Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hiawatha House Celebrates 100 Posts

       I just noticed that my last post was #100! Somewhat of a surprise! I started Hiawatha House in Aug. of 2008. I wasn't on the internet and had no real idea of where or how  this project would go. I didn't get on the internet until Mar. of 2009. Then I had to learn a whole lot of things about blogger. It took a while until I started to post on a regular basis.

      There are some things that were difficult and others that were easy. It was difficult to set the blog up so that it was noticed by others. I still haven't got everything done on that topic. It turned out to be easy to have topics to write about. Pictures are still a challenge.

      So I'm looking forward to my next 100 posts and hope you like reading them as much as I like writing them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Language Rocks

         I have always appreciated all aspects language no matter if it's ours or anybody elses. There is much to learn and understand when we learn some of the language background. There are many Ah ha moments when one key point suddenly explains a whole lot of things. When we learn a second language we discover much about our own language.

        I came across a number of these ah ha's in the Alberta Retired Teachers' Association News and Views. They do not give an origin for these little pieces , but obviously someone had to do a fair amount of research to discover these gems. So here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

      In the 1400s law was set forth in England that a man was permitted to beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb. Hence we have " the rule of thumb."

      In Shakespeare's time , mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When a person pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened making the bed firmer to sleep on- hence the phrase..."Good night, sleep tight."

     It was accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding , the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead was honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based , this period was called the honey moon month. Today it has been shortened to honeymoon, without the father-in-law's obligation.

       In English pubs , ale is ordered by pints and quarts. In old England when customers became unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts and settle down." From that came the phrase"mind your P's and Q's."

      Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim , or handle of their ceramic mugs. When they needed a refill they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle " is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Cycling Season Begins

        In Red deer , Alberta, the roads and most bike trails have dried so it's time for the cycling season to begin. Day time temperatures this week have reached plus 15 C so it is pleasant enough to begin riding.

        With these conditions in mind I opened the garden shed and pulled my bike out. I checked tires and added air and away I went for my first 2010 ride. Later I will do a more thorough bike check up. Through the riding season I continually do maintenance to be sure that I'm safe and the bike will be reliable. As you can see we still have some convenient snow banks!

       So I'm off and cycling! As I've said before my goal is to ride at least 1000 km a season. I find that April is a good riding month, but  it a challenge to get much distance in May and June.

      Happy riding in 2010!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Steven Harper: Does He Understand Rules?

       I have become more and more disillusioned with Prime minister Steven Harper as time goes by. I can accept that someone has different ideologies and appreciate how they propose and support those ideas with research and logic.

       Recently Steven Harper has been supporting issues which are somewhat suspect as to following rules and laws.

      I really wonder if Steven Harper understands anything about parliament. The operation of parliament is governed by a specific set of rules which have been developed over hundreds of years. There must be a set of agreed to rules for a parlaiment to opereate without descending into absolute chaos. For associations which have governing conventions there are agreed upon rules. An association must abide by and operate under those rules. Steven Harper is not doing that with parliament. When parlaiment passes motions which require the government to produce documents, such as the Afghganistan papers,  the government must obey. That is the law.

       One law passed by Harper was to set permanent election dates. I liked that law as it would take out some of the foolish political maneuvering on calling elections. Harper ignored his own law and broke it when he called the 2008 election. How bad can things get when you can't obey your own laws?

      Two of Steven Harper's cabinet members have recently displayed extremely poor behavior and judgement. Harper has excused them both  as having a bad day. Nonsense! Helena Geurgis had a total melt down as she was attempting to by pass security regulations. I would hate to see what would have happened to an ordinary citizen if they had behaved in the same manner. Pierre Blackburn also misbehaved at airport security. Blackburn clearly knew that he could not take on more than 100mm of  liquid. Blackburn became creepy and requested that his tequilla be destroyed in his presence. This cannot be done as it is kept for evidence if needed later. Blackburn was requesting security to break rules. Harper should not be supporting those who want to flout the law.


        A major plank in Harper's platform is to make our laws much more rigorous and that penalties would be much more severe. His behavior gives the opposite message. Leaders must support and live by those new tougher laws. If you can't abide by your own rules you end up being a total hypocrite

     I have never supported Steven Harper's position, but have gone along with his right to govern as a minority. Recently I have decide that Harper should be removed as he is not following the rule of law. Therefore, I Have joined CRUSH and hope that they influence Harper to resign.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Official Jack Rabbit Watcher

         Since I seem to post a quite few things on jack rabbits(lepus townsendii) I feel like I'm watching them all the time and might as well claim the title of official jack rabbit watcher  for myself. There are quite few jack rabbits in my neighborhood so when I run across them there's usually something to say about them. They are always interesting. Since I was brought up on a prairie farm, I've been exposed to the jack rabbit for a long time. Since they are well camoflaged we would often scare them up from a close range. They probably alarmed us as much as we scared them. To see them bounding off with long leaps and at high speed always called for you to stop and watch.

        So today, on my early morning paper, route I saw one jack rabbit under a spruce tree. It was still completely white. All of our snow has melted except for a few snowbanks. This poor specimen was rather obvious although I'm sure he thought he was still well camoflaged. There is just a  tiny bit of dark fur showing through the white so it probably won't be long until they are in their summer coat. I'm sure one will pop up in the next few days to show me how the summer coat is progressing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Canada Geese:Joys of Spring

       For the last two days flocks of Canada geese have been flying over on the way north. After a long winter it is quite shocking to be out and suddenly hear a strange sound...Canada geese honking. It's quite surprising to hear the honking and then watch as a number of geese fly over. There will sometimes be a flock or two every hour and it tapers off by noon.
      The geese flying in at this time probably do not stay here. They may take a short rest for a day or two and feed , but they will 

photo Bill Heinsen

usually continue north. They will land on ice covered lakes and wait for the ice to thaw and then set up nests. When I lived in Inuvik the aboriginal people would goose hunt in the spring. Husky lakes were a well known hunting area. The geese responded to decoys and the hunters would camoflage themselves in white. This hunt was always quite successful.
      So with the coming of geese other species should not be far behind. Today I heard a crow so tomorrow we will probably have many crows.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jeremy Wotherspon: Congratulations on Your Retirement

       So Jeremy Wotherspoon makes it official this week and Retires! He was going to retire this year but it got speeded up a bit because of health treatment. I wish to congratulate Jeremy on his retirement and thank him for all the pleasure he brought to us over the years with his splendid performances.
       I have said before that I don't follow sports but once in a while a specific athlete will catch my attention. Jeremy is one of those athletes. He is the epitomy of hard work and dedication. Work ethic? You bet. To compete at such a high level for so long would take endless hours of training. Training takes will power. Jeremy competed with the clock. He was mentor to all younger speed skaters.

     Jeremy started his speed skating on an outdoor track in Red Deer , Alberta . There were a dozen or so kids and a local coach. Outdoor speed skating is tough. They were able to visit the speed skating oval in Calgary occasionally . I've skated on the Calgary skating oval and it's a treat so I'm sure when Jeremy as  a kid got to skate on the oval he was hooked.

     I'm sure that we will hear more of Jeremy in the future as he has much to give to speed skating.

    So Red Deer , Alberta, how does Wotherspoon Way sound for the name of a street to honor Jeremy?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

He Left Them Laughing When He Said Good-bye ... a Good Read

      Grant MacEwan is a prolific Alberta author who wrote about agriculture and western Canadian  history. I've read quite few of MacEwan's books and find them informative and interesting. My wife really likes MacEwan's stories.

        Grant MacEwan was born in 1902 and raised in Saskatchewan. He was very interested in agriculture and took an agriculture degree. He was Dean of Agriculture at the University of Alberta where he published an number of books on various agriculture topics. He was also Mayor of Calgary , Alberta and the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. He was a busy active man who found time to research and write about much of Alberta's history.

       I recently read He Left Them Laughing When He Said Good-bye. It's the story of an young Irish lawyer who comes to Calgary in 1883 when Calgary is very new. Paddy Nolan set up a law practice, but his real claim to fame was as an orator, and raconteur. Nolan was witty, humorous and a credible actor. His law practice was mainly in criminal defence and he had a good record of getting clients off with his rather creative defence strategies.

     Paddy Nolan was active politically although he only ran in one election and did not win. However, Nolan met all the strong characters active in public affairs in Alberta  at that time.

     MacEwan tells an interesting story of Paddy's activities and along the way describes a very interesting character. While MacEwan is describing Nolan he manages to tell us much of Alberta's early history. MacEwan leaves you wanting to know more about Alberta's early history.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Isolated Birth

       On my last post I jokingly established my worth according to a doctor bill for my birth. After that I began thinking about the conditions surrounding my birth. I also began wondering how much people know about the experiences during a time of which they have no memory. We know about our birth from what stories our parents tell us and the odd bit of history which occurred at the same time.
       I have written previously about my isolated farm life.

      My mother was born and raised in a small Manitoba city. When she married my Dad and came to live on his small farm in Saskatchewan, she must have had some culture shock although she had been on farms occasionally. She only knew one person in the district and that happened to be an older cousin. My father's family were very German and they looked on him with some disappointment when he married an English woman! The house on Dad's farm was a somewhat primitive small wooden structure. It was probably 16'  by 30' and was completely uninsulated.

      Nevertheless, I made my debut into the world about 2 years later in 1939. I was born in the above descibed little house. It was a beautiful warm October day and the house became hot due to all the water which had to be boiled on the wood cookstove. My Mom had two friends with her who had given birth to several children and they set things up as the doctor requested. My mother was probably somewhat terrified as she was well aware of the risks in childbirth. However, the conditions of my birth were pretty well standard at that time. Hospitals were distant and transportation primitive. If someone had tried to travel to a hospital under those conditions they would likely not have made it successfully.

     So my birth took place in a fairly routine manner very fortunately for mother and child. Kind neighbors helped my Mom until she could resume normal duties. Those housewifely duties were challenging as the house was not only meagre but there were no facilities. Water had to be hauled and washing was done by hand. You can imagine what else was lacking in this situation. Everything!

    Under challenging circustances I survived and had two brothers and a sister in the same house. By the time I was eight another more substantial house with some facilities had been erected.

     When I tell my children about these conditions I stop and listen to myself and can hardly believe what I'm saying. It was a totally different age.

    Do you know of conditions pertaining to your birth?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Buzzed by a Merlin

        The merlin is a small falcon 20 to 30cm long and with a wingspan of  58 to 66 cm. The males have a blue gray back and the females are light brown . Both have streaked underparts. They are superb beautiful fliers. Their prey is usually small birds taken on the wing. They take the prey to a favorite tree or pole and pluck the feathers. So if you have a tree where you find feathers it's probably used by a merlin as a plucking tree.

       Now my story. I was delivering papers about 10:30 AM one morning when a saw the resident merlin buzzing a large spruce tree that had several house sparrows in it. None of the sparrows flushed so the merlin did not make a catch and swiftly flew up and over the house on the opposite side of the street. I continued on my route and had only gone about 20 steps when the merlin returned and flew at eye level almost within arm's length from me. I must say that I was shocked at the suddeness of the flight and his loud ki ki ki which is used to alarm birds so that they flush from cover and the merlin can make a kill. When I stopped to think about it I was standing beside another large spruce tree that had house sparrows in it . The sparrows gave an alarm call but they did not flush from the tree. If the sparrows had flushed I would have observed a kill at very close range.

      I was surprised that the merlin flew so close to me,but I guess he was attempting to use me as a distraction for the sparrows and in so doing would have a better chance to make a kill.

    I have often watched merlins in the area as they are awesome fliers. When they hunt bohemian waxwings they get under the flock and this causes the flock to rise. Sooner or later one bird in the flock will tire and drop down. The merlin flies like a bullet to the falling bird and makes a kill. Beautiful.!

    So watch for these birds in your urban neighborhood. They are noticeable by their rapid flight and noisey ki ki ki .

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Psst!!! Wanna Know How Much I'm Worth?

       Okay, I've been know to twist the meaning of a few words! Worth can have different meanings. We can talk about economic value. We can think of self worth. There are other variations as well. But I am going to tell you exactly how much I'm worth in a monetary way.

      My Mom and Dad were married in 1938. They went out to the little isolated farm to make their fortune. It was the end of the depression. The Saskatchewan Government had developed a book keeping program for farmers to help them with record keeping. My mother became the book keeper and she was meticulous. Every cent of income and expense was recorded. They had very little income and as a result few expenditures. Sunday offerings were recorded. When they went to town for mail they usually bought one chocolate bar and shared it on the long and slow way home.

     My Dad died in 2008. He had very few worldly possessions left. His sons went through these few possessions one evening and all dozen or so items were distributed. One item was  a few of Mom's old record books. As we looked through them we could piece together some interesting details of their life.

      Now I was born in October of 1939.  One of the striking items entered in Mom's record book had the following details and was dated Oct. 14 1939. Paid to Dr. Hinson for Red  $10.00 . I was born on Oct. 14 so this was the amount paid to the Doctor for being at my birth. So I tell you with all accuracy that I am worth ten dollars!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Olympic Trash Talk Disappointing

      I admit that I don't watch any TV. I do follow sports to some extent in newspapers, radio and internet. The Olympics catch my attention to some degree as they are of a high calibre and highly publicized. So I am not highly qualified to express an opinion. However, I must express my dislike for some behaviour I encountered.

       On Twitter Sydney Crosby took a tremendous amount of abuse for scoring the winning goal in overtime. In no time flat Sydney Crosby was a trending topic on Twitter. The comments were sickening to say the least. H6WGQ5V65CYG I can understand that some people may have been extremely disappointed that their team lost. But put things into perspective. Both teams played at a high skill level. The game was highly entertaining. It was sport at it's best. Exciting, unpredictable, full of tension. Enjoy it ! Let the athletes enjoy it.

      The harsh personal attacks against Crosby were frightening, uncalled for, sad and unsportsman like.

      There I've offered my opinion even though I am not a sports expert!

      What do you think of the attacks on Crosby?