Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Winter Blast!

The great Olympic party ends today. From all accounts, Vancouver has hosted quite the event, the likes of which I don't think any hosting country or city has experienced to the same extent before. Hordes of celebrants have crowded the streets in all hours and weather for these past two weeks. Our family's two young graduate students in Vancouver have had trouble getting any sort of work done as the party keeps calling to them. They had once thought of renting out their apartment and going on holiday for these two weeks, but I bet they're now glad they didn't miss this once in a lifetime event.

Of course, the actual sporting event has also been quite wonderful. I wrote a week ago how happy I was that Canada had broken the jinx of never having won a gold, Olympic medal on our own soil. Since then, they have really taken off and have garnered a boatload of gold and other medals as well as having some fine non-podium results: with a snow boarding medal here and a figure skating medal there; here a snowboard medal; there a skiing medal; etc.

There are many great stories, but two stand out a little more prominently than most to me: both women who won bronze medals.

Clara Hughes is almost 38 years old, has won medals in both summer and winter Olympics over 16 years, and prevailed to earn a bronze medal in these Olympics in her last race ever: the 5000 metres in long track speed skating. It was an amazing result for someone her age, but most remarkable is her sportsmanlike attitude: someone who is happy and content to be the best that she can be when it counts most.

Joannie Rochette is our womens figure skater who also won a bronze medal in her event. Her sad but inspiring story is that her mother had a massive heart attack and died shortly after getting off the plane in Vancouver. Joannie dealt with it as best as she could, competed with heavy heart, and did well enough to step on the podium to claim a bronze medal. To me, that's a heart-warming and uplifting story, and I'm sure there are many more from every country, including amongst the non-winners of whom we hear so little.

Finally, I want to say something about the negative chatter in this country about our women having had better results than the men as if it's a competition between the sexes. It's true that the women have had somewhat better results although the men have really narrowed the gap in the past few days, but the discrepancy means little to me, for we are one team and one country, and that was simply the way that it went down this time.

It's been a grand two weeks about which Canada and the world should feel proud and positive.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not in Lodi, But Stuck Anyway

Oh my goodness! Yesterday morning, when we opened the garage door to head to the kids' for the day, we were faced with a mountain of snow at the end of the driveway. While it wasn't the quite as high as the mountain shown in these photos, it was mountain enough: a heavy, sticky mountain, may I add. So, we worked on clearing it, semi hurrying in order to not make the kids too late for their jobs, and it wasn't easy for the old folks. By the time we had cleared it and driven across town, I was soaked in sweat and more or less poopdicated for the day, but at least we arrived not too late.

Happily, or so it seemed at the time, there was no mountain in their drive, so we pulled right in, which turned out to have been an error in judgement. You see, on Fridays, Nikki Dee goes to daycare, and with just Zachary to contend with, one of us is free to go home or go out to run errands or whatever. That being the case, Cuppa made ready to leave after I had returned from running her to daycare, but between my return and Cuppa's attempted departure the plows had come by. When she opened that garage door, what she saw is what you see in these two pictures, and, frankly, I think there had already been some melt before I got out to take these photos.

Mercifully, Cuppa wasn't about to permit me try to play superman again, so we both stayed put and waited for SIL to come home and deal with it. Fortunately, he was able to borrow his neighbour's snow blower because we don't want him having a heart attack either. Did I mention that it was extremely wet and heavy snow?

Anyway, that's the story how and why we were stuck where we were yesterday, even though we hadn't taken the Greyhound to get there and we hadn't run out of money and we weren't in Lodi.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nikki Dee's Snowy Adventure

It was a snowy morning in the Ottawa Valley ...

... when Nikki Dee decided to go out and play.

At first, Buppa let her go by herself, but then he felt shame and decided to go out too ... and make a snowman. Nikki Dee didn't know what the heck the old Bupps was up to at first, but she was happy to help regardless.

And she soon found that it was a lot of fun to build a Frosty.

And she seemed pretty happy with the results.

She can keep and eye on the old Froster from her bedroom window ...

... too bad he's looking the other way though.

As for the Bupster, he did not feel much like using the treadmill after that — figured he had his workout for the day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Inukshuk

On Canadian Olympic coverage at least, we often see a glimpse of a large Inukshuk. It is on English Bay, which happens to be outside the girls' front door, so we walked past it any number of times this past summer, just as we did two years ago. Anyway ... today I happened to remember this photo and thought I would share it with you.

Here are several more photos from English Bay, taken at various intervals during our ten day vacation. The first is of Cuppa, sitting near that same Inukshuk in the evening after our long walk around the seawall in Stanley Park.

Here are a few photos from that 15 - 20 km hike around the Stanley Park seawall.

Finally, a few more photos in or from Stanley Park: note the palm tree in the last photo of Third Beach.

Monday, February 22, 2010

In February of 1994 ...

... the Lillehammer Olympics were on, and at any given moment you could find me watching from my accustomed spot on the floor, for that is where I spent the best part of six weeks.

My troubles had begun one Sunday after I had gone to the gym. I hadn't done anything terribly strenuous that day but had spent quite a bit of time on the Stairmaster. On the way home, my back felt uncomfortable, but I thought little of it as I had experienced spasms and twinges from time to time for several years. It was the same on Monday morning, but off I went to my teaching job with my fellow car poolers, and I became more and more uncomfortable as we drove past the flat fields of rural Lambton County.

Soon after I started walking around the school, my back became even worse, and I realized that I wasn't going to make it. Fortunately, the first period of the day was my spare, so I had time to prepare some materials and drag myself around the school to photocopy some handouts for the supply teacher. I call ed Cuppa to come and get me after informing the vice principal that I had to go home. "I'll see you in three days," I said, because my history with muscle spasms and had informed me that I should be ambulatory in that time frame.

Except it wasn't muscle spasms this time around but a bulging L4-L5 disc. For weeks, I was unable to sit or stand for more than a few minutes without terrible leg pain, for that's where the pain was always worst. I could barely get through a shower before I was forced to throw myself on the floor in search of relief. Thankfully, I could be fairly comfortable when I was prone, preferably on my stomach.

And that's how I saw the Liilehammer Olympics: from the floor of our family room. From that position, I saw Nancy Kerrigan win the silver medal in figure skating, after having been assaulted by Tonia Harding's wrecking crew sometime earlier. Our Elvis Stojko also won the silver in the men's figure skating competition although I truly believe that, by rights, he should have been awarded the gold. I felt badly for poor Kurt Browning, in my opinion the best skater ever, as he fell out of the medals. I learned how awesome the Norweigians were at ski jumping and cross country skiing and how seriously that nation took those sports. During one long and particularly bad night when I knew that sleep would elude me, I watched endless hours of bobsleighing, all the while wishing for something more rivetting to take my cares away.

I say that I was on the floor for six weeks, but I think it was eight weeks before I actually got back to work. In the sixteen subsequent years, I have experienced constant numbness in my left leg and foot, but I have never had a total repeat of that back incident. However, I remain constantly aware of how fragile my back is, and I have to be very careful how I sit and move. Fortunately, despite some limitations, such as giving up tennis, I have been surprised to be able to carry on a normal life, for I thought that I would have experienced another major incident or two by now. In the back of my mind, I still rather expect worse to come to worst someday, but I also remain hopeful.

And that is how and why I remember one past Olympic event.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Photos from the Past Week

After a post, yesterday, containing a modicum of critical content, I revert to my old standby: photos. Since about all that we do these days is grandkids, that's exactly what all of these photos are about. Those who read Cuppa's blog will have seen a number of them already.

For some reason I am a popular guy.

For Valentine Day, Nikki Dee received a fairy princess outfit ...

... which seemed to be a hit.

Nikki Dee has taken on many jobs. One is of chief cook.

Another is of monitoring world events on the computer.

Of course, she's also a rock star ...

... and a hairdresser (or she would be a hairdresser if she only find some hair to work with).

Meanwhile, Zachary spends some time reading ...

... at least when he's not cuddling. Partly due to his health troubles, he's requiring an awful lot of cuddling lately. Nikki Dee likes to receive her fair share of snuggles too.

When we braved the fresh air, Nikki Dee thought she saw Sam chewing on snow (it was a snowy bone) and immediately offered him more.

Then, she surveyed her Olympic task with great concentration ...

... and did very well although I'm not sure that she owned the podium.

Zach's Olympic sport was waddling, in a suit that made him look that he was as wide as tall. I don't think he owned the podium either.

Recreational swinging was more his style. In fact, he really enjoyed himself.

Nikki Dee tried to help push the boy, but didn't quite have the knack yet. She kept getting too close with the swing knocking her over. Tough logistics for a two year old to work out.

Finally, Rockin their way into your hearts ...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Early Morning Thoughts

What the heck should I write about on an early Saturday morning which began when Sir Cat jumped on me at 5:30? That's better than yesterday, however, when I woke myself up at 4:00. But I don't want to write about sleep or health (although I feel compelled to insert a deep groan at this point) or grandkids. You'd think that with all that transpires in this vast world, I'd have been ruminating upon some topic or other, but the fact of the matter is that my world has more or less shrunk to the dimensions of the kids' living room where we watch over Nikki Dee and Zachary: bless their tiny tottish but energy sapping, little hearts.

... pause while AC sits and stares at the screen ... and he's got something ... not much, but something ...

Without feeling very inspired about it, I think I will say something about the Olympics, presently transpiring in Vancouver and elsewhere in British Columbia.

Previously, Canada has hosted two Olympics: the 1976 games in Montreal and the 1988 winter games in Calgary, and we possess the dubious distinction of being the only host country to have never won a gold medal. We've won them elsewhere but not at home. We were so good at not winning golds that we managed to accomplish that in both Montreal and Calgary in both summer and winter if you please. Well, we've been getting better in more recent Olympiads, and at the halfway point this time around we have four gold medals.

Which is all very nice but ...

Our Olympic committee invented the slogan Own The Podium for this event. It seems that our athletes were no longer to be satisfied with just competing but were to go for the gold. I do understand that these events are a competition and that the ultimate idea in any competition is to win. On the other hand, the flip side of that notion is also to hold your head high if you've done your best and not emerged victorious. There's something to be said for participating in the struggle, and I opine that the Own The Podium mantra fails to recognize that.

In any event, I have never fancied the slogan. Saying something doesn't necessarily make it happen. Canada is currently standing fourth in the medal count, which is very good, and I think that most of us are pleased with that modest degree of success. But let's face it, the USA really owns the podium, and all of the slogans in the world won't change that. I'd rather not talk brashly than have to eat my own words. Besides it's so un-Canadian as we tend to be a modest self-effacing bunch.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Foto Friday

This picture was taken last week before we both came down with ear infections and were put on antibiotics. Crazy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barry's Bell

Ten years ago, Cuppa and I motored out west and spent a lot of time in the fabulous Rocky Mountains. In various places there were warnings about bears, and in various stores, tourists could purchase bear bells, the idea being that if you wear one while trekking in the outback, the bears will know that dinner is coming be frightened off by the noise. Cuppa had to have one ... just because ... and not because we were worried about bears where we were hanging out. Every year since, she has pinned it on her coat and worn it around come the Christmas season. She gets a lot of double-takes from children and adults alike.

But at two o'clock on a February afternoon, why was AC outside ringing that bell?

Well, it was for Barry, of course. Our Explorer finished his chemo sessions today, and it is standard practice for such souls to ring a certain bell when exiting that particular hospital. Ergo, a bunch of bloggers decided to ring their own bells for Barry at 2:00 pm on February, 18 2010.

Some not-yet-ready-for-blogging-kidlets also joined the ceremonial ringing of the bell.

Most of you already follow Barry and know exactly what I'm going on about, but he explains it here.

All the best, Barry, and just in case you so desire, if you click on the photo, you will be taken to one that is of printable quality.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Really Shoulda Listened

I must confess to being a little dismayed with myself and my body tonight, and not in a good way.

You see, the kids have a treadmill, a decent treadmill that hasn't been put to much use in the past few years — which oddly enough is exactly how long they've had its. Seeing as both it and I are there every day, and it's winter, which sometimes renders outdoor walking problematic, I have decided to put the confounded contraption to use.

So I decided to have a little cautionary talk with myself first.

Anvilcloud to AC: Start easy, AC; you've been pretty doggone sedentary for the past few months.

AC to Anvilcloud: I understand. I'm just going to walk, and I won't go too fast and I won't go too long. But I will use that handy dandy incline feature.

Anvilcloud to AC: And just why would you do that?

AC to Anvilcloud: Say what?

Anvilcloud to AC: Use the incline feature, dummy!?

AC to Anvilcloud: Because Dr Oz and that skinny fitness guru on Oprah say that it's a real good thing to do.

Anvilcloud to AC: You've been lyin low more than two months, AC, and you're 62. Just be realistic, man. That's all I'm sayin.

AC to Anvilcloud: Yeah, sure. I get it. You don't have to draw me a picture. I'm not like y'know stoopid or sumthin.

Anvilcloud to AC: Uh huh. So, you'll start really slow, say ten minutes and very little if any incline?

AC to Anvilcloud: I'll be careful, but I'm going to do 15 minutes, and we'll see about the speed and the incline.

Anvilcloud to AC: Hoo Boy. You just don't get it do you?

Really folks. I have been careful. I mean to say fifteen minutes isn't very long, and I really didn't go all that fast, and I didn't use a real steep incline, afterall. However, would you believe that after just two days my legs feel like rubber?

Sometimes, 62 seems young. Tonight? Not so much.

They say you're as old as you feel. At this moment, I don't exactly feel like a spring chicken (although I have no idea what a spring chicken is or how it feels).

I shoulda listened to myself. Really.

Monday, February 15, 2010

For the Record

Because I have posted my paternal DNA results, I thought that I might as well add something about my maternal lineage; as on the paternal side, these results are also rather limited. My haplogroup (a set of people with a common ancestor as determined by certain DNA markers) is J and has been dubbed The European Travellers.

Maternal haplogroups are different than paternal groups, and, according to Bryan Sykes in The Seven Daughters of Eve, there are seven European maternal groupings. He has given each of the seven maternal ancestors a name, and chose Jasmine for mine.

I haven't read the book but preliminary searching tells me that we came from the Near East, which is surprising to me, and that 12% of J's still reside there with 11% in Europe with other concentrations in the Causasus and North Africa. I am guessing that I am from the more prevalent J1 group, but there is a smaller J2 group based around the Mediterranean in places such as Greece, Italy/Sardinia and Spain. There are also subdivisions within each group, but this test only tells me that I am a J.

The map shows from where haplogroup J was thought to emerge about 50 000 years BP. As you can see, some of the descendants of Jasmine migrated east, and today, "The European Travelers are found at a rate of about 10% among the Kalash, an ethnic group living in Pakistan."

Following is exactly what my testing site had to report.

"You belong to the European Travelers, haplogroup J, which emerged around 50,000 years ago in the Near East, not long after the first modern humans left Africa. About 10% of today’s European population belongs to the European Travelers, although they did not arrive in Europe until the end of the last major ice age, about 10,000 years ago.

"This timing associates the European Travelers with the Neolithic or late Stone Age peoples, whose emergence is characterized by the rise of advanced farming and herding techniques. Irrigation, pottery and other technologies and cultural hallmarks of advancement came about as a result of this farming lifestyle. Lives were instantly transformed when humans could manage their own food sources and did not have to move with the changing seasons or evolving climate just to survive. Crops were eventually produced in surplus, which led to trade. Your ancient
ancestors were probably key players in the realization and implementation of this critical progress"

Wikipedia also credits group J "with the spread of farming and herding in Europe during the Neolithic Era (8,000-10,000 yrs ago). All other West Eurasian-origin groups were previously given to hunting and gathering."

Maternal DNA testing can only be used to eliminate matches with others who have been tested: "We can’t determine whether you are related more recently than 5,000 years ago, but if you have even one difference, you can be certain you are not related." The site does not provide a map of people who have no differences from me, but I have been provided with a list of names whom I can contact if I so wish. However, with a possible 5 000 year variation, I don't think I would be likely to do that. I would be interested in reading Sykes', The Seven Daughters of Eve, however.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vague DNA Results

Although I haven't done too much about it, I find it interesting to try to figure out where I came from, where we all came from really. It seems that DNA research indicates that we all came out of Africa about 50 000 years ago, maybe longer. I wanted to know more, and for Christmas I was given a DNA testing kit which supposedly would do that. Well, I guess it did tell me more but, disappointingly, not too much more.

It did pin my paternal DNA down to haplogroup R1B, a haplogroup being a set of people with certain genetic markers in common. As you can see in the graphic, they have decided to name this group, The Artisans, although I don't think that tells me very much other than the information that we"first arrived in Europe from west Asia about 35,000-40,000 years ago." The following map indicates the path that we took, but from other reading I think it would be the same for most Europeans. My understanding, still from other reading, is that various peoples dispersed in various directions from that location in west Asia.

Personally, I don't think that such general information from so long ago is very informative, but that's about as good as it gets. I was also told that "early Aurignacian peoples collected flint for tools at random, they later advanced and managed their resources with sophistication, using a single stone core to shape flint tools as needed. Aurignacian decorative beads and jewelry could also be the first sign we have of the uniquely human quality of selfawareness and adornment. Additionally, some anthropologists believe that the Aurignacian culture was the first to paint. The people of this time period left behind fascinating cave paintings in France, Spain and Portugal." Although I know I could find the information, it would be nice if the DNA company would explain this Aurignacian subculture more as they just mention the name in passing, but I am left to do that on my own ... or not.

A subtype of this Rb1 group were the Cro Magnon people who were responsible for the cave paintings mentioned above, but this test wasn't able to determine subgroups. Another bit of information is that 70% of the people of England belong to this haplogroup, which is no surprise to me as I know that my ancestry is quite English. Also, at least some R1b subgroups were part of the Celtic nations, but again that is pretty general and unsurprising information.

That's really about it, and it sure isn't much. I wasn't expecting a lot, but I was hoping for something a little more current than where my ancestors may have been located forty millenia ago. The site does have a link to another site that may or may not tell me more about my haplogroup, but I haven't explored that yet. It also provided me with a map of those who have taken the same test, and it tells me of six people (the orange symbols) with whom I share a common ancestor, but only with the past 21 to 23 generations or 525 to 575 years ago. I also share a common ancestor with all of the green symbols; most that I clicked on were related to me from about 875 years ago (35 generations) to about 1000 years ago (40 generations). There were some results from other countries too, but most were from the USA.

Unfortunately, the only way to find out if something is worth it is to try it, and I don't really think this was even though it is more information than I had before and could possibly prove useful someday. I've presented the type of information here so that others can make up their own minds about such testing. I had my maternal DNA tested as well, and I may also report on that, but it's probably even less helpful than the paternal test.