SPRING CLEANUP

I had a landscaping service clean up our yard yesterday since spring seems to be putting a tentative toe in the water these days. Good timing I think because it has decided to rain today and I hear that there is wet snow in the forecast. If we ever get some sun and warm temps, the lawn should look great. Speaking of lawns and lawn mowing, I made the huge switch this year. For about 8 or 9 years I have been using a push mower. I got rid of the gas powered beast in order to lower the noise and air pollution in the area but the real reason was because I simply got tired of repeated pulling on the cord to get the damn thing started. The push mower started first time, every time.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I bought a cordless machine – battery powered – I’m such a tree hugger! I haven’t had a chance to use it but I have high hopes for it being powerful enough and pollution free enough to justify the cost. I could continue to use the push mower but frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of having to constantly pick up pine cones and finding that the cut is not all that even if the grass is wet. Such are the problems of those of us surviving in the first world.

BOOMER TUNE ALERT

39 years ago, this weekend, The Blues Brothers made their debut on Saturday Night Live. John Belushi was a recent convert to the blues at that time but Dan Akroyd had spent many years roaming the blues clubs in his hometown of Ottawa and had already jammed with some of the greats like Muddy Waters. We all know the success that the Blues Brothers reached with albums and movies and since Belushi’s death on March 5, 1982 others, including his brother Jim, have filled in the spot. One of my absolute favourites is their cover of a Sam and Dave hit, Soul Man

Speaking of the first world, the border wall between Canada and the US seems to be getting harder to climb every day. On the south side, we have a leader who seems to want to make an enemy of everybody he comes into contact with. Nothing but conflict, imagined anger and threats. On the north side of the border, we have a leader who is constantly kissing ass with everyone he encounters regardless of their intentions or reputation. Approval ratings for both of these clowns are dropping every day with good reason. It’s too bad that people of talent and ability are no longer willing to subject themselves to the poisonous atmosphere of politics – only the narcissistic ego maniacs are willing to run. Perhaps we should be a bit more selective with our votes.

Simon Winchester is the person we all should have had as a history teacher. He takes one dimensional facts and information and turns them into living breathing books. I just finished reading Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers. Clearly one of the best books I’ve read this year, it is the third one of his I have thoroughly enjoyed. He has a knack for finding the story behind the facts and creating human interest in geological or political information. If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I firmly believe that there is a story behind everything and that’s what makes life interesting. Winchester makes history, events and circumstances come alive with incredible research to reveal the causes and effects behind some of the biggest stories of our planet.

Given the scary threats and posturing currently unfolding around the Pacific (which covers 1/3 of the planet’s surface) I found that reading Pacific by Winchester was timely and gave me an excellent background on what is in the headlines today.

NOTHING EXCEEDS LIKE EXCESS

Pretty cool title, huh? Nothing exceeds like excess came to me about 5:30 this morning and has been rolling around in my head ever since. I’m not sure if I am going to fit the title to my blog subject today (saving the planet) or fit the blog subject to the title. Nevertheless, the inspiration for today’s subject occurred on the way home from work on Friday. There is something about people walking across grass that ticks me off, especially when there is a perfectly good paved alternative right beside it.

I’ve been watching people for almost 5 years take a “shortcut” across a lawn that saves them less than 4 seconds (yes, I’ve timed it – and yes, that may be weird) and in so doing, they have worn a series – not just one, but a series – of bare dirt paths across a perfectly good green space. When it rains, the “shortcut” gets muddy so they widen the path by walking over the grass beside it. The destroyed area is now about 4 feet wide and continues to get worse as people who are absolutely capable of walking for the extra 4 seconds, literally, cut into the landscape.

In many ways, this may seem a very trivial matter but here’s where it bothers me so much. Here in the enlightened West (the West as in North America and Western Europe) we expend an enormous amount of energy talking about the environment and blaming everyone we can think of – especially the oil business – for polluting our planet. We listen to Hollywood pretenders prattle on about how we should close down this company and that industry without thinking about the issue on a personal basis. It’s all nice and safe to carry protest signs, march on government and get interviewed on TV, but none of that makes a damn bit of difference to the health of the planet.

BOOMER TUNE ALERT

Speaking of excess, many of our rock superstars left us far too early due to the excesses in their lives. Specifically, drug excess in so many cases. I won’t pretend to understand the how’s and why’s of what befell so many of them and I certainly won’t try to explain why drug use might have fueled their creativity, if it did. Some fell into the drug trap and survived – Keith Richards – but so many left us wanting more. One of those that I think could have gone on to even greater heights was Jim Morrison from the Doors. In an attempt to get his life back together, he moved to Paris at the top of his fame and then died at age 27 – no autopsy was performed, but alcohol and drugs were a constant both on stage and off.

Like most things in life, change is created one step at a time, one person at a time and one thing at a time. It’s not what others should or shouldn’t do – it’s what we are doing in our own daily lives that will change the planet. Are we environmentally conscious in our everyday work and play? Do we recycle our bottles, cans, paper, and plastics, or are we still tossing cans out the window of the car along with food wrappers, and chewing gum, and even worse, cigarette butts? Environmentalism is a personal daily philosophy of life without the histrionics of Greenpeace, Jane Fonda and Leonardo DiCaprio. We can spend our time blaming others or we can pick up our own garbage everyday, in every way, and perhaps one more.

How does walking across a lawn every day affect the planet? Grass uses carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, a process called

pho·to·syn·the·sis
ˌfōdōˈsinTHəsəs/
noun
the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water. Photosynthesis in plants generally involves the green pigment chlorophyll and generates oxygen as a byproduct.”
That shortcut, regardless of how small, decreases the amount of oxygen in the air and contributes to soil erosion and just plain looks bad. Add the shortcut I witness everyday to the thousands of others across the earth and the result is huge. Let’s, each of us, take the extra 4 seconds in our life to make a difference in the world. We just might save the planet in spite of ourselves.

OF DEATH AND TAXES

Well, it’s that weekend again. Time to pull “that” file folder out of the cabinet, separate and create piles of receipts, papers and other paraphernalia on my desk top and start entering numbers into the tax software. I know that most people dread the thought of having to file a tax return but if you are organized and have the ability to read and follow instructions, it is not really all that bad. There is however, a bigger picture to consider here and I wish that parents, schools and politicians would spend more time explaining the benefits and purposes of income taxes so that people could rethink the negative stigma of “doing their taxes.”

I’ll touch on misguided tax applications later but it is important to remember that taxes create roads to drive on, schools to teach our children, hospitals to heal our sick, armed forces to protect our freedom, police to keep us safe, libraries to encourage reading, parks to play in, and so much more. A fair and reasonable process for collecting taxes and using them is the hallmark of a civilized society. Of course, we could revert to the good old days where the toughest son of a bitch in the surrounding country would simply bang on our door and demand a portion of our worldly goods. It’s still done that way in some parts of our planet, so be grateful.

It bothers me how many people turn this element of their life over to complete strangers because they think, or at least say, that preparing and submitting taxes is too complicated. This is a straight out opinion on my part, but often those people say that because they simply haven’t tried or are lazy enough to believe what someone else has told them. I am more than shocked by the number of people who have a simple income slip or perhaps just a social assistance slip and run to a tax preparer and pay money (which is obviously a scarce commodity for them) to have somebody with a few hours training submit their return. It would take about 2 minutes on the phone with the tax department to explain how to do it themselves. Seems like an appropriate time to offer this week’s

BOOMER TUNE ALERT

There are several versions of the song, “Money,” the first of which was written by Berry Gordy, the legendary head of Motown, in 1959 and released by Garret Strong. It went on to become the first hit song from Motown. It has been covered by absolutely everybody over the years. For me, the best rendition was created by the British alt rock band Pink Floyd on the mega hit album, “The Wall.” It was unique because of a 20 second loop they included that had the sound of an old fashioned cash register, the tossing of a roll of coins into a container and the iconic sax solo. Give it a listen:

When it comes to most people, taxes make sense when they think about it but their chief concerns are twofold, 1) the amount of taxes they pay and 2) how their taxes are spent – hello Bombardier. These two concerns are directly linked as we give the power to spend to our politicians who turn around and constantly bribe us with our own money. The sad part is that as an electorate we continue to fall for this scam and think that the “government” giving us some of our own money in the form of pensions, social benefits and other tax inducements is a good thing. We then proceed to complain about how much tax we pay.

I started doing my own taxes a long, long time ago and then enlisted the aid of a tax software program about 10 – 15 years ago and I have some tricky parts on my return – foreign income/business income and expenses – thanks for buying my books – but the process is pretty painless. My point about taxes is that it is such a vital part of our financial lives and represents such a large portion of our earnings that I can’t understand why otherwise intelligent people would turn over this process to someone else. Honestly, you will have a much better understanding of your own money by taking on the task yourself. There is all sorts of help available including tutorials and videos – if you are in Canada, go here if you need it.

OK, time to sit down, haul out the file folder (you have one don’t you?) and assemble your tax return, submit and relax. You are making a difference in your life and the lives of others with your contribution to the greater good. Once you finish, perhaps you would like to join me in this celebration recipe for dinner.

FIRE + MEAT + WINE = DINNER