Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

22 March, 2017

INSPIRATIONAL STORY OF GRIEVING MOM WHO RAN BOSTON MARATHON

Mary Lou Hills in the Boston Marathon jacket that proved to be her motivation in crossing the finish line.
I like stories about ordinary people who have accomplished extra-ordinary things...There is generally an inspirational message in the telling and something special to tuck away in the back of our minds.

Take Mary Lou Hills of Southampton, for instance.  A homemaker and business woman approaching middle age, she preferred going for casual walks around town as a form of recreation until the year 2000 when her 20-year-old son was tragically killed in a car accident.  She started running after that for the therapeutic benefit and as a way to help her deal with debilitating grief.

"Running became a passion," she admits.  Runs around the block became extended runs along the streets of the Lake Huron community.  Her bedtime reading evolved into books on running strategies and techniques.  Then came the competitions -- five and 10-kilometre races, and a handful of half-marathons.

Mary Lou even completed the 30 km Around-the-Bay Road Race in Hamilton, but it was a half-marathon in Niagara Falls in 2010 that really changed her approach to her growing passion for running.  As fate would have it, she met Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1967.  (A race official tried to rip off Kathrine's number partway through the event and disqualify her because women were not officially allowed to compete in the marathon in those days...She had entered the race "illegally" by registering as K. V. Switzer.)  Today, half of the Boston Marathon's participants are women.

From that point on, the 56-year-old Mary Lou dedicated herself to qualifying for the world's best-known and iconic marathon, drawing in excess of 30,000 competitors and more than 500,000 spectators annually.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no simple feat.  There are stringent rules, Competitors must run in an officially sanctioned marathon and meet time requirements.  Based on her age, Mary Lou had to run 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 km) in four hours and 15 minutes. In a year of advanced training, she ran five days a week, anywhere from seven to 20 km per day.  On her "rest" days, she stretched, did yoga and worked on exercising her core muscles.  Then there was a strict sleep schedule and an even more strict diet.

"It was carbs, carbs, carbs," Mary Lou recalls.  "I basically ate nothing but bananas and pasta for 365 days."  She admits that she may not have made it without the patience and support of her husband, Mike who became chief cook and bottle-washer in preparing her special training meals.  He also went out on training runs -- Mary Lou running and Mike on a bike, loaded down with water bottles and energy snacks.

"Most of all, he gave me emotional support.  He understood what qualifying for the Boston Marathon meant to me and he helped overcome any doubts that I may have had," she said on reflection.

Mary Lou decided on the Mississauga Marathon as her qualifier.  "It's a relatively flat course," she explained.  "I thought that would help my time."  And the strategy worked with Mary Lou crossing the finish line in four hours, 13 minutes and nine seconds -- with more than a minute to spare.

A few weeks later the long-awaited invitation arrived in the mail...A card with her name embossed on it read: "You Have Been Accepted Into the Boston Marathon."

"I'll never forget that moment," she said in an interview.  "I had done it...I had qualified for the Boston Marathon!"
Mary Lou enroute to her four-hour,
44 minutes finish of the Boston
Marathon in 2012.

"Qualified" is the key word.  Actually running in the marathon is something else again.  There are no shortcuts. It took another excruciating 12 months of preparation. This time she had a program specifically designed for the granddaddy of all marathons with emphasis on longer runs, faster times...and hills.  The Boston route is known for its uphill climbs, one of them being "Heartbreak Hill" that has proven to be the undoing of countless marathoners.

To make matters worse, the race is held in the early spring, so Mary Lou had to do her peak training through a Grey-Bruce winter of snow, sleet, rain and high winds.  A few days before the big race she developed pain and tightness in her hips that got so bad that Mike had to load a mattress into the back of their car, enabling his wife to stretch out on the trip to Boston. To make matters worse, much to the Hills' surprise, when they arrived in Boston after having their supply of bananas confiscated by U.S. customs, the area was in the middle of a spring (2012) heat wave.

"We thought the weather would be like Grey-Bruce in April, cool, maybe a bit rainy," Mary Lou said. Instead they were greeted with desert dry temperatures reaching 93 F, or 35 C.  Concerned about the extreme heat, officials strongly advised participants to consider deferring their participation in the race until the following year and thousands took the advice, but Mary Lou was not one of them.

"I wasn't going to let hot weather scare me away," she said.  "Although, to be honest, what really kept me from deferring to 2013 was the thought of another 12 months of training."

On the morning of the event, hundreds of school buses transport the participants to the starting line outside of Boston.  The runners are sent off in waves, with those in wheelchairs going first, followed by the top seeded competitors, then batches of 5,000 to 10,000 at a time...It was 45 minutes before Mary Lou's wave even started moving.

The heat was the worst of it, but the hills were a close second.  "It seemed like every time I looked up, there was another hill to climb," she remembers.  Gatorade Endurance, the drink of choice among runners, was freely handed out by the cup full at water stations along the course and kept our Southampton girl going at a determined and steady pace.

She also credited spectators with motivating her.  "There wasn't a metre along the whole route that wasn't deep in people, cheering and pushing us on."

I know from experience as a one time distance runner, that there can be a lot of negative thinking in the early stages of any race, especially one that is 42 kilometres long.  At some point, an inner voice speaks up and tells a runner that there is no turning back, similar to a second-wind.  Unfortunately for Mary Lou, that voice was a long time coming on this occasion and she found herself wondering if she would be able to finish.

She, however, had purchased a commemorative race jacket at a Boston Marathon Expo the day before and she remembered thinking "If I don't finish, I'll never be able to wear my jacket."

That thought was enough to push her aching, sweat-drenched body onward.  She crossed the finish line without stopping and in a more than respectable time of four hours and 44 minutes.  "I did it -- I ran the Boston Marathon!" she remembers screaming to herself.

The next day Mary Lou went out on the town to celebrate, her medal for finishing the marathon proudly hanging around her neck.  She and Mike ate the best cannoli available in Boston and had a beer at Cheers on Beacon Street, before taking in a Boston Red Sox baseball game at Fenway Park.

The best part of the day following the marathon, however, was waking up in the morning, opening the Boston Globe newspaper and seeing her name and time included in the race results.  "That's when what I had accomplished really sunk in...I was part of an elite club of runners who had finished the Boston Marathon," she states with understandable pride.

She thinks her son would be proud too.

Without question, Mary Lou Hills demonstrated that with determination and supportive motivation, it is possible to turn a tragic personal loss into an amazing accomplishment.  She has been an owner of a general insurance brokerage in Southampton for 25 years and continues to be active in the community as a volunteer advocate and vice-chair of the Business Improvement Association.

19 March, 2017

A LITTLE FUN AND ENJOYMENT FOR MY MUSIC-LOVING FRIENDS

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, and flight to the imagination.“ Plato

(Some of the songs in this post have been blocked for copyright reasons...Sorry!)

A friend came to me Yesterday, and told me All You Need is Love. Well It was One Sweet Day and I knew I Just Wanted to be Your Everything. I had a touch of Night Fever and felt it wouldn’t be long before Another One Bites The Dust, so it was vital for me to Apologize knowing I’m A Believer and that We Can Work It Out. Truthfully I’m a pretty Smooth guy and never one to fool around with other people’s emotions, so I suggested that we play a game called Foolish Games knowing in the back of my mind that I Will Always Love You.
The rules are simple, and it just takes two to play. You start by Tumbling Dice and adding a spoonful of Brown Sugar, and then You Start Me Up understanding that You Can’t Always get What You Want. After long languorous weeks in the sun I announced to my partner, “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”  We found Satisfaction in a Villa in The South of France, and lying in bed looking into one another’s eyes I said to her, Are You Lonesome Tonight.” She replied “Call Me Maybe.” (I’ll call her Maybe maybe, although her name is actually Billie Jean)

For the next six months we played the game constantly. I became her Daydream Believer and she became my everything, and I told her You’re My World. I asked her to Help as we spent every hour in each other’s company. Then suddenly, without warning She Walked Out The Door Right Out Of My Life.........
I concentrated on Stayin’ Alive but finally broke down and picked up the phone and called my Lady who accused me immediately of being a Gold Digger. Deeply offended I responded saying, “You hussy, you playboy Centerfold. With a demur chuckle she answered Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright and I suddenly realized. Wow It’s Just Like Starting Over, I felt like I was Blowing In the Wind to which she answered angrily...”well That’s What Friends Are For. You and I are like Fire and Rain," and she slammed the phone down.
Every Breath You Take is still like a knife to my heart, I thought to myself What A Feeling. When I’m Rolling In The Deep or writing some Iambic Pentameter I generally discover that if I’ve been Tossin’ Or Turnin’ or singing some other Silly Love Songs I become unusually hungry, and need a snack. I find my mind wandering like a Candle In The Wind knowing always that I Want To Hold Your Hand while I’m Shadow Dancing because I’m trying to stand Side to Side as I eat my snack by the fridge. It’s all quite confusing really, but at least it makes perfect sense to me.

I was never the same after we broke up. I Heard it Through The Grapevine, that Billie Jean had found someone new, and just a month ago I received a text from her with just three bitter words that said simply: “You’re So Vain."  I immediately shot back a four-word manifesto You’re Still the One. “That’ll teach her,” I thought.
A great song can’t be written One Moment In Time. It’s always about Respect and with patience I could become a Party Rock Anthem. It’s important to understand How I Live, when I’ve Got A Feeling that just won’t quit, especially when things turn Physical. You see...when I look into your eyes I realize that You Light Up My Life, you’re My Girl, my sweet little Doo Wah Diddy Diddy because I can’t Imagine life without you. I’ve been Running On Empty for so long now that without question We Belong TogetherYou’re my Uptown Funk baby my little Ruby Tuesday. You’ll never Unbreak My Heart, oh you with those Betty Davis Eyes. You’re my sweet lovin’ Dock of the Bay, My Girl, but God Only Knows, that When a Man Loves a Woman There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, but baby You Are the Sunshine of My Life, my True Colors so I Say a Little Prayer  for you. Sadly though, the harder I tried, the more I realized our love was dead.

Life went back to normal, and became an American Pie moment. I started to write again, at first depressing poems about lost love but finally coming to a point of being proud of my work again. I wrote a new song that was (little did I know it at the time) going to change my life. I spent All Night Long writing it and knew...yes I really knew that this song was The One. Oh Baby, Baby It’s a Wild World and then I realized that We Will Rock You, because as the great poet Wordsworth once said, She’s Only a Woman To Me. I was drawn to a frenetic emotion -- slipping away, wanting as always to Keep On Rocking in the Free World, but then without warning I bounced back and suddenly was singing You Raise Me Up. Wow...it truly is a Wonderful World.

12 March, 2017

STEP ASIDE MEN, A DOMINANT LEGACY AWAITS WOMANKIND

Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day and on that subject a writer friend has posed an interesting question: "How different would life be today if the role of women had remained unchanged over these past six decades."

Statistics Canada notes that only 24 percent of women between ages 15 and 54 were part of the labour force in 1953. Some of us recall that many of those jobs were in so-called traditional female occupations -- nursing, secretarial work, waitressing, teaching, retail sales or social work. In that same year, 96 percent of men were gainfully employed. More significantly, in 1951, only 11 percent of married women were working outside the home.

Fast forward to more recent statistics: In 2014, now 82 percent of women between ages 15 and 54 were in the labour force, while male employment declined slightly to 91 percent. By 1994, job rates for married women had reached 58 percent.

Why the dramatic increase in the numbers of women in the labour force? Availability of the pill in the 1960s meant females finally had gained control over reproduction choices. Fertility rates tumbled from 3.9 children per female in 1959 to 1.9 children by 2011. Employment became a viable option or addition to motherhood. The women’s movement opened the doors to many occupations and professions formerly considered less welcoming of women. The rapid postwar expansion of the Canadian economy created far more demands for workers than could be filled by men alone.

Let’s assume none of these sociological factors had occurred. Let’s imagine today’s Canada remaining stuck in that above-mentioned 1950s culture. What would our nation look like if only 24 percent of females and 11 percent of married women worked outside the home.

The many downsides of  the "what if?" question are obvious:

-- society would lose the vital contribution women have made to the workforce through their creativity, intelligence, education and experience

-- females who rightfully seek to fulfill their vocational potential and dreams are denied that opportunity, which would be grossly unjust

-- men would have to continue carrying the heavy load of being sole income-provider and those resultant longer hours on the job would rob them and their family of time together

-- women not working outside the home would not have created wealth which would have increased consumer spending which, in turn, would create more jobs and subsequently more wealth.

The role of full-time homemaker -- or lead parent -- is a worthwhile calling, a viable option for those women (or men) freely choosing that path.  Stay-at-home dads were unthinkable 60 years ago, but are quite common today in situations where the wife/mother's earning capability exceeds that of the husband/father. No question that the male place in family life has also evolved, toward a greater involvement in parental and domestic roles and that is a good thing.

As a parent and grandparent of females, however, I am also thankful we are not stuck in the 1950s. More choices for women obviously are now available. Yet, while much progress has been made, further equality of the sexes still remains to be achieved.  And have no fear, it will happen.

While I will not live to see it, it would not surprise me in the least if in time women become the dominant species.  More and more, they carry all the cards and men will have to play along in order to get what they want.

05 March, 2017

SINS OF YESTERYEAR NO LONGER SINS IN TODAY'S SOCIETY

It is quite coincidental that I often find myself pondering the sins that I have been guilty of committing over the years and acknowledging that while I have asked forgiveness of higher authority, I still have difficulty "forgiving" myself.  I'm self-abusive that way.

Having said that, I also wonder if some of the "sins" that weigh heavily on my conscience would actually be considered sins in the current day and age.

Lo and behold, and much to my surprise, a retired man-of-the-cloth friend has been thinking along the same lines.  It must have something to do with our advanced age.

Rev. Bob recalls a rainy December day in 1964 when he ventured into his bank to purchase some mutual funds. The young woman behind the desk filled out his application then proceeded to ask a very personal question.  The conversation went something like this: “What are the numbers of your sin?

“Well, I guess three or four, depending on whether you consider sneaking a second dessert is sinful. But why do you need to know about my personal behavior before selling me mutual funds?” he asked.

“Sir, I certainly do not need to know; I just needed your Social Insurance Number.” Her face had turned a bright red to match the colour of her woolen sweater, Bob recalls.

The confusion was understandable. The Federal Government had only just implemented an innovative tracking system in June of that year. Having one's very own SIN would forever identify them to Ottawa bureaucrats for purposes of taxation or CPP contributions and it took some getting used to.

“Sin” as a theological concept has lost its prominence and power in our contemporary world. In fact, we mutually agree that this is a great time to be a “sinner!” Consider these three realities offered by Bob:

-- With over three-quarters of us not attending church nor other places of worship, the idea of an angry, vengeful God seems only a relic from the cast-aside religion of our ancestors. Sinners are safe!

-- With sermons no longer filled with fearsome warnings of “Hellfire and Brimstone,” mainstream churchgoers leave Sunday services feeling reassured about God’s unconditional love, not frightened by his condemning wrath. Even Evangelical, more Fundamentalist, denominations balance a recognition of our universal sin nature with teachings about God’s grace, His promise of redemption through Jesus.

-- Society no longer condemns many kinds of behavior which, at one time, were quickly labeled as sinful. Today’s “sinner” will not be judged nor shunned by their community. At worst, they might encounter friends or neighbours who live by different values but who have learned never to insist others follow those same standards.

What then does that word “sin” really mean?

In its most basic form, a sin is moral wrongdoing, or in theological language, a transgression against God’s law. Unfortunately, “God’s law” may indeed leave the Deity’s infallible mouth, but inevitably lands into very human and fallible ears. In other words, mankind (and I do mean ”males”) has too often interpreted and bent God’s law to suit human purposes. This had led to horrible results such as the medieval Inquisition and the current atrocities of ISIS in the middle-East. This has also led to relatively trivial past edicts against supposed sins of movie-going, wearing makeup, card-playing, consuming alcohol, partaking in Sunday sports, eating meat on Friday and many other behaviors deemed at one time to be wrong. It was these trivial rules that were the first to go.

Prohibition failed in the 1920s. In the 1950s, Toronto’s Mayor Allan Lamport unlocked the theatres, pools and ballparks for citizens to enjoy on Sundays. Mainstream religious leaders relaxed rules around social drinking and buying lottery tickets. Evangelical movements moved beyond a preoccupation with lipstick, earrings, long hair on men and short skirts on women, to focus on far more important issues of serious sin and social justice.

Over the past 50 years or so, many of the proscriptions against non-trivial behavior, these serious sins, also began to crumble. Historically, it had been the power and influence of the institutional church that originally pressured governments to legislate moral laws into legal code. As the influence of religion waned in the 1960s, newer, secular voices led the way toward relaxation and ultimately abandonment of many of the legal constraints controlling human choice.

Behaviors once illegal and socially condemned, became allowable and socially accepted or at least tolerated. Laws permitting divorce were drastically broadened and, subsequently, remarriage made possible. Behavior, once unlawful----same-sex marriage, pre-marital sex, abortion, medical-assisted death (and soon-to-be-legalized personal use of marijuana) has become permissible without penalty.

What remains of sin? Friend Bob suggests it may be preferable to let go of the word entirely because the term has become so distorted and contaminated as to be undefinable by society."Perhaps one can speak of wrong behavior instead. The Biblical Ten Commandments continue to provide an ethical foundation, condemning murder, theft, adultery and social injustice, while encouraging love, right living, charity and justice. Society still is guided by these principles even if rejecting their source."

In the church calendar, today, March 5th, is the first Sunday of Lent. While traditionally a time for “giving up” of some habit or food, it is also a time to reflect upon those guiding principles by which we live our lives. You may end up examining your own sin numbers -- real and imaginary.

And that is exactly what I have been doing -- examining...and feeling guilty for certain personal failings of the past 60 or so years.  What do you do when God has forgiven you as you have asked ("God have mercy on me, a sinner"), but you cannot find it in your heart to forgive yourself?

Are the Christian teachings of my formative years a saving grace, or a guilt-trip yoke around my neck today. Good question. I'll get back to you on that!

26 February, 2017

AIN'T EASY MAGEE! BUT I'M DOING MY BEST COPING WITH AGING

Exercise for me these days consists of getting out of bed in the morning, taking care of household chores, looking after my ailing wife's needs and excursions shopping for the sustenance of life. This winter I shovel snow only when navigating the white fluffy stuff becomes a virtual impossibility. Why use aching muscles and joints to clear it when I can just plow through it? Right!

As Rosanne's tastes become more spontaneous and finicky, I find myself increasingly settling for food that is of a convenience nature, simply because of the time-saving factor and the effort that it takes to prepare more nutritious meals just for myself.

I also readily acknowledge that I should get a full night's sleep instead of writing until the wee small hours of the morning and opting for cat naps (I call it passing out) through the day.

Because I erroneously consider myself invincible, I chose not to weigh the effect that my current lifestyle may have on my longevity...Up to now, that is.

I read recently that every single second at least one person dies from an age-related condition. What’s more, research estimates that by the year 2020 the percentage of aging-related deaths will increase another 25 percent. To add fuel to my fire, I was further taken aback with the revelation of telltale signs that “Father Time” is closing in on me and knocking on my door, i.e.:

*Skin issues (such as dry skin, age spots, wrinkles, and saggy skin)

*Joint discomfort, stiffness, and/or swelling

*Weakened muscles

*Frail bones

*Memory and other cognitive issues

*Declining vision and auditory skills

*Decreased energy and increased fatigue

*A weakening immune system, leaving you sick more and more often

*An under performing circulatory system

*A cardiovascular system that just can’t support a truly active lifestyle any longer

*Hormonal decline

*Feeling blue and moody

*Dulling, thinning hair

*Loss of muscle tone and a youthful figure

*Slowed metabolism and perpetual weight gain


Fact is, these common concerns and the inescapable reality of aging are no laughing matter. Even worse, there are a host of environmental and lifestyle factors that are constantly preying on the youth of every cell in our bodies:

*UV rays that damage the DNA of skin cells, leading to thinning skin, sun spots, wrinkles, exaggerated expression lines, and even pervasive dryness and itching

*Stress, which sends the age-accelerating hormone cortisol into overdrive

*Mood-related issues which have been linked to as much as a decade of accelerated aging

*Lack of sleep shown to significantly shorten the length of DNA telomeres (AKA your “cellular timekeepers”)

*Too much or too little exercise -- studies show that both the highly active and sedentary populations have similar age-related bio markers as a result of too little or too much of a good thing

*Poor nutrition, leading to a lack of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals that fight the aging process

*Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) infiltrating our diet which have been linked to poor immune function and accelerated aging

*Excessive Omega-6 fatty acid intake – the most prevalent fatty acid in the North American diet – which has been shown to accelerate aging and significantly increase inflammation

*Highly processed carbohydrates and sugar intake which promote the formation of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products). These mutated proteins have been shown to significantly accelerate cellular aging.

*Overeating in general, which produces age-accelerating free radicals

*Alcohol consumption, which decreases the body’s antioxidant activity while at the same time increasing cell-damaging free radicals – a double whammy!

*Being overweight, which by itself leads to a state of increased cell-damaging oxidative stress

*Over-the-counter and prescription medications, a good number of which have been linked to accelerated aging

*Pesticides, herbicides, pollution, and other environmental toxins have all been shown to increase the appearance of skin aging and do damage to delicate skin DNA.


Simply put, the odds are stacked against us...The world we live in today takes what Mother Nature intended to be a much more gradual, graceful aging process full of vitality and longevity, and accelerates it unfairly beyond belief. And when you realize the constant danger the delicate cells of our body and most precious organs are continually being exposed to in today’s day and age, it’s no wonder that research shows the devastating physical consequences of aging are the #1 fear of adults over 40.

The good news is that stimuli and a positive attitude are attributed to "successful" aging more than anything else. (It's not enough to just tick off the birthdays.) Researchers at one time defined successful aging as an absence of or low level of disease and disability. Now, however, a fascinating new study of more than 500 elders aged 60 to 98 challenges that notion. It turns out that people who think they are aging well are not necessarily the healthiest individuals. Optimism and effective coping styles (or attitude) were found to be the keys to aging successfully rather than traditional measures of health and wellness.

The study used subjective reports by the participants, all of whom lived independently, and the sample of individuals matched the national averages of medical and mental health conditions. Also, those who regularly engaged in such activities as reading and writing and community socializing gave themselves higher scores than those who did not. And in contradiction to longtime perceived wisdom, volunteer activities were not found to exert the same influence on participants.

Thus, the things leading to successful aging are well within an individual's control. The key is adopting personal coping mechanisms as difficulties come along, and remaining as physically, socially, and mentally active as possible in one's circumstances.

On that score, I'm doing the best I can and will continue to do so, plowing through the deep stuff.  The means will surely justify the end.

I might try to eat a little better and get more sleep at night, but I'll continue to meet challenges life has placed before me, all the while indulging a passion for living and the things that bring personal satisfaction and gratification...I will not worry about the rest, even if it kills me!

23 February, 2017

A RESEARCH PROJECT WORTH KNOWING ABOUT


Cobalt-60 is an isotope that emits gamma rays essential to the medical community for cancer treatments and the sterilization of medical devices, while it also helps to prevent the spread of disease through an innovative insect sterilization technique. Cobalt-60 emits a blue glow called the ‘Cherenkov effect’ when removed from a nuclear reactor and placed in water, which protects the surface from its radioactivity. The Cobalt rods spend up to two years in Bruce Power’s nuclear reactors before being shipped to Nordion in Ottawa, where it is processed and shipped worldwide for various uses.

A high-tech form of insect birth control connected to nuclear power could solve a devastating pest problem for Ontario farmers and this is good news because, whether we know it or not, we are literally being "bugged" to death in this province.

Bruce Power, the world’s largest operating nuclear facility located in nearby Tiverton and Nordion, a global health science company, have announced funding and support for a multi-year study on sterilizing pepper weevils using Cobalt-60.  The project will be led by University of Guelph Professor Cynthia Scott-Dupree.

The researchers hope to control pepper weevils, which can burrow into farmed peppers and destroy them from the inside.  "It is very difficult to control these insects when they are hidden inside the pepper,” Scott-Dupree said.

According to the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, pepper weevils ruined an almost unbelievable $83 million worth of crops in 2016 – a figure that does not include the costs of management, suppression initiatives or cleanup of the pest.

Cobalt-60, which is produced in four of Bruce Power’s eight nuclear reactors, is used for the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), and could be a powerful strategy for controlling the weevil, said Scott-Dupree, of the university's School of Environmental Sciences.  “We want to move away from insecticide as much as possible, and SIT provides us another tool in our pest management toolbox,” she said. “It fits well with biological control programs that growers already have established in their greenhouses. While no strategy is 100 percent effective, using nuclear energy to sterilize insects is an environmentally friendly method of controlling these pests. There is no danger of the pepper weevils spreading any radiation following sterilization, so it is also safe for people.”

Scott-Dupree, the Bayer CropScience Chair in Sustainable Pest Management at U of G, will send pepper weevils to Nordion, an Ottawa-based supplier of medical isotopes and gamma technologies, which receives its Cobalt-60 from Bruce Power. Gamma radiation from Cobalt-60 will sterilize the insects before they are released to mate normal, unsterilized pepper weevils in greenhouses.

“We will only release pepper weevils that have all the attributes of normal, unsterilized weevils, except that they are sterile,” said Scott-Dupree. “When they mate, the eggs will not be viable, no progeny results and the pest population will decrease.”

Families and businesses in Ontario rely on low-cost nuclear for 60 per cent of their electricity each year and this is a major development with great potential for wide-spread impact. Pioneered in the 1950s, SIT has been successfully used to control the codling moth, a pest of apples, in the Okanagan Valley in B.C. since 1992. Scott-Dupree has also recently conducted research which has found that SIT has potential to control American serpentine leafminer, an insect pest that feeds primarily on chrysanthemums.

Cobalt-60 harvested from Bruce Power’s reactors is already used to help sterilize 40 per cent of the world’s single-use medical devices and treat brain tumours. “This innovative research could improve Ontario’s agricultural sector by reducing the impact of pests on produce, while also providing a possible gateway to the future of farming,” said Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s President and CEO.

Scott-Dupree and her team plan to determine the optimum radiation dosage that ensures the sterilization of pepper weevils before testing SIT releases in greenhouses.  “The study will take some time, but the potential it has makes it worthwhile,” she said. “It is exciting to think of all the benefits this study could mean for farmers, Ontario’s economy and the environment.”

Nordion’s facilities will be used to sterilize the pepper weevils. “We are excited to see a technology like SIT, which has had wide and successful application in other areas of the world, help us here in Ontario,” said Ian Downie, Vice-President of Gamma Technologies at Nordion. “Our partnership with Bruce Power helps us support these kinds of scientific advances using Cobalt-60.”

Stories like this often fly under the media radar but I think that it is important for us to know of the scientific advances that are being taken in our virtual backyards -- and for the ultimate benefit of us all.

Now, if they could only find a way to kill off the Emerald Ash Borer that is taking a devastating toll on all the Ash trees in my area.

13 February, 2017

TIGERS VS. INDIANS, 1949, FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE GAME I EVER SAW

A prized gift from one of my daughters.
The administrator of a nostalgic "Baseball 1857 through 1993" web site recently asked followers for memories of the first Major League Baseball game that they ever attended and I could not help but follow up with a brief submission of my own.  For the edification of a number of baseball-follower friends who are in the habit of checking out my ramblings on Facebook and Wrights Lane, I thought that I would elaborate a bit on the first "Big League" game I ever saw in 1949 at Briggs Stadium in Detroit.

I was just 11 years old and I was so taken with all that my wide eyes beheld on that warm July afternoon crowded into the hard green slab bleacher seats along with some 30,000 other screaming fans, that I cannot even remember the final score of the game.  I do remember, however, that Detroit Tigers' lefthander Hal Newhowser was the winning pitcher in the game against American League arch rival Cleveland Indians.  The Indians incidentally, with player/manager Lou Boudreau at the helm, were defending World Series champions.  Red Rolfe was manager of the Tigers.
Tigers owner Walter O. Briggs' pride showed in

his immaculate stadium which opened in 1938.

He installed the most elaborate cast-iron figural

end seats in all of baseball. The rare ornate ends
included the symbol of a tiger as seen above.

I attended the game along with my dad Ken, Dresden Boy Scout Master George Brooker and his son, Donnie. There is a possibility that Bruce Huff also joined us, my memory fails me on that score too but I am sure Huffie will enlighten me in due course if he did in fact tag along (it would be just like him to even remember the score of the game). The Brooker's were like second parents to Bruce in those days.

The highlight of the game had to be a first-inning triple play initiated by Tigers third baseman George Kell.  The Tribe's Joe Gordon scorched a one-hopper to Kell who in one motion stepped on third base to force out Dale Mitchell and got off a perfect throw to Neil Barry at second, doubling off a sliding Boudreau.  Barry's relay to Don Kalloway at first base was in time to beat the speedy Gordon by a step.  It just happened to be the Tigers' 433rd triple play (at the end of the 2016 season, that total had grown to 709).

Kell also connected for several key hits and turned out to be the star of the game. The 1949 season, in fact, was by far and away his best in 15 years in the majors.  He won the AL batting crown with an average of 343, a mere 0002 better than Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox and denying "The Splendid Splinter" his third Triple Crown.

A young catcher, Bob Swift, was Newhowser's battery mate on this particular day.  Other strong arms in the Tigers rotation that season, belonged to Virgil Trucks, Dizzy Trout and Ted Gray. Bullpen stalwarts were Fred Hutchison, Stubby Overmire, Art Houtteman and Marv Grissom.
Tigers' George Kell

Vic Wertz, Hoot Evers, Pat Mullen, Dick Wakefield and rookie Johnny Groth were diligently spotted in the outfield by manager Rolfe.  While he did not figure in the triple play, shortstop Johnny Lipon was the infield cheerleader following the memorable fete by his teammates.

He did not pitch in the game, but I remember being impressed with Indians ace Bob Feller as he ran sprints and did exhausting exercise routines in the outfield during his team's batting practice.  I also got a kick out of watching an aging Satchel Paige, never a fan of physical exertion beyond throwing a baseball, as he sat on the grass watching Feller, occasionally slowly bending forward to touch his toes, then falling back on his elbows in a resting position for long periods of time.

The 1949 Cleveland roster was loaded with excellent hitters to complement a strong pitching staff, in fact a remarkable 11 players from that particular team were destined for the Baseball Hall of Fame, some kind of a major league record I'm sure.  The infield for this particular game included Mickey Vernon, 1b; Joe Gordon, 2b; Boudreau, ss, and Ken Keltner, 3b, with Jim Hegan behind the plate.  Al Rosen, 3b, and Bobby Avila, 2b, also saw frequent infield duty with the Indians that season and were difficult to keep out of the lineup.

Larry Doby, Bob Kennedy, Dale Mitchell, Luke Easter and Minnie Minoso patrolled the outer pasture for the Indians.  In addition to Feller and Paige, stalwarts Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Gene Beardon rounded out the mound corps.

Unable to overtake pennant-winning New York Yankees and runner-up Boston Red Sox, the Indians finished the 1949 AL campaign in third place, just ahead of the Tigers.

On reflection, I was so wrapped up in the Tigers vs. Indians game itself that I do not remember much else about the day and the hour-long trip to Detroit and back.  Little did I know then that in seven years time I would step foot on that same Briggs Stadium turf as a player in a Tigers prospects game. I would return again a decade later as a sports writer conducting on-field Press Day interviews with manager Billy Martin, pitcher Mickey Lolich and Canadian Mike Kilkenny.

Memories, yes I have a few!  I just wish I could remember the score.

12 February, 2017

When I Grow Too Old To Dream - Nelson Eddy

This post is intended for lovers, young and old. When I was growing up I wasn't impressed with Nelson Eddy's voice...What does/did a kid like me know anyway? Now, I've reached that stage where a certain kiss "lives in my heart" and good old Nelson's beautiful baritone gives special meaning to it. But I'm not too old to dream, am I?






Life has been beautiful, we have been young
After you've gone, life will go on
Like an old song we have sung
When I grow too old to dream
I'll have you to remember

When I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart
So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
That kiss will live in my heart

10 February, 2017

IT WAS ALL MY FAULT, I COULD HAVE DONE BETTER...

It is easy to point fingers when things don’t go our way. We find anything and everything to blame for not achieving what we want. Rare is the person who points inward and says, “That’s all on me…it was my fault.”

It is my experience that the more we blame circumstances for what befalls us in life, the more we begin to feel sorry for ourselves.  We feel victimized and subsequently depressed, bitter even, sliding ever deeper on a slippery slope of self-deception.

In all honesty, as I look back on a myriad of personal failures and disappointments, I can blame none other than myself (Dick Wright) for things that happened to me and where I find myself in life today. In retrospect, I could have done better in most aspects of my life and I am required to live with that acknowledgement, regretting only that as my 80th year approaches, I cannot turn back the clock and do certain things differently.  

I at least find redemption in believing now that it was in me to do better if I had only applied myself just a little more, having the foresight to take that one important step or attitudinal adjustment that could have made all the difference. With acceptance comes grace!

The Bible says in Psalm 62:12 that God renders (gives, provides, supplies) to each of us according to our own work. It doesn’t say that He gives (whether that’s money, daily provision, authority or friendships) just because we feel entitled or deserving.

This biblical verse speaks to the heart of our blame-shifting mindset.

Will there be circumstances where we put in maximum effort, yet situations do not work out as planned?  Of course.

Will we make mistakes?  Of course.  We are only human, and there is something to be said for learning from our mistakes.

You cannot account for what others may do or say. You cannot win if others are not putting in the same effort.  You can not anticipate what unforeseen events might come your way or that someone might simply be better than you.  A rational coming to terms with the facts, will always stand us in good stead in the end.

But this is an undeniable truth no matter the circumstance…You cannot succeed if you are putting in minimal effort to just slide by or to accommodate a particular moment or situation.  Work ethic is the key, determining factor in being given what you deserve.

You cannot expect to achieve satisfactory results without having been willing to do the climbing...And you cannot justly blame everything and everyone but yourself when things do not work out to your best advantage.   

Without exception, we are masters of our own destiny.  It is all about how we apply ourselves.

Of course all of this is easy for me to say now, in hindsight.  If only I knew then what I know now!!!

09 February, 2017

ASH BORER IS COSTING MY FAIRY LAKE 500 OF ITS DYING TREES

A peek through the trees at Fairy Lake from my back yard last Fall.
 Limb by limb, trunk by trunk, approximately 500 to 550 dead and dying Ash trees are being culled from around Fairy Lake in Southampton in a harvest called “tragic”. The cull began Feb. 6, and could take up to six weeks to complete.

The culprit: An infestation of the deadly Emerald Ash Borer that has been known to kill more than 50 million ash trees in North America.

My property backs onto Fairy Lake and I am devastated every time a new gap opens up in what was a wonderful tree scape between my backyard and the lake.

“We're removing all the White Ash trees that were marked as dead or dying with blue or red markers,” said Jared George, one of six Ontario Line Clearing and Tree Experts staffers who began working on Monday. He said it was tight work as they don't want to damage any healthy trees or have any debris fall into Fairy Lake. The smaller limbs are being dragged to a chipper and larger logs will be saved, possibly for future use.

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) probably infected Saugeen Shores trees two or three years ago, and only this past summer was the devastating extent of the damage clear, especially at Fairy Lake.

“It moves very quickly and that's what caught us at Fairy Lake,” Burrows said, adding the loss of bark is the first obvious visible sign of disease, often caused by Woodpeckers attacking the diseased trees.

“We know EAB is in other areas of Saugeen Shores, but it is not showing itself, yet, so we don't have a specific map of EAB-diseased trees, but are constantly monitoring and as trees deteriorate and become a hazard we take them down,” Burrows said, adding they are “pondering internally” whether the Town should develop a forestry plan with a more systematic assessment of trees to better forecast any issues.

Within Saugeen Shores, Ash trees are native species in woodlots, hedges and fence lines. A 2015 inventory of trees on Town streets – not parks, other public lands or private lands – found six per cent of the 7,301 trees were Ash, and of those, 45 (9.3 per cent) had signs of EAB infestation and could be dead within three or four years.

The ash borer is indigenous to Asia and known to surface in China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the Russian Far East, and Taiwan.  It was probably introduced to North America in wood packaging. The insects' spread has been aided by the movement of nursery stock and especially firewood commonly found at camping sites.

Removal of the Ash trees at a cost of $85,000, is phase one of a $250,000 Fairy Lake restoration project. Phase two includes rehabilitation of the trail ringing the lake, two new pedestrian bridges, a second water fountain and a lookout – all with a Canada Day opening target. So, in the end, improvements will be made to the woodlot surrounding the tranquil lake and I am trying to be optimistic and hope for the best.

Such a shame though!  One really has to question the workings of Mother Nature at times like this.

08 February, 2017

HARRY TRUMAN, A MUSIC CRITIC'S WORST NIGHTMARE


“My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.” -- Harry S. Truman

I was nonsensically teasing old friend Bob Peters yesterday on a totally unrelated subject and happened to mention the name Harry S. Truman.  That got me to thinking about some funny Harry Truman stories that are just too good not to share on Wright Lane.  For some reason, there was always something just a little different about the candor and wit of the 33rd President of the United States that always intrigued me.


When President Harry Truman picked up his "Washington Post" early on December 6, 1950, to read a review of his daughter Margaret Truman's singing performance, he was livid. Though conceding that Miss Truman was "extremely attractive," Paul Hume, the "Post's" music critic, stated bluntly that "Miss Truman cannot sing very well" and "has not improved" over the years. The president wrote the following letter to the 34-year old Hume, whom he compared to the columnist Westbrook Pegler ("a rat," in Truman's view).

WASHINGTON
THE WHITE HOUSE
Mr Hume:

I've just read your lousy review of Margaret's concert. I've come to the conclusion that you are an "eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay."

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you're off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.

H.S.T.

Wow!  In retrospect, Donald Trump was not the first U.S. president in recent memory to take the press to task.

Then there's another priceless story about Truman's association with the renowned Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall.

A sitting American vice-president entertaining a Hollywood star? Sounds like something that could have happened to former v-p Joe Biden. But a moment starring vice-president Harry Truman, back in 1945, got renewed attention after news broke recently that actress Lauren Bacall had passed away at the age of 89.

Before Bacall was truly a big star, she paid a visit in February of that year to the National Press Club in the nation's capital as a surprise guest for U.S. troops. “The story is that during World War II the club was open on Saturdays for servicemen to get free hot dogs and beer,” explained Gilbert Klein, an American University journalism professor and the chairman of the press club’s history committee. “Politicians could come, but they weren’t allowed to talk for more than two minutes.”

Truman, at that time President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s veep, tried something a little different from talking: He decided to tickle the ivories in the club’s ballroom. “At that time, Truman didn’t have much to do – he was vice president, he was presiding over the Senate and had speaking engagements, but he wasn’t nearly as busy as he was when he was a senator,” said Randy Sowell, an archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (there you go Bob). “And so he had some free time on his hands and he enjoyed going to events like that.”

Bacall popped out. Her press agent suggested she jump on top of the piano. She and the vice-president posed for photographers. “What disturbed many people was that Truman appeared to be having such a good time, which he was,” wrote historian David McCullough in his enormous biography, Truman. “Bess (Mrs. Truman) was furious. She told him he should play the piano in public no more,” McCullough wrote of the vice president’s wife.

But apparently Bacall did appear with Truman again. “Thereafter, she was sort of associated with Mr. Truman and she and her husband Humphrey Bogart were two Hollywood celebrities who supported Truman in 1948,” Sowell recalled.

And finally, poor daughter Margaret who always seemed to get a bad rap in spite of the fact that she was a professional singer, eventually performing at Carnegie Hall, a TV personality and author of 32 books, including biographies of both parents and 23 mystery novels in a popular series all set in and around Washington.
When the Trumans moved to the White House, they brought Margaret's piano with them. In the summer of 1948, a leg of the piano fell through the floor of her room. The incident further proved that the White House needed major structural repairs. An engineer commented that the house was still standing only "out of habit."

In her 1981 book she recalled "Because of my father, I was more easily able to obtain important engagements. But I also received more attention by first-string critics and more demanding audiences who felt that because my father was president, I had to be not better than average, but better than the best in order to justify my appearing on stage."

Margaret thought her performance at Constitution Hall in Washington in December of 1950 to be one of her better ones but the aforementioned critic Paul Hume thought otherwise, prompting her father's scathing and combative rebuttal. 

In the ensuing uproar, reporters pressed her for her reaction to the highly publicized letter.  "I'm glad to see that chivalry is not dead," she told them.

In "Harry S. Truman", she wrote: "Dad discussed the (Hume) letter with his aides and was annoyed to find that they all thought it was a mistake.  They felt it damaged his image as president and would only add to his political difficulties. 'Wait till the mail comes in,' Dad said. 'I'll make you a bet that 80 percent of it is on my side of the argument.'

A week later, after a staff meeting, Truman ordered everyone to follow him into the mailing room. "The clerks had stacked up thousands of Hume letters in piles and made up a chart showing the percentages for and against the president," Margaret recalled.  "Slightly over 80 percent favored Dad's defense of me.  Most of the letter writers were mothers who said they understood exactly how Dad felt and would have expected their husband's to defend their daughters the same way.

'The trouble with you guys is,' Dad said to the staff as he strode back to work, 'you just don't understand human nature'."

Margaret adored her father, whose directness and sense of humor she inherited; and she credited him with prophesying her literary career long before it began.  She said he told her in 1946 that "you write interestingly" and added that perhaps, with the passage of time, "you can be a great story writer."

Note:  Margaret also made headlines with her marriage to a dashing newspaper man, Clifton Daniel Jr., who eventually became the managing editor of The New York Times.  Together they had four sons.  Mrs. Truman-Daniel died on January 27, 2008, at 83 years of age.