Second Chances


wavesFor a number of years when I first started working down here, I used to take wedding pictures. Something of a hobby, made a little money at it. I would just do a budget job, flat fee, take about 72 pictures (two rolls of 36, for those who have forgotten, or never knew the days of Kodachrome), and when the first prints were back, I would just hand over the prints and negatives to the couple to do what they wished for copies and enlargements.

“Let me tell you an interesting story,” I said to a few friends in early December. “Thirty years ago…” I started, and I’m sure they hoped I didn’t fill in all the missing time, but I had their attention.

Saturday evening. July, 1983. I was watching TV when Ellen said the unforgettable words: “Didn’t you have a wedding this evening?”

KaPow! Out of my chair! The wedding was at 7 pm, was about ten kilometers away, and it was almost that time. I grabbed my camera equipment and raced out the door. Continue reading

Aging. Gracefully?


Several months ago, I got a renewed interest in the music group The Seekers.  I was converting some LP records to CD’s and owned two of their albums from back in the ‘60’s.  They were, and still are, a group based in Australia, with memorable hits for my generation like Georgie Girl, I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of our Own, and the haunting The Carnival is Over.  They were probably the last of successful folk-based groups, and managed to bump both the Stones and the Beatles off the charts in the days when those groups were expected to be on top.

The Seekers story is interesting.  They left Australia to try for success in Britain—booked as entertainment on a cruise ship to cover transportation costs.  Shortly after their arrival, their popularity took off.  Much of their sound came from the wonderful voice of Judith Durham—she was very much the “Seekers sound”.  But Judith had issues of her own, particularly ones of poor self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Despite appearing in the dreams of most young men at the time, she thought she was overweight and unattractive, and despite later being described by Elton John (he once played piano for them) as possessing “one of the purest voices in popular music”, she wasn’t even confident in that ability.  She decided to leave the group at the peak of their success to pursue a singing career of her own.  She did have that, mainly singing jazz in America with her husband pianist Ron Edgeworth.  The remaining Seekers had an assortment of replacements for her through the years, none of which was a Judith Durham. Continue reading

A Changin’?

Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan wrote The Times They Are a’Changin’ in 1963, and it became the archetypical protest song and a rallying call for a generation. It drew on some older Irish and Scottish songs, and even got inspiration from Ecclesiastes and the Gospel of Mark (“the first shall be last”). Dylan wasn’t sure himself if it was the right song for the time. (It’s comforting to find that sometimes even he didn’t understand his songs.) For the youth of the time, however, it spoke to their feelings about Big Government, Big Business, and Big Control by parents. This would all change. The world was going to be different. They would see to it.

A month later, JFK was assassinated, and in the next few years, the US got more firmly involved in the Vietnam War. They couldn’t count on government. Things were ripe for change. Things needed to change. Students started protests. Marches were held, thousands strong. The Civil Rights Movement was underway. We Shall Overcome.

So what happened? Continue reading

A growing disconnect . . .

A columnist in Macleans offered a comment related to the troubles Toyota is having with its runaway cars. While there certainly are real mechanical problems, he felt the more serious issue was related to our not being able to do anything with our cars other than drive them. He had a point.

The red flag for him was the fellow who raced on with his Toyota Prius, ignoring the requests of a chasing police cruiser that he put the thing into neutral. The driver confessed he thought of that (and hopefully did when the officer bellowed it at him from the cruiser loudspeaker), but was afraid that the car might roll or go out of control if he tried.

It’s an example of our current disconnect with our vehicles, not to mention most aspects of our technology.
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Think Rich

About two weeks ago, Bill Gates announced a long-term gift for funding childhood vaccines. Some people make headlines giving a hundred thousand dollars– a considerable sum– or on rare occasions by presenting a full million dollars. Far more impressive, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave what might be the largest philanthropic donation in history: ten billion.

That’s hard for us to comprehend. Even in digits, it staggers the mind: $10,000,000,000.00 (I added the cents, though somewhat meaningless at those rarified levels of finance). This will be over the next decade, and follows on the $4.5 billion they have already given over past years.

How much money do the Gates have? No one really knows, probably not even Bill. Probably enough to get a better haircut than he usually sports, but that’s not our focus. You and I might quickly calculate our “net worth” (or net debt) by adding what we currently have in the bank (including overdraft), adding on the value of a house, a car or two, subtracting off what we owe and hoping for a plus at the end of it. It gets a bit more complex at the Gates level. It would take a team of accountants a month to add and subtract what they are invested in, and the best they could do would be arrive at a moving figure that would be changing by the market minute. Someone once said Bill earned $800 a minute– I don’t know. I’ll call and ask.
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Charlie’s Line

Many years ago, I had a senior high math teacher named Charlie Read: a very capable teacher, highly respected. He made math interesting enough that I made an 85 in Geometry, with very little effort. That was convenient, since very little effort was what I gave studies at that time, and most of my other subjects showed it.

Charlie started some geometry courses with flair: he would stand at the back of the classroom and without warning fire a piece of chalk at the blackboard, hitting it with a snap that made students jump, leaving a single yellow mark on the board.

Striding up the aisle to the board, he would bellow, “Take a point!” He would go from there with the basics of geometry: you have a point in space. String points together, an infinite amount of them, and you have a line. With lines, you form shapes: triangles, squares, and more.
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Ah, the old Autumnal Equinox

Fall arrived Tuesday evening, so we are told. The orbit and tilt of the earth is not a thing that matches perfectly with our calendars, so this time it landed on September 22, which is actually more common than the 21st.

If you want just a touch of science (I know you do), what’s happening is that the tilt of the earth, as it swings in its orbit around the sun, is such that the sun is crossing the equator around September 22 (directly overhead there at noon). Unfortunately for us, it’s on its way down south of that, eventually to over the imaginary line from our school globes called the Tropic of Capricorn. It reaches there about December 21, when we in the northern hemisphere enjoy our shortest day of the year. You remember that: getting dark at four in the afternoon, no light in the morning until almost eight o’clock.

Tuesday was called the Fall Equinox or the “Autumnal Equinox” if we want to be even more verbose— meaning “equal night”, but it’s really meaning equal day and night.

I once spent a year in Resolute Bay, up on the arctic islands, as a weather observer in what now seems like a previous life. Like down here, September 22 is the usual “equinox” in Resolute, with equal day and night, but the sun is at such a low angle there that in the winter it can’t get over the horizon at all (I’ll keep referring to the sun doing something, which we humans have done since the beginning of time, though it’s us who are really doing most of the moving). In the summer, it manages to shine at a low angle right over the North Pole, such that it’s seen all day. I lived in the “Land of the Midnight Sun”.
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And now Tori

So first we have Karissa Boudreau, and now Tori Stafford. We can only shake our heads and ask, “What kind of a world are we living in?”

Is this sickness something new? I think not. That’s both good and bad. If it were entirely new, we might expect it to be growing, which I certainly hope it isn’t. I suspect this kind of thing happened throughout history, but one reason it’s in our face every year or so is the media of today—we live in a much smaller world. While in 1960 we might not have been presented the story of a situation in Woodstock, Ontario, in 2009 it gets delivered to us daily until it’s over (and then some). There may be some argument that with the Internet and other such things, child pornography has grown and triggered this kind of crime. I don’t know. Often investigations of such relationships indicate that while it might seem more blatant today, it was unfortunately always there. Continue reading

I just want what’s coming to me…

Did you ever wonder if there is something that conspires against you as you go about your daily routine? No, not the government, but something almost as sinister.

I learned in elementary math classes that there is something called the “Law of Averages”. I’m not sure if it’s as fixed as the Law of Gravity. It should be, but over the long haul it seems at times that something or someone has a finger in the works. I’m lodging a complaint. Not getting my fair share.

The Law of Averages tells us that if we flip a coin, it has a 50-50 chance of coming up as either possibility: heads or tails. If we flipped it a thousand times (fortunately, though retired, I still have other things to do), we should find that it comes up in the general area of 500 times on each side. The more we flipped, the closer it would get to half and half. Probably (there’s that word– from “probability”) we would do better if we changed coins now and then, in case the Queen’s face is inexplicably heavier than that of a moose and might affect the outcome. The Law of Averages tells us about things like the coin flip, and is a very general expression for the science, or really math, of “probability”. Probability Theory tells us odds for all kinds of situations. We can learn that the odds of winning the 6-49 lottery are astronomical, and that, although we know someone does win it, and (maybe) lives happily ever after, we have better chances of being struck by lightning. A website on the topic indicates that the odds of picking the correct number for 6-49 is one in 13,983,816. These are apparently the same odds as flipping a coin and getting tails 24 times in a row. That’s one to try. You first.
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A Walk in the Night

Last Friday evening into early yesterday morning, or later on the next few weekends, people will be taking part in the Canadian Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life”. It’s an inspiring, tiring, and often poignant night.

I was in a couple of Relays in recent years. In the first we met at a sports site with a track in back of Yarmouth, pitched a tent in a grassy field with dozens and dozens of others, and were fascinated immediately by the experienced teams who arrived more ready for the event than our team of novice teachers: wild costumes, signs, banners, and enough camping equipment to make the night really special even for those not on the track. We made vows to get more “geared up” the next year.

If you’re not familiar with the relays, the procedure is that you have to form a team of at least ten, and be prepared to have at least one member of the team (usually a few) walking on the track at all times for the next 12 hours– generally from 8 p.m. until morning. Each team member has to raise at least $100 in pledges. We fudged things a bit, since some of us knew that staying awake all night would play havoc with our sleep cycles, and since about half of our team lived in the Yarmouth area and half back here in Barrington. We set up a system where the Barrington bunch started off the night, and about 2 a.m. the Yarmouth half, having grabbed at least a nap or two, arrived as relief and allowed us to get home and to bed by about 3 a.m.

We had to arrive early. Although the Relay portion started about 8 p.m., there were “opening ceremonies” and special events before we started. These were not boring “I’d just as soon not be there” formalities; in fact, the late shift people were somewhat disappointed not to be on hand for them. Some of the speakers were recovered cancer patients, a few seemingly snatched back from the brink of death, and some some spoke in honor of people who were stalwarts in the Relays of the past, but during the last year the fight they thought they might win had turned against them.
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