Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On Sneezing and Coughing

He was a very nice and helpful guy. We were in a store talking about what to see in Vancouver. He took us to a computer where he Google Mapped the place that he was recommending. He sneezed, politely covering with his hand. He then put this same hand on the mouse and navigated happily.

I don't know how many times I have seen this happen recently. It's bad. Don't do it.

We were once taught to cover our coughs and sneezes with our hands, but we now know that we spread and pick up germs mainly through these same hands. I once had a dental hygienist cough into her hand and then stick it into my mouth. Yuck.

I sneeze and cough into my sleeve these days when I can't find a tissue in time.

Go ye and do likewise.

The foregoing was a public service announcement brought to you by AC who is now home ... where it is cool and rainy ... after being in sunny and dry British Columbia. Thank you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Raccoons Again

One week ago, we were on our way to the airport. This morning I am sitting in the quietly at 5:30 PDT and typing in the dark. The girls remain sleeping on the air mattress (bless their hearts for giving up their bed) on the other side of the couch, and I sit computing in the dark. I can do that with Pufferpoo's lighted Mac keyboard. Cool, eh?

We've been busy, even when we've been not busy. To wit: yesterday was an unplanned day as both girls had to work and study all day. That left Cuppa and I to our own devices, and we opted to walk the circumference of Stanley Park — around the seawall. We ambled around for much of the day, timing our return to coincide with sunset.

At sunset, we've more than once found ourselves sitting on, oddly enough, Sunset Beach, which is just outside their front door. We watch as Old Sol quenches his light into the cool Pacific. Of course, we've taken photos of this and everything else, but I won't be posting be posting any until I get home. However, I couldn't resist popping in to talk to y'all for a minute since I am up early this morn.

What I really wanted to focus on, although it's taken me three paragraphs to get here, is ysterdays rather unnerving encounter with the local raccoons.

Cuppa and I had been enjoying a snack at Prospect Point in Stanley Park around supper time yesterday. We had finished our munchies and remained in place for some time looking out at the ocean and across to the mountains. When it was time to get up to begin the long trek back to the apartment, we decided to remove some left over food items from our bag to deposit into the nearby trash container.

That was when were were swarmed by four, yes four, bold and frightening raccoons who were desperate to snatch our leavings. Their movements were incredibly bold and more than a touch alarming, let me tell you, especially in light of our experience on the previous night.

We had been sitting in the living room conversing about nothing of consequence when we heard a dog yelping a rather frantic and continuous yelp. When we sprang to the window in alarm, we beheld a large raccoon chasing a woman and her small dog. Really. She fell in the street and was in danger of being struck by a car, but the raccoon was relentless in his aggressive pursuit. Fortunately, she and her dog were able to escape into the apartment building, and the raccoon disappeared into the bushes.

So, you see, when we were swarmed by four of the blighters the very next day, we had every reason to be just a tad alarmed. In retrospect, I don't think they would have actually assaulted us, but I assure you that we were in no frame of mind to test that theory, and we both made haste to leave the rascals behind.

For those who haven't seen it, I leave you with our raccoon encounter of two years past when we last visited Vancouver and Stanley Park. While I'm sure that most locals live here for years without such encounters, we short term visitors seem to attract the blighters. I wonder if anyone captured this latest episode, for there seemed to be some cameras trained on us? In fact, bystanders seemed to think it was pretty funny.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Checking In and Out

Although I posted yesterday, for the most part, I continue to be an inconsistent and sporadic blogger these days. It's not that I can't think of things to write about; it's just that I can't be bothered to write about them. It would be easy enough just to chronicle my days from sunup till sundown, but that's not the kind of blogging that I prefer to do. Many do, but it's not my cuppa. However, lately, I haven't felt much like thinking and writing either. Also, while I always have a plethora of photos that I could post, I feel that also becomes tiresome for both you and me.

Nevertheless, I felt that I had to check in today to tell you that I will be forced to check out for awhile, for come tomorrow we'll be flying to Vancouver for ten days (twelve if you count travel days). The flight is a rather stunningly magnanimous gift from Althegal and Pufferpoo, our west coast daughter and DIL, respectively. It's in honour of our fortieth anniversary and quite the gift from two poor university students, if you please. We'll also crash on their pullout whilst there, and I anticipate that we'll have a great time with those two zany femmes.

We've been out to the west coast previously, two years ago for almost three weeks. Back then, I blogged about our doings regularly. I even created a separate space on Word Press called Rambling and Roving for the event. I can't imagine that I will be so diligent this time around, especially since I think that in an effort to travel somewhat light, which is something we're not exactly famous for, we're going sans computers. Gulp: I may suffer from withdrawal.

So that explains the title. Essentially, I'm breaking my blogging reticence to tell you that I won't be blogging much for the next few weeks. I know, I'm odd.

This is the trip that caused me to dither about cameras not too long ago. Would we just take Cuppa's P&S, or both her camera and my DSLR, or would I decide to add another photographic device to the family? In the end, I decided on option 1: Cuppa's P&S and nada else. Of course, I could still change my mind ... but I don't think so. We took both cameras last time and got lots of good shots, so I think I'd rather travel lighter and rely on the smaller camera this time around. Also, I'm not sure in what direction I really want to go with regards to cameras, and until I make up my mind, I rather think that it's best to stick with the status quo and not purchase another one.

So, that's it for now. I've checked in, and now I'm checking out. I will leave you with a slideshow of our previous trip, however. To see it larger and better than below, click here. See you all later; perhaps I'll even post a few tidbits from the shores of the Pacific, but I can't be sure.

Oh good grief, I just realized there's 131 photos in the slideshow (insert goofy embarrassed grin), so do feel free to move on to the next blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dumbing It Down

Whilst I was awaiting an appointment this cloudy and unseasonably cool September morn, I thumbed my way through a Readers Digest that lay in the waiting area. I was looking for humour, and while I found many attempts, I did not exactly have to pick myself off the floor after being overcome by mirth. Jokes failing me, I turned to the monthly Word Power test, which, in this case, happened to be a reprint from 1948. You know the drill, I suppose; RD offers four possible choices for each of 20 words, and if you make two errors or fewer, they tell you how clever you are.

Well, that's partly the point. The quiz did offer four choices in 1948, and I found myself sometimes having to choose between what seemed to me to be two somewhat plausible alternatives. While, old AC still did okay, he did miss a few more than usual, and, therefore, was not told to go to the head of the class. Sniff. Perhaps that's partly due to the fact that some 1948 words aren't used as much these days, but I think that it was more because the definition choices were somewhat difficult. To me, there were frequently two choices that seemed somewhat reasonable.

I then picked up another issue of RD and found a current vocabulary quiz. Because I was called to my appointment before I completed the task, I can't report my final stunning score, but let's just say I was finding it rather easy and was rolling along in fine form. You see, nowadays, or at least in this particular edition, the reader was only offered three choices, and if one had any level of familiarity with the word, s/he was almost bound to come up with the correct answer. That's because two of the three possibilities weren't even close to being correct. Instead of four choices in 1948 when two were at least somewhat plausible, the modern reader only had to select from three alternatives, thereby increasing his/her chances of being correct. To repeat, the choices also seemed easier to me.

So, why the dumbing down? It's just the way it is. Having been through schools myself and then taught in them for three decades, I can report that it's generally now easier to obtain a B average, for example, than it used to be. That doesn't mean that modern students are learning less. In some areas they may be, but in other areas they are certainly ahead of earlier generations: perhaps in critical thinking, creativity, social awareness, and oral presentations, for example. However, I think it's also fair to say that the average contemporary student would pull down higher grades than the average student of earlier generations.

Perhaps I am generalizing too broadly, however; perhaps it's a North American phenomenon. I say that because when I watch British television, for example, I usually find their mystery plots much more complex than in our North American counterparts. Our mysteries really seemed to be dumbed down in comparison. I don't know why, for I rather think that we're just as sharp on this side of the pond as they (or you, for some readers) are over there.

I'm not particularly going anywhere with these paltry observations. I don't have any tangibly perspicacious conclusions to offer. It's just what I noticed this morning and thought that I'd mention it. It's good to be challenged a little after all, and I didn't really mind scoring 16/20 rather than getting an almost perfect result. If anything, it challenged me to try a second quiz, and that can't really be a bad thing. Can it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obsolete Toys, Obsolete Me

Today, it is my duty to reveal the sad, sad truth about myself. Are you ready? It's this. I am obsolete. My toys/tools rather prove the point.

Exhibit A: My computer is more than four years old and gasps and groans with what I try to make it do. The hard drive is so small that I need two external drives to hold my files. All those pictures that Cuppa and I keep flashing before your bedazzled eyes must be stored somewhere after all. Heck, even the blog template (that you see on the computer screen and possibly before your eyes at this moment) is old now, almost as old as the computer. I don't even think I could design a blog template anymore. What I once knew about building web pages has all but evaporated from my tiny brain.

Exhibit B: We've already talked about the camera. I have recently been reminded of its usefulness; some of the pics that I have posted recently were taken with it, and I rather like them. I also think of the wedding last year and how the results from my camera held up pretty well against the newer and more expensive Nikon showoffs (kidding). I know this because I am the guy who processed the pictures and made the album. I wonder if the newer visitors among you would like to see the album? Beware though, it was a gay wedding, and if that offends you, just kindly move on. For those who read about my camera dilemma last week and are curious, I must report that I still haven't made a decision. I thought I had decided to drop the notion of picking up a new camera, but I find that my mind is turning it over once again. Who knows what I will do? I don't.

Exhibit C: That would be our cell phone to the right of the camera. Would you believe it's more than six years old? I mean, who else on the planet brags of a six year old cell phone? Even more oddly, its number is still the same old one that we used in Sarnia, several area codes away on the other side of the province. We haven't changed it because we can't talk to a real person at Rogers, and the computer voice, called Melanie, is no help us at all. Needless to say, we don't use the phone much. We use it primarily for exigencies, so we use it seldom because who the heck experiences many exigencies?

Exhibit D: Behold my iPod. It too is old in technological terms — four years old in point of fact, and it was end-of-the-line model when I bought it all that time ago. I think most people throw their iPods on the heap after a year or two, but the ancient, decrepit AC insists on hanging onto to all of his obsolete stuff with bulldog tenacity. Meanwhile, both daughters are on their second iPods and are now spoiling themselves with their iPod Touches. It's amazing what these little gaffers (the Touchy Pods, not the girls necessarily) can do: play movies, surf the Internet, polish your shoes and I don't know what else.

Exhibit E: Finally, I come to our ancient GPS: the one with the tiny green screen and paltry map data bases. It can't even talk for goodness sakes. It works for us as a glorified compass and not much more but that's primarily what we bought it for because our obsolete car (I forgot about our obsolete car until now) didn't come with a compass, and we couldn't even buy one as an option. Sheesh!

So, there you have it. My stuff is obsolete and so am I or at least my back is; it passed its best before date a long time ago now.

But don't feel sorry for me. Just send replacement items or cash: whichever is most convenient for your loving and compassionate little hearts. Just don't call me on the cell because the number, belonging two area codes west, is long distance.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Yungle Book Comes to Life

I mentioned in recent post how Nikki Dee enjoys watching Jungle Book when she visits. Shortly after she's sounded Revellie at an atrociously early hour, we stumble downstairs whereupon she invariably requests "Yungle Book?" As I posted once before, one morning we had watched it twice by ten o'clock. Lately, she'll march us around the house or even outside to the strain of the elephants' Dawn Patrol: "Hup two three four, give it up two three four, la la la la la ... "

Therefore, it shouldn't have been a surprise last Sunday during our stroll through the park, when she led me to a tree to, evidently, help her climb up. In the story, Bagheera, the panther, helps Mowgli climb into the tree where they can supposedly sleep safely. Of course, they are not at all safe because that nefarious snake, Kaa is able to hypnotize first Mowgli and then Bagheera.

Disregarding the dangers of hypnotizing snakes, however, Nikki Dee put me through my lifting exercises any number of times in what was designed to be a leisurely Sunday stroll. She dragged me from tree to tree to assist her to climb up, just as Bagheera helped Mowgli. There were two problems with this: (i) she isn't Mowgli; (ii) Buppa is definitely not Bagheera — nor any other agile cat.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

On a Glorious Sunday in September ...

... Cuppa and I took the kid for a walk in the park by the Mississippi River (the Mississippi in Eastern Ontario near Ottawa). There is already the beginning of autumn colour, which I find wonderful yet not so wonderful. She forever asks us, "Hold my hand?" and we are not foolish enough to refuse. We hold on to these moment for all we're worth, for these days are fleeting. Sniff.

Looking the other way, toward the river, we see greater changes. One tree on the far bank is already ablaze, while others begin to take on the tint. A small boat floats by in the background. I'm sure that it was a marvellous day to be out on the water. The river widens into a picturesque lake just beyond the bridge.

At the other end of the park, I stop the car and roll down the window. This tree is also an early changer, a harbinger.

Friday, September 04, 2009

What to Do?

I have been in a bit of a dilemma lately. It's about my camera, or two cameras, rather.

I have a DSLR, but it's the original Canon Rebel and more than five years old now. While I used my original SLR Pentax SPII for decades, the pace of technological change renders devices obsolete in double quick time now. It's true that my Rebel still works as well as it did five years ago, but it's big, clunky and slow compared to it's modern counterparts and even compared to lesser cameras. While the slowness is annoying, I find that I have never totally come to grips with its size and weight. I don't mind porting it around when I know that I'm going someplace with the intention of taking photos, but I can't say that I exactly enjoy lugging it when I'm simply meandering about the planet. Oh, I've bought a smaller carrying bag that does help a bit, but it's still bulky piece of equipment.

This has come to a head lately because we're to fly to Vancouver in a few weeks to visit the girls, and I am thinking of leaving my DSLR here. We'll still have our little Point and Shoot, and to be frank it does a decent job. It can be a bit slow to focus and snap, especially when I'm using the flash and have just taken a picture, but it's still more or less satisfactory. It does bother me, however, that I can see little flaws when I zoom in when I'm working on the photos. I wish it shot in RAW to offset some of the problems, but everything is a trade off, and it's pocket portability is pretty handy and encourages me to at least partly overlook its limitations.

Nevertheless, I've been looking around for an additional camera: another small one that can shoot in RAW but that has a bigger zoom and increased quickness. I did find one, the Canon SX200, that almost fits the bill but not quite. It does have a 12x optical zoom, is pretty quick and has an image stabilizer. Unfortunately, it doesn't support RAW, but I was almost willing to overlook that drawback because it's got an awful lot going for it.

However, it is a tad pricey for a pointer and shooter, so I checked on ebay and found one that was barely used, came with a memory card and an extended warranty for a fairly reasonable price or at least some reduction from the in-store price. Still, I dithered and watched while the auction was still going on. I had all but made up my mind to bid the floor amount as the deadline drew nigh. It seemed like a good strategy because no one else had yet entered the fray although I suppose that others, like I, might also have chosen to lurk in the wings until the eleventh hour. If that were to have occurred, I possibly would have been willing to play the full Buy Now price. I say possibly because I was never sure, and I'm still not, but I was sure thinking hard about it.

However, when I checked the auction yesterday, I saw that it had been prematurely halted by the vendor and that the camera is now only available for the Buy Now price. Frankly, that ticks me off because the vendor knew through an email contact that I was interested but still cogitating. He, no doubt, foresaw my possible strategy — to bid the minimum as time was running out. Knowing that I was interested, I guess he was trying to extract the full price by terminating the auction. In one sense I can't blame him, but at the same time, I think it's a bit underhanded to halt the auction prematurely. Frankly, I don't even understand why ebay would allow that.

So, he's made the decision for me because, although I admit to understanding his reasoning and motivation, I really hesitate to do business with someone who employs dubious tactics to gain a few measly bucks. In my apparently worthless opinion, ebay vendors need to demonstrate some honour and accountability by sticking to the process. The guy chose to put something up for auction with his floor price, so I think it is a commitment that he should honour. Therefore, whatever camera or cameras I take out west with me in a few weeks, his nice Canon SX200 won't be among them. I guess I should be thankful in a way because what was a difficult decision was made easier for me. Simply put: he can keep his camera, and I will keep my money!

However, I am still left with a decision: take the DSLR or leave it at home.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Yesterday was my birthday. While it's not all that exciting to turn 62, it sure beats not turning 62, so I celebrated. I don't think I have ever planned my own birthday to the extent that I did this year if at all, so let me tell you all about it. Oh stop rolling your eyes and humour a poor, old sod.

Since we awoke fairly early, I did our first non-standard thing by zipping out to Tim's for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I wouldn't have done this if we had slept in a bit because I knew we were going to McDonalds for lunch. You see, I wanted to do something with Nikki Dee that she would like. Although everybody was welcome to join us, only Cuppa managed it because it was Zach's nap time.

On the way to the restaurant, Cuppa did what she frequently does: turn around and take a picture of Nikki Dee. Although she must have taken hundreds from this position by now, I think this one is pretty doggone special. Have I ever mentioned that I love this kid?

Here we are at McDonalds. She liked the fries but left the chicken. I enjoyed both my Big Mac and fries. Somehow, it seems right to share a meal with the kids at Mickey Dee's.

Better still, here's one without Buppa spoiling to photo.

The only McDonalds in our town is in Wal-Mart, so we sauntered around the store afterward. We bought her a bag of play food (for my birthday) which she ported heroically. In the photo, I am examining a little slide scanner that I glimpsed in passing. Earlier this year, I tried to scan slides using my flatbed scanner, but the results weren't good, and I wondered how well a dedicated scanner would work. It's not terribly expensive and may be worth trying as I have boxes of old slides that should be converted. I'll have to think on it.

With that little event out of the way, Cuppa and I made our way into the city to take in Julie and Julia. The movie was my choice, and I and two other guys say in a theatre filled with women and watched a good film. As usual Meryl Streep was awesome. Although I don't particularly know Julia Childs, except very dimly, Streep seemed to have her down pat. In case you don't know, the movie has a blogging connection as Julie blogged about her year of working her way through Julia's cookbook. They even showed her setting up her account on Blogspot, our very favourite blogging vehicle, presumably before Google took it over.

From there it was to the kids' place for Chinese and birthday cake. Thank goodness there were just 6 + 2 candles and not 62. We wouldn't want to burn the place down after all. Nikki Dee got right into the spirit and was a big help in blowing them out while Zach looked on in fascination.

Zach was a happy contributor to the festivities in his own right.

All in all, it was a low key but satisfying way to spend a birthday: sharing simple pleasures with those whom I love.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Even More Cottage Snaps

I think this post will bring me up to date with the photos that I have been working on since returning home from the cottage, and so, I'll soon have to think of other topics to blog. You can explore the larger versions of some of the photos by clicking on the link underneath the photo. I'd like to think that some of them are worth enlarging if you will permit me such immodesty.

Apart from the house, garage and shed, there are three old structure at the cottage. Oddly enough, I resisted shooting the picturesque but frequently photographed red barn this time. However, it struck me that the following, particular views of the former planer mill and the older barn hadn't been done. Or not much anyway.

Mill and Barn

The planer mill, on the right (above and below), was just that when my BIL bought the place over ten years ago. Eventually, the former owner returned as per the sale agreement, took the inner workings, and left the shell. A few summers ago, Treebeard started working on screening the structure and managed to finish it in time for the wedding last year.

Mill and Barn 2

The Older Riverwood Barn

The other building, the Older Barn, remains just that — older than the more photographed red one . Apart from storage and probable habitation by wee critters, it isn't being used at this point in time. Someone once said something about converting it into an art studio, but who knows if that really represents its future. I would think that it would require a ton of money and/or sweat to accomplish such an overhaul.

The Older Barn 2

The Lonely Friendship Bench

A river forms the eastern border of the large property (above). In this photo, the camera looks upon the part of the river that we normally access if we wish to swim, which we didn't this year — brrrrr! You'll notice that the grass is kept trimmed in that section and that there is a bench. My nephew and several friends built the Friendship Bench a number of years ago. Personally, I think it's time that he return from from his globetrotting and sit in it.

On the Edge of the Hill

I noticed this flowering plant on the edge of a little grade that overlooks the newer barn and decided to experiment with the macro function on Cuppa's camera (the others on this page were taken with mine). My BIL thought he knew the name, but of course I can't recall what he said. In the photo below, you can see the newer, red barn very out of focus (intentional).

On the Edge of the Hill