Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here's to Bonnie Scotland on St. Andrew's Day


Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birthplace of valour, the country of worth!
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands, for ever I love.

- Robert Burns
From My Heart’s in the Highlands
A toast to bonnie Scotland! What better way to do it than to quote Robbie Burns, the great “Bard of Scotland,” on the feast of St. Andrew. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Scots around the world celebrate St. Andrew’s Day on the 30th of November. Tradition has it that St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross or “saltire."  That is why the flag of Scotland is the X-shaped Cross of St. Andrew.

Details about the life of St. Andrew are very sketchy. According to the Christian Bible, he was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Andrew was originally a follower of John the Baptist. He and his brother, Simon Peter (St. Peter), eventually became two of the Twelve Apostles of Christ.


The name Andrew is taken from the Greek "Andreas" meaning manly or brave.


Actor/comic Leslie Nielsen died in Florida on Sunday at the age of 84. Although Nielsen was a Hollywood star who appeared in over one hundred films and numerous television programs, his roots were distinctly Canadian.

Leslie William Nielsen was born on February 1, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of a Mountie. His father, Ingvard Eversen Nielsen, a Danish immigrant, was a Constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The young Leslie was raised in Fort Norman, Northwest Territories (now known as Tulita) where his father was stationed with the RCMP.

Leslie’s elder brother, Erik Nielsen, was a Canadian politician and long-time Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for the Yukon. Dubbed “Yukon Erik,” he was a cabinet minister in the short-lived government of Joe Clark. However, he was most prominent in the government of Brian Mulroney where he served as Canada’s deputy prime minister from 1984 to 1986 and Minister of National defence from 1985 to 1986. Erik Nielsen, a man of few words, was nicknamed “Velcro Lips” due to his unsmiling demeanour and his reticence. He died of a heart attack on September 4, 2008 at his home in Kelowna, British Columbia. Like his brother, Leslie, he was 84 years old at the time of his death.

To watch a tribute to Leslie Nielsen, click on the link below.



Football (CFL)

Congratulations to the Montreal Alouettes for winning the 98th Grey Cup on Sunday over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was a closely-fought game, but the Als prevailed by a score of 21-18 before an estimated 63,000 fans in Edmonton. Their victory, however, was bittersweet. Veteran Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the best quarterback in Canadian football, dropped a bombshell. He announced that he will be undergoing surgery due to a lesion on his thyroid. His future as a player is in doubt until the outcome of the operation.

As for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it was a heartbreaking loss for them. The Green Riders have the most enthusiastic fans in the league and they packed Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. It was a sea of green. During my recent visit to Las Vegas, I spotted some Riders fans at the Treasure Island hotel. I wished them well in the Grey Cup and told them that next year it was the Argos’ turn.


Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays did not win the American League MVP award. The honour went to Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. However, I must congratulate Bautista for being voted the Toronto Blue Jays’ MVP and for winning the John Cerutti Award. The Cerutti Award is named in honour of the former Blue Jays’ pitcher and broadcaster. It is given to the Jay who displays the good character shown by the late John Cerutti.

- Joanne Madden

Sunday, November 28, 2010

To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

- William Blake
From Auguries of Innocence
These have to be some of my very favourite lines of poetry. To me, the imagery of time slipping away like mere grains of sand in your hand is very poignant and somewhat disconcerting. I have chosen to highlight this verse because William Blake, the great English poet and painter, was born on this day in 1757 in the Soho district of London. His father, James, was a hosier, a seller of garments for the legs and feet. Today marks the 253rd anniversary of the birth of William Blake. He died in London on August 12, 1827 at the age of 69.


Why was the broom late for work?


Because he swept in.


On November 23, 2010, the Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a major study on factors influencing the happiness and satisfaction of Canadians. The study concludes that my beloved Toronto is the most miserable city in the country, even though it scores quite high on the happiness scale. Over all, Canadians appear to be a happy bunch. More than 92% of us report being satisfied or very satisfied with their lives last year. The city of Sherbrooke , Quebec, Premier Jean Charest’s hometown, ranks first on the happiness scale, with a score of 4.37 out of 5 on the happiness scale. Brantford, Ontario ranks second with a score of 4.36 and Trois-Rivieres, Quebec ranks third with 4.35. The least happy CMAs (Census Metropolitan Areas) in the country are Toronto, Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia and St. Catharines, Ontario. Toronto scores 4.15. That’s only 5.5 % less than Sherbrooke – not too shabby, if you ask me.

The survey found that “the most important reason for geographical variation in happiness in Canada is differences in the sense of belonging to local communities, which is generally higher in small CMAs, and Atlantic Canada.” The study finds that Prince Edward Island, with a population of only 137,900 (2006 census) is the happiest province in the country. The least happy is Ontario, the most populous province in the country with over 12 million people. British Columbia, the third most populous province, is the second least happy. An interesting finding is that Quebec scores extremely high in the happiness scale. The second most populous province with over 7.6 million people, Quebec finishes second only to Prince Edward Island in terms of happiness.

Not one of the three most populous cities in Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) ranks in the top 15 cities in the happiness survey. The stress of living in a big city is a strong, determining factor. The survey also finds that a 10% increase in income increases the number of people “very satisfied” by 0.6. per cent. The province of Quebec has the lowest mean sense of belonging but the highest mean mental health status.

The top 15 happiest cities according to The Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards are:

1. Sherbrooke Quebec (4.37 on a scale of 5)
2 . Brantford, Ontario (4.36)
3. Trois-Rivieres, Quebec (4.35)
4. Quebec City, Quebec (4.34)
5. St. John’s, Newfoundland (4.34)
6. Calgary, Alberta (4.33)
7. Peterborough, Ontario (4.32)
8. Greater Sudbury, Ontaro (4.32)
9. Saguenay, Quebec (4.32)
10. Halifax, Nova Scotia (4.32)
11. Guelph, Ontario (4.32)
12. Victoria, British Columbia (4.32)
13. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (4.31)
14. Saint John, New Brunswick (4.30)
15. Ottawa-Gatineau (4.29)

If you would like to view the complete report of the Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards, click on the link below.



A November 15th Associated Press story reported that a Sanford, Florida dealership is trying to attract business by offering a little perk to prospective used-truck buyers. To the delight of every redneck in central Florida, that little perk happens to be a free AK-47 assault rifle. Nick Ginetta, the general manager of Nations Trucks in Sanford announced that business has more than doubled since the promotion began on Veteran’s Day. Well, gosh, dang, that’s good news! Yep, that’s just what America needs. Gotta get us some of them AK-47s. It’s all about the Second Amendment and freedom, you know. And don’t worry that the assault rifles will fall into the wrong hands. It’s perfectly safe. After all, customers have to pass a background check prior to using the $400 gun shop voucher. So we know that psychotic serial killers and assassins will never be able to obtain one. Doesn’t that make you feel better?  Better hurry now, the promotion finishes at the end of November.


Football (CFL)

The Grey Cup will take place today in Edmonton. The Montreal Alouettes will play the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 98th edition of the Canadian classic. I’ve been reading some positive articles about the Canadian Football League lately. Television ratings are up and there is a good feeling around the league. If everything goes according to plan, Ottawa will rejoin the league in 2013 and host the Grey Cup in 2014. Somewhere down the road, a franchise may be established in the Maritimes or in Quebec City.

Toronto has been awarded the 100th Grey Cup in 2012. I’m hoping to get tickets because I would really like to attend. I’ve never been to a Grey Cup game and it’s really something I’d like to do. I am a die hard CFL fan.

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Photos from Las Vegas and Grand Canyon


This is my first visit to Las Vegas since 1994 and there have been many changes.  Several prominent Vegas hotels had not yet been built then.  New York, New York, Paris Las Vegas and the Venetian are some examples.

Here is a photo taken in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel.

I visited the lion habitat at the MGM Grand Hotel and viewed some female lions.

The Recession has had its effects on a city that depends on tourism.  There are no longer any $15 buffets.  For the first time, I noticed beggars and homeless people.  The unemployment rate in Nevada is 14.5% (not seasonally adjusted). 

Yesterday I went to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon.  We stopped on the Arizona side of the Hoover Dam.  The Hoover Dam is a concrete arch-gravity dam  located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.  It is 724 ft. in height and it is a marvel.  I am amazed to think that it was built during the Great Depression in the desert, in the middle of nowhere.  Construction began on the project in 1931.  Most of the work was completed by the time of its formal dedication ceremony in 1935.   Below is a photo of the Hoover Dam that I took during my visit there.

We drove through a Joshua tree forest.  According to Mormon legend, early settlers referred to the Joshua tree as the "praying tree" and declared that its branches represented the prophet Joshua raising his hands in prayer.

Here is a photo of some Joshua trees we passed on our bus ride to the Grand Canyon.

We stopped at Eagle Point and Guano Point where we visited with people of the Hualapai nation.  Here are some of them below.

Here are some pictures of the magnificent West Rim of the Grand Canyon.

NOTE: Tomorrow is American Thanksgving and I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.  I invite you to click on the "Fiction" tab above and read a story that I wrote on Canadian Thanksgiving in October.  It's called "A Thanksgiving Tale."

- Joanne

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rod Stewart at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas


Hello again from Las Vegas.  Rod Stewart put on a great show last night at Caesar's Palace.  It was the last show of his run here.  He was on stage for about an hour and forty-five minutes and he sang all of his best songs.  His back-up band was terrific and very talented.  Rod really put a lot of the spotlight on them.  He's quite a soccer fan and his favourite team is Celtic.  He tossed out soccer balls to the audience.  By the way, Celine Dion is scheduled to return to Caesar's Palace in March of 2011.  Jerry Seinfeld will be at the Colosseum at Caesar's just after Christmas.


I found out that the Toronto Blue Jays are 60 to 1 odds here in Vegas to win the World Series in 2011.

I haven't forgotten that today is the 47th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Tomorrow I will be going to the Grand Canyon.

- Joanne

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greetings from Las Vegas



Here I am in Las Vegas, the Entertainmet Capital of the World.  I flew here on WestJest.  It was a 5 hour flight.  WestJet has absolutely no frills.  Everything costs.  My husband and I are going to see Rod Stewart tonight at Caesar's Palace.  I hope to have some good pictures to show you soon.  We are going to the Grand Canyon on Tuesday.  It's sunny and a bit cool here today.  I still have to get accustomed to the 3 hour time change.


The name "Las Vegas" is Spanish for "The Meadows" or "The Grasslands."  Spanish explorers named it after the grassland they saw along the destert streams.


Football (CFL)

The Toronto Argonauts were soundly defeated by Montreal Alouettes today in the East Division final today.  Montreal won by a score of 48-17 before over 58,000 fans at Olympic Stadium.  Well,, at least the Argos had a better season than expected.  Too bad it had to end so disappointingly.


Montreal's hockey team beat our Toronto Maple Leafs last night.  The Habs defeated the Leafs 2-0 at the Bell Centre.  There was a great tribute to the late Pat Burns.  It was very well done.

- Joanne

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wilfrid Laurier and Immigration



We do not anticipate, and we do not want, that any individuals should forget the land of their origin or their ancestors. Let them look to the past, but let them also look to the future; let them look to the land of their ancestors, but let them also look to the land of their children.

- Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Quoted in the Toronto Globe, September 2, 1905
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the 7th Prime Minister of Canada, was born on November 20, 1841. Laurier was born in St. Lin, Canada East (now Quebec) and he was our first prime minister of French ancestry. He held office from 1896 until 1911, the longest unbroken tenure of any Canadian prime minister.

It was Laurier’s government that opened the Canadian West to newcomers.  Clifford Sifton, the Minister of the Interior, was the man Laurier made responsible for immigration. Sifton’s “Open Door “ policy encouraged immigrants to settle in the West. The above “Quote of the Day” is Laurier’s answer to the complex question of immigration and identity.


Hey Sixteeners, this is just a note to let you know that I will be leaving on Sunday for four days in Las Vegas including a bus excursion to the Grand Canyon. I will report to you soon from Vegas and I hope to post some interesting photos on this website. So follow along as I head to that playground for grownups. This will be my first visit to Las Vegas since 1994 and there have been many changes there since then. It should be fun.


The Toronto Raptors are on a bit of a roll. They won their second game in a row last night by defeating the Houston Rockets at the Air Canada Centre. The score was 106-96 for Toronto. The way this season has been going, a two-game winning streak is something to celebrate, something to build on for the Raps.

- Joanne

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Environment and the Canadian Senate



The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away; a sordid boon!

- William Wordsworth
From The World is Too Much With Us [1806}
The English poet, William Wordsworth, wrote verses that celebrate the beauty and spiritual essence of nature. In his romantic poetry, he tried to convey the message that nature is not a commodity for human beings to exploit. He warned us that we are losing our connection to the natural world.  Although Wordsworth lived during the 18th and 19th centuries (1770-1850), his words are more relevant than ever in this 21st century.  Stephen Harper should read them carefully, especially after what his loyalists in the Senatee of Canada have done.  See my rant.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used the unelected Senate to do his dirty work - and I’m speaking both figuratively and literally. The Climate Change Accountability Act was defeated Tuesday in the Senate. Harper has filled Parliament’s Upper House with so many Tories that it is no longer the Red Chamber. It is the Blue Chamber. It is no longer the House of Sober Second Thought. It is the House of Harper Hacks. Yes, I am quite aware that Liberal prime ministers have filled the Senate with Grits when they held power, but Stephen Harper is a man who has spent his entire political career staunchly advocating an elected Senate. Now that his party is governing, he has appointed 35 Conservative loyalists to the 105-member chamber since July of 2007. If that isn’t political hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.

Late on Tuesday and without debate, the Senate of Canada refused to give final approval to Bill C-311, an important piece of environmental legislation that the House of Commons had passed in May. The bill was voted down by a margin of 43-32 in a snap vote that caught many Liberals off guard. Not enough showed up to ensure the legislation was approved in the Upper House.

The rejected legislation calls for a reduction of greenhouse by 25% below 1990 levels by the year 2020. The Harper government’s goal is 17%. It has tied its policy to that of the Obama administration south of the border. However, the political landscape has changed in the United States since the recent midterm elections. Republicans now control the House of Representatives and have increased their presence in the U.S. Senate. Since the G.O.P. is environment unfriendly, there is no chance that President Obama’s targets will be met or that anything significant will be achieved on the environment front in the United States in the near future. This is a very difficult time for North American proponents of the environment. It’s extremely frustrating.

Given the death of the climate-change bill, what will Canada have to show at the international climate change conference next month in Cancun, Mexico? Nearly 200 countries will be congregating there to forge an agreement on climate change. What will Canada have to say other nations when it is asked what it has done lately to combat climate change? Lamentably, Canada will be embarrassed before the eyes of the world. My heart sinks at the thought of it.



The Toronto Raptors had a much-needed victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly yesterday. The defeated the Sixers by a score of 94-86.


There has been a great deal of chatter in T.O. about the possibility of Manny Ramirez coming to town to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Dominican is 38 years old and will be a free agent soon. He was spotted in our city recently and has told ESPN that (Blue Jay manager John) Farrell “is a manager for whom I would like to play, and Toronto is a team I’ve liked since they had all those Dominican players in the 80s."  Is that enough evidence to suggest that the former Red Sox slugger will be wearing a Blue Jays uniform in 2011?  I wish I had the answer to that, but I don’t. I only know that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  In this case, there seems to be smoke.

Would it be a good move for the Jays to acquire the services of Senor Ramirez? Manny being Manny, his presence could be a very disruptive in the clubhouse. Signing him would certainly be a risk. The question for GM Alex Athopoulos is whether Ramirez is worth that risk. I think it would be fun to have him play here in Toronto and I also believe that he would put some much-need fans in the stands. Is that enough reason to sign him, though? It would be more than enough reason if he also slugged the ball well. However, there is no way of knowing how well he's going to play before he puts his name on a contract. Sometimes you just have to take a risk.

What happens to DH Adam Lind if Manny comes to town? Well, the arrival of Ramirez would likely mean the departure of Lind. If there is no opening at DH for Lind, his days in Toronto are numbered. The Jays appear to have given up on making him their first baseman.

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prince William, Kate and the Catherines of Henry VIII


The media are absolutely buzzing about the announcement yesterday of the engagement of Prince William and Kate (soon to be known as Catherine) Middleton. The British press is salivating at the thought of covering this extravaganza. With Prime Minister David Cameron imposing his own brand of harsh Thatcherism, the British are sorely in need of some diversion. What better time for the pomp and ceremony of the impeding royal nuptials. The House of Windsor will put on a splendid show, although in this age of austerity, it will be necessary to tone it down somewhat.  They’d better pray the outcome of this fairytale wedding will turn out far better than the disastrous outcome of the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

Diana never became queen consort and Kate may have to wait quite a long time before she assumes the title of Queen Catherine. Prince Charles recently turned 62 years old. Queen Elizabeth is 84 and appears to be in good health.  There is definitely longevity in her genes and If she lives as long as her mother, she will be 101 when she passes away. If that should happen, Charles will be about 78 or 79 years old when he finally ascends to the throne. His son, William, will be about 45 at that time.

Women named Catherine have played a prominent role in the history of the British monarchy. King Henry VIII must have really been partial to Catherines because three of his six wives shared that name – Catherine of Aragon, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Henry, of course, fought to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon dissolved so he could marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Catherine Howard (Wife Number 5) was Anne Boleyn’s first cousin. The two cousins shared a similar fate. They were both beheaded. Henry’s sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, survived him. After the death of Henry VIII in 1547, Catherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, the brother of Henry’s second wife, Jane Seymour.

For those interested in Henry VIII and his wives, there is a far better television series than The Tudors. It is The Six Wives of Henry VIII, produced by the BBC. The Six Wives of Henry VIII consists of an episode for each wife. Keith Michell plays Henry in the series and his portrayal is superb. He was born to play the role. He looks and acts and laughs like Henry VIII. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, the actor who plays Henry in The Tudors, isn’t anywhere near as convincing. He doesn’t show Henry’s fun-loving side enough. His Henry is far too serious. Furthermore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers does not bear a physical resemblance to Henry in the least.


Mary Tudor (Queen Mary I of England) died on November 17, 1558 at the age of 42. The Catholic Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, reigned from 1553 until 1558. If you discount the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey who reigned for a mere nine days in July of 1553, Mary I was really the first woman to rule as Queen of England. She earned the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary” because, during her reign, almost 300 religious dissenters were burned at the stake. On this day in 1558, Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, ascended to the throne of England.


On November 17, 1987, George Bell became the first member of the Toronto Blue Jays to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award. Will Jose Bautista do the same this year? Bell slugged 47 home runs during the 1987 season and drove in 134 RBIs. Bautista hit 54 homers this season and he had 124 RBIs. However, the conventional wisdom is that Bautista will not be named MVP because the Jays did not have a contending team this year. In 1987, the Blue Jays finished in second place in the American League East with 96 wins. In 2010, the Jays finished fourth in the AL East with 85 wins.



The Toronto Maple Leafs ended an ugly eight-game losing streak yesterday by defeating the Nashville Predators by a score of 5-4 at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs showed some grit by coming back to win the game after being down by a three-goal deficit in the first period.


The woeful Toronto Raptors lost again yesterday. They were defeated 109-94 by the Washington Wizards. The Raptors have dropped two games in a row and eight of their last nine games. They play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in The City of Brotherly Love.


Congratulations to former Blue Jay Roy Halladay for winning the National League Cy Young Award yesterday.  Halladay is only the fifth player to win a Cy Young in both the National and American leagues.  Although Roy did not receive a World Series ring this year, he had a dream season in which he recorded 21 wins (including a perfect game) and an ERA of 2.44.  He pitched in postseason play for the first time in his formidable major league career and threw a no-hitter in his first-ever playoff game.  Now he adds another Cy Young to his list of achievements. Not too shabby, Doc.  Not too shabby at all.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Louis Riel


He was a complex man, full of contradiction and angst, certainly, but what makes Louis Riel him so intriguing is that he managed to straddle two cultures, Native and white, and came as close to anyone to envisioning a sympathetic and equitable relationship between the two. That Canadians may someday achieve this vision remains Louis Riel’s legacy.

- Maggie Sigggins
From Riel: A Life of Revolution
Born October 22, 1844 at Red River Settlement (present-day Manitoba), Metis leader Louis Riel is certainly one the most controversial figures in Canadian history. Some call him insane, a murderer and a traitor. Others regard him as a hero and the “Father of Manitoba.” Today is the 125th anniversary of his death. On November 16, 1885, Riel was executed in Regina, Saskatchewan for high treason. The province of Manitoba now celebrates “Louis Riel Day” every third Monday of February.

For those interested in the life of one of the most charismatic, colourful and fascinating characters in Canadian history, I recommend two books. They are Riel: A Life of Revolution, Maggie Siggins, HarperCollins, 1994 and The Trial of Louis Riel by George Goulet.


On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state of the United States. This Canadian sends warm regards to all you Sooners out there. On the anniversary of your statehood, I salute you. By the way, you may want to check out my November 4, 2010 blog entry on Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers.


The name Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words “okla” meaning "people" and “humma” meaning “red.”


Canadian jazz artist, Diana Krall was born on November 16, 1964 in Nanaimo, British Columbia. She is one of my favourites.

To watch a video of Diana performing Cry Me a River, click on the link below.



Saturday, November 13, 2010 was another dismal day for Toronto sports teams. The Toronto Maples Leafs lost to the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 5-3. Nazem Kadri suited up for the Leafs and Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox wrote that he “acquitted himself well.” It was not, however, enough to give the Leafs a victory. The Blue and White suffered their 10th defeat in 11 games.

The Toronto Raptors lost yet again, this time to the Miami Heat. They were outscored by the Heat 109 -11 in the Sunshine State. Former Raptor Chris Bosh only had 22 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble.

The only bright spot on the Toronto sports scene over the past weekend was the Toronto Argonauts. They defeated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium by a score of 16-13 to win the Eastern semi-final. They now advance to the Eastern final against the Alouettes in Montreal on Sunday, November 21. If they win that one, it’s on to Edmonton to play in Canada’s national football championship, the Grey Cup. Congratulations to the Argos.

- Joanne

Saturday, November 13, 2010




What is a cynic? A man who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

- Oscar Wilde
From Lady Windermere’s Fan {1892}, Act III


Today’s topic is palindromes. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a palindrome as “a word, verse, or sentence or a number that reads the same backward or forward.” According to Merriam-Webster, its first known use was circa 1629.

One of the most famous palindromes was purportedly uttered by Napoleon Bonaparte.  It was in reference to his first sighting of the island of Elba where he was exiled in 1814. - Able was I ere I saw Elba.  Another popular palindrome is Madam, in Eden I’m Adam. Here is a short list of even more palindromes.

Rats eat no evil star.

Panic in a Titanic, I nap.

Otto made Ned a motto.

Warsaw was raw.

Was it a car or a cat I saw?

We’ll let Dad tell Lew.

The number 1881 is a palindrome.

The words “level” and “racecar” and “kayak” are palindromes.

If you can’t get enough palindromes, you really should check out this website. It is an online journal called The PalindromistIt describes itself as “the world’s greatest palindrome magazine” and “A Journal For People Who WRITE – and read – Palindromes.” Click on the link below to view it.



The Toronto Blue Jays parted ways with three players today. Edwin Encarnacion was claimed off waivers today by the Oakland Athletics. That means the Jays will have a new third baseman next spring. Although Encarnacion slugged 21 home runs this season, he made quite a few defensive errors. I was often critical of his play, but I have to say that his performance improved after he was sent down to the minors. However, I do not think he was ever the third baseman that the Jays need to compete in the American League East.

Relief pitcher Brian Tallett and backup outfielder Dewayne Wise both opted for free agency instead of a demotion to the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Congratulations to Jose Bautista for winning a Silver Slugger award. He can add that to growing collection. He also won the Hank Aaron Award as the top slugger in the American League. Will he win American League Most Valuable Player honours? We’ll find out on November 23rd. In the meantime, all I can say is Jose for MVP.

- Joanne

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why I Wear a Poppy on Remembrance Day


Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and in other countries of the Commonwealth. It is known as Veteran’s Day in the United States. The Armistice that ended the First World War was signed on this day in 1918. It happened at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month. Here are my reflections on Remembrance Day and on war and peace.

Why I Wear a Poppy on Remembrance Day

Without equivocation, I believe that war is an abomination, a blight upon humanity.  Yet every Remembrance Day, I wear a bright red poppy.  Here's why.  I wear a poppy to honour the memory of those who have suffered and died in war. I also wear it to remind myself of the folly and futility of war. Yes, war may sometimes be necessary to rid the world of a scourge such as Nazism. It may be the only recourse to overcome a madman like Adolf Hitler. However, there is no glamour in war, only hardship, poverty and death.  It is not glorious and it is not adventurous. It is unspeakably brutal and it takes the lives of innocent people. It causes untold destruction and it cruelly separates families. It forces its victims away from their homes and into refugee camps. In times of war, the innocent are the most vulnerable and they always suffer the most.

I wear a poppy for those who died in the muddy trenches World War I. The “Great War” was an ugly and unnecessary war. When it began in August of 1914, many thought it would be a grand adventure and that the troops would be home by Christmas. They didn’t realize that such a great number of those eager, youthful combatants would never see their homes again. Sadly, those young people went to war and died because their countries were engaged in a battle for colonies and for military and economic superiority.  What a waste of human potential!

I wear a poppy for the victims of World War II and Korea and Vietnam. I wear it for those who suffered under Nazism and fascism and for those who sacrificed their lives to end the reign of those cursed ideologies. I wear it for the victims of Stalin and Mao and all those who currently live under totalitarianism and dictatorship.

I wear a poppy to remember all the women who have been violated by soldiers during wartime. I wear it for the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust and for all the victims of genocide. I wear it for the 300,000 who died in Nanking in 1937 and I wear it for those who lost their lives when the deadly atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wear it for the victims of Pol Pot and his killing fields. I wear it for the children of war, the babes in arms who begin their lives in poverty and horror. I wear it for the orphans and widows of war. They suffer because the military-industrial complex and arms dealers throughout the world have a vested interest in war.  Without it, they would not be so affluent.  Their money would be spent on education, health care and the alleviation of poverty.

I wear a poppy to remember the mistakes of history. This is an imperfect world and humans are imperfect creatures. Evil exists and it will take root and spread if we allow it to do so.  The only answer is to educate the youth of the world so that they will not support another Adolf Hitler. We must make certain that young people are well-versed in history and that they know the truth about war, genocide and extremism of both the right-wing and the left-wing variety. They must be made aware that extremism leads to death, misery and totalitarianism.

I wear a poppy for the all the victims of terrorism and for their families. I wear it to remember those who perished on September 11, 2001. I wear it for all those who have been maimed and broken by war, both physically and psychologically. I wear it for those who lack basic human rights.   I will not forget.  On this November 11th and every November 11th, I will remember them all and I will hope for peace.


There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order (a e i o u). They are “abstemious” and “facetious.”


What is there but woe for long-suffering Toronto sports fans? The Leafs have just lost seven games in a row. The Florida Panthers defeated them last night by a score of 4-1. Where is their offence? It’s just not there. They have only one win in their last 11 games. The Toronto Raptors also lost yesterday to the Charlotte Bobcats by a score of 101-96. The game was played at the Air Canada Centre before a crowd of only 14,309. Take note, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 10, 2010



If you are a fan of old television shows and you think you have a good knowledge of them, why don't you test that knowledge.  I invite you to go to my other website and do my quiz.  It consists of ten questions.  I hope you have fun with it.  Click on  http://www.tvbanter.net/.

- Joanne

Monday, November 8, 2010

Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind


In a week moment, I have written a book. . .

 - Margaret Mitchell, in a 1935 letter, a year before the 1936 publication of Gone With the Wind.
Well fiddle-dee-dee, Scarlett O’Hara.  Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.  Margaret Mitchell was born on November 8, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia.   As a child, she was enthralled by the harrowing tales told to her by elderly survivors of the American Civil War.  Known as Peggy Mitchell, she grew up to become a features writer for the Atlanta Journal.

In 1926, Mitchell left the Atlanta Journal to tend to an injured ankle.  She wound up writing an epic novel of the Civil War.  The book that Margaret Mitchell wrote "in a week moment" became an instant success and earned a Pulitizer Prize for its relucant scribe.  Gone With the Wind was initially titled Another Day and then Tomorrow is Another Day.  Its feisty heroine was originally called Pansy O'Hara.  Thank goodness, that name was changed to Scarlett.  Imagine Rhett and Pansy.  Ugh!

In August of 1949, Margaret Mitchell was struck by a car while crossing Peachtree Street in Atlanta with her husband, John Marsh. The couple were on their way to see the British film A Canterbury Tale at The Peachtree Art Theatre. Mitchell never regained consciousness and died five days later on August 16, 1949. She was 48 years old.

I first read Gone With the Wind as a teenager and I was captivated by the sweeping saga of the Old South and the adventures of the headstrong Scarlett O'Hara and that dashing rogue, Rhett Butler.  As the years passed, I developed some serious qualms abut the novel.  It seems to sympathize with the system of slavery in the South and portrays it in a positive light.  I find this very disturbing.  I know Gone With the Wind isn't Uncle Tom's Cabin but . . .

To watch a video of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the acclaimed 1939 movie version of Gone With the Wind (it won 10 Academy Awards), click on the link below.


Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula was born on this day in 1847.  He was born Abraham Stoker in Clontarf, Dublin, a coastal suburb just north east of Dublin city in Ireland.  Stoker had a keen interest in the theatre and worked as a journalist an drama critic for the Dublin Evening News.  In 1878, he married Florence Balcombe, the former girlfriend of fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde.  The couple moved to London where Stoker became manager of actor Henry Irving's Lyceum Theatre.

Although Bram Stoker wrote several works of fiction and non-fiction, he is renowned as the author of the classic 1897 Gothic horror novel, Dracula, and will be forever remembered as the father of vampire fiction.  He died in London on April 20, 1912 at the age of 64.  Were he alive today, I can't help wondering what he would think of the vampire books and movies that are so popular with contemporary youth, especially the Twilight series.

To watch a video of the trailer for the 1931 film Dracula, click on the link below.



Here is a sentence that uses all 26 letters of the alphabet.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.


Football (CFL)

The Toroto Argonauts gained playoff momentum by winning a "nothing game" in Montreal yesterday. They rolled passed the Alouettes at Molson Stadium by a score of 30-4 to finish the 2010 season with a 9-9 record.  Now they have a playoff date with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Sunday

One thing is certain.  The Argos will need solid, dependable quatterbacking if thy want to get past the Tabbies, the kind not provided by their regular quarterback. Cleo Lemon has not played well this season, to say the least.  After starting the game in Montreal yesterday, he was replaced by Dalton Bell.   Bell completed 16-of- 27 passes for 229 yards.  With the Argos leading 27-4, Burlington native Danny Branagan came into the game and became the first Canadian quarterback to play for the Argos in years.


The Toronto Blue Jays parted ways with closer Kevin Gregg on Thursday. The 32-year-old right-handed pitcher was given a $750,000 (U.S.) buyout.  Gregg had a record of 37 saves in 43 chances this season.  His ERA was 3.51.  That's not a bad record and Gregg's performance during the latter part of the season improved.  However, I do not think he will ever be the closer the Blue Jays need to compete in the playoffs and the World Series.  The Jays have not ruled out his return in 2011.

- Joanne

Friday, November 5, 2010

Guy Fawkes Day


Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip Hoorah !
Hip hip Hoorah !

A penny loaf to feed ol' Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.

Burn him in a tub of tar,
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol' Pope is dead.

- Traditional British Guy Fawkes Day chant


Okay Sixteeners, come along with me to the England of 1605 and we’ll travel to another world (at least from the point of view of most countries in the 21st century). We'll visit another era with different sensibilities, a time when there was no freedom of religion in England.  Roman Catholics could not openly practise their faith. They were bound by law to attend the services of the Church of England. Catholic Masses had to be celebrated in secret. Those who refused to attend Anglican services faced fines, imprisonment and the confiscation of their property.

In November of 1605, James I was the King of England. James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots who had been executed in 1587 for plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. James arrived from Scotland in 1603 to ascend to the English throne after the death of the childless Elizabeth. Against this backdrop, a group of Catholics concocted a plot to blow up the Parliament buildings with gunpowder and kill James I and his family. Their purpose was to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne.

The plot was thwarted when Guy Fawkes (also known as Guido Fawkes) was caught with the gunpowder. The conspirators had stockpiled the explosives in a secret place beneath the House of Lords. In the early hours of November 5, 1605, authorities, acting on a tip from an anonymous letter, searched Westminster and discovered Guy Fawkes guarding over the gunpowder. Fawkes was arrested, questioned and tortured. On January 31, 1606, he faced execution. He dramatically jumped from the scaffold from which he was to be hanged and broke his neck.

Guy Fawkes Day is commemorated in England every November 5th with bonfires and fireworks. The unfortunate Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy. Although Fawkes is forever linked with the Gunpowder Plot, he was not the leader or the driving force. It was a man named Robert Catesby who really set the plot in motion. British historian Antonia Fraser points this out in an excellent book on the Gunpowder Plot entitled Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot. I recommend it

To watch a video about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, click on the link below.



“Dreamt” is the only word in the English language that ends in “mt.”



Yesterday, baseball lost a great one. George “Sparky” Anderson died at the age of 76 at his home in Thousand Oaks, California. He suffered from dementia.

Sparky was one of the best managers in the game. He led Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine to two World Series victories in 1975 and 1976. He won a third World Series in 1984 as manager of the Detroit Tigers and became the first manager in the history of Major League Baseball to win the championship of both the National League and the American League. Tony La Russa later accomplished the same feat.

Sparky Anderson retired from managing at the end of the 1995 season with 2,194 wins to his credit and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in the year 2000. He wears the cap of the Cincinnati Reds in his Hall of Fame portrait.

Sparky had a strong connection to Canada. He spent six seasons playing minor-league ball here. In 1956 and 1958, he played for the Montreal Royals, the Triple-A affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1958, the feisty second baseman helped the Royals win their final International League title. Sparky also played four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League. It was Leafs owner Jack Kent Cooke who noticed his abilities and encouraged him to become a manager.

At the end of the 1963 season Sparky Anderson retired as a player. In 1964, at the age of 30, he made his managerial debut with Toronto. Even though the team had a record of 80-72, he was fired. In 2007, Sparky Anderson was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sparky acquired his nickname in the minors due to his spirited play. We’ll miss the man with the shock of white hair and the rugged face.

- Joanne

Thursday, November 4, 2010




Today I present to you three quotes from the American humourist and showman, Will Rogers.

Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.

- Will Rogers
Illiterate Digest (1924), “Warning to jokers: lay off the prince”

Politics has got so expensive that it takes lots of money to even get beat with.

- Will Rogers
Syndicated newspaper article (June 28, 1931)

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.

- Will Rogers
Letter in The New York Times (April 29, 1930)

William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in what is now Oklahoma. He was a comedian, a cowboy, a social commentator and a vaudeville performer. He wrote a syndicated newspaper column and was a popular radio personality during the 1930s with a weekly Sunday show. 
A man of many pursuits, Will Rogers was a lecturer and a world traveller. He became an advocate of the aviation industry and a friend of Charles Lindbergh.

Will Rogers died in a plane crash in Alaska on August 15, 1935 while accompanying famed aviator Wiley Post on a flight. The two men got caught in poor weather and lost control of the plane. It crashed into a lagoon near Port Barrow and both men perished. Will Rogers was 55 years old and he was "Oklahoma's favourite son."

To hear the voice of Will Rogers on the radio talking about unemployment, click on the link below.



To my knowledge, there are four words in the English language that do not rhyme with any other words. These four words are:

1. orange

2. purple

3. silver

4. month

Isn’t it interesting that three of the four words are names of colours?

NOTE : If you can think of any other words that do not rhyme with anything, I’d certainly like you to contact me.



The Toronto Maple Leafs have lost the services of captain Dion Phaneuf for at least a month due to injury. Phaneuf has a deep laceration on his left leg. The Leafs played well last night, but they still lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Washington Capitals.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 2, 2010



No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

- Thomas Hood
From the poem No
I have to admit that I identify with the sentiments of Thomas Hood. Never have I been a fan of the month of November. My problem with the eleventh month of the year is that it becomes dark too early in the day. That is why I yearn for daylight saving time all year round. I must have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Some people consider November to be hauntingly beautiful. I have also heard it referred to as the “death month”. I suppose it is necessary to go through the sombreness of November to get to the brightness of Christmas.

I try to make the best of November, but I’m still glad it only lasts for 30 days instead of 31.


Marie-Antoinette was born on November 2, 1755. She was Austrian, not French, and she never said, “Let them eat cake.” Her name at birth was Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Hapsburg-Lothringen and she was the Archduchess of Austria. She was born at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, the fifteenth child of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and his wife Empress Maria Theresa. Marie-Antoinette was only 37 years old when she was executed by guillotine in Paris on October 16, 1793. The place of her execution is now known as the Place de la Concorde.

All the publicity, the attention, the interviews, the photographs, were too much for me.

- Johnny Vander Meer (describing how he felt about all the attention he received after throwing his second no-hitter)', AP Wire, 1939

Baseball’s Johnny Vander Meer was born on November 2, 1914 in Midland Park, New Jersey. His nickname was The Dutch Master. Vander Meer was a left-handed pitcher and for most of his career he played for the Cincinnati Reds (1937-1949, served in the Navy from 1944-45)). He is the only pitcher in major league history to pitch no-hitters in two consecutive starts. On June 11, 1938, the southpaw pitched a no-hitter for the Reds against the Boston Braves at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Four nights later, on June 15, he pitched another no-hitter against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the very first night game at Ebbets Field. Vander Meer won 15 games in that 1938 season. He won the most games of his career in 1942 when he recorded 18 victories.

John Samuel Vander Meer played his final game on May 7, 1951 and died in Tampa, Florida on October 6, 1997 at the age of 82. The cause of death was an abdominal aneurysm. His record of two consecutive no-hitters is not likely to be broken any time soon.


Our neighbours south of the border go to the polls today in crucial midterm elections. The Democrats are not expected to do well. I realize I am not an American citizen, but what happens in the United States affects Canada and the rest of the world. On that basis, I feel quite entitled to express my opinion.

I don’t agree with the politics of the Tea Party movement at all. It can’t be dismissed because it is a populist movement and many Americans support it. However, their ideas and their powerful hatred of government repulse me. We just don’t have the same view of the world.

Let’s begin with the name of this right-wing grass roots movement. The Boston Tea Party was certainly a protest against a tax, but it was a tax imposed by Britain – not the Thirteen Colonies. Tea Partiers complain about the high deficit and government spending. However, it was the “conservative” government of George W. Bush that put the United States in such deep debt with its spending on war and on tax cuts for the most wealthy.

Tea Partiers are angry at government. They should be angry with all the greed on Wall Street. They should take umbrage at those who took advantage of the deregulation and unbridled capitalism that Ronald Reagan introduced in the 1980s. They are the ones who subjected Anerucans to sub prime mortgages and hedge funds. They caused the Great Recession of 2008. They caused untold suffering and high unemployment around the world. They are responsible for people losing their homes and their jobs and for pensioners suffering the loss of their retirement savings.

President Barack Obama inherited a huge mess, the worst economic slump since The Great Depression. He could not have cleaned it up in the 21 months he has been in office. He is not a magician. It is impossible to recover from such an economic down slide overnight. The Tea Partiers portray Obama as some kind of radical socialist. He is not anything of the sort. His stimulus spending has worked. The American economy would be in worse shape if Obama had not taken tthe measures he did.  Thanks to Obama, many who did not have health coverage before have it now.

Barack Obama advocated tax increases for those making over $200,000 a year. That’s not communism. That’s just a fairer and more equitable society. The Republican Party has swung too far to the radical right. The G.O.P. is no longer the party of Dwight Eisenhower and it hasn’t been for quite a long time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The best societies have both individual initiative and a sense of community to protect the weak and the vulnerable.  One without the other is not conducive to a just and prosperous society for all.   Capitalism needs safeguards.  It needs regulation to protect it from the ravages of human avarice.  Adam Smith's so-called "invisible hand" really is invisible. It doesn't exist.



Well, it was not the most exciting World Series, but the San Francisco Giants won it and they are thrilled with the victory, thank you very much. They took 52 long years to win the “October” Classic and they won it on November 1, 2010. Nevertheless, they are World Series champions (not “world champions” as Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig referred to them). They defeated the Texas Rangers last night by a score of 3-1 to take the Series 4 games to 1. Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants and their fans.

- Joanne