Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Subconscious Mind

I don't suppose there's anything about us that is miraculous in the true sense of the word, but I am often amazed by the workings of our brains. I am not really thinking of our general level of intelligence and concomitant problem solving abilities and artistic creativity (as amazing as these things are) but some little specific occurrence that I've noticed a number of times recently.

It occurred to me most recently several days ago in a checkout line at the grocery store. Like many people, I was absentmindedly scanning the magazine offerings as I awaited my turn. Soon, I wondered about a headline or title that lodged itself in my brain. Had I really seen those words? Hmmm ... where were they? What was the article really about? Frankly it took me some diligent searching with my conscious mind before I rediscovered the title that my seemingly unconscious brain, had already somehow and mysteriously, registered — something that simply took awhile to jostle itself into my subconscious. I found the words that I was searching for on one of those little pocket books that you often see at checkouts, like those little horoscope booklets. Of course, I have no recollection of what those words now, but I remember the incident well.

I do, however, recall a specific incident in a bookstore several months ago. I was thumbing through a cookbook when I stopped and asked myself whether I had seen the name of my best boyhood chum. Back I went through the pages, searching with my conscious mind what the subconscious part of my brain had somehow picked out of the many words on a single, busy page. It took awhile but I found it, and it was, indeed, the very same name — different person, same name.

And then there's this! Three weeks ago, more or less, we attended the Ceili that I blogged about here and here. There was a fiddle tune played several times during the concert. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn't heard the tune before and don't even recall it's name now. Several days ago, weeks after the concert, of its own volition my mind began playing the tune. Although I have no independent verification, I think I played it well and truly in my head. Later that day, I tried to willfully recall it — to no avail. I still don't know what it's called, but beyond that, I have absolutely no idea of how it goes — not any minute part of it! Yet, apparently, the thing sits in the deep recesses of my brain somewhere.

To me, things like this are bizarre, amazing, puzzling, and yes I'm also tempted to say miraculous. You must experience this phenomenon too. Eh?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Her Royal Cuteness

Burping Again
Here we have a few pictures of her royal cuteness from the past week. She's had a few difficult days lately but has finally accepted a supplementary bottle. That's good because it's time to give Mom a rest from the eternally hungry one every now and then. Speaking of cuteness, do you think she might inherit some of it from her mother?

On Grandma's Quilt

Oh, I almost forgot this one that I have shamelessly stolen from Mom's blog.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Eight Things About Moi

For those who are smudged-out, I offer this meme as a change of pace. Regularly scheduled smudge-programming will resume shortly but only for a while as we will soon be separated from the lil darlin for three weeks.

And so ...

1) I was quite a good teacher. It wasn't easy for me, but I worked hard at it, and most students liked and respected me. It was a grind for me, however, and I am loving retirement.

2) While I must confess to having a temper of sorts, I manage to keep under the threshold most of the time to the extent that most people might not suspect that I had a temper. In fact, I don't know if it's really temper as such, but I get exasperated and frustrated easily.

3) Sometimes, I can get moody and I feel down but not often and the feeling generally passes quickly. Generally speaking, I feel good about life.

4) For me, it's important to live with a woman who isn't a demanding nitpicker, and I do. I need a peaceful habitat, and I do live in one. Thanks Cuppa, my dear.

5) While I am competent at any number of things, I can't think of anything that I excel at. I often wonder how it would feel to be really, really good at something. If I could pick one thing to be good at, I might pick singing. But it ain't gonna happen, folks.

6) I have only won one trophy in my life. As a mature adult, I joined a chess club for about six months and won (in a draw) first place — it was a smallish club, eh. Apart from that, I have only won two ribbons or crests in my lifetime: one for tennis as an adult and one for jumping over benches (like hurdles) in field day in elementary school. In the weirdness of life, however, when I coached softball (in the community) and chess (in high school) my teams frequently either won or came close.

7) Like Chani (where I got this meme), I am poor at small talk. Sometimes, when I am in a social situation where small talk is the order of the day, I pretty well check out and don't even bother trying.

8) I'm the world's worst handyman, and I have no interest whatsoever in that sort of thing. These days, hanging a picture would be problematic for me. Oddly enough, that isn't an exaggeration.

Feel free to pick this meme up ... or not.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Playing the Fool

If you really want to see AC acting like a fool, feel free to watch these videos. In the first, they were visiting our place. Mom was bouncing Smudge, but when Daddy began to bounce in rhythm, I couldn't help but play the fool and join in. I sang the few words that came into my silly head ... over and over.

In the second, I can just gotten Smudge to sleep by doing a linedance waltz with her and singing ... or whatever you call the noises that I make. Cuppa got her camera out and asked for an encore for posterity. In case you wonder about the words, Lanark is the county in which we live. The original song is Waltz Across Texas.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

That Elusive Perfect Spring Day

Riverside Park

That's what it was yesterday, that elusive perfect spring day. It was the sort of day that makes Canadians rather goofy with joy, and Cuppa and I chose to celebrate with a pretty good picnic lunch in our pretty little park by our pretty little Mississippi River. Indeed,the day was almost too pretty for words — that perfectly glorious spring day that doesn't seem to come along every year.

The photo is actually a merge of three photos. As we sat on the park bench looking north, I turned to my left and took three photos from about southwest to northwest. Photoshop magically did the merging for me. Sometimes, I have to go to the trouble of doing it manually, but Photoshop's automated script was certainly up to the job in this instance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Well ...

... doesn't that melt a blogger's stone heart?

Smiling at Grampa

Sunday, May 20, 2007

At The End of the Trail

A small potion of the Trans Canada Trail lies only a long block away from our place. The trouble is that its westward progress ceases very abruptly right here. In fact, I can't think where it might resume again. I rather suppose that one is to follow the highways for a while and pick up the trail about 30km south of us. In reality, I don't suppose anyone ever does that, but what the heck, it still gives us a bicycle path toward the east.

Oh, it's not that great a trail near here, not by a long shot. It just doesn't traverse any noteworthy scenery. Nevertheless it is a viable route for us to follow if we want to go for an un-trafficked pedal.

As I said, it's not very scenic around here, but the following farm at our natural turn-around point, makes for a fairly nice setting, especially when the sun is westering. What the picture doesn't show, however, is that the surroundings aren't too very grand considering there is a highway not too far off the right side of the photo.

Bike Path Farm

The Ottawa region is fairly loaded with trails, and one could probably take this one for a long way ... if one was younger and fitter, that is.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Funny Sleeping

... on her first monthaversary

Sleeping Funny

When will these blogs stop, you ask. These baby blogs. Soon, I guess. The first month is pretty special, and one wants to capture as much as possible. Well, she was one month old today. Mom and Grandma went out for a little walk, leaving grampa in charge of the Smudge. Just in case you were wondering, we got along really well. One minute she was wide awake, and the next found her asleep in this really odd position. It's a wonder that my giggling didn't wake her up.

Sleeping Funny

Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Reasons to Celebrate

Thirty-Eight and Twenty-Eight

Reason one was that it was our thirty-eighth anniversary; reason two was that it was Smudge's fourth weekaversary. We've all changed a lot in our own time frames. Cuppa and I look a lot different (see her blog later for older photos), and Smudge has changed greatly. She begins to be much more aware of her surroundings. She looks into our eyes and tracks our movements to some degree. The poor wee one is not having good days lately, however, with her tummy problems.

Cuppa and I celebrated the day in typically understated fashion. Aside from two visits with Smudge, we went went into town, picked up a few items, saw a movie, and had pizza for supper. Living the high life, eh?

That's what we do on every anniversary — get a pizza. We ordered one into our hotel room in Stratford on our wedding night and have followed the tradition every year since. Unfortunately, we didn't follow it well enough last last. We decided to get a little wild and order a Thai Chicken pizza. Let's just say that people with stomachs more delicate than cast iron shouldn't do that.

However, it sat within us well enough through the film, Georgia Rule. Reviews weren't terribly wonderful, but we decided to try it anyway, and we both quite liked it. It's a chick flick, I guess, but I like most chick flicks — better than car chases and wanton mayhem anyway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Food Tag

I don't eagerly anticipate most tags, but I usually attempt to play along, and I usually don't mind them once I get going. This is a Food Tag from Norma. My mission is to list five local places where I like to eat.

One: On the Couch. I never thought that this would happen, but Cuppa and I always take our meals to the couch now. Yes, the TV is on, and we are usually watching something we've TIVO-ed. I say TIVO because everybody seems to know what it means, but we don't really have TIVO in Canada. We call it a PVR (Personal Video Recorder). Lately, we seem to watch The View at lunch time, but once Rosie leaves, I doubt that we'll continue. At supper, it may be Oprah and, sometimes Phil, but we aren't as keen about the latter as we once were. Alternatively, we sometimes tape (I still call it that) CSI (the original), the various iterations of Law and Order, Cold Case, Without a Trace, and Criminal Minds. We prefer various British programs such as Judge John Deed or Waking the Dead, but we haven't seen any new episodes of those programs for a long time. It's too bad too because British TV is vastly superior to our North American fare, which is usually pretty dumbed down. It occurs to me that the list makes it appear that we watch a lot of TV, but it doesn't usually seem that way, especially when we can always fast-forward through the commercials.

Two: At Thesha's. That's my daughter, and we share meals periodically — and not in front of the TV either! Last week, because proper cooking is not high on the new parents' agenda, I took ingredients over twice and cooked in their kitchen. Both dishes were skillets and fairly easy to transport and prepare. They also had us over for a simple barbecue on Mothers Day. In good company, the food doesn't have to be exotic to be appreciated.

Three: Swiss Chalet. We don't dine out very often really, but Swiss Chalet is a favourite. They do a great rotisserie chicken with yummy fries. It's family fare: inexpensive but good.

Four: Various Local Spots such as Katchups which is a local burger joint and more expensive than the McDonalds and Burger Kings of this world. However, they do great burgers and fries: not that we indulge there often, but it's great to take some fast food to the park every so often. Thruway does a good breakfast, and Tim Hortons is a great place to grab coffee and a bagel or a breakfast sandwich, which we also usually take to the park.

Five: The Wharf. Okay, it ain't local but it was in our old home town of Sarnia and had the best fish and chips that I know of. We're having trouble finding a good alternative here. Joey's Only will do, and although it ain't The Wharf, it's better than other places which haven't measured up at all.

It must be plainly evident to all that we're pretty ordinary and unpretentious folk with a pretty small dining out budget, but we enjoy ourselves, and that's what counts, eh?

I've left out the part of the tag where I list myself and my location along with a list of others who have played along before me. Rather than try to pick on anyone, do feel free to pick up the tag — Norma has the whole thing posted.

Mothers Day Snuggle

Mothers Day Snuggle

I guess I'm in an experimental mood these days, but Pam's picture plus a comment that she recently made to me reminded me of a past attempt at a porcelain effect. So, I decided to try again. Although the original (below) is similar to many other photos from the past few weeks, I really like the lighting and decided to play with the picture a bit. In the end, I don't think the lighting was crucial to the final porcelain effect because I eliminated it in the process, but I like both versions regardless.

Mothers Day Snuggle

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One More Time

Grandma and Smudge

I spent a few hours trying a new watercolor method in Photoshop this afternoon. It was a lot more involved than the one I posted earlier (see below) but worth it, I think.

Grandma and Smudge


First Bath, Week Two

Above: from during and after her first bath in week two.
Below: various faces from week three.

Third Week Faces

Monday, May 14, 2007


I seem to be very busy these days. We do something, and then I process the many photos that we take, and life goes speeding by. The blog suffers, and I really don't want to keep posting hundreds of Smudge photos. However, I do have this photo sitting in draft from sometime last week, so somewhat reluctantly, I'll go ahead with it. I hate the view of me, looking like a bulldog cross, but I'll post it anyway.

While grandma is by far and away the champion smudge-calmer-downer, I have some luck every now and then when she's (the kid, not grandma) really distraught. Sometimes, my deep bass voice shifts her attention from her troubles, and she pauses to listen and be soothed. Typically with babies, I would try not to use the deep voice, but with this kid it actually seems to help — sometimes — occasionally — rarely.

I'm also by the window. The light really attracts her sometimes, but she is getting better at focusing — getting closer to it anyway. Yesterday, she actually moved her head to track Cuppa as she moved. That was a first.

In other news, while the kids celebrated Mothers (I hate the apostrophe) Day with Cuppa yesterday, Saturday was my day to take the grand old lady out. We headed toward Carp and Fitzroy Harbour for the Red Trillium Studio Tour. It was a good tour and had something that I hadn't experienced before on such tours: some vocal artists. It was a very pleasant change, actually: something for everybody.

We found Kate and Hollis in the backyard of one of the garden stops and found them to be delightful. I couldn't resist buying their CD. They're country-ish (this song particularly) but different from the standard fare. Here's my YouTube capture.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Three Weeks Old Today

Photos from today.

Three Weeks Old

Three Weeks Old

Three Weeks Old

Three Weeks Old

It's Not That Easy

You've heard about Facebook, I suppose. I have and have even glimpsed it in operation, but I have yet to sign up. As Thesha says, she and Daboy are on the old side for Facebook, so where would I fit in, I wonder. For I don't suppose that too any of my contemporaries are flocking to the site for me to connect with. However, I will probably succumb sooner or later.

One thing that stood out to me, however, in the article about Facebook that I read in the Toronto Star today was the following sentence: "In fact, educators should seize these opportunities to teach students about both the benefits and drawbacks of social media, while encouraging them to use the tools in positive ways." Like everybody else in the world, I can see the benefit of this, but it rather flummoxes me how glibly people say such things.

As a retired teacher, I still recall not being able to cover the curriculum as it was. I recall the heavy workload and the stress. I recall the job becoming more and more difficult. For example: when I left the job, the teachers in our school were being told that next year they should have eight separate mark lists for each class — eight categories where they could evaluate students. In a perfect world, that would be great, but in an imperfect one, it's a rather ridiculous expectation.

So, exactly who would teach the students the responsible use social media? Would your friendly physics teacher walk into class one day and say, "By the way, I became an expert in Facebook and social media last night, developed a curriculum, and am ready to lead you to the promised land today"? What about working it into the languages curriculum? History? Math? Technology?

Well, of course, it could be worked into a course somewhere. Maybe computers? But not many students really enroll in computer course per se; most computer usage in this jurisdiction at least is actually left up to the various subjects. For example: as a geography teacher I would show them how to use computers to manipulate statistics, construct graphs, and create and analyze maps, but most teachers weren't as up on the technology as I. It's really not an easy thing for most teachers to do; in fact, most students are much more computer savvy than most teachers.

The point is that most curricula are already jam-packed, and most teachers are already frantically pedalling into a stiff wind just to try to keep pace. I'm sure that schools will find a way to teach social media at some point, but there's more to it than someone glibly observing that educators should just up and do it never mind "seize the opportunity." It's simply not that easy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ceilis, Fiddlers and Maladies

Summer Kitchen Ceili

Those are the Monday Night Fiddlers on stage at the Open Up The Summer Kitchen Ceili in Almonte last Sunday. There were nine of them although you can't see two who are in the background in this photo. That's what they do — get together and play on Monday nights. What fun these good old boys must have jammin together!

I have to say that I envy them a little bit. I wish I could do what they do: not that I'd ever be able to reach their level given my late start, but I'm sure you take my point. Speaking of which, they (the physiotherapists, not the fiddlers) stopped physio on my fingers last week. Their ministrations did help; I do have more mobility now, but my hands are far from fine. I assume that I'll be able to continue to play a little but probably never a lot, and I'd really have to practise a lot to get up to any sort of speed at this stage of life.

The somewhat frustrating thing is that those guys are all older than I as far as I can tell, but their hands work fine. I do take some consolation in the fact that I'm not alone, however. My physiotherapist shared that she was dealing with two other fiddlers about my age with similar of finger problems. I guess that information helps a bit; it's not so much that misery loves company, but it seems beneficial to my spirit to know that I'm not the only experiencing premature arthritis — well, I think it's premature! Apparently, violin injuries of various ilk are apparently quite common, and Cuppa was just talking to a lady last night who is suffering from a severe case of banjo arm — another musical malady.

Meanwhile, here's a short clip of the Monday Night Fiddlers along with my last thought for the nonce — about the tools at our disposal. I love these tools. All of these videos that Cuppa and I have been posting (of Smudge) are taken with her somewhat old (as in four years old) digital camera. We haven't bothered with this feature before, but it's come in so handy with Smudge's arrival. And how great is it that YouTube exists to make sharing so darn easy.

BTW, if you want to see more photos of the Ceili, they're here on Flickr, and all of our little videos are here on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Faces of the Young ... and Old

I went over to mind the baby this morning while Maw had a shower and did her hair. It's just as well because she did require some attention. For a while, I wasn't receiving Smudge's messages very well. I held her up, sideways and out and tried her new chair ... to no avail. She wasn't at all happy with me. So, I went back to sideways (more or less) got up and walked, rock and sang, and she quieted right down and soon zoned out. At this stage, she's one human who doesn't mind my deep bass vocals, but I'm sure that will soon change, and she'll be mortified by grampa's proclivity to break out suddenly in joyful barking melody.

She's also got me wondering. We've had two babies ourselves, and I hate to confuse the faces that infants make while dealing with gas with real smiles that are supposed to not appear until later, but Smudge does appear to be starting to smile. When Maw posted the above photo yesterday (see Thesha's blog) I thought it looked pretty real, but of course it couldn't be. Or could it? Today, in fact, I wonder because I got about four smiles when she was still happy and content ... before the crying fit and the nap. On the one hand, I say that it can't be because it's too early, but they sure seemed seemed real.

Meanwhile, here are two pics from about a week ago. I found them in draft mode and hated to waste them. We seem to be making faces at one another.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Ceili in Almonte

The whole and proper title for the event was the Open Up The Summer Kitchen Ceili.

What's a Ceili, you ask? First, it's usually spelled Celidh in my experience, but, since the dh is silent (it's pronounced kay-lee), the shorter variation works well. Basically, it's a Scottish party involving dancing and traditional instruments such as fiddles. We didn't dance yesterday, but, as the picture (below) demonstrates, there were loads of fiddles.

Summer Kitchen Ceili

Although you can't see them all in this photo and the number did change slightly from time to time, I believe there were 17 fiddlers on the stage in this grand finale. Amazingly, they kept this finale going for the best part of a half hour. The guy in the shorts in the center would keep going from piece to piece and everybody would just follow along, all from memory, even though they had probably never played together before. There were several sets of step dancers who would come out from time to time during this finale until they could manage no more. It was quite impressive.

Getting back to Ceilis, I don't suppose you'd find too many gatherings of this ilk in too many places anymore. Traditionally, there has been a lot of fiddling in the Ottawa Valley, and, lately, it's revived some in popularity, led by fiddlers such as Natalie McMaster from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Spurred on by the renaissance of Celic music from Cape Breton and abroad, certain people in Almonte (the town near to ours) are doing their best to keep these traditions alive by organizing events such as this.

As for the summer kitchen part of the title, I don't think I've ever seen one, but in the past some farm houses would have just that, a summer kitchen, in a separate structure off the main house. The idea was probably to get as close to the outdoors as possible in the nice weather — kind of like a barbecue on the patio these days, I suppose. Anyway, when the nice spring weather began to take hold, they'd air out the house (notice the laundry on the line in the photo) and open up the summer kitchen and maybe have a party ... or ceilidh.

I hope that picques your interest to take a look at this video clip of the Fusion Step Dancers with the Kyle Felhaver Band in the background.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sorry ...

... but I can't resist.

Two Weeks, Two Days

But I'm too pooped to write anything to go with the photo, except to say that this is Smudge at Two Weeks plus Two Days.

Friday, May 04, 2007


I have to tell you that I really like women, not just because of the built-in attraction thing that I have going on deep within my being but also because of the way they are. They share and communicate in ways that we males don't. It would probably be true to say that, in many cases, I prefer the company of females to males. It's not always so, for I certainly appreciate good male companionship too.

This is a good time for me to observe women playing their roles. Thesha nurses and cares for Smudge, and Cuppa coddles both, often being able to soothe the baby when mother begins to despair. I hear various little tidbits being passed on: "When she pulls up her knees like that, try holding her really tight and rubbing her back like this."

Of course, Cuppa does what her mother did before. I remember being utterly relieved to see MIL arrive on the day when we brought Thesha home from the hospital. It was Christmas Day, and Cuppa's parents and sister travelled several hundred miles with turkey dinner in tow. When they arrived, Cuppa and I were beside ourselves trying to placate a screaming baby. MIL took right over and had Thesha rocked and settled in what seemed like no time, and then we enjoyed Christmas dinner together.

MIL quickly discovered that Thesha liked to be wrapped very tightly and to be rocked furiously. She really did. I have never seen another baby like her; we'd just about blast off into permanent orbit with the pace of our rocking. When we took Thesha out for a stroll in the carriage, it wasn't a stroll at all. We'd be bouncing the carriage for all we were worth. It was stunning really. Poor Althegal though: when I confidently wrapped her up and started rocking her the way that I had rocked Thesha, she just about went into apoplectic seizure.

Now, Cuppa passes on her knowledge to Thesha, just as her mother did before and generation upon generation previously, no doubt. It's very special to see that. Cuppa will head across town several times of day to watch the little one while Thesha has a quick shower or to soothe an anxious baby with her magic touch when mother is at her wits end. It's all very heart-warming.

Yesterday, I missed it, but Mother and Grandmother bundled Smudge into the carriage and took her out for a walk: three generations of women with many more, most unknown to us, applauding in the background mists of time. Here's are pictures of the event. Unfortunately, since I wasn't there, Cuppa's not in the photos.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Making Progress

Day 2

Well, I'm making a bit of progress with the montage of Smudge Day 2 (above) and one of the rest of week 1 (below). If I can get Smudge more or less up to date, I can begin on the rest of my huge backlog. I've got to get much of this accomplished in the next month. The problem is grandma who keeps adding to my photos at an alarming rate. As I write this, she has requested that I upload more photos and video clips to my computer; only then can I upload to Flickr or YouTube or blogs or whatever the lady desires. It's so hard being me.

You can see the other grandma, Daboy's mother, second down on the right, below. On the very bottom is one of the Vancouver Aunties — Puff. She was in town very briefly for a conference and managed to get out here for a few hours in order to pay homage.

Day 3

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Tall Order

I really do understand if you're getting a might weary of Smudge pictures, but that's the way it is right now.


Smudge came for her first visit today, but, as you can plainly see (above), settling baby can be a tall order. (Get it?) But grandma soon rocked her so fast asleep that she resisted waking up afterwards. She's lying on grandma's knees, below.