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Diary of an Itinerant Writer
Sunday, 15 March 2009
PC's and drywall
Whew! Talk about long days.

Work all day at the construction site and then on the PC's at night. I sleep at night dreaming of computers and drywall. Need to start reading or something before going to bed.

I am almost finished the first phase of working on the PC's. Soon I need to network them to the Ubuntu Linux server I have set up. As much as I like Linux, and prefer it overs Windows, networking Windows clients is a lot easier than Linux clients. Then again, I am new to Linux and an old hand with Windows.

I have received more offers of equipment and so will hopefully be picking up more this week. It quite amazing, people are so happy to donate old PC's and keep them out of the landfill. And the city I live is really quite small. I can just imagine how much success we would have in a place like Ottawa which is so much larger. Gives me some ideas!

That's it for now, back to the PC's and my marinating tofu.

Posted by irishcrows at 2:43 PM EDT
Friday, 28 November 2008
Computers for Cameroon
In Cameroon, only 20% of students have access to computers. What they do have access to are P2's and old P3's.  Rural communities have access to one laptop - when it is in that community.  Where internet access is available it costs $1 per hour, a pretty large fee considering the annual income in Cameroon.  Of all the gaps between northern and southern nations when it comes to sustainable development, the latest and most overlooked is the IT gap. Why not recyle our e-waste to benefit others in Cameroon rather than fill our landfills with this waste?

We are working in conjucntion with Techcefacos, an NGO based in Cameroon. Information on them can be found at :
Information on the project can be found at:

Posted by irishcrows at 7:05 PM EST
Saturday, 18 October 2008
And there is more ....

From a Vancouver rally:

My favorite quote:

 "It was rough, real rough," he said, adding that he's happy about the recent court ruling. "I thought it was a good idea that they got the permission to do that in Victoria. ... They should allow that here in Vancouver so people can sleep anywhere with tents and not just sleeping on the grass."

You think?! 

 How about the rest of Canada?  Oh yeah, we get snow in winter.  Maybe they can allow us tent citites for 6 months of the year.  For the rest - affordable housing perhaps.  Or perhaps tents and bus tickets to Victoria. 

Posted by irishcrows at 10:28 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 October 2008 10:40 PM EDT
Friday, 17 October 2008
Victoria homeless tent park
Topic: homeless

Its been way too long since I posted here, but HUZZAH!

Read this article:

A victory for the homeless in Victoria, although it would seem the city will enforce that the tents be down between 7 am and 9 pm.  Still, a victory.

I've slept in tent cities before and there is the constant harrassment from police, as well as the public's attitude to deal with. With the current economic crisis homelessness is on the rise.  Whole families sleeping in motels, cars or even outdoors.  Foreclosures on houses and evictions from apartments.  Perhaps this will draw closer attention to this issue.  If not that, then maybe the growing tent cities in our parks will.


Posted by irishcrows at 11:27 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 October 2008 10:40 PM EDT
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Fear of the poor
It is a sad commentary on the measure of our society when people are motivated to protest because of the fear of declining property values or the presence of the dis empowered and disenfranchised poor.  It is the not presence of the OIM drop in that is responsible for the crack pipes and used condoms in the affluent Sandy Hill neighborhoods.  It is the warehouse like shelters that were meant as a temporary solution and have not become permanent.  It is that the much needed services for the homeless are available in the lower town area.  It is the days filled with despair, fear hopelessness and boredom.  There is little wonder that the homeless turn to crack, alcohol and sex to mitigate their circumstances.  I am quite certain that if those property owners were to suddenly find themselves in similar circumstances they would soon turn to same escapes.  In fact, it might be useful exercise if everybody had to spend a month in a shelter to get a slight taste of the plight of the homeless.  It would just be a sight taste, however, because they will always have the knowledge that at month's end the can leave.  The homeless don't have the luxury of that hope.  If the true measure of a society is how it treats its poor, then Wednesday protests would indicate we come up woefully short.

Posted by irishcrows at 10:37 AM EDT
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Poetry in New Brunswick

Some poetry inspired by the peace I have been feeling while in some New Brunswick woods.  This east coast wander has been so refreshing for my soul and invigorating for my spirit:



pine trees touched by the winds elusive whisper

as gnarled branches stretch for a desperate grasp

a glimpse of motion for the motionless

an ethereal backdrop to a sun glistened river

swollen with the springs runoff

sun dapples the moss on which i sit

bird song heard at a tantalizing distance

and i sit peaceful in the penniac woods

respite for my weary mind


the sun warms the winter’s ache in my breast

while a river’s breadth away lies highway 8

its asphalt beckoning my feet

and i know i will answer the call

but not today

today i rest on sun dappled moss

filled with anticipation


echoes of memories


the energy of my memories flits about this park

i wonder if  the tree and stones

recall the things i do

the laughter of my children

tumbles and echoes in the background

but only i can hear it


this grass nourishes the memories of many

this park has been the receptacle

of so many generations’ energy

the warehouse for memories of youthful days


as i sit in remembrance

there comes to me the sounds

of a new generation


perhaps the trees smile

at our illusions of permanence


shovel clangs on the barrow’s edge
another load of soil to move
painting a landscape with a laborer’s tools

siding slapped on the back of a shed
affixed with nails to this final wall
angles calculated for the remaining pieces
what another left as unwanted waste
finds find value in this one work

with sun soaked sweat
and rain rinsed determination
space is cleared for nature’s return

at day’s end awaits the buddha’s peace
rest in weary contentment
too tired for thoughts of myself

in this day’s labor - meditation




Posted by irishcrows at 9:45 AM EDT
Friday, 4 May 2007
Guns in high school
Yesterday they locked my daughter's high school down because of kids and guns in the school.  as a parent of a kid there i've been working at staying in control and trying to understand.

the lock down, as far as I understand, is a code sent out and teachers lock down the rooms. all the kids know is a lock down has taken place - rachel didn't even know there were kids with guns. they all thought it was another drill.

after the VT incident, there was an article asking will it happen again, and to what degree. well, they keep on playing this shit up in the media (replete with the prerequsite and repeated CNN footage) and some pubescent and/or marginalized individuals hone in on it. their 15 minutes.

not sure how to handle all this. while i am glad that rachel felt no need to panic (she thought it was another drill) it concerns me greatly (understatement) that they even have to have these drills. as for trying to escort the kids out, not sure if that would work with somebody loose with guns. but i'm sure having the power of being able to force a lockdown is pretty intoxicating as well. as for assuming the worse, that "lunatic" kids were loose with guns, that is the sad state we have arrived at. we can't assume otherwise, else we might just end up with some more dead kids.

look what we have wrought.

in short, i have no answers. it is just extremely sad. that in the end my daughter was imprisoned in her classroom while students roam the hallways with guns (the inmates running the asylum.) and even sadder, that she just accepts it as part of her school life.

Posted by irishcrows at 12:32 PM EDT
Wednesday, 2 May 2007
rideau street

rideau street


the world in four blocks

sussex to king edward

leaders and embassies

whores and the homeless

its only four blocks

walked in ten minutes

the only four blocks you need to see


the sidewalks are filled

people rushing for busses

arms filled with bags from the bay

cell phone to their ear

cursing the slow moving


teenagers huddle in the cold

waiting for a fix

the boys acting tough

do rags hung low over their eyes

ball caps askew

bantam roosters staking out territory


dealers whisper code words

you looking

neither side of the street is safe from them

scavengers feeding on misery

their gauntlet to run


the fur coats hurry past

the urine soaked walls

pretending the drunks don’t exist

eyes fixed resolutely on sanctuary

the mall or the bay

while the drunks pretend indifference

to the meagre collection of coins

in their stained and chewed tim horton cups


the panhandlers sit across from the scotia bank

accost you as you leave the atm

but atm’s don’t give change

and neither do you

so you mumble a sorry


the bars in the market

beckons those with coin

where you can sip your single malt

and safely study

the kids who ran away

the streets safer

than a string of foster homes

they’re huddled in doorways

out of the rain

with safety in numbers

that’s where they’ll sleep tonight


rideau street is home to natives

and inuit

by noon they’re too drunk to walk

or buy booze

so if you have no change

you can go to the beer store for them


i know many of them

they call me brother

not many whites take time to care

just another drunk indian

who can’t handle booze


you can’t avoid rideau street

it has bus stops and banks

fancy stores and pawn shops

its where you go for alcohol or weed

street drugs if you wish

a hooker if you're so inclined


dealers police these blocks

particularly one block

the cops are there too

playing their power games

until a dealer goes down

or a hooker gets busted

there’s always others to replace them though


walk toward king edward

with the constant smell of urine and weed

panning drunks and crack addicts

the rest of society rushing past

pursuing their dreams of materialism

its only four blocks


then you emerge

the gauntlet run for one more day


© Michael MacKinnon, 01/12/2007

Posted by irishcrows at 1:46 PM EDT
Hunger and obesity
Before I left for New Brunswick I saw a CNN clip about they're fancy, expensive SUV and Air Stream trailor (complete with CNN logo and fancy paint job) they are using to educate Americans on obesity. Somewhat ironic to have the money to do that while people starve througout the world, even within the US. A sad irony really.

Posted by irishcrows at 1:43 PM EDT
Wednesday, 28 February 2007

In January 2996, a group of Ottawa street artist and Ottawa Innercity Ministries initiated the beginning of an artists cooperative.   This partnership was based on the principles of Assets Based Community Development (ABCD.)  In a short six-month period a community was developed and pARTners was born.


Artists in general encounter several obstacles to achieving success.  These include breaking through and gaining recognition, trying to support themselves while creating their art and being accepted in a society that increasingly sees art as of little value in this culture of the bottom line.   For street artists there is the additional burden of having no place to create (except in the warmer weather of the summer when they can work outside).   On top of that, there is their need for basic survival – many are on the streets, in shelters or low income boarding houses (hardly places that nurture the creative process.)  Many are dealing with addictions, where feeding that addiction or rehabilitating it is their primary concern.  There is also the Safe Streets Act, which prohibits streets artists from selling their art on the street, where exposure in high traffic areas such as the market might reveal the next Norveau Morrisette.   When an artist does manage to sell a few pieces on a street corner they hardly sell for what they might actually be worth.  Finally, creating art is an isolating process, and street artists already start out with little or no sense of community.


Roughly, ABCD is a concept in which community is developed by recognizing and using the assets within a group to empower and further develop that community.   Rather than solutions coming top down from the would be helping organizations, they are found an pursued in a lateral partnership.  In the case of pARTners, the assets are the work of the artists, the lessons they can teach each other, sharing their own ideas on how to setup a show or display a piece, and doing the overwhelming physical work of setting up a show.   Each member has an equal say in the cooperative, contributes to the running of pARTners and show setups as well as contributing a percentage of sales to the coop's budget.   Though currently primarily reliant on grants, the eventual goal is to have pARTners rely primarily on moneys brought in by the artists.  Ottawa Innercity Ministries oversees the grant application process, the initial accounting and administering of the finances as well as proving a space for the artists and initial supplies, adding to the meaning of pARTners.


pARTners is an attempt to give the artists a voice in their future and a sense of empowerment.  Though a laudable goal, the results so far have fallen short in some ways.   Running an organization democratically and keeping an eye on the bottom line proved difficult.  Running large shows created a sense of competition amongst the artists and reduced the sense of community.   Yet, there have been successes and these successes have proven to be the foundation for the next phase of pARTners.  In the time since its inception some sense of community was created, artist did sell work and are now looking forward to the next phase of the coop as well as staging their own shows.   In addition, lessons have been learned from the failures and these will be incorporated in the new structure.  The next phase will see more focus on the democratic nature of coops and less on immediate financial independence, empowering the artists as individuals in control of their creative nature and their future as artists, further developing the community that has been already developed and developing relationships between street artists and the venues in which their valuable work can be displayed and brought to the attention of mainstream society.   As homeless increases, and less money becomes available for the disenfranchised in this increasingly conservative society, pARTners is a small attempt to remove a group of people from the disenfranchised and disempowered; to help them become empowered, contributing members of our society.

Posted by irishcrows at 7:21 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007 7:24 PM EST

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