Saturday, 8 August 2015

Suddenly, not kids anymore

A friend from cadets passed away last night of cancer after a nine-year battle. She was in her late 40s. She fought the good fight and lost, sadly, as so many do who have been inflicted with this terrible scourge. But she was too young. She never got the chance to see her children grown into adulthood and see what a difference she made in their lives, she never got to have grand-kids, she never got to retire and enjoy life. Like so many before her, she was taken much too soon from all of us.

That really hits hard. 

Your friends, like your family, are supposed to be immortal. You should never outlive them. Or so we think to ourselves. Over the years I've seen many people pass on from this life, one that stands out is an old friend who died in her sleep at 34 years old. Literally just stopped being alive. It took almost a year to figure out why she died. At 34. Then there was Keith Pierre, a big healthy active fun-loving guy, who dropped dead at 29 in front of his wife in the kitchen. His heart gave out. We all have stories like that, we've all been affected by the sudden loss of not just family, but friends. Old or young, it doesn't matter, everyone's mortal. People die in accidents, illness, suicide, homocide, any number of reasons, and we've all had someone sometime in our lives who have moved on. And we mourn forever. 

Geri-Ann Hurt's passing will be no different in how it affects me, compared to the rest, it will hurt, and it will bring home a terrifying truth, we all have to go sometime, this life is temporary. But her death also brings home memories, good times in cadets at 12 years old, when she was a little older and one of the senior cadets who taught and mentored me. Then later as a fellow officer, a one-time commanding officer, and casually over the years, just a friend.

We've kept in touch since the teenage years, there's a core group of around 60 from that era who have become more brothers and sisters than friends. We've attending each other's weddings, our kid's events, had the chance to mentor each other's children as they joing the cadet movements, and now, like many times before, funerals. It's not the way we want to see each other again, as the older we get the less frequent our gatherings, but it has to be. Ironically last night I posted on the group that we need to get together again soon, at least for beer and wings or something. This morning I heard the news, my first thought was "not like this". 

It sucks getting older. We're all middle age now, some have retired, some have faded away. But we all want to keep the memories of our childhood together alive, and that means sharing with each other in whatever way we can. We have an inate desire to maintain our youth and refuse to ever give into the aging process, that philosophy keeps us young. At our last gathering we all acted like the kids we were, being goofy and immature, we were all just a little grayer and our bodies didn't look like they used to, but the youth in us came through when we met again. That's the last time I saw Geri-Ann. She was sick that day, her doctor gave her six months. She walked slowly, she looked gaunt, and a friend had to help her along, but she came out. Maybe to say hello old friends just one more time. She lasted three years from that point. She fought it with all she had, she held onto her youth with every fibre of her being. Like we all do. 

Now we have to move on, back to the reality of middle-age life. We're not kids anymore, as much as we try, we just aren't. That doesn't mean we should never stop trying, the old adige is you're only as young as you feel, that's true, but given that some days I feel 85. Other days, 12. We must maintain the balance to keep our sanity. That balance involves a heavy dose of old friends. Without them, who's going to remind you of all the stupid things you did!

As we mourn for Geri-Ann we must find hope that our own lives will work out for the better. We must move on and live. All the while remembering our friend, and others, who have passed on. We must remember the good times we had, and try whenever possible to relive them. Only then will we be satisfied that at the end of our lives we will have no regrets. Only then will we feel that we truly lived. 

We're not kids anymore. Every person who has touched us and then passed away reminds us of that. But we should never give into the idea of mortality. If we think about our own time, we stop living and thinking about why we should live - our family and our friends. In many cases, as it was with Geri-Ann, those ideals are interchangable.

Sleep well Geri-Ann, we'll miss you, and we'll celebrate you.

Monday, 3 August 2015

American History Part One, by Donald J. Trump

Part One - The Early Years, 1776-1815ish

In the beginning there was darkness, and then God created America, and he saw that it was good. It was 1776. I wasn't there, but I think it was about then. There were other people around the world, but they weren't American, so they don't matter. The American people were hard working folks, and loved their country. But the British were there, and kept pissing them off. George Washington, a great American, said, "throw the tea in the harbour! That'll teach them to tax us!" The great American people did as he requested, they threw all the tea in the harbour at Boston, and taught the British a lesson they soon wouldn't forget. That was the start of the Tea Party, which stands to this day as a great institution.

A group of men led by Thomas Jefferson sat down one day to make a declaration to keep the British out for good. Men like Ben Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, Benjamin Harrison and a bunch more. Then they wrote down the greatest of documents, the Constitution, which was almost word for word from Christian teachings. These were great men. except for Hancock, he was a dummy, didn't really do much but somehow has a bank named after him.

The head of the British was George III, he was a nazi, his name was George Saxe-Coburg Gotha for Christ's sakes! He was also insane, he was a dummy. He did a lot of dumb things like tax the good American people, and constantly sent his army here looking for a fight. So we gave them one. They started the war by killing a couple of our guys, who were only defending their second ammendment rights. That wasn't fair, so we kicked all the British out. Many men became heros in that struggle, but some didn't, as they got captured. George Washington led the army, and after continued as president, retiring to Mount Vernon, where he lives today in quiet retirement. A great American.

The British fled to Canada and invaded them. The Canadians took them in because they're weak. The British under George III easily took control of the country and used it as a staging ground for attacks on the USA for the next 30 years. They kept coming and taking our trade goods, they made friends with the savages in the west country (I think that was around Indiana or something, I don't know, I wasn't there). The indians, under control of the British kept attacking hard working Americans and killing them. They even killed African-Americans, who were just simply trying to keep to themselves and be the hard-working people they are. The indians had to be stopped or they would threaten the USA. So we dealt with them. Eventually we bought land from them and we learned to live in peace, the indians decided to create their own little communes where they were most happy.

Around 1812 the British invaded the USA again. This time they used Canada as a staging point and attacked Detroit (I'm sure that's why Detroit is a mess today), they attacked Buffalo and finally Washington itself. President Madison decided to do something about it, and sent our great army into Canada to stop them. When the British attacked Washington, they tried to burn the White House, but Madison's wife Dolly - another great American; stopped them, and put out the fire, saving the famous picture of Washington. The British kept a' coming. They attacked New Orleans, and New York. They attacked northen Michigan, and some other places, I'm not sure.

The American army under Madison fought them back at every turn. They forced the Brits back to Niagara, where they saw the mighty falls there, and decided it was a good place (after the Brits were slaughtered of course), to set up some nice hotels, golf courses and restaurants so people could visit and see the great American sight for itself.

Eventually, the American army cornered the British at New Orleans in 1815 and wiped them out, sending a clear message to the rest of the world that this was our country and nobody was going to try to be a dummy and take over. We kicked out the foreigners, we kicked out the immigrants that were doing us harm by raping and killing Americans. We taught everyone a lesson that the USA was the best!

So an era of peace emerged after the British were taught a valuable lesson not to mess with us. We entered an era of prosperity where all God-fearing American men (white, male, between the ages of 18-65) could live in peace, vote for the best people, create great things, and make lots of money. Everyone was rich, just like me. Nobody wanted for anything because there was nobody there to take it from them.

Those ideals set down in these early days laid the groundwork for our great nation. A nation of wealthy industrialists and other hard-working people who just wanted to live in peace by themselves. In the following years the USA was tested over and over again by others in the world who were jealous and wanted a piece of us. In my next edition I'll cover more of what makes America great.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Falling onto the bandwagon

The past couple of years have been tedious. And stupid.

I stopped treatment a while back, stopped going to my psychiatrist (didn't help that he was arrested for sexual assault), stopped taking my meds, stopped going to therapy, stopped everything. I guess for a time I thought I didn't need it, I guess I thought I was as normal as anyone on the street, that however, isn't saying much.

I was wrong. So very, stupidly insanely wrong.

I never stopped having episodes of panic and anxiety, I never stopped fearing opening the mail for fears of what lay within. Everyday was a constant battle just to get through the day, and in most cases I won the battle. Most days were mundane and routine in that I'd get up, kill the internet, do some chores, go for a walk, talk to people, the everyday ordinary crap we all do. But every so often the little evil voice in my head told me I needed to be curled up in a ball on the couch, cowering and shivering like a scared child. That evil voice dictated terms to my life about every second week. A painful reminder of the illness that consumes me.

Most times I dealt with the issues the ways I'd learned from therapy. I'd self-talk, engage in breathing exercises, focal point exercises, and the rest. These techniques work well, but invarariably I end up asleep on the couch, usually for at least an hour, as the physical toll from these attacks took hold. They're exhausting to say the least, fucking annoying to say the most.

But no meds. Last October I stopped taking them. This decision, whether good or not, was made for several reasons, the primary of which is that I felt like a drugged zombie. I took at least 12 pills a day to handle everything from anxiety and depression, to mood stabilizing, which is essentially a pill to keep me from doing something stupid, like running down the street naked yelling I'm the President! Vote for me!

It worked for a while. The cobwebs cleared a little, and I had days of wonderful monotenous civility. Other days, not so much. I know I need to be back on something, being unmedicated and unsupervised for so long are dangerous. Three days ago it happened. I got stupid. And I seriously regret it. After the incident I immediately realized my folly, and lay crying on the kitchen floor, almost hyperventalating. Extreme thoughts went through my mind, every emotion possible, from anger (at myself) to despair. I was cooked. I'd done it, I'd hit bottom.

I immediately decided to put an end to this. I need to get back on the bandwagon and get back to where I was. I made calls, visited a crisis councillor, and made appointments. I also stepped up the efforts to get a new psychiatrist. I need to fix the damage I caused before it gets any worse.

One problem with a mentally unstable person is situational. If a person is not comfortable with the situation they're in, things will get worse. For that reason I must exercise, get out, talk to people, engage in activities, just simply do stuff. Stuff is good. Stuff keeps me grounded. Over the past couple years I have tried different stuff, I taught myself web design, I volunteered my services to different places, did some home repairs, just stuff. But I don't see it working as I'm still having powerful and painful episodes. Yes, ok, I'm not on meds, I know that will help, but so will stuff. I think the problem lies in the fact that I'm not doing stuff I want to do, productive, thought provoking, inspiring stuff, stuff I want to do, not have to do.

I'm opening my horizons to this idea now, I feel the need to look outside my self-imposed comfort zone and grab onto new opportunities. Opportunities are not coming to me, so I will chase them. I have no idea where that chase will lead, and frankly the whole idea kinda scares me because these walls have become a sanctuary as much as a prison. Stepping out the door and doing something I'm not familiar with or uncomfortable with scares the crap out of me, but I feel I must take that challenge on. I won't kick this issue, ever. It's with me for life, but I have to change the way in which I manage my own condition. Only with a new outlook and new challenges will I completely round out my treatment.

There are three important elements to any mental health treatment regimen; 1, Medication 2, Therapy (group or solo) and 3, Self-help. Number three is the most difficult and most important. Any person suffering from this must take ownership and do things for themselves, in whatever capacity is possible. Whether it be community centre oriented activities, exercise, work, coping strategies, hobbies, it doesn't matter. Whatever works. There's the problem with me, (on top of the fact that I started ignoring 1 and 2); I haven't found what works for me. I need to explore possibilities, I need to try and if need be, fail. But I won't know what works until I try. That very idea, scares the hell out of me. I started this morning. I started by pouring a coffee, and staring out the window imagining the big beautiful world outside. I imagined what's there, and put myself into a mindset of "Just find it".

I need to fall back onto the bandwagon, for I will not let this beat me. I will beat it.

Let's see where I end up.


Wednesday, 8 July 2015


I met dad's family, finally.

For the first time in my life, I've met an entire side of the family I only knew over brief conversations covering vast distances and now, I've finally met them. Not surprisingly, they're really nice people!

The reasons I never met them before are personal, so I won't go into it. Nothing nefarious or out of the ordinary, I'd just like to keep the reasons to myself. But I've always wanted to, and obviously they felt the same way. My cousin and her daughter flew here from Scotland a couple weeks ago, taking a huge leap of faith in the process. They didn't know what to expect from us, and vice-versa. However they came here, and we had a wonderful time. Never having been to Canada before it was an adventure for them both. We showed them around our little piece of the planet, they took the opportunity to experience Toronto, had dinner in the CN tower, saw the Falls, all the stuff that's on the mandatory tourist brochures. While here, we took them into the county, a couple festivals, the casino, and of course, Canada Day festivities. What I enjoyed most of all though was much simpler - sitting on the porch getting to know them.

When you become disconnected from anyone it tends to hurt. Losing a family member or a friend pains the heart, and if you have the chance to see someone after a long period of time it warms it. True friends never really leave you, they simply take a sabbatical. Over the years I've lost friends and family to death, moving away, or simply drift. In every case there ends up being a whole in my heart. When I do get the chance to see them again I get giddy as a kid. We catch up on old times and plan new ones. The ones that have passed on I remember with fond affection and keep them close.

But how about the ones you've never met?

How do you react? How do you proceed? Does it start with a hug? A handshake? It was actually awkward when they pulled up. Yes, I had talked to them, but I hadn't met them. When the time came, it was a hug. However, it was still awkward. They're family, but in essence, strangers.

We started talking. And talking, and yet more talking. Funny thing is though, that conversation I had expected about the family roots didn't really materialize. For one reason or another it didn't seem as important as simply getting to know them. It's not like I had any intention of attacking her and having her spout off about everyone else over there, and likewise we didn't go into those that were here all that much, it simply wasn't the reason they came here. It was for us, as well as themselves. The adventure of it all, the breaking bread with a line of family neither of us knew existed a short few years ago. It could have been awkward moving on, but it wasn't. It seemed just right. It seemed like they'd always been there, and actually, they have!

Now that they've gone home and life returns to normal I have a melancholy feeling. It seems anticlimactic really, all the hype leading up to the visit seems so long ago now. All the plans and preparations seemed to fade when they arrived into a pool of simple possibilities, the more important outcome was family, not destinations. Family we've always actually had, I just didn't have the opportunity to pour them a wine, and share a laugh together. To talk, to meet. That's the memory I'll cherish; not the parades, the fireworks, the party, or anything else. It was the talk.

So Pandora's Box is open.

We now know what we've always suspected - there's more to this little unit than we knew, and now they are a truly tangible piece of us. I hope they feel likewise. Now onward and upward. I plan on being in Scotland in a couple years to meet more Wilsons. I told my son in a couple years he's climbing Ben Nevis with me, and my daughter wants to hunt for Dragons in Wales. We'll get there.

There's one more challenge before that though, I have cousins in New Brunswick I've never met. I've always known of them, unlike my recent guests, but we've never met. I need to rectify that for the same reasons. Family, whether near or far is much too valuable a commodity to overlook. It's our glue, it's our reason for being. Nobody should ever not know their roots, or those who share it.

We take our immediate family for granted, and in many cases turn our backs on them. The old saying goes that you can pick your friends but... In any case, it doesn't matter how close you are emotionally, family will be there for you when you need them. You really can't count on politicians and metre maids. Or garbagemen. Family is who will be at your side when you need them, family is where your comfort lies.

Family is for life.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

The closing stretch

This spring has been a whirlwind of activity for me. Trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done before my cousin comes in from Scotland for a visit, a cousin I've never met no less. I had almost three months notice of her impending visit to our fair land, and today marks one week til she and her daughter land in Toronto. One week. Oh crap.

I've used their visit as a motivator to get something done around here, and as they're both staying with us for a couple weeks, the house should at least be livable! Setting up two bedrooms is easy enough, as was fixing various items around the house that needed attention for a while, but kept going unnoticed. The back yard has been rebuilt, and the patio awaits a good party. This week's load will be 10 bags of yard waste, it's amazing how fast that crap pile up. Last night we had a dry run for the backyard's entertainment potential, hosting a bunch of my wife's friends for a summer kick-off BBQ. It was nice. However, I had to prompt them to sit on the patio, they began the night quite comfortably perched on the porch.

Other things have not been going as well. Certain plans have been waylaid by fate, or karma, depending on how you think about it. The intention was to pick them up in Toronto, then head for the Falls for a day or two before driving back home. But, no car. My car, after finally going back on the road after eight months, has messed up front bearings, and is not driving 1,000 kms. The other potential ride is now the subject of a GM recall. So, the train it is. Hopefully we'll be able to take them to Niagara on the way home instead.

Getting people's schedules in tune with each other has also proved fun. We all work different schedules and it's a foregone conclusion that while our guests are here someone will be at work. Vacation days are booked for a few, and we are planning outings that fit everyone's lives, but that comes at a cost. Someone's going to lose, we can't please everyone, and nor should we. Two weeks is lots of time to get involved. So we keep changing things. We keep adjusting dates, and just when we think we've got our shit together, something creeps up and forces our hand again. C'est la vie. We take it as it comes, regardless of when things happen, it's our intent that our visitors are given the run of the place and made to feel at home, regardless of plans. Plans, like rules, are meant to be flexible.

My fear is that we don't show them a good time. I fear our hospitality won't be up to the challenge. Canada is a wonderful place, it's huge, it's historical, it's friendly, somewhat entertaining, and so much more. It also can be boring. Really mind-numbingly boring. The train ride down here will put them to sleep before they even see Windsor. Four hours of flat farmland moderately interspersed with the occasional town or city, which will feature short buildings, flat roads, and round people. Windsor has a lot going on in the next few weeks with Canada Day, Summerfest, Carousel of Nations, and more, but nothing world class. Nothing mind-bending. Sorry, no running of the bull here. I may be taking this stuff for granted as It's always been here with my, so maybe they'll find this stuff interesting. I bloody well hope so.

My fear is that they don't enjoy themselves. My fear is that we fail as hosts. I'm new at this, I've never introduced someone to my country!

It won't fail. We'll make sure a good memorable time is had by all, including those of us providing the hospitality. I look forward to meeting my cousins, seeing family photos, hearing stories about dad's kin. It's an exciting thing. For better or worse we will make them feel like Canada is a great place to visit.

Only a few more tidbits to take care of before next week. Only a few more one-time only tasks. But they're not small, and I'm wasting time writing this instead of doing them!


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Things I Care About, and Utter Bullshit I Don't

The older I get the list of things I care about changes. In some cases I've become much more active, things concerning the environment, pollution, waste of natural resources, and how war is affecting us all. I tend lately to care about social injustice, such as the plight of millions of underpaid families in comparison to the first-world complaints of those who don't have enough caviar. Big banks piss me off, as do stupid politicians from many nations whose dimwitted actions are a clear indication of gross incompetence.

Police killing people pisses me off. Large corporations doing whatever the hell they want at the expense of the people pisses me off, war pisses me off, massive increases to the US military industrial complex, fracking, Monsanto, drug cartels, the NRA, Stephen Harper, Katheline Wynne, Bush supporters, and anyone who still flies a confederate flag in the US. All piss me off.

Today, what pisses me off more than anything else is stupidity and ignorance. Let's put this into perspective. Anyone named Kardashian should be ignored by the population, anywhere. And Kim's giant ass, referring of course to Kanye West, should never be a fucking issue.

Ann Coulter, Bieber, Kesha, Honey Boo Boo, the cast of Jersey Shore, for that matter anyone who's ever been on a reality show.

Fucking ignore them.

We make stupid people famous and while everyone's attention is squarely focused on these dregs of society, laws get passed nobody knows about, crimes are committed that nobody hears about, disasters happen that nobody will help with and despots conquer areas we should know about.

It's fucking pathetic.

Last week Bruce Jenner got a sex change. Really, short of the small tidbit of information about one of this generation's greatest athletes making a life-changing decision, I can't see why this is news. He's, sorry, she's everywhere. And I frankly could give a camel's back end about it. It's not much different from Superbowl coverage in the US, everything must get put on hold for at least a month to sort out how his sex change affects world oil prices. Economists will be consulted, laws will be re-written, and tea leaves will be read. All the while I will skip the stories and look for something that directly affects me. I wonder how many people in my city realized the police found a man's body in an alley today?

There was even a story on a news site the other day giving readers a "first look" inside Jenner's Malibu home. They're grasping. Meanwhile, in real news, hundreds died in Iraq and Syria. Weeks after the Stupidbowl I was perusing  CNN and noticed there were 15 stories on the landing page about the NFL. We were subjected to endless stories about how some moron deflated a ball, all the while the world burned. CNN gave us an inside look at how many cars Oprah owns.

We've become a society of idiots, and that's entirely our fault. You can blame the popular media but frankly they're only looking out for themselves, they're in it to make a buck. We choose to read this unequivocally stupid meaningless insignificant drivel. We choose to look away from things that should affect us. We don't. Instead we stare at a picture of some women who last week was a man, and wonder what the inside of her house looks like. Then we check Kardashian's Twitter feed. Obama got a Twitter account a couple weeks ago, I doubt he'll ever get anywhere near her followers, I mean really how interesting is being POTUS compared to buying a new dress.

Speaking of dress, gold, white, blue or black, any way you shake it, I don't give a shit.

I care about my tribe, my clan, my town. I are about events that shape those things and events that shape me. I cared about the Red River Floods, I cared about the space shuttle disasters, the genocide in Rwanda, among hundreds of other issues. I also cared about my daughter's report card, and my son't promotion. I care about cousins in Scotland, and my friends and family here in Windsor. I care about many things, and I don't want to be that guy who knew he was leaving the world a shithole for my kids. I care about fixing the damage.

Caitlyn Jenner is an insignificant speck of nothing. She's a flea on a horse's ass for all I care. The question is why is this person getting more attention than the almost 400 people killed by cops in the US last month?

Why do we pay attention to this garbage? Because it frees us.

Tuning into someone else's problems for a while distracts us all from the realities of our little lives. Sure I pay attention to entertainment and actors, sure I observe the comings and goings of those in the limelight, but many times it's followed by a "told-you-so" moment. TLC's 19 Kids and Counting (utter shitty nonsense) finally got pulled from the air when it was revealed the father, Josh Duggar, has molested his kids. Will he go to jail? Of fucking course not - he's a celebrity! The bastard should be shot in my books, but no, we'll all tune into the trial and hope for the best. These fuckwits are contributing to our society's moral and ethical demise faster than a train can crash. And that's what this is, a fucking train crash. Want to get famous in the US? Have an obscene amount of children and then beg for help caring for them. It worked for Octomom. Now, by the way, she's a stripper. How do I know this? I don't have a choice but to know, it's force-fed by the mainstream media.

It's time we got our own houses in order and stopped contributing to these fucktrumpet's houses, literally. They're getting richer off they're antics all while the banks increase your service fees, again. Think about it. Then do something about it.

Stop making stupid people famous. Make yourself a legend to your community instead.


Friday, 15 May 2015

The Activist Revolution

Mark Zuckerberg is a dick. He's a narcissistic, self-absorbed, self-professed asshole who walked all over his best friends to get what he wanted. But he will go down in history as a visionary alongside Einstein. We don't realize it yet, because he's new. He created social media, and with that spawned a generation of connectivity the likes the world has never seen. His vision allowed us to connect with one another, get informed, get knowledge. It also allowed us to get hundreds of pictures of cats. Not to mention bullshit. Lots and lots of bullshit.
Mark Zuckerberg's first business card.

However you about him he's created the future. With that future comes the opportunity for us as a people to help shape it.

Peace and Love

The sixties were a time of cultural revolution. Anti-war protests, peace and love, civil rights, and more. The message was carried through in that era through music, and yes, protest. The killing of students at Kent State University is fully engrained in the minds of those who lived through that time. As well, the assassinations of King and two Kennedys. With social activism comes discontent, opposing viewpoints, violence and tons of anger. Anger which today, seems all too close, again. Today we are again becoming activists, and a new revolution has begun. Today's revolution will have a deeper impact than anything Woodstock or Height-Ashbury could have ever accomplished. Today we have Facebook, and it's all thanks to one arrogant prick. A damn smart arrogant prick, but none-the less, Zuckerberg.

Over the past couple of years this planet of ours (the only one with beer), has gone to the shitter. Wars, plagues, corporate greed, incompetent politicians, drugs, economic power grabs, and generally people not giving the slightest crap about anything but themselves. Unfortunately, as the sixties generation saw, it's those in power causing it. Not much has changed. Things happened in the seventies, elected officials began to see the light and made changes. In the eighties, we signed peace accords and worked with warring powers to end strife. In the nineties, we began to see a thaw in decades-old tensions that had the world cowering under the fear of total annihilation, then we went to bat for the little guys who were unlawfully crushed under the oppressive weight of brutal regimes. The new millennium saw the rise of the war on terror. Now we see that getting out of hand. 

This decade, we see the light. Thanks to social media.

This decade draws parallels to the peace and love generation for a couple of reasons, first, we're fucking sick of it. Secondly, it's in our face. Constantly. You can't turn it off even if you wanted to. Even people living off the grid with no regard for the news of the day are inundated with current events and struggles because they stay connected to loved ones via social media. Obviously, that's not completely inclusive, but there are now billions of people on the net, the world shrank.

Eyes are open

So we see it. Everywhere. Someone's opinion is driven to you and it doesn't matter whether or not you care about a particular incident, you probably at least know about it. It doesn't matter anymore if you know what Monsanto is doing to our farmers and our food, but you know it isn't good. Social media has done it's job. You may love MacDonalds or hate it, but now you know that people are not going there as much and they're closing hundreds or restaurants due to falling profits. Why? Because information spreads like a disease and try as you might, you're gonna get some. MacDonalds has now gotten the hint. No longer do they have to spend millions on focus groups to see where the problem is, they just have to follow what's trending. And it's them. Last week they made news in that the CEO resigned, and the new CEO is taking steps to fix the food. Viral posts about their food not rotting may or may not have had and effect. Who knows.

ISIS is taking to social media to start a war, while we take to social media to end them. Hackivists are gradually grinding away at the terror cult's ability to draw recruits, and their own hackers are waging cyberwar with the rest of the world. Without the internet, we'd never know what we do, we'd have to rely on mainstream news for information, and then we'd be spoon fed what they want us to know. Mainstream news. On that note, without the internet would you be aware that 90% of your news intake is fed to you by only six companies? Who controls those companies? Big money. Big corporate elite, and we are their minions. 

No more.

Social media shows us the true nature of the world in all it's wondrous glory and gut-wrenching horror. Sites are springing up all the time (and shutting down), that portray things as "you should see them". Ah, there's the rub; someone else to scare you! Now it's up to us, as it was for hippies, to decide what to believe. Those of us who follow the trends and have some semblance of intelligence can easily pick the truth out. Again, the internet doesn't fail us, sites like Scopes are must-see sites to help sort out truth from perverse falsehoods.

Unfortunately, many people aren't so bright. There's a ton of people out there with internet access, the IQ roughly that of their shoe size, and a dumb theory. Wade carefully. It's amazing how many people believe the drivel being spewed. Sadly, many politicians take the bait, and the plagues of nonsensical disinformation spreads.

I read a lot of things from both sides. I'm open-minded enough to entertain an idea, and intelligent enough to know when I smell bullshit. I will read whack-a-doodle posts just as quick as intelligent thought-provoking articles, just because I enjoy being amused. Like the story last week about the Fox News guest (don't care to research her name, it's too stupid), who on a major mainstream network, claimed that the Amtrak conductor in last week's Philadelphia crash was gay, and as a result of thinking too much about gay sex, crashed the train. Read that again and shake your head. Nothing on Snopes. Yet.

What's going on

Landscape and the Fall of Icarus,
Pieter Bruegel the Elder? c. 1590
The reality is that many people don't care. They go about their lives in a manner befit themselves, and don't get upset about things they can't control. Many simply decide to not pay attention anymore, either out of apathy or fatigue. That's their choice. But regardless of what side of the fence you fall, even the most introverted people can't help to see issues. It's whether or not they choose to act that matters. Take this painting for example. This theory is not new. The painting, Landscape and the Fall of Icarus, (thought to be by Pieter Bruegel, c.1590), depicts Icarus falling to his death as people go about their business. It is the antipathy of a Flemish proverb - En de boer ... his ploegde voort; or pointing out the ignorance of people to fellow man's suffering. Even 400 years ago apathy was endemic.

The brainless bunch

Therein lies the problem. Fucktards with theories ruining true efforts to make this a better world. Smart people with theories will win. But social media brings out the loons too. Debate is never far away anymore. Post something political today and just see who grabs it and runs, or slams you for having an idea. Debate is a great thing, that's why elections feature them and schools have competitions with them. But bring your A-game, or you're a nitwit. While I do enjoy seeing people like Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin get crushed under the weight of intelligent people, I also believe they have a voice. And social media gives them the outlet they need. In the end, we all win.

It doesn't matter what you're opinion is, good, bad, or stupid. You have a voice, and that's what counts in a free society. Today, we take that freedom for granted, but remember that if it wasn't for Zuckerberg, that freedom could not possibly be expressed as effectively. You're reading my blog, which I will post on Facebook, and will get picked up by Google. People may share it, and my voice is heard. Everyone has that ability now. Everyone has an amplifier for their personal views, and everyone should use it, because it works.

This is a marvellous time, we will all change the world, together. The sixties generation could not have dreamed this, nor could any generation prior to the new millennium. It's up to us what we do with it, we can fix this world, or we could keep fucking it up. The majority will be heard, I just hope that majority doesn't think the US government is actually invading Texas and declaring martial law.

Make a difference.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Change doesn't come easy to me. I'm a creature of habit. Hell I still have the dresser I had when I was six. I buy the same kind of shoes, the same kind of pants, drink my coffee the same as I did when I was 20, yadda yadda yadda. 

So hitting middle age makes me cringe for many reasons, things must change. My health for one. I went to see the doctor today because I'm loosing weight faster than dryers eat socks. I've lost almost 40 pounds in the past eight months, and that is just a little bit disconcerting. The first question she asked me today was "how much are you eating?" My answer was met by an obvious "Go eat a sandwich sometime". Yeah. Obviously. When I'm down, I don't eat. I know that's an issue. Even though I'm hungry and my stomach is in violent contractions, I will sit there, not wanting to bother. When I'm up, I binge. It ain't good. That's step one.

Step two, next week I get to go for a full work up, physical, blood test, urine test, the lot. She even mentioned the dreaded P word. (prost... I can't say it, it's painful to think about). Step three is thyroid, vitamin supplements and dietary supplements such as Boost. My calorie intake sucks.

So change is in the air. Middle age is in the air, I've been in denial for years. You don't really think middle age when you're still trying to figure out a career. In my mind, I'm still 26, not 46.

I started today, as soon as I got home from the doctor's I made myself a big bowl of oatmeal, an hour later a couple sandwiches, and a macaroni and beef concoction for dinner. I missed breakfast, the meal I hate the most. Mornings for me are coffee, open one eye; more coffee, crack the other eye; more coffee, focus the first eyeball... Cooking would be stupid. But I have to change that before I disappear in a wisp. 

Last year I was a steady 180 pounds. At one point two years ago I broke 200 for the first time in my life. I've always been thin, I sat around 145 for years. My weight, like my penchant for things staying the same, never varied. I used to piss my wife off because I never tried on pants, I'd read the tag and head for the checkout. Then I went up and had to start going into the change room. Now that I'm back down to 150, stuff I bought a couple years ago doesn't fit. Sigh.

Being thin is almost as much a crutch as being overweight. I never got picked first for school sports, I was laughed at on the beach, I ran out of energy too soon, and being that thin meant a lack of upper body strength. I took to the army to work on that and it soon dawned on me that I could keep up with the big guys, to some degree. But it's always been tough. When I went up I felt normal. Like just anyone else, last year my dreams of normality were crushed. I was a runt again. At the very least I'd like to not have to go buy yet more temporary pants. Cause, you know, I'd have to try them on. 

I'd at least like to be the same size as my 19 year old son. It's hard to be the big guy of the house when you're the smallest!

So I will change, because life moved on and I must move with it. I will take my Boost, take my vitamins, change my diet. At least I stopped eating fast food! (Um, wait... maybe I should take that up again...) I'll pull out the bike and start riding again, go for long walks and get more physical. I've slacked off and it shows. It shows the degree of 40 pounds. I've already heard people say how much they wish they could lose 40, or 30, or 10, but believe me, when you're a little guy it makes a huge difference. Look closer at the skinny runts you walk past, they also suffer from body image. It's turned around somewhat, but the problem is similar. Sure, we don't have to worry about things like diabetes, or heart issues brought on by being overweight, but it's a curse none-the-less.

I'm off to get that sandwich.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Stupid People. Stop Them. Please. I Beg You.

 No amount of medication available on today's market can possibly make a positive improvement to the vast quantity of stupid infecting many people today. I'm sick, I can take meds. You're stupid, there's no hope.

Lately we've been subjected to such utter bullshit and hyperbole it makes my head spin. We as a society are getting dumber by the day, our cumulative IQ dropping by the week. Why? We're sheeple. We see something online and we think to ourselves "hey, he's got a point. A dumb one, but a point, I have no brain of my own, so I'll just be a parasite on his". We no longer think for ourselves, we've hit the lowest common denominator - we believe dumb shit people with no valid grey matter say.

The advent of modern communications was supposed to inform us and make us better people. Apparently most people haven't figured that out yet, and when I say most, I actually mean the majority of those who somehow manage to get their idiotic self-serving un-educated and vitriolic points across, the problem?

We listen to this drivel.

Take Texas for example. They have an idiot for a governor - Greg Abbot (R). He just called out the National Guard to keep an eye on the US military's Exercise Jade Helm 2015. He thinks Obama is invading Texas and declaring martial law. So he's a whack-a-loon, that's okay, there's many of those. But who's worse, him or the idiots who believe him and spread this moronic message? Texans are grabbing their guns, bibles and confederate flags and heading out into the unknown. Someone's gonna get shot.

Then there's the US Senate. Last week they passed a bill clearly agreeing that global warming is a thing. But it is NOT man-made. This is the senate. This is the American upper house, they are suppose to be smart, surprise, they're idiots. If man hasn't caused global warming then who did?

I worked for an idiot. How he ever managed to get the job is beyond me, but one day he told us he bought a new piece of equipment, and we cheered. When we told him it wouldn't fit in the building, he simply said "move that wall over about six feet, it'll fit fine, I already bought it so..." We told him the wall was load bearing and the building would fall down. He told us to move it so the building doesn't fall down. Luckily, soon after I left, this idiot did too, on the boot of his boss.

I also worked with an idiot who told me one day the internet was broken. We went to her computer where she typed in an address, turned to me and said "see! nothing's happening!" I reached over her shoulder, hit enter and walked away. She's an idiot.

We make stupid people famous. The Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo's mom (don't really care what her name is), Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton, Miley Cirrus, and the guys from Duck Dynasty. Stupid. Stop that, stop following them, stop giving them attention, they crave that and not the right reasons. Giving these idiots any sort of attention means they won't ever go away, and to make matters worse, we've made them unbelievably rich in the process. Wouldn't it be SMARTER of us to give money to worthy causes that help the average person get along in life, like I don't know... EDUCATION? The problem of course at the bottom line is that STUPID PEOPLE ARE MAKING OTHER STUPID PEOPLE RICH AND FAMOUS. Thank you, John McCain, stand and take a bow.

We vote for these people, we follow them on twitter, we watch their shows, hell, the only reason Beiber is famous is YouTube. And some stupid person decided he would be a good thing. Stupid people getting ahead of those with brains and talent is entirely our fault. Is it because we're so inexplicably drawn to the preverbal train wreck? Who knows, or cares.

But the fact is there are now more idiots with money than smart people without.

I'll be the first to admit I've said and done some pretty dumb things in my life. While I don't claim to be a rocket scientist, I can at least carry on an intelligent conversation with someone with a descent level of intelligence. I hate arguing with stupid people. As Mark Twain so elegantly put it, "you can't argue with a stupid person because they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience". I like engaging intellectually stimulating verbage with substance. Honey Boo Boo is NOT substance. It's a brain aneurysm in the making.

Stop it. Stop voting for morons, watching morons, working for morons (easier said than done), stop giving stupid people reason to beat you with experience. And most of all, stop giving them money.

I'm going to get reamed for this post. Someone out there is going to tell me I am over the top on this and I'm doing nothing but insulting people. Not true, I'm insulting idiots. To those who think I'm one, you're entitled to you opinion.

I don't judge.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

From Monumental to Mundane, It's All In Your Mindset

As I sit here writing on a sunny Saturday morning, the house is quiet, the dog is chewing a bone, I'm embracing my morning coffee and thinking all is right with the world.

There are problems around me, ISIS is still killing innocent people, politicians are making asinine decisions for "our own good", corporations are taking over any hint of freedom we have, people are killing, robbing and raping each other, and some guy with a mental illness decided it was a good idea to crash a plane and kill himself and 150 other people. Bank fees are going up again, taxes are going up in the next budget, food prices rise while product gets smaller, and the list goes on. But for once, that's all i've got to worry about. Weirdly enough, that feels good.

2014 sucked. Huge. It was the year from hell and the year I'd like stripped from the record. Financially, mentally, physically, it just sucked. I vowed that this year would be a change for the better. I've taken steps in that direction, but it's a long hard road upwards. It's a hell of a lot easier to fall into a hole than to climb out of it.

Most of what happened was due to my illness, my depression followed by ridiculous manic states found me curling up on the couch ignoring the world and hoping everything would just go away, to wanting to fix everything and do everything at once. I took to writing lists for myself just to keep my days straight. Mundane things that we take for granted had to be written down to remind me to do them, and if I missed looking at the list one day I ended up on the couch. Then I found that the lists themselves caused panic attacks. Once I wrote them I perused them, and cursed them. But in the end, it was the only way to compete with the inner demons. Systematically striking off the said demons one by one. Then adding more. I still write my lists, but today they've changed.

I am refocussing in here. Lately I've looked around this place and wondered why I've left things that should be done, like fixing the back fence, the back door, the junk in the basement. I've walked past these issues too many times lately, they weren't top of mind. Functioning was top of mind, things like taking a bath and combing my hair were chores. The house and the family suffered. I need to fix that now.

I don't do well on my own without some sort of goal. Without a firm grasp on what's got to be done as opposed to what I want to do, I will be content to sit on the computer all day searching for stupid things on Wikipedia or watching dumb YouTube videos. Useless endeavours to say the least. So on top of the list, I've taken to one other insightful philosophy. An old base Commander years ago, Colonel West, had a simple ideology he often passed on much to the annoyance of anyone in earshot; "Never Pass A Fault". A simple rule really, one which he pontificated to the point of your ears bleeding, but now years later I find that philosophy helpful. I walk through my house now everyday and simply pick things up, sweep this, wash that, move this to where it's supposed to be. I am no longer tied to the couch or the computer. Now I'm getting the shoe on the other foot - I'm constantly moving and tidying things. And by doing just that I'm becoming painfully aware of how much I've left off my lists. So yes, I wrote another list. This one dealing with the home repairs I've ignored for the past years.

Even the computer has changed it's purpose for me. Instead of whiling the time away uselessly I've taken to opening up old design software, learning to build websites, writing, positive things. Now YouTube is used for tutorials. I just had to refocus. I even spent one evening (three hours of it) re-writing the house budget. Something that surely would have tossed me into bed for days last year. It needed to be done and I finally just kicked myself in the ass. It ended up being a positive thing - an eye-opener, and something that kick-started my mood. I just had to start it. That was the hard part.

The obvious argument here is that I'm simply in a manic state again, and it won't be long until I crash. While that may be true, there's a huge difference. A person's actions while manic usually aren't focused and the person is doing things compulsively, without knowing or without caring. For example, I found myself packing a bag one day with the intention of hiking out of town for parts unknown. I also wanted to sell the house out from under the family and move to Scotland. Today, I am very aware of my actions, they're meticulously intentional. Manic has no part in this, the goal is to be etheric (stable mindset) and keep depression at bay. So I stick to my list.

I'm going to finish my coffee, read the news, play with the dog, then get something done around here. Things that "normal people" take for granted, but for me they're a monumental undertaking. This year I will strive to change that mindset and make this a good year. This year I will get off my depressed angry self-pittying ass and be normal. 

I'm going to start by getting rid of the business card on my desk that's been staring me in the face for days. It doesn't need to be there.

Cheers, enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Spring List

Spring is finally here. A season of rebirth and renewal, of which I fully intend to take advantage of. No longer do I have any excuse to hibernate, it's time to get life moving again. I see that, but I also see the coffee pot and the computer.

This spring will bring new activities and options. I have things around the house I've been putting off for too long now, and I gave myself a deadline to get them taken care of. First off there's the hole in the library ceiling where we had to fix water pipes, then there's the back door. A few years ago we replaced the door, but I never got around to fixing the wall around it, so you can plainly see the plaster and lathe around the door. It's an eyesore that I've been meaning to fix, but just never got around to. I have it on my radar now. I also want a new floor in the kitchen, the old linoleum is pretty beat up and showing it's age. These are my priorities, and hopefully I will add more to the list. I need to replace the flower beds in the front and back, fix the back fence, clean the crap piled up beside the house, and several other little things.

All of this sounds easy and really is. Nothing here is groundbreaking. The problem is the illness I suffer from keeps me from attacking projects with any sense of urgency. I get very frustrated and depressed, and end up on the couch. Not good. It's a fight to accomplish anything meaningful on a daily basis, my inner demons keep pushing me to inactivity.

It's a commonly held belief that many people suffer from something called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even though my Psych indicated that I'm grouped in with this lot, I don't really agree with it. I see it more as STWSOSIWDFA, or Shit The Weather Sucks Outside So I Will Do Fuck All. I'm no doctor, but I think that sums up what everyone is thinking more precisely. I've already been labelled with enough disorders that I don't need another one, thank you very much.

This winter sucked. We took a hit on several fronts, and now we're climbing up the ladder. Soon the car will be back on the road, even though I finally don't mind walking. I can't believe the freedom I lost when I parked her. Just the ability to go buy groceries without making a day of it will be welcomed. Simple things we take for granted are lost when you have no wheels. I know thousands of people in town don't have cars, and they survive quite well, but have one for years and suddenly loose it and it puts things into perspective. Transit Windsor really does suck. Now I see that clearly. However, there is something about not driving that appealed to me, that is, not driving. Being the only one in the house with a license all these years meant that anywhere someone wanted to go, it was me. I've enjoyed not being the chauffeur!

Other aspects of spring await. Next week we're surrendering the dog, which although sad to say, has to be done. He's very high maintenance, and I can only do so much around here with him. I won't go into the reasons we're surrendering him, but I can say that I look forward to not having to crate him just to go to the bathroom. Once I have a level of freedom back, I can start cleaning out the basement. Right now I can't go down there for any reason without him getting into everything and eating my couch. Next Friday will be a sad day, but it has to be done.

Spring also brings out neighbours. It's always funny that each spring people take tepid steps out of their houses and look around like the groundhog looking for his shadow. Each spring we open windows, dust off the porch chairs, clean up the crap the snow left behind, and actually converse with one another. It's a weird time. In my case, as I watch the snow slowly recede from my car, I see the two flat tires. Another spring project. I also see the mud piles on every front yard on this street. When the city replaced our water mains last fall they couldn't replace the grass, it had to wait til spring, so we all have mud pits. It's making the melt so much more fun! But like other issues, that will be fixed soon enough.

It's also time to start packing away the winter coats and trying to figure out where I hid the spring jackets. I went out yesterday without a hat, a small thing, but not shrouding myself in layers of protective gear felt good. As Canadians we're used to this weather, it's not uncommon on the coldest days to see someone wearing shorts around here. I don't partake in that kind of practise, but I have been known to wear my kilt out to events when it's minus holy crap out.

One of my favourite spring past times is simply sitting on the porch with a book, or a laptop, writing. But this season I have to change that tune a bit. I have to get busy around here. I have a deadline, family is coming from overseas to visit and I want the house looking nice for them. Without a deadline the illness will prevail, and I will find the couch, and the wife will be annoyed. There are more reasons to do things this year than not to do them, which is what I need. Now given that, does anyone know how to plaster? Please? Anyone?

Happy Spring.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Bennington Vermont, 1777

Timothy sprawled out on the grass staring up at the sky. It was a carefree day, the sun was shining
brightly, the birds sang in the giant elm tree next to him. Life was good. His father, John had given him free time today, a break from working on the farm. At eleven years old Timothy needed the time to be a kid and his father was kind enough to realize that. His mother Elizabeth, no so much. It was a point of contention. She wanted him to help out more around the farm, as the rest of the boys did. But every now and then John allowed the boys time to just live life. In the morning Timothy went to school in the town, about a forty-five minute walk. For two hours he learned about life, math, english and religion in the little one room school. He hated his teacher, too often he was getting the strap for things he didn't feel were warranted. But that was life. It wasn't easy. Some days going home to the farm and working was a relief from learning, other days it was the other way around.
Today was different, he had the rare chance to explore and play knowing full well that when he came home there would be more chores, there always were more chores. That afternoon he and his father were going to fix the holes in the walls of the cabin. With colder weather coming they needed to be shored up to keep the cold New England winter at bay. But now was his time.

He stared at the sky lost in thought. At his age things that mattered were simpler, he didn't care about politics or business. He didn't worry himself about food production or money, he just followed the lead of his brothers and sisters and parents and teacher. They were all older and wiser, or so they told him constantly. He was just a kid and had much to learn about the world around him. His father was a veteran of the French and Indian wars, so he was a hard man. Now a farmer in a quiet town, he still stayed away from other people instead preferring the company of family and church. At night, he would gather the children around the hearth and read the bible to them. During the day he would run the farm like a tyrant. With twelve brothers and sisters the work was spread out and he was more like a boss than a father, even strapping those who failed him. He was a tough man and he had to be. But then he would have moments of weakness where childhood memories compelled him to back off and let kids be kids.

Elizabeth was also tough. Having lived through the wars with John and coming from a similar home down south she was used to the life. The women typically kept to the house while the men worked outside. Elizabeth taught the five girls to sew, cook, make bread and butter, milk cows, make clothing, fix things inside and much more. Growing up she didn't need to do that much, as her father was a slave owner. He was a fairly wealthy man and she'd gotten off lucky for it. But now she had an immensely different life which she enjoyed – she had a good man for a husband and they really didn't want for much. Everything was provided by God and John.

“Hey!” came a shout from over the meadow. “Time to stop daydreaming and get home, Father's waiting for you and he's not happy. Come now”.

Timothy heeded the call of his older brother William, slowly getting up after taking one more long gaze at the blue sky. “Maybe tomorrow”, he murmured to himself. And he got up and followed his brother without a word. With the war going on all around them, days like these were indeed rare, and that made them so much more appreciated.

Chinking the walls was not the most difficult job on the farmstead and therefore one normally reserved for the youngest. John had shown him how to do it a couple of years ago, but was always there to help. The mixture of mud, clay, grass and moss was mixed for him, all he had to do was patch the holes. Easy enough, but boring. His father was there as always, to teach and ensure the job was done right. John took pride in reminding him that if it wasn't done right he'd freeze his butt off that coming winter. The cabin wasn't large, about 15 foot by 20 foot, but the addition on the backside required special care. Initially John built a cabin for a small family, with a loft for sleeping but as the McCombs clan grew he needed more space. Five years ago he built a 10 foot by 10 foot addition on the cabin, making it one of the larger homes in the area. The gaps between the main cabin and the addition were the problem as the logs used to build them were not joined together in the tongue and groove fashion used to build them vertically. Rather holes were bored out and logs fitted into them. This made for larger gaps that required more chinking. And of course, that's where the joints were weakest. It would be an all day job, if not into tomorrow.

While Timothy set to work his father headed off to check on the rest of the boys, working in the fields. It wouldn't be harvest time for another month but that didn't take away from the tasks of the fields. In the twenty-six years John McCombs owned the farm he had built it from a forest. When his grant of land came through after the last war he realized he'd been given trees. Millions of them. The farm evolved within that 500 acre patch of forest in the Vermont countryside to a farm, but the old tree stumps still littered the fields. The first years were not spent producing, but in cutting down the trees to open up the land, and the fields were planted around the old stumps. Over the years the stumps rotted and made them easier to remove. So the backbreaking job of taking them out carried on alongside the wheat and corn farming. Today, John and the boys would remove three, maybe four stumps and cut them up for firewood. One of John's neigbours, David Street, had built himself a massive stump pulling devise, and rented it out to those who could afford it, but of course, John couldn't. A few years back he did hire Street's devise, but the cost wasn't worth the reward. Now with seven boys to help him, he could do just as much without it.

The first 100 acres behind the barn had been cleared already. Now they were deep in the fields working in the unbearable August heat. Two of the girls, Margaret and Elizabeth, were tasked to bring water to the men working. All day they went back and forth carrying water in whatever they could find, buckets, jars, and leather canteens. All day the men worked on the stumps all the while careful not to destroy the precious wheat growing all around them. It was exhausting work, and Timothy was happy to have a slightly less strenuous task.

While Timothy worked he daydreamed. He stared across the at the road out front and wondered where it would take him someday. He often dreamed of just leaving and exploring his world, but today was not the day. As he glanced up at the road he noticed soldiers marching. That wasn't uncommon here, there were 1,500 men garrisoned in Bennington just ten miles away. So seeing men walking down the road at any point was not a surprise. Today was different. There were hundreds of men, in columns, marching past the cabin, an officer on horseback leading them, the flag of Vermont Republic waving in the breeze. Timothy went to the road to watch them, knowing of course that his father would rail on him for doing so. But he went. The men were marching west, out of town. Many were signing songs while they marched. He wondered if the officer on the horse was Washington, he'd never seen his portrait. Probably not, Washington was somewhere else commanding the Continental Army, not in a small backwater town. The men were a rag tag mix. Many in uniforms he recognized from days past when the army marched in, many others were in field clothes. All of them carried muskets and battle gear such of powder horns and charge boxes. Then the Massachusetts flag went by. Then the New Hampshire flag. This was big.

After the column passed Timothy went back to the cabin and resumed his work. He didn't think much more about it. He was concentrating more on the fact that father or mother hadn't caught him. He kept chinking the cabin.

At 3pm Timothy was startled by gunfire. A little at first, then came roaring explosions, quite close by. He dropped his tools and ran into the cabin yelling “Shooting Mother! In the next fields, there's a battle!” His mother stopped him cold, grabbed him and quickly ushered him to the loft, where she already had the girls hunkered down. Five minutes later the men came in, panicking and yelling to see if everyone was safe.

All fifteen members of the McCombs family was in the cabin now. John pulled his rifle down off the wall, and ordered Thomas to check the supply of shot stored in the chest against the far wall. Then he ordered William to go to the barn and retrieve as much powder as he could carry. The girls started to cry as Elizabeth calmed them as best she could.

After an hour or so John had his musket primed and ready, although he was short on powder. He set the boys to work making as many cartridges as they could. The women and Timothy huddled in the loft, scared but relatively safe. They waited. Probably for nothing, but it had already been proven that this war was as much hell on civilians as to the soldiers. Both sides had looted and burned villages and farms. Now a battle was happened only a mile away, and who knew what to expect.
A window shattered. Then another. John ordered the boys to the floor and Elizabeth pulled the girls and Timothy lower. Lead balls embedded themselves into the far wall of the cabin. Luckily hitting nobody.

On the road in front a skirmish had broken out between groups of men dislodged from the main battle. About fifty men on both sides fired at each other in close quarters. The men of the British side were Rangers and Indian allies, so they fought guerrilla style, hiding among the trees. The men of the American side were Green Mountain Boys. They fought a rolling battle down the road in front of the McCombs homestead moving east towards Old Bennington. Bodies of soldiers from both sides lay on the grass in front of the cabin. Eventually the skirmish moved on, and the rain began, ceasing the guns.

After an hour of uneasy quiet John stepped out with his musket and cautiously approached the road, hugging the trees. Seven men lay dead on his property, on was still alive, a British Ranger. He called out for help. William and Stephen quickly came to the aid of the fallen man, and under their father's orders carried him to the barn. John collected a few muskets and cartridges from the dead men, and while checking his guard, brought them back to the house. He distributed the arms to the older boys, checking first to make sure the rain hadn't damaged the precious powder. Then he ordered Elizabeth to care for the wounded soldier. It didn't matter if he was British, he was a man who would die without aid, and the Christian thing to do was help, even though he would easily be branded a Tory for doing so.

John didn't pick a side in this conflict. He'd been a loyal citizen of the King for almost fifty years, and he didn't plan on picking today to reflect on where his loyalty should lie. Both sides of the conflict had pros and cons, so he chose to just farm his land and raise his family. He was too old for politics anyway. He chose to help his fellow man, regardless of who's side he was on. He was playing a dangerous game. Last year a neighbour, John Walker, after being accused a Tory had his farm burned and his family driven off the land. The last anyone saw of the Walker family they were moving north towards Canada. Nobody knew of their fate. John hoped they made it to the border, and hopefully a new life. John also knew the same fate could await him if anyone found a British soldier in his barn being cared for by his family.

Later that evening the gunfire started again. Louder this time and much more intense. Cannon shot could be heard, so close the remaining windows of the cabin rattled and cooking implements were shaken off the table. The boys hunkered down with their muskets, four now loaded and ready. The girls huddled in the loft with Timothy, and Elizabeth and Alice cared the wounded soldier in the barn. It went on for three more hours, then silence.

By nightfall the Americans under General Stark had the field. They began the process of mopping up the field, looting British and German supplies, and processing the hundreds of prisoners. On the British side over 200 men lay dead, on the Continental side, 30 dead. That night a stream of British prisoners marched down the Bennington Road towards town past the McCombs home. John and the boys lay their rifles down and watched the solemn procession. He still had one though. And he had no idea what to do with him. He was gravely wounded, and the family did not expect him to recover. 

John made the difficult decision to approach the column and talk to a passing officer. He knew the consequences if his actions were taken the wrong way, but it was the right thing to do. He told the officer who he had in his care, hoping that his action would be seen as merely humane. Upon hearing this, the American officer dispatched two men to collect the wounded man from the barn, which they did quickly and efficiently. They joined the column of men and moved on. The officer stared intently at John for a few moments, then moved on. He was safe.

The next morning the McCombs family all took to the duty of the aftermath. Bodies were everywhere, and they had to be given Christian burials. American soldiers had removed the seven dead from the homestead and piled them up with the rest of the casualties on the fields a mile away. When the family arrived to assist, they were initially stopped, but John being the man he was, insisted. Preachers from town were already here, offering last rights to the dead and helping with digging the graves. Soldiers put down their weapons and picked up shovels. Families from around the area were there to help clean up the aftermath of the Battle of Bennington.

Timothy took all this in with horror. He'd never seen battle, he'd never seen death like this. His innocence was lost now. All he could smell was gunpowder and death. Everywhere he looked he saw the shattered remains of men and the cries of the wounded. Everywhere he looked he saw things that would affect him for the rest of his life. The horror of war.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Don't bother reading this, I'm just venting.

I have writer's block. I'm stuck. A couple of weeks ago I wrote over 7,000 words on my manuscript and since then I've only stared at a blank page. Crap.

There's probably a thousand reasons I can't get past this, of course here I am writing about the fact that I can't write. I have things going on now in my life that are taking priority in my head. First off we have made the decision to surrender the dog, Prometheus. He can easily walk over the back fence now, and the other day he attacked a young boy, who I should point out, was asking for it, but that is no excuse. I can't have a dog that attacks. There's other problems with him, he's destructive, he won't let anyone in the house, he's too rambunctious for us, overall, he's just too much to handle. It was suggested that we just chain him up outside and that will stop him from jumping the fence, but is that any way for a dog to live? He's a greyhound labrador mix, it's in his blood to run. And run he does. Right over the fence. So that's on our minds to the point that ironically enough, I'm the one talking people off a ledge.

I'm not used to being the one to talk people down. For the past four years or so I've been the one with debilitating mental illness that has this house on edge. I've been the one with the breakdowns so bad that my family has to work hard to bring me out of. Freaking out, panic attacks so bad I can't breathe, aggressive outbursts, manic states, and slumps of serious depression. It's fun! Now the shoe's on the other foot, someone in here is suffering similarly to me, and I have to talk him down. I haven't got a clue how. It's kinda like the patient diagnosing the doctor. I'm no doctor. So that aspect of recent life has increased my stress greatly. I haven't got the foggiest idea when an episode will occur, just like the family with my episodes. They're random and unpredictable. Yesterday I found myself talking on person off a ledge while at the same time consoling another about the dog. I'm not a very good multi-tasker and it showed. I'm not good at this therapy stuff unless I'm on the receiving end.

There's a host of other issues going on in my head, but I won't get into them here. Suffice it to say I've had no sleep lately. I lay awake at night wondering how to solve the problems, which in itself becomes a problem. Then I worry about how to solve the problem of not being able to get to sleep because I'm too concerned about other problems. See the problem? Someone please tell me a solution instead!

I have a story in my head that's been there for years. It's a good tale, full of mystery, intrigue and adventure. But for now it will stay in my head because life is getting in the way. Fiction is pushed aside for non-fiction, and that's kinda boring. So I write that aspect here, not so much to get readers as it is to get it out of my head. This blog is a release for me. It's a place I can log my thoughts and hopes and problems for future reference. I often go back and read the old posts just to see if I've changed, and low and behold, I have. I have written about the worst times of my illness and I've written about eureka moments, this is neither, it's a long drawn out status update. But I digress.

A couple of weeks ago I changed directions because of the writer's block. In the process of researching topics for the manuscript I saw something shiny and walked towards the light. In the distraction I found myself looking at old family records. We've been researching our family heritage for about 25 years, my mother started it as a hobby and we jumped in both feet. Since then it's been an ongoing fascination and relentless pursuit of our roots. We've been stuck at a certain individual for years now, and I decided I was going to break the code. Well that didn't quite work. We're still stuck and probably will always be. Damn dead people. Never left a forwarding email. So I changed cars again, back to the writing. Nope.

Problems in life are inevitable. Those who don't encounter stress and bad karma occasionally don't exist, they're myths only found in stupid fairy tales. We're human and we have to deal with the curve balls life throws at us, it's how we dodge them or hit them that matters. Lately I feel like I'm standing at the mound with no bat.

Writing is an escape. It's a process by which I can switch off the world and it's issues and focus on another life for a while. I can live vicariously through characters and lose myself in a make-believe world. I can walk away from the dog, the mental problems, the stress, the broken stuff that hasn't been fixed, and much to my wife's dismay, the chores. I can immerse myself and for a short time I'm okay. But that only happens when I can actually put something on a page. Which has not been the past few weeks. It will pass, of that I'm sure. In the meantime I will post here, take care of some chores, take the dog out on a leash 20 times a day, help people with their internal demons, and maybe eat something.

Maybe it's not so bad, the week I wrote 7,000 words I accomplished bugger-all. What's worse?


Sunday, 8 February 2015

A Big Fat Bucket of What If?

What if our ancestor was a traitor to the crown? What if he turned to the American side during the
War of 1812? What does it matter? It may make all the difference to years of research into an elusive character who single handedly stops everyone looking for the McCombs' family roots. 

My mom started researching our family history over 25 years ago as a hobby. Opening box upon box of old photos and letters she began putting the pieces together of our family history. We joined in and had a great time with it all. She eventually traced out lineage to France in the fifteen hundreds on one side, and back to 1765 New England on another. Eventually mom received her United Empire Loyalist certificate through her research, a designation you may receive if you have UEL ancestors, or  in English, those who left the colonies during the American Revolution to stay loyal to the crown.

John McCombs, my Fourth Great Uncle,
son of Timothy McCombs
Many of my ancestors on both families fought in the Revolution and in the war of 1812. The UEL members left the areas of New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania and came to Canada as refugees, most earning claims of land from the crown. These claims centred around the Niagara Peninsula. The Depew family, who were traced to France, were granted land at Stipes Inlet in what is now present day Hamilton. My ancestral land is currently home to a massive steel mill on the coast of Lake Ontario. I'd love to find documentation proving that so I can kick them out! The steel mill even moved the family graveyard when they took over the inlet, all burials of the Depew family moved to the Hamilton Cemetery. 

One Depew ancestor, Capt. John Depew, was a member of the Indian Department and fought with the infamous Butler's Rangers in the Niagara area, alongside other family members. The Rangers were famous for cross border raids fighting indian style, raiding American units deep inside US territory.

The McCombs' line equally moved here to settle. Land claims in Thorald and Pelham indicate they were here prior to the War of 1812. When war broke out again, they joined up. Michael, my fourth great-grandfather, and his brother John, joined the Lincoln Militia and fought against the invading Americans. There is even a rumour floating around that they helped carry the mortally wounded General Sir Isaac Brock off the battlefield after the battle of Queenston Heights. After the war the brothers were granted land by the crown in honour of their service. Thousands of other men also won this honour, which is how most of the area of the Peninsula was settled. Many of the families who started farms, mills and other businesses in the area were veterans. Today, their descendants still own large swaths of land granted to soldiers. Names like Ryerson, Ball, Johnson, Dennis, Lutz, Decew, Secord, Lundy and more. Names that still resonate in the area. 

The brothers McCombs father, Timothy, is the problem. Everything stops with him. He was born in 1876 in The US, residing in Bennington Vermont in 1792 with his wife Sarah (or Sally). He bore many children, most notably John, 1792-1865, Michael, 1802-1887 (my ancestor), and Hiram, 1813-1876. There were more, but these are confirmed. Michael was born in Elizethtown, Upper Canada, present day Brockville. So they moved from the states to Canada sometime between 1795 and 1802. From there they moved to the Niagara region prior to the war. Muster rolls from 1812 indicated that Timothy could not join because he was 47 years old and "infirm". From that we can deduce his birth year. He appears on the 1804 Elizethtown census with Sally, John, Samuel, Sylvester, Michael, Sarah, Stephen, and Cornelius. On the 1807 census, Sally, Sam, other Sally, Sarah, Stephen and Cornelius are missing. So we presume that he lost his wife by then, and a number of his children moved away.

That's all we have on Timothy and Sally. And it's been driving us nuts for years. There are many McCombs' family lines in the US and several here. Their genealogies are well documented and many have speculated over time that there is a common thread between the family lines. The problem is nobody has ever been able to link the families together. There are McCombs in dozens of US states, all the way to California. There are also many stories of heroic deeds and major accomplishments. McCombs in varying spellings (MaComb, McComb, McCoombs, MacComb, and other soundex variants) have been generals, politicians, doctors, and much more. We've had clergymen, landowners, spies, and the lot. 

Was Timothy a spy? It may be so. There is speculation about Timothy's activities and loyalties during the War of 1812. Based on a document called "The Bloody Insizes", Timothy is rumoured to have been an American spy and in 1813 crossed to the US side. He became a traitor in the eyes of the crown and a bounty placed on his head. This is where it gets fun, he may also have changed his name.  No wonder we can't find him! Logically a name change would not have been out of the question. Names at that time were changing all the time anyway for a few reasons. First off, people changed their names to fit in better with a certain social hierarchy, so Timothy is rumoured to have changed his name to better suit a "Scots-Irish" connection, actually adding the "Mc" to his name "Combs". If that's the case, then we've been looking for the wrong name all along. What if he was born Timothy Combs in 1765? Secondly, names were screwed up on census records because people were often illiterate and couldn't spell even their own names. Often times land grants were signed with a person's "mark", not name. Census takers of the time wrote down names based on what they heard, not read. Therefore names changed all the time. 

This makes research annoying as hell. 

So what if he changed his name? What if he was a spy? What if we've been barking up the wrong tree for years? We put down the research a few years ago because the sources had dried up and other professional researchers were at the same stumbling block. Everything just hit a wall. To this day not one researcher has connected the families together, but there is a common thread, a man named "BL_K MCCOMBS", Part of his name is illegible. (A Genealogical Register of the McComb Family in America, PHK McComb, Indianapolis, 1913) is said to be the progenitor of the family in America and Canada, immigrating to New York from Antrim Ireland prior to 1732. But that's just one theory. he many not have been the first. Whoever was the first spread the seeds across North America and finally down to our little part of heaven, Windsor.

So we're rekindling our curiosity. At least I am. I have dozens of research documents on the family collected from dozens of sources, as the history nut that I am I have no problem whiling away my days pouring through old notes, letters, land grants, probate records and bible pages. Maybe we'll crack the code? Maybe we'll drive ourselves insane? Who knows, but on we go, chasing ghosts of the past to find out who we really are.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Did Hitler Escape?

Hitler and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves in the Fuhrerbunker as the Soviet army approached on April 30, 1945. Or did they? It's commonly accepted that this is historical fact. The Russians captured the bunker soon after and within days Admiral Donitz, Hitler's successor, surrendered the remnants of the Third Reich to the allied forces ending World War II. As a student of history I've had a long morbid fascination with the nazis. It's kind of like watching a disgusting evil train very slowly crashing, you just have to watch. So of course when I found some articles lately hinting at Hitler's survival I was nevertheless, intrigued. Bear with me here, I'll lay it out, and let you decide. This gets interesting real fast.

Note: I began linking research but stopped. There’s tons online if you choose to read more. If I linked everything, this entire article would be blue underlines.

Accepted History

On April 29, 1945 with the Soviets approaching, Hitler and Braun were married in the bunker in a civil service. His witnesses were his top nazi henchmen, Himmler, Bormann, Goebbels, and other top men. The next day, Hitler shot himself and Braun took a cyanide capsule. Their bodies were taken outside, coated in petrol and burned as per the Fuhrer's orders. The bodies were not to be recovered and put on display as Mussolini's was in 1943. When the Soviets captured the bunker they found the bodies and identified them as Hitler and Braun. The remains disappeared. The Soviets also found another body identified as Hitler, not burned, but with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. Inside the bunker they found the remains of the entire Goebbels family, all poisoned. Himmler escaped and was captured by the British on May 3, but he too, took cyanide. Bormann was reportedly killed in the street fighting as he tried to escape. His body was not found where the witness to his death indicated. There were others, but they were not key players. American intelligence officer Hugh Trevor Roper was tasked with laying out the final days in the bunker. He ended up writing the definitive book on the subject, which is still used today.

Accepted Truths About The Time

1. After the war an organization known as "ODESSA" was established to assist former SS men escaping the crumbling Reich. Thousands of men escaped. Of the million SS members during the war only about 15,000 were ever captured and even fewer tried. ODESSA (Organization Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen) or in English, The Organization of Former SS Members, was a secret group, and only a handful of documents relating to their existence has ever been found. ODESSA was outed by famous nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. ODESSA helped men escape to Spain, South America and other places through establish smuggling routes through Italy.

2. The most notorious of these escapees were Adolph Eichmann, who was captured by Israeli agents in 1960 in Buenes Aires, and Josef Mengele - the so called “Angel of Death”. Mengele was never captured, but lived his life in peace in Paraguay and Brazil until his death in 1979. 

3. Argentina had a huge German population, with many settlements based on German cities, such as New Berlin. Ironically enough, it was also home to around 45,000 German jews who escaped the nazis.

4. Hitler had friends at a place called “Hotel Eden” in La Falda Argentina. the Eichorns. They often travelled to Germany during the war and met with Hitler. Hitler gifted them a Mercedes, the first of it’s kind in Argentina. Eden hosted many notable people in it’s heyday, even Einstein. And it’s well known that the owners were nazi sympathizers.

5. German U boats, U-977 and U-530 surrendered to the Argentine navy in July and August 1945. Of the 470 boats remaining at the end of the war, 218 were scuttled, 154 surrendered. These figures are still debated today. Regardless of who counted, many are unaccounted for.

6. Paraguay’s dictator during the war, Morinigo, was a strong nazi sympathizer.

Potential History

Hitler's double, shot in the forehead, Berlin, 1945
Let’s put two and two together. First of all, the Soviets never released any evidence of Hitler’s body. They said they found it, but that’s all. In 2009 American researchers performed DNA tests on skull fragments the Soviets claimed were Hitler, but the tests indicated the fragment was that of a 40-year old women. The Soviets also claimed to have had a picture of Hitler’s body, not burned, with a bullet in the forehead. It turns out that was one of Hitler’s doubles killed to push people off the trail. If it was Hitler, why was the wound in the middle of the forehead? An odd place to shoot yourself. This double was murdered. The Soviets locked up the bunker shortly after that and refused allied entry. All other evidence was taken. At the Yalta Conference of 1945, Stalin told Roosevelt and Churchill that Hitler probably disappeared to Argentina.

Next, there’s the ODESSA connection. It’s entirely conceivable that Hitler and Braun were spirited away by this secretive group. Evidence proves they had already done so with many others. The generally accepted claim is that he was taken to Trondheim Norway and from there escaped on a U Boat, maybe, U-530 or U-977, both of which ended up in Argentina.

In 1945 witnesses in Buenes Aires saw a group of about 50 people disembark from a german submarine in the harbour and board buses. A second submarine apparently held Hitler and Braun, who according to them were “unmistakable”. These buses left with their passengers and the subs were turned over to the Argentine navy.

Hitler apparently photographed in 1947
Then there’s the Hotel Eden link. Hitler was friends with the owners, Ida and Walter Eichhorn. They already hosted top nazis during the war and it’s not inconceivable that they hosted Hitler after. Workers at the hotel testified to seeing him there in 1947, but were sworn to secrecy. He apparently appeared clean shaven and with whitish hair. He was residing in a house called “Residencia Inalco”, near a little town called Villa La Angostura, a secluded house only visible by the nearby lake, otherwise shrouded in trees. The house was apparently built in 1943 by architect Alejandro Bustillo, who also built houses for other nazi refugees who were later apprehended in the area. He is said to have lived there until his death in the mid 1960s, under heavy security.

The FBI have even said, in unclassified documents, that Hitler escaped to Argentina. Google it, there’s many sources online. 

Finally, only slightly related is the case of Martin Bormann. A witness indicated he was shot during his escape in Berlin after he left the bunker. His body was never found. Years later workers excavated the area where Bormann was said to have been killed and unearthed his skeleton, DNA confirmed it. However, his bones had clay residue stuck to it that was no native to the area, or anywhere in Germany for that matter, the clay was native to Paraguay. The story is that he escaped to South America via ODESSA and settled down, passing away in 1959 of cancer. His old buddy Mengele was called to treat him, but there was nothing they could do. He was buried in a local cemetery and his grave is still known to locals. But tests last year by someone doubting the story had the grave scanned with ground penetrating radar and found it empty. Were Bormann’s bones reburied in Berlin? Or was the original claim true. Nobody really knows.

Hitler in old age? Photo is unattributed and unproven,
but reportedly taken in the 1960s
Why is this important? Because the case of Martin Bormann can easily prove there are many sides to the story. When you add it up, Bormann, Eichmann, Melgele were all in South America. Why then does the story of Hitler have to end in Berlin on April 30, 1945? It doesn’t. The evidence is there to speculate on his living a quiet unassuming life in a small Argentine town.

While I’d like to think that Hitler got what he deserved, there’s a part of me that thinks he got what he wanted, escape. For Hitler and Braun to live out they’re days in peace while planning the Fourth Reich is a nightmare, but there’s strong evidence that he actually did that. To this day there is no further evidence of his death. The bunker has been destroyed, his bones were refuted, and anything further has been covered up by the Soviet and East German regimes during the cold war. Even now with Germany reunited there is no evidence. Not for lack of searching, which is why the bones weren’t tested until 2009. Solid evidence exists for the rest of his cronies, I fail to understand why Hitler’s fate would be so different. He was a paranoid insane man bent on world domination. He wasn’t one to go quietly, and I don’t think he did until old age caught up with him.