A Corny Ending

For all my interest in ancient cultures, my pondering mind was set ablaze when I stumbled upon the ” Popol Vuh “. Discovered in 18th century Guatemala, translated by Dominican priest Fransisco Ximenez;  Popol Vuh is the creation story of the Mayan people. Much attention has been given to the end of the Mayan long calender on Dec. 21 of this year. End of days prophecies from the Hopi to Nostradamus abound. Now I find myself including Monsanto in the script.

Popol Vuh teaches us that the Mayan creator started with animals. Man came next; proving to be a little trickier. Two races of man were made, one of mud the other of wood. Both attempts failed to embrace the world. A third race, this time of corn exceeded their wildest expectations. So much so that the creator hid their abilities from them. Over time the “corn people” lost respect for the creator and all he had made. They were unable to understand a need for balance in the natural world.

The corn people are starting to sound a lot like us. Most of the food manufactured in North America contains high fructose corn syrup. The majority of that corn comes from genetically modified seed. Liberal trade practices combined with massive subsidies to “agribiz” companies have resulted in America flooding the world market with corn. Small farmers south of the border can’t compete. Genetically modified “one crop” seed has put them out of business, as its just too expensive.

A last word of caution – many scientists not on the Monsanto payroll – attribute recent spikes in chronic illness, allergies, and immune system breakdowns to genetically modified plant DNA. Corn being the worst offender.

Popol Vuh tells the story of an ancient people. We can debate ancient creation myths and prophecies till we’re blue in the face. One thing undeniable – employees at Monsanto headquarters refuse to allow any food made from genetically modified sources be served in their cafeteria.

KT Asteroid

Sixty five million years ago the K-T asteroid (Cretaceous-Tertiary) slammed into the Gulf of Mexico. Geologists searching for oil discovered what is believed to be the impact crater; near Chicxulub on Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula. Over 80 miles wide the crater rests in shallow ocean, and is credited to KT; estimated to have been at least 10 miles across.

The force was greater than a billion atom bombs. With speed measured in thousands of miles per second, almost as hot as the surface of the sun, KT vaporized everything within hundreds of miles.  The blast wave travelled at over 10 miles per second, annihilating any living creature long before the debris even reached them. The intense heat incinerated plant life, our world burned as debris from the initial blast rained down. Thousands upon thousands of blast chunks, fell from the sky. Thick smoke made sure anything left alive could no longer bask in sunlight. Lets not forget the tsunami. Estimated to be at least 1000 feet high, scientists have found evidence of Mexico from that period as far north as Colorado. KT triggered earthquakes and land slides, plunged our world into a global winter, and eradicated 70% of life on earth.

History is a funny thing. Most people can wrap their head around the past three, five, or even ten thousand years. Beyond that history tends to enter the realm of science fiction. We know dinosaurs existed, we see their bones in museums, and learn their names as children. The time of man is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of years they ruled supreme. KT was nasty business; yet doubt I would be writing this without it.

Artist's rendering of the asteroid impact that may have led to the K-T extinction event


Something to ponder – I wrote this about my life, yet feel it applies to all our lives. Regret is a heavy burden.

I should have been happy. Understanding the people in my life was reason to celebrate. Instead, tears were feed by incurable sadness.  I’d found my first regret, not for myself, I’m strong now, my vision clear. I wept for others; I wept for words unspoken and lives of those I loved melting into obscurity. I cried for never knowing what might have been if I’d found my voice sooner. Things unsaid, questions unanswered, opportunities missed.

I wanted them back. I wanted to sit Baba down, not as my grandfather, but as John. I would ask him to be kind to my father. I’d tell him how proud I was of my father, I’d make him understand. He should have been told – the measure of a man is not in the car he drove, or the committees he headed.  Someone needed to point out that the worth of a man is quiet and strong, it’s defined by the impact he has on others. I wanted him to know my father was a good man. I could have made him see what his overbearing, condescending, never good enough approach had done to my father. I wanted to shake him, shout at him, tell him that despite everything he had done to squash my father; he had managed to rise above. My father had found his own way, he actually made a difference. There wasn’t a parade, a high school band, strong and quiet my father marched on.

Having straightened John out, I’d ask him about his life. I I knew he owned the land we lived on, that was abundantly clear. I knew his sister and mother lived in a nearby town as we visited them every month or so. I knew at least one of his brothers was killed in the war, and he had a terrible farm accident that nearly killed him. That was it. I wanted to ask him, to understand what made him tick. If I could understand his life, I could understand why nothing my father ever did was good enough. I know he had a kind heart, it simmered to the surface when you least expected it. I doubt he had any idea what he was doing to my dad. Suddenly I wanted to comprehend his life, but it was too late. So I cried.

I wanted my grandmother back. Not as Granny, but as kind, sweet, gentle Annie Gladys. I would put my arms around her, she needed to know that her life hadn’t been defined by John. Her life had mattered. She was an angel, a beacon of light, someone we could always count on. Not once did she raise her voice, solid as granite, she was our foundation. I wanted to tell her everything she had done for us. I wanted her to know that someone recognized her sacrifice, she may have vowed in marriage to love , honor and above all obey. Someone needed to tell her, she hadn’t been lost in that promise. She kept her vows, she was a good wife, and managed, despite it all to touch us with her beautiful spirit.

I couldn’t breathe, at first I thought it was panic, and soon recognized it as incurable despair. I never told her I loved her. Not once. I wanted her back. Had she died thinking we took her for granted. Had I found my voice in time, I might have been able to touch her heart. She needed to know she wasn’t alone, I wanted to be her secret allies, and she had to know someone noticed. I wondered if anyone had ever told her they loved her. I wanted to know if she loved John. I wanted to ask her about her life, her dreams, her childhood.. Then I cried.

My mother’s father was my granddaddy. I wanted him back . Not as Granddaddy, as Cecil. Cec was quiet, I always sensed he had stories to tell. I thought he was cool. We used to sit together in silence at his kitchen table, smoking Black Cat No. 7 cigarettes. He had the thickest, curliest hair. He was so unlike Baba, he was a gypsy, a drifter; he moved his family from place to place working in the mines. He panned for gold; he believed in and searched for the Sasquatch. I had so many questions, I wanted to know everything. I wanted to tell him everything was OK. I hoped his life had made him happy, I wanted him to find a voice. I would listen. I wanted to see a twinkle in his eye. Then I cried.

I wanted my Nana. She was a Margaret, like my mother, everyone called her Madge. I had the most questions for her. My God, she had lived in San Francisco in the 20’s, working as an illustrator for catalogues, then fashion magazines. What was is like. I needed to know. How did she end up with Cec, moving from job to job? I needed to tell her she was responsible for an amazing child. My mother came from this crazy place, I wanted to thank her. In my heart, I’m sure she was brilliant, and then stifled by responsibility and circumstance. Like my mother she was exceptional, what might she have been if left to her own devices. I loved her for her off beat take on life. I loved that even though her garden had arguably the worst soil imaginable, being at least half sand, she always thought she could grow tomatoes. I wanted to tell her that even though her garden may have been hopeless, her greatest accomplishment was in helping my mother grow into an interesting person. I needed to thank her for fostering my mother’s brilliance, for allowing her to be different. I wanted to ask, had she known how remarkable my mother was, or did she take it for granted, as she was remarkable as well. Then I cried.

My regret began to fade. My tears became fence posts. I had spent my whole life, building this fence. It enclosed a meadow. A magical place beyond description. It was here I kept the memories of these remarkable people. I couldn’t have them back, but I could visit them any time I liked.

Atheists Get Penguins for Christmas

As I work in the Hospitality industry, I find myself entering Christmas party season. For the next few weeks, night after night I will cheerfully work with clients to insure the annual office soiree goes off without a hitch. The Christmas party is a big deal. The once a year opportunity for mail clerks and CEO s to be on equal ground. A Christmas party has no social or religious boundaries. It has turkey, trees, and cleverly decorated tables. It doesn’t have even the slightest hint of religious symbolism; unless you count a stray angel or two.

I started to ponder Christmas tonight, my conclusion made me laugh. My chuckle stemmed from the fact that I’ve been so busy making perfect Christmas parties, I failed to notice how little Christmas is left in Christmas. Naturally I scoff at retailers who assault shoppers with Jingle Bells before the half price Halloween candy has left the shelves. Gone are the days of no Christmas until Thanksgiving was finished. Fair enough, Valentines Day is now marketed right after New Year.

This ended with a ponder on what Atheists do at Christmas. Feeling rather sheepish for missing this boat – the answer being – the same as everyone else. A Nativity is rarer than hens teeth, replaced by snowmen, penguins, polar bears, mice, frogs, peacocks, moose; infinite possibilities for cute little baubles.  Christmas decorations have become an office party. All are welcome, drinks are free, and Bing Crosby singing White Christmas could hardly offend anyone.




It occurred to me that vanity should perhaps be the test by which we gauge human evolution. Rather than constructing a timeline of civilization based on flints, tools, and the written word – ponder the evolution of vanity. At what point did early man begin to care about his appearance? Sticking a pin in that moment will solve the riddle of when our known history began.

We became truly “human” when we caught sight of our reflection, and frowned. That frown was the stepping stone to separate mankind from all the other species in our world. Animals groom, humans improve, embellish, and alter. Some animals developed outlandish characteristics to show off during mating season, they never looked in a mirror to see whether they looked fat or silly. The evolutionary leap for mankind was that critical eye, and with it an awareness of trend and opinion. Characteristics that plague us to this day.

Ancient Roman practices of lightening hair with pigeon poop, applying bear grease to stop baldness, wearing a paste of ground herbs and worms to cover gray hair, rinsing your mouth with imported urine from Portugal – Botox injections, Retin A Lap Bands, white strips…..

The moment “keeping up appearances  took hold, we were human. Find the first mirror and you’ll find the cradle of civilization.



Pondering Stephen Harper

Now that Barack Obama is safely in the White House, I’ve turned my thoughts back home. The problem is – I’m not recognizing what I see. Even more disturbing, is the fact that Canadians by nature are a cheerful bunch, willing to accept, overlook, and forgive. We pride ourselves on a set of ideals that this Canadian sees evaporating before my eyes.

The Harper government is now denying chemotherapy to refugees. I can’t think of many things more un-Canadian. For one refugee lucky enough to have settled in Saskatchewan, the provincial government stepped up to cover the costs.

Under Harper, Canada’s military spending is at its highest since the second world war. His government pushed for an extension of military involvement in Afghanistan. He insisted that Canada be involved in the NATO response to Libya, with Canadian jets flying 10% of the sorties. He has been critical of the UN, and outspoken in the defence of Israel.

Harper’s reformist ideology seemingly lacks a place for women, in the form of pay equity or equal rights. The abortion debate has reared its ugly head again, and funding has been cut by almost half for women’s programs. From the arts to environment, principles that Canadians hold dear have been replaced by an unrecognisable right wing agenda.

The Canada I see is not the Canada I know. My Canada is the voice of reason. A nation of peace keepers; the home of Romeo Dallaire and all the unsung heroes from Croatia to Rwanda. My Canada accepts religion, sexual orientation, and race. My Canada doesn’t choose  Justin Beiber over a meeting of provincial premiers, even if Beiber is Canadian. My Canada likes to visit America but remembers what it is that makes us Canadian.

I’m not sure why Stephen Harper wants to re-make Canada, I’m certain however, that we like it just the way it was.

Justin Bieber and Stephen Harper Friday

Bohemian Grove

History sparkles with colourful tales surrounding the true mission of secret clubs and societies. From Knights Templar, Freemasons, Friars Club, to Fred Flintstone’s secret water buffalo handshake –  “old boy” clubs always attract whispers.

Precisely why ponders landed squarely at the door of “The Grove”. Bohemian Grove is an exclusive compound just outside San Francisco  Founded in 1872, every Republican and a handful of Democrat presidents since 1923 have been members. We’re talking FDR, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton to name a few. Toss in CIA directors, heads of  banks, the Federal Reserve, military contractors ( Halliburton ), oil men, railroad men, nuclear and utility CEO’s – you have quite the party.

Best known for a meeting of principals involved in the “Manhattan Project” – hence the atom bomb, it’s the forty foot owl nestled in redwoods that caught my attention. Constructed of concrete and steel, full of audio visual equipment, to this day speaking the voice of former member Walter Cronkite – this mossy old statue is centre stage for the “Cremation of Care” ceremony.

Every July members gather for three weeks of fellowship, bonding, networking, or whatever it is boys do at secret clubs. The “Cremation of Care” ceremony is the grand finale – a performance in the woods, complete with up to 300 participants, pyrotechnics, and over the top production values.The annual gathering concludes with a play written and performed by members in front of the gargantuan owl.

By all accounts; members dubbed Bohos, have a particular fondness for urinating on the old growth redwoods.   So much so that members” freedom to urinate” at will, was taken to court in 1978. Not only has no woman ever become a full member, no woman had ever been employed. When charged with discrimination in hiring, the grove argued in a 1978 court room that female employees would hamper members ability to urinate where and when ever they wanted. Rulings for and against led them to the California Supreme Court in 1985; they lost. Reviews were denied, and it has now become a precedent for tax exempt organizations being excluded from the  “Unruh Civil Rights Act”.

I suppose boys will be boys. These “big boys” happen to like peeing on a forest, in the company of a rather ancient, monolithic owl. I have no problem with that – really no different from blowing off steam at a strip club. Back door deals will always take place – I just wish it didn’t seem so silly. The Knights Templar can have their “Holy Grail”, the “Freemasons” their “all seeing eye”, and the “Bohemian Grove” their musty old owl.

Cosmic Paintball

Who would have thought our salvation may be in the hands of a paintball gun. I’m not referring to the “afterlife”, rather an interesting theory to protect earth from the thousands of asteroids willing to put an end to life as we know it. Hollywood had me sold on the notion that nothing less than a self sacrificing suicide mission, aimed at the heart of any space menace would protect humanity. The funny thing is, I don’t think a Hollywood writer could have come up with cosmic paintball.

Sung Wook Paek is a recent graduate of MIT’s Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He was awarded the 2012 Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition by the United Nations Space Generation Advisory Council.

In a nutshell Paek’s theory is pellets of paint powder fired at an asteroid from close range, in two rounds – one to cover the front, the other the back of the asteroid, would initially bump it off course a little due to the force of impact. After that the paint would double the reflectivity of the sun’s protons and nature would take its course, steering the asteroid away from a doomsday collision with our planet.

A few problems with Paek’s theory – he predicts it would take tons of paint and at least 20 years for the asteroid to safely pass us by. That said, I like the idea of cosmic paintball a lot more than nuclear fire crackers complete with their unpredictable behaviour.


.55 caliber paintball

Sunspot AR1618

A few days ago sunspot AR1618 started to act up. Now ten times wider than Earth, bubbling with plasma  and deciding how big a deal it’s going to make of it – NOAA predicts a 70% chance of M class flares, and 15 of X in the next 24 hours. Any eruption in the next 24 hours will be earth directed.

Solar wind is blowing at a good clip of over 400 Km/sec. At the very least this combination should bring some spectacular auroras.

My solar pondering is not without reason. The ” Carrington event” of 1859 and “Bastille Day event” in 2000 are evidence of why I keep my eye to the sky. If a solar flare equal to the Carrington flare hit earth today our power grid would certainly fail. Ponder life without power for days, weeks, or even months.

Photo of a M1.6 flare on Nov. 20 courtesy NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory

The Greatest Man Made Disaster in North America

The Great Plains stretch from Texas to Canada. In a time before settlement, home to massive herds of buffalo who fed on the thick  layer of protective grass. Prone to periods of drought, it was the grass, with root systems reaching up to five feet deep that trapped moisture and maintained a perfect balance.

In the late 18th and early 19th century the plains enjoyed a period of relief from draught. Believing the rain would continue to fall settlers arrived by the thousands. Land was plentiful. The Homestead Act was revised in 1909 offering 320 acres of free federal land to “homesteaders” willing to try their hand at dryland farming. Up from 160 acres in the original Homestead Act of 1862, and considering the pattern of plentiful rain, it seemed to good to be true.

So began “the great plow”- mile after mile of grassland turned gold, wheat blanketed the land. Throughout the 1920s rain fell, farmers prospered with wheat prices at $2.00 a bushel – possibilities seemed endless. When the stock market crashed in 1929 wheat prices began to slide. Farmers responded by plowing more land, they reasoned that more wheat even at lower prices would maintain their families until conditions improved.

They never considered the rain would stop – the plains fell under a catastrophic drought that would last for the next ten years. The terms “dust bowl” and “dirty thirties” can’t begin to describe the misery. With the protective grass plowed under barren fields, nothing prevented the top soil from turning to dust in the wind.

Imagine day after day, year after year, never being able to go outside without a face mask. Livestock died, their noses, mouths, and lungs caked in mud. Starving rabbits and hungry insects devouring any attempt to grow vegetables. A home where you couldn’t open your windows. Ponder the sun disappearing in the middle of the day behind a curtain of dust, at times hundreds of miles wide. Then your children fall sick, victims of dust related pneumonia.

Hundreds died, thousands left, many more endured. The “dust bowl” is a cautionary tale of what can happen if we ignore the balance of nature. We seem to forget that we can’t control the environment. All the technological advances in the world can’t stop a force of nature. Time to ponder the consequences of our actions.