An example of how dense life on a Marker Buoy can become

Criaturas Marinas Chilenas

One of the reasons I love scuba diving is the chance to see a myriad of sea creatures that are entirely unlike their land based cousins. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it underneath the water while on exchange in Chile but I was able to see several underwater species that came up for a visit.

South American Sea Lion (Lobo Marino Chusco)

A ‘Wolf’ of the sea sunning on the sidewalk

I have dove with Steller sea lions around Vancouver Island without any qualms but I would be a little hesitant to get in the water with these fellows. Although, if you’re diving and all of a sudden all the little fishies disappear, I would take that as a sign of a large predator in the area. When you look up and see an animal roughly the size of a cow casually swim by and you notice you’re all alone, maybe you should be thankful they don’t see you as food.

If you weren’t careful, you would trip on them

While I was in Talcahuano, the town still bore the scars of a tsunami from three years previous. From the Naval Base, I would walk about a mile through a ‘no man’s land’, past a long row of fish restaurants and into town. I was warned that gangs would beat up navy personnel along that route but the scariest beasts I came across were the Lobos (Wolves of the Sea) by the restaurants. They would sun on the sidewalk and hop into the dumpsters to chow down on the scraps. Considering the size of their teeth, I wouldn’t want to be drunk and stumbling back to barracks and trip over one of them late at night! Along with that hangout, dozens of the beasts lived under the jetty our ship was alongside. I didn’t envy the ship’s divers when they had to inspect the hull with those critters with them in the murky water.

The restaurant dumpsters were a popular hangout

The Sea Lions were similar in size and build to the Stellers I was familiar with but the males had an extra swath of fur down the back of their necks.

I wouldn’t want him crunching down on my leg!

Critters from the Marker Buoys

A Marker Buoy up on deck for servicing and cleaning

While I worked as a commercial diver on BC fish farms, it struck me as odd when people would go on about what ‘death’ zones they were supposed to be. Sure underneath the farms where there wasn’t much of a current was a miasma of old feed and fish feces but the bottom of the sea is mostly just muck like that everywhere. It is up near the surface where sunlight can get to living organisms is where you’ll find the most life. Basically, just stick something slightly into the water like a boat, a floating shed, floats, marker buoys, etc. and in a short time, they’ll be completely covered with sea life. Then someone like me has to dive in and physically scrap everything off or a tender ship has to pull up the buoy and service them. That was George Slight’s purpose as we sailed the pasos of Chile. Since I was bored and like the various denizens of the sea, I tried to document what came up on deck.

Caracols (Snails)

An Odontocymbiola magellanica snail from Patagonia. The foot is on the upper right.

We were in the Strait of Magellan and made a quick trip ashore to Patagonia when I came across this example of Odontocymbiola magellanica. The snail was still alive inside and I did give it a taste back onboard. It didn’t kill me but it wasn’t particularly tasty either. The shell I brought back was about 4″ long.

I am not sure what type of snails came up on the marker buoy in the picture below but I found their striations interesting. Some of them had the usual looking barnacles (picorocos) attached to their shells.

Snails, Starfish and Barnacles

Starfish (Asteroideos y Estrellas de Mar)

The varieties of purple starfish were familiar to me. I think the smaller one is a Estrella Chica (Girl Star)

Chilean Starfish

Black Sea Urchin (Erizos)

These urchins were dead or dying as their spines were falling off. The crew told me their name for them was Helice. Chilean seafood shops frequently had urchins for sale.

Mussel (Choro)

The mussel is prevalent and abundant throughout the waters of BC and as it turns out in Chile. This was what a Chilean mussel looked like.

Example of a Chilean mussel

Crab (Cangrejo)

Not sure what type of crab this little fellow was but he was feisty as they all are.

It was too bad I didn’t have a chance to scuba dive in some of the locations we sailed through. There is plenty of untamed, unexplored wilderness and seascape in the southern portions of Chile to keep an adventurer happy for decades.

I will finish this latest installment of Chilean Critters with this little tidbit. Although I didn’t see one, the Chilean slang for a boy who is all ‘handsy’ with his girl is parecer pulpo or to seem like an octopus. I must have a little octopus in me because my girlfriend accuses me of being one all the time!

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Sketch of a Tonina – Strait of Magellan (Estrecho de Magallanes), 2013

Pingüinos y Toninas

As promised, this latest blog on Chilean critters will highlight the cetaceans and flightless birds I had the fortune to come across during my voyages with the mighty Chilean Navy buoy tender George Slight. I am including the penguins as they were frequently companion animals to their larger sea creatures.

Officer’s Wardroom – Isla Dawson Naval Station

Pingüino Magallánico

Although there are several species of Chilean penguins, I only came across the Magellanic version. Named after the famous explorer and his self-named Magellan Strait at the far southern end of South America, I did see a few close to a famous colony on Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas. They were swimming in the company of Toninas, a practise I had observed previously with some Bottlenose dolphins. I assume the penguins hunt with the larger animals and gather up the scraps or take advantage of the dolphin herding techniques. They also might use the larger animals as shelter from being prey themselves.

I wish I was able to get a copy of the dolphin/penguin pairing video when the ship left an anchorage near Paso Picton (49˚ 34’ S, 75˚ 20’ W). The ocean was as still as a mill pond and particularly clear. As the ship left the night’s sheltering cove, we were escorted out by a number of Bottlenosed Dolphins. In the video that one of the Chilean sailors took of the dolphins, you could see the winding bubble trail of a penguin swimming out with us alongside its friends. It was interesting that the penguin did not swim in a straight line but in more of a random, quick weaving pattern as I sketched below.

To my surprise, I saw my first penguin way to the north just outside of Talcahuano near the island where the Chilean Navy trains their sailors. We were puttering back to anchor for the night and the penguin was just lazily floating on the water in front of us. Of course, I wasn’t sure of what I was looking at on first glance but we got close enough for me to identify the bird. Along with this one, the ones near Punta Arenas, I saw one at Puerto Eden and a stuffed one in the Officer’s Wardroom at the Naval station on Isla Dawson. The stuffed penguin gave me a chance to realize that these are not the cute and cuddly creatures Disney and other animators have historically portrayed to the public. As you might be able to see in my sketch and picture, the beak has a nasty hook to it probably meant for quickly ripping out the guts of a tasty fish. The nails on the feet look lethal and are probably designed for scrabbling up steep, rocky shorelines or ice. In the CIBC commercials, they accurately portray the colouring scheme at least. Although, I notice in the latest commercials, they couldn’t refrain from adding some pink colouring to the lady penguin.  Anyways, I figure that soft, pink humans wouldn’t stand a chance swimming against a couple of enraged penguins.


Tonina’s near Magdalena Island – Punta Arenas, Chile
Penguins were keeping these Toninas company

I saw a number of different dolphins species up and down the pasos (fjords) of Chile including Pacific white-sides and bottlenoses. I was fortunate to see some Toninas (Chilean dolphins) near Magdalean Island. The captain said they were a sign of good luck to mariners. I took pictures as best as I could but as usual, sea life is tough to photograph easily. They are also known as a Black Dolphin but that was a misnomer as they are clearly black and white.  They are rare and some of the least researched members of the dolphin family and are only located in the far south of Chile.

As we travelled further south, I noticed that black and white were the most prominent sea creature colour.

Ballenas (Whales)

Whale Sketches during the Ship’s Commission to Punta Arenas

While the ship was sailing the waters near Chiloé Island, we occasionally saw whales off in the distance. I couldn’t positively identify them but supposedly there is a colony of Blue whales in the area or they could have been humpbacks. Further to the south, I saw the occasional Orca and what I thought were Minke whales. As I was without the proper photographic equipment, I took a quick picture and sketched as best I could what I saw.

Puerto Slight – Whale carcass beached to the right of the white building

Last year, I noticed a report of Chilean whale strandings in the news. It was in an area known as Puerto Slight. This was a cove our ship entered in order to resupply the Armada’s lighthouse station located overland on the Pacific side. I didn’t have access to a small boat but I observed at least two whale carcasses on the beach. I was told the area was known for this. I had my own theories for how these creatures ended up here. On one of the nights at anchorage, I was called out to see the sea boiling with red-coloured krill. Literally, we could have taken buckets of shrimp out of the water beside the ship. So, the area was probably a popular food source for whales to be attracted to. Also, it was one of the few places anywhere up and down that area where there were actual beaches. Most of the waterways consist of fjords where the shoreline dives steeply into the water for thousands of feet. If I was an air-breathing creature, perhaps near death or sick and in need of a place to rest, Puerto Slight was the only place with beaches. They could have beached themselves by accident or maybe they just wash up there. Either way, more research needs to be done and although the area is extremely remote, there is a Naval station there for support.

Puerto Slight Whale Graveyard

For my next installment of Critters of Chile, I will focus on more Chilean Creatures of the Sea.

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Subbies chilling in the Athabaskan Quads (Liquor & Smokes for Effect)

HMCS Athabaskan – A MARS Subbie’s Perspective

Dedicated to Sad Panda

As the last ‘Sister of the Space Age’ will be paid off shortly on March 10, I wanted to write a few words on what it was like as a MARS Subbie to be aboard over the last few years. I won’t go into the experiences of the MSE, CSE or Logistic Subbies as their journey was quite different.

I have a couple of points to clear up before I get to my time with the ship. If you know of anyone contemplating MARS as a career choice, hold them down and pound them until they change their minds. Used car salesmen or politician or alligator wrangler would all be better career choices. If they are really smart, they would apply to the Air Force. Oh, I can hear the MARS community all saying, he’s just disgruntled and lashing out. Well, why does a significant portion of MARS officers immediately apply for an Occupational Transfer once they’ve completed their Naval Officer Professional Qualification (NOPQ) board? If an Athabaskan MARS officer says they love their job onboard, they have drunk the Kool-Aid and live on the Dark Side. There’s one lady who might defend her time as an Athabaskan MARS officer but she came very close one night to having my fist go through her face. A door close to the Operations Room has a crease where I almost broke my hand punching it.

Second point I wanted to talk about was the term Subbie. That’s our term to use, no one else’s. It is just as derogatory as the ‘N’ word for black people or any of the other racist words out there. We are Sub Lieutenants. The short form is too often used to belittle the person and the rank.

But that is a general short coming of the RCN. Everyone, especially the senior NCMs, seem to take pride in finding faults. The job is perfect for people with OCD, or particularly tortuous, because there are thousands of correctable faults to be found on board a ship like Athabaskan. So instead of helping to teach the new sailors and officers, people engage in endless rounds of ‘Stump the Chump’ or pointing out people’s faults and mistakes. The RCN does not provide a nurturing environment for growth and development. I prefer the Air Force model where you work as a team versus trying to trip someone up all the time.

Okay, back to the lovely life of an Athabaskan Subbie. As a general statement, in the two years I was with the ship, I have never been so continuously angry and frustrated in my life. This was pretty much the feelings of all of my contemporaries according to the Bull sessions we had in the Quads or the Quiet Area. We were a forlorn, despondent, dejected group of individuals.

I place most of the blame regarding the Subbie’s predicament on the first Commanding Officer, Executive Officer and Navigating Officer that I had. The RCN uses an antiquated system to train their newest Fleet officers. The decision to qualify and submit a new Officer of the Watch (OOW) to their NOPQ board rests entirely with the Commanding Officer (CO). All Subbies have their Req books firmly in tow and the 111 subjects are supposed to help prepare them for their Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate (BWK) and their Board. Unfortunately, we had very little oversight or guidance on how to proceed with our training and it was left up to the individual to ad hoc a method of self-teaching. In reality, we devolved to a litter of pups fighting for the one or two teats of CO nourishment. Only the most aggressive, wheedling or favoured garnered attention while the rest were ignored. In order to be noticed, we would snatch the Operations handset from each other so he would hear our voice over the communication net. In over a year, I only had a couple of short conversations with the man who was in direct charge of my career. Any other time I spoke with him, it would mostly be a grunt or some nonsensical remark. I could only engage him on the topic of my daughter, as he had grown daughters of his own. This wasn’t just an issue with me of course. Infamously, he forgot that he had not given a BWK ticket to one of the long-term Subbies while he was handing out tickets on the bridge to others. There were about a dozen of us that languished in the doldrums for years because of the lack of his enthusiasm to train and move us forward.

The next piece of excrement who contributed to the general malaise of the Subbie cabal was my first Athabaskan Executive Officer (XO). He was a universally hated man onboard the ship. He is a prime example of the failings of the MARS trade where a despicable excuse for a human can climb the RCN ranks if they are clever enough. To illustrate the disgust felt for the man, his girlfriend dumped him in hospital while he was being treated for a spontaneous lung pneumothorax. There were a couple of occasions and one particularly bad Wardroom incident with the Operations Officer where I was ashamed to be called a MARS officer. Of course, he and the Subbies had a poisonous relationship. Instead of even attempting to guide them through their training, he would at the most hold long-winded lectures mostly just to hear himself. He and I definitely did not get along. At the end, I would receive at least one blast of shit per day. In over a year, I only had one real conversation onboard with him where we actually spoke as human beings to one another. I would try to avoid him as best as I could but inevitably I would receive my daily snarky remark. This man has had command before and unfortunately will weasel into a top RCN job in the future.

The last significant personality who torpedoed the Subbie’s collective morale was our first Navigating Officer. She was particularly incompetent at her Divisional duty to progress our learning and training. She is also a clever individual who was able to personally advance her career on being able to firmly stick her head up the correct butt. There was a particular universally hated Subbie who followed her lead and had his head firmly up her butt. Like follows like. These people seem to go far in the RCN because they don’t make waves with the wrong people and sell their soul instead.

To be fair, NavOs are pretty much the busiest people in the Fleet. They never have time to themselves and with Athabaskan, instead of the usual two or three Subbies, we had up to 12 at one time. But their Divisional job is to be in direct control of the Subbies training. Instead, as in her case, we were mostly left to our own devices with little to no feedback. The CO would see our Req books maybe once a month and leave a four or five word note. She was supposed to give us quarterly Performance Development Reviews but I never received even one from her. The only real ‘help’ and guidance from her that I received was an Initial Counselling (IC) out of the blue because I had not completed my Officer of the Day training. An IC is a permanent black mark on your file and instead of guiding me towards a learning stream I should have been taking, she went straight to the heavy hand. She ended up being no friend to the group and we were glad when she was posted away.

The RCN needs a clear and standardized system when it comes to training their MARS Sub Lieutenants. The present system is too haphazard and too easily derailed by individual personalities, circumstances and an unfocused training regime. In my case, after I left the training school Venture in Esquimalt, I was never given the chance to run a day or night Man Overboard exercise. I was given only maybe 60 to 90 minutes of OOW Maneuver time over the two years. These were basic skills for an OOW and we were given next to no opportunities to practice let alone become proficient as all other priorities trumped our needs. Of course on the rare occasions that we did run the drills, inevitably there were mistakes and the CO would give us our blast of crap to be followed by the NavO bridge wing lecture. As for the numerous pre-requisites for the OOD and NOPQ boards, we had to continuously hound the proper personnel for a few minutes of their precious time. Rarely was dedicated time set aside for our studies with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The RCN needs to move to a 21st century training model in order to quit wasting the time, money and efforts of everyone involved.

Another leap forward for the RCN will be the retiring of these old rust buckets and the acquisition of proper vessels. Athabaskan was a particularly poor place to live, train and study in. A large portion of a Subbie’s life is taken up with standing watch, doing their pre-requisites for Officer of the Day and NOPQ boards, and studying. Along with the usual annoyances that every warship endures with weather tossing you about, broken sleep and living in close quarters, Athabaskan had her own peculiar issues that made life onboard difficult. The worst for me was the absolute lack of flat, lit spaces for studying. The Wardroom table was the only spot as the Quads were generally taken over by visiting Air Crew who needed their sleep. I don’t begrudge the pilots for being more comfortable than us. Their lives were literally in their hands on every flight and I admire their skill and fortitude especially on some of the more hairy weather days. But for a Subbie trying to study for a Rules test, I would bounce around the ship trying to find a quiet, lit space.

Speaking of bouncing, Subbies more than most, were nomads when it came to your living space. Occasionally, we would rate cabins as Athabaskan had extra due to her being a command platform. Up forward, if we were on an OP CARIBBE, the bulkheads would be black with mold. On the colder sails, the outside bulkheads would be covered in ice. The breakers would constantly be blowing due to officers using illicit space heaters or dehumidifiers in an effort to make their cabin livable. For the Subbies, we would typically end up in a Mess on the lower decks. #1 Mess with the steam hammer in the pipes was the worst. Imagine a person irregularly beating a 50 gallon drum with a sledgehammer right next to your head. We fought with the Hull Technicians for over a week to fix the issue. We were a low priority to the HT’s. #2 Mess was bad for the heat when we sailed south as it was over one of the machinery spaces. Stewing in your own juices didn’t make for a comfortable sleep. Lack of hot water on board was another major issue. We never had any for showering. Basic creature comforts would have gone a long way to making the time more bearable. I won’t complain too loudly though as the poor sailors stuck in the 50 man messes 12, 13, and 14 had it much worse.

It is said that if you want the true story of a ship, you take a look at the general mood of the Subbies. We were not a happy lot and especially under my first CO, Athabaskan was not a happy ship. In my opinion, of any other group onboard, we were the least well treated. At one time, we were up to 12 or 13 of us when normally it should have been only two or three. When there are that many, it’s natural to want to use the Subbie army as Shitty Little Jobs Officers (SLJOs). It became normal to have Safety Officers for every evolution and Dials Officers for every Replenishment at Sea. Basically, they had to invent tasks to look like we were busy. Instead, we were just getting in the way. Whenever we would try to ‘lead’, a Bosun would basically just put us in a corner so we would be out of the way. The RCN is going to have serious issues with the new reduced manning on the Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships and new frigates because they have become used to all this extra manpower doing a slew of extra ‘keep busy’ work.

Coming back to our general treatment, some of the Chiefs of the Boat were definitely not our friends. One Combat Chief in particular enjoyed snapping Subbies into line. He was growly and rough on others in the Combat Department who also stood up to his bullying. I took umbrage to his ordering around of junior officers and confronted him on it. He immediately made a stink to the Combat Officer and as a Subbie I was automatically in the wrong. The other chiefs were on a so-so relationship level with us. In order to appear to be ‘leaders’, we were supposed to snap the bridge crew into line so that the CO could see us exercising charge. Instead of team building and inspiring people to perform, we were training as disdainful overlords meting out random harshness. So it would be difficult to interact with the ship’s company as like most people they don’t enjoy random tongue lashings. But again, you emulate what you see and experience.

If I had a particular task which galled me the most about being a Subbie, it would be the infuriating chore of copying out the fair Bridge logbooks. A logbook is meant to record significant actions and every RCN ship has an OOW notebook and the ship’s logbook. The notebook can be used to jot down everything and is done in pencil. The logbook, kept in ink, also is used to record events but what is recorded is so poorly understood, inevitably someone will screw up. Countless hours of Subbie time have been wasted on re-copying innumerable logs whose final resting place is supposed to be the RCN archives in Ottawa. It was maddening to spend so much time and effort on writing a PERFECT copy of nonsense log entries for a book that was destined to never again see the light of day.

Other disagreeable tasks included studying for and writing the regular ‘Big Three’ tests: Rules, Bridgemanship and Aircraft Procedures. The purpose of the testing was to prepare us for the eventual NOPQ board. Instead, the testing just served to show us how deficient our training and knowledge was. Reciting verbatim the Collision Regulations show no mastery of the Rules, they just show you’re a clever parrot. Sitting us down for testing was just a mechanism for making it look like we were busy and learning something.

Life was harsh for the Athabaskan MARS Subbies but there were a few bright spots. The shared hardships and constant disappointment drove us together. We pitied the poor new-comers that came into our pit of despair. All of the commiserating in the Quads quickly sucked the spirit and life out of a freshly graduated Venture student. A couple of enterprising, quick-witted Subbies produced a clandestine satirical publication that gave us a few chuckles. The food was generally pretty good although it was tough to get a few extra pizza slices on Saturday nights. I had some good relationships with a number of the crew who saw that I wasn’t a typical asshole MARS officer and had their best interests in mind. We did have some stellar parties in the Wardroom and during port visits. The partying and excessive drinking were symptoms of doomed souls attempting to find solace from the bottom of a bottle.

So I hope you have continued beating that misguided fool who even uttered the thought of going MARS. As the saying goes, ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves!’ Some of you might pass this tale off as the grumblings of a malcontent who found fault with his Subbie career. No, what was so disheartening to me was the fate that awaited us after our NOPQ boards. A Subbie’s dream was to become a gash Lieutenant, that blissful pause in your MARS career when you don’t have Director’s Level training and you pretty much just stand watches on the Bridge. Unfortunately for the directors, NavO, Combat Officer, Operations Room Officers and even the CO, the ass pain, belittling, demeaning of you and your actions never cease. It may not be as bad as the ‘Bad, Old Days’ but it is true that in the MARS profession, they eat their own. Even the best of people are reduced to bitter, sarcastic, disillusioned shells. The environment onboard Athabaskan was poison and ruined our sailing. (Subsequently, I sailed as a staff officer onboard HMCS Fredericton. That was head and shoulders a much better experience and showed to me how key people in the wrong positions can ruin your environment and learning atmosphere.)

I will miss most of the Athabaskan crew I served and sailed with but I will not miss the ship and what that setting did to suck the life out of good people.

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Lady of Justice, Valparaiso Law Courts, Chile

The Insanity of Canadian Family Justice

I have become Alan Harper from the sitcom Two and A Half Men. Or Professor Crawley from The Big Bang Theory. Or Kirk Van Houten from the Simpsons.

Professor Crawley’s Ex-wife Rant – Youtube

In the space of about six months in the back half of 2016, due to the efforts of my ex-wife, her lawyers, the BC Supreme Court, and the Maintenance Enforcement Programs of BC and NS, I lost my house, most of my possessions (what I have left is in a small storage locker), my vehicle, my life savings (such as they were), was released from the military (looking for work but on unemployment) and am under constant threat of revocation of my federal licenses, driver’s license and passport. I have arrears of $63,000 and counting. If I didn’t have a good friend to put me up, I would be on the street. I am under court order to pay $1690/mth Spousal Support and $500/mth against the arrears.

I won’t go into excruciating detail of the long winding path to my present circumstances but I’ll hit the highlights of how I’ve ended up in this ludicrous situation.

In mid-2011, our marriage of 20 plus years finally came to an end. It had been on the rocks for about a decade but for the sake of the kids, we kept up appearances. We even attempted to reconcile by having her move to Manitoba where I was training as a military pilot leaving our daughter with her Comox grandparents to finish Grade 12. The ex had recently been fired from her clerk position at the Comox Air Force Wing hospital, so as she was unemployed, we decided to give the marriage one last go without the children. But we were absolutely incompatible, circumstances came to a head and she decided to leave for Comox to live with her parents taking the family car and as many possessions as she could. I was left with @$35000 in debt, 20 year old furniture and no vehicle in rural MB. I was also at a career crossroads as I had been recently ceased trained as a pilot and was attempting an Occupational Transfer to another military trade. There was no guarantee of this happening but fortunately in November, I was approved for MARS and transferred to Victoria. I was nice and had the military movers bring all her left-over personal effects to Victoria. Then I sorted and packed them up for Comox, dropping them off at her new home with her boyfriend. She has been living with the man more or less since then and they currently reside in Victoria. Under BC law, they are now common-law.

Meanwhile, since she left, I was paying down a $24000 consolidation loan, putting money against an $11000 line of credit, trying to financially help a university son with a new baby and a university daughter, keep a $2000 old clunker on the road plus my own bills. There wasn’t much left over for Spousal Support for the ex but she was healthy, had a place to live and work history in the Comox Valley.

So instead of concentrating on getting back on her feet as she was basically debt free she started borrowing money from her family so that she could hire a ‘man-hating’ lawyer. I was told of her reputation when I consulted a local lawyer. I had asked the ex to refrain from lawyers as they would siphon scarce resources away especially from the kids. To date, she has spent @$13000 and counting on her lawyers. Also, to be absolutely clear, the ex has never asked for money for the children and technically, I should have been paying Child Support while they were both under 25 and in university. During this entire ordeal, the focus has been for her to suck as much money out of me as she could.

In May 2012, I had my one and only reasonable hearing before a BC judge. Through her lawyer, we sat in court with them asking for the high end of @$2000 in Spousal Support. Here is how such a ludicrous figure can be calculated. Under the Spousal Support Guidelines, there is a formula for determining a range of Spousal Support depending on length of marriage, financial need and current respective salaries. Typically, regardless of circumstances, lawyers and judges run the numbers and the payer can be stuck with a monthly amount for life. I will get to the ridiculous lengths a person has to go to in order to vary or cease this lifetime obligation. At the time, she was going to have an annual salary of @$15000 and mine was about $50000. But when you do the calculation, every extra penny of your income gets counted. With the posting to Victoria, my salary increased due to the Post Living Differential allowance due to the higher cost of living plus the one time moving costs subsidy I received. This bumped my annual gross income to $60000 that year. The lawyer knew what she was doing and wanted to cherry pick the large spread in current incomes knowing full well that once set, the monthly amount is nearly impossible to vary. Also, she knew she had her client a ‘Golden Goose’ because I was military. Once spousal was set, if I didn’t pay the full amount, they could go to Family Maintenance for enforcement. As a federal institution, Family Maintenance can easily issue and enforce garnishment orders which the military is obligated to follow. On top of that, as a military officer, I would be due for regular built in pay increases with promotions and pay incentives. She could regularly apply for Spousal increases as my pay went up. As for me applying for Spousal decreases, I would have to prove she wasn’t looking for adequate employment. Since she was already lying through her teeth about her circumstances (more about that later) and need for Spousal, that would be nearly impossible for me to prove.

Remarkably, at this first hearing, the judge looked at the circumstances and our sorry finances and booted us out to come to a handshake agreement without the lawyers. We settled on $850/mth for Spousal plus I would take over the $11000 LOC in my name. It was a stretch financially for me and ultimately unsustainable and by October, I had to drop it back to $500. Remember those two kids in university I was trying to help out? I also co-signed a $10000 student student line of credit with my daughter and I felt it wasn’t financially prudent or possible to take out another $11000 loan. So I kept paying the consolidation loan, $770/mth, $100/mth to the LOC, some help to the kids, some extra to the ex, my own bills and continued with a grueling Navy MARS training program.

Everything more or less stabilized out for a year. She found some better work when she and the new husband moved to Victoria. I finished a major phase of training and was selected for an exchange with the Chilean Navy for five months. Then the situation started going off the tracks. A few days before leaving for Chile, my CO gets a panicked call from the ex crying she’s going to be financially destitute. I had already set everything up on automatic and had her okay that things would be fine. The call still was a black mark on my file and resulted in chats with the CO and Cox’n.

Things again stabilized out and after coming back from Chile, I was posted to Halifax late in 2013. I was getting my feet under me financially, I had moved out to the Maritimes with my girlfriend and the ex had not been making much noise. I wanted to finally sort out the divorce but a $4000 income tax bill courtesy of the higher taxes in NS hit me. I clearly communicated this to the ex and she didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t getting more money.

Early in 2014, I received about $9000 in a severance pay buy-out and to avoid a huge tax bite put the money into RRSPs. In July, as things seemed settled out financially, with a $5000 loan from the girlfriend, using the benefits of the military to cover closing costs of $6000 and using the First Time Home Buyer’s RRSP program, I bought a house. Rent in Halifax is exorbitant and my mortgage payments were equal to my past rent payments. Fast forward a few months and I was attending my son’s final university recital and had made plans to take my daughter to the Dominican Republic as a graduation gift from the Royal Military College. The ex’s true selfish greed showed once she found out about the trip. She was absolutely livid feeling that since she had never had a nice vacation like that, this was her misspent money. She was also upset about my buying a home feeling that again she was getting short shrift.

After that Christmas of 2014, she began in earnest to squeeze all the money from me as she could. I started to receive notices from her new Victoria lawyers. There was a Victoria court date in mid-August. I was right in the thick of my MARS NOPQ training and getting ready for a major fall deployment. I tried to get legal help in NS and then had to try and find legal representation in BC. Just having an hour’s worth of time is $300 a pop, so cha-ching goes the extra cash. Also, finding a divorce lawyer on the fly isn’t easy. As it turned out, I had no lawyer and a Spousal order for over $1800/mth was levied against me. I was deployed shortly after and couldn’t do anything about the order. Then she upped the ante and came after me again in December with another hearing. I found somebody to represent me at least this time last minute, deposited $3000 with his firm and got boned. Spousal support was set at $1690/mth and arrears were @$50000, oh and half my pension, thank you very much. The judge used the straight up calculation of my gross total wages of $82000 and hers of $36000 plus went back several years to calculate generous arrears. In essence, after working out taxes our gross incomes would equal out. Why should your spouse be entitled to that kind of income from you for the rest of your working life?

By my reckoning, I am ok with a certain amount of Spousal for the ex. I calculated our incomes (linked below) over the time of the marriage and historically I made @$32000/yr and she made @$17000. Using the magic formula, about $500/mth would work out. Why should she get to cherry pick my income for her benefit after the split up?

Marriage Salaries

This is where the cock and bull of women’s SOB stories are used to sway the courts in their favour. Of course, according to her affidavits, she was the only one that looked after the children, she gave up her career in order to further mine, she moved whenever I had to because of work, she was promised it would be her time to go back to school so she could have a ‘good’ job, her health, relationships, financial well-being had suffered, and on and on. For the record, I looked after the children as much as she ever did, especially when they were young. She never had to sacrifice a job for any of my jobs and the moving we did was to better locations for job seeking for both of us. As a matter of fact, when I did work for the Coast Guard in Vancouver, I commuted six hours every four days to work and back. I couch surfed and slept in closets for over three years to keep costs down as a rental room was too expensive. When I returned home, I took my four days off to again look after the kids and run the house. I took overtime when I could so that she didn’t have to work as many hours at her clerking job. Then when I joined the military, I went out on my own on Imposed Restrictions so that the family wasn’t uprooted. Our son was shortly done high school and our independent daughter looked after herself. The ex wasn’t that put out plus she was living in the home and comforts of my efforts. As for her going back to school, she wanted to quit working and have me pay for a four year university program. That wasn’t going to happen with all the debt we were in. Her affidavits were filled with half-truths and outright lies, coached by lawyers to incite sympathy from the court. I was a continent away and unable to adequately defend myself.

So this brings me to 2016 and my annus horribilis. Take your pay check and cut it in half. The ex demanded the $1690/mth or off to Family Maintenance she would go. With a mortgage payment and other bills, I wasn’t going to be able to pay this bill and afford to eat so I gave her $500/mth. So her and her lawyers made threatening calls to my CO demanding the Spousal. My CO was sympathetic but more entries into my personal file. The ex used the argument that I could write off the payments on my taxes. It takes months to set that system up through the tax office but she wouldn’t give me any time. About March, I knew I had to sell the house. At about this time Family Maintenance was starting to jump all over me. If you ever have to deal with them, they are straight up assholes and would have made perfect Nazi oven keepers. I gave them my income and expenses and they don’t care if you get to eat. Even if you’re on Welfare, they don’t force you to sell your house or take away your car. But these people don’t care if you end up living in a cardboard box, they only care about the money.

Early April there was a bizarre incident. The ex called the police and sent them to my doorstep with the story that I was going to commit suicide. Absolutely untrue but I reported it to my chain of command as is necessary.

By this time, all of the stress involved with my situation had taken a toll on my health and MARS training. My blood pressure was through the roof at around 200/120 and I was taken off the ship. It was decided I should try to transfer to another occupation. Family Maintenance started garnishing my wages for the $1690/mth and continued to pester me to pay down the arrears which were climbing. They levy heavy fines of hundreds of dollars every time you don’t pay off the full amount. I managed to sell my house at the end of July at a loss of at least $50000 due to the poor Halifax housing market. It was also at this time that my old 1999 Ford F150 finally died, so lots of transit buses for me now. I liquidated most of my possessions except for a few keepsakes that are in a storage unit and a good friend took me in.

Okay, seemed like another equilibrium, well think again! The ex was hot and heavy for those arrears monies. Unbeknownst to me, she and her lawyers were going after me again with a court date coincidentally on the day of my release mid-Dec. We had just seen one another for our daughter’s military Wings parade in Moose Jaw. I wasn’t sure of my reaction upon seeing her in person. What would you do to a person who has systematically set out to destroy your financial well-being and career? She had kept a straight face and her only slip up was when she mentioned she was still living with the now common-law husband. She had kept up the pretense that they had broken up long ago. I had actually felt sorry for her. But no, he had been living with her all this time, so I get to support the both of them. He’s a deadbeat and doesn’t make much money. Plus she has conveniently refrained from mentioning him in her affidavits.

I managed to push the latest BC court date to January 2017 and had the time to finally prepare all the forms and affidavits for my response to her latest application. According to court documents, she was in the room and asked the judge for an extra $2500/mth to be applied to the arrears I owed. Even when I was working, that would be 105% of my net pay. What shows the true colour of her black soul and lunacy of the court system is the judge thankfully only ordered $500 for arrears payments but kept the $1690/mth spousal payments in force. On EI, my total net income would only be $2000/mth. As it is, Maintenance is already garnishing 50% of my EI, so $460 to each of us every two weeks.

So at any point, do you think Family Maintenance would give me a break? Of course not! Under threat of arrest, they called me in for a Financial Examination. The ex had been telling everyone from her Member of Parliament to the heads of BC and NS Family Maintenance that I was sitting on a cash windfall from the sale of my home. Absolutely untrue and wishful thinking on her part and I sent out the documents to prove it. So after the raking over the coals with my finances laid bare for the fifth or sixth time, do you think they would stop garnishing what little income I get from EI? Of course not! Instead, I get more threats that they will take my driver’s license, federal licenses and passport away. Makes so much sense when I’m trying to find work to make it more difficult for me to be employed. Meanwhile, the counter keeps ticking as I am obviously not paying the impossible amount of Spousal plus arrears.

My last resort has been a desperate plea to the court system here in NS for some sanity. It has been an onerous, frustrating, time-consuming task to have my case even looked at. I cannot afford a proper lawyer. The court officers are not sure of what documents and forms I need. Getting one piece of paper from the BC Courts is $50 a pop. The process seems to be never ending and the screws just turn down tighter and tighter.

This is not a funny sitcom. This is my ruined life that I cannot even begin to salvage. What happened to equality? Oh yeah, when it comes to divorce, women are weak and powerless. Unfortunately, too many other men have been placed in this same position due to archaic Family Divorce Laws and outdated court attitudes. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with child custody. It could be worse.

Here’s a fun fact: Divorced men are many times as likely to suicide while women’s rates stay about the same. I am not suicidal but I am depressed and cannot sleep most nights. A mental health worker asked if I had access to a gun.

Men and suicide: The silent epidemic

If you want the ex’s side of the story, her name is Heidi Roberta Jensen and she lives in Victoria with her common-law husband Don Croitor. I will happily pass along her address and phone number upon request.

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Poster courtesy of Dalhousie University’s Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

RUSI (NS) Hosts VTECS Presentation

Continuing their program of hosting distinguished speakers, the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia {RUSI (NS)} had the privilege to hear an enlightening presentation, “VTECS: An Opportunity for Professional Renewal” from Captain(Navy) Ken Hoffer, CD, RCN (Ret’d) on February 8, 2017 at the Royal Artillery Park Officers Mess. He was accompanied by Joëlle Badman and Josh Boyter of Dalhousie University’s Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. The event was well attended and included the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable John James Grant, members of the Halifax Regional Police, RUSI (NS) members and guests.

Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers – RUSI(NS)

Capt(N) Hoffer gave a thorough description of the issue of world child soldierly and the methods the Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program is using to combat the problem. Ms. Badman and Mr. Boyter were present to help promote the recruiting campaign for the second upcoming training session of the Wounded Warriors Canada funded program. RUSI (NS) and attending guests were asked to help put out the call for veterans who they thought would be interested in participating in the program.

As laid out in the presentation, the concept and use of underage children by military forces is not new and has not been limited to ‘the bad guys’. As Capt(N) Hoffer explained, anyone under the age of 18, used for any number of military related purposes can be classified as a child soldier. The iconic image of a young boy carrying an AK 47 is not their only use. In fact, most young boys and girls are more valuable at first as porters, spies, lookouts, human shields, general labour, guards, bush wives, etc. After a grooming period, the children can ‘graduate’ into useful front line combat troops. In many long term conflict zones of the world, this practice has become normalized and they have become a new type of ‘weapons system’. This ‘weapons system’ is particularly effective against Western military forces and presents unique challenges.

Western militaries face lose-lose scenarios when put up against a combative force of children. First situation: the average Canadian soldier is going to hesitate before taking out a kid. It is hard enough to kill an adult let alone a child that might remind you of your son or daughter back home. There are multitudes of studies detailing Western military forces staying their trigger fingers in WWII and Vietnam. The clear advantage goes to a child who has been brought up in a continuous environment of violence where life is cheap and the enemy has been de-humanized. During the presentation, we saw a picture of a four year old whose ISIS masters used to execute a prisoner. The child will not hesitate. Also, just because a person is young, does not mean they are not effective, capable and fierce warriors. Security forces should not make the mistake of underestimating children’s abilities. Years ago, I met a man who used his Texan uncle to lie about his age in order to join the US Air Force in WWII. At the age of 16, he was flying B-17 bombers over Nazi Germany. Young boys and girls can be particularly lethal and will use their youthful fearlessness to their advantage.

Second choice: the Western soldier kills the child soldier. The soldier might have saved themselves and their squad mates but they will have to live with the fact that they killed a kid. In addition, media coverage or opposition video propaganda will not be kind no matter the tactical circumstances. Support from the home front will dwindle and turn on a single Twitter video post. Lose-lose all around.

Coming back to that soldier who did pull the trigger, as Capt(N) Hoffer emphasized, seeing and doing acts in these failed state regions can result in severe psychological trauma. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has become generally recognized by the public, politicians and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as an injury suffered by military members. Visible public efforts of people such as General Dallaire and Wounded Warriors Canada members have shone a spotlight on the issue. Associated treatment programs are now more available. Unfortunately, psychological matters affecting our soldiers can be complex. As Capt(N) Hoffer explained, in the context of child soldiers, there is another psychological injury soldiers can suffer called Moral Injury. Moral injury has been defined as an injury to an individual’s moral conscience resulting from an act of perceived moral transgression which produces profound emotional shame. The concept of moral injury emphasizes the psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects of trauma. As an example, a few days after helping beat a Somali teen to death, MCpl Clayton Matchee attempted suicide. I would hazard a guess that guilt and shame of his actions played into his decision to hang himself. The CAF and Canadians should be prepared to deal with the myriad of mental issues facing our military members if they are to be sent against children.

After the presentation, the Q & A session brought up a few interesting points. It was identified that the CAF does conduct mission specific briefings to units before they deploy to areas with the likelihood of child soldiers. Rules of Engagement (ROEs) have been established to give the soldier on the ground some guidance. The impression was the military needs to go further with their education and training in this field and they need to give the matter more attention than a few cursory PowerPoint lectures. In addition, the concept of Moral Injury has to be recognized and emphasized. It cannot just be lumped in with PTSD. Another point brought forward was to expand the VTECS program to police organizations. Capt(N) Hoffer had described some of the successful program work he had done overseas and mentioned that they were working quite often with local police forces. The aim was to educate the ‘cops on the beat’ to recognize the signs of youth at risk. If you can break the incentive of a child being drawn into the orbit of a militaristic organization, then that is one less soldier. It is a simple concept, just give the at-risk child a viable alternative and try to point them in a better direction. As he explained, Canadian police do the same thing as gangs in this country are not above using children for nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, for now because of the limited funding and mandate through Wounded Veterans Canada, the VTECS program is limited to veterans. It was agreed that more CAF education and eventually including former police officers as VTECS trainers would be logical and worthwhile.

Capt(N) Hoffer’s talk illuminated the urgent need for a coordinated, reasoned strategy regarding the issue of child soldiers. The CAF needs solid ROEs and education for their members before deployment. Parliamentary politicians need to seriously debate whether we should be sending our forces to quagmires such as the rumored mission to Mali. Like many failed states being considered for a Canadian military engagement, Mali is a witch’s brew of multiple government and non-government actors, generational warfare with several major uprisings, widespread use of child soldiers, crushing poverty, class and religious struggle. Just from the perspective of using child soldiers, the opposition will use asymmetric means to break the will of Western countries involving themselves where they are not wanted. One videotaped incident of a supposed ‘atrocity’ against an ‘innocent’ child and Western public stomach for the mission will evaporate. One severe slip of discipline and leadership while struggling with rampant thievery from their compound helped result in the disbanding of the Canadian Airborne Unit. In the era of ‘Fake News’, hostile social media does not even have to be truthful and the damage will be done. Canada would have another national military stain.

So, does Canada send our forces to a place where they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t? Politicians and the Chief of Defence Staff might have to seriously ask the question of whether to engage in the first place. Sure we can help and Canadian military members do great work in these places but how long are we planning to stay? We kept a large contingent of Canadians in Cyprus for three decades and still have members stationed there and that country is not in the clear yet. These operations need to be viewed as multi-generational otherwise the blood and gold spent on them will be wasted. Twelve billion dollars CAD spent on Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014 and what did it get us? According to reports, just a slide back to the bad old Taliban days. Organizations like the Taliban, ISIS, and Al-Qaeda view their conflicts as multi-generational. That is why they continue to develop their young as weapon systems.

As Canadians, we want to do the right thing. The VTECS program seems to be a positive step towards breaking the use of children in war. Educating security forces here and abroad about the practice and how to effectively combat, prevent and eradicate it will take time. Just educating the ‘good guys’ on how to do no harm is a start. Capt(N) Hoffer remarked that one of his African students asked if he wasn’t allowed a ‘girlfriend’ during a peace keeping mission. From personal experience, I know many CAF members who still practice the habit of ‘travel to new places and have sex’. Stressed men and women from all militaries and security forces need firm discipline and strong leadership on difficult missions. Trust from the local population is a crucial first step when trying to resurrect a failed state.

Capt(N) Hoffer closed his presentation with a personal anecdote from when he was the Executive Officer of HMCS Protecteur. Canada had sent a large military contingent to participate in humanitarian efforts in East Timor in 1999. While leading a shore party, at a particularly grisly site, he overheard one of the ship’s company remark, ‘Why do we have to see this?’ Fair question. Many places of the world are rife with ugliness and human misery. Combatants will deliberately use their child ‘weapon systems’. But it is generally conceded that the Western world including Canada has a duty to refrain from turning our backs on these pits of despair. Through education and preparation, our forces need to be ready for the specific trials they will face. The unique challenge of combating the child soldier will be difficult. In addition, Canada must be prepared to adequately help Canadians returning from these missions in need of complex psychological treatment.

The immoral use of children for military purposes flourishes in too many failed areas of the modern world. There are severe ramifications not only to the lost youth of these regions but to the security forces used to fight them. But through the VTECS program, eloquent veterans like Capt(N) Hoffer are successfully advocating for better understanding, mitigation and eradication of this complex issue.

More information on the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and Dalhousie University’s VTECS program can be found at the following link:

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.


Critters de Chile – Primera Parte

Continuing my narrative of 2013 Chilean adventures, this blog will be split into several parts. The sheer numbers of critters I came across in Torres del Paine and my ocean travels warrant their own essays.

Birds of Chile (Aves de Chile)

The vast majority of critters you’ll encounter in Chile are various varieties of birds. Other than in the park close to Puerto Natales in the far south, I saw very few land animals.

Andean Condor (Cóndor Andino)

The Condor is the national bird of Chile and an important symbol used in their Armada (Navy). Below is the Condor figurehead from Buque Escuela Esmeralda. Every Armada officer’s ceremonial sword has the carved head of a condor. They get a little touchy if you tease them about it looking like a chicken.

Museo Marítimo Nacional de Chile, Valdivia

Black Faced Ibis

Saw a flock of these digging for worms in a pasture.

Valdivia, Chile

Inca Tern

Cute little sea birds with moustaches.

Talcahuano, Chile

Seagulls (Gaviota Gris)

Saw plenty of seagulls up and down Chile in my travels. Here’s a couple of carvings I found at the Talcahuano Naval Base.








Black Vulture (Jote Cabeza Negra)

As is normal in Chile, everything becomes slang. The bird itself is somewhat annoying, hangs about and is a nuisance. Jote is also slang for a man who acts like a playboy. This poor fellow was hanging out with a couple of friends and flew straight into a transformer in front of me. Zap! Stinky birds since they feed on carrion plus it barfed from being electrocuted.

Talcohuano Naval Base

Cormorants & Ducks (Patos)

Since I didn’t have a fancy camera, I would take a poor picture and sketch the bird I saw. The Cormorants had a funny little tuft of hair on their heads. The ducks flew around my ship like little kamikaze pilots.


Southern Giant Petrel (Petrel Gigante Antartico)

Further to the south in the Magellan Straits and around Patagonia, I saw several species of Petrel. They are large sea birds similar to an albatross. My ship had a Nature book with all the species of petrel found in Chile.

When I was still up in Puerto Montt, I saw a few robins but I observed that their red breasts were lighter in colour compared to their Canadian cousins. The further south I went, I started to notice that black and white were the predominant colours.

Next Critters of Chile Blog: Toninas y Pinguinos

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.


Death of Trust

When I was 19, I was chosen to attend the Canadian Forces Aircrew Selection unit in Toronto. There was a confluence of factors that had led me to this point where I had decided to take the first big step towards fulfilling a life-long dream. I had been seriously thinking of being an astronaut since I was 10 and I saw qualifying as a military pilot as a path towards realizing that goal. I was athletic, fairly bright and in the Physics/Astronomy program at the University of Manitoba. I did well with the Air Force’s written tests and had the eye-hand coordination to adequately ‘fly’ the ancient flight simulator. I even passed the spinning chair test. My femurs weren’t too long (your knee caps would be sheared off during ejection from the old Tutors). I was passing with flying colours; that is until the medical technicians did an ultra sound of my heart. The head DCIEM doctor, a full colonel, came to examine me. He gave me a drug to put my heart into tachycardia and when it was going about 200 beats a minute, gave a listen. He diagnosed me with a mitral valve prolapse which excluded me from pilot training. The doctor explained to me that there was some US Air Force evidence that I might pass out earlier at higher G forces due to the condition. With the dashing of my dreams, this was the moment I began my mistrust of doctors. Irrational yes, the man was just doing his job with the information at hand, but to this day my blood pressure skyrockets (it’s called white coat syndrome) whenever a doctor or BP cuff comes near me.

This sense of betrayal is fueling a lot of anger in the world. There are few institutions, organizations or professions left that haven’t been ripped apart by scandal and hypocrisy. It is long past cliché that a politician will say anything to get elected and then summarily break those promises. One of the latest examples, was how Trudeau’s promise for electoral reform was cavalierly tossed to the curb. As usual, over-the-top outrage was heard from the NDP and Green parties (For Elizabeth May, it was one of the worst betrayals she has seen) but the average Canadian just went Meh and shrugged it off as de rigueur. Surprisingly, Trump is keeping his promises and is being pilloried by media, pundits and protestors. Vegas odds are 10/13 of Lady Gaga making a political statement reference the President at the Super Bowl tonight. Politicians from municipal to federal enact the policies that affect every portion of our lives and the normalized behavior is to ridicule them no matter their stripe.

It is difficult to not develop a siege mentality with constant attacks on all communication fronts. Who picks up a ringing telephone without trepidation that it’s a telemarketer or surveyor? Email and text message spam is rampant. My mother has thousands of emails in her inbox that she hasn’t gotten to because of all the spam she’s allowed to accumulate. How many emails/Facebook messages do you receive just from friends sending you the latest Grumpy Cat meme? Would you believe Dancing Baby came out in 1996? I get at least 5 or 6 Phishing attacks daily between my phone and Hotmail. Everyone is trying to rip you off or send you time wasters and more and more of your day is being eaten up. Remember when you actually listed your name and number in a phone book? If no one was home to answer the phone, people had to come over and knock on your door or send you a letter. It is too easy and too addictive to be at everyone’s beck and call.

No profession is safe from public distain. Every action from every formerly honoured institution is being questioned in the public forums of the Facebooks, Twitters, and media (alt left to alt right). Police put a 6 year old girl in cuffs and the mother is interviewed and calls it brutality and race related. Teachers are greedy for more money. Priests abuse altar boys. Scientists are in the pocket of whichever industry their study favours. Marie Henein defends Jian Ghomeshi and she’s called a traitor to women. Judges make politically incorrect statements and are tossed off the bench. The military is full of hair trigger PTSD cases and sexual predators. Football stars are cheating with deflated balls. So many individual, concerning incidents but proportionally a tiny amount of the whole. The good work of the vast majority of people and institutions is being ignored because of the world’s obsessive laser focus on negativity.

Humans seem to possess an irrational need for perfection and apply unrealistic standards to daily life. This constant compulsion fuels the anger and is used to substantiate their arguments. Activist groups use this anti-trust psychology to further their causes. The formula is to plant a small seed of doubt with their vague and usually unprovable statements and then enlist the support of a celebrity. Actors and actresses are literally paid to pretend to be someone they are not. It is their job. Yes, they can have an opinion on whatever cause they feel strongly about but why would anyone let alone millions, slavishly believe their views and ‘expertise’? Andrew Wakefield’s discredited paper on vaccine/autism linkage would have quickly been tossed into the dustbin of scientific literature if not for the efforts of Jenny McCarthy. Anti-fish farm groups use contamination factors of a few extra parts per million and Pamela Anderson to vilify the industry. Climate change activism has enlisted all of Hollywood to push their agenda. It has become the holy grail of causes. Who wouldn’t be concerned about Mother Earth? Plus the timeline for the fruition of their claims won’t happen in our lifetime but that of our children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, banning plastic bags is going to save the planet. Take an idea and who ever shouts the loudest wins, irrespective of reasoned debate. Anger bubbles when even the basic facts are questioned since there is no trust in the ‘experts’ weighing in.

Technology and the phenomenon of the 24hr news cycle fuels much of this negativity and mistrust. ‘If it bleeds, it leads’ is the mantra of media. One bad incident or slip-up will undo years of good work and effort. The media has made a blood sport out of waiting for celebrities and politicians to do something stupid so that the very people who put them up on a pedestal can then tear them down. I know the major networks are praying for Trump to be brought up on impeachment hearings. Imagine the ratings! CBC’s The National used to be only 30 minutes in length. I grew up with the local CKX TV news having a noon and 6 o’clock report. Mostly, we were listening to the grain and cattle prices as that was our business. Occasionally, there would be a newsworthy ‘bad’ story but to fill the time it was mostly local interest items. Skipping forward to now, all these local stations are closed and the larger outlets gather in the big ‘five’ stories of the day, running them ad nausea. Look hard enough over the entire world, there’s always something bad going on. Day after day, the message being pushed is the world is burning.

Making matters worse, alternative facts and fake news is rampant. In the race to avoid being scooped, breaking news flashes around the world with little corroboration or fact-checking. The mosque shooting in Quebec immediately led with multiple gun men shouting Allahu Akbar. In my experience with Search and Rescue, the first reports of an incident are straight up garbage. Ask a cop about the reliability of witness reports. It takes time to properly investigate an incident. Unfortunately, the cycle for reporting is measured in minutes and in this latest example another anti-Muslim, we can’t trust immigrants message went out erroneously. Even with a withdrawal story, the damage is done and just shows you can’t trust the media. Long gone is the time to fact check and put some sober second thought into a story. Sensationalized first reports lead. There’s no patience for due process as hunger for the next outrageous incident is voracious.  There is no market for the little voices saying, we’re actually doing ok.

Maybe you are one of the many who have decided to shun the media because of all the negativity. Well, you have Facebook and Twitter to shout back and forth with. These mediums used to be used to let family and friends know what you’re up to. Now they are just mediums filled with politically charged memes slandering this or that group, organization, cause or person. Conspiracy theories abound and google for a few minutes and you will find some ‘evidence’ to back whatever your viewpoint is. I get exasperated when someone is particularly ignorant. An acquaintance engaged me over ‘Chem Trails’ over Vancouver Island and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut over her obstinacy. Island conspiracy groups were actually invited to come on to the Air Force Wing in Comox to physically check the aircraft for evidence of the military ‘cloud seeding’. I couldn’t believe that I had to explain to this otherwise intelligent lady the concept of exhaust.

Death of trust has come from a thousand cuts. Like me, I am sure everyone has had personal betrayals or disappointments and has trouble trusting again. But I have never been a fan of mass punishment due to the actions of a few bad apples or honest mistakes. If someone has truly wronged you or society then make a singular example and show the rest of the herd what happens when you cross the line. When the British Navy still practiced punishment with the lash, the worst cases would be taken to every ship in the fleet. Even if the miscreant was dead, the body would still receive the full measure of lashes. Broad-brushing just leads to general mistrust and bad feelings of injustice.

This shear accumulation and weight of mistrust will crumble our civilization. We need to stop taking life so seriously and worrying about so much. We need to disassociate ourselves from the negative information overload pushed on us daily from media, the internet and our cell phones. Shut everything off periodically. Believe me, you’re not going to miss anything and you’re not that important that the world will crumble without you. (Except for reading my blog, ha ha, then shut everything off) It’s easier for me as I grew up in a pre-smart phone/internet era and remember a time when I wasn’t constantly connected. Give people and organizations second, third, fourth and more chances. (Maybe not that Nigerian prince, he’s a bad dude.) Manage your expectations and accept that decisions won’t go your way for now or maybe forever. I did get a re-do at pilot training at the age of 40 as my medical issue turned out to not be an issue any more. Our instant gratification society expects resolution in the span of a 30 minute Sit Com and has forgotten how to look at the long picture. Grow some plants or sketch stars in a note book and slow your life down a bit.

Start trusting people again, accept that there will be erroneous results and forgive the occasional missteps. On a warship or aircraft, every crew member acts as part of the larger team towards a common goal. At any time during an emergency or battle, one sailor or airman could be the difference that saves the rest. People screw up all the time due to inability, inattention, indifference or fatigue. As a MARS officer, our motto was to trust but verify. Humans aren’t inherently evil and given the chance and proper motivation will generally strive to do the right thing. Just be prepared to use some prudence.

If you can’t trust anyone, there leads to anger and anarchy.

Here’s a re-post of Chris Hadfield’s positive moments from 2016 to help give you some hope.

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Sketch of George Slight sailing Los Canales de Chile

Chilean Dice and Card Games

Since it would be a nice change of pace to take a break from trolling the Facebooks for anti-Trump memes and actually connect with real people again, here are the dice and card games I learned down in Chile while on exchange with their Navy. Gather up some friends and family, some cups and dice and get your drink on!

The author takes no responsibility for dented or broken furniture



Dudo, which means ‘I doubt you’, was the most popular dice game in George Slight’s wardroom. When we were at anchor and had nothing better to do, we would break out the cups, dice and pisco and play until 2 or 3 in the morning. The Captain would be growly the next day and guaranteed one of the young officers would be yelled at but it passed the time.

Equipment needed was minimal but it had to be sturdy. The cups are made of thick leather and you smash the up-turned cup on to the table when you shake your dice. Apologies to Grandma Melanson for the dings in her table from our Christmas dice gaming.

Leather Dice Cups from Puerto Montt, Chile

Here are a few websites that list the rules, plus some clarifications from how I learned the game.

Dudo – Wikipedia

Dudo – UK Compendia of Games

Dudo – Rules from Mazegames

The Wikipedia site has the rules that are closest to the way I learned the game with the exception that when a player is down to one die and starts the bid, the other players are not allowed to look at their ‘hands’ and must bid blind. Also, if you’re bidding Wild Aces, the progression is at least half of the last bid plus one. The progression from Aces to the other numbers is double plus one.

Vulgarity is a regular part of the colloquial Chilean vernacular. Here is a translation of terms you will hear associated with the game.

  1. Cacho or Pico – these are other names for the game, translated as ‘Shit’ & ‘Dick’. The context of Cacho is ‘That’s shit or crap’ and Pico is short for Pico en el Oyo or ‘Dick in the Eye’. They are different ways of saying ‘I’m calling your bluff’ or ‘You’re full of shit’.
  2. The Chileans would use different slang for the pictorial representation of the dice.

  • One Ace – Uno As (Ass)
  • Two Twos – Dos Tontos (Dummies)
  • Three Threes – Tres Trens (Trains)
  • Four Fours – Cuatro Cuadras (Block or Square)
  • Five Fives – Cinco Quinas (Literally a grouping of five things)
  • Six Sixes – Sies Senos (Breast nipples, like on a female dog)

Dudo Inglés

Occasionally we would play Dudo Inglés (English Dice Poker) to change things up.


Before we really got into the drinking, especially the Piscola, we still had the mental faculties to play Carioca. It was similar to Gin Rummy.

Carioca Rules – Wikipedia


When we were blasted out of our minds on Piscola at 2 a.m. we would switch to the quick and dirty game of Cochesonadre (Motherfucker). There is no strategy but it moves fast. Perfect game for young children, drunk sailors or tipsy Acadians during Christmas get-togethers.

Salud Weons y Weonitas!

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Blair is a personification of a ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. He has held several careers and has all the T-shirts. Time to add the title Blogger to the list.