Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Choosing Your Colour

I am of the mind that for some people, some adversity is brought about by their own personalities. Note the two "somes" and the lack of blame. I did not say that people are at fault for whatever adversity befalls them but that something about their mental makeup may have helped to cause some of their difficulties with the world. Once again, let me also hasten to add that I speak of the normal situations of life and not catastrophic illnesses and calamities although, even in dire circumstances such as these, the following observations might apply to a certain extent.

My mother and her brother, my uncle, serve as an example in my mind. Although they rather obviously shared similar upbringings, they had different attitudes towards the world. Neither was raised in opulence; in fact, it might be observed that both endured some deprivation. However, where Mom became suspicious and tended to see the world negatively, Uncle Charlie always seemed to be a happy, content soul.

Oddly enough, from my point of view, it was Charlie who had the greater cause to feel that he had been hard done by. He was a man who was not even five feet tall. He never married but lived with his father, until he [my grandfather] passed away. Then, he lived as a boarder in this place or that with just a room to call his own. But I never heard him complain. I think he accepted life as relatively good and fair.

While I'm not saying that Mom's life was easy, I do remember something she said in her later years that might illustrate this small point that I am trying to make. It went something like this: "David Copperfield is on TV tonight. I'd like to watch it. Both he and I have had difficult lives." She wasn't brought up in rough orphanages, and she was by then materially comfortable, and I'm sure that many humans might have readily changed lives with her, but such was her internal reality that she likened her lot to that of an orphan in Dickensian England.

As I implied at the beginning, I don't think people can help how they are programmed to experience the world, not initially at least, for I tend to believe that there is something within us that predisposes us to perceive the world as we do. I do think, however, that, as life unfolds and we become more mature and responsible, it is within our abilities to make choices about how we see the world and our lot within it. I don't suppose that it is easy for many, but I do believe that it is possible because in the end we must surely have some responsibility for the colour of the lenses that we put on to view our lives.


Blue Rodeo Rose Colored Glasses lyrics

She sees the world through rose-coloured glasses
Painted skies and graceful romances
I see a world that's tired and scared
Of living on the edge too long

Monday, November 27, 2006

Adversity, the Teacher

I was thinking today that I learn best through adversity. It was practising the fiddle that gave rise to these thoughts. As a result of last week's fiasco of a lesson, or at least my fiasco performance at the lesson (regardless of the health issues that may have caused the problem), my teacher probably made more er em suggestions than usual. Or maybe I was put in a frame of mind to be more apt to pay attention to them and work more diligently on them. Maybe it was not even the suggestions so much as my own disappointment that may have caused me to re-evaluate how I go about practising and learning the instrument. While I can't say this for sure, I have a feeling that I will advance more as a result of the bad lesson than I would have from another good one.

This is not a completely new insight for me: most thoughts aren't terribly novel at this age. It's more of a remembering: "Oh yes, I knew that, but now it comes to mind again."

Back around the mid-1980s, I had the opportunity to play tennis with a neighbour, Mike. I hadn't played much for a few years and was eager to pick up the racket once more. While self-taught adults are not going to set the tennis world on fire with their prowess, I thought that I wasn't too bad at the sport. Maybe I wasn't, but Mike was a lot better. We'd go out day after day, and he would win every time. We'd often play three sets, and I don't know how long it took me to win even one, never mind a match. If I were Mike, I might have thrown a few games to my poor opponent, but I'm glad that he didn't. He did me a favour by keeping his level high and forcing me to get better. By the next summer, we were playing very evenly, each of us winning approximately 50% of the sets. Come the third summer, I was actually beginning to pull slightly ahead although if I wasn't at my best on a given day, and that happens quite a lot in life, he would beat me.

Early in the 1990s, I joined the local chess league. For years, I had mentored the school team and run the county chess league [sic]. Students would come into my room almost every lunch hour for almost the whole school year, and I would let them play. Frequently, I would play with them. Even though we had some very bright student, including the occasional genius (well, one anyway), I usually held my own – even against the genius who, being used to things coming so easily to him, tended to move a little too impetuously.

Anyway, there came a time when, wondering how I might fare against adults, I joined the city chess club. As you might well conceive, in a small city, the turnout wasn't huge; only eight to ten guys showed up on a typical evening. I think that they started the tournament on only my second week. I remember my first game. I was doing well against someone who had been a club regular for years. Then he made a brilliant sacrifice that blew my mind. It really did blow my mind because I lost the game even though I still had the material to have won.

However, I'd take the games home and learn from them by replaying them on the computer, and I'm sure that the others did the same. Invariably, there were a few key moves that decided a game in which opponents were fairly evenly matched. Not only that, but I learned to play at their pace, a different pace that I had to adapt to. While students could often finish multiple games within a less than one hour lunch period, some of the club games easily lasted for more than two hours even though we played with clocks to keep us on some sort of time track.

Without trying to be overly braggadocios, I won the tournament: tied for first actually. It wasn't as big an accomplishment as you might think because the two best players weren't allowed to participate in this amateur tournament. Still, I finished with a higher standing than all but one of the more seasoned players.

In all three cases, tennis, chess, and now the fiddle (hopefully), it was early adversity that drove me to become better. None of these things are serious or important, but I think that the lesson holds. A little adversity can serve to make us better people – eventually anyway. Nobody courts adversity (and please understand that I'm not talking here about serious illnesses or dire mishaps that life may throw at us but the more ordinary setbacks that are part and parcel of the normal ebb and flow of life), but if we face adversity with the right attitude, we can emerge from the process better than when we went in.

It's neither a unique nor clever insight: just the one that has been on my mind tonight.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Friday, Another Border Collie

It's not as though we only or necessarily go to the park on Friday, but it was seven days since our last trip. Last Friday, we saw two border collies at slightly different times. Lo and behold, as we were sitting there in the car (chills etc preventing me from venturing out much) watching the geese and enjoying the sun, yet another border collie and human came along. While not quite as spectacular as the one last week, I feel somewhat bonded to this guy. He saw to that.

I did remember my own camera today and also was using my telephoto to take pictures of geese through the car window when this guy came along. Naturally, my attention quickly focussed to him. I think the owner saw me and directed more of his throws toward my side of the car. I took a bunch but walked over and showed him these two: "I don't know what they'll look like on a monitor, but they look pretty good so far." (Because I am posting five today, I'll keep them small, but they're all clickable — naturally).

Border Collie Jumping
Border Collie Coming out of November Water

Well, on his subsequent retrieval, didn't pooch bring the frisbee to moi? And he kept on doing it. The owner and I may have had different reactions. He might have been feeling a little put out, while I was feeling pretty good about being chosen. "Such a fine smart dog with excellent taste," thought I.

Border Collie Eagerly Waiting

Wrong! The dog was willing to adopt all-comers. When Cuppa showed up in the scene, he walked right past me to her. The nerve!

Border Collie Waiting Again

While I'm At It ...

... here's another photo. I posted a Riverside sunset photo last week (along with the border collie) but realized that this one looked pretty good too.

Riverside Sunset 2

From My Window

From My Window

Cuppa called me for supper from my recumbent and convalescent position last afternoon around five o'clock. Upon opening my bleary eyes, I saw this sight, or most of it, right from my bed: the crescent moon, sunset and branches. It looked so fine that I went hunting for my camera. Shooting in low light and, therefore, low shutter speeds can be problematic, and some of my attempts were blurry, but this one came out fairly well. The branches on the right are those of a maple tree in our own backyard; everything else is at some distance.


or con-Templations

Welcome to the Christmas season on Raindrops! That's the Holiday Train up there in the header, and it's coming this way again – in two weeks, I think. I had forgotten that I even had this template in storage. It was the second one that I did for the Christmas season last year. I remembered the first, uploaded it, previewed it, and it's a mess. Same with the one that I did for Cuppa. How can a template degenerate over the course of a year, I wonder. The only thing that I can postulate is that I might have had to make some adjustments last year to make it work and I failed to save the online adjustments. But, would I have done that for both Cuppa's template and mine? On one hand, it doesn't seem likely to me, but on the other, I have no other explanation. Oddly enough, they work better in the new IE7 than Firefox, and I code with Firefox in mind and then make adjustments for that other browser (which now works a lot like Firefox might I add?).

Regardless, I do have this template that I had forgotten about. I think it will serve for now. Maybe I will get around to modifying the others, and maybe I won't.

About the Holiday Train: it goes all across Canada and even into parts of the USA if I remember correctly. It stops at communities and rolls down the sides of the cars to make a quick stage. Several musicians treat us a Christmas concert, perhaps quite short as they make three stops in our local area, before the train pulls off to the next stop. I think it's a grand idea. Last year, the train arrived here on a very cold evening; there was snow on the ground, and it was most delightful.

Speaking of the holidays, the rest of Blogdom is certainly able to tell that ye Americans are on one. All of a sudden, hardly anyone is posting or reading. That's understandable and as it should be, but please hurry back soon ... eh?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Clinging to my Raft

It started last night. I was really chilly when we got home and kept getting chillier. By the time that I sat down to create yesterday's most masterful post (hah!), I was getting to point of shaking with my increasingly severe shivers. "Oh, oh," thought I, "this is exactly the way that the last bout began," also with a headache that I was also experiencing by that point. I really didn't want to go on with the shivering shakes for hours, so I turned the heater in the bathroom up to high, ran a hot, hot bath and eased in. Even then, I had to pretty well submerge my whole body before the chills abated.

Then, I put on two sweatshirts and went to bed. And I got pretty comfortable for about an hour … until I started getting hot, that is. Off came one sweatshirt, then the other, then the blankets, and I was still blazing. Go figure.

I know that no one really wants to get sick (ill for the Brits), especially me after enduring that bad bout about a month ago. But I don't really mind too very much today. After all, I have hardly been sick for the past five or six years, so perhaps I'm in arrears. Oh, I can recall a few day things, but that's about it. So, why am I at peace with being sick/ill once again so soon after the last episode?

Well, you see, in my mind it helps me to rationalize yesterday's stupidity. Here's what I am thinking: my body was clearly under stress that my brain hadn't registered yet. It was affecting my mental faculties but not at a conscious level. I choose to believe there was a medical reason for my stupidity. Somehow that makes me feel a lot better about the state of my poor, tiny brain. Yet another reason to appreciate being sick: I called the dentist who let me cancel today's appointment without penalty. Hey! isn't it a good thing to be able to cancel a dental appointment?

And … while I'm still alternating between hot and cold this morning, the extremes are much less … extreme. Frankly, I'm not nearly as sick (so far – knock on wood – and by that I don't mean for you to knock on my head) as last time. I'll stay in and take it easy today and maybe tomorrow, but at this point it appears that it won't get too bad. And it gives me an excuse for my stupidity – in my mind anyway. Please do not disabuse of this little, life-preserving raft to which I am most happy to cling. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Stupid Pills

While I doubt that dear reader (that's you) is anxiously wringing her hands to know this, I do wish to publicly confess that it was fiddle lesson time today. The last one was really great – by my standards anyway. I did well, and I felt a sense of elation. However, the other shoe landed today. I couldn't seem to do anything very well. I flubbed everything that I tried. It was rather frustrating and embarrassing to seem so inept: so stupid.

Cuppa went with me (not to the actual lesson to cheer me on but to grab some coffee and do some errands whilst I fiddled), and we headed into the city afterwards.
Our first stop was Swiss Chalet where we ordered the Festive Special. They offer the special every year during this festive season: adding a helping of stuffing and giving you a box of six Lindts afterward. It's our tradition to indulge in this dish once or twice each Christmas season, and I always order the breast quarter. Always! For years, even decades. Because while in and of itself dark meat isn't so very bad, there are those unappetizing, gooey parts with which to come to terms. Today, in a moment of insanity, I ordered dark meat. I don't do that, I tell ya, but the spirit of stupidity must have laid a full nelson (with all apologies to an anonymous, occasional reader from a northern city) on me today, and I ordered dark. Stupid!

After lunch we made our way to one of those big box malls to do a bit of seasonal shopping. Of course, I took a stupid wrong turn, but we got there and got instructions about how to get to our next stop. I listened, looked at the map, got in the car, and forgot what the map told me. I got in the wrong lane and missed the stupid turnoff.

Once again, errors notwithstanding, we got to our destination, did our shopping and made to leave for home. However, I thought I could use both a pit-stop and a pick-me-up, so I asked Cuppa whether we should stop at McDonalds or Tim Hortons. Now that was pretty darn stupid because I don't have to ask; I know which she would prefer – always and forever, Tims! The thing is that I could see both restaurants from the parking lot. Yet, as soon as I got onto the road, I lost my place and started looking for McDonalds instead of Timmys. Even when corrected, I could no longer seem to spot Tims although I was just about in front of it by then. Stupid!

It was at that point that in a voice of semi-humorous disgust, I opined that I must have taken a double dose of my stupid pills this morning. We laughed. What better thing can you do than to share a laugh and hope for your brain to return from stupid to normal in the morning?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let it Snow ...

... or the Re-Tiring Blues

Today was the day – the day to have our snow tires put on. We never bothered with them back in southwestern Ontario, but they seem like a good idea in colder and snowier Eastern Ontario. The timing seemed right too because when I left to drive to the tire place this morning, there were a few wisps of snow on Harriet the Chariot (whom I happened to leave outside last night). By this time last year, we had already accumulated snow, and it stayed until about the end of March, but this is only the second little dusting that we've had this year. What with El NiƱo and all, the experts at Environment Canada are predicting a warmer than average winter. That will make it two in a row ... and many in recent times.

It ended up costing me $70 to have the winter tires put on. That may seem like a lot seeing as they were already on rims, but in this nothing is ever straightforward life, the job turned out to be more than we bargained for. You see, what they call a wheel stud and what I call a tire bolt broke when they were changing the tires. They didn't have a stud/bolt handy, so they ordered one, and I had to take the car back in later and resign myself to forking out another forty-four Canadian pesos.

In other news, we had a few more minutes of sun today, but they say that we can expect a lot more sunlight over the next few days. Should they be right, we will surely appreciate the change. So, without snow and with mild temperatures for most of the past month, it's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas – outside. But it is inside. Ornaments are appearing in this corner and that, and it's really beginning to look festive. Come this weekend, we'll have our traditional tree decorating party at Sha's before heading to Main Street to see the Santa Claus parade. We really enjoyed it last year; it was very neat small town event.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Glimmer and the Collie

Have I mentioned that we're not getting any sun here? Not much anyway. However, late on Friday afternoon, we found ourselves sitting in the car at the park. The sun peeked its face out for a few moments, and Cuppa asked me to take some pictures. I hadn't brought my camera, but she usually remembers hers. So, I smapped a few and then a few more.

It wasn't as dark as it seems in the following photo, but I used exposure compensation to make it seem that way. If you don't do that in these kinds of pictures, the sky will probably come out looking a lot less vivid that you would like it to. I certainly like the way that this one turned out. (You might like to click on this one for a better view. Sometimes, they look very over-sharpened on the compressed view.)

When we first arrived there was a human throwing balls to a border collie. After they left, another human and border collie came along. We've seen this one before; he's quite superior, and his workout is a sight to behold. Below are two composites in which I attempt to capture some of the flavour for you.

Above: the owner points north (in the blurry portion) to send the dog off in that direction. He then turns to throw the ball south, and the dog sprints eagerly in that direction. You can see the collie going by in a blur as he heads from north to south. The guy hasn't thrown the ball yet, but the dog knows that he will.

Below: in this composite, you can see the dog in the ready position before the throw. I have seen him crouch even lower and almost shake in anticipation. This is also a composite, and the dog will usually be quite a bit further away from the human than what he appears to be in this photo. Then, he'll bring his trophies back to lay at the master's feet. In this case, you see him carrying two or three Frisbees (I've seen up to five), and he will lay them down as instructed — in the correct spot and in the correct way. Sometimes, he has to neaten the pile before master will be satisfied. It's really quite amazing.

I am sure that Cuppa will post another photo or two before too long ... but she's asleep now.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Daily Doins

When you think of it, a lot of little things go in life. I guess they're the stuff of life. After all, how often do we get to do those big, exciting things? No, you'd better enjoy your daily doings because they are the stuff of life. So, here are things that we've been up to lately.

On Sunday, we went up to Almonte to see a performance ofCape Breton Live. For those south of the 49 th, Cape Breton is an island that is the northern part of Nova Scotia. Apparently, there are still a few people there who can speak Gaelic, and some groups still sings some traditional Gaelic tunes. It's rather famous for music, particularly fiddling. That's what these people brought to Almonte, and their performance was quite awesome. For $15/ticket, you can't beat it.

Then, on Wednesday night, we went to a local pub with some neighbours to hear the musicians of Celtic Jam. I've heard them before and blogged about them before, and like before, there were more musicians than audience. Fourteen of them sat around and jammed. This is the group that I would like to join if I ever get to their level with the fiddle. However, after hearing them the other night, I hae me douts that I'll ever get that far. They place pretty darn fast for this novice. However, I downloaded their tune book from their website for potential practice purposes.

Along those lines, I am so pumped that The Rankins are getting back together to produce another CD and go on tour. I was lucky enough to attend one of their final concerts in 1999 before they disbanded. Although the new album will have less of a Celtic sound than some of their others, I'm sure it will be very good. Their last album was beginning to ease into other areas too, and it was just fine thank you very much.

We got the latest pictures of Smudge yesterday; you can see can see them and read about it on Sha's blog. There is still some concern about Down Syndrome, but most indicators seem positive.

However, when scanning and printing the pictures for Sha, my printer decided to act out. I have a 6-tank printer, and one of the tanks (magenta) isn't printing, pictures come out with a decided green cast. Obviously, the printer head is clogged, and I've just spent about $75 on ink. I have contacted Canon about getting a new printer head. The printer is several years old, so if the new piece is very expensive, I might be forced to get a new one although this printer does (or did) a fine job.

Finally: after seeing the documentary, The Journey of Man, on PBS, I am reading the companion book by Spencer Wells. While I don't pretend to get the more scientific material, the subject of our origin and roots fascinates me. It seems that DNA and genetics pretty well concludes that we have our origin in Africa about 150 000 years BP. You can probably get the DVD at your library (we did); it's very interesting. I also have two Photoshop books that I wade through a bit of from time to time … when I'm not blogging or fiddling … or Christmas shopping which we began in earnest with a trip into Ottawa last Monday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Peter, James and Me

I wasn't going to write any more about the sociability/reticence topic of the past few posts, but one more, short anecdote has popped into my consciousness.

While this isn't something that I remember first hand, I have been told that I wasn't exactly a verbose child – surprise, surprise. I didn't talk particularly early or a lot, but I have also been told that I soon moved on to phrases. Apparently, my father would piggy-back me around the house. There was a scripture calendar on the wall, and Dad you point to Peter, James and John. One day I said, "Peter, James and Me" (yes now you know my other name). If I've got the story right, it's one of the early things that I said.

So, I guess that, even early on, I internalized quite a lot before verbalizing it. Apparently, wherever personality types come from, they start way back in childhood. My hunch is that at least some of it comes from internal structure and wiring, but I haven't really come across anything that supports my intuition.

Now, I truly am finished with the topic. It's time to cast my nets elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Body on the Grass

My past few blogs have been about personality and sociability, and I'd like to have one more kick at the cat before I move on to other fascinating topics — like what I had for breakfast this morning or how my corns are getting along with my cowboy boots.

First, let me say that sometimes I may over-emphasize something in an attempt to make a point, and I may have done so in the last two posts. While it is true that I am more reticent than verbose, it is also true that I'm not exactly a wilting wallflower. I can actually speak, sometimes intelligently; I did make a living at teaching for three decades, so I must be somewhat competent and confident in certain group situations. Mainly, however, I simply don't have the patience to happily endure situations such as the social function that I mentioned two posts ago, and life is too short to pretend.

Having got that clarification out of the way, I'd like to recount a recent episode that demonstrates how differently Cuppa and I tend to react to life's situations.

On Friday, Cuppa and I decided to walk downtown to the local bookstore that was celebrating its first anniversary. When it's non-cycling season we try to promenade on most days: certainly when it's not raining or we're not too busy doing errands and chores. Friday was a nice day without a lot of competing activities, so we walked.

Not too far along, just past our own subdivision as a matter of fact, I was rather startled to spy a body prone on the grass next to the sidewalk. In short order I determined that he was alive and resting from the laying of sod which the rest of the crew was still busy laying. My mind was already moving on to thinking that this might make an opening for Law and Order or some such program.

Just as I was beginning to ponder the possibilities, Cuppa interrupted my reverie with a semi-scream: "There's a body on the grass." Of course, she began to sort it out in the same way that I had, only verbally. You see, being an introvert (I don't like that somewhat pejorative term, but I'll use it), I had processed it all internally. I might have gotten to the point of actually mentioning the body, but Cuppa's shriek altered the process, so we'll never know. The point is that she, being much more of an extrovert, immediately began to verbalize what she was seeing and processing.

I think introversion and extroversion are determined by how our brains function. Supposed introverts probably process their thoughts internally quite a bit prior to verbalizing them; some extroverts actually process more as they speak. I'm sure there's a long continuum between deep introversion and total extroversion, but I think the general differences exist. The point here is that some people process their thoughts longer than others. For them it's instinctive to process internally; others vocalize much more readily.

Back to the narrative: we continued our stroll to the bookstore, entered and browsed. We sat for a while over coffee and first anniversary cake. It's a small place, so there was some conversation between us and the owners and the occasional other customer. However, come time to settle accounts and depart, the owner asked me if I was always so quiet.

That took me slightly aback because it's not as though I hadn't said anything; in point of fact, I thought I had carried my fair share of the talk. But I guess that everything's relative, and, apparently, I hadn't been particularly verbose compared to others.

You see, when your tendency is to process things quite a bit before you speak, you end up not saying as much as others. I actually noticed the body before Cuppa, but she verbalized it immediately and certainly beat me to it. Because she did [verbalize], there was some good humoured exchange between her/us and both the [resting] body and his comrades. It usually works like that: the introvert tends not to participate a lot in group conversations, for the extroverts are simply quicker to speak and jump in while the introvert is still cogitating. Consequently, he tends to sit back and just listen rather than try to force his way into the conversation. Actually, he's probably often quite happy to listen to what others are saying.

I'm not going to try to bring these ruminations to any grand conclusion, but I thought that the last two posts more or less begged for a little more reflection.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mea Conflagration

I have admitted to being socially inept, but the problem is broader than what I let on in the previous post about those phoney social situations. The truth is that I am pretty well out of social sync at any time or place. I'm not much of a conversationalist, but, at times I try – only to fall inevitably and ineluctably in a smoky conflagration out of the bright, azure sky.

To wit: Cuppa and I rode with a seniors cycling club a few times this past summer. Being the magnificent physical specimens that we are — okay, the truth is that they were really old — we usually found ourselves out in front, often way out in front. On one occasion, I decided to make a determined effort to hang back, try to be sociable and engage in some converse.

I found myself pedalling beside Ron, and I made an effort to connect with him in chitchat. I found that we had both hailed from Montreal, me a lot longer ago, but it was a point of commonality … or so I thought. I showed or thought that I showed an interest in him by getting him to talk about himself. In fact, I was pretty pleased with my effort.

Apparently, however, he was unimpressed, for at the first opportunity he dropped back to chat with the guy behind us. I suppose that I could have followed suit and extended my attempts at conviviality, but I decided to cut my losses and moved up to the front of the pack (would you believe the peloton?) with Cuppa. As we pedalled along, I realized that I had done all of the carrying of the conversation attempt at conversation. He had replied to my probing but never asked me one flippin thing about me or tried to extend the conversation in any way.

It's certainly not the first time that's happened to me. At one of our local dances, we found ourselves sitting with neighbours, and I made similar attempts to talk to the guy when we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder at the table. While he didn't blow me off, the rest of the tale was similar. I made the attempts; he responded and was probably pleased to talk about himself and his work, but there was no reciprocation. He answered but never asked, and I'm not very good at the whole thing and can only go so far before I don't know what else to talk about and silence ensues.

So, there you have it. If you ever meet me, I'll likely be tongue-tied and awkward. Give me break though (will ya?), and talk to me. I'm really not such a bad guy. Really.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ima Squarepeg

The other night, Cuppa dragged me and I went to a thank you reception for the volunteers at last August's Riverside Jam. You may recall that over three days the lady and I put in many hours as Security personnel at one of the entrance gates. Now, after a several month delay, the hundreds of volunteers were all invited to a little get-together as a gesture of appreciation. I appreciate the gesture, but, frankly, I'd rather receive a thank you note in the mail.

When Cuppa asked me if I wanted to go, of course I didn't, but I said yes anyway. Although I can pretty well predict the course of such events, I tend remain at least somewhat optimistic that this one will be different. It never is. In this event as in most, many people sat around many tables trying to have a good time (the people I mean, not the tables although the tables probably had a better time than most). Some folk did enjoy themselves, I suppose – no doubt those who, unlike us, went with and/or sat with friends.

We were to be served finger food. Sounds okay right: cheese balls, breaded zucchini sticks etc? But after we had sat around and stared at each other for about twenty minutes, we were told that the goodies would be served in an hour. Oh the pain of it all. So, Cuppa and I sat there for the allotted hour. Of course, the food was late, so we continued to sit. Eventually, it was ready: not tasty little hors d'oeuvres, however. No indeed: only *&^%$ carrot sticks and such. To make matters worse, you had to line up for these marvellous treats: one freaking table after another. Sorry, but sticking around in a contrived social event and eating carrot sticks that were late and that you then had to line up for is not this old boy's idea of fun. At that point, we beat a hasty retreat.

One the way home, I remarked to Cuppa that I continue to be a square peg in a round circle world. While I am generally comfortable in my own skin and with my life, I don't seem to fit in very well with society at large. Most social circumstances seem contrived and thin to me and not worth bothering about. Sometimes I force myself to go because hope springs eternal, but I can never seem to force myself to pretend to enjoy myself once I get there.

Oddly enough, I like people and like to be around folk but not usually very many at once. I like to exchange basic pleasantries and hear what people have to say about their lives, but I simply abhor sitting around in silly circles with people that I don't know or barely know who are all pretending (not very well, I might add) that they're overjoyed to be there. I can't seem to summon the hypocrisy required to enter into the vacuous banality of it all.

I'm not much of a drinker. Perhaps, if I were, it would help me to become the garrulous life of the party, but let's face it, I won't. The truth is that I'm a Square Peg in a round world. Just call me Ima for short.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Frankly, I'm steamed. It's just after 7:00 a.m. here. I've been awake since about five o'clock and up since about six o'clock. Since I'm much more of an owl than a lark, I'm not exactly ecstatic over this development. You might ask why I was up so early (probably not because you no doubt don't give a fig), so let me 'splain, Lucy.

Remember me posting photos to the effect that I was feeling like the cat's ass (yes, same meaning as cat's whiskers or cat's pyjamas)? Well, as it turns out that I was being prematurely optimistic. Oh, I'm no longer as sick as the proverbial flee-bitten hound in the bayou, but I have never completely recovered from whatever it was that was ailing me a few weeks ago. During one recent night, for example, I sweat through four shirts (actually three as I managed to keep the fourth one dry). Last night, I only went through three shirts, but my nocturnal woes didn't end there, for my next episode involved heat without sweating. I discovered that to be even a less appealing state of being because it doesn't quit. When I sweat, I wake up, change shirts and go back to sleep, but, when I was simply steamin' last night, I tossed, turned, roamed, and changed beds before eventually giving up and getting up.

This kind of nonsense has been going on for weeks now, ever since the plague struck me down. Night sweats are not unfamiliar to me, but they usually have their way with me for just a few nights before returning to wherever it is that they came from. Not this time; it's been going on for weeks.

The Redoubtable Cupster and I thought we might go out dancing last night. We haven't done that for quite some time, but after uncharacteristically drenching my shirt at line dancing the other night and not feeling generally peppy anyway, I begged off. I mean to say, what pretty lady yearns to cling to a sweat-drenched dotard on the dance floor? Note: if you think of one, please email me.

So, we stayed home and I learned some good news. I checked Amazon to track my recent order and discovered that it had been sitting in my mail box since noon. Said order included a CD. New music; how nice. But you see, I normally rip CDs and listen to them on my iPod. But wouldn't you know it: this one is copy protected and won't let me do that. I understand why artists desire to protect their work, but frankly, I'm steamed – both figuratively and literally it seems.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Elections and Dog Sleds

This morning as I was preparing to go out, a very funny segment followed the News, which, of course, featured the US elections even though it was a Canadian station. Naturally, everybody up here pays attention or should pay attention to what happens down there because, when the elephant sneezes, we all feel strangely compelled to blow our frigid and runny woolly mammoth trunks. Anyway, while I was yet rejoicing over the Dem's gains (so sue me – cause ya won't get much), I was soon moved to mirth.

Aside: once upon a time, a funny Canadian, Rick Mercer, took a film crew down there and caught various American reactions to absurd Canadian situations on tape. He managed to get one governor (from Georgia maybe) to believe that our parliament buildings were a big igloo. Other things: he induced many to congratulate us for getting our first university; others to condemn our practice of putting seniors on ice floes; and, there was something about a petition to have Canada switch to a 24 hour day from our present 20 hours … and so on. My memories are dim and vague now and, probably iffy, but you get the idea. Later, it is reported that an American crew tried to do a similar thing here, but, of course, it didn't work because, as I said, we more or less have to pay attention.

Regardless, the excerpt which I heard this morning was done by Americans to Americans. The question was something like, "Do you believe that Barack Obama is a threat to the US?" Of course, every interview that they played was affirmative. Apparently, Mr Obama is perceived to be a most dangerous threat, indeed! Naturally, the respondents thought the question referred to O_amasomethingorother, and the answers were hilarious. I was busy getting ready to go out, so my attention wasn't the keenest, but I do recall one follow-up question: "Do you consider yourself to be an intelligent person?" Of course, the interviewee did because she had her doctorate, doncha know?

Mind you, we're not as superior as I'd like to think up here in the frozen tundra. Personally, although I did stay up to catch some election results last night and was keen to receive an update this morning, I contritely confess that I only know of Barack because I saw him on Oprah not very long ago. And … we had a furnace repairman here this morning. Would you believe that he had no clue about American elections going on or what they meant? No clue at all. So, when I said that we pay more attention up here in the great white north, I guess you can take it with a grain canoe-load of … well, would you believe beaver pelts?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to hitch the dog team up to the sled for our 20 mile trek into the fur trading post for milk, bread and the newspaper, which is written in cuneiform … on birch bark. But you knew that, didn't you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Whatcha Got Cookin?

I don't mind cooking, but I don't know what I'm doing, so I need to follow recipes carefully. I have some written in a cheap spiral notebook and some photocopied (scanned on the computer, actually) and taped into the same notebook. It's all rather haphazard, and some pages are getting stained and beaten down. It's time to re-think my dubious methodology.

You'd think that, by now, I would have typed them up on my trusty word processor, but the task seems to be so monumental that I have demurred. However, there's really no reason why I shouldn't start entering recipes, one at a time, when the mood strikes, for as Cuppa has been known to say, "You can empty the ocean one teaspoon-full at a time." Of course, that's only if it never rains and no new water is permitted to flow in, but the sentiment holds.

You'd think the internet might help. You'd think there'd be nifty recipe sites. Well, I don't know how nifty they are, but I have found two recipe sites. The first I tried was, Recipe Thing, but I entered the Chicken and Corn Chowder recipe (see below) at Allrecipes. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

In both sites, you enter your ingredients and directions in dialog boxes, and both sites take care of formatting your recipe – you just have to hit Enter to begin a new line. Both sites allow you to email the recipes to yourself and to others, and both allow you to print them.

There are differences, however. Recipe Thing has bigger input boxes, and everybody can access everybody else's recipes – usually by keywords. If you note the address, you can direct others to your recipe as I have done with this Fake'n Bake Chicken recipe. You can also have all of your recipes mailed to you in a text file.

Unlike Recipe Thing, Allrecipes does not allow others to see your recipes unless they have been submitted and deemed worthy. Otherwise your recipes are private. The upside is that the many public recipes that you can find have all passed muster. Allrecipes also allows you to email recipes to yourself and others (that's how I got the one below without re-typing), and they give the user several printing options: full pages, 4x6, or 3x5. It is also a fuller and richer site. They have several email newsletters that you can subscribe to if you so desire.

So, both sites are useful, and neither is perfect. Although I am leaning toward Allrecipes, I haven't completely made up my mind, and I could still just opt to type them into my trusty word processor after all.

All of that being said, I do recommend the very tasty Chicken and Corn Chowder recipe, below. Although I have only tried the version listed below, I don't see why you couldn't use the whole rotisserie chicken and double the rest of the ingredients. I got both Chicken and Corn Chowder and the Fake'n Bake Chicken recipes from that fine cookbook, Eat, Shrink & Be Merry, which is not listed on the American version of Amazon. Pity.

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Ready In: 60 min
Yields: 6 servings

4 slices bacon chopped
1 cup diced onions
1/2 cup each diced celery and diced red pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can (12 oz/385 ml) evaporated milk
1 can (19 oz/540 ml) diced tomatoes (squeezed in sieve to remove as much liquid as possible)
1 can (14 oz/398 ml) cream-style corn
2 cups roasted chicken breast (store rotisserie chicken preferred)
1 tbsp hickory-flavoured barbeque sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

1. Cook chopped bacon in a large non-stick soup pot over medium-high heat until lightly browned but not crisp. Stir in onions, celery, red pepper and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add thyme and flour. Mix well. Stir in broth and evaporated milk. Bring mixture to a genlte boil and stir continuously until soup thickens slightly.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Malaprop

Okay, I admit it, I was reading about the Ted Haggard brouhaha here on CBS News. I decided to peruse the comments beneath the article. Below, I have pasted a snippet from one of the comments. I'm not trying to poke fun at anyone; it just struck me as a very funny malapropism in a very unfunny, very sad situation. I don't know how long these pages and comments stay accessible on pages such as these, but it exists at this link on the CBS site as I write this.

"We have no right to judge him. The same stick we judge with will be judged against us. No sin is greater.
This is why we shouldn't put people on pedal stools."

Yup, those pedal stools are dangerous contraptions.

Feeling Better

You may recall that I was feeling like a dog a week or two ago? Yesterday's blog aside, I feel quite a lot better now — like the cat's proverbial you know what. But I can't make up my mind which version I prefer.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Close Call

It's funny (no not funny – odd) the way that The Wheel turns. Suddenly, both in blogworld and realworld, there seems to be a plethora of problems. In blogworld, one person has a problem with her vision while another has an operation; advance to the next blogs and someone's father must endure very difficult procedures while someone else experiences significant family problems. Not only that, but in realworld, three people that I know are experiencing health-related difficulties.

We had our own trauma the other day. Butterfly emailed to inform us that Sumdge might have serious defects. She concluded this from a call to get right in to see the doctor regarding results from those tests that they do now. She writes about it in A Day I'd Rather Forget.

She emailed us because she was unable to speak at the time. We were gob-smacked because, based on our information at the time, the prognostication seemed very serious indeed. She has since visited the doctor, two doctors in fact, and it seems that the test results were pretty well in the normal range. Yes, because she is in her mid-thirties, the chances for genetic flaws do increase, but the odds are still very much with Smudge.

But we didn't know that at the time, and it was very difficult to bear – so very difficult. Butterfly has waited for a long time to become a mother. What if difficulties could lead to a still birth or any number of dire problems? How would she cope? How would Smudge cope? How would we cope? Of course, we would cope; we'd find a way, but for a while there, I faced the plausible reality of a huge loss. You see, the truth is that I love little Smudge already. I've seen his/her pictures and heard his/her heart beat, and I am smitten. Smudge is real and precious.

When Butterfly first announced the blessed event back in August and cautioned us that these were early days and not to get too excited, I decided that I would get excited. I would enjoy the anticipation and be happy. If things went wrong later, I would deal with that then. On Tuesday, although I was still hopeful, I also realized that we were quite possibly facing our worst fears. It was hard – very hard. Nevertheless, even then, I was thankful for the joy that I had allowed myself to experience.

Despite the recent cautionary note, I will continue to do that as best as I am able.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

For Bonita

I had Bonita of Flitzy Phoebie in mind when I took these photos. She is forever sharing pictures and narratives of her many wilderness adventures with us. For you, I looked, Bonita.

We're having a bit of an up and down week. Monday was gorgeous; we ran into some potential trouble on Tuesday; and, Wednesday's weather was just about as fantastic as Monday's. What better thing to do than go walk about in nature? There's a conservation are about a half hour from here called Mill of Kintail. I've mentioned it before.

When we first found it late last Spring, we meant to get back there and walk the trails. We did get back there with company but never walked the trails. The desire to do something positive with yesterday's weather brought it back to mind so, out we headed.

The first thing that visitors see once they get through the gates and park is The Cloister. That's it in the first picture, above. It's a little open-air chapel where they have weddings in the summer. People would sit facing the cloister, and the ceremony would most take place just under the shade of the roof. Acquaintances of ours had their ceremony there on a very blustery and rainy late spring day. That's the problem with outdoor weddings, eh? You never can be certain.

Behind and down the hill from The Cloister is the old house, now a museum of sorts. Despite its name, there is no longer a mill at Kintail, but this fine house still stands. Off to the left (above), you can see a glimmer of water from Indian River, and that's about where the mill used to stand as I understand it. Below, is a photo of the river along the back of the house. There is a little covered lookout from where I took the photo. I thought it would be arty to get the roof of the lookout in the frame, but I was wrong!

But we'd seen all of that before; this time we walked one of the trails. It was less than two miles long, but we sauntered along and took the best part of an hour to finish our stroll. Most of the woods were somewhat scrubby, for as the photo below of Cuppa strolling shows, the forest plainly needs more time to grow from whenever it was cut down. Nevertheless, we had solitude; after meeting a couple at the beginning of our walk, we didn't encounter anyone else for the rest of the hour.

As we neared the end of our walk, the woods cleared onto a farmer's field. You can see barns and horses, below. And if you haven't been there yet, there are more photos and commentary on Cuppa's blog.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Redneck Country?

Is this redneck country or what? I'll let you be the judge.

A few weeks ago our Canadian Tire store had a sign declaring that it would be open on Saturday at 5:00 a.m. for ducks hunters. It begs the question: "Why?" I mean, can't hunters of the duck purchase their necessities before the morning of the shoot? The mind boggles. I wanted to get a picture for y'all, but they took it down before I could. Today, I happened to have my camera in the car when I saw this sign. I couldn't resist.

Folks from other countries may be curious about Canadian Tire. It is a department store somewhat like all of the others. However, it caters more to automotive and home repair than Wal-Mart or Target or whatever, and you wouldn't find very much in the way of clothes or fabrics.