Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

This container holds about 100 + treats for the Halloween beggars that come around every October 31st. That is usually the amount that is required to satisfy the number of children we get on a typical Halloween night.
They started early this year. Maybe they heard that rain was coming. The very cute princesses came first, with mothers lurking in the background. What sweet little darlings most of them were. As the time progressed, the older children came, usually with adult supervision just out of sight. But then came the young adults who are way to old for this little charade, running from house to house, monster sacks already full to the brim with colourful wrapped sugar. I'm sure some of them were older than sixteen. There was one very large group of kids that had, hidden in its center, a suspicious looking character. He was a short fellow who had on white pants, a white short sleeved T-shirt, and a white plastic shopping bag over his head with a hole cut out for his face. As he came forward, just as I was dropping a Snicker's bar into his large loot bag, he said,  "I'm the bag man". It was only then that I realised he was about 50 years old. I watched through the glass window on my door and as the kids headed down the driveway, he parted company with them, they went north, he went south. So he was not a parent or chaperon, but a 50 year old 'trick or treater'! 
Is that worse than teens doing it? I think so.
Anyway, the kids came thick and fast tonight and about one hour into the feeding frenzy, I hauled out my secret stash because the original 100+ bin was empty. The 'stash' contained another 50+ mini bars, Coffee Crisp, KitKat, and Oh Henry. Ten minutes later they were gone. No, I did not eat them. I hastily made a big sign to put on the door "Very Sorry, We Ran Out Of Treats" I really don't know how many more would have come, but I do know that this is a record for us.
In the 'old days' this would have called for some mischief, but I don't think the kids today know what "Trick or Treat" really means. If they do, I may be in for some vandalism tonight.

Carve that Pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin is not an easy task. For starters, you need a lot of artistic talent. Beyond that, you need imagination and a good set of extremely sharp carving tools. It looks like someone found a good use for one of the pumpkins I photographed at the Mariposa fruit stand. (Thursday's post)
We are not big on Halloween at our house. When our children were small, we would often take them on a special outing to avoid the begging madness. I have great memories of Halloween from young days as a boy growing up in a small prairie town. It was lots of good clean fun, at least until one of us fell into the pit when were pushing over outhouses in the dark. 
Today, we just kind of go along with it and hand out all the diabetes and tooth decay inducing goodies to the cute little kids that come to the door with their parents lurking in the background. We will see what happens tonight. 
If you happen to come by with your humongous pillow case open and ready to accept more sugar, don't expect any of those mini Coffee Crisp bars from the mulit-pak. I have already eaten all of them.   

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Puzzle

Once again we read, for the second year in a row, that our fair city of Abbotsford is the murder capital of Canada. Because we are repeat champions, we must be doing something right. It is common knowledge that almost of all of these murders are gang related, and taking the gang activity out of the equation, we would be quite low on the national list. One then must ask the question, "Why do gangs favour our city?"
This is an interesting question because the Fraser Valley is often referred to as the Bible Belt of BC and Abbotsford is the 'belt buckle'. Because of this, one would think that gangs would feel uncomfortable in a community with strong faith and so many church going people. But, we are more than that.
We are an affluent community and where there is money, there are drugs, and where there are drugs there are gangs. Also, we are a community with a large ethnic group that seems to provide most of the victims and perpetrators of these murders. When young people of any ethnicity grow up in affluence, they are spoilt. They do not have a long term plan to get an education, start a career, and begin to build their own life. They want it all now. They want the shortcut. And so, gangs are a big enticement. They are a fast road to the big life with lots of excitement, partying, cars, girls, and a high rolling lifestyle. The enticement is reinforced by the media, namely music, movies and TV.
With little parental guidance, so many of these young men believe that they are pursuing a rich and exciting life. 
I give credit to our local police  because they are trying to get the message out that gangs are deadly. The life span of a gang member is short. These youngsters should not need to be told, but they seem to be oblivious to the danger. They feel invincible. Until they become one of the statistics that makes Abbotsford so famous.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Pumpkin Post

On Thanksgiving Weekend, we stopped at the Mariposa Fruit Stand in Keromeos on our way home. Our purpose was to buy some Ambrosia and Spartan Apples. I was attracted to the pumpkin display on the west end of the building and began to shoot away at the multitude of varieties of pumpkins and other squash. The top photo reminded me of the varied and interesting mix that civilization is, with all of our different types, textures, colours, and shapes. The vast array of pumpkins lined up on the bales of hay was much like our multicultural mosaic in Canada.  

There are many of us with mixed blood, looking like one race, but then on second glance, stripes of other nationalities appear. In this case, Mom and Dad did not make it a priority to remain pure. What would grandfather think of this?

These are pumpkins by shape only and are obviously a different race and have formed a ghetto, like staying with like. Their bin is likely funded by the government to preserve their identity. No intermarriage here.

This is a rough and hardy bunch, like loggers or cowboys, judging by their tough skin and weathered appearance. They have had some hard knocks in life evidenced by the scars.

These are just as weathered but not scarred so they must spend their winters in dry and sunny Arizona where one gets leathery skin as one ages.  

Again, another race, with some slight inter-racial undertones, but all similar in shape and general stripping. You don't see jack'o'lanterns coming out of this ethnic group.

There is one in every crowd. He just has to be different while everyone else just wants to blend in. But then again, he might be an albino.

There are those who are born one way, but want to be something else. This gourd thinks it is a cob of corn and is even hanging out with the mother of  real corn.

His little sister is shy and is satisfied being a 'wallflower'.

And then there is this fellow who thinks he is a snake!

These guys are accountants, all orderly and lined up. You will notice that the boss accountant (upper left) is looking out for the others with his one eye.

This group is going to the gym. One is pear shaped and a little flushed from high blood pressure, one is anemic, (lack of iron) some are a little round in the belly, and the fitness instructor has an hour glass figure.

This fellow is big, bold, and tough looking, and even has a tattoo!

And then there is a sailor pumpkin who has been at sea so long that he has barnacles growing on his hide.

After a day at the beach, you can see that only one of these was not wearing sunscreen SPF 30.

This gal is a bit overweight and is bursting out of her red party dress.

Yes, even pumpkins get acne.

Here we have a nice cultural mix of varying ethnicity's. Political correctness at its finest. But... who will be picked first. Will the others then feel undervalued?

These guys are so ugly they will end up going back in the field to nourish next year's crop. Do they have pumpkin makeovers?

In spite of the acne scars and the rather long nose, this is a real beauty and stands out among his peers. Would he make a good pie, would his seeds be large and succulent when roasted, or would he only be good for decorating the front porch on Halloween night?

And just like people, some pumpkins have 'inny' belly buttons, and some have 'outies" They are all beautiful and unique in their own way and like real people, some are more attractive than others and some are more useful than others, but all have the same creator.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mushrooms Are Fun Guys

A few days ago I wrote about the advancing ages of retirement in various countries. Today there is news out of Ottawa of a Canadian plan to keep us out of our pension years longer. The earlier we take our pension, the less we receive, and it has been that way for quite some time. But now on the other end, there is a rather large incentive to delay our withdrawals as long as possible. Indeed, if one waits until age 70 to start withdrawing, one would get $10,000.00 more a year in pension money. 
This will no doubt entice many, but one would need some money to live with in the interim. The one big factor here is the inflation rate. If inflation is strong, one would have missed out on ten years of pension income just to receive more, but in inflated dollars making the purchasing power the same as it was had he taken pension much earlier. Because there is risk involved, I would say take what you can get when you can get it. Besides, the older one gets, the less one needs for survival. An elderly person can always go to the Fraser Canyon and live on wild mushrooms because they grow everywhere.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Merrit Mansion

Abandoned farm house and barn west of Merrit

We saw yesterday that the city of Toronto has elected a new mayor. What has that to do with us out here in the west? I think it is a bit a sign of things to come. Newly elected Rob Ford is what the media are describing as "right leaning". There has been a very left leaning and free spending mayor and council in Toronto for the last four years and the citizens are aching for a change. No matter what your political leanings are, you sit up and take notice when your taxes rise dramatically and there is evidence that those tax dollars are being misspent. For example, the heavily unionized Toronto civil employees are being paid $15.00 per hour higher than their private sector counterparts. 
Government sector workers on both sides of the 49th parallel are enjoying similar benefits and those of us who are paying for this entitlement are fed up. There seems to be a conservative backlash to this type of governance and we will see more lavish spending being curtailed as more elections take place in the future. This whole situation will be exacerbated by the inflation which is sure to come, while wages will not keep up. Standard of living will fall for all but the government workers and there will be nasty fallout from this. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Proud to be Canadian

Here is an article published in the Wall St. Journal regarding the snubbing of Canada for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Bravo, Canada

A U.N. snub is a badge of honor.

Life must be very good in Canada, or at least dull, judging by the domestic reaction
to its failed bid last week for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council. Listen
to the yowls in the papers north of the border: "A nation reeling," "humiliating
defeat," "a rebuke from the global community," "tarnishes our reputation," "a slap
in the face."
We say: Way to go. Canada seems to have annoyed a sufficient number of Third
World dictators and liberally pious Westerners to come up short in a secret General
Assembly ballot. The sins committed by Stephen Harper's Conservative government
include staunch support for Israel, skepticism about cap-and-trade global warming
schemes, and long-standing commitment to the Afghan war. Americans would be so
lucky to get a leader as steadfast on those issues as the Canadian Prime Minister.
The United Arab Emirates took credit for putting together a group of anti-
Canadian Arab and Islamic states to stop the bid for the two-year rotating chair.
The UAE also has a beef with Ottawa over landing rights for Emirates Airlines
going into Canada.
The U.S. role here is also embarrassing—to the U.S. Richard Grenell, a former
senior official at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., reported last week that America's
U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, refused to campaign on Canada's behalf. Mr.
Harper's politics are not hers, and Liberal opposition leader and Obama political
soulmate, Michael Ignatieff, declared last month that Canada under Mr. Harper
didn't deserve to get one of the 10 temporary seats.
The farcical nature of all this was made clear when the Canadians lost to Portugal,
which—with all due respect to the memory of Vasco da Gama—is no global titan.
This small and economically hobbled Iberian country will now hold one of two
temporary spots reserved for Western bloc states. Germany was assured the other.
Canada, on the other hand, is a serious country. Under Mr. Harper's leadership,
Canada has avoided the worst of the global recession and emerged with a vibrant
banking system and strong currency (now trading near parity to the U.S. dollar).
The courage of its soldiers in Afghanistan, and in other missions, is testament to a
nation that honors its commitments. Canadians should wear the U.N. snub as a
badge of honor.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Merrit Colour

The ranches in the Nicola Valley straddle the river so there are many bridges, some public, some private, and some old railway bridges that are no longer in use.

Isolated sunshine makes for some great contrasts.

These small round Poplar (Aspen) leaves quiver constantly in the wind and are not easy to photograph except with a fast shutter speed.

Outhouse or cabin?

Contrasts and reflections. Beautiful! We came across campers in this valley, simply sitting in their camp chairs and staring at the colourful trees with coffee in hand and a dog laying at their feet. It is so good to put work on hold and marvel at God's creation.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Windy Instruments

I am a sucker for 'free' stuff so how could I turn down a pair of free tickets for a high brow evening with "Prairie Winds" wind instrument ensemble. It was one in a  series of concerts put on by the "Valley Concert Society". 
These five musicians are Americans who are totally immersed in their passion, performing classical music. Their 'day jobs' range from being artists in various orchestras around the world to being master teachers in their particular discipline, or instrument. They are good!
We were treated to a delightful rendition of Paul Taffanel's "Allegro con moto", "Andante", and "Vivace", as well as a lively piece by Ferenc Farkas, "Ugros",  an early Hungarian leaping dance. 
The best part of the evening was a ten minute abbreviated suite from "Carmen" by Georges Bizet. Normally, the opera Carmen is about 4 hours long. 
The quintet was made up of  five instruments; Flute, Oboe, French Horn, Bassoon, and Clarinet. The Bassoon player, Timothy McGovern, was awesome, as well as fun to watch. 

OK. Hold it right there. If any of you have continued to read this post to this point without getting bored and drifting off to another website, I will let you in on a secret. I must be nuts, crazy, out of my gourd, and just plain out to lunch. When I accepted these tickets, I did not realize that there was a Canuck's and Lion's game being televised on the same night, and a Friday night at that. WHAT WAS I THINKING????
Don't get me wrong. I appreciated the FREE tickets that were offered to my daughter by her good friend and some how then to me, and we did take advantage of them and did enjoy the concert, but I have a serious confession to make. These things always have an intermission and this one was no exception. We snuck out for a breath of fresh air and for some strange reason, just kept on walking once we got outside. We did not look back but only wondered out loud if the geriatric crowd we left behind would miss that young good looking couple who were sitting in the back row and were gone during the second half. Indeed, we were the youngest couple there for sure. 
We got home in time to take in the last two periods of the Hockey game and the last half of the Football Game. Hey, three events in one night is pretty good for old geezers like us. And all three were winners.    

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pioneer Log Houses

I have a large collection of barn photos that I have taken over the years so when I see a scene like this, although this is not technically a barn but more a house that now shelters cattle, I cannot help but stop and admire and photograph it.

And then photograph it from a different angle ....

And then convert it to a Black and White and add a little lighting effects.

We had to stop here also, roof or no roof. Just to the south of this log shell was a more intact log house that was a bit obscured by the trees so we climbed the fence and ventured onto private land.

Believe me when I say that this rancher does not need guard dogs or an electric fence to guard his property. As I approached this very spot I was wondering why my feet were feeling heavy, like they were collecting mud. As I looked down, I felt the first prick and was amazed to see that both my feet were caked with cactus balls and with each step I took, the collection grew. I would have stayed here longer and took shots from more angles, but I was beginning to get concerned about how I was going to get rid of the barbed thorns which were now working their way through my leather boots and into my tender feet.

I quickly snapped another photo and then gingerly headed back to my truck, taking care not to step into another bed of cactus. They covered the ground like noxious cow patties. Andrew discovered the problem about the same time as I did and we pondered the situation as we stood on the road, not daring to touch the barbed thorns protruding from every inch of our boots. We both thought of the pliers in the tool box at the same time. What a lifesaver that was. I also discovered another way that these plants propagate, besides hitchhiking on photographer's boots. The small round cacti get very juicy and sticky when squashed and we had an awful time wiping the green stickiness from the souls of our shoes. Even the rough pavement and the gravel shoulder of the road was hardly enough to scrape the sludge from our feet.
Rule number one when wandering onto private ranch land, watch where you walk. At least we did not disturb a Rattlesnake.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mushrooms and Social Security

A few weeks ago, we heard on the news that the Greeks were protesting in the streets about social security cuts. The Italians followed. Then, in the last few days, we have seen riots in the streets of Paris protesting the raising of the retirement age from age 60 to age 62. How wonderful to spend your day at the young age of 60, sipping a latte at your favourite sidewalk cafe, living off the government. No wonder there is a protest.
Today we hear of huge cuts to the civil service, and increasing the age of retirement, in Great Britain. Here in Canada, we have had options, and basically a disincentive to retire early. Those disincentives will become stronger in the next little while. 
The cause for this, in every country, is the huge cost of funding these pensions. The 'boomers' are about to retire and the work force to fund the pension plans is diminishing. Add to this the huge deficits that every country is running and you have a great necessity to cut back. Too bad these various governments did not think of this before they spent massive amounts of money to stimulate their respective economies over the last three years. Of course, the solution back then was to let the economy correct itself, take the hard lumps, and we would almost be out of the woods by now.
The problems that arise from government stimulus are popping up like mushrooms.    

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nicola Valley South

We were now in ranch land, cattle country.

And what is more photogenic than an old weathered rail fence overgrown with sage brush.

Fences and park benches are always crying out to be photographed, so I accommodate them.

The road began to rise above the valley floor and the views became more panoramic. We were close to the peak of colour in this cowboy country. What great timing!

The remains of an old homestead cabin peaking between the trees.

And I cannot get enough of the sagebrush. 
A fire damaged pine stump frames the Nicola river below and a stand of Poplar gives colour to the drab surroundings.

A colourful stand of yellow Poplar running up a small valley behind a modern day ranch house. Every curve and rise in the road offered a new photo opportunity. A little more sun would have been nice, but the light was not too bad. It was still warm in this high country and we were able to ignore the "Carry Chains Beyond This Point" signs. The winters here are cold. Tomorrow, a most beautiful abandoned log cabin.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spence's Bridge Fall Colours

As you can see, we are two guys in our glory, travelling down the road, cameras at the ready, and surrounded by Autumn beauty. Andrew's fish eye lens gives a very unique perspective to photographs.

The soft warm colours of sage brush abound and when you stop to smell the roses, all you get is the pleasant pungent aroma of sage. This has always been one of my favourite colour combinations. One can double the pleasure by walking through it and sending waves of fresh fragrance into the air.  

This imposing grey shale face is just south of Spence's bridge. There were clouds of dust swirling down the steep mountain as a result of strong winds. Erosion is the result of wear from water and wind. Here, in the dry climate of the Thompson/Okanagan, the wind is the predominant eroder.

On the Transcanada Highway, just before you cross Spence's Bridge, there is a waterfall that runs all year round. There must be a lake above the ridge that is fed from higher peaks to the west. There is not much rain here to feed such a large outpouring.

Once you turn west on Highway 8, the road gets interesting right away. It follows the Nicola River and there is a constant delight of bridges, ravines, and ranches nestled in the flat lands of the valley. The colours were getting better.

Here we came across the unique combination of ripe Sage blossoms and Flaming Sumac with the blue river as a backdrop.

Fortunately, there was very little traffic and we stopped where we liked, and liked where we stopped.
More tomorrow.