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Life, love and language

Big Hill Springs

We were introduced to a new trail today. Big Hill Springs Provincial Park is just 10 km north of Cochrane and is a beautiful, short loop of 1.6km with an elevation of 70m.

Big Hill Springs

We arrived at around 11am and the park was already crowded, mostly with families and lots of small children who were enjoying the shallow pool near the beginning of the hike. There are picnic tables near the pond and many people had obviously settled in for the day.

Big Hill Springs pool

The trails runs past the pool and follows the creek uphill offering lots of opportunities to paddle and explore.

Big Hill Springs stream

We passed a series of waterfalls,

Big Hills Spring waterfall

and then climbed up through the woods.

Big Hill Springs path

We stopped often to take photographs and enjoyed some really nice views near the top of the loop.

We had an active four year old with us who managed the climbs with ease and had a great time collecting sticks along the way.  Not a hike for those looking for a challenge or wanting to enjoy the peace and quiet of a nature walk but we found it unexpectedly beautiful and will certainly go back.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Hiking | Leave a comment



1. pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

When I was a little girl, my mother often recited this poem to me:

‘When I was at the party,’
Said Betty, aged just four,
‘A little girl fell off her chair
Right down upon the floor;

And all the other little girls
Began to laugh, but me –
I didn’t laugh a single bit’,
Said Betty seriously.

‘Why not?’– her mother asked her,
Full of delight to find
That Betty – bless her little heart! –
Had been so sweetly kind.

‘Why didn’t you laugh, my darling?
Or don’t you like to tell?’
I didn’t laugh, said Betty,
‘Cos I’m the one who fell.

Laughing girls - photographer Caroline Hernandez

Photographer: Caroline Hernandez

There is no doubt that the laughter of young children is as contagious as a yawn. But there is also no doubt that at times that laughter is misdirected.

For most adults the misfortunes or embarrassment of their peers seem to be a source of endless hilarity – one only has to watch America’s Funniest to see what is considered amusing. This reaction to the humiliation or discomfort of our fellowman is known as schadenfreude and a number of studies have been done to try to determine why we find the bad luck of others so entertaining. But are children really as malicious as that, and, if so, is it genetic or is it a learned behaviour?

In a study carried out at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany (1), children aged between 4 and 8 years were shown picture stories of a child carrying out an activity with either a positive or a negative intention, for example, climbing a tree to pick fruit for a sibling or to throw fruit at the sibling. In both cases the child has an accident – falling out of the fruit tree and hurting himself. Although the researchers reported that a small amount of schadenfreude was felt by the children even when the child in the story was carrying out a good deed, by far the majority of them reacted with pleasure when the child who hurt himself was intending to hurt his sibling. In this case schadenfreude was prompted by the degree to which the children felt the accident was deserved.

Even younger children have been shown to derive a certain amount of pleasure from the misfortunes of others. A 2014 study found that children as young as two years showed signs of schadenfreude in response to what they perceived as unfair situations involving their peers.(2)  In this study some of the toddlers were videotaped watching their mothers reading a story to child of the same age as themselves while another group were shown their mothers reading on their own. In both cases the book was then spoilt when water was spilt on it. When the researchers analysed the reactions of both groups of toddlers they found a greater incidence of jealousy and accompanying schadenfreude in the first group. So this study linked jealousy to the feeling of pleasure in the observed misfortune.

Jealousy is also the major issue in sibling rivalry which can become so intense that one child may deliberately set out to get their sibling into trouble in order to enjoy their misfortune while they bask in their parents’ approval.

In both of these studies schadenfreude is linked to the child’s belief that the other’s misfortune is, in some way, deserved.  In my experience working with young, preschool children, not many appear to enjoy the random mishaps of their peers and even try to comfort them, whereas the tendency to laugh when a peer is embarrassed or even hurt seems to increase as they reach school age.  I stress that this is simply my observation, not a scientific conclusion.  It does, however, suggest to me that, on the whole, schadenfreude is a learned response. (3)

Siblings - photo by Ben WhiteAnd yet there are some young children who seem to completely lack the ability to feel for their less fortunate friends, while others appear to have been born with a greater propensity for empathy and compassion than most of their peers.

It’s the old nature vs nurture question which keeps raising its aged head, although today we know the issues are far more complex than the question suggests.

A more important question is, can we teach children empathy and how do they learn to be kind?   – the subject for another blog?


Photographer: Ben White




1. Schulz, K., Rudolph, A., Tscharaktschiew, N. and Rudolph, U. (2013), Daniel has fallen into a muddy puddle – Schadenfreude or sympathy?. Br J Dev Psychol, 31: 363–378. doi:10.1111/bjdp.12013

2. Shamay-Tsoory SG, Ahronberg-Kirschenbaum D, Bauminger-Zviely N (2014) There Is No Joy like Malicious Joy: Schadenfreude in Young Children. PLoS ONE 9(7): e100233. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100233

3. See Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory.


May 10, 2018 Posted by | Children | Leave a comment

Rules and regulations and small businesses.

“Time to go to bed”; “Don’t talk with your mouth full”; “Chores first then play”; “Pack away your toys”.
Remember the rules from your childhood? At the time we all chafed against them. They restricted our play and got in the way of fun. As we grew up we came to realize, reluctantly at times, that there was some need for a regulated life.

Rules and regulations

There is no doubt about it, rules and regulation are a big part of what makes society, certainly a civilized society, work. Although most of us have complained at one time or another of the restrictions caused by rules with which we don’t agree, we are quick to complain if we perceive ourselves to have been hard done by due to someone ignoring or blatantly flouting the law.
Rules and regulations set a standard for what is acceptable and the law clearly states the consequences for breaking them. In the same way as a young child left to his own devices is quite capable of destroying a well-organized household in record time, we only have to look at a country where the rule of law has broken down to realize how much we need rules to keep our baser impulses in check.
However, you can always have too much of a good thing and to be acceptable rules have to be relevant and practical. Having been involved in policy writing myself I know how easy it is to thumb-suck regulations for a number of issues which could easily have been left to the common sense of the business owners. One problem is that, as new rules get added, the number keeps escalating until it is almost impossible for the average business man or woman to keep track of them all.
For example, how many regulations do you think are practical for the running of one Canadian province? Well, apparently, in Manitoba in 2016 there were 906,824 regulations in 12,393 documents! Despite this, Manitoba is one of the few Canadian provinces which seems to be trying to get it right. Between January 2017 and March 2021 for every new regulation which is promulgated the Manitoba government will remove two existing ones. Thereafter every new regulation will replace an old one.
That can only be a good thing, particularly for small business owners in Manitoba. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business the cost of regulation to businesses last year was $36 billion, with small businesses, those with less than five employees, paying up to five times more when considered on a per employee basis. In Alberta, where I run my business, this includes an increase in minimum wage of up to $15 in fall, an increase in EI payments and, coming next year, an increase in CPP , all of which means that my fees will have to go up just to keep the books balanced.
Important as the financial impact is, however, the way in which rules and regulations can affect the ability of a business to offer its customers any personal service is unacceptable. I’m pretty sure any business owner has their own examples of this but I’ll end with the following quote, by a former vice-president of Western Canada for CFIB, and I’ll quote it verbatim:
“… a high-end men’s clothing store … used to give their customers a cup of coffee while they browsed for a suit. The regional health authority came in and told them they had to send all their employees to a training program to ensure they knew the safest way to handle the coffee and mugs. They had to install an industrial dishwasher for $5,000 to clean the mugs. And they were required to pay an annual fee to show that the business and the employees had passed food services certification.”
I’m guessing, but I imagine that those customers no longer get coffee as they browse!



  1. https://www.cfib-fcei.ca/en/advocacy/manitoba-regulation-red-tape-reduction-regulatory-accountability
  2. http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/0110-biz-dk-cfib-fpe
  3. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/canada-competes/whos-regulating-the-regulators-small-businesses-want-to-know/article9440935/


May 3, 2018 Posted by | Working | Leave a comment