Understanding America

Every so often I play a little game called “try to understand America”. Not so much a game as my attempt to put headline American issues into perspective. The “game” demands I remain undaunted by logical dead ends. Rookie game play led to bouts of snippy remarks, indignant preaching and knee jerk tirades. Age has mellowed this opinionated Canadian – thankfully allowing objectivity be heard – even for the briefest of moments. Reaching a point where temperance dictates a “I understand why it’s like that” rather than ” are you out of your freakin’ mind”  – a game move I hope leads to higher levels of understanding.

Take Obamacare for example. I can’t possibly know all the ins and outs – I’m Canadian. My understanding is limited to these observations – Hospitals and insurance is “for profit” in America – “big medicine” likes things just the way they are. Big medicine, big insurance, big pharmaceutical companies have big money at stake. The Koch brothers backed Americans for Prosperity has spent upwards of 30 million dollars on anti Obamacare ads. In July of last year Kantar Media reported ad campaigns for and against were on track to reach a billion dollars by 2015. No surprise is lop-sided distribution at five to one spending by “anti” medicare interests.


America has a deep seated fear of Communism – any idea deemed remotely socialist sends propaganda mills into overdrive. Ad campaigns worthy of cold war hysteria warn of “socialized” government run health care. Perish the thought – a nation where each and every citizen received equal treatment! The horror unleashed if medical care was available to all, regardless of income – followed by laughable comparison to the Veteran’s Administration – Americans asked if they wanted to be treated like the soldiers fighting for their country. Holy crap.

Media stories warn of social medicine catastrophes in Canada and the UK. Dire tales of government bureaucrats dictating when and where citizens receive treatment, long waiting times for scare or limited treatment – absolute hogwash. Sure, we might have to wait a while for non life threatening surgery. That said, cancer treatments, chemotherapy, heart specialist – no problem. Canadians can even register on line to receive results from blood or urine lab tests  at the same time as your doctor. Socialized medicine isn’t perfect, nor is it a detriment to anyone other than profit driven egg heads – there’s a reason why busloads of Americans cross the border to fill prescriptions – costs are controlled.

Attempting to understand health care in America is depressing – money spent on advertising, lobbying and mud slinging alone could finance a small nation. Fear mongering plays directly to the heart of American psyche – I get it. I get it and understand “profit” is king. The Obama administration never stood a chance, the American political structure binds the hands of change as fear, spin doctoring and misinformation muddy the waters.

This Canadian understands. This Canadian is proud to list Tommy Douglas – the founder of Canadian social medicine as one of her heroes. Douglas, a Baptist minister who left the church over their troubling obsession with “life after death”, in favor of politics – a place where he could help people before death.




Neighborhood Soil

I suspect my love of soil is a product of  rural upbringing – barefoot summers between rows of fruit trees, freshly tilled earth, the vegetable garden – soil took on familiar scents akin to that first whiff of spring or frost following summers’ last gasp. Soil has magical properties – a deep turn of the shovel reveals its life giving power. One whiff, enough to determine potential locked inside nature’s garden.

Good soil assaults the senses – black, layered with decomposed organic material, crawling with worms, odors of musky promise – capable of plucking primal strings, a reminder of ancient seeds responsible for humanity.

My garden doesn’t have the best soil. It took me two years to see earth worms wriggling in the flower beds after sixty year old plumbing forced total excavation and replacement of the drainage system. Living in a rain forest doesn’t help – turn away for an instant and moss carpets everything in sight.

Today was a glorious spring offering – the warmest day this year at almost 20 C, a day scented with blossoms and freshly turned soil. At first earthly perfume registered as nothing more than a neighbor gardening. Soon I noticed people walking past my house with buckets and wheel barrows. Down the street I could make out a huge pile of black earth.

Vancouver is full of traffic calming circles planted and maintained by local residents. The homeowner adjacent to one a few blocks down had called the city requesting some top soil for the circle garden. The city obliged – not with a few cubic yards but an entire dump truck load. Placing what was needed in the public garden – the remainder was up for grabs.

I can’t say which is happier – myself or my garden. Intoxicating aromas of rich soil waft through my open window, the garden freshly dressed and full of promise.


Blood Moon and Doom

Tuesday April 15 will bring a total lunar eclipse starting at 3:06 am EDT. It also happens to be the first in a rare series of four total lunar eclipses known as a Tetrad. October 8 2014, April 4 2015 and September 28 2015 complete the set. These dates happen to correspond with Jewish holidays of Passover and Sukkoth – they also bear the distinction of “blood moon” – so called because light from the sun “bends” in the atmosphere often casting a reddish or coppery glow on the eclipsing moon.

Vigilant Christian “end timers” go bat shit over astronomical happenings. These are the moments they live for – convoluted windows of cosmic justification proving once and for all they had it right. Logical scientific fact, nothing more than irrelevant poppycock when weighed against a biblical “blood moon”.

The Sun shall be turned into darkness, and the Moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. – Joel 2:31, quoted in Acts 2:20

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake, and the Sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the Moon became as blood. – Revelation 6:12

Jay Ryan is a home-schooling father from Cleveland Ohio who writes a “Christian Astronomy” newsletter for Christian home school families. A quick peak at his site and search of the term “blood moon” led to the “Blood Moon Prophecy” website.


Not to be accused of giving anything away for free, I skimmed over pages of “thought provoking” questions aimed at thinning Christian wallets in exchange for definitive answers. Good Christians were asked not to be discouraged by the “end times” bust of December 21, 2012 – counseling the faithful not to overlook blood moon prophecies apparent apathy, a syndrome the author hypothesized as collective embarrassment over previous doom prophecy gong shows.

According to the author – lunar eclipses (blood moons) are signs from God to judge the nation of Israel. Previous Tetrads used as historical proof were – 1492, Jews expelled from Spain – 1948, creation of the state of Israel – 1967, the six day war between Israel and Egypt. The reader was reminded that God has a plan – the deliberate refusal of political and religious leaders to not pay attention to prophetic scriptures – actions destined to bite mankind in the ass.

Not related in any way to blood moon prophecy yet lurking around every corner was the recurring theme I found disturbing. Judgement day jibber jabber is one thing -hardly a topic to knot my socks – though I worry about those home schooled kids, lamenting another generation of misinformed individuals. The eye opener beneath all the hot air prophecy prickling was an hysterical level of anti Muslim sentiment. I go out of my way to avoid these kind of pages, honestly never having the inclination click on one before. Suddenly it became crystal clear why fundamentalist bull horns equate Obama with Islam – a holy crap moment best left for another post.

Deborah Byrd at earthsky.com wrote a great article on Tuesday’s Blood Moon and the Tetrad of lunar eclipses. Linked below and worth a read. Mark Tuesday on your calendars and try to ponder the blood moon of doom.




Lunar eclipse coming this weekA lunar eclipse is framed in a church’s steeple cross just west of Ottawa on Feb. 20, 2008. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)



Vancouver Vaisakhi 2014

Vaisakhi is an annual festival celebrated by Sikhs. Part harvest or “thanksgiving”, part commemoration for founding of Khalsa in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Guru of the Sikhs. Khalsa represents code of conduct and commitment to the faith – once baptized, members adhere to the five K’s.  Kesh – uncut hair, Kanga – wooden comb, Kara – iron bracelet, Kacchera – specific cotton underwear and Kirpan – dagger or sword. Symbols identifying their commitment to uphold Sikh ideals of honesty, equality, fidelity, meditation on God, not bowing to tyranny and protecting the weak. Sikhs are forbidden to dishonour their hair, eat meat slaughtered in the Muslim way, cohabitate with anyone other than their souse or use tobacco. The following link gives a more detailed history.


Vancouver has one of the largest Sikh populations outside India. Vaisakhi celebrations in British Columbia take place over two consecutive weekends. Today marked the Vancouver parade, next Saturday Surrey holds an even larger celebration. Work permitting we never miss an opportunity to walk the parade route.

Vaisakhi makes everyone feel welcome. It doesn’t matter if you understand the nuances, speak the language or know Sikh history. Music and laughter fill the air, warm smiles extend past religious and cultural borders. Vaisakhi lifts spirits while serving as ambassador to the true meaning of multiculturalism.

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El Nino Watch

Climate change is bad for business; unless you happen to corner the market on fresh water or profit in some way from calamity, climate change is best debunked and ridiculed. Dismissive snorts escape big business boardrooms  Bottom line dollars, and profit regardless of impact make the subject far too treacherous to acknowledge.

Global warming reached its zenith with Al Gore – An Inconvenient Truth ranked as one of the highest grossing documentaries of all time. Sharing in a Nobel prize and Oscar helped to propel his message into the consciousness of millions. Cynics might argue the millions he profited along the way emit a mighty “green” stench. Sure his personal wealth hit the jackpot – from a couple of million as Vice President to hundreds of millions investing in “green” technology companies. Just because he gained from companies supplying carbon emission testing equipment to industry, smart meters or sustainable energy technology doesn’t make him a piranha. His twenty room, eight bathroom mansion uses more electricity in a month than the average household uses in a year – at least he got us thinking, right?


I’m not pondering Gore’s legacy or corporate denial. This isn’t about pointing fingers, laying blame or splitting hairs. Sure I’m disgusted by big business smoke screens – tactics used by each and every interest with something to gain or loose, from governments to the private sector – stir the pot, divide the masses, create confusion, and avoid reality long enough to keep the money rolling in.

Scientists are tracking a massive warm water anomaly in the Pacific Ocean. Large enough to cover the United States to a depth of 300 feet, this troublesome “blob” typifies changing weather patterns. At the moment a “sub-surface”event, quickly poised to become a formidable El Nino as wind and ocean currents push it closer to the surface.

El Nino is characterized by warmer than average ocean temperatures in the Pacific ocean. Warmer ocean means warmer air, and warmer global temperatures. El Nino years see dry countries flood – increased water a breeding ground for insect populations like mosquitoes which spread disease. Wet countries experience drought – crop failure and forest fires follow. Ocean currents change as a result of wonky trade winds – countries dependant on fishing suffer as “fish kills” or changes in migration deplete fishing grounds. The last El Nino year of 1997 is credited with 23,000 deaths and over 30 billion dollars damage worldwide.





Canadian Zombies

One of my children used to have zombie nightmares. Not your run of the mill, average “don’t worry, it was just a bad dream” sleep disturbances – full on 3D IMAX extravaganzas occurring frequently enough to deserve a creative solution. Rather than trivializing or poo-pooing Zombie dream invaders, we became a Zombie escape and defense plan family.

With the same matter of fact thinking applied to fire or earthquake scenarios –  Zombie invasion made the list – no more or less important, simply considered from all angles, openly discussed then placed on the shelf within easy reach.

Understanding your enemy is the first step – driven by instinct they can’t form strategies, have no interest in nor ability to zombify the family pets, can’t swim, and can only be put out of their misery by destroying their brain. Armed with practical knowledge, “what ifs” became second nature. “What if” they attacked our house? How about while driving or at the grocery store? What if they came while on vacation or in unfamiliar surroundings? We had practical, fighting chance answers to all those questions.

It wasn’t long before Zombie night terrors became infrequent annoyances. Stripped of all consuming horror by acknowledgement and solutions. Along the way offering years of entertaining, hypothetical debate.

Michael Ross, a University of Alberta Engineering grad recently compiled a list of Canadian cities most and least likely to survive a Zombie attack. Based on criteria such as population density, proximity to military bases, climate and obesity/fitness  – his conclusions are linked below. Naturally gun ownership was a factor –  knowing what I do about Zombies I highly doubt our gun toting neighbors to the south should shrug off or exclude Zombie outbreaks from their list of paranoia.



For Americans seeking their chance of surviving a  Zombie apocalypse click on the link below.



Happy Mars Day

April 8, 2014 is “Mars Day”. Tonight Mars will be in “opposition” to the Sun – from an Earthly perspective, Mars appears opposite the Sun as Earth orbits between the two. Since orbits are uneven, all oppositions are not equal -this April Earth hurtles past Mars on its closest orbit since 2007. Tonight Mars practically begs us to look at night sky – it doesn’t matter where you live, Mars shines as brightly as any object in the sky.

Orbiting the Sun on tilted axis may result in seasons and polar caps, but little else in common with Earth. Liberal science fiction conjures images of a “red planet” – red equated with images of sweltering heat rather than an abundance of iron or knowledge of a -60 degree Celsius average temperature.  Home to Olympus Mons – three times taller than Mount Everest, soaring 27 Km. above the surface – the solar systems’ tallest peak.  The greatest valley, Valles Marineris, – 10 km. deep running for 4000 km., as well as raging dust storms lasting months at a time.

Mars is in front of the constellation Virgo.  Spica is Virgo's brightest star.  EarthSky Facebook friend Henrique Feliciano Silva in Lisbon, Portugal photographed Mars and its surrounding stars and created this great star map.  Thank you, Henrique!

Mars is in front of the constellation Virgo. Spica is Virgo’s brightest star. EarthSky Facebook friend Henrique Feliciano Silva in Lisbon, Portugal photographed Mars and its surrounding stars and created this great star map. Thank you, Henrique! View more photos by Henrique Feliciano Silva.

Our skies finally cleared allowing for this “screen shot” of Mars courtesy Google Sky Map on my android phone.

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Anyone who hasn’t put this app on their phone needs to do so immediately.


Link to Mars facts….