Saturday, 31 March 2012

Anchorage, Alaska Earthquake

"The noise the earthquake made is rarely mentioned, but I can vividly remember the loud rumble which sounded like a freight train at high speed. In fact I thought the cause of it all was a freight train coming out of the ground from below the apartment.  The kitchen was a mess with all of the jars of food and condiments broken on the floor. All of my brothers' model airplanes had come down from their perches as well as books, figurines, etc. My brothers' school, Government Hill Elementary was destroyed, but as noted was closed that day for Good Friday.  With no electricity or heat, that night we gathered with other families on our living room floor and slept in sleeping bags. It was a great adventure for a 4 year old, but tremors and fires in the fuel storage area nearby... kept the adults worried for days." (David Kanzler, Anchorage, Alaska, 1964)


On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, North America's biggest earthquake, and the world's second biggest earthquake, hit Anchorage, Alaska.  Registering 9.2 on the Richter scale, the quake lasted almost 4 minutes and could be felt as far away as Prince Rupert, 800 miles to the south.  Post-quake landslides, tsunamis and fires led to more deaths and property damage in not only Anchorage but other cities like Whittier, Seward and Kodiak.  Property damage, assessed  at 300 million in 1964 dollars, was sustained by homes and businesses and schools; the five-story JC Penny store was levelled.  Property damage was also recorded in B.C., Oregon and California.  Aftershocks, felt as far away as Hawaii and Japan  lasted for one year after the initial earthquake.  Sadly, nine people died directly from the earthquake followed by 115 from tsunamis, floods and landslides resulting from the quake. 

Photo of Fourth Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska on March 27, 1964 courtesy

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Gigantic Black Smokestack

On March 30, 1885 in Paris France, an engineer read a paper to the "Societe des Ingenieurs Civils" which suggested a proposed tower which would symbolize:

"not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France's gratitude."

The engineer was Gustave Eiffel who proposed a wrought iron lattice tower near the banks of the Seine River.  Originally, the tower was intended to serve as the archway for the 1889 World's Fair in Paris and would later be dismantled.

Image of World's Fair 1889 ticket courtesy

The idea met with resistance, especially from the artist's community, many of whom signed a petition published in Le Temps, voicing their concerns:

"We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection...of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower ... To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour de Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe..."

The response given to this letter indicated that the artists were voicing a mute point since the tower construction had already begun.  Interestingly enough, one of the artists to sign the petition, guy de Maupassant, would lunch in the tower restaurant in the years to come, indicating that the idea grew on him and many other skeptics.

Photo courtesy

So, construction began on Paris' tallest building, a structure which would stand 325 metres tall, the height of an 81-storey building, and weigh 10,000 tonnes.  It would be divided into three floors, of which the first and second would house restaurants.  The tower officially opened on March 31, 1889 and would be the sight of some interesting guests.

On September 10, 1889, Thomas Edison paid a visit to the Eiffel Tower and wrote in the guestbook.  A dirigible flew up to the tower in 1901, the first one to fly from St. Cloud to the tower and back again.  Lightning struck the tower in 1902. 

Photo courtesy

In 1912, an Austrian tailor jumped from the tower in his homemade parachute and plummeted 60 metres to his death.  In 1914, the French used the tower as a communication base during the First World War's Battle of the Marne.  During the 1930's, the tower was the site of a huge Citroen sign, advertising the French car.  The saying goes that Hitler conquered France in 1940, but not the Eiffel Tower for the French cut the cable lines for the elevators and Hitler refused to walk up the tower's steps.

American soldiers visit Eiffel tower after liberating Paris photo courtesy

A fire damaged the top floor in 1956, but the tower remained intact.  A plane flew through the arches of the tower in 1984.  By 2002, the Eiffel Tower had hosted more than 200,000,000 visitors. 

Photo courtesy

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Name That Cat!

Top 40 Cat Names For Girls - (by popularity)
  1. Sassy
  2. Misty
  3. Missy
  4. Princess
  5. Samantha
  6. Kitty
  7. Puss
  8. Fluffy
  9. Molly
  10. Daisy
  11. Ginger
  12. Midnight
  13. Precious
  14. Maggie
  15. Lucy
  16. Cleo
  17. Whiskers
  18. Chloe
  19. Sophie
  20. Lily
  21. Coco
  22. Boo
  23. Callie
  24. Sadie
  25. Jessie
  26. Jasmine
  27. Nala
  28. Snowball
  29. Angel
  30. Muffin
  31. Pumpkin
  32. Pepper
  33. Baby
  34. Zoe
  35. Peaches
  36. Holly
  37. Dusty
  38. Katie
  39. Sasha
  40. Scooter

Photo courtesy

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Our Prayer Walk

A couple of weeks ago, when we had summer-like temperatures, our prayer group planned a prayer walk in the neighbourhood for this evening.  However, in the meantime the thermometre dropped, but we still went ahead with the walk.  I expected to see no one outside due to the cold, blustery wind.  I thought that we would just silently pray, but not see anyone, or at least not anyone we knew.

We split up into pairs and started our stroll.  Sure enough, for the first several minutes of the walk, we only saw three people (five if you count two other prayer group members whom we ran into).  One was a man smoking and reading a book who didn't seemed too interested in us.  The other two people were a couple; the woman seemed to be hurting about something.  Although we didn't pry, we did stop around the corner and say a prayer for the woman.  Then I suggested that we walk down my street and pray silently. 

When we crossed the street, we saw a man, woman and two children.  I only caught a glimpse of the man, but he looked familiar.  Wasn't that Tim*, the man that showed up at our church on a Wednesday night about a month before and asked us to pray for him and the baby daughter whom he lost last year (we suspected that he and his wife had split up in the meantime)?  I pointed him out to Fred and he suggested we turn around and follow the foursome, which we did.  They stopped at the townhouses and Fred called out his name.  He didn't hear.  Then I called out his name and sure enough he turned around.  We told him that we remembered his visit at our church a month before and that we had been praying for him.  He mentioned that he was with his girlfriend and her two children.  He was surprised to know that we remembered his face and his name.  We told him that he was welcome at our church any time and that we would keep praying for him.  Then he went inside the townhouse. 

Afterwards, I asked Fred:  "What are the odds of us running into Tim tonight, of all people?"  And Fred's response was:  "We're not dealing with odds, we're dealing with God."  God made that encounter happen.  On a night when I thought we would meet no one, we met the man whom we had been praying for for the last month.  As we slowly walked back towards our church, I had a good feeling inside, knowing that the walk had not been in vain.  At the end of the block, as the sun set and the cold wind blew in our faces, I saw a warm light glowing through the windows of our church.  Our church is full on Wednesday nights due to the Cadets and Gems meeting.  I said to Fred:  "This is what Tim would have seen when he showed up at our church four Wednesdays ago and wanted to know where he would have to sign up to attend a Sunday service."  At that moment, the church had such an inviting look -- a refuge from a sometimes cruel world.  I pray that Tim comes back and when he does, I hope that we greet him with open arms.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival

Photo of photographers and painters on Tidal Basin circa 1920 courtesy

This year Washington DC residents celebrate the 100th year of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The roots of the cherry tree orchard that lines the city's Tidal Basin at Potomac Park go back to American Eliza Scidmore.  She had visited Japan back in 1885 and suggested that Washington DC plant some cherry trees along the Tidal Basin, but her idea was rejected for 25 years straight.  Finally, Mrs. Scidmore raised the funds to donate the cherry trees herself, writing a letter to Mrs Taft in 1909 stating her intentions.  A visiting Japanese chemist named Jokichi Takamine happened to be visiting Washington DC and heard about Mrs. Scidmore's plan and offered to donate an extra 2000 trees in the name of the city of Tokyo.

The cherry trees arrived in January 1910, but they were infested with insects and subsequently were burned.  Not to be deterred, the city of Tokyo sent an addtional 3020 cherry trees, of a different variety, shipping them to Seattle on the Awa Maru and then by railcar to Washington DC.  On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Taft stood side by side with the wife of the Japanese Ambassador to plant two of these cherry trees in West Potomac Park.  From 1913 to 1920, 1800 of these donated trees were planted along Washington DC's Tidal Basin.  The remaining trees were planted in East Potomac Park.  In 1935 the first Cherry Blossom Festival was held. 

Four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, four of the cherry trees were chopped down by an unknown person, probably as a statement against the attack.  The Cherry Blossom Festival was suspended during World War II not to be resumed until 1947.  The city of Tokyo donated an additional 3800 cherry trees, of the Yoshimo variety in 1965 and Lady Bird Johnson planted one in a ceremony at the White House.  By 1994, the Cherry Blossom Festival was extended to two weeks in length.  When tourists flock to Washington DC to view the flowering trees this year, they will be part of a five-week celebration and a 100-year-old tradition.

Photo courtesy  

Monday, 26 March 2012

It Happened in Italy

He who saves one life saves them all. (Talmud)

Elizabeth Bettina, an American of Italian descent, made an amazing discovery a few years ago.  When she studied the number of Jews that were in concentration camps in Europe during World War II, she realized that the survival rate in Italian camps was much higher than in other countries; in fact out of all the Nazi-occupied countries, Italy's Jewish survival rate was highest, next to Denmark's.  Approximately 80% of Italy's Jews survived while 80% of the rest of Europe's Jews perished. Determined to learn more, she set out to interview survivors of the Jewish Holocaust in Italy and one by one she wrote down their stories. 

One of the main camps in Italy was at Campagna, near Naples, which had very little resemblance to Auschwitz or Birkenau or Dachau.  At Campagna, inmates were allowed to keep their real clothes rather than wear the infamous striped pajamas.  People were fed a proper diet.  People were not overworked.  Jews were allowed to worship at a synogogue.  They were allowed to marry.  Their children attended makeshift schools.  They played soccer.  And, above all, there were no gas ovens at Campagna.  It was not a death camp, nor a work camp, but rather a detainment camp.

Elizabeth Bettina asked native Italians why the Jews were treated so differently in Campagna.  One Italian responded by saying that they were seen as "Christiani", a term that meant they were "human beings".  In a country that was largely Roman Catholic, they simply practised the golden rule:  "Love thy neighbour as theyself".  Ironically, eventhough Italy was allied with Germany for three years of the war, Mussolini did not adopt the same attitude towards the Jews that Hitler did. 

The real threat to Jews in Italy came when the Axis fell apart on September 8, 1943.  Hitler ordered troops to occupy Northern Italy where six of the detainment camps were situated.  German soldiers raided these camps, including Campagna.  However, a local Italian warned the Jews that they were coming and the Jews escaped into a nearby woods.  One refugee, crouching amongst the trees, was so close to the German soldiers he could see their boots.  They managed to stay hidden until the Germans left the camp.

As Germany had Oskar Schindler, who saved at least 1000 Jews during World War II by employing them in his metal works factory, Italy had Giovanni Palatucci, a government official who falsified documents to get many Jews out of the country, saving up to 5000 lives.  Once the Nazis discovered what he was doing, they shipped him off to Dachau where he was gassed only two months before the camp was liberated, suffering the fate that he had saved so many others from.

The climax of Miss Bettina's story comes when she takes a group of Holocaust survivors from the United States to Italy where they visit the Vatican and have an audience with the Pope.  It is a moving experience for the survivors.  Later, Elizabeth took a group of survivors of survivor's family members to visit the camp at Campagna where they visited the "Museum of Memory and Peace" dedicated to the memory of the Jews interned there.

Just as many people informed on the Jews in Europe, there were others who risked their lives to save them.  It is heartening to hear that Italy had many of these "saviours", including Giovanni Palatucci, who believed in the motto:  "Ama gli altri come te stesso."

Book cover courtesy

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Selma to Montgomery March

A crowd gathered on the steps of the Perry County Courthouse to protest the exclusion of blacks in Alabama's voting process on February 18, 1965.  When the protest turned violent, Jimmie Lee Jackson ran into a nearby cafe with his mother where he was shot by a pursuing state trooper, later dying from his wounds. 

As a protest to Mr. Jackson's shooting and in an attempt to protect black voting registrants, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gathered on March 7 to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama where they would meet Governor Wallace to state their case.  Six hundred strong, the civil rights activists only made it to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they were met by Alabama State troopers in riot gear.  When the protesters did not immediately turn around, they were greeted with billy clubs to the head and clouds of tear gas, causing seventeen to be hospitalized.  March 7 was heretofore named "Bloody Sunday".

For the second attempt to march to Montgomery, 2500 protesters took to the road.  Rev. Martin Luther King, now on board, tried to secure a court injunction to allow the protesters a safe passage, but such a case took time which they did not have.  Therefore, the group did a "ceremonial" march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge where they stopped, a warm up for the march to come.  Even so, there was still bloodshed and marcher Rev. James Reeb, a white, was injured.  Taken to Selma's Public Hospital, doctors there refused to treat him and he had to be rushed to Birmingham Hospital two hours away.  Sadly, he died from his wounds two days later.

Unfortunately, it took the death of a white man rather than a black man to mobilize the media.  After securing the protection of 2000 U.S. soldiers and 1900 Alabama National Guardsmen, the third march got underway on March 16.  Averaging 10 miles a day, the protesters marched along U.S. Route 80, their arms locked in solidarity.  One participant, Mr. Herschel, said that "When [he] marched in Selma, [his] feet were praying".  Finally, on March 25, the protesters arrived at the Montgomery courthouse.

President Johnson had seen the bloody demonstrations on television and was moved to sign the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, quoting Martin Luther King Jr. by saying "We Shall Overcome".  Although Southerners like Governor Wallace were claiming that they were trying to preserve social order in the South by refusing to allow the marches, in the end they simply endorsed terrorism, by attacking nonviolent protesters.  In Alabama, 7000 blacks were added to the voting rolls.  By 1960, the total of black voters registered in the state increased to 53, 336.  Three decades later, it would grow to 537,285.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

No Whining Zone

"Whiners have the capacity to suck possibilities out of a situation faster than Count Dracula can grab a quick snack."*

When I was little, I was a whiner:  I whined when Mom took me to the grocery store, hoping she would buy me a chocolate bar; I whined when it was naptime; I whined when my sisters wouldn't play a game with me; I whined when I had to eat my chili; I whined when I had to clean my room.  My Mom had to listen to me 24/7. 

Now, it's payback time.  I have a little girl who whines:  she whines when it's bathtime; she whines when she has to eat something she doesnt' like (which is a lot); she whines when she has to do her homework; she whines when she's bored; she whines when she wants a new stuffie.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

So, I suggested for Lent that we give up whining.  It works for both children and adults; while the former whine, the latter complain.  I suggested that we put a jar on the table marked "WHINING/COMPLAINING -- 1 cent".  Every time we do so, we must put a penny in the jar.  Hopefully the action will make us more aware of our whining and help us break the habit. 

I googled "No Whining Zone" and found an article by Roxanne Emmerich who suggests that we ask our friends, family and co-workers to warn us when we start to whine by making a double-u with their three fingers.  That way, we can use out energies to create a solution rather than to magnify the problem.

It is far too easy to fall into the habit of whining rather than giving thanks.  We focus on what we don't have rather than what we have.  It's interesting that those who have less often appreciate it more.  I heard it once said that:  "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have." 

That was Rob's Oma's secret to success.  Although she lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, two evil regimes (Naziism and Communism), two deadly diseases (typhus and malaria), lost two husbands (one to a botched operation, one on the battlefield), lost two children (one in infancy, one in adulthood), lost her farm (when Germany was redivided), she appreciated God's blessings, no matter how small. 

Oma used to giggle when she scratched a one-dollar lottery ticket.  She used to light up when she blew out her birthday cake candles.  She loved spreading chunks of butter on a fresh piece of crusty bread.  She took delight as she cooked a sizzling pound of bacon for her grandson.  She loved painting Easter eggs, shelling them and sprinkling them with a mini-saltshaker to serve to her great-grandchildren.

May we take our cue from Oma.  We might live until the ripe old age of 96, too.  For a happy heart is a healthy heart (eventhough she ate a pound of butter a week).

*Roxanne Emmerich

Image courtesy

Friday, 23 March 2012

Justice for Johnnie Mae

In the ditch at the end of the day
A black lady looked for her wallet.
Inside was all of her weekly pay,
This mother of ten named Johnnie Mae.

As a loud shot rang out, she was hit.
An ambulance marked "colored" was hailed.
Her husband held her hand for a bit,
Yet despite his pleas, her heart soon quit.

At the church, as her small children wailed
Murdered Johnnie Mae was laid to rest.
But five months went by with no one jailed
In old Jacksonville, justice had failed.

"Four white men killed her" detectives say.
But the sheriff freed them anyway.
Ten grown children continue to pray
All seeking justice for Johnnie Mae.

Linda Jonasson, March 10, 2008.

Based on the murder of Johnnie Mae Chappell in Jacksonville, Florida on March 23, 1964.  For more information visit

Photo of Shelton Chappell, just an infant in 1964, holding photo of his father and his deceased mother courtesy

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Schoolhouse Rock

  1. Conjunction Junction
  2. I'm Just A Bill
  3. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here
  4. Electricity, Electricity
  5. Interjections!
  6. The Preamble
  7. Three Is A Magic Number
  8. Interplanet Janet
  9. A Noun Is A Person, Place, Or Thing
  10. The Shot Heard 'Round The World
  11. My Hero, Zero
  12. Figure Eight
  13. No More Kings
  14. Unpack Your Adjectives
  15. Rufus Xavirer Sarsaparilla
  16. Ready Or Not, Here I Come
  17. Elementary, My Dear
  18. Dollars and Sense
  19. The Great American Melting Pot
  20. Mother Necessity
  21. Naughty Number Nine
  22. Telegraph Line
  23. Them Not-So-Dry Bones
  24. Verb: That's What Happening
  25. Elbow Room
The above is a list of the top 25 most popular hits from "Schoolhouse Rock", a series of educational cartoon commercials broadcast from 1973 to 1985.  Rob and I still remember many of these catchy tunes and educational lyrics from our childhood days.  "Multiplication Rock" came out first, helping children learn their timestables from 2 to 12.  "Elementary My Dear" shows Noah leading the animals two by two to the arc.  "Figure Eight" shows a little girl skating figure eights into the ice.  "Grammar Rock" followed, featuring "Conjunction Junction" where cars of a train are joined together the way a conjunction joins two clauses of a sentence together.  "Unpack Your Adjectives" shows a girlr unpacking her backpack after a camping trip.  "America Rock" features "The Shot Heard Round the World" showing Paul Revere riding his horse to Concord to warn the American troops that the British are coming!  "The Great American Melting Pot" describes how immigrants to the United States jumped into a melting pot and blended in.  "Electricity, E-Lec-Tri-City" explains how electricity works.  "Them Not So Dry Bones" talks about our skeletal structure in a humorous way.  "Schoolhouse Rock" is available now on DVD.  Adults like to watch it for the nostalgia.  Kids like to watch it because its catchy.  Check it out!

Image courtesy

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A Prayer in Spring


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Uncle Tom's Cabin

"So this is the little lady who made this big war." 

So stated Abraham Lincoln upon his introduction in 1862 to author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, an anti-slavery novel which became the best-selling novel of the 19th Century and helped to turn many people into abolitionists. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe, born in Connecticut, was a teacher who belonged to the Abolitionist movement.  She became increasingly alarmed about slavery after the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.  While living in Cincinnati Ohio, a stop on the Underground Railroad from Kentucky, a slave state, Harriet met and interviewed many escaped slaves there. 

One fugitive slave, named Rev. Josiah Henson, particularly caught her interest.  Born in Maryland, he had been a slave on a tobacco plantation for 41 years until he escaped to Upper Canada via the Underground Railroad in 1830.  Within 11 years, he ended up in Dresden, Ontario where he purchased land.  Rev. Henson helped found the British American Institute, which helped to educate fugitive slaves.  He became the inspiration for the fictional character Uncle Tom. 

Uncle Tom is a long suffering slave who suffers under the whip of Simon Legree.  However, although he is persecuted, he continues to pray to God and to trust in God.  And although he does not escape to freedom, two of Legree's other slaves do, Cassy and Emmeline.  Uncle Tom's Cabin sold 300,000 copies in its first printing in the United States.  In Britain, it sold 1.5 million copies.  Strangely, it went out of print for several years, but returned in 1862 with a new printing under a new company.  It was later translated into every major language.  The anti-slavery tale would become the second best-selling book of the 19th Century next to the Bible. 

Image courtesy

Monday, 19 March 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

When my son Thomas was little, he used to come up with some of the funniest lines.  Here are a few:

1.  When his Aunt Ingrid was babysitting him, he said:  "I can count from 1 to 100 without any help."  "Are you serious?" asked his aunt.  "No, I'm Thomas," was his reply.

2.  Again at Aunt Ingrid's, Thomas asked:  "What time is it?"  His aunt's reply?  "It's 12 o'clock."  "But what does the clock say in words?"  Aunt Ingrid:  "It's time for lunch."

3.  One of Thomas' favourite board books was called "Is it time yet Barney?" and it had a little clock with plastic hands to manipulate.  The following line was repeated on every page:  "Is it time yet, Barney?  Baby Bop wants to know...."  "No, it's only 3 o'clock."  Then Thomas would move the small hand to the 3.  Soon Thomas memorized the text and he would read the book from memory.  However, his version wen something like this:  "Is it time yet, Barney?  Baby wants to bop!"

Here are a few funny words or phrases that Jacqueline used as a toddler:

1.  She used to call Rice Krispies squares "Winky bars".

2.  One time Rob, my brother Bill, the kids and I went to Swiss Chalet.  Rob suggested that one of us hop out to see how long the line up was.  From the back seat I heard a high pitched voice yell:  "I'll hop out!"

3.  When she was thirsty she used to yell "Juice!!!" as if the word was an interjection rather than a noun.

4.  She had and has many nicknames for her Daddy.  The most lasting one is "Chubby Monster".  Luckily Rob is a good sport and he takes it well. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Rocket Richard Riot

"Vive Richard!" and "A bas, Campbell" shouted the crowd, 6000 strong, along Ste Catherine Street in Montreal as they smashed windows, toppled vehicles and threw ice at streetcars.  By the wee hours of March 18, fifty Montreal businesses had sustained $100,000 in damages, 37 people had sustained injuries, 100 people were arrested and Ste. Catherine Street was in shambles.

"Rocket Richard", a Montreal Canadiens player who was on his way to winning the scoring title for the year 1954-1955, had had an altercation with Boston Bruins player Hal Laycoe on March 13 in which Richard had hit a linesman.  As a result, NHL President Clarence Campbell suspended him for the duration of the season (3 games) as well as any playoff games to be played.  With that ruling, Richard lost the scoring title and coach Dick Irvin lost his job.  Richard wrote in a local newspaper column that Campbell was a "dictator", considering that the suspension was the longest one issued in Campbell's 31 years as NHL President.  While Canadiens fans were outraged by the harsh decision to ban their "hero", others thought that the penalty might be too light, given Richard's record as a violent player.

Tensions built over the next few days, coming to a head on March 17 at the Montreal Forum where the Canadiens hosted the Detroit Red Wings.  The crowd, 15,000 strong, was not focussed on the game, but rather on a spectator who arrived 10 minutes into the came with his fiancee, Clarence Campbell.  Booed by the fans, he was pelted with eggs, vegetables and debris.  However, the NHL President refused to budge from his seat -- that is, until someone threw a tear gas bomb and the entire Montreal Forum was evacuated.  The game was called and the Detroit Red Wings team, who was leading at the time, was declared the winner. 

The fury spilled on to Ste. Catherine Street where a mob 6,000 strong pelted streetcars with ice, smashed windows and toppled vehicles.  Some held signs saying "No Richard, No Cup".  Police tried to quell the riot, but it took them seven hours to bring it to a close, in which time twelve officers were injured. 

Some saw the disagreement between Richard and Campbell to be a microcosm of the tensions between Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec.  The Richard Riot was a small sample of what was to come with Quebec's Quiet Revolution in the 1960's at which point chants of "Vive Richard!" were replaced with "Vive le Quebec libre!"

Cartoon courtesy

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Pirates, Pagans and Patrick

Kidnapped by pirates in his native England, young Patrick was taken by ship to Ireland where he worked as a slave for several years.  While there, Patrick prayed to God everyday to give him strength to survive and hope to one day escape.  That opportunity eventually came and Patrick slipped aboard a ship bound for France.  There, he trained as a priest, vowing one day to return to Ireland, a pagan land, to spread the Gospel.  Patrick did just that, preaching, opening schools and churches, teaching the Irish about God and Jesus.  He explained that God is like a shamrock, composed of three elements:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Town by town, Ireland became Christian.  Patrick passed away on March 17 at the age of 73.  The Catholic church recommended sainthood for Patrick and the Irish people never forgot what he did for their country.

Source:  Veggietales' "The Story of St. Patrick" ("The Sumo of the Opera" DVD)

Friday, 16 March 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Baptized Bette Eileen Stroud, my Mom was raised in Dunbarton near old Highway 2, in a family which would eventually total seven children.  The Stroud house, built by my Mom's grandfather, was  occupied by two generations:  Grandma and Grandpa Stroud and Aunt Kathleen, along with my Mom's family.  Mom has shared many warm memories about her childhood years. 

For instance, Mom remembers rabbit and duck hunting with her father who would bring beagles along to help with the hunt.  Sometimes one of the beagles would get lost and he would spread his coat in a clearing and return the next day, to find the missing dog waiting there. 

Mom also remembers sharing a bed with her two sisters, Marlene and Sandra.  They would sometimes tickle each others backs and Mom was lucky because no matter which directions she faced, someone always tickled her back since she laid in the middle.  The three Stroud girls also shared a tricycle:  Marlene got to sit on the seat while Mom and Sandra stood on the back step.  Mom said that "Marlene usually did the talking as well as the pedalling."

Mom enjoyed visiting her Grandma and Grandpa Stroud.  The latter was both a shoemaker and a candy maker and he would ask Mom and her sisters to help him stir the fudge and pull the taffy.  The best part of all of course was eating it!  Unfortunately, he passed away when Mom was not quite five years old. 

Mom always enjoyed school, although she didn't start until she was 6 1/2 years old since Dunbarton School did not have Kindergarten.  She reminisces about the spelling bees the teachers held which she often won.  One difficult word she mastered was "cinnamon".  She felt sorry for the kids who couldn't spell.  She remembers her Grade 2/3 teacher kept a strap in her desk which she administered readily to any student who stepped out of line.

One not so warm memory that Mom shared was from the 1940's when she used to shovel a tunnel through the snow to get to their outhouse.  She and her siblings used the Eaton's Catalogue not only as reading material but also as toilet paper during their time in the outhouse.  Don't ask me what happened when more than one person in the house had to use the toilet at the same time (given that their home housed ten people)!

Given the Stroud house had no indoor plumbing, Mom and her sisters had to go next door to a pump, hang a pail from it and pump out fresh water each day for bathing and for washing dishes.  According to Mom "The pail was heavy and we weren't very big so we spilled a good deal before we got home."

Mom remembers taking the Greyhound bus to Toronto for the Santa Claus Parade in the late Fall.  After the parade, she and her siblings would line up in Eaton's Toyland to sit on Santa's knee and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. 

At 9 years old, Mom and her family moved to Oshawa, a small city in 1949.  They occupied a two storey house with several bedrooms on Simcoe Street North, just beyond the city limits.  In those days, milk was still delivered by a milkman in a horse-drawn wagon.  Milk came in slender glass bottles with cream at the top which cost 16 cents apiece; their contents were consumed and then returned the next week to the milkman.  Mom said that the horse knew the milkman's route so well, that even if the latter was sick, the former could still follow the route on its own.

At 12 years old, Mom was hired by her Dad to work at his store, Stroud's Fruit Market, in Oshawa.  After school, she and her sisters would take a bus downtown and work at the store.  They quickly learned how to operate a cash register (the old-fashioned kind) and how to bag groceries efficiently and how to fill the shelves in an organized fashion.

These are just a few of the memories that Mom shared with her grandchildren 12 years ago.  It was 72 years ago today that Bette Eileen Stroud came into the world.  Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Dear Mr. Buckle

Remember how you used to call all of the girls in your class "Suzie" and all of the boys "Bobby"?  You thought that you had quite a sense of humour.  And yet the humour escaped me.  I liked most of my classes, but I never liked your geography class, likely because you called me Suzie. 

A person's name is one of the most important things that he or she possesses.  It is something that we have from the moment we are born (usually).  It is something that helps make us different from those around us.  It is something that never changes (at least our first name).  It is something that we can be proud of.  It may have a long history:  for instance, my husband Rob is named after his Uncle Robert who died fighting on the front in World War II.  My mom, Bette, is named after the movie star Bette Davis.  My daughter Jacqueline is named after former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.  My son's middle name, Lance, is after his birthfather. 

Like you, I became a teacher.  And one of the first things I did with a class was learn my students' names and make sure I pronounced them correctly.  I still remember the names of students I taught even 20 years ago -- because I made the effort.  I remember the troublemakers (like Brad who let loose a bag of crickets in my portable) or the responsible ones (like Julie who had to go directly home from school to babysit her two younger sisters) or the artistic ones (like Amanda, whose drawings I photocopied to make a French vocabulary sheet one time) or the teacher's pets (like Madison who played school at home and pretended she was "Madame Jonasson") or the little gentlemen (like Chad who walked an injured girl across the room with his hand on the small of her back) or the poor eaters (like Josh who hated eating his crusts and collected them in his desk).  I remember them all.

I would have never called you Mr. Smith.  Please don't call me Suzie.

Linda (Tufts) Jonasson  

Image courtesy

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I Dreaded That First Robin, So

I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But He is mastered, now,
I'm accustomed to Him grown,
He hurts a little, though—

I thought If I could only live
Till that first Shout got by—
Not all Pianos in the Woods
Had power to mangle me—

I dared not meet the Daffodils—
For fear their Yellow Gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own—

I wished the Grass would hurry—
So—when 'twas time to see—
He'd be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch—to look at me—

I could not bear the Bees should come,
I wished they'd stay away
In those dim countries where they go,
What word had they, for me?

They're here, though; not a creature failed—
No Blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me—
The Queen of Calvary—

Each one salutes me, as he goes,
And I, my childish Plumes,
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking Drums—

Emily Dickinson

Jacqueline and I went to the park today.  As Jacqueline's rain boots made a squishing sound on the rain drenched grass we hunted for pine cones in the woods.  Jacqueline slid down the slide and swung on the swing.  We played hangman in the sand and tic-tac-toe under the play equipment.  But the highlight of the visit was spotting our first robin, hopping in a puddle that had formed in a dip in the flattened grass.  Spring has sprung. 

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Black Forest Inn

My introduction to the Black Forest Inn took place 21 years ago.  My soon-to-be fiance, Rob, took me there for his Oma's 80th birthday party.  The waitresses were dressed in dirndls.  The atmosphere was quaint.  And the schnitzel (my first time trying it) was amazing!  In fact, I was so impressed that when Oma stopped going there for her birthday, I started going there for mine.  Every year Rob and I celebrate my birthday there.  We sit in a booth.  Rob orders soup and I order a garden salad (with oil and vinegar).  Then we both order a wiener schnitzel with home fries, garnished with a quarter of tomato and some lettuce leaves.  Every year it is delicious and every year we go away full and content. 

The Black Forest Inn, which serves German and Austrian cuisine, is located on King Street East at Ferguson Avenue in Hamilton.  It opened in 1967, attracting recent German immigrants in the city.  In fact, there were other German businesses on the same block:  Denningers, a shoe store, a butcher, a deli called the "Eggnest", a bookstore called "Metelka" and a radio and import store.  One by one, the businesses closed, as the German immigrants left the area.  However, two businesses remained on the block:  Denningers and the Black Forest Inn.  Their old customers kept coming back and in time their clientele grew to include non-Germans as well. 

If you do not like schnitzel, the Black Forest Inn also serves homemade sausage, goulash and chicken cordon bleu.  They offer tasty desserts like apple strudel and Black Forest cake.  So, the next time you visit Hamilton, check it out!  It's worth the trip!

Photo courtesy

Monday, 12 March 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Cats

1.  Cats communicate by touching nose to nose.

2.  A soft purr indicates contentment but a deep purr can indicate pain.

3.  Cats prefer humans to communicate with them using baby talk.

4.  Cats can get very sick or die from eating chocolate.

5.  Although cats like to nap, hence the term "catnap", they also have deep sleeps in which they have similar sleep patterns that we have when we dream.

6.  Cats blink and narrow their eyes when they accidentally make eye contact.

7.  Unlike humans, cats do not understand punishment; praise is the more effective way of modifying their behaviour.

8.  Cats clean their teeth by eating meat (deboned poultry or beef).

9.  Originally desert dwellers, cats love the sun.

10.  Scientists have not been able to determine the origin of a cat's purr; some believe it originates in the cariodvascular system rather than the throat.


Photo courtesy

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Baby and a Toddler

I got to cuddle with a baby this weekend.  I got to read to a toddler -- the same book over and over again.  It brought back lots of memories of my own children at that age.  I miss the little sounds that a baby makes.  I miss the wide-eyed innocence of a toddler.  I miss kissing a baby's belly and hearing him laugh.  I miss holding a toddler's hand as we walk down the street.  I miss playing "A Lady Went to Market" as I bounce a baby on my knee.  I miss the pure heart of a toddler:  "I love you, Aunty Linda."  I miss closing your eyes and almost falling asleep as a baby falls asleep against your chest.  Or kissing a toddler between the bars of the bannister railing.  I miss putting a tuque on a baby.  Or zipping up a toddler's coat.  I miss teaching a baby a new word.  Or trying to decipher the words of a toddler -- although my nephew speaks quite clearly for the most part.  I miss singing a lullaby to a baby.  Or listening to a toddler sing.  I miss watching a baby bounce.  Or watching a toddler bounce a ball.  I miss the smell of baby powder when I change a baby's diaper.  I miss the cheer a toddler lets out when he goes on the potty rather than in his pants.  I miss taking a baby for a walk.  Or a toddler asking if you want to go for a ride with him in his "double-double stroller".  Thank you to my nephews Bo and Mason for a fun weekend.  It was a great learning experience.  I love you!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Big Ben

As we turn the clocks forward one hour tonight, let's look at what one survey calls the most popular landmark in London, England -- Big Ben.  The tower clock, located at the Westminster Palace on the River Thames, first started ticking on May 31, 1859, when Victorian London's population sat at a mere 2 million (it would double by 1900).  Named after Sir Benjamin Hall who installed the giant bell inside the tower, Big Ben is the largest four faced chiming clock in the world.  During World War I, for two years, the clock chimes were silenced and the clock face was darkened to prevent German zeppelin attacks.  I assume that the clock face was also darkened during the London Blitz in 1940 and 1941.  Apparently, though, the clock continued to chime despite having its dials damaged by a Luftwaffe raid.  On New Year's Eve 1962, ice and snow built up on the pendulum which detached itself from the rest of the clock, thereby preventing damage:  Big Ben rang in the New Year ten minutes late.  Its one and only major breakdown took place in 1976 and required 26 days of repairs.  Big Ben has been featured in several movies including James Bond's "Thunderball". Today, Big Ben continues to tick on cue.  Apparently, if Londoners request a tour from their Member of Parliament, they can tour the tower by climbing its over 300 steps.

Photo courtesy


Friday, 9 March 2012

Bring Back Mrs. Bunker!

Photo of Housewives of Atlanta courtesy

I heard tonight that a new reality TV show is premiering soon called "The Housewives of the Trailer Park".  We can already tune in to The Housewives of Atlanta, Orange County, Beverly Hills, New Jersey and Lorne Park, to name a few.  Haven't we had enough of the housewives?  Haven't we had enough of reality TV?

Whatever happened to lighthearted TV?  Or how about historical programming?  We used to watch TV to get away from our problems; now we watch TV to hear about other people's problems.  TV used to be innocent.  Now it has to be so hard-edged.  Rather than shows like Murder She Wrote which focused on solving the mystery, we have murder shows which glorify death.

Whatever happened to characters that had flaws but also redeeming qualities?  Now we have characters which have nothing but flaws; they are people that we have a hard time liking.  They are completely interested in themselves and no one else.  They spout lines to get a laugh out of the audience, but they are not genuine or believable. 

I miss classic TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie" and "Happy Days" and "All in the Family".  These programs had a simplicity and a genuineness that today's shows lack.  I would take Mrs. Ingalls or Mrs. Cunningham or Mrs. Bunker any day over "The Housewives of Atlanta".

Photo of All in the Family's Mrs. Bunker and Mr. Bunker courtesy

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lasagna vs. Lemon Chicken

Many episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond" are built around food.  Ray's mother, Marie, spends much of her time in the kitchen preparing Italian dishes like lasagna, meatballs, etc.  Everything Marie makes is delicious.  She loves to fuss over her son, Ray, making him his favourite dishes.  However, Ray's wife Debra, is not interested in cooking.  Her trademark dish, lemon chicken, is passable at best.  Everyone cringes when they know Debra is preparing the meal.  Marie criticizes Debra's cooking every chance she gets.  She raids her fridge, purging it of dishes which have turned into science experiments.  This makes for great comedy.

We are introduced to Debra's lemon chicken in the very first episode, as she prepares it for Ray on their first date, and he claims that it is so good, he could eat it forever.  Be careful what you wish for! 

Episode 15, titled "Turkey or Fish" is based on the Barone's Thanksgiving dinner.  Debra wants to create her own tradition and suggests they serve fish.  Marie, on the other hand, will not bend, insisting on bringing a golden turkey, roasted to perfection to her daughter-in-law's house.  Marie's husband Frank ends up choking on some food and Marie won't rest until she proves that it was Debra's fish, not her turkey.  Surprisingly, however, Frank likes the fish so much he asks for more!

In Episode 37, called "Marie's Meatballs" Marie dusts off her box of precious recipes from her mother and shares the meatball one with Debra, giving her a personal cooking class.  Then Ray tastes the meatballs and claims that they are not as good as his mom's.  Debra will not rest until she finds out what went wrong.  It turns out that Marie sabotaged the recipe by pasting a basil label on a bottle of tarragon. 

In Episode 57, titled "No Fat" Marie is diagnosed with high cholesterol and decides to cook a fat-free Thanksgiving dinner, serving a tofu turkey.  Everyone is disappointed and refuses to eat it; Ray even orders a real turkey from a restaurant.  In the end, Marie relents and sneaks into the kitchen that night to steal some of the turkey.

In Episode 91, called "Debra Makes Something Good" everyone is astonished at how good Debra's braciole tastes.  Marie declares war, determined to prove to her family that she is still the best cook.

In Episode 146, titled "The First Time" Marie and Debra have been feuding for three episodes straight.  In an attempt to patch things up, Marie bakes a chocolate cake and writes on it "I'M SORRY".  Ray never tells Debra about the cake, which ends up back at Marie's house, where Ray, Robert and Frank devour it.  Once again, Marie's cooking is irresistible.

In Episode 206, called "Tasteless Frank", Marie is distraught because for the first time Frank is over the moon about her cooking.  He is adding salt to all of her dishes which she considers to be the ultimate insult.  It turns out that he has started a new medication that he doesn't want her to know about.  The problem is resolved when Frank chooses to stop taking his medication and he gets his taste back.  Marie is relieved!

Marie became synonymous with good cooking.  In fact, Doris Roberts, who plays Marie wrote the autobiography Are You Hungry, Dear?:  Life, Laughs and Lasagna, which includes some of her famous recipes. 

Photo courtesy

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Force of Facebook

For a long time I resisted going on Facebook.  I heard about teenagers bullying other teenagers on there.  I heard about people giving a blow by blow account of their day ex. at 12:00 noon I sneezed.  Why would I want to waste my time on Facebook?  However, a writer friend told me that it is a great way to connect with other writers.  So, I made the leap and joined up.  I hoped to be a force for good on Facebook.

Apparently, there are more Facebook followers today than there were humans on the earth 200 years ago.  Seven hundred and fifty million followers belong to Facebook.  It is an almost instantaneous way to connect with people all around the world.  Videos are posted daily on Facebook; my son Thomas directed me to one in particular that he shared on his Facebook page today.

The video is called "Kony 2012".  An American man named Jason Russell has had a mission for the past eight years to educate the public about a man named Joseph Kony, leader of "The Lord's Resistance Army" in Uganda, who kidnaps African children, arms them with guns, and has them kill, for no other cause than his own glory.  The videographer met a boy named Jacob whose brother was killed by the LRA; Jacob's story pulled so much at his heartstrings that he vowed he would do something to help him. 

Jason Russell formed a group called "Invisible Children" to campaign on the behalf of these kidnapped children.  Although the LRA leader Joseph Kony is number 1 on the International Criminal Court's hit list, many people have never heard of him.  The American videographer made it his mission to make him more famous than a Hollywood celebrity.  He tried to get the United States government on board for years, but they were not interested given that no Americans were being kidnapped or killed.  So the videographer turned to Facebook to spread the word; bit by bit the Invisible Children website has built up a following. 

Because the American public became concerned about the LRA, President Obama wrote a letter committing US advisors to help the children of Uganda.  However, the Lord's Resistance Army still operates and their leader still hides in the jungle.  Jason Russell fears that it will be a long process and does not want them to pull out before their work is complete. 

And so the American made a video to promote awareness and gain support for his cause.  In the past 24 hours, the video has received over 15 million hits:  that's close to half the population of Canada!  The videographer hopes to keep up his public campaign, culminating on April 20, 2012 with a "Cover the Night" event where KONY 2012 posters will litter neighbourhoods across the United States. 

My hat's off to Jason Russell -- how one person is trying to change the lives of thousands of people.  Rather than sitting back and saying there is nothing we can do, he is acting.  Of course, there will always be critics who think there is a better way to do things.  However, people wondered why so many knew about the killing of the Jews in Germany and German occupied countries during World War II and did nothing to stop it (although some individuals did speak out like Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer).  How can we sit back and do nothing knowing that the LRA is terrorizing tens of thousands of people, especially children? 

I pray that the Invisibile Children fights this evil army and I pray that their leader is captured.  Someone has to stand up for good.  Someone has to stand up for the truth.  Someone has to stand up for the 30,000 plus African children who have who been kidnapped and/or murdered.  Jason Russell is doing just that, in large part thanks to the force of Facebook.   

If you are interested in the "KONY 2012" video, here is a link:

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Peace That Passeth All Understanding

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phillipians 4:7)

Today at Bible Study we talked about the above passage.  What images or moments give us a sense of peace?  Here is a list of images which evoke peace:

1.  the lull of the waves
2.  the warmth of sunshine
3.  softly falling snowflakes
4.  a field of swaying wildflowers
5.  a sleeping baby
6.  a hug from a child
7.  a sunrise
8.  a sunset, especially over the water
9.  a full moon, especially a harvest moon
10.  a starry night
11.  trees ablaze in autumn
12.  trees blossoming in spring
13.  mountain peaks
14.  the purr of a cat
15.  the hum of crickets
16.  a gospel choir
17.  a friend's smile
18   a long walk in the woods or along the beach
19.  the satisfaction of helping others
20   being grateful for God's blessings

May you have God's peace today and everyday!

Photo courtesy

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Iron Curtain Speech

Photo courtesy

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the [European] Continent." 

On March 5, 1946, a train with two World War II statesmen left Washington D.C. and steamed across the United States to the gateway to the west, Missouri.  In the town of Fulton, population 7,000, at Westminster University, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with President Harry Truman by his side, delivered a prophetic speech to an audience of 40,000 students.  Titled "The Sinews of Peace" the oratory soon became known as "The Iron Curtain Speech", referring to the figurative curtain that had fallen, separating democratic western Europe and Communist Eastern Europe. 

Sir Winston Churchill reminded the American audience what had happened when the world powers appeased Hitler, granting him Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia; finally Poland was the straw that broke the camel's back.  Churchill feared that if the world powers appeased Stalin, he would never be satisfied either. 

The British statesman pointed out that the famous capitals of Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia were under the ever increasing control of Moscow.  For instance, he mentioned that:

The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place.

In fact, the Soviet Union would expell two out of the three million Germans in Germany's eastern provinces in the years 1945 to 1948, in the name of ethnic cleansing. 

Reminding the audience that the United States was at a "pinnacle of power", Churchill called for even closer relations between Britain and America, in an effort to counter the rising menace of Communism.  Surprisingly, though, the speech was not well received by political figures like former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, former Vice President Henry Wallace and then current British Prime Minister Clement Atlee.  The New York Herald Tribune disagreed with the tone and content of the speech.

However, within weeks of Churchill's delivery of his speech, public opinion shifted:  more and more people realized that the Soviet Union posed a threat that could not be ignored.  Although World War II had ended, the Cold War had begun, marked by Sir Winston Churchill's famous oratory.  The Iron Curtain had descended, not to be raised for almost 45 years.

Map of Iron Curtain circa 1946 courtesy

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Lorax

My husband Rob's favourite book to borrow from the library in elementary school was Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.  Today we took our kids to the theatre to see the new movie "The Lorax".  As in the book, in the movie the Once-ler has knocked down all of the trees to make his thneeds.  The town of Thneedville is left treeless and therefore has no oxygen, relying on Mayor O'Hare to sell bottles of it.  A young girl named Audrey paints pictures of trees, dreaming of having just one tree in her yard.  Ted, who has a crush on Audrey, makes it his life's mission to find a tree for her.  He tracks down the hermit-like Onceler who tells him the story of how Thneedville became treeless.  He then gives Ted the seed from the last truffula tree, which he plants, despite opposition from Mayor O'Hare.  In the end, hills surrounding Thneedville are littered with new trees and everyone lives happily ever after.

The story of The Lorax made me think about our cities today.  Do we have enough trees in our cities to produce adequate air?  I know New York City has fresh air programs where inner city kids can spend a few weeks in the summer with a fresh air friend in upper state New York.  Although New York City seems to have a lot of trees, I suspect that many of these are in Central Park, not in the inner city.  According to a recent American study, urban areas in the U.S. are losing 4 million trees per year.  Twenty cities were studied, with Atlanta at the top of the charts with 53.9 % tree cover, while Denver was at the bottom, with only 9.6% tree cover.   Of course, results varied depending on which part of the city was focussed on.  One study cited that East Boston had less than 5% tree cover and South Boston had only 2% tree cover. 

As for Canadian cities, I could not find many statistics for them.  One site claimed that Toronto only had 17% urban tree coverage.  I am assuming that Hamilton is better than Toronto for trees.  If one stands at the edge of the escarpment in Hamilton and looks out over the downtown, one sees a sea of green.  As for London, Ontario, its nickname is the "Forest City" -- is that a misnomer? 

It's easy to take our trees for granted, at least until we don't have them anymore.  Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for pointing that out to us.

Photo courtesy

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Miracle Worker

W-A-T-E-R signed Anne Sullivan into the hand of Helen Keller, a six year old girl who was blind and deaf.  Then she held Helen's hand under the water pump so that she would associate the word with the thing that it represented.  All of a sudden, Helen had an "Aha!" moment as she realized that the two were interconnected.  "Wa-wa!" she said.  For the first time in several years, the young girl had spoken.  The "Miracle Worker" had perfomred her magic.

Anne Sullivan was born in 1866 in Massachusetts.  As a child she suffered an infection which led to blindness.  Anne enrolled at the Perkins Institute for the Blind where she learned the manual alphabet.  On March 3, 1887, Anne arrived at Ivy Green, the Keller's Alabama home, to tutor Helen, on the recommendation of the Perkins Institute.  Mr. and Mrs. Keller had sought the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, who worked with the deaf, about their daughter and he had recommended the Institute. 

Finding the young blind and deaf girl quite strong-willed and uncontrollable, Anne spent the first few weeks socializing and disciplining her.  In time, the teacher gained her pupil's trust and the relationship blossomed.  The first gift that Anne gave Helen was a D-O-L-L which she signed into her hand.  One by one Miss Sullivan spelled out words into the young girl's hand.  At first the task seemed futile.  However, by that April, the breakthrough would take place when Helen would realize that these letters that Anne was signing into her hand represented the objects that she handed her.

Anne went on to teach Helen not only sign language but also Braille and lip-reading (using her hands).  She also taught Helen how to speak by putting her hand against her throat so that Helen could feel the vibrations of her voice box.  By 1894, Helen and Anne moved to New York City where the former enrolled in the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf.  Two years later Helen attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies.  She was the first blind and deaf student to graduate from Radcliff College in 1904.  Anne was always by Helen's side as she attended classes at all three schools. 

Helen became an author (The Story of My Life) and a public speaker.  She campaigned as a suffragette and a pacifist.  She met famous people like Charlie Chaplin and Mark Twain and every American President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon Johnson.

Anne and Helen remained lifelong companions unil the former's death in 1936,  As Helen explained:  "I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light."

Photo courtesy

Friday, 2 March 2012

More Crazy Laws

26. In Montana, it is a felony for a wife to open her husband's mail.

27. In Nebraska, if a child burps during church, his parent may be arrested.

28. In Nevada, it's against the law to pawn your dentures.

29. In New Hampshire, any cattle that crosses state roads must be fitted with a device to gather its feces.

30. In New Jersey, all cats must wear three bells to warn birds of their whereabouts.

31. In New Mexico, it's forbidden for a female to appear unshaven in public.

32. In New York, a person may not walk around on Sundays with an ice cream cone in his/her pocket.

33. In North Carolina, elephants may not be used to plow cotton fields.

34. In North Dakota, it is legal to shoot an Indian on horseback, provided you are in a covered wagon.

35. In Ohio, you cannot eat a doughnut and walk backwards on a city street.

36. Oklahoma will not tolerate anyone taking a bite out of another's hamburger.

37. In Myrtle Creek, Oregon, one may not box with a kangaroo.

38. In Danville, Pennsylvania: All fire hydrants must be checked one hour before all fires.

39. In Rhode Island, you may not sell toothpaste and a toothbrush to the same customer on a Sunday.

40. On Hilton Head Island, South Carolina it is illegal to shine a flashlight on a sea turtle.

41. In South Dakota no horses are allowed into Fountain Inn unless they are wearing pants.

42. In Tennessee, it's illegal for frogs to croak after 11 pm.

43. Temple, Texas no one may ride a horse and buggy through the town square. You can ride your horse in the saloon. Cattle thieves may be hanged on the spot.

44. In Utah, it's legal for restaurants to serve wine with meals, but only if you ask for the wine list.

45. In Vermont, whistling underwater is illegal.

46. In Newport, Virginia it's against the law to tickle a girl under her chin with a feather duster in order to get her attention.

47. In Washington, it is illegal to paint polka dots on the American flag.

48. In West Virginia, it is legal for one to take roadkill home for dinner.

49. In Wisconsin, after 3:00 a.m., you have to send a rocket signal in the air after every mile you drive.

50. Wyoming required that every inmate of the state's training school for girls be issued crinoline bloomers.

Image courtesy

Thursday, 1 March 2012

No Donkeys in the Bathtub, No Lions at the Theatre

I discovered some crazy laws from America's past, some of which may still be on the books:

1. In Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.

2. In Alaska, even though it is legal to hunt a bear, it is illegal to wake a bear and take a picture for photo opportunities.

3. In Arizona, donkeys cannot sleep in bathtubs.

4. In Arkansas, a law provides that school teachers who bob their hair will not get a raise.

5. A regulation in San Francisco, California makes it unlawful to use used underwear to wipe off cars in a car wash.

6. In Colorado, it is illegal for a woman wearing a red dress to be out on the streets after 7 pm.

7. In Connecticut, a pickle is not officially a pickle unless it bounces.

8.  In Delaware you may not sell dead people for money without a license.

9. In Washington D.C. it is illegal to post a notice in public which calls another person a 'coward' for refusing to accept a challenge to duel.

10. In Florida, it is illegal to pass gas after 6 pm on Thursdays.

11. In Georgia, it is against the law to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp.

12. In Hawaii, all residents may be fined as a result of not owning a boat.

13. In Idaho, a citizen is forbidden by law to give another citizen a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds.

14. A state law in Illinois mandates that all bachelors should be called master, not mister, when addressed by their female counterparts.

15. In South Bend, Indiana, it is illegal to make a monkey smoke a cigarette.

16. In Iowa, kisses may last for as much as, but no more than, five minutes.

17. In Natoma, Kansas, it's illegal to throw knives at men wearing striped suits.

18. In Kentucky every citizen of is required to take a shower once a year.

19. In Louisiana, an old ordinance declares goatees illegal unless you first pay a special license fee for the privilege of wearing one in public.

20. In Maine, you may not step out of a plane in flight.

21. Gypsies should steer clear of Caroline County, Maryland where it's a $100 fine or six months in the can for "forecasting or pretending to foretell the future."

22. In Massachusetts, it's illegal to take a lion to the movies.

23. In Michigan, a woman isn't allowed to cut her own hair without her husband's permission.

24. In Minnesota, it is illegal to paint sparrows to sell them as parakeets.

25. In Mississippi, it is illegal to drive around the town square more than 100 times in a single session.

Book cover for Crazy Laws (abridged from The Trenton Pickle Ordinance by Dick Hyman) courtesy