Friday, March 31, 2017

The Birthday Week: Tuesday

My original plan for Tuesday kind of fell through. I was intending to take Sue to an early movie and be home in time to meet the school bus. Except they didn't have any early showings.

But there is a new lunch and coffee place in town, called French Press. We had wandered in on the previous weekend to check it out' it seemed appealing, so we went back for lunch on Tuesday.

The lemon-chicken soup was tasty along with the coffee and grilled cheese on panini bread.

We had time to linger and take some pictures.

And when we got home, there were donuts for dessert, which I had snuck [sic] home from my grocery shopping that morning.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Birthday Week: Monday

We tried to make Sue's 70th birthday special and memorable, so we had something planned for every day of the week. Since the big day was on Saturday, we truly began to up the tempo on the preceding Monday.

The ruse was that we were to meet for breakfast with some friends. We do this every now and then, so Sue didn't twig into the fact that it was to have a birthday emphasis.

When we arrived, the first thing she noticed was the balloon over the chair in which she was to sit.

She was quite surprised.

There were cards and gifts.

And chatting and pictures.

And breakfast and cake.

And Sue walked out with a balloon and a good memory.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


We have essentially had a week of activities for Sue's 70th birthday, so I have been MIA from the blogging world. Sorry to miss all of your fine posts, but I should be getting back to normal soon ... although it remains to be proven that arising at 4AM, as I did this morning, is normal in any way, shape or form.

I will probably get through bits and pieces of the whole week in due course, or maybe not, but today I will present some of the whole family photos from Saturday afternoon. It was at this point in the week and weekend that most of the gatherers had gathered. Allyson (daughter) and Alycia were here from Vancouver, and Brian and Heather (sister) had arrived from Toronto.

Looking for a spot for photos, we ended up at the Canoe Club.

Left to right: Shauna (daughter), Brian (BiL), Heather (sister) Danica, Sue, Jonathan, Moi, Alycia (DiL), Allson (daughter)

We turned around and shot from the other direction, down the stairs. I will spare you from repeating the names in every photo.

I had a remote trigger for the camera that was on a tripod. You can sort of see it in this photo with my hand on Shauna's shoulder.

Then we went up onto the balcony and shot in both directions.

This was followed by photos of parts of the group. The first is the two Morton sisters.

Then we added those who belonged to the Morton lineage.

A few more shots of Sue and her progeny.

Finally, as others were still milling about, Danica envisioned some selfies with the tripod and the clicker. I took the first, helping to set up the camera, but she clicked the other two. What a ham!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Canada in Space

This week, I resumed my task of taking photos for the Canada 150 celebrations here in Carleton Place. There are a group of us who have volunteered to take photos for the town at the various events that will occur this year for Canada's 150th birthday. No, I wasn't there for the birthday or the first anniversary, so just stop that chucking in the back row.

You may recall that I have already shot (so to speak) the Mystery Dinner Theatre, and Whiskey and Wickedness in January, Aladdin in February, and Heather's Heritage Journal Workshop earlier this month.. Or you may not, for I am but the lowliest of bloggers and so unworthy of being remembered.

I arrived at the library with enough time to take in the lie of the land, so to speak, and to get set up, but horror of horrors, I hadn't put the battery back in the camera after recharging it. Fortunately, I only live a short distance away, but I still barely got back in time for the dimming of the lights for the multimedia-aided lecture.

About the lecturer: if I was a trained reporter, I likely would have gotten his name. In fact, I probably would have regardless of the lack of training if I was a trained photographer and could remember to check my equipment before going on assignment.

Alas and alack, I am a total hack (which kind of rhymes), but I do work for free after all.

So, here is the gentleman, whom I recalled meeting in Stewart Park in Perth several summers ago. He had his telescope out, and when we spoke to him, he told us how he was preparing to capture the transit of Venus. But I didn't get his name then either. Sigh. (Edit: Frank Hitchens is his name.)

He told us how Canada got started in the American space program after production of our highly advanced Avro Arrow airplane was halted by the narrow-minded government of the day. (The next four photos are of a few of the slides that were shown in the presentation.)

The Avro Arrow

However, when the American space program got going a few years later, they hired many former scientists and engineers from the defunct Avro program. And that's how Canada got started with its many contributions to the space program.

Canada was third country in the world to send a satellite into orbit: Alouette.

The Alouette Satellite

Of course, a noteworthy contribution has been the magnificent Canada Arm used on the space station. It was the Canada Arm which really built the station and which continues to play a crucial role.

There was much more, including our role in the Mars ventures and others that are still in the development stage. We have also had quite a few astronauts, including the rather famous Chris Hadfield, the fellow with the moustache. (Of course by highlighting Mr Hadfield, I unintentionally slight the others, which they do not deserve for they are all heroes.)

The audience was small but were rewarded with an excellent talk. The kids that you see were very attentive and got involved in discussion and questions.

So, despite my near faux pas with the battery and being too preoccupied to get the man's name. I was pleased to do this and record the event for myself and for the town.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two Easy But Quick Breakfasts for One

There are two single serving breakfasts that I make from time to time, and both pretty nutritious and are easy peasy.

I do a quick scrambled egg by scrambling the egg in a small round container to which I add a dash of milk and a few shreds of grated cheese. Nuke it for 45 seconds, and Bob's your uncle.

Serve beside toast, or it will fit nicely, right on top of an English muffin. You can even leave the muffin unbuttered if you like, but I didn't like it on unbuttered toast, so now I butter the toast and have it beside the egg.

It's just that the butter probably has more calories than the egg or the toast, so a half of an unbuttered English muffin is pretty good if you're being calorie-minded.

I don't always have ketchup with egg, and never with fried eggs, but I used a little for dipping on this morning, I probably used less than half the ketchup that you see in this plate, which is a small bread plate by the way.

It doesn't look so bad, eh? And the whole thing only takes a few minutes from start to finish. For us the toasting is the longest part of the preparation, for our toaster is S L O W. It does a good enough job, but it's about as quick as I am in the morning.

For our other possibility, Sue figured out how to make a single serving of porridge, or oatmeal, if you prefer.

She keeps a 1/2 cup container at the ready, for the water, and a 1/4 cup container for the oatmeal. She keeps the water measuring cup right by the sink and the oatmeal cup right in the oatmeal container (which is still Tupperware, believe it of not) so we never have to grope about in the morning.

Put them in a microwavable dish and nuke for a minute on high before letting it sit for a minute or so to absorb the water.

Add a dash of milk and a spoonful of brown sugar and Barbara is your aunt.

When I am in an extra nutritious and/or calorie conscious mood, I use 1/4 cup of apple juice and 1/4 cup of water to make up my 1/2 cup of liquid. Then, as the liquid is being absorbed, I add a bit of cinnamon and a few raisins. I don't need brown sugar when I do it that way, which makes me feel much more virtuous.

And who doesn't love feeling virtuous?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Congratulatory Visit

My daughter, Shauna, has recently been given a promotion to a very responsible position. After a few hectic weeks, she made some time for us to take the kids in for a short visit.

We came bearing gifts that the kids had made and flowers.

We all put notes in with the flowers, which Shauna read carefully. Danica was very clever and creative with hers. I can't remember exactly what she wrote, but she made a play on General Manager and wrote something to the effect that she'd always been a GM, or Greatest Mother. Smart kid, that Danica.

Meanwhile, I took a photo of the view from her office ...

... and Sue took a moment to relax and enjoy the proceedings.

Then it was off to lunch.

It wasn't a long visit, but it was a very nice one and a nice celebration for a lady who has done very well in her job.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can We Not Criticize Religion When It Is Merited?

Our propensity to excuse religion for its harmful tendencies came up tangentially in my previous post. While I themed that post around politics and the decline of moderation, I did wonder, in passing, why certain aspects of Islam (in the case of that blog) were out of bounds for criticism.

The cry of Islamophobia is raised whenever anyone dares to criticize some aspect of that religion. It seems, for example, that you are not permitted to make a connection between a jihadist shouting Allahu Akbar (essentially translated as God is Great) and his or her religion in general. Or ISIS fighting for their version of the promised land surely can't have anything to do with religion.

But before I am accused of Islamophobia, let me hasten to add that is see religion-induced problems elsewhere. Take one Jewish orthodox problem in NYC, for example.

Every now and then we are reminded of the problem of baby boys getting the herpes virus from rabbis who circumcise them by chewing on their penises.  Since the year 2000 more than a dozen Jewish baby boys have contracted herpes from this procedure and two of them have died.

Now, I know that those aren't outrageous numbers, but isn't one incident enough to raise the alarm?

But not enough it seems, for an attempt to regulate the practice was abandoned because it was not viewed favourably by some [rabbis]. The eventual rather pitiful compromise was that the rabbis would inform the authorities and regulate those mohels (who perform the oral circumcising) who passed on the herpes virus — once the child had contracted the disease, not before! What good is closing the barn door once the horse is gone?

Neither do I wish to let Christianity off the hook. In the USA, it is a portion of the Christian community that tries to diminish the scientific proof of evolution and teach their children creation fairy tales. They are more often that not the ones who tend to be anti women, anti immigrant, anti universal health care, anti gay rights, and I'm sure there are more antis that could be listed.

In the past election, seventy-two percent of evangelicals chose to vote for a misogynistic megalomaniac who showed no trace of Christian character or values. Why was that? Because they felt that he would give them more political influence (such as allowing churches to become political) and that abortion could more likely be fought under him. That's it.

This is not the place for a Trump debate or an abortion debate, but it is the place to examine, however superficially, the propensity of religion to cause people to believe things that might would not ordinarily believe and to behave in ways that they would not ordinarily behave: ways that often cause strife and division. It is my opinion that it is religion that is largely to blame for the polarization of American politics that I brought up in the previous post.

Before the reader gets all riled up because it might seem as though I am attacking you and your religion or all aspects of all religions, I am happy to acknowledge that most religionists are benign. Most Muslims are not jihadists, most Jews don't practice unsanitary, oral circumcision, and most Christians are moral people who try to do good in this world.

What I am getting at is that, as with all aspects of society, there can be definite negatives and that
bad ideas, even those that stem from religion, should not be necessarily immune from examination and criticism. Society cannot be advanced and problems cannot be properly solved unless all aspects and components, even the religious ones, can be thoroughly studied and evaluated..

Now, how about ending this uncharacteristically serious post with a few light touches ... although I suppose they could raise a few hackles too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Moderate Dilemma

Nowadays, what does one do, and where does one go, when one is a moderate liberal? Of course, a moderate conservative could also ask the same question. What has happened to moderation, period? Who represents moderates anymore?

There was the recent incident where a young Muslim girl was caught on video twerking to some music. She was wearing a hijab at the time and was thoroughly excoriated on social media with vile comments going as far as wishing her to be killed for disrespecting Islam. Seriously? She apologized through emotional tears,

But as far as I am able to discover, not one liberal media outlet stood up for her. Nothing but crickets were heard.

Why is religion in general and Islam in particular so protected by the media, particularly the left-leaning portion of the media? And why has that symbol of female oppression, the hijab, become so sanctified? If you choose to wear it, fine and dandy, but let's not hold it up to be a symbol of female empowerment, for it is quite the opposite.

While I am inclined to rail on about the problems that religion causes, right now, I wish to focus on to the fact that I am particularly distressed by the silence of the left of the political spectrum. It seems that the old, moderate left has been overtaken by the radical left, the illiberal left, the authoritarian left, the regressive left, or whatever you choose to call it. Even the institutions that remain more moderate, for the most part, refuse to stand up to the authoritarianism of the far left, and I just can't understand it.

Speakers have been de-platformed at universities, even moderate ones because they have unpopular ideas. Apparently, students no longer  want to hear ideas other than those that match their preconceptions, and they will shout them down, even erupting into violence. In most cases they haven't bothered to thoroughly examine the speakers' views but are willing to protest based on hearsay.

When a moderate, intellectual woman such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali is de-platformed, there is a problem. She is an ex-Muslim who only wishes to reform Islam, not eradicate it. She's a woman who suffered FGM as a child and who has lived under death threats, but it seems that no one from the left wants to listen to anything that that this intelligent and thoughtful woman might have to say based on her knowledge and experience.

Not even listen! Why not listen, discuss, exchange ideas, even refute if you have something of substance other than screaming to contribute?

Seemingly, the only people willing to speak out about such genuine problems seem to be those from the right, and I am not of the right, for I believe in social justice. I am a pretty centrist sort of bloke who has for the most part leaned a little to the left. I believe in women's rights, universal health care, gay rights, and moderate welfare for the poorest amongst us. So the extreme conservatism as it exists now is very problematic for me. On the other hand, I also believe in free expression, and I don't believe, for example, that religion should be exempt from scrutiny. The left is certainly leaning that way, and it bothers me.

So, here I am, stuck in the middle of an increasingly polarized society in which the two sides prefer to shout at each other while plugging their ears. There just seems nowhere for moderates to go anymore.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Easter Decorating Begins on a Snow Day

I have lost count of all of the snow days this winter, and it ain't necessarily over yet. We had yet another last week, this one caused by ice from freezing rain to be exact (but we still call them snow days in this house). Our driveway was a skating rink in the morning.

Of course, this means that we had the kids all day, but it's not a very demanding task anymore. Danica read a book, and they can both get lost in online games, be they on the computer, phone or tablet. We do, however, have to limit their time, and ask them to do other things.

In the morning, I let Danica try her hand at editing photos in Lightroom. She cropped and adjusted exposure and a few other things, such as clarity, for example. Meanwhile, JJ was helping Sue clean the coffee disks for recycling. Then, they did some colouring, which I choose not to participate in this time around.

In the afternoon, Sue got out the container of Easter decorations, and the kids began to help. The help didn't last long, however, as they were dressing up comically, clowning around, and making long videos after I had taken the following pictures,