March 31, 2019

Emergency Travel Advisory

Travel Advisory during a weather emergency:

"Essential travel only."

"May be significant inconveniences."

"Stay home."

"Don't drive unless you have to."

"Do not travel."

"State of emergency."

"Travel ban."

"Motorists can be fined or arrested if found driving on public roadways for a non-emergency reason."

"Flights cancelled."

Travel Advisory during a climate emergency: 

"There is no emergency." 

"No restrictions."

"Go, go, go!"

Are we in a climate emergency?

“The emergency message is not reaching the public.” 

“Time is running out to address the climate emergency, but there remains a vast gulf between what political leaders and the media say, and the truth.”

“All people have the right to know the truth and make informed choices in what has been referred to as The Age of Consequences”.

“In times of emergency, the priorities of communities shift radically: people readily support rationing or regulation of essential services and are willing to direct all available resources to the shared task of overcoming the crisis.”

March 29, 2019

Surreal Times Call For Surreal Art - Mark Bryan


Life is increasingly surreal, and a Daliesque strangeness pervades everything. I don't really mind, and kind of like it that way, although I prefer a more benign situation rather than the predominantly evil one in which we find ourselves today. 

It makes sense, then, that I enjoy surrealist art. 

Art that is surrealist, and that also reflects and comments on the strange and twisted realities that we live with, is even better. That describes the punch in the brain art of Mark Bryan. 

"Ship Of State"

This is the preamble from a 2016 interview with the artist:

"Alongside his political works, Mark also creates imagery which stems from significantly more unconscious origins, and which draw just as heavily, on the melange of 1950’s and ’60’s low budget sci-fi, psychedelic comics and surrealist works he was influenced by throughout his youth.
Regardless of which of these two distinct camps his work falls into, there are some things which are absolutely certain; Bryan’s work is unquestionably his own, it is crafted with the utmost sincerity and unequivocally wrapped in an indubitable honesty."

"Pie In The Sky"

Unsurprisingly, Bryan's early influences were artists like Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and R. Crumb. Early events that influenced his thinking were the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, assassinations of Kennedy and MLK, and "the whole hippie/psychedelic/eastern religion phenomenon". 

He says of the times he grew up in, "We truly believed the world could and should be changed. It was a strange mix of optimism and horror. Those events have stayed with me all these years and continually surface in my paintings."

"The Republic of Amnesia"

"Political art is propaganda and opinion", says Bryan. "We all push for what we believe in and against what we fear. When the circus turns especially ugly, I feel the need and responsibility to make some kind of comment. Sometimes, it’s just too easy. Many political characters are already walking cartoons and almost paint themselves. So how can one resist?"  

That's funny... and true. 


It is a strange and twisted world, a surrealist circus, and that makes for some very interesting art. In this regard, Bryan's is among the most intriguing I have seen.

See more of Mark's art here:

March 25, 2019

Signs Of Spring

Nothing says spring like a roadside farm gate maple syrup stand.

I went for a ride down to the ocean today. As soon as I rolled my bike out of the garage and into the sun, I could feel that I had overestimated the temperature. It was much colder than it looked.

I put a toque on under my helmet. Halfway to the ocean I stopped and swapped my light gloves for a heavier pair because my fingers were getting cold and sore. 

But regardless of the cool temperature, there were signs of spring all around. 

When I got to the ocean I could see some diving ducks in the distance. While I brought my binoculars with me, it was too cold to relax and bird watch. 

I boogied back home, and bought some maple syrup on my way. Tomorrow morning - pancakes. 

It doesn't get more local than maple syrup from just down the road.

The cold can't keep these snowdrops down.

What's that? My first Robin of the year. Also saw my second, third, fourth, fifth...
it was a Robin-fest out there.

What are some of the signs of spring you are seeing in your area?

March 22, 2019

When Waste Is The Problem, Thrift Is The Solution

Waste does not make the world go round. Waste kills the world.

And yet, waste is what our global economic system is based on. Waste is killing us and the planet. When waste is the problem, thrift, frugality, and efficiency are the solutions.

My personal mission is to eliminate as much waste from my life as possible in everything I do. Less waste, and vastly less energy usage (green or otherwise). 

Since the system is the problem, I participate in it as little as possible. So I grow a garden and preserve as much as I can. I stay home. I am not buying anything I don't need, which includes goods as well as services and "experiences", which can also be wasteful. 

Is that a bad thing? And if not, why aren't more people doing it? 

Well, if everyone did it, our system as it exists would grind to a halt. Our lifestyles would have to reset to a more reasonable level, and that would cause some discomfort. That is because waste is what fuels a consumer society. No endless production of waste, no mass consumption, no system as it currently exists.

While I don't see the end of our system as a bad thing, it's demise would surely cause extreme hardship for many people. That might be a difficult thing, but it is a necessary thing, just like surgery to remove a tumour is a difficult thing to endure.

If you have a cancer that is killing you, there is no easy way out. When people are diagnosed with cancer, they don't usually say they don't believe the doctors. Or that they don't believe in cancer. You are going to have to go through some tough times if you want to continue living, and there is no other way out. 

How many people decide not to endure the hardship of overcoming a life-threatening disease, and die instead? Not many. Even if they did, they would only be affecting themselves. When we refuse to change our lives to save the planet, we affect everyone, as well as future generations.

But that is the choice we make when we continue wasteful ways. It is deciding to do nothing about species extinction, ecological collapse, climate change, and the blight of billionaires. 

We have decided to refuse to believe the experts, and our own eyes. We say it isn't happening, or that if it is, it isn't bad. We are refusing treatment, and the outcome will be the same as if we had been diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer. 

We can treat our ailment by eliminating the waste from our lives, and our system, and endure the hardship that will be required to see us through to a better way, and ultimately, survival. 

We will have to let our current system crash, then create a more frugal, thrifty and efficient planet-friendly system. Or we can do nothing and let our inaction kill us, and destroy all hope for our children.

I want to live, and I want future generations to do the same. Therefore, I have made it my personal mission to eliminate waste from my life. There is no other magic solution that will allow us to continue to defy reality and the laws of physics.

Wasteful ways are killing the planet. There is no easy way out. It is time to tear off the band aid and start the healing. It starts with thrift and the judicious use of precious energy resources. 

It ends with a completely different system that isn't a cancerous tumour on the face of Mother Nature.

“People keep asking me ‘What is the solution to the climate crisis?’. They expect me to know the answer. That is beyond absurd, as there are no ‘solutions’ within our current systems.

We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you [adults] have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. That must come to an end.” 
- Greta Thunberg,  16 years old

March 20, 2019

Spring Memories

Every year about this time I step outside, take a deep breathe, and smell that smell. Each year it is a smell that triggers a memory almost as old as I am.

It is not of flowers, or gardening. Nor does it concern the balance between winter's dark and summer's light. It isn't about the exuberant energy about to wash over me, or a Saxon goddess, or fertility. Nope.

The memory that comes to me about this time every year is about playing marbles. 

This persistent memory etched into the folds of my brain was formed in my elementary school days. Life was good, and it was one of the happiest times of my life.

I lived 3 city blocks from school, so walked to and from there every day. That meant being outside and noticing things, like the light and heat returning. I felt safe traversing my neighbourhood, and knew that I could, if needed, knock on any door and get help.

Once at school, my dad was the principal, so the classroom and school grounds felt like an extension of home. It was a carefree and innocent time. 

At the end of every winter I would break out my big bag of marbles and count the agates, crystals, steelies, cateyes and boulders. My brothers and I would compare our caches of glassy globes, ready to bring to school when the time was right.

After long, cold winters, the student body became restless waiting for warmer weather. When we went outside for recess, it was that smell that you wanted to smell. 

It came in the moment after the snow melted, and the ground began to thaw. And then, after a few sunny days, the glorious time had arrived that everyone had been waiting for since the marble bag had been put away for the winter. 

That unique smell advertised the fact that the playing field had thawed, and dried out sufficiently. It was time for marbles again, and the joy in the classroom was palpable. We couldn't wait to get outside.

That is what the little boy in me thinks about every year when I am outside and smell that distinctive odour of the landscape waking up. It is a simple, powerful memory that never ceases to bring me joy.

Happy spring, everyone. It's time to play.

March 15, 2019

Bike Ride: From The Ridge To The Ocean

Our Nova Scotia home is at the top of a ridge, with views to the west (shown) and the east.

When we lived on the west coast we lived 5 meters (15 ft.) away from the ocean, and maybe 3 meters (10 ft.) above sea level. Birds on the water seemed like they were in our living room, which made identification very easy. Binoculars were optional.

A short distance from home and I get my first glimpse of the ocean below.

Where we are living on the east coast is about 5000 metres (3 miles) from salt water, and at an elevation of 152 meters (500 ft.). It is a little farther and higher, but feels much safer when it comes to winter storms and impending sea level rises. And it does make for an excellent short bike ride.

But I do miss the sea birds.

Almost to the sea, I check for mail, then carry on.

Yesterday I decided to roll out the bike for a ride down to the ocean to see if I could spot any waterfowl. As an added bonus, I could pick up our mail at the community mailbox on the way down.

My destination where Acacia Brook (which flows through the forest behind my home) meets salt water. The tide was low - summer high tides flood the grassy area on the left.

While there was still a bit of messy snow laying around, the road was free and clear and it was a beautiful almost-spring kind of day. It was a great ride, and it felt wonderful to be out... but no birds on the water. I had my binoculars in my pack, but didn't need to pull them out.

However, on the way home the chickadees and white breasted nuthatches in the trees next to the road lifted my bird watching spirits as I peddled uphill to home. 

It was a joyful, successful ride from the ridge to the ocean. And back, thankfully. Linda always loves it when I make it back home. So do I.

March 12, 2019

5 Therapies More Effective Than Retail Therapy

Note to self.

Retail Therapy Patient: "Hey, I bought something!" 
Minimalist: "And?" 
Patient: "And now I'm happy." 
Minimalist: "Are you really?"
Patient: "Actually, I'm not feeling as happy as I was when I first bought it." 
Minimalist: "That is because that kind of happiness is temporary at best." 
Patient: "Oh, now I am sad and I have buyer's remorse." 
A while later - "I bought something else, and now I'm happy again. Oh, hold on..."
Minimalist: "Argh. I can help you with that."

Retail Therapy is the act of buying something to make one feel better. It does actually work... for a very brief moment in time. 

The effect quickly wears off, while the credit card balance tends to linger. Buyer's remorse soon sets in. The cycle repeats.

If you are feeling down, here are 5 therapies more effective than buying stuff you don't want or need just to feel better from the initial rush.

Nature Therapy - go for a walk in the park or some other natural area. Sit quietly. Breathe. If you can't do that, look out a window with a view, or look at pictures of nature. They all have lasting benefits for mood improvement.

Conversation Therapy - meet with a good friend and talk about your feelings.

Exercise Therapy - a 30 minute workout does wonders for your state of mind. It does not have to cost anything, and you will be improving your health at the same time. Can be combined with any, or all of the other forms of therapy mentioned here.

Meditation Therapy - sit quietly, and clear your mind for 20 minutes. 

Garden Therapy - gardening is good for every aspect of a person. After a session you not only feel better, but will also have healthy food to eat, which will further improve your mood.

Repeat as necessary. Lasting mood improvement guaranteed, and you don't have to buy anything. No buyer's remorse, no debt.

March 9, 2019

Peaceful Places

No need to go anywhere when I can walk out my back door and hike to a peaceful spot like this.

Seeking out peaceful places has always been a major goal for me. And when I met Linda, it became a shared goal. One of our first dates was a 16km hiking and camping trip in northeastern Glacier National Park in Montana. 

In the beginning of our time together we continued to backpack long distances to remote areas where there were more bears and cougars than people. As time went on our backpacking diminished, but our desire to be away from the city did not. 

Hikes became shorter and less frequent, and after a while car camping became the norm. But we still sought out remote locations. Solitude was more important than services. We enjoyed "roughing it" in our little tent in the middle of nowhere.

In more recent times, since Linda has gone into a wheelchair, travel has become difficult. Add to that our desire to reduce our impact on the environment, and our priorities have changed. 

Now our priority is to live in a peaceful place. Home, after all, is where we spend the majority of our time, so home has to also be our sanctuary. An urban environment just doesn't "cut the mustard", as my dad used to say.

That is why we moved from a city of 1 million to a small town in 2005. Nine years later 10,000 people felt too big, so we moved again. Now we live in a rural area outside a town with a population of 2,000. That is just about right.

This is the most rural, and peaceful, place we have ever lived together, and we hope to continue living rurally for as long as we are physically able. Hopefully that will be for many years to come.

March 8, 2019

My Mom Was A Rebel, And Because Of Her, I Am Too

OBOS has been called one of the most influential books ever written. First published in the
1970s, it remained in print until 2018, and is now only available on line. My rebel
mom had it in her library back in the day, and it changed my life.

Today we celebrate International Women's Day, a day when we recognize influential women across history, and across the globe. 

Who would these women be? Mary Wollstonecraft perhaps, or Betty Friedan? Or Gloria Steinem? Yes, all of these and more. 

Today I pause to reflect on the most influential women in my life. While all the famous women have done amazing things, none of them has affected me as much as my own mother.

Every day of my life I give thanks for the achievements of Margaret Mooney, my rebel mom. You could call her an "early feminist" I guess, unless you realize that women have been fighting for equality for much longer than the 1970s. 

How about the 1770s? Yes, and no doubt, before then, too.

So mom was not the most famous, and she was not the first, but she was the sole woman to not only bring me into this world, but also teach me about the role of women (and men) in society.

My mom is one of the strongest persons I know. She birthed and raised 5 children, virtually alone. Since dad, a wonderful man, was a traditional 1950s guy, child rearing was not his thing. Bringing home the bacon was his sole domain, and he did it well. 

Not that it was easy for him, but come on, who had the more difficult job? Not only did mom raise 5 wild children, she also broke free of convention and went back to school to get a degree later in life. Then she entered the work place, as if she didn't have enough to do already.

Ultimately, she emancipated herself from her traditional role, and that takes some kind of strength. Just ask any woman, Rosa Parks, perhaps, about the struggle to be free of the bullshit of a racist, misogynist patriarchy. 

It is hard, but it is worth it. Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.

It was my mother's example that made me not only a feminist, but also helped me to emancipate myself from the same sick system that she railed against. If not for her, would I have even known that I was also in chains, that we all were, and that it was up to me, to each of us, to break those chains?

So today, I celebrate all women, famous or not. But mostly I celebrate the most important woman in my life - my mother.

Thank you, mom. I am, because of you. But not just that - I am free, because of you.

March 6, 2019

The System Doesn't Make Sense - It Doesn't Have To

Mister Cap I. Talism.
Image by myconius.

If you think that the world we live in today doesn't make any sense at all, you would be right. That is because our system doesn't have to make sense - it only has to make money.

If this system were a person it would be imprisoned, or committed to an asylum. 

Void of any moral compass, you would cross the street to avoid having to rub shoulders with such an destructive and unstable character, if it were actually a character.

If it were a person, ecocidal capitalism might be manifested as something like The Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland.

"I am under no obligation to make sense to you." 
- Mad Hatter

Or perhaps as the hookah smoking Cheshire Cat, since the system is obviously under the influence of some very bad drugs. In fact, it is on one of the most destructive drugs known to humanity - money.

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad. You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.” 
- Cheshire Cat

They want us to believe there is no other way to conduct human affairs other than through fouling our own nest, and allowing the many to die from highly preventable causes, while the few gain obscene amounts of wealth. 

None of that makes any logical sense what-so-ever. But still, Margaret Thatcher famously told us, "There is no alternative", and many agreed with her.

Not sociologist John Bellamy Foster, who is thinking rationally when he says, 

“We have to go against the logic of the system even while living within it.” 

I agree, but what exactly is the logic of a system that is already looking for a new planet to exploit when this one is completely destroyed? 

If there is no possible alternative, then let's ponder impossible alternatives. 

Now is when we could use a healthy dose of creativity and imagination. Our capacity to dream of a better world can surely yield something better than the total insanity that has brought us to edge of destruction. 

Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll modelled the kind of thinking we need now. He said,

"Sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

I consider the impossible all the time, before, during, and after breakfast. I have to, because I need to inject a bit of sense in a world where there doesn't seem to be any at all.

So I ask myself, "How about an impossible world where social relationships are not governed primarily by economics, however participatory, but by solidarity? How about an impossible world where ecocide is not an integral part of what we do?" 

I envision a system where billionaire outlaws are outlawed (not such a crazy idea after all).

"Sure we destroyed the Earth", the billionaires will say, "but we destroyed it for profit."

We have to start thinking of impossible ideas, systems, and methods. Why not dream impossible dreams?

At one time any human would have told you that flying through the air in thin metal tubes for great distances was impossible. Or visiting the moon. Or polluting limitless oceans and the atmosphere, or cutting down expansive, seemingly endless old growth forests.

And yet, all of those fall under the purview of the possible today. Who knows what "impossible" things we will achieve tomorrow? 

“When the whole world is running towards a cliff, a person who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost their mind.” 
- C.S. Lewis

March 4, 2019

Buying New Is Always My Last Resort

Good example of "use what you already have on hand".

After I decide I need something (which tends not to happen very often), this is the process I go through:

1. I use what I already have. Includes repairing and repurposing. If I can't do that, then,

2. I make it myself. If possible I make the thing I need, using what I have on hand, or can acquire for free, such as found objects. If I can't do that, then,

3. I borrow. Includes the library, or "library of things". If I can't do that, then,

4. I barter. Can I trade something I have but don't need for something I do? If I can't do that, then,

5. I buy second hand, gently used items. If I can't do that, then,

6. I buy a new item.

Buying new is always my last resort. It is usually always the most expensive, least creative, and least environmentally friendly way to go.