Monday, October 29, 2007

It's Back!

Blogger has restored one of my favourite features from its earlier days. Check your Blogger profile (or mine, or anyone's) and you will find that the listed interests, favourite books, etc. are all hyperlinks. Each link takes you to a list of all the other Blogger users who named that same interest or book or whatever. Each name on that list is a link to another profile with a blog or more of its own, plus all its own hyperlinks to more lists . . .

So long . . . I hope you make it back someday . . .

Friday, October 19, 2007


CG and Madcap Mum have taken up a meme, to list ten things that are non-negotiable for you. I have been mulling it over, but like MCM, I'm not coming up with much. I think that might have something to do with the couple of non-negotiables that I did come up with.

1. Never give up on anyone.

I think I might be able to shorten this one to "Never give up," which is good too, but it might miss the point. If somebody else has as one of their non-negotiables something like "the American way of life," well, I disagree, but I still can't give up on that person. And that makes it difficult for me to say that anything is non-negotiable, because I want to leave myself room to negotiate.

2. Reality.

You know, things like gravity and friction and weather. I won't plan my life on the assumption that there's some fabulous breakthrough energy source to be found, if only I will just be a good consumer and stimulate our energy-guzzling economy to race even faster to fill the R&D coffers to bring on that breakthrough before there's nothing left to consume. I won't daydream about climate change expanding agriculture northward onto thin forest soils, peatland, and bare rock. It doesn't matter what I declare to be non-negotiable in my life, if reality won't negotiate either. Reality wins.

The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan

How did I miss this?!

I took note of the early planning discussions, but after that, the first I heard of The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan was when I saw a copy on the end table in someone's home.

I was entranced.

But it's a very heavy book to hold on your lap.

Now (well, actually, ever since April), you can read it online! The whole thing! And it's not just dry little snippets; it has 21 major theme essays; the 2300 hundred entries include fascinating stories of individuals and their lives; there are photos by Courtney Milne; oh, don't take my word for it, just go read it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Falling Slowly

Does it matter? Sometimes I picture a future world where there are debates about whether the rich farmland, large cities, and rainforests seen in a few old pictures ever really existed, or whether they were imagined by prophets dreaming of heaven.

Via Contrary Goddess and Sharon (jewishfarmer):

ENVIRONMENT: Warming May Trigger Agricultural Collapse

The study referred to in the above article is reported in detail in William Cline's new book, Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country. A look at the Peterson Institute's "In Brief" overview of the book shows that the more optimistic estimates of future agricultural production rely heavily on carbon fertilisation offsetting the negative effects of high temperatures (not to mention a fortuitous escape from all sorts of other harmful effects such as water shortages and severe weather events). Carbon fertilisation? I must look for an update on the dark side of that issue: hidden hunger.

Yes, the fall may be too slow for many to notice. And if so, the emotional suffering may be much less that we would expect, because few will know what has been lost. Even as they starve, people may not know that there was ever much hope of anything else.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Two Fables

There is a story of a man passing by a building site, and asking one of the workers what he was doing. "I am laying bricks," the worker replied, without looking up from his monotonous task. The passerby walked on and asked a second worker what he was doing. "I am building a wall," he replied, with a wave of his trowel as if to say the answer was obvious. The passerby continued a few more steps, and asked a third worker what he was doing. This man straightened up, gazed into the air above the growing foundation, spread his arms wide and declared, "I am building a great cathedral!"

When I was young and ambitious, eager to mold the world to my beneficent dreams, I heard that story with delight.

Later, weary with searching, I heard another story less frequently told. I wish I could remember who told it, or tell it as richly as they did.

There was a long road through wild and desert land. One night a small band of travellers came trudging, their waterskins empty, their lips cracked and dry. As darkness came upon them with nothing but dust and dry rocks in sight, they sank down by the side of the road in despair. But one of their number walked apart, unwilling to simply watch and endure this suffering.

After a time, as the shadows deepened, one stone seemed to draw him. He crossed to it, touching its rough surface, stretching out his arms to encircle it, and finally tugging on it, harder and harder. "I am mad with thirst," he thought. "Even if I move it, what will I find but more dust? Perhaps when it yields, it will roll and crush me." And still he tugged, and at last it seemed to him that the rock had shifted. He braced himself better, and with a mighty effort, he rolled back the stone and revealed a spring of water.

As the years passed, many travellers stopped at that spring to cool their throats and fill their waterskins. Some stayed a while to clean it and build a stone basin where water could be gathered without muddying the source. Others gave thanks and passed quickly on.

Later, as fears darkened the minds of men, some thought that the spring was too precious a thing to be left so open to the sky, to the wild, and to all manner of people who passed by there. And so they built a shrine to shelter and protect it, and a dwelling nearby for those who would tend it. And they welcomed travellers, holding out a cup to them and filling their wineskins with a dipper.

Years passed, and the shrine was expanded and refined. Travellers gathered inside, bowing in gratitude and praise, listening to the sound of the water somewhere deep within, and finally taking a little sip before they journeyed on.

At last a great cathedral stood upon that spot, and those passing on the road would tell the story of how a spring of water once rose up from the stones in that place. Sometimes one of them would venture inside, and in the dying echoes at the end of a great hymn, he might catch his breath in wonder, imagining that he heard again the trickle of clear water.