I hadn’t heard from “Bob” for more than two years, and I was thrilled to get his e-mail a few days ago:

Bob Brown <……………….@………>
How are you doing ? I hope this Email finds you well?
I need a little favour from you.
My first thought?  Bob!  Of course I’ll help you.  I answered immediately.
Hi Bob,
I’m glad to hear from you. It’s been so long.
Sure … ask away.
And then an immediate reply:
Thanks for your response.  I am sorry for bothering you with this mail.  I need to get a Google Play Gift Card for my friend’s Daughter, It’s her birthday but I can’t do this now because I’m currently away and I tried purchasing online but unfortunately had no luck with that.  Can you help purchase it online or from any store around you?  I’ll pay back as soon as I am back.   Kindly let me know if you can handle this. I promise to refund as soon as I’m back. 

I so much wanted to be helpful …
Yes, I’ll buy the card.  How much money am I putting on it?
Quick like a bunny came a response:
Thank you very much.  The Total amount needed is $300 ($100 or $50 denomination ) you can have it purchased from any store around you (Gas station, Walmart, Drug Store) or Online.  I need you to scratch the back of each card to reveal the pin, then take a snapshot of the back showing the pin and have them sent to me via my email.  So I can forward them to her with some Birthday Wishes.

Once again thanks.
Oh, I’m such a nice guy!
I’ll get some gas today and pick up the cards.  Stay tuned …
“Bob” was totally tuned in:
I will be expecting.  Once again thanks
I got to work on the task at hand …
Here you go, Bob!  You friend’s daughter will be very happy.  (complete with a photo of six $50 Google Play Gift Cards, with the codes revealed via thorough scratching)
I imagined the girl’s squeal of delight.
Thanks so much.  I really appreciate it.  I have forwarded the card to my friend’s Daughter, she was very happy you need to see her email but kids will always be kids she is really holding me to my promise because i told her i had do anything for her on her Birthday.  she just emailed me that the cards weren’t enough to complete what she had to do with it .  Please can you render me one more favour and I promise to pay back as soon as I am back.  I need you to help me purchase another gift card worth $300 ($100 or $50 denomination) so she could complete what she has to with it.
Thanks once again let me know when you purchase them and I promise as soon as I am back I will refund your cash. 
That’s enough of the sordid details.  I remained completely oblivious to what was really happening.  Somehow I’m smiling as I write this.  I was so eager to talk to Bob again and help him out that my rational mind went to sleep.  I do believe that the word for me is naïve … thoroughly so.
Here are the clues that blew right by this clueless human being:
1. “Bob” never called me “Bruce”.
2.  Throughout the correspondence, “Bob” showed an unusual use of capitalization (or lack thereof) … e.g.  Daughter, Total, Gas station, Birthday Wishes, i told her i had …
3.  “Bob” was “away” but why would he have “no luck” with buying these cards online?
4.  “Bob” was giving his friend’s daughter a gift of $300 ($600).  That sure sounds excessive.
5.  Unusual phrases within the e-mails, not the way Bob would speak: e.g. I’ll pay back, I will be expecting, i told her i had do anything for her, so she could complete what she has to with it
I am humbled
I still trust my fellow man and woman
I need to have my eyes open

Speaking Truth To Power



Trump: We have won this election in Georgia based on all of this.  And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, Brad.  You know, I mean, having the correct – the people of Georgia are angry.  And these numbers are going to be repeated on Monday night.  Along with others that we’re going to have by that time, which are much more substantial even.  And the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry.  And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated.  Because the 2,236 in absentee ballots.  I mean, they’re all exact numbers that were done by accounting firms, law firms, etc.  And even if you cut ’em in half, cut ’em in half and cut ’em in half again, it’s more votes than we need.

Raffensperger: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.


Trump: Big Tech is on your side, you know.  I don’t even know why you have a side because you should want to have an accurate election.  And you’re a Republican.

Raffensperger: We believe that we do have an accurate election.

Trump: No, no you don’t.  No, no you don’t.  You don’t have.  Not even close.  You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.


Honesty is the rarest commodity in the 21st century.  No one looks to the political class or journalists for truth these days.  The average Joe seems to spend most of their time peddling a ludicrous, flawless Facebook version of their lives.  The peer pressure of political correctness forgoes truth for the sake of groupthink.  It seems that comedians and writers represent the last bastion of candour out there today.  (Stewart Stafford)

To say nothing is saying something.  You must denounce things you are against or one might believe that you support things you really do not.  (Germany Kent)

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.  (Leonardo da Vinci)

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.  (Audre Lorde)

You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.  (Aung San Suu Kyi)

In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.  (Czesław Miłosz)

Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.  (Mahatma Gandhi)

Fools multiply when wise men are silent.  (Nelson Mandela)

And speak the truth.  Do not hesitate to say what you consider to be the truth.  Say what you feel.  Let your conscience be your guide.  Let your intentions be good, for verily God is aware of your intentions.  In your deeds your intentions count.  (Caliph Umar)

These days, a sling of truth can still make Goliath fall.  (Tom Althouse)

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up.  You have to say something.  You have to do something.  (John Lewis)

When the President decides that he knows better than you know what’s good for you or your family, we’ve got trouble in this country.  (John Barrasso)

The one thing I’ve never been afraid of is standing before important people and speaking my mind.  I represent women who may never have the opportunity to go to the UN or meet with a president.  (Leymah Gbowee)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………  (You)
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………  (Me)

A Light Touch

I seem to be getting sillier.

I went for a walk today through my village of Belmont.  The air was bright and the snow was just enough to feel Christmasy.  I was hoping to see kids in the graduating Grade 6 class, kids I miss so much.  I realize that I might not be volunteering in their classroom for the entire school year.  (Sigh)  May I be wrong.


“Ahh … here comes a middle-aged couple!”  I was so eager for contact.  From six feet away, we smiled at each other.  And the words just tumbled out of my mouth: “I knew that if I saw somebody out here, I’d be so happy that I’d pack a good snowball and throw it at them!”  The two of them cringed ever so slightly as their smiles took on a stationary look.  Then I laughed a Santa laugh, and so did they.  The snow remained on the ground.  And  we were off in our separate directions.


I smiled and waved at a mom and her adult daughter who were passing by.  Our conversation amounted to “Hi.”  A bit later, as I was doing a loop pattern through residential streets, I came upon a path between subdivisions.  Coming towards me were the two women.  Seizing upon a potential moment of irrationality, I looked at them as we got close and said “I was just on Robin Ridge Drive and saw two women just like you.  Do you realize you have twins?”  Their eyes widened and then relaxed.  And we all chuckled together.


Further down the path of life came a young mom strolling her infant son or daughter.  Another “Hi” and another smile.  Funnily enough, she also looped back to my reality.  Not being bored with my previous rendezvous, I said (with awesome originality): “I was just on Kettle Creek Drive and saw folks just like you and your child.  Do you realize you have twins?”  I mean really … why waste a good line?


Approaching Belmont Community Park, I saw three adults approaching – two men and a woman.  One of the men had a cane, and was hunched over.  We smiled and said “Hi.”  

(Me)  I knew that if I saw somebody out here, I’d be so happy that I’d pack a good snowball and throw it at them!

(Old man)  Well, start with these two!

(Me)  No, no … you appear to be older.  You get the first shot at it.

(Old man)  [Huge laugh, bending over even more]

(The other two)  [Smiling as they watched the old fellow’s delight]


On the home stretch, down the street came a mom and her two daughters.  As I got closer, I saw that one was “Brittany”, a Grade 6 kid I know.  Her sister “Terra” said that she was in Grade 2.  I told Brittany how much I was missing volunteering with her and her classmates.  She got the message.  I asked what recesses were like.  “Do you have to wear masks outside?”  >  “No, we just have to socially distance.”

Looking at Terra, I said “So you have to stay sixty feet apart?”  >  “No!  Just six feet,” she sputtered with a giggle.  Terra met my gaze and noted that she and I were closer than six feet.  (Actually we were maybe eight feet apart.)  “No way!”  > “Yes, way!”  >  “You’re wrong.”  >  “Okay, then I’m right!”  Etcetera.  Fun was had by all.  And then we went our happy ways.


I should get out more often

Blessing Us All

I think that if we sit down and be quiet for awhile, most of us sense a “bigness” that spans far beyond our individual lives. My spirituality is Buddhist. Yours may be Christian or Muslim or Hindu. When you think of a vast presence, it may be Jesus who comes to mind … or God the Father, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Muhammad or simply The Divine. It may be an enlightened human being or an overarching Spirit.

I feel a presence that wishes me well, that is intimately for me. Someone is cheering me on, glad that I showed up on the planet. And someone is doing the same for you.

Here’s “The Blessing” … a song that speaks through the words and between the words. It’s for all men and all women.

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
Be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
Be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace

Amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children and their children

May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children and their children

May His presence go before you
And behind you and beside you
All around you and within you
He is with you, He is with you

In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you
He is for you, He is for you

He’s always on your side
You’re always on His mind
He is for you
He never will forsake
He never makes mistakes
He is for you, He is for you

Amen, amen, amen


I’m not a suspicious person, or apparently a very careful one.

Yesterday I opened Facebook and saw a new communication in Messenger. It was from a friend whom I haven’t talked to for months. I was thrilled. There sat a video with the caption “Look what I found.” There was a tiny picture of some guy. Was that me? Had my friend dug up an old moment that we’d had way back in the past? I clicked. Nothing happened. (Sigh) I sent him a message saying that I couldn’t open the video. Our reunion would just have to wait.

That was the full extent of my thought process: communication delayed, curiosity unsatisfied. And so to sleep.

Then there was 7:54 this morning. I was having breakfast right then, blissfully unaware of the events in Cyberland. At that moment, for my entire address book, I believe, a video showed up in inboxes, declaring “Look what I found.” It was hours later that I realized lots of folks were trying to get hold of me.

Did you send me a video?

I can’t open your video

Looks suspicious to me

You’ve been hacked, my friend

Then a really big sigh. I wasn’t thinking clearly for the first few minutes but I finally decided to phone Facebook. I soon found out that such an action is virtually impossible. “Okay, then … change your password.” Of course! “And how exactly do I do that?” I fumbled around in Facebook menus for awhile before giving up. And then a magic word came to mind: Google. Lo and behold, a short YouTube video appeared in my life, voiced by a nice-sounding guy. I wasn’t in full control of my rational mind but I soon had a new password. I know I can trust you so here it is:


I sort of sighed in relief, and figured out that I should phone my computer guy. Would he be working on Saturday? I called … and he answered. He said that all I could do was change my password (Done!) and warn everyone to not open the video. (The next part is my personal favourite) Brain matter swirling, I didn’t have a clue about how to let people know. My techy friend, ever patient, simply said “Post it on Facebook.”

I’m fascinated by my inability to figure that out on my own. Having said that, I posted. But the Messenger communications kept arriving. I answered them all.

I’m sad that my eagerness to connect with an old friend has led to so many people being at minimum inconvenienced, and perhaps severely hacked. Am I allowed to sigh a fourth time?

On we go

P.S. I just went to Facebook to post this and found out that the warning message I sent this afternoon went only to me! Arghh. I just changed it to “Public”. (Sigh number five)


This afternoon, the voice in my head chimed in with “Bruce, why don’t you write about ‘expanse’ today?”

“O…kay.  Sure, I’ll do that,” I replied, without being clear about my future key-tapping.

How about a definition for starters?  An uninterrupted space or area, a wide extent of anything, something that is spread out


My mind gives me hints of where my heart lies.  Sitting here now, there’s something soft happening inside, and a sense that my muscles, organs and bones are separating, creating space between them.  The breeze is flowing through.

The miracle of light pours over the green and brown expanse of sawgrass and of water, shining and slowly moving, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades.  It is a river of grass.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

There’s an outward flow, an ever-expanding circle around me.   It rolls over things, covering them in kisses, and blessing them.

Growing up on a farm was the best.  I remember loving that expanse of space.  The sky at night was so clear, I could see every star.

Abbie Cornish

There’s a liquid feeling, a sloshing about, a rhythm that moves deep inside but also moistens the universe.  It’s a pulsing: lulling me into sleep, leaving me embraced by the infinite.

Aside from what it teaches you, there is simply the indescribable degree of peace that can be achieved on a sailing vessel at sea.  I guess a combination of hard work and the seemingly infinite expanse of the sea – the profound solitude – that does it for me.

Billy Campbell

The spreading out seems unstoppable.  No virus, no contraction of man, no boundaries of country or religion, can prevent it from seeking wonders over the horizon.

Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain; that you have the right to explore all heights and depth; that there are no walls nor fences, nor prohibited places, nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought.

Robert Green Ingersoll

Details of form and movement are still present, and people are thoroughly themselves, but there is a blending, a gentle erasing of lines, with the light shining on all the curves.

There are few sights more pleasant to the eye than a wide cotton field when it is in bloom.  It presents an appearance of purity, like an immaculate expanse of light, new-fallen snow.

Solomon Northup


Marjory, Abbie, Billy, Robert, Solomon and me … and you


All is calm … All is bright


It’s all here, all the infinite variety of human life …


I can dance in the flame and I can rest at twilight

I can tumble words from my mouth and I can let my lips abide in their touch

I can party with all of you and I can joyfully keep my own company

I can knock on your door and I can invite you into my home

I can laugh and I can cry

I can sing and I can be sung to

I can figure it out and I can let it go

I can jump forward and I can fall back

I can breathe in life’s sorrows and I can breathe out blessings

I can soar and I can plummet

I can live and then I can die


I watched a show on CNN today about the 1918 influenza pandemic.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  The pandemic was “unprecedented” and “gripped the planet”.

2.  In the US, the flu was discovered at an army camp in Kansas, where 1000 soldiers were infected.  After the United States joined World War I, American soldiers were welcomed to France with singing: “The Yanks are coming!”  They brought the flu with them, and it soon exploded in Europe.

3.  During the first wave, people who got the flu treated it with a shrug.  It was a “three-day fever”.

4.  The US President, Woodrow Wilson, never mentioned the flu in public, fearing that it would distract from the war effort, especially recruiting young American men to serve.

5.  During the summer of 1918, cases declined.  More than one medical expert declared the pandemic “over”.

6.  In the second wave, during the fall of 1918, the flu was faster-spreading and far more deadly.  People often died within 24 hours of contracting symptoms, their lungs filling up with fluid.  Lack of oxygen left some bodies purple or black.  Priests walked the streets of some cities, calling to the houses “Bring out your dead.”

7.  In September, 2018, civic leaders in Philadelphia wanted their Liberty Loan Parade to go ahead as planned, with the prospect of selling lots of war bonds.  There was a surge of patriotism in the community.  Doctors asked the city’s public health director to cancel the parade, but he was apparently too afraid of backlash from the mayor, and refused.  Days later, thousands in the city were infected and all hospital beds were occupied.

8.  Newspapers tended to glorify the war effort and gloss over the sickness.  The parade led to headlines such as Fighting men of Navy thrill large crowds.

9.  Doctors and nurses didn’t know what they were fighting.  Influenza was only discovered by science in the 1930’s.  There was no way to treat the disease.  One doctor injected hydrogen peroxide into his patients’ veins … half of them died.

10.  In various cities, new laws were created.  It was a misdemeanor to cough or sneeze without covering your mouth and nose (a fine and/or one year in jail).  Spitters were fined.  Maskless people were fined or thrown into jail.

11.  Masks were often composed of folded gauze, which naturally was porous.  Some nurses regularly wore them covering the mouth but not the nose.

12.  Since Wilson was silent on the issue, cities coped as well as they could, creating a wide variety of both successful and unsuccessful solutions.  Some cities didn’t print the names of the dead, but their citizens knew.  Fear escalated.  San Francisco was one of the cities that talked straight to the people: Wear a mask and save your life.  Their leaders essentially shut the city down.

13.  As cases and deaths declined, many cities lifted mask mandates and reopened businesses … too early.  Deaths soared and many people refused to put the masks back on when they were remandated.

14.  Woodrow Wilson contracted the virus in March, 1919.  He came to a meeting of Allied leaders to work on a peace treaty with Germany.  His agenda was not to punish the defeated country, worrying that German anger might lead to another “war to end all wars”.  Historians believe that the influenza affected Wilson cognitively as well as physically.  Apparently he caved in to the demands of European leaders that Germany must suffer for what they did in the war.  In the 1930’s, Adolph Hitler emerged.

15.  The pandemic lingered until 1920.  One third of the world’s human beings were infected.  50,000,000 souls died, at a time when the planet only had one third of today’s population.

16.  Near the end of the show, a black-and-white 1918 photo was paired with a coloured one from 2020.  Both were of a nurse’s face, only the eyes showing above the mask.

17.  Parallels:

A.  Cities shutting down too late, opening back up too soon
B.  Crowds gathering when doctors told them not to
C.  People refusing to wear masks to protect others
D.  “Leaders ignoring science, downplaying the severity of the virus because they wanted the public’s attention to be elsewhere”

Dr. Tony Fauci: [In some respects] “the lessons of the 1918 pandemic were forgotten”

There most likely will be another pandemic
Will they remember 2020?


I’ve long been fascinated by numbers. As a kid, I studied baseball players and their batting averages, home runs, and runs batted in. Then hockey took over my mind – goals and assists. Most recently, I’ve been enamoured with women’s tennis. Bet you didn’t know that Canada’s Bianca Andreescu is ranked 7th in the world while Leylah Fernandez sits at 88th.

And it’s not just sports. For many years I’ve tracked my own physical stats. How much do I weigh? What’s my body fat percentage? How many calories did I burn on the cross-country ski machine?

Even Covid hasn’t escaped my analytical mind. I’ve tracked numbers of infections and deaths in Canada, the US and the world. Seeing human lives almost as sports scores is a harrowing thought, one that has led me to remorse.

With all that as a background, I worked out on my strength training machine this morning. An hour later, after some food, I was tired so I lay down on my bed. Sleep was nudging but I never quite got there. The in-between space allowed my mind to wander, spread out, vaporize. And then, from some unknown place, came:

I don’t care what I weigh

My eyes widened a bit and then softened. I waited and listened. Yes, the voice spoke the truth. I’m sure that was the first time in my adult life that I spoke those words. The need to weigh myself had disappeared. Hours later, it’s still nowhere to be found. I ask myself “How is this possible?” but I don’t have any oomph to answer the question. It’s just so.

Other thoughts came to the surface:

I don’t care what my body fat percentage is

I don’t care how many calories I burned on the Bowflex this morning

I don’t want to look at the Polar app to see how many calories I’ll have burned by the end of the day

I don’t care how many people viewed or liked the post I wrote yesterday on WordPress and Facebook

I don’t care if in 2020 I exceed the number of views I had in 2019

I don’t want to know how many people were infected with Covid today

I don’t want to know how many people died from Covid today

I didn’t grunt and groan to remove my thoughts about stats. I didn’t create short-term and long-term goals to eliminate my tendency towards analysis. The thoughts, the focus, the evaluation … they’re simply gone. And my sense right now is that they’ll stay gone, as magical as that seems.

I’m still focused on exercise and nutrition as ways to stay healthy. I’m still concerned about the pandemic and committed to social distancing and wearing a mask. But there’s a long, sweet exhale … and the feeling of space.

Surface Truth

I’m good at watching the TV news and observing people’s mouths move.  If I like the personality of the anchor, I tend to trust what they say.  Same with the reporters and the folks they interview.  If I’m wary of someone’s facial expression or tone of voice, I’m more alert to assess the value of their comments.  Fair enough.

But what if someone promoting toothpaste or car vending machines seems like a really cool guy?  Should I just nod in agreement and never go to a dealership again since Carvana can do it all for me?  Maybe not.

I’ve noticed a glowing life insurance ad lately.  Big smiley husband and big smiley wife have discovered the mother lode.  “Jacob, age 35, has found a $1,000,000 policy for $35 a month.”  Wendy has similarly become set for life.  Wait a minute, though.  There’s smaller print announcing a “term policy” and “ten years”.  “Term” means that it ends before death.  For Jacob, his coverage would cease at age 45.  And not too many people of that age are grappling with life-threatening issues.

Then there’s Velveeta.  I remember as a kid popping multi-slices of the stuff into my mouth.  Today the ad showed two grey taco chips.  Down the left one flowed smooth Velveeta goodness, while the fellow on the right was being adorned with clearly deficient lumpiness.  The announcer, in a disparaging voice, referred to the right one as “the other guys” and then chirpily informed us that “nothing melts like Velveeta”.  So there.  In the interest of aesthetically smooth and easily accomplished chip-augmenting, Velveeta will improve the quality of my life.

I did some research.  According to Velveeta, their product “melts smooth and creamy for ultimate appeal”.  However the author of the article had other things to say:

While there are elements of real cheese in Velveeta – like, you know, milk – to call it actual cheese is a bit of a stretch.  Which is why it is now labelled as a “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product”.

Velveeta contains quite an array of distinct coloring and preserving agents.  Basically it can’t be called real cheese because it has so many additives in it.

In this current life of convenience, nutrition takes a back seat to that lovely uniform flow.  I suspect that “the other guys” represent a tangy block of old cheddar.


Lesson for me:
I should pay attention more
rather than being lulled by gently smiling mouths
and sweet words that fall off the tongue