Thursday, December 27, 2012

Apples Are Only Good For Pies

Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jespsen

Life was much simpler when Blackberry and Apple were still just fruit...and Samsung only the classics! 

How is this for ironic? I am writing this on my Samsung and I am complaining about Apple while my Blackberry sits in rice recovering from it's unexpected Polar Bear Dip on Christmas Day. Firstly, clarification on Polar Bear Dip for those who may not know. It's popularity has grown into a world wide phenomenon with the ability for national news to quickly become global fodder, I was not so worldly growing up for sure! Regardless, a polar bear swim is when humans for unknown reasons wish to emulate polar bears and swim in near frozen water. Being resourceful however the quick swim in the frigid water is often followed up by a  re-heat in a hot tub that has been set up on the shore line. Similar to the Nordic countries like Norway that roll naked in the snow before jumping in the sauna. Well not people with heart conditions :) In Canada they are often done to raise money for some charity rather than pleasure.

I was retrieving and praying
But back to mobile devices, for the second time in as many years, my phone took it's own polar bear dip when it plunged into the icy depths of toilet water. Yes, the water was clean and being as I quickly and without thought as to cleanliness reached in and pulled it out, I can personally attest to the frigid temperature of the water. It was very sobering...yes I had been drinking. The last time it happened the phone was a Blackberry Bold and was less than 24 hours old and alcohol was not a factor. I was so mad at myself. As fast as I could make it home, I put it in a container and covered it with rice. And left it there with the battery beside it for several months. I was, quite frankly, terrified to take it out in case it didn't work. But alas it did work and that phone was a gem until I fell down the stairs with it in my back pocket and the camera quite working. Once a device is water damaged, and yes technicians can tell, repair cost are out of your pocket and no work is guaranteed. As my son put it, water damage can continue to occur unseen in the form of corrosion within the casing. He felt that this was actually the cause for the camera malfunction.

Blackberry Torch 9800
Having access to several phones because of his age (and line of work), he graciously provided me with a new (to me) phone with a working camera. It was a Blackberry Torch and if even possible, I liked it better than the Bold. The screen was bigger to accommodate my old eyes and it combined the touch screen feature with the qwerty keyboard that I love. Without ever having an iPhone, I always looked at them as a toy/plaything whereas a Blackberry was a tool. Although I never had the phone, I did own an iPad for a time. Yes, I succumbed to the hype. It was an overpriced toy! With no capacity for flash, compatible word processing programs and only the touch screen to type, I found it difficult to use it productively. So I got rid of it, in favour of the Samsung tablet that I got a companion keyboard for, making it similar to my baby laptop (10 inch screen) that I used to take everywhere with me. I loved my little eeePC that I got free during a promotion with the Royal Bank of Canada back in 2008. I hear you, "if it was great why replace it?" Well, I'll tell you, the "h" quit working so I resorted to cutting and pasting every time I needed an "h". You have no idea how many words have an "h". It got to be a real nuisance when if came to any serious writing. Many words didn't show up on the spell check. Hat:at, show:sow, that:tat. You get the point. The iPad was a poor substitute and so along came the Samsung. It's a tablet, a working laptop computer and with it's Polaris Office system, it's a dream. I am aware that it is possible to buy a keyboard to work with the iPad, and I may even agree that I did not give the iPad a fighting chance without said keyboard, but the roadblocks I came up against just wasn't worth the trouble. For me.

I use my mobile phone as a portable office. Appointment cards are wasted pieces of paper, because everything went into the calendar of my phone. I can't make a personal phone call, because all my contacts were in my phone. My note pad was filled with thoughts, ideas for writings and cool things I read. E-mail was the best and quickest way to communicate for even those times when I couldn't answer the phone. Social media, browsing, text and bbm were all bonus tasks that could be performed.  Oh yeah and it was a phone too! Losing it was like severing my right arm. Suddenly the house was too quite without the familiar Pink Panther theme singing to me with an alert of an incoming call. Bugs Bunny letting me know "What's this? A letter for me", Mr Bean would implore me to "Pick up,  pick up" when a specific friend tried to reach me. I guess my phone was a working tool as well as a toy :)

For this trick to work, the container needs an airtight seal.
It's the holidays and I don't have disposable money to rush out and buy the latest and greatest electronic just because it is new. But I was lost, I honestly did not know what was on my schedule of things to do or appointments to attend while my beloved Torch was relaxing in a rice bath oblivious to my trauma. lol. God bless my son, who came to my rescue again. Today his selection is somewhat more limited and I had the choice of a Blackberry Bold without a battery (sadly I don't have a stash of batteries at my disposal) or an Apple iPhone 3. The iPhone 5 was recently released so I guess this one is 6 months old. haha! Okay a little older, but isn't it crazy how fast new models are released in the electronics industry? 

Trying to be unbiased, I am very grateful to have any phone that can remind me of the numerous commitments stored in my calendar and my personal contacts. How sad is it that I cannot contact my own children without my mobile device? What a world we live in. To be fair to me however, during the four years of his university experience, my son probably went through 6-8 phone numbers - who could be expected to remember all of those? My daughter did go through fewer but it was just easier to rely on the phone to know them. All I needed to know was their name and press the picture of the phone handset. So, when I got the iPhone, I inserted my Sim (memory) card and...nothing came up. No contacts. On the up side, my calendar showed that I had some time to try and figure out this new device.

The phone is used, and thusly did not come with a manual and no, I did not look one up on line. But user-friendly should be mandatory in these devices that are produced to be used across the generations and even for people without internet access. Blackberry, that was once so addictive that it was referred to as "Crackberry" because of it's ease of use as an out of office connective device. It became as necessary as the office stapler. But RIM has fallen out of favour lately with it's failed foray into the tablet market. The Playbook was plagued with production and distribution problems and people just gave up waiting and scooped up tablets already tried and true on the store shelves. Confidence in the business slid as fast as the stock prices. The cell phone market had also changed. There were new and innovative companies trying to gobble up market share and the large business market had been taken over by the social masses who wanted a gaming device as well as a phone. Admittedly, the larger screen is preferable for viewing pictures and videos. But for productivity, nothing beats the Blackberry in my opinion.
YES! I admit I'm an addict :)

So here are some of my beefs with the iPhone 3. It is possible that some have been rectified in the newer versions that have been released or that I am just not aware of a fix. Also, when referring to Blackberry, I am including the Curve, Bold and Torch, as I have experience with all and they all have the features listed unless otherwise noted.

1. Sound preferences. On a standard Blackberry you have profiles that apply to all phone tones. Normal, loud, silence all, phone calls only, vibrate only to name a few. Plus you can create your own. Ring tones that are downloaded and assigned to specific functions or contacts do not need to be separately programmed. I cannot find this very handy feature on the Apple, when during the night I only want to be disturbed by phone calls not incoming e-mails.
2. Alarm. This would also be affected by #1. If a wake up alarm is set on the Blackberry, the sound preference is irrelevant. Your alarm will go off and wake you up. And during the night the phone behaves as a bedside clock, that is just a handy feature all around but especially if you are travelling. Last night I set the alarm on the Apple, then having no options, turned the phone volume down and if the alarm went off, I didn't hear it. Another Blackberry perk, the alarm goes off continually until you shut it off or snooze - and the amount of snooze time is chosen by you as well.
3. Sound alerts. I have not downloaded any ringtones onto this temporary phone, but am not pleased that I don't have the option to change the tone for e-mail and calendar alerts. A noise emits from the phone and I have no idea why. Waking it up from sleep-mode and I have to guess and check my e-mail etc to see if that is what the notice was. The Blackberry gives me a flashing light to indicate activity and a count of and indicator for new activity along the top of the screen. Ringtones don't matter for even on silent these alerts will be present. Again, in terms of productivity this is very efficient.
4. Version. I don't really know if this is unique to Apple but I have never experienced it on Blackberry. Programs are always coming out with newer versions with what they think are improved features. As witnessed by the mass protests when Facebook rolls out a new version, the public is not always willing to concede the improved aspect. Regardless it happens and this is a perfect example of this Apple blemish. iPhone says I have the latest version on the phone, Facebook says I don't. So I can't get facebook app on this phone. On the forums, Apple devotees blame facebook, others blame Apple. I don't know but it makes this phone a rather costly brick.
5. Browser. We all know that if we go over our data usage we are dinged like crazy. On the Blackberry I could close the browser and was confident it was not running. On the Apple, I am just not sure that I trust a "back" button to log me off. This could be a paranoia issue and lack of confidence in the product issue. 
6. Apps. Having a Blackberry, I could never quite understand the need for apps, except for playing games. Why do I need an app on my phone for the bank when I could just as easily go on their website via the browser? I got an app to turn my phone into a flashlight and a weather app. That was about it. What I see standard on this iPhone, I am beginning to understand the need for all the apps. There is nothing on this phone to be a productive piece of equipment until I visit the app store. 

I am sure there is more I could beef about but I will stop and concede that like the Mac computer vs the IBM compatible there is room in the world and a market for all the various types of devices. Computer or phone, it all boils down to the same thing for me. Productivity vs creativity. The Mac has always been the computer of choice for the creative minds that want to draw and create on the screen. The IBM was preferred in the workplace.This mentality is illustrated perfectly in the school system that stocks it's elementary school computer labs with Macs and their high schools with IBM compatible units. 

I am creative with a pencil or paint. My mind is very imaginative. But my electronics I prefer to be for my productive side - writing etc. I can see why some would prefer the iPhone with the necessity to customize it's usage as beneficial for the creative and inquiring minds that like to understand and explore electronics. But for others like me, I just want a device that will work the way I want without driving me crazy how to figure out how to do the simplest of tasks. I am told that I am not using the Samsung tablet to the fullest extent and I haven't even scratched the surface of it's capabilities. That may be true, but for now it is doing exactly what I want. Anything more would surely be a bonus and I will investigate if this damn iPhone would just tell me if I have an appointment I am late for? 

The only thing I know for sure is that in the future I will be keeping a spare Blackberry within reach for the next time I find myself in this predicament. Hopefully it won't be water related! But for now...

Anybody have a Blackberry I can borrow? :)

UPDATE: The love affair resumes. The new (to me) Torch and I are together again. He even has a new name, Roger. I am not too thrilled about his background, but I am willing to overlook that small imperfection. Until the rice releases my first love and we are re-united.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas for All (or Fear Instead of Faith)

Christmas All The Time - Tom Cochrane

Ah, Christmas is upon us once again. And it doesn't much feel like Christmas. The stores are busy but not insane. People seem to be more courteous and stress-free than I have experienced in the past. Thoughts sometimes randomly come to my head and make me smile or chuckle and when I am alone driving in the vehicle and pass another motorist I often noticing them smile back at me. Little do they know it was probably a dirty thought on my! I got someone else to smile at me and I spread some joy around. The intent (or lack of) is not important. But I digress, back to Christmas... 

Random acts of kindness. In the aftermath of the tragic events that took place in Connecticut where innocent school children (age 6 and 7) were brutally slain along with several adults, the general focus has been on being kind to one another. Social media is championing a kindness pledge for people to do one random act of kindness for everyone of he 26 killed that day. Although, as a sidebar, they do forget to count the gunman and his mother in that tally of death. Regardless of our own feelings towards them, they too were loved and will be missed. The whole idea being kind is wonderful but sad in that it takes a tragedy to remind us that it should be a lifestyle not a special commemorative occasion. 

Perhaps though it is the idea that so many children will be missing out on the magic of Christmas. As a parent my heart ached for the families that on top of everything else will likely have an assortment of gifts that they bought for their children that they must deal with. To lose a child at any time is heartbreaking no doubt, but at the most celebrated family occasion, it would be so much more intense. I can't even imagine. Maybe it is a sad topic of discussion at this joyous time, but it is a reality for many. Even myself having lost my last family member nearly 30 years ago, it still aches to hear every one talk about family get-togethers at this time of year. Had I the financial means, I think I would adopt a family or person and have them over for a Christmas Day celebration of love and kindness. It was done for me by friends and it made the holiday so much more special. 

Back to random kindness, I want to give a personal shout out to a corporation that has exemplified this notion on a national level. Tim Hortons coffee shops have decided to spread a little holiday cheer by gifting a free order to random customers. This is above and beyond their participation in the annual Random Act of Kindness week held in February each year. 

It's a wonderful idea but it really should be a life choice that can begin with a designated week or aftermath of tragedy but become a daily life decision. Kindness toward fellow man because we all deserve respect regardless of age or gender etc. Holding a door, sharing change to help the shopper ahead of us, smiling at one another, using manners and being polite. Just imagine if everyone you encountered in your day practiced good manners....what a different world we would live in. No asshole to ding your car, take two spots in the parking lot, cut in front of you on the busy roads, butt in line in front of you, take their frustrations out on you. Heaven on earth indeed.


The spirit of Christmas is about goodwill and peace and love. It is a time we think about all the people in our lives that are important to us and find some small token to show our appreciation. Okay, the size of the token is relevant to the size of our bank account and significance of the person in question. Our children may be more amply rewarded than the newspaper carrier. 

Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth - David Bowie & Bing Crosby
Looking up to the Heavens and wishing my family MERRY CHRISTMAS! Mom loved this song <3

Christmas is a time for personal reflection, a time to renew hope and cherish the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. A time to visit those who we haven't had time for in the frantic bustle of our daily lives and to give. It is one of the most charitable times of the year. Marked in a deep tradition that may have been sparked by religious beliefs it is so much more now. 

The commercialization of Christmas is only one part that leaves people feeling a bit sour. It's big business that many enterprises count on to sustain their meager existence throughout the rest of the year. Consider the floundering postal system. With the popularization of social media, the internet and e-mail the post office is in big financial trouble. Except for all the on-line shoppers that must get their packages delivered some how. This is the busiest time of the year despite the lack of Christmas cards that are dropped in the mailbox.

I applaud the Canadian government and Treasury Board President, Tony Clement for lifting the ban that prohibited Christmas related cards and decorations in Federal offices. Political correctedness be damned, it is Christmas. For too long this country has bowed to the demands of people who are coming to this country with visions of a better life and then deciding that what they really want is what they left but without the fear of personal persecution. And now I and other Canadians citizens are being persecuted for our long-held beliefs. It's wrong. I thank my Government for finally taking a stand and protecting my right too. I hope it sticks long-term and the sentiment spreads. 

How dare they? lol! :)
Of course, there has to be one that seeks his proverbial 15 minutes of fame at great expense to the tax-payer. This year, this shameful cad comes to us from 
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Some person is taking the City of Saskatoon to the Civil Rights Commission because the city transit is displaying the message "Merry Christmas" on its location banner. To their credit the city has not removed the message and given in to this idiotic complaint. What a waste of tax dollars. Don't like the bus. Take a taxi, walk or leave the country. I for one will not be forced to celebrate my religious and cultural freedoms in shame and secrecy to appease you. We may do well by him to have his psychiatrically assessed for his belief is that the Christmas message make him feel like he needs to convert to Christianity to be considered a first-class citizen. You get that from Merry Christmas? Really? It is interesting to note that he speaks with pluralised pronouns to give the impression he is not alone in his thoughts. Do real or imaginary co-horts agree with him? I will not mention his name because I really don't feel he is entitled to any more recognition. I don't know what ethnicity he is a part of or what religion (if any) he practices. Nor do I care. I call myself a Canadian because I am a proud citizen of this country. My background is European - Italian. This country prides itself in it's acceptance of cultures from around the globe. But we have to draw the line somewhere.

Many people choose to emigrate to Canada because we enjoy freedom of religion. The right to practice the religion of your choice. Not the freedom FROM religion. By stopping me from saying Merry Christmas because it offends you, is a disrespect for my rights and freedoms. For as long as Canada has been populated Christmas has been celebrated here. Don't like it...see ya. Go back to where you came from, since I assume no one says Merry Christmas there! You do have the freedom to leave. God bless Canada!

This is where you come back to the idea of the Christmas Spirit and spreading kindness and goodwill. The fact of the matter is that in this country we celebrate Christmas or at least the notion of the Christmas season. You can protest all you want but it is not likely to change. Two cashiers at the counter, one wishes a Merry Christmas, the other Happy Holidays. They both mean the same thing...every ka-ching sings Merry Christmas! If you take advantage of the day off work because Christmas is a statutory holiday, or if you accept time and a half holiday pay and still turn your nose up as I wish you a Merry Christmas you are a hypocrite. And the same goes if you take advantage of any seasonal commercial sale including Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Boxing Day sales. You are supporting Christmas and all it has to offer. As a Canadian citizen or citizen of this country you are entitled to all the benefits of the holiday just like Canada Day and the other Christian public paid holiday Easters' Good Friday. The same cannot be said for me when you want to take off work for your lesser known and not nationally celebrated holidays like Diwali or Rosh Hashana. So as a non-Christian you get more paid working days off than I do. What exactly is your complaint? Christian and non-Christian schools all reap the benefits of the Christian celebration of Christmas. Maybe you want to stay in school and/or work while the rest of the Canadians celebrate?  

When will it stop? First we are forced to abandon the Christmas tree for the holiday tree, then be damned if we utter the words Merry Christmas. God is taken out of the schools along with all prayer in favour of semi-automatic weapons and guards and locked doors. We live in fear instead of faith. 

If we don't stand up to this nonsense now, we will open the doors to the protests from the perpetual bachelors who are offended by Fathers Day. The aegist who fire off protests to the Government for reminding us of that arbitrary number society calls our living age on our drivers license. And then remind us of our mortality when at 65 they send us monthly cheques. And the life insurance company that sends a birthday card every year bringing tears to our eyes. It's offensive I tell ya! 

This madness must stop! And I am speaking of the hatred directed at the Christians who want to shout out...



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Trolling for people! (or Shooting Fish in A Barrel)

Peace on Earth - U2

Another mass shooting in the United States this past week (on Friday December 14, 2012). And I am going to say it again, I don't want to celebrate the name of the shooter and have their name at the forefront of my memory. I am annoyed at myself for remembering Marc Lepine, Paul Bernardo, Ted Bundy etc but I am hard pressed to recall the victims so quickly. That's sad. 

But it is the first thing that comes out in a news story as traumatic as this. We want to know who and why. It seems to me that the perpetrator of these heinous acts seem to take the cowardly route and turn the gun on themselves before society can mete out justice. Among the bodies strewn about the location, the gunman is easily identified with weapons nearby and bullets on the person. The name is released to the media quickly. And then it is repeated over and over again. I will not fall into that frenzy again. The names of 26 victims may be a lot to recall, but I will celebrate their life and mourn their loss and their families sorrow without the attachment of the name (or mental picture of) the one who mowed them down.

And so within moments of the news leaking to the world that a gunman with an assault rifle entered the Sandy Hook elementary school in the picturesque community of Newton, Connecticut, USA and opened fire. From hallway to classroom he sprayed more than 100 bullets and 26 found their mark and claimed a life. Sadly according to some reports, after being shot from a distance the killing became up close and personal and some children were shot up to 11 times. This isn't random, to me it is a personal vendetta that he carried out - but for what reason we may only ever be able to speculate about. Maybe it doesn't really matter why? 20 children never got to give their families one last kiss, 6 adults never got to say good bye to their loved ones. 

But wait, their were two more victims. The gunman and his mother. I understand not wanting to lump the murderer in with the death toll he caused but why is his mother left out? Is it because it was her weapons that were used. Ah yes, it seems that Mom had an arsenal of hand guns and rifles and enjoyed taking her children out for a family outing of target practice. Bizarre behaviour in my mind but I live in a nation that has different outlooks on gun ownership. And this is where I am going with this.

There is no need for your average Joe Citizen to own an assault rifle or automatic weapon of any type. Certainly I think it is time that the parameters of who, how many and what types of guns should be allowed in a household in the United States. NRA be damned. The death toll would not have been so high with a single shot weapon. If there were no weapons ready for the taking in the home, the gun man may have released some of his rage before acting on it. We know that we can get our hands on a weapon if we are really intent on it, but with the time it takes to get it, our murderous rage may be calmed somewhat. But if your second amendment right to bear arms supersedes my right to life then at least please take the deadly velocity out of the equation.  

I equate hunting game with a rifle or shotgun in the same vein as fishing with a lure or live bait. One animal or fish is captured. No excessive killing. Then there is the semi-automatic or automatic weapon that has the capability to mow down an entire herd of animals in moments. Like the fishing net that captures everything in its path with no chance of survival. It is no longer a sport or survival. It is business with a devastating impact, socially or environmentally.  

Melt the Guns - XTC

Bottom line, I suppose is that a mass killing can and does happen regardless of the weapon involved. Case in point, the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City (168 people dead, many injured), the commercial airliners into the World Trade Center (2,753 dead), Jonestown massacre by poisoning (909 dead). While the number of victims here may be greater, these attacks against humanity where planned out events that took considerable time and preparation. Comparatively, Sandy Hook elementary school had fewer casualties, but an interesting analogy was brought up concerning another elementary school being targeted on the other side of our planet. In China a man with an unknown vendetta against school age children went on a spree that left 23 victims in his wake. The difference being that his weapon was a knife and there was not one fatality! The man was subdued by witnesses. I too, would risk a stab wound over a barrage of bullets to attempt to stop an attacker in his tracks. A no-brainer really. You would expend very little personal energy squeezing a trigger than you would pounding a knife through flesh and bone.  

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But this tragedy is really not just about the argument for or against gun ownership. It is about mental illness as well. For I think it is safe to say that someone who flies into a murderous rage and takes a weapon to slaughter countless innocent people before himself is not quite right in the head. Whether it is a means to an end in seeking revenge and final retribution for wrongs that have been committed against the attacker, or some perverse ideal of achieving infamy and notoriety for all the days after our life - the thinking process is skewed. 

Considering this picture, it is true that the steps are harder to climb than it is to walk into the visually attracting gun store, but sometimes we have to swallow some of our own pride to reach out and climb those stairs. It is not an easy thing for people to go against societal expectations and admit that we are weak and incapable of handling life and need help. And often times we don't know ourselves that we need help and can't cope on our own. But that doesn't mean that it is society's fault if we don't recognize that need. Some people go to the doctor for a small ache or pain and practice preventative care, some people are riddled with cancer before they know something is not right. The same can and does hold true for mental illness. We don't necessarily know that the way we view the world is skewed, our neighbours and society tell us that problems are solved with guns. Movies and media preach the notoriety garnered by revenge. It's what we learn and know. Restriction of access to guns will not stop mass violence against humanity but it might make it harder. What the US is doing now sure isn't working! 

I'm familiar with the mental health system in Canada. Unless you are in crisis (ready to snap) there are simply not enough professional to care for the growing number of people who are having difficulty coping with society's expectations. And of course there are always abuses to the system that makes it harder for those in real need. For every little misbehaviour it seems that parents are running to look for a diagnosis to be used as an excuse for what is nothing more than lack of effective parenting. And where there is a real problem with a dysfunctional teen, parents are often oblivious because of the demands that are placed on them from family and work obligations. 

I don't know what the answer is. I do know that someone had to recognize when I was in crisis and take steps to remedy it because I wasn't climbing those stairs to shout it out for the world to hear.  

If someone has it in their head that they are going out with a bang, banning gun ownership is not going to stop them. We can't outlaw knife ownership, and certainly vehicles have been used to intentionally kill the innocent. We can't ban cars. Most schools are locked to the public, but there will always be the crack that someone slips through. Tragedy on a grand scale can happen at a school, business, shopping venue or public transit. We can't prevent it all but we have to try and make it harder to do the deed and help the ones we can. That is all

Final note: Morgan Freeman has had some words to share about this topic and it isn't difficult to find the associated commentary shared all over social media sites.  I would like to share that according to, Morgan Freeman never made the comments attributed to him. But I did! The synopsis of his first paragraph is found in my musings from October 2012 entitled You Don't Have to Win the Race to Succeed! This is the link.

Final Final note: There was a lot of commentary about this subject posted on the internet and on social media and much centered around the unprovoked attack, gun ownership and mental illness. But there was one comment that was different and stopped me in my tracks to re-read it several times. While expressing great sorrow and compassion for the victims and families in Connecticut, there was a resentment that hundreds of children have been massacred at the hands of the US Drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. On one hand the American people are expected to be grief stricken by the senseless actions of a madman while at the same time be supportive of the government and people who continue to kill children and innocent people off their shores filling an agenda that is possibly just as insane. But permissible and not questioned in the name of war. Hmmmm?

Credit where credit is due:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's 12-12-12...and...Nothing Happened!

It's the End of the World - R.E.M.
I think that these kind of numerically obscure dates are kind of cool. Only because they don't happen very often and in fact we won't see another for some 81 years. January 1, 2101 will be 01-01-01. But I can almost guarantee that I won't be here in a physical form to experience it. 

The 12 factor has some particular superstitious and spiritual qualities that other consecutively numbered dates have not had. According to numerologists, 12 is especially significant because the numbers add up to 3 and the number 3 is tied to the planet Jupiter and wealth. Besides being the largest planet I don't rightly know why I should care that Jupiter is considered the third planet, but then again I am not an astrologer either. Additionally, according to Chinese lore one is a yang number and two in a yin number together in the number 12, the yin and yang are in complete harmony. 

12 is an interesting number in our earthly realm as well. It is a easily divisible number by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, an of course itself. Donuts, eggs and hot dogs are sold in packages of 12. There are 12 inches in a foot and the number 12 appears at the top of an analog clock. In fact the day is split into 2 periods of 12 hours each. We often think of the day being 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. There are 12 months of the year and at 12 years of age we cease to become children and move onto teenage or young adult years. There are also 12 astrological signs, 12 apostles and 12 face cards in a deck of playing cards. I am sure that there are dozens of other significant relations. Although in some cases you have to be a numerologist to understand it or care. 

Many people are taking advantage of the perceived significance of the date and have scheduled weddings, grand openings for businesses, and even births (by cesarean section) to give an edge to their future fortunes. Personally, I am a bit skeptical and think that many do it for the notoriety. Their 15 minutes of fame. With the exception of the boy who lucked out at being born at 12:12 on December 12th, the rest is contrived. Who would care about the Brampton couple getting married if they hadn't chosen this date? Would the grand opening of a casino in Michigan make international news? One week from now (or tomorrow) will anyone care? Although I did find someone on the internet trying to keep her moment in the spotlight shining. She claims to have been born at 7:07 on July 7, 1977 and weighing 7lb, 7oz and she was looking for some significance in her life because of it. Some luck you make yourself and not just by reading it on line. One minute either way in a birth, does it really matter. My son was born 12:01 on the 14th because I was deliriously adamant that he couldn't be born on the 13th (bad luck). For all I know he was born at 11:59 and the doctor saved me a lifetime of grief with the stroke of a pencil. Either way, I am happy :)

I am personally old enough to have been breathing on this earth for many of these numerical and sequential oddities.
6-6-66 June 6th 1966 - The satanist should have been all over this one, but according to "Today in history" searches on the internet, Satan did not take over our planet. 
7-7-77 July 7th 1977 - I my own life, my brother had finished his regimen of 12 pills that he had to take to combat the Hodgkins Disease he was fighting. Internationally, 12,000 police officers occupied the University of Mexico - to further their education? lol (Did you notice the unintentional 12 crop up there?)
8-8-88 August 8th 1988 - My daughter was 193 days old and I was still a novice in the motherhood club. But I could have given a few pointers to new Mom, the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson who gave birth to 6lb 12 oz Beatrice on this date. 
9-9-99 September 9th 1999 - In my own life, a new school year was beginning from a new family home and that meant a new school for the kiddies. Many computers of the day used the digits 9999 to mark the end of a file so there was a mild fear that computers would crash and terminate files. And the geeks noted that it was the ninth anniversary of 9/9/99 and we wouldn't see it happen again for at least 99.9999 years.
10-10-10 October 10 2010 - The power of ten. One of three things was predicted to happen on this date. First, that something good would happen. Second, that nothing of significance would happen. Third, that something bad would happen. The all-knowing internet records nothing of significance. Personally, looking back now, I see that my life was preparing for a traumatic turn and life that I had created was about to come crashing down. Seems like so long ago.
11-11-11 November 11 2011 - The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour has always had significance to the Canadian people as that is the moment that is enshrined as Remembrance of the sacrifices of those that gave all for all. It is the moment that the armistice was signed ending the first World War. In the year 2011, there are no more surviving veterans of that conflict. 

12-12-12 It's the end of the world or the day of spiritual awakening. I think we each decide for ourselves which it will be. I am personally fearful of using the word hope but I do find myself feeling a reserved optimism for the future. Ah yes, I do see future. I have one person to thank for that, during an innocent cup of coffee we shared she snapped me out of my doldrums when she said "You know how it felt to live without a mother, why would you do that to your own children and deprive the young ones to come of a wonderful grandmother." And there is another who seems to be appreciative of my existence on this planet. I guess that is all I need - to know I am worthy and worthwhile. Today will be my awakening to the world laying at my feet, waiting for me to dance. 

As for those pesky Mayans who have put the dread of the coming doom into our collective thoughts. December 21, 2012 seems somewhat random to me, so I will assume that they were mildly dyslexic and meant for it to read 12.12.12. And when I awake tomorrow - all will be right with the world once again. Except for monkeys shopping at Ikea with warm stylish coats and no footwear. But if I should die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take and burn all the evidence of my naughty side before it is exposed to the masses. Remember kiddies, your mother is a fallible human creature - not perfect. :) 

Now I am off to create a project to start in the new year. The beginning of my spiritual re-awakening and gratitude for my blessings. Bad luck be damned in 2013, I will have a jar in a prominent place in whatever place I call home that will contain scraps of paper recalling good things that happen throughout the year. A gratitude jar. Got the idea from a friend. Pass it on and join me. 

Love ya all!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Day the East Coast of Canada Exploded

Love This Town - Joel Plaskett

I have always found it disturbing that Canada outside of the Maritime Provinces has virtually forgotten about a catastrophic event in our history that is comparable only in magnitude to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In fact, the Halifax explosion remains the second biggest man-made explosion in the world since it occurred 95 years ago. 

The Collision

The cloud of smoke rose 20,000 feet
Theoretically despite the country was in the middle of participation in the First World War, it was an accident of epic proportions. Halifax was a major port for the gathering of ships ready to convoy troops and supplies to the battlefield in Europe. In the early morning hours of December 6th the French ship Mont-Blanc carrying more than 2000 tons of explosives prepared to rendezvous with a convoy heading for the theater of war overseas. At the same time a Norwegian vessel was preparing to set sail for New York to pick up relief supplies for the Belgian citizens. It was bad judgement and confusion over "right of way" that caused the Imo to hit the Mont-Blanc on the bow at 8:45. It was not a serious collision despite the fire that erupted on the deck of the munitions ship, but the captain and crew (knowing the cargo) expected the ship to blow up immediately. Instead of staying aboard to guide the crippled ship to a position of less danger and prevent a tragedy, they launched the life boats and headed for the safety of the Dartmouth shore, allowing the ticking time bomb to drift aimlessly toward the Halifax shore. The ship's captain and pilot were also remiss in notifying the innocent citizens watching the spectacle of the potential mammoth explosion which did come to fruition. While these actions often lead people to believe that the Mont-Blanc was at fault for the resulting tragedy, and yes indeed, the devastation may not have been as great had the crew stayed aboard: it was in fact actions on the part of the Imo that caused the initial collision. While passing each other in "The Narrows", it was expected that ships would keep to the right when passing another. The Imo did not respect this rule and was travelling faster than was allowable. In an attempt to avoid a collision that seemed imminent, the Imo reversed her engines which caused the ship to swing around and collide with the Mont-Blanc. 

The Explosion

The shank of the Mont-Blanc anchor mounted where it was found
A few naval officers and a railway dispatcher learned of the explosive cargo of the ship that came to rest against a pier in the busy industrial area of the city and they tried to warn the growing crowds who had gathered watching the excitement, blissfully unaware. The railroad dispatcher desperately tried to halt the incoming train traffic. Vince Coleman's message declared "Stop trains. Munitions ship on fire. Approaching Pier 6. Goodbye." When the explosion finally came at 9:05, no one was safe. In the initial fireball, nearby box cars and spectators were vapourised, the ship vanished to rain down in pieces all over the city. Raining down however is putting it mildly, when in fact the millions of pieces often blew through the air like so many bullets. A barrel of the ships cannon was found 3.5 miles away. A piece of the anchor that weighed over 1000 pounds was found 2 miles away. A young man observing the excitement in the harbour from 32 yards away miraculously survived after being propelled one-half mile through the air and being relieved of all his clothes except for his boots.  

The force of the explosion was so great that it was felt and heard as far away as Prince Edward Island (130 miles north) and Cape Breton Island (220 miles east) while residents from Truro and New Glasgow (60 miles away) felt building shake and had items fall from shelves. It is said that in less than the time it takes to draw a deep breath nearly every building in Halifax and Dartmouth had sustained damage. More than 12,000 buildings. Every window within a 50 miles radius was broken. Many homes that survived the blast and ensuing shock waves were consumed by fires that were started by over-turned oil lamps or flying debris. Within 2 seconds the entire neighbourhood of Richmond was obliterated and 1600 people were dead. 

A re-creation of the moments before the explosion

The Aftermath

Then came the tsunami. A 60 foot wall of water came on shore to wash away dazed survivors who were blown off their feet and found themselves clinging to whatever was handy. The frigid December waters of the Atlantic was like frozen icicles replacing the shards of glass from the last onslaught. The Imo was carried on the wave across the harbour and landed on the Dartmouth shore. Adding to the chaos and confusion, many survivors assumed that the blast was the result of a bomb dropped from a German plane and hysteria grew that another explosion was imminent. Telephone and telegraph communication had all but been wiped out hampering relief efforts and calls for assistance. Power was unavailable. It was in fact, railway dispatcher Vince Coleman's message that unknowingly was the first call for help. Some of the trains he stopped from approaching became rescue vehicles, ferrying survivors to outlying community hospitals and returning with much needed supplies and medical personnel.

In all, nearly 2,000 people were killed, 9,000 were injured (including 600 with eye injuries from flying and shattering glass). 6,000 people were instantly homeless and wearing only the clothes on their back had to endure a blizzard that night which blanketed the splintered city with 16 inches of snow. Relief trains were stuck in snowdrifts and telegraph lines that were quickly repaired fell again. In all 25,000 citizens suffered with inadequate housing. 

The Relief Efforts

It didn't take long for people and supplies to start to arrive and help rebuilding the shattered city. Food, clothing, housing, were some of the basic necessities needing attention. But people also needed help coping with their new reality of blindness (in one or both eyes), other medical issues, widows and widowers, orphans, death and devastation were the new normal. Many emergency teams came from the United States, in particular Massachusettes, and they stayed for months helping Halifax return to the vibrant city it once was. Window glass was desperately needed to keep the heat in the homes that were still standing and it came by the rail car load from all over the continent. Medical personnel and skilled workers came and stayed. Those who didn't come, sent money. Ships in the harbour that survived collected relief supplies or became floating hospitals and homeless shelters. The Halifax Relief Commission was set up to administer and dole out the more than $18 million dollars that was received in donations. However generous as that sounds, damage estimates reached a total of $35 million in 1917. Adjusted for inflation that figure would be about $530 million Canadian dollars today! 

Christmas Tree Lighting - Boston Commons 2012
Ironically, when news of the disaster reached the Bank of Nova Scotia's headquarters in Toronto, Ontario as message was telegraphed back east that read "Presume rumours are greatly exaggerated." A response later that night confirmed that the facts were actually far worse than the rumours. Meanwhile, in Boston, school children were holding community relief drives, collecting money and supplies to help were they could alongside of their high society neighbours. In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas Tree to the city of Boston as a show of thanks. In 1971, the tradition was revived to acknowledge the support and express continued gratitude. The symbolic tree of gratitude does much more than celebrate a festive season. Personally, I wasn't aware of the Halifax Explosion at all, until initially hearing stories about the tree headed for Beantown and doing some research. I was educated in Canada and this should have been an integral part in the History curriculum taught in the school system. Perhaps it was mentioned on the day I was sick? That is unacceptable. It is a part of our history and if for only remembering those who endured and suffered because of this tragedy, let the tree donation be our teacher. For every year that the tree selection, delivery and lighting is in the news, another group of students and adults learn a little more about giving in the face of tragedy. 

The Gone Not Forgotten

Many of the dead were burned or maimed beyond recognition. Dental records and DNA sampling was not an option. Bodies and accompanying personal effects that were found on or near the bodies were carefully catalogued in the hopes that someone would be able to confirm identification. Often entire families were killed and there was simply no-one left to claim the body. Funerals for the known victims went on for weeks on end. By early February 1918 more than 150 unidentified and unclaimed dead had been buried in local cemeteries but it would be the summer of 1919 before the last victim of the explosion was recovered. More than 1 1/2 years after the explosion the body of the caretaker at the Exhibition Grounds was found and buried. 

The Long Arm of the Law Steps In

An inquiry to determine the why's and how's of what happened was set up. In the midst of a global war, the Mont-Blanc was suspect for having a primarily French speaking crew made people suspicious. The Imo's crew of Norwegian sailor were said to speak in a German accent, which raised fears of spy's infiltrating our shores. In the end, the inquiry decreed that the Mont-Blanc was completely and solely responsible for the accident. Many people held this belief long before the legal proceedings because most of the crew of the ship had survived while only the crew below deck of the Imo had a tale to tell and they had witnessed none of the days events. The captain and pilot of the Mont-Blanc along with the harbour Chief Officer all faced manslaughter charges which were eventually dismissed with the Chief Officer being acquitted of all charges. In the spring of 1919, before the last body was recovered, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Mont-Blanc and Imo were equally responsible for the events that led to the collision and ensuing catastrophe. 

Before the Explosion
After the Explosion

Credit where credit is due: (the first website has amazing photographs)
Shattered City by Janet F. Kitz