Monday, October 31, 2005

The Population Explosion

Part of me wants to blog about Halloween today, but I feel the need to continue what I have somehow gotten myself into: a discussion of demographics. If only no one had commented on and/or asked questions about my "Good On Ya, Oprah" piece, this wouldn't have happened. You know?

This is the very same graph that appeared on the previous blog: The Classic Demographic Transition Model. If you haven't done so already, you should consider reading that post before you read this one.

The classic model (repeated above) is based on the actual experience of the DCs. It's a model based on reality, not hypothesis or conjecture although there has been some conjecture involved when we have applied it to the LDCs. It must necessarily be conjecture, for they have not travelled all of the way through the four phases to the end. Those countries, without many exceptions, are now in either phase two or phase three: the explosive phases of growth — the population explosion that we have all heard about.

A main problem was that the trigger that has more recently moved LDCs out of phase one into the transition was very different from the trigger that moved DCs into and through the process. You recall that there was development and change within DCs that caused the demographic shift to begin and continue. In the case of LDCs, however, the impetus was not brought about by internal development but by external factors: namely, colonialism.

When the colonists arrived in what we call the third world, they brought with them the knowledge that they had developed. Along with the mercenaries and exploiters, they also brought humanitarians: doctors, nurses, social workers. We continue do this now: many of us give to World Vision, the Red Cross, CARE, or Oxfam for example. We give to help those in need. We give food, water, medicine, and education. In effect, we of the DCs export these life-extending techonolgies to the LDCs, technologies that have caused the drastic reduction in infant mortality and the concomitant population explosion. And then we blame them for having too many children! Put simply: our interference caused more and more third-world children to live into adulthood and reproduce their own children who also survived to reproduce.

The population explosion was on! It had taken all of human history to put about a half billion people on the earth by 1750, but only about ninety years to double that to one billion by about 1840 (all numbers and times rounded very approximately). By about 1940 we had added our second billion people, our third by 1965, and our fourth billion by 1980. In not much more than two hundred years, the planet's population had skyrocketed from .5 billion to 4 billion. Twenty years or so later, we are well over the 6 billion mark, about 6.5 billion as a matter of fact.

What a monumental shift we have set in motion! Somewhere around the 1960s, with 3 billion bodies already on the planet, the possible repercussions began to dawn on demographers. Where would this end? How could we possibly feed billions upon billions of extra mouths when there was already rampant poverty, starvation, and misery? What tragedies were waiting to unfold?

Demographers postulated that the LDCs would be mired in phases two and three — the population explosion — for a terribly long time. It seemed a reasonable assumption, for the DCs had needed to develop from within in order to proceed through the transition to the new low-growth stage four of the model. The economy had needed to change; industrialization had had to occur. Seemingly, such development was occurring only at a snail's pace in LDCs. If so, how long would the population explosion last and how many people would it add?

To repeat: it was thought that the if the economy and society didn't develop first, then people would not see the need to have fewer children. You see, children are a poor man's wealth. It was true for our ancestors in Europe in 1750, and it was true for Asians in 1950 and later. Despite popular misconceptions, there never was a time when people in LDCs began to have more children. In fact, they began to produce fewer offspring than before, but the decline was neither rapid enough or significant enough to diminish the extraordiarily rapid growth that was occurring because more and more people were living into their reproductive years.

I hope you get that! I hope that you get that they weren't or aren't recklessly spawning hordes of little ones. In fact, it's all our fault in a sense! It was us who changed their world and caused the population explosion. I don't know how we could not have done it, how we could have stood idly by and not responded to the plight of millions upon millions of people. I can't stand by even now. I feel it incumbent on me to donate my few paltry pennies to earthquake relief in Pakistan; and, I feel shamed into doing something at Christmas — this year choosing to aid a girl in crisis . How can I do otherwise?

I realize that I am yet again becoming long-winded and tedious, so how can I wrap up this part two in short order? (Yes, there may be a part three, Virginia.) Let me say that the demographers were partly wrong. Many educational and social initiatives have helped to teach people to have fewer children. Even on their own, these dear people begin to see that their children are surviving and that they need not bear so many offspring. Demographers once thought that the LDCs would be locked in phases two and three for an eternity as it were. They envisaged a future of unchecked population growth: standing room only.

Well, it's not going to happen. Fertilty rates are declining almost everywhere. Because the world's population is now so young, billions more people will necessarily be added to our ranks in the next fifty years, even as couples start and continue to bear fewer and fewer children. Yes, we'll probably add another three or four billion even though the vast numbers of people in their reproductive years only bear two or three children each. Three of four billion is not a trifling number, but it does represent the end of the population explosion. The total population of the planet will level off at a staggering 9 to 11 billion (approximately), but at least it will not be the sixteen or twenty billion or more that we had once speculated.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Classic Demographic Transition Model

Alright, let me give this a whirl. In my last post, I mentioned that fertility rates were declining in DCs (Developed Countries). Let's explore a bit about population growth and trends, but let's do it as concisely as possible without getting too technical or lost in statistics. Let me do it from memory, and let me construct my own version of the classic Demographic Transition Model as shown above. There must be ten thousand of these on the net, but I played about in Photoshop to make my own. I needed to elevate my path-making and path-stroking abilities in Photoshop anyway. I need to supply a bit of background before I can talk more about both rapid and negative population growth; so here is The Classic Demographic Tranisition Model.

Very simply, the graph is based on the actual experience of the DCs. In stage one, you see both high birth rates and high death rates. The difference between the two lines represents population growth. This is what it was like in DCs in the past — several hundred years ago or more. Our antecedents made lots and lots of babies. But a lot of children died young, and people didn't really live that long anyway. Therefore, natural increase (population growth) was low and slow.

They made lots of babies because they actually needed children. At that point in history, children were an economic asset and not a liability as they are now. They could be put to work young and help on the farm or earn tiny amounts of income in other ways. Children served as old age security accounts. When you were too old to fully pull your weight, you would live with your kids. This was the extended family in action.

Several hundred years ago, or more or less, depending on the country, knowledge began to increase rapidly. This led to the industrial revolution and changed the way that we lived; the great migration from rural to urban areas began and continues. However, it wasn't just the economy that changed, but it was also knowledge in general. We learned about health and sanitation and even how to produce more food. Death rates plummeted (see the blue line in phase2). Our birth rates remained high, however, because people were simply accustomed to having and needing many children. It took a generation or two for it to sink in that people didn't need to have a dozen children in order to guarantee the survival of a few. It also took a while for them to be made truly aware that children were no longer an economic benefit but an economic liability. My paternal grandfather, for example, had fifteen brothers and sisters, but he only had one child. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.

People like my grandfather did figure it out, however, and in phase three, they did begin to lower their birth rates and produce fewer and fewer children. The gap between birth rates and death rates narrowed until in recent times, mostly in the last forty or fifty years, when we entered phase four that there is once again only a small gap between birth rates and death rates.

An important point in all of this is that it is somewhat natural to have large families and somewhat adaptive to have small ones, like we do in DCs now. We must also clearly realize that the Developed Nations did experience a population explosion that was significant and lasted for up to several hundred years. It must be understood that the population explosion is not something that has just begun recently and is not something that is confined to the presently Developing Countries.

There is more to say about Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and more to say about more recent demographic trends here in DCs, but, if anyone is still with me, and I don't expect you to be, this entry is quite long enough. I'll post a part two when the planets align correctly.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Good On Ya, Oprah

Some things are truly mind-boggling. Just recently our government seemed to come to the starling realization that Canada should boost its immigration quotas because we are heading towards low and even negative population growth. To be fair, Canada has had one of the best immigration records on the planet; per capita we even do better than the great magnet that is the USA — at least we did last time I really looked at the numbers — but, immigration notwithstanding, our fertility rates point to the inevitability of a future population decline.

What boggles me is that it simply isn't news! Approximately twenty years ago, we were aware of this impending scenario in a high school course that I taught. High school, not university, not a think tank full of post-doctorate genii: High School! In fact nothing but a walloping big change in immigration could alter this fact. Given fertility trends — the fact that Canadian women are only bearing about 1.5 children — population decline is almost inevitable. The same trends are occurring in every developed country by the way; and, this process is even further advanced in Europe than it is in North America and Australia.

By way of note: replacement fertility level is 2.1. If women bear an average of 2.1 children, that is just enough to replace the current population over the long haul.

So, how does this suddenly become newsworthy when my lowly high school students were aware of these trends twenty years ago? It boggles the mind I tell you.

This whole scenario resurfaced in my consciousness just a few days ago when Oprah did a show on Global Warming. Once again, this material is not new, nor should it be news. But it seems that it is. I don't have the time or energy to go into the particulars here, and it's all on her website anyway, but I find it just a tad mind-boggling that not everybody knows about it, really knows about it and is tremendously concerned about it. Once again, high school students in this obscure blogger's classes were very much aware of the Global Warming issue a long, long time ago.

Yes, I know that one scientist in every 49 billion or so, says that s/he doesn't concur. But who wants to take the chance that the almost-solitary naysayer is correct? In overwhelmingly large numbers, scientists believe that human activities are having a tremendous influence on the environment. Back twenty years ago, we were learning that warmer isn't better, that the pace of warming was such that the environment could not properly adjust, that warming meant that weather would be more unpredictable and exacerbated. Droughts might be more frequent and more pronounced, for example; hurricanes too!

I wish to be neither a doomsday prophet nor an "I told you so," kind of guy. All I'm saying is that I shake my head when leaders, countries, and people seemed to be shocked to be now discovering these things — in the year 2005 C.E.

But I will tell you this, however. I will tell you that my hat is off to Oprah. It was just a day or two before that show that I turned to Cuppa and remarked on her great intelligence (Oprah's I mean although I hasten to assure you that Cuppa is a clever lady too). By times, I would like to throttle her (once again, Oprah, not Cuppa) for interrupting her guests ad nauseam, and I have sometimes suggested to Cuppa that Oprah might just as well interview herself every day. But she is a very smart lady, and, beyond that, she is wise. And she has a voice, a very big voice. As she educates the public, perhaps the politicians will begin to do their jobs.

Perhaps I am dreaming, but Good On Ya anyway, Oprah.

(It boggles my mind how many times I used "mind-boggling" in this blog.)


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rockin, Not Shakin Ms Journal

A lot of us are, including Dale who wrote I'm Shaking Ms Journal, exactly one week ago when he was feeling the cold, doing our best not to turn our the furnaces on until November. Towards the end of every October, this becomes a bit of an endurance test. It's a Canadian thing, or at least a southern Canadian thing; I can't imagine that Martin, up there inside the Arctic Circle, would contemplate such a thing. (By the way, Martin, I still have trouble commenting on your site. I've been having trouble commenting on a lot of sites lately, but I've always had that trouble on Eclectic Blogs.)

Last evening, the kids had us over for supper, and The Boy shamefacedly confessed to having turned on the furnace for about an hour when he got home yesterday. He claimed that it was down to 13°C/55°F and that he really needed to take the chill off. Although I'm sure that he exaggerated somewhat, nobody blamed him. But my own rectitude in this matter leaves me feeling like a holy martyr because I am holding firm in my resolve.

Yes, we did capitulate when we had company last weekend. We didn't want Mary's sweet potato soup freezing over before she dipped her spoon in. Did we? And although I'm told that some have fantasies in this area (ménage à trois I am told), we didn't want her crawling into bed with us either in a desperate search for warmth.

Besides, I already endure a crowded bed of three. It's the cat, of course! He may be small but he manages to take up a disproportionate amount of space. Not only that, but he has taken to sleeping by my feet! I don't know why. Cuppa is his favourite person. I lose count of the number of times that he simply uses me to get to her. We'll be sitting on the couch, Cuppa and me, watching tv. Suddenly, he jumps up on my lap; I begin to feel fuzzy-hearted and proud to be blessed by the Furry Critter of Purr. It is invariably at that moment that he chooses to shatter my spirit by crossing over to Cuppa's preferred lap.

So, it boggles my miniscule mind to fathom why he is sleeping at my feet and not hers. It can't be for comfort because I am taller than Cuppa, and I'm sure that my longer legs cause some discomfort; surely he endures numerous kicks, nudges, and proddings through the night. But he persists. Some cats skedadle at the slightest twitch of an eyebrow, but not The Rocks who endures like ... well, like a rock.

Eventually, in these circumstances, I often begin to feel constrained. What with Cuppa taking her 55% of the bed on my left and Rocky taking his 35% on my right, I sometimes find my 20% to be rather confining and feel the need to seek alternate accommodations. It's not always his/their fault as I am a frequent night-roamer regardless. There are times, for example, when I do my best impression of a glowing ember. I may simply start to roast and swelter for no apparent reason and opt to seek relief by distancing myself from other bodies.

Last night, however, with the outside temperature falling below freezing, I was not having a heat problem, however: just a space one. I simply couldn't seem to get comfortable on my meagre 20% of what has become the family bed. So, I trundled off to find leg and elbow room elsewhere. That I found, but what I didn't find was much protective cover, just one thin blanket. It sufficed for a while, but I was shortly forced to return to the crowded bed. This time, however, I didn't mind, for by that time of night it was cold enough to snuggle right up to Cuppa and hold on tight. Yum!

This morning, I sit well-bundled at the computer. I wear my long johns, a heavy sweatshirt, and a toque. Oh the toque: a name that causes great confusion. Some people, some Americans at least, call it a toboggan. But in the Great White North a toboggan is something that we slide down hills on — a sleigh of sorts — and a toque is what we wear on our heads. I was not even aware of this distinction until last winter when a fellow blogger from Alabama wrote about wearing a toboggan on his head. That cracked me up, and he didn't know why, so I wrote this blog (it has pictures of the two items if you're still not sure of what I'm blathering on about — and I'm wearing that same toque at this moment, and Cuppa has just wandered in and snapped a picture that I now offer up to my loyal fan base).

A well-bundled, toqued maestro typing with a flourish

Look, all that I really wanted to say is that it's chilly this morning, but I resist turning the heat on for another few days, so I am well but oddly swathed. But I have gone the long way round and talked about cats in the bed, guests, and toques and toboggans. In fact, I have let this become one of my longer blogs. I attempt to keep blogs to between four and six paragraphs for the most part as I reckon that's about as long as the typical blogospherian will stick with you — and also because I'm normally more concise than verbose — but not this morning, apparently.

Finally, I want you to rest assured, that I'm comfortable, that I'm not depriving myself unduly because I am downright and Scrooge-like miserly. I'm not freezing my buns off or suffering in any way. That's one thing about cold weather. If you dress appropriately, you can almost always be warm, even when it's well below zero and you're outside taking the air, as they say. Generally, people only feel the cold in winter because they refuse to dress appropriately.

I'm not sure if most would consider long johns and toques to be appropriate attire for the house in October, but I'm content. Besides, I've taken long enough to write this blessed piece that the day has warmed up somewhat, and so I can begin to shed some of my wrappings.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Sweet Potato Soup

I have received several requests by both email and comments for the recipe that I mentioned yesterday. Let me tell you that it is from Crazy Plates which is a unique and wonderful cookbook that follows the very successful Looney Spoons. Both books specialize in light cooking and are packed with humor and many lifestyle and food tips.

The publishing of Looney Spoons was quite a story. They had an idea but little money and no publisher. They designed the book using Corel Draw, and subsequent books follow the same homespun appearance. I don't see the most recent volume online yet; it's titled Eat, Shrink & Be Merry! by Janet and Great Podleski. It's worth supporting these ladies by purchasing one of their books.

The Sweet Potato Soup Recipe

  • 6 cups peeled, cubed yams or sweet potatoes (about 3 large)
  • 1.5 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups low-fat chicken broth (that's about one large box and 1 can although I have just used the one box at times)
  • 1 tbsp each grated orange zest and ginger root
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1/2 tsp each ground cumin and salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 6 tbsp low-fat sour cream (I just let people add how much they want)
  • Chopped, fresh cilantro for garnish (optional -- I never use it)

  1. Spray a shallow roasting pan with non-stick spray. Add yams, onions, olive oil, and garlic. Stir well. roast uncovered for 25 minutes. Stir once halfway through cooking time.
  2. Transfer mixture to a soup pot. Add broth, orange zest, ginger root, clove, cumin, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Serve hot with a swirl of sour cream in the center. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Manicotti on the Square

I made manicotti for our company last night, that and sweet potato soup. It's a very good soup recipe that never fails to please. The manicotti is good too, but, due to the intensive preparation that it requires, I seldom make it.

Some of the ingredients were already at hand — garlic, onions, chicken, carrots, and spices — but I had to shop for the rest on Friday — manicotti, cream cheese, ricotta etc. Sadly missing from both lists was mozzarella. It's hard to be me. As careful as I think I'm being, as careful as I try to be, I have a dreadful propensity to forget one ingredient. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been forced to return to the grocery store for just one single, solitary ingredient, an item that I forgot just the day before or even just hours ago. It always seems to be just one ingredient.

Some of us you are greatly blessed to possess the meticulous gene. I am sure that there is such a gene, and, no doubt, by now it is clear to you that I have missed out; I simply and clearly am not imbued with this little genetic wonder. My life is full of examples of careless oversights. Fortunately, however, I also am also bereft of the memory gene, so I forget most of the more embarrassing predicaments in which I have become embroiled.

I do remember one incident, however. It serves as a good illustration of how careless I can be. I was a teenager writing an algebra exam. You know how they always give you a few easy questions at the beginning of math tests, questions to get you on a roll, questions for the non-brainiacs who are sure to wipe out on the more demanding problems as they build in complexity? This one was in that first section, the gimme section. I remember it well: 52= ? While I freely and readily confess to never having a particularly sharp aptitude for math, I wasn't all that terrible at it either: not as good as at English, for example, but even I knew the answer to the square of 5 (25 in case you doubt me). Can't get much simpler as a matter of fact.

Except that I wrote down, 10 — which is exactly what the answer would have been if the question had been: 5 + 5 = ? Which is, of course, how my brain happened to skew the question in that particular moment. As soon as I got the paper back, my error jumped out at me, and, not for the first time, I began to bang my head on the desk. The best thing about doing that, I can now report, is that it feels very good when you stop; it feels most excellent actually.

Regardless: the example serves to demonstrate that I mean exactly what I say when I confess that I am prone to making careless errors. I do this with such regularity that I have a hunch that my extra trips to the grocery store have now consumed enough gas to have paid for a flight to Tahiti and an ensuing two-week, luxury vacation. I'm not sure that it would have paid for the return flight as well, but who really cares? It's all only a hunch though because my forget gene doesn't really allow me to accurately count the number of needless grocery store runs that I have made.


Friday, October 21, 2005

A Little Thanksgiving

Last Monday, I was able to track down my physiotherapist long enough to ask a few questions. She had begun my treatment but soon shifted me off to her helper. I don't know what qualifications the helper has, but I presume that they are not great. I realize that it doesn't require infinite study to apply ultrasound to a back, so it doesn't bother me much. Next she applied the stimulation machine before telling that they were done with me for the day, that I could go home.

Well now, I wished to ask Madam Qualified Therapist a few questions. Should I begin doing other exercises on the sheet that she had given me; how about riding my bike; what about working with light hand weights? In short, when she finally deigned to see me, her most delightful, charming, and paying customer, the answers were yes, no, and yes in that order. The "no" had to do with cycling.

Regardless of what I think of the level of care that I am getting, I was disappointed with her opinion about whether I should try biking. I felt that I could but decided to exercise prudence for a little longer. As it eventuated, I didn't have much choice for it began to rain for several days.

Yesterday, however, the weather was fine, nippy for many at less than 10C/50F, but fine for us. Cuppa was leery, thinking that I might re-injure myself. Seeing my resolve, however, the lady refrained from protesting too much, and away we went.

Oh, it wasn't much of an away, only a leisurely 10k/6mi ride about the town, but it pleased me: pleased me to get out, pleased me that my back held up splendidly. I thought it would, but I have been known to be wrong. Let me see, there was the time when ... hmm ... I forget ... maybe I was wrong about once being wrong.

So, today we doubled the distance. It was even a titch cooler than yesterday , but it's not terribly difficult to keep warm when exercising. This doubled distance certainly fell short of our old standard, but it was enough: enough to bring joy, pleasure and a sense of accomplishment.

I hope that you enjoy some of today's pics. They all required a bit of post-processing to make them look more like what I perceived that I was seeing: rich, vibrant, autumn colours on a clear, sunny day.

The first photo (above) is of a tree by a pond in the park near our street. We are about to get onto the trail at this point.

The second photo (below) is of a boardwalk that we follow. It is adjacent to the Mississippi River, just after we cross under a little road bridge.

Above: we cross the river to pick up the trail to Appleby.

Below: At Appleby, we see this house across yet another bridge and are quite mesmerized by the reflection.

Finally, for photos not the ride, we cross the bridge and take a photo (above) back across the Mississippi toward the side we had been travelling on.

At this point we left the river for less picturesque scapes and began to wend our way home. It was a good ride, good to get out, good to be able to lightly exert the body. Good to feel a semblance or normality.

I give thanks. Everyday should be Thanksgiving day, but some days stand out just a trifle more than others. Today was such a day.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Adult Toys

No, not those kind of toys. Sorry, but I don't know nuthin' about those mysterious and arcane entities. What can I say? I live a sheltered life.

Rather, I speak of things like garage door openers. We have a garage in this place. I've had garages before, long ago, but they hardly counted. They were somewhat dilapidated wooden structures detached from the house. This one is part of the house, and now that we are living in a colder place, I'm very happy to have it: January temperatures average about 5°C/10°F colder in Ottawa compared to Sarnia although there is much less of a difference in summer.

You'd think that it would be enough just to have a garage, that I would be happy with that. Well I was and am, but somewhere along the line, we decided to treat ourselves to one of those fancy-dancy garage door openers. Our sainted son-in-law installed it for us while we were away at Thanksgiving. Let me tell you; it's a treat. For whatever reason, pressing that button gives me a little burst of pleasure.

We all like our little treats. We enjoy and appreciate life without them, but they put a little sugar in our cake, a little spice in our sauce.

But when is enough, enough?

I have been thinking about iPods for a while now. Just over a week ago, my nephew gave me a tour of his. Yup, I really liked it, and I began to think even more about getting one. So it was that when we were in town last Sunday, I dropped into Future Shop to have a look. The big one, the 20 gig one, was on sale — the same price as the newer 4 gig model. The store was busy, the opportunity was there, I didn't know when I'd be back or how long it would be on sale. So, I pulled the trigger. I bought the thing.

Two days later, my iPod sits in the box — unopened. I don't need an iPod. I'm always home, always near my computer or other devices that will play music. I don't need an iPod. Millions are living in want. I don't need an iPod. Hundreds of thousands of poor sods are living on the edge of desperation after natural disasters have wreaked havoc and misery. I don't need an iPod. Oh yes, I gave some conscience money to World Vision for disaster relief in Pakistan. But I still don't need an iPod.

It doesn't help my guilty conscience to know that my daughter, Butterfly, looked at pods earlier this year and couldn't afford one. And it doesn't help to know that my other music-freak daughter, Ladybug, would also love one. Why should I have one and they not?

So here I sit in a dither: an old man with the heart of a kid who kinda likes his little toys, an old man who forgets his age, an old man who knows that this is a total and unnecessary frill, an old man who has some conscience about the disparity between his wants and the need of others.

An old man who would really like an iPod.

I wonder what he will do, keep it or return it? He really doesn't know. Y'know?


Monday, October 17, 2005

Sunday Shopping

Yesterday, when my printer ran out of yellow ink, I went confidently to my repository to get a refill. You see, I always keep a spare handy; however, I lie because, apparently, I don't, in point of fact, always keep a spare handy. I had two black refills and one of every other colour — cyan, photo cyan, magenta, photo magenta — but no yellow. Back home (I know this is home now but that's just the way that I tend to refer to the place from where we have moved), if this sort of thing were to happen, I would simply drive, pedal or walk the several blocks to Staples in order to remedy the situation. Here, there is no Staples around the corner; the nearest is about 30k/20mi away.

It only takes a little longer than 20 minutes to get there but, still, with the current price of gas, one doesn't want to hop in the car willy nilly and drive about with wanton abandon. We had been thinking of going into town anyway this week, and I thought that I could pick up the ink then. Surely I could and would wait for a few days and make one trip instead of two.

Alas, I've been trying to put a dent in my to do list because I simply need to get on with life, start a new project — maybe even overhaul my blog template, for example. It seems months since I really got into anything; oddly enough, it seems that long because it has been that long what with the move and all. So, I had and have all of sorts little items to clear off the list before I can really move on to bigger projects. Unfortunately, it seemed that I required my printer to accomplish most of them. I mean, you can't really print new business cards without a working printer, now can you?

So, off we went to town, not really to town but to a mega big box mall on the edge of town. It has a 24 screen theatre, what seems like scores of restaurants, and seemingly endless numbers of big stores. Indeed, this mall is a big, big place, and the parking lots were pretty darn full. So were the stores.

It was Sunday for goodness sakes. This province didn't even allow shopping until about ten years ago, but judging from the throngs yesterday, Sunday shopping has become the event of the week. Don't people have anything else to do? Are their lives really so empty that Sunday Shopping has become the essence of their existence. Have Future Shop, Wal-Mart and their ilk become the venues of worship? How sad, even if this is only partly true.

Yes, I know that this might seem a tad hypocritical because I was there after all. I was part of the worship team as it were. But for the most part I am a rather apostate backslider when it comes to this religion ... although I might have a confession to share in the near future ... about a purchase that I made in the middle of this Sunday mayhem.

Meanwhile, I must get back to working my way through that to do list ...


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Cat Got His Tongue

I had to take some black and white photos yesterday. For the most part, I took them in colour and converted them in Photoshop. I like ths one in colour though, not that there's much colour on a tuxedo cat, but the nose, tongue, and blanket are all red and add a nice touch IMO. The black and white version of this photo, as well as a few others, is located here (note: four large photos take a little while to load on dialup).


Our Song

I like this song, Everytime, by the Barra MacNeils. Perhaps some other group also does it and you are familiar with it, but if not here it is. Cuppa and I both like it very much, and, at this stage of our lives, it seems to carry a lot of meaning. As the song says, "I will love you when you are gone."

I scrunched the file as much as I could, but be warned if you're on dialup.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Roxio, Roxio ...

... Wherefore Art Thou, O Roxi-O-O-O?

I have groused and grumbled about mail-in rebates before, but really now.

Roxio makes a product called Easy Media Creator. They have just emailed me to tell me that I can pre-order version 8. Because this would be an upgrade for me, they have most kindly offered me an upgrade rebate — for a limited time! That's gripe #1 folks. Why is an upgrade discount limited to a restricted period of time? Once you have bought software, you should always be able to upgrade for a reduced amount. Even the supposedly-evil Microsoft does that, and so does Adobe with its expensive but wonderful Photoshop. In fact, Photoshop upgrades are always tremendously reduced compared to the initial purchase price.

This, alone, has somewhat put me off Roxio. After buying version 5, I had reneged on version 6 for just this reason, and later on version 7. However, when I bought my current computer which has a DVD Writer, I decided to update my software and purchase version 7.5. I don't have any particular complaints with the software although for CDs, at least, I think that I prefer the old and unimproved version.

But that's all background filler and not my main grievance right now. You see, when I did purchase version 7.5, it came with an upgrade mail-in rebate. It wasn't for a whole lot of cash — about twenty dollars on software that was worth sold for about a hundred bucks. And to obtain said rebate, they made things as difficult as possible. I had to find my original, several year-old package and cut the bar code out of it. (For whatever reason, I had kept the package, and miraculously enough could find it. Do you think that maybe they weren't counting on that?) Of course, there was also paperwork to be filled in.

I did it all — in May! It's mid-October now. No rebate in sight. Isn't that ridiculous? Hardly a way to build customer loyalty, is it?

I don't love mail-in rebates overly much. I think that they exist to induce us to purchase a product, but they make it as inconvenient as possible in an attempt to discourage us from actually sending in for it. Then, they keep us dangling for as long a time as possible. That has always been standard procedure, but, apparently, it has now become a complete ruse — in some cases at least.

The mail-in rebate was not the deciding factor in purchasing this product; nevertheless, I am irked by these questionable practices. I can't seem to find a way to justify Roxio's neglect or incompetence (whichever it is).

No Roxio, I won't be purchasing version 8 or any other version. And I don't suppose that any of the ten or twenty people who read this blog will either. And who knows how many accidental surfers will end up here as a result of a search and also refrain from purchasing your product? Was it worth it, Roxio? Was it?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Our Canadian Thanksgiving

With a little time available after the weekend and before our company comes to visit, I want to post a short blog about Thanksgiving before I leave you for a few more days. I do this because the comments on my previous blog reveal that my American friends find it terribly odd to conceive of Thanksgiving being celebrated at this time of year. In Canada, we always celebrate it now, specifically on the second Monday of October. It's one of the major holidays of the year, the others being Easter, Canada Day (July 01), August Civic Holiday (first Monday in August), Labour Day, and, of course, Christmas and New Year.

So, why do we observe it now? Simply, I think, because we are pretty well at the end of the harvest season. This was the time to be thankful that provender was laid up for the winter. It seems to me a good thing that we celebrate Thanksgiving when we do, even in present times when very few of us live off the land. That's because we are still very aware of the time of year because it is now that the trees turn colour ever so brilliantly. Indeed the drive to Riverwood and back was resplendent with the vibrant seasonal hues, for we are now at or extremely close to peak colour. Some trees are still green, but as they turn colour, their comrades will drop theirs, so the view will most likely decrease and not vice versa. The weather was cloudy this year, so I don't have current photos to post, but I did publish a few on my blog last year (here and here) and on my own website (here and here) the year before.

It's a big holiday; families make an effort to get together, not to the same extent as over the longer Christmas holidays, but more so than at any other holiday. We usually do turkey, just as we also do at Christmas. People who shuffle between two families usually have two turkey dinners. In our case we had our own turkey dinner at home with the kids on Saturday and another at our in-laws' on Sunday. At home, we generally have a cheesy potato casserole with the turkey, as well as roasted sweet potatoes and roasted carrots. Personally, I'm extremely fond of the stuffing and gravy. For dessert, we'll normally have pumpkin pie; if we're going all out (which we didn't this year), we might also have an apple pie.

I am thankful for many things, but, in particular this year, I rejoice that we are near Butterfly and The Boy and not seven hours away. And I really rejoice that Ladybug survived the summer's bicycle wipeout (read about it here and here). I trust that you all have your own reasons to rejoice, for we have pretty well lucked out, living in our lands of plenty where our needs are pretty well met and many of our wants too.

As a special bonus, I present this photo which I took from our bedroom window on Saturday evening, the day we celebrated Thanksgiving at our house. The foreground view, with wires and buildings and such, isn't to die for, but I think that the sky is ... to die for. I did underexpose the photo somewhat, just to darken it and make it more dramatic, but that was done when I took the picture and not in post-processing.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Three Parting Shots

Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. Ladybug and partner will be arriving tonight. We'll be doing the big fixins tomorrow before heading off to Riverwood on Sunday for a few days, and after that we're expecting company back here in Mills. What I'm trying to say is that I may not be too active in this space for the next little while. I know that's a grievous pill for you to swallow, but there it is. :) Seriously though, you never know what time I'll either find or make between now and then, but I'll leave you with a few pics of Mills before I bid you a temporary but sweet farewell.

The first is off an out-of-the-way street that runs under a little railway bridge. In fact, a train had just gone by when I took this, but I was too late with the Canon Rebel. The old building in the background is now being used for a modern business, but I forget exactly what business at the moment.

The next two photos are both looking across the Mississippi from Riverside park. The first is a stand of birches, and the second shows a house. I have tried to frame both views with a tree and its branches. They both show that autumn is beginning to gallop apace. Last weekend, there was only a little colour, but, even early this week, we began to notice the acceleration. Overall, we're not at fifty per cent colour yet, but some stands are getting close.


Thursday, October 06, 2005


I am always amazed to see what I have to type in to submit a comment these days. I don't mind word verification at all, but Blogger must see me coming a mile away and trot out the longest and most difficult codes just for me. Generally speaking, the secret word that I must enter is at least nineteen characters long. Not only that, but it is usually presented to me in the most indecipherable script imaginable. I try my best to decode it and type it but invariably make a mistake. Usually it is not a careless error but a genuine mistaking of the arcanely scripted letters. Once I submit my comment, the code for the next submission comes up: usually something as long and tricky as CAT; it is invariably presented in crisp, easy-to-read block capitals too. All I can say is that some people must lead much luckier lives than I.

Last night, however, the title of this blog came up in word verification: Farterdom! I kid you not, or at least not much. It was actually fartzrdm. The first four letters were definitely there, and the rest of it wasn't much a stretch for me. It was an appropriate word for my day because I was feeling somewhat down in the dumps over now being well into the second month of a poopy pants bad back. That's pretty well how I swear folks: poopy pants, flaming saints, ratsafratz — that sort of thing. But I'm getting better at using stronger language as I age. Damn it all!

What's a day without pictures? Here are two of our fallen comrades and one of a backyard frog who barely escaped the blades of the lawnmower.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Rockin in the Quarry

Can I please do one more set of photos from last Saturday's tour? Can I, huh? Can I?

But really, if it's driving you crazy, don't look. However, consider it this way: More pictures tend to result in less insipid prose for you to wade through — at least on a good day — but I'm not sure that I'm having one of those — good days I mean — and yours may not be looking too darn hot right about now either. EH?

Okay, then: these are all of a quarry that we found while on the Scarlet Maple tour. Actually, the quarry wasn't on the tour. It is, however, on this weekend's tour, Crown and Pumpkin [sic]. But we can't make this weekend's tour because we'll be feasting on turkey and each other's company. There are also about twelve-hundred (or so it seems) studio tours on the weekend, and we'll miss all of those too, for after celebrating our nuclear family's Thanksgiving on Saturday, we shall drive two hours to Riverwood (the cottage) to feast with extended family on Sunday. (Phew! long but grammaically correct sentence there.)

So, if you're still with me and thinking that I am waxing rather verbose, let me get to the photos. The first, below, is pretty much what it looks like — a shot of one side if the pit, from top to bottom. The colour of the water in the little pond at the bottom looks something like that of a glacial lake, and the rock within the pond looks like a chunk of ice or a mini iceberg. The rock is calcium carbonate, which my past studies tell me is the same stuff that makes up things like stalactites in caves. (The pond and the rock in it may not be all that tiny when you consider how small the tractor just below the centre of the photo looks.)

If the photo above was a view to my left, and oddly enough it was, the one below is a view straight ahead. I like the effect of the two roads curving toward each other.

Cuppa took the last photo of Butterfly taking a picture of me. Cuppa was in the legal limits (so to speak) — on the lawful side of the fence — but I rather enjoy the ironical juxtaposition of us, especially me, with the sign on the rock. I guess the sign painters were unable to make their message clear enough. Perhaps it simply isn't big enough. Or maybe the red lettering doesn't stand out. What do you think? How can we help them to get it right?


Monday, October 03, 2005

The Smithy

One of the stops on the Scarlet Maple Tour (see post below) was in the tiny hamlet of Watson's Corners. There was another church, which we didn't bother to see because we were getting churched-out by that time. There was also an Alpaca farm nearby that we chose to forego. We did, however, visit a little art display inside an old blacksmith shop, although shop may not the right word for a blacksmith's establishment. I simply don't know.

The artist, William Caldwell, is deceased, but his widow decided that she would still put this display together for the tour. According to the tour brochure, the National Gallery rates Caldwell's works as excellent. It didn't particularly ring my chimes, but I suppose that the better ones have long since been sold. However, you can see some of them a little better on Cuppa's blog, (note: some of you have already read that post).

I quite enjoyed the ambience of the gloomy blacksmith shop. I'm sure that Caldwell must have painted by the big and bright window; well, he simply had to. As you can tell by the picture, Cuppa and Butterfly quite enjoyed it too.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

More Touring

On an impeccable autumn day, the three of us set out on the Scarlet Maple tour. In an area a little to the west of us, they set aside a weekend at this time of year for all sorts of buildings, mostly churches, to open their doors to the public. (There were many shops listed on the brochure too, but they would have been open regardless.) This blogger and his loved ones think that it's a rather fine idea, and so after filling up with some very expensive gas, Cuppa, Butterfly and I set out yesterday to explore some more of the local environs that we have been talking time to appreciate ever so much over this past week.

The weather was splendid: mild temperatures and almost completely clear blue skies. The maples were not yet flaming scarlet, but there was some autumn colour here and there: glorious little flares of radiance, preparing us for the grand display yet to come.

These two photos (above and below) are of an old wooden Anglican (Episcopalian in the USA) structure. This dwindling congregation is shepherded by a circuit preacher who has six parishes in his care. There is no Sunday School, and the typical Sunday morning attendance has been reduced to about twenty stalwart souls.

It stands on a little hill on the west side of Lanark as you enter the village from the south. At the bottom of the hill, near the road, there is a small cemetery. I have photographed one of the grave markers in the photo above. Behind it looms an outcropping of Canadian Shield rock. While this area is not on the shield, it is rather close to the edge, so you do find these sorts of rock outcroppings here and there. Below, Cuppa and Butterfly pose on this same boulder.

We had a fine time in hamlets and villages, churches and shops, and on both paved and unpaved roads. I have more pictures, but I'll post them later. Meanwhile, Cuppa has also blogged about this tour. There are more photos on her blog.