Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Maybe I Really Am Dyslexic

A long time ago now, when I was still really a novitiate blogger, I wrote an entry called Saint Paul. One of the themes of that post was that I appear to be a trifle dyslexic, at least when it comes to mechanical things. I have always read well enough, at least to myself, but there are certain alignments of things that I don't seem to process very well. Then, about a year ago, I wrote about turning the thermostat on the fridge the wrong way. Unfortunately, my round-thing-turning-troubles are not ameliorating with the passage of yet another year.

The following picture depicts my latest defeat at the hands of said round things. The Mayo jar won't open (can you see the marks on it from trying?), and I've all but demolished the handy-dandy jar opener.

Mayo Jar

I really do know the righty-tighty-lefty-loosey memory hook and seem to be able to apply it perfectly well to hardware, but I can't seem to get the hang of it when it comes to round dials and lids. Just over the recent Christmas season, I wrecked the top to an expensive bottle of Bailey's by forcing it the wrong way. On the weekend, I turned the lid to the mayo jar righty-tighty before realizing the error of my ways making an adjustment — a too late adjustment, unfortunately. The damage had been done.

I had jammed the lid so tightly that nothing would budge it, not the rubber glove (which gives me a surer hand grip), or the super-duper-jar-opener. In fact, if you'll look carefully, you'll be witness to the fact that I applied so much force (little good did it do me) in my efforts that I managed to mangle and destroy said utensil (please observe handle). So, not only are we saddled with a useless and impenetrable jar of mayonnaise but with a broken jar opener as well.

As I said, I really get (no really!) that I should turn left to loosen things, but, somehow, I find it hard to grasp which way is which on a jar that circles forever around. I mean, it simply seems to my feeble brain that at some point left becomes right and vice versa.

I know that my lack of clarity in this makes no sense to the average reader, just as those ^&%$ lids make little sense to me.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kid Anvilcloud

Fun Monday

The Very Nice Man had the notion to get as many people as he could to post some childhood photos today. Hating to be a party pooper, I decided to participate. Any excuse to dig through old photo albums, eh?

With Grandpa and Frisky

I've actually posted the above photo once before: a different version of it, however, back on Halloween, two years ago. I had remembered my first Halloween outing on the the day that Frisky (the dog in the photo) was hit by a car, and I was sent out on my first trick or treating adventure in compensation. I was four years old. You can get the whole story in My First Halloween. Since I have lost track of the previous scan, I decided to re-scan the photo and include it here along with the others. Besides, I think I look very cute in this one. We lived with grandpa and Uncle Charlie at the time, but, although you will see him three times in this blog, I don't have very many photos of Grandpa in the archive, and it is probably the only one of Frisky.

However, I am standing beside Grandad in the following photo. The other two people are Uncle Bill and Aunt Sadie. They were really cousins; my grandmother was their aunt. Because Bill was born without thumbs, his mother pretty well discarded him at birth. He was raised by Sadie's parents (a brother of Bill's birth mother, I believe). Bill and Sadie lived together their whole lives, whatever that may have entailed. This picture was taken in the dining room the grandfather's house in Montreal. The above photo shows the front steps.

With, Bill, Sadie and Grandpa

With Grandpa and Uncle

I think I was either seven or eight in the Christmas when the above photo was taken. I'll guess at seven because I look pretty young sitting there on the floor. We had moved away from grandpa and uncle by then, and they were spending Christmas Day with us. It seems that I got a hockey stick for Christmas. That's Uncle Charlie sitting beside grandpa. Oddly enough, although there may have been other non-short distant relatives in England or elsewhere, grandpa was the only tall antecedent who I ever encountered; my parents and all of my other grandparents were diminutive folks. Uncle Charlie, his son, was the shortest of the lot, however. He was a really nice and fun-loving fellow though, and I have always appreciated the fact that he was in my life. Grandpa lived to be 78 years old, but poor Uncle Charlie didn't make it out of his fifties.

Below, you see me with him, quite possibly at another Christmas. Despite the recurring theme — hockey —— I do look a little older than in the above photo. I'll guess nine or ten. I'm thinking nine because I think I got a bike for my tenth Christmas. Obviously, the photo depicts that we were enjoying a very snowy Christmas that year, but I do remember another Christmas around that time when it was like this year —— no snow, very green. In fact, it rained on New Years in the year that I am recalling. I only remember it because I can recall my mother saying that it rained on New Years Day and snowed on Easter Sunday that year.

With Uncle Charlie

And that's my contribution to Fun Monday. I presume that you'll find a list of other participantsnts at The Electronic Firefly.

Friday, January 26, 2007

More Photo Restoration

I have been working with some more old photos. The first, below, isn't really all that old. I took that shot in 1973 when Butterfly was about a year old. This one was my effort from start to finish as I developed the negative and printed the picture myself. I only experimented with my own developing briefly. I really like the photo, but the original had some stains and scratches, so it was a good candidate for restoration. If you do go to see the original, you'll see a lot of darkness on her face that was very hard to get rid of. It was very painstaking work, but I like the result.

Once I had got this photo to where it is now (see below), I went through the exercise of tearing it up, scanning the torn pieces and putting it back together digitally. Some of you who dabble in photos might like to view the various steps here on Flickr.

Ch6 Baby Restored

The photo below is another of my grandfather and his fellow construction and/or bricklaying workers. I posted a similar photo taken in Montreal in an earlier blog, but this one was taken in New York City in the early 1920s. The family moved there for a few years because that's where grandpa found work. They later moved back to Montreal. My mother wondered why they did, but I expect it was for family reasons, and I wouldn't be here if they hadn't come back. There likely would have been another human in my place, but it wouldn't have been me.

This restoration was mostly about getting rid of the penned notes that were on the original. Strangely enough, most of them disappeared just by using the blue channel. Most of the marks didn't show up there but only on the red and green channels, so I discarded those. I include this information for some of you who will know what I'm talking about. Don't fret if you don't; it's not important. The original is also on Flickr.

Ch6 Grandfather Restored

Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Words ...

... just a few winter photos from the past week, all taken within a few minutes walk from our house.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sidebar Sounds

I have said here that I am excited about The Rankins Reunion Tour that is coming to town on February 07. They are crossing The Prairies these days: in Red Deer tonight and Edmonton tomorrow. I discovered this morning that they missed the first two tour dates when a sister died of a brain aneurysm. Apparently, Geraldine had been an original member of the band, back before I knew the group and they became famous in Canada. In the sometimes sad way of things, it has been seven years to the month that brother John Morris died when his car left the road and plunged into the ocean. However, after missing the first two days, the tour got going.

I have decided to play a Rankin tune, Fare Thee Well Love, in the sidebar (a somewhat sadly appropriate title it seems). As usual, I think this requires the Quicktime plugin, so if you don't use it, you'll not be aware of it. The player will appear at the top of the sidebar to the right, and you can turn it off or adjust the volume to suit. Perhaps, I'll update the song choice a few times in the next few weeks.

I was thinking that we Canadians are fortunate to have access to such music. Not only are we aware of the American scene, but we have our own as well. But I suppose that regions in the USA must also have their favourites that are not known nationally. Yes? No?

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

After we first looked at this house where we now reside, we went for a walk. We were wonderfully surprised to soon find ourselves in a park and by the river. What a great feature. Not long after we moved in, however, they started to dig and lay the infrastructure for a new subdivision. As you can see in the photo, it comes pretty darn near to the path. What a shame that they couldn't leave just a bit more room for nature and for us to enjoy it. It boggles the mind, but, then again, my mind is easily boggled.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gotta Share This

Well, I simply must blog this right away. Frankly my dears, I am dumbfounded.

We have more or less decided that we should visit our daughter who now resides on the west coast. The idea is to do it in June, hopefully before the majority of the tourist hordes descend. The thinking is that we might stop on this side of the mountains, say in Calgary or Edmonton and go through the mountains overland.

Just for interest sake, I checked out the Rocky Mountaineer just now to see what it would cost to take their train from Jasper to Vancouver. The trip takes two days and one night, only two days and one night mind you. The cost ... (drumroll) ... more than $3500 for two.

I knew that it wouldn't be cheap, and I know that it's a first-class trip, but, Jiminy Cricket, I am rather stunned. To put it in perspective, that is pretty close to what we spent last spring to fly to Arizona, rent a car for a week, stay fin motels, drive all over and see all sorts of sights.

Needless to say, the Rocky Mountaineer won't be picking this poor man's pockets. I guess some lots of people are rich to afford it — obviously. But doesn't it strike you as being rather pricey for two days and one night (moderate accommodations unless you purchase the more expensive plan)? Heck! We could probably come fairly close to taking a week long Caribbean Cruise including the flight down there for that amount.

Update regarding a few Comments that have come in already: just to clarify, that price is just across the mountains. We'd still have to get threre.

Basking in the Patch

A Patch of Sun

This decadent cat ain't so dumb. On a cold winter day, he finds the best patch of sunlight in the house in the most comfortable spot in the house. That's my nighttime spot by the way. For the longest time, he tried to sleep by my feet at night; eventually, however, my feet persuaded him to move to Cuppa's side. She of the shorter legs can more easily make space for him.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What a Bright Idea!

Shortly after we moved into this house, almost a year and a half ago now (my, how time flies!), we bought a package of CFC lightbulbs and installed them here and there. Unfortunately, one package doesn't go very far, but it was a start. In the way of things, more than a year passed before we got around to buying more and finishing the job. This time we bought three different sizes and four containers, and we have now installed CFCs wherever we can, keeping in mind than some sockets don't lend themselves to CFCs. The overhead light in my den is an example; it's got a remote control, and we have discovered that these lightbulbs don't interact at all well with these devices. I try to remember to turn that light off often, but I don't always manage. But I feel good about installing these energy efficient bulbs in most light sources. It's not much; you do what you can.

That includes the packaging. Note that both of the above packages are reusable. Once emptied they can serve as containers for papers or baubles. I think the one behind is particularly useful for storing documents. I call that a bright idea: two bright ideas, in fact.

In a totally unrelated observation, I have just noticed the Quote of the Day in my own blog sidebar: Happiness depends upon ourselves(Aristotle). I think there's an awful lot of truth there.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The People-Last Movement

I seem to be experiencing some sort of repeated pattern lately. It has to do with how businesses and bureaucracies treat people. Dead last, it seems to me. Permit me to share some examples most of which are trivial, but it's the pattern and the message that I don't much care for.

Exhibit A: we're in the local hardware store where we have made a fair number of purchases since we arrived in this town. We pass by a rack with kitchen mats – 33% off. We need one, so we look and find a suitable one and take it to the cashier. It rings in at an non-sale price. After considerable consultation among staff, we are told that the sign did not refer to these mats but to others that they no longer have in stock. They take down the sale sticker, and we go on our way.

Of course, I am mumbling a bit as I exit the sttore. If it's their error, they should sell at the advertised price. It is their error too. A sign by a shelf of mats saying there's 33% off mats is pretty darn straightforward and not a matter for interpretation. We don't complain. It's not that big a purchase to get in a kafuffle.

Exhibit B: we're in the local grocery store and pass by those plastic clips that you use to seal plastic bags with: two bucks for two packages. They ring up at a higher price. A call ensues, and we discover that there are two manner of packages of clips there. We didn't see two kinds, but nevertheless there were – apparently. Silly us; we picked up the wrong package. We leave it; this purchase really is much too piddling to bother with, but it's the same principle as above. They should sell at the advertised price, or the seemingly advertised price.

Exhibit C: a few months ago I paid $160 for a service plan for my hearing aids. With it, I can get free hearing tests as well as free labour on maintenance. Since a hearing test is priced at $70, I figured it was a good deal as I can pretty well guarantee requiring two tests in the next two years. In fact, I was there to get tested that very day.

Here's the rub. Hearing tests are covered by my medical plan – up to 80% anyway. But all they can do at the audiologist's is to itemize the bill. In other words, it will show that I bought a service plan and that it included a hearing test valued at $70. I figured right then and there that the insurance company would use that as a reason not to cover the hearing test. The mail came today; I was right.

Exhibit D: our backyard backs on to a street with a fair amount of traffic. It gets noisy back there. They have a plan to widen the street. That will increase the noise. They made a big study, an environmental impact study. Apparently, however, people are not part of the environment, and they have no plan to construct a sound barrier. I knew it, but I'd hoped for better.

What is common in these four examples: the first two being somewhat trivial and the last one being pretty darn important? Well, it's that people come last, last after computers, business convenience, policies, and plans. It doesn’t matter than a reasonably intelligent customer believes that a for sale sign means what it says, the intent of the company is all that matters. It doesn't matter that your hearing test is valued at $70; if it's rolled into a service plan, the insurance company jumps enthusiastically at a chance to deny your claim. It doesn't matter that traffic noise will be a problem because they find a rule saying that it will only increase by x decibels and it is against policy to build noise-reduction fences for that amount.

It's all about hard-edged economic decisions where companies and governments make it their priority to do as little as possible for the people that they are supposed to care about and service. I'd like to think that people matter more than a few cents or a few bucks, and it saddens me that we have these kinds of attitudes to and about others. Frankly, although these matters are of little importance in the grand scheme of things – they pale against the genuine problems that face humankind after all – I'm disappointed in my fellow humans and their inconsiderate attitudes. I'm a bit of an idealist and tend to expect the best of people, and these kinds of things bring me down and sadden me. All of these organizations should be working for their clients, should be putting their interests first. Unfortunately, none are.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Souper Sweet Potato Soup

To me, a cook is someone who understands the process and can concoct their own recipes or at least readily modify others'. By that definition, I'm no cook and never will be. But that doesn't stop me from opening cookbooks and trying to follow the steps that they outline — frequently not without curious incidents. I've tried a few soups over the past few years, but this is my favourite for a combination of ease, nutrition, taste and healthy lightness. You could eat a gallon of this stuff without feeling guilty. I often double the recipe. I figure that I may as well while I'm at it, but I give you portions as they're printed in Crazy Plates.

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Ready In: 120 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

6 cups cubed yams or sweet potatoes (about 3 large)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups (1 box) low fat chicken broth (really calls for 5 cups)
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
1 whole clove
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
sour cream
fresh cilantro (optional)

1. Spray shallow pan with non-stick spray
2. Add yams, olive oil, and garlic.
3. Stir well and roast uncovered for 25 minutes at 400F, stirring halfway through
4. Transfer mixture to soup pot and add rest of ingredients: gingerrrot, clove, cumin, salt, and pepper.
5. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for 10 minutes
6. Remove clove
7. Blend in batches until smooth
8. Serve with sour cream and cilantro (if desired — I don't bother)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Going to the Dogs

We quite literally went to the dogs last Thursday.

Cuppa and I go for a walk on most days, or at least we intend to. We have also intended on taking Molly with us one day. She's our neighbours' beautiful, gentle and sweet Golden Retriever. Said neighbours are a little older than us and while not even nearly housebound*, you understand, they are not quite as mobile as we are and not always able to give Molly a total doggie workout. On Thursday, our two intentions — to walk daily and to sometimes bring Molly along — finally dovetailed, and off we set on a little adventure. It was actually quite an adventure for Molly.

You see, twice recently, we had passed a group of people and their dogs in a local, fenced-in ballpark. We had seen the dogs romping about in great delight while their owners gazed on fondly from the sidelines, chatting amiably with one another. We thought that Molly would love it; opportunities to run freely in these town confines are scarce after all. And so we set off, we three. Cuppa and I were welcomed by the humans while Molly was greeted enthusiastically by her fellow canines.

Including Molly, there were six pooches there that day, and I managed to get them all in the frame below, not necessarily as easy as it seems with six dogs gadding about madly in all directions. Anyway, that's Molly lying down in the left foreground and Goliath [sic] between the two humans. In the background from left to right are Porter, Henry, Eddie, and Missy, although I may have mixed Henry and Eddie up.

Molly in Park 1

Photos to the contrary, Molly did a lot of running that day, certainly more than she is used to, so she did have to take several rests, rolling in and munching on what little snow there was. Although all of the dogs were young and neutered, the Airdales were randy and boisterous fellows, seemingly quite intent on having their way with that gorgeous blond. But Molly acquitted herself very well and wasn't intimidated in the least.

Molly in Park 2

We three departed in a happy state, Molly because she had so much fun being a dog, and us because it was pure joy to watch her having so much fun being a dog.

Molly in Park 3

I am told that she slept very well that night.

Molly in Park 4

*In fact, I can barely keep up with their hectic pace.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Listening to the Children

I pulled the trigger last night. It took me a while to come to terms with spending that amount of money, but I did it. Oh, it's not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it seems a lot to me to fork out more than $120 for two tickets to a concert.

Yes, The Rankins are coming to town early in February on their Reunion tour. Years ago, they were front and centre in bringing the Celtic sound to the rest of Canada – beyond the Maritimes. When I think Celtic music, I think Rankins. The first time that I heard another Celtic group, I was disappointed because they didn't sound like the Rankins. The ladies have somewhat nasally voices but produce a very fetching sound – to this poor man's ears anyway.

But when I first went to the Ticketmaster site early in the week, I entered a state of sticker shock – over $60 per ticket! It's a fair chuck of change when you consider that pretty well whatever we do must be multiplied by two because Cuppa and I do most things together. And Cuppa's not a big Rankins fan. It's not that she dislikes them; it's just that they don't grab her like they do me. They probably don’t grab most people as much as they grab me, but those of us who like'em really seem to like'em as they aren't finding it too difficult to attract an audience after an eight year absence from the scene.

And so … here's the point that I really wanted to get to in this post – the relationship between parents and adult children. You see, it was the kids who told us that we were a little out of touch and that $60 was rather cheap for a concert; they'd expect to pay closer to a hundred bucks for one of theirs, not that they go to concerts in these house-poor days, but you get my drift, I'm sure. I think you go to concerts when you're young and when you're older; in between times, you have other interests and obligations. It's how the wheel of life seems to turn.

Anyway, they felt free to offer their advice. We certainly didn't mind, and I took it. With adult children, it doesn't as easily work in reverse though, does it? I mean to say that there is something about the parent-child relationship that doesn't lend itself to parents giving too much advice to adult children. I suppose that children spend their first twenty years or so, establishing their own independent identities apart from parents and it's a pattern that's hard to reverse.

I'm just making an observation. It's not about me and my kids (do you hear that, kids?), for I was the same way. I felt it my duty to advise my parents by times, but I don't think that I would have welcomed their advice too very often. Like me with my kids, they seemed to readily accept my advice whether they chose to follow it or not. It seems to me that to some degree, at least, parents seem to be able to accept their grown-up children as full-fledged and equal adults, but parents are always parents.

Oh, I don't mean that we older ones can ever completely let go of our children, we have a vested interest. I also realize that there are those who forever treat adult children as children, but I think that, on the whole, it is true that it is more common for parents to willingly accept advice from adult children than vice versa. That's all I'm saying, apart from the fact that I have to double-check the spelling of vice versa every time I use it. I got it wrong btw; I originally wrote visa versa.

Or maybe I've got it all wrong and your family dynamics are different? What say you?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Great Grandpa the Cobbler

Ch5 Ex2 Great Grand Israel Original

Since you don't seem to mind my fascination with old family photos, I thought I'd add this one to the collection. I've posted Israel's photo before, standing in front of his house, but I like this one of him doing his thing — cobbling. You can see a boot on the floor.

There are notes on the back of the photo. I didn't know they were there because I had never removed it from the album before. I may never do it again either because it's more like paper than photo paper. He was born in Glen Roberston, died in Cashion's Glen at age 87 in 1922. He was the father of Willie, Mamie, Bertha, Charlotte (my grandmother), David, Donald, and George (2). I think that means that there were two George's, the one that died and another one. I now think that the one in the photo that I showed before must be George 2 who lived.

I have heard of the women Bertha, Charlotte, and Mamie but not very much of the men except maybe for Willie because I remember my mother referring to an Uncle Will. Other notes in the album inform that he was buried in Martintown. I went loking for tombstones in Glen Robertson once but wasn't aware of Cashion's Glen or Martintown at the time.

The version below represent my attempt at restoration. I've cropped away the missing corner, adjusted tonality somewhat, and removed some scratches.

Ch5 Ex2 Great Grand Israel After

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Playing with Photoshop

Here are five renditions of one photo from The Mill of Kintail. The first is the original, unretouched version.

Experimenting 1

The next one has my usual adjustments that better reflect what I'd like the photo to look like. I tend to saturate the colours a lot in these drab winter photos.

Experimenting 2

This is the same as above but highly sharpened. Look how much sharper the tree branches are: perhaps too much, but it was an experiment with highpass sharpening.

Experimenting 3

Sometimes, a young fella just wants to play around and see what pops up on the screen after applying a filters at random (next two photos).

Experimenting 4

Experimenting 5

Monday, January 08, 2007

Commenting on Commenting ... Sort of

I guess it was back in 1994 that I first went online. At first, my access was via a teacher network and, therefore, limited. When I did get in, it was using a browser (and I use that word lightly) that did not support graphics. I had my first email account with that teacher network. Heady stuff: but access through them was neither reliable nor comprehensive, so I soon found my first, true Internet Service Provider and began browsing, first with Netscape and then with an early version of Internet Explorer.

In those days, my ISP limited me to one email account. Web-based accounts weren't terribly available then, but I didn't really need more than one account until other family members decided that they wanted to get online too. It was a problem, and I'm not too sure how we solved it. Maybe I really had two email accounts? Eventually, I switched providers for an outfit who would provide five accounts, and that served did us quite well, and if that wasn't enough, I later got my own web site, which provided me with up to 50 accounts.

Later on I tried web-based email accounts with hotmail and yahoo and another outfit. I could never quite commit to web-based email, however, until Google's gmail came along. They supply tons of space, so that you never have to toss a letter if you don't want to, and they are very reliable.

Gmail is so good at trapping that dreaded s**m that I almost welcome it. I think of the money and time that the miscreants are spending on me to absolutely no avail. It goes into a separate folder, which I can clean out manually or let Google empty after thirty days. I prefer to do it myself on a daily basis, but I after checking for months and finding no mistakes, I seldom bother to do more than cast a most fleeting glance at the s**mbox before I tell gmail to delete it all. On rare occasions, I confess that the odd, unsolicited email makes it past their filters into my Inbox, but it occurs very infrequently.

It's not just gmail that works well now; those other alternatives that I mentioned are great too. One could consider them to be disposable accounts. If you didn't like the mail you were getting (if the junk were to get through), you could easily delete the account and get a different one.

You see, I am wishing that y'all would all file an email address with Blogger. That would make it easy to reply to comments. Sometimes, I get questions, and I begin to write a reply, only to find out that no email address has been provided. The email-ripping-people can't easily get your addresses from Blogger because they seem to be protected from bots in some way. So, the address that I publicize on Blogger actually gets much less s**m than the address that I have tried to keep more secret. Go figure.

However, human nature being what it is, most people will keep hiding their email address in their attempts to drive me completely crazy. I really don't have far to go, y'know? :) So, I think that I'll actually begin to do what some of you already do; if a comment requires follow-up (ie. a question) I shall try to answer it in my comment section if an email address isn't provided. I think it rather cumbersome and almost the only thing that I really don't like about Blogger, but that seems to be what people prefer, so who am little ole me to buck the trend any longer?

With that in mind, I have made some follow-up comments to each of my previous four posts. It's not always necessary to comment back (thank goodness) but for now I'll give it a try when it seems to be appropriate. Meanwhile, if you're interested in gmail, you need an invitation to get a free account. It so happens that if you write to me, I can provide you with one, and you'll be onto a better form of email in no time flat. My email address is not hard to find; just look at the top of the sidebar. Will ya?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Winter Walk?

... ya gotta be kidding. Right? No, I'm not kidding.

On a sunny January afternoon, at least it was sunny to begin with, we drove ourselves to the Mill of Kintail for a winter stroll. There are walking trails at The Mill, and last autumn we had thought that it would be wonderful to explore some of them on snowshoes this winter. Hah! As you can plainly see in some of the pictures below, there is no snow. There is mud in places, however. The ground is frozen enough to prevent drainage when the surface melts, so the going became a little difficult at times.

El Nino is having its way with us this year, bringing winds and snows to the west coast and balmy-ness (or is it barmy-ness?) to Eastern Canada. Various places in the Ottawa Valley broke temperature records the other day, some localities by several degrees. I don't know if this year's weather is attributable to global warming or not because El Ninos have been occurring for a long time, probably forever from the human point of reference. I do know, however, that they now occur more frequently and that the results are probably more virulent.

I am reading some blogs where people have seen the Al Gore video, An Inconvenient Truth. Eyes are being opened, and that's wonderful. I used to teach world issues, and environmental issues were part of the curriculum, so it isn't as newsy to me as it is to some. However, I think that Mr Gore is doing a wonderful thing by educating all sorts of people about this problem. In my comments on one blog, I wondered how different the world would be had he been allowed the win that election. Sigh.

At some point in time, I heard someone say that when the Americans get it, they'll really get it and things will happen. I hope so. This world desperately needs some very positive USA leadership in this area.

Winter Walk? 1

Winter Walk? 2

Winter Walk? 3

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Small but Great

I'm trying valiantly to get back to being more productive after the foofaraw of the Christmas season. Hence the photo. This is a somewhat adjusted version. I worked on it tonight, but it's still not very good. The original is here on Flickr if you're interested.

Grandparents and Family

I think it was taken in 1919 near Montreal. The squinting girl on the right is my mother, the curly-haired boy my uncle. The baby, Ruby May, didn't make it. By the time this picture was taken, her twin sister, Ruth, had already died, probably just before this photo was taken. Ruby lived for the best part of another two years, succumbing in July 1921. Those were hard days.

These early deaths are part of the reason why my family is so small. Also, my Uncle Charlie (the boy in the photo) didn't marry and died in his fifties: not only that, but my father was an only child, and so am I. Sheesh! There are some relatives but I'm not close to any of them — either in terms of geography or relationship. I think more and more families are like that nowadays, but we're smaller than most.

However, more than once I have said: "We're a small family but a great family."

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Years Eve

Moving back the kitchen table and line dancing.

New Years Eve 1

Group Photo

New Years Eve 2

The Old Anvilcloud with Young BenMar.

New Years Eve 3

A Walk Down the Old Logging Trail earlier in the day with BIL and his new pup, Elu.

New Years Eve 4

Monday, January 01, 2007

My Top Ten of 2006

I am stealing and modifying this idea/meme from Eric at The Electronic Firefly. Considering the three headings, it may not look like a list of ten, but I think it can be broken down that way. I see four items under music, three under baby, and at least three more under Arizona. It simply suits me more to exposit rather than to itemize and list.



One day last July, we drove Butterfly to the fertility clinic in Ottawa. On the way we spied a bunny (or were there several – I can't recall exactly and it doesn't matter). Thinking of the reproductive capacity of rabbits, I somewhat but not altogether jokingly remarked that it must be a positive omen. Several weeks later, Butterfly gave us a little gift; I opened the bag to find two baby booties inside.

We were told that it was early days, "So don't get too excited." Hah! As if we could help it. I decided that I would get excited and would deal with the disappointment later if all did not turn out well. Mother-to-be is now in her fifth month, and I still hold to the same philosophy. I can't imagine not being excited.

My excitement mounts higher when I see little Smudge's ultrasound pictures or hear her (we think she's a she) strong heartbeat on the monitor, or see the increasing visible evidence as Mom begins to round out perceptibly as it does in this most recent picture. All of a sudden, she's really looking as though she's with child, and I look even more forward to being enchanted in April.



One day last summer, I sat on a hillside in nearby Almonte listening to a Celtic music concert. The weather was splendid, warm and sunny but not overly hot. As the day wore on and the music continued to roll over us and through us, I thought, "This would never happen in Sarnia." It was then that I realized that I was at home: home in a way that I never was in Sarnia.

It's a musical area. I guess there's lots of modern, urban stuff in nearby Ottawa, but there's also a lot of old time fiddlin in The Valley. Finding the Celtic Jam in tiny Middleville was a case in point. As I said, however, there's all kinds of music around and about inclduing the rather major Country Fest that Cuppa and I volunteered at this summer. While I'm not a huge fan of country, I don't particularly mind it, and working guard duty for much of the weekend was a positive experience. And I musn't forget how Cape Breton Live packed out the auditorium twice in a last minute event that hadn't even been scheduled. Remarkable.

It must have all inspired me in some way because I soon found myself renting a violin, then beginning lessons, and finally buying my very own instrument. Actually, it wasn't really a new idea; taking up the fiddle was something that I had placed on the backburner of my mind several years ago. Somehow, surrounded by all of the music this year, it seemed to be the right time and place to move it from the backburner to the hotter front burner.



Time passes quickly, and late in 2005, Cuppa and I realized that it had been quite a while since we had been on a trip. Arizona and the Grand Canyon seemed to be calling, so we began to make arrangements and ended up flying from Ottawa to Phoenix via Toronto late in April. (It seems that good things happen in April.)

We rented a car and headed to Flagstaff which became our base camp for four days. From there we made day trips to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Later in the week we drove to Monument Valley where we took a private three hour tour with a Navajo guide. Without doubt, it was the highlight of the week. By saying that, I don't diminish the other sites, including the next and final one, Canyon de Chelly, where we walked in this desert valley for three hours with an old Navajo guide and a young British couple. It turned out that both the old guide and the young couple could leave us in the dust. Well, they could have but they were kind, and we had a great time.

A real highlight of the trip was meeting our first bloggers ever: Paul and Julie in Flagstaff, and Dale and Chelsea in Phoenix. Based on this experience, I highly recommend meeting fellow bloggers. They were (and still are, I'm sure) wonderful, warm, friendly people. In fact, maybe meeting these folk was even better than Monument Valley. Hmmm.

I'm sure that I could add to this list if I were to ponder longer, but I must resist the temptation and give you fine folk a break, not to mention my easily over-taxed brain.