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.


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.


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


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.



“The world is becoming curiouser and curiouser,”  cried Alice and Bob. I really don’t want this corner of the internet to devolve into a political commentary but the world seems to be getting stranger, more dangerous and just plain crazier by the day. With an apology to my U.S. family and friends, I’ve never been a big fan of the American political system ever since a late night meeting in 1981 in Berlin when I came face to face with a group of “good old boys” who literally occupied a smoke filled back room and decided how the world would unfold the next day. Rick Pinchin, you will recall that night I’m sure. Hopes, dreams, money and hard work dashed on the rocks of political duplicity. The experience created a deep seated cynicism about power and authority.

This cynicism doesn’t make me right but it does cause me to look beyond the headlines, beyond the obvious, beyond the constant opinion and search for truth in a world that has forgotten or really doesn’t care very much about it. Fake news, Hollywood opinion makers, race mind, media bullshit, and voter disinterest and naivete have combined to make this an interesting, if not confused and scary time in history.

Ah, but there are some voices in the wilderness that are far more eloquent and informed than I and I value, whether I totally  agree or not, their thoughts and words. One of the more common sense pieces that I have read in recent weeks comes from a Canadian journalist with a strong streak of common sense and an incredible command of vocabulary and insight – Rex Murphy.

Immigration has become a topic filled with opinion, fear and pixie dust in recent months – even before Trump’s recent executive order. In addition to offering asylum to people who are simply trying to create a better life for themselves, should we be doing much more to help them stay home and create a better life for themselves and their fellow citizens there? Yes, it’s easy to say that we should look after our self interests first, feed the hungry, make education more accessible and so much more but do we, as human beings, have a responsibility to the other inhabitants of our planet? Should the wealthier countries give a hand up to the poorer? We need to answer the question for ourselves and then create the answers for our nations.

And finally, I am so disappointed in myself. I copied the following text that I was so amazed by but somehow didn’t copy the writer’s name. If anyone recognizes this passage and can send me the person’s name, I would really like to add that credit – she deserves it for sure. It may seem a bit long but it is definitely worth reading from an American recently travelling in Europe and her impressions:

It’s interesting to see how the world sees “us” in the US. For the past 15 days, Clark Kent and I have been in France and Germany. We’ve had some incredible conversations with our hosts in both countries. Here are the high/mid/lowlights from those conversations and experiences:

1) Police Violence: It is incomprehensible to Europeans how any person could have multiple bullets put into them at the hands of police…and how this keeps happening.
2) Politics: They think Donald Trump is scary and a joke at the same time. They call him a “reality TV star.”
3) Healthcare: They don’t understand why we have so many problems with our healthcare, nor do they understand the resistance Americans have to universal healthcare.
4) Muslims & Refugees: While in Munich, we walked by a seemingly well-organized anti-Muslim protest. No one paid the protesters any attention and simply walked by. There are former US Army bases with tons of empty barracks in the town I’m currently in that are being used to house Syrian refugees as well.
5) Cost of Living: I’ve never paid more than €0.59 (roughly $0.70) for fresh baguette in France (€1.29 in Germany). Cured meats and cheeses here are ridiculously cheap. Supermarkets are few and fresh food is plentiful from local markets. Clark and I are both astonished at how little we’ve paid for groceries here (as we’ve eaten all but 3 meals in for our entire trip). The subways/trains in both Paris and Munich cost less than the CTA in Chicago.

As someone who’s had the gift of living in places other than America, here’s something that hit me last night while walking through town with our generous host:

We all wish on the same stars each night. No matter where you are in the world, we can spend our days worried about this and that and all have our crises and catastrophes. But wherever you might be — there’s something out there that’s worth learning. Understanding. To think a single population is the best at anything and everything is to miss out on the person some thousands of miles away, wishing on that same star you are tonight and what the world looks like to them.

You might be wishing you had lower healthcare premiums. They might be wishing that their baby lives to see one more day.

You might be wishing for a promotion so you can get that bigger house for your growing family. They might be wishing for a place — anyplace — to call home.

You might be wishing for a government to back off your guns. They might be wishing that their “government” didn’t have so many.

You might be wishing that some people didn’t have the legal right to marry or adopt or build families because of your values and beliefs. They might be wishing for they day when their wives and children, whom they had to leave behind as their homeland became a war zone, can join them in the land that’s given them refuge.

You might wish you didn’t have to pay so much in taxes. That person on the other side of the world might be wishing for the day where he or she sees a paycheck because they finally got a job.

We all wish on the same stars. And this trip for the past 16 days has reminded me that I live in a world where people take the time to see me and the world I live in each day.

The least I can do is learn about their world and how they live in it each day.

And tonight, I think my starry wish will be for the person who’s wishing on the same star as me, though unknown and perhaps thousands of miles away…

for that person to get all of my wish juice.

It’s a big world out there. Let’s better learn how to share it.

If you’ve made it this far – hopefully I can change subjects next week but regardless, it is always time to check out our own looking glass.