CORONER’S ASSISTANT

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.

Blair’s Profile

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.

LECTURER

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:

http://www.childsoldiers.org/

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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.

PHOTOGRAPHER

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

Blair’s Profile

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.

ASTRONOMER

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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SAILOR

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

WARNING – STRONG POSSIBILITY OF FRIVOLITY & HUMAN INTERACTION

Dudo

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.

Carioca

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

Conchesonadre

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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AIR NAVIGATOR

HMCS ATHABASKAN group photo, @ 85% male & 15% female. ©DND 2014
Photo by: Cpl Anthony Chand, Formation Imaging Services Halifax

Sacrifices on the Alter of PC

A beer executive was once asked why their commercials showed so much T & A and wasn’t this excluding a large women’s audience. The non-PC reply was beer is mostly drunk by men especially the 18-34 age group. In the business of beer, why would they target a demographic which just is not that interested in their product?

Private companies can flirt with disregarding PC driven decisions and otherwise operate on a market driven model. However, peace time Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) policies post-Afghanistan have been in full blown PC-mode.

I have thoughts on a few examples of where the military has rushed to respond with PC-motivated responses. This particular blog will focus on the military’s response to the latest spotlight on sexual assault and misconduct.

Operation Honour

I see three main reasons for the military turning itself inside-out over this issue:

  • Primarily, doing the right thing
  • Demonstrating to women that they will be safe and the military is a desirable workplace
  • Showing the political masters and the Canadian public that the military is an institution worthy of continued funding and support

Assault, sexual or otherwise, should never be tolerated in the workplace. Military members committing these type of crimes can be punished both under the Code of Service Discipline and the Criminal Code. Sexual assault allegations go to a special branch called the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS). The unit, created in 1997, is a reincarnation of the old Special Investigation Unit.

The latest spotlight on CAF sexual assault/misconduct arose mostly from a Maclean’s and L’Actualité May 16, 2014 article titled Our military’s disgrace by Noemi Mercier and Alec Castonguay. I haven’t met a French Canadian reporter yet who was pro-military and Noemi Mercier’s list of articles contain a significant number of women’s issues. I would say she had an axe to grind and may have had some bias. But people are free to write on what they feel like.

To compound matters, issues with abuse at the Royal Military College (RMC) popped up. There were allegations of a number of sexual assaults on campus. As part of the response to show they were addressing the issue, RMC asked a lady, Julie S. Lalonde, to come and lecture the cadets on the topic of sexual harassment. Looking through her bio, most people could assume she wouldn’t have much good to say about the predominately male military college culture. Someone should have predicted the inevitable outcome when she had a rough time with the third years. I know from inside sources that the cadets took umbrage to her assertion of ‘all men are rapists’ and engaged her in discussion over her lecture points. After that session, when it came to the fourth year’s turn, they were told to sit down, shut up and listen. No discussion, period. These cadets are some of the brightest, hard-working, critical thinkers you will find anywhere in Canada and they were told to put up with an over-the-top feminist who denigrated every male present. Imagine ordering a whole year of Queen’s students to shut-up and take a mandatory weekend lecture from a hostile speaker.

No matter the biased attitudes of reporters and activists, military leadership rightly took the issue seriously and quickly responded to the reports of sexual misconduct and assault plaguing the military.

The military commissioned Madame Marie Deschamps to conduct a study of the issue. Reading through her bio, the French Canadian judge had no ties to the military but participated for years in University of Montreal advocacy classes. I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she was impartial but I would say she would have no idea of what a military life is all about. For example, in her report, she determined that there was a sexualized environment in the CAF, particularly among recruits and noncommissioned members, characterized by the frequent use of swear words and highly degrading expressions that reference women’s bodies, sexual jokes, innuendos, discriminatory comments with respect to the abilities of women, and unwelcome sexual touching. No kidding, NCMs and the officers (men and women) are a little crude. The name of the operation almost immediately morphed into ‘Hop On Her’. Quickly, finger wagging,  I told you so stories popped up in the media causing the Ottawa Public Affairs Officers to go into damage control mode. But this type of crudeness, black humour and being rough around the edges is not limited to the military. Spend some time with nurses and you will see how foul-mouthed and stomach churning their language can get. The judge was seeing the service through the eyes of a government bureaucrat and advocate, not as a military member. The military world is generally incomprehensible for civilians who do not have the proper context or shared experiences. Ask any MARS Subbie about the denigration and harassment they have to put up with from both genders. Ask any military member to explain Basic Training to a civilian. They can’t because you have to go through it yourself to understand. Civvies and military live in two separate worlds and we should be careful about having the former judge the latter. But unwelcome sexual touching leads past venting mechanisms and crosses the line.

The Dechamps report was released April 20, 2015 and started a flurry of news conferences and initiatives. The military moved quickly and the CDS, General Tom Lawson appointed MGen Christine Whitecross to head up the newly formed CAF Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct. She and her team crisscrossed the country holding mandatory townhalls to educate and inform military members. Ships had their crew sit through Powerpoint sessions and had discussions on the matter.  New door plates reminding sailors to loudly announce Male/Female on Deck went up. 120,000 Do No Harm cards were issued. The military is regularly issuing stats and updates through the Response Team site. The military can be quite thorough when tackling a problem.

But was all of this recent self-flagellation warranted?

Maclean’s ran a series of similar articles on the same issue back in 1998. Women at the time were just starting to develop solid careers in the combat arms trades and reports of harassment and rape were trickling out.

Rape in the military – May 25, 1998

Speaking Out – June 1, 1998

Of Rape and Justice – December 14, 1998

Rape numbers were reported as high, stories of abuse were told and the government and military vowed to stamp out the problem. In 1998, military women did not appreciate the magazine’s assertions. “It’s so unfair of the men to be thought of as predators and us to be thought of as playthings,” says Cpl. Karen Westcott, a 15-year veteran who has served on both army bases and aboard naval ships. “We don’t deserve this. As for the morale of the military, I think that Maclean’s has really set us back.” Eerily familiar sentiments were echoed by MGen Whitecross 17 years later. If you were a man such as Gen Lawson, talking about the issue, then you were on thin ice with no leeway for misinterpretation. One bad interview with CBC and he was gone.

The RCMP, fire departments, male dominated industries and even female dominated industries all report higher incidents of sexual harassment/misconduct towards women. Gen Lawson may have awkwardly used the term ‘hard-wired’ but there is evidence that this issue is wide spread in the whole of society and not specifically a military problem.

My point is the military is the perennial whipping boy and due to their special civilian/military apolitical relationship are not allowed to speak out. Instead they are forced to over-compensate to show they are dealing with a problem. The leadership is fond of saying their members need to be held to a higher standard. Higher, yes but a perfect standard, no.

It is commendable for the military to take a leadership role in regards to stamping out sexual misconduct and harassment but I believe the furor has unfairly targeted all military males as predators and all military females as victims. It just serves to drive another needless wedge between the sexes and stirs up the ‘females in the military’ pot. One person raping another is not to be tolerated, condoned or explained away and the military has always had severe mechanisms for adequate, timely punishment. But the ‘crudeness’ of military culture comes from the process of producing warriors not snowflakes. I reject that acting politically in-correct, being off-colour or having some nudie pics up of women (or men) inevitably leads to sexual misconduct or assault. It just means you’re a boor and you’ll make the dainty souls blush.

I would rather take a foul-mouthed boor (male or female) into battle than some sensitive office snowflake.

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SHORT ORDER COOK

The Quintessential Chileno Asado

Since it is summer in the southern hemisphere, here is how Chileans are enjoying the Canadian equivalent of the summer BBQ.

Up in the Great White North, BBQs have the usual menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, potato salad, coleslaw, Caesar salad, soda pop, wine, coolers and beer.

Here is the menu and order of a typical Asado with a translation of some of the terms:

Exerpt from my 2013 Chilean Journal
  • Choripáns (chorizo + pan) are mini-hot dogs usually served plain. (I will cover regular Chilean hot dogs in a future post.) They are served as an appetizer.
Choripans on the grill
  • Corte Americano are simply plain ripple chips. Mix some ketchup and mayo and that’s your dip.
Mmmmm, ketchup & mayo chip dip
  • The Carne can be chunks of beef seasoned with salt (urban Chile) or a skewered whole lamb (rural Chile). Usually the younger men present will cut the meat into smaller pieces and circulate with platters.
Lamb, beef and Pisco
Asado on Isla Dawson
Crew of Chilean ship George Slight
  • Chileans typically do not eat many vegetables and have one main salad made of peeled tomatoes, chopped onions and cilantro. The tomatoes are peeled as a sign of civility. They will make a potato salad made of cold cubed cooked potatoes, peas, carrots and mayo.
Preparing tomatoes for peeling
  • Cocktails of Pisco Sour are served to start the night.

  • Cervasas are cheap, Cristal was the beer of choice.
$10 for 12 litres of beer!
  • Once the main meal is finished, on to the Piscola! Straight up Pisco with a tiny splash of Coke. (Piscola is another example of Chilean papa puree or mashing of the language.) This distilled wine flows like devil water and will sit you on your butt.

 

 

 

 

  • Here’s the recipe for their cracker spread when you had to nibble something with your Piscola:

Asados are common through-out Chile. Since the southern part of the country experiences significant rainfall, the grills are set up indoors with venting. Natural charcoal or carbone and wood are the fuels of choice. The beef is fattier and hence tastier than the leaner North American cuts.

The grill is on a pulley system to raise and lower the meat
Weird name for the Asado shack. Chalaco is a person from El Calloa, Peru’s main seaport. Chileans hate the Peruvians. My guess is this is a dig at Peru.

Salud!

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COURIER

Toronto Rush Hour Traffic

Road Habits

I am sure everyone has witnessed incidents out on the roads and highways that have made you shake your head in disbelief. There are bad drivers, bicyclists and even pedestrians who should not be anywhere near hurtling tons of metal or out of a bubble-wrapped cocoon for that matter. On top of the general lack of respect for basic physics and courtesy most of us see on the roadways, each chunk of the country has its own weird little habits, idiosyncrasies and stuff that just makes you go whaaaaaaa, did I just see that?!?

Here are my observations, good, bad and plain weird:

Manitoba
  • This is the most law-abiding province when it comes to speeding on the highways and lack of it. There are plenty of flat, open spaces with little traffic begging for a travelling speed of at least 10-30 km/hr above the posted limit. Everyone knows the usual spots on the No. 1 to slow down for the cops ie. Brandon for the Moose Jaw student pilots heading back to Portage after weekend partying. But no, more than anyone else, the average Manitoban will have that needle stuck right at the speed limit or just under.
  • But once you cross the Perimeter, Winnipeg has some of the worst drivers in the country. The ‘Prairie Turn’ comes from here ie. Going directly to the far lane without doing a proper lane change. Driving down Portage Ave, you will see plenty of lane drifters, speeders and generally a lot of bad drivers. Using blinkers seems to elude them also.
  • Outside of the City, you’ll find either the overly courteous or timid drivers. Imagine a merge lane on to a single lane. If the car merging is ahead of you and if the relative speeds are not too different, you should let the other vehicle accelerate and avoid cutting them off before the merge lane ends. Instead, you can get into a game of reverse chicken where they start slowing down, you slow down a bit, back and forth until both vehicles are almost stopped.
  • These same country drivers will pull over to check cars in the ditch especially in winter. It’s easy to freeze to death at -40 ˚C.
  • Friendly Manitoba is on the license plate for a reason. Out in the country, everyone does the finger wave to opposing vehicles.
The Manitoba Wave
 Prince Edward Island
  • Never trust a man driving with a hat!
  • Do not trust a car signaling their intent to turn until they actually start to slow down and move into the turn. More than anywhere else in Canada, drivers on the Red Sandbar will drive for miles ignoring that click-click of their blinkers.

Saskatchewan
  • A whole lot of nothing; straight, flat and boring especially in the south along the No. 1. The worst thing about driving here is passing semi’s on the one lane highways. Even in Regina and Saskatoon, there is not enough traffic to cause an over amount of friction between drivers.
  • If your eyes were good enough, you could look for the square headlights of the old Crown Victoria’s far in the distance.
Alberta
  • These are the speeders of the prairies. They had historically higher speed limits, low gas prices and a younger work force interested in getting places. They get ticketed as soon as they hit SK and MB because it is hard to slow down.
British Columbia
          Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
  • This is an area that would comfortably hold a million people but has over two. Add to the extra volume, multiple bridges, hills, curves and the occasional shot of ice and snow. Next you have a mix bag of drivers; the old and slow, the young and aggressive, prairie folks who don’t know what a curve or hill is, Asians and other immigrant groups with poor skills and shaky licensing (Dragon Driving School). The only time traffic is not heavy is at three in the morning. Finally, every Vancouverite is in a hurry to get to the next thing. Unless it is an accident, then everyone slows right down. Guaranteed, you will be in an accident in this town and gawked at by lookie-loos.
  • Here is the only place I have observed the disgusting habit of drivers at lights who open their door and spit on the pavement.
  • Slamming on the Asians again, in Richmond (Hongvouver), the gas stations all have attendants pumping your fuel as the patrons have issues working a gas pump. Also, on the ferries, the employees were told to let the Asians just park whether it is in the right spot or not.
  • Bridges, bridges, bridges. These are Vancouver’s bottlenecks and creative and aggressive merging is normal. Taking space away for bike lanes doesn’t help.
  • Not much blinker use in Vancouver other than a one-two count because typically the car in the other lane will close the gap if you give any notice.
  • Snow and ice: the rest of Canada laughs at the silly West Coasters for their inability to deal with a little ‘winter’. Poor tires, lack of practice and that need to hurry contribute to the mayhem. Intersections quickly turn to sheer ice because instead of creeping or slowly accelerating, drivers spin their tires.
Usually Vancouverites are helpful with pushing cars
  • This is one of the few places where I have seen drivers regularly cut off large trucks. Those big rigs have issues slapping on the brakes going down hills but people like to defy basic physics.
  • Driving towards Horseshoe Bay, you’ll be passed by excessive speeders headed for the ferry. Stay slow, there are plenty of cops waiting.
          Vancouver Island
  • If you are a motorcyclist, take care, all the old people can barely see over the dashboard let alone see you. The Lower Mainland is bad too but volume is the issue there. Also, stay out of the curb lane as drivers on cross streets will pull out in front of you.
  • Nice tip for bikers, you are first on and first off the ferry and there is always room. No need to hurry and risk a ticket.
  • Also as a motorcyclist, you always give the little wave to each other but never to scooters.

  • Speeding to the ferry in Nanaimo is common as is Swartz Bay outside of Victoria. The latter highway is heavily patrolled but coming down island into Nanaimo, just watch for cops in Nanoose Bay close to the PetroCan.
  • Thankfully for Island residents, the new Inland Island highway runs pretty much from south of Nanaimo to Campbell River. The four hour Nanaimo-Comox trip (or longer due to the summer tourists) was reduced to two. At 140 km/hr on the motorcycle, I had ferry to door time down to 90 minutes.
  • Live on the Island long enough and you will hit a deer or two.
  • Worst place in Canada for drivers insisting on driving in the left lane of two lane highways. No one taught them to get out of the passing lane, hence eventually the signs went up.

  • People at intersections insist on crossing opposing traffic on solid greens. Again, they need signs to remind them that this is a really dumb practice.
  • Some of the worst tailgaters are found here.
  • Lots of hydroplaning opportunities due to the high rainfall.
  • There are a significant number of long-boarders using residential roads for boarding, not the safest of endeavors.
          BC Interior
  • Hills, summits, curves, avalanche season that lasts into April; this is some of the toughest driving in Canada.
  • Tourists and drivers with Alberta plates piss everyone off with their slow driving on curves backing up traffic. Then on the straight-aways and passing lanes, they speed up so people can’t get away from them.
  • Semi-trucks travel fast in the interior, stay out of their way.
Clearing the Kootenay Pass
Ontario
          Northern Ontario
  • Slower drivers on two laners will pull over to the shoulder to let traffic pass. Two thumbs up!
          The 401
  • Most drivers will pull to the left lane to let traffic merging on the right come in.
  • Unlike the Prairies where blinking headlights mean ‘Head’s Up, Cops’, blinking lights in your mirror mean get out of the lane because a faster car is coming. On the 401, the far right lane is for the speed limit and each lane to the left is faster by 10 km/hr.
  • Sun, rain, sleet, fog, ice; there is no slowing down on this highway. This is why they have multi-vehicle pile-ups regularly.
Quebec
  • These are the worst speeders in all of Canada. The government had to come down hard with high fines to slow the Francos down.
  • Worst place for motorcycle insurance as accident rates due to speed were too high.
  • If you are a bicyclist out on the rural roads that do not have paved shoulders, good luck! Unlike most other provinces where vehicles will pull out a bit to pass you, Francos pass as close as they can about a foot away.
          Montreal
  • Every last one of these drivers are crazy! But they are all crazy and that makes them predictable. If you make room for one vehicle to merge, five will scoot in ahead of you. Just be prepared to drive aggressively.
  • Pedestrians will jaywalk at will and will just trust that vehicles will miss them.
  • Just to screw with the Anglos, for some reason you could not turn right on red in the province. That has been reduced to just the Island of Montreal now. Still makes no sense.

New Brunswick
  • Except for the in-bred hillbillies in the Miramichi region and the moose in the interior, this is another province with sparse traffic.
Nova Scotia
  • Tourist traffic down-line to Yarmouth slows traffic and the main highways need more twinning. The Cobequid Pass can be treacherous in the winter.
The Cobequid Pass is rough on Semi’s
          Halifax
  • Bluenosers in the city are some of the worst drivers and pedestrians in Canada.
  • People have to be taught how to walk in this town. There’s a government initiative called ‘Heads Up Halifax’ aimed at pedestrians to pay attention. There are red flags for people to carry across pedestrian activated cross walks.

  • One of the most dangerous practices is vehicles crossing left in intersections in front of oncoming traffic. I guess they just assume people will slow down instead of T-boning them.
  • Another danger on the streets are bicyclists in all weather conditions. The roads are not built for them to be there let alone in a snowstorm travelling Quinpool or the Bedford Highway.
  • A particularly annoying habit is drivers sitting at a red light in the left lane and just as the light goes green flicking on their turn signal. Now you are stuck for a stop-light cycle when you could have been in the right lane and on your way.
  • There are lots of no-look merging on to main streets and poor or no use of blinkers.
  • Pedestrians will sit on the curb if they do not see the white walking man. The reasoning is the red hand means you can’t cross with the green light. This creates confusion for a vehicle turning across the pedestrian crossing area.
  • Also with pedestrians, too often when they have the right of way, they will wave at you to cross. With oncoming traffic, a misunderstanding will lead to an accident. Then there are plenty of places like Robie Street where pedestrians think they have the right of way and cross where they shouldn’t.
  • Turning is difficult for Halifax drivers. When turning right, unless you are a large truck, you do not need to swing wide to the left partially into the other lane to avoid clipping the curb. At an intersection with two lanes, a vehicle from each way can pull into side by side lanes. This is difficult for many drivers here.
  • Round-abouts: If you want some cheap entertainment with your meal, eat at the Armview patio and watch the idiocy of the Armdale Rotary. Congestion, poor drivers, pedestrians, and badly placed bus stops contribute to the general mayhem and numerous accidents.
Armdale Rotary without congestion
  • If you still do a bit of drinking and driving, there aren’t many Check Stops, even during the Christmas season. Vancouver and Victoria have plenty but one of the only ones I have seen in Halifax was on a Sunday morning after the Men’s Olympic Gold medal game.
  • I want to find the driver instructor who told people to stop a full car length or more back from the intersection stop line.
Newfoundland
  • Watch out for MOOSE everywhere! Except during hunting season, then you won’t see any.
That is a really angry looking Newfie moose!

So that is the weird, crazy, dangerous and sometimes courteous road habits I have observed, coast to coast. Comment if you have additions for your part of Canada.

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

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SHEPARD

The New Religion

The First World is witnessing the coalescence of the Religious Age of Irrationality.

Traditional forms of Catholicism, Anglicanism, Protestantism and the rest of mainstream religion has waned in the West and in their place, the religious fervor of social activism and irrationality has risen.

Human beings crave a calling that is beyond their ken and full explanation. The vast majority of humanity toils from cradle to grave with very little individual impact upon this mortal world. Frankly, without a bit of order, large groups of people easily descend into outright anarchy with the strongest and the cleverest ending up on top. The ones in positions of power had to figure out a system to keep the rabble in line or the cycle of anarchy would repeat and the next set of clever and strong humans would be in charge. Enter the ages of gods and organized religions.

Millennia ago the Egyptian pharaoh’s were the earthly equivalent of gods. Kings and queens since have had god-like status conferred upon them. Their word was law. Even heads of state, such as President Trump’s swearing-in invoke the name of God. But gradually, especially in the First World, the wonder, awe and fear of these figures have worn and been chipped away. Most royalty are merely figureheads and tourist attractions. These are mere human beings after all, kings and queens, the Pope, heads of church, prime ministers and presidents. They are not mythical beings who can smite us at will, any rational person can see they are just trying to keep the rest of us in line while keeping humanity back from the abyss of anarchy.

But instead of this being an Age of Rationality the First World has made a sharp U-turn and this is becoming the Age of Irrationality. There is an unprecedented Age of Information sweeping the world where the average person has access to untold amounts of data. Every First Worlder should be able to look at what information is available, listen to the experts on a particular subject and then be able to come to a consensus opinion on what direction the group as a whole should decide upon. Instead, there is an overabundance of information and the clever have learned how to cherry pick which pieces to push their agendas. Then just like the old school religions, their ministers like the Al Gores, Michael Moores, David Suzukis, through their ministries of Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter, PETA, (Insert name of your favourite activist group or random Native group) indoctrinate their disciples to spread the politically correct word. Do not get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but it is the religious zealot who continuously pushes their agenda on others and cries heresy if you don’t agree with them and adopt their lifestyle.

Try having a rational conversation with the vegan crowd, the anti-vaxxers, the LGBTQIA/LGBTQ2 groups (these people? are going to run out of letters soon), feminists, chemtrail believers, animal rights activists, seal hunt protesters, pro-organic, anti-oil sands, anti-pipeline, anti-sugar, anti-gluten, anti-smoking but pro-marijuana, anti-GMO, anti-hormone, anti-antibiotic, anti-everything groups and individuals. Even in the face of clear, incontrovertible proof and facts, they will still hold fast to their faith. Oh, this celebrity said this. Oh, there was a study. Oh, it is all a conspiracy or all the experts were paid off by such and such industry. Oh, the middle-aged white man made a patriarchal remark that mocked some (insert ethic group). Or in the cases such as how to mitigate changes in the climate, man-made or not, you cannot allow rational discussion enter the conversation because Mother Earth must be protected at all costs and make sure you are consulting a Native group. Latest and greatest, oh, the Russians did it!

We even have the high-tech equivalent of the Holy Inquisition from the Dark Ages in Europe. Recently, the internet again set its hair on fire over an animal supposedly being mistreated. The film company releasing ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ cancelled the premier of the show over the social media controversy of a dog doing a stunt in the water. As is the norm with these social media lynchings, the persons involved were tried, convicted and ‘executed’ with the speed of the internet. I won’t even tread towards gorillas, orcas or lions.

The latest testament to this new Religion of Irrationality is the millions of First Worlders participating in the Women’s March protests partly due to the election of Trump vice Hillary. I am sure a sizable portion of the crowds wanted to see a woman in the White House but a man was elected, again. A man who is not politically correct. A man who was secretly taped over a decade ago making derogatory remarks reference women. A man who has ideas that counter the anti-everything crowd. But he is the person who has the legal support of his nation that elected him. That nation also saw fit to put in a Republican House and Senate. But this is not about politics but perceptions, myths and larger than life ideologies.

As I watch the Women’s March in Washington, DC (reportedly the largest one day US protest) and smaller gatherings around the world, listening to their speakers, I hear fears of bigotry, misogyny, eroding of women’s and minority’s rights. I did not hear anything of the sort promised by Trump in his Inauguration speech yesterday. If anything, he quoted the phrase of no matter the colour of skin, we all bleed the same. The man is definitely a boor but some would say he is a straight talker who wants to get things done. What is so bad about an American president wanting to look after Americans first? So what would make people so passionate, angry and upset? If it were just over policy and politics then these same people would be involved in local government talking about sewers, roads and bridges. Maybe, if people were concerned about the bigger picture, how about the fact that Obama is the only two term President with eight full years of war under his belt with no end in sight. I guess as long as the bombs drop on Third World countries then we can have the luxury of worrying about hurt feelings. But when it comes time to vote, no one shows up. Local municipal elections barely record over 20% voter turnout and even this last so-called hotly contested presidential contest only saw about 50% of eligible voting Americans making the effort. If a person is so upset about something, then rationally, you would think they would gather up all their friends and do something like vote their wishes. Instead, the norm is becoming if you did not bother to vote and your wishes were not granted, then march in the streets and bust up the place.

In polite company, the convention is to refrain from discussing the three trigger subjects: sex, politics and religion. But your grandparent’s religious arguments over Old and New Testament are gone. A vacuum was left by the retreat of established religion and it is being replaced by something just as irrational. As a species we seem to crave being part of something greater, something larger than life, something that says our existence in this world counts for something whether it makes sense or not. It is just human nature for us to put visceral, irrational ‘faith’ in something that transcends our regular existence.

Welcome to the New Age.

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.

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