This is not a blog. So sue me!

Crikey, things are looking up!

Sunday, May 26, 2013


The apparently trivial issue of dandelions has rent our community once again. Every Spring, the advent of these cheerful yellow flowers brings forth the best, and worst, in our fellows.

In my opinion, gardening is an exercise in humility. Spring comes, hope blooms and one rushes to dig and sow, hoe and weed. Many plants are honest and just die straight away, some grow well, some pretend to grow but languish until they finally expire with a defeated is a matter of allowing Nature to have her way, while still getting some reward, of beauty or something to eat.

That said, the most useless struggle, is the one against dandelions. While these do have some utility in that the leaves, rootas and flowers can be eaten, it is not common to find anyone who admits to liking them. I did once make wine with dandelion flowers at the suggestion of a winemaking book. The result was truly horrible. It had a flavour similar to some unpleasant medicine that I was doctored with as a child. I couldn't drink it. I eventually gave the whole gallon to a student friend because he claimed to like it. Strangely enough, he stopped coming to classes shortly after and we lost touch with him. I doubt if the wine was responsible for his dropping out, but I suspect that it was involved. Living with dandelions is not that hard. Leave them in the lawn and remove them from the vegetable garden and flower beds is my compromise.

Dandelions are one of the free riders upon human behaviour. There are many of these, birds like starlings, pigeons and sparrows, rodents like mice and rats. If people are the mechanism that grass uses to spread its genes to every continent (with the present exception of Antarctica), dandelions are inevitably carried with them. We give dandelions the best environment to live in - a lovely sunny lawn with gaps between the grass leaves into which a dandelion seed is evolved to parachute. If we really wanted to eliminate them, we should stop planting lawns at all. Lawns containing only one species are a doomed artifact of our obsession with controlling Nature. A monoculture that needs to be constantly patrolled and chemically treated for the invasion of dandelions and other plants and animals. The waste of resources is enormous.

My own lawn is a happy mess. To lie on my lawn is a pleasure today, surrounded by dandelion, violet, strawberry, and ground ivy flowers. The bees and other insects like them as well. In a few weekks the clover and ranunculus will bloom and then the whole garden will be abuzz. I have no problems with animals "ruining the lawn". If any plant can survive the weekly mowing except ragweed and poison ivy it is welcome to live in my lawn. The dandelions seem to do very well for the month of May and then retire. Other plants start to take over. It is a small ecology, showing competition and co-operation.

I think my neighbour hates me. The elderly man whose house backs onto mine has a Lawn Order kind of lawn. Regular mowing, weed'n'feed, watering, aerating, rollering and eliminating the inevitable dandelions with chemical weapons. One Spring he sneaked ten feet over the boundary to spray the dandelions in my lawn with herbicide. I suppose he thought that their spiral death agony over the next few weeks was invisible. I eat food grown right where he sprayed and even if it says that it is safe on the bottle, it's still poison. His later attempt to stop the dandelion encroachment by erecting a fence was pathetic. I don't think that chainlink will stop them, even if it has barbed wire along the top!

And thus the little irritations between neighbours continue. I like to have blank floors and flowers in my lawn. As long as it is sort of green and sort of level it's a happy place. You may like to have flowers on your carpets and a clean lawn. Congratulations! You have a hobby that will keep you occupied for life while struggling against the inevitable! The dandelion legions are on the move and they are coming for you!

Friday, May 17, 2013

News from Loon County - May 2013

Hi again D,

For a number of reasons we haven't yet made it for a visit to your place! Aargh...where does the time go?
We will definitely try to get up there next week, perhaps Wednesday or Friday.

My mother has had a chest infection which has used up a lot of my time and resulted in a trip to the Winchester Hospital emergency room, a lot of pills and inhalers (with varying results), doctors visits, and many trips to the pharmacy. She's getting better now, but for a while I thought she was going nuts - she started getting angry and abusive, thought she was dying and didn't sleep for 3 days. It now seems like this was in reaction to taking prednisone - I think the emergency doctor could have warned us! Mind you, knowing of your struggles with that drug, I might have questioned him giving it to an 83-year old woman...but after waiting 3 hours in the hospital I had just gone to the cafeteria to get her the inevitable cup of tea and missed the 60-second consultation. Sigh. I'm not complaining, I think 3 hours wait on Mother's Day is quite good...I just wished I wasn't there!

After the first antibiotic didn't work, her own doctor gave her a stronger one, along with a admonition to come in to the surgery more often - someone with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) should be monitored more closely. This is the first my mother appears to have heard of it. She never smoked, but my father was a chain smoker. Then it appears that the pharmacist had previously told her she wasn't using enough of one of her inhalers (should be every day) and she had been "saving it for when she's sick" which was precisely not the point of it. So, the system works, but the patient must be paying attention and perhaps interrogated to make sure they understand! After we got home, we made a daily schedule of pills, inhalers, mouthwashes, meals etc because she almost needs a smartphone app to integrate it all. Stuff that can't be with food, stuff that must be with food, stuff that interacts with dairy, stuff that can cause yeast infections and on and on. Hopefully now she's aware, we can manage better in future.  She is also on a regime of immuno-suppressants for her arthritis, so this isn't trivial.

I still think that the potential for mistakes and abuses of the medical system could be mostly fixed by proper data management thoughout. A text message to say take the red pill now sort of thing. When most people are sick they're not really capable of listening to the medical professional much less create a plan for medications...oh well. That's my "belief in Progress" talking...!

In other news, the chronic behind-with-the-house-and-gardening-chores guilt sensation has started again. I did manage to mow the lawn and hoe a few vegetable beds, and some of my seedlings are going out in hanging baskets etc. However, I have decided that I'll just grow peas, beans (3 varieties), broccoli, leeks, shallots and green onions). It didn't seem like much when I bought the seeds...those damn seed catalogues!

Work on the boat has been slow, while the weather was so cold. However, some things are coming together. I finished a new coat of varnish on the wood on the outside of the boat, and I am starting to do all the inside. This is going to take some time as there are about 15 wooden cupboards, but the results complete are wonderful! The interior has a lot of solid teak, which was not expensive back in the '70's unfortunately it was finished with teak oil, which goes all gluey over time and holds the dirt. The only good thing is that it comes off fairly easily. Some turkey did varnish about a third of the interior but did a terrible job, so that has to come off. I have been playing with incredibly expensive paint strippers and finally found one that (a) works quickly and in any temperature (b) doesn't dry up immediately and (c) will not poison me, as I need to use it inside the boat. I started with the normal expensive boating stuff ($100 a gallon) from the nice, smiling fellow at the Chandlery, but it didn't really do a good job. It claimed not to contain methyl chloride, (which is effective, but is highly toxic) but the smell of acetone was appalling. I am taking half a gallon of it to the hazardous waste dump tomorrow. I can't use it inside the boat, it's just nasty.

Anyway, so the next stop was Lee Valley, also a merry purveyor of expensive stuff for people with too much money and no sense of proportion ($30 garlic crusher, anyone?) They sell a paint stripper called Greensolv - of which I was suspicious, because of the "green" epithet. Greenwashing chemical products is big business. (But Leonard Lee says it is wonderful!) However, for $25 a litre (same price as the other) the stuff is effective, gives off few fumes and is, indeed, green in colour. I was told that I can paint it on, cover it with Saran wrap and it will get through multiple layers of paint of varnish. It does that. Even better, you don't have to scrape a jellified layer off, you can use water and a brush or rags. Hooray!

I am also repairing a coxed-four rowing shell that was run over some rocks last fall. There was a 10-foot split in the hull which is only made of two layers of glass fibre and glue.  (Luckily it wasn't one of the wooden boats, that would have to be written off with such damage.) The crew were sitting in water up to their bums by the time they got back to the dock! The cox who was driving it was white with fear - I think she thought she would be keel hauled or's been quite a process - patching it up. Fortunately I mended my own rowing shell last year so I know what to do. It has taken about 15 hours so far from a couple of us, but we're onto the final paint coats now. That is made more complex because it it our "cow boat" S-Moo-th Waters sponsored by the Dundas county dairy producers. (I think the father of one of our former members was a dairy farmer and got them to buy the paint). Anyway, it is a white hull with black Holstein-type splotches on it and causes excitement where ever we take it, so it has to be done. So it is 2 coats of white, then two coats of black on the patches - I just hope they are still visible at that point! More marine paint...! The Chandlery guys know me by name...

The rowing club is starting the Learn-to-Row course again next week, two evenings a week for 4 weeks. It is one of our most reliable fund-raising opportunities we get nearly $1500 from it and if we are lucky we get new members to join next year. We almost always have to turn people away. Strangely the club membership is always around 25-30 people, each year a few come and a few go.

We have built a new concrete foundation for the rowing dock and extended it so we can get more boats alongside and this year we have the brand new coxed four which we hope will win us some regattas. I'm not bothered myself, but there are a lot of people who are really driven to compete. I just want that "Participant" ribbon and the ability to keep on rowing.

The writers' group I mentioned last time is still going strong. Subjects have been "Music", "Pet Peeves" and "Morning Meditation". This latter topic was suggested by one of our number who is, shall we say, a believer in the invisible fairy government that runs things ineffibly in mysterious ways or something like that. She also has a huge and very obvious ego whilst presenting a prim and proper demeanour - the usual church-going annoyance. Our host, had been to the emergency room at Winchester hospital for a badly infected foot. Because he is a paraplegic he has no sensation, it can get very serious. The lady in question insisted that he should be wearing magnetic insoles in his shoes (that are purely decorative) and that this "therapy" would fix him right up. I, of course, rose to the bait and announced loudly that this advice was bogus and magnets were woo etc. Fortunately our host changed the subject before we came to blows!

"Morning Meditation" provoked some impressive free-association streams of consciousness. Apparently we are all seething masses of fury and resentment; mostly at cats.

I got to choose the next topic for writing, and I decided on Dandelions. As the subject came up in conversation between the Weed Slackers and the Lawn Fascists during the meeting, I thought Dandelions might prove an interesting subject. I had briefly considered "War", "Peace", "Religion", "Gun Control" or "Syria" or another such subject of trivial import. However it is obvious that people all feel strongly on one side of the Lawn Order issue and that the rest of you are irresponsible and Just Don't Get It™. Be warned, we are all nice and friendly now, even prepared to take tea together. At the end of the next session we will probably be unable to tolerate being under the same roof...

However, I was shocked to then receive an email from the Morning Meditations person trying to shut me up, saying that "even one doubter" might cause the gentleman to shy away from her idea. He is well-educated and, I am sure, reluctant to be the subject of unwanted and patronizing advice. Needless to say the email exchange after this, was, very interesting. I am not going to be told to shut up by anyone I know to be wrong. Crikey, magnets! In your shoes! To heal you! If you believe!

It's funny about these pseudo-scientific things. People never talk about the dose, or the possibility that if the therapy is indeed active, that it may also be harmful. I mean, what happens if you wear your magnetic insoles upside-down? There is like the movement a few years ago when a bunch of people got anxiety attacks about living near power lines, or Our Children in School! Under Hydro Towers! Now it seem to be wind farms. No-one yet seems to recognize the Menace of Magnets in Our Shoes. I am probably being churlish but I think these people deserve ruthless mockery. Although there was a British psych-doctor on the radio who made me feel a bit unkind, when he said that although wind farms (or insert your unreasoning fear here) were not actually harmful in themselves, they are harmful to people who have convinced themselves that they are being harmed. He called it the nocebo effect, contrary to the placebo effect, I guess. He also said that people who have these beliefs, hold them very sincerely but almost inevitably drop them only to pick up another anxiety and that they can experience many very unpleasant physical symptoms. People are insanely complicated, or perhaps complicatedly insane, or even simply insane. Perhaps us sane people should be locked up in protective custody!

Many of the writers' group including the host, are members of a local choir 35-strong. Don and I took my mother, her 97 year-old neighbour and a friend to their end of season concert. It was pretty good, in one of the local churches with decent acoustics. The 97 year-old lady is a famous personality. She herself sang in this choir up to the age of 92. She was a music teacher in Montreal many years ago and was in a choir with Oscar Peterson when he was young! Then she married a church minister and went to live in Nova Scotia. Her daughters (both in their 70's) took away her car last year - she was a menace to society, having mini-strokes that rendered her temporarily blind etc. Now she terrorizes the village with an electric scooter. My mother is very impatient with her, I think because she is so independent. It is unfortunate, but my mother is so selfish that she doesn't seem to feel that she could help Muriel, with shopping, going to the library or going to appointments etc. Sigh, old people, behaving badly. Anyway, enough compaints about my family!

How are you? I see that you will have visitors this coming weekend, so perhaps we'll come up next week. We'll give you a call.


Sue & Don.

Discreditable senate appointments

Dear Mr. Lauzon,

I am writing to complain about the disturbing behaviour of the Prime Minister's Office in regard to the Senate scandal about expense claims.

It is not believable to me that a person like Senator Duffy couldn't find, or borrow, the money to replace his expenses claimed (possibly) in error. The bail out by the Prime Minister's chief-of-staff is a dreadful mistake. It leads to the perception of impropriety, and the branches of Canadian government should be above reproach.

The Conservative government has made much about ethical behaviour and accountability, more than just following the letter of the law. This was important in rebuilding the party after the Mulroney years.

One is often judged by the company one keeps. The Conservative government is being rightly pilloried in the press for bad judgement in picking senators who have discredited to the party.

I can honestly say that I am shocked.

Yours sincerely

Dear Susan,

Thank you for writing to my office regarding the repayment of Senator Duffy’s living expenses to taxpayers. I always appreciate hearing the concerns of my constituents on matters that are important to them.

I can assure you I do not believe that taxpayers should be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators. Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.  Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount. The independent external audit by Deloitte looking into Senate expenses was completed and the results tabled. Due to the controversies surrounding Senator Duffy’s improper expense claims, the Senator made the decision to resign from the Conservative Caucus and sit as an independent.

Once again, thank you for writing.

Best regards,

Guy Lauzon
Member of Parliament
Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry

Dear Mr. Lauzon,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

I am sorry, it is not believable that a person of Senator Duffy's status and income could not immediately borrow such funds from a Canadian bank to cover the shortfall. If he could not, the taxpayer was not "on the hook" for this - it is still his responsibility. I am ignoring the possibly misleading statement that was made to the press, that Senator Duffy and his wife had decided to pay back the money. I am also ignoring for now, the idea that someone else, in any other occupation, would be suspended without pay and possibly facing police charges.

I expect the government of Canada to be held to the same or hopefully better standards of behaviour than this. I happen to know, and as you probably know yourself, Mr. Lauzon, that when a new senator or MP is brought into Parliament, there is an extensive orientation and briefings explaining what is allowed and what is not (and the reasons for that).

I am very sorry, that you appear to have to defend this type of behaviour, as I believe that you are a person of unimpeachable honesty and you do a great deal of good work in our community!

Yours sincerely

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stopping LinkedIn emails

Hi K,

You asked how to get out of LinkedIn. You can try changing your account so you don't get any messages or you can close your account.

To change your message options:

Sign in to LinkedIn - here

If you cannot remember your password, click on the "Forgot password?" link. You will be sent an email to reset your password which will allow you to sign in.

After you have signed in, there is a drop down menu on your name at the top of the page. Mine says "Sue Welsh v". Mouse over that and click on the "Settings" to go to the Setting page.

At the bottom left of this page, are a set of menu tabs: Profile, Communications, Group (and stuff) and Account. Click the Communications item. It will expose the following menu:

Emails and Notifications

  • Set the frequency of emails
  • Set push notification settings

Member Communications

  • Select the types of messages you're willing to receive
  • Select who can send you invitations
Click the "Set the frequency of emails" item which will switch you to a page with the controls to turn off emails.

There are a bewildering set of apparently similar items. You can set them all to "No email".

You can also close your account if you want to do this.

Sue W.
p.s. Most social networks or websites with logins have an equivalent function. They don't really want to annoy you! They have help pages that are useful, but they are often confusing if you don't understand the language or what is happening behind the scenes.


St Lawrence Rowing

Test content from SLRC