Monday, January 31, 2011

Very Disturbing News for Dog (and Animal) Lovers

This morning Vancouver radio station CKNW broke a truly horrific story about a preventable tragedy at Outdoor Adventures Whistler. They promote themselves as the largest dogsled operator in North America yet they now face criminal charges of animal cruelty after an employee was ordered to kill 100 of their dogs. The SPCA have previously investigated their treatment of their 200-300 dogs confined in small spaces on short chains.

Normally I prefer to live and let live no matter how much my viewpoint varies from anyone else's but when it comes to the maltreatment of animals I find it hard to stay off the soapbox.

Citing a downturn in business following the 2010 Olympics, the company made the decision to cull their Husky dogsled team. The dogs were shot or had their throats slit and were then thrown into a mass grave. Some of them were still alive. At least one dog was described as crawling out of the grave.

The story came to light when the employee ordered to kill and throw the dogs into the grave sought compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I don't doubt that his claim was legitimate but I hope to never be so desperately in need of employment that I would follow such orders.

I am not specifically calling for a boycott of such activities but hope to provide information for those seeking such adventures and suggest considering the treatment of animals in such activities. For this reason I am also ambivalent about zoos. Access to wild animals when I was young fostered my love of animals I would not have seen, heard and smelled myself anywhere but at the zoo. It made me aware of endangered and extinct species and what humans can do to aid in the preservation of the animals and their habitats.

Most cities offer appealing horse drawn carriage rides but I often see sadness--real or imagined--in the horses eyes and can't bring myself to hire them.

I am not a vegetarian but have raised poultry and understand that an animal destined for the table can be raised with respect and kindness, even in death. Some people I know do not even buy meat with bones in it. They are quite content remaining ignorant of the reality concerning the origin of their food. I believe it would be life changing for every meat eater to participate in the slaughter of a single animal. They might more fully understand why we gain our humanity in the way we treat animals.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~ Roger Caras

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace. ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer - 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

♥ It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer - 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

♥ Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. ~ Anatole France

♥ Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character; and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals. ~ George Orwell, Animal Farm

♥ There are too many people and too few human beings. ~ Robert Zend

♥ The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest. ~ Henry David Thoreau

♥ Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings. ~ Evan Esar

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Purging, The Hypocrite & Purging the Hypocrite

We are still dealing with computer problems. The iMac repair will have to wait but it will soon be time for our next trip to the city. The Dell desktop is up and running faster than ever on Windows 7 and I'm transferring back data saved to the Acer netbook and backing it all up. Again. The Dell laptop could not connect to the internet wirelessly. The obvious solution was a hard connection. The open plan of the house meant I had to drill a hole through the loft floor in a difficult to reach location in my studio. Will I ever get to play in my studio again!?

Squeezing into the storage area under the eaves of the loft was less awkward than emptying it. Only a small part of my craft stash had been disemboweled yet the sight of so many boxes, bags and old suitcases spilling into my already messy studio was overwhelming. Surveying the spewed collection of my children's "special" clothes and toys, supplies for sewing, knitting, painting and other crafts looked filled me with shame. It's possible that I blushed.

Just the other day I scolded my mother for hoarding so much junk in her garage.

Will I ever use any of those Fisher Price toys and that Brio wooden train set for my grandchildren? Will I ever have grandchildren? (No pressure, kids.) Just how special can old clothes be? Exactly when will I have time to make all those projects?

In a previous post I lied about not making claimed to not make New Year's Resolutions but I realized that I do--just not on January 1st.

Every year after the Christmas decorations are put away I feel it's time to clean and organize the house before Chinese New Year, one of the old traditions. I've been mocked for being superstitious--by people who do spring cleaning. Chinese New Year is after all the Spring Festival.

I follow very few traditions, just the ones I like, but I use the house cleaning ritual as a motivational tool, to trick myself into setting a goal. I love it when my house is clean, tidy and organized but it never lasts, it is not natural for me. I am so easily distracted and am more of a starter than a finisher. ;-)

A challenge is always enjoyable and invigorating. Let's see what I can accomplish by February 3rd, the start of the Year of the Metal Rabbit.

The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others. ~Author Unknown~

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Friend In Need is a Friend Indeed

We often host a birthday bash in November; some years it's a small group, other years we have a houseful. When we have numerous guests I remove our coats from the coat rack but it never occured to me to remove our shoes or boots. Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

The only winter boots we buy are Sorel brand after being somewhat disatisfied with Kamik boots. There was nothing wrong with them but they did not keep our tootsies as warm as the more expensive Sorels. Both lines have changed a great deal since the year of the party in question so that may no longer be true but at the time it was very relevant.

In any case, Lionel had a brand new pair of Sorel boots. They had been worn twice before the party. We had at least three dozen people in attendance and it was wonderful evening with good friends. Or so we thought.

The next day Lionel wanted to wear his Sorels. They were nowhere to be found. We did find a worn and ratty pair of Kamik boots in their place. We were very annoyed to find that the expensive boots had been stolen but far worse, that a friend, someone we invited into our home, had stolen them.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It Gets Better

There was a bit of nastiness, some rambling and a few drunk acceptance speeches at the 2011 Golden Globes. A few of my favourite speeches were by Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch for Glee, Claire Danes for Temple Grandin, Natalie Portman for Black Swan and Colin Firth for The King's Speech.
Although clearly stunned, Chris Colfer's Golden Globe acceptance speech (here on YouTube) was very eloquent. Here's the best part:

"Most importantly, to all the amazing kids that watch our show and the kids that our show celebrates, who are constantly told 'no' by the people in their environments, by bullies at school that they can't be who they are or have what they want because of who they are. Well, screw that, kids."

I hope that Colfer, Lynch, Glee and other similar programs will continue to raise awareness of tolerance, acceptance, understanding, The Trevor Project and It Gets Better Project.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!

Definitely showing my age, I will share that I have been a fan of SNL and watched it off and on since the first show hosted by the wonderful, incredibly intelligent and greatly missed George Carlin. Sometimes I feel that the host does not always seem to mesh with the musical guest but tonight's pairing was brilliant: Gwyneth Paltrow and Cee Lo Green.

Cee Lo Green is one of my favourite singers, best known for his 2006 hit Crazy with the group Gnarls Barkley. His voice and songs make me hit replay.

Tonight he performed the censored version of his very catchy hit song F*** You.  Gwyneth Paltrow sang the censored version, Forget You when she played a substitute teacher on Glee back in November.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Computer Blues

The Half-Chinese Sweat Shop was operational again today after a few days off, waiting for the weather to clear to pick up software from town.
Windows 7

We need to take the iMac to the shop in the city (more than two hours drive each way in ideal conditions) but the weather has been terrible. It has snowed nearly non-stop for several days with high winds and cold temperatures. Oh, and the entire province is on avalanche alert. It's going to be weeks before it gets up and running again and as time passes my hope of recovering anything fades.

The laptop has been wiped clean, its original XP has been reinstalled, but it did not go smoothly and more work is required. Today I had to empty a storage area under the eaves in my studio to access cables. So much for tidying my studio, I just keep tearing it apart!

Excluding the bedrooms and bathrooms, our house is pretty much one big open space. Installing any cables would be so much easier if we didn't care that they showed. I was on my belly drilling new holes through which to run more cable. Oh yeah, that was fun! Tight spaces + awkward angles + a too small drill bit because of the tight space and awkward angle + sawdust everywhere = blue air.

Computer Infirmary a.k.a. Dining Room Table

The desktop has been updated with Windows 7 which is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I'm using it now to post this entry. We hooked up the external hard drive that I used to back up my iMac and it doesn't look good. We are puzzled but not defeated.

Everything takes longer these days. Each and every time I take the dogs out, feed the dogs and cats, or clear snow I have to put on and take off my parka, gloves and Sorels. It feels a bit like putting on a space suit.

And for some reason I thought I might be relaxing a bit in January! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Abbreviated Retail Therapy Session

With all the nasty weather on our monthly shopping trip to the city we did not linger. It was a bit disappointing to have only an hour for my non-grocery-and-necessities shopping while the truck was being serviced. Years of experience came in handy. It had been well over a year since I was at this mall. First stop, House of Knives to check out the hot deals.

Can you spot the themes? Silicone pot grabbers, silicone spatulas, silicone tipped locking tongs, and the deal of the day, a super sharp carbon steel Küssi Vibe non-stick knife with guard for a whopping $4.99! Yes, I still love purple but lately I'm very drawn to this shade of green. All the colours are so poorly represented in these pics.

Clothes shopping was not exactly enticing when I had a list for Bead Connections: a couple of hanks of beads, DMC embroidery floss and pearl cotton. Brenda would have ordered black evenweave fabric but I like a bird in the hand so I settled for navy to replace black Aïda in a kit--I really dislike working with Aïda. The floss is for a Crabapple Hill redwork and patchwork quilt project. The pearl cotton and beads are for knitted beaded bags.

The bonus purchase not on my list was the first annual Mirabilia Christmas Tree from 2006. The shop sample was in a deep red oval frame with domed glass. I could not resist.

This is a beaded bag I knitted with pearl cotton. The double pointed needles are very slender: 1.25 mm (size 0000).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Warmth at Wildberry, Part Two

Growing up in temperate Vancouver, I had never heard of an engine block heater. I was in my thirties before I first noticed a power plug dangling by the grille; I had no idea it was for a block heater. Now, I would never buy a vehicle without one. We even have one for our tractor.

A block heater allows easy engine starts in very cold temperatures. Of less importance but no less appreciated, they aid in snow removal on the hood of the vehicle. Sadly, they are irresistable to cats.

At one point our feline population numbered sixteen due to one unplanned and two planned pregnancies.

Maxine was one of the loveliest and most affectionate cats we've known. She was a natural and relaxed mother. In the mid-1990s she gave birth to a litter of six. Two of those kittens, Wizzette and Soy, still live with us. We suspect that Max probably used five of her nine lives.

One winter day Lionel went to start my vehicle, a one-ton diesel pickup truck--with a huge warm engine. For whatever reason, that day he leaned in to turn the key without actually getting in, sitting down and shutting the door. Had he been in the cab with the door closed he would never have heard a strange sound over the loud diesel engine. Luckily, he was outside; he heard something unusual; he immediately shut off the engine.

It was his beloved Maxine. On the warm engine. She escaped with her life but without a large swatch of fur on her flank. Her skin was red and looked very sore but she did not seem to have suffered any serious internal injury.

Max was Lionel's most special girl kitty. I swear they shared a psychic connection. Once Max went missing for more than two weeks. I had to tell Lionel that his favourite cat had most likely been killed by a predator. He assured me that she was fine and would return home. I thought he was bonkers.

That very night, Max came home, after two weeks and four days. Lionel knew Max would soon be home because it came to him in a dream that night.

Living here, cats are usually taken by predators. They just disappear. You realize that you haven't seen one of the cats and start counting the days since you last saw him or her. For that reason none of our cats are buried here. Except Max.

She lived to such a ripe old age we suspect that she had gone deaf and could not hear the vehicle that struck her. Lionel found her on the road just at the end of our driveway. We felt lucky to bury her in our pet cemetary.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Warmth at Wildberry

Pellet and electric furnace
My husband hates to be cold.

As a boy, he lived in Khartoum and Omdurman, on either side of the White Nile in Sudan, Africa. There was no suitable school for him there, nor were there playmates his own age. By the time he was eight, he was wild and illiterate. As was the custom of the day, his parents sent him to boarding school in England.

Once he learned to read, he proceeded to read every book in the school library but he was always cold and hungry. He had to take cold baths. Imagine being sent away from the arid heat of Africa to the bone-chilling dampness of England where central heating was reserved for Parents Visiting Day. 
The logs, the overhang and thick insulation of the roof make our house very efficient, keeping out extreme cold and heat. Our main heat source is a furnace which burns compressed wood pellets. It provides the deliciously warm heat of a wood burning stove but is more convenient than cutting, splitting and stacking several cords of wood each year. However, I do miss splitting wood in temperatures of -20 C (-4 F) or so. When it is that cold, it is most satisfying to see logs split so readliy at the slightest swing of an axe.

Pellets inside the hopper
In the photo of the furnace the hopper for the pellets is on the right. One reason I like burning pellets is that it utilizes a waste product of the forest industry. 

In addition to the pellet furnace, we also have an electric furnace, a propane furnace, electric baseboards heaters, and a wood burning stove.

Each fall we have five or six tons of pellets delivered, one ton per pallet. We used to keep one ton near the basement, close to the furnace room; the rest were stored in the barn until needed. We now keep all of them near the house, covered with tarps--no need to switch from the snow plough to the pallet forks on the tractor. It is not attractive but it is practical and convenient. We don't need shoes or boots or parkas to bring pellets indoors.

I like to be in charge of feeding the furnace so my husband stays warm.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Lifetime Ago

Thirty-two years ago I met my husband at work, long before cheap long distance, Skype and e-mails. When he left Canada to work in the UK and Europe, we wrote letters and sent postcards. I still have all his correspondence although the stamps are missing from the envelopes; my little brother collected them.

If I could load any, this is where I would post a super cute picture of us way back when. ;-)

Long before I met him I had several pen pals, friends who moved away from Vancouver. One friend moved to Paris to study art. He sent the most wonderful envelopes covered in doodles, inside were Metro tickets and colourful descriptions of his new life. Another friend, a wife and mother of two young sons, wrote to me from Panama City. My high school friend set sail on a Princess cruise ship to live in New Zealand for a year. An elementary school chum moved first to Oregon, then to Zurich, Switzerland.

I love keeping in touch electronically but there is nothing as special as sending and receiving snail mail. Receiving an envelope from overseas is an occasion; opening and reading a long letter feels ceremonial.

There is a quirky animated movie about a surprising pair of pen pals, one in Melbourne, Australia and the other in New York City. It stars some of my favourites: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Nosy or Neighbourly?

It's been years since we had much in the way of snow and I found myself wishing for a real snowfall. I was as excited as a child when nine inches of snow fell in 24 hours.

I wanted to get out with my snowshoes and take some photos.

This is how far Lionel got before he remembered that I like to walk ahead of him to take photos of untouched snow.

Once again, I was a bit disappointed to find a set of tire tracks in the snow but it was still a gorgeous morning for a walk.

Usually I prefer to walk uphill away from home so I can roll back home. Instead my chosen destination was one kilometer south of our house--downhhill. It isn't very far unless there is trudging involved. Even with snowshoes, each step required great effort. It was fantastic! 

Our neighbours live in the city but haven't been up for a while because they spent Christmas abroad. They just built their cabin to lock-up stage this past summer. I had it in mind to take photos of their new cabin in its first coat of snow.

Imagine driving away from the city to your cabin in the mountains to see this sight! A little cabin covered in snow, nestled in the trees, little chickadees flitting from tree to tree--heavenly!

We noticed their little shelter looked ready to split under the weight of all that snow. Lionel found a 2" x 4" and started knocking it off the left side.

With the left side cleared, the contrast with the right side is quite pronounced. By now both of us were tired and we still had to head back up the mountain. I put down the camera and helped with the right side. I was grateful for plenty of stops along the way gave me a chance to catch my breath, enjoy the scenery and take more photos.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day of "Rest"

Today was to be a day of rest and recovery.

In the morning I removed snow from the front and back decks, stairs, walkways and around several gates.

Removal includes using a shovel as well as a broom which provides texture which prevents slippery surfaces.

I was more than ready for breakfast.

After breakfast, we donned our snowshoes and walked one kilometer downhill and a far more demanding one kilometer uphill through the woods.

After lunch, we moved thirty 40 pound bags of compressed wood pellets which will be burned in the furnace; this our primary heat source.

Normally there are 50 bags on each pallet and we can easily move the ton of pellets on a pallet with the tractor. This year there are 65 bags per pallet. We have pallet forks for our tractor but this is too much weight to move them safely and it might damage the tractor. If we remove some of the bags from the top, we may use the tractor to reposition the pallet and remaining bags.

After dinner, I found it very hard to stay awake.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Lot More White Stuff

We haven't had much snow here for years. We bought snowshoes a few years ago; how sad we have had fewer than a dozen opportunities to use them.

The weather forecast predicted a very low possibility of precipitation with temperatures in the low single digits (Celsius) so we were happy with the five inches of snow we had yesterday. This morning it was melting before first light. How disappointing.

I cleared all the decks, walkways and stairs to avoid the slush from freezing into a thick sheet of ice. Doing so while the sun shines ensures a clean and dry deck.

Twelve hours later, at 10:45 p.m., it was still coming down steadily while I cleared another eight inches of snow. Fresh, fluffy, powder, the best kind of snow.

Guess who's going snowshoeing in the morning!?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

White Stuff

It was snowing when we left this morning and it didn't stop all the way to Kamloops, while we shopped and all the way home. We finally have several inches of snow at the house but it's a bit wet. In case it melts I took all the dogs out for a good run and roll in the snow before unloading the truck. They LOVE to play in the snow and I LOVE to watch them enjoy it. I hope there's enough snow in the morning for a pic. It's SO beautiful!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Last night two brothers went into a burning room to save twin 20-month-old girls. The girls are in critical condition; the brothers were treated for smoke inhalation and released. One went to work the next morning and the other took a well-deserved day off. 


Ants began farming about 50 million years before humans thought to raise their own crops. Not so surprising when you learn that the animal with the largest brain in proportion to its size is the ant. They are the smartest species of insects with about 250,000 brain cells. Impressive.


Ants farm aphids on my peony plants to collect the honeydew they produce. Ladybugs and their larvae eat aphids.


Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey-decimal category. Are young people still taught the Dewey-decimal system? If so, do they care?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Just a Simple Call ~ R-i-i-i-g-h-t !

My long distance plan with Telus is called "North America One Cent" meaning we can make long distance phone calls, 24/7, for one cent per minute. Sadly, although I was taught that Mexico is part of North America, Telus regards Mexico as part of Central America.

Geopolitics aside, I have been unable to phone my daugher in Mexico on her cell phone or land line. I looked up the procedure in the phone book; no success. I double checked online; still no connection. I called the telephone company several times with no results.

For some reason I decided to phone Telus again today. I should seriously consider buying a lottery ticket. It must be my lucky day!

Initially the woman gave me exactly the same spiel, offered no new suggestions for calling either the cell phone or the land line. As she was about to sign off she asked if there was anything else she could help me with (as if she had helped me at all to this point). I'm not sure where it came from but I blurted out a question.

"Is there a different procedure for calling a cell phone in Mexico?"

"Oh, yes!" she replied. "You have to add a '1' between the country code and the city code."

Wow, Mexico is not part of North America and all I needed was an extra single digit and you didn't think to tell me that the first time I said I was having problems phoning my daughter's Mexican cell phone!?

Thirty-five cents a minute to her cell phone is a small price to pay for the privilege of an actual live voice conversation, a price I would happily pay. Her boyfriend suggested I call the land line at fifteen cents a minute. I was leary. I'd had no luck with that either. At least if it didn't work this time I would just call her cell again, now that I knew how!

Huzzah! Yippee! Wohoo! Yay! Hooah! Joy! It worked!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!

The celebration keeps going in our family. Today it's our eldest son's birthday, our only nephew's birthday and a friend's mother's birthday.

Our busiest month for birthdays has always been November but January is the next busiest. There are birthdays on the 9th, 15th, 16th and 20th still to come. It's a bit of a relief that I don't have to bake cakes for all of them!

Gotta love virtual cakes!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Another Non-Resolution for the New Year

Georgia Nicols is one of Canada's most popular astrologers. She was on the morning news today offering predictions for 2011. I can't remember the last time I checked my horoscope. Wait, I know, I check it at the start of the New Year and again at Chinese New Year when I read up on the Chinese horosope. It always amazes me that so much fits for the people I know, in particular for a special Libran in my life--wow!

Of most interest to me now is health which looks good for the coming year. Health has been a problem and therefore a priority for some time but I have felt like I'm taking those proverbial two steps forward and at least one step back. For some reason every time I've even thought about possibly starting a new excerise program I have come down with a cold. Hoping for different results I began a simple exercise program during a cold a couple of months ago. So far, so good. It's a very short and simple program fine-tuned by my son when he was home for Christmas.

He is a certified CrossFit coach and my workout is loosely based on those principles. That is not to say I will be setting a goal of participating in the insanity known as the CrossFit Games. No way. Still, I am taking baby steps back to wellness, fitness and feeling strong--I really miss that. It's great to have an encouraging non-critical coach regardless of my feeble skills and slow progress. It's wonderfully rewarding to come full circle. He said that I was the one who inspired him to be physically fit and now he's teaching me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My One Resolution

Since 1996 I have stayed home on New Year's Day. Here are two of several reasons why.

On a New Year's Day in the early 1990s we were that close to being towed away from a restaurant. We never park never knowingly park in spaces reserved for those with handicap parking permits. Never. Unless in the pounding rain on a black night the barely-there paint in the shape of a wheelchair was impossible to see. And unless there was no upright sign post indicating a handicap parking permit space. We parked. We ate. We exited in time to stop them taking our vehicle. Next time we drove by there were brand new upright sign posts but we never ate there again.

The picture. Of our vehicle. The passenger side. The smashed in side. That's where I was sitting. No. Hanging. Upside down. From my seat belt. After rolling two and a half times down a steep ravine. After hydroplaning in deep slush. Eight inches of snow melted very suddenly at midday. On January 1, 1996.

After a curve to the left, the road straightened out and Lionel steered straight ahead. The vehicle kept veering to the left towards a steep ravine. He managed to drive it almost all the way down the hillside; eventually the bumper dug into the hillside causing the vehicle to flip over. My head hit the windshield then my window each time. In slow motion. I thought I might die. We were so close to home we could see the sign post for our road. Elizabeth was home with her eldest brother. I thought I would never see them again.

Lionel and Shane were fine but shaken, also hanging upside down. My purse and keys were far, far away, I didn't know where. There was windshield glass in my hair and deep internal bruising with no external sign of injury on my knee. Our pit bull Duchess insisted on licking it better for months but it has never been right since except that it now allows me to predict rain.

Those were the two worst examples out of the lot. It's not so much that I'm superstitious, but any time the Universe gives me several strong hints a few years in a row, I pay attention. Yeah, I'll be home all day. Happy New Year!