Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dead Deer and Strawberries

Water, water everywhere . . .

You can’t turn on the news without learning about flooding problems somewhere. Huge amounts of damage and heartaches in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the United States.

Central Ontario has dodged the damaging flooding, but some days it seems like the region is about sink into the morasses created by this year’s rains.

Dead Doe in Ditch Along Highway 35
What rains, asks Environment Canada? It says that rainfall in the Muskoka region of Ontario was slightly below average in May and is well below average for June. To most of us, the spring was unusually wet and cold but the weather service says it has been a bit drier and warmer than average.

The difference between the EC facts and our perceptions probably is in number of cloudy days this year. There have not been many heavy downpours, but there have been many days of cloud and light precipitation.

The cloud and dampness have been perfect for flies. The Muskoka-Haliburton mosquito plague this year is the worst in recent memory, especially on the dank, cloudy days.

Wild Strawberries Just Out
The flies are driving the four-legged animals crazy. Deer, moose and bears are being chased onto the highways where they hope to catch a breeze and some respite from the flies. Police are reporting a noticeable increase in vehicle-animal strikes this month. Ontario has more than 14,000 vehicle-deer strikes every year.

The wetness, however, has been a joy to plant life. Wild blueberries and blackberry bushes are thriving. Wild strawberries are ready for picking and are bigger and juicier than most years.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Lightning Strikes

Things I have learned in the past few days:
We are approaching the height of the dangerous lightning season. On average 10 Canadians are killed annually by lightning strikes, and another roughly 150 a year are injured. In the U.S., an average 62 people are killed by lightning annually and 300 injured.
Lightning also causes an estimated 4,000 Canadian forest fires every year.
The month with the most lightning strikes in Canada is July. The average number of lightning flashes each year in Canada: 2.3549 million.
The most frequent time of day for lightning is between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Most people would have guessed the night hours, probably because lightning is easier to spot in the dark.
Fascinating facts on lightning are found at:
Aboriginal street gangs have become a growing issue in Canada, especially on the Prairies. We seldom read, hear or view much about them in the deteriorating mainstream media, which does little to shine light into huge black holes obscuring what is happening in our society.

Joe Friesen, Toronto Globe and Mail reporter, shone some light on the subject last Saturday with his piece Ballad of Daniel Wolfe. It’s a fascinating and detailed piece on the Wolfe brothers who helped form the Indian Posse back in the late 1980s. It shows the devastation of gangs on Indian youth through the lives of the Wolfe brothers, who were doomed to bad lives from birth. Daniel was born weak and small on one of the nights his mother polished off a bottle of Five Star whiskey.

Excellent work and it can be found at:

I’ve often wondered how many newborns a mother duck can carry on her back. I found out the other day. The merganser who lives down the shore on our lake was out showing off her 10 new offspring. She had all of them on her back as she steamed along the shoreline, giving the kids their first look at the great, wide world. I don’t know how they all found sitting room. Next week they’ll be paddling on their own and we’ll see them trailing along behind her.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maximus Flavius and the NHL

The National Hockey Headhunting League has announced major new initiatives involving rough play in which its players get injured.

It has told all team general managers to establish hospitals in their home rinks. This will allow for hurt players to be patched up, and returned to play more quickly.
On-site hospitals

Commissioner Gary Bleatman said the idea for onsite hospitals comes from history. Maximus Falvius, commissioner of the Guys and Lions League in ancient Rome, opened quickie wound treatment centres beneath the Coliseum. The idea was that lopped limbs could be cauterized on the spot and gladiators sent right back into the fray.

“The amount of lost time, therefore lost money, on this head injury issue is starting to affect the league’s balance sheet,” said Bleatman.”With hospital facilities just the other side of the boards, we can get players in, slap plates in their heads to hold their brains in place, and get them back onto the ice.”

The onsite hospitals will provide genuine medical treatment. No more simply slapping a concussed player across the side of the head to reset his eyes straight.

Hockey commentator Donnie DaMouth accused the league of gross overreaction.

“This is sissy stuff. Real men get up off the ice, shake their heads a couple of times and get back skatin’. Dat’s real hockey, kids.”

There was no comment from the players’ association, most of whose members are still in rehab following the 2010-2011 season.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Building Lives, Building Dams

There’s always a message or more for folks to take away from university convocations. And there were several Friday as hundreds of beaming young people gathered at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON to don gowns and make that important walk across the stage.

One message I got as I sat in the audience is the importance of continuing to discover and learn after leaving the campus. I wished deeply that every graduate, no matter what his or her discipline, will find opportunities to learn from Nature. There is no wiser teacher.
A couple of days before the Brock Convocation I went to one of Nature’s classrooms at the far end of the lake where I spend much time. There is a huge beaver dam there, at least 15 metres across and one and one-half metres high. It holds water back to flood a long narrow channel between two hills.
Beaver dams are engineering marvels, constructed stick by stick with trees, branches and dead wood gathered nearby. They are reinforced by mud pushed with paws and tails in an effort that reminds one of the Aztecs hauling stone blocks to build their temples. It all seems so impossible.
Ancient people no doubt learned much about dam building from the beaver.  But once they graduated, they stopped learning. Our modern dams, while producing important electricity, have created some monumental environmental disasters. They have killed the natural life patterns of much fish and wildlife. The W. A. C. Bennett dam in British Columbia killed the Peace-Athabasca Delta and the livelihoods of the native people there. Today, the Three Gorges Dam on China’s Yangtze River is being blamed for creating one of the greatest downriver droughts in more than five decades.
Humans often see beaver dams as endangering their own engineering efforts, notably roads and railbeds and other things made for the convenience of mankind. Our provincial government still hires trappers to kill beaver along highways where their work might cause flooding.
Sometimes we forget that beaver dams often are the land’s best ecosystem. Beaver dams regulate water flow and create wetlands that filter and detoxify pollutants. We spend millions of dollars to restore wetlands we wiped out because we considered them just dirty, useless swamps on which we could not build things. Beavers are the maintenance crews of these wetlands and they work for free.
Flowers for a grad who worked like a beaver
 The beaver also teaches us about patience, perseverance and commitment to family. It toils tirelessly, almost always on the night shift, cutting, hauling, placing and packing to create ponds in which their offspring can live and learn about life and the world in relative safety from predators.  Sort of like our universities.

Congratulations spring graduates from Brock and the many other universities around the world. I hope you grab opportunities to learn from the beavers and Nature’s other professors.
Surgite! Press on!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Goons Win Again

The Stanley Cup Playoffs ended early for a lot of us.

Too bad. Fast hockey. End to end rushes. Spectacular goal tending. Hockey exhibiting a passion for the true game.

Then came the hit early in Game Three. Canucks defenceman Aaron Rome went for the head of Nathan Horton, Boston’s top goal scorer. He got it. Horton was trucked off to hospital and is gone for this year. Rome got five minutes for interference -- what’s called a late hit. It was intent to injure, but the NHL has yet to figure out what that really means.

The NHL later suspended Rome for the rest of the playoffs, possibly trying to soothe fans who are outraged at the league’s inability to get really serious and end savage hockey in which players get hurt.

The league introduced a rule against headhunting this season but after two months there were 33 reported concussions, more than the entire previous season. And, later there was Sidney Crosby; remember him? 
NHL Hockey: It's becoming a Blur
Do fans have to put it in flashing neon lights for Commissioner Gary Bettman and his big city suits: STOP THE GOON HOCKEY! WE DON’T WANT TO WATCH IT.

Some fans will not be watching tonight, or any other night in this playoff. Something good was happening, almost like a revival of the hockey we knew before the money changers got hold of it.

Oh well, it’s summertime and the living is easy. Shouldn’t be inside watching TV anyway.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hell Begins for the Hotel Maid

Time in Hell begins in earnest now for the hotel maid who says she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62-year-old world heavyweight political-finance guy. The courts start hearing the case against DSK this week.
New York Court System Begins DSK Trial This Week
DSK, head of the International Monetary Fund and potential next president of France until NYPD slapped handcuffs on him May 14, will unleash a tsunami of defence against the 32-year-old immigrant and widow.

Police say DSK grabbed her and tried to rape her when she arrived to clean his $3,000-a-night suite at New York’s Sofitel Hotel.

She has been in hiding since the alleged incident, building strength for the misery that lies ahead. He is out of jail on $6-million bail, but under house arrest at his rented $50,000-a-month town house in New York’s rich Tribeca neighbourhood. The place is 6,800 square feet has a home cinema, luxury spa, waterfall showers, gym and roof terrace. Strauss-Kahn has hired a powerful team of investigators, former spies and media spin doctors who will attempt to destroy this woman and her story. The betting is that the defence will be that she agreed to have sex with him for money. DSK has a history in his native France, where he has been publicly called “the Great Seducer.”

The woman emigrated from a small West African village after her husband died. She is a single mother.
The legal system is supposed to decide DSK’s innocence or guilt fairly and without a lot of ugliness. Unfortunately, it will be a nasty, dirty trial. The District Attorney’s office has its work cut out for it. It does not have the money and resources to match DSK’s massive defence effort.
That’s the way it is in most court systems. The rich and strong hold an advantage.
Accuser and accused no longer are on equal ground. Consider if you are an average person accused of a serious crime. The cost of you defending yourself is so steep that you are ruined financially, whether you did anything wrong or not.
This is a fascinating case that will provide much drama. You can get right into the legal details by going to There you’ll find the latest filings made to the court, including the original complaint laid by police.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fast Hockey; Faster Mouths

What terrific hockey! Wednesday night's Stanley Cup opener between  Vancouver and Boston, plus the Boston-Tampa final game, were two of the best hockey games I've ever seen.

End to end play, spectacular goaltending on both ends. Seventy shots on the goaltenders and only one got in. That with 18 seconds remaining in the third period.

This is the hockey we all remember watching as kids. I was sitting in front of the TV at home, but could smell and feel the excitement inside that Vancouver rink. I felt like a kid again, back in the old tumble down Port Arthur arena where people were hanging from the rafters screaming for the West End Bruins.

Impressive Wednesday night was the staying power of the teams. Full force hockey until the final seconds. Looks like we are in for a wonderful series of hockey games the way we want to see them played.

The only negative for me, and I never thought I'd hear myself say it, was I had to turn to NBC to watch the final period. I couldn't take that constant stream of chatter on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. The colour commentary was non-stop and annoying. I don't know who was doing it, could care less, as I could care less about Don Cherry, Ron What's his name and the other talking heads. I'm there to watch the hockey.

It seems to be a sick trend in sporting event coverage. Fill every second with your own voice. Guys, come up for air, please. Hockey is a fast game and I like to have at least a few seconds to absorb for myself what is happening.