Sunday, February 22, 2009


The shivaree, or charivari (a French word meaning “a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds” and probably deriving in turn from a Late Latin word meaning “headache”), dates at least as far back as the middle ages in Western Europe and has a long history in many parts of North America including the Midwest, Ontario, Quebec, New England and the Maritimes.

Young men of the community mark a marriage - especially a marriage considered suspect or unsuitable - by creating an improvised ruckus on pots and pans under the window of the bridal chamber. In the true spirit of a shivaree, our old hero is kept awake all night with noisy pots and pans by those who disapprove of his quest to marry the young girl.

My only encounter with this phenomenom was while I was in high school and a neighbour's daughter was getting married. The newlyweds home was not ready for a month, so after the wedding they planned to live with the in-laws. The local young folk got wind and a Shivaree was planned for a summer Friday evening, the plan being to keep the couple awake all night during their arrival home from the wedding festivities.

While I lived in the country, we did not own a farm, so I stood at the end of our driveway after dark with a tire iron and a metal lid from our garbage can, waiting for my best buddy to pick me up.

Soon I could hear him coming down the sideroad with no muffler on their oldest tractor and towing a hay wagon for all the folks to ride on to the event. I hopped on the tractor with him and enjoyed the ride, bumpy and noisey that it was. We picked up about 10 people with various forms of noisemakers including a trumpet, disc and wrenches, firecrackers, shotguns, cowbells etc.

The evening turned out to be much fun and a great community gathering on the neighbours laneway and lawn. The most fun coming when we took the four straw bales on the wagon and stuffed the straw into the grooms unlocked cab of his truck.

Did I mention that most attendees seem to have brought along liquid fortification in case it got cold and someone brought the coffee urn from the town hall with a large plate of ham sandwiches.

Some folks did actually stay all night...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations About Religion

There is a time and place for everything under the sun, including discussions about religion. Whether you are religious or not, if someone is trying to draw you into a conversation, or perhaps an argument, regarding religion or morality but the timing and situation is awkward and uncomfortable, this article will help you find a way to avoid a heated debate as politely as possible.


  1. Resist the urge to argue. It's difficult to overlook a statement that seems completely ignorant and ungrounded, and you'll likely have the urge to correct the person. Instead, smile and say "Interesting..."
  2. Meet it head on with honesty. Be true to yourself and your own feelings. Say "I'm not comfortable talking about that and I'm just not willing to have this conversation..."
  3. Redirect the conversation.
    • Ask about their children, significant other, health, or job.
    • Make an absurd joke to deflect the seriousness of the situation. For example, try: "Religion? No, I haven't seen that movie." Or: "Religion?! What . . . do you get that at, like, Wal-Mart or Starbucks or something?" Or: "No thanks. I haven't been able to talk about religion since the last time the Cubs won the World Series."
    • Dead pan, "I am sorry. I have a firm rule to not discuss politics or religion with anyone I've not seen naked." That usually ends the discussion rather abruptly, and on a light-hearted note.
    • For people who are insistent on discussing religion, however, they're likely to return to that topic quickly, so keep the conversation flowing at the level of small talk until you can do something else.

  4. Suggest a better time. If you would like to discuss religion at a better time and location, invite the person to meet you. This will allow you to control the environment, length of discussion, involved parties and other factors. Simply saying "This is definitely something I'd love to discuss with you, but can we do it at another time?" will do the trick, as long as you mean it. If you do not care to ever discuss religion with this person at all, skip this step.
  5. Excuse yourself. Remove yourself from the situation by taking a bathroom break, or by greeting someone you know who just arrived, or even by lying and saying that your cell phone is ringing silently. Look at the phone and pretend that it's someone close to you and that you must briefly take the call. However, remember to return to the conversation, because bailing out suddenly and not returning will be considered rude, and may only add further motivation for the person to "enlighten" you.
  6. Bring in another conversationalist. When you can't avoid a person who wants to talk about religion, look for a another person in the situation who you know has strong opinions about religion and enjoys a good debate. Introduce the two, and leave them to split theological hairs together.
  7. Be straightforward. Tell the conversationalist that this is the wrong time for this discussion.
    • If you are at work, explain that it is not proper to discuss controversial subjects in the workplace because there's a line to be drawn between personal views and professional pursuits, and you would like to focus on maintaining professionalism.
    • If you are at a social event such as a dinner party or a wedding, remind the conversationalist that this was intended to be a happy, lighthearted celebration, and that you would rather not weigh down the evening (or the morning or afternoon) with discussions about more serious things in life.
    • Politely tell the truth. "I do not want to talk about religion right now." If a person rudely continues to discuss their views on religion, politely ask them to stop being disrespectful to you and your request. Tell them that you intend to walk away if they continue.


  • Recognize the reasons you believe what you believe, or why you do not believe in anything in particular. Understanding your own beliefs, or lack thereof, will strengthen your resolve. You do not need to argue your reasons and, in fact, you are better off not arguing.
  • As long as you are diplomatic and kind when you positively say you do not want to discuss religion, you will be respected.
  • Conversations about religion shouldn't be uncomfortable unless you are unsure about your own beliefs. It is completely proper to tell them you have your own beliefs, or lack of them, and are not interested in discussing the topic.
  • Religion should be discussed openly and objectively without fear of hurting someone's feelings.
  • It is rude for a person to refuse to leave you alone when you have asked them to.


  • Leading a persistent conversationalist to believe that you are agreeing with their views just so you can quiet them will most likely encourage them to follow up more frequently with you. If you let them think you agree with them, they will may to check in from time to time to see if you are still on the same page.
  • Seeming flippant or like a cynic may challenge your friend too find more ways to reach you; so reassure your friend, "I have my beliefs; let's just talk about other things." Keep the friend and keep on the right path.

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations About Religion. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stop worrying about ad campaigns & enjoy the yummy bean casserole


The Freethought Association of Canada is looking to expand its "There's Probably No God" bus ad campaign from Calgary and Southern Ontario to Ottawa.

But in doing so, the humanists threaten one of the most time-honoured, venerable, yet bilious of Canadian traditions.

God? No!

I'm talking about the great creator's second favourite meal, the potluck supper.

I have a sneaking suspicion that God is not at all worried about this latest, breathless attack on her/his existence. But organizers of the church potluck should worry, and so should those of us who arrive at the church door clutching a rapidly cooling pan of meat loaf. It's bad enough regional health authorities have attacked the potluck's food preparation techniques; now the actual founder of the feast is under attack. (read more)

by David Henderson, The Province - Vancouver
Published: Monday, February 16, 2009


7 Ways to Live Large Below the Poverty Line

How one family happily lives off the land, making $6,500 a year, and how you can too.

Kevin and Donna Phillip-Johnson were an ordinary, middle class American family making around $42,000 dollars a year. After years of working hard to make ends meet, they decided to realize a longtime dream of living a better life. And they did.

Now, they make $6,500 a year. And they're happier than ever. (read more)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Too Many Cars

A car built in 2009 belches out 90 percent less tailpipe pollution as one built in the 1960s. But the net benefits to the atmosphere have not materialized, because the average "vehicle miles" driven per person has tripled. So making cars more environmentally friendly isn't enough: we also need to transform the way cities are built. From (Read more)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine's Day Gifts: Green Love for Everyone

Valentine’s Day might just be the most polarizing holiday out there: either you think it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to show your love for your spouse, friends, and family, or you think it’s a lame excuse to sell more greeting cards. Of course, if you and your partner don’t agree, that’s when the problems pop up. You might be perfectly happy with nothing more than an extra kiss in the morning—but if she (or he) wants an extravagant dinner, memorable jewelry, and a sentimental card, then you’d better get shopping. Luckily, stores and websites are full of eco-friendly alternatives to traditional chocolates, flowers, gems, and wines, so you can satisfy your partner’s Valentine’s Day requirements without investing in a bunch of environmentally harsh consumer products.

...more Valentine's Day tips at