Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 29: A Day of Opportunity

     February the 29th has always been a rather interesting day since it only comes once every four years. I am well aware of why the extra day is needed. I also find the birthday thing for people born on the 29th rather interesting. 

     I'm sure that if we Googled Feb.29 th we would find all kinds of interesting trivia about the date. 

     I heard one interesting piece of trivia on a radio station this morning. So here goes. Feb.29 th is a day for women to propose marriage to a potential spouse. That's right women may ask someone to marry them on Feb.29. 

    Now I'm sure some people will run out right now and make a marriage proposal. Just think how this might work for someone who has a very hesitant male beau?  The question can finally be popped and who knows the great day of marriage may arrive. 

    Since I've spread this valuable piece of information, let me know how it works for you. Has this just made your life complete?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Boy Who Carried His Own Arm.

    The other day I took my wife to an orthotic and prosthesis place to get her insoles adjusted. We had to wait quite awhile for the the glue to dry. There were all kinds of devices  in the shop. There were many leg and knee braces. There was the odd leg or foot that was used as a template to make various devices. While I was looking at these devices I thought of a student that I had.

    I was working after class with a few kids. All of a sudden somebody said, "Mr. Kline, there's and arm on the floor." Sure enough an arm was under one of the desks. We all went down to the desk to inspect the arm. I thought it was likely something from the drama dept. We picked up the arm to examine it. At that time Daryl came in the room with a sheepish grin on his face and said, "I forgot that." while pointing to the arm. Daryl left right away. I had a feeling as if I had been someplace I wasn't supposed to be for looking at a kid's arm. 

     This happened about the third week in Sept. I had not noticed that a student was missing an arm or using a prosthesis. So much for my keen observations.

     For the next three years you would see Daryl coming down the hallway with his binder and his arm. sometimes Daryl left his arm in the locker. Most of the time he just carried it. I could understand why Daryl carried his arm. It was extremely heavy. For an 11 or 12 year old it was just too uncomfortable. Daryl was born missing the part if his right arm below the elbow. There was a 3 or 4 inch stub past the elbow. The stub would move on the elbow like a regular lower arm. Daryl did not show any discomfort with his missing arm. In fact, he was a very pleasant student and was well liked by his classmates. 

    After middle school I did not see Daryl again. I did meet some of his distant relatives and they told me that Daryl was married and had two children. It was nice to hear that Daryl had for all intents and purposes lived a normal life.

     I wish that digital cameras were around in those days as I would have had more pictures from my school days. I probably would have had a picture of Daryl.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Snow: Embrace It or Fight It

       My last post was on the snow fall that we had the previous day. Some of the comments made me think about things again. I know that I have some valued southern followers. One comment went something like this..."I rarely see snow and never have enough for a shovel."

       The shovel got me off on a tangent(Whatever they are.) We have many things designed to fight snow starting with the shovel that I use to move snow out of places I don't want it. I have snow boots, snow tires, warm jacket and tuque. All of these things and more I use to fight snow. Our culture despises snow. We spend millions on snow removal. So there we are fighting snow.

      We should embrace snow...love it! Ski, snowshoe, walk ...just get outdoors in the snow. We should discover ways to use snow. Snow is great stuff for sculptures. Snow is easy to move and carve. Snow was used to lean against the outside of a house for wind protection and insulation. My parents melted snow for water to do all washing .Instead of moving snow out of the way do some research on how to make a safe road surface with snow.
My private ski trail
Neighbor Alf and his snowmen
Red and his wonderful skis
Skating at Bower Ponds
Sliding at Bower Ponds

     The Inuit for thousands of years have embraced show. They use snow to aid their survival. Snow is so important to them that they have many different words for snow...drifting snow, slushy snow, powdery snow, snow banks, snow drifts, snow suitable for building houses...the list goes on. As an aside there is some debate over the whether there are actually many different words for snow in Inuit languages. For igloos they looked around the area for some very hard snow that was fairly deep. They used a hand saw to cut blocks and a large knife to shape the blocks so that they had the correct bevel. Small chunks of snow were used to plug cracks or where the blocks didn't quite fit. In twenty minutes they had a nice snow house. The snow house completely stopped the wind and has insulation value as they would have the temperature just above freezing. Now they slept with no clothes on...just lots of skins above and below. Clothing was hung up to dry over night. I've been in snow houses and they were light and comfortable. Now that's embracing snow that I can admire.

      Now I know I could change snow for heat. I'm sure that in desert  or tropical areas people have learned to embrace the heat and use it to advantage for their life.

     For my choice I'll stick with the snow. I use a combination of fighting and embracing. I enjoy snow enough to to put up with the not so fun stuff.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Into Every Life a Little Snow Must Fall.

      We received about 8 cm (3 in.) of snow yesterday. It  was beautiful snow as it came down heavily in the evening so in the street lights made it look  as if the sky was full of snow. The snow was light and dry. I shoveled about 9 :00 PM in case we got more later on. 

Paper birch

Mountain ash and red berries

Another mountain ash 

The green ash
      This morning the trees were laden with snow. Now if I'd been out half an hour earlier there would have been more snow on the trees. I also found out that I have to play with the camera so that the snow on the tree branches would show up better. I thought the brilliant sunshine would give me brilliant snow pictures. Not that easy!

     I hope you enjoy the snow in my life.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Male and Female Brains

    There was an excellent post on   Far Side of Fifty recently. Far Side described male brains as boxes and female brains as boxes. She explained how these brains worked and gave concrete examples of her husband and herself.

     The post caught my eye because I have had a long interest in the topic. As a teacher I was aware of the different  characteristics between girls and boys as far progress was concerned. I tried to include situations in my classroom that would accommodate both boys and girls. It wasn't a one size fits all. Before I retired in 1997 there was some pretty interesting research on brains. There were looking at the various brain areas and how those areas performed.

      A very long time ago I read a book called "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus."  The author had done some major research into the differences in communication between men and women. This book offered some very practical strategies when it came to improving communication.

     Now Far Side's post helped to explain something for me that has bothered me for a long time. Home Farm Girl insists on carrying a clothe bag almost every place she goes. This bag has a supply of plastic bags for those grocery stores which do not supply bags. She also keeps lists, gloves, coupons and large variety of other items. There is much rummaging through the bag when something is wanted. She wants the gloves. Oops she can't find the gloves in the bag. We're in the car and she's turning the bag inside out and freaking. By the time I say should we stop the car and go back, she finds the gloves! I can see taking this bag to the grocery store but I fail to see why it has to go every place. So the bag goes to doctor appointments and I'm left "holding the bag" in the waiting room and receiving the puzzled stares from other patients. 

    Now I have an explanation for the bag. Since female brains work like a ball, all the strings from the ball are connected to all the various items in the bag. There ! The problem has been explained. That'll do me!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Discovery Far Back in My Genealogy

       Two areas of interest to me are local history and my family tree. I read a tremendous amount of local and western Canadian history. I have done little genealogy research but others have and I find their discoveries fascinating.

     The relatives on my father's side were German  Lutherans who went to the Ukraine and Russia at the end of the 1700's. They were invited by Catherine the Great to come and farm so that more food could be produced in the area to feed the people. They were also used to teach the Russian and Ukrainian people agricultural methods that would be more productive. The Germans were promised  three  things: keep  the German language, practice their Lutheran faith and not serve in the army. These people were very devout and so their religious faith was most important to them. Language is what helps a  culture to survive. These Lutherans were pacifists and did not want to participate in any war. 

     Over the years gradual changes took place. Finally, it was required that the Germans would have to join  the Russian army. My Grandfather was in the Russian army. In the late 1800's many of the German people began looking for some other place to live. Land was available in the United States and free land was available in the Canadian west. My family, the Kleins, sent some of the men over to investigate the opportunities. They liked what they saw and sent back information for the this large family to come to Canada. From about 1898  to 1910 my family came to Canada. My Great Grandfather brought all seven of his adult children and their families. 

     I was never able to find anybody beyond my Great Grandfather. I wanted to know if he had brothers or sisters. I wanted to know who his parents were. All records were kept by the Lutheran church. 

     The other day I stumbled upon a website that had what I was looking for and more. One section of my family had done the research and got back as far as my Great, great, great,great Grandfather! How about that? Was I excited to find this information. George who as the greatest was born and died in the 1700s and no dates were found for his birth or death. Gotlieb  was my Great, Great, Great Grandfather and was born in 1791 and died in 1856. To me this was amazing information.

     Now a friend read this and wanted to know what they did. Were they rich, horse thieves, swindlers or drunks? I had to tell him that I really didn't know but my suspicion was that they were hard working peasants.  So I didn't find any surprising things in the closet but it was super just to find their names. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Doesn't Take Much to Keep an Old Guy Busy

      The other day when I was having coffee with my skating group one of them asked me if, "I was keeping busy?" My reply was,"It doesn't take much to keep an old guy busy." Then I launched into my story to prove my point. 

     The other day when I was having breakfast the top part of a screw dropped out the  chair. The chair didn't collapse immediately so I continued with my breakfast. When I got up to get my toast and coffee I checked the bottom of the chair and all the screws were there. I checked the back of the chair and found where the missing screw had come from. So I finished my breakfast , read the paper and did my crossword puzzles. Fixing the chair would be the first job after lunch.

     I thought about the solution for the chair all morning. Plan A was to get my trusty vice grips and latch onto the  part of the screw poking out of the wood. When I got the chair back off I discovered the screw had broken off below the wood surface. Okay plan B...drill the screw out. Plan B wasn't successful either. The drill bit would slip off the screw into the wood. Now Home Farm Girl is my manager and director. Home Farm Girl suggested that we glue the screw together. I politely told her that I didn't think glue would work. At that time I still didn't have a plan C so the glue solution stayed on the table. We both were stuck for a plan C. After coffee Home Farm Girl came up with a super idea. She suggested that we angle drill a hole beside the old screw. Right away I could see that this was the ticket. So I carefully drilled a hole so that the screw would not come out through the leather covering. 

     Now the next bridge to cross was to find a suitable screw. Of we went to the Canadian Everything Store. We thought we needed a # 10 screw 1 3/4  in long and it had to be brass. There were lots of # 10 screws but none 1 3/4 in long. Off to store number two. Nothing there. Store number three had a sizer for screws so I checked and the screw I had was  # 8. There were lots of 1 3/4  #8 screws. 

      So we started for home. By this time it was close to 5 PM so Home Farm Girl said I don't feel like going home to make supper. Let's go to Five Guys for Fries and to A&W for a burger. Well it sounds like winner but I said, "Nothing doing." I'm not going in to just order french fries. I really hated to be so mean but I couldn't accept her suggestion. Well the solution for supper ended without a war and we went home and had hot dogs.

      So you see one little screw kept me busy all afternoon! Some days are like that when you're a do it your selfer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Limited Essay Ability

      One of my followers jokingly asked me the other day if I would like to write some essays for her. That question brought back my sad essay writing history.

      As I wrote before I went to a one teacher high school. We had one room with grades ten , eleven and twelve. The teacher taught all subjects to all three grades. If it was math period he taught a lesson to each grade and gave assignments. When I think back these teachers had to be awesome. These teachers were not highly qualified. They were just dedicated and hard workers. The two teachers I had did not have degrees. They were both majoring in math so their strong area of teaching was in math. They worked hard in the other subject areas but they could not do as well as the math. As a result my best marks were in math. When it came to English I barely scraped by. I do not remember writing an essay of any kind. We did the odd descriptive paragraph.

     When I entered university the challenge was monstrous and the learning curve steep. We were assigned essays of opinion and many other papers that required first class writing skills. Needless to say my first attempts at essay writing were pathetic ...so pathetic that I failed first year English. Because I'm an eternal optimist I repeated first year English and had an instructor who gave me assistance to improve my writing skills. I also realized that I had to put more effort into the class and also visited the prof to get help with my papers. 

     So when someone asked me if I would like to write some essays, it triggered the memory of a very stressful experience.

    So in high school I did well and math so I majored in math when I went to  university. After I had been teaching awhile, I asked the Principal if he would give me an English class. When I got my timetable I had three English and one math so I was somewhat alarmed. I talked to the English dept head and he was quite pleased that I had been given the assignment and encouraged me to take the assignment instead of going to the principal and asking for a change. From that time on I taught English. I also became the English dept. head for about seven years!! I have to say that teaching English was my most satisfying teaching assignment.

     So if I'd have had a high school teacher who was an English expert I would have had my best marks in English and wouldn't have had a challenge with essay writing.

    And to my follower who wanted me to write essays for her...the answer is still no.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Using Internet for Research

        A few days ago one of the comments I received had, "You did your research!" in it. Now I took it as a complement. Then I began thinking about what I had done on the Internet and what it was like before the Internet. 

       Today you can type in a few key words and come up with many sites which may have the information you are looking for. You have to  look at the source and decide whether it is reliable. What's really cool is that with each site there are usually links which take you to related sites. In other words the search engine does the leg work for you. Much of the information is easily downloaded. You can link your material to a site and your reader just clicks and they are at the site you used. On my previous post I was looking up dandelions. I found far more information that I had ever imagined so I linked my post to the site and if anyone wanted to check the site they could.

      Now I think back to when I was a child in a one room country school. There were probably 50 books in the bookcase. Most of them were fiction. By the time I was in Gr. 5 I had read "Planes for Bob and Andy" twenty-five times and wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. I didn't get into a proper library until I went to Teachers' College. We were told about the Dewey decimal system and how to find a book and sign it out. That's okay, but we had no  idea in our head about what we wanted to discover unless an instructor had given us an assignment. 

      Today schools have various forms of computers and make use of the Internet in many very practical ways.    When I last taught I used the computer for creative writing. The Internet was for the use of a dictionary. The Internet has come along way since then. Now there's room for kids to fool around on the Internet. Soon after I retired I went back to the school to use a computer. A teacher had his class in the computer room working on a social studies assignment. The two kids beside me looked for jokes the whole period. They even had the nerve to print off jokes. Their teacher checked them several times and they assured him they didn't have any problems!

     Now we have large public libraries with huge collections. One can browse through an area and find books that may be interesting. You still only guess if the book has what you're looking for. It's slow ponderous work. You do not get clues that spur you on to other ideas. Now the entire library catalog is on the net. I can browse in the library without leaving home. I have access to any book in a public library in Alberta. All I have to do is go down to the library and pick it up when it comes to my local library.

      Today with the Internet you can sit at home and discover new topics and add knowledge to things you already know without having to leave your house. Convenience? You can search the net in any twenty-four hours of the day. You don't have to wait until the library opens.

      So a simple comment the other day made me think how fortunate we have become to be able to use the Internet for research at any level... and even find some good humor from time to time!

Monday, February 6, 2012

More on: Did We Name Thing the Right Way?

      I had a part that I forgot to put in on my previous post on naming living things. Since I remembered it I thought I would add it in a separate post.

      The names aboriginals gave living things varied a great deal. Names changed with different tribes . And then there were many different native languages. Names were variable since they had an oral culture and history rather than things written down. These differences would have certainly caused some problems. I'm sure that some solution could have been arrived at to overcome the variety of names.

      In some cases we have several  common names  given to living things. Again the reasons for different names are similar to the reasons in the above paragraph. For example, in Western Canada we have Amelanchier alnifolia which we call Saskatoons. Americans call Saskatoons June berries as well  a few other names.. Americans wonder what we're talking about and Canadians wonder what their talking about. The Cree name for Saskatoon was Misaskutum.

     Now my friend Bobby, who is a treasure of humor and wit, asked me for the aboriginal name for dandelions. I don't think Bobby likes dandelions. It might have something to do with his lawn. I should tell him about dandelion wine!  I  wasn't going to let him down with this information so I tried to look it up. I found more than I bargained  for. Dandelions are native to North America and Europe. I couldn't find any aboriginal name but I found a long history of dandelion names from many languages. In English dandelion comes from the French who called it dent-de-lion which became dandelion. Dent de lion means tooth of the lion. The French also called it pis-en-lit which means "piss in the bed."  the English didn't use that name.

     So you see  living thing names can take us many places. If you're looking at dandelion names you may get off the search at Portugal and travel through Portugal for a while before you get back to names.

    I had more fun with this post than I expected because it took me on a bit of a trip.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Did We Name Living Things the Best Way?

     With all due respects to Carl Linaeus and all life scientists past and present, I would suggest that we should or should have used the names aboriginals had for living things. Now I'm not suggesting that we abandon Linaeus's system. Linaeus's system works extremely well and is accepted and used world wide.

     When Europeans first went out to discover the world , settle it and tame the original peoples, they also took it upon themselves to not only name living things but to "discover them." Well, I have news for you ! Most living things were known by the original peoples in any part of the world. More than that, most living things had been named. And further than that, the original people had a very great knowledge about the living things. So because living things had names , why did Europeans take it upon themselves to rename things? This is where I suggest that we should or should have used the names for living things that were first given to them.

     Not only were the living things known and named but also the geographical locations were well named. Maps were in their heads. The other day I was writing about an  Inuit settlement I had lived in. When I was there it was called Wakeham Bay. Today it is called Kangiqsujuaq which means very large bay. That's exactly what it is ...a very large bay. The bay is 25 miles long and 8 miles wide at it's widest. So the original name makes much more sense. Mr Wakeham came along and since he didn't find anybody there decided to leave his name on it. Original place names were very descriptive and helped with finding the location. Having traveled with Inuit in both the eastern and the western Arctic I soon found out that they didn't bother with our maps, and had names for places and didn't have any difficulty to get anywhere they wanted.

     If we look at birds for example, we find all kinds of people who pinned their name to a species that had already been named...Spraque, Baird, Franklin, Bonepart, Thayer, Forster, Lewis, Wilson...and many more. These birds were well known and named before any of these people saw them. The Palliser Expedition occurred in western Canada in the 1860's. Much scientific work was done. It's amazing what these people did and what was found. They knew the plant families and classification, but since it was a new species to them they took it upon themselves to name it.

    Where I live the Cree language is still in use and quite healthy. Names for places and things are still very well known in their culture.

    If we use peyote as an example, we've kept the original name with a little bit of change. Peyote is classified under the Linaeus system with Latin names but the original name is used for the common name. Original peoples knew that peyote was good for many things. It has been proved scientifically that they were correct.

     So since many of the original names were very descriptive,  I think that we should have made an effort to find out what they were and use them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Finally Success in Internet Search

      This week I finally found success in a search that I have been pursuing for a few years.

      I had written in a previous post that I had taught in an isolated Inuit community from 1967 -1969. There were less than 200 people in the community. It was a two year period that had a tremendous impact on my life.

      At the time the settlement was called Wakeham Bay. Today it is called Kangiqsujuaq which means large bay. It is 1500 miles north of Montreal. We flew 1200 miles to an administration center and then another three hundred miles on a bush plane which banged along a 100 mile an hour. We landed on the sea and the idea was to hit the top of the swell and bounce to the top of the next swell until speed was reduced enough to settle into the water.  That was one of many things that contributed to the impact.

     For a few years after I left in 1969 there was some limited contact and then everything dried up. So for the last few years I have been searching the Internet. It was easy to Google and get a map and pictures, but I wanted to find out about the people. I  thought that they probably weren't on the Internet so I didn't really dig. What happened to my students?

     This week I finally made a hit and that led to many other leads. It was extremely gratifying to find that some of my former students had assumed significant leadership positions. One former student is the mayor. Some had excelled in business and others in the arts. I was very surprised to find out that they had been responsible for making a series of TV programs for the Inuit. It was also sad to learn that some of the older people had died. I had come to highly regard the adults at that time so to find the they had passed away was sad.

      In 1967 when I arrived the school had been open for five years. These people had only recently moved off the land into a settlement. They were still excellent and successful hunters. I was given some of the wild game and will remember the taste as well as their kindness and generosity. I had seal, arctic char, caribou, ptarmigan and mussels. I didn't like the mussels as they were very coarse but who could resist when some little kid with a runny nose showed up at the door with a pail of mussels. They always knew they would get fifty cents.

      The adults spoke only a few words of English. I used an interpreter. These people were talented
 sculptures with soapstone. Each day after school they would bring carvings which I bought for the Government. I always watch for carvings from that area.

     One fellow who I will never forget was the oblate missionary. He was Belgian and had a very French accent.  Pere Dion had to be extremely independent as the church support he received was limited. His parish was 10 to 20. He had been in the area for 12 years and knew all people well. It was fascinating to find that Pere Dion is still there and continuing the mission at age 89. About the only thing different is that he has a brilliant red sporty KIA. When I was there there were no roads and no vehicles.

     So this week was exciting as it took me back to some very fond memories. Even though I left Kangiqsujuaq 43 years ago the memories and influence are always with me. I still have some more searching to do.