Saturday, January 27, 2018


We should be grateful that authors for whatever reason are able to dig up forgotten history.  Some gets buried because it might seem trivial or non relevant.  Some gets buried for other reasons.  "Killers of the Flower Moon" contains elements that should be remembered.  We are aware of discrimination against indigenous people, but it is easily dismissed.  The FBI  is revered today, but was heavily involved in politics and cover-ups.

The title comes from an Osage memory.  In April small flowers start to bloom, but in May under a large moon, larger flowers cut off the smaller plants that then die.  Hence the larger flowers are the killers of the flower moon.

The book focuses on a series of murders that happened between 1921 and 1926.  That is, the first part of the book does.  It was a national concern, but there was a preliminary and a followup to what was publicly viewed.

The Osage Indians had been forced to move a few times in their history.  Like other Indian tribes they got in the way of settler ambitions.  When they were located to Oklahoma they were clever enough to ask for mineral rights.  A few years later oil was produced in a big way.  The likes of John Paul Getty participated.  They were given headstone rights which meant they derived a portion of the oil revenues that in fact made them the richest per capita group in America.  One catch was that the majority of them had guardians that restricted their spending.

Many of the murders were first thought of as suspicious deaths.  In fact the death rate for the Osage who were very wealthy was well above the national average.  Some of the murders were more conventional including shootings and bombings.  Many of the suspicious deaths turned out to be poisonings.  Local law enforcement seemed incapable of determining who was responsible.  Intimidation, prejudice and bribery all played a role.

The F.B.I. was under J. Edgar Hoover who was very anxious to prove the justification and expand bolstering of his agency.  They had had failures.  The Osage murders were botched at first and because of national attention Hoover was determined to sort it out.  There were jurisdiction issues which were bent a little at times.  J. Edgar was fastidious in his expectations always wanting to improve the image of his agents.

He called in Al White, a former Texas Ranger, who was willing to put in the necessary effort to unravel available facts.  Undercover agents were used.  It took countless details to realize the many hidden connections.  At last there was a conviction and it was revealed the motivation was to gain the headstone rights.

The author visited the area several times and checked out sources in other parts of the country. Talking to some of the descendants of the victims he realized the mystery had not really been solved.  He became almost certain a particular banker was heavily involved in some of  the deaths.  He realized there were many deaths that were not explained.

We all love a good mystery and this book provides an enjoyable read, but it also highlights the unfair treatment indigenous people have had to endure.  It also lets a little light on how the F.B.I. got established.  David Grann writes a good narrative backed by some meticulous research.  I saw a movie based on his "Lost City of Z" which was about uncovering an ancient Amazon civilization.  You can find out about his other books and projects at

Sunday, January 21, 2018

the Brain drain from"shithole" countries

It was an American millionaire who once said "I can buy smarts."  In fact that is literally what good managers and business owners do.  That is of course if they want to be successful.  Businesses are run for profit and these days the focus is on short term profits.  Nations on the other hand can afford to and should want to take a long term view.

Politicians need to get votes for the next election or there will be no long term career in elective office.  If they detect fear for instance of darker guests they can exploit that fear. The erroneous argument is often based on the potential or perceived loss of status.  Donald Trump understands what motivates voters and has surrounded himself with narrowly focused bigots.

Emotional intelligence is used more effectively by some than others.  It allows a person to "read" another with regards to such things as their loyalty, reliability and other traits better and thereby "manage" them more effectively.  Successful politicians are the masters.

It is not the person at the very bottom of the ladder who emigrates.  It takes money, connections, and knowledge to emigrate.  Often skilled professionals and tradespeople feel they can do better for themselves and for their families in another country.  Of course many are satisfied with their status at their homeland and feel the ties of relationships.

At another level there are people who work hard, but don't get anywhere.  They are ambitious, family oriented, etc.  Sometimes they will do something desperate.  Refugees are on the run because of scary circumstances, such as violent political or criminal actions or natural upheavals

Let's face it, most western countries are aging.  They will need people to take care of the old. They will also need people to do the distasteful jobs their citizens don't want.  We all need economic activity to keep our pensions viable.

From another point of view a poor country needs to value its human resources.  They may applaud the success of one of their former citizens in America, but in reality that person could help boost national prospects in their birthplace.   One of my favourite movies "Swades" is about the conflict a successful space engineer from India who realizes his home country can use his talents.  He enjoys the challenges of the American space program and the lifestyle that goes with it, but feels part of his life is not as it should be.

Of course many immigrants send money back to their homeland and some will revisit and help in different ways.  It is natural to want to help the people from back home.

Still taking in an immigrant is a way of stealing.  Regardless of the original motive every human being has value and it is in the interest of others to develop it.  Many receiving countries denigrate newcomers and fail to develop whatever talents have been brought.  Sometimes the stealing is more obvious when a talented individual such as a star athlete or proven surgeon is tempted by the "good life," but even a lowly labourer who outperforms the lazy native is a steal, although not acknowledged as such.  The West needs a wide range of people with low skills to do work the rest of us avoid (by getting more education, etc).

Of course it can be argued that foreign students get educated to new skills in western countries and often take those skill back home.  There is a trade off as we get their money and usually good will.  We all benefit when knowledge spreads.

Among the desirable immigrants there are certain to be many that are less desirable even criminal. And even more there are many that find adaptations are more difficult and go astray.  If we examine our own culture we would learn that many people are unhappy with their status.

I recall Tucker Carlson disputing the notion that "our strength is diversity" by claiming our strength is unity.  When everyone thinks the same way unity is easy, but everyone thinking the same way is not the way to strengthen your unity.  That comes from accepting new ideas and looking for common ground.  Humans from diverse backgrounds have more basic commonalities than our prejudices and biases allow us to realize.

There are something like 65 million refugees in the world.  Some of them might be classified as economic refugees and many of those can indeed improve our economy.   On the other hand many fear for their lives.  Amongst my ancestors were Mennonites who fled Europe for  religious reasons.  Some of their descendants went to Canada.  I suspect most of them felt a struggle when they decided they might do better in the new world.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

What happens to farm animals when humans convert to veganism

I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, but like some others have been consciously reducing my meat intake.  Why is that?  Health is a concern and veganism has lot to commend itself.  Animal cruelty bothers an increasingly urban population.  In addition livestock are a very significant contributor to global warming.

Economics will trump everything when the price of meat increases faster than average incomes.   Read about a partial vegan diet,

Attitudes towards animals varies a great deal depending on whether you are urban or rural.  One of my jobs helped me appreciate the differences:

The bigger trend has been as people do have more money they prefer to eat meat.  Flavor, prestige and protein all factor in.  Urbanization encourages sensitivity for animal cruelty while at the same time it also desensitizes citizens removed from their ancient farming history.

Industrial farming has found ways to breed more animals on less real estate and converting forest resources to farming which is increasingly for grains to feed animals.   We are not getting our calories and proteins in the most economically efficient way.  For the wealthy it doesn't matter, but increasingly for the rest of us it will matter.

Unless demographic trends and attitudes change it is inevitable that meat will eat up more of our financial resources and once again become a luxury item.  If we get better control over fossil fuel's contribution to climate change, someone is sure to notice that farm animals are a huge contributor.

What will we do with the excess number of pigs, cows, sheep, etc?  Working with pet people concerned about homeless cats I learned of  neutering programs.  Feral cats were captured, neutered and then released  We don't really want a lot of pigs and cows running around the streets, but possibly a few will be seen as pets.  There has also been a trend to stop animals being tested for chemicals and behavior.

There is much concern about over population in the world and that refers almost exclusively to humans.  We pollute, waste resources.  Throw in overpopulated animals and we have to find ways to control our finite resources.  Of course someone will pipe up and say as we need to we will find a way.

There will be a sort of war at a bacterial level.  Wild animals and pets and domestic farm animals have all played a role in human diseases.  Hunters are given an opportunity to kill animals when authorities determine there are too many.  When some diseases threaten to go epidemic authorities order killings on a large scale

Just throwing out some ideas about what is very likely to draw more attention in coming years.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Starting 2018 in New Zealand

During my vacation in New Zealand Canada has been undergoing a cold spell as well as a lot of snow.  I am wearing shorts as I write this, because I would look pretty foolish in long pants. This is not just in resort areas, but downtown Auckland..

The first two days of the year most businesses are shut down.  We explored a number of sites in Auckland.  Right near our son's residence is Mt Wellington which you can drive up about 2/3 of the way where they have created a parking lot in the crater.  We climbed a little higher and got a view.  Met a visitor from Cape Town, South Africa.  We visited the Michael J Savage Memorial which we had last seen in winter.  We visited a rose garden and then the Winter Gardens.  A visit to a Chinese restaurant, Cafe BBQ Duck with the fastest service and good food.  Checked out downtown and to the waterfront.  Western Springs is one of my favorite spots with a variety of birds.  Eels might not be thought of with anything less than squirmy feelings, but visitors feed them and enjoy watching them.

A trip to Hamilton, New Zealand was originally planned as a sort of namesake exploration, however attempts to find a T shirt with Hamilton on it failed and I settled for a hat.  On the plus side we took more photos at the Hamilton Gardens than at any other venue on the whole trip.  We ate at Iguana.  On a Side trip to Pokeno found the best ice cream deal.

Our trip furthest up north on New Zealand ended at Paihia.  Walked by a used book store and found a long sought for book in Whangerei at The Piggery.  Another interesting restaurant--Shiraz--also bought some sweets including ladoo which I only heard of from the movie "English Vlingish," but found delicious.

A bucket list item was to attend a Maori ceremony and hangi.  Rain threatened to spoil the fun, but in the end it was even better.  Mr Busby entertained us with  a tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and later for the hangi feast.  Two performances were great.  There was a lot of rain and also a power failure, but it was handled very well.  The second half of the second concert was performed in the eating area with an inspiring song to end.  The photo at the top is the two of us posing with some of the performers.  We were urged to talk to strangers and had good conversations with a couple from Perth, Australia and another from Germany.  The original treaty was signed and enforced under deception, but in fact the Maoris were seeking protection from other foreign nations and wanted to boost trade.  The British were not too concerned that not all chiefs signed as they felt they only needed a few to claim sovereignty.

We stayed in Paihia for only one night, but at a great motel--Admiral's View Motel.   The next day was rainy and blustery and we had to cancel our cruise.  Weather has been kind to us, but any traveler risks having the weather intervene.  We could be home shoveling snow.

Back to our Auckland base we ended up with a new experience for us at the Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ Buffet.  Many of my readers have probably had a similar experience, but if you haven't look for one nearby.  You get to select from a wide variety of items to be stir fried.  The one we visited was in Manukau City. A train ride into downtown Auckland leads to a most entertaining walk up and down Queen St which could be favorably compared to Toronto's Yonge St.

The Maritime Museum gave a history of boats from the Maori migrations to New Zealand winning the America's Cup.  Large (and small) boats on display.  Saturday night at the Pakuranga Mall was quite the experience.  More packed than the previous Saturday.  This time had Malaysian street food and a Japanese crepe.

We were told to get up early Sunday morning and that there was a restaurant reservation for 1:00 pm.  We guessed wrong.  First stop was strawberry picking.  Next we spent time at a reserve in Muriwai where we were mesmerized with a colony of gannets that seemed to soar on unique air currents. A para sailor was inspired and amazed us with how high he could sail in the wind.

The 1:00 reservation was another unique restaurant experience.  At Sun World Chinese Restaurant in Newmarket, an Auckland suburb carts were brought around to a table and you chose which items to eat.  I am not sure of every delicious thing I ate, but for the first time I tried chicken feet which were enjoyable.  This was Hayley's gift, telling us she remembered her grandparents liked to dine like this on Sundays.  She did the ordering in Chinese while checking for any preferences.

Afterwards we visited Mt Eden and later One Tree Hill with spectacular views.  They remind us that Auckland is built on volcanoes.

One of our holiday habits is to eat mostly at restaurants and for dinner we chose a Mexican restaurant called Mexico at the Sylvia Park Mall and afterwards took in a movie.  We were still full from dinner and I had been told that Mexican restaurants in New Zealand were not really very Mexican, but we were all pleased.

On our last full day in Auckland Michael delivered on his Christmas present which was a dinner at the Sky City Tower restaurant, Orbit.  Heights frighten me, but the view was terrific. The Sky City Tower is not nearly as tall as the CN Tower, but it has one feature that attracts attention:  Jumpers.  We saw about 3 while we were there, but only for about a second.  The food was among the best we ate anywhere, anytime.  Below the dining level we indulged in what is becoming a favorite ice cream flavour, feijoa-pear sorbet by Kapiti.

Last day still another new experience.  We were driven to Mt Eden and had a Chinese noodle dinner and after that we went to Huluku Bubble Tea where you were given the choice of various teas with various condiments-- I had a Mango slushy milk tea with lychee jelly--wonderful.

My favorite restaurants tend to be Asian and New Zealand has more than its share.  That means I got to practice my chop stick technique.  Still pretty crude, but I make it work although it does also help slow down my fast eating.

The feijoa fruit has become a new obsession for me.  Apparently the actual fruit is only available for a limited time and I have missed that limited time on both my trips.  In the meantime I have eaten it as an ingredient in cereal, drinks, pastry, sorbet (really distinctively good) and even a sparkling wine.

Reading has always been an important part of my vacations.  I finished a Jane Austen book, "Northanger Abbey" and then bought "See you In September' by Charity Norman and while waiting for some other books started "The Husband's Secret," by Liane Moriarty.   After picking up two more Charity Norman books I started "Freeing Grace."  More on my new author discovery:

Traveling back and forth across 18 (or is it 16 depending on who is on daylight savings) time zones, as well as changing hemispheres is energy draining.  Actually watched the Toronto Raptors live on tv win in overtime before leaving for the Auckland airport.  The trip home seemed drudgery, but not without movies, some interesting conversations, some reading.  Our shuttle driver Caesar was back with his sense of humor.  Apparently he had been away almost as long as us and missed most of the really bad weather.

Now back to reality, but with a lot of good memories and souvenirs.  My favorite souvenirs are the photos.

For the first part of our trip in 2017 check  To read about an experience I took with me:

2017 Another year to remember

The main purpose of the year end blog is to savour all the good times.  It might seem strange to start off with some obituaries, but it is my way of remembering people who impacted my life in a positive manner.

Katherine Finn, mother to Barry Finn, and a former boss of mine.  She was a peacemaker and an animal lover  After we had parted company (she played no role in that) I was very stunned at a surprise 60th birthday party I received a well thought out gift--ironically a book from Stuart McLean.  She will be missed.  Her obituary

Stuart McLean is someone I remember listening to on the radio.  At first as a guest on Peter Gzowski's show.  In the beginning he seemed to be telling funny stories, but in a way that made them funnier.  Later I caught onto the Vinyl Cafe.  Once I was able to attend one of his traveling shows when it hit Hamilton Place.  Another thing from the radio and this one live appearance was that he was always trying to give new talent a chance.  He first encountered the female singing duo, Dalla when they were busking.

Glen Campbell died after suffering Alzheimer's  I am not much of a country music fan, but I spent my last two years of high school in a rural area and more critically went to the University of Guelph with a heavy contingent of Aggies, some of whom became friends and it was a Sunday nite ritual to watch Glen.  It was impossible not to enjoy him.

Around the Bay Race 5 km.  Sharon with the encouragement of our son has taken a liking to running.  This year OKD sponsored a team and she joined.   8 minutes from back of the pack to the starting line

Gwynne Dyer, my favourite newspaper columnist was at Hamilton Public Library see:

I missed most of Doors Open Hamilton because of time conflicts.  A highlight I did manage to see was the Digital Canaries Film Studio.  They provided sets for tv shows and movies.  They had a mock White House for interviews.  Also mock court room, jail cells, hospital rooms, etc.

Michael and Haley visited us from New Zealand.   Michael made several out of town visits with Haley to show some of the more interesting points in Ontario (and New York and Washington).  We had several family gatherings.  One of the hi-lites for me was provided by my daughter Heather when as a part of a family dinner she included a marshmallow roast. Another pleasant surprise was a meal prepared by Michael and Hayley to thank their hosts.

MM Robinson Get Together is getting to be an enjoyable routine.  7 members turned 65 this year and decided to celebrate together.  Guests came from South Carolina, Washington State and different parts of Ontario

Super crawl was mostly (not entirely)missed because of a prior commitment, but was as busy as ever.

Took in "A Few Good Men" at Theatre Aquarius

The AGH BMO Film Fesitval--watched the trailer show and one film, "Lady MacBeth."

My Superwalk for Parkinson's Canada was a little more successful (thanks to some Facebook friends).  I had my photo taken by a fountain in Gage Park that an old friend Don Heroux had done some fundraising for.

The Royal Winter Fair provided a moment I cherish.  Several years ago I met Shelley Peterson in Collingwood when she was just launching her writing career with a young adult novel for horse riders.  Not much contact in the meantime, but it turned out she had written the tenth novel in the series and was launching it at the Royal.  I came down to take a photo for The Rider.  First I had a brief chat with her husband David, former Premier of Ontario.  When she first saw me she remembered we had met in Collingwood ten years ago.

We decided to visit Michael for the Christmas holidays.  Getting used to a southern hemisphere holiday meant a bit of an adjustment.  Just so, New Zealand is such a beautiful country and we were fortunate Michael wanted to show it off and Haley was very supportive.  It is beautiful (and warm).  Lots of highlights, both natural and man-made.  Read more at:

Instead of hosting a New Years Eve party (a tradition of 20 some odd years) we enjoyed the music and fireworks at Sky City in Auckland.

Restaurants--  In case anyone visits Hamilton these are a few of my favourite restaurants that I enjoyed.  Limoncello on Ottawa St.,   Gate of India, Wild Orchid, Lake Road, and further down James St S  Wass with Ethiopian cuisine and Bar on Lock.  A new one for me was Spring Grill, a Korean restaurant on Upper James.

In New Zealand in one day two restaurants highly recommend:  In Tauranga we tried Thai Thani2 and were pleased with both the service and the food.  A few hours later we were at Kumar's in Paeroa and were struck with the service and the food.  Musashi in Milford and Portofino in Howick were both delicious and had really good service.

Watching movies are one my favourite activities.

Books take more energy, but also can give a good reward.   Here are some my favourites for the year:

My two most popular blog posts were book reviews.

This post was delayed while I finished my vacation in New Zealand (more on that next year and with a separate post.  Much thanks to Chelsea Rolph taking care of our house and more importantly Oscar and Izzy.

You can read my year end review from last year.

Ending 2017 in New Zealand

We had planned for almost half a year for a trip to New Zealand to spend our Christmas  holidays with our son.  Getting somewhere is always a part of the story.

A big part of the trip is the weather.  Global warming or climate change has become part of our lives, but even so as winter approached us in Canada we were hopeful we might not have to deal with the snow and the cold.  A fairly mild fall seemed promising, but remembering other years we decided rather than chance a risky trip to the Toronto Airport we would spend the nite before in a Toronto hotel and take a shuttle over.  As it turned out our instincts saved us from a high tension drive to the airport and shoveling and freezing.

We woke up on the second day of official winter to a fairly heavy snow storm.  A much better trip to the airport came with the Comfort Inn shuttle.  The driver had a good sense of humour.  We arrived good and early.  We thought we had things under control by going through security well ahead of time,but it turned out we got confused before realizing our boarding gate was in the opposite direcion requiring a lengthy walk involving two flights of down escalators and two flights of up escalators.  A five hour flight was delayed about an hour and was a trial run for our trip across the Pacific

Arriving in Vancouver we met an old friend, Bob Stone.  I have told many that my closest friend lived over 3,000 miles away.  I met Bob a little before grade 7 with Cub Scouts that neither of us belonged to for very long.  Our friendship really developed in grade seven, but we went to different high schools, then I moved for two years to a rural area about a two hour drive away.  At the time of the move we had quarreled and it seemed like that was the end of it all.  Bob was very disciplined and had bought a car while still in high school to have his own independence.  He drove and I hitch-hiked  ( ) and our friendship survived.  When it came time to choose universities he chose Queen's (for its engineering program) and I chose Guelph because it seemed to have a unique system.  We kept in touch and for a year or two he actually occasionally visited me while he really visited his girl friend Adrianne who attended Waterloo.  She eventually transferred to Queen's.  We spent a lot of adventures together which might be a subject for another set of blogs.  After I graduated my first job was in Barrie, Ontario and I ended up boarding with Adrianne's parents.

We each were the other's best man when we got married. Years later Bob ended up in Vancouver while my life revolved around Ontario.  Years pass and contact thinned out.  A brief revival when our son Michael went to University of Victoria on Vancouver Island.   For one of our visits Bob actually was working on Vancouver Island and for another he ferried over to Nanaimo and we had a trip together to Tofino with an interesting side trip at Bob's suggestion to Coombs.         .

All this to make our meeting in Vancouver a little more meaningful for us.  Adrianne trying to get ready for Christmas (it was on December 22nd) joined us at the airport and helped guide us to a Bill Reid sculpture that used to be on the Canadian $20 bill.  Visiting them years earlier I had been interested in the Haida culture and later on one of our trips to visit our son we had seen the sculpture. Anyhow that was mostly an excuse to catch up.

The Vancouver Airport impressed us as at first it seemed more casually friendly but had a lot of unique features including a Haida theme that still interested me.  The stop over lasted a few hours, but we next launched the trip across the Pacific.

My experience traveling is fairly limited, but Air New Zealand made an aggravating long, inevitably cramped flight into a positive part of the trip. Every airplane has the problem of finite space limiting their ability to make a profit.  Air New Zealand worked hard to provide a positive experience.  Their staff was most helpful.  We enjoyed the food and the wine included in the fare.  I had watched the web site and looked forward to watching a number of movies.  After psyching myself to watch the movies I was at first put off that my seat which we upgraded to have more leg room didn't have a seat in front of it to provide a screen on its back.  It turned out that by hiding a flat screen (and also an eating tray) in the left arm rest I was able to see my movies.  On an air flight there has to be communication with the flight staff and several times our viewing was interrupted to give us some useful information.   Their inflight safety instructions are based on a humorous video.  We had a few interesting conversations with the staff and one fellow passenger, Tom who was visiting his sister in Wellington.  He was from England, but had been living in Vancouver for about a year.

Some of the first things we visited were at natural parks in Auckland.  We visited areas called reserves and went for a walk.  Haley pointed what locals call New Zealand Christmas trees.  Much closer to my son's home is the Panmure Basin.  More trees, birds and we stumbled on a very nice hotel. (a future resource?).

Christmas in the southern hemisphere presents some challenges.  A lot of our northern themes are based on snow and early darkness.  Consequently few Christmas lights are seen but Michael took us to a neighborhood that has taken up the challenge--Franklin St in downtown Auckland.  A lot of creativity on display.

Christmas was a quiet private affair.  Sharon and I agreed this trip was our present for each other.  Skyped with Heather back in Ontario at a family gathering.  We had brought a few gifts from back home.

I wasn't sure if they celebrated Boxing Day, but they certainly do. Sharon and I ended up at Sylvia Park Mall and it was crowded.  We ended up buying gifts for two nieces and one future nephew as well as ourselves and a few others.  Very impressive mall.

Next we were driven to Tauranga (fifth largest city in New Zealand) with a few interesting stops along the way.  Owharoa Falls and an Oceana Gold abandoned minefield in Wahi.  Bought some souvenirs. Only went up Mt Maunaganui part way and marveled at the sheep grazing.  In Tauranga itself we found Thai Thani 2 near the water with very good food and service.  Later in Paeroa we felt ignored in our first restaurant and moved further down the street to get very good service from Kumar's with nice touches in the food. The chef came out to clarify one of our requests.  They kindly played my favorite Tamil song that is number 1 wih my iTunes list on their video machine.

We became aware of Waiheke Island on our previous visit and in the meantime developed a keen interest   It turns out to be more interesting once we arrived.  It is larger than we realized and has a lot of natural beauty.  Apparently it has a population of about 8,000 year round, but in the summer holiday season (January) it blooms to about 40,000.  It is a 35 minute ferry boat from Auckland and about 2,000 commute for work.  We went on our first wine tour and were taken for tasting to three wineries, including one certified organic. Apparently organic does less harm to your body.  We ate at the last one, Passage Rock outdoors.  Our group came with people from Britain (parents visiting a daughter who also came), three long term women friends coming for a wedding and two women from New Jersey.  The tour guide, Grant told us he felt dairy was cruel for cows, but ate dairy anyway while feeling guilty.  A lot of good conversation.

Tramp tracking, a recently learned term took us up and down through bush and cliffs.  We also visited a world ranked olive oil business, Rangihoua and bought some of their products.   Finished off our second Waiheke day at Red Crab Thai overlooking water.  They were about to close, but kept open for us and some others that came afterwards.

On a trip to Matakana we visited the Honey Center in Warkworth, and a nearby Donkey Sanctuary where we fed carrots to the four legged residents.  In Matakana we encountered very heavy traffic all headed to another Market and afterwards dined at the popular Rusty Pelican. On the way back we walked a trail at the Parry Kauri Park.  The Kauri tree is a remarkable huge tree that had been cut by early settlers almost to the point of extinction before it was appreciated for its unique versatility.  It is making a comeback.

One complaint from travelers is that they can't seem to get off the beaten path and learn what the locals really like.  Our son had discovered a local market after hours.  It was in the underground parking at a large plaza.  Exotic ethnic foods at very good prices as well as variety of merchandise.  Another day we went to a Sunday morning market in Takapuna and bought some more goodies.

New Years Eve was the first time in over 20 years we have not hosted a house party.  After dining at a restaurant (Portofino) we were dropped down by the Sky City, listening to some music (by Sons of Zion, a reggae band I now listen to) and wandering around over to Queen St.  Crowds everywhere with a focus to the midnite fireworks from the Sky City tower.  It was spectacular and I wish I knew how to use a better camera.

With my son and Haley as guides we found two more great restaurants; Misashi, with Japanese cuisine in Milford and later in the day at Portofino with Italian food in Howick.

It may seem like we are uncommonly lucky in our choices, but really that is misleading.  This is one of my more unique holidays largely because of the efforts of my son and his girlfriend Hayley.  They asked what we wanted, did research, made reservations and found some new treasures for us.  Hayley helped track down a book I was looking for.  We were driven around for hours.  One goal of a vacation is to enjoy new experiences and we certainly did that.  Some of my most memorable holidays have come about because a family member or close friend moved.  This is how we explored Halifax, Montreal, Victoria and Vancouver.  It is not without some pain, but people go where they have some sort of interest.  You renew your connection and gain a better understanding of some distant location.

To check out the other half of our vacation check:

Friday, January 5, 2018


Two issues have garnered a lot of attention lately and they are issues that need to be dealt with.  The first was over the removal of Confederate statues which had very definite racial overtones.  The second was the sexual harassment scandals that developed post Trump starting with Harvey Weinstein.  To repeat both of these issues are serious blots on society.  My concern is that we are quick to judge those who in effect got caught at the wrong time.

I admit that not every action or thought of mine from birth has been pure and could withstand all criticism.  I will hide behind Jimmy Carter who once was criticized for lusting in his heart.  Bad behaviour needs to be curtailed and perhaps the first step is to acknowledge it happens and identify the guilty.  Appropriate punishment or other action can then be decided.  With the right decisions society can move forward with benefits to everyone (including the guilty).

Every human being is limited by two things--their genetics and their environment.  We all know stories of people who have overcome what others would consider handicaps.  The majority of us follow a pattern for 90% of our actions and even the exceptions have much in common.

From birth we are taught right from wrong and where we fit in the status quo.  As a male I and most of my peers learned that men and boys played by different rules and in fact were more powerful physically and socially.  Some of us were taught some respect for the "weaker sex" and most of us were attached to our mothers and sisters.  At the same time sex and gender were treated differently in different cultures, but for the most part the male was dominant in critical ways.  The goal of most males has been to be a breadwinner, a protector, but also the decision maker.  Much of society has progressed, but much is still held back by the male ego.

The more powerful among us (those who didn't directly inherit our position) were motivated by the rewards of success--money, power and sex.  Many took short cuts and took unfair advantage of others. The indications of power are important to many; some by displaying wealth or dominating decisions.  Others are frustrated in their attempts to be accepted  All I am saying is that it is normal to take advantage of whatever leverage life has given you.  It is in society's interest to be fair.

One face saving device for many who don't quite get what they consider their fair share of the pie is to blame others.  Powerful men understand this and many encourage the blame game.  It is easy to point fingers at all sorts of outsiders as some sort of unfair constraint on their status.  We dismiss the merits of those we have come to hate, but we benefit when we better understand what makes others behave the way they do.

All humans strive for survival and then  acceptance.  For most of us it is parents who guide us, but soon other relatives join in and then there are "strangers."  Most of what we consider "normal" is subconscious.

Jesus said "let him who is without sin throw the first stone."  Newt Gingrich was prepared to judge Bill Clinton while he was carrying on a adulterous affair.

In all our relations with other humans the first priority should be respect as in reality they are very much like we are.  As much as possible we should try to understand what they are about.  Of course we have to do what we can to prevent harm.

The world is a scary place, mainly because we do not really understand one another.  We spot differences and too often assume they are a sign of inferiority while we fail to notice the many similarities we share.

I am not saying it is wrong to condemn racist or sexual harassing behavior, but that we should examine the problem and look for solutions.  One commentator suggested that punishment has had an effect on sexual harassment while others are saying the solution is training.  The training to my way of thinking is to reset the unconscious cultural background and subject to subjective thinking.  Torgy Segerstedt, a Swedish journalist before and during WWII once said "No human can withstand close scrutiny."  Lets let the non sinner throw the first stone while the rest of us should look for solutions to the problem (which might carry some punishment as a deterrent)..

It is an ongoing battle to be fair all the time.  In an earlier blog I dealt with my own inadequacy.