Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Five starling day

This is the view from my kitchen window, the next door neighbour's roof.

See the chimney?

See the starlings sitting on the chimney?

I can pretty much tell how cold it is outside by counting the starlings huddled around the chimney for warmth.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, it's just a 3-starling day. Today it is colder, it's a 5-starling day, and their feathers are all fluffed out.

On the coldest day so far I counted eight starlings sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on that chimney, so today's not so bad!

Christmas has come and gone, the highlight for me was Sam visiting for a week.

Here he is playing a game on his brother's iPod Touch, something he spent a lot of time doing when he was upstairs. When he was downstairs he played on the Wii with the kids.

We managed to get him out for a few walks, but mostly he said he just wanted to hang out and chill. So that's what he did.

I haven't taken a lot of pictures lately, and only downloaded the few that I had today. There were some photos from the trip to the Royal Winter Fair that Tristan and I did in November...

Kids and kids...

Gross pumpkin...

Kids and chicks...

Feeding the goats...

And this one that I had forgotten about. I don't remember exactly where this house was, but somewhere in our neighbourhood...

The emergency bike...

Oh yes, and this is Dobby thinking he's a lapdog...

I haven't been in much of a mood for writing here, nevermind taking photos. I don't see much prospect of the mood lifting anytime soon, so I'm afraid postings here are going to be sporadic at best for the time being.

Wish you all well in the new year!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who's on first, what's the score?

Canadian politics are getting out of hand, if I turn off the radio for even an hour or two, I miss the latest upheavals. Yesterday I spent half the day with the radio turned off, knitting and catching up on snail-mail, and apparently I missed the resignation of Stephan Dion, Bob Rae backing out of the Liberal leadership race, the de facto crowning of Michael Ignatieff as new Liberal leader, and some speech by Steven Harper exhorting everyone to work together. Of course once again he could not resist a bit of mudslinging in the process, this time aimed at the NDP.

This morning lying in bed gathering my courage to leap naked out of bed into the 12C air of my bedroom (the perils of older age, wearing PJs to bed runs the risk of seriously overheating during the night), I contemplated the almost daily momentous changes in the Canadian political landscape. What will today bring? Who's on first? When do the rest of us get to say something?

My brother described The Daily Show episode on the so-called Canadian Crisis to me over the phone, it sounded quite funny. How we were in the process of forcing our current leader out of office, and Jon Stewart asking, You can do this?!? 'Cause we gotta guy...

Anyway, it occurred to me that one of the fundamental differences between the American and Canadian systems is that once elected, Canadian MPs are required to vote the party line, while in the US elected Senators and Representatives are free to vote their conscience. For the most part this means voting the party line, but it does allow for forming temporary coalitions to get legislation through.

In Canada, legislators don't get to do that. Forming a Coalition is a Big Deal. But on another level I think it promotes (in Canada) a more vicious level of talking to or about each other. If you know that you will never have to negotiate a liaison with a member of the opposing party, then you are free to bad-mouth them as much as you want. But if you knew that one day in the future you might be obliged to cosy up to members of the opposing party in order to get your legislation through, you might be a little more circumspect in your insults.

Negative campaigning during elections seems to be a big part of American politics. It's catching on here too, but I have to say that my two weeks in the US during their election was a little disconcerting, it seemed like everybody hated everybody else. Maybe election-time is the only time American politicians get to vent their spleen, the rest of the time they have to mind their mouths in order to make their political system work.

A little bit of that here would be a Good Thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rally 'round the Coalition, boys and girls

Across Canada on December 6 were rallies for both the Conservative government and the Liberal-NDP Coalition. As to be expected, the bigger pro-Conservative rallies were in the west while the Coalition rallies predominated in the east. The perennial East-West split in this country (in addition to the Quebec/rest-of-Canada split).

We went to the Coalition rally at Toronto City Hall, on one of the colder days so far. Tristan got a lesson in parliamentary democracy (see Gretel's post about that here) and then prepared a sign for the rally. He came prepared to educate any who asked on what was going on with his props, two bottles full of red (Liberal), blue (Conservative), orange (NDP) and grey? (Bloc) painted macaronis, carefully counted and bottled to numerically represent the Government and the (Coalition) Loyal Opposition.

There was a large contingent of about-to-be-laid-off Canadian autoworkers (CAW) surrounding us in the large crowd. We could hardly see the stage where Mary Walsh presided and Stephan Dion and Jack Layton gave rousing speeches. When folks around us got excited and waved their signs, we saw nothing at all except signs and backs of heads, the iconic City Hall looming in the background.

This is a pic of the young activist in the making...

On the streetcar ride home I talked to a woman sitting behind me, visiting from Halifax. We agreed that while we supported the Coalition we did not really believe it would survive very long, that PM Harper has narrowly escaped an ignominious end, grace a the Gov-Gen Michaelle John.

I'm listening today to The Sunday Edition on CBC radio, which is totally focussed this week on what it all means. Who is in the right? Who is in the wrong? What's all the fuss about? The main thing I'm hearing is that never before have people all across the country been so up in arms about government. Too bad this didn't happen during the election in October! Politicians are receiving tons of messages from constituents about the situation, and it is a close call as to who is getting the most public support, the Government or the Coalition.

Another interesting thing that was said was that our form of government is not about majority rule, it is about parliamentary confidence. A minority can rule so long as they retain the confidence of the House. This is the issue that has everybody screwed up in knots here now.

Oh, and on a personal note? The hat and scarves in this picture are grace a moi and my amateur knitting needles...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Exciting times

Exciting times here in Canada. Long but excellent explanation of what's going on over at the Yarn Harlot. I quibble with a few of the definitions and details, and she definitely gives a biased opinion on the matter, but since I share her bias I'm not going to quibble too much on that. I have yet to hear an unbiased opinion from anyone, so I guess it's just not possible to sit on the fence on this one.

Within half an hour this post will be obsolete, the Prime Minister is or has just finished speaking with the GG about what to do next. I am hoping she (the GG) will refuse the PM's request to prorogue Parliament, effectively handing the government over to the new Coalition. However, this is a polarizing issue here, essentially western Canada supports the PM and eastern Canada supports the Coalition, with of course lots of exceptions at both ends of the country. But it is divisive and that is unfortunate.

One commentator I heard said that Harper is truly amazing, in his short career he has successfully united both the Right and the Left, something probably no politician in the world has ever achieved. Gotta hand it to the guy, impressive accomplishment!