Monday, December 29, 2008

A picture is worth a THOUSAND words ...

It is said that Albert Einstein once quipped- "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits." I can't help but wonder if he was speaking of the anonymous critic who left comments recently on my posting about the discussion of homelessness.

Since I started blogging the anonymous criticisms that have been offered have been unbelievably critical and harsh. The accusations that have been lobbed my way have been numerous and seldom accurate. What unites them all is the veil of anonymity that these small minded petty fools hide behind ... initially these comments found their mark and hurt. But as I've moved through the last three years and witnessed first hand what the "good church people" at the local and Presbytery level are capable of, and as I've experienced repeatedly the hypocrisy of people who would smile to my face but think nothing of sinking a dagger in my heart and soul, I can only laugh at the pathetic attempt to feel good about one's own self by undertaking anonymous criticism of another.

The first comment about the language used in passing in my newspaper article is unfounded simply because - had they read the article AND The Christmas Carol by Dickens, they would see that I was using Dickens' phraseology. Throughout his 19th Century text we find Scrooge challenged to embrace "MANKIND" as his business. And unless I'm mistaken, mankind is STILL the accepted phrase to speak of humanity's universality. The politically correct neutering of the English language is fine, but grammatically incorrect.

And the second comment about my current job arises simply from utter and breath-taking ignorance.

The anonymous poster (and here I assume both comments came from the same person trying to be both witty and cutting) clearly failed to understand the content posted, much less the work, vision and mission of my position and the Steering Committee I work with. Obviously, their desire to take a shot at me and try in vain to pull me down took precedence over embracing the blindingly obvious.

Homelessness is a problem in Brandon. Not the traditional shelterless style of homelessness that we see in the large WARMER urban centres like Vancouver. In Brandon, there are a dozen or so individuals, who by the season choose to be shelterless. But the bigger more ominous problem in Brandon are what scholarship has dubbed the "precariously housed", or to use the more common parlance - "sofa surfers".

While the shelterless might number around a dozen or so on any given day, the sofa surfers may currently number upwards of 800 in Brandon - a number seemingly verified by work done by employees of the Regional Health Authority.

Yet, rather than naming the need of the entire community to address the housing crisis that is gripping the city of Brandon and much of West Man, the anonymous poster delights in taking a truly ignorant swipe at my position (one that has preceded me by almost 10 years), and the work that all of the Homelessness Coordinators have undertaken on behalf of Brandon. In his editorial, Mr. O'Connor raises some important issues - I've sent him a letter saying as much - but the appropriate response to his column by myself, by him, and by our community is to get to the bottom of the issue and address the housing crisis with affordable housing, appropriate supports and the lobbying of Government to improve the necessary services that the poor and marginalized NEED to survive.

Rather than taking a swipe at me, the anonymous poster should volunteer at Samaritan House and Helping Hands and see first hand the reality that the "at risk" population in Brandon are facing day by day.

I enjoy my current job. I can look back over the last 11 months and see the things that the Steering Committee and I have achieved, and feel good that we have made a difference, even in small ways, for those at risk. Yet there is much still to do ... just because one editorial raises concern about an exaggeration offered by one who's heart is committed to helping the less fortunate, doesn't mean there are no homeless in Brandon.

In truth there is EVERY indication that the homeless problem in Brandon is about to get worse before it gets better ... BUT, thanks to the dedication of the Steering Committee, who have representatives from all three levels of Government, and the agencies serving the less fortunate, the City of Brandon has the ability to stay ahead of the trend and minimize the impact that the current economic downturn coupled with the ongoing housing crisis would have ...

Yet, my anonymous poster self-righteously sits at their computer screen smirking with delight at their own wit, offering pithy criticisms of my postings - postings I SIGN MY NAME TO - and seeks to build themselves up by pulling me down ... to that I can only say - NICE TRY.

The comments remind me of hearing my classmates at Theology College reject the writings of Karl Barth because of an off-handed comment by one of our professors.

The comment was - "maybe we shouldn't consider what Barth had to say about women as valid because of his troubled relationship with them ..." She was of course referring to Barth's personal life and a troubled relationship with his mistress and other women in his life.

However, my class mates - UNIVERSITY educated people - broadened the comment by rejecting Barth's theology because "Pam said 'he has a problem with women' " I took my concern to Pam herself, and she was shocked and dismayed that her comment would be so misused, yet this was not uncommon in the highly charged overly politically correct environment that was Theology College.

It underscored for me the sad reality that possessing an "education" sometimes does little to dispel ignorance and stupidity ... My anonymous critic falls into a similar category.

In offering their two-bit opinions they've managed to prove Einstein correct ... Genius has it's limits, but ignorance and stupidity are boundless ...

As a parting thought - I offer a quotation I found this morning that pretty much sums up my feelings about anonymous posters who haven't got the courage to identify themselves while offering their ill-informed and mis-guided opinions:

"Never argue with an idiot. They will only pull you down to their level,
then beat you with experience"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

105 ... 106 ...

Warrant Officer Gaeten Joseph Roberge
Sgt. Greg John Kruse.
Warrant Officer Gaeten Joseph Roberge,
temporarily seconded from Valcartier, Quebec's Royal 22ieme Regiment,
and Sgt. Greg John Kruse, a combat engineer
on duty with the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont,
and two Afghani citizens died as well:
one police man, and one interpreter.
We remember the fallen
for their humanity,
regardless of their nationality.

Lest We Forget.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

104 ...

Pte. Michael Freeman, 28,
who served with November Company,
3rd Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment
from CFB Petawawa, Ont.
Lest We Forget.

Remembering the fallen ...

They had names ... families ... and this Holy Season, it is important to remember them as more than just numbers on a page of statistics.

We need to see their faces, and hear their names, and remember them for who they were and remain in the hearts of those who have known and loved them, and who mourn them this day ...

From December 5th 2008 ... soldiers 98, 99 and 100 to fall in service to Canada on Afghanistan soil:

Warrant Officer Robert Wilson,

Pte. Demetrios Diplaros

Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren

And then from December 13th came the news of hree more fallen soldiers taking the tally of the fallen to 103 ...

Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, left,
Pte. Justin Peter Jones, centre,
and Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin, right,
all members of Golf Company,
2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment,
based at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick.

Boxing Day Bedtime ...

As I made my way to bed tonight - below is what greeted me:

Nestled all snug at the bottom of the bed underneath the blanket that Ms. H. made for her, was the infamous Flute ... no doubt resting from the thorough trashings she had inflicted upon my house over the last 48 hours, and the TWO loaves of bread (one raisin and one whole wheat), the three butter tarts, the croissant, and the bit of Toblerone bar, she had consumed along the way ... and we won't EVEN mention her proclivity for using the kitty litter like take out !!??!!

Then I noticed at the top of the bed Beetle and her new chum "Jumbo" had staked a claim on the duvet and pillows ...

I hate to disturb them ... BUT I would like to sleep somewhere, and the loveseat in my living room just doesn't pass muster ...
Ah, the joys of parenthood !!!

Dog Pile ...

On Christmas morning, after the presents were opened, and breakfast enjoyed Noahkila got dressed and decided to flake out on the love seat at M's ... he was soon joined by Journey, who has been feeling out of sorts lately since Flute's arrival ... it wasn't long before Journey and Noahkila were joined:

AND then the battle for the love seat began ... Noahkila was on the bottom telling Flute and Callie to "GET DOWN" ... they didn't listen ... and I sat across the room taking pictures ...

Worth Watching ...

Tonight at Ms H's request, we watched "Shut up & Sing", the documentary about the Dixie Chicks and the response to thier apology in regards to President Bush ... It was a powerful and inspiring film about the challenges that speaking your mind and conscience can bring ... If you haven't seen it - find it - watch it - and thank God that perhaps something new is about to happen in Washington ...

In the meantime, for your listening and viewing pleasure - a youtube video of the Chicks playing at the 2007 Grammys. They are introduced by Joan Baez, and perform the song - "Not Ready to Play Nice."

I don't like Country Music - but I LOVE The Dixie Chicks ...

A timely reminder ...

It was a brutally cold morning in Kamloops ... the flu was taking hold of me and the chill of the wind went straight to my core ... pulling out of the parking lot at Tim's I saw the message (above) scrawled on the side of a battered car ... I HAD to stop and get a picture ...

Less than a week later we were wending our way home to Manitoba through an equally brutal cold ... the news carried an item about a woman burning to death on the streets of Vancouver trying to keep warm in her shelter of cardboard, a tarp and a shopping cart ... I returned home to Brandon and faced the question - "is everyone in from the cold?"

I made some calls in the days before Christmas to find out if the dozen or so shelter-less individuals we have in Brandon were actually in out of the cold ... along the way I was interviewed by the local TV station and asked the same question ... the answer I could provide was - "to the best of our knowledge 'yes', the shelterless are in from the cold ..." That wasn't the end of the story though ... today's Brandon Sun has an editorial from the managing editor that raises some valid questions, and, has had an ongoing discussion about homelessness in Brandon ... clearly the message scrawled on the side of a car in BC serves as a timely reminder to many of us ...

For your reading pleasure ... I offer a few tidbits:

Firstly, the Wheat City Journal Article I wrote and submitted from BC - entitled, "Signposts in Life", it reflects on the message in Kamloops and the seasonal story of Scrooge.

Secondly is the CKX online story from Tuesday entitled "Homeless have a Bed".

Then finally - the text of James O'Connor's editorial that raises some important questions for the people and agencies of Brandon:

At this magical time of year, I witnessed the creation of an urban myth.

You see, it’s now an accepted fact that Brandon has an indeterminate number of homeless people. But they aren’t like those poor folks in major centres who huddle in cardboard boxes in parks or who sleep under newspapers on heating grates.

Nope, hey they are the invisible homeless.

Despite repeated attempts by this paper over the years to locate a true homeless person, all we have found are some folks who choose to live outside in the summer, or who are broke and staying with friends or family.

And yes, there are some with medical or psychological issues and addictions who need to take advantage of some of the temporary shelter beds made available through some social service agencies.

For sure, there are many, many poor people in Brandon. But despite all the propaganda spouted by those in the “homeless industry” — soup kitchens, second-hand stores, government agencies and religious-themed drop-in centres — we simply don’t have any clear evidence of people living in the street.

So when I heard the head of a local Christian soup kitchen and thrift shop last week suggest that homeless people were committing crimes to get a warm bed in jail, I shook my head in disbelief.

“The jail is filled with people like that. I don’t know whether they deliberately got into trouble, we can’t rule that out,” Rev. Henry Idonije of Street Love Ministries told CKX-TV. “So most of them are in jail, it’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s nice for them.”

Of course, that controversial statement went unchallenged by the TV journalist, so I asked our veteran court reporter Ian Hitchen if he ever heard of a case where someone committed a crime in winter just to get off the street.

He couldn’t recall any.

Of course, there are those public tipplers who are lodged in the drunk tank under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act, but that’s not the same.

Hitchen said there was one case years ago of a solvent sniffer who would commit crimes of mischief — such as stealing gas — to both feed his habit and because he didn’t seem to mind getting arrested.

However, there isn’t any evidence of widespread crimes for beds activity.

But that’s how those in many private and public social service agencies justify their existence. They create a myth, then find ways to substantiate it.

Of course, the CKX story never featured an interview with a real homeless person, just those who make their living in the homeless industry — including Brandon’s own homelessness coordinator.

Now of course, I applaud those charitable and well-meaning folks who work with the poor and those in the margins of society.

Such as all the wonderful volunteers who spent countless hours yesterday and today feeding hundreds of folks at the Westman and Area Traditional Christmas Dinner at the Keystone Centre.

But I think Idonije went way over the line.

And to think he runs the chaplaincy program for the Brandon Police Service.

That involves him occasionally going out on the street on patrol with police.

Where he undoubtedly sees some of Brandon’s homeless committing crimes to get warm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

and ...

nine days,
5400+ kms,
extreme sub-zero temps,
five rounds of the flu,
we're "home"
... it's just good to be home.

Spoiled dog ...

Baby Beluga ... and her MOM

A Visit to the Aquarium ...

"Can I Keep it ???" (Flute & Beetle for exploring)

Flute almost discovered the joys of "sushi"
thankfully she left the sea star where it was.
Though she enjoyed her first visit to the beach!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

101 ... 102 ... 103 ...

the tally of the fallen rises...
Lest we forget.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

with a heavy heart ...

The phone rang too early ... it's seldom good news when the phone rings in the pre-dawn darkness, and today was no exception ...

News came to M that her father died through the night ... she relayed it to me and we began planning for a road trip to the north end of Vancouver Island ...

Not sure what the next fews days will hold beyond a winter drive across three Provinces to gather with M's family to say good bye to a grand old cowboy who started his life in the shadow of the former Hudson Bay Trading Post in Bella Coola ... ranched in the Chilcotin outside of Anahim Lake ... logged on the coast around Port Hardy ... and spent his retirement years on the shore of Hardy Bay fretting over his dogs, his girls and his grandkids ...

I told Hannah what I will miss most about her Grandfather was hearing his laugh when the kids were up to something and his willingness to sit in his rocking chair beside the stove for hours with a wee grandkid nestled in his arms sleeping ... John was an interesting character and one helluva father in law ... and he will be missed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Flute Interlude ...

A Chilly Whistle Stop ...

This year's version of the Holiday Train stopped in Brandon tonight.
After YEARS of seeing the train in the afternoon,
it was a delight to see it in the dark with the lights glowing.
It was beautiful!!
And before they left, Tracey Brown and Johnny Reid
entertained the audience with a half hour of Christmas songs,
and the local Food Bank - Samaritan House - got a
PILE of food stuffs, and over 5200 dollars in donations!!
All of which are much needed this year in the face of
economic uncertainty, an ongoing housing crisis,
and a deepening need for the services they offer.
Thanks to the folks at Canadian Pacific for helping make this happen,
thanks to Tracey and Johnny and the band for the music,
thanks to the generosity of the audience,
thanks to the folks at Samaritan House for
continuing to do what you do to help those in need!!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sometimes Miracles CAN and DO happen ...

I read the story yesterday about the theft of over $25 000 worth of toys from the Salvation Army warehouse in Vancouver ... not only did they take the HIGH end "toys" meant for teens, they cleaned out several freezers of meat and left the meat they DIDN'T take on the floor where it defrosted and became unusable ... not only is the theft nasty, the callousness that destroyed FOOD was simply thoughtless ... (Read the CTV.CA story - Needy Childrens' Toys stolen from Sally Ann - by clicking here)

THANKFULLY though, this is NOT the end of the story ... today online I found the follow up story ... Businesses and people in BC have rallied to ensure that the Salvation Army has enough to ensure Christmas for needy families ... more than $35 000 in cash has been donated including a $10 000 gift card from a major electronics dealer !!!

After the nonsense I've encountered this week I needed a story like this to restore my hope in human kind - check out the follow up story at CTV.CA by clicking here - (Companies rally to help robbed Sally Ann)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hey Mr Harper !!??

This morning on I perused the article: "Gov. General set to arrive in Ottawa to face political crisis." and found the line - The Tories have characterized the agreement as an undemocratic coalition beholden to a separatist party - interesting ...

Mr Harper is engaging in fear-mongering. Using tired old adages and worn out rhetoric, he is trying to force the Parliament to support his Government, when clearly the House of Commons has lost confidence in the Conservatives ...

The Bloq may well be a "separatist party", but they sit as Members of the CANADIAN Parliament, and until they formally leave confederation, Mr Duceppe and his caucus remain CANADIAN citizens, duly elected to represent the interests of their Ridings AND the interests of the NATION. They are no more seperatists than the founding members of the Reform Party who pushed for Western Separation not that long ago - members who remarkably form the core basis of support for today's Conservative Party of Canada in the west ...

Politics in Canada is many things, but today BORING ain't one of the descriptors that could be applied ... Fear mongering based on a slanted interpretation has no place in Politics or LIFE ...

Playing Soccer ...

These pictures are mine ... the eccentric little dog can spend HOURS
whacking the ball around the backyard and chasing after it ...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Farewell from a fan ...

There are many tributes and honours being poured out to the late Ted Rogers, and the media empire he founded, built and leaves as a legacy ... from neighbourhood video stores, thru to the Toronto Blue Jays - his empire is vast, varied and simply amazing.
But today my thoughts turn to my personal interaction with the Rogers' empire when it was in its first stages of growth while I was growing up in Stratford Ontario ... Long before the advent of Rogers Cell phones and Video stores, our local television cable provider was Rogers, and along with the community access channel that supplied a variety of locally produced shows including a sing-a-long programme that offered a weekly rendition of "how much is that doggy in the window", the repair and service crews drove around town in BRIGHT orange vans!!
At Halloween each year the bright orange vans could be found driving around neighbourhoods helping to keep the young trick or treater's safe ... The name of this community service WAS and remains - Roger Pumpkin Patrol, and for close to 30 years, they have been "watching out for kids' safety."
The modern, cheery red vans don't have the same pumpkiny feel as the old ORANGE vans - but the goal is the same - "keeping kids safe".
It's the small things that Mr Rogers should be remembered for ... local cable programming, halloween patrols, The JAYS ... the many ways he has interacted with almost every Canadian, and how, in the process he left his mark on our country, our communications and ultimately OUR lives ... farewell Ted - you've made the world a better place by your presence, and we'll miss you !!

On the verge of history ...

On the eve of the last Federal Election - on September 24th to be exact - I wished:

If we can avoid a Conservative Government in the upcoming election,
but can't have a LIBERAL Majority,
the next best thing would be a Liberal Minority,
with a strong showing by the NDP
who partner in a coalition Government.

Now it would appear my wish may well come true:

The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement on Monday to form an unprecedented coalition government, with a written pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois, if they are successful in ousting the minority Conservative government in a coming confidence vote.

The accord between parties led by Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe came just hours after Liberal caucus members agreed unanimously that Dion would stay on to lead the Liberal-NDP coalition, with support in the House of Commons from Bloc MPs.

To read the complete CBC.CA story on this historic moment in Parlimentary Tradition (Liberals, NDP, Bloc sign deal on proposed coalition) - click here

To read what I had to say back on the 24th of September ... words that seem to be coming true - click here.

Oh, and for those who fail to grasp the wonder that is the Canadian Parliamentary system at its finest - do not lose sight of the simple face that only 5.2 MILLION voters voted for a Conservative, while 8.6 MILLION voted for someone else, AND 10 Million simply didn't vote at all ... The Liberal-NDP-Bloq alliance simple gives the MAJORITY of Canadians what they wanted in the first place !!! (check it out here)

History is in the making ... and I wouldn't want to miss it for the world !!!

A first ...

Tonight Ms. H shot this video of our eccentric little dog ... we're not sure what she was up to, but it makes for a fun video ... enjoy !!

Monday, December 01, 2008

A musical interlude ...

Andrew Allen ( a BC musican, song writer and entertainer worth keeping your eyes and ears open for ... he'll go places ... he has a Facebook page worth checking out too ... stay tuned - more WILL appear here too !!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A REAL Dog Pile ...

Poor Beetle ... she just wanted to have some quality time with the canines in her life ... little did she know ...

oh yeah ... I almost forgot - Pics are by Ms. H !!