Digital Distraction, Dilution and Disinformation

Decades ago (I’m guessing ca. 1980) an adult family conversation occurred in my parents apartment. My cousin’s husband was very successful, having studied computers and accounting at university before the digital age took off. He traveled the world setting up distribution systems for a major door-to-door cosmetic firm.

He had recently participated in a think-tank session on the future, in which young, forward-looking minds from Canadian industry, government, media and trade unions had been asked to participate. He had a piece of inside information to share:

Industry and government were, way back then, looking at the potential problems that would occur when the typical 40-hour work week shrunk due to information technology and the great unwashed found ourselves with time on our hands and an increased feeling of alienation from the sense that we were contributing to society through work that could be thought of as useful and worthwhile.

One major conclusion:

Ways must be found to keep the masses occupied and entertained.

Continue reading

A Little Birdy

You calling me LITTLE ???

You calling me LITTLE ???

OK… not you. It’s kinglet time in “Our Woods” and this year we’ve been out looking for kinglets – the first little guys to pass through on their way to their summer place in Muskoka. They are usually plentiful for a few weeks and then, too quickly, nada. The earliest we’ve seen them is March 31 and the latest April 28. Yesterday and this morning my mission was to identify and photograph the ruby-crowned kinglet particularly, just because they, and their golden-crowned cousins, are tricky to capture on film. Fast little folk, flitting all over, eating bugs, never resting long enough to look at the camera and smile. Nevertheless I tend to picture their energetic mealtime as joyful rather than desperate. The photographer surely qualifies as desperate – tracking the tiny beasts with the naked eye and aiming the camera’s 300 mm zoom only to find them – if she/he’s lucky – somewhere close enough to where they just were. Forget auto-focus! The cedar branches all around will confuse the heck out of that mechanism. No. You’ve gotta focus manually and hope they’re not gone. Kinglets give you a lot of blurry action shots – and fits. Patience. The kinglet quest would, at one time, have been called a “film gobbler.” This morning I lucked out. Anita, so sad…, stayed in bed and missed quite a show: a Northern Oriole perched momentarily high above whistling “C’mon!” to some sexy follower – then one more treetop and gone northward. A female yellow-rumped (Myrtle) warbler feeding almost as fast as the kinglets showed my camera just enough identifiable plumage and the slightest blurry hint of shoulder yellow.  Yep! Myrtle! Check! And lots of ruby-crowneds in the cedars and, bravely following bugs, even on bare branches of deciduous trees only just beginning to bud. The photos that follow are the best I could do. I was so busy and happily hyper that I gobbled my very tasty breakfast of left-over Peking Mallard Duck when I got home. Just kidding. Had Peking duck in Peking (Beijing, whatever…) in 2008 and, trust me, there never are any left-overs. They don’t taste that great, but they are sooo skinny!


Anywaaayy, first, the softly-blurred ruby-crowneds:

“What rubies?”, you say. Well, the female isn’t ruby-crowned and the male doesn’t show off all the time, but you can tell they’re ruby-crowned because of the white eye-ring. The golden-crowned have a stong b&w streaking through the eye and no eye ring. Continue reading

War On… II

War On...

This is an experiment in combining a short poem, such as a haiku, with a photo. In the past I have separated the photo from the poem as I originally did with this haiku. A fellow blogger, with great generosity of spirit, liked the poem and suggested that I do it this way, even showing me what she meant. This change gave it a format that her site could easily use to reblog the piece to her followers. JoAnn’s helpful comments (the early, public ones) are here on the original post. I encourage you to see the great work that her site,, is doing to increase public awareness of where the powerful would like to put us.

One Fine Morning In Lisbon

Students at Lisbon's "Discoveries" Monument posed for this and caught my attention

Students at Lisbon’s “Discoveries” Monument posed for this and caught my attention

We visited Lisbon (Lisboa) in 2011 as part of our tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Our local guide took us to this port area on the western outskirts of the capital at the mouth of the Tagus River. Later we bused further along the coast to Cascais and then inland to Sintra. The area around the Monument to the Discoveries is very historic. This monument was built in 1960, 500 years after the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. to honour the Prince and Portugal’s history as a colonial power and its significant contributions to navigation, a profitable skill that came, perhaps a little belatedly, to Europeans. I say belatedly because the folks who populated Polynesia put the Europeans to shame in their ability to navigate their relatively small,  fragile craft nimbly and repeatedly around and throughout the vast Pacific. The Polynesians were the most amazing discoverers on the planet.

Near the new monument is the Belém Tower, an iconic fortification built between 1516 and 1519 to assist with the defense of the mouth of the Tagus River on a basaltic outcrop that was barely connected to shore. It has a small museum inside, which we opted not to enter. Time was limited.

The large, concrete Monument to the Discoveries points toward the water and is best viewed from a boat. If one is, as we were, landlocked in the monument area its prow can only be seen from the side. At the prow, in a big, ribboned hat, is Prince Henry himself. The folks down the sides, behind Henry,  are various heroes of the colonial era, including some explorers, navigators, cartographers, artists, scientists, monarchs and, of course, missionaries – whose diligent work of pagan soul-saving “justified” the ventures. If one were to climb the Monument to the top, she/he would get a great view of its beautiful, circular Wind Rose – a 165′ diameter, stylized map that shows and names all of Portugal’s conquests. We did not have time to go up, but I got some interesting close-ups of the detail.

Across Avenida Brasilia is the beautiful, sprawling Jerónimos Monastery, which we did not enter but photographed close up.

Jerónimos Monastery, now the Archaeology Museum

Jerónimos Monastery, now the Archaeology Museum

I found the afternoon visits to the towns of Cascais and Sintra wonderful. Maybe a post soon on those places… An experienced local guide spent this fascinating day with us – without our tour director. It was pleasant to be without him for the day. I, at least, didn’t mind a bit.

What’s Shocking?


This short, blunt post with an equally brief, colourful
video by Weaver Grace deserves to be watched. Better than 1000 words, hands down!

Originally posted on Weaver Grace:

When I was a kid
We shocked adults
By talking about the weather
Saying, “It’s colder than a witch’s tit.”

Now, as adults
We can’t shock our kids
By talking about the weather
Even when we say, “The glaciers are melting.”

Media Credit:
This video shows a time series of five-year global temperature averages, mapped from 1884 to 2014, as estimated by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.
Published on Jan 16, 2015 by NASA Goddard.
The year 2014 now ranks as the warmest on record since 1880, according to an analysis by NASA scientists.
This video is public domain.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

In Trinidad in 1966 "with my motorcycle and myself" motorcycle and myself"

In Trinidad in 1966 with my motorcycle and “myself.”

From Robert M. Pirsig’s wonderful 1974 book, the most read book on philosophy ever, this quote on how Aristotle, who had little respect for the great Sophists, started us on our sad path to alienation from the natural world, via the awesome engine of technology:

And the bones of the Sophists long ago turned to dust and what they said turned to dust with them and the dust was buried under the rubble of declining Athens through its fall and Macedonia through its decline and fall. Through the decline and death of ancient Rome and Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire and the modern states – buried so deep and with such ceremoniousness and such unction that only a madman centuries later could discover the clues needed to uncover them, and see with horror what had been done….

Pirsig, born in 1928, is still alive. Listening to this CBC podcast led me, belatedly, to him. His book is about how he challenged the university system on its perverted rationality in a single-minded, fanatical battle that drove him into isolation from his work and family. He was eventually committed to a mental institution where he was subjected to severe electroshock “therapy.” He eventually faked his “reform” in order to be released from the institution and later, in 1968, took a motorcycle trip with his teenage son, Chris, and two of his adult friends. The therapy had destroyed many of his memories. Calling his former, insane, self Phaedrus, he rebuilt Phaedrus’ thinking through these and other fragments: his notes, the memories of former friends and colleagues and his interaction on this trip with his alienated, troubled son, Chris.  He also read and reread philosophers, Greek mythology and history in the rebuilding process. This book is helping me in many ways. It adds new dimension and personal insight into how we got into the dangerous political/technological/moral/philosophical place in which we now, tenuously, live. It offers a process by which we just might get out of it. It helps to clarify, support, grow and even, perhaps, mellow my thinking on human issues and philosophical perspective. It may turn out to be the most important book I have ever read. I don’t think I’m giving too much away in giving you one more, very short, quote:

The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.

Below is a concept diagram that I have done that is my way of working on understanding and remembering Pirsig’s book. I have written many more notes. Simply reading something like this book doesn’t work for me.

A concept diagram to help my understanding

A concept diagram to help my understanding