‘Three sheets to the wind, damn nearly decks awash!’

How an old sailor’s vernacular links us to the past, gives us perspective on a disruptive future … and makes us smile

‘Three sheets to the wind, damn nearly decks awash!’In the early 1900s, steam was rapidly replacing sail, and the square-rigged ‘tea clippers’ that dominated the merchant marine were fast becoming anachronisms. Like so many workers today, sailors suddenly faced an economy characterized by disruption. My great uncle Leighton was one of them. He was captain of the clipper ship Melanope, which was withdrawn…

Kicking the American politics addiction and steering homeward

We need to start thinking about Canada’s future rather than the orchestrated media-borne chaos to the south

Kicking the American politics addiction and steering homewardA good friend said the other day that he had almost completely turned off Canadian politics and that British Columbian politics had “all but disappeared.” He then noted, “Well maybe I am keeping up with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion debate.” The bottom line is that American political blather, mostly about you know who, is…

My fireplace just helped renew my faith in humanity

A household calamity, an accommodating retailer, some dirty and hard work, and a twofold payoff at the end

My fireplace just helped renew my faith in humanityThis time of year, one of my country morning rituals is cleaning last night’s ashes from the fireplace and laying the beginnings of this evening’s fire. We have what is now considered an old fireplace – it has a brick-lined fire chamber with a small rectangular ash-emptying door in the centre of the fireplace floor.…

Vancouver stories that resonate far and wide

The coastal city is uniquely placed, by geography and patterns of global investment, to bear intelligent witness to international currents

Vancouver stories that resonate far and wideVancouver has a long history of welcoming new citizens, first at the end of steel or fresh off the boat. Five generations of Chinese, Japanese, East Indians, Filipinos and even Hawaiians have joined a broad European diaspora in building a port city on the lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. All of these people…

Spring arrives at Skelhp and the wildlife parade follows

Orcas, otters, a majestic eagle, a marauding racoon and a diminishing deer family all herald the changing of seasons on the coast

Spring arrives at Skelhp and the wildlife parade followsIt was a long February. As my neighbour, a veteran of several more Skelhp winters than I, likes to say: “Cold, dark and wet.” Exactly. And then a day like March 3 happens. It dawned lighter. That’s normal up here this time of year. More light starts creeping in around 7 a.m. each morning. It’s…

Donald Trump vs Robert Mueller: chaos over order

What model best defines American society today? Robert Mueller’s exemplary service or Donald Trump’s life of disruption?

Donald Trump vs Robert Mueller: chaos over orderSelf-made versus Daddy’s boy. University of Virginia Law School versus Wharton School undergraduate economics degree. Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart as a marine captain in Vietnam versus five draft deferments for college and bone spurs. Public service versus entitled self-indulgence. Tight management of a professional work team versus constant leaks, fights and…

Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders a masterpiece

In Lands of Lost Borders, Kate Harris ruminates on 10 months aboard a bicycle along the Silk Road once conquered by Marco Polo

Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders a masterpieceLands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road By Kate Harris Knopf Canada, 2018 Kate Harris is a Canadian Rhodes Scholar who studied the history of science at Oxford, dropped out of her microbiology PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and instead has found her métier as a modern-day explorer. Channeling…

America today: parallels to post-Gorbachev Russia uncanny

The parallels between Russia more than 20 years ago and the United States today are deeply disturbing

America today: parallels to post-Gorbachev Russia uncannyWhen the horrible first reports of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., began hitting my smartphone feed, I somehow involuntarily reconnected with feelings that I associate with the societal chaos I experienced working in Russia more than 20 years ago. It was the post-Mikhail Gorbachev era, when communism had…

Sooner or later, we will turn away from oil

Part 2: Albertans can lead the next economic revolution by pioneering new energy enterprises

Sooner or later, we will turn away from oilShould Alberta be allowed to move its unrefined diluted bitumen to British Coumbia’s tidewater in Burnaby via pipeline and then quadruple tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour, the city that bills itself as the world’s greenest? And does the pipeline proponent, Kinder Morgan, have the permission of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, the unceded…

How do we close the widening gap between Alberta and B.C.?

Part 1: The wine versus oil showdown in the West has exposed some fundamental differences – but it's nothing other generations haven't seen

How do we close the widening gap between Alberta and B.C.?There was only one other car at the Earls Cove ferry terminal last week as I headed home to Powell River. It was a brand new Jeep with a white-and-red Alberta licence plate grinning from the rear bumper. I say grinning because on my part of the Sunshine Coast, you rarely see an old beater…

Is Trump’s economic train gaining momentum?

As the midterm U.S. elections in November loom, the battle ramps up between positive financial numbers and fairness in a true democracy

Is Trump’s economic train gaining momentum?Does a spate of positive economic news mean that America is really going to be great again? Will President Donald Trump’s fortunes and polling numbers rise as a result of the economic good news? The Dow Jones industrial average regularly trades over 26,000 and our retirement investments are up significantly over the first year of…

A New Year’s reading list for the 99.09 per cent

Four authors who lay bare a depressing world of plutocrats, oligarchs and the international kakistocracy

A New Year’s reading list for the 99.09 per centJanuary is book month in our house. It’s when we finally come to grips with reading all the titles that accumulated over Christmas and, in my case, a January birthday. I’ve read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the Rise of the New Global…

Lessons from a contemplative life

At 67, I'm focusing on the things that are most important: family, friends, and challenging physical and mental pursuits

Lessons from a contemplative lifeI turned 67 today. It's kind of an odd birthday. You’re not yet 70 and certifiably old (according to some of my 69-year-old pals), but you’re creeping up the ladder and are two rungs above 65. So what does it all mean? It seems kind of like a rest-stop. A space between retirement and more…

A new wave of B.C. small-town cultural renaissance

Let's be honest, most of B.C.’s artistic community has always lived on the Gulf Islands, on Vancouver Island, up the Sunshine Coast, in Haida Gwaii rather than in Vancouver

A new wave of B.C. small-town cultural renaissanceMy grandfather arrived in Vancouver from England, via the Empress of Canada and the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway in September 1909. At a goodbye dinner in London, he had been advised by a family friend to “Stay out of the towns – find your fortune in the countryside.” He took that advice literally and found…

The American dream is moving north to Canada

Great uncertainty faces Canada and the United States, but Canada seems better equipped to adapt and flourish

The American dream is moving north to CanadaSo how did you like last year? Did it advance your favourite causes? Did it fatten your assets? Did it leave you feeling like the world travelled a few metres forward on the roads that counted? Would it be enough if the 2017 trajectory simply continues for the next 12 months? Not from the perspective…