Monday, November 30, 2015

I Can't Believe It!

    Last evening I phoned to a local store that is part of a nation wide chain.  I got  a message and what a shock. The message was that if I wanted the store to return my call there would be a $3.00 service charge!!!. What is going on here?

     The message to me is that this store does not want my business of anybody else's business..

     Now this is happening to a little old guy who grew up in the forties. Our phone cost $10.00 per year! What a change!

    Has anybody else received a message that a return call would cost money?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ya Gotta Let the Dog Out

     A few months ago I was ordered to undergo one of those invasive procedures where they "just have a look inside." They phoned and gave me a 12:30 PM appointment. I tried to tell them that this wasn't an appropriate time. They had little time for me and abruptly told me the doctor was going away and this was my only chance for an appointment. What else could a poor boy do?

     Don't worry. I'm still on my topic.

     Some of you know the drill for this test. Ya gotta empty your whole digestive system of every microscopic particle. The way they do this is start you at 2:00PM the previous day with a marvelous drink. You have to drink two liters in a little more than an hour. After that, the contents of your digestive system make a hasty exit. You don't feel at all well at this time. For supper you can have liquids. You have to get up at 4:00 AM and drink another two liters of the vile stuff in an hour and a half. No more food after that.

     So after this punishment you feel absolutely miserable and you haven't eaten since lunch time the previous day.

     So like a good boy I arrive at the institution at 10:30 AM for preparation of the procedure. This goes tickety - boo and I'm in the bed with all the necessary piping in place. 

    I haven't forgotten about the dog!

    Around 12:15 PM I'm rolled into the "room" and placed on the viewing table and the remainder of the preparations are made. You remember I protested the 12:30 PM appointment. 

    I was ready at exactly 12:30 PM as there was a big clock on the wall I could watch. 

   At 12:30 PM they told me the doctor wasn't there at that time. The told me "The doctor had gone home to let the dog out!"

   They thought and I thought it would only be a few minutes. When did the doctor come back? At exactly 1:00 PM!

    Well we got the job done. So after a miserable procedure in the first place I was finally able to get home by about 2:30  PM for a bit of lunch. And I didn't have coffee for more than 24 hours!

    Well what do you do? By this time I was just happy to have the procedure over with and be out of there.

    It will be a long time before I forget about the doctor who had to let his dog out.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Days of the Long Shadow

     The sun here is low enough in the sky that long shadows are cast. It's also bright enough that we see fairly dark and sharp shadow.

      I went out this morning intending to get snow photo to show the recent snowfall but the shadows got in the way.

      Today was very bright so the snow shows up well and the shadow is emphasized. I might not get many more bright days for a while.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Just Wonderin'

      I have been suffering a blogger problem for some time. I've tried all I know to solve it so now it's your turn.

      My followers widget is acting up. When I click on someone who is following me the screen breaks up and I cannot get to the person's blog. I've renewed the widget and that doesn't help. I've tried blogger and this is the first time they let me down. They didn't email a solution and I couldn't find the answer on their convoluted chat line. Has anybody else had this problem?

     Now here's where it gets murky for me. I'm not sure if the followers widget has anything to do with people being able to follow me??? People have reported that they can not follow me. So what causes that one? I suspect they are related. I also suspect that the solution is simple.

     Any ideas?

Saturday, November 21, 2015


       Most of us know someone who's had Parkinson's or is living with Parkinson's now. My Dad had Parkinson's. After a long slow helpless slide, Dad died in 2008. Nothing was done to treat Dad's Parkinson's. He was just looked after.

      So when I heard an interview about a book on Parkinson's I decided to find it. The interview was with the author , Jon Palfreman, and he caught my attention.

      The book is called Brain Storms : My fight against Parkinson's and the race to unlock the secrets of one of the brain's most mysterious diseases.

    Brian Palfreman worked in journalism and once diagnosed with Parkinson's became preoccupied with discovering all he could about the disease and if he could be treated.

    Parkinson's was discovered in 1817. Going back before 1817 many people of historical significance can be identified as having had Parkinson's.

    So Palfreman goes through the history of the many things that have been done to discover what causes  Parkinson's and the many things that have been done in an effort to treat Parkinson's. Many discoveries have been made that seemed promising and then turned out to be of little value. Each discovery and trial has lead further but not to a conclusion.

   The main area of research now is genetic. The hope is to find a cause and then to be able to treat Parkinson's.

    So on down the line we have drugs, surgery, grafting, exercise and gene therapy.

   "Parkies", as they like to call themselves, are optimistic and hopeful that treatment and prevention will be developed. I hope they're right as many of us will develop Parkinson's.

     I found this book to be a fascinating read.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Artist Returns

      A common saying is that the artist and his art doesn't become famous until after he dies. For some struggling artists , their ship never comes in. However, today's post deals with an artist who is being uncovered but not likely his art.

     My Dad liked to draw and was interested in art in a limited way. Sometime in the late 40's or early 50's when we went to the local beach an artist had set up his easel. He was there to paint and sell pictures as fast as he could. He had a system. He painted basically the same picture over and over.This was a mountain in the center, a lake in front of the mountain and trees on each side of the picture. There were a few variations. Some pictures had a waterfall leaving the lake. Some had a small animal  on a ledge. Some had a canoe on the edge of the lake. .

     Well this guy mesmerized Dad. Dad would have really liked to paint like this guy. The guy was a speed painter. His spruce trees took about two seconds flat to paint. Spruce trees seemed to just grow out of the canvas.

    Well, you can predict that Dad was going to by one of these paintings. I'm sure the painting didn't cost much...maybe $10.00 or less. Dad was very proud of his purchase. He took it home and framed it. He showed it to all people who came to the house.

    Mom? Well, Mom did not like the painting Dad bought. She grumbled about his painting to the end of her days.

   Sunday morning I turned the radio on and they were half way through an interview. I wasn't listening. I did get that they were discussing a documentary. I was waiting for the news. Then I got that the documentary was about a prairie artist and then I heard the name "Flexie". The name Flexie grabbed my attention. Flexie was the guy who painted the picture Dad bought. Check out the link as there's an interesting bio on Flexie.
   So a  documentary of Flexie was made and a show of his art was set up and shown in Regina Sask. I think it's also going to be shown in Calgary Alberta as well.

   So one little old radio interview brought back an interesting family story.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Silent Dreams

     I'm always amazed when I discover something for the first time in my 76 years. I have to ask myself, where have I been that I didn't know this before.

     Well, it's about dreams.

     Dreams have become less frequent the last few years. I can remember times when I would have several dreams in the same night. So I've had experience with dreams.

    Last night I dreamed that I was visiting China. Someone had picked me up in a truck and was taking me to a place to visit. There were no roads. There were only green fields that looked somewhat like AstroTurf. We drove into a pond and I thought here we go, we'll get stuck. No way. We just sailed through the water. 

    I was taken to a dining hall where about 30 people were eating. It seems to me there was only one thing to eat...pickles! People left the dining hall and one woman and two children were left and they were setting the tables for the next meal.

    Through all of this activity there was no sound! No sound for the truck. No sound from the young man driving the truck.
No sound of voices. No sound from the dining hall. 

    So when I awoke this morning and remembered the dream, I started to wonder. Have any of my dreams had sound? Have I been having dreams for my whole life and there's not sound? 

    I guess I'll never know. I will be ready to check on the sound the next dream I have.

    Do your dreams have sound? Do your dreams have color? 

    Sweet dreams!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Junk Book

     Sometimes when I go to the library I don't have time to look for a good book so I  grab a hand full of books and run. I hope that when I get home I will find that I want to read at least one of them.

     So the other day I picked up "I Once Was a Cowboy: Sixty years a Canadian Ranch Hand." First, I checked to see if I'd read it before as once in awhile I'll read one of these for it's historical value. I hadn't read this one and having nothing to read I read the first chapter. The next night I read some more and I was hooked. The guy had an interesting way of telling his stories and was logical and descriptive.

    This turned out to be a biography of a person who lived and worked in the outdoors not because he had to but because he liked the outdoors.

    Art Hagen was born about 1930 and was brought up in northern British Columbia , Canada. The family had 160 acres and were able to have the normal farm stuff like chickens, cows and a garden but no money. Art's Dad had a contract cutting poles for telephone and power lines. 

    Art left school at the end of the eighth grade and started doing add jobs. He worked with his Dad in the bush and worked on ranches. All these jobs were short term. Sometimes Art made the jobs short term himself and quit and moved on to another job. Art discovered rodeo and participated for many years.

    Art was also called to join the army. He was rejected on medical grounds.

   Art was on many cattle round ups and looked after cattle in the winter by hauling hay to them each day. Sometimes he had 500 cows to look after.

    Art had many horse that he liked and looked after some pretty ornery cows. Many of the horses were a story of their own. 

    Art worked with many colorful characters. He seemed to have a good relationship with his bosses and fellow workers.

    Art wrote in the common vernacular. With his grade eight education and rural background grammar was a problem but it made for an interesting way to tell a story. He had many very colorful sayings all through the book. Somebody might fall on their hind legs. 

   So this was one time I chose a book and thought I would never read . I thought it was a junk book with little merit. Art told his stories in an interesting manner and I was hooked into reading the whole book and enjoying it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Surprise Visitor

      When I came home last Sunday afternoon, there was a rabbit parked in my carport planter. Now this isn't an unusual occurrence. Rabbits seem to think my carport planter is a safe place to hang out.

     As I was unloading the car I got the sense that something was different with the beast in the planter. I had the camera in the car so decided to take some photos. I got closer and closer and the rabbit didn't move. I was now close enough to have a very good look. It was not a jack rabbit. It was a snowshoe hare.

     Now a snowshoe hare being in my yard is a big surprise. Snowshoe hares stay in the bush where there's lots of cover. Snowshoe hares have runs through the underbrush where they are protected and can eat with little disturbance. So with their tendency to stay in the bush I was surprised to see it in my yard. I'm about 800m( 880yds) from natural habitat so it's not as if he just took a little visit to my yard. This guy was out of his territory. This is the third snowshoe hare I've had in my yard over a forty year period.

     Snowshoe hares weigh 1-2 kg (2-4 lbs). They have smaller ears than the jack rabbit with a little black on the edges. They can have three litters a year so they have large fluctuations in population.

     In my opinion the snowshoe hare is a little cuter than the jackrabbit. The jack rabbit has a rather ugly head. these little guys have a rounder cuter face.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


     Today is the day we have ceremonies all over our country to remember those who've served in our military forces. There are many very colorful and meaningful remembrance day celebrations.

     I heard one statement today that makes more sense to me than others. November 11 is not the only day that we should remember. Remembering the effort and sacrifice every day of the year would be the right thing to do. Ceremonies to mark an occasion are fine, but in our heart what really counts is to remember every day.

    I was born in Oct. , 1939 just a few days after the war started. I remember very little. I do remember my Mom making up parcels to send to her brother and cousins who were overseas. I'm sure we were more of a nuisance in the parcel wrapping but it's something that stuck with me. 

    My favorite soldier is my son who was in the reserve forces from 1987 to 1992. He joined the reserve forces on his last day of high school thinking he had a good summer job.  He stayed with the reserves and took more training and became an officer. 

    He became the Officer in Charge of the local unit and supervised summer training. I was very proud to attend some of the events that he either lead or participated in.

Cadets doing their community service

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Birding

    I lead a Sunday afternoon birding group. I call it a field trip as I am interested in more than birds. Each afternoon is a surprise. There aren't many species around at this time of year. We also make too much noise as we're walking and the birds hear us and take off. However, it's always a fun afternoon. The hand fed chickadees were from one of the field trips.

    The area we walked through today should easily have 15 species. The problem is to find them. The surprise today was to find Pine grosbeaks. They are here for the winter and will share their charm with us.

   Another surprise today was to see many muskrats. The lake is called an oxbow as it's an old river channel.  It's about 150 m(165 y) wide and 800-900m(880-990 yd) long. The muskrats are very active as most of the lake is ice covered and they will now be busy building push ups which are breathing holes as well as food supplies.

Most of the lake is ice covered.

Those darn reflections showed up again. I'm going to have to check my camera!

Warmly dressed birders.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Another Ride

     Yesterday was one of those super November days. We had a high of 12 C eh? (54 F).  It was calm and partly cloudy.

     You couldn't guess what I did! I went for another bike ride. It was a day when many people were wearing shorts and I wish I had too as cycling got a little warm.

     So compare this to my last post on fall.

Notice the cap under the helmet. I have to wear a cap as the wind whistles through the vents in the helmet.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Past The Point of No Return

     My title doesn't make much sense for this post.

     In Central Alberta we've had a fall with long, pleasant, dry weather. I was able to share many colorful fall scenes.  However, fall weather slowly and quietly cools until plant life has either died or become dormant so that it can survive the winter.

    Animals have slowly made changes. We still have bears wandering around looking for food as the berry crop was poor this year. We have many gulls, ducks and geese sitting around. However many ducks and geese are gone and song birds disappeared as much as ten weeks ago. And my favorite, the jack rabbit, has pretty well got it's white winter coat.

     Yesterday the sun rose at 7:40 and set at 16:56 so we had 9 hours and 16 minutes of sunlight. Changing to daylight savings time seems to have shortened our afternoons in a hurry and of course, that's exactly what changing back to standard time does.

     Yesterday the low was minus 8 C (eh) (18 F). The high was about 3 C. Small ponds are covered with ice. Larger ponds are half frozen. Of course, the lakes and rivers are still ice free.

     I, for one, enjoy the seasons of the year. It's one of the things that keeps us vigorous as we have to challenge the changes.

    In 45 days we will be at the winter solstice. We are 45 days from the fall equinox.

    Now the point of no return is meaningless here as the season comes no matter what. That's life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Our New Government Took Power Today

     Our new prime minister and cabinet were sworn in today in a very different but moving ceremony. 

     I listened to the whole event. I cannot  ever remember hearing the swearing in ceremony for the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Usually the swearing in ceremony is closed to the public and very private. The emphasis on this event was to be open in a public way. The Prime Minister and cabinet walked up the driveway to Rideau Hall rather than being dropped off by limousines. People lined the driveway and cheered.

     Now there were several times I was moved to tears. A 12 year old aboriginal boy drummer led this group into the hall. Three metis children lead the Prime Minister and cabinet out by jigging. I was touched by the prominence given to the aboriginal people. Eleven members of the new government are aboriginal and two of them are in the cabinet. It's important to include everybody in our country.

     I know it doesn't make sense but I am moved by the son of a former Prime Minister becoming the Prime Minister. It's the first time in this country that we have a Prime Minister who is the son of a former Prime Minister.

     The cabinet selection was interesting. Half the cabinet is female. Many visible minorities are in cabinet to reflect the make up of our country.  Only here could an Afghani immigrant girl grow up to become a member of the federal government cabinet! It makes me proud that visible minorities were able to take a strong leadership position.

    When the swearing in ceremony was over the new Prime Minister and his cabinet came out and were cheered by the crowd. The cabinet and Prime Minister mixed in with the crowd for a few minutes. Again it showed a willingness to meet and communicate with the people.

    I hope that this new government will continue to communicate with the public in a very effective way. We need to be able to tell them what we think between elections rather than just at election time. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Still Cycling

    Yes, the leaves have turned color and gone, but I'm still cycling.

    As I've repeated in many posts I set a minimum of 1000 km (625 mi) of cycling per summer. When  I meet that minimum, I keep on going.

    I don't know when I reached the 1000 km mark, but I'm still riding. I'm well over 1100 km. I rode Friday. It was 7 C (43 F). I cycled 15 km.(9.3 mi).  If it doesn't snow I will keep on cycling. I can ride as long as it's above freezing.

    Clothing is the hardest decision. It's not throw on all the clothes you have and away you go. I don't have a problem with keeping warm. Cycle a few Km and you will be warmed up. I find the wind whistling through the helmet vents uncomfortable so I wear a cap under my helmet. Oh yes, I wear gloves.

     My biggest challenge is with perspiration. I find most shells do not breathe enough to clear the perspiration. I wear a very light jacket underneath a fleece and find this keeps the perspiration off and I stay warm. I know wearing a shell underneath is backwards but it works for me.

     Now a 1000 Km (625 mi) a summer sounds like a lot but it's not. I probably ride at an average of 20 kph (12.5 mph) . That means it takes me 50 hours to ride 1000 km. That's not much time. I find that other things in life get in the way of riding steadily. This summer we had a long spell of hot weather. It didn't cool off enough in the evening to ride. I had to ride in the morning. Before I figured this out I'd lost riding time.

    Sometimes we have snow at this time of year. Not just wet snow but the dry winter snow. Sometimes we have minus 10 - 15 C for temperatures. It's not smart or pleasant to ride in these conditions.

    So I will hope for more decent weather to keep on riding.

   Now I can't persuade anybody to take my picture on the bike. I have photos with green leaves but that doesn't go with this post. so here's a photo of my bike behind a snowbank. However, make no mistake about it. I don't have snow now.