Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sarah's Wedding

As Facebook followers will know, we attended the wedding of Sue's niece, Sarah, last weekend.The venue of both the ceremony and reception was the in the hall of a marina on Lake Ontario, which became particularly picturesque as the sun set.

We did experience a slight problem when the DJ didn't show up on time. Eventually he did appear, and we were ready to begin, except after the party marched down the aisle, he fumbled for quite awhile in search of the bridal march piece. Consequently the bride and her father had quite a time a contemplate and breathe deeply.

Danica was a flower girl and I rather doubt that it will surprise anyone to know that she was quite enthusiastic in her duties. Rather than present many photos, I have combined seven photos into one collage with a little description below.

Above: top left and bottom right, Danica poses sedately and demurely before the ceremony. The centre and top right photo show her enjoying the dance with gusto. Middle left: she dances with Buppa after her feet gave out in her new shoes. Middle right: she and JJ mimic the adults in a slow dance. Bottom left: she dances with JJ and her cousin, Frances. Since I don't believe I have every said it before, let me say it now: I love this kid.

JJ was all spiffed up too and also enjoyed himself.

Several photos from the next day.

Above: JJ and Danica in a tree — naturally.
Below: Amma and Danica with her cousin, Gemma.

Below: Sue with her sister, Heather and Heather's granddaughter, Gemma.

I don't know why it took me all week to post, but it did.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pain Bread

We Canadians, sometimes referred to as Canuckleheads, are a weird lot: masochistic too as you can see by our predilection for Pain Bread. By eating this bread, we feel that in some small way we share the pain of other less fortunate people in the world.

Pain bread contains a coarse sand as one of its main ingredients, and by default it is primarily eaten when dry and stale. One gets even more pain points to one's credit when it has gone a bit of mouldy. Pain bread comes in various thresholds, of which Pain Betty Bread is but one. Pain Betty Bread is of mid-level pain threshold on the pain continuum, Pain Hazel Bread being the most painful to eat, while Pain Iris Bread is the mildest of the pain format breads.

Of course, there are those who think that pain is simply the French word for bread. While this is true, we all know that it goes much deeper than that. Much.

And let's not even get into what we do with cakes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Carryings On

Mornings and other times can be wild around here.

Danica did my ruffles (hair and beard) before the bus came.

JJ and I enjoyed a moment later in the day at the table.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Begins

We are heading away for the weekend, so I thought I'd do a quick post of some recent photos that have to do with the changing of the seasons.

Yes, autumn colours are beginning to show in this part of the world. I expect that they will peak within two weeks and be just about done by four. Some of the trees are already bare, but I suspect they are either dead or dropped their leaves early as a response to our summer drought.

They are predicting a colder winter than last year, but since last year's was relatively mild (in local, Canadian terms) that doesn't necessarily mean that it will be frigid. After all, they predicted that autumn would be warmer than average, and that doesn't seem to be the case. Mind you, technically speaking, autumn isn't here yet.

A nearby row of trees is either dead or dropped their leaves early after a stressful, droughty summer.

We begin to see colour in this view of our Mississippi River.

A closer view

In various stages

Forlorn, denuded trees. Will they sprout leaves in the spring, or are they goners?

Monday, September 17, 2012

This Is How It Ends

I figure that I might as well wax pedantic over things astronomical one more time before I send my brain back into its normal state of splendid somnambulance. I am afraid that I must be the bearer of bad news and reveal the sad future of our planet.

Measurements from Hubble reveal that our companion galaxy, Andromeda, is approaching The Milky Way, and the two galaxies will begin to merge in about two billion years, with the process being complete in four billion years and a new galaxy emerging. With tons of space between stars this needn't be a catastrophic collision, but it will send our solar system much further from the galactic core.

Our actual end will occur about two billion years later when the sun expands into a red giant that will likely extend as far as the orbit of earth. This will occur when the sun begins to run out of fuel. The core will collapse which will result on the sympathetic expansion of the outer layers. Eventually, the outer layers will disperse into space and what remains of the sun will be a white dwarf.

Of course, life on earth will likely be gone long before either of those events as the oceans evaporate and/or we endure catastrophic collisions with asteroids. In fact according to statistics, we will be impacted by a killer asteroid within 100 million years.

But since we're still here and happy about it, here are a few recent photos.

Early one morning last week, I woke up early so I headed out with my camera. From my driveway, I was pleasantly surprised to see the moon and Venus clearly and close to each other before the sun came up.

I awoke early on the following morning as well and headed out to take sunrise pictures. The moon and Venus are still visible together, but their relative positions have changed in the course of a day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Milky Way and Beyond

Tonight is the last night of the astronomy course that I mentioned in the previous post. Guess what? It's raining, and it will be an indoor lecture again tonight. This is all well and good, but I really need to know more about how to look at the stars. Ah well, maybe I'll try again in the spring.

As I rambled on and on last time, I ran out of time and space to post more information about our galaxy itself, so I thought I would share a few facts. I realize that most already know them, but what the heck.

I posted this graphic last time, but it reviews some basic information about The Milky Way: that the diameter is 100 000 light years, for example. It is of disc or elliptical shape, with a bulge in the middle and with arms spiralling outward from the centre. Our sun and, therefore, the earth and the whole solar system is located on one of these outer arms, quite a distance from the centre.

Best estimates estimate that The Milky Way contains at least 200 billion stars and perhaps as many as 400 billion. That's billion, not million. Now consider that there are galaxies that are much larger with the largest that we know of perhaps containing more than a 100 trillion stars. Now consider that there are perhaps 100 to 200 billion galaxies, with some astronomers estimating even more. I don't know about you, but those facts don't mean much to me other than the fact that the universe is essentially infinite.

The profile view to the right shows that our solar system is located about 28 000 light years from the galactic centre. It also shows that the arms are quite thin. Estimates seem to suggest that most of the galaxy might only be 1-3 light years thick. The Central Bulge may by 10 000 light years thick.

In both diagrams it is also apparent that there is much stuff around the galaxy. These are 150 known globular clusters and even small satellite galaxies as it were.

Beyond this, The Milky Way is part of a cluster of a local group of about thirty galaxies, the closest of which is Andromeda. In turn, our local group is part of what is known as the Virgo Supercluster, which is thought to contain 100 groups and clusters.

All of this is in motion. We know that the earth both rotates and revolves around the sun, but the sun also rotates once around the galactic center every 200 million years. Of course, the galaxy itself is also hurtling through space at an estimated velocity of ~600km/sec.

It's time to stop and give my head a rest from trying to deal with these incomprehensible statistics. I will close with this picture of another spiral galaxy, which is thought to be of similar shape to our Milky Way. I should have noted the particulars at the time that I downloaded it, which galaxy it is, but alas ... I didn't.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AC Tries to Learn a Little Astronomy

We have an observatory very near us at the Mill of Kintail, to which I have frequently referred . Every year, the astronomers associated with the observatory put on a series of workshops in both spring and fall. I have always been interested in attending but usually haven't noticed that the classes were being offered until after they have begun. This year, I did notice in time and signed up for the five sessions. I looked forward to the opportunity of making even a small dent in my ignorance of the night sky, for I feel some shame in not being able to recognize anything other than The Big Dipper.

Unfortunately, the telescope in the observatory is being refurbished, so all classes have been held in a nearby building. Well, I take it that they usually are held in said building but that at least one session or part of it normally occurs at the observatory. As my luck in life continues to hold, such was not to be the case for this session of lectures.

On the plus side, the instructor does bring her telescope, which is of fairly impressive size. When the weather permits, she puts it up in the parking lot and points out various visions in the night sky. On the first night, for example, I was able to see, Mizar, the second star in the handle of The Big Dipper (Ursa Major). It is actually part of a double or binary star and is quite a pretty sight.

This led to another unfortunately, however, as three of the fours sessions that have occurred so far have been held under skies which were obscured. Therefore, very little star actual gazing has occurred. Friday will mark the fifth and final lesson; hopefully, we'll get to star gaze for a change.

Much of the lecture material is scientific and a little overwhelming to my old, dull brain, but some things do sink in. One thing that I have appreciated is learning or re-learning about the size it all. A little over forty years ago, at the beginning of a physical geography course, I taught a little about our galaxy and solar system. What I learned and taught then has been reinforced, particularly about our galaxy: The Milky Way.

We have christened our whole galaxy The Milky Way from the belt of stars that we commonly refer to as The Milky Way when we look up at the night sky. There are so many stars that the belt that we're all so familiar with seems milky in appearance. While that belt is part of the larger galaxy, it is not to be confused with the whole galaxy. Indeed, what we commonly refer to as The Milky Way when we are looking up is only a relatively small part of our disc-shaped, spiral-armed galaxy.

I hope I am making that point clear as it can be confusing. There is The Milky Way that we see, but it is only a part of the whole Milk Way galaxy.

As the diagram shows (look for the sun on the left) our solar system sits on one of the galaxy's spiral arms, an estimated 28 000 light years from the galactic centre. There is a huge mass of stars in the centre bulge, but we don't even see them as far as I able to understand. The part that we see and refer to as the Milky Way is thought to actually be the next spiral arm that is closer to the centre of the galaxy. It is closer to the galactic centre than is our sun, but it is not the actual Central Bulge.

I had more to say, but since this has taken more words than I had thought, I think I will post this as is for now. Perhaps I will continue in days to come. Please hold your applause until then.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Mini Review of Two Debut Novels

In a departure from posting pictures, I have decided to share some of my recent reads with you. I have recently had the opportunity to read several first novels. I'm not sure where I obtained the recommendations, but they were pretty spot on in both cases. Although each is technically a murder mystery, neither is exactly in the Agatha Christie whodunit genre, as much as I like that type of novel.

The first is The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau. Set in King Henry the Eighth's reign, it comes complete with a burning at the stake, an incarceration in the Tower of London, and the closing of Catholic monasteries. It is this background which made this unusual mystery so appealing for me.

The protagonist is Joanna Stafford, who is training to become a nun in a Dominican priory. After an unfortunate turn of events, she was held in The Tower until, under secrecy and threat, she was sent back to the priory where she had been training to become a nun in order to ferret out the location of a supposedly powerful relic — the crown of Athelstan. During her search, a murder occurs, the solution of which becomes an important part of the novel.

Set in that fascinating period of history, I enjoyed the book very, very much.

The other debut novel that I was privileged to have recommended is The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, a Scot who sets her novel in nineteenth century, backwoods Canada. I know that sounds pretty dull, but I loved this tale, which in addition to history and geography has an interesting plot populated by interesting characters. Briefly: Mrs Ross finds a local fur trapper murdered in his cabin. When her son is implicated, she sets out on a winter trek in an effort to both find and exonerate him.

There is much going on in this story in addition to the mystery and geography. There is the venerable Hudson Bay Company, frontier justice, an odd religious sect, sexual inclinations, native Canadians and just a number of interesting characters and interpersonal conflicts.

I didn't expect to like The Tenderness of Wolves as much as The Crown but was pleasantly surprised to like it even more, and that is not to belittle The Crown in any way.

At this point, I must drop a teaser and tell you that I was also privileged to read yet another first novel in recent weeks that was also pretty doggone mesmerizing. However, since it still hasn't been approved for publication, Mum's the word.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

First Day of Senior Kindergarten

Danica began school today. She's now in Senior Kindergarten doncha know and an old hand at this.This year the kids are coming to us in the morning instead of us going to them, so it's a new and crowded bus stop (as you shall see), but Danica didn't miss a beat (as you shall also see).

There was quite a crowd at the bus stop

Lots of pictures were taken

Dani was happy about the crowd,
pictures and school

JJ was not happy about all of those strangers
and sought security from his Buppa

On we go

Off we go — happily
And so another year begins. After this year she'll only have 12 more years of school. He'll begin his 14 year stint next year. It's a rather good things that he'll have sister to help him navigate the waters at the beginning.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Birthday Pics

The birthday has come and gone already, and here are some pics to prove it.

First photo with the new, birthday lens

Hugs and snuggles
Waiting for dinner

Very funny

Helping with the cake and candles
Choosing the campfire music

Toasting marshmallows


Looking at the stars
Making the fire colourful
Candle and bottle: an arty shot

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Memory Lane

It was also a Sunday afternoon, and Sue and I had gone to a local pub/restaurant that had advertised a Celtic jam session. When we got there, however, they didn't know a thing about it. So we didn't stay but went for a walk in the park where we came upon the kids and Danica lying on a blanket. That's when I took this picture, which I am pleased to come across again five years later.

I was looking at some old photos recently and came across this one that I'm fairly sure I didn't post at the time.  Do you remember pictures like this when Danica was a baby? I sure posted  a lot of them. Believe it or not, I have become much more moderate about posting grandkid pics in my older age.
To be precise, I took this one exactly five years ago today. I know that because it was my birthday, (you see, despite my advancing years, I am able to remember that) which seems like a perfect segway into confessing that today is my birthday. The rumours are true, folks. I have finally achieved official senior citizen status. My first pension cheque will not arrive until next month, however, and I'm not sure how just that is. :)

Aging is an odd thing. Sometimes I feel like I'm 25 (well 45 anyway) and at other times I feel like I'm 85. At this precise moment, I feel somewhat youngish because I am sitting quietly and using my brain to post pictures and to type. As soon as I try to move, however, I will feel older. :)

Meanwhile, although you don't need much of a reminder after the spate of summer photos, here is the girl 5 years later. Not that it's terribly relevant to my birthday, but it somehow seems fitting to post it seeing how I began this post with a photo trip down memory lane.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Our Ultimate Day Together

For our ultimate summer day of the four of us together, we headed back to Stewart Park in Perth. We know that it has a nice and somewhat shady play area for the kids, and the rest of the park is also lovely.

 As always, there was much climbing to be done, and that is the overriding theme of both the day and this post.

Before we view the climbing, I would like to share once again how it is to walk anywhere with these children. She runs on ahead and needs constant reminders to stop and wait. Sometimes, he runs with her, but at other times in chooses to lag behind. It can be frustrating for beleaguered  grandparents who are trying to keep some sort of control.
She climbs.

He climbs
They both climb a small mound in the children's play area.

Let the record bear witness that they both required intervention from The Buppa when they got stuck in their various endeavours above.

After a picnic lunch, we took them to a rock outcrop where more climbing was to occur. This session only required one intervention from The Buppa when Danica tried to climb down on her back and got herself a little stuck. Fortunately, I was able to talk her through the escape without having to try to drag my lame foot up there.

Going up

... and Up

Posing at the top
Grandma relaxes while Buppa hovers near the kids

Just when I thought we were done with all of that, I headed to the car to obtain refreshments for the kidlets after all of the strenuous activity. Look at where they were when I returned.

It never stops

We've had a fun summer with the munchkins, but are looking forward to less strenuous days as we settle back into the routine. We'll just have her to deal with before and after school, and he'll spend two days a week in formal daycare.