The Smartie Bond

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There is a certain something binding people together. It isn’t contained in a stack of procedures or laid out in a court of law. We naturally do things because a loved one needs us to, or just to settle with our internal sense of what’s right.

I bring it up because this morning, as I was relaxing with my coffee, opening the paper, Li calls from her church (she runs the Sunday School program there).  “I forgot the smarties for the kids to decorate the cookies with.”.

I dress, wet down the “scary hair” so I don’t frighten the flock, and drive over with the smarties in hand.  In a sense it’s an inconvenience, but it’s the little favors like that which bind a relationship together.

Very often it is counter to the advice you would get from a business course.  There isn’t necessarily a “pay-back”, although most people of a certain type appreciate that favors tend to return to the issuer.

But I’m not really talking about the more mercenary aspect.  It is a sort of karma-lite, making you feel good about helping out a friend, or even someone you don’t really know.  Letting that driver go when they’re trying to turn onto a road and there’s a big line behind you.  There’s not even a delayed payback there.  But it does tend to be contagious, leading that person, at least sometimes, at least for awhile, to also let the next person they encounter go.  It’s that little trickle binding us together as a community.  The smartie glue, leaving little multi-colored dots under our skin.



I’m not sure how long ago it was I last posted.  I know I could look it up, but viscerally it spans relationships, jobs and homes.

My last note left me and my partner struggling with the addition of a boat.  Since then we have both gone in different directions (both literally and figuratively) and are now friendly but distant (literally, not figuratively).  She moved 3 hours away in one direction, I moved 2 hours away in another.  Now, with life finally beginning to reach some sort of equilibrium I find the voice in my head that insists on being written down has become downright unbearable.

So here it is, the <Hiatus>.  I’m now living on the South Shore (where, incidentally I grew up) I’ve changed jobs (although I work for the same company), I now have a house that, problematic as it is, is all mine, and a new relationship full of hope and potential.  Alas the boat, which you will recall was bought by the partner, is elsewhere, and no longer taking me on adventures.

Star Trek in the Amazon

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There are seven countries in South America that still have indigenous people having had little to no contact with the outside world.

That statement floored me. I had believed that since the days of Livingstone there was no one anywhere that hadn’t been greatly impacted by the juggernaut of modern civilization. The further you dig into the story tho, the more interesting it becomes. There is actually a job in the world that involves making first contact with isolated tribes! The sertanista of Brazil are (or rather, were) trained in first-contact, the idea being to reduce the impact of modern civilization on them as well as the impact of loggers and miners who often enter these remote regions in force.

One of the more famous, who was fired last year after he criticized the head of the department, has been promoting a doctrine of non-interference with the tribes. It all sounds eerily familiar to Star Trek fans as the “Prime Directive”. He has noted, over more than 40 years that once these tribes come on the radar of the state, they fell prey to disease they had no acquired immunity to, relocation from dams, highways and cattle ranches. But this paled to what happens as their culture is absorbed by the state and their mythic universe is lost to them. He described poignantly how people who were proud, even aggressive would over the course of a year become slack, emaciated and begging for food.

Q&A With Iconoclast Who Makes First Contact With Amazonian Tribes: Scientific American

Prime Directive for the Last Americans

It’s an interesting approach, one that seems almost a no-brainer to anyone raised on the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Draw a big circle on the map and don’t go there until you’re invited.

Of course that’s easier to do when there aren’t people lobbying for stuff inside the circle. For the longest time the Amazonian hinterlands provided protection enough, but there can’t be many blanks left on the map, contact is inevitable.

So is exposing a culture that is ignorant of our presence ‘right’? Morality issues aside how do you even prevent it when the state has little presence there?

About 359 years ago the idea of sovereignty within a nations borders was born. The Peace of Westphalia signed in 1648 introduced the concept of “territorial integrity”. So you aren’t allowed to invade, parcel up the spoils between your family and friends (or Catholic church, in the case of the 30 year war) and rename it as part of your own country.

Now it doesn’t take much of a history buff to realize how successful that particular doctrine has been over the last few hundred years. How do you ‘enforce’ it when state’s act like schoolyard bullies when given half a chance, usually rationalizing it as ‘national security’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘spreading the word’. For that matter, can you be a nation within a nation simply because they hadn’t found you yet? From our distant perch it seems like if you were there first you have ‘sovereignty’, but of course things work differently in the global schoolyard.

Without a higher authority to enforce such global rules, they inevitably fall to more local desires.

Christmas Traditions


I know Christmas is done, past, let’s move on. But I couldn’t resist this bizarre, surreal, wonderful story. This is how traditions are started. See this link for the story of the traditional goat burning in Sweden…

As a followup, apparently this year the town council was able to find a fire-retardant chemical that was waterproof….




Sunset sail

Well if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about provocative keywords, it brings in the views from google! But this post really is about ‘obsession’.

I’ve been absent for months now from the virtual world and it relates to the topic. Something clicked, some tuning fork in my head rang sympathetically to a sequence of events and I became ‘obsessed’. It all started as I tried to wrap a story around a series of images I created called the ‘Hapless Photographer’. That story starts with ‘Hap’ going for a sail. As I immersed myself in the character I recalled how much I loved sailing my canoe when I was a teen, then sailing with my dad in his sloop during university. All of it came to a head as I breathed life into this characters motivations for the trip that causes him to be marooned (and thus ‘Hapless’) in the first place. But then my significant other, who has also been vicariously around other peoples boats all her life, lit the fuse with an offhand comment like ‘we should get a boat’.

It turns out my library has a LOT of books about boats. Not to mention that the dormant salty virus had ensured I’d picked up a few myself over the years. So I’ve spent a good portion of the last two months reading everything I could lay my hands on. I now know the difference between a lazy-jack and a spreader, between gunk-holing and ocean-passage… Didn’t get my feet any wetter, but I’ve found an undiscovered country in my head that I didn’t even realise I’d been living in. It’s like you wake up and there’s suddenly a whole new room in your house.

When I was young I always imagined myself as an explorer. When I look back at the things I really enjoy, they always have an element of exploration. Museum’s and bookstores, travel, biking, hiking, camping, photography, I’ve always enjoyed them when approached as facets of exploration, making the unknown world a little more known.

So, while I was getting PADI certified as an open water recreational diver, my partner in craziness Lisa went out and bought a little boat. It’s an old 20 foot sailboat, when you look at the hull from the inside you can see a couple of patches where it was probably bashed on the rocks in its time, and even signs the mast once went overboard. But it was floating and the price was right! Now it sits in our backyard on a makeshift cradle while we strip it down, replace all the rusting bolts with stainless steel, clean off the accumulations of previous owners and make it ours.

There is something satisfying about getting something ‘used’. Like a fine violin gets better over time as it’s played, I get a sense of its history. That’s why I love old houses and used boats. This boat could have been Hap’s, somebody found it, patched it up and used it for awhile before it moved along the chain to us.

Over our heads!

Zen and the art of lawn maintenance


Some of my best ideas come when I’m avoiding work. The lawn is a perfect example. Instead of mowing, I stuck my homemade macro lens on the camera and started stalking in the long grass.

now what

My own interest in this tiny world happened accidentally. I found that a cheap viewer I had for looking at old 35mm slides would fit over my digital camera’s lens. With it I could get close, ridiculously close to things. Cool, I thought. I wonder what’s lurking in the hayfield that used to be my back yard?

on a limb

As it turned out, there was a lot more going on down there than I thought! My first surprise wasn’t that there were bugs. Everybody expects to see bugs in their lawn, but the variety! And the most delicate little flowers, overshadowed by the petunias and peonies.

little blue

Even the dreaded dandelion, uncovered a world of delicate structure.


Some of my “discoveries” were comical. From ungainly looking critters stuck at the top of a blade of grass,to a colourful caterpillar, in his “happy place”.

happy place

It certainly made me look more closely at what was happening, literally at my own doorstep. For instance each of these little spiders was about the size of a rice grain. Getting in close, then only colouring one spider, produced one of my favourite shots, an individual among many.


The big guns of the garden usually draw all the admiration from neighbors, but the amazing little blossoms and creatures I found were what drew my interest. And they quickly disappear when you’re contemplating the lawn from the seat of the Yard Master.





To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.

-William Blake




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Part of the photo-essay on my father I’m calling ‘Glimpses’. I found a box of broken pocket watches. He worked in an industrial setting, where you can’t wear wristwatches or anything that can catch in machinery. Mum assured me these watches were well and truly “broken”, as they had tried to get them fixed years ago.

It makes you wonder why he kept them. But then he grew up in a different world. You didn’t throw anything away, not if you might need it, or parts of it, someday. Even if there was no WAY you’ld ever need it….

I admit I’ve got a touch of the pack-rat in me. Photography gives me an excuse to collect these little things, these glimpses.  I call them my “prop’s” and hide them in the studio.  What will I do once I’m done with the pictures?  Throw them away?  Seems a shame, maybe I should just store them…

The fine mechanism of a pocket watch provides an interesting subject, and gives me insight into a man I loved but never really understood.