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latest moans

Tone’s latest prognostications of doom are at www.godornot.org under “The Blog”

More garbage

Mostly good news – see

http://www.godornot.org/the-blog

New post on www.godornot.org is almost as boring as the last one. See you there. Tony

This Blog Has Moved!

http://www.godornot.org/the-blog

Please follow the blog on its new home. Reason for the move is to try to persuade Google that “GodOrNot” is a live blog, not a fossil.

Bye Fuzzy! Tony

Travelling

Fall is coming! Walking along the rail-trail under the trees you see small yellow leaves drifting gently down, sparkling as they twist in the sunlight. But summer was so nice!

And the wildlife is amazing. Matt backed his truck out of the drive yesterday … and hit a deer! They are becoming a common site, especially lying in the sunspot at the bottom of our garden. Apparently native Canadians are allowed to hunt them (with bow and arrow) one week per year.

We really travelled this summer. Fantastic time in Switzerland, ranging from hi-tech Zurich (at one point I counted TWENTY aeroplane trails in the sky) to rustic Chateau d’Oex, a cottage surrounded by mountain peaks. (You know you’re in the right place when the special “Gold Train” of tourists goes right below your bedroom window, very slowly.) And the mist and snow on the mountaintops, and the gentle waterfall noise. But the horse steak in Swiss restaurants was less attractive.

We went to THE Gruyere cheese factory, large and dark and cool and damp. Old. But not old-fashioned. The big round slabs of cheese are stacked on floor-to-ceiling wood lattice shelves to “cure”, and a robot goes silently up and down the aisle, selects a cheese by memory, takes it out, turns it over, and puts it back. Always, forever. 24/7. It’s doing it right now, endlessly, in the half-dark – aaaaarghhh!

Tony discovered London City Airport – you walk right in from the Tube station, label your own bag, and walk up! But London is getting really modern … 70% of all sandwiches now contain “yoghourt mayo” (EEUUGGHH!) Small IS beautiful – in the airport Tony walked past a really tempting fire-alarm-pull, and 5 minutes later someone pulled it! So everyone calmly walked out onto the road outside (next to the Tube station), waited 20 minutes, and walked back in. Let’s see you do THAT at Heathrow …

I have an appalling disaster to report. The Circle Line isn’t a circle any more!!! Stop the world – I want to get off.

I said Tube station. Actually it’s like a Tube train in a pipe-dream – it winds slowly over rivers and huge bridges, down gullies, around sky-scrapers, across GLASS bridges over the Thames, bridges over other Tube trains, and through tunnels with streetlights. Boggle. I was amused when the driver (black, 6′ 6”) had to bend almost double to announce stations into the wall mike near my seat. But then I saw why – he was replaced by a 4’11” blonde lady driver who could just reach it!

Seeing the far-off grandkids was FUN! Ever heard of “Floorios”? (Noah’s breakfast.) Ed had Jazz and a big list of house jobs … and Chris had Grabber and Pheeb and a big list of house-jobs … so we had a lot of fun plumbing and drilling. And a few disasters. Like entertaining Chris’s friend Kevin one evening with a huge tray of frozen lasagna (Kate was away). Tony put it direct on the oven shelf, for better heat transfer – what’s the point in a baking sheet anyway? Then he got it carefully out wearing two oven gloves … and the thin plastic tray collapsed in his hands, spraying hot gooey lasagna all over the kitchen floor. “Mm – smells wonderful” said Kevin sadly.

And here is a brain-teaser from London. A police car, siren bleeping, screams towards you and passes you. But you can also hear its siren reflected from a huge flat skyscraper behind you, which the police car is approaching. What do you hear? GK.

Dwayne Cline lent me a good book, and now I know I’m an “Arminian”. AND I understand why some people aren’t. Arminians believe in real free will. You can actually choose – you don’t have to do exactly what God programmed you to do, built into your personality. You can make a difference.

Those others, the Calvinists, say it only seems like free will – all your actions are in fact inevitable. I think they see freedom as impertinent: how could a creature deliberately disobey its Creator, its sovereign Lord? God is all-powerful, so rebellion must be impossible.

But see what trouble it gets them into. WE can say that evil results from our actions, we brought evil into the world. They can’t! “God made us sinful.” So they have to say “oh well, for some reason God WANTED humans who sin.” Go figure.

A pleasing German proverb: “Lies have short legs.” And the German word for something “poured out” means a present. Hospitable people. It took Tony two YEARS to read his last German paperack (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but it’s lots of fun. Mind you, the word “softening away” means “different”. Hard is normal, softening is …

And Hebrew breakfasts are still fascinating, not just for the company. The Jews had a very sensible approach to tense – just two of them! First, there’s NO present tense. “Abraham old. Isaac coming.” says it all. Then you have a Perfect tense for anything that’s completed, and an Imperfect tense if it isn’t. “I was running home”, “I will run home”, “I might run home” – who cares? The essential thing is that you haven’t got there. … I always wondered why we call it the “Perfect” tense.

Think I already mentioned vowel changes. Every Hebrew syllable must start with a consonant. So “hater” must be made up of “ha-ter” – so the a must be long (to complete the first syllable). But “hatter” must be “hat-ter”, so the a must be short (as in hat). Hence, in English, the second t changes the sound of the first a. Simple, eh?

Health

My daughter-in-law is amazing. Out with her baby (Noyz is 1) he got hungry … so she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. And he loved it! What a player.

Time is relentless. Five years ago I went punting in Cambridge with two other 66-year-olds that I was at college with. We got an ovation from a group of elderly women on a park bench, who realized what we were. Two years later Chicken got cancer, came in the boat with us, but was too weak to do any punting, and is now dead. And when I called Sexulin this month, he now has myeloma and is also too weak to punt. And I’m probably too unsteady. Alas!

A weird compliment. Tony’s had vertigo for 6 weeks, DKY. He consulted the quack, who said she would call up the specialist who did his skull MRI last year (when his double vision started). A few days later she called back, saying the specialist had gone into raptures about Tony’s MRI – “He’s got a perfect brain, no shrinkage, perfect blood vessels, AMAZING for a 70-year-old”. Hey, thanks! (Maybe not drinking and smoking was a good move?)

And a warning of things to come. “It’s scary when you start making the same noises as your coffee-maker.”

Tony backed up to the air machine at a local garage, but didn’t have a $1 coin. So he went into the shack, waited in line, and then said “Can I have a loonie for the air please?” The lady answered pleasantly “No.” Tony blinked and said “Er, no, I was just asking for change fore the air machine.” She replied “Uhuh, and no, you can’t.” Tony (and the rest of the line) stared at her in amazement. Then she giggled, and said “I love to see their faces when I say that! Just go out and press the button, I’ll turn it on for you. We can’t be bothered to give out change.”

Get this. They’ve discovered how memories are stored, and how to erase them! Not kidding.

Seems like we lay down molecules inside brain cells positioned so that, when a priming hormone is pumped in, they set up a network of electrical connections with other cells, and bingo! there’s the memory. BUT, this erases the stored memory! So as you re-experience the memory, it has to be laid down afresh. (Curiously, this is exactly how computer memory works too.)

This explains why memories can get more extreme. If you remember a childhood event when you’re upset, you’ll relive it in an upset, angry frame of mind, and lay it down upset and angry. So now it’s a bit nastier than it was before, each time you relive it.

But now they have drugs which can stop you laying down memories! So, if I get you to remember awful abuse just when I’ve disabled your memory with a drug, you can’t lay it down again. Poof – it’s gone, cured permanently. Maybe. GK

Mass insanity.

Canada is still crazy. CBC ran a radio program about Leroy, crew member of a US naval ship that sank off Labrador. They explained coyly that Leroy was American but he was, er, ah, er, … “Well. all but one of the crew were white.” The story ended with an astonished Canadian farmer’s wife scrubbing poor old half-dead Leroy for hours trying to get his skin “nice and clean” – but the dreaded “b-word” was never mentioned.

And Tony met a newly-arrived refugee who announced careful plans for the future. “But you’ll have to see if you get approved at your refugee hearings?” (takes about a year). No! Apparently, if you were persecuted over a sexual issue, you get instant guaranteed admission to Canada. People who were merely being machine-gunned for their principles must wait and see.

My friend Art was called for jury duty – along with a hundred other people. In the first session the judge heard claims from jurors who felt they should be excused. One lady explained she was a Grade 8 teacher, and that her class would never survive without her. The judge graciously dismissed her, waited until the door closed behind her, and then drily observed: “That lady has just turned down the opportunity to be away from 30 teenagers for two weeks. She has a problem. Next!”

Fairness is a wonderful thing.

Matt’s union called him very apologetically. They had given him a really nice phone and laptop. Now faced with several more young supervisors, they realize they can’t afford so many nice goodies – they will have to give cheaper ones. So, in the interests of fairness, would Matt mind being demoted to a simpler cell-phone and smaller laptop? Phlegmatically he agreed. Then he said “So you’ll need my present ones back? “Oh no”, they said hastily, “you can keep those”!

Prices are crazy. Our cottage had quite a nice cordless phone, but needed a new battery. “It’s $30” says the guy in Radio Shack (now the Source – no-one knows what a radio shack IS nowadays). Tony boggles. “Or you can buy a brand new cordless phone with battery for $20” he offered. And Tim very kindly booked flights for our trip to Yerp next month, and got a great deal for Tony to fly London-to-Zurich, $11 … plus airport taxes etc of a HUNDRED dollars. That’s ridiculous. Soon Air Transat will be renting a strip of sand on Brighton beach to land on, because it can’t afford airports.

Tony’s “rage against the machine” continues. Latest wonderful discovery is a free program “TouchPad Blocker” (yes, for Windows). Lets you disable the touch-pad for a selected period after any keyboard key is pressed – so you can’t accidentally brush the touchpad and end up typing in the address bar. Yippee!

But we had to admire the prowess of the native IT person in Moose Factory. Tony had taken over a computer in Moosonee from another worker, and no-one knew the password. And she’d left. Stalemate. We called up IT, and they said cheerily “Plug it into the internet. Now switch it on. OK, your name’s XX and your password’s YY”. Just like that, by remote control – in Windows XP!! Wow.

My dog is pretty laid back. But a squirrel ran right across his path this week! He went after it like a tornado, got nearly there, and then something terrible went wrong. His head snapped round sideways, and he fell in an undignified heap. …My Einstein dog was still holding the leash in his mouth.

The wildlife is fun. Yesterday a baby raccoon tottered up the steps to our deck, and investigated each object with timid, very serious interest.

Going oop north still teaches Tony a lot.

Air Creebec flight magazine currently carries a 4-page public announcement from the Cree School Board. They are closing the Cree-Language-Of-Instruction (CLIP) program. Years ago they (politicians) introduced this Cree immersion program, by law, “to protect our native heritage”, because Cree is dying out. They emphasize they’re still dead keen to protect our heritage, but no, CLIP is dead, kids will be taught in English from August 1st.

They gave 3 reasons, all quite interesting … First, our students’ reading/writing age is on average 3 YEARS behind other areas. Second, the percentage of Cree children completing Grade 12, is now 1.1% (yes, 11 out of every thousand kids). And third … they can’t speak Cree!

But why? Why oh why do we let politicians tell teachers how to teach??? The school board’s motto is evidently, as my grandson would say, “Leddy, Fire, AIM!”

Ooh – more details emerge. Tony’s work oop north was hindered by the appointment, some years ago, of the first ever native Chief of Medicine. She told Tony that she felt sweat lodges and smudging were FAR more effective than psychiatric medications She siphoned off psychiatry funds to pay native healers, and told Tony he could no longer visit every month (no funds), all the while maintaining that she was not changing anything. She finally left, recently.

Turns out that her consort was another native family doctor, who famously just committed suicide rather than face his court case over embezzling $2million and screwing patients. She had employed this go-eur as one of our family doctors. He evaded work days repeatedly, but despite representations from the rest of the doctors she refused to fire him. Surprise! Thank goodness Canadian law does eventually work – even oop north.

There’s still snow up there, but often sloppy. Every time Tony trudges through the slush to a plane, he blesses Victoria for making him buy Doc Martens in Portobello Road market. They’re REALLY waterproof!

GK

humour

An old man heard a burglar downstairs, phoned the police, and they said they would come “as soon as possible” but were very busy … He put the phone down, listened in frustration to the mulffled sounds below – and called 911 again. “Look, it’s OK, don’t bother. Just now I asked you to come urgently, but now there’s no rush. [Why?] Because I shot him. He’s dead. So take your time.” Several police cars AND an ambulance arrived within minutes, and caught the burglar.

It suddenly struck me (on a dog-walk) that this story, true or false, is a wonderful definition of “irony”. Irony is funny but true! The police would indeed do exactly that. Irony is hard to define, partly because the word has totally changed its meaning (like “quite” and “literally”) – it originally meant “lying”.

Here’s a true story. Reggie McNeil, a Southern Baptist pastor, was the invited speaker at a Methodist pastors’ rally last year, took the podium, and saw that most of them were women. And the Southern Baptists had just voted, famously, AGAINST women being pastors. So he tooka deep breath and started cheerily with “I didn’t expect there to be so many ministers’ wives here this morning!” He says – there was TOTAL silence, all the air went out of the room … whyever did you say that, you fool? … and then they exploded with laughter. Courage, eh?

Tony played the piano for 2 hours at the cancer centre – and a man came up, put 2 dollars on the piano, and said “Buy yourself a coffee”! Sue said “We should send you wearing old grotty clothes – oh wait, we do.”

Tony’s famous-notices-calendar had a winner this week: “If Door Will Not Open, DO NOT ENTER”. It’s right up there with the southern USA sign “This Traffic Light Never Goes Green”. Yes, real signs.

Language study continues amazing. There are only 400 Chinese spoken words! Each can be pronounced up to four ways, making around 1200 words altogether. (Each word can have only one syllable, with only single consonants – tip, but not strip or strict). This is a huge problem. Each of the 1200 words has 5-10 different meanings, so you have to combine words to select the meaning. E.g. “men” also means things like running, jam, power, hopeful, etc – so you must say “men (many)”.

This is ironic, since Chinese has THOUSANDS of “letters”, originally more than 200,000. If they learn to read, Chinese children must learn each letter (each of which is a word) – so many never do. But there is a curious pay-off. There are a dozen different languages in China, including Mandarin and Cantonese. But since the written “letters” stand for words (ideas), each person reads them in his own language! So written Chinese is universal, an interlingua – for those that can read.

The search for an easy-to-learn international language has spawned LOTS of efforts – Esperanto was just the most famous failure. Until now, all have failed through two errors. They understood that an interlingua must be “regular” (no strong-vs-weak verbs, no exceptions to rules). But they totally failed to understand the need for simplicity. For example, the verb “receive, received, receiving” has several HUNDRED forms in Esperanto (same as in French, German, etc). Think of the second person plural imperfect subjunctive …

They also failed to realize that, as far as possible, the new words should be familiar around the world. Esperanto words would be familiar if you’re Spanish or Italian. But we need words like “video”, “microscopic”, “telephone”, known all over the world – except in Esperanto.

Don’t get excited. There’s not GOING to be an international language, ever. For the simple reason that there is only one sensible candidate … but a totally unacceptable one. The language with the simplest structure AND the most internationally-known words is English! Which is also the language of the invaders, the conquerors, the colonials, the rich white overlord, the American. No chance.

Canadian culture continues to amaze this old man. The leading comment in the “Globe” last week was a tirade against airlines for intolerance. Why? The law says the passenger must conform in appearance to the details on the ticket, including age *and gender*. How appalling! Poor, distressed, mutilated transsexuals, who have already bravely weathered such appalling experiences, will not be able to fly wearing clothes of their new sex. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Read it for yourself – 4th Feb, an entire half-page on Page 2.

There has been a public outcry that First Nations [Indian] citizens in Attawapiskat don’t have enough free houses. (The population has doubled, to 2,000, in the 20 years since Tony has been going there.) So the government is dutifully rushing dozens of prefab houses to the reserve. Weird. When Albert wanted to marry Bertha, he had to wait until he had saved up enough money for the deposit on a house … was he wrong?

And this is a reserve with 85% unemployment, big healthy intelligent men, and unlimited free wood (growing at the end of every tiny road). Why didn’t we send hammers, nails, saws, and a couple of instructors?

And yet Canadians are great. The municipality [council] put a shed and a floodlight on the dinosaur park on Robinhood Drive. Turns out to be the work of a private householder! He saw nearly 100 people skating one day, after the park had flooded and then frozen. So he asked the council for assistance, got the pump-house and light installed, bought a huge hose, cleared the snow ready – and we’ve had warm weather ever since. But what a player!

And sometimes tragic. A couple at our church had a dedication for their baby. They are natives, had a mixed ceremony (with sweet-grass smoke “smudging”), and wore full native costume. The guy looked totally MAGNIFICENT – tall and slim, long black hair in pigtail, massive shoulders and bare arms, striking black tight-fitting outfit, you would trust him with your life … and was so weak from drug withdrawal that he could only stand for a minute or so, and kept having to sit down on the edge of the platform.

The Greek bible still provokes new insights. Jesus saved the life of the woman-taken-in-adultery, told her He didn’t condemn her, and then said “Go – and sin no more”. Did He expect her to be perfect, forever? No. Surely He meant stop the affair, even when the guy comes back to beg and plead?

And the German book (from Tim) likewise. Tony was puzzled by “Olbaum” (oil-tree), and the dictionary explained “olive-tree”. Then the penny dropped: “ol-ive” is oil-fruit!

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