An incredible act of bravery

When I read the article in the Globe and Mail newspaper this morning, I was choked with emotion: school girls disfigured by an acid attack in Afghanistan have defied the men who targeted them and have returned to school. 

It's an incredible act of bravery that anyone who believes in fundamental human rights should applaud and shout from the rooftops.

Can you imagine?  These girls were walking to school with their teachers in November when a group of men on motorcycles picked them out and sprayed their faces with acid, apparently because the students had the temerity to want to improve themselves by seeking an education.

Now the girls, some with permanent scars and damaged vision, have returned to school. According to the Globe, most of the 1,300 students have gone back to class.  The headmaster, Mahmood Qadri, 54, apparently begged the families of the girls not to let the attackers have their way by giving up on their education.  The community listened; and acted. 
If your child had been attacked in this way, would she have the courage to do such a thing? Would you, as a parent, have the conviction to let her risk her life in this way?  This is simply amazing.
The actions of these girls and their teachers bring hope to Afghanistan and are a powerful symbol of the human spirit.  

I'm so moved that words cannot adequately express my feelings. Thank you, girls of Kandahar. 

Read the Globe and Mail story here
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OMNI Television

Canada's best multilingual television station, offering programming in more than 30 languages, is OMNI Television.

Founded in 1979, it has grown steadily and is now the  strongest voice for diversity and multiculturalism in Canadian television.

You can see more at  The Ontario station is the biggest in the three regions indicated. OMNI also offers video streams of daily newscasts. Just click on the video player link in the News section on the home page.

Martin Luther King Day: Toughmindedness and the need to think

Martin Luther King Day: Toughmindedness and the need to think

On this Martin Luther King Day, a number of information services offer samplings of King's thoughts.
My friends at  provided this nugget this morning, as found in WikiQuote.   It's from King's Strength to Love (1963).

"The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment. Who doubts that this toughness is one of man's greatest needs? Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

"Softmindedness often invades religion. ... Softminded persons have revised the Beatitudes to read "Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God." This has led to a widespread belief that there is a conflict between science and religion. But this is not true. There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion. ... Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.

"There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan. But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. ... What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

The kitchen

When winter closes in and sets its icy grip, as it has all this week, many people choose to stay home and stay warm. And inside, the room most often at the centre of activity is the kitchen. My home is no exception. This is a view from the table looking towards the counter.

Montreal's Boulevard Saint-Laurent

I was waiting in a car on a frigid Sunday morning in Montreal and this lamp post caught my eye. It is one of hundreds on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, one of the historic streets of the city. Also known as "The Main," a portion of this boulevard was already in existence inside the old city walls in the late 1600s. It became one of the principal north-south arteries of the city.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the street attracted many immigrants who entered Canada through Montreal. According to Heritage Canada's web page, "Saint-Laurent Boulevard pulled them like a magnet. The Main's factories, affordable housing, groceries and stores, and community institutions welcomed each group in turn. First the Jews from eastern Europe, then Italians, Portuguese, Poles, Greeks, Chinese, and Latin Americans, and more recently Africans and people from the Caribbean moved to The Main and made their mark."

Today the street is alive at all hours of the day or night with people visiting a rich variety of restaurants, coffee houses, night clubs and shops of all kinds. At 1:30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning, things are just getting started on Saint-Laurent. I know from personal experience. Despite temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius last Saturday, there were so many people and cars on the street in the middle of the night, that we got struck in traffic trying to reach my daughter's apartment.

1. For more on the boulevard, read "The Main of Montreal."
2. Why not go on a virtual trip? See the city through this web cam portal.

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Some fellow commuters

Life has become so hectic these days that I can't seem to carve enough time for writing and other preferred activities. I offer these simple sketches done on the train the other day.

Winter has us Canadians firmly in its grip. We seem to be adding layers of clothing with each new weather forecast. We look somewhat bulky, but fashion in January must take a back seat to our more immediate need of keeping warm.
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Dark morning downtown

It was a dark morning today, with snow and sleet falling on downtown Toronto. This is a view looking north from the corner of York and Front Streets towards Queen St. at the top.

The street corner is anchored by the Fairmont Royal York Hotel (on the right with the bus at the curb). The Strathcona Hotel is opposite.

The building with the triangular roof at the end of the road is Osgoode Hall. It houses the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Law Society of Upper Canada.

(For those of you who are not in Canada, let me explain what is meant by "Upper Canada" It's a historical term. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ships and canoes represented the fastest mode of transportation. The term relates to the geographical location of a region with respect to the water flow from the Great Lakes down the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic. Toronto is in Upper Canada, while Quebec City is lower down the water system, even though on the map Quebec is further north.)

Celebrating your talents

I don't know about you, but I have grown up thinking that one should not be boastful. Tonight, for example, I nodded my head in agreement when, driving home, I read the licence plate of the car in front of me. It said: "B Humble." Was it speaking to me? That's something I believe in.

But others argue that being humble can also be a limiting thing. It may be better to reach higher. They argue that to deny ourselves the natural power within us is not a positive thing. We should instead celebrate it.

Marianne Williamson, author of A Return To Love, writes about this concept. In that book, she says:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talent, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated for our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Food for thought. I think it makes sense, as long as that light doesn't transform itself into arrogance.

1. Photo of the lamp is courtesy of Wong Mei Teng, a photographer in Malaysia, who made her photo available at
2. Marianne Williamson's web site is here.
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Foncia leads around Cape Horn

Michel Desjoyeux aboard Foncia (pictured above) is expected to round Cape Horn between Sunday and Monday, leading the Vendee Globe solo race. He continues to set a blistering pace, with his closest challenger, Roland Jourdain more than 80 nautical miles behind him.

We received news this weekend of another retirement. Jonny Malbon on Artemis has been forced to abandon the race because of a series of problems with his mainsail. He has also been wrestling with a malfunctioning rudder, damaged earlier in a collision with a whale. We're sorry to hear about Jonny's misfortune. We wish him well. His on-shore support team cheered on Derek Hatfield earlier in the race and I'm sure the Canadian was very grateful, as we were, watching from the safety of terra firma.  Jonny now is making way towards the South Island of New Zealand for repairs.

Hatfield, meanwhile, arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, after a slow journey from the windy southern latitudes.  His team will assess the damage on Spirit of Canada and decide how to proceed for the return home.  Derek has a lot of fans in Canada and everyone is glad to see him safely into port after his earlier capsizing.

(Photo courtesy of the race organizers at
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Winter quiet

Here's another look at the neighbourhood in winter. It's a brand new year and mother nature is keeping everything on ice for a while.

Best wishes,