Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Canada in Space

This week, I resumed my task of taking photos for the Canada 150 celebrations here in Carleton Place. There are a group of us who have volunteered to take photos for the town at the various events that will occur this year for Canada's 150th birthday. No, I wasn't there for the birthday or the first anniversary, so just stop that chucking in the back row.

You may recall that I have already shot (so to speak) the Mystery Dinner Theatre, and Whiskey and Wickedness in January, Aladdin in February, and Heather's Heritage Journal Workshop earlier this month.. Or you may not, for I am but the lowliest of bloggers and so unworthy of being remembered.

I arrived at the library with enough time to take in the lie of the land, so to speak, and to get set up, but horror of horrors, I hadn't put the battery back in the camera after recharging it. Fortunately, I only live a short distance away, but I still barely got back in time for the dimming of the lights for the multimedia-aided lecture.

About the lecturer: if I was a trained reporter, I likely would have gotten his name. In fact, I probably would have regardless of the lack of training if I was a trained photographer and could remember to check my equipment before going on assignment.

Alas and alack, I am a total hack (which kind of rhymes), but I do work for free after all.

So, here is the gentleman, whom I recalled meeting in Stewart Park in Perth several summers ago. He had his telescope out, and when we spoke to him, he told us how he was preparing to capture the transit of Venus. But I didn't get his name then either. Sigh. (Edit: Frank Hitchens is his name.)

He told us how Canada got started in the American space program after production of our highly advanced Avro Arrow airplane was halted by the narrow-minded government of the day. (The next four photos are of a few of the slides that were shown in the presentation.)

The Avro Arrow

However, when the American space program got going a few years later, they hired many former scientists and engineers from the defunct Avro program. And that's how Canada got started with its many contributions to the space program.

Canada was third country in the world to send a satellite into orbit: Alouette.

The Alouette Satellite

Of course, a noteworthy contribution has been the magnificent Canada Arm used on the space station. It was the Canada Arm which really built the station and which continues to play a crucial role.

There was much more, including our role in the Mars ventures and others that are still in the development stage. We have also had quite a few astronauts, including the rather famous Chris Hadfield, the fellow with the moustache. (Of course by highlighting Mr Hadfield, I unintentionally slight the others, which they do not deserve for they are all heroes.)

The audience was small but were rewarded with an excellent talk. The kids that you see were very attentive and got involved in discussion and questions.

So, despite my near faux pas with the battery and being too preoccupied to get the man's name. I was pleased to do this and record the event for myself and for the town.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two Easy But Quick Breakfasts for One

There are two single serving breakfasts that I make from time to time, and both pretty nutritious and are easy peasy.

I do a quick scrambled egg by scrambling the egg in a small round container to which I add a dash of milk and a few shreds of grated cheese. Nuke it for 45 seconds, and Bob's your uncle.

Serve beside toast, or it will fit nicely, right on top of an English muffin. You can even leave the muffin unbuttered if you like, but I didn't like it on unbuttered toast, so now I butter the toast and have it beside the egg.

It's just that the butter probably has more calories than the egg or the toast, so a half of an unbuttered English muffin is pretty good if you're being calorie-minded.

I don't always have ketchup with egg, and never with fried eggs, but I used a little for dipping on this morning, I probably used less than half the ketchup that you see in this plate, which is a small bread plate by the way.

It doesn't look so bad, eh? And the whole thing only takes a few minutes from start to finish. For us the toasting is the longest part of the preparation, for our toaster is S L O W. It does a good enough job, but it's about as quick as I am in the morning.

For our other possibility, Sue figured out how to make a single serving of porridge, or oatmeal, if you prefer.

She keeps a 1/2 cup container at the ready, for the water, and a 1/4 cup container for the oatmeal. She keeps the water measuring cup right by the sink and the oatmeal cup right in the oatmeal container (which is still Tupperware, believe it of not) so we never have to grope about in the morning.

Put them in a microwavable dish and nuke for a minute on high before letting it sit for a minute or so to absorb the water.

Add a dash of milk and a spoonful of brown sugar and Barbara is your aunt.

When I am in an extra nutritious and/or calorie conscious mood, I use 1/4 cup of apple juice and 1/4 cup of water to make up my 1/2 cup of liquid. Then, as the liquid is being absorbed, I add a bit of cinnamon and a few raisins. I don't need brown sugar when I do it that way, which makes me feel much more virtuous.

And who doesn't love feeling virtuous?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Congratulatory Visit

My daughter, Shauna, has recently been given a promotion to a very responsible position. After a few hectic weeks, she made some time for us to take the kids in for a short visit.

We came bearing gifts that the kids had made and flowers.

We all put notes in with the flowers, which Shauna read carefully. Danica was very clever and creative with hers. I can't remember exactly what she wrote, but she made a play on General Manager and wrote something to the effect that she'd always been a GM, or Greatest Mother. Smart kid, that Danica.

Meanwhile, I took a photo of the view from her office ...

... and Sue took a moment to relax and enjoy the proceedings.

Then it was off to lunch.

It wasn't a long visit, but it was a very nice one and a nice celebration for a lady who has done very well in her job.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can We Not Criticize Religion When It Is Merited?

Our propensity to excuse religion for its harmful tendencies came up tangentially in my previous post. While I themed that post around politics and the decline of moderation, I did wonder, in passing, why certain aspects of Islam (in the case of that blog) were out of bounds for criticism.

The cry of Islamophobia is raised whenever anyone dares to criticize some aspect of that religion. It seems, for example, that you are not permitted to make a connection between a jihadist shouting Allahu Akbar (essentially translated as God is Great) and his or her religion in general. Or ISIS fighting for their version of the promised land surely can't have anything to do with religion.

But before I am accused of Islamophobia, let me hasten to add that is see religion-induced problems elsewhere. Take one Jewish orthodox problem in NYC, for example.

Every now and then we are reminded of the problem of baby boys getting the herpes virus from rabbis who circumcise them by chewing on their penises.  Since the year 2000 more than a dozen Jewish baby boys have contracted herpes from this procedure and two of them have died.

Now, I know that those aren't outrageous numbers, but isn't one incident enough to raise the alarm?

But not enough it seems, for an attempt to regulate the practice was abandoned because it was not viewed favourably by some [rabbis]. The eventual rather pitiful compromise was that the rabbis would inform the authorities and regulate those mohels (who perform the oral circumcising) who passed on the herpes virus — once the child had contracted the disease, not before! What good is closing the barn door once the horse is gone?

Neither do I wish to let Christianity off the hook. In the USA, it is a portion of the Christian community that tries to diminish the scientific proof of evolution and teach their children creation fairy tales. They are more often that not the ones who tend to be anti women, anti immigrant, anti universal health care, anti gay rights, and I'm sure there are more antis that could be listed.

In the past election, seventy-two percent of evangelicals chose to vote for a misogynistic megalomaniac who showed no trace of Christian character or values. Why was that? Because they felt that he would give them more political influence (such as allowing churches to become political) and that abortion could more likely be fought under him. That's it.

This is not the place for a Trump debate or an abortion debate, but it is the place to examine, however superficially, the propensity of religion to cause people to believe things that might would not ordinarily believe and to behave in ways that they would not ordinarily behave: ways that often cause strife and division. It is my opinion that it is religion that is largely to blame for the polarization of American politics that I brought up in the previous post.

Before the reader gets all riled up because it might seem as though I am attacking you and your religion or all aspects of all religions, I am happy to acknowledge that most religionists are benign. Most Muslims are not jihadists, most Jews don't practice unsanitary, oral circumcision, and most Christians are moral people who try to do good in this world.

What I am getting at is that, as with all aspects of society, there can be definite negatives and that
bad ideas, even those that stem from religion, should not be necessarily immune from examination and criticism. Society cannot be advanced and problems cannot be properly solved unless all aspects and components, even the religious ones, can be thoroughly studied and evaluated..

Now, how about ending this uncharacteristically serious post with a few light touches ... although I suppose they could raise a few hackles too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Moderate Dilemma

Nowadays, what does one do, and where does one go, when one is a moderate liberal? Of course, a moderate conservative could also ask the same question. What has happened to moderation, period? Who represents moderates anymore?

There was the recent incident where a young Muslim girl was caught on video twerking to some music. She was wearing a hijab at the time and was thoroughly excoriated on social media with vile comments going as far as wishing her to be killed for disrespecting Islam. Seriously? She apologized through emotional tears,

But as far as I am able to discover, not one liberal media outlet stood up for her. Nothing but crickets were heard.

Why is religion in general and Islam in particular so protected by the media, particularly the left-leaning portion of the media? And why has that symbol of female oppression, the hijab, become so sanctified? If you choose to wear it, fine and dandy, but let's not hold it up to be a symbol of female empowerment, for it is quite the opposite.

While I am inclined to rail on about the problems that religion causes, right now, I wish to focus on to the fact that I am particularly distressed by the silence of the left of the political spectrum. It seems that the old, moderate left has been overtaken by the radical left, the illiberal left, the authoritarian left, the regressive left, or whatever you choose to call it. Even the institutions that remain more moderate, for the most part, refuse to stand up to the authoritarianism of the far left, and I just can't understand it.

Speakers have been de-platformed at universities, even moderate ones because they have unpopular ideas. Apparently, students no longer  want to hear ideas other than those that match their preconceptions, and they will shout them down, even erupting into violence. In most cases they haven't bothered to thoroughly examine the speakers' views but are willing to protest based on hearsay.

When a moderate, intellectual woman such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali is de-platformed, there is a problem. She is an ex-Muslim who only wishes to reform Islam, not eradicate it. She's a woman who suffered FGM as a child and who has lived under death threats, but it seems that no one from the left wants to listen to anything that that this intelligent and thoughtful woman might have to say based on her knowledge and experience.

Not even listen! Why not listen, discuss, exchange ideas, even refute if you have something of substance other than screaming to contribute?

Seemingly, the only people willing to speak out about such genuine problems seem to be those from the right, and I am not of the right, for I believe in social justice. I am a pretty centrist sort of bloke who has for the most part leaned a little to the left. I believe in women's rights, universal health care, gay rights, and moderate welfare for the poorest amongst us. So the extreme conservatism as it exists now is very problematic for me. On the other hand, I also believe in free expression, and I don't believe, for example, that religion should be exempt from scrutiny. The left is certainly leaning that way, and it bothers me.

So, here I am, stuck in the middle of an increasingly polarized society in which the two sides prefer to shout at each other while plugging their ears. There just seems nowhere for moderates to go anymore.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Easter Decorating Begins on a Snow Day

I have lost count of all of the snow days this winter, and it ain't necessarily over yet. We had yet another last week, this one caused by ice from freezing rain to be exact (but we still call them snow days in this house). Our driveway was a skating rink in the morning.

Of course, this means that we had the kids all day, but it's not a very demanding task anymore. Danica read a book, and they can both get lost in online games, be they on the computer, phone or tablet. We do, however, have to limit their time, and ask them to do other things.

In the morning, I let Danica try her hand at editing photos in Lightroom. She cropped and adjusted exposure and a few other things, such as clarity, for example. Meanwhile, JJ was helping Sue clean the coffee disks for recycling. Then, they did some colouring, which I choose not to participate in this time around.

In the afternoon, Sue got out the container of Easter decorations, and the kids began to help. The help didn't last long, however, as they were dressing up comically, clowning around, and making long videos after I had taken the following pictures,

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sixty Cents

I came across this post from a nephew-in-law (is there such a thing?) on Facebook: "Hate to sound old but I remember when you could buy lunch for $5." This is the kind to thing that gets a 70 year old thinking ...

Just last week when the ladies were out and it was mid-afternoon and I hadn't yet had lunch, I treated myself to lunch at A&W. I was hungry, so I ordered onion rings to add to the combo of burger, fries and soft drink. Along with our 13% tax, it came to almost $15. Shocked was I.

So, yes, while this nephew is beginning to feel old, imagine how old I feel because ...

... because back in high school, a friend and I would occasionally treat ourselves to lunch at a nearby restaurant. We'd get a hot beef sandwich, with fries and peas for 60¢. Oh yeah, you read that right.

Did you get that?!!

Of course, a coke would have added another 10-15¢. Shocking, I know. We did without anyway but often bought one after school.

This brings to mind the time when Sue and I went grocery shopping early in our marriage in 1969. For some reason the price of bread, whatever it was at the time, got me thinking of how I used to pay 20¢ a few years previously.

So, I did a little inflation calculation in my head and told Sue that we'd someday be paying more than $1 for a loaf. She didn't believe me. Now, the bread that I typically buy can cost $3.99, which is really $4 doncha know.

More items are coming to mind as I roll on this topic. A different friend and I went to a greasy spoon on rare occasions in the 50s. A burger there was 15¢.

A favourite and relatively inexpensive lunch or dinner out for Sue and me has been Swiss Chalet where they serve rotisserie chicken. Last week, lunch cost almost $40 and that was on a special. Although I can't remember the exact amount, I think dinner for 2 cost not much more than $6 in 1970.

Of course, this makes me feel really ancient because to kids today it would seem like that must have been 200 years ago. I used to feel that when my father would tell me how he would get a made-to-measure suit at Tip Top Tailors for $10 in the 1920s.

Going back to the original Facebook comment, one of my nephews commenters said that she now paid $5 for bottled water. I hope it's one heckuva big bottle, for except in rare circumstances, like you're out and thirsty, I think buying bottled water is just nuts.