Category Archives: Canada

Goodnight Mr. Cohen and Thanks


Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016).  A novelist, poet and songwriter.  A beautiful soul has passed ahead of us.  I’m sorry Bob Dylan but for the Nobel Prize for Literature, I would have thought of Leonard Cohen  ahead of you.

Here is a little tribute and remembrance post to this wonderful individual whose words and music can touch our hearts.  I decided not to post some obvious choices like “Suzanne” or “Hallelujah” as I expect they will be cropping up all over.  I had previously posted on two of my favorites “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Villanelle for Our Times”. So here are two more of his stellar songs as sung by two lovely songstress.

 

Winter Olympic Sports for Dummies


I haven’t been sleeping much.  This form of insomnia afflicts me once every few years, whenever the Olympic Games are on.  Currently, it is the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games which is the source of my insomnolence.    The time difference means that I need to stay awake from 2 to 4 in the morning to catch the best events live.   Events such as the USA-Canada Gold medal women’s ice hockey match earlier today which incidentally was everything you would want in a game if you were an ice hockey fan and a Canada-phile like me – less so if you were rooting for Team USA.

This was really a heartbreak for the Americans who went 2 – 0 ahead and were generally having a much better game than their rivals.   Victory was within grasp.  But even as the Americans already had one hand on the gold, the Canadians drew one back with just 3 min 36 seconds remaining in regulation time.  Still, USA just needed to keep the Canadians out for just a few minutes.  Ah, but Canada gets another goal with just 55 seconds left, sending the match into sudden death overtime where they sealed their remarkable comeback victory with a goal at the 8 minute 10 second mark.

It had thrills, excitement and drama.  It was great.  It kept me up into the wee hours of the morning and now I walk around with dark rings under my eyes – and them be Olympic sized rings too!

Have you been watching the games?  Many of the events in these Winter Games are strange to a non-skiing tropical squirrel like myself.  Perhaps they may also be strange and unfamiliar to some of you dear readers?

As a public service and after intensive and exhaustive research, the Lone Grey Squirrel presents “Winter Olympic Sports for Dummies” to provide enlightenment and better appreciation for these weird and wonderful sports.  Here I try to give simple and concise descriptions for each sport.

Ice Hockey – A smash and crash, check and deck, slash and dash fest involving a puck, fights and men (and women) with false teeth.

Curling – Stone throwing

Bobsled –  A sport where you jump into a coffin and slide down a frozen Wet n Wild ride at breakneck speed.  Don’t know who Bob is though?

Skeleton – That’s when you do the same thing but can’t afford the coffin.

Ski Jumping – “Oh, I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky” A cruel sport where spectators yell out “Jump! Jump!”

Skiing – The sport is just going downhill all the way.

Speed Skating  (Short Track) – A great sport for watching spills and multi-person pileups.

Speed Skating (Long Track) – a sport that seems to really only involve orange clad Dutchmen standing on the winners’ podium – so it really hasn’t anything to do with the rest of us.

Biathlon – Sport endorsed by the NRA.

Figure Skating  – This genteel and graceful sport involves kneecapping and death threats (see Tonya Harding video).

Well, that’s all folks.  Must try to sleep now.

 

 

 

20 Years With Trouble and Strife


I know it’s been awhile since I posted and it was not due to a lack of material but from a lack of time to put mind to computer keyboard.   So for my catch up post, I thought I would  stick to the theme of romance in honor of Valentine’s Day  as well as touch on the fact that this is a new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar – kill two birds with one stone as it were (this was a phrase that always got the hackles up with my birding enthusiast friends whenever I used it while still working for a nature conservation organisation)!

First, I wish love and happiness to all young lovers ( and old ones too) on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.  Of course, I wish this for every day of the year.  For me, this year is a milestone in my marriage and last month, my wife and I marked our 20 years together as man and wife with a small dinner at a small restaurant with a few friends who have cheered us and helped us in our life journey together.  The “Trouble and Strife” in this post’s title is the Cockney Rhyming Slang for “wife”; or more specifically …..my wife.  Before I get in to trouble, it is meant as a term of endearment.  You know, like “ball and chain”.  Ummm.  Maybe I better move on.

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I have had 20 years of happy marriage with the love of my life.  I am a firm believer in marriage and it grieves me to see so many marriages today  in trouble or ending in divorce.  Marriage has been a great blessing but as with all good things, it requires work, commitment and self-sacrifice.  It has not been easy going all the time.  Yet, for the most part, most of our problems were from external sources – family relationships being one of them, but we found the strength in our love and trust in each other to weather all the storms thus far.  We had a few fights and quarrels along the way but truly they were but a few and we have a rule never to let the sunset on our anger.  This has been a good rule.  Life is too short to waste on being angry.

Anyway, I shared with the dinner guests the story of how we first met; my wife’s generally poor impression of me that first time; our deepening friendship; my getting cold feet and running away and how God brought us together again while I was studying for my doctorate in Ottawa, Canada.  I proposed to her in front of the Eternal Flame on the grounds of the Canadian Parliament while kneeling in the snow.  We got married almost exactly a year later in much warmer circumstances in Kuala Lumpur.  At the dinner, I also made a spectacle of myself by singing “our song” to my wife.  (the song is Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes”) which I think also impressed the serving staff of the restaurant.

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And so, I thank God for blessing us both and guiding us these twenty years and pray that by His Grace, we will continue to love each other as we age into hopefully a fine vintage.

That concludes my romantic section of the post and as promised, I will now touch on the Chinese New Year aspect of the post. As you may know, this is the Year of the Snake. This is of significance as this is my wife’s year! Yes! She is a Snake. Now the interesting thing is that when we were courting she misled me into thinking that she was a Rabbit. Now more than 20 years the wiser, I realise that my darling Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!

How Many Canadians Does It Take to Play a Guitar?


“How many Canadians does it take to play a guitar?”  Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it?  However, when you watch the video below, all will be answered……….and the music is pretty good too.

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I discovered this video on a very special blog that highlights musical gems from around the world, Worldmusic, which is amazingly compiled by a 17 year old, Xandi, and some of his friends.  Certainly worth a visit.

The song in the video, “Somebody that I used to know“, is originally by Goyte.  But this Canadian indie band,”Walk off the Earth”, made a cover version which was placed on Youtube early this year and has garnered more than 40 million views in just 23 days (according to Wikipedia).  This band with their quirky humour and interesting musical stylings is making quite a splash with entertaining covers of other people’s songs.  I think I have become a fan.

Leave it to Beaver?


The Canadian Mosaic - Why Can't We Just Live Together!

I love Canadians.  They seem to have so few problems that the biggest issue that seems to be occupying the country in the last two weeks is the debate – beaver or polar bear?   The beaver was made the national symbol of Canada by the Canadian Parliament in 1975 but the debate was recently ignited after Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton suggested that the beaver be replaced by the polar bear.

Senator Nicole Eaton called the beaver a “19th century has-been,” a “dentally defective rat” and a “toothy tyrant,” among other things, as she argued in October that the polar bear should replace the beaver as Canada’s national emblem.

Of course, many have come to the defence of the beaver.  Ottawa business have even come together to erect a monument to the beaver.  But at least one on-line poll shows support for the polar bear is ahead of that for the beaver.  So which is a better representative for all things Canadian?

The National Post reports;

Among those who preferred the beaver, 26% described it as a “noble animal,” while 18% called it “industrious.” Within the anti-beaver camp, 31% called it “destructive,” while 17% said the beaver was an “outdated symbol” and another 11% felt it was “anti-social.”

Nearly three-quarters of polar bear supporters felt it was a “majestic mammal,” while 4% described the bear as “alarmingly handsome.” Among the anti-bear set, 26% noted its tendency to kill humans, while 21% highlighted the fact that it was endangered. Another 11% noted that unlike the beaver, the polar bear does “not build anything.””

Let’s help them out.  Vote for Canada’s next national symbol in this totally free and democratic process.  Don’t mind me chanting in the background, “greysquirrel…ommmm….greysquirrelgreysquirrel…ommmm….greysqui….”.

Applause, Please, for the Mob


I am a Canadaphile.  Canadian society stands out for me in a very positive way.  Of course no society is perfect and without its blemishes.  Yet as a whole I like the way Canadians exhibit a sense of moral and social integrity; generally willing to stand together for what is right and what is good and yet finding imaginative and non-confrontational ways of being a positive influence.

I first observed this when I volunteered at a soup kitchen in Ottawa and learned more about what was being done for the homeless.  It was much more than I could have imagined.  I was similarly impressed by how well a single mother I knew was being supported by local services.  Social services in many countries seem by comparison to be still in the Dark Ages.  I also witnessed first hand what great efforts were made to enable a young woman who was paralysed from the neck down to regain a semblance of independence and to become a productive member of society (Locked In).  For me, much of all this reflected the principle of “going the extra mile” which Jesus taught (Matthew 5: 41; “41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”)

Well, I came across two videos that demonstrate this Canadian attitude once again.   Both of them show the clever and imaginative use of the flash mob phenomenon to convey and reaffirm important social messages.

Wikipedia describes a flash mob as “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.”

I am sure that after seeing the videos that in these two cases, fun was certainly had by all participants and also spectators but they also accomplished something far more than mere entertainment.

The first video educates and encourages us to recycle and what an affirming way to do it.  I wish we would see this happen again and again.  I  came across this video over at Laura’s “The Mindful Merchant” who also does a great job on promoting green living with very practical tips and suggestions.

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The second video was a collaboration of two schools in Vancouver where the kids came together to show their support and respect for individuals as part of an Anti-Bullying Day activity.  I wish they taught this sort of thing in schools over here; constructive anarchy.  Love it.  Hope you do too.

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Carolina Squirrel and The Money Pit


Since I was young, I was always fascinated by mysteries.  They are like reading stories for which the ending has not been written yet.  Frustrating but also intriguing.  After all these years, there are still a handful of mysteries that I am still fond of.   One of the mysteries that I came across earliest is the mystery of the “Money Pit of Oak Island”.  Carolina Squirrel investigates.

Mysterious Oak Island

The story begins in 1797 when a teenager, Daniel McGinnis, was exploring Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada when he came across a depression in the ground.  Directly above the depression was a block and tackle hanging from a tree branch.  Intrigued and suspecting perhaps that this could be a site of buried pirate’s treasure, he got a couple of friends to come back with him to excavate the hole.

About two feet below the surface, they found flagstones.  Digging deeper they found a layer of oak logs at 10 feet intervals until they reached about 30 feet down when they were forced to stop.  Over the years, a number of different explorers and even treasure hunting companies have tried to excavate the money pit.

In 1803, the Onslow Company excavated to a depth of 90 feet before they were stopped by seawater flooding the pit.  The oak logs continued to appear at 10 feet intervals but they also discovered a layer of charcoal at 40 feet, putty at 50 feet and coconut fiber at 60 feet.  Even more surprising,  at 90 feet, a stone inscribed with mysterious symbols was found.

One well known translation of the stone’s inscription is  “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.” but many doubt the accuracy of the translation.

The flooding was believed to have been caused by the excavators triggering a booby trap which opened a 500 foot flood tunnel to nearby Smith’s Cove.  If true, this makes this money pit incredibly sophisticated as an engineering project.

In support of  this claim,  investigations at Smith’s Cove show that there is an 145 foot length of beach which has been altered.  It was discovered that there were five channels dug into the clay below the sand.  There channels converge into one and are filled with rocks and covered with eel grass and several inches of coconut fiber.  This functions like a filter which allows the channels to remain unblocked by sediment and is believed to draw seawater into the money pit some 500 feet away.  When tested by carbon dating, the coconut fibers were found to be at least 770 years old.   Who carried out this amazing engineering feat all that long time ago?

Unable to excavate further due to the flooding, a later company tried collecting drill samples to find out what lied beyond.  At 98 feet, they found a layer of spruce pine, followed by  a layer of scrap metal until about 104 feet deep where there was another layer of spruce.

And so the discoveries continued and so did the mystery deepen.  Over the years, the picture of the pit developed.   The entrance of the flood tunnel from Smith’s Cove was found. In 1899, a second flood tunnel originating from the South Shore Cove was found.  At about 120 feet a layer of oak and iron was found at a haphazard angle.  It is believed that this layer actually fell down from a higher level of the pit.

At about 16o feet down, a cement vault  7 feet tall and 7 inch thick was found by drilling which also pulled up fragments of a sheep skin parchment with writing on it.  Below that were more layers of soft metal.  Despite all efforts and a number of deaths, no one has succeeded in going further.

The mystery remains.  Who built it?  How on earth did they manage to build something so large and sophisticated all those centuries ago?  What really lies at the bottom of the pit?

If you haven’t got any summer plans yet, you might consider trying going treasure hunting and solve this mystery.