Friday, January 6, 2017

Notable Books Of 2016

So many books, so little time!
I have listed fewer than usual this year although I read about the same number. That is not an indication they were not good, interesting books. It is just this list is intended for those special books that have a lasting impact on me for whatever reason. If I listed the books I enjoyed, it would be a very long list indeed!

1. The Adventure of English – Melvyn Bragg – non fiction. The story of the beginnings of the language we know today as English, and how it changed and grew over the centuries, and like the universe, is still expanding. A great read for anyone interested in language.
2. The Color of Law – Mark Giminez. The main character is a modern day Atticus Finch, although forced into that role. Lots of things to criticize in this book, but I include it because the depiction of “Big Law” firms, law vs. justice, and the plastic world of the rich has stayed with me.
3.  The Last Bookaneer – Matthew Pearl. To enjoy this book you must put logic on hold and just accept it for what it is – a story whose main characters are in love with books and language, and a partially true story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s last years in Samoa where he lived with his family.
4.  Asylum - Jeannette de Beauvoir.  A murder mystery in Montreal, it documents the factual physical and mental abuses of children by Government, Church, drug companies, and the CIA during the late 40s and on into the 60’s. A fascinating and disturbing read. It will stay with me a long time! Look up Dr. Ewen Cameron, and also the Duplessis Orphans.
5.  Brown Dog – Jim Harrison. Imagine Carl Hiaasen and W.P. Kinsella get together and write a book combining some of their favorite characters. Brown Dog is an innocent and charming character and never shows an ounce of ill will toward anyone except perhaps himself. It is a laugh out loud romp in the UP (Upper Peninsula) but underneath is a deep love of nature and all it offers. The book is a series of novellas, written and published separately over a period of several years, but reads seamlessly.
6.  Thirteen Moons – Charles Frazier (published 2006). Mixed reviews for this book with most praising the first part and condemning the ending. I cannot disagree with these findings if the story itself is the only value. However, I found myself rereading many sections purely for the writing itself, and for Frazier’s ability to put into words many emotions that I feel but could not have defined. Perhaps you have to be old like me to appreciate it. For me, it is my “read of the year” – at least up to this point.
7.  It’s a Long Story – Willie Nelson with David Ritz. What can I say about the life story of Willie Nelson as told by Willie?  I am not an unconditional fan – I love some of his music, and don’t quite know what to make of some of it. The book clarifies why this is so. All in all, I just enjoyed meeting a Willie Nelson quite different in some ways from what I expected.
8.  Razor Girl – Carl Hiaasen. I just have to include this latest Hiaasen romp. He has created some outrageous characters and plots over his career, but non to top this group of con artists and the crew of a reality show .

Saturday, November 12, 2016

"We" vs. Trump

Who do “we” think “we” are?

In the wake of the recent U.S.A. elections many people are rethinking previously held beliefs and assumptions. The political pundits are busy providing their take on events, and journalists are writing feverishly. I cannot speak for others, but my personal assumption is that many or most are like me, in that they read the various articles, and nod wisely and agree that not only has something terrible taken place, but that “they” did it. They being the opposite of we – they being the ignorant low class uneducated manual laboring rural hayseed rustic bigoted intolerant rednecks that supported Trump and voted him into the office of President of the U.S.A.
This viewpoint is supported by countless articles and interviews – how did we let this happen ? – how did we not see this coming?, and by various rather humerous putdowns of the Trump supporters such as the email relating the Stephen Hawking statement when his original comments containing big words was translated into “Trump bad man – very bad”.
Even Garrison Keillor wrote depicting the Trump supporters (They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls).
I am ashamed of my self for accepting these views without thinking, perhaps partly because they came from people I respect. I am ashamed for passing them on, and chuckling at the putdowns. I am ashamed for automatically accepting those stereotypes. I am ashamed of what has to be called by its real name BIGOTRY – the “we” I associated myself with are bigots! Upon any kind of deeper examination it becomes apparent that what that means is that WE are the holders of all right and light and truth and intelligence and good judgement, and those on the other side (They) are just wrong and bad! Is that not bigotry? Just who do we think we are to make these judgements?
Again I say, I am ashamed of myself!
I am no Trump supporter. I think he is a dangerous and deranged buffoon. I dislike him as a person, as a politician, and as the next President. I would probably dislike many of his followers if I knew them, and despise their political views. But I cannot accept that those who voted republican can be described as above, that they are automatically of limited intelligence, and that they are somehow less than full citizens with full rights, and that everyone else who did not vote republican are part of the great righteous WE and empowered to make this judgement. “They” have made their voice heard clearly, and it is a legitimate voice.

Recently, a Toronto Star columnist wrote about Kellie Leitch (a Conservative leadership candidate) who has called for screening immigrants for “anti Canadian values”.
He referred to “Ms Leitch and her ilk”, and cited various emails he had received from supporters of Ms Leitch after he had criticised her in an earlier column. Of course, the emails were of the absolute worst kind possible. You know – the kind that rant about killing someone with whom they disagree -and their spelling was bad too. Ergo, supporters of Ms. Leitch are the dangerous lunatic fringe.
 He also stated that Ms. Leitch was pandering to the fears of Canadians in order to get votes.
The real reason behind the article was that a poll had just showed that 67% of Canadians supported that proposal.
If we put aside our feelings about Leitch’s specific proposal, and consider any topic that gets a large percentage expression of interest, would we agree with this columnist’s portrayal?
Some might say that 67% is a pretty good indicator that Canadians are concerned about the subject, any subject, and that politicians and journalists should look at those concerns, not dismiss them out of hand, or accuse the politician of pandering.
Some might say that to say “Ms Leitch and her ilk” is close to slander and unacceptable.
The journalist managed with a few words not only to brand Ms. Leitch in a very negative way, but also to inform readers at the same time that if they had any sympathy for her proposal, they are of a similar ilk, bigoted and fear mongering - and all of us are certainly sensitive to not doing or saying anything that makes us politically incorrect, and puts us in the “they” category.
 I guess that more care has to be taken before including myself in any group. Perhaps I can not be part of any “We” – perhaps I can only be “I” and do my own thinking.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed 2016

Plant it and they will come
Two years ago we gathered some milkweed seeds in the fall from local plants. In the early spring I planted the seeds indoors and then transplanted them outside when the weather was right. They did not do much that first year, but this year the plants are huge and healthy.
I have seen only one monarch this year, and was very lucky to get the picture of her laying the egg on July 27. I did not even realize it until I downloaded the picture into the computer, and then I could see that her abdomen was curled under the leaf. I then went back to the plant and looked, and sure enough, there was an egg. 2 more eggs were spotted on a different leaf. I looked at the eggs with a magnifier, and they are beautiful and unmistakable.
We watched the 3 eggs hatch on the 5th day. The caterpillars are very tiny, not much bigger than a hair, and we saw them starting to chow down on the milkweed leaves.
The next morning they could not be found. Hoping they had migrated to different leaves we watched and waited. Nothing appeared and no evidence of leaves being chewed.
Finally we concluded that all three were the victims of predators, of which I read on the internet there are plenty - wasps, spiders, lady bugs, ants, and so on.
That lone Monarch is the only one I have seen this year, so we are grateful that we at least had the opportunity to watch the eggs mature and hatch. I doubt there will be another chance this year. The small miracle is that she found our milkweed!
The next time the leaves with the eggs will be brought inside and put in a container until maturity.
BUT WAIT – August 27, one month after the first Monarch visited and laid her eggs, we saw another Monarch, and watched as she laid one perfect little egg.
Double click or triple click pictures for full size 
She Lays (see abdomen curled under leaf)
The Egg
This one I took in the house on the leaf and put it in a clear plastic container. 5 days later (September 1) the
egg hatched, and the tiny creature immediately started munching. 
Sept 1 – hatched & eating
Sept 1 size comparison
Sept 10 size comparison
On September 10 the caterpillar headed to the top where it attached itself and hung there.
Sept 11 at 6.43am
20 Minutes later (almost complete)
10 minutes later – done!
Sept 19 (8 days later) the empty chrysalis
First picture early morning - still hanging from chrysalis
5 hours later – just before she left (for Mexico?)
Who would have thought a monarch would find that one lone milkweed in our yard? 
I guess the lesson is “Plant it and they will come!”.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Notable Books of 2015

Notable Books of 2015
This is not intended as a review or critique. By their inclusion in this list they are books that have made strong impressions on me, above and beyond the other 120 books read during the period.

1. Edge of Eternity – Ken Follett. Nearly 1100 pages in this third book of the century trilogy. All the major events, the Berlin Wall, Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, race riots, Kennedy’s shootings, etc. are here. Great book!
2. Auto Biography – Earl Swift. Non fiction, but stranger than fiction. A great tale of an classic automobile, the people who owned it, and the rough cut people that restored it.
3. Gray Mountain – John Grisham. A thriller yes, but more importantly, a scathing look at the mining industry and its impact on one area of Virginia. I am reminded of John Prine’s song – Paradise, and the chorus - and daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County - Down by the Green River where Paradise lay- Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking - Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away! While the song is about Kentucky, the impact of coal mining is the same.
4. The Fifth Heart. - Dan Simmons. A great story involving Sherlock Holmes serves as the platform to inform the reader about a great many things especially including the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.
5. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr. A book about people during WW11 that will remain in my mind for a long time.
6. Kill Me – Stephen White. A very different kind of thriller, one that poses lots of questions you will continue to ask yourself long after reading. Some of the parts do not stand up to logic very well, but all in all a good intriguing read.
7. Anna From Away – D.R. MacDonald. A totally captivating story taking place in the Cape Breton of today, but with the Cape Breton of the past always present.
8. The Truth According To Us – Annie Barrows (co author of The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society). A story of 1938 high society and blue collar. I found it delightful as a society deb uncovers small town West Virginia secrets while working for a New Deal organization called The Federal Writers Project.
9. The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebank. A captivating non fiction look at the current and past lives of real shepherds in the Lake District in England. Real people producing real products and keeping a small bit of England real.
10. Copper Mine -  Keith Ross Leckie. Canadian historical fiction based on the real life events surrounding the trials in 1917 of two Copper Inuit for the murders of two Catholic priests. Intriguing subject matter well worth the read. (note- book published in 2010
11. A Siege of Bitterns – A Pitying of Doves – Steve Burrows. 2 books by the Oshawa author called “birder murder mysteries”. I find myself comparing these books and their hero, Dominic Jejeune, to Commissario Guido Brunetti, the character from the Donna Leon novels, and also to Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec by Louise Penny. In the birder murder novels, we learn a great deal about serious birders, ornithology, salt marshes and their ecology, and also some grammar lessons courtesy of Jejeune’s girlfriend, a journalist. Incidentally, the books take place in England. Somewhat frustrating are the various mentions of previous cases without any particulars. I suspect a hook for future novels – I hope!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Notable Books Of 2014

Notable Books Of 2014
1. The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches- Alan Bradley  - a Flavia de Luce novel. Having read all the series I wait eagerly for the next -  which I suspect may take place in Toronto!
2. Up And Down – Terry Fallis. Once again a Fallis book makes my list. Lets hope he keeps writing for a long time.
3. The Lord God Bird – Tom Gallant. The bird thought to be extinct, the Ivory billed Woodpecker, is rediscovered in Arkansas and forms the basis for this beautiful and haunting story. A small book with a big impact.
4. Through A Glass, Darkly - Donna Leon. Her books are “intelligent” detective stories taking place in Venice and surrounding area. This particular book deals with glass making on Murano. All her books are delightful and informative reads.
5. The Devil Colony – James Rollins. This is really about ALL Rollins’ books. If you like books like The DaVinci Code you will love Rollins. I think of his writing as “Science made interesting” as he uses real science and weaves adventures into it. In this book, the science is nanotechnology – a hot topic today.
6. Picasso’s War – Russell Martin. A non fiction look at the destruction of the town of Guernica in Spain, and the famous painting by Picasso of that same name.
7. Lakeland – Allan Casey. A non fiction story of one man’s travel to various lakes across Canada. Should be a must read for anyone who loves “life at the lake”, and I promise, it is a joy to read.
8. Man In The Shadows – Gordon Henderson. Canadian historical fiction in 1867. An interesting and informative story with lots of factual information about Sir John A Macdonald, Ottawa as it was then, D’arcy McGee, his role in confederation and his murder, and the Fenian attempts to destroy the new confederation.
9. The Invention Of Wings – Sue Monk Kid. A fictionalized account of two real life sisters from Charleston fighting for abolition. This is about being true to yourself and your convictions.
10. Winter of the World – Ken Follett. The second book in the Century Trilogy (The first was Fall of Giants). Starting in 1933, covering WW11 and ending with the period of the Berlin airlift. The third in the trilogy has just been released.
11. The Wreckage – and Sweetland – Michael Crummey. Two books – two stories of Newfoundland and the people. The first about forbidden love and war, and the second about a remote settlement on an island outport about to be relocated.
12. The Confessions Of Francis Godwin – Robert Hellenga. An earlier book by Hellenga – The Snakewoman of Little Egypt – made my list a few years ago, and this one definitely belongs on this year’s list. A total immersion for the reader in music, philosophy, ancient Rome, Italian food, and something beyond describing.
I must mention Edge Of Eternity by Ken Follett. I am in the process of reading and have arrived at about the ¾ point of the almost 1100 pages. I will only say that the book will definitely be on my list for 2015!

Friday, July 25, 2014

My Life In Books

Books in my life
I have recently been thinking about books from childhood – books I read many years ago. In recent years I have done blog entries on “notable books of  the year” and I can look back at them anytime. For the earlier ones I have only memory.
I wondered what an exercise in trying to pull books out of my memory from previous years would produce. No prodding, no hard work, just simply going back over the years to see what stuck with me.
I suppose it is not really surprising that they tumbled forth and are still tumbling. I find it interesting to note that while I have read quite a few of the great “classics”, they did not rise to the surface in this process – although I think some on the list should be considered classics, and perhaps some are.
As the list grew, it became apparent to me that many would stand the test of time – that they could be read again and still enjoyed, and in some cases, perhaps would be more meaningful to me now than they were then.
My mind continues to dredge up books overlooked in this initial effort, and perhaps I will add to the list sometime.
For now, the first pass has 70 listed.
One final note – perhaps the book that has had a greater impact on me than any other was the grade 3 reader – Golden Windows! Why? It was because of this beautiful book that I became completely infatuated with reading – stories, poems, learning, wonder.
Any comments appreciated

Books in my life
1. The Bible (old and new testaments)
2. Robinson Crusoe
3. Kidnapped
4. Freckles
5. Girl of the Limberlost
6. Bambi
7. Lassie Come Home
8. Riders of the Purple Sage
9. Tom Sawyer
10. Huckleberry Finn
11. Anne of Green Gables 
12. Little Women
13. The Yearling
14. Last of the Mohicans
15. Leather Stocking
16. The Robe
17. The Silver Chalice
18. The Saracen Blade
19. Cry of the Wild
20. The Shoes of the Fisherman
21. The Clowns of God
22. Stranger in a Strange Land
23. Dune
24. The Avatar
25. The Narnia Series
26. Nanook of the North
27. Border Music
28. High Plains Tango
29. The Magicican of Lublin
30. The Winds of War
31. Chesapeake
32. The Bridge at Andau
33. Who Has Seen The Wind
34. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
35. King Rat
36. Shogun
37. Sarum
38. Whirlwind
39. The Haj
40. Trinity
41. Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)
42. Pillars of the Earth
43. The Professor and the Madman
44. The Meaning of Everything
45. The Last Days of Pompei
46. Mere Christianity
47. The Silent Spring
48. The Carpetbaggers
49. A Stone for Danny Fisher
50. The World According to Garp
51. Shoeless Joe
52. A River Runs Through It
53. The Hiding Place
54. The Old Man and the Boy
55. The Old Man’s Boy Grows Up
56. The Honey Badger
57. Five Smooth Stones
58. Life after Death
59. Berlin Solstice
60. Lonesome Dove
61. Commanche Moon
62. A Prayer for Owen Meany
63. The Glass Castle
64. Never Cry Wolf
65. Grey Seas Under
66. The Serpent’s Coil
67. Sibir
68. Three Day Road
69. The Owl’s Nest
70. The Boys of Summer



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Memory Lane Prince Edward County 1946 East Lake School

Memory Lane Prince Edward County 1946
East Lake Public School Picture 
The picture tells it all! How could the world have changed so much in such a short time? No designer clothes, no senior prom, no limousines and fancy dress at graduation. Eight grades in one small classroom heated with a wood stove.
I believe the school building is gone now, with no trace left except our memories. Yes, I am the little gink in the middle row with the wrinkly lisle stockings (oh the horror). My brother Keith is in the front row, and brother George was missing for some unknown reason.
This was postwar Canada. King George V1 was on the throne, and Roy Rogers was king of the cowboys.
So many memories – I dare not start that – but one cries to be told. On our farm dwelt an old tom turkey whose mission in life was to chase me when my mother sent me to the barn for fresh milk. (Imagine – getting a little pail of milk fresh from the cow without benefit of any processing before we drank it. How ever did we survive?). That turkey gobbler was the boogy man of my dreams! One Sunday after church, friends of my parents , Roy and Gladys Spafford came to our home for dinner (for you city folk, dinner was what we had at noon – supper at night). Mr. Turkey decided to take a run at Roy. It was his last run. Roy turned when he realized he was being attacked, and a quick kick at the turkey resulted in a broken neck for Tom, and a turkey supper for us.
You can enlarge the picture by clicking, and clicking again for an ever larger image.
The names of the students and teacher are ---
Back row – Kathleen Mann, Mary Vader, Margaret Wellbanks, Barbara Lancaster, Grace Goodwin (Teacher), Jack Laundry, Bill Noble, Bud Chapman, David Camp
Middle row – Lloyd Hanna, Margaret Elsbury, Lucille Parks, Mary Leavitt, Ruth Perry, Kay Camp, Shirley Laundry, Joan Marisett
Front row – Joseph Laundry, Lawrence Foster, Keith Hanna, Ken Marisett
Absent – Margaret Dyer, Nancy Laundry, Peter Welch, Paul Welch, George Hanna
email me at deerthistle@sympatico.ca

Monday, February 24, 2014

Poem on 2014 Olympics

Game of life
The games are on!
flame burning bright
Young athletes march
A moving sight
*
To get this far
Hard work for years
but will the prize
Be joy or tears
*
Will all their work
Earn them a spot
On winners stand
Or be forgot
*
So they compete
An all out strife
A fitting metaphor
For life
**




Monday, January 6, 2014

Notable Books of 2013

Most Memorable Books
The library record shows that 143 books were borrowed in calendar year 2013. While most of these were a good read, only 9 made my “memorable” list.
1. Sara Gruen – Ape House – A fictional account of a community of great apes (bonobos) living in a university language research facility. What kept me fascinated by this book was the insights into the habits and language abilities (based on facts) of these interesting creatures.
2. Sandra Dallas – Tall Grass – A 13 year old girl tells of life on a Colorado farm during world war 11 after an interment camp is located nearby for Japanese Americans. An “awful good” read!
3. Guy Vanderhaeghe – A Good Man - So many subjects in the decade after Custers defeat – Montana & Alberta, NWMP, Fenians, Queens Own Rifles, Sitting Bull, spies, Ottawa and Washington, etc. Not sure I “enjoyed” it, but it stays in my mind.
4. Diane Setterfield – The Thirteenth Tale – this book has received both rants and raves from various reviewers, and while I recognize the cons, I enjoyed the story and the main characters love of books
5. Carl Hiaasen – Bad Monkey – call me shallow, but I have read all his books and eagerly await the next. His weird and yet totally believable characters, his obvious passion for the natural Florida landscape and his caustic criticism of those who despoil it, combined with a wicked wit, put his books high among my favorites.
6. Alan Bradley – Speaking From Among The Bones – if you have not met Flavia DeLuce, you have been missing out. This Canadian author’s books are a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A delightful read on so many levels.
7. Brad Smith – Busted Flush – a Canadian author from Dunnville Ontario, Smith’s character Dock Bass is a man after my own heart – living life on his own terms. Throw in a hidden treasure trove of Civil war artifacts and a bunch of nefarious characters and you have a delightful read. Memorable just for the enjoyment of reading it!
8. Bill Bryson – One Summer – Simply another Bryson triumph. Characters and events that shaped our world but stranger than any fiction. Absolute must read!
9. Joseph Boyden – The Orenda – another book that I cannot say I “enjoyed”, but it is powerful and memorable and informs us of our central Canada heritage, both native and early settlers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Refreshing Christmas Album

Now It Is Christmas Again
with Garrison Keillor

Christmas music wears thin very fast. After the overexposure of the sacred, the sentimental, and the banal coming at you everywhere you go, it is difficult to find something that is always fresh, and sufficiently different that you look forward to hearing it every year.
Such music is possible with Garrison Keillor's Christmas album - Now It Is Christmas Again. No, it will not replace all your favorites, but it will add a distinct flavor to your play list with Keillor's patented brand of gentle humor, his genuinely nice music, and his ability to draw upon the nostalgia that hides within each of us.

It is not a new album, but is still available from various sources such as Amazon and Ebay. You would have not trouble finding it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Is There Music After Puretracks? YES!

Music Downloads After PuretracksAs a long time user of Puretracks for my music downloading, it was dismaying to try to log in recently only to find it seemed to have disappeared. I kept trying for several days hoping that it was only a website problem, perhaps updating the site. This apparently was not the case, and it is truly gone.
I was comfortable with their programme, the music was clean and downloading was not a problem. No worries about viruses, or other evils that may lurk in music sharing sites.
The problem to be solved was – where do I get music now?
After checking a site that evaluates various download sites, I settled on MP3 Million.
WOW!
I had been paying anywhere from .89cents to $1.39 per track, and as much as $12.00 for an album from Puretracks. MP3Million is straight $0.10 per track. And, if you buy the complete album it is still $0.10 a track, but generally also has a 20% discount. For example, and album with 10 tracks would be $1.00 less 20% - complete album for $0.80! And, with the album comes the cover art.
MP3million is extremely user friendly in every way – from a very simple sign up, to track or album selection, to buying and downloading.
You need to deposit a minimum of $15.00 to open your account. For this deposit you get 2 free tracks. In essence that means you have $15.20 in your account – that is 152 tracks for you.
Once the deposit is made you simply pick the music you want, hit “buy” and then download. No checkout process.
Despite my initial sadness at the closing of Puretracks, I now find I am very happy it did. Otherwise, being a creature of habit, I would have continued paying more than ten times too much.
Go to www.mp3million.com

Thursday, September 5, 2013

PRISONER OF WAR CAMP #30 Bowmanville

Dad was a guard at Camp # 30
My father was a veteran of both world wars, having served in the Royal navy in WW1, and also as a member of the Home Guard in Canada in WW11. His duty in WW11 was as a guard in the Prisoners of War Camps, both in Nipigon and Bowmanville. He also escorted prisoners of war from Halifax to the various camps, and was the bass drummer for the regiment’s band.
During his time in Bowmanville, Camp 30, he was given 4 gifts from prisoners. Whether they were from the same prisoner or from 4 different prisoners I am not sure.
The gifts were
1. A carved wooden pencil box that was a replica of the ship he sailed and was torpedoed on during WW1 – the HMS Louvain (see a separate blog on this )
2. A hand carved marionette/puppet Santa Claus
3. A painting of a scene from the home area of one of the prisoners
4. a painting of Camp 30.
As a child at that time, I remember playing with the marionette and the pencil box. Sadly, only the one painting is to be found today – the home scene. What happened to the other painting and the ship and Santa Claus I cannot say.
The painting is a water colour and signed by the artist.
The signature is relatively clear, and it appears to be C Koeppe, POW 44.
An article in the Toronto Star, dated September 5, 2013 is titled “Fight Is On To Save Historic POW Camp”, stating that Camp 30 is declared by Heritage Canada as one of the top 10 most endangered historic sites in the country.
The two pictures are
A. The painting described above
B.Dad in Nipigon in 1943. The prisoners in this camp were cutting wood.
Note that the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them, then clicking again for very large.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Notable Books Of 2012

You Might Like To Try These Books
133 Books borrowed from the library in 2012, and while most were enjoyable reads, there were only 11 that really hit me as exceptional. I suppose my criteria for selection is vague – the book just has to strike me as one that stays with me long after reading, and that I would recommend to others.
I should also point out that these are books I read in 2012, but they were not necessarily published in that year.
1. Bill Bryson At Home – a typical Bryson book – non fiction, well written, well researched, easy and enjoyable reading, and one where every page reveals a nugget of information that is both fascinating and new, and you want to tell someone about.
2. S.C. Gwynne Empire Of The Summer Moon – a fascinating non fiction read detailing the final years of the powerful Commanche nation, as well as the true story of pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
3. Mary Doria Russell Doc– a fictionalized account of the life and death of Doc Holliday. Not one of those glamorized shootemups, this book gives real depth to the characters and the times.
4. Sylvia Tyson Joyners Dream – The story uses a secret journal between 1788 and 2006 following the lives lived and the music played by the fiddlers of the family. A fascinating tale of multi generations, using the language of each age, and a cast of believable and roguish characters. Who knew Sylvia was more than a pretty singer?
5. Dave Barry/Alan Zweibel Lunatics – Just plain hilarious escapism – a quick amusing and satisfying read.
6. Elmer Kelton Lone Star Rising - A Trilogy about the beginnings of the Texas Rangers –same era as #2 above (Empire of the Summer Moon)
7. Eowyn Ivey Snow Child - A whimsical magical tale with wonderful detail of homesteading life in 1920’s Alaska
8. Barbara Wood The Blessing Stone – using a story about a unique stone, the reader gets glimpses into the lives and customs of various ages and cultures.
9. Sybil C. Lynde Stirling – To A House In Whitby – a beautifully written true account of the Lynde family (and associated families) as they make their way from the US to upper Canada. Very informative about York (Toronto) and what is now Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, etc. I should tell you that to my knowledge this book is not available in the library - it was loaned to me by the author.
10. Peter May – The Black House – a murder mystery in the Outer Hebrides, but it would still be a wonderful read even without the murder angle, just for the insight into the island culture, and the story of one person as both child and man.
11. Louise Erdrich – The Round House – His mother’s violent rape changes life for a 13 year old indian boy on a reservation. Despite the circumstances this is still in many ways a delightful story and worth the read.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Giant Cecropia Emerges

We Are Excited
In August of 2011, I entered a post showing the caterpillar of the cecropia moth. I placed it in a bottle to show our grandchildren the next day. They never did see it because when they arrived it had already spun itself into a cocoon. It was left outside over the winter and earlier this spring I carefully cut the cocoon out of the bottle (it was too small for the moth to emerge) and glued it to a stick that I then stuck in a potted plant. Then we waited and waited. I had almost given up hope when today – May 27, 2012 – the beautiful moth emerged.
A couple of pictures are included here, but if you want to see more, visit my album at
http://hanna1.magix.net/album#/my-albums/!/oa/6545675/mode/gallery/
I will leave the album on line for a month or so, and there is no password required to visit or download if you want.
Nature is truly wonderful!
You can enlarge these pictures by clicking once, and then again to get full size.
This is the cocoon awaiting the emergence of the moth
Voila - in all its splendor

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Granddaughters sing

Singing for Grandpa!
The files for these videos are too large to post in the blog, so you can see them on youtube. The videos are very casual, just performing for me in our living room, and of course their snoopy little dog has to show up in each.
In one video, Ashleigh and Morgan sing a song made popular by Alison Krauss - "I'm Just A Ghost In This House". In the other video, Ashleigh sings a shortened version of "I dont feel like loving you today", by Gretchen Wilson.
Here are the links. I hope you enjoy.
"I dont feel like lovin you today"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjOaK1xXbqE&feature=youtu.be
"Ghost in this house". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoN3-pHA5b0&feature=youtu.be
They have several other videos on youtube you may want to watch also.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sleepng Children Around The World ( SCAW )

Sleepng Children Around The World ( SCAW )

While chatting with an aquaintance at a concert recently, I asked about his brother Mike, and a very interesting story came out. About 2 years ago, Mike Slocombe of Bowmanville Ontario was a donor to a “Time & Talent” auction for their church. He offered to drive anyone going to the airport, in their own car, return the car to his home where he would thoroughly clean it inside and out, and pick them up on their return. I do not know how many trips he had on offer, but it was a great success and was quickly sold out.
Subsequently, another lady contacted him and said she was sorry she had missed out.
Would Mike consider taking her to the airport and she would pay him. Mike told her he would be glad to do this, but would not accept pay for it. She insisted that she pay something, and they reached an agreement whereby she would purchase a couple of bedkits for donation to an organization called SCAW (Sleeping Children Around The World).
This was the start of an ongoing program and a passion for Mike, who has since donated or caused to be donated many many kits. I know that his wife Janice is also wholly involved in assisting Mike in this venture, and I am sure they both feel a great sense of fullfillment.
Currently Mike requests that a minimum contribution be made to the charity to provide for three bed kits, however some willingly provide more.
Mike provides this service at any hour of the day or night, and in fact likes the very early and very late deliveries because traffic is at a minimum in those hours. The clients love the service because it provides them with a cost saving alternative to parking at the airport, they know their vehicle is safe, and they know they will be delivered on time, and picked up when they arrive. This is a real win/win situation for everyone.
If you do not know about SCAW, it was founded by Margaret and Murray Dryden in 1970 (their two sons played hockey – you might remember Ken & Dave!). This registered charity guarantees that 100% of all donations are applied – there are no paid administrators – even the volunteers who travel to other countries to give out the kits pay all their own expenses.If you are interested in finding out more, go to www.scaw.org - they have a wonderful story to tell! Who knows, you may get an inspiration! You might even decide to copy what Mike does, but be aware –
Mike OWNS Bowmanville!
(For your information it is important that anyone considering doing this, should do it in the client's car. This will protect them from insurance issues. the unfortunate real world.)



Thursday, March 1, 2012

COLLECTING STRAIGHT RAZORS

And other shaving stuff.
 In the early 1960’s I inherited a straight razor. Nothing special, but it was a fine instrument. When I saw another at a flea market I bought it. Soon I had several and found myself looking for them. My interest widened to any shaving memoribilia including blades, safety razors of all types, barbers bottles, advertising posters, sharpeners etc.
I soon learned not to tell friends what I was collecting because people laughed when I told them. It was not until I found a book on shaving artifacts that I realized there were other people in the world that had the same affliction. During the following years my collection took over one room in our house and included a big old barber’s chair.
When I was on business travel in various parts of the world and had some spare time I haunted antique stores in search of more treasures. My good friend Mike started buying razors for me, but soon found that he enjoyed the pursuit so much that he started his own extensive collection.
After retirement, I decided it was time to let others enjoy my collection and started selling piece by piece on Ebay. My first sale was a Marvel Safety Razor set that originally sold for .15 cents, and for which I paid under a dollar. I was more than a little shocked when it was bought by a collector for a big price.
I could ramble on all day and fill many pages on the delights of the search, the thrill of acquisition, the joy of ownership, and the pride in displaying, but I will not.
I have had thousands of pieces in my collection, and if you are thinking of the plain black handled straight razor that your grandfathers used – think again when you look at these few pictures. They are a tiny representation of the many finely crafted and elegantly styled straight razors that were prized by men of earlier generations, and many of which are still being used today by men who want the ritual and the wonderful shave only available by using one of these instruments.
As a footnote I would add that the variety and complexity of safety razors is equally interesting. If interested, google Roy Ritchie and Ron Stewart’s book “straight razor collecting”. One section contains pictures of some of my razors!
                                             Beautiful example of early 1900s ivory handled
This one, believe it or not, is late 1700's or very early 1800's with silver inlays and real tortoise shell handle
                                                 Another early 1900s with a snake handle
              Quite rare, this shotgun handled razor from the early 1900s is highly sought by collectors
                          A gorgeous ivory handled set with silver pins inlaid is from approximately 1840.
This is an example of a later razor, likely 1920s or 30s with art deco handle and beautifully shaped blade





Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Conscience & Consequences

We all have things in our past we wish we could change. Anka wrote, and Sinatra sang “Regrets, I’ve got a few, but then again, too few to mention”. I guess they were either lucky or saints. I know I have lots of regrets - things I did or said, or things that I could have done or said but did not – and when the memories flash in my mind now, I cringe – generally things that no one else would even remember or care about - not important to anyone but me.
However, sometimes people do or say things that are important to others, and those memories can cause embarassment, regret, or severe guilt.
After the previous post, I was contacted with another story.
The gentleman involved in this instance owned and operated for many years an automotive supply business, dealing with service stations, garages, body shops, and anything related.
A customer had purchased a piece of equipment that for some reason malfunctioned or simply did not work properly. Perhaps he was having a very bad day, or the equipment malfunction caused a loss of income, or maybe he just had anger management issues. Whatever the cause, when he could not contact the owner who was away on business, he spoke to the owners wife, and during his rant at her, he stated that he “would like to kill” her husband! Did he mean it literally? Probably not. Still, those words could not be recalled.
This took place a very long time ago, and while the equipment issue was subsequently resolved, the words still hung in the air.
They have met on many occasions since that time, but it was only last week that the man approached the owner, now long retired, to express his “deep regret” at those hateful and frightening words.
There is an old adage that says “confession is good for the soul”. I guess you could turn that around and say that keeping guilt inside without attempting to make amends is soul sickening. Conscience is our personal moral compass. It may not prevent us from doing or saying something rash, but it can direct us to the appropriate way to get rid of that terrible feeling of guilt or shame.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Conscience & Consequences

Recently, a friend (we will call him Bob) told us a remarkable story of deceit, guilt, and atonement.
Walking with his wife on the main street of a small town, he was approached by a man who called him by name. Although he did not recognize the man by face, he did recognize his voice. The man asked him if he could talk to him for a few minutes, which they did.
More than 40 years ago, Bob had been in a car accident at night when another car with two male occupants came from a side street and they collided. No one was hurt, although the car was totalled. Bob turned off the ignition in the still running vehicle, turned off the lights, and got out to wait for the police.
The other driver was charged, and when it came to court, the other driver, and his passenger told the judge that Bob had been driving without lights. Their case was dismissed.
Several years later, Bob received $1,000.00 in his mailbox from an anonymous source, which he puzzled over for a long time and then forgot.
You have likely guessed by now that the person who stopped him on the street that day was the driver of that vehicle many years ago.
He told Bob that he had not had peace of mind in all those years. He was the source of the money left in Bob’s mailbox, but that had not eased his conscience. He is now a respected businessman in that community, and when he saw Bob on the street, he took the opportunity to make his confession. He also told Bob that because of the guilt he suffered he had worked extra hard to be a “good man” for all the following years.
There are lots of elements in this simple story.
Consequences of our actions - Guilt as a life spoiler - Conscience - Confession -Atonement.
I admit to an admiration and respect for this man who did wrong, suffered for it, and has spent his life trying to atone.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Notable Books of 2011

Come Read With Me
These are books I read in 2011, but not all were new in that year.
My library record shows that I borrowed 151 books during the year. Those listed below are books that stand out in my memory when I look at the whole list. I will not attempt to do any kind of extensive review of them – you can find reviews on line. There were many other fine books on the list, but these were the standouts.
I find that as time passes, I want fiction books that provide several things – noble heroes and heroines that win, bad people that lose, some poetic revenge is always good, and happy endings.
I want murder mysteries to define the chase – not the details of the atrocities.
I want authors that do not get in the way of the reader if you know what I mean.
I want to feel satisfied at the end.
1. The girl who kicked the hornet's nest -Stieg Larsson –so well known nothing needs be said
2. The friends of meagre fortune - David Adams Richards – a Canadian tale of lumbering and lumbermen in past days.
3. The confession - John Grisham – includes a powerful indictment of Texas for it’s record of executing murderers.
4. Paganini's ghost - Paul Adam .Lots of interesting information about violin making as well as a good mystery
5. Snakewoman of Little Egypt - Robert Hellenga. A rather bizarre story of snake handling sects in America – makes an interesting read
6. Revenge of the lobster lover - Hilary MacLeod .A lighthearted Canadian murder mystery set in PEI
7. The best laid plans -Terry Fallis. A hilarious account of a reluctant Canadian politician
8. Pacific glory - Peter T Deutermann. Historical fiction – the battle of Midway – terrific!
9. The high road - Terry Fallis. A sequal to “The Best Laid Plans” (above). Equally hilarious
10. Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand. A non fiction account of a Unique American from WW11
11. From the far side of the river - Paul Quarrington. A Canadian author’s short stories of fishing. Quarrington is, surprisingly, not well known despite his many literature awards. Now deceased. Look him up on the net for his books (including Whale Music), and his music.
12. The Beothuk saga - Bernard Assiniwi. Historical fiction by a Native Canadian about the Beothuks (now extinct) of Newfoundland
13. The octave of all souls - Robert Eady. A story of a small Canadian town. Highly entertaining & nostalgic
14. The good son - Michael Gruber. A different viewpoint of split allegiances as well as terrorism. Worth the read
15. The evolution of Bruno Littlemore - Benjamin Hale. From ape to human – will disturb many readers, but probes deeply into what makes a “Human”
16. Thunderstruck - Erik Larson. Non fiction that reads like fiction - the stories of two men—Dr.Hawley Crippen, murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of the wireless telegraph. Highly recommend!
17. Caleb's crossing - Geraldine Brooks. Historical fiction and well worth reading for the details of life in that era in America, and especially relating to Harvard University.
18. A lonely death Charles Todd. A murder mystery, but more compelling is the traumatic after affects of WW1 on the characters
19. Sailing alone around the room - Billy Collins. Poetry. Wonderful, glorious, riotous, humerous, nostalgic. A must for poetry lovers!
20. High plains tango - Robert JamesWaller. From “The Bridges of Madison County” author comes this book that got lots of bad reviews by critics. Still, I LOVED it! Hits all my buttons.
21. A Redbird Christmas - Fannie Flagg. A great way to end the reading year. Flagg never fails to picture small towns and small town people in a wonderfully warm way. This is a “feel good” book.
22. Miles To Go - Richard Paul Evans. While this is actually a sequel, it is a good stand alone read.

I am currently halfway through Bill Bryson’s book – At Home. Great so far, but that will have to wait for the 2012 review.