Sunday, July 31, 2005

Head First

On a very fine Sunday, we went for a bike ride out to the lake and sat and sipped coffee for a spell. When we came home, we discovered that the grandbirds had entered another phase of their short and ever-changing lives. They are, or this one is at least, now poking their heads out of the portal. This is the most advanced rascal and, right now at least, is getting the lion's portion of the food. He simply thrusts himself into the doorway where no other avian can get past: neither the 'rents nor the siblings.

They change ever so quickly. Just a few short days ago, they were not yet fully feathered and would respond positively to our voices. Now, they shrink into silence if they see or hear us near. The next change? One speculates that this guy won't remain in the nest for much longer. In fact, we have the camera set out on the tripod ready to attempt to capture his foray into the wide world. Likely, however, he'll take off when we're still in bed or out doing something or other. We can't sit in anticipation twenty-four hours a day after all.

Hurry up Dad!

Hey Doofus, I'm up here!


Saturday, July 30, 2005

Two Ordinary Photos

Nothing too special: just a couple of photos from recent bike trips. The first, above, is [quite obviously] of two horses that we frequently see on our trip out the concession line. We have taken to riding this road much more than the trail lately. It's less dusty for one thing and slightly easier to pedal for another.

Below, is a photo of the Lake Huron shoreline quite near our regular coffee-stop. Cuppa took this when she was looking for flower photos to post on her blog. She plans to do one of her super duper, imaginative blogs, so it isn't up yet. Look for it to come shortly to a blog near you.


Friday, July 29, 2005

A Flower from the Dad

Sometimes I surprise myself at how maudlin and sentimental I can quickly become.

The other day, Lady Bug (daughter #2, for those who don't know) called and informed us that she had wiped-out badly on her bike. She bikes in traffic in Ottawa, so my heart missed a beat or two when I overheard snatches of the news that she was passing along to Mama Cuppa over the phone. I heard Cuppa gasp words like accident, wipe-out, traffic, scrapes, X-ray, and more. Almost immediately, my eyes filled with emotional tears.

It was an unreasonable reaction because she was clearly alright, albeit badly shaken. But the dad's mind immediately went to the dark places of could'ves. She could've wiped-out while travelling in moving traffic rather than at a traffic light when the cars were stopped. When she fell and rolled, she could've rolled into and under traffic rather than towards the relative safety of the curb.

That's what happened, friends. It was a rainy day, and her tires lost their grip as traffic began to stop for a red light. She doesn't remember falling, just rolling and getting up. Scary stuff indeed.

We called again that evening, and I spoke to her, and she assured me in a too-chipper-to-be-genuine voice that she was fine. Of course, she both was and wasn't fine. She was fine because nothing major occurred, but she wasn't fine because my little girl was shaken and upset. I know that she was trying to make us feel better, and I think that's pretty darn wonderful of her.

So, I got off the phone and convulsed again, and my eyes brim a little even as I write this now. Sometimes, I take my kids for granted and almost forget how much I love them. It shook me to the core to realize how close I could have come to losing one of them the other day.

I love you guys, both of you. And your partners too. I maintain my motto: We are a small family but a great family. So this flower from my garden and from my heart is for you Lady Bug, and for you Butterfly, and for The Boy and Powerpuff too. You're my kids dammit, so take care of yourselves.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Lance and the Boys

vs. AC and the Girl

The Tour de France recently ended. Lance and the boys cycled over 3500k in three weeks. AC and the girl have managed about 2500k in a year (but we have long winters here, don't forget — yeah sure). Lance and the boys average, average mind you, about 41k/h. AC and the girl average about 20.5k/h on a good day. I haven't even topped-out at 41k/h yet. I went as fast as I could today, on flat ground and with a tail wind. I managed to get up to 40k/h. At that speed, I felt unsafe and vulnerable. And after hitting 40k/h — very briefly mind you — I was nigh unto ready to pass out. I have no idea how Lance and the boys do it, and I stand in stupefied and thunderstruck awe. Mighty warriors they.


Canadian Idol: Top Nine

See update below ...

I'm pretty sure that nobody who checks this blog follows Canadian Idol, but I don't care; it's something that I want to do — just for the heckuvit, eh?

This week, I have my top three, in order above from left to right. Two of them didn't make my top five last week. So, you see, everything is pretty fluid right now. I still like Rex the best overall, and I also think that he should outlast most.

Yup, that's my bottom three, simply based on this week. I have Amber, possibly the best pure singer, at the bottom. While she may be a judges' favourite, she was not with it this week, and she's going to have to deliver much better performances if she wants to keep going; she can't just stand there in dowdy clothes and croon soothing sounds. I hope that she lasts long enough to learn to deliver more because she certainly has the requisite vocal ability.

Based on cumulative results so far, I think that Casey, who has been weak for two straight weeks, deserves to go, but she may just be able to hang in there.

I thought that Daryl, whom I picked to go last week, delivered a very good performance and should not be in this week's bottom three. But I am a still, small voice who doesn' even bother to vote, so we'll see (or I'll see) how it all pans out on Wednesday night.

Update: Canada chose not to vote the way that I would have voted, but having said that, you vote for favourites to keep on rather than who should go. I often feel that results would be very different if the voting was done the other way.

Anyway, the bottom three were: Michelle, Josh, and Ashley. Josh was the first to be safe and return to the couch. Both girls were very emotional, but Ashley was the one to go.

Casey dodged another bullet by staying completely out of the bottom three. I think that, in her case, there is some very strong regional voting going on that is upsetting the applecart just a tad.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Not in My Backyard

After posting the previous photo of the two sparrows by the nest opening, I sat on the back deck both to read and to keep the birds in sight. And I became somewhat saddened. For I saw that both parents were now just coming to the perch to feed their chicks. Do you see why that saddened me? That photo shows only two gaping mouths by the entrance. So, I began to despair that three chicks were not getting their fair share and that, in fact, they might not live long enough spread their tiny wings and take flight.

I may be wrong. I hope that I'm wrong.

I know that Tennyson was right when he described nature as being red of tooth and claw, but I'm a tad soft-hearted (and, many would argue, soft headed). It disturbs me to think that life may be extraordinarily brief for several of these little lives.

I know that's how it works and that for Mom and Pop sparrow two healthy progeny are a success. They have done their bit. They have procreated and nurtured two (and hopefully more) carriers of their genes into the wild blue yonder. I know that's how it works, but I don't like it.

Not in my backyard anyway.


Little Big Mouths

The grandkids continue to get louder and louder and drive Maw and Paw into greater and greater efforts to nourish them. Cupster has counted five beaks in there. Two seem to be more advanced and two less so. Now, when we approach the nest and talk to them, at least two beaks thrust themselves right up near the doorway. We'll try not to get too carried away, however, as we don't wish to overly interrupt Maw and Paw as they attend ever so diligently to their duties.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sparrow Watching

Mom and Pop Sparrow are keeping busy indeed: back and forth, back and forth, feeding three hungry mouths. If one can go by the volume of their cheeping, the little ones must be growing apace. I set up the tripod yesterday afternoon, and while my success wasn't huge, I managed to get this sequence. You can just spot Mr Sparrow entering the frame on the left, flying through (middle), and landing on the perch. He seemed busier than Mrs Sparrow for a while that afternoon, but when we were sitting out on the previous night, she seemed to be making two trips to his one.

You might wish to click on this photo for a somewhat larger scale view.

When Mrs Sparrow flies to the nest, she usually lands of the front porch and darts in fairly quickly. However, as shown in the photos above, Mr Sparrow lands on the roof, hops and looks about, then flies to the perch where he usually lingers cautiously before entering — except in the top sequence where he, uncharacteristically, flew straight in.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Small Troubles

Two fine sailboats passing by what passes locally for a skyscraper

On a day which has been just as beautiful as it looks in this photo, I had a little battle with my body and mind. I think it was my body depressing my mind, but, whatever the cause and effect, the two ganged up on me for awhile today.

It has been three days since we last biked, so you would think that my muscles would have recovered. But I have problems with the backs of my upper legs from time to time. Owing to degeneration in my back, I frequently experience a very deep-seated soreness in those muscles. For several years, I took Celebrex to ameliorate the condition, but I ceased and desisted last winter when problems with COX-2 inhibitors came to light. For the most part, I have been getting along well without them, but these particular muscles have felt very weak and worn for the past few days.

That feeling persisted into this morning when we began our ride. I was most discouraged and downhearted about it all and struggled to get going. Eventually, and it did take a quite while, I began to find my legs to some degree, and I began to feel a bit better about myself and about the world.

We were forced to stop our ride out to The Grove prematurely because we encountered a triathlon in progress right along our route — the nerve! Then, on the way back to the city, we discovered that they had foolishly gravelled-over one of our favourite roads. I have no idea what that is supposed to accomplish. If a road requires resurfacing (and I don't think this one did), then do it, but don't gravel it for goodness sakes.

Because our trip had been truncated prematurely at one end, we decided to add mileage to it on the back end. We headed to the waterfront and ran into scores of people and even a marching pipe band. It is the weekend of the annual Mackinac (pronounce it Mackinaw) sailboat race. The boats cruise up the St Clair River into Lake Huron where the race begins. It's quite a sight and brings the gawkers out in droves. And why not? We took the photos from a spot down the river and caught two sailboats passing by the building in the background.

Depending on the route that they choose, these craft will sail from about 230 miles to 290 miles from this end of Lake Huron to Mackinac Island at the northern end of the lake. The race officially begins just before noon on Saturday, and the fastest boats will most likely finish sometime on Sunday night.

After watching for a while, we turned toward home but stopped to see friends on the way. We haven't seen them for a while and caught them up on the news: i.e. our impending move. They brought us up to date on all of their troubles, one of which is that J is to have a cancerous kidney removed in two weeks time. This somewhat older couple also faces many other serious issues with dignity and grace.

It makes my grumpiness over my sore legs seem shallow and petty to say the least. I can't seem to help it at the time though. I just have to plod on forward until the malaise deserts me as it is always forced to do. I guess that's what you do in life. You plod on when you feel like it, and you plod on when you don't feel like it. You keep plodding when the going gets tough. With luck, you plod through the majority of your problems.

I know that I have yet to confront the greater obstacles that Life will , someday, erect in my path, for Mistress Life has been pretty darn kind and gentle me so far. The sailing has been mostly smooth, and the winds have been generally fair. I hope that when the Mistress does choose to let loose the gales, and the seas begin to toss me about that I will be able to summon the grace of spirit to smile into the teeth of the storm.

Yours truly by his bike watching some of the flotilla pass by. Motorboats frequently join the procession along the river.


Friday, July 22, 2005

Mothers Tell Your Children ...

... not to do what I have done

What I have done is to keep adding to my monumental stash of records — not musical records either. Paper records. Years and years of records. Silly records.

The photo shows three bags of shredding, but it doesn't show that there have been other bags, and it doesn't show that there have been boxes upon boxes of other paper that have been or will be put out for recycling. This is in addition to the paper that we parted with last September. We have shredded the more sensitive material this time around, and the rest just goes into boxes. Come garbage collection day, we have been filling up the curbside for weeks now, and this week will be no different.

We have found records that date back more than thirty years. Just today, for example, I found my copy of an income tax return from 1970.

Tell me why I or anyone needs a record dating back ten years to show that our previous automobile was then insured. Tell me why I have kept paperwork establishing the fact that the auto previous to that was insured over fifteen years ago. It gets worse. I found insurance records going back three cars ... and then four!

That's correct! I have in front of me, proof that our 1976 Torino was insured with the Canadian Commerce Insurance Company in 1980. Isn't that special?

It's a fine and even a recommended idea to keep important record, like income tax, for seven to ten years (just in case you understand), but this is ridiculous, doncha know.

It all has to be sorted and discarded by someone eventually. Either you or your scions will have to face the task. So, don't do what I have done and keep stuffing papers here, there, and everywhere for decade upon decade. Just don't do it. And tell your children about this as well. Tell them not to do what I have done.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Too Late

I see that the Detroit Pistons have agreed to pay Larry Brown six million dollars (about 43 trillion Canadian) not to coach next season. If I had only known that they were looking for someone not to coach, I would have been only too happy to submit my application. I would have come cheap too; I would have agreed not to coach for less than half the price — a bargain, I'd say. Alas: I am too late.


Close Call

car wreckYesterday morning in Ontario a police officer ran into a moose. A moose can weigh 1000 pounds, and they say that it is like hitting a brick wall. The officer's car also went into the ditch, so I don't know how much damage was done by the moose and how much was done by the ditch, but the results are the same: Andrew Potts was killed in the encounter, and I offer my condolences.

Five years ago, we were driving in Banff one evening in a light rain. I noticed cars pulled off to the side of the road. I was soon to learn that was a sign that an animal had been spotted and that people were pulling over to gawk. But I didn't know it at the time.

I kept going, exceeding the speed limit slightly, and a huge moose appeared in front of me. What prompted that moose to dart back out of my path, I'll never know, for I don't think I would have been able to swerve far enough in time, for I would have had to swerve into oncoming traffic. Even if I had been able to swerve far enough quickly enough, it would have been just as likely that the moose would have moved in the same direction as I rather than in the opposite one.

Let me tell you, that he stood huge before us in our little Corolla. It was a close call: too close for comfort. There but for the grace of God ...


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Throb of Life

Mr Sparrow flies off after a short visit.

Back in May, I first posted pictures of sparrows at Cuppa's birdhouses. Then, about two weeks ago, I relayed my dismay at their audacious goings-on right on the front porch.

Apparently, their goings-on paid dividends, for recent inspections revealed that they had built a full-blown nest in there. I had thought, in my typically ill-informed manner, that they would simply lay a bit of straw down on the bottom, but I was very wrong, my dear. They constructed a complete and elaborate nest right inside the birdhouse; it even has a roof (or overhang) on it.

Usually, Mrs Sparrow flies off the moment that someone comes out either the back or side door, but last night I was whipper-snipping right by the birdhouse, and I spied her beady little eye staring starkly at me. I deduced that she must have laid eggs, but I was behind the times, for Cuppa had a closer look later when neither Mr or Mrs were home, and she glimpsed three tiny mouths, agape and pointing heavenward.

It's all in the nick of time too, for they should be grown and departed from the nest when we are ready to convey their abode across the province.

I think it's all remarkable: the incredibly well constructed nest, Mother Sparrow's willingness to sit in there and stare me down, and the throb of life ever cycling. What a joy it all is!


Canadian Idol: Top Ten

Last night, the competition started in earnest. It seems to my untutored ear to be a very strong top ten, and, unlike last year when Kaylan seemed to be a shoe-in from the get-go, I can't yet begin to predict the eventual winner.

However, I do think that the above five (with some apologies to Suzi, but I really wanted to make it five and not six) seemed to be stronger than the other five last night. That could change dramatically in future weeks because I think there is talent all of the way through, but some simply did better than others last night. So far, based on his performance in both the top thirty-two and now in week one of the top ten, I have to say that Rex may be my candidate of choice. He sings with joy and a contagious spirit. He's a small-town, Canadian boy who is having an absolute blast in Toronto. The judges, with good reason, love Amber, but she may not have enough charisma to carry the day.

So, who's going to leave the show tonight? I think that it might be Daryl. I wasn't all that impressed with him in the round of 32, but he won his somewhat weak group regardless, so what do I know?

To me the biggest surprise of the night was Josh. I didn't much care for his somewhat eccentric style in the earlier round, but he certainly won me over with his rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah last night.

Update: I was almost correct by picking Daryl to go but not quite. He was in the bottom two. Surprisingly to me, Emily, was the one to go. While she didn't make my top five, I thought that she'd be safe for a few weeks and that she might even step it up and last longer. Melissa was also in the bottom three. That was weird.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Border Views

We enjoyed a rather marvellous day. Cuppa performed something of a miracle by managing to get me out the door and on the bike before nine o'clock. The day was cooler and less humid to begin with, and given the relatively early hour, we biked in relative and enjoyable comfort.

After doing our 45k/28mi and showering, we ended up down by the St Clair River under the bridge that connects us with Port Huron, Michigan. It almost always seems 10°F cooler there by the water, right next to Lake Huron, and so it was very pleasant there today when the normal temperature around here was in the mid-eighties Fahrenheit, which is rather cool for this summer.

Although I have blogged a bit about this before, in Bean American for example, I was almost dumbfounded by the stark contrast between the two sides of the border today. I counted maybe fifteen cars on the American side (far left above — sorry about the distance), but there were probably well over one hundred cars on our side (far right above). People were out on the Canadian side, strolling, sitting on benches and lawn chairs, enjoying the day as they saw fit. I could see no bodies on the American side.

We have three chip (French Fry) trucks under the bridge on our side (one is shown to the left above). There is nothing on the other side. Consider that there is another chip truck and more people in a park to the north of the bridge and two chip trucks and even more people in another park just to the south.

Canadian kids were floating with the current in droves (see middle above). There was always some group or other going by. The current is so strong that it carries them right along; they don't have to swim; they simply go with the flow and have a blast. There were no American kids in the water on the other side. There were also usually about twenty kids or more hanging around right under the bridge. I photographed a few of them to the right (above), and you can see one boy diving off. Again, there were no American kids cavorting on the other side.

Canadian seagulls were even out in force, but there American counterparts were nowhere to be seen. And I couldn't help but include the picture of the Dad and his baby although it has no relevance whatsoever. He had biked the baby there in the cart or whatever that contraption is called. (If you squint, you might be able to see that he is holding the baby up against his shoulder. How wonderful is that?)

I wonder what the differences inland would have been today. Were Americans biking on sideroad and trails like Canadians were, or were they walking the trails and enjoying the same day in the same way? If not, why not?

I can't explain the differences to any great degree. Yes, for whatever reason Americans don't do chip trucks (at least where I have been) so that might explain a small part of it. But we have several music festivals by the water in summer, and they don't. It's not like the physical environment is any different on this side of the river. They have the same climate on the other side: same summers, same winters. Why aren't they out enjoying such a fine summer day too? What the heck are they all doing anyway?

It's all very curious to this old fella.

(PS: I'm not making any value judgements; I am simply observing and reporting.)


Monday, July 18, 2005

Raindrops on Anvilcloud

This summer has been hot and dry — extremely hot and dry — up until Saturday, that is. We decided to have coffee at the bay, and, as you can see in the above photo, the rain rolled in.

It soon rolled on past us, but caught us again later when we were at the library and the heavens opened yet again. We tried waiting the storm out, but since it showed no signs of abating, we decided to dash for the car, or at least I did. I pulled it up as close as possible for Cuppa, but she still got rather drenched.

The trip home from the library was amazing. The water was so deep on the road that I our CRV was spraying it up over the roof despite the fact I was driving slowly and carefully. The storm sewers were so full that water was actually spouting (yes spouting) out of them.

The rain passed, and the heat quickly reasserted itself, so much so that we couldn't face the bicycles today, not even in the supposed cool of the morning. We opted to stay in and do some more sorting and packing. Later, I decided to bbq some chicken for supper. No sooner did I get out there than a big black cloud began bearing down on me. Cuppa found me an umbrella, just in the nick as it turned out (see below — note the drops on the lens).

Actually, I rather enjoyed cooking in the rain. It reminded of a time in the tent. We were just testing a new tent in the backyard prior to a trip. I awoke in the night to a heavy rain. It absolutely exhilarated me, to the point where my heart seemed to beat in resonance.

I have been in the tent in the rain subsequent to that but have never experienced the same thrill, even two summers ago when we were camping in northwestern Ontario by Lake of the Woods. One night we heard the wind and rain chugging toward us like a freight train from across the lake. That was a petty great too, but what wasn't so great were the ensuing days of rain, way out there in the wilderness where there was little to do of an indoor nature — because there isn't much indoors up there — it's the great outdoors . Needless to say, we cut that camping trip a bit short and haven't camped again since then, and I'm not sure if we ever will camp again.

Oh, we'll probably still pitch the tent by the river when we're next at Riverwood, but that's hardly the same because we'll just sleep in it. The cottage will be nearby to offer us all of the necessary amenities — including that ever so vital internet access to which we have grown ever so accustomed.

The outdoors is great when the weather is amenable, but the modern comforts are called comforts for a reason.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Stirring the Pot Again

Blogging can be a little bit like dating. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you are in deep trouble.

So it is that My Modest Shabbat blog of yesterday has led me into contemplating the Ten Commandments today. There is no way that my wildest dreams caused me to believe that I would ever blog about what the divine finger wrote on the stone tablets on Mount Sinai, but here I am — probably in deep trouble in blogland — yet again!

Actually, I'm not going to say a lot about the Big Ten, but here they are as found in Exodus 20 of the NJKV. Some of the commandments, such as Honor your father and mother, are elucidated more fully in Exodus, and some, such as You shall not murder, are not. I have pared each commandment with the possible exception of the second down to its essence, but I have not altered the text.

I will continue my pathetically paltry thoughts once you have refreshed your memory.

You shall have no other gods before Me

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

Honor your father and your mother

You shall not murder

You shall not commit adultery

You shall not steal

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor

You shall not covet

What I wonder is, how or why we have chosen to take certain commandments very literally but not others. Hmmm, but now that I say that, I'm not sure that we do take many seriously, except I suppose for not murdering and perhaps not stealing. On the other hand, our society (not everybody in all circumstances, mind you) pretty well tolerates lying, coveting, dishonoring parents, not remembering the Sabbath, and certainly taking the Lord's name in vain. Come to think of it, we're also pretty darn tolerant and forgiving of adultery; we go as far as to almost honor it — in much popular entertainment at least.

When I juxtapose Christendom's sometimes cavalier attitude toward keeping many of the above commandments, against its frequently frenzied passion over the gay issue, I scratch my head in bafflement. Recently, for example, headlines were made when the parents of a gay seventeen year-old boy sent him away to be deprogrammed. For goodness sakes: how and why do we get so worked up over this supposed sin but so often permit ourselves to casually disregard so many of the real Ten Commandments? The gay issue didn't even make the list, yet much of the Church tends to put it close to the very top of their list. Why?

To me, there is a huge credibility gap here. How do the good folk, for I don't doubt that most are just that, rationalize their disregard for some of the divine law while getting completely lathered up over an issue that He chose not to include in the Big Ten?

You see? That's where I end up. From a simple blog about having a restful day yesterday, I have to go and stir the pot and get all controversial. Sometimes I can't seem to help myself. I am really not being anti-Christian, folks, nor am I accusing even most Christians of that which I write today. But you know the views that are out there just as well as I. And it bothers me. Quite a bit actually.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Modest Shabbat

And on the seventh day God ended his work ... and he rested ... from all his work ...

Genesis 2:2, KJV

I remember when I was young and it was verboten in our house to turn on the TV on Sunday. I remember our religion involving a lot of nots. We did not gamble, smoke, drink, dance, go to movies, or go to amusement parks. The nots included certain Sunday prohibitions, including TV and sporting activities.

There was one Sunday afternoon when I went to a local park just to throw a football around with the friend. My father saw me participating in this fiendish behaviour on his way to church late that afternoon and crossed the field in his suit and tie in order to reprimand me. I remember telling my friend that I had to go. I wasn't particularly upset, but I didn't really buy into the belief structure either.

When I was a little older, it became time to begin rejecting some of these nots, and while I was never particularly rebellious, when I finally did happen to venture into an amusement park, I found that I rather enjoyed myself, didn't feel that I was stepping into evil or into the devil's clutches, and I was quite content to return periodically. Of course, I was suitably dressed down for partaking in these "worldly activities" ... but I knew that they weren't really worldly, so it didn't bother me a whole lot. In other ways, I maintained the faith that I had received.

Sometimes, perhaps, we throw the baby out with the bathwater, however. I am beginning to think that the intrinsic idea of taking a day or rest and reflection is rather a good one.

Today, I felt in need of rest. We have been on two bike rides in the heat in the last two days and certainly extended ourselves on yesterday's foray. We so exerted ourselves that upon our return, my shirt was so weighted with perspiration that it seemed to weigh the best part of twenty pounds when I unstuck it from my skin and peeled it slowly over my head. Then, for much of the remainder of the day, we resumed our shifting, sorting, and packing; we have been doing rather a lot of that lately. It short, we were a tired couple today.

So, it was time for a change. We sipped coffee by the bay this morning, went to the library, read the paper, read blogs, and generally did little that resembled work or any sort vigorous activity that would normally be labelled as productive. It felt good, however. It seemed to be what our bodies and spirits craved.

It's not Sunday; it's the Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat. I did not observe the day strictly, of course. I simply rested from the kinds of activities that had left me drained. And it felt good.

Maybe this is an idea to which we should return: not in a legalistic way but with the intention of restoring our bodies, minds, and spirits. I wonder how Sunday was allowed to become the official sports day? And why must all stores open? There are so many enticements that we forget to fill up our souls in whatever way that might be meaningful to us. We go on and on like this, but it seems to me that we really should get off the merry-go-round periodically, and once per week seems like a worthily benchmark to me.

Unless it is part of your spiritual practice, I don't think Sunday has to be your chosen day of rest. It could be Saturday or any other day that works into your schedule and lifestyle. I think it would do many of us good, however, to celebrate our own Shabbat, or day of rest.

"Guarding Shabbat mean adhering to the myriad restrictions imposed by Jewish law that ensure that you will not work. This represents the passive aspect of Shabbat — refraining from work. "Remembering Shabbat, by contrast, means taking positive actions to increase the joy and peacefulness of your life.

Jewish Ritual, Olitsky and Judson


Friday, July 15, 2005

Major Disappointment

This morning when I got up, I spotted the most promising note on the kitchen table. It was one of the yellow sticky notes. It said, "Turn AC on."

Of course, I thought that I was in luck.

However, both breakfast and the morning came and went without a scintilla of seductivity directed towards yours truly. No rolling of the shoulders, no waving of the hips, no batting of the eye lashes, no hint of the delight that was sure to be mine before the day was done.

No afternoon delight either.

And no special dessert following supper.

Bedtime: I am primed, grinning from ear to ear.

Says I, "So, hunny bunny are you ready to turn AC on?"

Cuppa gets up and turns on the air conditioning.

Groaned I, "Oh, that AC!"

Now that's one major disappointment!!


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Colonel Torpidity

It is a well known fact that General Lassitude had a cousin in the northern army who rose to greater ranks. His name was Colonel Torpidity. By all accounts the Colonel was a brilliant tactician or would have been if he could have shaken off his lethargy. Alas, the enemy surprised him at nap time around ten o'clock in the morning one day and shot him while he was trying to suppress a yawn as he supinely cradled his favourite teddy bear.

Anyway, this old and odd couple, known as Anvilcloud and Cuppa, is getting a trifle weary of packing boxes, making daily trips to Goodwill to donate usable discards, filling boxes with recycling, and filling garbage bags with ... well, with garbage of course ... or trash, which I understand is the preferred word south of the border. And is it rubbish in the UK? Can't remember.

Tomorrow, which will be today (Thursday) for most of you, we are determined to put ourselves first and get out on the bikes, weather permitting. If we go in the morning (mind you, like the good Colonel and his cousin General Lassitude, I am not a morning person), we should beat the heat, which has been rather torrid lately — in the mid-thirties celsius or mid-nineties Fahrenheit. Those temperatures may well be namby pamby stuff for many of you hot-weather Murkins, but it puts us poor Canuckleheads in mind of what hell must be like when Lucifer is feeling particularly peckish. If it rains, which is a possibility, all bets are off. We'll continue to pack, but our mental health will deteriorate significantly or at least it would if it were room for any further deterioration.

So, what with heat and packing and all, I haven't done well with blog-commenting lately. I just now read a bunch of your wonderful blogs and only managed one brief three-word comment on one, solitary blog. I am reading, folks, but I find myself staring vapidly at the comment section before moving on groggily.

However, I did come across this rather useful site for those who are interested in digital photography. It's a basic Digital SLR overview offered by Canon. Chances are that if you own a digital SLR, you already know this stuff, but review never hurts, and you might also appreciate the way that it is put together. I think it would be suitable for non-SLR shutterbugs as long as you have an SLR-like camera with some advanced features. Click to explore.


Monday, July 11, 2005

General Lassitude

I am suffering from the same complaint as that southern general. His name was Lassitude, and I am suffering from the state of ennui that was surely named in honour of the great, aforementioned general. Indeed, I am in a state of General Lassitude, even though I am in the province of Ontario. We don't generally have states here, just provinces, but it just doesn't work for me to confess that I am in a such a province.

Well, let me show you: I'm in a province of General Lassitude folks. You see? Perhaps it was because the good general who is renown for never losing a battle that he was able to get around to attending was American, although I swear that most of you refer to as Murka and to yourselves as Murkins. Be careful there, that's getting close to murky, and we Canadians like to look upon murkiness as our bailiwick although the Brits what with their Old bailey and all seem to believe all bailiwicks theirs. I don't think they have a General Bailiwick, however.

It happened this morning, this feeling of being as useless as a dead southern general who never won a battle ... nor lost one for that matter. I could not face manufacturing a serious blog. London, terrorists, African poverty, the state of America (oops, Murka), environmental degradation — nothing clicked. Nor did I feel like being religiously or political controversial. Thanks heavens for small mercies, eh you little bloglodites.

I contemplated my blogging ennui off and on throughout the day. Then, it struck me. It's summer! That in and of itself seems hardly revelatory, but it brought to mind that I was repeating a pattern: to wit, losing some interest in computerdumb in the summer. Not a complete loss of interest but a partial waning. In the past, this might have worried me, but I am now used to the pattern because I know that my interest will revive in September, and I almost feel comforted to have Ennui find me again. A say 'again' because last summer the usual pattern did not strongly recur. Therefore, it took me a while to recognize the old general when he resurfaced to reclaim its own this summer.

That means that I'm okay. It means I'll be back on track come September. I am already contemplating CSS and Photoshop books to order for the fall and perhaps taking a few courses too. Until then, I'll blog a bit, but I won't get too worried when watching the sparrows fly in and out of their house seems like a more worthwhile use of time.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Shake Those Tail Feathers

Poverty, war, terrorism. We need a break! I hope this little offering provides at least a little breather from the world's troubles for you, dear reader.

Back in May, I posted a photo of these same two birds (I trust), sitting on this same birdhouse. Apparently, they moved in sometime in our long, June absence. I can see straw inside, and at dusk, I can see the feathers of a at least one sparrow, hunkering down for the night.

I took the picture of Daddy sparrow, and then tried to move closer. He moved off in some alarm and, evidently, signalled the imminence of grave danger to Mama sparrow. She popped her head out forthwith, and they flew off together, barely affording me enough time to snap her picture.

When I say that they have set up housekeeping, I'm not kidding. They are so comfy in their digs that I caught them doing The Big Naughty right on their front porch. I thinks that's simply scandalous, and I told them so in no uncertain terms. Then, they did it again.

In retrospect, I must commend both their quick restoration time and their joie de vivre. I have frequently been called a birdbrain, and I say, bring it on!


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Courageous and Inspirational Brits

There is nothing much that I can add to the day's sad events in London. It's all being said elsewhere better than I could ever hope to say it. I grieve with you Brits, but let me say that I am also so impressed by you. The calm, aplomb and grace by which you carry yourselves at such a time is truly amazing and inspirational. Sometimes when I read or watch British mysteries, I often think that I am a Brit at heart, and with my lineage that's not much of a stretch. Well, my heart is certainly with you today.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

C'mon, Be Brave

In the spirit of continuing adventure, I have posted a back comment as a reply to other comments on my last post about Poverty in Africa. Some people have commented that they sometimes reply by email, and I have been known to do that too. Unfortunately, some of you hide your email addresses with great diligence. Read on, ye of the lily livers.

Seriously, well somewhat seriously, back in February, I posted that I was going to try posting a email link on my sidebar. At the same time, I activated my email address on my profile page. In that blog, Email Trial, I referred you to a page that would concoct a script that should do a pretty good job of hiding your address from probing bots.

Well, it's worked for me. That public address receives no sp*m. Zilch. Nada. Oddly enough, the address from which I write to people does receive a bit of sp*m. The odd thing about that is that I have never published that address anywhere. It has been harvested from someone's computer. Oh yes!

So, why not get all brave and try the script and post an address? If you do get sp**med, cancel that account and curse that %$#@ Anvilcloud.

I have lots of gmail invitations. If you need a disposable account, write to me. The link to my address is posted for all to see. Oh, I am sooo brave.


Poverty in Africa

Leading up to and in the wake of Live 8, there are many opinions being expressed about Africa and its rather impoverished state. Blogs have been written as we try to come to grips with this topic. In most cases we blog sincerely and to the best of our ability but without much expertise.

The following article in The Toronto Star is written by Paul Dodds who appears to be genuinely knowledgeable on this topic. Interestingly, he posits that Africa might benefit from less, not more, global interference. Here is an excerpt.

Africans grew their own food, built their own houses, healed their diseases, developed their own transportation systems and created their own art, myths and music. This involved a vast array of skills and considerable knowledge. Colonization marked a brutal disruption of all of it. Africans were taken from their villages and farms in order to work in mines and on plantations. There they learned skills required to take a subservient role in the production of goods that other people wanted.

When the supply of these natural resources failed, when European demand for the goods faltered or when a cheaper source for them was found elsewhere in the world, these industries died and Africans were faced with economic and social collapse. Africans had lost the knowledge, infrastructure and the social arrangements needed to take care of themselves.

But why did Canada, the United States and Australia not end up poor if colonization is the cause of Africa's poverty? Ironically, these regions were blessed with being relatively resource poor. There was no gold or silver in those colonies. The early immigrants who arrived here came not to exploit wealth but to develop their own self-sufficient societies. Because we were resource poor we were left relatively alone by the colonizing power.

It is instructive to note that the native populations in these same developed nations continue to live at a level of poverty comparable to that of Africa. Our colonization, unlike that in Africa, never ceased and on both continents the original inhabitants remain impoverished.

Read the entire article at The Toronto Star.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Commenting Conundrum

Late last week I was contemplating blog comments. Specifically, I was wondering about following up comments made to my posts. Generally speaking, I haven't much responded to comments. For the most part, I don't have a controversial blog that stirs people up, so it's not a huge issue. Seldom do I feel the necessity of commenting back to you.

But if I do want to get back to you, I don't really know the best way to do it. Do you go back to comments that you posted and look for replies, or should I just go to your blog and comment there? Personally, I only sometimes think go back to see if there is has been any follow-up to comments that I have posted on someone else's blog, so I'm not too sure what everybody else does.

Then, in an odd sort of synchronicity, my Happy Fourth post seemed to fan a few flames. Keith made a long comment, and I felt that I should respond. Anonymous chimed in, making it clear that s/he did not think much of Keith's views. After that, -epm offered his usual trenchant observations, and Keith responded to him. If you haven't been back, you might find the dialog interesting. Click here to go directly to the comments.

Any comments?


Monday, July 04, 2005

Blog Links Updated

Partly because I don't use my blogroll as a launching pad to check other blogs, and partly because I have a mental thing about adding to the roll, I haven't made any additions for quite a while. I have finally got around to adding some. I have added some of the blogs that I have been reading for a while and that I think might appeal to others. I do read some other blogs that suit me fine but might not grab everyone, and I have recently begun to read others that please me a lot and that will probably get added when I next get to this task. Don't feel slighted if you're not listed at this point. It means naught.

New blogs in alphabetical order:

Anybody Home
Black Currant Jam
Fumbling for Words
Just Another Day


Happy Fourth

Hello any American neighbor and friend who drops by this blog on or near The Fourth of July. I wish you a wonderful day of celebrating your wonderful and great country. As I have said before, in Bean American for example, I don't think that I've ever met an America whom I haven't liked. You are a warm, friendly, and generous people — salt of the earth, as it were.

When I thought of greeting you today, I recalled a radio broadcast that I once heard. Gordon Sinclair paid the following tribute to your country at a time when things seemingly could have been going better for you. I was shocked to learn, when I found the speech online that it first aired way back in 1973. Seems like just yesterday that I first heard it, but I guess all of the old fogies say that.

The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany. It has declined there by 41% since 1971 and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.

As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Who rushed in with men and money to help? The Americans did.

They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Misssissippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help. Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.

When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.

When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help... Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped.

The Marshall Plan .. the Truman Policy .. all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans.

I'd like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes.

Come on... let's hear it! Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 107? If so, why don't they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or women on the moon?

You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times ... and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them ... unless they are breaking Canadian laws .. are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here.

When the Americans get out of this bind ... as they will... who could blame them if they said 'the hell with the rest of the world'. Let someone else buy the Israel bonds, Let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won't shake apart in earthquakes.

When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.

Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbours have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.

I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians. And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke.

This year's disasters .. with the year less than half-over… has taken it all and nobody...but nobody... has helped.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Shasta Daisy

What a miserable night! I had the hot body, cold shoulder thing going on again, and I was in a rather wretched state. Nighttime has been pretty good since my last formal complaint to you, back on May 28, so I'll do my best to refrain from whingeing too very much, but really M' Lord ...

It any event, I was up on the early side this morning, and I spent some time with my camera and came up with the following photo. I was rather lucky with it, I think. The background simply came out fuzzy and dark, so the whole photo is of two slightly out-of-focus Shasta Daisies. It was also taken from the back side, so you don't see their sunny faces, but I think that's okay too. Aside from a feeble attempt to frame the photo, no post-processing has been done. I can't make that claim very often!


Friday, July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day ...

... and Happy Us Day, Thirty-Eight Years Later

Thirty-eight years ago (plus a few hours ago now), Canada turned 100. After Young Peoples on June 30, 1967, many of us headed to downtown Toronto and Nathan Phillips Square to witness the turning of the calendar to July 01. It was Canada Day, and we were 100 years old.

Cuppa and I were only on the verge of becoming a couple. In fact, we got there (downtown) in separate cars that night. I was actually with two other girls — in a pretty innocent way, of course. I remember hoping against hope that I might find Cuppa in the crowd, and I did. I grabbed her hand and we walked along Yonge Street together, celebrating the birthday of the country and, as much as we didn't know it then, our own birthday — as a couple.

It was the night that seemed to seal us together (no not that way). We'd had a few dates if you can call them that before, but, after that night, we were an item and have been together ever since.

Today we rode our bikes for the first time in almost three weeks. We packed, gardened, and didn't celebrate ... but we were together, still together, always together.

Happy Birthday to Us and to Canada



And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

If seven if a good and heavenly number, then I must indeed be under the grace of divine benediction.

Early last week, I was gimping around Butterfly's place near Ottawa with a bad back, and our bicycles were languishing in the garage. With little else to do, Cuppa and I decided to view some properties. We have been looking around the province for several years now but have never been able to find that perfect (or almost perfect) little place.

We began our search several years ago by looking in the country, near Riverwood, where we love to vacation with chickadees and any other critters who wish to touch our lives in passing (start here and look in January to early February blogs for photos if you weren't with me then and care to look). The first [real] blog that I ever posted, in May 2004, City Mouse or Country Mouse, dealt with this theme: of living in the country. However, after looking prodigiously at rural properties, nothing fell into place. For one thing, almost anything that we could afford was on a small lot. Who wants to live on a small lot in the big country? We wanted to have woods to walk in and trails to follow, not be cramped onto a city-size lot without any of the benefits of city life.

Then, last autumn, we turned our attention to towns near Butterfly and The Boy: near but not right there in the same town. We came closer but were unable to finalize an agreement. This spring, we more or less gave up and decided to start sprucing up our existing domicile, beginning with the guest bedroom and extending into a major kitchen renovation.

So, we hadn't exactly intended on even looking at properties on this visit with the kids, but with my back problems providing scant other diversion, we ended up calling a real estate agent. We looked at a few places, saw one we liked and, after mulling it over, decided to have another look at it the next day, Tuesday, the 19th. We put in an offer and had an agreement within a short period of time.

It's a little townhouse, a place without too much upkeep, about seven minutes from the kids' place. Several days later we drove back home: a seven hour drive across the province. We soon put our house up for sale and both received and accepted an offer almost as soon as the ink was dry. That was on June 26, only seven days after we had agreed to purchase our new house.

So, it is my fond wish that finding this 777 sequence augurs well: seven minutes, seven hours, seven days. It sure seems much more than 111 points better than the infamous 666 combination.