Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What in the World is Google Plus?

    Some time ago I received a message that I had been included in somebody's circle.

    This was a complete surprise to me. What kind of circle? Big! Blue! Sewing circle! Circle of life! It was a mystifying situation.

    I received more notices that I had been included in circles. I started looking up Google plus. I couldn't find much other than they wanted me to set up and account.

    Do I need another account of some kind ? No. So I didn't set up an account.

    I kept running into the Google plus thing. So I thought I'll set up an account. Well the setting up  an account was about as confounding as the circles. I went through the procedures of setting up an account but when I was finished I couldn't find my account. Set up face book and there it is. Simple. Set up twitter. Two or three steps and I'm on twitter. Google plus is a mystery. 

    I discovered my Google plus account when I was looking at somebody else's Google plus account. I discovered that there were no circles!  All this talk about circles and it turns out to be just a list. Can you believe that? Do I have a pass word for Google plus? I can't remember. What was Google thinking of when they set up Google plus?

    Now I still can't find my account. I've added some names to my "circles." I don't know if anybody knows that they are in one or two of my circles. Nobody has told me they found out they wee in one of my circles. 
   Now after all this Google plus looks like something that combines face book, twitter, blogs and a whole lot of other things that I want to keep separate so that I don't get confused. Google has in their wisdom taken lots of information about me to make up my Google plus account. Imagine? I must be an idiot and not know what is good for me. I think Google just took away some of my decision making power.

   Has anybody else has this relationship with Google Plus?

   So I end up 2015 with a rant! 

   I've had a very good year at Hiawatha House. You've made my year in so many ways. I look forward to being around Hiawatha House in 2015 and having you along for the ride.

   Have a great 2015 everybody!

Monday, December 29, 2014

I've Been Rejuvenated!

     Well, rejuvenated  could be applied to many topics but I want to relate it to my health.

     I turned 75 this year and a year ago at this time I wasn't doing very well. I was having problems with my right leg. The symptoms were general and non specific , but I was definitely in pain and the leg had become weak. I had trouble getting out of  chair. I thought this is it. I'm facing a disaster. At the best, a cane might help. I even looked at canes in the store. I also had problems getting up off the floor. It was an effort.

    Now in March last year I finally booked in for some physiotherapy. The diagnosis they gave me made sense. The prescription of stretching and exercise made sense. They sent me on my way and I was to do what I was told. So do you think I did what I was told? No! I was to do 12 reps 4 times a day. I didn't do it. Once a day but not 4 times. Guess what? I didn't have much improvement. It finally occurred to me that when she said 12 reps 4 times a day, she meant it.

   I started to do more stretches and exercise. I started  to see improvement. I worked harder. You guessed it . I improved but I was still not back to normal.

   Now I was 75 so I thought some of the problems were due to aging and they could be. But does aging have to be an excuse? I had to push myself up out of a chair. Getting up off the floor was a huge problem.

    I found some more exercises to do. Now I am proud to say I get out of any chair without using arms. I just pop up out of the chair. I also get up off the floor just using legs. No hands Ma!

   So I proved to myself that old age was not my problem. I was probably slowly sliding into this condition over a number of years. I can't remember when I started needing assistance with arms to get up or out of a chair. Yes, I know other things could come along but I am very happy I put in effort to get back into shape. Shoveling snow is much easier this winter. Skating goes better. Last year I quit walking altogether. This winter I do lots of walking and at a very brisk pace.

   I am going to keep working at this because I feel much better when I'm stronger.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Indian Ocean Tsunami

     Ten years ago today the tsunami in the Indian Ocean took place. The gigantic wave brought about horrific instant destruction of people and coastal areas. There was a horrible loss of life and property. It was a very difficult thing to understand.

    At first very little information came out as communication lines were down and the infrastructure and people were in complete disarray. Then for days and days we saw and heard about the unbelievable destruction.

    My daughter happened to be in Thailand at the time. She had just landed about ten hours before the earthquake and tidal wave. She was a high school teacher and the school she taught in had a student trip to Thailand each year. The school wanted her to take over the organization of the trip. She agreed as long as she could go to Thailand before taking students. The school board sent her during the Christmas break The previous trip leader took her to Thailand to show her the area. Three other staff members went along on their own dime.

    Now I woke in the morning to hear the news that the earthquake and tidal wave had happened. As I said before news was very limited. I knew that she was in the interior but I wasn't sure of what the earthquake had done. I was looking after her dog so I went to her place and took the dog for a morning walk and then some play. I fed the dog and then went to look at my email. To my utter amazement and relief there was an email from her saying that she was okay. For two terrifying hours I was in that time of not knowing what the situation was. I will never forget that experience.

    My daughter had landed in Chang Mai and toured there for  couple of days and then was going to Phuket which was a very well known resort area. They had originally planed to go to Phuket first but changed the itinerary. There was massive destruction at Phuket because of it's location.

   Now their tour route was changed again. They did go to Phuket for a short time but she said she couldn't get away fast enough as there were massive piles of ruble and she knew there were many bodies in the rubble.

   Now my daughter has a tremendous sense of humor. When she came back she told us that the first morning she was there they had organized a day trip and a vehicle was waiting to pick them up. She went to the bathroom before leaving. While in the bathroom the earthquake occurred. She had never experienced an earthquake before. She thought she must be suffering from severe jet lag and the she was shaking and doors were rattling.. When she came out of the bath room she was surprised to be told that there had just been a major earthquake. 

   Once they came back from Thailand there as major discussion of wisdom school trips. Overseas trips were sharply curtailed.The trip she was supposed to do was cancelled and never run again.

   The events of the tidal wave have dimmed in our memory. This tenth anniversary has caused us to remember the loss of life and suffering at that time and that it is still going on today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Olie Bolie: A Christmas Story

      I was a Middle School teacher for 37 years. At times my classroom was somewhat chaotic. Group work was sometimes messy. During some of those disorganized times quiet individual conversations occurred. 

      One thirteen year old boy told me that at Christmas he made "olie bolie" with his Grandpa. He told me that "Olie bolie" was really good.  A few days later I would hear about "olie bolie" again and how good it was. He was waiting for his Grandpa to get ready to make "olie bolie". A few days later I would hear about "olie bolie" again. He wasn't sure if he had the right words but it was something like "Olie bolie". Since I'd heard so much about "olie bolie" I began to ask about it. He wasn't sure but it was really good. I asked what it was like. It was dough with raisins . He wasn't sure how it was cooked , but it was really good and he liked it. After it was cooked it was rolled in icing sugar or sprinkled with icing sugar and it was really good.

    I never did get out of this boy exactly what "olie bolie" was . He never brought any of it to school so that I could try it. I even asked him if he could spell it and I would put it on the weekly spelling list. "Olie bolie" was all I could get out of him.

    I've often though about the Christmas experience this boy had with his Grandpa and Grandpa must have enjoyed this too. It's not very many thirteen year old boys who would enjoy Christmas baking. This must have been a highlight of his Christmas. It impressed me and I've never forgotten his story.

    I did a little research after this experience. As near as I can tell what he was talking about was oliebollen which is a Dutch pastry similar to a doughnut. A lump of dough about as big as small orange is cooked in a deep fryer. It sounds great and someday I'm going to have to find some oliebollen to discover what this kid really liked.

    have you heard of this before? I'm sure some of my dutch followers will give me much more information about "olie bolie."

     So I wish that all my readers who celebrate Christmas have a wonderful time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Bird Count

      As most readers know, the Christmas bird count is an important event for me. It's fun to be outside for a whole day and have a good excuse for watching birds. 

      In the last 45 years I have done the count close to 40 times. I have always done the same area and the odd year have taken on a second area when no one was able to count in an important area. 

     As you can see I prefer to count in natural areas.

I spend time on this bridge as birds cross the open area of the creek

Habitat varies

There are some open areas.

Edges of treed areas are good places to look

     Sometimes it's been very cold and a couple of times I didn't go out as the birds would not be moving and so there wouldn't be much to count. Besides, I'm not that dedicated that I would freeze my nose.

     Yesterday was just about right. We had temperatures from minus 2 C(28 F) to plus 2 C(36 F). There was very little wind and it was partly cloudy. In my last 10 minutes the wind started to blow. You will see from photos that it's pretty dull for partly cloudy conditions.

    My count was about average. I saw 9 species. (Red breasted nuthatch, black capped chickadee, blue jay, magpie, raven, house finch, house sparrow, downy woodpecker and pileated woodpecker). I saw one species that I couldn't identify as I couldn't get close enough to them. Other possibilities were 3 species of owls, bohemian waxwings, hairy woodpecker, black backed woodpecker, kinglet, pine siskin, crossbills, pigeons, brown creeper, pine grosbeak, evening grosbeak. So there's lots out there to see. Some of these may have been in the area but I missed them.  My total of birds was about 45. I saw a magpie "hissy fit" and I didn't get a count but there were probably 50 birds that flew by.

    To top off the day we had a super pot luck supper. I forgot my camera but last years photo will give you the idea.

More good food

More great people

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

       The winter solstice is one day that I really look forward to. Days start to get longer and we can look forward to brighter days.

       Today the sun rose at 8:43 and set at 4:22 giving us 7 hours and 39 minutes of sunlight. Today was overcast and we had a high of plus 2 C( 36 F). When I came home a few minutes ago it was still plus 1 C(34 F).

       These photos were taken between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.

Even with snow cover it's still very dull

Typical winter cloud

Looking directly west about 2:30 in the afternoon

     I like reading about the solstice from ancient times and the celebrations they had. They looked at it as mid winter and they knew that winter would wind down. I could never understand why we were told it is the first day of winter. Different cultures also had a variety of celebrations. Now I'm thinking,  was the solstice an important date in the tropics?

    My mood will brighten now for the rest of the winter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Skater Christmas Party

     Every year our senior skating group has a Christmas party. We shame the recreation dept. into supplying donuts and then most skaters bring food. Without any organization we have great variety of sandwiches, cheese  and   all the fancy Christmas goodies you could wish for.

     We contact  as many former skaters as we can find.

     So after the Friday skate we are ready to have a good time. Former skaters are always excited to get together. It gets pretty noisy as people great one another and visit.

We get ready

Really steppin' out

On the bench when the ice is resurfaced

this is what we came for

You've gotta be careful to get all the good stuff

Good times

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bumbling Along on the Blog

      A fellow I finished high school with had a look at my blog the other day. He made a couple of comments and a compliment. Since school days take me back to the mid fifties I got thinking about the origin of  my blog.

      Now comments and compliments send me to greater wildness. This set off reflections on how I started blogging. 

      The only thing I knew is that I wanted to write. I thought I had some weighty and serious things to say. Many of you will laugh because my blog is not that serious. I was completely naive. I did not have the Internet at my house. I had an email account and had searched the web. I had also used the word processor. 

    So I set up Hiawatha House. I thought anything I wrote would be hung out there on the net and everybody would see it. People would open their computers and there I would be! I would have the world reading my blog. This would so cool! I made 2 posts in the first 4 months. Click here to see my first post. Slowly I began to realize that nobody was reading my blog.

    So fast forward to Blogging for Dummies. A few things made sense to me in this book that was written in very simple terms. I really got hung up on URLs. I couldn't figure out what they were but they were important. One time I bumbled into what a URL was. This brought about many changes and developments but still no readers. 

     I began looking at other blogs. To this point I had not read any other blogs. I bumbled into comments and related it back the Blogging for Dummies. I read comments for a while and finally learned how to make a comment.

    I discovered stat counters. This showed that my readership was between none and very few. Finally I was very surprised to see a comment. I didn't know what it was. To say the least I was very excited.

    Another hurdle was that I did not know how to cut and paste. A friend accidentally asked me to cut and paste something and I though ah ha this is how it's done. I had done cut and paste on the word processor but it had not transferred to the blog. Cut and paste helped me advance by leaps and bounds.

    The learning curve was steep and very slow. I still spent a lot of time with Blogging for Dummies. 

     When I look back I can not understand why I persisted. I just bumbled along and made discoveries. 

     Little did I realize that I would still be blogging in 2014! Little did I realize that I would some day have written over 800 posts. Little did I realize that I would meet many other bloggers and things would develop into a  very interesting and supportive community.

    My blog has become an interesting and time consuming hobby. I can not see giving up blogging.

     Thanks to all the bloggers who have been a part of supporting Hiawatha House.

      Thanks to my high school friend for causing me to go back and reflect on what Hiawatha House has become.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Felt Like Santa

      A couple of months ago I was waiting for my wife in the grocery store. At the far end of the store I saw a couple of people waving. As they got closer, I could see that they were waving at me. I recognized the two brothers and the friendly grins on their faces. These two are about 14 and 16. 

     These two boys lived a few houses down from me until three years ago. They still come back and visit their Dad. They happen to be two of the finest boys you could ever wish for.

    So they came up to me in the store and we had a chat. They convey the impression that they genuinely like you and enjoy the conversation. They're enthusiastic and never run out of things to talk about. They know what I like to talk about and they keep the conversation on my topics.

    They had been in the grocery store to get a couple of things for their Mom and obviously a few things for themselves as they had chips soda pop and I think some candy. 

   They left in the same way they came. They were genuinely happy that they had stopped for a visit.

    They left me standing with a great feeling that someone had come and given me their attention. They enjoyed the time. 

    As they left , I couldn't help feeling like Santa. They came and  were happy to see me and went away happy as if I had given them a gift. 

    I wish I would meet more people like this who really make my day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Spring in December

     On November 30 I posted about some brutal winter weather we were having. I gave minimum and maximum temperatures and snowfall amounts. It was the account of some scary weather.

     Now I'm happy to post that we have had a week of very mild temperatures. It started out on the evening of Dec. 6. I was out for my evening walk and felt a few drops of rain. Just as I got in the house it began to rain fairly heavily. It rained for two hours. The temperature was minus 5C (22 F)  so it doesn't take much imagination as to what happened. As soon as the rain hits the ground it freezes. So we ended up with everything coated with 5 - 7 mm ( 1/2 in) of ice. Movement of any kind was rather risky. Cars here are equipped for hazardous roads even if the drivers aren't. Fortunately there was some pebble on the ice so it was walkable.

    This week we had a couple of highs of 9 C. All days were well above freezing. We had three nights in a row without frost. I worked hard to get rid of the coating of ice on my driveway and side walks. Needless to say much of our snow melted. There were beginning to be patches where the snow was gone.

     This morning it snowed again. But the temperature was still 5 C(22 F)I really can't come up with excuses for not having photos. Sorry. There  would have been some good photos. Next time, I promise.

    So with such a long streak of mild weather it does seem like spring in December. It certainly makes for a nice break in the winter.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Mixed Christmas Greeting

       For a long long time we have made a Christmas letter to go in cards we send out. We also did a Christmas poem until the micro manager ran out of creativity. Her poems were awesome and people liked to receive them.

       Now we send very few cards but send an email to many people. The few cards we send out are to those people without email. They miss the pictures. I know that some people consider the email  Christmas letter tacky but I think it's better than nothing.

      I have just finished a long run of producing the Christmas creation. I tried to cover some of the major events of the year and comment on each family member. I try to keep it light as it is the season to be joyful. We look back and see all the things that were positive for the year. For the last two years the micro manager has produced the Christmas message from our place.

     So a few days ago the Micro Manager sat down and produced a letter and it was handed to me to type and get them on their way down the email pipeline. ( Sorry, I live in Alberta with lots of pipelines.) I asked the Micro Manager if she wanted me to go over the letter with her. No, she wasn't interested. Just type the thing and run off some copies for the cards I do.

    I started to read the letter before typing it. I didn't get very far before  I said, "You can't send this out!." 
Her reply was, "That it was going as is." I continued reading and about 2/3 s of the way through I started laughing. Now what I found wrong with the letter was that it was very black. All the little problems we had in 2014 were listed in the letter. It would be a downer to receive this letter for a Christmas greeting.  The micro manager's comment was that she meant it to be humorous. I guess she was right since she got me laughing.

    Some how or other, I'm not sure most readers will see the humor.
     It seems to me that this is a mixed message. 

     Maybe next year I'll get the Christmas letter writing job back.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


      Many years ago I agreed to go to a work party at the church. It was one of those work parties where many little things needed to be looked after and all could be done by some work and effort. No special skills were needed.

      Since I was one of the younger men I agreed to climb the stepladder and replace bulbs in the lights. The lights were about 4 or 5 m (15 ft) from the floor. If I'd seen the step ladder before I opened my big mouth I would not have volunteered. The step ladder was an ancient rickety wood model and it was about 4 or 5 m ( 15 ft), but when it was opened it wasn't that high. So you had to stand on the second step from the top and balance. I had a nice fellow hold the step ladder for all the good that would do. There were only oak pews below me. 

     The changing of the bulbs went slowly and gradually we got to the last set of lights at the front right side of the church. As I was going up the ladder I heard a rustling sound in the  corner. The rustling noise seemed to be moving in a circular pattern. The noise went up and down. All the time I was up there the rustling was continuous. Sometimes it was quieter and some times louder. Sometimes rapid and other times slow. Whatever was making the noise knew I was there and didn't like me very much. I think as I moved from the back of the church to the front I chased the  whatever to the front and it was cornered and didn't like me one bit. 

     I have always wondered about this event. If I went back would I still hear the noise? What was really there?

    I like ghost stories but they are always somebody else's story and it's enjoyable to read or hear the story.

     This is the first time I've ever told this story and it happened in the early 1970's.

    Have you ever encountered something that was strange and eerie?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Silent Visitors

      My skating buddy, Bob, was taking it easy one afternoon when he noticed something in his yard. A quick look and he recognized his visitors. Six mule deer had dropped into his place to have a quick lunch when Bob caught them. His camera wasn't handy  but he did get a couple of fine photos of his visitors. 

Everybody seems to be finding lots to eat

The are eating sunflower hulls and spillage from the bird feeder

      These are mule deer. Notice the huge ears. Right now they are in their dark winter colors and have a heavy coat. They are also in good condition so have a fair bit of fat. Since these are does and fawns, I'm thinking that there must be a buck nearby since it's rutting season.

     When I first came here in 1969, we never thought about seeing a deer in the city. There probably were one or two that mistakenly wandered into the city. We have a lot of interconnected park space. A major river runs through the center of the city. It gives the deer a good corridor through  many areas. 

     Gradually over the years we found more and more deer in the city. For the last 20 years it's been very common to see deer in the city. Now they wander through our yards and help themselves to what ever they feel like as in this case they helped themselves to Bob's bird feeder.

     Deer are smarter than we give them credit for. They can pick places that provide food and cover. Cities have those two features in abundance. Deer also know that some of their predators won't come into the  city. Dogs are well under control in the city so some of the bigger dogs that might chase deer can't. 

    Deer have also grown accustomed to city lights and traffic. We used to talk about "a deer in the head lights." When deer were caught in the headlights in darkness they were blinded and usually didn't move. Deer will still do silly things in traffic but I have seen some incidents where they seem to watch for traffic. I saw a deer trying to cross a four lane road. It stood at the side of the road and watched for traffic. It was going to cross a couple of times but held back. Finally it gave up it's attempt to cross the road.

    I like deer and never tire of seeing them. Since I spend a lot of time wandering through the bush I get to see quite a few deer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Footsteps # 2

     Your comments, as usual, add much more to my thinking and description of my last post. So it seems like another post is needed to reply.

     This event was probably some kid looking for some easy money. In other words , he was looking for unlocked cars and most cars contain a little change. He also got lucky and found an unlocked garage.

     From your comments, I gather that crime is very different in other places. I had a couple of planters stolen but that's it. A few years ago somebody saw a kid going up my driveway at 1:00 AM. My security light scared him off. The kid walked across the street and found an unlocked car and got $8.75. How do I know? He got caught.

     We are fortunate in this country to have fairly low levels of crime and the crime rate has been going down for years.

    Now here come the stats!

    Last year murder rates dropped in Canada to the lowest rate since 1966. We had 505 homicides in Canada in 2013. Now that's 505 too many. 25 % of these homicides were committed with guns.

    The overall  crime rate has been falling since 1969.

     I cannot see why our government is foaming at the mouth about crime when the rate is going the right way. We try and keep people out of detention as much as possible as prisons are the best crime school in the country. Very few houses have guns in Canada. The crooks know there probably are no guns so they are not armed and as a result less murder and weapons involved in crime.

    The drug world is completely different. They go after each other and they use guns.

    So I feel like I live in a very safe country. Yes , there are places in my city that I would not go to at night, but overall I feel very safe.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Footsteps in the Snow

      When I went out Sunday morning, I noticed foot prints in the snow that came around my lilacs. It's very rare to see footprints coming from my neighbors. So I thought someone took a shortcut and walked in front of my house. I looked for footprints in the snow on the walk. I didn't see any? When I came back I looked briefly for tracks.

      When I went up my back steps, I noticed footprints that weren't mine that went to the garbage cans in my back yard. The footprints didn't come back? So with further investigating I discovered the person had exited my yard through a hole in the fence.

     So this was an odd situation. People don't usually prowl through my back yard. So that was the end of it.

      After lunch I was in my driveway and a neighbor  stopped and asked me if I wanted some extra potatoes he had. Hey, I'm in luck if somebody will give me potatoes. He also told me he was going to Mexico for a month.

    He left and then stopped and backed up half a block. He opened the window again and said, " I had an intruder at my house last night." So somebody had walked through his yard and entered his garage through and unlocked door. His GPS was missing and he wasn't sure if anything else was gone.

    So a thief had waked through my yard. But why?  I think he was at my neighbor's car and when her security light went on he fled around the hedge into the dark at the side of my house. I didn't have anything he could take and he was only interested in escape.

    So one wonders who this was? Why was he taking things? How many other yards did he walk through? How many other places lost things?

     It's a creepy feeling when some unwanted person prowls through your yard.

Big footprints! Deep snow!

Climb over the  fence and take the snow with you. Notice the nails? I hope he ripped his pants!