Saturday, April 30, 2005

He Cooks Too!

Way back when ... in November, I wrote about Saint Paul who is the patron saint of those with no mechanical aptitude. At least he is this both to Cuppa and me.

He's been at it again. On Thursday, he who possesses at least two iterations of every tool known to the planet, helped me to:

  1. powerwash the front deck;
  2. change rotting boards on the back deck.

Of course, when I say that he helped me, I mean that he helped me out. As a matter of fact, I did nothing. He prefers it that way. In fact, he suggests that I can help him best by leaving the county and not returning until sundown. He's right, of course, for I am inept at just about any task that requires the slightest amount of manual dexterity — such as passing a hammer without dropping it.

I like to cook, for example, but there are lots of dropsies and oopsies when I am in the kitchen. Generally speaking, a pack of ravenous, wild wolves could survive longer off my floor than a one, single, solitary, wizened, old granny could survive off what comes out of any typical dozen of my cooking pots.

Beyond that, there lies the sad truth that I am not an artist. My cooking is no more art than is painting by numbers or coloring inside the lines. I simply follow a recipe: on my better days that is, for it is not uncommon for me to miss rather vital steps. Have you had chicken without poultry? How about chili sans beans?

The Saint cooks like Michelangelo painted. Now, I don't mean to suggest that Paul actually cooks on the ceiling (although he has been known to get plastered at times) or on scaffolding suspended under impressive domes. What I mean is that he invents his recipes and perfects them over the years.

Tonight, last night now, he made his secret beans and secret ribs. Absolutely delicious. And get this: he actually remembers what he puts in each recipe. Me? I cook by the numbers, and when somebody quizzes me about the ingredients, I soon start to stammer and mutter and look at Cuppa with pleading, puppy dog eyes. I do that because I am pretty well clueless about what I used and the steps that I took. Oh, they'll seem familiar when I look them up again next time, but the point remains, that look them up I must, for I remember scant little without some prodding. Meanwhile, Cuppa can usually recite the main ingredients even though she was busy reading Oprah's latest insights into living the abundant life while I was fussing and fuming over the stove.

But isn't this what makes life interesting, what builds community? I can read, write, teach, take photos, print photos, do web pages. Not everybody can do all of those things. If we all wanted to spend our time reading and writing, who would build the printing presses, invent the microprocessor, fell the trees to make the paper. And on and on.

So, thanks again, dear Saint, for filling in the gaps. And maybe, just maybe, when you're next on the graveyard shift, you can read my words, which is about all that I can offer in return. Words and thanks.


Friday, April 29, 2005


In the cycles of life, sometimes all sorts of things take it upon themselves to converge on one's bay of tranquility. One day, you are sailing on smooth waters: the next, you are baling and tacking and doing all sorts of desperate manoeuvres to keep from being pulled under.

We have been thrust into a vortex of projects: kitchen renovation, computer reassignments, outside work being done, and web projects requiring full attention. Fortunately (or it is?), the weather has not cooperated long enough to beckon us to our bicycles, so, at least we have been spared that distraction — welcome as it may have been.

Let me pull back the curtains on just one of these windows — the new computer. I blogged about it somewhat proudly the other day, but I didn't tell you the rest of the story at that time. It's just that moving data and programs from one computer to another can be problematic.

One of the problems is caused by this newfangled thing called "software activation." In the good old days, you bought your software and installed and reinstalled it to your heart's content. No so any more. Late last week, after installing Service Pack 2 on my old machine, I was forced to call Adobe to reactivate Photoshop. Supposedly, one can reactivate, painlessly, over the Internet, but this never works for me, and, so, a call is always required.

I say "always" because this is the third time than system changes have rendered Photoshop inactive and in need of re-activation. Meanwhile, my Macromedia software accepts the changes and keeps on running without a hitch.

This was on my old computer. A day later I bought a new one.

That required two more calls to Adobe to install Photoshop on the new machine — one to begin the process and one to end it. They are always nice enough about it and give me no hassles but it takes time. To install my two Macromedia products — Dreamweaver and Fireworks — I had to call about each separately, and would you believe that Macromedia has no 800 number for Canada? Gee whiz guys, you'd think Canada was across the planet, and not just an hour or two away. The good news is that Macromedia is being bought out by Adobe, so they will get an 800 number at some point. The bad news is that Macromedia is being bought out by Adobe, so those products will likely become more sensitive to system changes too and require re-activation more frequently.

Whatever! Not only does Macromedia not have a toll free number for those of us in the nether regions of faraway Canada, but it doesn't talk to you directly either. They just have you punch thirty thousand, thirty digit codes into their system. Then they give you a six million digit code to punch into your computer, and the software is ready to function once again.

Thank goodness for small mercies: both companies complied with my needs without question, but I confess to not enjoying the disruptive and time-consuming process.

Then, just as I suspected I would, I encountered problems with my router. Firefox connected fine, but Internet Explorer didn't. Called the router people, Linksys. They said that it was my computer company's, Toshiba's problem. After a while, Toshiba deduced that it was my ISP's, Sympatico's, problem. Of course you know the rest. Yup. Sympatico sent me back to Linksys.

Actually, it was my problem, but it was the Linksys people who finally figured out how to help me out. Thanks Linksys. In the end, the problem was simple, and the second support technician figured it out in no time flat and told me what to do. Everything is simple when you know how.

That's not the full story but a glimpse through the porthole of one of our frantic paddlings in a sea choppy waters.

It's why I haven't tended to my blog like I should.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pole Conquered Again

Almost one hundred years ago, Robert Peary claimed to have made it to the North Pole by dogsled in thirty-seven days. Many doubted both the time and the method of conveyance.

Almost one hundred years later, a team led by Tom Avery replicated the feat in five hours less. They had a GPS and lots of documentation.

It can't be proved that Peary truly reached the North Pole, but it is now proven that it can be done. In that case, why would we doubt?

You can read more about it at the Ultimate North website.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Spiffy New Laptop

Over the past few years, the whole family has converted to laptops or notebook computers, whichever moniker you prefer. It all began a few years ago when I retreated from the daily grind of elucidating the youths of the nation to the glories of the geographical world. You'd think that kids would find the world an interesting place, but I recall one grade nine lass saying to me: "I'm not interested in any place but where I'm living now." I recall thinking to myself that I'd like to visit with her in a few years to get an update, but such was not to be.

Regardless of the digression, my beloved (and, of course, you understand that this is a typical picture) unexpectedly bought me a laptop as a retirement gift. Quite a gift, I'd say. I immediately took to it. To me, there's something more intimate, more fun, more fulfilling about working on a laptop, even though I park it in stationary mode at my desk ninety percent of the time.

Since then, everybody (except The Boy) has converted. Butterfly and Lady Bug each received one as an inheritance gift from grandma's vast estate (just kidding folks — about the vastness part, I mean) after she passed on. Meanwhile, I outgrew my first laptop. Basically it was a piece of junk made by a large company whose name I'll not reveal except to say that its initials are not BMI, or at least not in that order.

That computer got passed on to Cuppa who passed her desktop computer onto a student who didn't have the courtesy to even thank us (and it was a good machine too). The laptop was just what Cuppa needed. With her broken back (sounds dramatic), it was much, much easier for her to sit in a chair with the laptop on her lap than to lift her hands up to a desk. She, too, became mighty attached to it.

However, as I have said, her computer was not well made and is falling apart — literally. We were becoming fearful that it would, quite suddenly, give up the ghost one day without notice and leave her stranded. Even though I was very happy with my computer, there was more than a little pressure put on me to upgrade and pass mine on to her.

It is always done this way. I always get the new computer: not because I'm the alpha male (although that helps), but because my computing needs are greater. I don't just email and blog but work with Photoshop and design web pages (as an amateur, mostly for a hobby).

Here's the thing. You see the two computers side by side in the photo. The one on the left is only a year and a half old, but it cost $500 more than the new one on the right, which has a bigger, brighter screen, a DVD burner, and a faster processor. That's quite a price drop in eighteen months.

Perhaps the old prediction will come true. By that I mean that after I bought my last desktop computer — maybe seven years ago — I read a prediction that almost everyone would switch to laptops within about five years. I didn't really believe it at the time, but now I do. I have a 17" screen on this one and lots or power, at a fairly competitive price. Put it this way: it's the cheapest PC that I have ever bought. Although desktop computers are still cheaper, even more powerful, and certainly more upgrade-able, I think that more and more people will opt for laptops — especially now that the wireless age has dawned, and you can access the Internet from lots of places.

Regardless, I hope we're done with buying computers for a few years. My dwindling bank account needs a rest.


I mentioned that we had all converted except for The Boy. What's his problem you ask? Well, he's a gamer and as such he needs a station from which to do his thing. As such, upgrading video cards and such is of importance to him, and that is still something which requires a desktop computer. Aside from that, he's normal — sort of. Well ...


Monday, April 25, 2005

Little Lives

This is a tiny plant commonly called Windflower. It blossoms for a short while in the spring. You could easily miss the Windflowers because they are very small and close to the ground. They don't live very long either. But when you take a close look, you see that this plant is worthwhile, that it contributes to the world in its tiny, little way.

Just like people, some flowers bloom long and conspicuously; others live shorter, less obvious lives. They all, both the long bloomers and the short bloomers, both the prominent flowers and the obscure flowers, impart some beauty to this world ... just like people.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bowed Low

Sometimes the storms of life weigh heavily upon you until you are bowed low under the onslaught.

Eventually the sun comes out and you discover that there are still reasons to smile.


How It Is

I have not had much to say recently. Partly, at least, I still feel as though I am in mourning over Ava Marie. Ordinary blogging does not seem to be terribly appropriate to me at the moment, or at least I don't feel up to it.

It may seem rather strange to mourn with people whom I have never met, but I have met them in a way. I have met them through the written word, and there is little more powerful than that.

Life, certainly, must go on: for those of us outside the immediate circle, sooner rather than later. For Karla, Mark, and the grands, it will be much more difficult. That's an understatement, for I can only begin to fathom how bereft and sad they must feel.

However, I sense that I have glimpsed, through Karla's writings, enough of this family to believe that beyond this almost fathomless grief, they will be able to see the sun and smile again. It will take time, maybe a long time. They will never get over this tragedy, but they will get past it in some way at some point in time, for I sense that there is strength and resiliency there.

Because life must go on, I will blog normally again, but whether that will be tomorrow or next week, I am not sure. And, although she can not even begin to contemplate it now, I am hoping that Karla will blog again too — someday. I have said that the written word is powerful, and, when the time is right, it may be one way for Karla to begin to take tiny forward steps although there will always be many wistful backward glances.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

In Memoriam


Ava Marie

Ava Marie's visit was heartbreakingly brief, but she touched us and will be loved forever.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Beauty and Pain

I don't have any hyacinths in my garden. It's one thing that I never got around to planting. Silly me!

Fortunately, our neighbour has a few, and I couldn't help but step over the boundary line today to take this shot. Pretty combination don't you think? I lay on the grass to take the photo and certainly got close enough to inhale the fragrance. What wonderful plants these.

I almost feel bad to find some joy and beauty when there is such pain and suffering on another blog that most of us follow. Pain is pain. Beauty is beauty. Both are realities of life. But such pain as they bear is truly overwhelming, and we are all powerless to help. There are no magic words, no trite answers.

Our thoughts are with you. We are saddened.


My American Linguistic Profile

Collecting my Thoughts is back from a little hiatus and has published a link to an interesting little test. You can answer twenty questions that will tell you what kind of American English you speak. Since I am not American, I thought that it would be interesting to give it a try, and here's what it revealed.

Your Linguistic Profile:

45% General American English

30% Yankee

10% Dixie

10% Upper Midwestern

5% Midwestern

For the record, Collector, who lives in Ohio, not terribly far away, scored 85-10-5-0-0, so, apparently I speak more Dixie and Midwestern than she. Isn't that weird?

Actually, Canadian English might properly be considered a subset of American. Our lexicon, pronunciation, grammar, and punctuation are very similar. We spell like the Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis, but we talk much more like Americans.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Curse of the Cure

There are some ironies in life. After writing about my mother's death to cancer last night, I read in today's paper that no one need die from cancer by the year 2015.

So, what will we die from? What will we do? Will we live longer in order to sit around in an ever-increasingly vegetative state? Will they build more and more nursing homes?

There are already predictions that, due to expanding longevity, we will soon have to work until we are 75. Is that what we all want to live longer for? To work? To prolong Adam's curse?

There's something wrong with all of this. While nobody that I know is eager to contract cancer and to die from it, I also don't know too many people who want to live forever in increasingly-decrepitizing bodies and minds.

Cuppa bought a rather fine winter coat several years ago, at a time when she was also enduring her own cancer scare. She had dreamt about having this coat for years and was absolutely thrilled to flounce about in it. I remember her trying it on one day and saying, "I hope I get to enjoy wearing this for a long time."

In one of my more lucid moments, I replied something like this: "I hope that you enjoy it for as long as you are here to wear it." In other words live in the moment, revel in each day, for I believe that it's the quality and not the duration of our days that matters most.

I daresay there are none of us who are anxious to bring closer in time our ultimate date with destiny. Of course, we're not. We want to live as long as we are able to derive some pleasure, joy, and satisfaction from our lives. On the other hand, I don't think too many of us are terribly anxious to tack ten to thirty years onto the end of our days when we are frail, feeble, and, quite likely, mentally diminished.

If medical science were able to make us feel at eighty like we did at forty, then I would reconsider. But it won't happen that way, and I see this as more curse than blessing right now. How will it greatly benefit me to be rescued from cancer when I am seventy to eighty years old in an otherwise aged mind and body?

Because I am thinking along certain lines here, I don't want to leave a wrong impression. I think that it would wonderful to cure cancer in kids and in young, productive, and otherwise flourishing adults. But I fear the implications at the other end. Who wants to live forever anyway — in bodies and minds that are otherwise aging and in a society that is already ill-prepared to cope with the old?

Meanwhile, may you live each day of your life.



I am tired tonight, but I want to be very tired when I go to bed. Because I don't want to toss and turn and think too much. I might be prone to do that because it was on this night, two years ago, in the early hours of the new day, that my mother passed from this earth.

Last year on this day, I wrote her a letter. I wrote in long hand on paper. I don't exactly know what I wrote or where the letter is. I do know that I wrote it to her as if she were going to read it. It was a way of communicating feelings, a way of honouring her life, a way of commemorating her passing, a way for me to try to deal with my own thoughts and emotions.

She was a difficult woman, my mother: somewhat of a misfit in this world. Perhaps many of us are but some more so than others. It was this side of her that led to much ambivalence on my part: loyalty mixed with anger and vexation. At times, she exasperated and hurt. I don't think she ever meant to hurt, but I do think that she missed some sort of step in her normalization process, and that led to her being this way.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer three years prior. She had known about a lump for quite a while but had demurred. She put her inaction down to the fact that she was enjoying the calm after my father's passing. He had suffered from dementia in his last few years, and that had been difficult for her to cope with.

We were none of us keen that she opted to have an operation when she was nearing her mid-eighties, but she was scared of cancer and went ahead with the procedure. Apparently, she thought that cancer must necessarily involve a lot of pain, never realizing that pain could be pretty well managed these days. In the end, she died of cancer anyway, and, ironically, without much pain at all. The occasional regular strength tylenol seemed to be all the medication that she needed, up until the very end at least.

As I said, we were none of us keen about her decision to have the operation, but, in retrospect, I believe that it was a good thing. It gave her a few more years to live, and I think she became, at least in part, a different person in that time. She seemed to become more appreciative of her family, more mellow in many ways.

She took a while to get over the operation, but the very last year of her life seemed to be a very good one. I think it was her new attitude. There was something different. She was more positive, more appreciative, nicer to be around. She became a more endearing person.

I am glad that it happened that way. She had left some pain in her wake, but at least a portion of that was able to fade a little by the end as she became somewhat kinder, more considerate and empathetic.

Don't get me wrong. She was never an awful person, just very difficult at times. However, she became less exacting by the end. Besides, whatever the struggles and turmoil, she was my mother. An unbreakable bond exists in that relationship. And so I mourn, and I stay awake for a while longer and keep some sort of a vigil, just as I did at her deathbed two years ago tonight.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Fine Sunsit

We have been fortunate this spring. After a long winter that didn't seem to want to let go, everything began to change quickly come April. We have been riding the bikes further and more frequently than we ever thought we would. Crocuses have come and gone, and daffodils are beginning to bloom.

Today, we enjoyed our first sunsit. We have a small, sheltered, southern exposure by our side door, and we decided that we would be able to enjoy it today. Although the air temperature and winds would have not been favourable in most spots, but we were blessed in our private, little place.

I started off wearing a light sweater and sweatpants. Soon, the sweater came off, and I found that I was comfortable in just a tee shirt — for a short while, at least. Shortly, however, my legs began to feel too warm; so, I switched to shorts. Whodathunkit so early in the year?

The Cupmeister and I sat out there for the best part of two hours, me wrapped up in The Da Vinci Code and her in Swamp Angel. Quite a treat for mid-April in Canada. Tomorrow, the plan is to pedal to the lake, and we think that it will be mild enough to take a picnic lunch. If not, we'll enjoy the ride and coffee at Tim's.

I did notice something while we were sitting out and reading this afternoon. It was the Cupmeister's ability to sit placidly for a long time. Frequently, the old AC found himself getting up and stretching or just meandering aimlessly around the garden. I have noticed this before: my need to twitch about compared to her ability to sit serenely. Sometimes, I theorize that the female bottom is better designed for sitting comfortably for long periods.

However, I can also remember when we were younger, and even stupider than we are now, when we would sunbathe for hours by the lake near the old cottage. Cupmeister would be able to lie upon that towel interminably. It would drive me benders.

Perhaps it has something to do with the hunter versus the gatherer mindset. Perhaps it is just a personality difference. Whatever the explanation, I did enjoy my sunsit this afternoon, even if I did have to get up and stretch with some regularity.


Friday, April 15, 2005


These are the daffodils that I have been tracking for the past four weeks. They have been in full bloom for the past few days. This is one clump in a whole row of daffodils, but it is the only one in bloom at this point. It's the first clump to bloom every year. There is something to be said for both early bloomers and late bloomers — especially late as it offers hope that there is till time for me!

I presume that these will be the final photos of this series, unless I can get one of the whole row: if and when it is all in bloom.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shakespeare Lives

Spring Bulbs are one of the first things that I planted in the garden several years ago when I became interested in gardening. I now think that they should go in last because they continue to take up room long after they are finished blooming, and they affect the space you have to plant your summer perennials.

This species tulip (as I think it is called), is one example. I have done so much digging and moving of plants that I have lost all but this one bulb. If I remember correctly, this cultivar is called Shakespeare.


Silly Couches, Silly Livingrooms

In this blog, Debra explains that they have decided to go couchless. I thought that rather amazing when I read it. Why do the rest of us never think of that? Why do we all have couches anyway? Just because that's the way it has always been, I suspect.

In a sense, it's odd that I choose to read Debra's blog, as i see it now, as it's a godblog. Most posts deal with her spiritual life. In her case, I don't find it a turn-off because she writes with sensitivity and Christian maturity: doesn't shout, threaten, or cajole but writes of her daily walk. I believe that many people could apply most of her thoughts and principles to their lives even though they might view life through less spiritual lenses.

Whether this blog is your cuppa (as opposed to my Cuppa), you may begin to wonder like I, why we have all of these stupid couches all over the place. Don't you also wonder why most of us have living rooms (couches included) in which we don't live? We hardly ever venture into ours, for example. Silly that!


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My Other Hero

When I wrote my tribute to Terry Fox in A Canadian Hero the other day, I wrote that I had two heroes. Because it is best to limit the length of a blog, I was forced to restrict myself to writing about only one hero in that piece.

Irony of ironies, Lady Bug commented on that blog: "Dad, I will have you know that it is exam time, and blogs such as this do not help appease the emotional wear and tear one goes through during these times. No, indeed not. I hereby request and funny, lighthearted blog to help those students who are currently on the brink of .... losing it. Please! I urge you to take pity!"

As you can tell from the context, Lady Bug is my daughter who is presently studying for her university exams. She has previously been identified in these blogs as daughter #2, D2, and Deetoo, but she desired a more proper identifier and has decided on Lady Bug. So, as far as my blog is concerned, my older daughter is Butterfly, and my younger one is Lady Bug.

Lady Bug's comment is so ironical because, however much that this may shock her, and however much this blog may impede her studying, I must declare that it is she who is my other hero. Did you get that? My daughter is my hero!

When Lady Bug was little, despite great effort on her part, she did not take to reading as, let's say, a duck takes to water. There was some sort of an odd mental misfire that would occur. While she might be able to read Tyrannosaurus, for example, Rex might become Xer or Erx or whatever. She tended to misfire on little words such as "on" which might become "no."

In her elementary years, we were concerned that she was falling through the cracks in the school system. She was a good kid who achieved acceptable results. Teachers, who had much bigger issues to deal with and many fires to stomp out, couldn't really fathom that Lady Bug had a problem.

Somehow, however, she found her own way out of her difficulties in high school. She began to excel in subjects like math and computers, and by dint of great tenacity was also able to pull up her other subjects as well. It was character that made the difference. If she needed to rewrite an English essay five times, she would.

While it has turned out that Lady Bug is somewhat gifted both intellectually and athletically, it's her character that I so admire: the willingness to persevere, to do the extra rewrite, to go for it, to pursue her dreams.

After several years of working, and at an age when most kids exhibit not the faintest clue about the value of money and spend it wantonly, Lady Bug had saved enough to quit her job and go travelling overseas for a whole year. On her own! She admitted to some nervousness but determined to do it. And she did.

Mama, especially, worried about her little bird who was flying far from the nest, but at that point I used a Dr Philism to describe my Lady Bug: "She doesn't live life with sweaty palms." Where others dream, she does.

And so she continues to amaze her father. After travelling for a year, she returned to university to take courses that did not to dear, old Dad seem to match her academic strengths. I worried, but I needn't have. Once again, she has shown me the power of her will and determination. She is willing to work as hard as necessary and has achieved gold key status. Lady Bug has the grades to go on to graduate school if that's what she decides to do.

Another Dr Philism: "Life is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration."

Life is mysterious. From whence comes the character, tenacity, and determination of the Terry Foxes and Lady Bugs of this world? What drives them to be the industrious ant and not the idle grasshopper of Aesop's fables? Whatever the source, I must admire those souls who possess these qualities, especially in their youths. These are my heroes.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Little Irony, A Little Inspiration

Life is full of ironies, some little some fairly sizeable. I encountered a little one yesterday, shortly after publishing A Canadian Hero.

Our side door faces south and is quite sheltered from the breezes. There are times when that can be deceptive. Like yesterday. We headed out on the bikes for what we supposed would be a lovely pedal in warm gentle breezes.

Hah! Once we hit the streets, we were quickly disabused. The winds were anything but gentle. One might have been tempted to to call the whole ride off.

Except that it was Terry Fox's twenty-fifth anniversary, and I had just written about him! As we pedalled directly into the stiff spring winds, I kept thinking of Terry.

"It was on this day, twenty-five years ago that he dipped his artificial foot into the Atlantic ocean. And he started to run. He ran for 143 days, through all kinds of weather and over all kinds of terrain. He ran one one leg for a longer distance than I am attempting to pedal with two good legs. Surely, you can do it AC. Surely, today of all days, you can do it. You will do it, AC. By God, today of all days, you will do it!"


Being Koi

We were visiting Cuppa's sister in Toronto this past weekend. Years ago, my industrious brother-in-law built a pond, which inlcudes water cascading over rocks. He keeps koi. I'm not sure how they manage to survive out Canadian winters, but they do.

I put fish ponds in the same category as swimming pools — they're great on other people's property. Personally, I wouldn't want the bother of upkeeping either one. An unpretentious garden is as much or more than I can handle. Speaking of which, the first daffodils are close to bloom.


Monday, April 11, 2005


I'm almost positive that I saw this photo on one of the blogs that I read. My frail memory informs me that I tried to comment but received a 404 error. However, I could not find that blog again.

I googled it and found it on another blog, which I don't read and borrowed it from there.

We had seriously contemplated visiting Newfoundland last fall. Three things conspired to prevent us. One: we spent all of our holiday money on bicylcles. Two: it would cost the best part of $500 to ferry on and off the island. Three: we wouldn't be able to see icebergs in the fall. (Well, duh! do ya think?)

Great photo anyway, so I share it with you.


Daffodil Update

Three and a half weeks ago, I posted a photo of newly sprouting daffodils. At the time, it was so remarkable to me because the ground had been covered with snow until just a few short days prior to that, and I had been bemoaning the long and unceasing winter. Then I saw the daffodil shoots.

About a week and a half ago, I posted this photo of their progress. And you see, above, where we are today. They are just beginning to open. no doubt I'll post one more when the clump is more fully open. I have many clumps planted, but this one is the first to sprout and flower every year.

Just imagine, it takes four weeks or less for these bulbs to sprout and blossom. Four weeks! Meanwhile, I've been trying to bloom for fifty-eight years now and haven't quite managed it — not to the extent of these little spring flowers anyway.


A Canadian Hero

Do you think people will remember? Will they keep the dream alive?

Generally speaking, Canadians are a modest and unassuming lot. To some extent, I guess that can't be helped when you live next door to the richest and most powerful country in the history of the world. Their heroes are the larger-than-life Davy Crocketts of their fabled history. If Canadians have heroes, and I have two, they are ordinary people, who through inner strength and courage, accomplish extraordinary things: people who remained modest and grounded with an "aw shucks" attitude about their endeavours.

Twenty-five years ago, Terry Fox, who unbeknownst to him, was soon to become a Canadian hero, dipped his artificial toe in the Atlantic ocean before beginning to run with his peculiarly endearing jog-hop-shuffle step. He ran forty-two kilometres (twenty-six miles) per day through good weather and bad, jog-hop-shuffling his way across Canada, determined to run until he dipped the foot of his artificial leg into the Pacific Ocean.

Terry captured the imagination of Canadians along the way. We all began to cheer this cheerfully unassuming one-legged, boy-become-man, extraordinary hero. We cheered as he entered Ontario and cheered as he was given a rock star's welcome in Toronto. His courage and determination had begun to move a nation.

It was this day in April 1980 when he began his odyssey, determined to raise the equivalent of one dollar for cancer research for every Canadian, for it had been cancer that had cost him his leg in 1977. Given the country's 1980 population, he would have had to raise twenty-four million dollars. Although, in the end, he couldn't succeed in his quest to run across this vast nation, his courageous efforts had met and exceeded his goal before he departed this world early the following year. I can even remember my little daughter, Butterfly, being moved to pledge five dollars to the cause.

He had to give up his dream in September. He only made it half way across the country, ran for only 143 days and for only 5,373 km (3,339 mi). He was forced to stop when cancer returned to assault him once more. He stopped his run on September 01, 1980 and vowed to resume his trek the following year. He didn't of course, for he could not defeat this enemy. If courage could have defeated cancer, Terry would still be here. If determination could have defeated cancer, Terry would still be here, but even Terry's valiant courage could not withstand this renewed assault of this relentless foe.

I have twice been to the monument that marks the spot where he was forced to abandon his marathon of hope. It lies on the entrance to Thunder Bay, Ontario along the Terry Fox Courage Highway. I have been deeply moved on each visit for it seems like hallowed ground to me.

I have thrice driven the roads where Terry ended his Marathon of Hope, for that's what he called his endeavour. The land is mighty and rugged up there north of Superior, almost mountainous. I have driven where he jogged, hopped and shuffled for forty-two kilometres per day. I have driven this stretch of road and been moved by what this one-legged , dauntless, young man dared to battle, day after endless, painful day.

Terry didn't make it across Canada, but his efforts had raised twenty-four million dollars by the time he breathed his last, early the following year. But that was only the beginning, for people still run in memory of Terry; people still collect pledges in his name. His twenty-four million dollar goal has been well exceeded — would you believe by fifteen-fold? — for 360 million dollars have been raised in the past twenty-five years.

Some of his final words were: "Do you think people will remember? Will they keep the dream alive?" You damn betcha, Terry. You moved a nation and continue to inspire, and you moved this gaffer, who remembers your splash into the hearts of the nation, and types these memories onto a screen that is obscured by the tears which blur his eyes.

When Canadians recently voted for their top Canadian among ten final candidates, Terry, you stood above Sir Frederick Banting, the discoverer of insulin, and Lester B Pearson, a winner of the nobel peace prize and prime minister of Canada. Even Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky trailed at a distance.

You are a hero, a man who moved a nation, a man who inspires even though you have been gone for longer than you lived.

There is an audio-video clip of the unveiling of the monument here on the CBC archive. It includes some brief footage of Terry jogging through the difficult terrain near Thunder Bay.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Q&A 4 (and final)

What is your favourite month? Now that I don't have to go back to the teaching grind every September, I think I must pick that month. It's still summer, but not torridly so. There are still lots of flowers in bloom, but the pesky mosquitoes are rapidly diminishing. In the last few years, we have gone away in September: once down east, but usually to the cottage. Yes, it's a good month.

What was the last movie you watched? My Fair Lady. It was the first things we taped when we got our PVR (DVR) just a few weeks ago. I had never sat down and watched this famous flick, but I'm not quite glad that I did. Since then, we have watched several two-or-more-part British detective series, which should count as movies due to their lengths: Inspector Lynley, Inspector Dalgliesh, and Silent Witness.

What book are you reading? Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes. This is the second of John Spong's books that I have read (or am reading). In a nutshell, he contends that the gospels were written by Jews and that we can't properly understand them unless we begin to understand what that means. They were designed as liturgical readings to complement the reading of The Torah throughout the Jewish liturgical year. As such, they were never intended to be factual and chronological accounts of the life of Christ but to show who He was/is.

What did you watch on TV last night? Ah, finally an important question! American Idol. Yes, we are Idol worshippers, both the American and Canadian versions. I think that's all we watched last night, which isn't a lot — only a half hour. However, we frequently watch Dr Phil and/or Oprah in the afternoon. I think we watched Phil yesterday.

Well, that's thirteen questions out of fifty-five in the survey that I was sent. I think the survey was intended to be filled in and mailed back, but why pass up potential blog material?

PS: We didn't really watch American Idol last night. This post was already up in draft mode, but I didn't hit the publish button until now.


The Lesson of the Crocus

This past week, I posted a series of crocus photo, most of them filtered in some way. This is a straight photo, but it almost doesn't look like one. I think that there was just enough of a breeze (or camera shake — no must have been a breeze <g> ) to throw the flowers just a little out of focus and make them look just a bit like a painting. In this photo, the background was blurry enough that I didn't feel the need to change or eliminate it.

That's it for crocuses for this year. They stay but a short while, perhaps less than a week. Mine were done a few days ago, but I didn't get this photo posted until now.

Something doesn't have to live long to brighten its corner of the world. The pleasure that a crocus provides in its few short days is truly a treasure. Dare I suggest that we of the supposedly higher life forms would do well to emulate these short-lived wonders? How many of us, with me at the top of the list, have brought as much pleasure to someone's life as a mere crocus today?


Friday, April 08, 2005

Q&A 3

What's your favourite drink? Diet Coke® — hands down. I have three or four or even five on most days. I know that I shouldn't, but, as I said in a recent post, as far as addictions go, this one is not particularly heinous. At one time, Coke was just a treat, but when Diet Coke came on the market, lo these many years, and I didn't have to worry about calories, I began to consume it more and more. Now, I overdo it.

What's your favourite alcoholic drink?  I don't consume a lot of alcohol. I have wine most frequently but could easily live without it. Beer, I have on occasion, and on those occasions I enjoy it. I like a Caesar every now and then, and I enjoy the odd vodka cooler in summer. I guess if I have to choose I'll go with Caesars, but alcohol is not a big deal to me. Since I don't consume much, I become easily affected, however, to the point where I have been called a cheap drunk — even though I have never been drunk. I somtimes wonder if I shouldn't make it a point to do that sometime before I turn sixty.

How many siblings do you have, and what are they like? None. Zilch. Zippo. Nada. I am an unspoiled only child. If you knew my parents, you'd understand how I could be unspoiled. For one thing, they were too poor to spoil any child. For another, they just wouldn't. I'm not sure if you can ever truly miss something that you never have, but I did want two children, so I must have sensed that something was lacking in my early years.


Thursday, April 07, 2005


We are in Toronto for the weekend, but I had this photo ready to post for your viewing pleasure. See how much I think of you all.

Enjoying April's Migraine

It occurs to me that I have been very quiet lately. While I have been posting photos and filters of photos, I haven't said a whole lot. Sometimes, my mind just spins in other directions; that's all.

While I have promised myself not to blog about every single bicycle ride this season, I haven't been able to help but mention the first one or two, and yesterday, well yesterday, we really did it! What we did was ride the trail all of the way out to our little spot on the great big lake. It's about a 32k/20m round trip that takes us the best part of two hours of pedalling.

When we get out there, however, we always stop at Tim Horton's for coffee. Into the saddle bag go the steamy cups, and down to the lookout we go. We get our little viewing platform, and out comes the coffee and quite often a little lunch. Yesterday, we had it all, and rather enjoyed ourselves, even if there was a ton of ice still over the water.

It was quite an unexpected treat. I hadn't considered that we would be able get out on the big ride for quite a while yet. April's weather can be incommodious to say the least. If the old girl is not being unmercifully chilly or incredibly windy, she is generally pouring all over her spring flowers. And even if she grants a nice day, one expects that recent showers would generally render the trail a mucky mess that is not to be trifled with.

So, it was rather delightful to be able to ride the trail all of the way out to a place on the lake that we call The Grove. April was pretty darn kind to us yesterday. Perhaps, she was in bed with a migraine and not up to her duties. She did eventually rouse herself into action, however. In the last few miles, she kicked up quite a fuss and blew strongly right into our faces, but we persevered our way through her last-minute, hissy fit and arrived home none too much the worse for wear. In fact, we arrived home in pretty darn fine spirits.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Would You Believe Oil?

The aim here was to produce an oil painting effect. Once again, I don't really see that it turns out as such, but it's an effect nevertheless. And that's it for the various renditions of this particular crocus, at least.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Trying for Watercolour (or Watercolor)

One more experiment with the same photo as in the previous two posts — and then maybe one more — or not. We'll have to see about that.

The series of filters used to produce this is supposed to render something akin to a watercolour effect. Perhaps, I never choose the right photo, but I always seem to have trouble working this effect to my satisfaction. It's always interesting to try, however.


Alas, No Morning Blogs

Blogger is acting up this morning, thus deprving me of my morning routine. I used to read the Morning Paper, but now I read the Morning Blogs.

Since I am prevented from my preferred activity, I thought that I do some more experimenting on yesterday's photo, just as I had said that I probably would. The intent of these filters is to produce a pastel effect.

To do that, I ran the underpainting, sprayed strokes, rough pastels, and dry brush filters in that order. After some more experimentation, I deicded to post it sans mat and frame.

I must now go about my other chores. It doesn't pay to try to reason with Blogger when it is in one of its moods.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Crocus Photo

I wanted to take another photo of a crocus — a single crocus — for possible use as a web graphic at some point. Crocuses are so close to the ground that the background wasn't at all appealing, not in a straight, overhead shot at least. Once again, I extracted the bloom from the rest of the photo, but the flower itself is a regular, unfiltered photo this time; I have simply added a mat and frame. I may also run some filters on this photo for my next post and change the mat or eliminate it. We shall see.

Meanwhile, let me say that it's nice to see a bit of colour out there. It's a very little bit, only a few crocuses almost lost in the garden — or the debris that will once again become a garden.


The Common Mallard

... common but beautiful

When we walk by the local ponds or in the wetlands, it amuses us greatly to hear the ducks quaking. Perhaps quacking is not the right words, for I am speaking of their big, raucous noises that sound as if they are laughing uproariously at a wonderful joke. Perhaps they are.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

First Flowers

I glanced outside and saw that I had a few crocus flowers in the backyard amidst the debris. Not much liking the photo, I ran a few filters to try to give it a bit of a painting look.


The Ugly Duckling

Saturday, April 02, 2005

An Attitude Adjustment

Back here, at the time of the equinox, almost two weeks ago, I posted some observations about spring not really arriving in these parts until around May. But I also posted a photo of daffodils beginning to grow around that time, and now I am have posted the one above. As you can see, there's been a lot of growth in two weeks.

Then, I saw my first robin on the weekend, and since that we have heard them and other birds chirping, singing, and calling to one another. It's so great to hear the birdsong when we go out for our almost daily walks. We generally walk the neighbourhood just after sunset, but the first hour of darkness does not seem to diminish the enthusiastic and delightful avian harmonies.

Other plants, aside from spring bulbs, are growing; even summer and fall plants are poking themselves above ground — barely but truly. Cuppa and I are starting to get out on little bike rides. The ride today was windy and difficult in spots when we encountered ground that was still a little mushy. Wind plus mushy ground conditions make for difficult pedalling. Nevertheless, we are starting to get out there with a certain amount of regularity.

What I am saying is that the signs are here, and I am recanting my earlier position, to some degree at least. I now admit that it really is spring: early spring but spring nonetheless. Later in the season we will begin to enjoy those idyllic days of gentle, warm weather, those days that lift the spirit in their unique way. Meanwhile, despite the occasional setback, the weather continues to improve, continues to be much better than it was.

We eagerly wait for spring come late winter, so I'm not about to look past the offerings of these days in the anticipation of warmer and better days. I'm determined to enjoy the very real perks of early spring: longer days, the milder temperatures, the soon-coming flowers, the budding of the trees, and the birdsong at eventide and all the day long.

I have given by head a shake and now remind myself not to look past today in the anticipation of a possibly brighter tomorrow. I must live in the present and relish today's gifts, for there is no certainty beyond this moment. Life is but a series of present moments, and when I look past them, I cheat myself of much.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Canada Goose

Just because I'm Canadian, it doesn't mean I'm a silly, old goose!!


Shall We Walk?

When I added SwampThings to my list and put it in proper alphabetical order, I was reminded of one very frustrating time when I couldn't put things in alphabetical order at all. How frustrating and embarrassing!

In the Montreal school system, when I was in it lo these many years, public school ended after grade seven. There was some fee attached to school in those days, at least for high school, which started in grade eight; the sum of thirty-five dollars stands out in my mind. It was for rental of textbooks and that sort of thing. That seems archaic now, but that's the way it was. I don't think it was out of the ordinary either because when we moved to Toronto, there was no rental fee, but we had to purchase our own textbooks. It's the way it was back in the dark ages; scrolls and parchment were pricey.

Thirty-five dollars seems like a piddling amount of money these days, but as I was reflecting on it, I realized that it was more than fifty percent of my father's weekly pay. Translate that into today's typical weekly wage, and it turns into a fairly tidy sum.

I relate all of that to set up the account of scholarship exams and my inability to alphabetize.

One day, near the end a grade seven, I was asked to join the brighter students in the class to take scholarship exams. I guess the scholarship would have covered the school fee that I mentioned above. I'm not sure why I was invited into the process as I was anything but an achiever. They took all of the bright kids into these scholarship exams, and they also took me. Perhaps I was there to set a bench mark of sorts — a control factor; I don't know.

This much I recall or think I do. There were five exams. I don't remember the others, but I remember the alphabetizing one with some vividness. We were given a piece of foolscap, a frightfully long list of words, and told to list them in alphabetical order.

I was totally overwhelmed! Couldn't do it to save my life. I wrote and erased in a state of panic for whatever the length of the exam — probably a half hour. At the end of the session, I didn't have one word listed — not one! Just a bunch of erasure marks. What a dreadfully frustrating experience!

The odd thing was that as soon as we lined up to be marched back the our classroom, I knew how to do it. If they had turned us around at that point and taken us back to our desks, I could have ripped through the exam, or at least that's how I remember it now.

Needless to say, I didn't get the scholarship. No doubt, I wouldn't have anyway. It was probably even a good thing that I freaked out like that because I was left no expectancy after that and wasn't at all surprised or disappointed when they announced the winners at our graduation assembly.

I can't recall ever again panicking like that during an exam. Of course, for much of my scholastic career, I didn't take them seriously and didn't much care how well or, more appropriately, how poorly I did.

However, even now I have the propensity to be overwhelmed when presented with a new task and/or a lot of new material. I have taken a few web developer lessons, and there have been times when I haven't been able to sort through a problem. Just like the little kid right after the scholarship exam, I generally find that the solution pops into mind when I have walked away from the computer and stopped thinking about it.

Walking Away is often the better way! When tempers flare, it can be good to walk away and cool off before you say something that you'll regret. When you have a tough decision to make, it is often a good thing to walk away from it for a while. To some extent, although it's not my main point, I do mean "walk" in the literal sense. A nice long walk can do wonders to release tension, alter a mood, or give you a different perspective.

Walking Away is beneficial on many levels, both mentally and physically. Even figurative walking away has its merits. Shall we walk?


Q&A 2

Would you bungee jump? Well, not at this stage of life, not with back and other degenerative problems. If the opportunity had presented itself at the right time in my life, I would have considered it. I'm not sure that I would have done it, but I would have considered it. Since I don't love ladders or heights, that sounds odd, but I never much minded roller coasters and such, and bungee jumping seems to fall into (if you'll pardon the expression) that category.

Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? I untie them probably eighty to ninety percent of the time. However, I push them off enough that my orthotist noticed the wear marks on the backs on my runners when I last went it to see her. She accused me of being just like the kids. I don't think she meant it as a compliment, but I prefer to interpret it to meaning that I am young at heart.

What do you miss most right now? It's not quite the truth to say that I still miss playing tennis because I don't think about it much any more., but it was what immediately popped into my head when I read the question. Up until about ten years ago, I would play almost every day during the summer. I was modestly proficient at the game. Although I am not a great athlete, I have reasonably good hand-eye coordination and was adept enough at tennis to really get into a good match.