Monday, July 3, 2017

Road tripping music

(the old truck, 1991 Chevy S10)
I sold my old truck almost two years ago, after buying a new-to-me minivan. I liked that the new-to-me minivan had such luxuries as a CD player and air conditioning, but wasn't sure about the power windows. Then found out that the air conditioning didn't actually work, that would cost an extra $1,000. I bit the bullet and paid for it to be fixed, although the mechanic grumbled, "You know, people don't usually do this." And it turns out I like the power windows. Kind of necessary in a minivan when you have a dog in the back seat.

However I soon realized that all my road trip music was on tape cassettes because that's all the truck had, a tape player. So for the last couple of years those tapes have sat in a drawer unused and every time I go somewhere in the minivan I miss them. About a month ago I wondered if there was a way to transfer the music from the tapes to some digital format and I finally Googled it. It turns out there is a way and the software to do it is free! But I did need to buy a cable to connect my tape deck to my computer, available at The Source for $20. I downloaded the software and bought the cable, and then waited for a rainy day to attempt the deed. Yesterday was it.

It took several hours to finally get the first digital file of a road trip music album (Saguarina, something one of my kids bought on the street from a South American busking band). I had to manoeuvre all of the hardware out where I could get at the back of it all to connect the cable, put it all back in place, figure out why the tape deck wouldn't rewind a cassette (don't know, but it has two cassette slots and the rewind still works in the other slot), mess around with the software to figure out how it worked, test the volume level adjustments, figure out how to save the recording as an MP3 file (needed another plug-in for copyright reasons I guess, but still free), and then finally to make and save the recording. Meanwhile I went through all the cassettes in that drawer to prioritize what I was actually going to digitize, resulting in various stacks of cassettes all over the place. But after that first recording it was a snap, I could digitize a cassette in about the same amount of time it takes to play it, a minute or two more for saving the MP3 file. Have a meal, digitize a tape. Read a magazine, digitize a tape.

How amazing it took this long to get around to doing it!

In case you're wondering, the software is called Audacity and the cable is a Y-Adapter. The plug-in is called Lame (!).

Next step is to put the MP3s on something I can play in the new-to-me minivan. I was going to put it on my phone but a neighbour suggested a memory stick. So far I have recordings of Dvorak, Fleetwood Mac, The Outlaws, Genesis and that South American street band. Eclectic, but it's the stuff that works for road tripping. Think I'll do my bagpipe tape next, I've really missed that one.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Old photos on a rainy day

(Storm over Balsam Lake, Ontario, late 1980s)
Today is Canada Day and it is pouring rain out. The summer season is always a very busy time for me and every day that it does not rain I have outdoor chores to take care of: yard work, gardening, firewood, dog walking, painting and repairs... So when a spate of rain happens I am grateful for the chance to cease all of that busyness. Why I'm here now.

(Leaving Yellowknife, 1973)
One of my sons recently started a new job flying medevac out of Yellowknife, specifically the Stanton Territorial Hospital, which is where he was born. My husband and I lived in YK for two summers and a winter; I got pregnant almost as soon as we arrived and we left a year and a bit later with a toddler and an infant (toddler came with us to YK as a soon-to-be-walking baby). Anyway, the grown son with the flying job works two weeks on and two weeks off, returning to his family in Alberta between shifts. When he's not actually in the air he spends a lot of time hanging out in YK, so he asked me for photos of what YK was like when I lived there. He wanted to revisit some of the locations and photograph what it looked like now. I have watched 'Arctic Air' on TV, an adventure show set in YK, so I know that there has been a lot of change. I recognize a few places and the general landscape but the town has grown and changed a lot.

(scanning...)
A couple of days ago I posted all the photos I had online to Facebook, then yesterday, also a rainy day, I went through my old print photo albums looking for more. Those albums are all higgledy piggledy because over time I have raided them for photos to scan to digital format and then neglected to return to their proper albums. I pulled out all the Yellowknife photos to scan, then posted some them on Facebook so my son could retrieve them. One of the photos was actually a postcard showing an aerial view of the town. I don't remember when I acquired that postcard, it may or may not have been when we actually lived there. But it's a pretty close approximation of what the town was like then. Unfortunately it does not show the part of YK we lived in over the winter and second summer.

(aerial view of Yellowknife, date unknown)
I'm looking forward to seeing his versions of those old photos. I know that our winter home was torn down to be replaced by a much fancier home by the new owner of the property. It was really a prime location, being one of the few residential places in the town with its own waterfront (we had a small dock and I did go for a brief swim there before the lake froze up, nearly drowning my son in the process).

(Pirelli the family dog, 1960s)
Since the YK photos were scattered through several albums I also got to sift through a lot of old photos which of course stirred many diverse memories. I posted a few of them just for fun. My oldest son with a junior high school 'girlfriend' who he is still in touch with. The now-dead parents of a Facebook friend from over thirty years ago. My youngest son as a toddler. A cat I used to have when I was pregnant with my oldest son. I've got a few more which I may or may not post.

(Mum and I a few months before she died, 2001)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Getting stuff done and moving on


I completed one rug on the loom, two more to go. Towards the end it was quite frustrating because one of the warp threads kept breaking.


I spent the day weeding and pruning. It was the same temperature as the day before but far less humid; it felt cooler. Nevertheless all that weeding and pruning was sweaty work and I had a bath afterward. Some annoying stuff that I won't describe here and now was on my mind so I fumed and fussed in the bath. Often I cry in the bath but this time I was more angry than sad. The good thing is that when I get out of the tub whatever was bothering me washes away with the dirt. The feelings that is, not necessarily whatever spurred those feelings.


Good news from my youngest son. As I mentioned earlier he had a rather devastating time of it this past month and I had promised to help him out financially if he needed it. So when I got his text to set up a Skype call I expected that was what it was about. Instead it was the opposite, his situation almost completely reversed itself and he didn't need help at all. He was just calling to let me know his good news. I am happy for him.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Weekend of theatre, film and music


I'm doing very little today, in compensation for an overly busy weekend. It was a good busy, but perhaps too much of a good thing.

I won a pair of tickets to see the National Theatre Live performance of Peter Pan, so a friend and I went to the pub for supper and a beer and on to the cinema to see it. Absolutely wonderful. The production was wonderfully done, it was totally enthralling in spite of the fact that they played games with the characterizations. Captain Hook is a woman, Nana the dog is a big black person (I think it was a man but it might have been a very big woman), Tinkerbell is a man, and all of the children are played by adults. The flying scenes were quite ingenious.



It poured rain all day Saturday. Sunday was going to be a nice day but I was going to be away all day so I spent most of Saturday running errands. One of my errands was to the garden centre at Kent Building Supplies, I took Hapi along in the car but had no intention of walking her in the downpour. However when the employee came to load my purchases into the car Hapi jumped out. I joked that this was going to be the extent of her walk today, the little bit of parking lot around my car. The fellow told me that actually, Kent is pet-friendly and I could have taken her indoors. It's a huge big box store and I think it would take me almost half an hour to walk all of the aisles, so next time I might just do that!

Saturday night I went back to the same cinema which also is used as a theatre and a music venue, to hear the band Hillsburn. They were very loud and energetic, I stuffed bits of tissue in my ears to dull the sound a bit. But they were fun to watch.

On Facebook a few days before I learned that a significant member of our community had died almost two weeks ago. She was 79 years old, she died of cancer I think. That I heard about it after her celebration of life was a little disappointing, that she died at all was even more disappointing. She was politically active, an artist, and just an all round good person. At a certain point in her life she worked as a counsellor at the local university student counselling centre. I was a single parent working on a degree there and having a tough time of it; I saw her at the counselling centre and she told me to come see her once a week and explain to her why I wanted to quit. If I gave her a good enough reason she would give me permission to do so. Apparently none of my reasons were good enough, I kept seeing her until I graduated. So she was personally important to me, she got me through that.

Anyway, I've had a hard time not thinking about that loss and I think I would have enjoyed Hillsburn a bit more if it wasn't occupying my mind.

Sunday was the busy busy day. Up early to walk Hapi then breakfast and a shower before driving to the neighbouring town to catch a ride with friends down to the other end of the valley to see the King's Shorts. The King's Theatre is in Annapolis Royal, a very picturesque little town near the mouth of the Annapolis River. Also the oldest permanent settlement in Canada (a bit of controversy there but I'm going with that position). Every year they hold a competition for 10-minute plays; writers from all over the world submit their scripts in the winter and a local committee selects eight to  show. Directors and actors are chosen and the eight plays are put on over the Father's Day weekend in June. Every year two or three of my writing group submit plays and every year at least one of them makes the short list of eight (this year there were 93 submissions altogether). So we all go down for lunch and the final performance before the winners are announced. There are a first and second prize with a little bit of money attached and a People's Choice selection as well (no money, just fame). So this year two of our members and the spouse of one of them were selected for the final show, and amazingly, they all won! We walked away with First, Second and People's Choice!

We were too big a group to descend on one small restaurant so we split up into smaller groups to eat at three different establishments. I went to the local pub which was very 'pubby' and had scallops and chips. I'd have had a beer but lack of sleep the night before made drinking alcohol in the afternoon seem risky. At the theatre each person is issued a poker chip for voting. At the end of the show there are eight large cans for dropping your poker chip into, then they count them up and announce the People's Choice. It is all done quite quickly, I think it was less than fifteen minutes from the end of the last play to the announcement of the winners. It was all great fun and even greater because we took all the prizes back to our end of the valley with us. Anyone can enter, there are a few restrictions on format, length and newness, but no restrictions on who can play. Maybe one day I'll try my hand but at the moment I feel like playwriting is a bit beyond me.

So after all that we drove back up the valley and I returned home briefly to feed Hapi and eat some cold leftover pizza before dashing out the door again to go to Sunday night movie, "Burn Your Maps". While waiting for the movie to start they announced on screen that another significant member of our community had just died, also 79 years old. He was a neighbour of mine, someone I've known a long time and who was instrumental in bringing movies to our town. I knew he wasn't in good health and also that he was just barely making ends meet. I was sad to hear he was gone.

In "Burn Your Maps" there's a scene where an elder wise person is talking to a young couple who are struggling with the death of an infant child. They say to him that they lost their child when it was only a few months old. He tells them that the child is not lost, it came and stayed briefly with them and then went away. He said it was not the child that was lost it was the grieving parents who were lost. I think that is a good way to look at it. The sadness I feel is about my loss, not the loss of the people who have gone away. I still feel it. My friend at the cinema stage-whispered to me, "Get used to it! We're at that age!"

Good bye Macha, good bye Bob.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dancing and Hiking


We had several days of hot weather and then a couple of cool days. On the cool days I did work around the place: painting, lawn mowing, weeding, that sort of thing. An old friend from out west came to visit for three days; she spent one day at each of three friends' places and I was her first stop. Unfortunately it was a day of solid rain, over 40 mm which was a record apparently. No matter, we ate and drank and yakked and laughed.

In the evening we went to a dance in a small community hall outside of town and we decided to taxi so we wouldn't have to worry about how much we had to drink. The cabby didn't know the way, he was going to take us in the opposite direction. He didn't know how much to charge us either so his dispatcher told him what to charge. On our trip home the cabby (a different one) asked us how much the other guy charged us so he would know what he was supposed to charge.

The band was great and I danced the whole time we were there. Very few men danced, mostly women; I think the men were waiting to be asked.

One of my neighbours built a small shelter for my heat pump a few weeks ago so now I am painting it. I think I have one more coat to go. My garden is at that stage where the weeds are coming on fast and furious so I have to work hard to keep up with them. I have so much salad greens I am almost (but not quite!) sick of salad. Can't wait for the peas and beans and beet greens. I didn't plant tomatoes this year, I had a bumper crop last year and still have lots of frozen and canned tomatoes left. Many of my weeds are actually little tiny tomato plants from my compost. I thought I'd let them go for a bit and then pick three or four of the best looking to transplant to one empty bed and pull the rest out.

I hiked on Monday out Cape Split. It's a 15 km round trip through the forest until you come out at the tip of the cape. It points into the Bay of Fundy, splitting the flow in two. They say it is Glooscap's stone canoe, beached on Blomidon. So at the tip you are looking down the Bay from a high narrow cliff with a bit of grass on it. Cape Split used to belong to the Jodrey family who made their money logging all over the province. But they never logged Cape Split, they let it be. Recently it was turned over to the province for a park and now it has a parking lot and outhouses and little signs telling you how far you are walking and please mind your step on the edge of the cliff. I made the mistake of taking Hapi out there five years ago and discovered there was no water available for her to drink. I just assumed there would be brooks but no such luck. So I didn't bring her with me this time because I didn't want to lug in any more water than I had to. Anyway, she's older now and it was a hot day so I don't know if she would have been up for a 15 km walk. I was exhausted at the end.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bees and Blooms


This is my vegetable garden. To the left of it is a lilac in full bloom that wafts a wonderful perfume toward my house in the evening. Behind it is a horse chestnut tree in full bloom also, very pretty.


But it is full of bumblebees. I mean full. As I leave my back porch to go to the garden to pick greens for supper, the buzz of the bees becomes louder and louder. By the time I am in my garden I feel like I have walked into a huge bumblebee nest.


Lately the bees have been exploring the yard. They've found my porch. So far no stings but I am wary around them. Everybody says how bumblebees are not vicious, they only sting in defence, but I have been chased out of my garden by a very determined bumblebee who stung me as I was running away from it. Got me on the face near my right eye. So I'm wary.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Last tulips


These are the last tulips from my garden. This photo is a few days old and the tulips are still in the bottle on the wood stove, but they are a little the worse for wear now. I took this photo because I like the way they look there.

It's been a stressful week. My youngest son had an unfortunate mix of bad choices and bad luck leaving him in rather a depressing and depressed state. We communicated via Facebook and I guess you never stop being concerned about your child's welfare. If I could have fixed things for him I surely would have. The situation is still unfolding and I still want to know what is happening now and that is the stressful part. As a result I have not paid attention to much else. I went to play bridge in Windsor on Thursday afternoon and had an awful time of it: lousy hands and complete inability to remember what cards had already been played, distracted. Somebody brought rhubarb coffee cake and I ate too many pieces. I blame it all on "the family situation".

The lilacs are in full tilt. I take Hapi for an evening stroll around the block just to breathe in the perfume, it seems strongest in the evening. This is surely my favourite time of year, I love lilacs.

However this seems to be a bad year for ticks. I have removed three from myself and two from Hapi. Hapi's ticks were fully engorged, otherwise I never would have seen them in her thick fur. I took one of them to a local vet who identified it as a deer tick, the kind that carry Lyme disease. They won't test or treat a dog for Lyme for a minimum of 60 days, they say it takes that long for the antibodies to show up in their blood. Unless of course the dog comes down with Lyme disease symptoms, in which case they will test and treat. Those symptoms are lameness, lethargy and lack of appetite, kind of like an old dog with arthritis. Which Hapi is.

I am keeping the two ticks in separate pill bottles: Tiki and Tiki Too. I think Tiki has laid eggs. If the eggs hatch I am probably going to have to get rid of them, don't think I want a pill bottle full of hungry ticks. Tiki is the one identified as a deer tick, but my guess is that Tiki Too is a dog tick. The vet technician said they live forever so I don't even need to feed them. Of course they are full of dog blood anyway. I was joking around with a friend about my pet ticks, she suggested we go shopping together next week and I can bring my pet ticks along for the ride. Easy to do, they live in pill bottles that fit in my pocket.

Friday, May 26, 2017

On not going to the art gallery

I went to the city yesterday to visit a friend who just got out of hospital and to go to the art gallery. My friend--I'll call her Jane--had said she wanted to go to the art gallery too, so I was expecting to pick her up and go for lunch and then the gallery. I brought along another mutual friend (let's call her Beth). Well, when Beth and I got to Jane's place it turned out that Jane didn't feel like going to the art gallery but did want to go for lunch. I was disappointed but went along with the change of plan. Jane is blind and in a wheel chair. Beth is also blind, but not in a wheel chair. Both women can sort of see, but they are both legally blind. Beth told me later that she couldn't look at me, she just knew how I was feeling about giving up the art gallery visit.

Anyway, we went for lunch. The restaurant we went to had excellent food but it was crowded and extremely noisy. It was hard to hear each other talking, so I kind of spaced out. Plus, Jane is not well at all and is on medical marijuana for pain and she was kind of stoned, so conversation with her was limited. People talk about medical marijuana as if it was so superior to synthetic drugs, but from what I can see it has its problems just like any drug. Jane said it dulled the pain but the price for it was being stoned all the time.

After lunch Jane wanted to visit a nearby shop so we did that. It turned out the shop was selling off all its stock in preparation for a move to an area too far away for Jane to visit, so I guess going there when we did was a good thing; Jane got one last kick at that can. But I'm not an enthusiastic shopper and felt like I was basically there as a guide to read labels and identify various objects for sale. No art gallery, just shopping instead.

After a while we walked Jane home and dropped her off. On the drive back to the Valley I commented to Beth that Jane did not look good. I hadn't seen her since before she went into the hospital and she clearly was much worse than she had been then. Beth said, "Somebody had to mention the elephant in the room!" It is not pleasant watching an old friend slide away.

Being the only sighted person with two blind people is a little stressful. I never used to pay attention to the obstacles for a wheel chair but now I do. It is shocking how little thought goes into all the little ramps that are supposed to make it easier for wheel chairs to navigate sidewalks. I have to keep an eye out for everything, give verbal warnings of red lights, rough terrain, when to turn, when to avoid other pedestrians and so forth. Not to mention reading menus out loud and identifying objects in shops and reading their price tags.

I have such mixed feelings about that trip! I really wanted to go to the art gallery and was seeing that as the main point of the whole trip. It was hard to let go of that. Jane had said she wanted to go too, but I guess she was a little naive about her energy level. She was still in the hospital when we planned the trip, she probably had no idea how hard it was going to be living outside the hospital.

Much as I want to participate in get togethers with Jane and Beth, it is really draining for me; I come home exhausted and irritable. I would do better if it was just one or the other, but Beth can't go into the city to see Jane on her own, she needs a chauffeur. So all in all it was not a fun trip for me. But I can't not do it. Jane will never get better. There is a time limit and then the relationship will be gone for good and I don't know when that time limit is.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bread and Musicals


I volunteer as an usher at the Festival Theatre and occasionally at Acadia Convocation Hall. I mostly volunteer for theatre and musical events, in particular the Acadia Performing Arts Series. This past weekend I ushered for the Stage Prophets performance of the musical "Anne and Gilbert", a kind of sequel to the "Anne of Green Gables" musical (which they performed a few years ago). I especially appreciated the two solos performed by a friend of mine as Mirella. It was both comedic and serious, as much of the Stage Prophets' material is. Great show, and some fabulous musical and dance talent.


In other news I baked my last loaf of bread for the season. I've run out of both freezer space and large freezer bags; I take that as a sign that I have done enough. No bread baking over the hot summer months! The sourdough starter is resting in the freezer now, atop all the loaves it produced this year. Good work, starter!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Own the Media

Photo above from newint.org website

The last few years I have been subscribing to magazines. It started with The Economist and The Walrus. I found a great deal on a 2-year subscription to The Economist and I wanted to try The Walrus, a Canadian magazine that seems to be trying emulate The New Yorker.

I thought I had subscribed to The Walrus for only one year and at the end of that year I had seen enough to know I didn't want to renew. But it turns out I subscribed for two years and when the subscription finally expired they apparently hoped to lure me into re-upping by continuing to send me issues for several months after. The Economist on the other hand I found quite interesting and I did renew the subscription for another year.

Then I thought I would try another magazine to replace the expired (I believed) Walrus, and so I got a subscription to The New Internationalist. My idea was that since The Economist is a 'right-of-centre' news magazine, subscribing to a 'left-of-centre' news magazine would be kind of balancing. So far I like it and will probably renew.

As noted earlier this year my son gave me a subscription to The New Yorker for Christmas. And I forgot to mention my free magazine, Aramco World, which I have been subscribing to for several years. It is a stunningly illustrated oil company magazine about Moslem and Arab culture, very broadly defined. So in the early months of this year I was getting five magazines on a regular basis. Extremely hard to keep up with especially since two of them are weekly magazines.

The Walrus finally gave up on me and I have to say it is a bit of a relief. Aramco World only comes out six times a year and is mostly pictures so it is not a taxing read. But I can no longer read The Economist all the way through (I used to!), nor can I read The New Yorker in its entirety. I would have to be full-time professional magazine reader to keep up.

A couple of months ago The New Internationalist decided to do a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for themselves. As they often tell us, print media are having some difficulty staying afloat financially, and niche magazines such as this one have an even more difficult time. So they decided to raise money to keep themselves afloat by selling shares in the magazine. Their crowdfunding campaign goal was £500,000 and they were wildly successful, raising over £700,000.

I am now a co-owner (there are 3400 of us) of a successful left-of-centre independent news magazine and if you would like to read my magazine you can go here: The New Internationalist. I'm quite proud of it, I've never owned a magazine before.