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Archive for April, 2013

Dogs help a Scottish gamekeeper keep watch in Aberfoyle, Scotland, March 1919. PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM REID, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Dogs help a Scottish gamekeeper keep watch in Aberfoyle, Scotland, March 1919.
PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM REID, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

The National Geographic has a Tumblr blog simply entitled, “Found“. It has become one of my favourite places on the web. It is essentially just photos from the vast archives of the National Geographic … and the photographs are amazing. The shots date from the 1890’s and cover just about every subject imaginable.

A similar Tumblr blog is from the New York Times. “The Lively Morgue” is comprised of photographs from the Times over the years. A neat part of the Lively Morgue is both the front and back of the photos are shared. The back shows the caption and editor’s notes, which in itself is of interest. While there is a New York focus, as would be expected, the photos are from all over the world.

Both blogs are highly recommended.

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April Snow in Downtown Edmonton

April Snow in Downtown Edmonton

Springtime in Edmonton

Springtime in Edmonton

Two days ago, I wrote that the snow was finally gone. I should have known better. Today we had snow squalls move through the area. It is not much consolation, but at least it was warm enough that the snow didn’t accumulate. One of my colleagues told me she passed a church this morning with a sign; “Whoever is praying for snow, please stop“.

 

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Last Bit of Snow

Last Bit of Snow in the Front Yard

Last Bit of Snow in the Front Yard

It has been a long winter. Not particularly cold, but we have had snow on the ground continuously since the first part of October – six straight months. It still isn’t very warm (+5 C when this shot was taken) but at least the snow is almost gone and we can, hopefully, get on with spring.

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My friend Natasha asked me to go with her to a concert of traditional Scottish music on the weekend. It was held in a local church and featured Christine Hanson on cello, Bruce MacGregor on violin and Keri Lynn Zwicker playing the Celtic harp and singing. I am really glad I went. The music was brilliant – these are three very accomplished players. It is a very joyous music and the stories between songs were as much fun as the music. Bruce’s story of his father’s battle with a local solicitor was by itself worth the price of admission.

For me, it was not just the technical aspects of the playing. My Scottish heritage came to the surface. My paternal grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1913 and settled in Saskatchewan before moving to Toronto when the depression hit. I don’t remember my paternal grandmother – she passed away when I was very young. I still have fond memories of Grandpa sitting at the kitchen table listening to the Saturday morning Scottish music program on the local radio. And at that time, I didn’t understand what the attraction was – the music was old and sort of boring. But Grandpa would listen intently, nodding his head to the beat – I really had to be quiet on Saturday mornings when Grandpa’s music was on. Even after Grandpa was gone, I would occasionally find Dad listening to the music as well. It was only later when I first heard Fairport Convention that I began to appreciate the genre.

Grandpa lived to be 96 years old. When I left to come to Alberta in 1975, he was very serious when he gave me advice that I was not to drink from outdoor faucets in the winter time out west. “It’ll be n’ae good for your lips”. I took his advice to heart.

It is very honest music and while I know it isn’t everyone’s cuppa, it is special to me. It was a good time.

I would encourage people who are interested to check out Christine Hanson’s website www.christinehanson.com

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I recently found songza.com, a steaming music service online. I quite like it. There are a lot of different genres of music represented and I have discovered a number of streams that really appeal to my musical sensibilities. At work, it is a godsend. I don’t have to bring my iPod or CDs and the music helps to keep me sane.

But there is one problem and it is the same reason I really resist using the ‘shuffle’ command on my iPod or previously, my CD player. I grew up in the era of the LP album. And if you weren’t listening to music on the radio, it was from an album. And albums presented songs in sequence – like telling a story.

Today, Grand Hotel from Procol Harum was playing – one of my favourites. The next song was by the Faces (Every Picture Tells a Story). One of the great Faces songs, but when it came on, my brain screams; “That’s wrong! – It should be Toujours L’Amour – the second song on the A side of the Grand Hotel album”. I find it amazing that after 40 odd years I still expect the songs to be in ‘correct’ order and it is jarring when they aren’t. A product of my generation I guess.

Cover of "Grand Hotel"

Cover of Grand Hotel

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At one point in our existence, we had four kids eight and under. Interesting times indeed!

When new parents find out that I have four (the youngest is now almost 20), they almost always ask if I have any advice to share. The first piece of wisdom I give is; “never let them out number you” (we lost that battle pretty early on). The next is that after a certain age (usually around two or so), you have to treat them as little tape recorders that are constantly at your feet and you never know when they are on!

My favourite memory of the second piece of advice was in the family van on the way to the grandparents. We had stopped at a light and in the pause while we waited there was a faint but distinct voice from the back of the van singing “a friend of the devil is a friend of mine”.

Sure enough, as I turned around, there was Ian (our number 2 son) in his car seat happily singing the Grateful Dead song. Now his melody wasn’t spot on, but I was impressed that my three year old had such great taste in music. After everyone shared a big laugh, we did suggest to Ian that he might not want to share the song with his grandparents. Yes, out of the mouth of babes …

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Every so often I run into a quote that causes me to stop and reflect on the words.

I am currently reading William Manchester‘s first volume of his biography of Winston Churchill – The Last Lion.

In the section of the book concerning home rule for Ireland, Manchester uses a quote from Nietzsche that stopped me in my tracks.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

That one sent shivers down my spine.

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