Total Pageviews

Dec 24, 2008

My holiday poem

You've heard of black ice.
It's not very nice.
It occurs only once in a while.
But what I dread more,
Dumped right at my door,
Is Black Snow in a whacking great pile.
With a rumble and roar,
About half-past four,
It arrives while I'm still in my bed.
I trudge from my hovel,
Armed with a shovel;
The Black Snow is as high as my head.
I huff and I puff
And shovel the stuff,
'Til I gasp: "Please God, have some pity!"
But I know that tomorrow,
Much to my sorrow,
Black Snow will arrive in King City.
Now you want to know,
Why call it Black Snow,
When everyone knows that snow's white?
"Send out the snowplows!"
Mayor Black, she avows,
"And fill in each driveway by dawn's light."
Barrythe Birder
...with apologies to Her Worship, Marg Black

Dec 10, 2008

Who is L. J. Gardener?

Someone calling himself, or herself, L. J. Gardener, responded to my last blog (about the unfolding Ottawa Operetta), with the observation that I still appeared confused and with this recollection: "I know a man who named his four cats Pierre, Elliott, True and Deau". Yes, it was me who once gave four adorable kittens those silly names, but that tidbit of feline nonsense dates back 40 years! I have no idea who L. J. Garderer is. Is L. J. Gardener a trifler, a stalker, what? This is an intriguing little mystery and I hope the mysterious commentator leaves inadvertent future clues as to his or her identity. Is it someone who I have paddled a canoe with, got drunk with, owe money to, lusted in my heart for? If L. J. Gardener continues with his or her comments, under that innocuous nom de plume, I shall find you out.
Daring you, BtheB

Dec 6, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

When I proposed that Stephane Dion should ask the Governor-General to form a coalition government three months ago (see my blog of Aug. 26), I had no idea how such a simple idea could get so complicated, so quickly. But once again, I failed to consider the relentless, blind ambition of Stephan Harper. The inimitable Rick Mercer, in today's Globe & Mail calls the the two Steves: "...these damaged, needy men...". Would that it ended there, but the whole of Canada is now damaged and needy.
Stephane has gone from being Dion the Decent, to Dion the Ditherer, to Dion the Dolt. The main problem for the proposed coalition is that Monsieur Dion is no leader. He is nothing more than a caretaker now. Let Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae carry the ball from this point. As for Gilles Duceppe, he must be greatly amused to be constantly wooed one moment and demonized the next, by all and sundry. Make no mistake though, he is the kingmaker here. It shows unmistakeably on his placid face whenever the coalition's Three Wise Men sit before the press. Whoever is prime minister in the new year, be he Tory or be he Grit, it will happen only when Duceppe says "sit". Is it too much to ask that Stephen Harper leave politics at the same time as his buddy George Bush does. Is he not the crisis for Canada?
Please comment if you wish.

Nov 8, 2008

Freedom Rock at Nottawasaga Bluffs

That's my friend, Pieter Thoenes, in the top photo, standing atop the Nottawasaga Bluffs, just west of Creemore, Ontario, in Grey County. Pieter has a very Dutch name, is English through-and-through, and has lived in Canada for many, many years. He was and still is a world-traveler. Most recently, he and his wife, Annie, spent almost a month in the South Pacific. Pieter and I like to get together and go hiking and a week ago we explored the trails, crevices and caves of the Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area. Part of the Bruce Trail runs along the bluffs. Freedom Rock is the name given to two facing walls of a crevice and the cave at the bottom. Someone, a mystery person, carved dozens of aphorisms in the rock faces of Freedom Rock many years ago. The sentiments expressed by the carver seem to me to be the work of an agrarian Libertarian.
Consider these examples: 'Individualists are diamonds'...'To be fully educated one must farm 5 yrs'...'The greatest freedom of all is to spend your own money'. In the second photo, above, Pieter stands inside the Freedom Rock cave (which is known to some as 'The Tomb') and near to an inscription that reads: 'Single people are economic slaves of the state'. Unfortunately, someone has recently coloured in the lettering in an attempt to make it more legible. In the third photo, I too am in the cave inspecting the carving technique of a short and sweet message that says a lot in just two words. As a former stone-carver, I have an idea of how much time and effort went into this work: lots! Much of the work is spread over sheer rock walls that are 30' high. Locals say it was done over a number of years, but no one seems to know the person. The caves and crevices of Nottawasaga Bluffs are just one very interesting aspect of what I think is one of the best hiking areas, in this part of Ontario. I can't recommend it enough.

Please comment if you wish.


Oct 28, 2008

Jaxon's Walking-out Ceremony

The little fellow on the right, in the picture above, is my grand-nephew, Jaxon. He lives in the Cree village of Wemindji, on the eastern shore of James Bay, in northern Quebec. Jaxon is nearly 18 months old and a couple of months ago he participated in his village's walking-out ceremony. He was dressed as a goose-hunter for his part in the festivities and, judging by the photographs, looked quite dashing, I must say.
Jaxon's grandfather (my younger sister's husband) was a full-blooded Cree, which made Jaxon's father a half-blooded Cree. Jaxon's mum is white, therefore Jaxon is a quarter-blood Cree. The thinning of the blood notwithstanding, Jaxon, so far, is a full participant in his native canadian heritage. Part of the traditional Cree native culture celebrates the early coming of age of infants who are old enough to walk. A symbolic ceremony marks the expectation of what will be the productive behaviour of every growing individual, the embracing of the collective objective of work, and the resultant worth of every person in Cree Society.
The walking-out ceremony sees the children dressed in traditional native clothing and equipped with toy versions of the tools used by Cree hunters - guns and knives for the boys, and scraping instruments, bannock sticks and firewood for the girls. The elders of the community send the children from a ceremonial tent to parade themselves, and the decorated animal facsimiles they have 'hunted', before other members of the village. Sometimes the boys are assisted to fire a rifle into the air. The children return to the elders and present their catches, for which they receive approving hugs and kisses. The ceremony is normally held in the morning, with the ceremonial tent facing the east and the morning sun - a constant symbol of optimism and hope for the future. After the ceremony, refreshments, story-telling and lots of laughs are enjoyed by all.
Below is a picture of Jaxon and his friends sitting on a woodpile and posing for photographs. Many thanks to my sister, Denise, for sharing these adorable photos with the rest of our family.
Please comment if you wish. BtheB

Oct 22, 2008

Focussing on a barn

The photograph above is of the barn at Cold Creek Forest & Wildlife Area on the 11th Concession of King Township. It's a pretty static shot with no particular focus point, but it's texture and colours and content stir within me powerful memories of my grandfather's farm and the times I spent there as a child. As I stare at this photograph, which is currently the wallpaper on my computer screen, I decompress, relax, and slip into a few timeless moments. It's as though the stone, mortar and wood in the image are drawing me in to a virtual reality where the simplicity, innocence and safety of my childhood embraces me once again. In other words, I really feel good when I look at this picture. I thought I'd share it. I hope you get a good feeling too.

Oct 13, 2008

Ogden Nash on birds...

The song of canaries
Never varies,
And when they're moulting
They're quite revolting.
The ostrich roams the broad Sahara.
It's mouth is wide, its neck is narra.
It has such long and lofty legs.
I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.
A wonderful bird is the pelican!
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I'm darned if I know how the helican.
The grackle's voice is less than mellow,
his heart is black, his eye is yellow.
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks the human in the rear.
One cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
...and one by Nash wannabee, Jack Prelutsky:
Do not approach an emu.
The bird does not esteem you.
It wields a quick and wicked kick
That's guaranteed to cream you.

Oct 4, 2008

Family Photo at Kettleby Fair

Each fall, the historic King Township village of Kettleby celebrates its heritage with a main street fair. One the settler families of Kettleby was the Shanks, who were ancestors of my wife Linda. It seemed only proper therefore that Linda and I, and our kids and grandkids, have our picture taken while enjoying last month's Kettleby fair.

Aug 26, 2008

"Michaelle? Stephane here. I'd like to form a government".

Just because Stephen Harper is fed up leading a minority government, that doesn't mean he has to cram another election down our throats. Let's just switch from Stephen to Stephane and let the Liberals have a go at it. If Mr. Harper shuts down his government, why not let Monsieur Dion go to Madame Jean, our Governor-General and tell her that he wants to form a government. All he would need is the support of the The Bloc and NDP (they've got nothing to lose) and what could she say? I can't think of a good reason for her to say no. But I'm no expert on constitutional matters or federal governance. Where is Eugene Forsey when we need him? It would sound better coming from him than me.
God, how I'd love to see the Tory apple cart upset and that smirk wiped from Stephen Harper's face. But it's not going to happen because Mr. Dion is too anxious to go to the election polls...the opinion polls be damned. Besides, what's another $300 million? Or another $300 million after that, if no one wins a majority. $300,000,000 (looks even bigger with all those zeros) is a spit in the bucket, right? A mere pittance for a man to prove to a nation that he is its saviour. Which reminds me, where is my bucket? I've made myself nauseous.

Aug 25, 2008

Young Hummers are about

I love this time of year, late August. A new crop of young Hummingbirds are out and about. You have to be be careful in the backyard because they are chasing each other and fighting for possession of their favourite nectar feeders (we have 6 of them this year). I am constantly ducking as they streak by. My friend Peter Marsh sent me some great photos of nesting Hummingbirds and fledgings a while ago and I share three of them here. The first one below is a newly hatched baby (the first of two). It is all of 3/4" in size. The next photo is the the second baby, 21 days old and almost ready to leave the nest for the first time. The third photo tries to give some perspective to the size of these tiny creatures and their nest by inserting a 2 1/2" toothpick and a penny into the nest..

Aug 24, 2008

Grandkids ~ I can alarm them or bore them

My new grand-daughter Brawley seems to be saying, in the photo above: "Who are you and where is my mummy?!?" Below, it seems to be a case of out of sight, out of mind, and "Who is tickling the bottom of my feet?"

Finally, below, it appears to be: "Well it is a pretty comfortable spot and I do need my beauty rest".

Aug 20, 2008

Newest grandkids - Spencer & Brawley

Introducing...Spencer James and Brawley Elizabeth, my newest grandchildren. They're about 2 1/2 months old, but Brawley is 2 weeks older than her cousin, Spencer. I insisted they smile for this photograph but they're not quite old enough yet, to smile on command.

Aug 19, 2008

Frank's fantastic figs

This is my friend Frank Delorenzo standing in his fig grove and displaying some of its fine ripe fruit. Frank was born and raised in southern Italy and when he talks about figs, you know right away that he knows what he's talking about. But Frank's jungle-like fig grove is not in the sunny, Mediterranean climes of Italy. It's right across the street from me in beautiful, downtown King City. Frank came to Canada many years ago and is retired from Canada Post.

Frank admits to being passionate about all things connected with nature. Others, in our village, may have one fig tree, but Frank had dozens of them. They thrive and are protected in a greenhouse which Frank made himself, in his backyard. His wife Anna insisted I take two ripe figs home - one for Linda and one for me. See the photo below of one of the beauties. It may be the best fig I have ever tasted. For sure, it was the freshest. Well done Frank, and thanks Anna. BtheB

Aug 16, 2008

Here's a pretty picture...

I took this picture of a Milbert's Tortoiseshell and some pretty posies at Toad Hill, home of my friends Pieter and Ann, in the Mulmur Hills this week. The Milbert's Tortoiseshell is about 2 1/2" wide, eats nettles, and is fairly common in southern Ontario. The males like to establish perches on hilltops, as do Ann and Pieter (see photo below).

Jun 6, 2008

I am my car - my car is me

This is a disgruntled me, above, and my little red truck, which I was banned from driving last month for what the Ontario Ministry of Transportation told me would be 4 to 6 weeks, while I recuperated from my ministroke, and until the ministry got a letter from my nuerologist saying I was fit to drive again. I really had no beef with what happened...rules are rules.
4 to 6 weeks without driving is not an eternity. As it turned out, it just seemed like it. I had no idea how much my car is a part of who I am. It's a part of my identity and a huge part of everything I do. I am my car - my car is me, or so I thought. Actually, my car did just fine without me - and with my wife behind the wheel. She said my car was cheaper to drive because it runs on regular gas, while her older model runs on premium gas. I felt inconvenienced, held hostage, and totally dependent on someone else to go anywhere that my feet refused to go. I just kept reminding myself that if I had had a real, full-blown stroke, the resultant, life-altering disability would have been nighmarish. The money we saved on gas happened to coincide with the money I was saving on booze. I had also decided to become a teetotaller until my triglycerides went down.
While the photo above shows me sulking beside my trusty steed, the photo below shows Linda, in a totally uncommiserative mood, off on another jaunt in my little red Jeep. Thank God I am behind the wheel again. Some things should never be taken for granted.

Jun 2, 2008

My new grandson, Spencer

This is Spencer James Bailey, my new grandson. A second son for my daughter, Allison, and her husband, Rob, he weighed in at 6 lbs, 5ozs. Mother and son, and dad, are all doing fine.

Rob and Allison and Baby Spencer in their first family portrait.


Spencer's grandpa and grandma believe you can never start them too young when it comes to birdwatching. In the photo above, Spencer's cousin, Emmy (Emondine), is being alerted to a pair of Northern Orioles flying over Cold Creek Forest & Wildlife Centre. Ya gotta start 'em early. BtheB

May 27, 2008

My new granddaughter Brawley

This is my adorable new granddaughter, Brawley Elizabeth Wallace-Parekh. She was born on May 14 and weighed in at 7 lbs. 1oz. Two weeks old tomorrow, she eats non-stop and appears to be thriving. An interesting name, Brawley, especially as a given name. As a surname, it's origin is the Irish Gaelic O Brolaigh and means 'descendent of Brolach' (a personal name possibly derived from brollach 'breast'). The Brawley name is first traced in Lancashire before the Norman Conquest and the Brawley family motto is 'Vigilant and bold'. Well, we shall just have to wait and see about that. If you Google her name, the first thing you come across is a cowtown in southern California, but that is not where she got her name. Baby Brawley's name is a memorial to her father's good friend, Eric Brawley, who passed away suddenly and sadly, a few years ago, at the age of 34. Now, I'm off to spend some time with the wee girl. Is their anything more precious, in your arms, than a newborn? BtheB

May 1, 2008

I'm a very, very, lucky guy

Last week I suffered a T.I.A. (trans-ischemic attack) or mini-stroke. I ended up in York Central Hospital, in Richmond Hill, for four days. YCH is now designated as a 'Stroke Centre' which was lucky for me. Over the course of four days, ( two in 'emerg' and two in the stroke ward, plus one hour-long follow-up visit at the Stroke Clinic), I was attended by 57 different people! Without exaggeration, I liked everyone of them. They were all friendly, helpful, pleasant and positive. They gave me every test known to mankind and pumped me full of clot-busters, anticoagulants, blood-thinners, cholesterol-fighters, stuff to make my blood platelets slipperier, and God knows what else. The paralysis in my right leg disappeared very quickly and I was feeling fine in short order: so much so that I started to feel like an imposter. I was amazed at the work-up they did on me and how quickly it was done. While I was there, I read that one in five who suffer a T.I.A., will have a real stroke within three months. My immediate goal therefore is to get past the next three months, mend my wicked ways and take better care of myself. While I'm at it, I intend to write a letter to the hospital's board of directors, the minister of health, and the Canadian Nurses Association to tell them all about the impressive care I received. I am waiting a little while for the euphoria of the care experience to wear off a bit so that I do not prejudice or exaggerate my remarks with emotion or drug-induced delusion. My wife, Linda, and daughters, Allison and Auralee (both ready to give birth this month) were bricks, especially Linda who visted me and then hurried home each day to deal with a total, floor-to-ceiling kitchen demolition and renovation. Yes, I am a very, very, lucky guy and judging by what I saw at YCH last week, there are many stroke-victims who cannot say that. My thoughts are with them as I go back to bird-watching and enjoying this spring.
Please comment if you wish and please take of yourself.

Apr 20, 2008

Bird lists and my Tilley hat

I have a couple of Tilley hats. One of them is covered with lapel pins I have picked up on my travels. At last count there are 74 pins and the hat is a bit heavy. Most of them are related to birdwatching or other nature things. There are, however, a number that are mementos of other interests or pastimes. There are pins that have to do with major league sports, canoeing, volunteering, museums, vacations, etc. There are even pins for the FBI and CIA (don't ask).

There are also two American Birding Association pins with the numbers 200 and 300 on them (they're in the photo of my hat, above, at the top, in the centre). I bought these pins for myself when I reached those plateaus on my bird species life list. At one time , not so long ago, I was sure I would reach 500 and then 1,000, and on and on as I chased world champion birder, Phoebe Snetsinger, and her record of 8,450 species. It's now a few years on into my birdwatching career and I'm just 8,076 bird species behind Phoebe. Not that Phoebe is worried about me. She is dead. She died accidently, binoculars in hand, on a birding tour in Madagascar in 1999. Moments before her death, Phoebe had added a very rare Red-shoulder Vanga to her life list.

I've done an about-face now. I no longer think about adding birds to my life list in terms of quantity. Apart from the practical considerations of finding the money to travel to almost every country in the world to see as many species as Phoebe did, now I wake up each day thrilled at the prospect that there are still 8,000 bird species for me to discover. At 66 years of age, I am confident that I will not out-live my hobby. This pleases me.

Please comment if you wish.


Apr 10, 2008

11 new species on my bird 'life list'

My trip to St. Lucia last week produced a bird list of 34 species, 11 of which I had never seen before. The new birds which I have added to my 'life list' include: Brown Booby, Black Swift, Lesser Antillean Pewee, White-breasted Thrasher, Grey Trembler, Adelaide Warbler, St. Lucia Black Finch, Lesser Antillean Saltator, Caribe Grackle, Shiny Cowbird and St. Lucian Oriole. The bird pictured above is a Lesser Antillean Bullfinch, which I first saw in St. Maarten in 2002. Whereas in most Caribbean islands, it is the Banaquit which joins you at your outdoor dining table, in St. Lucia it is the Lesser Antillean Bullfinch that is ubiquitous when one dines alfresco. There are Bananaquits also, but they are outnumbered about 40-1. I've never been to a place where the bird sounds are as pervasive as they are St. Lucia. The 'birdsong' lasted from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day and because we had no windows in our rooms (just screens and louvres) we were constantly surrounded by songbird serenades. Each evening, when the birds finally fell silent, the tree frogs took over and provided the lullaby. (Bullfinch photo by Greg Lasley)

Apr 9, 2008

Aaahh, St Lucia...

Linda and I spent last week in St. Lucia and instantly realized it was the most beautiful Caribbean island we had ever visited. We stayed at a resort called Anse Chastanet, just north of the old fishing village of Soufriere and Les Pitons (twin volcanic peaks designated as a World Heritage Sight). The photo above was taken from a rooftop balcony at Anse Chastanet. This was also the view from our room. We swam, snorkelled, hiked, birdwatched, bathed in a hot springs waterfall, toured the farmers market and ancient French plantation ruins, ate incredible food, and listened to nothing but relaxing nature sounds day and night. I even lost 6 lbs. because we had to climb 168 steps from the beach, up the side of a cliff to get to our room. Try that 5 or 6 times a day and the pounds just fall away. No phone, no TV, no radio, no airconditioning, to internet, a king bed under a huge mosquito canopy (never got a bite). Linda and I have always said we want to keep going to new islands in the Caribbean because there are just so many amazing ones to see. But we agreed that St. Lucia is the first one to which we shall make a second visit. Following are a few other pictures of the trip.

There is a picture of our guide, Meno, and me exploring a 250-year-old ruined sugar mill, some local flora, Linda in a volcano-warmed waterfall, and a dusk view over the Caribbean from one of Anse Chastanet's tree-top bars.

Apr 8, 2008

Durkee Deer

My cousin, Barbara Durkee, sent me this photo of 10 White-tailed Deer which she photographed last Thursday morning, from her front door, on Mulberry Court in Sandy Cove Acres, just south of Barrie. Barbara reports this was "...a thrill". It would be for me too.

Mar 16, 2008

Spring harbinger???

Now here's a face only a mother could love: the Turkey Vulture. I saw one of these huge carrion-eaters fly over the house today. I wondered for a moment if he had heard of my Kidney Stone attack and flew by to see if my body was lying in the ditch at the front of house. Fat chance Mr. Big Beak -- I'm a tougher old bird than you. I haven't seen a Robin yet, this spring, or a Red-winged Blackbird, or a Blue-bird, or any of the other birds that people normally think of as spring harbingers. I have seen lots of Horned Larks, but they come back sometimes in January so they don't really count. No, it the Turkey Vulture that is my first spring migrant of 2008, here in southern Ontario. What's the world coming to? Another manifestation of global warming? Or maybe it's just that road kill occurs anytime of year, even in winter, so there's always a meal available for some intrepid early-bird. Actually, Turkey Vultures have been extending their range northward for some years now, and are becoming more and more common. Ohhh, to be able glide like one of these big black beauties! Photos from Wikipedia- above by Max Waugh, below by Callie Bowdish

Mar 15, 2008

Beware of dog in Kettleby

My sister Denise sent me a cute little story about a friend of hers, named Rita O'Connor, who was visiting the nearby hamlet of Kettleby, in King Township. Rita's story goes like this: I was in Kettleby and went into this little store. There was a sign on the door saying "Beware of Dog". I entered warily, but the only dog I saw was a big old mutt lying down by the cash register. I asked the man at the counter, "Is this the dog you're warning about?" "Yeah" he said "Before I put the sign up people kept tripping over him."

Yes, Kettleby is small and laid-back, and that's the way they like it there. Below is a picture of some kids on a rope-swing over the Kettleby Creek, that I took at last year's Kettleby Fair. This spot was once under many feet of water, as the dammed-up Kettleby millpond. Now, 183 years later, the pond and mills are gone, and the scene looks once again as it probably did in 1825, or thereabouts.

Mar 9, 2008

More bluebird stuff

L'Oiseau Bleu Haiku

Bluebirds fly o'er me

Lifting my spirits so that

I too levitate

Mar 1, 2008

Bluebirds may be here by mid-March

In this part of Canada, a few kilometres north of Toronto, Eastern Bluebirds usually show up sometime between the middle and end of March. I had to keep reminding myself of this today as I and three colleagues from the Cold Creek Forest & Wildlife Area Stewardship Committee tramped around for 2 1/2 hours, cleaning out bird houses. It was about -2Celsius, with a nasty wind, and snow from yesterday's storm that was often above our knees. We made excellent time and did a did a pretty good job, I thought. The four of us are in our fifties and sixties, reasonably active, but we found carrying tools and step-ladders over Cold Creek's frozen fields and wetlands, rather gruelling. At the end I was describing Cold Creek as 'No Country for Old Men' and my birdbox buddies agreed.
It's hard to imagine how bluebirds can survive in this weather, but there are hundreds of them strung out along the north shore of Lake Erie, existing on wild berries or things put out on bird feeders like suet, raisins or even live mealy worms. There is no guarantee that this diet has or will keep them all alive. But those that do survive have an incredible urge to get on the breeding and nesting grounds early. Being a timid bird, by nature, bluebirds like to occupy nests early, rather than fight for spots later.
They take huge chances by arriving early because the wild berry supply at Cold Creek may not be sufficient to tie them over to the appearance of insects. Once as common as robins are today, these little thrushes were in great decline in the mid-to-late 1900s (blame habitat destruction and competition for nesting sites from house sparrows and starlings), but are making a comeback. The building and placing of bluebird birdhouses has been a big part of the turnaround in numbers.
Here's what Joan Rattner Heilman, in her book, Bluebird Rescue, begins with: "With their radiant blue feathers, soft round bodies, appealing little faces, and gentle manner, bluebirds have come to symbolize hope, happiness, springtime, and love. More songs were written about them than about any other bird in our history, and one famous writer, Henry David Thoreau, said that bluebirds carry the sky on their backs.
It's a joy to help these beautiful, little birds, but my Cold Creek pals and I must get around to cleaning out the boxes in October - not March!

Feb 4, 2008

Changing people into birds

During my research for writing a family history book, I was warned that what one found, in census records, was not always what it seemed. Being a birder makes me take notice when I run across people named after birds. Now let me bring these two thoughts together.

Old distant relatives of my wife, Swan Pitman and Starling Shanks, show up in the 1881 British Census and the 1911 Census of Canada, respectively. What a beautiful name for a girl: Swan. What a rascally name for a boy: Starling. Indeed, but these were not the names given to them by their parents. They were the names given to them by census enumerators.

Swan was, in reality, Susan. She was Susan in the 1871 and 1891 censuses, but amazingly, in between, she was Swan in the 1881 census. If one looks closely at a copy of the 1881 enumerator's handwritten entry, it quickly becomes apparent that the second "s" in Susan was sloppily squeezed into a single stroke of the pen. When the very narrow, squished "s" was tagged onto the "u" in Susan, the result was an unintentional interlaced letter that looked like a "w", and so Susan became Swan. Take a pen or pencil and write Susan quickly. It's not hard to see how easily this could have happened.

As for Starling, his real name was Sterling. He was Sterling on his birth certificate and all other records and documents I have found. Once again, a look at the original 1911 handwritten census form shows that an "a" was put in Sterling, instead of an "e". I, for one, think Sterling is a wonderfully impressive name for a man, but there's something about Starling. They say that some census-takers were nearly illiterate in the mid-1800s, but still... there's something also about Swan.

Have a great day and please feed the birds.


Jan 9, 2008

What price common sense?

Science is the answer to our problems, suggested an acquaintance of mine the other day. We share similar concerns about a project we're both involved with. The same day my wife, Linda, read to me a proposition by Aldous Huxley:"Science is nothing but trained and organized common sense." Huxley, by the way, was not a scientist, but rather an intellectual, of the highest order. It got me thinking about common sense, a commodity which I have had remarkably little of, on many occasions. I humbly offer the following, for your consideration :

1. Common sense is the legacy of good potty-training and a parent's watchful eye.
2. Politics is the belief that my common sense is better than yours.
3. Religion is the denial of common sense.
4. Medicine is the assertion that there must be something better than common sense.
5. Crime and anarchy are the destruction of common sense, in the absence of family and love.

Please comment if you wish.
Regards, BtheB