February: More than romantic love.

February 1, 2016
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Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to winner of the Super Bowl. Photo: SB Davis, at Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH, Sept. 2015

February the month of romantic love. Sorry but in my opinion just another excuse for card companies, florists and chocolatiers to make money. For me February is a month closer to spring and golf season, not only that but it is the shortest month of the year. Hurry up March and spring.

Planet Earth takes 365 and one quarter of our days to make its transit around the sun. How do we reconcile that odd figure? Every fourth orbit around the sun earthlings make an accounting adjustment. The year 2016 is a Leap Year. Normally February has 28 days but in Leap Years (every fourth year) it has 29 days to facilitate this accounting adjustment.

Those who happen to have been born in a leap year on the 29th day of February get to celebrate a birthday only every four years. Nice way to deceive oneself I think.

The big sports event of February is the National Football League’s Super Bowl. This is a major event this month and this year is the 50th time the game has been played. Football makes this a great month, but then the season is over which is sad. The big games is usually played the first Sunday of the month.

The new Canadian flag was introduced in February 1965 which is another reason to celebrate. The red maple leaf gives us a rallying point and has become the symbol of Canada throughout the world.

Here are some other interesting observances for the month of February.

Month-long observances:
American Heart Month – United States
Black History Month- Canada and United States

International Days:
Lunar New Year – Traditional Chinese Calendar
Chinese New Year – Chinese Calendar

Odd or Unusual observances:
National Wear Red Day – Feb 5th United States
First Saturday – Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (I really like the idea of this one)

National, State or Provincial Holidays:
Second Monday – Family Day – British Columbia, Canada
Third Monday – Family Day – Alberta, Canada
(Note: Family Day is now celebrated in other provinces too)
Third Monday – President’s Day – United States
Last Friday – International Stand Up to Bullying Day

February Symbols:
– flower – violet
– birthstone – amethyst
– zodiac signs – Aquarius (until Feb 18th) and Pisces (Feb 19th on)

So enjoy February whatever your perspective.


Canada-US Relations: One Canadian`s view.

January 31, 2016
Vanceboro-Me-AerialView

US-Canada border Vanceboro, Maine and St. Croix, New Brunswick. US to left.

God here we go again Americans are worried about Canada allowing so many Syrian refugees into our country right next door to them. My American friends Canada is an independent country capable of managing our own affairs. We are concerned about terrorism and security the same as you are.

Let me make one thing crystal clear to my American friends and neighbours. Contrary to what the fearmongers in your country preach the 9/11 terrorists did NOT enter the United States of American via Canada. They arrived via Boston’s Logan International Airport right under the noses of your security. Read that again okay just so you get it.

Canada has been America’s steadfast ally through World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and Afghanistan. Our servicemen and women have died fighting alongside your forces. Our Canadian embassy in Iran rescued Americans during the Iranian crisis or the 1970s. Watch the movie Argo we saved your asses.

Sure we have our differences, but we have too many common beliefs and interests. Americans should be thankful they have us as next door neighbours. I haven’t seen pictures of hordes of Canadians trying to sneak across the US-Canadian boundary to seek a better life like along your southern border with Mexico.

I am proud of the fact that my country Canada is a compassionate and caring country toward it own citizens and to others. Refugees and others immigrating legally to Canada are becoming valuable citizens who are contributing to the building of our country. Multi-Culturalism in Canada is one of our key beliefs and Canada is better for it.

As for the current Syrian refugee situation we are bringing a large number to our country subject to extensive vetting and security screening. First we are only allowing families at this time, no single persons. The refugees are vetted via the United Nations agencies initially and then our own security screening overseas before they are approved. Once approved they are screened further upon arrival in Canada before being released within Canada. Once here they are monitored and supported by government and individuals. Canadians have embraced these families. They are already contributing to our society.  Remember these are people who have lived under constant threat of death and torture in their home country. They are not terrorists, they are fleeing terrorism. They are incredibly thankful to be able to live normal lives safe from war.

Canadians are concerned with the apparent rise of fascism and the lack of compassion that seems to be on the rise in your great country. It is unbelievable to me and most Canadians that the United States seems to not care. This is not the America that I know. I have many friends in the US and for my entire life have enjoyed visiting and interacting with them.

Canada and the United States share a continent and the longest common border in the world. Undefended yes, but not unmonitored. I believe and hope our close friendship will continue. I believe the majority of Americans value our friendship. Maybe I’m naive, but we are brothers and sisters. Together we are stronger if we lose this unique relationship both of us will be the poorer for it.


Boomers – We love gadgets too!

January 28, 2016

iPadRecently I registered at an online website, which shall remain nameless, promising to survey me for various consumer studies. I did this so I could have a say on products and manufacturers. As a writer I was also interested in the results of the surveys for informational purposes.

I took the time to carefully complete the demographic form with my information, age, income, occupation, hobbies and interests, etc. This was relatively generic in that no specific personal information was taken such as name, address and phone.

The website in question is for a well-respected and trusted organization. They promote registration and being available for surveys and questions by offering discounts and prizes.

When I finished the form and submitted it, I received a message that they didn’t need me for any surveys at the present time. It seems they’re busy surveying the young generation, 18 to 35, for their consumer habits and opinions.

My generation, the baby boomers born between 1946 – 1964, who now make up over one-third of the population are of little or no interest to retailers. I find this incredible! Most boomers are not rich, but do have abundant disposable incomes. These same boomers are migrating to the internet and tech gadgets in mass numbers right now.

Boomers are using Facebook and other social network sites to keep in touch with children and grand-children around the world. They use computer tools to network with other boomers on health care, recreation, travel, relationship, and products and services.

I was in an Apple store a couple of weeks ago and was amazed to see a class in session on iPhone use. Almost all the attendees appeared to be of my generation, the boomers. When I questioned one of the associates, he told me seniors are buying technology in large numbers. They prefer to buy user friendly products and from retailers who offer training and support.

Although not a boomer, my mother began using the internet several years ago. She is now on Facebook following her children, grand-children and great-grand-children. Sellers are likely not interested in her though, because she is 90 years young. This amazing woman travels extensively on tours and cruises, not rich but certainly with a comfortable level of disposible income to enjoy her life. My brother, sister and myself who are all boomers are close to retirement or retired, have disposal income and all love gadgets and travel. Need I say more? The writing is on the wall.

My message to retailers and manufacturers is this – pay attention to the Boomers – or lose out on the profits to be made and customers to be found.


Jim Thorpe – Athlete Extraordinaire

January 3, 2016
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Jim Thorpe on US stamps.

On a recent visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio I rediscovered the remarkable Jim Thorpe. Thorpe was a Native American who was voted the athlete of the first half of the 20th century. He excelled in football, track and field, baseball and basketball.

The entrance to the Hall of Fame is a tribute to Thorpe. There is a larger-than-life gold statue of him and a special hall dedicated to his accomplishments. Turns out he was one of the founders of the National Football League (NFL).

Although football was his self-admitted favourite sport he also played and excelled in many others. In the 1980s he was voted the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century receiving more votes than others such as Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali, Wayne Gretzsky, Jack Nichlous, and Babe Ruth.

James Francis “Jim” Thorpe was born May 22, 1887 in Oklahoma. He was a Sac and Fox Native American whose name Wa-Tho-Huk is translated as “Bright Path”. Thorpe had natural athletic talent and excelled in a variety of sports from an early age. Jim attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There the famous coach Pop Warner developed his talent.

He tried out for and made the American Olympic Team competing in the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. His primary events were the gruelling pentathlon and decathlon. Jim won gold medals in both events setting records that stood for decades.

Six months after the Games it was discovered he had played minor league professional baseball prior to the games. This was a strict no-no at the time. He was paid about $50 for his six games. Most white athletes did the same thing, but they used aliases to prevent their discovery. Jim’s mistake, he didn’t. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) reviewed his case and in the end stripped him of his medals, records and other awards. However the IOC didn’t follow their own rules. The Olympic rules said that any appeals must be filed within 30 days of the closing of the Games. The objections weren’t filed until 6 months after the Games.

In 1982 the Jim Thorpe Foundation with the support of the US Congress petitioned the IOC to reverse their 1913 ruling. They were successful and on January 18, 1983 the IOC presented commemorative medals to two of Jim’s children in a special ceremony. His original medals were stolen from a museum and to this day have never been recovered.

After the Olympic Games ended in 1913 he played professional baseball for the National League champion New York Giants and later the Boston Bears and the Cincinnati Reds. He retired from baseball in 1919.

Next he played professional football with the Canton Bulldogs of the fledgling American Professional Football Association (APFA) the forerunner to the NFL. Jim played six seasons from 1920 to 1928. He retired at age 41. Thorpe was First Team All-Pro in 1923, NFL 1920s All-Decade Team, NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, College Football Hall of Fame, and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1963. He is one of 17 players in the Hall in the charter class. Jim was the first president of the APFA from 1920 to 1921 while at the same time playing. He is considered one of the founders of the NFL.

Books have been written about his life and accomplishments. He faced much racism during his career, but his feats endeared him to the world regardless. In his personal life he struggled with chronic alcoholism. Jim married three times and had 6 children. He died March 28, 1953 at his home in Lomita, California with his wife at his side. He was 64 years of age. He is buried in the town named for him Jim Thorpe, PA.

Thorpe was memorialized in the 1951 Warner Bros. film “Jim Thorpe – All American” starring the great American actor Burt Lancaster as Thorpe. Contrary to rumours he was paid the considerable sum of $15,000 for the story. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has issued a 20c and a 32c commemorative postage stamps honouring him.

Some of the greatest tributes were from his fellow competitors. Future President Dwight Eisenhower who played against him in college recalled of Jim in a 1961 speech,

“Here and there, there are some people who are supremely endowed. My memory goes back to Jim Thorpe. He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw.”

Martin Sheridan, a five-time Olympic gold medalist said in 1909 while shaking his hand after watching Thorpe destroy all his previous records,

“Jim, my boy, you’re a great man. I never expect to look upon a finer athlete.”

Jim Thorpe, All-American truly was a remarkable athlete and person.


Gun violence in Calgary.

November 6, 2015

WeaponsSeizureCouttsBorderJan8-2009

Calgary has seen a epidemic of gun violence this week and over the last few months, yet Canada has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the world so what is happening. It sure isn’t the legitimate gun owners who are the problem.

For a Canadian to possess a gun they must complete a safety course and have a background check. Those with criminal records are not allowed to own guns. Having the proper approvals they must present the documentation at the time of the purchase. Guns can be sold only through licensed dealers and not at flea markets. Even private sales have to meet this criteria. Gun owners are required to notify the police of a transfer of ownership. This applies to rifles and shotguns. Military weapons, machine guns, full automatics and others are completely restricted. Handguns are totally restricted unless a person has a special permit to have one. These are extremely difficult to obtain. Gun owners are also required to keep guns properly stored under lock and key. Ammunition must be stored separately under lock and key.

Well I hate to tell you this but bad guys aren’t going to get permits to have guns. I can see it now. Joe Gangmember getting ready to do a drive-by shooting tells his boss gee I need to get a permit otherwise the hit is off. God forbid I go stick-up that bank without proper permits. Yeah right.

Simple Answer – keep the guns out of the hands of criminals. That`d be a start. Easier said than done, but we have to try. How to do that is a big question, but the police and justice system better start figuring a way. We are reverting to our wild west days and someone is going to get hurt or killed besides the bad guys. You know when it comes right down to it I don’t care if bad guys kill bad guys, that’d be a good thing, but the bullets fly in public places and hurt innocent people. So unless we can get the bad guys to kill each other in a private place away from the public we need a solution.

The bad guys get guns from two main sources. First from break-ins or thefts from homes and businesses where there are firearms. Second from other criminals who smuggle them in from the neighbouring USA where gun laws are much looser. Handguns are easy to obtain in the USA. It is illegal to bring them into Canada, but that is obviously happening and on a large scale. Every once in a while we read of a seizure of guns at the border crossings, but the authorities can`t catch them all. So here`s some suggestions for the police and justice system.

Potential solutions to these shootings in the city,
– increase scrutiny at the border crossings.
– charge gun owners who don`t store firearms and ammo properly.
– clamp down on break and enters, especially where firearms are known to have been taken.
– concentrate police resources on criminals known to use firearms.
– deny bail to those who use firearms in the commission of a crime
– increase penalties to perps who use firearms in the commission of a crime.

We need answers. Do you have any ideas? I`d love to hear them.


The Greatest Generation

November 5, 2015
One of many cemeteries in Europe where Canada's war dead lie.

One of many cemeteries in Europe where Canada’s war death lie.

On November 11, 2015 it will be 70 years since the end of the Second World War 1939-1945 and over 100 years since the beginning of the Great War 1914-1919.

Tom Brokaw’s  famous book, “The Greatest Generation”, is in my opinion one of the best reads on war and sacrifice. It is a collection of stories from veterans and their wartime experiences. It’s not about generals and strategy, but rather about ordinary people and how they stood up and fought for our freedom against the evil forces seeking to destroy and conquer the world. Although American it applies to all who were of that generation. These people grew up in the Depression of the 1930s and did what had to be done in the 1940s. They made it possible for us to have the society we have today. The following quote from the book says it all

“They came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America – men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement, and courage gave us the world we have today.”

These men returned from the horrors of war to short-lived celebration and then resumed their lives as best they could. For years they never talked about their experiences. All that changed after fifty years when they realized age was killing them off at a rapid rate. They didn’t want to tell their stories to glamourize war, but so that we would never forget. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to know some older vets who told me of their experiences. It is incredible to see a vet tear up when he remembers a buddy from all those years ago. They remember the friends they lost like it was yesterday such was the horror of it. To all the vets who tell the stories thanks for letting us know what it was really like.

To younger people if you want to know about wars don’t read the accounts of generals and politicians, read the stories of ordinary people, the soldiers who went through the mud, the fire, and the blood. For Canadians there is “Testaments of Honour: Personal Histories of Canada’s War Veterans” by Blake Heathcote which I highly recommend.

Other books to read are Stephen Ambrose’s “Citizen Soldiers” or Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day”. These books are far more interesting and enlightening then some general’s memoirs. The movie “Saving Private Ryan” which revolves around the D-Day landings is one of the most realistic war movies of all time. Director Steven Spielberg screened it for veterans of D-Day to get their input. To a man they liked it, but said it lacked one thing, the smell. They told him the smell of blood, gore, death and cordite from shells was overpowering during the combat. They also told him the noise level pierced them to the very soul. These were the things they still remembered all those years later.

When you attend or watch the Remembrance Day ceremonies and you see all the old vets close your eyes and visualize them as young boys and men in their late teens and early twenties preparing to charge off the landing craft into the hellstorm of machine gun fire and shelling. While you’re contemplating that image ask yourself if you could stand up and do what needed to be done.


Minority governments in Canada.

October 18, 2015

canadian-flag-blowing-in-the-wind-PublicDomanThe Canadian election is tomorrow, October 19, 2015. The present government is the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper. They have had a majority government since the election of May 2, 2011. Prior to that the Stephen Harper and his Conservatives were elected twice before, but both times with minority governments.

In 2006 for the first time, but were 30 seats short of a majority. This government lasted 2 years, 207 days (total 937 days) before another election was held. Then in the subsequent election held October 14, 2008 the Conservatives again failed to obtain a majority. This time they fell 12 seats short. This time the minority government lasted 2 years, 4 months, 9 days (total 859 days).

Finally in the next election of May 2, 2011 the Conservatives won the majority they were seeking. The two minority governments he and his party formed are the two longest lasting in Canadian history.

There are pros and cons to both majority and minority governments. Failing to obtain a majority government forces the winning party to work with the other parties on important legislation. This need to compromise is not easy, but if important legislation such as a budget are defeated then the government must resign and another election called. With a majority these is no need to compromise. However, if the government doesn’t take other parties and stakeholders concerns into account then at the next election they may be defeated or lose their majority. Minority governments require a deft balancing act to remain in power.

Here are some interesting facts about minority governments in Canadian history since 1867,
– the longest consecutive term was 937 days (2 years, 6 months, 24 days) by the Stephen Harper Conservatives. Elected January 23, 2006 and dissolved September 7, 2008.
– the shortest duration of a minority government was the John Diefenbaker Progressive Conservatives elected April 12, 1957 and dissolved February 1, 1958. It lasted just 177 days (5 months, 25 days).
– smallest minority was the Stephen Harper Conservative government elected in 2006.
– average duration of minority governments in Canada is 479 days (about 1 year, 140 days)
– first minority government in Canadian history was William Lyon Mackenzie King led Liberals in the election of October 8, 1921. Initially this government held an exact number of seats for a majority but lost two seats in by-elections of 1924 and then continued as a minority government until later in 1924 when another by-election returned them to a majority.

The election of 2015 is too close to call at this writing, but polls show the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau forming a minority government. The other two parties having a realistic chance are the incumbant Conservatives led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Thomas Mulcair. It would be a huge surprise if a majority government is elected on October 15th. Voter turnout is anticipated to be heavy based on the Advance Polls so anything can happen.

** Update – Liberals pull off upset majority government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau) will be sworn in November 4, 2015.


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