same time, by the same group of holy people, and found among the same scrolls.  The Church included in the Bible the ones which solidified their position and ignored the ones which did them no good.

The Catholic Church changes its dogma from time period to time period, and from place to place, yet its followers are expected to believe that it remains uniform.  I worked with a young woman who was the child of an English Catholic couple who had moved to Canada.  In England, when a child was taken in to be baptised, any name could be chosen. 

They had picked the name Lynne for her, but the priest demanded to know what saint’s name they had chosen.  He told them he could not baptise a child without a saint’s name.  He told them that they could pick any holy name except Jesus or Madonna.  Under time pressure, they chose Virginia, after the Virgin Mary.  Every third Latino is named Jesus (hay-sues), and the Detroit Madonna is still trying to keep British riff-raff from walking through her back yard.  The British Catholic rules are not observed in Canada, and Canadian Catholic rules are not obeyed in the US, or south of its borders.

It is said that some people believe they’re thinking, when all they are doing is rearranging their prejudices.  A recent column in the local paper would be amusing, if the writer wasn’t so darned serious.  He doesn’t say that he’s a vegetarian, just that he’s a member of Toronto Pig Save.  What he doesn’t say is as telling as what he does say. He wants to prevent pigs from being trucked and slaughtered at a large Toronto plant.  He plays the same language games that the churches play, and, to one who pays attention, sounds just as foolish.  He tries the *Own the Definition Gambit*, but fails, quickly and miserably.

He immediately stakes out the high ground by asking, “Is it moral to slaughter pigs just so we can have bacon?”  He quickly reckons that most Canadians would answer yes, to this.  “Moral” means actions or behavior based on right and wrong.  He would like most people to think his viewpoint is right, but morality in this case is subjective and the majority says he’s wrong.  I’m happy he’s got a hobby trying to save pigs, but he never mentions cows, steers, veal calves, turkeys or chickens.  Why so much heat about hogs, while ignoring the rest?

He writes about people from his group standing on the street, taking pictures and videos of pigs on their way to the slaughter-house.  He points out that the temperature one day was 36C (95F), and the trucks were not air-conditioned.  It would be illegal to leave a dog in a car on such a day – but a dog would be sealed in a car, whereas the pigs were in a trailer with airflow though many openings.  In fact, the pigs would be covered by the top of the trailer, and probably a lot cooler and more comfortable than the idiots out on the sidewalk taking pictures.

He feels the answer to his question above might change if the word pigs were changed to puppies.  Now he’s trying to play the *Define Cute* game.  Someone said that, if baby seals looked like lobsters, no-one would say a word when they were clubbed to death.  He says that pigs are notoriously smart, and have a habit of looking you in the eye – as if to say, “I know what you have in mind for me, and I’m disappointed in your lack of character.” He need have no such worry.  I’m sure even the pigs consider him quite a character, standing out in the sun, peering into passing trucks, in an attempt to change the millennia-old eating habits of the human race.

While I’m sure he wants to keep the pigs from being slaughtered, the main thrust of the article is their handling and transportation.  He complains a couple of times about the lack of air-conditioning.  How would he suggest they be delivered, one at a time, in limos?  That would stop people from eating pork.  It would drive the price as high as a communications satellite, with beef and chicken right behind it.

Do you want to be fed, or do you want to be Nice?  Here’s a nice tofu sandwich while you consider.  Pigs also provide ribs, roasts, stews and sausage.  Ignore that man behind the truck wheel.  Just click your heels twice and return to brunch.  He wrote a nice (there’s that word again.) little feel-good article.  I just don’t think that much thinking went into it.

Sauce For The Goose

Was it always thus?  Were people always so thoughtless and selfish?  I suppose at any point in history, a certain percentage were.  The problem is worsened in cities.  The bigger the city, the more people there are to share things – land, air, open skies, personal space and the respect and acceptance of others.  With a lower average being spread around, the likelihood is increased of some assholery being committed by unthinking, uncaring thugs, to get what they think their share should be, fair or otherwise.

It’s difficult some times to know whether they really are as stupid and uncaring as they sound, or whether it’s a persona they’re using to achieve their ends.  For years, those of us with lungs, who want to keep them, have been fighting to get smokers to stop dispensing their noxious gases in public.  Locally, it’s illegal to smoke inside any public building.  This just moves the problem.  Now they smoke outside the buildings, and you get to run a toxic gauntlet, trying to get a passport, or making a bank deposit.  *You can’t make me stop.  I have a right to smoke.*  No, you don’t!  Their sense of entitlement vs. my right to breathe and enjoy clean air is truly awe-inspiring

I wanted to take the wife to Wendy’s for lunch one day.  We climbed out of the car and faced the door.  The female manager and a male friend were standing right beside the entrance, smoking.  We stood beside the car for about a minute, thinking they might take the hint and move.  No such luck.  Finally, she noticed us staring at her, and petulantly demanded, “What?!”  We’d like to enter your facility to have lunch, but can’t because you’re blocking the door by smoking.  You’re supposed to move away.  “Well, I thought it was nine feet.”

You’re the manager of a restaurant, and you don’t know what the bylaw is?  It’s not nine feet.  It’s nine meters!  That’s thirty feet!  Even if it were nine feet, you were only five or six feet from the door.  See the orange paint that head office had applied to the curb, by the door.  You’re supposed to be outside that, and downwind if you don’t mind.  I should have filled in one of the How Did We Do Today forms inside, but she’d probably just have thrown it away.  Maybe next time I’ll complain on-line.

On a related note….fire pits.  The city is in the middle of a minor crisis about whether to continue to allow residents to have outdoor fires.  This is like smoking.  Your rights stop at the end of my nose – or should.  Older residents, parents with young children and people with breathing problems have lobbied to have the city declare them illegal.  The caring response evident in several letters to the editor have been, “Tough!  If you don’t like it, close your windows!”  A letter today tried to justify it by saying that his kids want to enjoy themselves roasting marshmallows and hotdogs.  “Let them have a bit of summer fun.”  I will, as soon as I can breathe.  One letter suggested speaking nicely to your offending neighbor, and they would just stop.  Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that.

Whatever the perk, there are those who seize it, and then try to prevent others from enjoying the same.  We moved to the other side of the city 23 years ago, because a developer had cut down half of a huge maple forest and erected hundreds of houses near the river.  As we were leaving the area, the developer wanted to cut down the other half of the bush and put up more homes.  You should have heard the squeals of anguish.  The ones who had taken advantage of the first forestry project now wanted the rest of the trees left, because the scenery was nice, and their kids could play there and run the dog.  Many of them were suddenly against Urban Sprawl.

After the forest was inevitably cut down, houses were built right across the river from the local airport.  Real Estate agents were legally required to inform potential buyers of its existence.  Nobody was *surprised*, except officials who now got demands from these home-owners that the airport be restricted, or shut down, or moved.  The airplanes were keeping the baby awake, or scaring the cat.  The guy I wanted to schmop with a soggy diaper, was the one whose house had been built thirty years ago, half a block from the expressway, but three miles from the airport.  He didn’t complain about traffic noise, but wanted the city to pay him to sound-insulate his house from airplane noise.

A drunken young female exited a downtown club and wandered across the street, where she was brushed by a passing car and knocked down.  She was totally, legally in the wrong, but guess whose insurance had to pay, and whose premiums went up.  A 19 year-old male rode his bicycle through a crosswalk, against the traffic flow, and was struck by a car making a turn.  It’s illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, and it’s illegal to ride a bicycle through a crosswalk, and he just found out why, but pedestrians and bicyclists don’t carry insurance.

I think the next park festival we hold should be a Bring-In-Your-Ego Fair.  There’ll be some whose egos are so big, they can’t drag them in.  For the rest, it could be like a children’s face-painting booth.  On this one, we could brush some care and consideration for others.  On that big bloated ego we could paint some vertical stripes, so it doesn’t look so huge.  Think it’ll work?  Nah!  Me neither.