Christmas Letter '11

Nadolig Llawen!                     Merry Christmas!                           Buon Natale!

Christmas 2011.

From our home to yours, Family and Friends,

What a pleasure to share a little bit of our lives over the past year at this very special time of year.  I have rather deliberately scheduled this to come to you on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day depending on where in the world you live.  We hope you are enjoying a full and restful Christmas season.

2011 has been very much a typical year for us.  It was a happy year with very ordinary challenges and no events of super special note in our family.

Tina continues nursing at Vancouver General Hospital but does get very tired now.  She anticipates taking opportunity to retire.  In the meantime Tina is excited at getting back into her art.  This year she rejoined the Malaspina printmakers society after many, many years away from printmaking, and has enjoyed brush-up lessons.  Tina has already started planning to convert an area in our basement into a printmaking studio.

Ted's health remains a bit of an issue with us, the result of damage left by his heart attack in 2007.  After a series of abrupt weariness with slowed pulse that required visits to the Delta Hospital emergency ward through the spring, doctors installed an ICD unit to control his heart rate in May.  Ted's heart is now controlled to a minimum of 50 bpm, no longer dropping as low as 33 bpm.  That surgery followed by a month later with an inguinal hernia repair stopped Ted from maintaining his normal swimming for exercise routine.  He had been swimming 6 days a week for a while as his back had rebelled over him leaning over the handlebars of his bike.  Having to stop swimming, Ted got the handlebars raised rather dramatically and can now cycle comfortably.  Through the summer, he cycled for exercise 6 days a week.  By the end of summer, Ted was able to resume alternating 3 days of swimming (2000 m in roughly 40 min) with 3 days of cycling (nearly 14 km in roughly 40 min).  With exercise, Ted feels generally well.

David continues his mathematical studies at Langara College and Angela continues to enjoy her studies at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.  David is on very much a part time studies program because of his disability.  He tends to excel in his mathematics courses but certainly does struggle with the required non-mathematics courses.  He is very excited at attaining an "A" in his just completed Real Analysis course.  That is, mathematical analysis built around real numbers and involving proofs; don't ask me for further explanation, ask David.  Angela keeps bringing home remarkable ceramic objects.  She is very independent minded school takes what he finds useful from her instructors and teachers herself where she feels there are gaps.  This fall, one of her ceramics courses focused on mould making.  Angela does not like the slip casting process so, having read a little about throwing into moulds, she decided to use this technique for her major course project, much to the fascination of her instructor and fellow students.  Angela loves to carve her ceramic pieces and now we have this 5 sets of beautiful teapots paired with lovely tea mugs, all beautifully carved.  Angela experienced her 1st success at selling her own ceramics during the student art sale this fall.  When she is not at her studies in school, and was downstairs in her own ceramics studio throwing them firing pieces and experimenting with glazes.

David also remains very active with his music, continuing to study viola, clarinet, and piano.  He is now the oldest regular player in the Delta youth Orchestra, but he just loves performing with this orchestra.  Ted has found himself elected President of the Delta Symphony Society, the sponsor of the Delta youth Orchestra, for the 2011/12 orchestral year.

Our getaway this year was again our usual escape to Cusheon Lake resort on Salt Spring Island.  We always make this a relaxing time, paddling on the lake or swimming, fossicking at Beddis Beach or Beaver Point, and visiting in Ganges.  A couple of the photos are from Salt Spring.

One sad note in 2011, Cymro died late in the summer.  Having passed his 16th birthday, he was very much an elderly dog.  He had a very serious illness late last winter but recovered, though much weakened.  His final illness brought rapid decline and he passed at home in the night.  We certainly miss him but do not intend to replace him with another dog.  In the meantime, Catinka remains very much queen of our house.

Autumn has seen us busy with the minor renovations inside and outside the house.  New banisters and other touchups inside and renewed fencing outside certainly improve our home.  The fencing work gives a bit of an adventure.  With preparations for replacing the north fence we had a bit of a temporary patch job.  I came home from the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Lardner Cenotaph to find Angela's pet ducks, Puddles and Tango, in distress in our neighbour's yard.  They had found a weakness in the patchwork, went exploring, and got mauled by the neighbour's dog.  Substantial veterinarian bills later and indoor healing time, Puddles and Tango are now very much themselves again.  The new fence in place and they are secure in our backyard.

Recent weeks, of course, have filled us with Christmas preparations.  We hope yours have gone well and we wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas and all happiness in the New Year.

With our love,
Ted, Tina, David, and Angela.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!               Happy New Year!                 Felice Nuovo Anno!


Intelligence Beyond Ourselves

Today's Quirks and Quarks on CBC Radio One included an item that discussed the intelligence of dolphins that drew me to offer the following comment:

Your interview today with Diana Reiss about the intelligence of dolphins proved fascinating.  Her mention of comparison between dolphins and chimpanzees suggests another whole show.  Could you consider putting together a Quirks and Quarks show that compares, contrasts, and synthesizes our understanding of the intelligence of all the known animals that show sophisticated intellectual functioning, including deliberate tool use, deliberate environment manipulation, advance planning, possible language, and possible self awareness: great apes, corvids, whales and dolphins, parrots, octopi, beavers, and otters.


Forgiveness/Judgement Relationship

At Ladner United, Jim Short derived this morning’s sermon from the event ten years ago today but focussed his thoughts on forgiveness. He drew upon an event in his own life that challenged his own capacity to forgive. That example drew me into some challenging thoughts about forgiving.
The first stems from the simple recognition that to forgive a right-doing (or non-indebtedness) is an offensive absurdity. Thus every deliberate act to forgive implies a judgement of wrong-doing (or of perceived indebtedness). Christians are called to forgive, yet one of the most widely held criticisms of Christian practice claims that we are too judgemental.
Corollary to this, the second involves the question never asked of Jesus of when to forgive. Must the person to be forgiven acknowledge the wrong (or indebtedness) before forgiveness gets extended? I tend to think not necessarily. Yet I can think of an example of two close childhood friends who, as they matured, began to drift apart. The first did something that offended the second. The second, determined that the incident should not disrupt their friendship, immediately forgave the first. The first found this forgiveness offensive, “I have done nothing wrong for you to forgive,” and that friendship broke irreparably. Forgiving should heal relationships but does not always do so.
Further thoughts on the relationship between forgiving and judgement will be most welcome.


The Great Permian Mass Extinction

Most interesting CBC article on the Permian extinction, 250 million years ago. I have long heard that those volcanoes were suspected, But why did such massive, highly localized volcanic eruptions occur? Some years ago I read an article that identified an impact site, at the time diametrically opposite those volcanoes. This impact site was described as far larger than the one that triggered the dinosaur extinction, large enough to set the earth's crust ringing and come into resonant focus where those volcanoes erupted, deeply cracking the earth's crust. I have not seen anything of this since and wonder if it has been investigated further.


On Public Funding of Political Parties

I placed the following response to today's topic on CBC Radio One's Cross Country Check-Up:

I tend to agree that there should be no public funding for political parties. Party finances should be entirely by personal donation. This is just simply fair and democratic. Under public funding, some of my tax dollars are ending up in the hands of some political party or another that I cannot support, which is totally undemocratic. This is the same as the bad old days of corporate and union funding of political parties when some of my corporate equity or some of my union dues ended up in the hands of political parties I oppose. It is only democratic that I voluntarily contribute where I personally see appropriate and do so as a private individual.

If a party gets out of touch with the electorate, its finances will decline; a party more in touch with the electorate will receive growing financial support. Certainly a party's finances will strongly predict its placing during a given election but a winning party's success will not be simply the result of its financial capacity. More truly the reverse will be true, the winning party's financial capacity will be the result of its attraction to voters.

There is a role for the public purse in political funding, though. That is as a collection and distribution service only. A fear exists among the voting public that larger donors to specific political parties can have undue policy influence. Compulsory anonymity would preclude this fear. A public agency could receive my personal donation (and any limit as to donation size would be totally unnecessary) and assign it to the political entity I designate without ever identifying me to that entity. The only cost to the public purse would be the operating costs of that agency as no public money would go to any party. Other than actual membership fees, political parties will have no knowledge of the specific sources of their funding but they they most certainly will know if their offerings to the voting public have any real attraction.

Yes, eliminate public subsidy to political parties; keep party financing entirely from personal sources, but make those sources anonymous to receiving parties.

Not mentioned, but quite consequential, I think, anonymous-to-the-recipient personal source political financing would likely be conducive to independent political candidacy, which would be all to the good for our democracy.