Monday, April 27, 2015


“It isn't Funny...We weren't Thinking!”

Swift, Global Backlash Greets Hamilton Men
Who Shot Video of Cruel Stunt in Barton Street McDonald's

From an article written by Molly Hayes ~ The Hamilton Spectator:
They may have taken down the video, but two Hamilton men who filmed themselves throwing a half-eaten cheeseburger and a drink at an unsuspecting sleeping man in a McDonald's can only wish it will be forgotten.  Nothing ever is truly gone from the Internet and in this latest example of 'social media backfire'...thousands of people have chimed in to shame the men for the stunt which, based on their laughter, was presumably supposed to be funny. The clear response from people around the world ~ backlash which attracted the attention of police...was Disgust!

Matthew West, 23 agrees now, in hindsight, “It isn't funny...we weren't thinking!”  The video was posted to Facebook by Joey Alexander Reid.  West is tagged in the video as being 'with' Reid after a night out Sunday.  It shows the two friends giggling at their table before panning the camera toward a man who has fallen asleep several tables away.  It shows West dropping a half-eaten cheeseburger into a cup half-full of bright pink pop, which he then tosses in the man's face before the two of them run out of the restaurant laughing. In  one of his many apologies Monday, West acknowledged they had been drinking, but that it wasn't an excuse.
One Facebook user who was particularly outraged by the incident
posted a screen shot of the post on his own Facebook page Monday morning,
encouraging people to 'share, share, share' and people did ~ more than 2,000 times
with scathing comments and messages from around the world.

A McMaster University professor commented, “I think the temptation  to have that moment of fame, where you have your 15 seconds, where you are doing something that you know your friends find funny on reality TV or on Internet TV shows...that's a very powerful pull...especially when you're 'under the influence'. When you post something on the Internet, you're speaking to the entire world!”
(excerpts from Molly Hayes article published March 18, 2015)

When online bullying begets bullying:
(written by Lee Prokaska...published March 18th issue)

Two young men throw a half-eaten burger dipped in drink at a sleeping man in a local fast food place. They think it's funny. It's actually stupid and immature.  They shoot video of themselves in the act ~ more stupid and immature.  The ultimate in stupidity and immaturity?  Posting the video to Facebook, where is was almost immediately subjected to outrage.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this incident and they are not new lessons. Just a few:
Think before you post...Don't drink and post...The Internet is forever (even if you pull something off quickly.  Bullying is bad ~ and cowardly ~ in person and online!

The posting of the video and the backlash expose and engender bullying.  Scathing commentary, mostly from behind the mask of online anonymity, becomes piling on and morphs into threats to specific people.  The bullies become bullied...innocent bystanders get pulled into the mess...then it's over in a flash...and the web world moves on to the next outrage.

It may seem unreal, but it's not.  It's mean, harmful and irresponsible.  It's bullying begetting bullying.
And it's wrong.

Kim Arbour in her 'Letter to the Spec’ (March 18) wrote:
Food Tossers:  Disgraceful Act
I am appalled that two young punks would think it was funny to throw food in a man's face. Now, they don't think it's funny because the media and their peers don't.  Did they stop to think this man may be cold...homeless...sick...or had mental health issues? Why didn't they offer to buy him a burger and drink instead of throwing their garbage in his face? As a health professional, I work in this area of town...and have seen the lack of compassion shown to the less fortunate.

Everyone of us could be this gentleman.  I say, “Charge them with assault and make them apologize to him for their disgraceful behaviour. He could have been their father, grandfather or somebody they care about.  Make an example of them.”  This must not be tolerated in our city.

The foregoing writers  fully express my viewpoint on this bullying act!
Respect people’s feelings…even if it doesn’t mean anything to you.
It could mean everything to them.

Theodore Roosevelt:  Knowing what’s right, doesn’t mean much…unless  you do what’s right.
Robert Kiyosaki:  A lot of people are afraid to recognize the truth…to say ‘No’. 
This is where toughness comes into play.  Toughness is not being a bully…it’s being a backbone.

Desmond Tutu:  If  you are neutral in a situation of injustice, 
you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse…
and you say that you are neutral…the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. 

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr…March 18, 2015
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Friday, April 24, 2015

"The Canadian Brass"

Truly...a Canadian Icon!

When I  began teaching in Hamilton, I was intrigued with opportunities to enjoy stage performances by The Players Guild, Theatre Aquarius and Hamilton's Symphony Orchestra.  From this orchestra, a group of five professional musicians evolved as “The Canadian Brass” in 1970...formed by Gene Watts (trombonist) and Charles Daellenbach (tuba). The ensemble wore formal black suits with white shirts and white running shoes...injecting humour and pure enjoyment into their musical renditions from 'Pop to Classical'. They generated much distinction as they travelled coast to coast in Canada, then broadening to United States, Europe and a special engagement in China.

The Canadian Brass made their American debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 1975.
A significant international visit was made in1977 when they were sent to mainland China as “a cultural exchange” between Canada and China.  The quintet ensemble was chosen and sent on this cultural mission by then...Prime Minister Elliott Trudeau.

In1979, Canadian Brass became the first chamber ensemble 'to solo' the main stage at Carnegie Hall.

In addition to their heavy international touring schedule for over 40 years...and their extensive recording catalogue, they have been on the billboard charts in each decade of their existence.

It was always a great pleasure when the Canadian Brass returned home for Christmas each year...and  presented an exciting concert for their Hamilton, Burlington and Toronto area family and Hamilton Place. Such a treat to welcome their formal black suits, white shirts and white running shoes!

The “Flight of the Bumble Bee” ~ always a concert favourite,
has been unprecedented by any other musical performance.

As of 2015, the quintet is composed of:
                                                    Trumpeters...Caleb Hudson and Chris Coletti
                                                    French hornist...Bernard Scully
                                                    Trombonist...Achilles Liarmakopoulos
                                                    Tuba...Charles Daellenbach

The Ottawa Citizen has described the Canadian Brass as...'Kings of Brass'.
The band has been named,  'The World's Leading Brass Ensemble' by the Washington Post.

The Canadian Brass:  All-ages Appeal  Remains Constant
(Excerpts from an article written by Leonard Turnevicius...
published in The Hamilton Spectator ~ April 16, 2015)

Time flies when you're having fun.  Just ask tuba player, Chuck Daellenbach  who has a simple answer  to what has kept the iconic Canadian Brass buzzing along for 45 years. “The joy of performance, I guess.  Just lucky to be able to continue playing...and to do so at such a high level with these young players is quite amazing,” said the Toronto-based Daellenbach, who co-founded the group back in 1970...and is currently the lone original member  still playing in the quintet...70 years young this year.
Last year, Daellenbach was named a
Member of the Order of Canada
'for popularizing classical music.'
Not surprisingly, the group has seen quite a bit of turnover with some 19 players having passed through the ranks over the years. 

“There was a moment in history where we actually had to make a decision,” recalled Daellenbach.  “Do we replace ourselves with friends?  You know, people roughly our same age and the same ideas ?  Or do we look at this more as something that could have a chance at longevity?”
Ah, longevity!  Like youth, it too has its privileges.
“A week doesn't go by when I'm not introduced to somebody who says, 'You played in my school,' said Daellenbach referencing the CB's early years when they played school show after school show, many of them in the Hamilton-Burlington areas. We must have played every high school in a 30 mile radius. I think we will go down in the only musicians who ever believed their path to Carnegie Hall was by playing children's shows.  And sure enough, it  happened.”

While the CB's all-ages-appeal has remained constant throughout the years, technology has brought about a sea-change in the music biz.  As far as Daellenbach is concerned, the latter has been a boon to the 'Brass'.  “The electronic age has been good to us because we have audiences now in places that we haven't even performed,” said Daellenbach.  Some of our biggest audiences  are in South America. I think we've had one tour in Mexico.  We've been in Venezuela once and Brazil once.  Yet, we get a tremendous following because of the Internet.  I believe this is a minor miracle for classical be hooked up internationally.”

But, just where is the Canadian Brass most popular?
“Burlington,” deadpanned Daellenbach in an obvious-plug for the sponsored concert in the Burlington Performing Arts Centre on April 30.  Through the years, they played a fundraiser for the 'yet-to-be-built BPAC'.  This will be the CB's  first ever performance  there.  And for this occasion, they've prepared a bill which includes the piece that put the sneaker-clad CB on the map, so to speak...
“Little Fugue in G-Minor” by Bach.
Plus, there'll be some Renaissance music,
arrangements of well-known tunes such as “Amazing Grace,”
Lennon-McCartney's “Penny Lane,”
former CB trumpeter, the late Fred Mills' “Carmen Suite No. 1”...
and much more...all of it played on the CB's 24-karat gold-plated Conn-Selmer horns.

Merle Baird-Kerr...written April 16, 2015
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Submit Your Soul to the 'Green Machine'

 Changes:  An unexpected change can be like a breath of fresh air ~
a little brisk at first...but magic for body and soul!
(from a novel by Susan Biggs)

“Get outside each day...and you'll feel less stressed,”
say Drs. Oz and Roizen in an August 16th issue of the Spectator.

The following are excerpts from a Health article written by
Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Getting up close and personal with Mother Nature yields big mind-body benefits. A walk in the park is a great lunchtime activity, but new reports reveal that even desk jockeys and folks with little time (or no great love for the great outdoors) can reap the rewards of a green environment with only a few plants around their workplace and in their home. You need a little green-time every...or almost every day to reap its amazing benefits for your brain and body. 

Stronger Immunity:  In a Japanese study, levels of protective natural killer cells that battle viruses and some forms of cancer rose 40% when business men and women spent time walking in the woods.  But you can get a similar immune boost from...sniffing forest scents...indoors. 
A Break from Worry:  Getting outside when you're feeling stressed improves mood and boosts short-term memory.  And if you're depressed, getting out and about makes it five times more likely you'll feel better than if you stayed indoors.  Combine natural scenery with exercise  and you're really going to amp up your mood boosters.
More Energy:  Office workers feel more energetic with a green plant or two nearby and they become more productive.  Your smart move ~ place some greenery where you can see it when you look up from your computer.
Higher Creativity:  Brain scans suggest immersing yourself in a natural scene, whether 3-D  or in a picture, turns up brain activity in areas that govern pleasure and emotion.  You'll feel more relaxed...and balanced...and improve your creativity  by as much as 50%.

Ready to go green?  Here's how:
Got a minute? Stand under a tree...or park yourself next to one.  Even better, walk around a bush or beside a blooming garden. The more greenery you're exposed to...the better brain benefits.
Don't feel like exercising outdoors?  Go anyway!  Compared with slogging on that treadmill in the basement, doing the same stroll or jog  under blue skies  and leafy green tree boughs can add a 12% mood boost to  your exercise.  And don't let rain stop you.  Even getting outside in bad weather boosts mood more than an indoor workout.
Stuck at your desk?  Call up images of nature on your computer.  Simply looking at pictures of the outdoors can make you feel friendlier.  While you're at it, listening to soothing water and tweeting birds helps you rebound from a stressful experience 33% faster.  Check out's free “Sounds of Nature Collection.”
Take time to smell the pine trees:  Japanese scientists say sniffing scents (like pine and cypress) is one reason why nature walks strengthen immunity ~ a new reason to enjoy these smells.
Create an indoor nature retreat:  Although we are big fans of the benefits of of outdoor physical activity, you can reap green benefits if you get on a treadmill with a view out the gym window!  And position your home exercise equipment and a comfy chair so you have a view of outside greenery!  There's plenty of evidence that simply...seeing greenery...reduces stress, increases mental focus and fuels good moods. 
But don't stop there! Invite house plants into your home.
Live plants can keep your home humidified...
remove carbon dioxide from the air...and send out revitalizing oxygen.
Most do this by they convert sunlight into energy.

Street Tree Project
People in some of Hamilton’s most polluted neighbourhoods are breathing a little easier, thanks to the work by Randy Kay and the group at the Hamilton Street Tree Project. Recently, he was named Volunteer Hamilton’s Community Builder of the Year.  He said his work wasn’t about winning awards, or even how many trees are planted every year, but about the long-term impact on neighbourhoods with worst air quality.  More than 80 trees were planted in Crown Point  last year.  The year before, about 70 trees were planted in the Keith area.  “The impact on these areas in 20 years will be tremendous.”

Randy Kay, an environmental and clean air advocate in the city for years, dreamed up the Street Tree Project three years ago while looking at Google satellite maps of Hamilton  What he saw, struck a chord.  You could see the difference  when looking at Ancaster or Dundas…you could see GREEN ~ but other neighbourhoods were all grey.

Kay, who is co-ordinator of volunteers for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at McMaster University, decided to connect the university’s student volunteers with the city’s existing tree planting  program.  Students went door to door promoting the tree planting and the group hit immediate success.  Kay said the group will be back again this summer, canvassing an even wider section of the north end and hoping  to top the 80 trees planted last year.

Strength in Numbers
Volunteers fill buckets with cedar mulch to be used as bedding around newly-planted trees at Churchill Park, Saturday morning as part of Earth Day celebrations.  About 400 volunteers helped plant more than 1,000 saplings…of 26 native species to replace the  dying Norwegian  Maples and European Buckthorn which were cut out of the area earlier this week.  (Photo in Spectator depicts 5 or 6 of these volunteers with shovels amid existing healthy trees…as they plant these saplings for new growth in the neighbourhood.)
Volunteers make a difference..
Volunteers make any city a better place.
Hamilton has one of the highest percentages of volunteers in Canada.

Pearl of Wisdom
May you always walk in the sunshine, My Friend.
May you always have Love to share...
Health to spare...and Friends that care.
(Native adage)

Crafted by Merle Baird-Kerr…April 20, 2015
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Louise Arbour ~ A Woman of Distinction

Louise Arbour, CC GOQ (born February 10, 1947) was a former  justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Court of Appeal for Ontario; in addition the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. From 2009 until 2014 she served as President and CEO of the International Crisis Group. She made history with the indictment of a sitting head of state, Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic, as well as well as the first prosecution of sexual assault as per articles of crimes against humanity.

Early Life:  Born in Montreal, Quebec, she attended convent school.  In 1967, she graduated from College Regina Assumpta and proceeded to the Universite de Montreal where she completed her LL.B. with distinction in 1970.  She became Law Clerk for Mr. Justice Louis-Philippe Pigeon of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1971-1972 while completing graduate studies at the Faculty of Law (Civil Section) of the University of Ottawa.  She was called to the Bar of Quebec in 1971 and to the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1977 “for her contributions to the Canadian justice system and for her dedication to the advancement of human rights throughout the world.”  A Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2009...was also made a Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2011.

She has received many honourary Degrees, including Doctor of Civil Laws from the University of Western Ontario in June 2000...Doctor of Humane Letters from Mount Saint Vincent University in May 2001...and Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of British Columbia in November 2001, the University of Waterloo in October 2006, in June 2009 from the University of Alberta and University of Guelph and from Simon Fraser University in October 2009.
She has 3 adult children: Emilie, Patrick and Catherine Taman.

“I'm very energized about the prospect of helping the country face some daunting challenges.
...and I'm guardedly optimistic about the enormous potential for positive change.”

Legal Career: (Canada)  From 1972-73, Louise Arbour was research officer for the Law Reform Commission of Canada.  She then taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, first as Lecturer (1974), then as Assistant Professor (1975), Associate Professor (1977-1987) and finally as Assistant Professor and Associate Dean (1987).  She was also Vice-President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association until her appointment to the Supreme Court of Ontario (High Court of Justice)  in 1987 and to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 1990.  In 1995, Arbour was appointed as President of a Commission of Inquiry, under the Inquiries Act, for the purpose of investing  and reporting on events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario, following allegations by prisoners of abuse.

In 1999, Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed Arbour to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Hague: In 1996, following Richard Goldstone's recommendation, Arbour was appointed as his replacement as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal  for Rwanda in Arusha and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
“Do I believe that people indicted by the tribunal will be tried?
If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be here.
Yes!  I believe they will be tried.”
  In her new capacity, she indicted then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes...the first time a serving head of State was called to account before an international court.  Also indicted were  the President of the Republic of Serbia...the  Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia...the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia...and the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.

Works and Awards:  Throughout her career, Arbour has published in the area of criminal procedure and criminal law, in both French and English.  At various times, she has served as an editor for the Criminal Reports...Canadian Rights Reporter...Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

Arbour has been awarded honourary doctorates by 27 universities.  In 2005, she was awarded the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, along with Justice Richardstone, in recognition of her work on the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Louise Arbour is also the subject of a 2005 fact-based Canadian-German made-for-television movie, entitled 'Hunt for Justice' which follows her quest to indict Bosnian Serb criminals.  Arbour was played by Canadian actress.  Wendy Crewson.  (I comment here, that it was just this past week, that I viewed this movie on television...impressed greatly by Crewson's performance of this Woman of Distinction!)

Her Honours and Awards from 1992-2011 number over 40
including 1 of 7  inductees to Canada's Walk of Fame for 2014.

Quotes by Louise Arbour
Like many, I deplore the U.S. For their rejection
of the International Criminal Court ~ it seems that
clearly this debate will carry on.

Let us be clear ~ the proposal before the General Assembly
is the fruit of compromise.  It cannot be a perfect solution.

There are millions of people all over the world, right now,
who are looking to the United Nations for protection and redress
against the violation of their rights  and deprivation of their freedom.

* * * * * * *
“Remember when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing
that you have received;  only what you have given:
a full heart...enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”
(St. Francis of Assisi)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

“True justice is the harvest reaped by peace-makers.”
(James chapter 3...verse 18)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written February 3, 2015
To comment about this remarkable woman, email

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Memories of King Road School

It amazes me that my son has such a keen memory of teacher names, grades and episodes that occurred during his time in Junior Public School.  I consider myself fortunate enough to recall only a few teachers' names from any of the schools I attended!  A few days ago he sent the following:

A little inspiration yesterday afternoon, I looked up King Road School on the Halton District School Board. I thought I might write this little note to Michelle Newlands...the current Principal.

Currently, I live in Hamilton, but work as a contractor with a bank in the Financial District in NYC ~ yes, across from the World Trade Center!

My local  Church Pastor in New Jersey, visiting Washington, DC with his 9-year-old son, mentioned that he sat on the House Chamber floor with his son.  “Imagine all the great men who have spoken here,” he writes.  And I responded, “There are school children today who sit on the floor of the kindergarten room where I once sat in 1969.  They should realize the greatness of where they are sitting.”  (and places a 'smiley face' icon at end of his sentence)
Well, I did attend King Road School for six years 1969-1975.
The Principal was Mr. Atchison...and later Mr. Lloyd.

For Kindergarten-Primary (KP), I had Mrs. Young.  There was even a separate 'cloakroom' where you hung your coat.  Back then, as part of the opening exercises, we said 'The Pledge of Allegiance'.  That's been long gone since the 1970's...I suppose the schools don't think children should have any allegiance to their country anymore.  The 'Lord's Prayer' was also part of opening exercises up to grade two or three as I recall.  But that seems to have offended those who follow the atheist religion...and so it was deemed better to offend the Christians by removing it!

In Grade One I had Miss Hew-Wing who was from Jamaica, and she had the accent to match.  I was later transferred to Mrs. Angela Curry's class, which was a bit enriched.  Mrs. Curry played a guitar and taught a number of songs.  Back then, school pictures were done only of the whole class and were taken in the spring.  My Grade One class picture has Mrs. Curry...not Miss Hew-Wing.

In Grade Two I had an accelerated class with Miss Allen, who married and became Mrs. Howe...and is remembered for being the meanest teacher I ever had!  A girlfriend I knew in second grade, Kathryn, found a book in the school library called, “Nobody Listens to Andrew.”  She thought the title was funny because of the name reference to me.  I recently bought a copy of that book from Amazon to keep at work...since my recommendations often go ignored...until they discover much later, that I was right.  My local Pastor ordered a desk sign with my name that says under it...“No One Listens to Andrew!”

One time in Grade Two, we came in from afternoon recess in the winter...myself and another boy were the last to get out of our coats and boots.  Mrs. Howe scolded us and said, “Do you want to go back outside?!!!  Do you???”  The question was silly and illogical in the mind of a 7-year-old boy, and I answered,“Yes!”  And Mrs. Howe shook her wrist at me and said,“Well, go!  Go on!” The other boy cowardly said, “No.”  I went back outside alone...but had no one to play with.  A few minutes later, Mrs. Howe leaned out of the second floor window facing the field and called to me,
“Are you ready to come back in now?”

My mother used to be a school teacher of Grades 5 and Hampton Heights in Hamilton back in the early 60's.  She told me of a time one boy had shot an elastic band into another boy's eye and had to be taken to the hospital.  Well, I had an elastic...and my friend Eddie asked if he could borrow it which he promptly shot at another boy, but it flew out through the open window.  I got up and told Mrs. Howe that Eddie had just shot my elastic out  the window, meaning to explain the danger of what Eddie had just done.  But Mrs. Howe responded, “Go sit down or I'll throw YOU out the window.”  My best friend, Jimmy thought that was the funniest thing...and for most of the summer of '72, he would sing,
“Throw You Out the Window!”

In Grade Three I had Mrs. Amy Richardson, a senior English lady who was somewhat overweight and I used to watch the floor tiles buckle under her feet.  But she was really a nice lady.

My assigned teacher for Grade Four was Mrs. Ferguson, but, having a major illness early in the year, she was off work most of the year.  Two supply teachers filled in:  Mrs. Schultz, who later became permanent staff.  She did some bee-keeping and taught a science class  on honeybees.  And Mrs. Barbara Owen from Australia, a very beautiful blonde lady...I remember her for being the prettiest teacher I ever had.  I also got to sit next to my girlfriend Michelle for two months that year in 1974. One day, when we had indoor recess in the afternoon, some boys in my class thought it would be a good idea to make little balls of plasticine with pins in them to throw.  They got in much trouble and apparently had to receive 'the strap'.  Mrs. Owen was tear-stricken because she had to watch such injustice.  School discipline was a bit different back then.  One time I saw some boys playing on a dirt mound outside on the black-top, being told to stay off.  The teacher actually spanked one of these boys!

And in Grade Five I  had Mrs. Fawcett and my Science teacher was Mr. Shepherd. I usually befriended newcomers.  Kevin had just immigrated from Scotland, so he became my best friend. He had another friend, Dale who was English.  (Dale's father later became my State Farm Insurance Agent.)  To give you an idea of what three ten-year-old boys found exciting back in the summer of '75, we heard that some lady had committed suicide by jumping off the roof of one of the new apartment buildings in Warwick Court. We walked  around the building looking for the splatter.  We were excited to find some residual stains on the ground a few feet from the building.

In the summer of '75 I happened to meet my girlfriend, Michelle at Kiwanis Park (I'd had a crush on her since 2nd grade.)  Because she lived on Nora Drive, she'd gone to Maplehurst for Grade 5.  Michelle gave me some good advice:  “Make sure, you don't get Mrs. Plant for Grade 6 because she's a crabby teacher.”  I got Mrs. Plant for Grade Six...and she was just that, coming second to Mrs. Howe for overall meanness.  Having no classes together, I saw Michelle only casually  at Maplehurst. Mr. Kearns, the Principal, busted for growing marijuana in his back yard, was replaced as Principal. 

In the summer of 1978, we moved to North Burlington. I attended Grades 9-13 at M.M. Robinson;  then earned a Computer degree at University of Windsor...working as a Computer Analyst since 1987.

Surprising Circumstances:  Del Taylor, a friend in Grade Seven had resurfaced as my son's Physics teacher at Westdale; and is now head of the Science Department at Ancaster High School. When my younger daughter (now in Grade 10) was in Grade One, I had an interview with a senior-aged teacher...being a Mrs. Howe.  And I thought to myself, “I wonder if...?I just have to ask.”  So I said, “I used to have a Mrs. Howe back when I was in Grade 2 in Burlington.”  But this was not she.
Now if it had been the real Mrs. Howe, I would have been nice to her...
even if she did make me detest school!

Elementary School is not gave me many experiences.
I thought this might brighten your day.

Merle Baird-Kerr...March 29, 2015
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Friday, April 10, 2015

Bullying and Harassment in Schools!

 Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a 'power imbalance.'
The person doing the bullying has power over the person being victimized.
(There are different types:  physical, verbal, social, cyber.)
Bullying turns into harassment when the behaviour goes against
Canada's Human Rights Law.

No Age Limit on Bullying

The following are excerpts written by a doctor, MD, FRCP  practising in Southern Ontario
 (published in Hamilton Spectator, August 29, 2014).

In the light of all of the suicide and heartache related to bullying that has made the news in the recent months, I have chosen to reflect upon and share my own experience.

As a fellowship-trained physician who was well-liked in the grade/high school, university, medical school and residency, one would have thought I had safely sailed through the “effected age group” unscathed by bullying.  But I met it face on in my last year of medical the hands of another professional.  Ignition takes very little and often, I believe, it has little to do with the person you are, but more to do with the insecurities of the attacker rather than actions or qualities of the attacked, which unfortunately, makes us all potential targets.

Before you know it, 'a fire starts burning in a dry forest.'  Rumours start flying, becoming more and more inaccurate as they spread and judgments are made.  Those caught in the middle observe and may even partake as they are too afraid to walk away or stand up...they too have a lot to lose.  To avoid and rise above such tactics admits weakness or guilt  in some eyes.  To address them directly results in denial, intimidation or worse.  For really, choosing to wrestle with a pig means you too will come out covered in mud.

Bullying flies under the radar, with little “documentation,” neatly sidestepping the formal processes put in place to deal with this sort of thing.  Most notably, witnesses are afraid to come forward because they don't want to end up in the 'line of fire' themselves.  As such, the most that can be often handed out to the offending party is a warning, which serves little more than to make them aware you have attempted to fight back. This simply moves the target 10 feet closer to the shooter, as it all just gets worse.  Before you know it, you are a walking smile hiding the constant stomach ache, anxiety and shame that goes with living a fight that you cannot win!

You learn to keep your head down. It slowly ruins you and your thoughts and feelings about yourself and the world you live in. It slowly spills over into your work...your ability to learn...your relationships...your willingness to trust people...your desire to even set foot in school or work..even your career path.  You name it ~ one day at a time, it crushes!  Before you know it, as in my case, you are raising a 'white flag' and are taking a job in a different city.  And the scars run deep!

Perhaps this is an effort to raise awareness of a realization I was forced into making...that bullying is a lot more prevalent than recognized.  It occurs at any age, in any setting and takes on a number of forms, some so subtle it can be difficult to recognize.
And it is a social epidemic, we all, not just our children,
need to get a handle on.

Michael J. Fox stated,
“One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked,
but it can never be taken away, unless it is surrendered.”

Avoidance May Not Work.
Confrontation turns you into a mudslinger.
Sometimes, there is no effective way to end the attacks.

As a teacher for several years in Elementary Schools, I observed both girls and boys being “Bullied and/or Harassed” by either sex at unsupervised times...usually after the day classes. 
In that generation, a school principal’s hands were tied
unless serious infractions occurred on school property.
Each teacher had duty times on the playground prior to classes...and at both recess times...also at lunchtime when an assigned room was designated on inclement weather days. I relate incidents that occurred to an accelerated academic student, Jerry, who “wouldn't even harm a fly.” As his Grade 5 teacher, his parents, very concerned about their son's  welfare and the emotional effects he suffered, kept me informed. Consider these traumatic events (Grade 6, 7, & 8) happening to your son or daughter:

During  lunchtime on a blizzardy-snowy day, the teacher leaves the assigned room for a few minutes; this student, going to the water fountain in the hall, gets his head pushed into the water-head resulting in a partially broken tooth. And another time,  returning to the lunchroom with door intentionally smashed into his the joy of  his attackers! His bicycle tires were often slashed; and once while returning home, bullies followed him as he biked along a busy 4-lane street...trying to shove him into oncoming traffic.  Another time he was swarmed  in a nearby plaza by same bullies. Fortunately, a police cruiser passing by came to his rescue. (The officers obtained names of the bullies, then drove Jerry home with a bloody nose and face lacerations.) A familiar phrase often given to him was, “You die tonight!” signed by a few Grade Six students.  This he took as a threat upon his life. Boys pushed him into the hall wall while gleefully mocking him. In the Library once, boys made tightly-folded paper missiles, launching them with elastics at his face;  sometimes there was a straight pin attached to a few. Of course, no one claimed knowledge of this! The harassment continued; he dreaded going to school…he was distraught when the end of August arrived, knowing that ‘past behaviour would dictate future behaviour.” Due to all injustices that were inflicted  upon him, it was doubtful he would pass Grade 8. I knew very little of the foregoing atrocities he endured.

New History Creates a New Future (Dr. Phil)

His parents advised me in May of that final year in Senior Public School that, because these bullies would be attending the same designated High School, the family was moving to a new neighbourhood, new school and new opportunities. Taking about a year to adjust, he experienced what I call “A Rebirth”...subjects and activities of friends…and incentive to achieve academically. After five years, he enrolled in University earning a Degree; with this…he entered the business world into a successful career.
Jerry’s parents were indeed proud of his achievements!

Today:  Administrators address the issues of Abuse and Harassment in Class Assemblies.
(whether ‘face to face’ confrontation or through cyber technology).
Today:  ‘The Strap’ and other hands-on-discipline is illegal.
Today: Students are empowered to observe, act and report.
Today:  Life through the ‘grades’ is a smoother journey!

 “People who love themselves, don't hurt other people. 
Those who hate themselves want others to suffer.” (Dan Pearce)

Merle Baird-Kerr...written August 29, 2014
I invite your comments on this issue…email to:

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Around the Bay" Road Race

Since 1894 ~ It's the Oldest Race in North America

At almost 31 kilometres (not a marathon), it is held annually on March's last Sunday starting in downtown Hamilton...running along the Harbour, across the lift bridge and around the remainder of Burlington Bay.  Sounds like a scenic stroll?  Not at all.  The weather is  unpredictable: from snow, ice, blizzards and winds...could be rain (or combinations thereof). Add to the equation, Burlington’s sloping and hilly terrain. Last Sunday was an exception; March 29 was a crisp sunny day ~ almost perfect race weather. Thousands of runners participate in both the 30k and 5k events.  Proceeds from the event were  designated for St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care…the First Responders.

Jess Finished Last…but He Didn’t Finish Alone

The 68-year-old took the bus 13 hours from Kirkland Lake in Northern Ontario so he could run the 30k race.  Drew Edwards from the Hamilton Spectator wrote: “He was one of more than 11,000 runners who toed the start line for the 129th edition of the race.  Almost six and a half hours later, he was the only one left on the course and still had more than a kilometre to go.  Jess Heroux was moving slowly as cars whizzed by on York Boulevard. One stopped.  Jennifer Kowalski had finished the five-kilometre version of the race earlier. She and her mother were heading home to Stoney Creek when they came across Heroux.  Jennifer commented to her mother, ‘Oh, my gosh, I think this man is still running.  We pulled up beside him and asked him if he needed help, but he said he was fine. Then I said, ‘Stop the car!’

Kowalski and Heroux ran together the rest of the way, chatting about…what else?...running.  Heroux, who lived and worked in Burlington before retiring to Kirkland Lake, has been at it for more than 30 years, completing events all over North America, including the Boston Marathon and the 161-kilometre Western States.  He’s finished ‘Around the Bay’eight times before.  Kowalski is 32 and has been running for just over a year: Sunday was her fifth-ever race. 

Jennifer commented, ‘I was the fat kid in elementary school and I would have a note to get out of track and field every time.  Running absolutely changed my life.  It’s not about being competitive or how fast or how far you run, it’s about being part of the team and showing up to do it.  I felt I needed to share a little bit of that with Jess.  He talked about the aneurysm he suffered in 1993 that left him partially paralyzed  on his right side.  It turned his smooth stride into a shuffling gait and slowed him considerably, but he kept racing. ‘I was lucky to walk after; never mind…keep running,’ Heroux said. ‘I’m kind of surprised that I’m still able to do some of these things.’

“When they finally got to the race’s end point at First Ontario Centre in downtown Hamilton, it was empty…the finish line had been taken down, along with the timing clock.  Kowalski and her mom served as a two-person cheering section as Heroux crossed the spot where the winner broke the tape more than five hours earlier.

“Kowalski tracked down a race organizer so Heroux could get his finisher’s medal and record his time: six hours, 34 minutes, 30 seconds.  He was the last official competitor to complete the race.  Heroux said, ‘I never thought about quitting…I said to myself, I’m going to finish it, no matter what.  But, if it wasn’t for Jen…she was an angel for me and gave me inspiration.’

Heroux says he plans to return next year, though he’s considering the shorter event instead of the full 60 kilometres. If that’s the case, Kowalski hopes the two of them can run together again.  Her final comment, ‘I hate running, but I’m addicted to the feeling afterwards.  I always feel like quitting and he told me…Never give up Jennifer. I told him:  I think I met you for a reason…you’ve  inspired me!’

Perfect Day for a Race Around the Bay
(from the words of Glen Cuthbert)

An eclectic mix of athletes came out to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and compete in the 121st running of this race.  From crazy costumes to inspiring stories, one never knows what they will encounter in any given year.  Everyone runs it for a different reason.  

One of these who had lots of fun with the event was Geoff Shepphard  of Burlington.  Running his 25th 'Around the Bay’ race, Shepphard has gained notoriety for his elaborate costumes.  This year’s look consisted of  a giant yellow Mohawk-style-high pointy wig…yellow sunglasses…a yellow jumpsuit with 4 large fabric discs around his shoulders…with yellow and red style pantaloon-style leg covers.  His costume was so creative, he left the interpretation to others. He stated, “Friends have labelled me ‘Fire Chicken’…’Fire man’…’Fireball’…and ‘Cosmic’.”

A teacher from M.M. Robinson High School, he remarked, “It was a field trip that started it all.  As an event, my class was climbing the CN Tower and I wanted everyone to know where I was, so I dressed up. Ever since, I’ve worn a costume for races.”  Past costumes included a Monarch Butterfly…Rocket Ship…and Helicopter.  "It helps one stand out and promotes the fun of the race to others.  It’s more for all the thousands of fans along the race route.  To the kids who are watching, we all look alike, but if someone is different…it motivates them to maybe ~  some day join me in the race.”

Also making a statement were 7 firefighters and 2 paramedics from Oxford County
who ran the 5K event  in full bunker gear…adding 70 pounds to each body weight.

Road Race:  Diverse World
In Emily Hall from Dundas wrote:

It amazes me every year the different kinds of people I see and meet when I attend Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race.  It really sheds light on how diverse a world we live in.

With such an accommodating race that offers 30-kilometre, 5-kilometre and relay races, it’s no wonder it attracts runners of all types.  I think that’s one of its best features.  It brings runners from all around the world and gives us a nice sense of togetherness and community in a safe scenic environment.

I can’t tell  you how many extraordinary people I’ve met and stayed in touch with because of the Around the Bay Road Race weekend...and for that I will be forever thankful to this amazing event.

Merle Baird-Kerr…written  April 1, 2015
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Salute to April 2015

~ A mosaic of musings and ramblings ~

Let us be thankful for the fools;
but for them, the rest of us could not succeed!
(Mark Twain)

A gush of bird-song, a pattern of dew,
                                                     A cloud and a rainbow warning,
Suddenly sunshine and perfect blue ~
                                                     An April day in the morning.
(Harriet Prescott Spofford)

Best Sermons are Lived:  “Today, a boy in a wheelchair saw me desperately struggling on crutches with my broken leg and offered to carry my backpack and books for me.  He helped me all the way across campus to my class and as he was leaving, he said, “I hope you feel better soon.”
(Courtesy of a collection from Carolyn)

Bizarre, Amazing Fact:  In 2005, a 12-year-old-girl was abducted in Ethiopia, trying to force her into a marriage.  She was saved from her attackers and defended for about half a day by three lions. (True story)

Community Recognition:  It's the first time that an organization has been a recipient since the awards started in 1938.  The Argyll Sutherland Highlanders of Canada  are recipients of the annual honour from the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.  They were chosen 2014 winners because of honour, distinction and recognition...and world-wide admiration the regiment gave to Hamilton after the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.  He was shot to death on October 22 while on sentry duty at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.  His Hamilton funeral October 28 was the biggest in the history of the city.  The Argylls are absolutely...“Citizens of the Year!”

Farm Milking:  With leading technology, what was once done by hand, can now be performed using robotic milking machines.  They let the cow decide when she wants to be milked...without any prompting from the farmer.  There are 250 Ontario dairy farms that use robotic milking machines...and more are being installed every day.

Good Samaritans:  With the help of friends and family, Justin Shower handed out cold-weather essentials (including clothes and hot chocolate) in Gore Park to needy citizens during bitter cold days in January and February.  Nancy Pegg wrote to Letters at the Spec:  Sitting in my living room, snug and cosy as I gaze outside at the snow that fell last night...a truck pulls up in front of our neighbour's house and a man gets out, proceeding to shovel the sidewalk and driveway of our neighbour's house, then climbs back in his  truck and leaves.  Our neighbour has a medical condition and cannot do it himself.  Then, more incredibly, I look across the road to where my 92-year-old neighbour resides to find another man, shovelling her sidewalk and driveway.  The man with the shovel is in his late 70's.  What a Wonderful World!

Hamilton Harbour is becoming the gateway to North America for international shippers.  Cargo Tonnage figures from the Hamilton Port Authority show the volume of foreign cargo flowing through the harbour rose 39% last year over 2013...its highest annual overseas tonnage in a decade.  Over the season 619 vessels passed under the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge...157 from foreign lands...while the rest were 'lakers'.

Health is Wealth:  Did  you know that on the reverse side of A&W's paper mat placed on every tray is a Food Facts detailed chart re all their featured foods and beverages?  Nutritional Composition is charted in 15 columns from calories to cholesterol to vitamins, etc. All their foods are without 'Animal By-products' and hens are fed a vegetarian diet.  Their burgers, onion rings, and root beer are delicious!

Home Safety:  Although Spring, we're still dependent on furnaces and fireplaces to keep us warm.
For your windows and ceramic surfaces  stay hot long after the fireplace  is turned off.  Teach your children that touching natural gas appliances is dangerous.  Ensure your fireplace is cool before cleaning the glass...wiping hot glass with a damp cloth can crack it. Never use a fireplace  with cracked glass until it's been inspected or replaced by an HVAC ( licenced Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Contractor). For your Furnace...check the filter regularly (every 3 mos.) and clean/replace it when it is dirty.  Have your natural gas furnace inspected annually by your HVAC contractor.  Keep flammable materials away from both these fixtures.  Make sure there is adequate air supply in your furnace room ~ without fresh air, fuel doesn't burn as cleanly...which could cause it to release toxic carbon dioxide.

MBK's NewsBits: Stable Canada Keeps AAA Rating...thanks to a steady economic outlook, Canada is maintaining this credit rating.  The U.S. Credit Rating Agency reported this is due to its sound banking system...relatively low government debt...a projection to balance books following a series of deficits.

Notable Dates:                       
April 1 (Monday) April Fool's Day;                                                                                                              April 3 (Friday) Good Friday; Passover begins;  
April 5 (Sunday) Easter Sunday;  
April 6 (Monday) Easter Monday;
April 7 (Tuesday) World Health Day;
April 9 (Thursday) Battle of Vimy Ridge 1917.
April 10 (Friday) Birth of Jack Miner, one of the founders of the Canadian Conservation;           
April 12 (Sunday) Orthodox Easter;
April 20 (Monday) St. George's Day...Newfoundland;
April 21 (Tuesday) Queen Elizabeth II 's birthday (1926);
April 22 (Wednesday)  Earth Day;
April 30 (Monday) ~ Personal Income Tax Filing Deadline.
April 12 to18 is National Wildlife Week.

Vehicle Advice While Driving:  Clear your snow and ice...or else you might get fined! Halton Regional Police reminds motorists, “It is the driver's legal responsibility to ensure all of their vehicle's windows  afford a clear view to the front, sides and rear.  The lights, both front and back, hood and roof  should be free of snow for visibility and blowing  of the white stuff onto other vehicles.”

Stay focused:  Put the brakes on distracted driving!!!  If you send even a short message at highway speeds, from the time you look at your screen to the time you look back at the road, you will have travelled about the length of a football field. DISCTRACTED DRIVING  is a major factor in FATAL ACCIDENTS (exceeding today, those of IMPAIRED DRIVING).

Wildlife:  White-tailed deer reside in forested or bush areas during the summer, due to abundance of food.  During winter months, they concentrate in 'deer yards' (open areas that provide food and shelter from winter storms). 
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are remarkable flyers.  They maneuver at incredible speeds  of 55 to 75 wingbeats per second.  Unlike other birds, they can hover in place and rapidly change direction mid-air.

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...March 22, 2015
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