Chippy Is In Trouble

We have taken to calling him Chippy.

The guilty look

The guilty look

A bold and ever frisky chipmunk has been popping up on our deck and throughout our back yard for many months now, and we usually love to see him. He’s so cute and seems to love posing for pictures. And he is not always on the move. More often than not we see him perched on a corner of the deck, gazing speculatively at our bird feeders, figuring out his next move in search of tasty seeds to munch or hide away.

On the Feeder

On the Feeder

But he was never really a nuisance – until yesterday!

Suddenly our friendly little rodent entertainer had outwitted our hitherto squirrel-proof bird feeder and climbed aboard to gorge himself on safflower-sunflower birdseed mix.

How the little blighter got there we’re not quite sure, but most likely by leaping from the pole supporting the feeder.

Chipmunks and squirrels of all kinds have tried their best to reach that feeder ring, only to be stymied by the cylindrical obstacle midway up that pole.

Onward and Upward

Onward and Upward




Chippy tried to do it a year or two ago, but had to retreat in failure.

But the crafty little critter somehow solved the access problem, leaving us with a new challenge to deter this new threat to hungry birdlife.


Hasty retreat

Hasty retreat

Today we think we’ve solved the problem. While the multi-striped invader has no problem climbing up the pole, he surely cannot get past that pesky barrier.

Out of reach, maybe

Out of reach, maybe

So we just removed the makeshift hanger put there to make it easier for reloading birdseed, raising the feeder well above the barrier.

Let’s see Chippy trying to beat that!

My U.S. Open Story

This weekend’s United States Open Golf tournament finds me sporting a well-liked souvenir of sorts – a U.S. Open Golf shirt my son Ron gave me a dozen or so years ago. Thanking him for it, I learned that I had someone else to thank as well – long time Canadian sports writer Cam Cole, whom he asked to get it for him.

Then working for the National Post in Toronto, Cam Cole covered golf tournaments all over the circuit and one of them was the 103rd edition of the U.S. Open at Olympia Field, Illinois in June 2003. Jim Furyk won that one in his first major victory.

Olympia Fields U.S. Open

Olympia Fields U.S. Open

What tickles my fancy still today is that, during his flight home to Toronto, something got spilled onto the shirt he was carrying on Ron’s behalf. But no problem. When Cam Cole got home, he gave the shirt a good wash and had it all nicely wrapped to give to my grateful son the next day.
I have been a great admirer of Cam Cole’s sports writing, especially on golf, for many years, so this gift was especially appreciated. I was sorry to read last December that he was retiring after more than 40 years in the business. He moved to Vancouver some years ago, probably in hopes of better golfing weather in his retirement years. Though I never met him, I wish him well.


Bearing a delightfully colourful front cover, Ottawa One Five O celebrates 150 years of the Canadian Confederation with an anthology of writings by Ottawa authors inspired by this major anniversary. Prose and poetry submissions by 30 members of the Ottawa Independent Writers (OIW) represent what its editor describes as “the widest imaginable range of works.” Content having a decidedly Canadian theme was required.
Conveniently presented in sections, with time periods from 1900 to 2167 and beyond highlighted for each selection, stories and poems touch on the past in history and imagination, the present in recollection and fiction and the future in speculation. Published by OIW, Ottawa Five One O is handsomely produced, thanks to excellent editing by Bob Barclay, assisted by Benoit Chartier and Bill Horne, with occasional illustrations and the splendid cover design by Magdalene Carson. Brief biographies of all contributors are included. Copies are available from the Ottawa Independent Writers

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson commented in a foreword note: “This special anniversary has particular significance for our country’s capital. This anthology brings to life our collective creative spirit…Each work in its own way, is a reminder of the unique beauty that is Canada and how blessed we are to live in the best country in the world.”

Prose in the Park

Prose in the Park

As one of the anthology contributors, I am very pleased indeed by this volume’s appearance which occurred Saturday June 10 at the Prose in the Park book festival at Ottawa’s Parkdale Park. Not sure how mine fits in with others singing Confederation’s praises – my piece, Lament For What Might Have Been, tells why I would have voted against Newfoundland’s joining Canada in 1949.
Editor Bob Barclay, who is also one of the contributors, is publisher of LooseCannon Press and is author of four books, one of which is due for release this year.

Her Name is Sookie!



She is only shut in a cage in down times of puppy training but doesn’t mind it a bit. And, in spite of Newfoundland connotations of her name, she is no cry baby, though she has been known to enjoy a little bark now and then.
Her doggie heritage is strictly Westie, with all the cuteness embodied in that breed. A west highland white terrier of Scottish origins, she lives in Toronto with her proud owner, our precious granddaughter Bridget.
About her name which, in a dotage rather than doting moment I earlier misnamed, young Sookie may not be pleased to learn of its down east repute. Here is how it’s listed (albeit in slightly different spelling) in Canada’s only regional dialect reference book, the Dictionary of Newfoundland English: “sooky (a for adjective): “whining, petulant, jealous…a sooky baby is a cry-baby”. The term “sook” is tagged as ‘a babyish child.”
Remembering these terms from childhood caused some hesitancy on my part in embracing the Sookie name, but a first glance at the bundle of fur in the flesh erased any such misgivings. This joyful and playful new arrival gives the lie to all that ancient verbiage.
Can’t wait to see her again, uncaged and rarin’ to go!

Eyesore Properties

More than four years ago, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson announced a new policy to deal with derelict buildings in the capital. The city, he promised, was stepping up enforcement of requirements for maintaining rundown properties.

So how come there are so many bothersome eyesores such as this one on Bank Street and Evans Avenue south of Billings Bridge?

Bank St. Derelict

Bank St. Derelict

Does maintaining mean nothing more than boarding up broken windows and sagging door frames? Passersby along busy streets like this may get used to them, but not without cringing in embarrassment at living in a city that puts up with such evidence of willful neglect. Photos used here were taken last fall but a drive by view this week showed virtually no change, or perhaps further deterioration, since that time.

“What we will require is that any building that is just sitting there must not stick out like a sore thumb,” Watson said in a March 2013 interview. “We’ll be insisting that owners keep up with regular repair on their assets.” Much fanfare accompanied that bold policy announcement but follow up action has been spotty at best.

Sympathy may be spared for property owners who try their best to solve derelict building problems, but lack of city pressure to effect meaningful repair or replacement only prolongs such eyesore situations. Action to cope with them in a timely manner is sorely needed.

A Call to Arms of the Faithful

What in the world is happening? Terror killing is a daily occurrence, but to what purpose? What kind of mind can justify random killing of innocent people?

Do the killers believe they will live forever in a nirvana reserved only for those who thrive on hatred? If an almighty being values human kind at all, surely mindless cruelty and callousness deserves to be unrewarded. Destroying human lives in the name of any almighty being is not only inhuman, it is intrinsically ungodly.

call to arms

call to arms

Leaders of world religions, whatever the stripe, owe it to all humans to condemn and disown those extremist zealots who war upon innocents in the name of some sacred being. Only they have the power to rid the world of evil doers masquerading as messiahs. Words alone are not enough. Only outspoken condemnation, rejection, ostracism, denial of entry to places of worship and exposure to law enforcement authorities has any hope of ending this tidal wave of nihilist religious-based fanaticism.

Let not evil prevail.

Be Smart and Buy A Paper

Want to do something about the troubling decline of the daily newspaper? For a start, buy a subscription, and read it through every day. We get two in our house, and not just for the crossword puzzles, and certainly not for the comics (except Zits.). If you’re in any kind of business, advertise in it. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than TV or the so-called social media, and folks can take their own good time reading it.

Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa Citizan

Looking through a newspaper today, you get a sense of unreality at the lack of local ads that used to meet everyday information needs. Don’t you get fed up always having to resort to google, a process that increasingly boggles the mind because of its innumerable entries saying much the same thing, but so often irrelevant to your particular need? Google and boggle do seem to go together, don’t they?

We have only ourselves to blame, of course, for allowing technology changes to sweep away all the comforts of what used to be everyday living. Look at what digital deering-do has done to the music scene – turfing out CDs and DVDs which were great, and cheap, for music buying and selling and playing. Now singers and musicians are struggling to survive, yet everyone steals their work on line all the time.

Same goes for professional photographers who have a hard time making a living in an age overladen with selfie-worshiping amateurs snapping admittedly sharp photos on their tiny ultra-modern cell phone devices.

News reporting suffers immensely today from the incursions of digital’s hand maidens like Facebook and Twitter, the great pretenders of the mass communications universe. Colour me hopelessly reactionary but, while sharing the neighbourly gossiping merits of Facebook tune-ins, I shudder at the torrents of purportedly knowledgeable outpourings on affairs of the day by persons of unknown and often highly suspect credentials. Not to mention the even mightier torrents of odious pop-up and timeline-packing ads you have to wade through in pursuing whatever interests you.

National Post

National Post

What people seem to forget when browsing through social media is that everything they see is – just like this blog – strictly someone’s opinion. In news media, factual information is in the forefront while opinion pieces are strictly confined to by-lined columns or editorials. The news is telling about what happens, and not what someone thinks about the whys and the wherefores. If legitimate news reporting disappears, we’re in deep trouble.

Certainly my most unfavourite knowledge source so ubiquitously featured on the google-dominated internet is that ghastly phenomenon known as Wikipedia. As candidly expressed to me the first time I heard of it, dealing quite erroneously with a subject I did know about, it embodies whatever information anyone in the world fancies contributing on a subject, and leaves it for others out there to embellish or revise it with their own take on the subject. A kind of Dummies Dictionary relying in smugly democratic confidence on other dummies to get it straight. Now why didn’t Encyclopedia Britannica think of that?

In short, can’t we draw back just a little from our headlong plunge into technology’s maelstrom and hold fast to the time-honoured bastions of the free press. Journalism is a professional calling and only responsible seekers of the truth in public affairs can be trusted to communicate factual information to the public at large. OK, I’m a tad biased, my son works for the National Post, but with my own modest background in journalism, I am a firm believer in the integrity of the legitimate news media.

Just as the daily newspaper managed to survive the advent of radio and television news, so too it can and should surmount the challenges of today’s on-line communications environment. So let’s give it room to breathe.


The Much Abused Apostrophe

Lynne Truss gave it the most apt of descriptions – a “satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes.” Her example was different but couldn’t have been more hilariously striking than this blue-bordered one-liner in today’s Ottawa Citizen’s proud full page ad for Real Canadian Superstore:


Seeing full page ads in any newspaper is a happy occasion nowadays for those of us who cling to the timeless custom of daily subscriptions and faithful perusing of its contents from cover to cover. No question that such advertising spreads catch the eye of even the least fervid of shoppers.

But there is a price to be paid for thus snaring the consumer – beware of dumb and silly mistakes in whatever you choose to print.

Reading all the way to the bottom of a full page ad may well be an uncommon experience but on this occasion it was probably fated to happen. Fact is that lately I have been re-reading that delightful British #1 best bestseller Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss’s witty exposition of what she calls “the zero tolerance approach to punctuation.” Her book is chock full of bizarre but all too familiar examples of the savagery with which countless offences against the fundamentals of English grammar are committed in everyday parlance and publishing.

Putting apostrophes where they don’t belong may be one of the least forgivable of such transgressions. It’s almost as bad as the nearly universal ignorance of the difference between it’s and its!

(Just a moment – my Word spell checker dared to tell me I had to change that it’s to its. No wonder the world’s ignorance so easily thrives!)

If only everyone understood that it’s is merely another way of saying it is. However its denotes possession just like his and her. Oh well, enough about grammar.

But please, let’s not let advertisers get us sticklers on their backs when they should really know better.

Or maybe just hire a copy editor!


PM in action

PM in action

What makes a public speaker go wrong?

How about a tendency to intersperse spoken words with that most tentative of hesitations – an “ah.”

It is a significant pause in delivery, occasioned usually by the speaker’s inability to project his thoughts far enough ahead to deliver a complete sentence.

Well may it be a totally unconscious habit which the speaker has not thought to correct. Or one that his family and friends have refrained from bringing to his attention.

A trait forgivable perhaps within family circles, but hardly tolerable in a public figure.

Like, say, the Prime Minister of Canada.

Especially one who appears almost hourly in one public dais or another from coast to coast and beyond.

Yet, hearken ye acolytes to what the Justin voice projects before the public ear!

Listen closely when he speaks off the cuff to reporters or to audiences great and small.

Just count how many “ahs” punctuate his vocabulary in a delivery otherwise quite articulate.

Whether one is fan or foe, hearing such oratorical no-nos from the lips of a country’s leader gives one pause – no pun intended!

The “ahs” in his unscripted utterances, once you begin to notice them, become totally distracting.

Maybe all he needs is someone bold enough to warn him off his hesitating habit.

Or, perhaps – dare we say it – tell him to take a lesson on the dos and don’ts of public speaking?

It’s – ah – never too late!



sophisticated socks

sophisticated socks

Ever get to the stage that all you can think of is:

Now I’ve seen it all?

Even when all you’re doing is picking up a new pair of socks.

Putting quirky colours on them is one thing.

just socks

just socks

Quirky names even more so.

And giving directions on how to put them on is not even new any more.

Not since TGIF became a sort of household word.

What weary office worker has never uttered the term in sheer relief at the end of one’s work week?

Thank God it’s Friday! Or just TGIF, for short

Did you know there are websites today devoting all one’s attention to the various meanings of that now quite common expression?

One of them lists off about 28 variations, most of them embarrassingly innocuous.

Saved only by one inclusion: Tadpoles Grow Into Frogs.

But let’s come back to socks.

With socks, TGIF takes on an entirely different, albeit instructive, meaning:

Toes Go In First.

All very useful, no doubt, especially for those afflicted in some way with directional shortcomings.

But now, someone has come up with yet another embellishment, calculated to comfort the more hesitant of our breed when faced with the everyday task of donning a pair of socks.

Just mark them cleary L for Left and R for Right.

We can now decide at a glance which one to put on the left foot, and which on the right.

Ahh, such sublime satisfaction in putting’s one’s best foot forward as a new day dawns.