1969 was the year of Woodstock, Led Zeppelin’s first album, the Boeing 747’s inaugural flight, the election of Israel’s first female Prime Minister (Golda Meir), the Beatles final live performance (an impromptu concert on the roof of Apple Records, which was broken up by police), the first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS in North America (and it took the life of  a teenager, Robert R.), the beginning of the US gay rights movement (sparked by the Stonewall riots in NY City), the first withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam, the killing of two Black Panther Party Members (who were asleep at the time) during a Chicago police officers’ raid, and many more notable stories and events.

But it is an event on July 20th, 1969, that I recall without consulting Wikipedia or other historic information sites. I was on summer holidays — between grades six and seven — watching the first human step onto the moon. It was almost unimaginable, and the fact that I watched the event on our grainy black-and-white TV made it all the more surreal. It was an achievement that stunned me, and changed me; an event that ignited my imagination and altered my reading preference to science fiction. I wanted to be an astronaut (at one point I even sent an application to NASA; sadly, I never received a reply). Above all it was an event that made me realize how small I was in relation to the universe.

Photo by NASA/NewsmakersThe three men who manned the first moon-mission are locked in my memory: Michael Collins (surely, for several moments, the loneliest man ever: he was off of his home planet and on the other side of the moon; no visual contact with Earth, nobody for company, and nothing but static to listen to — see Of a Fire on the Moon, by Norman Mailer for more details); Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step on the Moon’s surface; and last, but not least, the mission Commander, Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another celestial body.

I’m sure everyone has heard by now that Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday, a little over forty-three years since his historic accomplishment. It is a sad day, but a good day to reflect on a positive accomplishment of the human spirit (interestingly, Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was, he said, slightly misquoted: what he actually said was, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”).

Those first astronauts left a plaque on the moon that states: “We came in peace for all Mankind.” And during Armstrong’s first walk on the surface, he paused and put a patch on the surface to commemorate the Soviet cosmonauts and NASA astronauts who had died performing their duties. These acts took place during the Cold War, and were lovely gestures. The words on the plaque were encouraging, but human strife between antagonists continues to this day.

Someday, a human will place a plaque on Mars to commemorate the further adventures of humankind. It would be wonderful if we could learn to embody peace as a species while we continue our voyage of discovery.




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The following is not quite as  brief as I wanted, but is a mostly verifiable history of golf (with a focus on equipment):

I spent some time looking into the history of golf —especially as regards the equipment — but I had the dickens of a time discovering anything that revealed the game’s initial seed and its germination. Fortunately, life is filled with miraculous moments of synchronicity; last week, one of those miraculous moments — in the guise of Jock McIntosh — sat down beside me at the Moose-head Pub (and this event has convinced me to reacquaint myself with Carl Jung and his theories).

I was sitting quietly, half-watching a football (soccer) match, nursing my pint, attempting to imagine the creation of the game of golf, when Jock sat down next to me. He asked me what I was pondering, and I explained my yearning regarding the birth of golf.  At first, Jock was reticent; but, as he became increasingly lubricated, he began to drop hints that he might know something about the origins of the sport. When I offered to buy the next round, Jock became even more  loquacious. I loosened my wallet further, and he agreed that, for the price of the ales that he consumed, he would relate the myth — nay, tale — of the beginnings of the game of golf; apparently, he was descended from one of the lads that invented the game (I was skeptical at first, but as Jock did not claim to be descended from the original creator of the game; rather, the lad who helped further develop the sport, I was more inclined to accept his story. And he had the soulful, open glint in his eyes that, for me, always seals the veracity of a tale). Jock is a spirited drinker, and his story cost me a fair penny, but it eased my mind’s longing. I consumed a good deal more than my usual allotment that night (it was a chore keeping up with Jock, but I did my family proud); nevertheless, I remember the lion’s share of the story that he related…

It was Graeme McDuffie, Jock told me, who was golf’s inspired creator (Jock had a thick accent and used words like wee, nae, auld, bonny, lad, laird, and their ilk, but — as a favour to myself, and the sensibilities of Scottish folks everywhere — I’m going to stick to my conventional Canadian). Graeme was a solitary young boy from a town in West Lothian (“…that’d be Lodainn an Iar in the lovely Gaelic tongue,” Jock informed me). Graeme liked to walk, with an aimless gait, through the sweeping expanse of the links. The walks served as a balm after a day working the farm, a time for Graeme to be alone with his thoughts. He carried a stout  walking stick, which had a large knot at the top end. When Graeme stopped at the top of a mound, he would rest both hands on the knot of his stick, stare into the distance, and enjoy the open vista of links and Firth. It was on one of these mounds — the slope of which is now referred to as Graeme’s Brae — that the game of golf was born.

It happened on a late-morning walk; a rare occurrence for Graeme: vestiges of morning mist drifted between the mounds, bestowing the links with the faint wash of magic. He headed for a particularly large mound and, when he’d gotten to the top, he noticed a small, rounded stone on the ground. He picked it up; it fit nicely inside his loosely curled hand. He tossed the stone into the air and took a mighty swing at it with his walking stick, but the stick completely missed the stone, which fell with an unsatisfactory thump onto the earth by his feet. He turned his walking stick around (grasping the thin end with his hands), and struck the stone with the large knot at the other end. Fortunately (for future generations of golf-lovers), the stone took off like a shot and Graeme was delighted. He’d watched to see where it landed and hurried down the mound to find the stone; and, when he did (it took some time: the stone was hidden within a gorse-bush), he struck it again and again, more delighted each time he hit it. He then decided to attempt to aim the stone at certain landmarks; a boulder, a mound, a bush. And then he had a remarkable inspiration: he dug a hole in the ground and returned to the mound: he wanted to see how many strikes it took to get the stone from the mound to the hole (he couldn’t see the hole from the mound, so he found a long, straight stick and pushed it into the earth in middle of the hole: this gave him a perceptible target). The first time it took eighteen strikes, but he got better, and could soon consistently get from mound to hole in less than ten strikes (his record was five, which became his goal). Sometimes the stone landed in a spot from which it was impossible for Graeme to strike at it with his stick; he decided that he should be allowed to move the stone, but he would add a strike to his total (this was a fair punishment, he thought, for striking it into a dangerous position). He decided to call his game goulf, a Scottish word meaning to strike or cuff.

Graeme’s game of goulf evolved. For example, he sometimes spent an interminable time searching for his round stone, so he gathered a dozen equally rounded rocks and carried them in a sack across his shoulders; if he couldn’t find his stone after striking it, he’d add two strikes to his total and exchange the lost stone with a new one. Finding spherical stones became increasingly difficult (he had lost many stones playing goulf), so he decided to carve a small block of wood into a sphere; the wooden sphere worked well, so he made more and replaced his stones with wooden balls.

He expanded his game by creating three holes that formed a large triangle within the links; one hole was quite long, the second was short, and the final hole was even longer than the first (he started at his original mound, struck his wooden ball to the first hole, walked up to another mound (that was close to the first hole) and struck to the second hole, etcetera). He grew extremely fond of his game and often stayed out on the links until the sun had completely disappeared below the horizon.

Iain McIntosh, a lad from a nearby farm, saw Graeme swinging his stick (sometimes cursing) and walking aimlessly across the links. Iain watched for quite some before walking over to see what manner of madness Graeme was involved in. Iain was instantly enchanted with the game, and the two lads became inseparable friends and lifelong goulf partners.

Iain and Graeme developed the game considerably in the months that followed: they cleared and packed down the area around the hole, cleared the area between mound and hole, and added more holes (and the holes were placed in a strategic manner so that the final hole ended where the first mound began: the complete tour of all holes — there were eleven in all — made for a game lasting almost two hours. After playing for a few weeks, they amalgamated some holes, and the eventual number of holes was perfected at nine. Most days they’d play ‘around’ the nine-hole adventure twice). The stick became known as a gaulf-club, and the wooden sphere was referred to as a gaulf-ball.

Soon all the young lads in the area (and some of their fathers) were playing goulf, and the sport grew until it leaked into surrounding areas, and farther afield than anyone in West Lothian imagined.

Goulf became so popular that in 1457, James II, in an Act of Parliament (more…)

On August 19, 1942, over six-thousand Allied-forces infantrymen (primarily Canadian, supported by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force) endeavored to penetrate the German stronghold at the port of Dieppe, via a stone beach along the northern coast of France. The Operation was a complete disaster; within six hours, sixty-percent of the attacking infantrymen were dead, injured, or captured. Nine-hundred and seven Canadians died in the aborted raid.

Until recently, it was unclear why the Allied forces had followed through with the Dieppe Raid, which was a poorly planned assault. But a military historian, David O’Keefe, sifted through top-secret, British military documents until he discovered an answer that is like the plot of a spy novel, which makes sense, because Ian Fleming — WW II British Intelligence Officer and author of the James Bond books — was involved.

When O’Keefe confronted British Navel authorities with his evidence, they acknowledged that he had discovered the truth.

The Dieppe Raid was initiated as a diversion for a pinch operation; the raid provided cover for a commando unit’s infiltration into German Naval headquarters (intelligence indicated it was in Dieppe’s Hôtel Moderne) and to board specific boats within the inner harbor: the ultimate goal of the mission was to ‘appropriate’ German code-books and a code-machine. Ian Fleming was the head of the commando unit.

To me, that seems like a lot of lives to use as a diversion, but hopefully this will provide solace and meaning for survivors. The Dieppe Raid was poorly planned and doomed to fail: the troops arrived late, and the planned cover of darkness had dissipated.

A documentary of the Dieppe Raid, based on the evidence that O’Keefe uncovered, has been created; the documentary, Dieppe Uncovered, will be aired on History Television on Sunday, August 19 (the seventieth anniversary of the raid).




I was looking at a map the other day and noticed Greenland, which appeared as little more than a white-colored land-mass. I was fairly sure there were Inuit residents and there was some Norse history, and I imagined a lot of ice and snow, maybe mountains and some polar bears; instead of guessing, I did a little bit of research:

In pre-historic times Greenland was populated with the Saqaqq people (a Paleo-Eskimo culture). Around 800 BC the Saqqaq were supplanted by the Dorset, who lasted until the Thule (closely related to the Inuit) migrated from the North American Arctic mainland about 900 AD, before the first Norsemen arrived. According to legend, Erik the Red was banished from Iceland and found the rumored land to the north-west, which he and his extended family settled and called Grœnland (Greenland is so named, I assume, because  the Norsemen landed on the southern shore, in a sub-arctic region).

A Norwegian priest, Hans Eged, arranged an expedition to Greenland in 1721, which marked the beginning of colonialism. In 1953 the people of Greenland became Danish citizens, with a home-rule government and two representatives within Danish Parliament (the Folketing). Currently, approximately eighty percent of Greenland’s population is Inuit and the rest are Danish.

Greenland, the world’s largest island (with the world’s largest park), is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Arctic Ocean, and the island’s arctic climate is generated by relentlessly cold ocean currents and chill emanations from the inland ice cap.

Greenland’s ice cap contains ten percent of the Earth’s fresh water, covers eighty-five percent of the Island’s land area; and, at its center, the ice can build to a thickness of 3 km (almost ten thousand feet). If Greenland’s ice cap completely melted, the Earth’s oceans would rise by seven meters (twenty-three feet). The ice caps are forbidding to most species, but the island is home to diverse varieties of flora and fauna (these plants and animals live in a delicate niche and are highly vulnerable to global warming).

There are sub-arctic regions within the confines of Greenland (at the island’s southernmost tip and within the interior fjords) and it is in these locations where the most plentiful flora is found. But the mountain regions are home to vegetation similar to various plants in Northern Scandinavia, and in arid, inland regions the vegetation is similar to certain species in central North American mountains.

Hunting — recreational and as a fundamental food-source — is ingrained in Greenland’s culture, and whaling was, at one time, a major industry. Depletion of resources (in particular, the right whale population) has resulted in a steep decline in the whaling business. The narwhal and the walrus have also been over-hunted — for their tusks — and their populations are now predominantly located in the north and east coastal regions.

Most of Greenland’s two-hundred and twenty-odd avifauna species are migratory, but the island is home to about sixty species of breeding birds. There are a number of resident land animals, including musk-ox, reindeer, Arctic fox, polar-bear, Arctic hare, Arctic wolf, collared lemming, and ermine. And, aside from the many (~ 300) species of fish, the marine species that populate the coastal waters include hooded seals, grey seals, walruses, and whales.

Whale-watching is a popular eco-tourism option because the waters surrounding Greenland are home to abundant species: fin, blue, humpback, narwhal, white, lesser rorquals, sperm, and pilot.

Some other popular activities are snowmobiling, skiing (pristine cross-country trails, some alpine, and heliskiing), fishing (in particular, river-fishing for Greenlandic char, and ice-fishing for halibut), kayaking, hiking, and perusing cultural museums and exhibitions.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Northern Lights.

Autumn in Greenland showcases the extraordinary sights of the Aurora Borealis, but the summer months provide poor viewing; during the summer, beyond the Arctic Circle, daylight lasts around the clock and the Aurora Borealis light-show is projected on the bright sky of the midnight sun.

[Image found at theguardian]


Zen Master Taigu Ryokan (1751 – 1831) was known for his equanimity and compassion, his aura, and for his smile. Ryokan was — and still is — a literary treasure, but he refused to publish his works while he lived.

He was a Zazen practitioner, loved to walk in the forest, and supported himself as a mendicant.



He penned his famous Haiku in response to the theft of his meager possessions:

The thief left it behind:

the moon

at my window



I just read an interesting article, which lead me to a Public Statement by Amnesty International  about a brave, altruistic Afghan woman who was killed for doing the right thing. The story is six years old, but bears repeating.

On the 25th of September 2006, Safiye Amajan, while on her way to work, was shot repeatedly by an armed motorcyclist who was linked to the Taliban. The Taliban claimed that her assassination was “…due to spying on the Mojahedin of the Islamic Emirate on behalf of the United States of America, under the guise of woman’s rights.”

Safiye Amajan was in her mid-fifties, and her ‘crime’ was more likely the fact that for years, despite repeated threats, she secretly ran a school for girls during the Taliban rule. After the Taliban’s repressive regime collapsed, and until she was murdered, Safiye Amajan was the provincial head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA). During her time in MOWA she was instrumental in the establishment of several schools and vocational centers designed to educate women and girls.

Safiye Amajan surely knew her life was in danger, but she defied the oppressive dictates of the Taliban and continued her altruistic cause until her untimely death. It is people like her that boost my faith in humanity.




When I was young I spent my Saturday mornings in our ‘TV room’, watching cartoons (and this may help to explain how I got to be the way I am…). There wasn’t anything else on TV on Saturday mornings (well, perhaps the other channel, though quite snowy, would be broadcasting stale news); the cartoon characters below are some of the most memorable (and a couple I only recall because of their odd names):

Loopy De Loop

Tennessee Tuxedo & Chumley

Atom Ant

Quick Draw McGraw (aka El Kabong), & Snuffles, his dog

Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole

Squiddly Diddly

Ricochet Rabbit & Droop-A-Long Coyote

Peter Potamus

Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse

Dudley Do-Right


Commander McBragg

Top Cat


Touché Turtle & Dum Dum

Yosemite Sam

Deputy Dawg

The Mighty Heros (Strong Man, Rope Man, Tornado Man & Diaper Man)



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