Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memory Kicks In

It's the little things that mean a lot. Last weekend was our Victoria Day weekend, the Canadian long weekend near the end of May.

It is the traditional gardening weekend in Canada, or at least in the parts of Canada where I have lived. Despite the fact that many folks jump the gun, nurseries advise us to wait until that weekend for planting because any time before that we risk frost. Actually, we sometimes risk frost later, but that's about all of the patient biding of time that we can stand after a long winter and a slow-coming spring. So it was that we found ourselves at the garden centre or two garden centres really.

In our family, I have taken care of perennials while Sue has been in charge of bedding plants and flower pots, of which we have many. And with my back gone all wonky, I hovered in the background of the nurseries while my lady picked out her plants. She picked this one ↓ among many.

She liked it, but what was it? Neither she and the lady whom Sue had befriended (something Sue is good at) could bring it to mind.

That\s when myself piped up, "Verbena." They agreed, and I was inordinately pleased with myself.

You see, as I creep into my dotage, I increasingly find myself searching my vacant brain for words. I begin to say something to someone, but that blasted word eludes me. It's frustrating and a tad scary. I had never thought about it, but Ruth's recent post identified the phenomenon as "losing your nouns."

At this point in time, the nouns come back to me, usually before too long and often when I think of the object differently, but, nevertheless, it reminds me of my father to whom the sun and moon became the "big fella and the little guy." Or at least, we think that is what he meant.

So, coming up with the name, Verbena, when it eluded the two ladies was somewhat reassuring.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

To Tell The Truth

It took me a half hour to get my computer going this morning, but that's better than some recent mornings. This morning, the first fail was a KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE_ERROR. After the computer tried valiantly to recover from that, it led to a INSERT DISKETTE message. Of course, I haven't used diskettes for about 15 years.

The second attempt led to a CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED error and, eventually, the same insert diskette screen. I waited a long time on the third reboot, and it eventually worked, but I still have to stay away from certain programs if I want to keep the machine chugging..

This has led to less computer usage for me, and I am dreadfully behind in blog reading. In fact, I am so far behind that I don't think I will bother to catch up. I will likely clear the backlog and start over, and even that may have to wait until after this long weekend.

However, I do wish to try to string a few thoughts together for this week's prompt from the Comeback group: Superstition.

In doing so, I would like to posit this as my working definition of superstition: There is something which I would like to be true, and I would like to think that my beliefs and actions influence that certain thing. 

Having posited that, I am not going to take my thoughts into the direction that some of you might be expecting right now, and after that rambling prelude, you might be surprised of the ensuing brevity of my thoughts.

This is the superstition (according to my definition) that I wish to debunk: You can do anything that you want to do and be anything that you want to be. Calling it a superstition fits both parts of my homespun definition, for it is something that we might wish were true, and it posits that our actions can make it come true.

But it isn't true. It's wishful thinking: not something that we should be telling our children, for it is important to be honest with them.

Of course, the intention of the thought is honourable enough, for I see it being if you dedicate yourself to something and work very hard to achieve it, you can expect to achieve some success. That is something that is true, and I am onboard with it. In fact, Dr. Anders Ericsson’s research theorized that it takes 10,000 hours (20 hours for 50 weeks a year for ten years = 10,000) of deliberate practice to become an expert in almost anything.

Malcolm Gladwell, wrote a book, Outliers, exploring this 10,000-Hour Rule. In it, he used The Beatles as an example, citing that they played for more than 10,000 hours in Hamburg, Germany from 1960 - 1964. Bill Gates also met the 10,000-Hour Rule by accessing a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13 and spending 10,000 hours programming on it. (Wikipedia) You could also apply the rule to icons like Steve Jobs and Wayne Gretzky.

Of course, I don't believe that 10,000 hours of practice will lead to everybody becoming an expert in the class of the above mentions, but, nevertheless, this is surely what we must emphasize to children. The old adage, Practice Makes Perfect, may not be exactly true, but it is what we should be striving for.

When we tell a child that she can do anything or be anything that she wants, we are misrepresenting the truth. It makes it sound like someone can close her eyes for a minute, decide that, by golly, she wants to be an astronaut, and that it will then magically happen. It won't. That's superstition. Dedication is real. Even then, someone may not become exactly what she wishes she could become. If I had practiced for 10,000 hours to become a top-flight, professional hockey player or an opera singer, I still wouldn't have made it because talent does count. But I would have become a lot better than I would have by just wishing to be one of those things.

The truth is in the work not the wish.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Puzzling It Out

I've been a little remiss, partly because I've had some fun times with the computer during the past week, so things computerish have been hit and miss. We've also been getting to finishing the back yard overall now that the weather is better.

Speaking of weather, did you know that I absolutely needed a winter coat on Monday morning? Did you also know that I was hot in T + shorts on Thursday when we had our warmest day since mid September? Did you know that it could snow this weekend?

Anyway, what I really want to post is a few pics of the boy and me finishing the jigsaw puzzle that we gave home for his birthday two months ago. This was the previous week when he stayed home from school due to a cough. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and was fine the next day.

He goes more by the shapes of the pieces while I try to relate to the picture. Neither of us quite understands how the other person does it. But we did do it. Together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

In Denial

In life, there are myriad small things but also a few pretty darn big things that get our goats. Climate Change comes to mind. We've know about it for a long time; I first taught it about 30 years ago. Actually, in a sense I didn't teach it, but it was one of the issues that we examined in my world issues class. When we exemined an issue, we tried to gather information open-mindedly before drawing conclusions. In the case of Climate Change or Global Warming, which is what we called it then, the science and evidence led invariably to the understanding that it was, indeed, real.

It doesn't so much bother me that the planet has been slow to react to this and correct the course because I know it's easier said than done. I once came across the notion that we are secessional creatures who are more or less forced to use the tools that are at our disposal. It is difficult and expensive to adapt to change. For example: I would like to have a hybrid vehicle, but I can't afford it. On the other hand, I don't do much driving; my 10000km/6000mi per year hardly justify the expense of converting because the resources to create new cars also amount to something.

That being said, the world has obviously been much too slow to react; we need to do better.

The most galling part of this is the deniers. You know, the ones who have decided that 98% of the climate scientists must be, somehow, bought by governments. I mean all of the governments in the world are buying out all of the scientists for some reason. I can't figure out the reason, mind you, but I am sure there must be one. Not.

Meanwhile, the 2% (or whatever) of scientific, climate change deniers must be telling us the truth, even if they work for oil companies or right wing think tanks as most are proven to be.

Then there are those who think Jesus is returning to make a New Earth, so this one doesn't matter. Doubt it, for I remember my pastor preaching ~1960 that all of the signs were there for the Second Coming and that he didn't see how it would be any longer than 10 years before the big event. Even if you do believe this, I cannot fathom how cavalierly fouling the planet that god created for us would be seen to be an honourable thing.

So yeah, climate change bothers me, but the willful ignorance of people about this and other things bothers me more.

PS: When I started this post, I was heading in another direction about how some little things bother me, but then ... ah well.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

More Spring Flowers

I've done this once already this year, but I have shot a few more spring flower pics, getting as close as I reasonably can. Photographically, there's not much else going on.

First, I present Calluna vulgaris or Heather. The flowers are tiny on this hardy plant, but they're pretty when you zoom in.

from Wikipedia
Calluna vulgaris (known as common heather, ling, or simply heather) is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the family Ericaceae. It is a low-growing perennial shrub growing to 20 to 50 centimetres (7.9 to 19.7 in) tall, or rarely to 1 metre (39 in) and taller, and is found widely in Europe and Asia Minor on acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is the dominant plant in most heathland and moorland in Europe, and in some bog vegetation and acidic pine and oak woodland. It is tolerant of grazing and regenerates following occasional burning, and is often managed in nature reserves and grouse moors by sheep or cattle grazing, and also by light burning.

Next, I present Scillia siberica. I found a patch in my neighbours garden. Standing only 3" - 6" tall, they are quite pretty but can be invasive. The first photo has had a texture applied while the colour of the second is pretty accurate.

Finally, for now: I noticed that the lilac bush in our backyard is in bud.

Sunday, May 01, 2016


My last physical fall occurred just a few winters past. I has been strolling pleasantly through a wintery woodsy area near our place. Upon exiting into the more open, snow-covered parklike area, I had quite a tumble because the snow had covered an icy patch on the path by the adjacent pond.

Falling in older age is not like falling at a younger age when you play football or contact sport and don't even notice the fall. Up you bounce, ready to rock n roll as it were. Now, you lie there, scan your body and assess the damage.

As I lay there and took stock, however, I realized that I was fine. Nothing broken or even bruised, except my pride.

However, as I begin to fall into old age (I said, begin), I also begin to take more precautions. I almost never forget to take my wallet with me when I go for a morning walk, as close to home as I might stay, for I am aware of what could happen. At this time of life, I could have a heart attack or stroke or at least find myself fallen once again but injured this time.

It's not that I anticipate this, but I also now find it prudent to take precautions. My wallet goes with me, so that should I be struck dumb or dead, someone can find out who I am and notify Sue and family.

In addition to my wallet, our dumb cell phone usually accompanies me. Assuming I am not struck dumb or dead, I can easily call for help — at least I can if I can remember how to use the darn thing because when you only use it once every year or three ...

Most of our lives are spent falling into old age. Although there are notable exceptions, such as the hockey player, Jaromir Jagr who is playing well enough in his mid-forties, most athletes begin to suffer a decrease in performance in their mid-thirties if not earlier. I would be surprised if everyone reading this hadn't noticed some deterioration in the same period in their lives. For me, it was heel spurs followed by achy knees as I entered my thirties. Not that I couldn't still coach ball or play tennis, but the deterioration had begun.

But falling, as in aging, isn't all bad. Somehow, there emerges a greater appreciation of life's blessings as we, perhaps, take more time to both physically and metaphorically stop and smell the roses. Think of the beauty of the Fall season. It presages winter but is a feast for the eyes and soul. We can walk in the glorious autumnal woods in pleasant temperatures and without being ravished by black flies or mosquitos. So I think it is that in our own Fall seasons, many of the pesky irritants of our earlier lives fall away as it were.

I just hope that I don't fall too far too fast.