View From The Glen

Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh Canada

I took the children to the RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa on Friday night to see the mounties in their famous musical ride. We had a fabulous time. In addition to the Mounted Police, the Canadian Armed Forces were there, represented by the Sky Hawks, and that impressed my 8 year old son so much he has decided to join the Sky Hawks when he gets older. My daughter, who is 6, was swayed by the red uniforms and the horses, and decided the RCMP was for her. And my other daughter, aged 4, still really, really, really, wants to be a bagpiper.

There were hundreds of people there crammed into the hillside to see the show, from all walks of life: a true multi-cultural cross section of the Canadian population. Mine weren't the only children excited by what they were seeing - almost all the children visited the kiosks and had posters, tattoos, and stickers galore. And when the sunset ceremony began and we rose to sing Oh Canada, nobody sang more loudly or enthusiastically than the school-aged kids present.

Sometimes, it is easy to get cynical about our country. Sometimes it is easy to focus on the negative side of human nature, or fall into the trap of taking sides - one group of Canadians against another. The sunset ceremony reminded me of all that is good about Canada. People laughing together, sharing together, enjoying a very Canadian moment together without judgement and without agenda. It was a great way to kick off the July 1st long weekend. And if the children of our country are any indication, Canada will be just fine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tip of the Iceburg

I've been concerned recently. Watching the price of oil going up. Even as the environmentalist in me welcomes the 40% price increases and thinks maybe a carbon tax will do what people seem unable to do of their own volition, as CFO of our household, I recognize that this will have an effect on our life come winter when we have no choice but to fill up the oil furnace. We're already noticing a difference as we fuel up to go to work, soccer, and the grocery store - I figure without changing any of our current habits, we'll spend an extra $4000 on oil/fuel this year (this includes two cars, two tanks of oil, and fuel for the tractor for hay/snowblowing), which is pretty significant.

What I find really frustrating though, are the smug commentators on various web sites. Ha ha, they gloat. Glad I don't heat with oil. Too bad, they say. You should change your behaviour. Drive less. Use Natural Gas. Turn down your heat. Move closer to work. Take public transport.

Must be nice to live in their ideal little world.

For the rest of us, we'll do what we can. Some people will modify their behaviour. They'll find ways to drive less and will wear extra sweaters in November, or they'll compensate by buying less commodity items, and this will have a slight - but positive effect - on the environment. Some people won't do anything at all - there is a definite group of consumers who have the money and feel they deserve to drive SUV's. Nothing will change that sort of conspicuous consumption.

The effect on us personally will be negligible. It will definitely mean less disposable income over the course of a year, but we already try to tread lightly. We keep the temperature moderate, minimize our use of electricity, grow our own food, are making energy efficient improvements to our century old farmhouse etc, so we won't be modifying our behaviour too much. The children will still be able to go to soccer, dance or Beavers because I think those things are important; I will still drive the 20 km to work and hit the grocery store on the way home.

But what happens, I wonder, to those who have no options? Those on fixed incomes who bundle up in sweaters not because of idealistic environmental concerns, but because they already find it a struggle to make ends meet? What effect will the price of oil have on families already feeling pinched? To whom that extra $400 to fill the tank with oil (and we do live in Canada - heat is not an option!) is not disposable income that might have been spent on a weekend away, but a month's worth of groceries.

We need to find ways to mitigate these issues. The increasing cost of oil will affect us all. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Book Lists

I noticed the Globe & Mail is getting on board the latest fad - creating a "Best Book List" - in their case, the 50 Greatest Books.

As if.

The problem I have with book lists in general is that they can never be anything but narrow. Whether you like or dislike a book is a very personal choice that depends - as much as anything - on your mood at the time you read it. I have read books that I loved that I would hesitate to call great, and books so well written that didn't really move me at all. And who defines great anyway?

Take any "great" work and you will get two opposing viewpoints on it in a heartbeat. So lists just stir up a whole lot of yays and nays from the two camps who either agree with, or are vehemently opposed to, the author's choices. When I read a list I either: a) agree and feel smug or b) disagree and think the list is obviously flawed.

You could argue that lists at least give readers some new suggestions, but as most lists are just that - a list - with no edifying background or comment as to why a particular book merits inclusion in the first place, they really don't provide much help. Personally, I'd rather read a review.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Starts (or Working Mom Woes)

Today is the last day of school for ds (8) and dd's (6, 5), and the time of year when I regret my decision not to go into education....the thought of 8 weeks off is really appealing when the weather warms up and the long days stretch out playfully, calling my name.

I love my job, but heck, who am I kidding - of course I miss those 6 years when I got to be home with the kids all summer. Now it feels like I have to pack the activities into weekends, and that isn't always easy to do while trying to maintain summer's laid back pace. Already I'm regretting the Saturday swimming lessons and noticing that we're missing lots of them because of important events such as the Medieval Festival - held two weeks ago in Upper Canada Village; a trip to Grandma's (this weekend), and my sister's wedding shower (next weekend). As dh always says, "There's time for anything, just not everything." He's right.

On the up side, long summer evenings allow for leisurly dinners under the ash tree (at least on the nights when there is no soccer), and after the garden is weeded and the kitchen cleared, there is still time for a glass of red wine on the veranda while watching the sun set.