Sunday, January 31, 2010

Isn't it Obvious?

The 2010 Winter Games are almost upon us and there are some interesting stories coming to light. I was sent this information a few days ago by a cousin who is quite removed from Beautiful BC but these stories are filtering down to him nevertheless.
In what is likely a case of overkill, Vanoc (Vancouver Olympic Committee) published and distributed to its employees, a 128 page book on protocol with foreign dignitaries during the Olympics. It contains such useful tips as 'match your socks to your trousers' as well as not 'smiling too zealously or prolonged'. It might be helpful in teaching those things that one should have learned at their mother's knee but mother was not around that much. At least it is giving the rest of us a chuckle.
Think about it. Wouldn't you be thoroughly embarrassed as a Canadian if some under informed city employee said with a big prolonged grin to a foreign dignitary "Dude, do you feel the breeze?", instead of "Excuse me sir, I feel compelled to inform you that your trouser fastener seems to be disengaged"?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Four More Sleeps

This is the famous church in downtown Puerto Vallarta ..... St Somebody, I'm sure.

I was not sure why I was almost getting depressed about everything and was so looking forward to a bit of time away, and then I was 'Tagged' by my daughter and now I know why. 'Tagging is a blogger thing that bloggers do to each other. They will answer a series of questions and then 'Tag' some of their readers and then the person who is 'Tagged' is supposed to answer the same group of questions on his/her blog. It is a way of getting to know other bloggers better. So I started looking at the questions and suddenly realized why I need a holiday. Here it is in all its patheticness.

10 years ago today: I have no idea. All the years blend together. I think I had less pain.

Yesterday: Same as today and the day before that. I got up, I went to work, I came home, I slept.

Tomorrow: Same as today. I will get up, go to work, come home, and then sleep.

Five snacks I enjoy: Can't snack 'cause I will gain weight.

Best impression that I do: Kermit the Frog

Five things I would do with $1 million: Nothing I haven't done before, just more of it.

Five locations I would like to run to: Only five?!

Five bad habits I have: Only five?!

Five things I love doing: Snacking, running to my favourite getaways, indulging in my bad habits, spending a million dollars, and doing my Kermit the Frog impression.

Five things I would most likely never wear: A turban, a fez, a burka, a parachute, and a bra.

Five movies I like: The last five I saw. (I like movies)

Five famous people I would like to meet: What would be the point?

My biggest joys at the moment: My grandsons, my faith, my books, my computer, my friends.

My favourite toys at the moment: My Nikon D5000 DSLR, my computer, and my paper shredder. (Just kidding)

Now that you have seen how exciting my life is, is it no wonder that I need a holiday?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day Dreamin'

A dream, unless very intense, will likely fade away from the memory in 24 hours. My dream is in continuous mode. As I was working today, my mind was far away, somewhere just north of Puerto Vallarta. I was sitting beside the clear blue waters of one of the seven swimming pools, my head in the shade of a swaying palm tree while my body was soaking up UV, washing my eczema splotched body in Vitamin D. I can feel the healing as I slowly turn the pages of my paperback novel. The background sounds are muted and far away. There are not too many people around the pool today but I can catch bits and pieces of conversation. The words 'snow', 'north', 'cold', and 'home', are caught on the breeze and I know where those tourists are from. Over there I see a white skinned couple dragging their luggage behind them, still wearing their blue jeans and sneakers, and anxious to get to their room so they can change into shorts and sandals. A few minutes later another couple, dragging their luggage in the other direction, look longingly over their tanned shoulders, dreading the return to their cold and snowy home. But me, I just bask in the sun and take it all in. There in that tall tree, the one where the doves coo early in the dawn light, there is a commotion. I train my eyes on the lower branches where I thought I saw movement. I see others pointing and soon I see it too. There is an iguana, about three feet long from the tip of its long sharp tail to its blunt nose. They are everywhere but very difficult to spot. They are very shy, and well camouflaged. I soon lose sight of the reptile, even though it did not move away. It just blended in. I take another sip of my cool sweet drink and go back to my book. I toy with the idea of getting a big plate of fresh fruit, watermelon, papaya, and succulent pineapple. But first I will take a quick dip in the pool to cool down a bit. It is 30C and I am not used to it, but adjusting rather nicely. As I roll off my lounge chair, I look down and get a cold chill. I am staring into my tool box, looking for the umbrella straw I dropped but seeing only screwdrivers and hammers. Which one is reality? For now, I am afraid that the hammers and screwdrivers are winning out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Dream

I awoke with a start a half hour before the alarm could jar me out of my dream. It was such a vivid dream that it took several minutes to realise just where I was. I cannot remember ever being more anxious to go on a vacation than I have been this winter. It has been two years since we have been anywhere warm in the cold, dark, and wet months of November to February. I have been thinking of nothing else since we booked this vacation several weeks ago. The thought is now invading my dreams.
We were dining in the Flamingos, the open air restaurant that faces the sunsets and the open waters of Banderas Bay. The food and beverages were delicious, the company and conversation were stimulating, and balmy early evening ocean breezes were cooling our skin after a day in the hot sun. The tinkling of glasses and distant clatter of dishes were all that remained of our dinner and it was soon time to make a decision. Our friendly Mexican waiter made one last attempt to refill our coffee cups and departed with an amiable "Amigo" greeting. Should we take a stroll along the beach as the last vestiges of the sunset were spreading their reflection on the water, should we wander about the impromptu market that sets up around the main pool each evening, or should we take in the Latino show that will grace the entertainment bowl that night? There was no wrong choice.
But, the reality was that I was still in my bed at home, a whole week to go, and six days of hard work ahead of me. This dream has given me serious second thoughts. I think I have made a big mistake. I know I have made a big mistake. I should have booked two weeks instead of one!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Last Chapter

This is not the window we ordered!

The whole process started last August when we called the salesman to give us an estimate on the new doors and windows. We were sure we would be done by Christmas but one window and one door were ordered the wrong size and type so we waited until just last Thursday to finalize the project. I am pleased to announce that all is done and meets all our expectations. The issue of the steel door that was wrongly installed has been resolved and the only issue now is the missing latch from our storm door on the outside of the kitchen entry. When the guys un-installed the door in December, the latch must have been swept up with the debris and tossed out because we cannot find it anywhere. I will have to scrounge for one at a second hand store or rig something up in my work shop.
I have been a very light sleeper most of my adult life and will awaken during a storm, or if there is unusual noise near our house. I suppose it is the noise that does it because our house is now so air tight and quiet that I am sleeping right through the night. There was a violent wind storm here last week and I never heard a thing. Then the fire at the end of the block last week, with people on our street watching from a distance, and I was totally unaware. Not sure yet if this is good or bad.
Our heating bill decreased with the new energy efficient furnace we installed in August, and now in the month of February, we will get the first true result of the savings with both furnace and windows installed and doing their efficient thing. I am actually looking forward to getting a bill. I can't believe I just said that!
The next step is to get our house re-evaluated with another pressure test and then fill out the paperwork for all the rebates, grants, tax credits, and kick-backs. It was an expensive project but with all the refunds, the lower heating costs, the added value, and the increased comfort, it was all worth it.
Next project? Two actually. Get my dad's place up to date so we can put it on the market and when the weather warms up, paint our own house on the exterior. Without a project, I will have nothing to blog about.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Tonight (Friday) we were at a wonderful concert called "SING!". It was put on by 'The Christian Tenors' and their special guest was the MEI choir, from a local private school. These are three guys, one local boy, one from Minnesota, and one from Nashville Tennessee. They are all excellent tenor soloists and when they blend their voices they are quite phenomenal. They sang mostly hymns and on several of them they invited the sold out audience to join in on the chorus. The three fellows interacted quite well and it was entertaining on several levels. Overall, it was an excellent concert and fun time. They have been here before and will be coming back. I think I would go again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Airport Security

New strict security rules were put into place on Dec 26th as a result of an attempted airplane bombing. The public were greatly inconvenienced, mainly because the security people dropped the ball and then had to give the appearance of doing something about it, other than just doing their jobs, which was already greatly inconveniencing the general flying public. On Wednesday morning, something changes. The question is what? Passengers will at that time be once again allowed to bring carry on luggage into the plane. But why on Wednesday? Was it not safe to do so on Tuesday?
Nothing changes except for the creative ways in which we, the public, are being convinced that somebody is doing something about our safety. Thousands are killed every year by drunk drivers and yet there is not nearly the effort to curb this kind of behaviour as there is effort to curb the destruction of an airplane that would result in the loss of a few hundred lives. I suppose one life lost at a time does not have the impact of 200 lost at one time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Next Big Scare

Do you get the feeling that the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) scare has run its course. There seem to be more and more people and articles speaking out and questioning the so called settled science. There was 'Climategate', a fiasco of a climate conference in Copenhagen, the debunking of shrinking glaciers in the Himalayas, the coldest winter in Europe in decades, record snowfalls in Korea, a snow covered UK, and ice on the oranges in Florida. The movement is losing its credibility.
If you have been reading my rants on this blog, you know that I believe the whole thing is about a socialist agenda to re-distribute the wealth of the world. You simply have to read the agreement that came out of Copenhagen to this quite clearly.
So if the AGW is losing its legs, does the agenda then fail. Well, it must continue and it will do this by creating a new scare. It is now testing the media to see which of a number of new ideas will fly. Here they are in order of importance according to the IPC. (Yes, the UN is always behind these kinds of things because the UN is an agent of unrest against the wealthy countries of the world) Here are the new scares coming to a newspaper near you, and possibly a theater too when Al Gore can get his mind unwrapped from the disappearing Polar Bears and the 16 foot increases in ocean levels.
1. The most threatening green house gas of them all N2O ( Nitrous Oxide a.k.a laughing gas) I'm serious! Actually, it will destroy the Ozone layer. Remember the Ozone layer, the one that continually deteriorates and then repairs itself? Sure you do.
2. The smothering of the planet in plastic. I guess that warning on the bag is not only for young children.
3. A decrease in Oxygen in the atmosphere. Apparently during the days of the dinosaurs there was more oxygen around.
When these options have been test driven, you will be seeing one of them replacing the failed AGW.
If you want a really interesting read, go here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Windows and Doors

The saga of the windows and doors continues. The time promised for a call back to install the last window and door has long gone. The Home Renovation Tax credit deadline looms. Having been in the home renovation business myself for 35 years, I know the value of integrity and a word trusted. I am at times taken aback by the surprised looks on my customer's faces when I do what I say I am going to do and when I come when I say I am going to come. Keeping one's word seems to be a rare commodity these days.
There is yet to be installed, one patio slider door, and one kitchen entry door. The door that is in that opening now is two inches too short and needs replacing. I cannot understand why they are dilly dallying because I am withholding a lot of money. I do not for one minute believe that these guys are dishonest, but perhaps the problem is that they are a rapidly growing company and they are not able to keep up with the growth. It would be wise for them to not forget one of the fundamentals of business and that is a totally happy customer. That, in return, will bring them the best advertising that there is and that is 'word of mouth' advertising. At the rate these guys are going with me, they are soon going to get some 'word of mouth' advertising from me, but it will not be of the desirable variety.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Standing Room Only

This photo does not begin to do justice to the following story.

When I get a call for work, rarely is the person I am talking to not a complete stranger. I glean what I can from the call, the person's voice, a little bit about the nature of the job, and a phone number with address so I can visit the site, give advice and a free estimate of the work required. It is always an adventure driving up to the address, ringing the doorbell, and seeing the customer face to face for the first time. I am often surprised at the age of the person as it is very difficult to tell by a voice over the phone.

But, beyond that, I never know what kind of home I am about to enter. About a week ago I was greeted at the door of a condo on the third floor of a building I was totally unfamiliar with. She was a single lady in her fifties, short, plump, thick glasses, and looking very nervous. When I had spoken with her on the phone, I remember having had a difficult time understanding her. Not only did she have some sort of strange accent, but she phrased her sentences in an unusual way. I was expecting to see an Oriental lady, or maybe someone from the Middle East.

I was able to eliminate Oriental immediately. I knew I would eventually ask her where she was originally from, that is, if it did not come up in conversation.

She bid me come in and promptly backed up to make room for me. The aromas from her cooking breakfast hit me but otherwise the place smelled clean. I took one glance from the tiny entry and was able to survey the kitchen, the dining room, and the adjoining living room. It was a sea of clutter. There was a tiny space in which the two of us stood while she rambled on and on about her decorating ideas.

"This is how all my ideas started" she said as she pointed to the kitchen and the three blenders and two food processors pushed into a corner on the counter top to make room for a bread maker, coffee maker, can opener, and several rows of canisters and cookie jars. There were pots and pans, stacks of clean and dirty dishes, bottles of water and juice, bags of pasta, loaves of bread, an opened and half used carton of eggs, and various other kitchen items that should have been stored in the refrigerator or in the cabinets, had they not already been stuffed to the point where the doors were standing half open, unable to close.

"I want to build more cabinets here where the little kitchen table stands. Then I can get rid of the table and chairs and eat off the top of the new cabinet"

I am thinking that really all she needs to do is get rid of stuff.

She rambled on for almost an hour before she got to the part that involved me in her impossible dream of making her space habitable.

She could only point to the area where I was to work as there was no way of getting there, physically. She then, stepping gingerly sideways, took me into her bedroom and the adjoining tiny bathroom where there was not even room to change one's mind. Again, her idea was to change the colour on the wall to give the illusion of space.

I was beside myself and could stay silent no longer. I told her in as nice a way as possible, that there was no way anything could be done in her suite the way things were at the moment. I blurted out that she simply had to get rid of a lot of her stuff.

"The best and most effective way of giving the illusion of space is to actually make space", I stated in the most professional voice I could muster.

"How about mirrors?" she countered.

"I'm sorry, but that will just make it look like you have twice as much stuff. In fact, I cannot do what you want me to do here until there is room to at least get to the walls."

She seemed a bit sad and hesitant. She then told me she was from Quebec and there she had nothing so all her things meant so much to her.

But then she perked up and started thinking out loud about who she could give this to and where that could go.

My morning was getting eaten up so I excused myself and asked her to call me back when she got rid of at least 1/2 of her clutter.

She thanked me profusely for the advice and seemed actually excited about the new challenge ahead of her.

Yes, she did call me back and it seems she wants me to come to do the work in mid February.

I will get back to you on just how well this went. In the meanwhile, I am going to have to lose some weight just to get in there again!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Becoming a Habit?

In October I told you about a chance meeting. When we go for a long Sunday afternoon walk, we never know who we are going to bump into. We saw a couple way in the distance, ahead of us, and something about them looked familiar. We picked up the pace and after some strenuous speed walking, we caught up to them and yes, it was the same couple. We had not seen them since our last encounter in the park.
At the time, he was getting over the swine flu, but there was another issue he was dealing with. He had, only last summer, experienced a 'neurological event'. Today he tells me that what he had was a stroke. All the testing, poking and prodding has been done and it is determined that if he does not lead a very healthy lifestyle from now on, he could be hit again, only this time with much more devastating results. He has not worked for a 1/2 a year and will not be going back any time soon. When he does, it will start at 4 hours per day and work up to maybe three days a week. His future is very uncertain now to say the least. He is much younger than I am and that makes me grateful that I have reached the age I have without a similar experience.
He was able to tell me of a few positive benefits which have arisen as result in this event in his life and that tells me that he is not very stressed about it. That in itself will serve him well. His future is a life of taking things one day at a time and being grateful for every moment.
I told him that he is fortunate to have found this great secret to life before it was too late.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


It has been an interesting week at work. I often try to guess the ages of the people I am working for and I am most often dead wrong. I rarely bring it up, but after a few days, it is usually revealed for some reason or other. We were the guests (at least they made us feel that way) of a couple of retired bankers. Jock is a hunter, and you can easily believe it by the trophies in his family room and his rugged outdoor appearance. He is a large, strong man, with bushy eyebrows and a deep, harsh voice. But he has a heart of gold. He treats his golden retriever like his best friend, and when he found out we have a fund raiser garage sale every spring, he immediately went out to his garage and gathered up a pile of stuff for us, including an excellent micro-wave/convection oven.
His wife, Carol, is a delight. She is conversant on any topic and has an intelligent opinion on everything without being shrill. Her hot button is travel and indeed, she was on the phone and the Internet most of the time we were there, booking her next trips. She travels at least 4 times a year and has been in 120 countries. Her next trip is to Brunei and Borneo. She and her girlfriend travelling companions have had some real adventures over the years. Nothing scares them except, perhaps, sitting on the beach in some well travelled resort.
And their ages? They are both 80! I guess 80 is the new 70.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I just noticed as I posted this photo, that we are all connected by knees and shoulders. I am happy that we are connected by more than that. My readers previously saw Louise and her daughter Bonnie, now have a look at my Uncle Jack. The last time he was at our home, he put on a magic (sleight of hand) show. That was back a ways at Thanksgiving. He always has something up his sleeve and this time it was his daughter. He brought her over so we could see each other after a long absence.

He also brought me a book and asked me to read it, which I have done. The book is "Transforming Encounters" written by Henry Teichrob from right here in Abbotsford. There are many locals who have written their biographies, many of them having come from very tumultuous circumstances, before they came to Canada. This is not really a biography, but more an account of a dynamic period of time in the life of the church. Henry was a key player in a genuine revival that took place in the seventies and spread throughout many parts of Canada and the USA.
Through an interesting accounting of how he, and his wife Freda, came to be involved, he goes on to tell of experience after experience how both Christians and non -Christians came to be free from what he calls 'self-life'. It is really a treatise on being free in Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through the believer. He documents many testimonies and and they are all, every one, remarkable. If a person were ever in his life to wonder if there is more to Christianity than what they are experiencing, this is a book for them. I found it encouraging, insightful, inspirational, interesting, instructional, and quite well written. When I see all the books flying off the shelves in the local Christian Bookstore by authors such as Yancy, Eldridge, Colson, and Lucado, I wonder why Henry's book is not a best seller also.
Thank you, Jack, for the book. I will now do as you asked and pass it on to someone else, and if they return it like I will request, it will get passed on again.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Consumer Driven

I read today, that the more accurate figure of 17% is closer to the reality of unemployment in the USA. Add to that the decline of outstanding consumer credit by 8 percentage points in the last year. This means that fewer people are working as well as fewer people are using their credit cards or dipping into their lines of credit. Unemployed folks are not big spenders. They cannot afford to be. And those that are working are trying to re-establish their financial position of a few years ago and are saving, not spending.
These factors do not bode well for an economy that depends on consumer spending for 70% of its existence. If consumers are not spending, that means that retail outlets are not making much money, in fact many of them are laying off people and many are closing their doors. This results in fewer factory orders and soon factories are laying off people also. These companies, many of whom are publicly traded, are not making the profits of the good old pre-recession days.
So, when I read today that stocks in these companies are over priced, it came as no surprise.
A few months back I was saying the price to earnings ratio on the stock exchange was 27 to 1. Since then the stock markets have risen, while earnings have fallen, until today, the earnings ratio is 100 to 1! This means that for every dollar that is spent on stocks, one penny is earned in dividends. This has got to be the worst investment around and still you hear these financial institutions say that we should be getting into the markets because they keep going up.
The average investor sees the dismal returns on GIC's and interest rates and thinks the market is the place to be. It is exactly the place not to be when it crashes, and it will. The next wave of 'option ARM' mortgages are coming due right now and there will be more foreclosures, more fallout from that, and the economy will slide farther downhill.
In the end, the folly of government bailouts will be revealed. It is said that if it were not for the stimulus programs in the USA, there would 2 million more unemployed than there are now. That works out to $800,000.00 spent for every job saved. If I were Obama, I would not be too proud of that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help Where it is Needed

A CC-130 Hercules tactical transport prepares to take off for Haiti.

There are many countries around the world that need help. Their people live in abject poverty, their governments are corrupt, and hopelessness and fear are a way of life. These countries are ignored. There are so many of them and so few resources with which to help. We wring our hands and say how terrible it is that people have to live that way and then we go to Tim Horton's for our daily coffee and gossip session.
But then something changes. A tsunami comes out of the blue, a volcano erupts, or a major earth quake hits. Suddenly, the world wakes up to the tragedy and aid pours in, mostly from the USA, the UK, and Canada, but help arrives, and it should.
The people of Haiti will get some housing re-built, roads will be repaired, food will be provided and the injured and maimed will get some relief, probably short term. And in a few months or years what will be left will be a few NGO's (non governmental organisations) doing what they were doing before. They will be fighting poverty, child abuse, neglect, disease, malnutrition and disease. A new born baby will be abandoned at the orphanage, it will be cared for, and then a caring compassionate family from Canada will adopt and give it a new life in a free and wealthy country. The biological mother of the child will again get pregnant and will again abandon the baby at the orphanage and the circle will go on.
It is no wonder we turn a blind eye. We like permanent solutions. We want to fix it once and for all and then move on to the next problem that we can have a crack at solving.
'Power To Change' is taking a fresh approach in Guatemala. There are teams of professional men influencing government and business leaders in that country. They are showing them that justice and morality is a win/win. The 'flavour' of a country comes from the top down. When the leadership understands that every one will be better off, including themselves, then corruption is cleaned up, and a real change can take place.
Haiti needs a good dose of this kind of help after the Hercules cargo jets leave for home.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


St. Stephen's Tower and Big Ben in the snow, taken from Westminster Bridge

According to what we read here, there is yet hope for clarity in this climate change confusion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We Need More Greenhouse Gases, Now!

Tropical Ice Sculpture courtesy of

What do you think of when you conjure up images of Central America? Heat, humidity, tropical temperatures, ceiling fans swirling lazily in hot room, warm rain, and perhaps humming air conditioners? Read this from my cousin whose daughter lives in Guatemala.

Be on alert for intense cold in Guatemalalunes, 11 de enero de 2010Monday, January 11, 2010The National Coordination of Disaster Reduction has placed a "yellow" alert for the intense cold in almost all of Guatemala. The cold will get worse over the next few days.Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, Totonicapán, San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Sololá, Alta Verapaz y esta capital, éste de la municipalidad.For the people that have very low resources (housing etc), this organization will open 15 shelters in various places. (as listed above)According to the National Institute of weather, the temperatures will descend even more on Monday and Tuesday, and may begin to rise on Thursday.For the moment, the city of Guatemala "woke up" this morning with a temperature of 8 degrees. (46 F)They are estimating that for the regions that are 3000 meters above sea level, temperatures will be below zero.----------------------------------------------------------------------*This may not mean much for many of you, but please remember to pray for the Guatemala people. Many of which live in shacks and very poor housing facilities. And there are also a lot of people that live on the streets. There is NO heating in the houses and the wind usually blows between the gaps between the windows and the walls. It is COLD!

Help us, Al Gore, we are confused!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Getting into Hot Water

Ever since my dad moved into his condo ten years ago, we have toyed with the idea of one day making use of the hot tub in the commons recreation area. I have been down there many times, and indeed we have had a few family and friends gatherings right next to the hot tub room, and I have never seen anyone ever use it. But, it is always hot and circulating, inviting me into its warm and swirling depths. It is a wonderful thing to do on a cold winter night. Not only do you get warm to the bone, but the atmosphere is very conducive to visiting with those brave enough to enter the waters with you. After the initial embarrassment of exposed white pudgy skin with way too many wrinkles and enough hair on the shoulders to make a quality mop, things settle down and it becomes time for warm and meaningful conversation. Perhaps it is the shared vulnerability that encourages one to open up, and also confidence that nobody will walk out in the middle of your story.
After several attempts, we got a couple to come join us but first rewarded them with a wonderful salmon steak dinner. After that, how could they not join us? But, it was pre-arranged so they were good with the plan. We drove the few blocks and were anxiously looking forward to our clandestine adventure. I say that because we do not actually live in the building so we were technically uninvited guests, or moochers, as some would call us. But we were also technically entitled to be there because I am on the title of ownership of my dad's condominium and as an owner, I could use all the facilities.
All our plans and anticipation were stopped dead in their tracks as we approached the door to the hot tub room. It read "Sorry, out of order". Disbelieving, we entered to see for ourselves and much to our dismay, it was stone cold and had a garden hose running water into it. It was truly pouring cold water on a hot idea. We are now more determined than ever to use it. It will easily hold 6-8 bodies. Any takers?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Long Lost

My Aunt Louise and her daughter Bonnie.

She does not look Korean, but she practically is. My cousin Bonnie raised her family in the USA and then she and her husband Larry tootled off to Korea where they have been for the last 13 years. I had not seen her since our high school days together in the seventies and then one day she showed up at our garage sale! That was about two years ago. We heard she was in town yesterday and promptly invited her and her parents in for coffee and chocolate cheesecake. These are two amazing ladies. Louise is 90, and she will probably be reading this so I must be careful. She is one of those rare people who are teenagers trapped in an aging body. She is by far one of the sharpest, cleverest, wittiest and just downright nicest ladies I have ever known. In spite of living with pain, she keeps a youthful vigour about her and her enthusiasm is very catchy. I have only the greatest admiration for her. I see many similarities in Bonnie and the aging process has only enhanced those qualities in her that I admired so while we just teens. One of the things that makes her so endearing is her genuine interest in others. In fact, I feel guilty now that I allowed her to divert so much attention to us, and as a result, I feel we must get together again soon so I can reverse that situation and get to know her better.
As for Uncle Jack, I will save some thoughts for another post as he gave me a book to read and he wanted some feedback from me. I will only say for now that he considers himself as an 'over ripe teenager'.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another Law Book

I enjoy reading a good book and always have. I have a list of favourite authors but there is a very popular author who is not really on my list and yet I keep picking up his books. John Grisham is a prolific writer who has published 21 novels and one work of non-fiction. I have just read my fifteenth Grisham novel and am into his latest effort, which is a collection of short stories called Ford County. His books are easy to read and he is a very good story teller. I sometimes get the feeling, after having completed another of his books, that anybody could do that.
Having been a lawyer himself, his books tend to be about lawyers. "The Associate" is no different. It takes the reader into the world of a brilliant law student and his first experience working with one of the largest law firms in the USA. There is a mantle of blackmail and intrigue surrounding his experience and he deftly tries to extricates himself from a very sticky situation. It makes one very cynical about the legal profession, but then there is a built in bias in all of us in that regard. It was a bit more satisfying than "The Appeal", which left me cold and tossing the book in the corner.
"Ford County" is proving to be interesting and diverse. I am half way through and will definitely finish.
My favourite story of his has nothing at all to do with the practise of law. It is the "The Painted House". My second favourite, "Playing for Pizza" is strictly about Italian football. So, why do I keep reading Grisham? I guess I am waiting for another novel from him that is not about lawyers.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reason to be Proud

I would love my grandsons no matter what their lot in life. We have invested time in their lives and it has paid us back in spades. We are very close and free and easy with each other. It is such an incredible pleasure watching them grow and become such great guys. With all three, we have taken a lot of time reading to them from a very early age. It started out the same for each of them. We would pick up a book and start reading and they would just want to turn pages. We were OK with that as we knew they would naturally have short attention spans. We kept at it, as did their mom and dad and other grandparents. Soon they were being attentive as we read the whole book through. Eventually, they began to read some words on their own, and soon small books.
This last week, Liam, 15 months old, graduated to sitting still for a whole children's book. Chad, 9, continues to read at a level way beyond his age. His vocabulary and knowledge on so many different subjects are a testament to his love of reading. And Nate, 11, and in grade six this year, was tested and found to be reading at a grade twelve level. Just to top that off, he was also on the 'honour roll' and the 'effort roll'.
We always hear from educators that reading to children is one of the best things you can do for them. We have proof that they are right!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Last Laugh

This is the other barn at the end of Marshall Road Extension
Today, more evidence for climate change, but not the kind we are supposed to fear. Maybe a little more carbon in the atmosphere would rectify things.
My friend from the UK tells me that it is snowing there again with no let up in sight. "The coldest winter in 30 years" they are saying. They are not equipped with salt nor snow plows and things kind of grind to halt there as roads get slippery and snow covered. A news report on the TV says that there are not too many groceries left in some stores, whether a result of hoarding or poor transportation is a guess.
The Des Moines paper reports 30 degrees below normal temperatures.
Seoul, South Korea, has just received more snow than it has had in the last 70 years! And there was no global warming 70 years ago!
Those Russian scientists I blogged about a while back, the ones who studied sun spots, predicted another ice age and that was at the height of the all the global warming fear mongering. Look who might get the last laugh.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Did the Priest Say?

Abby Monastery in Mission

I have raised the topic of the 'Emerging Church' with many people and I get a lot of blank stares. At best, they will say that they have heard the expression but admit that they do not know what it is . If one is not a Christian, and does not attend church, then it does not have any meaning or significance and is not an issue. For those of us who are Christians and do attend church, it is an issue of major significance and will sooner or later influence our thinking and our way of understanding the gospel, if it has not already.

I certainly do not claim to be an expert on this topic but it is of enough concern to me that I have been prompted to look into it. In my previous post, I made reference to the conversation I had on this topic as a result of a CD that was loaned to me. The Catholic monk (on the CD) was describing the emerging church and indeed promoting it. There is too much information to cover in a simple blog post, but it seems to be evident that two of the pillars of the new face of Christianity are universalism and ecumenism. For the uninitiated, universalism is the idea that all religions are true, valid, and lead the seeker to God. Ecumenism is the movement to amalgamate all denominations into one unified body, in particular, protestant and Catholic. The objective of promoting these two pillars of faith is to create a heaven on earth for all, through our accomplishments as a united front.

This movement is gaining momentum and is fraught with dangers. It is cloaked in well meaning sentiments and the familiar language of 'Christian speak' and its effects are being felt world wide. My personal belief is that there will be few Christians who will not succumb to its subtle apostasy because of its lofty ideals and because of the powerful and influential people it has drawn into its leadership.

Monday, January 4, 2010


There are still two old barns at the western end of Marshall Road Extension. This is one of them.
As I am recalling my Christmas Holiday, I can count at least 75 people with whom I have had at least a brief conversation. This does not include all the many folks who only got a "Merry Christmas" from me. Two encounters stand out, one a result of my initiative and the other not, although I was a very willing participant in both cases.
The first one was a two hour coffee I had with an old friend I had not seen for many years until I attended his dad's funeral just before Christmas. I was so impressed with the eulogy that my friend gave that I had to get together with him to tell him so. We had a long discussion about such things and his perspective on his dad's life and death. Years before his dad's demise, he began to email his long lost relatives about his dad's condition, and would always talk about his dad's life of integrity and his dad's faith in God. These people were hearing about God not through my friend, but through his ailing dad, even though it was my friend who was writing to them. Now, after the funeral, many of these people are wanting to talk to my friend. Although his dad was a quiet man, he was a steady rock and did mentor many people. Now in his death, he still speaks to many.
The other very interesting encounter was with a sometimes friend who I met in Palm Springs, but lives here. He loves meaningful conversation and is quite conversant on many topics. He has developed this habit of baiting me. He will bring up a topic and then tell me that he wants to get together to discuss it. I am always 'up' for it and promptly do my research. This time he got me on a topic of interest that I already had a bit of a handle on. He gave me an audio CD by a Catholic Priest who was describing the Emergent Church. That coffee lasted almost three hours! I was sure we would be disagreeing on some aspects of this topic, but we each went away in almost total agreement and each a bit wiser.
I thoroughly enjoy encounters such as these, but they take time and my days off are the only occasions when I can do this kind of thing. We are going to a sunny place for a week in February and we are going with another couple. They too thrive on this type of thing so I am really looking forward to this vacation for more reasons than one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Tear Jerker

Does two times in one week make it a new habit? Yes, two movies in one week after not going to one for so long makes it feel like that. We went to see "The Blind Side" on Wednesday night. I had heard from a few people who had gone that it was worth seeing and I must say that they were right. It is based on a true story of a wealthy family who takes in a homeless black kid and provides food, clothing, and shelter as well as love and a sense of belonging. He is in High School when they do this and they soon discover that his great size is about to make him an exceptional football player. The big problem is that his grade point average starts with a zero! Sandra Bullock, who has always been a very popular actress, plays the part of the high society mom and does she ever do a fantastic job of balancing her privilege in life with her compassion as a caring Christian woman who feels a sense of duty to do something for the downtrodden in life! But, she has a very feisty side which creates some very funny moments and these scenes endear her to the audience to the point of tears. The movie is heart warming, funny, and highly entertaining without getting too cliched. The fact that in real life this young man has just been selected in the first round of the NFL draft makes this story even more intriguing. If I had three thumbs, they would all be up.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Counting the Decades

It all depends on how you count, but I think we have not just entered a new decade. That happens next New Year's day.
Consider yourself at the beginning of time. There has been zero time before you were suddenly aware of your existence and one of the first things you want to do is keep track of time so you invent the calendar on day one of your existence. You have a choice what year you will write on your calendar, above where you write January 1. Would you put a 'zero' there because there has not yet been any time, or would you put one there because it is the first year? I think most people would agree that there was not a year zero, but there was a year 'one', or the first year.
If you called the first year 'One', then there had to be ten years passed before a decade was over and a new one began. Year two was called 'two' etc. When ten years had passed, the first decade was over and the very next year was the beginning of the new decade and that would be year 'Eleven'. (Count them on your fingers if you have to.) Therefore, our new decade starts in 2011, next year. We are really only in the tenth year of the present decade.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 19

New Year's Eve came early for us so we could get to the Indian Canyons south of Palm Springs. There are four canyons that come out of the rocky barren mountains, each containing a fresh water stream  lined with Palm Trees and other flora. There is an admission fee that gets one into all four canyons. It is a two day process to just get a taste of all four. We started with Andreas Canyon, the best one, in my opinion.

The air was quite cool at first, but the sun was warm. It was actually warmer in the canyons, which surprised me. Perhaps the rocks that tower on the south facing side were still radiating their heat from the summer months.

There is a stark contrast between the lush greenery of the canyon floor and the arid desert only feet away. The streams were running cold, clear and full, still from the recent rains. Evidence of the floods of last week was everywhere.

The towering Palms here are magnificent, rooted firmly among the rock falls from the sheer cliff faces above. There were only five of us here today as some where a little 'gun shy' from their freezing experience of yesterday. It was so much better today, lower altitude, sheltered from the wind, and warm sunshine from perfectly clear blue skies

This is a truly beautiful place, with so much variety and contrast. The trail at the second canyon, Palm Canyon, was littered with people. There were traffic jambs along the trail continually, unlike the first canyon. The trails among these canyons are extensive and we only scratched the surface.
In the afternoon, everyone but Keith, Liam and I, went to see the "Narnia 3D" at our local theatre. We then ordered, 'on line' our dinner from the famous PF Chang's Chinese Bistro. We had a sweet time finding parking at "The River" where everyone was going out for their New Year's Dinner. I drove round and round the parking lot while Keith went in and picked up the 'take out'. The throngs of people were amazing. There are many very fine restaurants right in that area and everyone was lined up 100 deep. A 1 - 2 hour wait for a meal here at a popular spot is not unusual. No reservations taken. With a 2 year old, ordering in was the only way to go. 
Tonight after dinner we said our farewells to the gang that is leaving tomorrow and then into the hot tub for a last warm soak. Another wonderful day in paradise, spent with those we love the most.  

New Year Happy

Photo taken on Echo Road this last October

I have experienced so many New Years that I don't know what to say anymore. You heard right, the word machine has run out of words. Any comment I would make would be 'cliche'. There are no more original ideas to be expressed about the New Year, be they regarding health, wealth, or fresh starts. Resolutions are useless at this time of Year, so I will not even comment on that grand illusion, that the turning of a page on a calendar can usher a new era into your life. Jan 1 will be much like Dec 31, perhaps different only by the amount of daylight. An added digit to the markings on a calendar cannot change anything either, except for the likely chance of writing your first few cheques of the year with a 'stale date'. As for a new decade, what difference does that make? Those that care cannot even agree if the new decade begins in 2010 or 2011! If you count the years by ones or tens, the sun will still come up in the east and set in the west and you will still have to brush your teeth in the morning. The date changes nothing.



Any time at all, between today and next Jan 1, 2011, you and I can change. We can set new goals, work to achieve old ones, resolve a conflict in our life, renew an old friendship, restore a tired relationship, lose some weight, change occupations, retire, say"I love you", confess a wrong doing, read a good book, stop watching so much TV, stop yelling at the kids, visit an aging parent, take a holiday, pay off a debt, watch a sunrise, plant a tree, go to the gym, give a chunk of money away, get to now a neighbour, learn some new words, sing, or go golfing on a work day. You see, the possibilities are limitless and it does not matter when you do it, just do it.

I told you I had nothing to say.