Thursday, April 30, 2015

Viet Nam War Ended 40 Years Ago Today

      I have been listening to a CBC radio series on The Current about Vietnamese people who escaped Vietnam after the war was over. We all saw the miserable little overloaded boats that carried people to other countries where they were held in camps. Slowly the world organized and these people were taken by countries around the world. Countries were uneasy about taking the boat people as  they thought they would be an expense. They turned out to be anything but an expense and contributed to the local economies. Many communities have very active Vietnamese communities.

     Today I was reminded that the Vietnamese war ended 40 years ago today. I will never forget the chaos shown on TV of the last Americans leaving Saigon as fighting continued all around them. I looked on with horror as I saw people try to escape by hanging  onto the helicopter as it lifted off.

     The country was left in ruins and with it's own civil war.

     I also thought back to what a very terrible war this was in so many ways. Many troops and civilians were lost. Many troops came back and suffered horribly for the rest of their lives.

      The war ended and Vietnam was left with many problems and a very harsh ruling government. The two sides were still very angry with each other. After Ho Chi Minh died things slowly began to change. 

     When I think back I have a hard time to think about the cause of the war. It's difficult to remember why the Americans entered the war.

     Since I was a little news junkie nerd, I remember the French in Vietnam. Vietnam was a French colony. The French were booted out of Vietnam in the 50's. That was also a long drawn out and brutal conflict.

     One can only look back with sadness at the horror that took place in Vietnam. Have we learned any lessons from Vietnam? 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Are Plastic Coins Coming?

     There was a time when some of our coins were gold. These coins were used as regular daily currency. Now there were a few enterprising types who could skillfully cut off part of the coin or sand it and collect some gold and then still use the coin. Some gold coins were found to have lost value! So the smart money stopped making gold coins.

    To leap far ahead of gold coins, we've recently quit using the penny in Canada. The penny cost more than a penny to make. As the price of copper went up, other metals were mixed in with the copper to make the penny. At the end of the penny's life massive numbers of pennies were sold as scrap copper.

     In the 70's the price of silver rose. Silver in dimes and quarters was mixed with lower cost metals. For  few years in the 70's massive amounts of dimes and quarters were worth more for scrap than their face value. Coin collectors watched in dismay as some valuable coins were destroyed.

    The nickel has fought the same battle. I don't know if there's any nickel in the five cent coin today.

    So I've started to wonder where we're going with our coins. Are we going to have a system of plastic coins with chips in them?  Will we eliminate coins and paper money altogether? How will we ever flip a coin? How will we ever have  a dime a dozen? How can we have a penny for your thoughts? What about plugged nickels? What will happen to "two bits?"

    It's surprising how much of our common sayings are derived from money.

    So what kind of coins do you see for the future?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ya Need a License to Get Married!

      A week or so go , a blogger I follow, found her marriage certificate in a place that was surprising. It reminded me of my marriage license.

      I met my wife in Inuvik NWT. We dated, courted , became engaged and got married there. We were in our late 20's so to go back home to be married was not an answer as most of our friends were gone. My wife had only lived in this country for about ten years and she did not have parents here. We decided to have a small wedding in the north with our friends. Some of our relatives were a little upset. It just seemed too much of a challenge to plan a wedding at a distance of 2000 miles. All went well. We had a great time.

    One little incident that we've never forgotten is getting the marriage license. We were able to make plans and set things up as we went along. Of course , getting the marriage license was one of the little details that had to be taken care of. We decided to visit the minister and tell him of our plans and ask him to marry us. Marriage licenses were a  dollar.. Ministers and others issued marriage licenses. We asked Ted for a license. Ted couldn't find the book with the licenses. Ted also said that the fee would be $2.00 as the last couple didn't pay for their license.  He couldn't remember if the book had been used up, but he promised us he would find a license for us. 

    We've always wondered who the next couple was to get their marriage license from Ted and if they paid $2.00, $1.00 or nothing.

   The micro manager just had to get this issue looked after. The hostel administrator was a minister and he had licenses. He also issued them like he was supposed to...for $1.00!
    We never did find out if Ted got more licenses.
    We've been getting rid of some of our treasures. By coincidence the wedding veil and a few other treasures were sold yesterday. Somebody was renewing vows and wanted some of the paraphernalia.

     After 49 years it's time to dispose of some great treasures.

   So the little story of our marriage license is one that we have a chuckle about from time to time.

   I would think anybody who gets married has a story that's enjoyed.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Need I Say "Snow"?

     Yes, it snowed last night! I looked out at 12:30 AM and there was heavy snow falling. It was my favorite kind of snow. The air was full of large snowflakes . I should have put my pants on and gone outside to take photos!

     The sun rose this morning at 6:17 and sets tonight at 20:48 for a total of 14 hours and 31 minutes of sunlight.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't Ya Just Hate it When...

      Don't ya just hate it when you can't hear people on the phone?  I'll admit right away that I have a hearing problem , but it's not that severe. I do have the volume turned up on my phone.

     So what are the problems I have. People talk too quickly. I would like  people to talk slower and then they have more precise  diction. I get upset when somebody answers the phone with rapid fire speech and I'm not too sure if I even  have the right number. I have to ask the person to repeat. You can ask some people to slow down and they get it and keep their speech at a slower rate. Some just can't adjust the rate of speech. Some people are probably a little nervous on the phone and become tense and the rate keeps up.

    Some people will not talk into the receiver so they are not loud enough to be heard. Their volume goes up and down. 

     Some people use a speakerphone and you get too much echo for consistent sound. My daughter tends to use the speakerphone when she calls so they can both get in on the conversation.

     Many call centers use headsets and they are very poor as the mike gets too far away from their mouth.

    Sometimes there's too much background noise to hear the caller very well. I had a friend who lived very close to a railway track. Sometimes the train was going by when I would try to speak to Lloyd. It was impossible.

     Some of the little cell phones are extremely cheap so the voice reproduction is poor. Last night I had a call from somebody who sounded as if they were at the bottom of a well.

    Sometimes there's too much noise in my house. That's one I can handle myself. SHUT UP! I sometimes say give me a second to turn the radio off. 

    Sometimes you find a very long recording of options  to choose from. By the time I get to the end I forget the number I should have chosen. Large stores are bad for this one. Home Depot or Walmart are bad. In fact, Walmart's phone system is just all bad.
     The recording that bugs me the most is to my doctor's office. There's a long recording. Half of it I cannot hear. The voice is weak and I'm sure gum is being chewed as she's making the recording. Why do they always choose the poorest voice to make the tape.

    So there's my rant. I hope that some call system might see my rant and have a session with their employees. Fat chance though! Call centers are just happy to find people to answer phones.

    How about you? Do you find it difficult to follow things on the phone?


Monday, April 20, 2015

I Think I've Become Elderly

      I've lived in the same small city since 1969...46 years. The population was 24000 when I moved here. Over the 46 years the population grew to around 100 000.

     I lived here long enough to have met many people. I've participated in the community and have come to know many people. I taught about 3000 students from 1968 to 1987.

    As a result, I look at the obituaries on a daily basis.  It is not uncommon to find that some  have passed away. Just recently a former student passed away. He used a power wheelchair in his last years.was passed . His family passed his wheelchair on to a 76 year old friend who had a serious spinal cord injury.

    Now recently in staring at the photos of the deceased, I've started to notice that the ones who are my age are starting to look very elderly! Many of them have been in nursing homes. Some of them have had the dread dementia. This started me thinking about myself and my age.

    Now in my head I see myself as fairly active. I think young. I still think I'm young.  So I decided I better take a look and see if I'm in this elderly group. So off to the mirror. Sure enough. There's an elderly man staring back at me! Who can this be? Well, I had to admit that it's me. I am truly in the elderly group.

    Now I'm very aware of my age and the process of becoming elderly. Somehow , we can put this in the back of our mind. We seem to think that we are always much younger than we are. However, the obituary photos have reminded me of reality.

    How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as your actual age or younger?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Guns Don't Solve Anything

      Our poor little deluded Prime Minister, Steven Harper, has just led us into some more war activity . Harper has volunteered 200 of our Service men and women to go in and train Ukrainian forces in a number of areas. Of course, there naturally will be people in the area who see this as a provocation , namely Putin, whether it is or not. My point is that Canada is taking sides  in a dispute which is way out of our control.

      Canada was in the Korean War. We were respected Peacekeepers from then until we became involved in the Afghan War. We have changed from being a peacekeeper and peace advocate to a very second rate aggressive force. We have a total force of about 70 000 men and women. Our equipment is limited and ancient. We should be the last country to enter a war. We could contribute much more to peace in other ways.

    We foolishly joined in the Afghan War. Afghanistan has a long history of disagreement between various tribes and factions. England colonized Afghanistan. The Afghanis didn't like the colonizers and finally England left , but not on their own terms. The balance between tribes and tribal areas was upset and the groups wanted to even scores and get back tribal territories they had. My history is a little foggy here but the Russians went in to separate the fighting factions. After ten years they left and again it was not on their own terms. The U.S. decided to take a round out of Afghanistan as they thought this would end or control terrorism. Now most of the forces in Afghanistan have left and again not on their own terms. 

    Now guess what? We have many more bad guys than we had before. We have really made the former bad guys angry and got many new people angry with us. The bad guys have become much worse. The bad guys have now spread over a much larger area. A lesson we haven't learned is that we can't go into an area and beat the crap out of some people and think that we solved anything. We've just made more people very angry. 

     Last year we sent 6 jets and 90 ground support for advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Isis is a very nasty group. Much of it has an Afghan origin. We went in for 6 months and now after 6 months we have expanded our mission. 

    Many of the disputes in the Middle East are a direct result of Imperialism. The colonisers left and left the area with major problems as they tried to establish borders which artificially put together very different groups. 

    So here we are 150 or so years later trying to bring peace to groups that we disrupted. These disputes have been going on and now with better weapons and people on both sides supplying weapons, disputes can get very large. Our own country is an example as two different groups were put together and now every once in a while we have serious talk of separation.

   From my point of view Canada would be much more effective if we stayed away from aggressive action and participated in promoting peace and providing assistance for displaced people. . There have got to be other solutions than the gun for settling disputes. There have to be better heads than we have now.

   Guns don't solve anything. People just keep getting more guns and find other people to shoot at who will shoot back.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Record Store Day

     As I was listening to my favorite radio station the other day, I heard an interview about Record Store Day.  Half way through the interview my ears perked up to find out what they were talking about. I was too late to find out what record Store Day was all about . So I went to plan B which is look on Wikipedia.

     Record Store Day occurs on the third Saturday in April and is a day that independent music stores sponsor special events. Special record presses and releases are made on the day.There's lots of meet and greet with artists. Many promotional products are available. Each store has it's own agenda for the event so it ends up being a bit of a community event.

   What caught my ear was "vinyl" and vinyl sound compared to other sound reproduction methods.  Vinyl reproduction has been making somewhat of a comeback recently. In some ways vinyl has better sound than tapes, CDs or electronic reproduction. Now this is a debate which could go on forever. My  ear doesn't really pick up much difference ,  but what I do pick up is the difference between high quality equipment and cheap stuff.

     I listen to Randy's Vinyl Tap on CBC and Lionel's Vinyls on These are two shows that play music from records.

    I love music. No, I'm not a musician and I'm not the least bit musical. I just like listening to music. I listen to a very wide variety of music. The list of music I don't like listening to would be very short.

    Now I haven't listened to vinyl for years because the only turntable I have in the house quit working a long time ago. I have lots of tapes from the time tapes were in their hey day. I have lots of CDs.  And now with ipods I have all kinds of digital music.

   Yes, I like "good" sound. At times I like to be able to hear the individual instruments. If the bassoon is playing , I want to be able to hear it. At other times I like to listen for the sound made by the complete combination of the instruments. I'm really surprised and pleased with what you can hear on an ipod. 

    So this weekend check out your local independent music store and see if they are participating in National Record Day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Twin Names

     I listened to a five minute documentary this morning on "Twin Names." Now apparently twin names are when people who have the same names like Bob Smith and Bob Smith.

    The woman who produced the documentary had Googled her name. Haven't we all Googled our name. She found a number of people with the same name but found one person who was about the same age. She did some research and contacted the person who had her name and found some amazing information. There were many similarities. They were the same age. They were both artists. So they talked on the documentary and made other discoveries as they went along.

    It used to be in the"olden days" that you rarely met anybody with the same name. With the Internet we just google and find all kinds of people with the same name. . We are usually just looking to find ourselves. 

   I have googled before and I find the page with all the photos of people with my name. I would look at the first page and I'm not there so I don't look any further. Today I discovered that I could find many pages with photos of people who have the same name as I have. And guess what? After about 500 photos, I found myself. The photo was a surprise as it was one where I presenting an award to someone. 

    Now there were some pretty scary dudes who have the same name as I have. 

    Forty years ago there was a kid in the Middle School next to our school who had the same name as I have. He was a handsome popular kid. He had girls hanging on him all over the place. I was kind of popular too as girls looked up the wrong phone number and phoned me.

    So I learned a new term ...twin names and found that I'm a way down in ranking as far as google is concerned. I didn't check to see how many names were after mine. 

    Now that I think about it could there be triplet names?

   So do you google your name from time to time? Do you sometimes make some interesting discoveries? 

Friday, April 10, 2015

National Siblings Day

    Since today is National Sibling's Day I will take the opportunity to wish my three great siblings a Happy Sibling's Day.

     National sibling's Day is an idea promoted by Claudia Evart.  Claudia  lost her only two siblings at a very early age. National Sibling's day would be a good way to remember them. National sibling's day is recognized in 39 states. Claudia is trying to have it recognized as a national day.

    My surviving siblings (brothers)  range in age from 60 to 75. We are quite different in looks and personalities. Our Mom was very short. Our Dad was very tall so our sizes range from short to tall. So we range in height from 5"6" to 6"4". I think. Things may have changed with age. Appearances are also very different. we would not pass as brothers as far as looks are concerned.

    We range from very quiet to quiet! 

     We also had a sister who passed away at an early age in 1953. My youngest sibling was born after her death.

    Since we were so far apart in age we were raised differently. Our parents became comfortable with parenting by the time the youngest appeared on the scene. I'm not saying the parenting was any better . It was just more laid back.

    It's a good day to think about siblings and all the important things about them and how much they mean to our life.

     So I hope that all  readers take a few minutes and think about their sibling's on this special day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Spring

      Every climate zone has it's own characteristic spring seasons. Many elements go together to make spring weather in each area.

     Here, spring is dependent on our fall weather. The ground freezes here. There are many variations in frost patterns. The ground can freeze to a depth of 8 ft. Other areas only have a few inches of frozen soil. If we get snow cover that stays , there is not much frozen ground. An exposed area that has lots of traffic over it will freeze to a depth of 7 or 8 feet. South facing slopes and sheltered areas will have less ground frost. From year to year the depth of soil frost varies.

    So the soil frost that starts in Oct. -  Nov determines our spring and the beginning of plant growth. Of course, winter and spring weather also determine the kind of spring activity we have. The soil has to warm up before there's much plant activity. The frost seems to come out of the ground rapidly and then we have a very muddy soggy mess. Roads break up as the soil becomes unstable. As a result there are road bans (limits on load weights)until the frost is out of the ground.

    I find many blog posts very interesting when they show spring weather and blooms. If there's no frost in the ground , the grass usually remains green even if it is covered by snow. In some areas the grass begins to grow rapidly when warmer spring weather arrives. 

    So the other day along with photos of geese , I also took some landscape photos which show what spring looks like here. We have a few sheltered south facing areas where grass has turned green but it's not growing. Native crocuses are in bloom. So some plants are well adapted to grow early in the spring as soon as some frost is out of the ground.  Buds are  swelling on trees. However, for the most part there is very little plant activity.

     You can see from the photos that there is very little color. The spruce trees are more black than green. As soon as the frost leaves the ground , spruce trees turn green.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Loosey Goosey

     I got out of the house for a while yesterday afternoon and visited a local watering hole for geese. The ponds in the photos were actually reclaimed gravel pits. Now they make a fairly good wetlands habitat. 

     The geese were quite willing to hang around and pose .

    That's right. These geese are sitting out on the ice. They've been here about three weeks. There is open water about 200 m away on the river where they can feed. Many of these geese will continue north until they land on Arctic islands where they will finally nest.

     There were some smaller geese further out which I think are another form of Canada geese. They have different markings.

      So the ice is very solid and nothing has melted around the edge. I could still skate on this ice.

      This large pond is the reclaimed gravel pit. Islands and points have been constructed to give some variety to the pond. a pair of loons spends each summer here.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Taste Buds in Our Gut

     I've started reading Gulp by Mary Roach. Mary Roach tells everything about the alimentary canal which is the body system that your food passes through from start to finish. Roach has done her research, asked questions and then writes a very humorous authentic account of what the digestive system is and how it works. She also gives a historical account of early research and how it was done.

     I have only read 80 pages but I found something that I really have to tell you. She discusses taste which she describes as, "a sort of chemical touch. Taste cells are specialized skin cells."

     We have taste receptors in four parts of our body: the gut, the voice box, the upper esophagus and the tongue. Wow! Who'd have ever thought we had all those taste buds? Only the tongue's receptors report to the brain. So with apologies to all oenophiles taste is only functional to act as a doorman to what we take in our mouth. So if stuff doesn't taste right we do not ingest the food.

     "Intestinal taste receptors are thought to trigger hormonal responses to molecules such as salt and sugar -and defensive actions- such as vomiting and diarrhea to dangerous items." No need for this information to go to the brain as most of what we would get would be pretty itchy.

    I like the way Mary Roach leads us to take a different look at how one part of the body works. We rarely think of the  alimentary canal as one unit that has different parts to do the job of digestion of foods.

    So in one short section I learned some very interesting things about taste.

     I'm looking forward to the remainder of the book.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Have a New Bathroom Sink!

     I have posted about my limited handyman skills before. Some comments have been made in a kindly fashion that I should just hire a tradesman who is trained for the job. I'm a slow learner. The next thing that comes along I dive into and have another challenging adventure.

    The bathroom sink has looked ugly for some time. Underneath there was a tremendous amount of rust. However, it wasn't leaking so why change it.? 

    Well, in mid January it began leaking. I cleaned out the vanity and placed a tray to catch any drips. I could still use the sink. I wanted a sink exactly like the one I had so that I would not have to saw a new hole in the vanity. I also didn't want to get a new vanity.

    It was difficult to find a new sink. I don't know how many salesmen wanted to sell me an oval sink when I had to have a round sink. Finally, we found a sink but it had to be ordered and it would take 6 weeks. Okay, I can handle that.

    After seven weeks the sink arrived and I looked things over and carefully planned how this procedure would take place. Now I do know that all kinds of surprises can pop up after you get started. 

     First , take out the old sink. I turned the water off at the shut off valves. First I decided to take off the metal ring that went around the old sink. Well, wouldn't you know it, after a half an hour and a big mess that little ring didn't come out first. 

    So back to the first plan...take off the faucet. So I'm working upside down a way up behind the sink where I can't see and  I discover I turned the nut the wrong way and wrecked the faucet. So now I have to shop for a faucet. Shopping for  faucet wasn't as bad as shopping for the sink. While I shopped for a faucet, I removed the rest of the sink. The faucet I wrecked was 26 years old.

So back to the project.  I checked that the new sink and drain would line up.

    Now I also decided to change the trap. A whiz guy in plumbing wouldn't sell me just a trap and wanted to sell me more trouble. I finally found a trap and the proper fittings. I attached the new drain to the sink. There was a seal to put around the edge of the sink. My trusty assistant thought it would be better if part of the seal was taken off first. Big mistake. The part she took off was to keep the ring in place as I installed it. Six hours later I finally got the seal in place. There was some loud talking and a few bad words exchanged.

    Now the pipe from a faucet never lines up with the water intake tube. It has to be manhandled. I'm reluctant to put too much force on something so it took some time to get the faucet connected to the water. 

    Finally, everything was done. Turn the water back on. Hey, there are no leaks! That was a big surprise!

    So after two months, lots of sweating, some yelling and swearing, I have a shiny new bathroom sink.

     I think I'll wear out before I have to replace this new sink!