So Many Distractions

I’m writing too many serious posts these days, but I won’t apologize for it. Not yet. There seem to be a lot of serious things to discuss.

This one tackles something that bothers me on many levels.  It’s the looming disaster known as Global Warming/Climate Change.  Maybe you think “looming disaster” is too strong a statement – but thousands of scientists worldwide are backing it up.

Despite this knowledge, as a society we’re doing very little to improve the situation.  Human nature tends to veer our attention to shorter term pleasures over long term (boring things) such as saving for our own future or saving the planet for for the future persistence of humanity.

Take for example professional sports.  So much time, energy and money goes into the numerous sports leagues around the world.  Not there’s anything wrong with that – they provide joy to millions of fans.  But it seems we should each be putting just as much time/energy/money into whatever is needed to ensure the planet can support life ongoing.  Without that, our favourite hockey teams won’t mean much – in fact they won’t exist at all – and niether will their fans – all of us.

That’s just one example.  To the list we could add the movie industry, travel industry, personal care, even our pets!  We spend billions and billions on these things – and they all have one thing in common.  If the earth can no longer support life they will all be gone.  All of them.

When I hear people say that “we can’t afford a carbon tax” I really can’t believe it.  People, your money will be no good to you in a world with no people.  Sure we could forget about making any changes to our economy – maintain status quo and maintain our current standard of living – for now.  But eventually it will all be gone.  Or we could make the difficult changes now that could lead to sustainable life on our planet.

Right now it’s like we’re all patients who have been given a short time to live unless we make drastic changes to our lifestyle.  But we’re living it up – ignoring doctors orders.  Maybe it’s time we thought about our futures instead?

Vegas Experiences

We recently spent a few days in Vegas.  Krista was attending a conference for public historians and I went along to see what this Vegas place is all about.  I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling but there are plenty of other things to do around this city.  I spent some time touring the strip and most of the hotels/resorts that can be found along the way. One day walked all the way up Las Vegas Blvd through some rather rundown areas, which of course included numerous garish and cheesy wedding chapels, as well as the pawn shop made famous by the tv show “Pawn Stars” (it was crazy busy in there), all the way up to Freemont Street.  That’s the pedestrian zone with the zip line that runs directly above the street.  There are all sorts of interesting and bizarre people and things to see there and along the way.

Before heading down to Nevada I did a bit of searching online to see what kinds of things I might want to do while there.  My search unearthed all sorts of possibilities but the one that caught my eye immediately was the chance to drive a Lamborghini on a race track.  I’ve always dreamed of driving one and here was a chance to get in one and really see what it can do!  So I signed up at Exotics Racing and on April 17, 2018 I finally got to drive a Lamborghini.  It was a Gallardo – the smallest of the 3 current production models – but still plenty of power for this sports car newbie.  The only other thing close I’ve driven before this was a 1980’s Porsche 911 – under the watchful eye of it’s owner.

The experience at Exotics Racing is very professional.  After checking in the first step is attending their classroom training session where they go over the basics of driving a high performance vehicle as well as what you can expect for the rest of the experience.  Next is a couple test laps driven by a staff member in a Porche SUV.  They take it easy on the first lap explaining where to aim/look around each corner, when to brake etc.  On the 2nd lap he really opened it up and, given that it’s an SUV with a higher center of gravity, you really feel the g-force around the corners and the somewhat disconcerting seeming potential for roll-over.  But they are professional drivers and know the limits of these vehicles and like to push those limits within the range that is safe.

After that’s completed the “main event” comes.  Each person is taken for their drive with an instructor “co-pilot” who provides verbal instructions for when to brake, shift gears (all cars are paddle-shifted – no manual transmissions) and where to look etc.  It can take a while to wait your turn with the size of the groups so they encourage everyone to look around and get into any of the cars you want until they’re ready for you to hit the track.  I was surprised at the open access to all the cars – it was really cool being able to hop in and out of so many supercars. Here’s a few video clips I took with my GoPro wandering around and getting in and out of some of these very expensive vehicles.

The other cool thing they do is record the entire experience on the track for you and put together this neat video (below).  There is an additional charge for the priviledge of having the video to keep of course, but it’s a very well done presentation and in my case I know it’s something I will watch over and over again.  Near the beginning you’ll see another car enter the track before I go – that is a professional driver taking someone for a ride in their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat edition (over 700hp).  He gets the back end drifting around all the corners.  Near the end of the video my instructor makes a crack about me being a pretty good driver “for a Canadian”.  Bit of an inside joke since before hand he told me he was born in Red Deer Alberta 🙂  Apparently the Gallardo is one of the more difficult cars to handle as well – the brakes are very sensitive especially.  All things considered I think I did pretty well, and managed to pass the more powerful Huracan to boot.

This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  There are lots of other “extreme” experiences available in Vegas – shooting off many types of guns is one of them, and I heard that you can even drive a tank over a car at one place!  But driving a Lamborghini was the experience of a lifetime I was looking for and I’m so glad I did it.

The Brier is On

Yup, we’re talking curling here.  The Brier is the men’s Canadian championship in curling and we’re right in the middle of it right now.  Until I moved to Northern Ontario less than a decade ago I had no interest in the sport.  Looking for something to do in the winter months in Thessalon I joined a curling team and quickly discovered the charm of this very Canadian of pastimes. Now during the winter you can find me watching curling on tv, playing in the weekly men’s league in Thessalon, and joining in bonspiels (curling tournaments) whenever possible.

It wasn’t until I had played that I started taking an interest in watching the “pros” on tv.  Getting out on the ice yourself you discover just how long that sheet of ice is and how difficult it is to make the shots that those more experienced make look easy.  I’m also not really a “sports guy” – I don’t really watch any other sports much on tv.  But curling is a bit different.  The majority of the “pros” in Canada have other jobs – curling isn’t a career like NHL hockey player or golfer.  There is money in it, but not enough to sustain the average person’s lifestyle.  This makes it more “real” to me and is part of what makes it so easy to support.

Playing curling is different than other sports too.  It is a sport of graciousness and sportsmanship taken to a higher level.  Games always start with a handshake and “good curling” with the opposing team members.  If the game is nearing the end and it is unlikely that one team could catch up then they shake hands and concede the game – before the technical end of the game.  Now if I happen to catch a hockey game it seems ridiculous watching the underdog continue to try to score when they’re down 5 goals and there’s 2 minutes left in the game.  Imagine if they just shook hands and conceded the game!  That is class.  And at the end of the curling match it is tradition to sit down with your opponents, enjoy a beverage and spend some time together.  From what I hear this happens even at the top levels of curling competition. The community aspect of the sport is as much a part of the game as what happens on the ice.

The other great thing about curling is that people of all ages can enjoy playing the game.  Delivering of rocks can now be done using a “stick” so that the player doesn’t have to get down in the hack, avoiding all that bending and getting back up off the ice. In our club we have people in their late eighties still getting out and playing each week.

Curling is a community activity that provides all sorts of benefits to the members of that community.  I’m glad I discovered this, even if it came a bit later in life!

Diseased

I don’t know about you but right now I’m feeling underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. It’s not really a good feeling. There are so many things to think about – to be worried about – in our world today. And there don’t seem to be a lot of answers or solutions. I work in an organization focused on wildlife preservation and the outdoors and we do lots of great work. At the same time I wonder (doubt?) if it’s enough. Things are changing at a rapid rate and we are still doing destructive things to our environment – our world and even beyond. To be honest it’s way too much for me to think about most of the time and I’m one of the ones who often buries my head in the sand and just tries to forget about it all. That adds to my feeling of uneasiness though and there’s the guilt that comes along with it.

But there are so many things to try to tackle and ignoring the issues is so much easier. There’s mental health/addictions, political termoil, nuclear threat, hunger/poverty, technology and its part in the destruction of real social networks, economic uncertainty, lack of connection to nature, food security/mass farming, water shortages, drug resistant disease, increased weather related disasters and more.

Art by Susie Campbell

Recently our city of Sault Ste. Marie was featured in a W5 documentary about the opiod crisis which has grasped many cities around the country. So many people are dealing with addiction issues and the availability of these extremely potent, often fatal, drugs are putting a massive strain on addicts, their families and the underfunded system that is supposed to try to protect people from themselves. The statistics are staggering and the stories about people who live right here in our city, who are dealing with this on a daily basis, made it real for many in our community who didn’t know, or didn’t want to believe that there’s a problem. I think many people’s eyes have been opened. Unfortunately it will likely be just another issue to turn a blind eye to after the initial shock wears off. Even worse, there are many around who think that it’s the addict’s fault – that they don’t change their ways because they don’t want to. Or that addiction isn’t a “disease” because the person made a choice to start doing drugs. This black and white way of looking at things isn’t the addict’s reality though. There are many issues including poverty, mental health issues, social issues etc. that feed into it. Sure it may have been a bad decision to start doing drugs but that doesn’t mean that addiction isn’t a true disease, any more than cancer, diabetes or schizophrenia are real diseases. And there’s still this perception that if it’s “in your head” it’s not a disease. I know first hand that people experiencing any sort of mental health issue can have very real symptoms that are just as debilitating as diabetes, a broken leg or even the flu. The reality is that all pain is “in your head” since without the brain you wouldn’t feel pain – whether that pain is being triggered by you leg, your lungs or your mind. It is an extreme over-simplification to only attribute illness to some organs and not others.

We all have stories of people who are close to us dealing with difficult things in their lives. Just this week a family member was suicidal and in need of police and medical intervention. Another friend is having to go through yet another round of chemotherapy to try to keep the cancer that is spreading through her body at bay. All difficult and overwhelming situations.

But I guess in a few days I might have buried my head in the sand and things may look rosy again.

This Parenting Thing

Being a parent is hard – any parent will tell you this, and it is true some of the time of course.  Most people know that being a parent will be difficult before they become one, I was no exception.  But for me the parts that are hardest aren’t what I expected them to be.  Sure, there are the sleep deprived nights, the endless diaper changes and sometimes crying that goes on longer than you think you can bear.  But there are other aspects of having a little one around that affect a person – maybe on a deeper level – that I for one hadn’t really taken much time to consider and caught me off guard a bit.  Having a child will likely change your perspective on a lot of things.

You will want to spend time doing things that you didn’t like doing before, just because you will enjoy those things with your child and see the excitement in their little face. The time that we spend together playing with playdough, colouring, stacking blocks is a lot of fun.

You also might find that you approach the world differently in general.  I’ve realized that overall my approach to life has been to try to convince myself that I don’t really care about results – and if successful in that approach then I really have nothing to lose – within reason of course.  In the end it meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about the potential results of what I did or my actions, allowing me to focus on experiencing life and less worrying about potential failures.  For someone like me, who is generally fairly motivated to take action and complete things I set out to do, this works.   In many ways it’s an easier and calmer way to live for me, and it turns out, much more difficult to live by when you have someone who looks up to you, relies on you for everything.  Taking a risk becomes more difficult with the knowledge that another life is completely reliant on you.  It was an eye opening experience to discover some of these things that were going on in my head that I didn’t even really realize were there at the time.

Now I will try to take the important parts – the parts that allow a calmer way of living – and integrate them into the greater reality of parenting and life in this day and age.   Perhaps the need for peace and the need for security can co-exist in a more natural way.  And of course I’ll continue to enjoy playing with toys and an energetic and imaginative toddler.

The Critters

Around our home we have a couple of pets who keep us entertained and sometimes keep our feet warm on a cold night. As they are cats they also help keep our previously mouse infested home somewhat less covered in mouse dirt.  The first cat we got was found through an ad on Kijiji.  The owners were moving to a new home that wouldn’t accommodate their 3 cats so they were giving them away.  The other two had already found their new homes when we went to meet “Kaley”.  While there we happened to notice a sign on a door in their home.  “Please keep bathroom door closed or cat will poop in shower”.  Hmm this could be interesting we thought.  After we brought the cat home we didn’t really feel the name Kaley suited her.  Krista and I couldn’t help but notice the cat’s well fed girth so she ended up with the nickname Chub Chub.  Eventually that was shortened to CC and that’s been her name ever since.  Oh, and yes, she is the cat that poops in the shower… once in a while when she feels the need to let us know she isn’t pleased.

A few years later we were visiting Krista’s parent’s farm where they have a continuous stream of new barn cats being born at any given time.  This particular visit there was a litter that included a little gray runt with a funny high pitched meow.  The barn cats are often given table scraps to eat and one day while we were there a plate covered in bacon grease was left out for the cats.  The little gray one decided that a good roll on the plate was what she needed and for weeks following she smelled like bacon.  On our next trip down to visit we decided to take that little cat home and she’s been known as Bacon ever since.

So there you have it, the story of CC and Bacon, the cats of Oslicken Acres.

A New Painting

For a number of years now I have dabbled in abstract painting. For the last year or more I haven’t spent much time exploring that avenue, but recently I finished another painting and I’m hoping to do more on a regular basis. I’m fairly pleased with the result I achieved on this painting.  I  have other paintings I’ve done as well as some that Krista and I painted together on my website.  I would also like to further explore the methods used by another painter I am a fan of – Gerhard Richter.  Krista got me a DVD which shows Gerhard painting and it’s fascinating to watch!

Camping: A Weekend of Firsts

This coming weekend we have booked a campsite at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Superior. This will be our daughter’s first camping trip and that makes it an extra special outing for us!  It’s also our first visit to Pancake Bay. We’ve heard good things about it and are looking forward to checking it out for ourselves. Additionally it will be the first time we take our little camper trailer out since we purchased and refurbished it.  I bought it a couple of years ago and have been slowly working away at getting it roadworthy and ready for camping again. It’s been a lot of work and there is still more to go but it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding process.

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Our refurbished camper

Upgrades to the trailer have included: new axle/rims/tires, exterior LED running/tail lights, battery, solar panel, power inverter, leveling jacks, sofabed cushions, curtains, window screens, roof vent, front window covers, exterior storage hatch latch and door step. I also removed a storage closet to make the interior space more roomy and replaced rotted wood where there had been leaks in the past (oh and fixed leaks!).

Still to come is interior and exterior painting, new flooring and whatever other new projects I come up with! In the mean time we will be enjoying our first trip in our little camper that is uniquely ours.

Around The Apple Trees

The property we now call Oslicken Acres has some interesting stories attached to it. As we spend time in the house and around the land we sometimes get a feeling of that history coming to life, as well as physical reminders of those who came before us.

A year or so after moving in I noticed a little clearing visible in the forest beyond an open field area. Upon closer inspection I found in that clearing a stack of rocks and a small plastic box. On the bottom of the box was stamped the words “Cremation Services”. The box was laid back on it’s spot on the rock pile where it now remains.  It’s still a mystery as to who is eternally resting there.

It has also been said that one of the couples who owned the property are
buried under an apple tree here. There are a number of apple trees on the property so we try to avoid digging near any of them! We also have a section of trail through the forest that is consistently a number of degrees cooler than other areas around the property. If our cat CC sees us walking in that direction she will often begin caterwauling, which we have to assume is a warning for us not to proceed. We have never heeded the warning, and so far we are still ok, but we wonder what she knows that we don’t!

We also have a regular visitor to our home in the form of a small bird. There are a lot of birds around but this particular bird seems to desperately want to come into the house.  It repeatedly flies up to our bedroom window and flaps it’s wings against the glass. This has been happening off and on for the last few years.  It’s very likely that there’s a simple explanation for this behavior, but I often wonder if a former resident is trying to return to the home that they know.

There is something satisfying and comforting to me that our time here is just a small blip in even the short history of the settlement of this property. Many have come before us and experienced similar things. And many will come after.

Serious Issues Require Serious Reflection and Action

We live in a world with many issues and problems. This isn’t news to most of us. If you look at things from a high level you’ll see international conflict/war, poverty/hunger, environmental issues, political corruption and numerous other important issues to consider. Environmental problems are vast and include oil spills, invasive species, oceans filling with garbage, nuclear plant failures, carbon emissions, endangered species etc. The list goes on and on, and for most of us it can quickly become overwhelming thinking about these issues and what we might be able to do to help remedy the situation. We know these problems exist and we want to help correct them but often feel helpless to really make a difference.

Many of us try to make daily decisions to limit our contributions to the problem somewhat. We recycle what we can to divert garbage from landfill, we don’t litter, and we don’t spray hazardous chemicals on our lawns and gardens. Maybe some of us even grow our own organic vegetables, drive an electric car or have installed solar panels to reduce reliance on outside energy sources. Individually this helps in a small way and we feel better for knowing we’re making an effort to improve the situation. But many of us also have a nagging feeling that what we’re doing isn’t really enough. That as a society we need to do better, but the problems seem so overwhelming that we don’t know where to begin or how to make real difference.

And often this is where our thinking/action on the subject ends. The problems seem so big that it often seems we’re helpless to affect any real change. We leave things in the hands of our government and the big corporations who create the products we buy, the power we consume, and the food we eat. Unfortunately our capitalist society and governmental systems reward short term profitability over long term sustainability. Corporations have an obligation to create shareholder value, in many cases at the expense of the environment. Government officials act in a way that is most likely to get them voted back in when the next election rolls around. That means doing what the most powerful lobbyists push for – those with money – and guess what; that’s those big corporations fighting for shareholder profits.

So as consumers in a capitalist society what can we do? One of the most powerful methods is to vote with your wallet. Buy the organic vegetables that were grown without the use of pesticides/poison. Avoid purchasing products that have excess packaging or packaging that isn’t recyclable. Stop buying products/services from organizations that you know have poor track records when it comes to the environment or other societal implications. Avoid purchasing products containing hazardous chemicals (cleaners, pesticides etc.). Buy products from those who have the overall health of our world embedded into the mission of everything they do and who support full disclosure product labeling so we know exactly what is in the products/foods we buy and how it affects us and our world.

If enough people were to take these steps it would eventually start to affect the profitability of the offending organizations enough to force them to change their ways. Perhaps this seems like a simplification of the problem/solution, and yes there are many complicating factors, but at a basic level we do have the ability to influence things if a critical mass of people were to embrace these types of choices.

I warned you this would be a serious post and I don’t profess to be any better than anyone else out there when it comes to our household’s dealing with these issues. But it seems to me we need to do better for the sake of our world.

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