Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Transit of Venus

Two weekends past Cuppa and I met a very interesting guy, Frank, in the park of a nearby town. Somewhat puzzling to us was that he had his big telescope out on a sunny day. He would sit in the shade and read a book but gladly get up to show his telescope to anyone who showed an interest.

It turned out that he was showing the sun, but in that huge disc, which filled the telescope, we could see several sunspots. They looked very little but he pointed out that they were actually larger than the earth.

One thing he talked about is the impending transit of Venus about to take place on June 05 and 06. What that means is that earthlings will be able to see our nearest planetary neighbour cross the surface of the sun. Actually, although we can see it, we mustn't look without proper eye protection -- the same as what we use to view solar eclipses. If the weather permits, Frank will set up his telescope so that people can drop by and see a bit of the transit safely. We won't be there because he won't be set up in our town, but it will be a great opportunity for those who can make it.

If you are wondering what the big deal is, it's because it's such an unusual event. Although we had a transit recently in 2004, the next won't will not occur until 2117. In other words, no one or almost no one who is alive today will get another opportunity to witness the event.

The historical significance is that in 1796, astronomers from all over the world, including the famous Captain Cook (not Hook) who was dispatched to Tahiti to record the event. Using triangulation from these sightings, humans were first able to calculate pretty closely the distance from the earth to the sun. They came up with a figure of 153 000 000 km +- 1 000 000 km, which is pretty close to the distance at our farthest point of orbit as we calculate it more than two centuries later.

The event will begin at 18:09/6:09PM EDT on June 05. But remember don't look unless you have proper viewing equipment.

This video of almost 4 minutes explains the transit quite well.

Monday, May 28, 2012


We have a low lying birdbath in the front garden, which robins often visit as we sit in our little front porch. So it was that on Saturday morning I set my camera on a tripod and sat by it reading and waiting until the birdies came around to splash. Would you believe that not one single bird came by in o so many hours that day? Well, I lie, the exotic and rare catbird did stop by. He was just hopping and not flying that day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Something Unique and Pretty

On Mothers Day, the kids' neighbour called us over to show us her remarkable tulip. It had two flower heads on a single stem. None of us had never seen anything like this before, and all of us had existed on this planet for six decades or more. Strangely enough, she had two such oddities in the same flower bed. I wonder if they will come up the same way next year?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never: I once said that to my professor when I was late for a seminar. He gave me a withering glance and replied, "I wonder." Oddly enough, I got my lowest university mark in his class, except perhaps for a course that was outside of my discipline. That one was called soil science, and I could never figure out what it was all about. I'm not sure how I ever passed.

Anyway, although Mothers Day has been history for ten days already, here are a few pics from that day.

Mom and her girl

Mom and her boy

Grandma and the girl

Grandma doing the girls hair

The girl concentrating

The girl at the playground

The boy at the playground. Climbing up. Made it. Oops. Buppa to the rescue.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Lens

After many months of hemming and hawing, I finally purchased a wide angle lens. My main lens is pretty good for this, but every now and then, I simply need or at least want a wider view than that lens will give me. I may not use the new lens often, but I hope it will be just the ticket every now and then.

Almost as soon as it was in my hot little old arthritic hands, I headed out with the intention of using it to photograph Trilliums, our provincial flower which has been in bloom and is probably just about done for another year.

A focal length of 24mm is the most I can zoom in with my new, wide-angle lens on this patch.

Just to see the difference: from almost exactly the same spot, this is with the lens at its widest -- 10mm.

This is just a reminder to set the stage for the next photo. I have previously posted this photo.

I did some experimenting by compositing the two previous photos into one. Essentially, I took the fence and trilliums from one photo and used them to replace the foreground in the other. I think it works.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Victoria Day and the Brooke Valley Spring Tour

This is our spring long weekend in Canada, Monday being the official Victoria Day holiday, celebrated in honour of the former monarch who was born on May 24 1819. Because her majesty was born on that day, we generally refer to it as the May 24th long weekend even though the actual holiday seldom occurs on that day but on the last Monday before May 25th. Kids like to refer to it as May two-four in honour of the cases of beverages that they consume when they go camping and party.

This weekend marks the beginning of summer in the minds of most Canadians. Cottages and pools are opened, and gardens are tended to. The parking lots of every garden centre from Wal-Mart to the upscale and expensive ones are full as giddy Canadians embrace the warmth, and it has been unseasonably warm this weekend with temperatures reaching 30°C/86°F and beyond. In Canadian terms, that's pretty hot, especially in May.

For us, since we don't have a cottage (the one that we have access to is infested with black flies at this time of year) and are too decrepit to camp, we do gardening and, yesterday, we also visited the Brooke Valley Spring Tour. Brooke Valley is way out in the country, but a few years ago, we saw their spring tour advertised, so we drove out to have a look around. There are a few studios on the tour, but the highlights are the lunch and chamber music sessions. We were so intrigued that we decided to go back this year. Read on.

Every year this family turns their home into a restaurant for the three day weekend. I have no idea how they manage this fantastic feat. Last time we sat inside, but we were given an outdoor table in the shade this year. Cuppa is sitting at our table in the middle of the picture.

They donate whatever money is raised to charity. This year the local charity was the Dignity House Hospice and the international one was the Stephen Lewis Foundation. We even had an orchid on our table.

There were six entrees to choose from and many desserts and drinks. The prices were reasonable ...

... and the food was quite delicious.

After lunch we wandered over to this house ...

... where we were treated to a free, forty-minute chamber music recital. In addition to the bassoonist (it was his house) and cellist, there was also a flutist (not shown). All were remarkable, extremely high-calibre musicians.

After the concert, I couldn't resist photographing this shed on the property.

There were also arts and crafts on display. September displayed her encaustic art in a little cabin.

This lady, whose name I didn't get, had much wicker furniture for sale along with this rather remarkable outhouse.

I had been able to snap this photo of her previously as I peered through the shed window while she sat reading.

Before we left, a group pulled into the tour in this vintage automobile. They were dressed in vintage clothes and looked smashing, or the cats pyjamas in keeping with the times. Although we weren't dressed appropriately, Cuppa and I couldn't resist borrowing the car for a joyride. Well ... we couldn't resist thinking about it.

I hope you enjoyed us enjoying the Brooke Valley Spring Tour on our Victoria Day long weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Recent Photos

It's time for AC to drop back into Blogdom to post a few photos that he has recently snapped in his meanderings. There's a variety here. I hope you see some that you like.

We met Elsie at our Farmers Market on Saturday. She gave us a wonderful talk and demo about her Encaustic art, using beeswax and heat. She was trying to recruit kids 11 and over for her summer course at the local art school. She also teaches adults in the winter, which may be why she was keen to talk to AC and Cuppa.

A side view of one of the many local chip trucks. This one doesn't move despite the fact that it's an old truck. It's my fave chippy due both to the fine fries and the fact that they have picnic tables plus a canopy. which are not visible in this photo.

It's dandelion season in the Ottawa Valley.  As suburban gardeners fight almost futilely against these weeds, local farmers grow them in abundance on their fallow fields. I drove past this field two days before I got back to take this photo. If I had managed to get there sooner, the field would have been even more yellow.

I found this barn behind the shops in Balderson when Cuppa and her company were busy browsing through the stores. I browsed too, but my browsing doesn't take nearly as long.

Opposite the barn of the previous photo under shade trees, I found this old shed-like structure, and it is probably my favourite of the lot. Although I normally tend towards bright, saturated colours, I like the more subdued tones here. In addition to the shade, it was overcast right then, and I think I captured that mood fairly well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

She is Adored

It's Mothers Day, so here are a few pictures of the world's greatest granny who is adored by the kids ... and by me, I might add.

Hugs on a windy day

ND is a little out of focus, but I love the look as she snuggles in

Two cool dudes peeking at me

A few other pics, not of gramma, but since they're available to post, I thought I might as well do it.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Of Springtime and Feet

Downey Service Berry in Blossom

I'll begin and end this post with recent pictures of spring flowers and blossoms and spend the rest of my time telling you about my foot ... without going into all of its unique and wonderful history ... to which the congregation said "Amen."

In its present flare-up, my ankle has been bothering me for just over two years. After re-aggravating it, I gave it a full year to calm down ... but it didn't. Only then, did I have my doctor request physio at the hospital. Physio is free at the hospital, but they have a long waiting list: so long that it took me more than a year to get in. I had originally expected the wait to be three months, and had I known how long the wait would have been, I'd likely have bit the bullet and paid for private treatment.

Then, a number of months ago, I began to have new symptoms -- pulsating pain in my ankle -- so my doctor requested x-rays and based on the results of those, she decided that an osteopathic surgeon should be consulted. That was last fall or early winter, and I had just about given up of ever being called in for an appointment.

Strangely enough, both the doctor and physio came through this week. The diagnosis is that I have a number of issues in my ankle area: loss of bone density, two bone chips, and a cartilage that is no more. Strangely enough, the medic's main concern -- the missing cartilage -- isn't where I feel pain.

The doctor then prescribed a cat scan, and I was also called for in for that this week, which made three medical appointments in one week after so much waiting. Like the doctor appointment, the scan took place out of town, so it's been a busy week or driving and medical appointments. My main disappointment was in not having an actual pussy cat do the scanning. What a letdown.

I don't know where all of these appointments and treatments are leading. The doctor mentioned the possibility or fusing the cartilage-less joint, but I am hopeful that physio can help. I was impressed with the therapist who took much time in diagnosing my condition and discussing it with me. I am so comfortable with her that I think that I am glad that I waited so long if that's what it took. I have had the foot analyzed by a physiotherapist once before, and this exam was much more thorough. After one session, the foot feels a little looser, so perhaps some progress can be made. Even if I can manage somewhat longer without undergoing an operation, I will be pleased. In the meantime, I am hoping to recover some more mobility and reduced pain when I walk, for lately when I do go out to try my ... er ... foot ... at walking, I just say that I am going out for a hobble.

Edit: They have me doing some leg strengthening exercises because my right calf muscle is 3cm  (>1") smaller than my left. I don't know if this will help my ankle at all or whether I am just doing them because it's a good thing to do.

Tulip just opening and daffodil just beginning to fade

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Walk in the Park

Even though we babysit Z daily, Cuppa and I are frequently not together with him. On Monday, however, we had a bit of an extended day with the kids, so while ND was still at school, we took the boy to the park where he busied himself being a boy. These are a few of the photos from that visit. I know this is brief, but I don't think further comment is required. I'll try to post something newsier on the weekend.