Tuesday, February 27, 2018


This is surprising to me but wonderfully so. It's not just the result but very much also the composition of the team — the fact that it is an all-female team.

I worked with school chess clubs for about 15 years.

For many of those years, I would spend almost every lunch hour eating in my room, being an adult presence while the kids played chess. And very often I played too.

But the chess players were always looked at a little condescendingly by the student body in general. There was this nerd reputation, you see. The stereotype wasn't always true, but it always endured. In the early days especially, my championship team included players from the football team.

Very few of my players were female. I can think of two over the course of many years. One was a very bright scholar and an excellent player. The other was also bright but just not quite at the same exceptional level in either scholarship or chess, which is not to demean her in the slightest for she was a bright, intelligent young lady. She was also beautiful and a gold medal, provincial calibre track athlete.

I do not recall one single female player on any of the teams that we played against. Not one. Not in all of those years.

So, I am very impressed that the Detroit school, above, found at least 5 young ladies to play the game and, quite obviously, to play it well enough to win a national championship. And congratulations to the school and mentors who were able to make the game at least somewhat cool and attractive and to also teach the game so well.

In addition to the composition of the team, that's another thing that impresses me — that they had to have been well coached. In my experience I found that mostly the kids just wanted to play (nothing wrong with that) and not be bothered with any instruction. Although I don't suppose that I had the credentials to do much coaching, particularly in the early days.

Note: the title, e4, is the notation for what is most often the first move in chess.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

That Isn't What Faith Means

Note: the following post is not meant to stir theological argument although such discussion could become interesting. It is just where my thoughts took me in response to a question, or two questions really. See if you agree. This post is not meant to demean those who have religious faith but to explore what the word does and doesn't mean.

I saw this question posed on FB: "Without faith, how do you find purpose in life? What gives your life meaning? What gives you hope?"

There were any number of responses, and unlike what is often the case on that site, they were mostly pretty calm and rational. And that is not where I am heading in this post.

But in the course of comments and replies, I saw this response: "Doesn't everyone exercise Faith everyday?"

I think I know what the person means. Things like this.
Don't you have faith that when you hit the light switch that the lights will come on?
When you're driving the car and put on the brakes, isn't your trust that they will engage, faith?
I wouldn't call that faith in the sense of the original question; we're talking about something different than that concept of faith..

I assume that the original question has to do with heaven and a personal God with a personal plan for your life. The belief that you will see all of your loved ones and live in eternal bliss gives meaning and purpose. Or something like that.

Maybe you believe that or not, but that's neither here nor there for the moment.

What I am getting at is that that sort of faith is based on hope or at least belief. You might think that you've thought it out and that your belief is well considered and totally rational. And maybe you have and  maybe it is. But it is not based on experience or palpable evidence. At least not the light switch or brake analogy kind of evidence.

On the other hand, experience has taught us that we have a legitimate expectation that the lights will come on or that the brakes will work. Occasionally, the bulb may have burnt out, but we know where to get another one, and we expect based on experience that the new one will work. The light will come on, even if not immediately in a few rare cases.

The same with brakes. Have you ever had yours fail? I grant that it must surely happen on extremely rare occasions, but most likely not really to any one of us. Based on countless repetitions, we have a most reasonable expectation that our brakes will work. Every time.

To answer the question above, the second one I mean, that is not the same kind of faith as believing in unseen things for which you have no concrete evidence. So no, in that sense we don't exercise faith everyday. In point of fact, in the humdrum everyday course of life, I suppose that most of us exercise faith hardly at all.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Trash Talk

No, not the usual associations with Trash Talk. You may feel free to read on without trepidation.

This is about language ... and also, winter: two themes for the price of one as it were.

First, in terms of language, permit me to note in passing that as far as I can tell, trash is the more common British word, while North Americans tend to refer to refuse as garbage.

But that's just in passing and not really what I am on about in this post. In my usual lexicon, I use garbage.

It's a collective noun: at least to some degree. Or at least we usually use it that way. It's like fish: most of us would say all the fish in the sea and not all the fishes. And my ears react to people saying deers as opposed to deer. To me, no matter how many of those critters that I see in the field, they are deer.

We use garbage so collectively that, normally, if we were just talking of one component of our collective garbage, we would say piece of garbage.

But my son-in-law [former] is a French Canadian. Come Garbage Day, he would collect all of the garbages in the house. (You see, spellcheck highlighted garbages as incorrect, just as it did deers above.)

I can see that it would make sense for someone coming to English as a second language. I mean, you go to different rooms to collect the various wastebaskets. It's all very plural, and we generally put s's* on things plural, so I can see why he called them garbages in this context. It makes perfect sense. But English often doesn't make perfect sense. It just is what it is.

Which brings me to part 2: garbage in winter.

Where to put it?

Yesterday, I had to partially block the driveway because there was no other place for it.

The sidewalk in front of our yard was already half covered with ice (you can't really see it in that photo) so to put it there would pretty well block off the whole sidewalk, which didn't seem appropriate.

Usually, I try to dig a little notch for the bins so that I can more or less keep them off the driveway to facilitate driving in and out without crashing into the bins. In fact, you can begin to see where I once had a notch in the photo, right next to the blue recycling bins.

But this was pretty well iced up yesterday, and I wasn't about to try to chisel out a notch. So we were forced to drive around the bins with care.

And that, my friends, is my very obscure post of the day.

* I found myself doing a search for the correct way to pluralize s, and it was confirmed that it is s's. Seems awkward though, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 22, 2018


I had to do a bit of a double-take in my preparations for bed last night.

You see, I found that I had applied 5 separate ointments in 5 distinct places on my body.

While I always apply 1 for my dry eyes (an actual condition) to keep them somewhat lubricated during the long night, that is usually the extent of it. Honest.

Just recently, however, I have added a second ointment.

I know it sounds funny, but I have been using a nose gel because my nose has also been getting dry and stuffy overnight. This is temporary: not something that I will need to continue. In fact, I forgot just the night before, and I was fine. And as winter dryness abates, so will my stuffiness. At least so I trust.

But last night there were 3 other ointments brought into play.

One was for a mouth sore. I get cankers.

Another was to tame some sort of eruption on my face. It's partly covered by my facial hair, so I am not sure if it's a pimple (surely not), an ingrown hair, or something other.

Finally, I rubbed another ointment on my very sore knee.

I know it sounds crazy, like I am falling apart completely, and well ... that may be true.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tim, Mike and My Gap Year

It wasn't really a gap year. Not in the sense that I took a year to travel and hang out between high school and university. I had to work and accumulate funds if I were to head to university in the next year. I did that and saved enough to fund my first year: a feat which I find somewhat remarkable in retrospect.

My immediate supervisor in that job was Mike. He was only a few years older than me, and neither of us saw a future in the office jobs that we were doing. After about a year, I went off to university, but he had departed for the provincial police even earlier.

(an apparent digression, but not really)

There was a hockey player who opened a few donut and coffee shops. His name was Tim Horton. Although some thought that it was ridiculous to try to make it in business selling donuts, his franchise became wildly successful to the point that it now dominates the Canadian coffee shop and donut scene. For example, we have two franchises in our town, and there is also an express (just drive-though) outlet on the highway, so make it 2.5 franchises. There are more than 4600 franchises across the country.

He had played for the Toronto Maple Leafs in his heyday, but in 1974 he was 44 years old and was winding his hockey career down by playing for the Buffalo Sabres. On this day, February 21 1974, he was killed in a car crash somewhere between Niagara Falls and Toronto.

(sometime earlier or later)

Although I don't recall for certain, I think this next incident occurred earlier, even though I get to it last in this post. However, in being reminded of Horton's accident on this anniversary morning, I was, in turn, reminded of Mike.

I was home either from university or later visiting my parents. The late news was on the TV, and I heard about a fatal accident and Mike was the casualty. It was the on the same highway between Niagara Falls and Toronto, and I believe they were both closer to the Niagara end along the south shore of Lake Ontario.

It was pure chance that I happened to be home that night and that I had the news on and that Mike's name was mentioned, but now Tim, Mike and My Gap Year are all connected in my mind.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Animal Clips 2

Cashnip Kitty will take your money, but it's all for a good cause.

A oddball cat being odd with a ball.

A cat sort of saved by dogs, and now she acts like one.

A cat guarding its Valentines treats.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Posting Postings

I'm not going to wade into the gun debate too deeply, but I will repost a few items that I have come across on social media.

This first one is from David Frum. He's a conservative who served as speech writer under Bush. But he is also a fellow who does not exactly hold a high view of current Republicans, and certainly not of their president as he has shown in his book, Trumpocracy.

I supply that background to note that I take his musings seriously. I mean when a conservative chastises conservatives, it piques my interest. I find it credible in other words.

This particular post has to do with vetting gun licence applicants. It works pretty well in Canada, and I can't see why it is a stumbling block in America.

I don't know or follow this person but it was re-posted by someone whom I do follow. To me, assuming the reported numbers are correct,  it speaks of the government completely disregarding the will of the majority of Americans in favor of the gun lobby which has bought their votes. Does anyone think that this is how a democracy is supposed to work?

However, this last one takes the cake. When a friend posted this, I almost lost it, but I I managed to control myself. I didn't rant and rave back at her. There was no point. But I will rant and rave at you. Not really, but I would like to point that it is (a) untrue and (b) theologically asinine.

It's just not true! Students can take their bibles to school and pray if they want to. It's just that the school and their employees are not to promote religion (although many still do). For example: if a group of football players decide that they want to pray for a touchdown, they can. It's just that a coach can't call them together and lead them, or even participate for that matter (although some do). Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

Permit me to move on to the theological part though.

Oh my goodness, what does this say about God?

Do such posters purport that the omnipotent God is saying, "Because you can't officially promote me, I am unable to cross the threshold? I mean, I am God and I really want to help out, but I am unable to."

Really?! Unable?!

Or is the vision here that God has a right to be miffed, that he has hurt feelings? So is he is just stamping his feet in a huff with his back turned, saying, "OK, so if you won't officially invite me in, I am going to give carte blanche to anyone who wants to kill your babies. I could stop them if I wanted to, but I am pissed, so there!"

In either case, is this what people think of their God? Or do some people not really think at all?

I don't think you really have to answer that last part. We all know the answer.

Friday, February 16, 2018

British Predilections

According to Grammar Girl, writing or saying among is much more correct than using amongst for Americans.

Perhaps I read too many British novels, and I confess to having a strong predilection for British TV, but I have become quite fond of amongst.

Of course, I am also Canadian, and I can often not ascertain what our stance should be. We tend to spell like Brits (e.g. honour as opposed to honor, or theatre rather than theater), but our lexicon is much more Yankee-ish (e.g trunk vs. boot, theatre vs. cinema, or pharmacy vs. chemist).

I feel betwixt and between as it were, and I scratch me 'ead a lot when it comes to both speaking and writing.

As was the case with fly-less underwear, life continues to confuse me.

But whatever the level of my perplexity, I find myself increasingly drawn to amongst, so I will likely continue to use it — at least sometimes and probably more in prose than speech.

There you have it; I wouldn't make a good American.

Now, perhaps you will permit me write of my fondness for whilst over while. Ah, maybe not, eh?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Odd Pairings

Let me be brief.

I needed some underwear, and when I saw these →
on sale at AMAZingON (heh heh) for approximately half price, I ordered 2 packages of 2.

They arrived very quickly. I opened one pack and tried a pair on, and they fit nicely. (I prefer not to write fitted as the past tense of fit, and I apologize if this offends you. not really) So, I unwrapped them all and pitched the packaging.

Next day, I donned a pair (why is one thing referred to as a pair, I ask) on as my undies du jour (see what a good boy I am by changing daily) and continued to enjoy their comfort.

And, I went about my day.

... sometime later ... it was time to skip to my Loo (as it were), and that's when I began to fumble about my briefs perplexedly.

I fumbled about looking for the fly. Which I never did find.

This is a first in my life — undies sans fly.

Although I can sort of see it now in the photo, when ordering I could tell from neither the photo nor the description that they were fly-less.

Here am I, 70 years young, and I still have no clue about what in thunderin tarnation is going on in this world.

I can cope through this adversity, but it does seem odd.

Of course, since I am a bit odd myself, I guess me and my undies are a good fit ... so as if to speak.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Underwear and Unmentionables

Our little, local museum, The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, hosted an open house on the weekend, featuring lingerie of the past: Underwear and Unmenitonables. I didn't take my camera, but I did take my phone, and I think that was enough.

There was lingerie to be seen all over, including these displays which, in keeping with the era, I decided to process in mono with a bit of a vintage effect.

This manikin with the labelling intrigued me. If I recall, it was showing a bustle at the back, but I was focusing  on the lettering.

I think my most delightful sighting of the day was seeing this juxtaposition of a modern iPhone against an old calculator/register of sorts. Of course, the phone wasn't part of the display; someone had just left it there.

At the end we were rewarded with treats — cookies shaped and decorated in keeping with the theme.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Animal Clips

Just because I have no original materials or even thoughts, I thought I'd present a few animal videos.

The first two are from Twitter. In the first, a group of elephants protect a fallen baby elephant from lions. In the second, a cat without forelimbs (and four limbs) manages to go up and down stairs.

This one is from YouTube and is actually as slideshow or two blind brother cats helping each other in life. It helped that surgery was able to salvage/restore the sight in one eye of one of the brothers.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Flowers in Winter

I post a photo to Flickr almost every day, but I still have hundreds of images in that folder. Most of them are pretty doggone poor, which explains while they still linger there sometimes after years, but as I chanced to peruse the folder as I sometimes do, I noticed a number of flower photos.

Thought I, wouldn't it make a nice winter break to post a string of these in February: to brighten up winter so to speak.

So, I have begun to do just that. I don't know how many I will eventually post, but here are the first three.

These are mallows (or so I believe) that I saw in Nova Scotia way back in 2010. That doesn't necessarily mean that I put the photo in my Flickr queue way back then, but it is possible. These pinks really speak of summer to me in a very pleasant sort of way.

The next two were both taken locally in July of 2015 on a stroll on a local trail. The first resembles a false sunflower, but I will just identify it as a yellow wildflower. If you can identify it properly, please let me know.

The next one I can identify as that which is popularly referred to as Queen Anne's Lace. It's an extremely ubiquitous roadside or trail-side plant in these parts. Apparently it is also called Wild Carrot by some although that name is not familiar to me. I understand that the proper taxonomic name is Daucus carota.

I plan to post more to Flickr, but I generally only post one per day, so we are presently up to date. Once I have posted a few more there, I will most likely post here as well.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Not So Fond Olympic Memory

I was up early this morning, before 4 as a matter of fact. Although sleep is usually problematic for me in any case, lately when I wake for my nightly trip to the commode, one nostril is so stuffed that I can't unstuff it no matter how hard I blow. And that, my dears, makes getting back to sleep even more improbable. I did try to nod off again in my chair with my phone stuck in my ear and a podcast conversing in the background. It may have worked a little bit but only that — a very little bit — and I gave it up for a lost cause before 5.

Up I arose and was able to at least partially clear my nose although the stuffiness doesn't matter that much once I am up. In resignation, I fired up the coffee machine, which I had readied the night before and spent some time on the computer: read a few blog posts, which I mostly was not aroused enough to comment on (sorry Mrs Lane) and perused Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and whatnot. I saw on one of those platforms that I could watch the Olympic luge competition online if I wished.

I didn't wish, but it did remind me of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer and the time that I stayed up all night watching ski jumping. This wasn't because I was enthralled with the sport, however. Nope. I watched from the floor because I was in discomfort and couldn't sleep.

A week or three or more earlier I had a back attack in which bulging discs sent significant pain down my leg, and I had spent much time on the floor ever since. In point of fact, I had almost lived on the floor. If you can call that living, I mean. Early on after the attack, even getting up for a quick meal or shower was problematic, and I would have to seek relief by becoming prone on the floor after a very short period of time.

I did manage to haul myself to physio several times a week (or maybe every day, I forget) and things had been improving. But on the morning of that long day and night, which I also think was a Friday/Saturday night and morning, just as I had been about to head out to physio, I had a prodigious spasm that put me down in agony. All that day and night, I felt as though I was on the verge of another spasm.

Of course there was no sleep to be had, on that very long and lonely night, even though you might think that long ours of ski jumping would be enough to put the most wakeful of insomniacs into a deep coma.

After at least six weeks, I was able to get around enough to return to work, but my back will never fully recover.

At least I am sitting at the computer this morning and not lying on the floor in pain, these 24 years later.. Yes, there is still a degree of numbness and discomfort in the leg because the discs never did go completely back into place. I live with that constantly and do worry that I might suffer another major back attack, but so far, I manage.

But that will always be my most prominent Olympic memory, and it is not a pleasant one.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Snow Day 8

We got a call, or maybe FaceTime, from Danica on Tuesday evening: "Could we come to your place if it's a snow day tomorrow?"

The thing is that it wasn't snowing, and in fact it wasn't snowing in the morning either. But the buses were cancelled regardless. And .... it soon started to come down and kept coming down until about supper time.

So, we did have Snow Day #8 (that's number, not hash tag lol) although we've only had them for 3 or 4 of those days.

One of the first things was to show them Musk's SpaceX clip, the part with 2 of the boosters returning to their pads and of the $100 000 car floating in space.

What a marvellous feat, especially for a private enterprise company compared to the billions that have been poured into space programs by governments. Mind you, Musk did have the benefit of furrows ploughed as it were, but still, I find it remarkable.

JJ brought up the subject of Mars; I think he asked if anyone was living there, but I can't remember for sure how it came up. I did predict that people would be living on Mars in their lifetimes. I wonder if it will happen and whether they will remember this conversation if it does.

Then, Danica worked on a Valentine card for mom in Photoshop while Jonathan made one by hand. This was after Danica had worked on metric conversion for awhile: centimetres to metres, grams to kilograms and so on. It was a good exercise, and I only had to assist once or twice.

JJ's strange garb, above, was because he put on my duds when Sue shoe-ed them (or at least him) out to clear the walk. Not to worry about child labour: the walk is small and the snow was light. He thought it quite hilarious to be wearing my clothes.

Later in the morning, Grandma gave Danica a spiffy DO, and then we played Monopoly.

Then it was lunchtime after which the kids visited their former babysitter across the street for an hour or two before returning for another game of Monopoly.

Danica won both games and Grampa lost badly. The old fella could not stay off the taxation squares and when he could, he was forever landing on owned properties. Meanwhile, Sue kept landing in jail. Strange how luck or lack of same works.

Finally, Danica had some reading homework to attend to. She had to read 16 (I think it was) pages and time herself. She used the stopwatch function on her phone for that.

We had a pretty nice day with them. Next year they may be old enough to stay on their own, but I hope they will still like to visit the old folk for awhile yet.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The Lazy Photographer

It has not been a kind winter for photographers: at leat not for this photographer in this location.

Early on, we had record-breaking cold. I took a few iPhone pics, which I posted here, but then it got even colder, and I lost heart. This was followed by rain which left us with icy cover, and the result was not pretty. Then, of course, there is my general laziness combined with a certain amount of of reduced mobility although I get around fine for the most part.

I have shot a few hockey games, which is not my main interest, but it something at least. I have also done some snaps of the kids, but they are snaps to be sure.

These two photos come closer to real photography, but they are still lazy indoor photos and, once again, more snap-shotish than anything. But still, the results mollify me somewhat.

Yesterday, at least to begin with, it looked nice outside with the sun offering some decent light on freshly fallen snow. I looked out my den window and saw Lena clearing snow with her blower.

Lena is actually helping her neighbour out in that photo. She does this a lot. A little bit later, when we went out to clear our own driveway, she brought her blower over to help us out. We do have a contractor, but he hadn't been yet, and Sue had to get out, The snow piled at the foot of the driveway from the town's snowplows was very heavy, so we were grateful for the help.

I also like this quick indoor shot of Shauna's and the kids' cat, Sid. He is an elderly boy who, unlike most cats, doesn't bother with personal grooming, so he looks a little unkempt in the photo.

He resisted looking up, but it's not a terrible shot regardless. At least it's something.

Sid is not in the best of health, so his future is problematic, but in the meantime, he craves affection and stroking more than any cat of my experience, and he gave me a bit of a photo-op with his white against a dark background.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

An Ending But Not The Ending

Jonathan's hockey season came to an end on the weekend. There were two games, and we caught his final home game but not the very final game which was out-of-town.

It seems early for the season to be over, but it's just the regular seasons, and there is still plenty of hockey ahead. They have two weeks or so to practice and work on drills, and then the playoff start. There will also be one more out-of-town tournament.

To the pics!

There are a few very good players on JJ's team, but this guy is probably the best.
He's a great skater and seems to know what to do naturally.

The other team had a breakaway, and our goalie made a great save, catching the puck in his glove.

This time the other team scored the final goal of the game, but the good guys won 5 -3 after falling behind 2 - 0 at the beginning. I think this means that they finish in first place in a 17 team league.

A few shots with Jonathan.

At the ready for a faceoff.

Trying to clear the puck.

Playing his position by staying between the puck carrier and the net.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Birthday Continued

After receiving the roller blades on Friday, Jonathan had a party with three of his friends on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, he was notified of his parents' present when Sha picked him up at Dad's house for his birthday lunch with us.

He is to be given a now bicycle once the weather warms up and they can actually be seen in shops.

But there were more little gifts from us because there had to be something tangible on his actual birthday, didn't there? I mean the promise of a bike is fine and dandy, but that's in the future, and he's 9. Just 9.

So, he got to it.

And he pulled out the collage. Of course, you know that I do one every year, highlighting moments from that year.

This is what it looked like this year. It featured much climbing.

And there was also a Monopoly game.

Which we began to play.

We played until the pizza came (his choice) and then the cake. Or was it?

Nope. He doesn't prefer cake, so it was donuts.

And the cat suffered in silence, not being given any treats for his royal self. Actually, there was some indignant howling before the silent treatment.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

JJ's Birthday, Part 1

Jonathan will officially be 9 tomorrow, but we began the celebration yesterday by continuing what seems to have become a tradition: picking him (and her on her birthday) up from school at lunchtime and taking him out for lunch. Of course, they never make it back to school.

Yesterday, after some deliberation, he chose A&W for the lunch.

Then, it was off to purchase his birthday present. Since it was to be roller blades, we really needed to have him try them on. This is wintertime in Canada, so those kinds of skates were packed away with only ice skates on display, but I had obtained the stock number online, and the clerk was able to find them in the stockroom.

Being adept on ice skates, he had no problem trying them out at the store. In fact, he skated up and down the aisle a lot while we determined that they seemed to fit well with no nasty rubbing.

He didn't want to stop, but we finally prevailed upon him to pack them away.

The next step was to head to the donut shop. We just used the drive-through and indulged at home.

At home, there was much much skating back and forth in our little kitchen. He had a blast but won't get much real skating done for months now. Even if you're not family, you may wish to check out the clip briefly to see how much fun he (and we) are having.

This was part 1 of his birthday. Today, he will celebrate with Dad and friends. Tomorrow, his actual birthday, Shauna will have a family lunch and cake. Well, not really cake, which he doesn't prefer, but a dozen donuts. I shall report back.

As an afterthought, I am including a shorter clip of him trying out his skates in the store.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Way Back When in Arizona

My daughter was at a conference in Phoenix last week and then took a few extra days to do some sightseeing with friends. This prompted me to dig into my archives and post some of my Arizona photos on Flickr and Facebook and now here.

In 2006 we took a jeep tour into the Sedona rocks and we had a rockin good time. We impressed Shauna enough that she booked a tour with the same company. This was one of my photos from back then, which I posted on FB on the same day as her excursion.

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon for her, and here is a photo of ours. We were there until the sun was going down, which was good light. Also originally [posted to FB on the day that Sha went to the Grand Canyon.

That was about it for Shauna, but when we went, our next stop was Monument Valley. We splurged on a native-run, personal jeep tour, once again getting later in the day. This photo shows Sue in the bottom left shooting upwards into one of the arches with her camera.

Finally we drove to Canyon de Chelly where we went for a tromp in the desert with another native guide. We enjoyed a little picnic lunch looking across the valley to the White House Ruins.

It was quite a magical little trip all in all.