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Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

So I’d meant to visit the Heart Machine. It seemed to be a nifty concept, the idea of taking control of your city, instead of passively waiting for the city to happen and you just being an observer. As the artist had written, the interaction between citizen and city was meant to be symbiotic.

long before you saw the exhibit you could see the orange flicker of the Heart Machine on the upper walls of nearby buildings. I was especially interested as the Heart Machine had been featured last year at the counter-cultural Burning Man Festival in Nevada. the whole idea is that these 4 big severed arteries or maybe it was the Vena Cava would belch huge roiling puffs of flame into the sky when triggered to do so by some good citizen who was beating at the heart. Well it certainly was a spectacle and it drew a crowd of citizens who chose to interact with the exhibit.

Carl, Jeff, Maggie and I were standing around the Heart Machine somewhat passively watching this fire twirling girl toss a flaming stick around when this Mohawk’d  fellow climbed up onto a reddish mound that I took to be the heart. Imediatly the heart seemed to be picking up the pace. The pulse was increasing and the night above was lit by great roars and exhalations of fire and then the citizens arrived – planned or not they certainly added to the atmosphere and if it had not been for the chill in the air I could well have imagined that I was at the Burning man Festival myself.

I felt it first – this primitive vibration in my gut, a pounding beat explained as “step-Dub” by Jeff who is familiar with the raving scene. The street was packed and a mob was moving toward us – the smell of weed (cannabis) preceding their arrival. It was a mobile rave where the police were conspicuous in their absence, several hundred youths in varying degrees of stonedness, one fellow near me puffing a joint so large it lit the crowd up all around him. There was this guy who looked like Renfield from Dracula, faries, various pseudo Manga characters, kids in masks, costumes, fancy gowns and tons of neon glow sticks. And of course a couple of rave queens in a pickup and another vehicle behind that was kind of like a float. “Water, anybody got water?” a young fellow cried out to nobody in particular.

The music was pounding out so loud that I could barely hear Maggie saying “lets get out of here, this is getting out of control”. As though in reaction to the new arrivals the heart was now spewing flame as though it had just ruptured. A fire engine was caught up in the mess and its siren added to the chaos.

You might say that these citizens of Toronto had come to interact with the heart, and interact they did!!! It was a symbiosis that seemed symbolic of recent interactions – read into it what you will.

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This grim and rainy departure hardly speaks for the excitement of the night before. It had been a Nuit Blanche that spoke loudly of Toronto’s creative talent. And also it spoke of the involvement and uninvolvement of its citizenry.

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Arbag – Fuel line burst, hot gas on the engine 10K into the bush (Tom’s picture – unknown photographer)

Aside from the hum of the mosquitoes under a grey, cloud-laden sky the northern forest is quiet. It is as though man had never touched this raw and rugged land. From somewhere there arises a faint revving sound, it intrudes into the otherwise pristine morning growing louder over a period of about 15 minutes. Bone jarring thumps reverberate through the trees and soon human voices can also be heard. Now visible, a convoy of several vehicles jolts into view. It looks like something out of a northern version of a Mad Max movie. Mud spattered vehicles with various oddments of human survival strapped atop. Whooping, shouting and cheering the off roaders do their stuff.

A green Neon is of particular interest, why is it out here? The convoy is several miles from the nearest passable road, this is dense bush, its crazy! Tom is the driver. Blond hair, pony tail and ragged beard, he is in his mid 20’s, dressed as per normal in his trademark color, “baby blue.” The sunroof is open, the road is crap and Tom is in his element. As he explained, “My intention is to do a few rock pitches, get the car dirty, I’m a bit of an off road groupie.” The vehicles enter a clearing, it is just a huge expanse of rock, polished by the glaciers, its deeper hollows filled by mud and bog grass.

As I’m sure you can imagine it can be very expensive. Tom has had his neon for two years and as he says, “It looks like xxxx” “I have been my cars own worst enemy.” He confesses. “All the damage is because of me,” he whispers. People say it looks like garbage and regrettably there are a few mechanical problems. I have no power steering and the ball joints are gone, it makes a horrible grinding noise when it goes around a corner, it has no starter so I put it in first and roll it along till the engine kicks in. The car always overheats and it has to be stopped sometimes on the way to work. If you ride in my car most people want to get out quickly because they think it is unsafe but it is not, there are just a lot of little things. (I will clarify this for the reader, it is Tom’s driving style that concerns his passengers.) I have tape on the lights, the mirror is missing, no hubcaps, some of the door handles are off and as Najeeb pointed out, “It smells like weed.” Tom corrects him, “most of that smell is the burning from the engine.”

Off roading is not for everyone, as you can see there are consequences but both Tom and Pablo say, it’s a great way to see the outdoors. They explore any little trail they can find and were most excited when I told them of the lost settlers roads that span the province, overgrown by trees and forgotten to all but the most aged historian. If you find a battered green neon far out in the forest you will know where it came from and you will know that Tom and Pablo have probably graduated to a farmer auto.

While on the topic of misfortunes and accidents, check out this incident when the rope broke in Dewdney’s Cave … Here

Or more to the point, the accident with the Leopard tank … Here

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Marmora Cave – Ontario

You can pretty well tell that this picture was taken in one of the Marmora caves. The rock in that area, though much the same as that in Dewdney’s Cave (Bobcaygeon Formation) is wickedly sharp – comparatively, the rock in Dewdney’s is much smoother.

This tunnel was formed above the water table by water running along a joint, you can see the wear along the wall and the incision inward along a bedding plane.

In the spring these particular tunnels are entirely submersed by running water and so bats seem not to find them suitable as a hibernaculum, in fact, in my experience, most of the tunnels in the Marmora area are unpopulated by bats.

Looking at a map in the winter /spring issue of the Toronto Caver the progression of “White Nose Syndrome” in bats appears to have made it into Southern Ontario this year (2010). The disease was first seen in 2006 in Schoharie New York. Initially the White Nose Syndrome is thought to have spread southwards in the States, but mysteriously it was not confirmed to be present until it was discovered at several sites including Moira in 2010

By the map in the Toronto Caver it would appear that distribution of White Nose Syndrome is on a North/South axis – in fact quite narrowly confined to certain areas. As Kirk MacGregor says, the fungus responsible for the symptoms that are referred to as “White Nose Syndrome” (Geomyces destructans) has been identified as far north as Kirkland Lake and yet at this time there is no evidence of it being east of Ottawa.

Geographically you would wonder what it is that is defining the spread of disease … Travel patterns of the bat?

Below I copy an excerpt from an e-mail that a friend and I were bouncing back and forth in Feb. 2008 …

“not being a bat scientist or anything, but would the fungus not be indicative of what is going on inside. Is the fungus growing on some kind of sputum that the bat is exhaling? What type of medium does this fungus usually grow on? Is there any connection between that and the sputum? How fast does this come on? Consider that the bat is dormant and its body temperature drops so drastically – what kind of weird virus would grow inside a creature at those temperatures? Does the bats temperature rise – might that be what is killing it? Notice in the picture(although it is only one picture), but the bats in the middle of the picture are most heavily affected and as you get further away, the fungus seems to be growing less profusely. I wonder if that suggests the bat in the middle was affected first and then the disease spread outward from him – spread in situ that is – as the bats were dormant. I wonder if the disease is even cave related as bats obviously leave the cave. Can the bat act as an incubator like the pig does in transferring influenza from the chicken to the human and mutating it along the way?

Lots of questions 2 years ago and yet, no doubt answers will eventually follow.

Information for this post in part, was obtained from an article in the Toronto Caver …

MacGregor Kirk, “White Nose Syndrome Moves into Southern Ontario, published by The Toronto Caver, The Toronto Caver Winter and Spring 2010, pg. 5

Map showing distribution of White Nose Syndrome as of 12th of May 2010. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission.

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Fountain Street – Guelph

Who says you only learn book stuff in school?

I learned to relax and have a good time – maybe too good a time, but if I didn’t do it then I’d be doing it now so better to get it out of the system while you’re still young and don’t have a mortgage and family to care for. I believe that there is definitely something to be said for not going to University until you’re good and ready.

Shortly after getting de-barred from school (the first time round) I moved into “Fountain Street”. Co-offending in the photo from left to right are Woody, Face, Al, Belushi and roommate (Kevin).

Prior to this we had all lived in Mills hall (University of Guelph) and had way too much fun. Well the fun continued in Fountain Street so this is one Sunday morning. we’d generally rise late, have some coffee, watch videos and order out for pizza or whatever. Seven of us lived permanently in the house, but there were several other temporary residents – Crazy Kurtie, Neil, Rubes, and others whom I cant remember.

The point is, no harm done (except to the house). I finished school eventually and resolved to never have people like me move in next door. Now I drive around Guelph and curse the parents who bought up irresponsible jerks like those who leave sofas on the porch and beer bottles on the lawn.

It all comes full circle – and yes, I became a star student when I eventually figured out what it was I was all about. I wish I could study more but life is just to busy.

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Canadian Grain, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is an interesting little discovery in a market in Marrakesh some time in the early 1980s. Many of these sacks were labeled something to the effect, “Gift from Canada – Canadian grain for Ethiopia”. I cant remember the exact wording but it was something like that.

Any thoughts as to the confusion between Morocco and Ethiopia? Admittedly they are both in North Africa, but one was on the eastern edge of the continent in the midst of a terrible famine and the other is on the western edge with no such kind of problem. Do you suppose there is a deficiency in the geographical education of the pilots or ships captains who got the product here? Maybe in the interests of conservation the Ethiopians decided to send product from their own country to Morocco in those same sacks in which they’d received their aid supplies.

I had this picture taken as discretely as possible so as not to create a stir. As you can see nobody seems too bothered. If I could have got closer without a problem I would have.

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Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

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Essouria1 – Morocco

So much has been said of Hendrix’s song “Castles in the Sand” – undoubtably one of the more lyrical of pieces ever written.

In the ocean not far from here there is an island that had an ancient fort of some type on it. As you could see it some 15 years after Hendrix’s visit, it is crumbling into the ocean, its foundations eaten away by the waves. Behind Bev and I are the more sturdy walls of Essaouira – a nearby town.

Well several relevant thoughts can evolve from the appearance of the crumbling structure in the ocean, but none that might be all that applicable to Hendrix as his song was supposedly written 2 years prior to his visit to Essaouira.

Hendrix was hesitant to speak of his past and his difficult upbringing. The common interpretation of “Castles in the Sand is that nothing lasts forever and in his song most speculate that he is applying the impermanence to his family. If you were to hear the song/verse and look around the town you would certainly be tempted to suggest that he was here when he wrote it.

There are verses like, “Drew her wheel chair to the edge of shore” and “A golden winged ship is passing my way” which are seen quite vividly as images, though undoubtedly interpreted together in the context of the song as a young girl, bound to her wheel chair drowning herself. There is some talk of the golden winged ship being inspired by Moroccan sunsets. And a sun-set at the edge of the Atlas Range, looking out across the ocean is an unforgettable thing. It is as though you are transported away from that Aladdin’s land into somewhere else even more mysterious and exotic. And as night comes on there is the cry from the Mosque, the groaning of a camel and the burnt-tire smell of red Moroccan hash that is transported shore-ward from the mountains.

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Harrier air strike – Warminster

I took this picture in a place called Warminster during a training exercise. Two Harriers came over head unexpectedly – one after the other and they fired missiles into the hillside in front. You will notice the one missile has hit and the other is still en-route (dark streak).

It took some effort to concentrate and focus – fortunately my camera was out and in hand. I wasn’t sure whether to duck or take a picture as the noise with a low level flight like that is real scary, its just like a flash of shadow overhead and everything is shaking (or seems to be). I can’t imagine being on the receiving end. I was friendly with an Iraqi guy who survived many days bombing from the Americans in the first Gulf war. You wouldn’t be completely sane after that, the stress would be incredible. There was some kind of lull in the fighting and he escaped on a bus, driving over people who were lying in the road – both dead and alive. Ahmed said that he had been conscripted and all he ever wanted was to be a hair dresser. When people see so much stuff on TV and in the movies they loose track of reality and what the images represent.

There is a very disturbing video on utube that shows something of the reality – see “news reporter bombed on camera” – I choose not to link here as its a very unpleasant scene that just keeps getting worse until I had to switch it off – but you can see it if you type that search term in. There is also some kind of up-beat video that you can see (1990 – 1991 Gulf War – also on utube) with music and little funny scenes on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Obviously two different perspectives from people who have been on two different ends of the process.

In the above picture, the jets have already streaked out of sight (Harriers hug the hills), but you can see the spot from where the second missile was fired(just starts as a black streak in the sky).

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