Monday, November 30, 2009

Racial Discrimination

        A few weeks ago a local weekly paper I get had a historical feature on  Jewish settlers who attempted to homestead here in the early 1890's. Discrimination was one of the many things that challenged them and made their short time here extremely miserable.
       These settlers came to the area out of desperation as their opportunities in other areas were limited. They apparently did not have an agricultural background. I say apparently as few, if any people got to know them during their short stay here. They were not used to or prepared for the rigorous climate here. They built partial dugout homes with earth piled up for sides. The roof was made from poles covered with long grass. They were not able to break enough land to grow food or crops to sell. No one knows if they had animals for food or power. Very few written records remain of these people.
      Apparently some of these people perished from the harsh conditions and their inability to produce food. Again apparently is the key word. No one really made it their business to communicate with them so they could assist or share work.

      Why weren't these early settlers assisted? Their neighbors simply looked upon them as Jews and did not go to their aid as they thought they would have lots of money some where? Other settlers of different backgrounds helped each other out. They shared work and ideas of how to make shelter from the land and raise and gather food. The Jewish settlers were ostracised.

      It's rather sad and tragic that a group of people suffered so severely just because of being different. Now this incident took place over 100 years ago. You may be tempted to say ,  "Well, we wouldn't do that today."

     I'm not so sure that we would be much better today? There are altogether too many incidents of discrimination taking place today not only in our own area ,but around the world.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Bird Count is a Comin!

       I have participated in the Red Deer Christmas bird counts since 1969 and in Christmas for a lot longer than that. I enjoy both of them .

       The public is interested in the bird count and asks many questions. Christmas bird counts have been around for a very long time . They were at one time known as Boxing Day bird counts and were held rigidly on Boxing Day. The first bird counts originated from hunting. On Boxing Day people would go out and shoot as many birds as possible. The birds were identified and counted and the guy who shot the most was the winner. Gradually the idea of just counting live birds took over and the counts were used to provide a general trend in bird populations. The bird tally was coordinated across North America.

      People sometimes ask how accurate our count is . It isn't accurate. It's a rough estimate but when done over a long period of time is a valuable statistic about the health of bird populations. So you ask how do I know I don't count the same bird twice? I don't know. Chickadees are usually in a flock of roughly 20 birds. If chickadees are flying across a forest opening you count them flying in one direction. If they come from the other direction they are probably birds you have already counted. Many times we do not actually see the bird but identify it by it's song. A 20 m spruce tree is difficult to observe all nooks and crannies. Some birds will keep moving through that tree and do not show themselves.  Weather makes a difference in the count. One count day was very stormy and I did not count.Very few birds would have been active as they stay close to cover to keep warm.

     I have counted the same area near my house for  long time. I know about how many species I will find in that area. The odd time that there is a different species is a bonus. From time to time I will count a brown creeper. Creepers are not very common and very hard to spot. I can also tell if black backed three toed woodpeckers are about by observing spruce trees that have been used as a food source. These woodpeckers are very quiet and hard to spot even if you know they are in the area.

     The Christmas Bird count is taking place Dec. 20 in the Red Deer area. We'd really like people to join us. Birding experience is not necessary. We will put you with an experienced birder. Phone the Nature Center to get information. 346-2010

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Twitter

       My last post indicates that I am an inexperienced rookie when it comes to Twitter. I explained how I got on to Twitter. I had certainly thought about Twitter before I signed up.

      My past with computers is a little odd. I was a teacher and most schools bought computers when they first became available. Our school started with Apple iie's. Looking back they weren't much ,but at the time they were much more than we had before. Our school upgraded slowly and on an irregular basis. By the time I retired we were on the internet.

     When I retired I did not have a computer at home. One of my volunteer positions gave me an opportunity to use computers and it was my first exposure to PCs. I found PCs easier than Apples although no offense meant to Apple. I used computers at the library and my daughter's house. My daughter did anything that was complicated for me. I had computers at home now but was not on the net.

      When my daughter moved I got internet at my house. That has improved my computer skills greatly. I got my daughter to help me set up Hiawatha House before she left. It was a piece of cake to set it up but took much more time to master some of the options.

     I recently started a Facebook page. I had been very cool toward Facebook, but one of my friends spoke very highly about it. I checked Facebook out. As soon as I saw most of my relatives on it , I had to start a page and it has been a delight ever since. I also didn't really see the need for Twitter. Time will tell if I find Twitter useful and interesting.

      So I have been slow to develop my computer skills. I'm no expert, but learning computer skills has really kept me challenged which is so necessary as one ages.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I've Become a "Twit"

     Well, maybe I've been a twit before now? People's opinions may vary!

     The "old boy"  on Hiawatha House recently signed up for Twitter. It was extremely simple. A few things filled in and there it Twitter account. It was also easy to follow the mechanics of Twitter so in no time I had Twittered myself! I had also picked out a neat background pattern and text color to coordinate nicely.Then I picked up a couple of my friends so that I had followers and could really Twitter. Lesson II was very easy.Too easy maybe?

     The call to Twitter happened when a board I'm on decided to set up an account to communicate with the membership and the board itself. I was trusted with the keys of the kingdom. In other words I was given the pass word  and told to feel my way around and find out how things worked. I found the site easily enough. Then I had to sign in as a user. I came up with a user name? I also filled in a little more information. The original Twitter site seemed to have disappeared. I looked for it and was told the site could  not be  found. I puzzled my puzzler for quite awhile and tried a few different things. No way. I could not find the original site.
So ends lesson number I. 

     It slowly started to sink in that what I had done is take over the organization"s shiny new Twitter site as my own! End of lesson number III.

       Lesson number IV. Twitter is not idiot proof.

    Now it's always been my policy to admit very quickly that I have screwed up. I informed the board of my error.

     So maybe I've been a twit for longer than I thought? I believe that to say I have recently become a twit would be somewhat incorrect.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Child's Remembrance

With this week's Remembrance observations, I have been thinking back to what I actually remember about WWII. If you visited Hiawatha House earlier this week, you saw a simple acknowledgement of Remembrance Day. A radio station I listen to was asking people what they thought about during the minute of silence. Many interesting calls came into the station. We not only remember those who died , but what freedom was won, and how we enjoy it because of their efforts. Too often we do not appreciate that the freedoms we enjoy were won at great cost.

This topic also got me thinking back to what I remember about WWII. I was born in Oct. 1939, a few weeks after the war started. Of course, I do not remember the early part of the war.

I vividly remember some things about those times. Keep in mind that they are from a child's perspective. We lived about 40 kms from a special airport which was set up to train pilots. It was known as the Dafoe Airport. The area we lived in was flat prairie with few cloudy days. I remember the noisy yellow Harvards flying over our farmyard. I always hoped that they would land in the yard and pick me up and take me for a ride. Many times they came over at treetop level. (Our farm was surrounded by a shelter belt.) Sometimes they were flying in formation. For a four or five year old it was very exciting to see.

My younger brother and I would listen to the news and turn to each other and say "German,German,German", as the news was always about the Germans. This caused us some consternation as we were of German heritage, and heard the German language in our home almost daily.

We were also involved with wrapping parcels which my mother made to send to her brother and other relatives who were overseas. She would put in some baked goodies and maybe socks, toothpaste and other personal items. We probably weren't of much help to her, but she involved us, and as a result I remember some of those things.

At the end of the war my brother and I were again listening to the radio as reports were given describing troop ships arriving and unloading. We always wondered if Uncle Ernie was getting off the ship. Of course, very few people knew when their family members were actually returning.

We did travel by train occasionally, and in those times the trains were loaded with people in the forces. We found the people in uniform to be very exciting.

My wife was born in England and spent the war years there . She remembers different things. The rationing of food was a large issue for her. She remember the blackouts and her Mickey Mouse gas mask that she was issued. She also remembers some bombs which landed near her home, and the fires which were caused by them.

My memories are only snapshots of incidents which occurred . I often wonder how other children were influenced, and if they were traumatized by what they saw and heard at such a young age.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall...My Personal Connection

The picture of the Berlin wall falling twenty years ago tonight is still crystal clear in my mind. It was a turning point in history. I was glued to the television and could hardly believe what I saw. There was doubt throughout the whole evening as we did not know if the army and/or police would come out and attack the crowd. There was the odd camera shot of police around corners and behind buildings, but they did not attempt to disperse the crowd. Later, we saw pictures of police officers abandoning their posts and some even joining the crowd in celebration. It was truly a momentous night.

The personal connection is a bit of a stretch, but I really like this story...
My wife toured Europe with four friends in the early sixties. These were the days when you really could "see Europe on five dollars a day". They hitch-hiked into West Berlin. You had to be picked up at a certain spot, and then drive the Autobahn through to West Berlin without stopping. A very friendly West German picked them up, and not only found lodging for them, but toured them around the city. It was a very fortunate contact, and my wife kept in touch with him for many years afterwards.

She remembers the beauty of the city and seeing the wall. One thing that shocked her, however, was how the wall was built through the midddle of a church. She was also struck by the crosses and flowers which marked places where people died as they were trying to escape East Germany by climbing the wall.

The kicker in her trip to West Berlin was that the whole time she was there, the Cuban Missile Crisis was taking place. Of course, they knew nothing about these events. They were in a foreign country and were not able to follow the news (not that she was much interested in current events to begin with). However, the trip had a major influence on her life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Rabbits are Turning White

A few posts ago I wrote something on "Frost on the Pumpkin". Now, this was late September, and the frost was, shall we say, light. That is to say, there were one or two degrees of frost for a few hours in the morning.

Now we are at another level of frost. We've had lows close to -20C and days where the high was below freezing. With temperatures and daylight changing, there are obvious and not so obvious changes to plants, animals and birds.

One change which has always brought me some enjoyment is the rabbit changing to white. As a child there were often hundreds of jack rabbits (white I lived, and their change in color was a highlight for a small child. It marked a very definite change in the seasons. It indicated that any time now, it could become very cold for prolonged periods of time and snow usually began to stay.

This week when I was delivering papers, I found a rabbit under a shrub just in front of a subscriber's door. I was less than a meter away from the rabbit and it did not flush. So I thought I'd have a little chat with the old boy. Still, he (or she) did not move. I put the paper in the mail box and left. This particular rabbit was just about all white. We don't have any snow cover yet, but he was still hard to see. In a few more days this particular animal will be completely white.

Once again, one of my favorite fall changes has given me its pleasure.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Time: She Changed

(Now there's a title that could have more than one meaning!)

But the time, she really did change this weekend . We dutifully turned our time pieces back one hour either before we went to bed or soon after we got up.

We go through this each fall. There is great publicity around this time and topic. Newspapers, radio, TV and computers remind us many times that the change is approaching. Some people become confused about whether they are gaining or losing. So each fall there are mental games we play with ourselves over the change of time. Year after year we put ourselves through the experience of time change when we go through the house and change all time pieces.

Now comes the part of getting used to the hour difference. I was out in the woods without a watch. Something didn't feel right. The end of the day seemed to be coming too quickly. Meal times didn't seem right. When I went to bed it seemed very late and I was tired and wanted to go to sleep. Then I woke up an hour early! Eventually, we become used to the light in our pattern of behaviour. For a day or two we feel awkward about the time, and then life goes on as usual.

All this comes from someone who hasn't worn a watch for twelve years...