Monday, October 22, 2018

Here we go again

I suppose it's useful that some things are entirely predictable, returning in a cyclical way. Case in point: To Kill a Mockingbird is in the headlines again.
Last time this was because Harper Lee had died and her heirs were playing sillybuggers with her reputation. Before that it was some school in one of the benighted parts of the southern USA which had banished the book from consideration in English classrooms because (and I don't suppose my recollection here is literally accurate) the word “nigger” appeared in it no fewer than nineteen times and besides, it didn't paint a very nice picture of poor white people.
This time it's because “Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services at Peel District School Board” has written a memo on behalf of her Board:
“The use of racist texts as entry points into discussions about racism is hardly for the benefit of Black students who already experience racism. This should give us pause — who does the use of these texts centre? Who does it serve? Why do we continue to teach them?”
and furthermore
“White writers write from their own schemas, their own perspectives and white supremacist frameworks that reflect the specificity of their culture and history on racialized peoples.”
Now I'm quite prepared to believe that Ms Grewal is expert in detecting racism and even that her opinions on the subject have some basis in reality, but my experience tells me she has either no idea about, or has forgotten the realities of, teaching English to students in Grade 9 or 10, when this novel is usually taught.
As any thinking person might expect, there are reasons why the book is as widely taught as it is. The most important of these reasons is, of course, that it has featured on English curricula for a very long time, and therefore there are many copies in the bookroom. I believe BC classrooms were first exposed to it in the late '60s, when all textbooks were sourced from (and incidentally, paid for by) the Ministry, which ran an enormous warehouse for textbooks. The downside of this scheme was of course that only Ministry textbooks filled the book rooms of the province's high schools; the upside was that teachers knew that the books they used were already Ministry approved and that they almost always could obtain enough for their classes.
Aside: My esteemed colleague, Deane Hutchinson was nonetheless once hauled up in front of the Board in Campbell River to explain why he had had the audacity to use Thomas Hardy's “The Mayor of Casterbridge” (yes, originally procured from the Ministry's own warehouse!) in his Grade 12 English class. Did Mr Hutchinson not understand that in it a woman was sold? And that this was totally inappropriate? asked the trustee from Sayward.
Of course books that were sourced in this way filled the bookrooms of high schools long after the Ministry had outsourced the purchase of books to the schools and school districts. And the results were entirely predictable: “An entire, usable set of a novel appropriate for use in Grade 10? Of course I'll use it!”
Another aside: In several of my schools I was the de-facto co-ordinator of the English teachers. As such I winnowed the unused books in at least three English Resource Rooms. The most memorable of these was when I taught at Phoenix Middle School, which for some reason had inherited all the books from the original school on that site, Campbell River Secondary School. So it was my pleasure to consign to the recycling bins some 250 copies of an inadequately-translated version of “The Illiad” which, near as I could tell, had never been opened.
The second reason for the book's apparent popularity among English teachers: it's a relatively easy read. This fact should not be underestimated in the age of the integrated high school classroom, because
the reading abilities of the students in it capable of reading a novel at all might easily go from university-ready to Grade 6.
And then there's “What will we talk about? What will the students write about? Will it hold their attention?” Suffice it to say the story in Mockingbird checks all the boxes.
Of course, what the entire brouhaha misses is the point of “teaching novels” in the English curriculum. Just after I retired I wrote a pamphlet dealing with some of my English teaching beliefs while providing some practical advice. Here's what I wrote on the subject of the secondary reading program:

So here’s the “vision statement” for the reading part of the English program: we want our students to understand how
writing works, and how a good writer manipulates his readers. We want our students to be receptive to everything the
writer does, so that the communication between writer and reader is as complete as possible. In short, we want our students to be truly sophisticated readers. 
Notice that there's nothing there about “teaching about racism” or “focus on aboriginal (feminist, Canadian, Great, etc.) writers”. The materials you uses with your students as an English teacher are not very important; teaching English is about developing the literacy skills of all your students, and anything that works against that, I believe passionately, should be discouraged as counter-productive.
The corollary of that statement, equally valid, is that everything that works towards the end of improved literacy should be accepted and encouraged.
Consequently, here's my totally-unsolicited advice for Ms Grewal and the Peel Board: if the Board has done its job, the English teachers you hired are highly-educated and trained professionals. Provide them with adequate resources, then let them do the job.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Beaver Lodge Forest Lands: a Campbell River treasure

It’s 7:30 on a snowy morning in December, and the dog we’re looking after and I have just arrived at the access to our favourite walking trail. It’s just starting to get light. Setting out, we don’t see anyone, but judging from the tracks we’re not the first, and half a kilometre later as we join the main trail we can see the tracks we followed in were not the first either. We still haven’t seen or heard anyone, although there appears to be a headlamp in the distance.
All of us are taking this early-morning walk in the Beaver Lodge Forest Lands, a mostly-undeveloped forest large enough to hold about 1 1/4 Stanley Parks on the edge of the developed part of Campbell River, administered by the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. It is an “experimental forest”; consequently, its sole amenities consist of large garbage cans at several of the access points, three small parking lots, several logging-road-quality roads and bridges, and a network of narrow trails maintained by the Ministry and local environmental charity Greenways Land Trust.

And most of it is used all the time, by dog walkers, by bike commuters and mountain bikers, by runners, by school classes, and by people just out for a stroll. All of this activity is new since the mid-’90s, and there’s a story in that fact.
Shortly after we arrived in Campbell River in 1973, we became aware of a trail of sorts connecting Carihi, the high school at which I was teaching, with Southgate, the new one in Willow Point. We called it the “Jeep trail”, and it was pretty much impassible for much of the year because of washouts, floods, and mud.*  I didn’t realize at the time that the trail was actually what was left of a logging railway grade, abandoned after the area had been clearcut in the 1930’s. In any case, at the time it was pretty much out of the way in the bush, and didn’t play much part in our lives, although I occasionally ran it during the summer months.**
By the late 80’s the District Municipality (that would become the City of Campbell River in the 2000’s) logically assuming the area was merely part of the Provincial forest, was drawing up plans to put housing on much of it after Dogwood Street had been extended across the community, as mandated by the new municipal plan. North Island College and the School District had also spoken for some land near the end of Rockland Road for their new joint campus.
Fortunately for Campbell River and particularly those of us who now use the Lands regularly, the Municipality’s plans were sabotaged, although Dogwood Street was eventually pushed through and the joint Timberline Campus was built as planned.
And that was because some people in Campbell River*** almost remembered that the land in question wasn’t actually land the Province could give away. And then someone, searching for backup to this hunch, found the relevant documents in the Provincial Archives in Victoria: it seems Elk River Timber, the company that had logged the land, had donated the clearcut to the Province of BC in 1931 to demonstrate “experimental work in reforestation and forest management”. The donation was a “Trust” that had a covenant attached. 

Furthermore, the area had been used for its designated purpose: it became the first replanted area in BC in the 30’s, and almost the entire area was either replanted or re-seeded in the years following. The rather amazing results are visible today.
If you imagine that on hearing this the Mayor and Council rolled over and played dead, you would be seriously wrong. They fought this discovery with everything they had. Fortunately for those of us who now live in Campbell River, they did not have the ear of the BC Government, however, because this was during one of the few periods in BC history when the province had an NDP government, and development wasn’t King. Furthermore, our MLA was Colin Gabelmann, the Attorney-General of BC, and while he was characteristically scrupulous about not meddling in partisan activity, he wasn’t going to be party to overturning a Trust, and he knew who to talk to and who to compromise with to get a deal. In other words, you won’t find him in the forefront of any of the official documentation, but his fingerprints are all over the deal that was eventually struck: Dogwood went through to connect to the new Jubilee Parkway, which in turn connects Campbell River to the Inland Highway, the Timberline Campus was built, and, to complete the compromise, while 77 hectares were removed, about 164 hectares were bought and added by way of compensation. 
This fact explains why there is so much variation in the size and kinds of vegetation outside the principal corridor.
Over the intervening years several federally and provincially funded projects have greatly improved the infrastructure of the Lands, the most recent being the addition of 5 industry-standard bridges on the main roads. These days one can walk or run or bike there year-round, which is why, increasingly, Campbell Riverites do.
But it isn’t a park. There are no bathrooms. People who wished to exploit the area for commercial purposes have been quickly dissuaded. Initially some enthusiastic youths attempted to create their own trails; these have now all been either incorporated or removed. 

And theoretically we could still see logging there, although I suspect all hell would break loose if that were attempted. In fact, shortly after Dogwood Street was completed, a windstorm knocked down a significant number of large trees close to where Hilchey Road meets Dogwood. Logging equipment and loggers came in to remove the trees. This very nearly turned into an “incident”, which only the logic of removing such a quantity of valuable timber and the good use the wood would be put to prevented.
The Lands are also quite flat, broken only by the various appendages of Simms Creek, perfect for elderly walkers, but the terrain offers no particular challenges for the expert mountain biker. Nonetheless, every weekend one can spot people on bikes both on the main roads and trails, on the bike  trails abutting the Lands, and exploiting its furthest reaches. I’m told it’s a good fit for beginners, although the claim on one Googled site that “the Beav” could be entirely conquered in about an hour is surely a pipe dream!

There is much that makes Campbell River one of the best places in the world to live, including the climate, many spectacular views of the water, and excellent places to walk year-round, including the Beaver Lodge Forestry Lands. 
We think we were pretty clever to have picked it for our place.
Well, clever and very lucky, of course.

*For a while several running-enthusiast colleagues and I plotted to start a cross-country race, to be held in October before things got too wet, to be called the “Great Muddy”, and to be run between the two schools. But it came to naught when we went to England for a year.
**Although one summer I drove our old Rambler Ambassador from Southgate on the remnants of logging roads to within sight of the airport before being forced to backtrack.
***Yes, I know who they are, but I don’t want to be accused of getting details wrong and/or missing someone significant. Anyway, you probably don’t know them, and they don’t read my blog so we’ll just leave this detail to the reporters.  
(Those readers interested in the details of the history could watch this very interesting and informative video posted to YouTube:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Another failed attempt

I tried to interest the Globe in this, but they were not biting...

Gary Mason is a perceptive analyst of BC politics. Usually.
But his column "BC's NDP are sabotaging electoral reform" avoids most of the relevant history, and consequently misses the mark.
In 2005, the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform finished its work by recommending a rather obscure version of proportional representation which they called BC-STV. The only extant examples were to be found in minor elections in Ireland and Australia.
Nonetheless, such was our dislike of FPTP that nearly 58% of us voted in favour.
Unfortunately, the government of the day had mandated a 60% vote to make the change, so it didn't happen. But after a while the political fallout had become so strong that same government conceded another vote, to be held in conjunction with the provincial election in 2009.
By 2009 the particulars of BC-STV were on the table; during the election campaign none of the political parties campaigned in favour of BC-STV,  and the proponents of all the various forms of proportional representation split into warring factions. The moment was lost: only 39% voted in favour.
However every poll before and after has shown that the BC electorate would like something other than the truly unfair system we use at present, where under 40% of the vote can result in a government majority in the Legislature.
Mr Mason is well aware of this history. He even claims to be interested in changing the system. But he must know that the only two things we can decide on in large enough numbers are: we don't want first-past-the-post, and we won't get a majority to agree on an alternative.
The only solution is to decide on change, and then to try another system.
Which is exactly what I believe the Horgan government is trying to accomplish.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Walking with the grand-dog

Last Monday Geoff and I were at my favourite coffee shop, deeply into our coffees and working out solutions to the world's problems. 
In walked Roger, in search of his usual morning coffee and bagel.  
He told me he'd just come from walking Kona, then remarked, “Saw you drive by the other day when I was walking with X. I told her we’d met dog-walking and she said, “I met him too. He’s the guy who told me to put my dog on a leash.”
I was astonished and immediately denied it; I don’t tell people to leash their dogs, especially as I walk behind the airport specifically so I can let Eli, who has his own behaviour problems, off-leash.
Roger said her dog was small and hyperactive, and then the penny dropped: I had undoubtedly asked her to hold on to her dog as we went past, because I almost always do when we meet strange dogs. 
That's not because I worry about Eli so much as I worry that he will attack if approached incorrectly. These days, at 14, he's not really into taking on other dogs, but he remains a husky-cross, initially raised as a pack dog, with both husky standards of deportment and a firm belief in the adage that that the best defense is a good offense. 
Past experience tells me I have no reason to trust him around most other dogs, and fellow dog-walkers who shout cheerfully as they approach, “Don't worry; he's friendly!” really don't understand dogs of Eli's type. So I leash him and ask them to hold on to their dogs before we can go by.

Roger thinks Eli is beautiful, which he is, and that he's very friendly. But that's because he hasn't met the other Eli.
The first time they met, Kona, also a husky-cross although much heavier and darker, instinctively knew exactly how to approach, without even a hint of aggression. Eli took to him almost immediately, and the deal was sealed when he discovered Roger carried little treats in his pocket. Now he bounds ahead to meet them when our times on the trails coincide.

By now Eli and I have a long history. I met him first in Yellowknife when he was just over a year old. Robin and Mike had rescued him from the vet's compound, where he and at least one sibling had been abandoned. They chose him because he instantly took to them and because his feet were bleeding from his escape attempts. By the time we visited he'd already exhibited serious abandonment issues, still wasn't socialized with other dogs very well, but was lovely around people. They knew they would have a job training him.

Then they came back to Campbell River. Robin returned to UBC, and Mike started his apprenticeship here. Eli needed exercise, I enjoyed his companionship for my walks, and so we started exploring together. 
Initially, we walked in the Beaver Lodge Lands. I tried him off-leash. He scrapped with a couple of dogs and tossed at least one small one. Their owners tended to be unamused, and I was really worried he'd do damage. 
A couple of times he'd go cruising, and I wouldn't see him for as long as 30 minutes. One time he even abandoned me and found his way back to our place independently.
Even I could see this wasn't going to work. And I didn't consider leashed walks a real option.
So we began to explore logging roads in the area, which are numerous, accessed readily if on foot, and feature almost no dogs. 
They do, however, feature abundant wildlife, and I soon learned to appreciate his ability to flush all manner of wildlife: he’d disappear into the bush and, as I continued walking, suddenly an animal or two would dart across the road ahead of me, occasionally with Eli in hot pursuit. 
He apparently already knew it was pointless to follow them very far.
Normally when one walks the back roads, the area wildlife knows enough to stay away; because of my walking companion, however, I regularly saw large birds, grouse, eagles, vultures; deer pretty much every time; bears regularly, including two substantial cubs which he treed within range of my camera; and the pièce de résistance, on a trail near the headwaters of Black Creek, a whole herd of elk, with Eli proudly urging them on from a safe distance in the rear.
He also regularly managed to flush rodents, including hundreds of rabbits, several mink,  a few weasels, and what I think was my first and only martin. Occasionally rabbits and rats wouldn’t escape, and he’d either bring me his catch or I’d see him dispatching the animal. Like his brother wolves, he kills rodents by pouncing on them with his front feet, then tosses the stunned animal into the air. According to Robin he’d learned this by accompanying a more experienced dog in Yellowknife, hunting and killing muskrats.

Speaking of wolves, one time we were high on a road at the base of Mt Washington in the snow. Eli had gone cruising, and I was following the tracks of a 4X4 that had gone up the road earlier. On his way down the driver stopped and said, “Careful! I've just seen a wolf.” 
“There aren't wolves here, are there?”
He assured me there were. Just then a bedraggled Eli trotted up, looking, except for the collar, every inch the wolf.

Just for the record, I’ve never seen a wolf in this area, or even tracks, and recent reports of one spotted on the sand hills just behind the airport probably means someone has seen Eli!
Anyway, I've carried bear spray for years, not because I'm particularly worried about Eli around bears, but because I want to be prepared if there really are wolves. Or aggressive pitbulls, which in our experience is a lot more likely. 
Or cougars. These are definitely to be found in our area as one frequently sees their tracks in the sand or the snow. However I’d never seen one while walking with Eli until last summer, when we came upon two young ones, sunning themselves just behind the airport. Happily we were approaching the car and Eli was already on leash, although these days he isn’t much up to either cruising or pursuing other animals. In fact, I’m not positive he even saw them.

These days we’re just two old guys, daily walking briskly or wheezing along our usual routes behind the airport.

I’m really going to miss him when he’s gone.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Irony: a letter to the Globe

Much has been made, recently, of opposition politicians and interest groups complaining about the government's decision to cut off summer jobs funding to organizations that actively work to oppose activities permitted by the Canadian Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research.

Is it not a bit ironic, then, that the Halton and District Catholic School Board has recently passed a motion that students in their jurisdiction shall not fundraise for non-profits or charities that publicly support “either directly or indirectly, abortion, contraception, sterilization, euthanasia, or embryonic stem cell research”?

letter to my MP

Rachel Blaney, MP

Dear Rachel,

The Globe recently published a story outlining Jagmeet Singh’s supposed participation in various Sikh terrorist- inspired rallies. It concluded with the following:

"Video has also surfaced of Mr. Singh at a controversial event in Brampton in March, 2011, two months before he was elected to the Ontario legislature. It was held to denounce then-federal Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh, an outspoken opponent of Sikh fanaticism.
The year before, Parliament had unanimously passed a motion condemning death threats against Mr. Dosanjh, also a Sikh. This was not the first time in his life that Mr. Dosanjh was put in danger. In 1985, Sikh extremists badly beat him with a lead pipe.

Like other speakers at the 2011 town hall, Mr. Singh said Mr. Dosanjh had slandered and “attacked the Sikh faith ... attacked the Sikh community” with his criticism of extremism.
Mr. Dosanjh, who only recently found out about the video, said in an interview that he found it horrifying to be attacked for advocating non-violence.
“He clearly targeted me. If he had any sense of balance in his mind, he would have said I am not going to participate in anything that denounces and defeat someone who has been fighting extremism and terrorism within the community,” Mr. Dosanjh said.
But Mr. Singh told The Globe that he stands by his criticism of Mr. Dosanjh, who he contends is anti-Sikh.
“He has made allegations, effectively painting a picture that that all Sikhs are extremist, violent ... and there is no evidence of that,” he said. “It was very hurtful ... and I was concerned by comments made by an elected official that could besmirch the reputation of an entire community.”
Mr. Dosanjh said he doesn’t need to take lessons from Mr. Singh on who is a better Sikh. He said he has always been even- handed in his criticism of Hindu and Sikh violence, especially India’s actions in 1984."

I did not support Mr Singh for leader, but have no problem believing him when he says he has never advocated violence, let alone terrorism.
Likewise, I have no problem with having a devout Sikh as leader of our party, although I do think it is entirely inappropriate for any Canadian political leader to be involved in a partisan way in the politics of a foreign government.

That said, I do object most strongly to his criticism of Mr Dosanjh, who remains an honourable former leader of the BCNDP and former NDP Premier of the province.
I know he subsequently became a federal Liberal Minister of Health and an effective Opposition Liberal MP; I do not see why this should diminish him in my eyes, although I am aware many NDPers will never forgive him.

In Mr Dosanjh I see one of the few politicians of Sikh extraction who has had the courage to confront the radicalism of the Khalistan separatist movement. And he has paid a price, which in my opinion gives his words extra weight.
So here’s the thing, Rachel: I admire you as a politician and MP for our constituency. Consequently, I will continue to support you, and that includes financially.
But I will not support the Federal NDP while Mr Singh is leader. I have lost confidence in that part of the Party and Movement.

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one, so feel free to pass on my feelings and intentions.


Reply, handwritten and personal, April 26. Colour me impressed.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


As is their wont these days, Enid and Erika Skyped this morning. Erika just achieved a month yesterday, so Enid is on what passes for “maternity leave” in the USA: 12 unpaid weeks, find your own subs, do all the preparation, marking, and report cards. (Well, OK; her case may be a bit unusual in that she’s the French department of a large high school in Richland, in eastern Washington State, an area with very few qualified French-speaking teachers. But still...)
Anyway, yesterday Isaac arrived home after work with two new colleagues. They were staying for supper. And he hadn’t told her.
In some families, my own included, that would have been an unpardonable breach. Except that Isaac then brought up a bottle of wine from the cellars and made supper. 
And they had a wonderful time.

This scenario would never have occurred to me; I do hardly any cooking at all. I know how, in a survival sort of way, but when I married Sandy, an enthusiastic, inventive cook, I pretty-much stopped. She was obviously much better than I, much more interested (I cannot remember most meals I had by the next day, whereas she has a photographic memory for the details of meals she had years ago) and was reluctant to make a habit of eating the sort of meals I grew up with and knew how to prepare. The kids were encouraged to follow her example rather than mine, and have, subsequently, become quite accomplished themselves. They also had the wit or good fortune to marry partners who are equally accomplished.

Which almost brings us to the marmalade of the title.

As it turns out, there are some things no one else in my family does in the cooking department, and, if I may briefly rub my own ego a bit, that’s where I shine in my own modest and humble way. (!)

We grow a number of fruit-producing trees and vines, which produce quantities of fruit in season, much of which I turn into jellies and very occasionally jams. I also like a good dark, dense Christmas cake, an enthusiasm not shared by my spouse, offspring or, indeed, their offspring. So I make it for me and friends who share my enthusiasm, or are, at least, very polite. Then there’s a good pea-soup: split green peas, leeks, carrots, potatoes, onions, a good shot of garlic, and ham. With Maggi seasoning. This gets a better reception, but I rarely detect in others the kind of enthusiasm I feel for it.

And finally, most importantly, there’s marmalade. It has to be made in late January, early February, when the seville oranges become available. In Campbell River I’ve found only one reliable source, and I don’t suppose they’re easier to find elsewhere. This must be because seville oranges taste awful until processed; I expect there’s no market for them at all, except for those few of us who still make our own marmalade. 
I grew up in Victoria, BC, a place where edible British things were very much in vogue, so good imported commercial marmalade was not hard to find. (Unlike in Richland, Kennewick, or Pasco, Washington, as I discovered during our visit to welcome the arrival of Erika!) But if you like the taste of bitter orange marmalade, there’s nothing that comes close to the taste of the one you make yourself, not Frank Cooper, not Crosse and Blackwell, not even James Keiller’s excellent Dundee Marmalade.

I’ve just finished this year’s batch and, finding myself temporarily in a didactic mood as I’m waiting for the last batch to cool, prior to putting it into jars, I’m going to tell you how it was done:

First thing: we used to own a jelly bag or three, but then we bought a “Finnish steamer/juicer” which, like so many things Finnish, although pricey, is just wonderful.  (,40733,44734,67388) 
But obviously a jelly bag will do just fine.
This year I had 20 seville oranges, 10 blood oranges (not necessary: I bought them by mistake, to eat. Didn’t like them.) and 1 dozen lemons. 
Quartered the fruit. Separated the peel from the flesh. Put the flesh into the juicer, piled the peel on top, and steamed that until the peel was quite tender. Removed the orange peel (I find the lemon peel doesn’t add to my experience, so don’t use it. Don’t know about the taste of blood orange peel, so didn’t use that either.)
Steamed the flesh until all the available juice was extracted. 
Cut the white from the outer peel, and discarded that. Then took the outer peel and cut it into small strips.
Re-united the juice and the peel. I had about 17 cups of peel-juice mixture, so I topped that up to make 20 cups.
Decided on 3 batches of 6 2/3 cups each. Added 1/2 tsp of baking soda to each batch of the juice-peel mixture.
Brought this up to a rolling boil, then added 2 pkgs of pectin per batch.
Added 6 cups of white sugar.
Heated the mixture to 222F, then removed the heat to let it cool. Stirred the mixture several times before about 210F, to get rid of what appears to be foam, but turns out to be readily absorbed.
Cooled it to just around 160F. (This is so the peel won’t all float to the top.)  Then I poured the marmalade into jars and sealed them. 

Simple, right?

And yes, there was a bit left over, so I got to try it: excellent, as usual!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


As some of you know, Sandy and I have serious newspaper addictions.
While I was still teaching, Sandy usually did a daily walk to the local Mac’s to buy the Globe and Mail. (the BC papers have been thoroughly inadequate for almost as long as we’ve lived in Campbell River, so, while readily available, not an option)
I took this task over when I retired, but soon discovered that there were too many times the paper was very late or just didn’t arrive this far north. 
Then the final straw: the Mac’s price almost doubled. New ownership.
Anyway, I was one happy camper when a person living in Gold River -- where the paper version of the Globe is virtually unknown – told me that he got a PDF version of the paper online at by posing as an “investor” and at a considerably-reduced price.
Of course we signed up instantly, and we’ve spent the last 10 years or so happily downloading the Globe every morning, whenever we’ve had internet access.
For over a year now the Globe has been making noises about our little work-around terminating, but as it was always there every morning, I paid little attention.
So this morning, when I opened up the Globe as usual on my desktop and found instead the following notice, I was not very happy:
But I did what it said.
The very pleasant lady who eventually answered the phone explained that the E-edition was no more, and signed us up for the Globe2Go, which is mostly a more expensive version of what we already had. But OK; we've been "grandfathered" for more than a couple of years, and I'm prepared to pay a bit more. And they promised faithfully I would be able to download the Globe to my desktop, just like always.
So far, so good.
I got the Globe2Go up in my browser, followed the directions for a download, and ended up with an unvarying, supremely-annoying, grey screen.
After which I did everything I could think of to fix the problem.  To no avail.
I took the dogs for their walk, and myself for a think.
When I got back, I tried again, on Sandy's computer, and got the same result. 
Everything suggested that if you have an iPad or iPhone, there's no problem. But if you try on your desktop, and that desktop is an iMac with an up-to-date operating system, that "no problem" is only theoretical.
So I phoned the customer service again. Eventually another lady (or maybe the same one?) answered. I explained the issue. She tried to tell me how to read the Globe online.
I explained I was already doing that, and that's not what I wanted: I wanted to be able to download the current edition of the Globe to read on my laptop, offline.
She looked over the instructions, and said the Globe2Go wasn't available for desktops. I pointed out that not only had I been promised it was, but that the website confirmed this in many ways.
She went away to consult, then came back, apologizing for taking so long.
She agreed I could download a copy to my desktop. Then she, very patiently, started to explain the process that I'd already told her didn't work. (At which point my phone told me I'd used up all my minutes, and now I'd be charged for any overage!)
So I got a little snippy. I told her I wasn't a total idiot; that I'd been using computers for quite a while now, and that she could take my word for it that I'd tried all the obvious things, like resetting my security preferences, trying other browsers, trying other computers, etc.
She said I could have a free subscription.
I said that if I couldn't download a copy to my desktop I didn't care: I'd be dropping mine.
So she went off for another consult, after assuring me she was going to help me fix the problem.
When she eventually came back, apologizing once again for being so long, she said she didn't know why the screen was grey, couldn't find anyone who knew, but that, if we disconnected, someone would phone.
Of course, no one has.
I've sent an email to their help desk, which also assures me someone will get back to me. That has worked once before, so I'm almost optimistic.
Anyway, stay tuned. 
I’m hoping for a satisfactory sequel.

And...Globe2Go, the sequel: (Monday, December 24)

On Tuesday night it occurred to me that I should really have something in writing,  so I sent this email to the “Help Desk”:
Until today I was a long-term subscriber to the "eedition.globeinvestor" I am now subscribed to Globe2Go. However, I cannot make any of our 3 Apple computers download the equivalent of the pdf version of the paper I used to get with the eedition: I follow the links that promise a download, and invariably end up on a grey page.
I can, of course, read the Globe2Go online, but that doesn't solve the problem for when we are away from our internet connection.
All three computers are running IOS 10.13.1 High Sierra.

On Thursday, 30 November, 2017,  I received this email from the “Help Desk”:

On 2017-11-30 12:00, The Globe and Mail wrote:
Dear Justus,
Thank you for your email and please accept our apologies for the delay in responding.
Our records indicate that you contacted our office on November 28, 2017 regarding this matter. Please advise if you require any further assistance. Alternatively, you may contact our Customer Care center at 1-800-387-5400. Our call center hours of operation are as follows (EST):
Monday-Friday 6:00am - 7:30pm
Saturday 6:00am - 3:00pm
Sunday 8:00am - 1:00pm
Kind regards,
Customer Care Team

So I wrote back, promptly:

Dear Customer Care Team:
I would call your Customer Care Center number, but, after being put on hold last time, I have no more minutes left on my phone plan.
So here's my question again, in brief:

How do I get any of my three Mac computers to download a version of the Globe newspaper so I can read it offline?

When I subscribed (about 10 years) to the eedition of the paper (now, apparently discontinued) this is what I did. However, none of our three Apple Mac computers (running IOS High Sierra)  will do so with the Globe2Go version, although the site clearly claims this is possible and I was promised I would be able to do so when I signed up.
Why do I need to do this? Because I live on an island, and have to read something during ferry trips to the mainland. Because we frequently encounter slow internet connections, which make the online version of the Globe2Go unavailable. Because there must be a way. Because I was promised.
And yes, I am an entirely competent computer user. I'm pretty sure the problem isn't on my end.
So please tell me either 1) that I was promised something that is not possible or 2) how to download an offline version of the Globe2Go edition on my Macbook Air laptop.
Yours very sincerely,
--Justus Havelaar

On Monday, December 4, 2017 the response arrived:

Good afternoon,
Thank you for your email. We apologize for our delay in response. Emails can only be answered in sequence and we are currently experiencing higher than normal volumes.
If you are trying to read the e-paper from your desktop or laptop computer you will need to download and install the Pressreader App to allow offline reading. Once you have done this all you need to do is log in with your Globe2Go credentials.
You can download the App onto your desktop/laptop computer here:
If you are trying to read from a mobile device you will need to download the Globe2Go App onto your device. Once you have done this you can download the edition of choice when you have an internet connection and then access it later when you are offline.We hope this information is helpful. Should you have any further comments, questions, or concerns please reply or call 1-855-813-6111 for immediate assistance. 
Our call center hours of operation are as follows (EST):
Monday-Friday: 6:00 – 7:30 pm            
Saturday: 6:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sunday: 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Kind regards,       Mallory | Product Support, Digital

Well, Mallory, if it were as simple as your email suggested, do you think I still would not be able to download the Globe using the method you’ve described and linked?
Not to put too fine a point on it, Mallory, I cannot.  I’ve been here before and, as I suggested in my email, it isn’t that simple: for a start, when I attempt to "sign in" to PressReader using our Globe2Go login information, I am informed "invalid user name or password", which pretty-much stymies that approach. There is an icon which suggests an iOS download should be possible, but it applies only to iPads and iPhones.
In other words, this link is a dead end.
Eventually I found a PressReader application specifically designed for iMacs and Macbook laptops. That application set up shop in my list of applications admirably, but  would not permit me to enter any data. In other words, I could not enter my login information for the Globe2Go, making the “application”, such as it was, useless for any purpose, let alone a Globe download.
And getting this “application” to behave by trying to modify its needs in my computer’s “terminal” application, which is something I have done in the past in other contexts (but always following a script) is definitely above my paygrade without that script.

(Sandy’s iPad, on the other hand, downloads the Globe in a trice and without issue, using the Globe app, which in turn, I suspect, uses PressReader to achieve this end.)

Anyway, while I was futsing unsuccessfully with the PressReader site and app, I suddenly had a brainwave: Calibre, which I installed on all our computers because it turns text and html files acquired from into epubs for easy reading and handling on multiple platforms, also has a “fetch news” function, which I’d never explored. 

And, mirabile dictu, it works!
Calibre doesn’t produce the layout, but, near as I can tell, all the articles are there, indexed and everything, plus the photos, in a downloaded file.
And that’s really all I’ve been wanting.

(Well no, Mallory, I’m not going to tell you about this work-around, just in case it shouldn’t be possible!)

Addendum for nerds like me and a mea culpa:
After I discovered that Calibre does, indeed, get the entire paper, I also discovered that much of the more interesting bits are available only through links, and those require being on line. So that solution is a lot less perfect than my initial delight would suggest.

Back to the drawing board: I searched "PressReader imac" and then "PressReader macbook", finally discovering the following:
I'd been there before, but had missed the very last link on the page: "legacy apps" and "PressReader for Mac OS X".
Once that application is downloaded, it is possible to input your Globe2Go information. Although the process is far from intuitive, and I spent quite a few frustrating minutes before I figured out how to do it.
Let me know if you're trying this, and want me to save you some time!

and the Last Word

I thought I should share my solution with the Globe, just in case there were others who might benefit from some accurate information. So I sent:

Thanks for this, but I thought you should know:
The link you sent in this email, near as I can tell, is a dead end for Mac desktops and laptops. The one you want to promote in such cases is

Advise the person wanting to download to their Mac desktop or laptop to go right to the bottom of the page, to "legacy applications".
You're welcome.
--Justus Havelaar

And got back the following:

Thank you for your reply.

We are sorry to hear you weren't able to find the Mac icon on the link that was given but we are happy to hear that you found an alternate way to get Pressreader for your Mac Computers.

We look forward to your continued readership. Should you have any further comments, questions, or concerns please reply or call 1-855-813-6111 for immediate assistance.
et cetera, from:
Mallory | Product Support, Digital

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Black bleach

A couple of days ago I ran across an article about MAC (mycobacterium avium complex, a kind of alternate, non-contagious TB)  which claimed that sometimes shower heads are a transmission device.
Although I now know that MAC is not my issue (well, at least the numerous tests I've had for it say it's not my issue) these days, given my years of coughing  I'm pretty interested in this sort of information. 
So last night I took our shower head off, placed it in a sink, and submerged it in bleach.
We have a low-flow shower head which I bought when Robin was still in Middle School and we kept running out of hot water because of her showering habits. The shower enclosure has been rebuilt several times since then, but it has never occurred to me to clean the head, even though we've obviously had it off its pipe.
Anyway, this morning when I woke up the sink liquid was so black I could scarcely make out the shower head: I thought maybe some part had disintegrated. But no, after I had flushed it with water and reinstalled it, it worked normally.

I did some research: 
1.  This is an interview with Dr. Norman Pace (Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado in Boulder) whose report is largely responsible for the flurry of alarmist news reports about the potential evils lurking in your shower head:
2.  This is the Wikipedia entry on MAC, which gives one more information than most people could reasonably want:
3.  And this is a story from Popular Mechanics, in which Vincent LaBombardi, the director of microbiology at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, is quoted, saying, "You've all been `infected,' so to speak," with the organism... “A normal individual inhales mac all the time... Mac is just not that big a deal. I'm not going to lose any sleep over shower heads contaminated with mac."

Regardless about how you feel about the issue, you may want to try duplicating my experience to flush all the nasties out of your shower head from time-to-time. 
Black bleach is not something we need to experience!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cain and Abel and the salmon wars

When my family first moved from Terrace to Victoria we attended the United Church in Langford, where my mom played the piano and my dad was an elder and taught Sunday School to the older children, like me.

(A few years later that church hired a minister from Ontario whose church had been inundated by the St Lawrence Seaway. According to my dad, he was an anti-Semite, and consequently our family separated its connection with both the church and  formal Christianity. But that's another story.)

One of the stories I remember most vividly from my dad’s class was the story of Cain and Abel. Because my dad took his job as a new teacher seriously, he wasn't prepared to just recite stories: he wanted us to get at what these stories, so obviously symbolic, were actually about. We had discussion groups.

Given that my parents had recently survived occupied Holland in WW2, it is perhaps not very surprising that the story of Cain killing his brother Abel turned out to be about the evils of internecine warfare and the importance of loving your metaphorical brother, regardless of his skin colour or religion...

But it doesn't require a lot of pondering to realize that's only one interpretation, one which really doesn't doesn't get at some of the more ambiguous aspects of the story: why does God reject Cain's offering? Why is He delighted by that of Abel? What motivates Cain to kill Abel? And what’s with Cain, cursed by God Himself to be a perpetual wanderer, setting up both a lineage and a city in the Land of Nod?

Wikipedia provides a better solution to these puzzles: “Modern scholars typically view the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel to be about the development of civilization during the age of agriculture; not the beginnings of man, but when people first learned agriculture, replacing the ways of the hunter-gatherer.” So that's what I'm going with.

It's pretty clear, if one uses this template of the story, that the reason God prefers Abel's sacrifice over that of Cain is that His is a romantic, nostalgic Sensibility. According to the story, God prefers the herder, the hunter-gatherer, the one who lives closest to Nature, over the farmer, the fencer, and the house-and-barn builder. 

Although, as we see from the story and as milennia of history have demonstrated, the farmer invariably replaces the hunter-gatherer-herder.

That God of the ancient Semitic Tribes, however, is very much with us still, and especially on the West Coast of Canada, where I live.

How else to explain the prevalent antipathy towards salmon farms that one finds here? The answer, it seems pretty obvious to me, is romance and nostalgia for a bygone time; it is pretty obvious from their rhetoric that the God of Nature is with the passionate “activists” and “environmentalists” who espouse the cause of wild over domestic, free-swimming over penned.

Which is interesting, because in other parts of the country we don't often see movements to ban pastures, feedlots, and slaughterhouses in favour of everyone hunting. There isn't, as far as I know, a campaign to remove all the fences and have bison reclaim the Prairies. No one is suggesting we cease breeding chickens or revert to stealing eggs from the nests of wild birds.

But that's essentially what many of us advocate for the West Coast salmon fishery. You'd think that, after we've seen what happened to the cod and salmon fisheries on the East Coast we'd understand that our continued exploitation of wild salmon is ultimately unsustainable, no matter how well we “manage” the fishery: in blunt terms, the commercial harvest of wild salmon has to end if we are to maintain any sustainable population of wild salmon.

That's not the way those who worship the God of Nature see things, however. They remain quite firmly convinced that, if only ocean-based salmon farms were banned from our coast, everything would return to as it was 50 years ago. 

As if.

When we first came to Campbell River, I accompanied my friend and colleague Ray out fishing several times. We'd take his boat to Quathiaski Cove, and there, working the eddies near the mouth of the harbour, we'd “rake” herring. That involved a long foil-shaped pole, the last several feet of which had many sharp needles driven into the leading edge. That was passed through the water where there was evidence of herring, the herring were caught on the needles, and then swept into the back of the boat. Salmon loved those herring.
I haven't fished for years, but as far as I know, nobody near Campbell River rakes herring any longer. There simply are not enough of them for the method to be reliable. Instead, fishermen buy bait herring at the dock; where the vendors source these I have no idea. But I do have an idea that accounts for the paucity of herring in our waters: One of my first years of teaching here I had a first-nations student who, in the Spring, suddenly disappeared from his Grade 12 class. I heard that he had “gone fishing”, but that he'd be back. Two weeks later, he was, and he was pretty chuffed. According to him (and I have no reason to disbelieve his account) in those two weeks, “I made more money fishing with my uncle than you make in a year!” He'd hit the jackpot fishing herring on his uncle's seiner in Barkley Sound. Roe herring: the expensive roe for the Japanese market, the nearly worthless herring bodies for fish fertilizer and catfood.

Need I mention that salmon eat herring? There's still a herring fishery on the coast every Spring, but it's a shadow of what it once was, just as there is only a shadow of the salmon fishery that once - quite recently - was.

So what about the salmon farms? I'm going to have to make a bit of a disclaimer here: I'm not unbiased. Our daughter was a fish-farmer, working for Stolt, between sessions of undergrad study. So I met and talked to a lot of people interested and working in the business. What I heard wasn't always laudatory, but on balance, I thought then and still think that if we are going to eat salmon, they'd better be those raised in pens.

And we are going to eat salmon, right? That’s pretty much a given.

When salmon farms first came to our coast in the 80's there were a large number of startups. Consequently, many were located in unsuitable places (eg Baines Sound, off Denman Island, where there is very little tidal action), generally many mistakes were made, and there was a good deal of environmental degradation as a result. But things are very different now. The industry is controlled by a few large players, and, as their publicity puts it, “the industry contributes over $1.1-Billion annually into B.C.’s economy and provides thousands of steady, year-round jobs in coastal communities – which pay 30% more than the average median income in B.C.” In other words, they are big economic players in places like Campbell River, and hire a lot of people, including, unsurprisingly, a lot of first-nations people.

While it is true that all commercial farming has an environmental impact, and that salmon farms are no exception, it is obviously not in the interests of these companies to degrade the environment in which they exist and on which they rely, although you would never know this if you listened to only the critics of the industry.

Two recent stories involving salmon farms are illustrative of some of the prevailing if largely misguided narratives of the “God of Nature” folk: the “occupation” of a Marine Harvest site near Alert Bay by a group of “traditional first-nations leaders and environmentalists” and the escape of some 305,000 fish from a farm in the San Juan Islands. 

The escape story from the Guardian covers the issues particularly well: we have the person involved with the harvest of wild salmon who worries that, “We don’t want those fish preying on our baby salmon. And we don’t want them getting up in the rivers.” And we have the more unbiased observer, who notes that, “These things are kind of couch potatoes... They are domesticated. Imagine a dairy cow getting lost out in the Serengeti. It doesn’t last very long.” As Uvic’s Professor Volpe points out, there’s a history going back to the beginning of the last century here: no Atlantic salmon has ever successfully populated the Pacific coast. And it has been tried many times. In fact, Professor Volpe and his graduate student wrote a paper about it after that student had apparently found evidence of Atlantics breeding successfully: “Feral Atlantic salmon juveniles were found in three Vancouver Island, British Columbia, streams (Tsitika, Adam, and Amor De Cosmos) in 1998 (Volpe et al. 2000), indicating the likelihood of successful spawning of net pen-reared fish in the wild. In reviewing the scientific literature that is available through September 2006, there have been no further reports of Atlantic salmon successfully spawning on the West coast in the wild (i.e., discovery of wild juveniles) since the 2000 British Columbia sightings.” So we can probably retire that one.

The other story is more problematic, in that it largely involves unresolved emotional issues. Chief Alfred’s reported complaint is that, “the farm is threatening [his] traditional way of life by impacting wild salmon and herring stocks” and “the company does not have a formal agreement with the 'Namgis to operate in their traditional territories”. Chief Alfred is likely to be correct on the latter point; he has no way of knowing if he’s correct on the former, because that case, in spite of the best efforts of many people, is far from proven. The other part of that story is about photos of deformed fish in the pens. As if deformed fish happen only in pens! ( Spoiler Alert: the seals get the wild ones.) We’ll rely on a spokesperson for Marine Harvest to make the case: “...deformities are very rare in salmon, but like other animals and humans, they can occur. We are able to remove any poor performing or deformed fish from our farms before they are sent to market," he said. "Our salmon are very healthy, are regularly checked for health by licensed veterinarians and audited by Fisheries and Oceans Canada."

One last point: one cannot visit this issue very often without coming across references to the closed-containment land-based fish farm, which has long been the holy grail of the opponents of ocean-based net fish farms. It’s hard to see how this would work, as any economic study would suggest that the energy inputs outweigh the economic outputs. However, we no longer need to rely on theory: the ‘Namgis in fact started just such a farm, Kuterra, “with $9.5 million in government and charitable funding, including $3 million from Tides Canada”. They even harvested and sold some fish. But it’s far from a success, let alone making back its investment, so in spite of all the claims that this is the future of fish farming, I’m not the only one to have my doubts.

I know this issue isn’t going to go away, and I know there is a dedicated lobby whose aim is to end the fish farm industry on our coast. As you can tell, I think they’re misguided, and that we’d better do something real about wild salmon socks if we want to keep them viable. Closing the salmon farms isn’t a realistic option, and, anyway, wouldn’t accomplish the desired end.

In other words, I’m pretty sure Abel loses again; let’s hope that, in the meantime, we don’t lose the wild salmon as well.