Before getting high prematurely…

Mike harcourt 1mc

This morning I attended a medical marijuana workshop. I wasn’t sure what to expect especially as it was scheduled from 10:00am to 1:00pm. Three hours seemed a bit long, especially as I thought the very basic questions I wanted to ask could easily be answered. I was in for a surprise as the workshop turned out to be a one on one conversation between me and the facilitator; a very experienced, interesting man who clearly knew his stuff.

In fairness I should clarify that the apparently low attendance was not a poor reflection on the facilitator; if anything it was indicative of poor publicity on the part of the organisers who failed to clarify that their speaker’s presence is a regular event for interested persons and anyone wishing to drop-in or even phone-in.

I’m not complaining; for once I actually didn’t mind the exclusive focus of another person who easily answered all my questions and much more. We had a very stimulating conversation which eventually branched-out beyond the original topic. He reassured me that with my recently acquired doctor’s approval and signature on the requisite form, plus membership in various medical marijuana organisations I am safe from prosecution provided I am not in possession of more than 150 grams of bud and not flagrantly flouting obvious laws, like re-selling my legally purchased pot.

Unfortunately I have missed the boat when it comes to legally growing weed. Thanks to Harper and his machinations, if he succeeds in getting his way (currently being challenged) only big business interests will be granted a licence to grow marijuana and presumably the man on the street caught doing so will suffer the full brunt of Harper’s draconian law which apparently rules more than five plants a felony with mandatory sentencing. Strictly speaking one isn’t even supposed to grow any pot plants although individuals licensed to do so before the recent changes in law are currently allowed to continue following a recent court ruling in Vancouver, BC., challenging the Federal law.

So what exactly is going on in Canada regarding the ‘legalization’ of medical marijuana? One can be forgiven for feeling confused and at the same time one should be cautious about getting high prematurely. The Federal Government’s Canada Health website page still states categorically: ‘Dried marijuana is not an approved drug or medicine in Canada. The Government of Canada does not endorse the use of marijuana, but the courts have required reasonable access to a legal source of marijuana when authorized by a physician.‘ In reality Harper and his cohorts are still ideologically against marijuana which is deemed on a par with other proscribed drugs such as heroin.

However, times they are a changing. Public opinion cannot be stifled as easily as Harper might wish particularly when our southern neighbours have suddenly pulled in to the fast lane, at least in 12 states, and made headway legalizing pot. It is this momentum towards making marijuana legally accessible by the people that has the political pot stirred and big business interests keen to make sure if anyone is going to make money out of marijuana it will be them. That certainly would explain the very selective granting of licences to big companies some with prominent, politically affiliated figureheads like Mike Harcourt, a former B.C. premier, apparently at the expense of established, previously licensed organisations who were doing a good job meeting the needs of those seeking medical marijuana. Sadly word is these new companies, whose motivation, just like the mega pharmaceutical companies, is profit not the health of patients, are producing inferior marijuana at inflated prices; exactly what one would expect of big business of course!

But there is cause for some optimism especially if the Harper government falls to a newly elected and pro-legalization of pot Liberal Party in the next general election! My man at the marijuana workshop certainly hopes so and says this alone will secure the Liberals his vote. Certainly food for thought!



Headlines hit home…


We are all aware of the impact on our lives of modern media and headlines in particular, whether they be in print or displayed on a screen are intended to grab our attention.

Of  course ‘the media’ is a mixed blessing and never more so than in the 21st century when most of it is controlled by a monopoly of rich and very powerful people with their own agenda. Unfortunately often their agenda has very little to do with the public’s best interest. Hence at the very least it is up to us to be on guard, read accurately and try to comprehend intelligently.

This week in Vancouver the media pulled all the stops rolling-out the news about Ward 10c in St.Paul’s Hospital. Dr. Julio Montaner and Premier Christy Clark, presumably never ones to miss a media spotlight, were no doubt delighted with this photo/media opportunity. Such was the significance of the revelation that word immediately spread throughout Canada and, although I have not as yet checked, I expect it will reach international status. I refer to the sudden announcement that Ward 10c, hitherto unofficially known and acknowledged as the hospital’s “AIDS Ward” is to be ‘repurposed’; an interesting choice of word but perhaps not inappropriate.

Headlines broadcasting this not insignificant event differ. For example, Vancouver Metro * declares, ‘AIDS ward closes as death falls.’  Aside from a naughty temptation to dissect this statement for all manner of possible interpretations, suffice it say it is inaccurate and misleading, a fact its author clearly knows because he/she quickly corrects it in the second  paragraph. But no matter, by then the headline has already done its job.


‘The Globe & Mail’ has a similar headline first informing its readers of the hospital’s closure of the AIDS ward, apparently a ‘symbol of progress’ but later advising them that ‘…Ward 10C was deactivated due to the near-elimination of AIDS cases in B.C. ”

Vancouver’s “24 hrs”, another freebie, is far more precise with a clear headline, ‘ Ward repurposed’. The article continues, making it very clear, ‘The ward will still operate, instead treating those with HIV – the virus that leads to Aids  – hepatitis and addictions.’ Of course not all of us swallow whole the media’s assertions that HIV leads to AIDS, but that’s an even bigger and ongoing story.


My point is, just taking these two papers’ examples, one has a snippet of how the media works and the pitfalls that can ensue. Leaving aside the full content of the story, which incidentally does make for interesting reading and I believe even greater speculation as to what this decision truly indicates, it got some members of the public in quite a furore as evidenced by some of the comments submitted. Some, believing the ward was actually to close down completely, were understandably bewildered or angry and vented about the ongoing need for hospital beds whether or not they be occupied by AIDS patients. Others bemoaned the loss of nursing staff who they presumed would now lose their jobs with the ward suddenly shut down. The more astute, discerning readers made more appropriate comments and/or scathing corrections to those who had got it wrong.

Hopefully I’ve vented and made my point, albeit not in full; that would take much longer and more space!

* Interestingly when I Googled its webpage today a different headline is diplayed to that shown in my picture!

Other relevant headlines:

National Post. ‘Vancouver hospital shuts down renowned AIDS ward…’ ‘AIDS ward closes as success’

UNAIDS. ‘Vancouver closes the door of its last AIDS ward…’






Backyard bees…


I am happy to observe that bee keeping seems to be increasing in the City of Vancouver where it is actively encouraged by City Council, “As part of their goal to help make Vancouver one of the world’s most sustainable cities…”

I know of several backyards which are home to bee hives and my own community garden has two brightly painted and clearly thriving colonies, prudently fenced in and screened on the front side causing the bees to fly high as soon as they leave their home and avoid unfortunate contact with passing gardeners or curious folk. It isn’t a fool-proof defence of course and I can testify to that having been stung last week by an unhappy bee the wrong side of the screen trying to get home. Thankfully, although it is a good many years now since my father and I kept our 13 colonies of honey bees, apparently I still retain something of the immunity to bee venom acquired during those happy times. There was little pain and no swelling, not least perhaps because the sting was quickly removed.

An alternative to the fenced colony and one which seems popular here is to have hives raised high off the ground, six feet or more.

025mc urban bee hives

Several known to me are actually on flat roof tops or specially erected platforms and the most famous city colonies are actually high above the street on the six acre green roof of the New City Convention Centre, out of sight and harm’s way.

Presumably one great advantage to urban or backyard bees, especially from the bees’ perspective, is a greater chance of survival than their country cousins currently dying off in unprecedented numbers. I base this assumption on the probability far less pesticides and insecticides are used in the city than in agricultural areas outside it. Certainly there is an abundance of forage crops laid out for them in the burgeoning city gardens, and what a happy mix of different plants it is. Vancouver bees must produce some fine and varied honey. Long may it remain so and the trend continue.

Copyright © ddubolski 2014.

I shouldn’t take it personally but…


It is not unusual and I suppose quite natural for one to have a certain pride in the city where one lives particularly if it happens to be one famed for its many attractions and frequently rated as one of the world’s best places to live. Vancouver easily falls in to this category and although, as I never cease to say, I would much prefer to live in the wilds of Nova Scotia, I’m making the most of my lot until the happy day I can return there. Meanwhile, yes, I do feel a certain pride about Vancouver so it is hardly surprising that I should experience some angst when it appears not to live up to its reputation. Of course I shouldn’t take it personally but…

My partner and I invariably complain about the lamentable state of Granville Street for example in the heart of the city’s downtown area and a focal point for tourists. The sidewalks are, well let’s just say, less than pristine and littered with vagrant youths apparently allowed to camp-out in door ways and use them as latrines. The stench of stale urine is hardly inviting and at the very least we would like the city to impose a law whereby Granville Street businesses are obliged to hose down the sidewalk every morning. The area is starting to rival the worst parts of East Hastings and Main Street often referred to as ‘the poorest postal code in Canada’ and a bit of a tourist attraction in its own right but for all the wrong reasons. If you want to see junkies shooting-up on the sidewalk, walking round with syringes hanging from their arms or engage in conversation with hookers and dubious though admittedly sometimes rather colourful characters, well then have your cameras ready and head to the Eastside!

But it’s one thing to go there of one’s own volition, an entirely different matter to find oneself more or less dumped in the middle of it after disembarking from a luxury cruise ship. I’m rather embarrassed to say this appears to be the case with those bewildered tourists I spotted yesterday morning. Picture the scene; a huge cruise ship moored at Ballantyne Pier, its white facade shimmering above the seedy dockside buildings. On the grubby sidewalk a group of affluent-looking tourists surrounded by their expensive luggage and grasping maps in their hands, evidently without the slightest clue as to where they were.

A line of taxis, apparently hastening towards the quay and heedless of the unfortunate tourists, preceded the number 7 bus on which I was travelling. I asked myself what the hell is a cruise ship doing this far out of town, in this neighbourhood and how would I feel being one of them. Not very impressed and certainly far from happy is my answer!

Of course many if not most tourists are luckier, especially if arriving by ships docked at the prestigious and I assume more frequented quay in Canada Place. They step off the boat in to the luxury of downtown Vancouver where every effort is made to present the city at its best and rightly so. Obviously there are reasons for using Ballantyne Pier; I’m told it usually has to do with a ship’s size and the availability or not of  moorings at Canada Place. Apparently docking fees may well be a significant factor, and to be fair I have yet to confirm the whys and wherefores of its use. But one thing is certain, if I were arriving by ship in Vancouver I would make sure it was at Canada Place, not Ballantyne Pier.

PS: I spoke to someone who works for the cruise lines and who was well aware of the point I’m making and to a large extent in agreeance. However, she also mentioned what is no doubt a valid and relevant point that often those seemingly unfortunate and bewildered tourists standing on the street with their luggage are usually the same ones who decline the offer of a taxi even though they can well afford one!

Copyright © ddubolski 2014.

Let the planting begin…

023mc garden starter kit

This morning I set off eagerly in the direction of the Home Hardware store on Commercial Drive. I thought it was probably the best place within walking distance to purchase starter plants and buy seed for Plot 52. And indeed it proved to be a fairly good choice with the contents of its garden department spilling out on to the pavement and the seed racks inspiringly bearing big labels announcing the merchandise to be ‘Non GMO’. Hurrah!

In fact I questioned the salesman about the labels when I came to pay for my goods. He seemed well-informed or at least he confidently assured me that not only were their seed non GMO the reality is that virtually all seeds purchased by the likes of me for non-commercial food and flower production are likely to be GMO free. It is, he said, ‘only the commercial food crops, most notably corn, soya beans and various grains and oil seed rape which will be GMO.’ I suppose that makes a lot of sense and he may have been high-lighting, albeit unintentionally I think, that some of us are perhaps a little paranoid in regard to the extent of Monsanto’s evil reach, although I would never advise letting one’s guard down!

Anyway I happily browsed the plant and seed racks, especially pleased to see several heritage varieties including a Moskovitch tomato. My biggest problem of course was keeping in mind the size of Plot 52 and just how quickly it could be filled. In fact my purchases, assuming they all flourish, will just about cover the entire plot with little room if any between varieties.

Once done at the store I hastened back to the garden and got planting using the newly purchased trowel, adequate for my needs but a poor replica of  my former tool with lovely elm handle and Sheffield crafted metal, a hand-down from my grandmother which after several decades of transient lifestyle finally got lost or left behind!

It didn’t take me long to get everything nicely settled in although there was considerable dithering as to which plants should go where given both the size of the plot and likely development of the plants. Of course I have a pretty good knowledge of the plants in question and what they might prefer for example in terms of shade or direct sunlight and how they may or may not spread rapidly to sprawl and smother more refined neighbours. But the good thing about gardening, at least at this level, things can be changed around, transplanted within reason if one’s first attempts fail or prove ill-chosen. And in deed the line of leek plants suffered just such action for it immediately became clear I had not properly considered the merits of their allocated position. They got moved in fact to one corner at the back of the plot!

So everything more or less got planted. I say more or less because I held off on sowing my spinach and radish seeds; tomorrow is another day afterall. Meanwhile I am already a little anxious about all those slugs and the irresistible tenderness of the basil seedlings I pricked-out! But stop that; gardening is supposed to be therapy not a source of worry.

033r single rose flower

Copyright © ddubolski 2014.

Worth the Wait….

072m plot 52

While waiting in my doctor’s surgery yesterday morning the little ‘ping’ of my cell phone alerted me to the arrival of another email (NB: need to find out how I turn it off!). I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘Pandora Park’ in the heading and decided to open it there and then.


A lady named Cheryl wished to inform me that there was now a vacant plot available in the Pandora Park Community Garden and after two years on the waitlist it was now my chance to accept the offer. I replied enthusiastically and by the end of the afternoon had met Cheryl, viewed the plot, #52, and gained access to the tool shed. The paperwork could follow ASAP but meanwhile the priority was to get digging.

I decided to try to maintain a photographic record of the plot’s development, made avaialable under Vancouver’s community garden provisions, and perhaps even keep a specific blog (but for now this one will serve well enough). In fact I already have a great many photos taken in the garden which happily is barely five minutes walk from the apartment. I have also been compiling a photographic record of local wild flora, particularly herbs good to eat and/or having medicinal value. It’s amazing just how abundant they are in Vancouver. I suspect with due prudence most of them are safe to use since the city, as far as I am aware does not have a general policy of using pesticides and other abhorrent practices. In fact the city for the most part is probably not even particularly aware of their existence as many grow in back allies and garden borders beyond the city’s general jurisdiction.

But back to Plot 52 which actually measures only 5 feet by 10 feet. I returned early this morning intent upon getting this miniscule garden dug and ready for sowing/planting before the sun got too hot above me. Ironically it is probably the same size as the garden plot I had when in junior school and more or less the same area bequeathed me by my father when I was about five years old as my very first garden. It seems therefore I have gone full-cirle from small to the very large garden I eventually had and sadly lost in Nova Scotia, to say nothing of the large estate gardens I have cared for during my working life and back to small is beautiful. Well that at least has to be my take on the current situation.

The picture above shows how Plot 52 looked and clearly the fist task was to carefully gather the dandelion clocks with as little disturbance as possible and place them securely in a plastic bag. That done I set to and forked through the bed removing the abundant ‘weeds’ of which there were quite a variety though mercifully, with the exception of a few deep-rooted dock plants, nothing too onerous in turns of excavation. Oh the joy of having a garden fork in one’s hands again after several years of enforced horticultural idleness and very much like riding a bike, one never seems to lose the knack!


Amongst the tangle I found mint and one  plant of French parsley in the process of going to seed. I decided to keep some of the mint and remove the seeding stem from the parsley which I managed to leave in situ. After an hour of fairly mild labour, notwithstanding a few aches from long dis-used muscles, the plot was cleared and clean.


During the course of my two hours in the garden two other members appeared and introduced themselves; very pleasant as one might expect, and eager to offer spare plants either from their own plots, self-seeded in the pathways or even the compost heap where another, unknown gardener had dumped chives and small leek plants evidently surplus to their requirements. By the time I left, feeling quite elated and pleased with my morning’s effort, I had actually replanted some chives and leeks and, as an experiment, severely pruned the kale plants originally in the plot and replanted them in hopes they might rejuvenate. And now to buy seeds!

Copyright © ddubolski 2014.

Good and Bad News Combined…


Pausing, while trying to decide my next serious on-line course of action I clicked on Yahoo News, more or less an involuntary action. In equally vague fashion I allowed a headline to lure me into its page. It announced in bold print ‘The West Antarctic Collapse Is Now Unstoppable…’ Pretty dramatic right!

I wondered first where precisely is the West Antarctic (thankfully a map soon appeared as I scrolled-down the page) and then what exactly that means in terms of personal survival (highly selfish I know). Apparently what’s unstoppable is  ‘the melting of the Western Antarctic Ice sheet’; its ‘glaciers are doomed to collapse and melt into the sea.’ Volia, a lot of extra water, enough to sink cities, well not necessarily entirely of course, depending just where they are located.

I haven’t yet come to terms with the devastation I shall face when, not if, Vancouver is hit by the inevitable major earthquake currently inexorably shifting beneath my very feet.The prospect of having to deal with repercussions from some major collapse on another front is fairly daunting especially given Vancouver’s coastal location.

But don’t panic, well not immediately, there’s some good news! This catastrophe while presently underway will not attain completion for, ‘…at least another 200 years.’ Phew! I guess that means a reprieve for me. Now I need only ponder, and possibly panic about the totally unpredictable continental plates frolicking along the fault line atop of which the ignorant founders of our city decided to settle and build, these days a great many glass sky-rise buildings.

But enough of this frivolity; obviously rises in sea levels are no laughing matter. However, here’s the point, or rather points that really caught my attention.

First, this dramatic headline is doing what all such media hype does, catching our attention without necessarily giving a true insight, well not initially. Apparently this ‘…devastating climate news’ announced by NASA actually refers to, two studies’ which indicate rather than confirm ‘…that it’s almost certain that the melting of the Western Antarctic Ice sheet is unstoppable, and the glaciers are doomed to collapse and melt into the sea.’ The drama drops a notch or two.

Secondly, one could be forgiven for thinking, in the event the worse case scenario comes to fruition, that only US cities will be affected, since they are the only ones mentioned, most notably Miami, New York City and Los Angeles. How silly of me to forget the USA’s centre stage position in worldly matters (unlikely to last another 200 hundred years me thinks.)

Thirdly, Nasa is evidently at pains to emphasise first and foremost in fact just how  many greenbacks this catastrophe will cost the USA, an estimated ‘ $3.5 trillion in assets.’ Surely a drop in the ocean (excuse the pun) given what it currently spends on wars.

Thankfully, as I said at the outset, this was merely a pause in my more focussed on-line activity. No need for me to get unduly upset about a lot of media hype I shall  not live long enough to witness, or not as, the case may be!

Copyright © ddubolski 2014.