Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to My American Daughter

     My daughter's life fits nicely into four sections. First, she lived at home until she finished High School. Second she spent 11 years attending university and working. Third, she came back to the city and taught for 7  years. Fourth, she moved to Chicago.

     When my daughter came back to town she was a well established adult. She insisted on having Thanksgiving at her house every year. She's a rebel and would not do the traditional Thanksgiving feast. She liked to try other things. So we had leg of lamb, steak, chicken, duck ... a variety , but never turkey. Thanksgiving at her house was always a good time. It was something to be thankful for.

    Now she does thanksgiving at a different time with different folks. She still has a great celebration. She still shares with everyone what she is thankful for.

    So Happy Thanksgiving to my American daughter! Happy thanksgiving to all my American readers. I am thankful that you follow me and share your blog.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Football Lost Me!

    Today is Gray Cup day in Canada. The final in the Canadian football League ( CFL ) is being played today. Football is a big deal in Canada. There are nine competitive teams and markets. The league has been in business for over 100 years. We could say that the game is well established in this country.

     However, I'm not watching the biggest game of the year in the CFL. I quit watching football a long time ago.

     I was a big fan of football. I played football in high school. I'm from Saskatchewan and was a big Saskatchewan Rough Rider's fan. I went to some games although I lived 200 miles from the city. The Rough Riders are in the Gray cup today. I'm not watching!

    I have watched some American football but I didn't get interested in it. American football has a huge following in Canada.

    What happened? I guess I changed and the game changed. 

    I lived in the arctic for five years. I was not able to follow the sport. I was still an avid Rough Rider fan. I moved again and was not in my team's area. I found other interests. Football gradually faded  away for me.

   I also found TV coverage to be a pain. There was too much talk from color men. There were too many long commercials. I just wanted to see the action. 

   So I have not watched football for at least 20 years. The game continues to grow. There are more fans than ever who enjoy the game. I'm happy that they get so much out of football. But foot ball for me is gone!

   My local followers will be razzing me tomorrow!

Friday, November 22, 2013

By Request

     Yesterday, Daniel, at the Pixel Collective featured photos of a number of water towers.  In my comment I told Daniel that we had a water tower  in Red Deer. So Daniel said, "Do a post and put in a recent photo. So here is Daniel's request."

The green Onion

     The official name of our water tower is the Horton Spheroid. Locally it's affectionately known as the Green Onion. It was built in 1959. It's  132 ft. high and holds 500 000 gal. of water. It's built in top of a reservoir which holds 2,300,000 gal. It was first built to provide water pressure for the town. Now it's just used for back up water storage. There are two tennis courts on top of the ground reservoir so you get some idea of the size.

    The green Onion wast built on a high point in the town so now it is visible from almost any part of the city. Strangely there's no sign in this water tower.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Don't (Can't) Sing

    The other day I listened to an hour long radio documentary about choral singing. They examined four different choirs and the values singers got out of the activity and what others received from the music. It was fascinating and got me thinking about music.

    Now it doesn't take much to get me thinking about music. I love music and I listen to a many different kinds of music. I not only like to listen to music but to listen to information about the music.However , I have absolutely no musical talent at all. I admire people who do have musical ability.

    The first time I remember participating in music was a disaster. In gr. 2 I got kicked out of the rhythm band! My brother and I were playing sticks. Somehow or other we got carried away and started hitting each other with the sticks. I must have been the aggressor and  my music career ended early. I also remember the pleasure of singing in Sunday School 

   So back to the documentary. I got thinking about how singing is so very important to people. People learn much about themselves as they sing. They have to take directions and cooperate with others to produce the music. Each singer has to know their part as well as the other parts. Then they have to sing their part and not the other guy's part. What talent and discipline! Each of the four choirs spent a tremendous amount of time practicing. Each choir had a specific goal. A youth choir got to sing in Carnegie Hall in a mass choir. Were these kids excited!

    I have had the privilege of sitting in a choir and to be surrounded by the music. It was awesome! It's a different sound  you  heard  from being  in the audience. It was "surround sound" that you heard with your body.

    I certainly support the teaching of choral music in schools. For many kids this is their only exposure to choral music. They learn to listen to themselves. In many cases they develop a life long skill and participate in many different areas.

   Many of you are singers. At this time of year you are working on beautiful Christmas music to be presented in the season. So enjoy your time learning the Christmas pieces and I will enjoy listening to you and think of all your hard work to make beautiful music.

   I would be curious as to how many of my readers are singers in some way. Do you sing in a group? Do you sing as you go about your work? Do you sing in the shower? Are you a professional singer?

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Surprising Position.

     As most of my readers know I was a teacher in Middle School for my whole career. I taught all core subjects except one and also a number of options. I also held down three department head positions over the years. I liked Dept. Head positions as you got to actively direct your program and select materials with staff. One department head position was a big surprise and a bit of a joke that I played on myself.
     I never found a  conference or professional development activity that I didn't like. These activities provided much personal and professional growth.

    Our jurisdiction decided to bring in and implement a health program. There were 6 parts to it and the main focus was more on getting along with people.  It was fun to teach as there was much role playing and debriefing. There were many excellent group activities and projects.

    Our Principal decided that for his school he would take one hour per week out of the language arts program and teach the health program in that hour. He would automatically have the teachers...the language arts (LA) staff.

    One day the LA dept. head asked me if I would like to go to a week long work shop on the new health program. He was supposed to go but had some lame excuse. Sure I would go. The program was more about teaching strategies than introducing the new health program.

    About a week after I got back the Principal called me in to tell me that he was going to set up a health Dept. and health Dept. Head. Would I like to be the Dept. Head. Okay sure! I was to see that all staff received professional development before teaching the new program and provide guidance for using materials. I believed it was a good program and was enthusiastic. 

    Now as most people know one of the six sections was called human relations and most kids referred to it as sex ed. It was a fun unit to teach and I think very worth while.

    We had to hold a parent night before we taught unit 6. Guess who got to run the meeting? The Dept. Head of course! I'd had lots of experience with parent meetings, but this one turned out to be a big challenge. There was an organized group who were adamantly opposed to teaching about birth control. Surprise!  Surprise! They dominated the meeting and vigorously pushed their agenda. We had no clue this would happen and were caught totally off guard. My principal wisely left me hung out to dry!

     So a position I got by surprise turned out to have a big curve in it that was thrown at me. I learned a lot through the experience although it was tough to go through. I still think the LA head and Principal worked together to set me up!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Prepared for Winter

    This weekend we are getting another winter blast. Yesterday we started with heavy wet snow and this morning started with the light dry snow. We've had about 25 cm( 12 in.) of snow. Needless to say I've been out shoveling snow. It's been good since it's not cold ...minus 10 C (12 F). 

We had limited visibility

     So I'm prepared as I have three snow shovels. If I don't like the color of one I can try another color.

Looking at the fence you can see how hard the snow is falling.

     It also got me thinking about my northern experience again. One of the first things I did when I arrived in the north was to get a local woman to make a traditional parka for me. It was one of the best things I did. I visited her and told her what I wanted. She looked me over and pictured me in a coat. She didn't measure me. The coat has a lining, duffel inside and outer cover. The hood is fringed with wolverine as it doesn't build up with frost. The hem is fringed with muskrat. The sleeves had muskrat trim but it wore out.

The coat is long and reaches close to the knees

   This coat was comfortable in all conditions. When outside I was warm. Inside you could sit for hours and not get hot. When in the Arctic I wore this coat about six months of the year.

I rarely wore anything under this coat unless I was out on a trip or out all day.

   I have replaced the lining and outer shell three times. That's not bad for a 50 year old coat.
Some coats were made of seal skin. I just have a sealskin for a decoration.

    When I came south I wore the coat because I was used to it. Gradually I quit wearing it and I haven't worn it for quite a few years.

   The coat brings back many memories for me of boat trips, snowmobile trips, hunting trips, snow shoeing and walking with the girls.

    Now the idea for today's post came from Darlin at My life for a Year. She had been out dancing last night at Moc Rock which is an aboriginal dance party. So I thought of my mukluks. When I went to look for them , I remembered I had donated them to the museum. Oh well , sometimes I make rash decisions. I won't give my coat away. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Prime Minister Harper: One Big Mistake

       For non Canadian followers you are welcome to skip this post as it is on Canadian politics.

       I very seldom comment on politics , but there comes a time when one has to speak out.

       I am very angry with Prime Minister Steven Harper. Steven Harper has some tremendous difficulties when it comes to communication. He evades questions. His answers are not connected to the question. He changes answers. This guy is a very poor communicator. Harper seems to think that by talking mumbo jumbo he fools people and can go on with his debatable policies. With the senate scandal, Harper has dodged, evaded and ignored question after question. He's provided no evidence. At least Duffy is coming up with emails and telling more about the issue. It's hard to believe someone who is extremely limited in his communication abilities.

      There are other issues where Steven Harper's credibility is severely stretched. Since the last general election there have been two issues that have been worrisome. Some of the Conservative candidates election spending has been over what is allowed. The Labrador Conservative member overspent his budget, resigned and was defeated in a bye election. Others have been accused of over spending and are fighting and delaying the issues as much as possible. Robo calls were done during the election to misinform voters. Those robo calls have a direct link to Steven Harper's party. Again the Harper party is delaying as much as they possibly can to provide evidence that is being requested by Elections Canada.

     I have watched with dismay the way Harper has treated our veterans. We have Afghan veterans who need support and treatment. They are being drummed out of the army as soon as possible so that the Conservative government doesn't have to pay for treatment or support. These veterans are given a lump sum payment and off they go. How mean and inconsiderate can you get?

    I expect to hear straight , honest talk from a Prime Minister. Is that too much to ask? I thought it should come with the territory.

    Steven Harper very seldom talks to the press. He limits conferences to five chosen questions. Is Steven Harper not confident enough to support his position? Is he showing a weakness? 

    It would seem to me that any Prime Minister has everything to gain and nothing to lose by open ,direct , and clear communication.

   I can no longer believe anything from This Prime Minister.

    I also find it unbelievable that the prime Minister's Office will find this little blog and check what I am saying?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Blog Problem

    I have recently had a blog problem. 

    Some of my followers, and maybe all of you seem to get a batch of my posts all at once. One person reported receiving three, another 6 and another 7. I think many people have been receiving the posts normally as far as I can tell from comments. Some comments came after each post was posted. It's a mystery to me as to why this happens. Is it my computer? Is it blogger? How do I fix this?

    I wouldn't send out many posts at one time. I'm sure followers wouldn't like that . So my apologies to those who received a lot of posts at once.

    If anybody knows anything about this problem let me know. There might be something I can do to prevent the big batches being sent out. Has anybody else had the same problem?

Sunday, November 10, 2013


      Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada. Many communities will be having various events to remember a variety of things.

     It's important to stop and remember that thousands of lives were lost in the two world wars and numerous little wars that go on all the time. I try to think of the of individuals who died. I can remember people who I knew. Many people cannot make a similar connection today but they can certainly pick individuals they didn't know and stop for a moment and try to remember what they were like. I think it's important to remember the brave individuals who lost their lives in battle.

    It's necessary to stop and think about the freedom we have and what it cost. We must maintain that freedom for those who fought and for ourselves. Having read some history, it must have been very scary that in the second World War things went well for Hitler.

    It's valuable to stop and think about the awfulness of war. This year we've had stories in our local papers and the old vets tell about how afraid they were . It took bravery to face the danger and it takes courage to admit  fears.

   The older I get the more meaningful remembrance becomes. I do not attend formal ceremonies. I prefer to be by myself and quietly remember and hope that our remembrance will go a long way to improve our world.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Runaround

     Like many people I have had a security light at my front door for a few years. For the last two years it would come on often ans stay on for for five or ten minutes. So I turned the light off. A few nights ago when it was Halloween, I wanted a light on so the kids could see where they're going. The light wouldn't come on.

    So it's time to get a new light.

     There was a ten year warranty on this light. My manager keeps all receipts and product information. So the next day she phoned the outlet we bought the light from. For most products, like lights, you take them back to the store and  get a new one.

     Now starts the runaround. She phoned the store. After a few false starts she finally got to customer service. The Bozo told her the store didn't exchange these lights and she would have to deal with the company. So he gave her a phone number that was wrong. We looked on the product booklet and found a number. Again runaround. You get one person and get put on hold and the line goes dead. Phone back again and somebody acts really dumb. Phone back again and get warranty. They say they don't look after this and you have to go to the technicians. Okay , the technicians say yes they look after warranty. The technician wanted us to put black tape over some eye and try it for a week and if it worked he would send us a gizmo for a permanent fix. If it didn't work, he'd give us a new one.

     Then my manager looked at the warranty again and it said , "Take the product back to the store for an exchange." So phone back to the store with the lousy phone system. This time customer service put her through to electrical. The person in electrical said, "Sure, they'd exchange. Just bring it in." 

   So after a couple of 8 hour days work we finally got our security light exchanged.

    The product had a nice fat ten year warranty. I really think the companies work on the theory that the customer will not look at the warranty and when the product quits the customer will go out and buy a new one.

    What a runaround!

    Have you had similar problems with stores, phone systems or warranties?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Potato Soup for the Cold

      Yes, I'm making soup again! It's cold out here and some nice warm soup would be very comforting.

       So two kind neighbors gave me potatoes a while ago. What do you do when you have lots of potatoes? Make soup!

       I don't have my own potato soup recipe or Grandma's recipe so I go straight to the net and find something that sounds good. I soon found out that there are hundreds of potato soup recipes. Potato soup is made all over the world. One site divided the soups into three categories: simple, hot and creamy. You can guess that I made a selection out of the first group. My favorite potato soup would be creamed but I don't want to mess around with milk and flour. Maybe next time for a creamy potato soup.

There's just a little bite to this soup

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What a Blast!

     We had a very serious introduction to winter here this weekend. Light snow started falling about 10:00 AM Sat.  By 3:00 PM heavy wet snow was falling. We came home around 4 and shoveled before we went in the house. We shoveled again about 6:30 PM. I should have shoveled about 8 or 9. It snowed very heavily all night. Sun morning I started shoveling the wet snow. It was brutal. A neighbor across the street rescued me when he brought his snow blower over and  finished the job for me.

    We got about 30 cm (12 in.) of snow. For us that us a major snow fall. Most of our snowfalls are an inch or two.

    So we are ready for a white Christmas!

The tree is the same. The photo on the bottom was taken at night and the one on the top in the day.

Lilac at night full of snow.

My little birch with street light glare behind it.

There's a mugo pine under there!

Snow sculpture on the side of a car.

A heavily loaded bird feeder.

A huge spruce branch across the alley
    So this storm was a real blast! Usually I send my snow to Minnesota to Far Side of Fifty. This time it's not going to Minnesota as it seems to die out around the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.

     Oh, I didn't learn anything about taking pictures of snow at the night. I did get some snowflakes!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Book Review: To See Every Bird on Earth

      Sometimes you read a book That really gets your attention. Recently I read "To See Every Bird on Earth" by Dan Koeppel. This is a biography of Dan's dad, Richard, and it's told in an interesting way. 

     Dan's father first became interested in birds when he was twelve. For the rest of his life  revolved around birds.

     Dan's father, Richard had a difficult family situation. His parents wanted him to become a doctor from the time he was born. Richard was torn between pleasing his parents and wanting to do something else in his life. Over time he completed a medical degree. 

    Richard was a youth during the 50's and 60's and participated in the hippie culture. Richard married and had two children but the relationship was a failure and was a failure after the separation as well. 

    As a result of great unhappiness Richard turned to birds. In fact he became obsessed with birds. Richard was a lister. This means that all he wanted to do is make a list of birds. His goal was to see all the birds on earth.

    Dan Koeppel takes us through the world of bird listers as he tells us about his father. He compares his father to other listers and explains why his father was a successful lister. Richard saw and listed over 7000 birds. 

    Dan Koeppel spares no details as he describes the completely chaotic family relationship. It was a challenge for all of them. His father Richard gradually followed his bird listing hobby until it was a full time obsession.

    So I found this biography interesting as it covered my interest in birds , explained the world of bird listers and told about the challenges in life one individual faced.

    I enjoyed the book . If you like birds or stories that are told , warts and all, this is the book for you.

    Simon Winchester has a quote on the front cover. I've read 7 of Winchester's books so if Simon Winchester liked this one I thought it was a good recommendation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What a Rotten Day!

     Ordinarily I'm a fairly low key , laid back kind of guy. My glass is always half full. It takes a lot to happen before I complain.

     Today was a day that just went a little too far. The day was a failure!  I now have some problems  to solve later on.

      This afternoon was nice , but the forecast for tomorrow is terrible. We're supposed to get lots of snow. So I really wanted to get these jobs done. Needless to say I was under a little bit of pressure. I did have the time to do what I wanted.

    Most people here try to mow their lawn one last time as late in the season as possible. The main purpose for this mowing is to pick up the few leaves that are left and they are mulched by the mower. You also let the engine run out of gas so that no gas is left in the tank over the winter. .I had some fine days last week when this job could have been done but I was busy. I got my lawn mower out before noon and put it in the sun so it would warm up. When I came out to start it after lunch  I gave a few pulls on the starter cord and all of a sudden the cord did not rewind. End of story. I can't get my mower to go. No emptying of the gas tank this year. Put the mower away and I'll fix this in the spring.

    The next job was to test the antifreeze in the vehicles to see if it is the proper strength. You have to take the radiator caps off, run the engine and warm it up. I tested the first car and went to shut the motor off. When I came back the radiator had made a great burp and about 1.5 liters of antifreeze had spilled out of the radiator. Okay now wipe everything off. Try and wipe as much antifreeze up . Then get the garden hoses and wash off the area. Oh, did I say that I'd put the hoses away for the winter! Or did I say that I'd turned off my outside water outlet. So what a mess and a lot of work for what should have been a simple task. 

   So by this time most of the afternoon is gone. I am just about out of control. I hadn't had time for coffee.

   So to write this post is good therapy for me to get back my sense of  reason.