Sunday, February 27, 2011

You "Gotta" Listen to Vinyl Cafe

         The Vinyl Cafe is a CBC radio program hosted by author Stuart McLean. Stuart McLean believes that written stories should be read out loud to and an audience so that was the basis of starting the show. McLean also likes music and looks for up and coming new talent to perform on his show. So the show has two things that I like: a good story and good music.

        Stuart McLean has written a number of books which consist of stories that he tells. Some of them come from places he has travelled or from people he has met. He usually tells the stories in a humorous fashion.

      On Vinyl Cafe his stories are based on a family with two children and a dog. From this fictional family he can go in many different directions with the same basic characters. So the stories are called the Dave and Morley Stories. Sometimes it features the rather inept Dave and his misadventures or it could be the son Sam and his challenges in growing up. Of course, it's convenient to have neighbors the Churlingtons and the interactions with them. Dave's mother is still living so there are the visits and worries about his mother in Nova Scotia. It's convenient that when he goes back to Nova Scotia he can tell stories about his boyhood.

      Dave Played in a band when he was a young man and now he has a record shop for a business. So you see the Dave and Morley stories can go on forever.

     About one third of the shows are done before a live audience so they tour to all parts of the country. Tickets go like, well hot cakes! He also tours in the U.S. as well since his show is picked up by some American stations. Stuart tries to find local musical talent in the locations he visits . For example , when he's in Yellowknife he will find someone suitable in the area. I saw his show when he toured Red Deer and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

    So take a listen to the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean. I'm sure you"ll like it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Types of Blog Writing

        Since I've been shopping around blogs this last while, I have noticed that there are many types of blog writers. Since I'm looking for blogs to follow I have been looking with a somewhat critical eye. I'm looking for something to follow which is interesting and related to areas that interest me.

        Many bloggers blog about their daily lives. I'm amazed at how many of these writers are able to make their daily activities very interesting. Some just have interesting lives so that makes it easy. One blogger I follow hikes at least once a week and sky dives from time to time. Others have the knack for telling an interesting story. They provide detail and description. They are able to build up their story to some kind of climax.

       Other bloggers have an area of expertise which they tell about. Cooking, gardening and bird watching seem to be popular. I've also seen some pretty neat art blogs. A personal friend and former teacher blogs about teaching strategies. He's really good at it and new teachers could really benefit from his blog. (It's too late for me! I retired fourteen years ago but I still read his blog.)

      Many bloggers develop a special column which appears in their blog on weekly basis. One blogger only posts a picture on Sundays. I always look forward to this photo. Another blogger has a special Wednesday feature which I look forward to. Other bloggers set up contests.

     Some bloggers have a personal writing style that makes their blog posts interesting. One blogger who expressed concern about her writing ability and wished she had learned more in her English class brings authenticity to her blog by her use of country language. It works well. She has many followers and she can skip the grammar. Another blogger who constantly worried about his posts was a natural at telling a good story. His stories built up to a climax. You were drawn in to read his posts.

     Photographers have great fun taking pictures and posting them to tell a story or to show off places, flowers or birds. Many artists use a blog to display their art or to produce art. I asked an artist friend of mine what I could do to improve my blog and his instant answer was , "More pictures!" He thinks visually so he helped me develop another aspect of my blogging. I really had to work hard at this one. I finally had to take a picture and then build a post around the picture.

    So in shopping around for blogs to follow I have pleasantly learned more about blogging.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

       I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin. It's a biography of Greg Mortenson and shows that you can run against the grain and do great good in the world.

      Greg Mortenson is an American who grew up in Africa. When his family came back to the States Greg had many various experiences. A life changing experience occurred when he had a spectacular failure in a climbing attempt of K-2. He bumbled into a village and was aided in his recuperation. Before he left the village he saw that they badly needed and wanted a school. This was in 1999. Greg struggled to raise money to build the school. There were many challenges but finally the school was completed.

     Greg some how or other came to trust the judgementent of the local villagers and they trusted him. Other villages in the area also wanted a school. The rest of the story is how Greg went on the build many schools and other projects that helped the Muslim people in northern Pakistan. Unfortunately for Greg he was in Pakistan when 9 /11  occurred. He was very fortunate to get back to America. By this time of his life he was committed to building as many schools as possible and there was no end of requests for schools.

      Greg strongly believed that education was what would prevent radical Muslims from influencing other Muslims being recruited to terrorism. For this stand Greg received all kinds of hate mail and death threats in America. These worried him but did not prevent him from carrying on.

      The story is a page burner as you worry about Greg's success and safety. He goes from one tight spot to another.

      I agree with Greg's idea that education is key. I spent 37 years in education so I would naturally agree as I know that education brings freedom, independence and power.

      It's ironic though that Greg should receive death threats from his own people who are well educated? Education is just one piece of the puzzle. Greg found that the American Government's failure to deliver on aid projects was one of the challenges he faced in his work.

     I great to see that one individual could go against the the general thinking of his country and make such a difference at a basic level.

      I quite often ask avid readers what they are reading. In that way I find really good books to read. Two readers  were my friends Eileen and her husband Mike. We often talked about the books we read and recommended books to each other. A week before Eileen died in May she told me that Three Cups of Tea was a book I had to read. So for Eileen, I've finally read Three Cups of Tea and as you said it was a great read.

       So I highly recommend that you read Three Cups of Tea.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Where Do All the Good "Bloggin" Names Come From?

        I have been looking through quite a few blog rolls lately as I'm looking for some more good blogs to follow now that I have some more time. I look for some half decent writing, pictures and topics I'm interested in. I'm interested in nature, music, daily life, humor and something that takes me to new experiences. I appreciate blogs that make me think. Many things catch your eye and you say, "I'm going to have a look at this blog for awhile." Yes, sometimes it's just a catchy title!

       There are many reasons why people choose their blog name. I didn't know what I was doing when I chose Hiawatha House. I had spent nine years in a one roomed country school house and I wanted to honor that place. Great sentimental choice, but when it comes to search engines I don't think it really works. You can see many examples of names where people pick something which has sentimental value to them. I just looked at "Ash Lane Farm."

      Some names are fantastically creative. I really like "Muddy Boot Dreams" although I haven't  looked at the blog yet.  Some names are somewhat whimsical as "On a Quirky Quest" which also has some pretty neat alliteration. Some blogs are great at giving their main topic as in " Journey into Elderhood" or "Cottage Country. Many seniors blog so there are names such as "Far Side of Fifty" and "Retirement Chronicles."  There are double entendres although I don't have a good example. Some really catch your attention as "A Little Spark of Madness " and "Out of my Multiple Minds."    

      Now if I was more ambitious I think a really great song could be made using blog titles! Go For it! I can see somebody setting this up as a contest! You're welcome to steal my idea! Just let me in on the songs.

     I often wonder about the practical terms of blog names. I think those that clearly indicate the blog topic are probably the most successful. However, for a browser (person) catchy names probably catch more fish.

      So back to looking for more good blogs to follow.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

IPod Epilog

       I have posted twice about  my ipod. I know some might say, "Well dry up!",  but I have one more observation.

      My first post covered how I got my ipod and began trying to find out how to use it. I made reference to kids helping me learn how it works.

      On my second post I dealt with how I had found out how to use the ipod and how proud I was of myself.

      Now when you write things you can always look back and see evidence of what you said and did. The facts stare you in the face.

      So now that I am using the ipod and enjoying it I have to look back and say , "What in the world was so hard about all that?" It's really easy once you get the hang of it. No wonder kids find it so easy to use ipods and many other electronic devices. So it's interesting to see how inadequate I felt and was almost talking myself into failure. It was a good learning experience and I will be much better prepared for the next challenge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Political Future With the Internet

         A few days ago I posted apiece about the influence of the internet on the Egyptian and Tunisian political upheavals.

        I asked many questions that I'm sure have been asked before and was quite certain that developments were taking place some where on the use of the internet for good or evil.

      I was most surprised to hear a commentary a few days ago to the effect that the Obama administration is looking at the effects of a total shut down of internet communication. In other words they were saying if we have to shut down the internet to control communication what might be some problems.

      I was amazed the hear this thinking from a democratic country. I could see a third world dictatorial country shutting down internet communication but I never thought a democratic country would shut down internet communication. I thought our right to communicate and free speech would have been held at a higher level. I'm sure that somewhere in Canada they are looking at a similar scenario.

      How sad that in countries that have a high regard for freedom and democracy that they would consider restricting speech and communication.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Alf and the Snowmen

         I have written about Alf  four or five times before. Alf comes to visit his Dad for two or three days a week. Alf's Dad is my next door neighbor. Alf is now seven. When he was three or four he was quite often in my yard and wanted to explore everything found in an old man's yard. Alf also would go in the house and his curiosity just overwhelmed him and he would walk through the whole house.

         Alf has given me much pleasure as he is cute, curious and courteous. So there are many questions. My answers only brought more questions.

        So a couple of weeks ago Alf and his Dad built two giant snowmen in their front yard. This is a yearly activity for them. When Alf comes to stay with his Dad he has to go out and visit his snowmen. So the other day when Alf came I thought I had better take a picture and show everybody two great snowmen and their owner.

       Having a youngster next door is always good for  contact with little guys who are full of ideas and curiosity. Nothing like that to keep you young!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Mighty Microbes

        The old adage "Out of sight. Out of mind." could be aptly applied to mighty microbes. We can't see microbes with the naked eye so we go about our business as if they weren't there. This causes us to live our lives and make decisions which do not favor microbes. It's easy to argue for the protection of species which are noticeable and if they have spectacular features it's easier yet. To protect and conserve one species everything has to be considered. That one species fits into an eco system and that's the best way to protect the one species. An eco system is made up of interconnecting parts. Each species supports the other in some way even if it happens to be prey for another species.

       I taught junior high science for awhile. In one unit we had the kids bring a small sample of pond water. We showed the kids how to make a slide and use a microscope. When they looked at their water sample, there in front of their eyes were microbes. Now with a school microscope you don't see much, but they did find out about microbes and saw them move, their shape and color. They kept bringing more water samples as they were intrigued by what they saw.

      Microbes are common everywhere and have important roles to play. It was surprising for me to find out microbes are in snow and ice. Microbes on snow and ice you say? Yes. There are also insects on snow at certain times. Ever see snow fleas? I would like to see decisions on environmental issues start with microbes. We have water use issues. Various parts of society are competing for an ever decreasing amount of water. Decision makers only consider the water and not the life which is sustained by the water.

     I wish more people would become acquainted with microbes on a realistic basis. Then maybe decisions made about natural habitat might be made easier and more species would have a better chance of long term survival.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mighty Microbes

        I have written from time to time about birds and animals....rabbits, deer, merlins, geese... Some bloggers I follow write about white tailed deer, turkeys, turkey vultures, magpies, harlequin ducks, Canada geese, gray jays, swans, moose, bohemian waxwings goldfinches roses. My list could be very long as about a dozen blogs I follow post on a regular basis about plants or animals. They are all excellent posts ...informative and well illustrated. All of these are rather sexy topics. People really like Bambi stories!

       I have never seen microbes covered in any of the blogs I follow yet microbes are very basic to life and crucial in many cases for life to continue. For example, we have about 40 000 different kinds of microbes in our gut. Most of these are very necessary to keep body functioning properly. If some microbes become over or under populated we usually have a problem. I was diagnosed with one little guy that was too populous and was given an antibiotic to knock down the population. So I ended up with less gas which was great.

      Our soil and water is populated with millions of microbes. When the prairies were ploughed first the  soil was very fertile. After cropping for a few years the microbes were depleted so we started using fertilizer and chemicals. Before the prairie was plowed there was equilibrium with carbon contained in the soil. Now much less carbon can be absorbed in our soil because the little microbes which do the job are almost gone.

    Forests and plants are full of and covered with microbes.

    Where am I going with this? I am a naturalist. (NOT a naturist. I keep my clothes on.) I hope to preserve as much natural habitat as possible. My friends keep saying that it's not being made anymore. Many would have us think that plants and animals we raise can replace the natural habitat. It doesn't. It usually brings problems. Mono cultures of plants are very susceptible to disease. Invasive species come in and compete with the natural habitat and destroy it. In the Chicago Wilderness Area area hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to bring back the natural habitat in the area.

     We have cleared much native habitat for agriculture so the native habitat which is left is fragmented and when not connected many species do not cope well. As a child, on the "isolated farm" less than half the land was cleared. There was an abundance of wildlife under those conditions. Today about 98% of that land is used for agriculture. It's like a desert as far as the population of native species is concerned.

    So I hope that if we look out for the mighty microbes we will also help the larger sexier species as well.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rest Easy Pete

         When I began reading my blogs tonight I found the one that I had been anticipating, but it still caught me with a jolt of sadness. We all knew that Pete from Out of My Multiple Minds was not well as he had bravely kept us informed of his status. His last posts were gripping as he told about his fight to remain with us for as long as possible.

         The post I found tonight was simply called "It's Over!"  This post was written by his daughter and I thank her for informing us of her Dad's end.

        Pete only started blogging a few months ago. I was somehow lucky to blunder across his blog and I could instantly tell that it was a blog that was absolutely necessary to follow.

       What made Pete's blog such a hit was Pete. He called things as he saw them. He was passionate and did not back away from any cause. Many of the things he stood for were not on the popular side. He could tell an excellent story. He fussed and worried about what he wrote, but he naturally knew how to tell a story. Keep adding the detail and saved the climax to last. I remember following him down a long corridor to visit his sick friend. I thought the friend would be dead , but no his friend was still hanging on. The big thing was that Pete made the effort to visit his fast fading friend. Pete lost two very good friends in the last two months of his life.

      We need more Petes in this world. I will miss Pete from Out of My Multiple Minds.

       Much support to Pete's family at this sad time,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

65th Wedding Anniversary: Awesome

        This weekend I attended a celebration for friends Betty and Howard's 65th anniversary. This is the first 65th I've ever attended and it was a very moving affair.

        Betty and Howard's five children put on a dinner and program to honor their parents. One son spoke of his parents and how they were a Mom and Dad and very family oriented. He covered happy occasions, sadness and how generally the family functioned extremely well. Their life was not just a smooth ride  
 as they also faced hardships and devastating loss. He described how his mother and father were extremely hard workers and that they also worked very hard for family growth as well. An excellent picture album was put together to show each child's life in the family as they grew up. All grandchildren were briefly featured as well.

      Some of the older friends and neighbors made comments which were humorous and also added to the description of this couple's life.

      As I reflected on this occasion I couldn't help but think about how vibrant and energetic this couple was and is. They each had tremendous energy as individuals and also put tremendous positive energy into their relationship. They also had time to participate in the community and were ever ready to help others. They are also both physically vigorous and enjoy life. The pictures gave a vivid description of the length of time that goes into a 65 year relationship. The styles through the decades made it simple to see how much time was involved.

       Betty and Howard certainly influenced their children in a positive way and have also
been an inspiration to many other people.

Monday, February 7, 2011

ipod Victory

        On Jan. 19 I posted about getting an ipod and that I was challenged to figure out how to get it working.
I am happy to report that there is victory over the ipod. I've got the thing playing music in my ear and I didn't have to go across the street to my 14 year old neighbor or his 16 year old sister.

        I found a site where I could download the manual for free. I read the manual. I then down loaded itunes. I took a rest or two to find out what to do next. So I finally found the courage and plugged the ipod in to the computer and did all the registration things. Then I rested awhile.

       My next step was to try and put music on the ipod. Copying the CD was a piece of cake. After that I was stuck. I couldn't find out how to get the music from the computer to the ipod. Finally I decided to look at a tutorial instead of the manual. Right away I found out how to sync my stuff to the ipod. And there I was listening to music on my ipod. I am so proud of myself!!!

    Now I have to figure out how to use all the other bells and whistles on my ipod. It seems to do everything except the dishes. But as in my first post, I'm in no great rush. I'll just savor the moment for now.

      Now I may not have had to go across the street for assistance from my teen aged neighbors but I'm sure they get the last laugh. I know they will be wrinkling up their brow and saying, "What was so hard about all that? Why does he have to brag about that? To use an ipod is so simple!" They won't read my blog but I know that somebody will tell them and they'll all have a good laugh.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Political Future With the Internet

         The world has been watching as the Tunisian regime was toppled  and another is threatened in Egypt. These events have been initiated, organized and promoted with heavy use of the Internet. It's been fascinating to watch developments as they unfold.

        These events have caused me to think about the influence of the Internet in a wide variety of situations. Voter turn out in democracies has been falling. Is the Internet a facility which could be used to increase voter participation in elections? I'm sure that the technology is present that could set up a valid voter system on the Internet. With higher voter participation the political landscape may fall on it's head. Politicians could use the Internet to their advantage as President Obama did in gaining the Democratic nomination and election to the White House. Voters could rapidly organize campaigns of recall if there were recall laws. Politicians would have to listen very carefully to the public and games played now would not be as effective.

       Now citizens are using the Internet  to bring down regimes. How long will it be before some strongman- dictator devises some scheme to maintain his grip on power by using the Internet? What will the next generation of social media look like? Face book and all the others are recent developments and their use has expanded enormously. When face Book and other social sites were introduced the use we see to day was unimaginable at that time. How will new technology which is in the pipes influence the use of present media? What new tactics will organizers come up with?

       Changes have been unexpected and rapid in Tunisia and Egypt. I'm sure that six months ago these events were not  imagined. What other countries will be changed as a result of assistance and use of social media? 

      I'm sure that I'm not the first person to ask these questions. I'm sure that many are studying the use of technology and what possibilities there are to bring about change in the political world. I just haven't looked for blogs or websites that deal with this topic.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Town Name Discoveries

      A blogger I follow has Osage Minnesota in the location. I don't know whether the blogger lives in Osage or if it's the server location.

      So the other day my curiosity led me to look in my atlas and find out where in the ???? Osage is. Now going to my atlas tells you I am rather ancient. So I looked in my trusty atlas and couldn't fine Osage. Finally I said, "Oh Look on the internet!" Osage, Minnesota came up right away and with it a total description of the town.

     Now as I was looking in my atlas and before I gave up I noticed a number of towns with the same name as towns in my home province of Saskatchewan. So I wondered did these places have any connection to each other. I knew that many Americans came to homestead in Saskatchewan. I also have read some local Saskatchewan history and remember that some places were named because of where some of the settlers had come from.

      So in about two minutes I found Wadena, Watson, Kelliher, Bruno, Ogema, Elrose, Benson, Atwater, Belle Plaine and Ceylon. All of these are also place names in Saskatchewan. I researched one, Wadena. And yes, the first Settlers had come from Wadena, Minnesota and had named the place Wadena because that's where they came from. One wonders if the settlers were so attached to the area they came from that they used the name to make themselves feel better or if they were short on imagination and creativity?

    No matter it was still an interesting little discovery. I also wonder if the Minnesota names came from somewhere else?