Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Know You're Getting Old When...

      You know you're getting old when both your kids are wearing bifocals! Yes, this happened recently when my daughter got bifocals and like most people who get bifocals found that they were a great help. My son got bifocals a couple of years ago and makes good use of them. 

     Now my daughter has great taste when it comes to colors so her new glasses have colors that go along with skin tones and all the clothing she wears. My son just bought a very fine pair of glasses that that give him a look of distinction. Yes, I know I'm bragging about my kids.

    Now I wish I had my first pair of glasses to show you how cool they were! I had the pair with the huge lens until a few months ago when I got new glasses.

    The kids bifocals got me thinking about the time I started wearing bifocals. I remember the awkwardness of not being able to see your feet when I first put on the bifocals. Since I was a teacher I looked over student work at their desks from a distance. I didn't really miss the close vision. But sooner or later it had to happen and I got bifocals which were usually kept in my pocket until I needed them. This meant a lot of taking off and putting on of glasses. It was a nuisance. Finally, I needed a prescription for distance and I began wearing glasses all the time. 

    So I have a vivid idea of what the kids have just gone through. It's one of the first steps to aging. I first saw my son with glasses when we were on skype. I asked why he needed glasses and he replied. "Because  I'm an old fart like you!"

     So for most of us sooner or later we require the aid of bifocals and of course the condition progresses. 

     How're you doing with your bifocals?


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Seven Days Make a Big Difference

     A week ago today I posted about a snowfall we had overnight. Waking up Sunday morning we found a brilliant white world. 

    Today all the snow is gone and we had a high of 18 C (68 F). All last Sundays snow has disappeared.

    It's a big difference. Here we have roughly the same two photos 7 days apart.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Casino Nights

    I had written a post two years ago about my connection to Casinos. So when I mentioned casinos in my last post some of you started to wonder if I was a gambling, partying fool of some kind. I don't gamble. I take an occasional drink. I'm not a night owl or a partier. 

    I work a couple of Casinos every two or three years for an organization that has charitable status. In Alberta , charities can get an opportunity to raise funds from Casino profits that go to the government.

   So  the charity gets a couple of nights at the Casino and have to work for the funds they will be given. As I said before, it's kind of a make work project for the charities. I'm sure they'd be happier with full time staff doing the job we do.

    We work with the table operations...blackjack, roulette. We are in a separate room from the Casino. We have a banker, cashier, general manager and a chip runner. We sign for a certain amount of money and chips. The money is counted and the chips are counted. When a table needs chips they put in an order to our banker. The chips are sold to the players at the table. When someone has chips to cash in they come to us and we redeem their chips. We start out with roughly 150 000 in chips and cash. At the end of the night counters count all the chips and cash from the tables. The chips come back and are used the next day again. I'm not sure of the procedure with the money from the tables.

    The slots are all electronic so humans don't have to  count and distribute money. 90% of a charities money comes from the slots and 10% from the tables.

    So what was I doing until 2:30 AM? Well counting money and chips. It's not fast paced and is a lot of fun. They have a system for operating this procedure.

    I think I'd have a tough time to find anything more boring than slot machines. Gambling holds no interest for me. 

    One guy cashed in chips for $1600.00. He told us he spent $3000.00 to get the $1600.00. I would rather spend the $3000.00 for travel.

   I don't find the late hours a problem and I get to work with fun people from my group. 

   So now you know that I haven't fallen off the deep end and become a complete fool.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring? Hold on a Minute

     On my last post we were  having such a nice  spring day that I got my bike out for a ride.

     However , things change and change very quickly. It is March, and weather can be variable. We get most of our snow in March.

    So we were surprised by a good dump of snow in the last two days. To make it more interesting the snow  wasn't forecast. So our natural adaptations kicked in and we dealt with snow and treacherous road conditions.

     Friday evening we received a small amount of drizzle and snow. At 2:30 AM when I left the casino there was a hard crust of snow to scrape off the car. 

     Saturday evening it started snowing about 5:00 PM. The snow became heavy and road conditions quickly became dangerous. When I left the casino at 2:30 AM there was six inches of snow. So much more cleaning off the car!

    Sunday morning showed us a pleasant view of a white covered landscape.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Couple of Firsts

       I had a couple of firsts for me in the last two days. I do keep a bit of a journal so can look back and check on things.

      We've had a long stretch of mild weather. It's been such a long stretch that most of our snow is gone. It's very pleasant. Highs have been from 5C (40 F ) to 10 C (50 F ). Half the nights have been above 0 C (32 F).

    So with all that in mind I got my bike out today and went for a short ride. I've never gone for a ride  in March before so that is the first. I didn't get any photos today so these are from last year.

    The other first for yesterday was the first robin of the year. It's always quite a thrill when you hear a robin in the neighborhood and you wait until he/she goes flying by the house.

    Now I thought Mar. 18 would be a record for the first robin in my yard. I looked up my records and no. I had a first robin on Mar. 7 in 1989. Now I think the robin in 1989 might have been one that over wintered here.

     I didn't get a robin photo yesterday either, but here's one from my friend taken a few years ago.

Monday, March 16, 2015

IQs: What About Them?

     I was listening to a radio interview on creativity. They got onto IQs. That was enough to get me on my soapbox. 

      When I started teaching every kid was given an IQ test and it was duly recorded on their accumulated file. It was a sacred number that told all kinds of things about a kid. In the rural school that I went to in the 40's IQ tests were given. Since the teacher went home for lunch, kids occasionally snooped through the desk. There was my IQ ...103! (Now if you couldn't get in the teacher's desk , how else would you put the mouse in the drawer?)

     A form of IQ test is still given today. 

      When I started teaching the IQ was considered to have great validity. If a kid wasn't doing well, we'd check the IQ to see if there were any indications there. Should the student be achieving more? 

      One student had an IQ of 80. Teachers were naive enough to wonder how someone with an 80 IQ could do so well. Obviously something was wrong with the IQ result..

      Do we have a definition of intelligence that can be measured?

     As you can tell by now I'm definitely not a fan of IQ tests. There are too many very large variables. Tests were biased towards kids who could read. Kids who read well did well on IQs. Location influenced IQ. IQ tests were slanted toward urban kids. A little farm kid like me had never heard of some of the things on the test. The tests were not administered in standard ways. With my daughter, she was ill for the second part of the test and stayed home. The test was never completed. .Some method of prediction was used to complete her score. What about the little kid who wrote the test and didn't feel well?

     Gradually educators began to see that there were holes in IQ tests and they were slowly phased out. In many places the actual number was erase.

      Now I don't know what the MENSA people will think of me. I am criticizing their claim to being. To be in the Mensa club you have to have an IQ over a certain level.

      Standardized tests are still used. Some of the bugs have been ironed out but they are not considered to be of great accuracy and are not used to make predictions.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today is Pi Day

    Now all of my followers know that Pi is the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle and that it's value is 3 1/7 or 3.14.  1/7 is a non repeating decimal and goes on to infinity. I think! For example 3.1428572... Some people have memorized this decimal to 1000 places!!!

    Now how do you know all this stuff? It's because some nerdy little math teacher like me, taught you so that you will never forget. My canned lesson went like this. I asked kids to bring tin cans to school...big cans little cans. You had to take a week to get the cans so with a lot of cans around the room there was always some risk of cans rolling up and down the aisles and kids with mischievous grins.

     On the appointed day we got out the cans and I gave kids string and they had to measure the circumference and diameter of the can.Then they had to find the ratio. Oh they forgot what a ratio is!!! Each pair had to do this with three different cans and three times on each can. So after a while they came up with something close to 3 1/7 . The liars got exactly3.14.  The idea was to get the kids to do something, hands on, to understand a concept.

     Then they go the opportunity to use the formula and fine the circumferences of circles.

      Now I have to reflect on my canned lesson. In the old days when I was taught this concept, they didn't tell us anything about pi. We were told , that this is the value of pi  and plug in the formula and you find the circumference of a circle. Old guys like me remember the value of pi. I hope the kids I taught remember the value and a little more. I really have to wonder if teachers are half as smart as they think they are.

     Oh yes! About this being pi day? Today is the 3rd month and 14 th day. So 3.14. Math teachers have been waiting for this day and there were many activities celebrated.
Sounds like fun.

     It seems like every day is for something special! For an old guy like me every day is special.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015


    Clubber was in one of my grade eight classes in the early 60's. Clubber was a little different than most thirteen year olds.

    Clubber was a loner and very quiet. There were some good reasons Clubber was a loner. Clubber was a quiet kid but that doesn't mean that he was nice. The other kids were somewhat afraid of Clubber as he could look after himself physically. Clubber didn't hesitate to use force to get what he wanted from other kids. Kids didn't report much of this behavior as they were always afraid of how Clubber would retaliate. If you did pal around with Clubber you were probably going to get into trouble and kids did not want to find themselves in trouble.

    Clubber learned the pleasures of tobacco early in life. Clubber had to have his regular supply of tobacco. He got his tobacco in several ways. Thirteen year olds could buy tobacco in the early sixties but they didn't have enough spending money for a full supply. So shoplifting helped in the supply of tobacco. Of course, he was caught quite regularly. Clubber may have been smart but at being a crook he was pretty dumb. Clubber also picked up other things from stores. As a result everybody in town watched Clubber. His third supply of tobacco came from other kids. Kids would give him a cigarette as he would probably take all their cigarettes if they resisted. 

     Clubber entered a few places he wasn't supposed to enter. Pool rooms were closed on Sundays in the sixties. One Sunday the owner of the pool room checked his facility and there was Clubber playing pool all by himself. The back door was not very secure so he just walked in. He had probably been doing the same thing for quite a while.

    Teachers tried to watch Clubber very carefully but it was difficult. Clubber was not a behavior problem in class.  He was sneaky but also an opportunist. It was interesting to watch him as he was always looking two steps ahead. He saw things nobody else saw.

    Clubber's parents were at their wits end with him as they didn't know how to handle the situation and at that time there was no support for them.

    You could see where Clubber was headed. He had no concerns about getting things he wanted by using illegal means.

   Five or six years later I read a news item in the paper that Clubber had been sentenced for armed robbery.

   It was rather sad to see a person so young get into behavior patterns which were not only destructive for him but others.
    I will certainly remember Clubber for a long time.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Snowstick Worries

    Now I've posted about my snow stick on a previous post. Far Side got me into setting up a snow stick so we could compare snowfall amounts.

    Me being somewhat lazy and disorganized went out and thought if I put my snow stick on a table in the yard, I won't have to get my boots full of snow and it will be easy to take photo. In other words, I won't have to bend down to get a photo. I reasoned that the table would show an even level amount of snow. My plan worked well.

    We've had some mild spring like weather. The snow on the table melts faster than snow on the ground. Snow melt is influenced by shade or direct sunny spots. The snow melts on the south side of the house first. So now I'm left with a bare table. No snow! I also found that there was a pot saucer on the table so that my snow stick didn't get to the table surface.

The snow table

     Now we still have tons of snow around. There's still lots of snow and ice on the roads.

Snow in the yard

Snow in the front yard where I shoveled snow off the driveway.

     Now next year I'm going to have to improve on my snow stick. Maybe I should get one of those super dooper snow measurers they use on TV weather to show how much snow we receive. Then I could go on YouTube and give my own weather report.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Can Always Find Something Useless to Whine About

     Don't you just hate it when blogs just disappear? They just stop.

     I guess why I get upset when a blog disappears, is that I've enjoyed the blog and am just plain disappointed when it's gone.

    A few people do say that they have decided to stop blogging. I can handle this because there's closure. They also give reasons as to why it's time to stop blogging. Good! There was some thought to this decision. One blog I really liked and was disappointed when it closed was Just Another Day on the Prairie. A good reason for stopping was given and a good bye was said.

  One blog that really impressed me was where the blogger posted until a few days before his death. There were some intense comments shared on this one. I learned a great deal from this one. Much reflection took place after this one closed. His wife wrote a couple of posts when he was too sick to write. His daughter wrote a final post.

    In one or two blogs illness has set in and I think that the blogger passed on. Sad.

     Sometimes a very active blogger just starts to slow down. Time between posts gets longer and longer and then ceases. Sometimes bloggers try something new. They go from posting every day to once a week. You know something's up. Not long after things dry up and stop. Some bloggers are involved in more than one blog and they are stretched too far so something has to go. Sometimes bloggers move on to a completely different area and start a new blog. I can follow their new blog or call it a day.

    Sometimes the area that they cover just dries up and they have no new material to use. 

    Sometimes the fire in the belly just goes out.

    I would think that some bloggers find something else to occupy their time and blogging is what is dropped.

    So once in a while I have to go through my blog list and "clean it up."  It's sad to take these blogs off your blog list. They are old friends.

    On the other side of the coin one can search for more blogs. That's a blog post for another time.

   So how do you handle things when a blog shuts down?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Missing the Forest for the Trees

       A while ago I bought a new camera. It was a step up from the little old point and shoot I had to another point and shoot.  I wanted some zoom so that I could do a better job on some topics.

        I'm a birder so I want to get some better photos of birds. I will be satisfied if my photo is good enough so that the bird can be identified.

      So I've been practising a bit. I went to our local nature center. They have some feeders and they are very active. So for an impatient person like myself , the action is fast. There's also a convenient post I can lean against so that I can steady my camera. I park myself close to the feeder. So I've been learning a few things.

     Now I posted some of my bird photos. One comment was that "it was pretty good for shooting out a window." Then I saw something! I saw the brilliant reflection in the windows! I was concentrating on the bird so much that I missed other things in the photo. The person making the comment was looking at more than the bird.

    So I learned a little more about taking pictures. I will have to see more than I've been seeing.
These reflections were much brighter than I thought. 
The bird isn't interesting but the background is very busy

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Gadgets Just Keep Getting Smarter.

      I recently attended a session put on by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. This organization's objective is to inventory all the  various living organisms in the province. They have set up 1529 posts throughout the province where they identify all living organisms on the site. So areas such as grain fields, grasslands , forests, wetlands and mountains are studied. They first choose three by seven mile sites and then choose something in that area which is narrowed down to a few acres.

     So a small site of  few acres is studied very carefully to identify all organisms. The purpose of the whole operation is to set up a level which can be used when deciding on land uses.

     They've made some interesting discoveries. They've found several new species of soil mites. They've also found species that were not known to exist in Alberta. They also plan to go back to each site every five years and survey again.

     Now a lot of this work is just hard observation. Sit and observe. Take photos. Dig a bit here. Take samples.

   There are a few gadgets that can be used. The familiar one is the trail webcam. Some of you have trail cams and if you are patient in monitoring you will see some interesting critters travelling through your yard.

    The gadget I found most interesting was a sound recorder. The device is placed on the site and left for a year. For ten minutes of each hour the device turns on and listens. Each year the device is read for the sounds recorded. They can identify an amazing number of sounds. Bird and animal calls are a no brainer. They can also identify creatures that are moving in the area. So it will hear mice rustling through the grass, a bear ambling through the site, a deer munching on some browse, a coyote scratching his ear or a bird flying by. This device is extremely sensitive. I thought this was pretty neat.

    This organization has many tools in its toolkit but the one using sound for a whole year was most fascinating.

    Once this study is complete it will have a most detailed and complete inventory of the things around us.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1: Lion or Lamb?

    March 1 is a fun date that I like to notice. The "in like a lamb out like a lion" or the opposite "in like a lion out like a lamb" is important when you get to this part of the winter. Everybody would like to see winter end.  My felt boots have holes in them and my fleece lined underwear are the same. If winter lasts much longer I'll be cold!

    Now for a skeptic like me, there are a few questions about conditions on March 1. What are the rules and regulations about the weather to define lion or lamb? So last night at one minute after midnight it was minus 15 C (5 F  ) calm and dark. At 6 AM it was minus 16C (4 F) , calm and the beginning of the dawn.  At noon it was minus 2 C ( 29 F) very windy and clear  At 6 PM it was minus 2 C(29F) 16 kph (10 mph) and clear. So some of this was lion and some was lamb. What am I to do? Toss a coin and pick one? 

     Whatever happens it's always pleasant to reach March 1. We know that we can get cold weather but it won't stay long. We will be getting much more mild weather. 

     The sun rose this morning at 7:22 AM and set at 6:12 PM for 10 hours and 50 minutes of sunshine.

     It was a good day to get out and walk, snowshoe or ski.

Starting a pleasant walk

Great blue skies

Coming back from the walk

My best shot of a chickadee today.