Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Year's Eve that Changed My Life

      In my family the New Year's tradition was fairly standard. There was no celebration of New Year's Eve. On New Year's day there was a traditional family day. Mom's cousin and her family would come over and a big turkey dinner was eaten at noon. All afternoon we visited, played games and nibbled. Since we were farmers the men would leave to "do the chores" around five PM. In other words they went to tend their livestock. Then about 6:00 PM we had a rather lavish cold plate. More of the same until midnight when we had more lunch and the day ended. It was a complete day of feasting.

     Once I left the family so that I wasn't able to be home for festivities, I had to try something different. So I was introduced to the New Year's Eve party with dining and dancing and drinking lots of "pop."

    Now the New Year's Eve that changed my life happened rather innocently. There was nothing earth shattering. There was no epiphany. There were no great resolutions. I needed somebody to take to the New Year's Eve party. I tried to phone a certain nurse but I guess she was on shift and I couldn't reach her. My friend was in the same boat. We were moaning about this to a public health nurse who lived in our building. She said, "I'll see what I can do for you guys". Now Merle had a wicked sense of humor. she would set these up as blind dates. We didn't know who we were going to end up with. If it was somebody we really didn't want we were ready to run out the door. We you guessed it. Merle got the girl I had been trying to phone.

    Now the rest of the story is that the nurse I took to the party became my wife! So New Year's Eve 1964 was the first date I had with my wife. That certainly changed my life forever..

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Marking Milestones with Celebration.

       In just a few hours a very well celebrated milestone of the year is about to be recognized and celebrated. We emphasize New Years by celebrating the Eve and also the first day of the year. Some bloggers have already written a post on New Year's Eve or New Years Day. Most people are very aware of the new year even if they don't celebrate.

      For many it is a time to stop and take stock of their life. In the past year what are their achievements? What are their losses? What are they going to do in the New Year? Do they want to improve themselves in the New Year?  How will they change in the next year? There is much agonizing of resolutions to be made for the next year.

     There are other milestones that we like to recognize. Who would forget Thanksgiving? There are different dates for Thanksgiving and each culture has their own spin on what Thanksgiving means.

     We put tremendous importance on birthdays, anniversaries and deaths. The first two we like to celebrate.      New Years has a special significance to me as that's the first date I had with my wife. So Dec 31 of 1963 bis an important date for me. It is difficult to put our losses out of our mind when loved ones birthdays or day of death come around. These are all times when we have reason to stop and look at our present stage in life. Who hasn't made the birthday wish?

    We seem to need to recognize important dates to help us think back to what has happened in our life. We celebrate and mark our achievements. We also take stock and look to the future and how we can survive and prosper.

     So I am a few hours early for New Year's Eve, and I'm listening to classical music which is celebrating the new year. I had never thought that  there would be two hours of classical music.

      So celebrate the passing of 2012 and welcome the coming of 2013.

      Happy New Year to everybody and I wish everybody a prosperous 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

What in the World?

     Did you ever get the gift where you said,"What in the world is this thing?" I got such a gift this year and the puzzling thing was that came from  someone who is and excellent gift giver.

    So the box said, "Stereo speaker and something about ipod."  Now I like my ipod and the ear buds with it. I get to hear music the way I like it. It's clear and I can hear all parts of the music. Why would I want a speaker for my ipod?
The mysterious box

    So today I got around to opening the box and going through the material with the stereo speaker. The directions were clear except that you need more than trifocals to see the print. They must really want to conserve forests these days when they make the print so small. 

    I did well until I was to connect the ipod to the device . I took my cord to hook the ipod to the computer to plug into the stereo. Something's wrong here. These don't match! They're two female ends. So I thought oops somebody has sent me something that I don't have all the parts for. I checked a little further and then said, "Oh Ya. I plug the ipod into this device not a cord." After that everything worked and it was simple.
The gizmo beside the box

     It wasn't until I turned the device on and listened for a few minutes that it hit me what the purpose of the stereo speaker was for. So it allows you to listen to your music without being attached to the ear plug! I like to sit at the computer and listen to music but when I want to get up and go to another place in the house it's a small inconvenience to take off the ear phones.

     So my, "What in the world is this thing?" turned out to make sense after all.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hush of Christmas Eve

     All my life I have sensed a certain hush, quietness and peace as Christmas Eve approaches and takes place.

      As a child we were busy before Christmas preparing for school  and Sunday school concerts. At home there were furious preparations in the baking department. Gifts were on display and our little attentions were drawn many times in great expectation. So the time leading up to Christmas was busy and terribly exciting for a little boy. It was magic.

     In that era and the location we lived in, life was much simpler. We had one small country store that didn't have electricity. No bright lights there. Our transportation was via two ancient farm horses. They may have attained the blinding speed of four or five miles per hour. There wasn't a traffic jamb or great amount of traffic noise.. only the harness squeaking and slapping and the horses hooves crunching in the snow. No clip clop of horse shoes or fancy rig... just a farm type bob sleigh and box. This form of transportation was slow and quiet. 

     Even though our life was very quiet there was still the hush and quietness of Christmas Eve. It was noticeable even for a little boy.

     After high school I've spent most of my life in an urban area. Yes, roads had been improved so that cars could be used for transportation although there wasn't a lot of traffic. Much brighter lighting came with the supply of electricity. Christmas was more commercialized. I would make my way home to the farm and sense the hush of Christmas Eve. 

    Later I had my own children and experienced their concerts and excitement of Christmas. I relived the same experiences of excited children. I became involved in preparing for Christmas. Stores were still not open in the evenings. Evenings were still quiet. We received our son by adoption three days before Christmas. We were not planning to go home for Christmas and my wife was booked for shifts over the holidays. We decided to surprise Mom and Dad and go home for Christmas with their new grandson. About three hours from our destination we ran out of milk. We thought there'd be no problem to pick up milk as we went through the city. Wrong. Everything was closed for Christmas Eve.. We finally got some milk in a restaurant that was open.

    Since I was a teacher the school time up to Christmas holidays was hectic concerts, exams excited kids. Christmas Eve really did seem peaceful.

    Now the stores are open evenings seven days a week. We seem to have to have many cars and drive them constantly. There's a constant roar from traffic. Brilliant lights are everywhere.

    I still sense the hush of Christmas Eve. 

   So this Christmas Eve I hope that everyone senses the hush and peace no matter how or if they celebrate Christmas. It would be my hope that we find peace in ourselves , person to person and with all other people on this earth.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

   Winter solstice is a magical day of the year. It's the day of the year when we have the least number of sunlight hours. For an outdoors person like me it's a notable day. For me the sun rose at 8:43 and set at 4:35. It will be a few days before the day light starts to increase. We had a clear sunny day with the temperature around minus 18 C(0 F).

    Many ancient cultures recognized the shortest day of the year and had it identified fairly accurately. There were numerous types of celebration depending on the culture. They recognized that the days were going to get longer and they celebrated even though in northern areas they knew that the worst of the winter season was ahead of them.

     So today I have some reason for a quiet celebration. Sadly we do not have any formal recognition of this day. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Birds and a Birder

     I have been a birder for most of my life. I have done the Christmas bird count for about 35 out of the last 43 years. I've also done many May species count quite often.

    Last Sunday was our bird count. I got 12 species and about 150 birds. They also had a potluck supper in the evening.
We did have a rich potluck supper.

We also had a contest with prizes.

     What I was thinking about as I counted were the changes that have taken place in the area I count in. The area is a deep heavily wooded ravine with some open spots. It ranges in width from 1 km (5/8 mi) t0 .5 km (5/16 mi). When I first went through this area it was extremely quiet and secluded. The city has grown from 25000 at that time to 100000 today. There are still very few people in the ravine but traffic noise has increased about 100 times.

     I find my birds first by listening so with all the traffic noise it's hard to hear birds.  Next I use motion. Since many of the  spruce are 25 M (80 ft. ) high it's hard to see in the tops of the trees. I'm sure that the other day there were kinglets and crossbills in the tree tops but I couldn't catch sight of them. I'm sure that there are black backed woodpeckers in the area because I see evidence of sawdust at the bottom of the trees which indicates black backs have been feeding.The overall number of birds has been decreasing. I still get a similar number of species each year.

     Then I suddenly thought , "What about the counter? Has the counter changed?" Then I had to admit that my hearing is about half what it was when I first counted in the area. Then I had to admit that my eyesight is maybe only 60% of what it was.

     So if I put all these things together I would suggest that they get another bird counter! However, I like birding and if I didn't count this area it wouldn't get counted. Besides that it keeps me young!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sometimes I Break the Rules

    Since it's naughty or nice time, I thought I might have a better shot at nice if I admitted something! Since it's the season for merry making , I could tell a story about parties. Some people may have guessed where I'm going.

    My whole teaching career was at the middle school level. Middle school kids just have to have dances. It's a very big deal with them.

    At the beginning I went reluctantly and did my hour shift of supervision. It wasn't fun.

    Later I became involved with organizing and running dances. This was different . It was fun. I realized how much fun kids had at dances and how much of a social learning experience it was when my kids were in middle school.

    My specialty at the dances was looking after the door. Principals were very concerned about everybody having to pay admission. Kids had to be in the dance by 7 PM . Anybody after 7 PM didn't get in and nobody was let out unless they were going home. Pretty clear instructions?

    I would get my crew of kids to do the door. They took the money and stamped hands. I watched to see that all of the kids belonged to our school. We had Most of the kids  in the gym in 15 or 20 minutes and then my little crew would want to leave and dance. Fair enough. I was left to supervise the door.

    Now there would always be a few kids hanging around the door and they were a nuisance. They would want to talk to somebody or some other lame excuse to hang around. The principal would tell them to leave but in one minute they were back.

    Now I thought that it would be less of a nuisance if these kids hanging around the door were inside. First, I knew some of them didn't have money. So I discreetly singled them out one by one and let them in the dance for free on one condition...don't tell anybody.  Next I picked  one or two more who had money but were going to make a poor choice by hanging around with no goodniks  so I got these guys in late. By this time there were only two or three kids from another school and they would disappear. 

    Now you might say, "Oh ya. These kids will always try to get in for nothing."  It never happened!

   So I broke the rules and let kids in late and for nothing. On the other hand we all got what we wanted. I didn't have a hassle at the door. The kids got in the dance. The nuisances outside disappeared. The principal thought I did a good job.

     So it was a Christmas dance for the kids. So now I'm not sure what the balance is. Was I bad guy for breaking rules or a good guy for allowing kids to have fun?

Friday, December 14, 2012

What Do Old Skaters Do at Christmas?

     Well, old skaters have a party at Christmas! I have posted often about my pleasure from skating. I have emphasized how supportive the group is. So in mid December we invite all former skaters and their spouses to the rink and we have a sumptuous lunch. with all kinds of home baked goodies. the Rec Department remembers us with donuts. But most of all we are very excited to see everybody and have a visit.

The tough job of getting skates on in the dressing room.

Some fancy skating!
Here they are again!
So many decisions!
A great table of goodies!

 Now I almost feel like I should rename my blog "Snow and Ice" but this group is a very warm one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phantom Followers

      There are many things that intrigue me about blogging. Maybe too many things? I have written a few posts on blogging, the latest being on comments. Now I'm wondering about phantom followers? Everybody has them.

      There are people who follow my blog who are mysteries. They just appear. There's no blog with them, no contact, no indication that they read the blog and no comments. They must have some reason for following my blog or maybe they accidentally followed me! You start to wonder if they are real followers or just some digital code of some kind that got lost.

     Now some of these little mysteries have ulterior motives. They are pedaling something on their blog. Some wish to sell travel, pictures, art or any number of things. However, I make a very poor customer. I also will not give their blog any exposure. 

    Some people may think I'm a phantom follower too. Sometimes when I follow somebody it doesn't show that I have a blog. I've had people like that and some I have accidentally found commenting on some one's blog and then when I click on them I find they have a  blog. So that could be some of the mystery. 

    Another phantom is myself. I'm down twice as a follower of my blog. This happened when I knew very little about blogging. I'm going to have to find out how to delete myself. 

    Now I see nothing wrong with someone following me and not making any comments. Some people just like to look at the material and that's fine. Very few of my relatives make comments even though they are fairly active readers. They are not bloggers and that makes it a little more difficult to leave a comment.

   I guess I'm going to have to cool my intrigue with phantom followers and let them do their quiet thing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snow Can Protect You

      Since I live in a snowy area and am a bit of an outdoors person I get to experience snow. 
As a little farm kid in the 40's and 50's, I played in the snow all winter long. I spent five years in the Arctic with long seasons of snow. I cross country ski every chance I get. I've learned how to live with snow. 

     What gets me to do a post on how snow can protect you,  is that I find many people think of snow as being cold. Well, it may be cold out when we have snow, but snow itself doesn't make you cold. In fact, you can use snow to keep warm!

     Igloos can give you shelter and keep the temperature just above freezing when it's minus 40 C(minus 40 F). I've been in igloos but never stayed overnight in one. Snow is an excellent insulating material, so when you have a little heat from a small stove  and a couple of humans, the heat is  kept inside. Snow is also very strong. You can stand on top of good igloo. I was very proud of my colleague who built an igloo and stood on it. All of his students cheered. As an aside, rabies sometimes spreads to the husky dogs from the foxes. Inuit know when a dog isn't behaving properly and might have contacted rabies. They build a small igloo and tie the dog inside. If the dog's still alive in the morning, it's okay. If it had rabies it's dead.

      Igloos are used on the tundra where there are no trees. The wind blows the snow into very hard drifts and solid snow building blocks can be cut. About half the igloo height is below snow level and half above. they are usually about 2 m (6 t.) high. In the bush they do not use igloos  because the snow is soft and powdery and will not make blocks. Canvas or skin tents are used. There's lots of wood around and they use a small wood stove for a little heat. The tent will be much colder than the snow house. I've tented in below freezing and find the ground the coldest. If you can put your tent on snow it's much warmer. 

     I taught some outdoor ed. and we showed the kids how to build a quinzee. A large pile of snow is made. The snow hardens over night. The next day you hollow out the pile of snow and you have a very snug snow house. 

    A third snow shelter is the snow cave. Snow caves are usually used in the mountains where there are huge drifts of snow. Just start shoveling out a cave and you will have yourself a snug shelter. Brian Keating from the Calgary zoo had a New Year's tradition of going into the back country, making a snow cave, and spending New Year's eve with his wife! Cool eh?

    Now I've explained, for all the people who worry about me getting cold in the snow, that snow is actually something that can keep you warm. You can quit worrying about me now.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sometimes I Don't Want to go to function

      There are certain things that I would rather not go to. They may be excellent events but I'm not interested in them and I don't need or want to attend the function. 

     One such incident happened yesterday. One of the local malls puts on a free senior's appreciation lunch . I didn't want to go to the  free lunch!

     Well, why wouldn't I like a free lunch and why did I go anyway?

     My manager is big on free stuff. If poison was free she'd be the first in line. So yesterday she wanted to be at the mall to line up for the free lunch. Now here's the catch. My manager doesn't drive. The transit service isn't the best here. We have buses every twenty minutes but which twenty minutes? Since we don't use the bus how do you get across the city on  a bus? It was really cold yesterday so old Red felt sorry and offered to take the manager to the mall. Since it's across town it didn't make much sense to drop her off and come back again.

     I had told the manager that I would drop her off but I wouldn't stand in line or eat anything. Well, I know that one doesn't work because my manager will be a softy and pick up two plates of stuff. I will thank her and eat the stuff.

     So what's the big deal? I happen to be somewhat wary of free stuff. It's usually junk! Now I know the people at the mall went to a great expense and effort. I appreciate that.  I don't like triangly sandwiches that have mayonnaise and margarine on them. I don't like Styrofoam plates and plastic forks. I don't like crowds and in particular lineups. At 10:30 there were about 200 people lined up for the 11:30 start. There was entertainment and I wasn't too keen on the performances.This was definitely not my type of event.

    Now seniors also get a free pictures with Santa. I'm a little past getting pictures with Santa...been there done that. But guess who had to get her picture taken with Santa?

     Now I am a senior. Being with 400 other seniors should be  a bonus. I didn't know anybody and it was not one of those functions were you had an opportunity to mix. Being alone in a crowd isn't my idea of fun.

    Now I admit that there are times when I don't want to go somewhere that I can invent some pretty lame excuses. For this function I would rather have been any place else.

    Now I know some people will say, "You're nuts. That sounds like a perfectly good event to go to." Other people may not be so kind as to just say , "You're nuts!" Other things could be said that are worse than nuts.

    So there I am ...whining again! I feel better now.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lighter Christmas Preparation

    In a previous post described how I worked so hard in preparing for Christmas by bringing lots of snow.

    Today I will show you some preparation that took much less work than bringing snow. I have put the lights on my house! I don't put many lights on the house. I get them up about the middle of November and try to pick a warm spell. Now it's early December and time to turn on the lights.

If you look hard there are lights on the house
The little birch got in the way
The birch is still in the way
Look hard and you will see the house lights
The house lights are really there
The lamp with a cap of snow

And after putting up lights I went to a lot of work and took pictures of the whole affair

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fresh New Snow

     Yesterday we got about 15 cm (6 in.) of fresh snow. We had a good snow cover before and this added to the accumulation. My ski trail is in excellent condition. I had to get busy with the snow shovel!

     Temperatures have been  from minus 15 ( 2 F) to minus 10(12 F) . The sun set this afternoon at 4:25 and will rise tomorrow morning at 8:27 AM so that means we have 7 hours and 58 minutes of sun. We lose another two minutes in the afternoon and then it stops. The sun sets at 4:23 for about 7 days and then we start gaining in the afternoon again. We still lose time in the morning. We do get long beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

My heavily loaded juniper.
A little snow on the roof!

Up the snowy street.

Further up the snowy street

Spruce full of snow

I'm enjoying my snow although many people disagree with me. I hope you enjoy  a look at the snow.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bloggers Block

    I am suffering from blogger's block. In fact, I've been suffering blogger's block off and on for some time now. I may have suffered from blogger's block since I first stated blogging.

    We've all heard of writer's block. We've probably all suffered from that too. As I was thinking of this post I thought I should do some research and look up writer's block. Sure enough . There were many sites on writer's block and most of them had ten easy ways to overcome writer's block. Then I thought , maybe I should look up blogger's block. Sure enough ...dozens of site on blogger's block. Most of them were carbon copies of writer's block. Darn! I thought I'd invented a new term. Now I'll have to research and see how many years behind I am.

    Back to blogger's block. I sometimes have two or three topics for a post in my head. For some reason I may not be able to write the posts because I am waiting for something. I may need some pictures. A series of posts I never made was my trip to Chicago and my daughter's wedding. It was a fantastic trip and I had many pictures. What I needed first was one picture from one of my friends. I asked him two or three times and never got  the right pictures. After  while the fire was gone from my belly and I didn't make the posts. If I'm waiting  for some reason I can't seem to come up with new topics. I seem to be stuck until I unload the two or three topics in my head.

   So here I am with blogger's block so I'm writing about it until I get the next series of photos I need.

    Funny thing is that I don't seem to see any of you with blogger's block!