Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ratty not a Muskrat

Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, written early in the last century, is one of the best-loved children's books. In 2003 it was voted one of the UK's top 21 books in the BBC's Big Read. Some folk think that Ratty in the Wind in the Willows is a muskrat. Wrong! Ratty, contrary to what his name may imply, is a British water vole, a distant relative of his cousin from across the pond.

This muskrat was spotted in a marshy area leading to a rain runoff collector pond in one of the newest suburbs in London, Ontario. The culvert under the nearby major roadway, seen at bottom right, gives the muskrat quite the large range.

But if Ratty wasn't a muskrat, don't worry. The muskrat still has made it into pop culture. Are you old enough to recall The Captain and Tennille and their hit single Muskrat Love? No? Well, check out the YouTube video of Toni Tennille.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pipeline Serving 350,000 Ruptures

The damaged pipe sits off to the side as workers finish the pipeline repairs.
A 48-inch pipeline runs for 48-km through Southwestern Ontario carrying water from Lake Huron north of Grand Bend to Arva on the north edge of London, Ontario. Early Monday morning that pipeline broke, pressure dropped in the line and a small pond formed near the village of Mount Carmel.

Tuesday the break, which affected two sections of pipe, was repaired. By afternoon the line was being refilled and would then be flushed to return it to full operation by sometime that night.

London, Ontario, and area is growing and the pipeline is admittedly overtaxed both in volume of water carried and by the velocity of the water being transported. The line has been partially twinned and this break has underlined the importance of finishing the twinning job.

Full story on Digital Journal.

Monday, March 29, 2010


A simple sculpture dresses up the exterior of a new apartment building.
There's a new apartment building in downtown London, Ontario. It was built as an upscale place to live but it is getting mixed reviews. A retired gentleman told me that he and his wife considered moving there but when they saw the apartment that was in their budget range, it was far too small. It made them feel claustrophobic, he said.

Today I was downtown and noticed that a large piece of art has been hung at the corner of the building. The place does keep trying.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting Ready for Spring

Spring is here. Winter is gone. It's time to get the snow tires taken off and stored safely until next winter. Stroll through the neighbourhood and you'll see lots of signs of spring --- like these two brothers washing their twin motorcycles.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wanna Play?

It looks like the little ones at the Saturday learn to swim class at the London Aquatic Centre are learning more than how to swim; They're learning how to share.

Little Miss Baby on the right was struggling not to cry. Dad, a certified lifeguard, loves the water and Little Miss Baby found it hard to share dad's enthusiasm. But when little Mr. Baby was near, the little girl's tears stopped. The little baby girl loves other babies; She smiles and laughs on seeing herself in the hallway mirror --- finding a cute baby at the pool with whom to share a moment was a real bonus.

Before leaving the pool dad checked out little Miss Baby's mammalian diving reflex; Babies are supposed to naturally hold their breath when submerged. Miss Baby passed the test and without any tears.

Ann Coulter Again

Ann Coulter at book signing in London, Ont.
I don't do this often but this lady gave a talk in London and made a lot of waves, which is not unexpected if you know anything about Ann Coulter.

She then went to Ottawa where her talk was cancelled and a lot of media reports have made it sound as if she were prevented from speaking. I made some calls to people in the newspaper industry and discovered the general feeling was the protests were small and pretty mild. I called the Ottawa police for the straight goods. Please read the following and then mentally let Canada off the hook for the Ann Coulter brouhaha.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter was in the middle of a Canadian tour this week to promote her new book. After a stop in London, ON, Coulter headed to Ottawa. Ahead of the Ottawa appearance, however, Coulter's security detail informed her it may not be safe to speak and so the event was cancelled. Since then, Coulter has publicly lashed out at organizers and officials in Ottawa over the way she has been treated.

Despite media reports and angry words from Coulter, Ottawa police say they did not shut down the event. I spoke directly with Alain Boucher, Ottawa Police Services media relations officer, who said, "It was a decision by organizers and her own security." He said, in no uncertain terms, "We didn't shut it (the event) down."

Furthermore, there weren't thousands of protesters as has been reported by some media outlets. In fact, the best police estimate of the crowd size is 1,500 and that is everyone. Many in the crowd were there simply to hear Coulter speak and were not there to protest. Boucher refused to be drawn into estimating the exact number of protesters.

Cst. Alain Boucher
In addition, there was no mob nor riot. "We had no fears that anything would occur," Boucher said. "When asked to leave, [the crowd] all left." Boucher said with large crowds the police are always alert to changes in the group mood, but said the crowd did not get way out of hand and there were no arrests.

Boucher also said the Ottawa police took the protest seriously and were not undermanned. There were 10 officers visible at the scene, "plus other resources" nearby. There was "more than enough" police presence at the event. That said, the police, while taking care not to aggravate the situation, were also prepared to handle any possible escalation of crowd action.

Although it has been widely reported that police were monitoring Facebook and had informed Coulter's people of an apparent menacing tone in Facebook activity ("bring sticks, bring rocks") Boucher had no knowledge of any of this and could not supply  any Facebook links.

Boucher confirmed "no damage was reported."

Friday, March 26, 2010

No. 67

I think my favourite place for Chinese food in London, Ontario, is Kambie Chinese Restaurant at 375 Horton. I take my wife there occasionally, and although I do try something new now and then, I almost always order No. 67. This is the Sliced Beef with Black Bean Sauce on Chow Mein. Yum.

I should resist giving restaurant tips as the last one I gave came back to haunt me but I've taken a number of people there, some of whom have been quite knowledgeable about Chinese cuisine, and I have yet to get a complaint.

One of my guests with whom I shared a Kambie meal ordered sauteed tender squid and I groaned. "Who has ever had 'tender' squid?" I asked. Pink pearl eraser texture without the flavour is how I have always described squid.

Well, now I know the answer: I have. I had it at Kambie.

By the way if you do go, there is a wonderful, smiling lady by the name of Isma who is always there. I believe she is an owner. If you were to tell Isma the former photographer for The London Free Press sent you and you'd like to have the sliced beef with black bean sauce with a bowl of white rice, the same dish that he loves, she'd know exactly what to bring to you.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Speaks at the University of Western Ontario

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke in Alumni Hall at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Wednesday evening.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lost his battle with laryngitis Wednesday night at the University of Western Ontario. With his voice fading, Kennedy said, "I don't think I can talk anymore." For the full story see my take in Digital Journal

left: University of Western Ontario political science student Tiffany Santos stands beside Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who posed for pictures with students at a book signing after the question and answer session was cut short by his laryngitis.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

English Bulldog

It's an English bulldog. Somewhat squat and quite muscular, this is a dog with an intimidating appearance. And when it walked by me the first time, I gave it lots of room. And yet, I felt guilty, that dog seemed friendly, approachable.

The route I take for my daily stroll is a loop and it didn't take long for the English bulldog and me to cross paths again. This time I chatted with the owner and got permission to try for a picture. This dog was clearly affectionate, curious, and gentle.

Since taking this picture, I did some research and sure enough English bulldogs love people and bask in the attention caring owners gives them. Still, I wouldn't want to pull this particular fellow's tail.

Uh, they do have pullable tails, don't they?

Ann Coulter Spoke in London

When signing books for admirers, Ann Coulter can be downright charming.
The right-wing American firebrand Ann Coulter is making a three-stop Canadian tour and Monday night she spoke in London, Ontario.

For more information on the evening, see the Digital Journal: Ann Coulter claims she's the victim of a hate crime.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More pictures of doomed dome east of London

The geodesic-dome like ceiling above the main dining room still looks cool.
Yesterday I posted pictures from the open house held to celebrate the '60s domed Woodstock service centre on 401 east. Personally, I find it sad that this building, and the others like it, are all going to be razed --- there were a number built beside 401 back in the early '60s.

The men's washroom has a gently curved wall.
They were well built with geodesic-like domes and solid stone walls. I like to think that if buildings like this were maintained, added to and modified with care and imagination, they could continue to function in the present. Then, in a hundred years we'd have a few cool heritage buildings giving architectural witness to a time long past.

But no, we tear them down before they even hit 40. In a hundred years no one will know a thing about them. They will be truly and completely gone and a bit of our heritage will have died.

Check out the stone wall curving behind this lady enjoying a Tim's and a cigarette. I wonder what happens to the stones after the building is demolished.

At one time civilizations reused building materials. My guess is that this stone is destined for a dump.
The old Scott's Chicken Villa rest stop on 401 near Woodstock wasn't built with the look of a building to be demolished within four decades.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Doomed Dome

It was very futuristic, the look of tomorrow, when it opened in 1962. Today it is the dated look of yesterday.
The well known domed Woodstock service centre on 401 east is slated for closure. Saturday an open house was held, and some of the staff from the early years attended. One woman, Eunice Moore was 91. Another lady was much younger, but then she was only 17 when she worked for the colonel back in 1963. For the full story and more pictures see: Digital Journal - Doomed Domes.

It is hard to see the original Scott's Chicken Villa in the present building. The dome is still prominent, but the tall, antenna-like structure is gone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A great place to visit but . . .

Toronto-born Frank Gehry, has done his first building in Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The famous architect put a long expanse of slanted, reflective glass above the Dundas St. W. entrance to reflect the townhouses across the street.
Gehry used a lot of warm wood inside the AGO.
Many of us living in Southwestern Ontario have a love/hate relationship with Toronto. We love visiting the big city but we don't want to live there. Toronto has great theatres, athletic events, restaurants. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are wonderful places to spend a day.

Right now King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs is at the AGO.

King Tut is two hours from London.
The tickets are available online. Buy in advance online and when you walk in the door, you can immediately line-up for entry at the time on your ticket. It's pretty slick.

To go home, one gets on the Gardner Expressway or maybe the 401, and if it is rush hour you just about park your car on the expressway. The going is slow. It gives one a lot of time to consider why, "Toronto is a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there."

Art Gallery of Ontario

It's location, location, location --- or is it?

I always thought with real estate it was location, location, location. Well, this is the location of the upscale apartments featured yesterday.

On the right edge of the picture is the Men's Mission and in the foreground is a complex of storage units. I'll bet folk who live in the apartments rent space here as it's handy.

Between the storage buildings and the apartments run the Canadian National Railway tracks. This is the CNR mainline through London and it is heavily travelled.

And behind the Men's Mission at the CNR tracks, both men and women often gather to chum about. The London police seem to think of this more as loitering, or something, and are often there breaking it up and moving it on.

When my wife worked in the area I always had to pick her up after work because she was afraid to walk to her car. She feared the fellows who, when moved on from party-hardy-city, loitered in front of the door to her building.

This is not a criticism but an observation. I personally found the wording of the sign fastened to the side of the apartment building odd, but hey that's probably just me.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Love the sign

Love the sign: "Upscale 1 & 2 Bedroom for Lease." Admittedly, this is a good building and my wife, who worked in an office on the second floor, assures me it is very well maintained. Yet, let's be honest; This building, and the other two in the complex, is as dull as they come. Similar looking buildings in the States have been demolished with dynamite, dropped dramatically to the ground and the rubble carted away.

Come back tomorrow and I'll show you this "upscale" building's neighbourhood.

For now,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Somethings don't change

Somethings are the same the world over --- likes babies. And the lessons that babies can teach us are as valid in London, Ontario, as they are in London, England.

Babies are curious. They constantly investigate the world that surrounds them.

Babies don't hold a grudge. Give them a bath and they may howl but moments after leaving the water all is forgiven. "Don't live in the past." They seem to be telling us. "You gotta have a life. When it's over, move on."

And it is good to laugh if given the opportunity. At least, that is Fiona's strong belief. She jumps at the chance to share a laugh with a friend, and it does help to be her friend as Fiona is no naive fool. She knows you don't just trust anyone on first meeting. Relationships can't be rushed.

Babies everywhere have sparkle. It is too bad that for many of us, life dulls our sparkle, our native curiosity and enthusiasm.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring flooding

Behind the Canada goose is Harris Park at the forks of the Thames in downtown London, Ontario. This park is located on flood plain and so it is no surprise that it is under water in mid March. What is a surprise is how little flooding has occurred. Some years the flooding can be quite extensive when a late, heavy snow is followed by a sudden warm spell accompanied by rain.

In the background, on the left, can be seen a high concrete levee. This levee is necessary because the homes on that side of the river are also on flood plain.

I liked this picture so much, I wrote a weather article just so I could post it on Digital Journal.

The clock jumps forward, the snow pulls back

Except for some areas where the drifted snow was exceptionally deep and somewhat sheltered from day long sunshine, like my backyard, most of the snow cover in the London area is gone.

I saw this and thought if grass was blue, this scene would resemble many of the aerial pictures I've seen showing polar glaciers where they meet the sea.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A sign of spring

Tonight the clocks spring forward, one sign of spring. And the irises are showing green sprouts, another sign that spring is coming to London, Ontario.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sew this mitten to your backpack

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden wears official mittens.
Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
I didn't think I could get another picture out of mittens but I was wrong. Take this mitten and sew it to your backpack and immediately attract smiles. (I had no idea so many mittens are taken off and lost. I could start a blog: Lost Mittens.)

Just learned that the lost mitten in London resembles the official mittens of the Winter Olympics held recently in Vancouver.

I'd say the lost mitten is similar but it is not an official mitten.

Canadian medicare under attack

Dr. Nick Kates
Dr. Debby Copes
Someone has to stand up for the Canadian health care system and Thursday evening at the London Health Sciences Centre four panelists did just that. Canadian medicare may not be the best system but it is quite good --- especially compared to the system in the United States, if you believe these speakers.

I have posted an article from the discussion on Digital Journal.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bacon for a traditional North American breakfast

Who needs to worry about McDonald's and the fat when the North American breakfast was, and still is for many, bacon and eggs. When I go the monthly retirees' breakfast for local media, I'd say the most popular breakfast was a couple of eggs with either bacon, ham or sausage. Many of those attending are in their 70s and some are in their 80s.

Makes me wonder if my personal theory is correct. Eat lots of fat and lubricate those arteries. Nothing sticks because the artery walls are just too slippery.

Now, pass the bacon, please, and also the jam. Oh, and pass the butter...and a bit of cream for my coffee. Thanks.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Mittens

It's spring warm and winter wet; it's mid-March in London. The children at a local daycare discovered that and more today when they played outside. They returned to school hot, wet and muddy. Their soaking wet mittens and gloves were left balanced on the fence to dry in the warm, bright sunshine.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Thinker Mummy

Yesterday we saw a metal sculpture of a praying mantis on display in front of the John Zubick operation in east London. One side of the parking lot has old metal goods left for salvage. In the midst of the old fridges, old stoves and other assorted metal stuff, there sits a sculpture that seems to be a cross of Auguste Rodin's Thinker and Hollywood's The Mummy. (For more info see yesterday's post.)


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reclaimed Art

John Zubick Ltd. is a scrap dealer in the east end of London, Ontario. But in today's world Zubick is no longer a simple buyer of junk metal and stuff but a "reclaimer of Canada's resources." Don't laugh --- it's true. You would be absolutely amazed at the tons and tons of metal and other materials that are bought, sorted and sold by the Zubick yard. The amount of iron ore that stays in the ground thanks to Zubick is simply mind boggling.

But some metal has not had to leave the Zubick yard to be recycled. It the front of the business, towering high above the parking lot, some of the scrap has already been reborn --- as art.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ice is cool!

The spring sun is making everything melt. The thick ice at the side of the infrequently used road in Springbank Park caught the light in a downright magical way Saturday. The setting sun added just a little warmth to the image and brightened the leaf trapped in the ice.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dam shapes

The Springbank Dam does nothing important, unless of course you're a canoeist. The dam was only used in the late spring, summer and early fall to raise the Thames River water level for recreation. If fish could talk, they'd have voiced their disapproval. It made heading up river difficult.

At the moment, that is all in the past. The dam had new gates installed and the northern most gate failed. Now, the dam sits surrounded with water and controversy. It is still to be decided just who will pay for the repairs. It has been a number of summers since the canoe club was able to launch their canoes and kayaks on the river. The fish? If they had thumbs, they'd give the present situation a thumbs up.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values

“How did a state conceived in awe of The Rights of Man make psychopaths of its children?” That is the question posed by Philippe Sands QC and a professor of international law at University College London.

The British barrister raised the question as he delivered the fourth lecture in the Pensa Lecture Series in Human Rights at the Faculty of Law, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.

Sands is not only a distinguished English lawyer specializing in international law but he is also an important author writing on international human rights issues. His most recent book is Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values.

I went to the talk and wrote about it for Digital Journal.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Enjoy. It will soon be gone.

The southern part of the Byron suburb in London, Ontario, is quite hilly. Many of the homes have steep slopes behind them. Sometimes the slopes are terraced and other times they are simply shrub covered. Both approaches help to anchor the earth, keeping it in place.

This backyard has the shrub covered look.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tower Ridge

A number of kms west of Byron is Communication Hill, so named because the local television station has its tower there. That height of land is just about the highest bit of property in the area. For that reason the television tower was erected there back in the early '50s. The raised ridge runs for miles south of the city of London. In the Byron subdivision there is what I like to call tower ridge because there are three communication towers erected there.

CFPL, the London television station went on the air November 28, 1953. It was just the second private broadcaster in Canada. Walter Blackburn, who owned the station plus a radio station and the local newspaper, had hoped to be the first but CKSO in Sudbury, Ontario, took to the air a month earlier.

Where the coyotes roam

The other day I did a piece on the area beside the Thames River being posted to warn hikers and joggers of the presence of one or more coyotes. Coyotes are somewhat new to the London area and so folk are not all that knowledgeable about how to act if approached.

As it was the middle of the day, and not between dusk and dawn, I walked down onto the floodplain to have a look at coyote country.

Rather pretty, actually, don't you think.

By the way, this is not the Thames River pictured but a small stream running into London's main river.