Sunday, August 31, 2008

By Popular Demand - The Eiffel Tower at Night

It was a glorious night in June of 1987. I was on a five–week Contiki Tour of Europe and Paris was our first stop.
That evening was the group’s first night together and our first chance to relax a bit and get to know one another.
We had an organized dinner in a restaurant somewhere and each table had at least two bottles wine included in the dinner with the option to get more. It flowed freely late into the evening.
Someone suggested walking back to the hotel and about a dozen of us set off into the warm, Parisian night. Traffic was light and hardly anyone else was about. It was as though we had the city to ourselves.
Somewhere near midnight we rounded a corner and came up the Eiffel Tower dominating the cityscape.
Of course I had to get a picture. I set the shutter on bulb and the aperture to probably F4. The film speed was probably ASA 400 though I had 200 and 1000 with me on the trip. I positioned my Nikon FM and its 50mm lens hard against my nose and pressed my elbows to my chest to stay steady. Fortunately I’d knocked back more than enough wine. I was relaxed enough to be able to take all the time I needed. I held my breath and did a slow 10 count in my mind.
I took several exposures at different times and different apertures. This was the best of the lot.
Thanks for asking.

The Flying Duodenum

Okay, sure. It's a bit silly, but it's the penultimate day of summer. Not the actual season, but real summer, the one that ends when school starts, and I wanted to have a bit of fun.
The photo is an experiment. It's the full moon taken on the bulb setting without using a tripod. I wanted to see what would happen.
I've done freehand night exposures in the past and many have worked out adequately. I took one of the Eiffel Tower whilst stinking drunk and it's one of my best.
This is one of my more, ummm, interesting results.
I hope you at least get a chuckle out of it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Last Long Weekend

This is about 90 minutes or so west of Rocky on the David Thompson Highway.

It's the final long weekend of the Summer of '08. I'm not sure where it went. I bent down to pick something up off the floor in early July and when I stood back up August was nearly over.
I tried to get out for a few drives this summer. I went camping once and did a bit of fishing, but mostly I wondered why the days went so fast when they are so long.

Friday, August 29, 2008

On The Other Hand

Are you other-handed? Even a wee bit? Do you sometimes forget which hand is your dominant hand?
I’m a dexter. My right hand is my dominant hand. But sometimes I forget that and reach for a pen or pencil with my left. I have an honest, if misguided, belief that I’m a sinister.
It came about naturally. My mom was right–handed, but she picked and cleaned berries left-handed and played cards that way, too. She could write with either hand. Dad used a pitchfork left-handed.
Maybe it was from watching mom, or maybe there’s a genetic predisposition, but I’ve caught myself many times over the years acting as though I were a lefty not a righty. I like it. I think in some small way it rounds out my character.
If I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor I’m more likely to do it left-handed. I open jar lids left-handed and do a way better job than I can do with my right hand. And now something new has been added. I’ve taken to helping Mike with the dishes. Not every night, but most nights I’ll dry while he washes. I do it left-handed and it feels like the most natural and normal way to do it.
Oh, I’ve tried to do it with my right hand. It’s okay for a while, but it’s actually kind of awkward. Using my left hand brings a smooth flowing rhythm to the task. Best of all, using the left side of the body kicks up the right side of the brain.
I’ve muddled around with cheap watercolor paints to try to boost my creativity and I use my left hand for that. I am a lousy artist, but at least I can claim I’m firing up my imagination. By drying dishes left-handed maybe I’m firing up my brain for an evening of writing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In The Trees

A pine siskin waits in the clothes tree before going to the feeder.
An adult male goldfinch checks out his world.

A young evening grosbeak has a look around.

And a young white-throated sparrow has found some good cover.

We've been blessed with plenty of birds this year. It's down a bit from some years, but at least we can keep them fed without being run off our feet.
It's a pleasure to have them around to liven up the place and the young ones are usually okay with posing for a picture.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gratitude Monday - Glacier Tracking Edition

Behind me is Athabasca Glacier at Columbia Icefields along the Jasper-Banff Parkway.
I had the privilege of working there my first summer out of high school so I got to see this scenery every day.
I worked in the camp kitchen. We fed the summer staff who made the beds and drove the snowmobiles and pumped the gas for the tourists.
If you look at the photos you’ll see some parked vehicles and a small hill of bare rock. Behind it is the glacier.
Thirty –two years ago the toe of the glacier covered that area and then some. It was also green with grass. The first day I was there my friend who came to work there too and our boyfriends who’d driven us took a walk. A small pond rippled in the cool mountain breeze just below the highway near the toe. It bore a sign “Unit for Drinking Water.” When I came by later I realized I needed to wear my reading glasses all the time. The sign said “Unfit for Drinking Water.”

In the foreground of the second photo the sign “1942” denotes where the glacier ended in that year.
One hundred years ago Athabasca Glacier reached to what is now the highway.
The dots on the glacier are people walking on it. When I worked there this was frowned upon as it wasn’t safe.
We took an after-hours glacier tour on the big snowmobiles one evening and got out and walked a bit at the top of the glacier. I skipped over a clear running rivulet and tried not to slip. It was a cold thrill.
Tours back then took about 45 minutes. Drivers told us one of the common questions from tourists was, “How long does a 45-minute tour take?”They’d keep an absolutely sober tone as they answered. “About three-quarters of an hour.”

I don’t know if it shows up in this picture but about halfway up the glacier on the left hand side there’s a red thing. That’s one of the tour snowmobiles. They’re much bigger today.

It saddens me to see how much the glacier has receded in the last three decades. I’m glad I got to work there and that I can remember how it used to look. I think there was a rockslide in the 1980s. That’s why it’s so bare. Up the road the rockslide is more obvious, but trees are coming back.

This photo is of the new chalet. It opened sometime in the 1990s. I drove by when was being built and that was around 1995. The old one looked so small in comparison. It’s gone to make way for a newer, bigger parking lot. If you look to the right of the highway you’ll see a hill. Staff quarters are behind that hill. Today’s accommodations look big and permanent rather than the Atco trailers we had in 1976.
I got ill when I was there so I only worked there a few weeks, but it was only migraines and they are long under control.
I’m grateful for my time at the Icefields, and I still love to see the tourists enjoying what to me will always be my mountains.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Smart as a Magpie

We’ve got several magpies around our yard this year. More than in past years and several of them are youngsters. They seem to like our yard and that’s fine.
They are loud. They have great squawking festivals at random times of the day. Although it can be grating it is ultimately a happy aural assault. It’s a sound of summer and it will be gone all too quickly.
I’ve also grown fond of the look of the feathers when the sun hits them just right. Most of the time they look black and white, but at certain angles the black is beautiful and iridescent.
They are a very pretty bird, and really rather smartly dressed.
I am glad I’ve had the chance to observe them because I’ve come to appreciate them and I like having them visit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Victimhood Encouraged in Canada

I am very happy with what this 85 year old woman did. She had a gun by her bedside and used it to defend herself. Good for her.
She made the intruder call the police on himself. Double good for her.
She showed strength and courage. She used good judgment in that she didn’t shoot the kid. The kid even managed to dredge up a bit of common sense for himself by listening to the woman with the gun.
I like strong women. I like women, and men, who stand up for themselves and refuse to be victims.
I wish more people would do that although I don’t want to see any innocent or guilty people dying over it.
It’s unlikely to happen here as the culture of victimhood is enshrined in Canadian law. We are supposed to run and hide when someone breaks into our homes.
We can use reasonable force to protect ourselves. In Canada that means, “Excuse me. I’m sorry to bother you, but would you mind not stealing from me please? Thanks.”
“No? Okay. Guess I’ll just nip off to the basement while you clean me out. Sorry to bother you.”
We have to keep our weapons unloaded and locked away. This woman who protected herself would, in Canada, be looking at charges such as unsafe storage of a firearm, careless use of a firearm, pointing a firearm, and woe betide if the firearm was neither licensed nor registered. A good lawyer might get that bargained down to one firearms charge if she agreed to plead guilty.
She’d get a criminal record for standing up for herself and she’d be banned from owning a weapon of any sort for up to 10 years.
A hero in the US would be a criminal in Canada.
Do I want guns everywhere? No, but I’d like the right to stand up for myself properly.
I’d like to be able to use pepper spray. Possessing it, unless I’m actually hiking in bear country, is against the law.
Best of all, if an intruder slips on a rug in my house she or he can sue me and will win.
I like this woman did especially because she didn’t shoot. If I tried it here, the kid would get a slap on the wrist and I’d get a criminal record.
It’s wrong. It’s stupid. And I’m sick of being obligated by law to be a victim.
No, my possessions are not worth dying over, but I should have the right to protect myself and my property. It is one thing to fear the nameless, random criminal. It is worse to fear the legal repercussions from defending yourself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bath Time

The bird bath has been quite popular in all the hot weather we've had. They prefer their bathwater a bit cloudy. When it's clean they ignore it until it gets a bit of texture to it.

Below are some young pine siskins.

A young white-throated sparrow.

Same sparrow. He's just enjoying himself so much.

Just about done.

This is a young evening grosbeak. He chose to soak up the ambience rather than venture into the water.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another Big, Hairy Deal

Lake Abraham was created when the Bighorn Dam was built in the early 1970s.
The North Saskatchewan River was dammed and the waters flooded a Native burial ground.
The photo shows the east side of the lake.

So we have a new wrinkle in the Sasquatch legend. A purported body that appears to be impressing no one.
Well, the finders have told three different versions of how this poor Yeti got offed and into their freezer.
Y’know what guys? It works way better when you pick a story and stick to it.
I’d love for this to be real although I hate it that something has to die first.
And it’s not the first weird wild creature of the Georgian forest. This is the state that gave the world the magnificent Hogzilla.
That aside, my own area has had its share of Sasquatch stories. Back in 1989 some hunters were out on a fine fall morning and say they saw one of the bashful critters northwest of town. Based on the description we concluded it was probably a bear up on its hind legs.
But the best of all was the Sasquatch who watched as the Bighorn Dam was being built west of Nordegg back in the early 1970s.
You can even follow in the big fellow’s hairy footsteps if you want as it’s quite an easy hike and is known as “The Sasquatch Track.”
It’s a 5.4 km (about 3 ½ mi.) walk with lovely views. You’ll stroll along a ridge and through a meadow and you’ll even see some hoodoos along with your mountain and lake view.
So let the nice men keep to their story about finding the body and being paced by other Sasquatches and their offer to guide people to the area for the low, low price of $499.
You can come up here and follow in Yeti’s footsteps for free.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gratitude Monday – The Gift of a Day

I went on a successful cheese-collecting expedition to Edmonton last week and got to spend the day with Sibu’s human aka Reb from Sibu Pegasus Power.
Reb directed me away from Edmonton’s Top Construction Sites and made sure I knew in plenty of time what lane I had to be in. I’m grateful for that. We had a wonderful day together of laughing, eating, and ethnic food shopping.
We had lunch at a White Spot. It was the closest thing to a blemish on the day.
Our server greeted us as “guys.” Well, give our vintages it was inappropriate, but I can get past it.
She messed up my order. I’d pointed to the quesadilla with half-caesar salad as I ordered, but she bought me the appetizer version sans salad.
Server and I discussed it. Even as she offered to make it right she said, “Most people specify.”
The bill was $24 and a minor bit of change. I paid with a $20 and a $10 and we waited.
And waited. And then we waited a bit more.
Finally we flagged her down and I asked for my change.
She made us wait a bit longer and then brought it, noted it was the exact amount of change, and said, “Most people specify.”
Reb thoughtfully grabbed a brochure on the way out. I’m grateful because it helped when I searched online for contact info.
I emailed the restaurant’s manager the next day with my complaint which included a stern reminder that tips are earned, not assumed.
He called me within two hours. He was apologetic, suggested it was inadequate training, and apologized again.
These were proper, full, and clear apologies. He took responsibility for the incident and in no way minimized my experience.
I’m grateful for that, too, because it’s good to know there are people who still know how to treat a customer who’s irate for a legitimate reason.
After apologizing yet again he wanted the chance to make it up to me. I said sure and now some gift certificates are on the way.
I’m grateful for that, too.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

For Posterity's Sake, and Fun

It's a few days old, but it's worth a look.

I'll see you at the debates, Bitches.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fake Indignation at the Olympics

Oh, for Dog’s Sake people. Get through it. So the Chinese people put on a show for the Opening Ceremonies and faked a few things.
Here’s a newsflash: It’s a show.
One the one hand it’s regrettable that the young girl who did the actual singing wasn’t considered cute enough. This may haunt her a while. Or she can see it as having the better singing voice of the two and call it a win. I would.
The girl who lip-synched can see it as a great honor or as being only a pretty face. It’s ultimately up to each of them to decide later how they’ll view it. It is not up to us to tell them how to react to being part of the Olympics.
Why is this revelation being turned into an international incident?
How many times do the singers at the Grey Cup lip-synch? A few years ago the star singer (name escapes me) was found to likely have been lip-synching during the half-time show.
It was considered a big deal.
It wasn’t.
Dubbed singing is neither a crime nor a provocation of war. It is also not now nor should it ever be front page news.
And, on a final note (The pun stands. I like it.)
Marni Nixon. She made a parallel career of singing for other actresses, including, but not restricted to, Deborah Kerr,
Natalie Wood, and Audrey Hepburn. The IMDb lists many of her vocal contributions as uncredited. I guess it’s different because North Americans did it.
Some of the special effects were faked by doing them on computer and adding them in. Again, it’s a show. If we did it here we’d have endless stories of how it was accomplished through the magic of Hollywood.
If we’re so self-righteous about this, then logically, someone will be coming forward any moment to reveal the Space Alien who descended at the end of the Opening Ceremonies at the LA Olympics was real.
There are real stories happening at the Olympics and China in general. Oppression, false arrests, rural people being paid off to shut up about ruined schools being bulldozed after the earthquake.
That’s news. That’s important.
A little Hollywood magic at the Opening Ceremonies is not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Scenes From The Feeders

Coming in.

Busy place.

Goldfinches took over the boat feeder.

Until the pine siskins found it.

The young birds are out and about and feeding now. The swarm feedings have started and will continue for a few more weeks, then they'll be gone for the winter.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gratitude Monday – Almost Done

I am almost in the clear.

Last week I sent a lot of money to my sister, and I am so very thankful to have done it.
It was the final payment to her from dad’s estate and included, finally, the money we’d been waiting for from the Public Trustee’s office.
This was the money to dad from his brother Reynold’s estate. The rest of the family got theirs nearly a year ago, but dad’s estate was supposed to go to probate and that held up things for me. Rules changed recently and that allowed me to sign some papers instead. I’m very grateful for this change.

The cheque from the Public Trustee’s office arrived last Wednesday. I deposited it the same day.
On Thursday I had a bank draft made up and sent it by registered mail to my sister after looking up her postal code on line. She gave me her mailing address, a PO Box, several months ago, but declined to provide said code. I am grateful that it was so easy to find. I could have gone to the Post Office and looked it up in the big book of postal codes, but this was easier. I did check the book after I sent it and it looked like a different code than the one I found on line.

Oh, well. Makes things interesting.

The matters are very nearly complete. When my sister calls to whine/complain/swear/ at me for sending her the money and I confirm she has put it in her bank account I will call this part of it done.
I am keeping the estate account open for a few more months on advice of the nice people at the bank.

It’s a good idea. I’m grateful they suggested it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Try Day--Here's Your Mission

First, a picture. This is just east of the Banff Park Gate in Clearwater County along Highway 11. Another photo of what I call my big back yard.

Now go here please, and come back.


Now put down the mouse --I know you can do it--and go outside. It's summer. Enjoy it while you've got it.

Have a good weekend everybody.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

How Much Room?

I need room.
I have to have plenty of space around me or I feel trapped. I’ve been claustrophobic all my adult life, but lately a new layer has been added. I feel crowded when I eat. Even when I have the table to myself.
I have to spread things out.
I like to read when I eat and it’s usually the newspaper. Broadsheets take up a great deal of space and I need it far enough away from me so that my almost ten-lustrums-old-laser-buzzed eyes can get a proper bead on the words.
In the past I needed a bit of free space around me, but managed to make do with whatever was available.
Not any more.
It’s gotten to the point where I can’t seem to get enough space on the table. No matter how much room I take it’s never enough and it’s making me growly.
A few months ago I had lunch with a friend and we sat at a table for two. I felt assaulted from the lack of room around me because the table itself was so small.
This sensation of crowding is expanding now to other areas. I feel better with the doors open in the house because it provides the illusion of space.
I find I have to raise my arms and spread them out or up as much as I can to open myself to the space around me. It’s as if I have to claim more physical area for myself. My territory must expand.
Lately I’ve found I need even more space to prep food. I get very irritated if I lack space when I’m chopping something and I’ve had to move the drain board away from the sink so I can have that space to work with, too. It still isn’t enough.
I’m not sure where this is going. Space is limited. Either I have to find out why this is happening so I can channel the expansion to the right area of my life, or we get rid of the furniture.
What about you? Do you ever feel crowded? Do you need a great deal of space, or are you okay with just enough?

I need room when I chop.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fuzzy Forest Critter Comparison

This happy little chipmunk consented to pose for a few photos at the start of our hike on Saturday.
I used to think golden-mantled groundsquirrels were chipmunks, too, because the markings are similar. If you look in the photo in my header, then you'll see that chippy here is considerably smaller and doesn't have the same colouring on his head.
All chippy pics courtesy of my husband.

Chippy in profile.

Action chippy.

Perspective chippy.
You can see how little this fellow is by noting that he is partially hidden behind a blade of grass.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gratitude Monday – Camping

For several years now we’ve gone on an annual camping trip with some friends. It’s wonderful.
We’ve hiked and eaten some amazing campfire meals. One year we spent two nights on a small island in a lake in northeastern Alberta. The moon was full and we had the place to ourselves the first night. It is so cool to feel like you have your very own island.
I’m grateful to have these adventures with friends. It’s something we look forward to every year.
It’s good to get out feel your energy expand and encompass the
world and to re-stock your soul.
I’m grateful to do that.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Frolic

We're off to the woods for a few days.

Here's something cute to tide you over.

These videos feature Golden-Mantled Groundsquirrels. You may recognize one of the stars as the critter who adorns my blog header.

We'll resume regular programming on Monday.

Until then, enjoy the squirrels.