We live in a cold part of the world. And this winter has been a bit colder than normal. We had a warm spell in January – it went above 0C for a few days and that seemed to lull people into a false sense of spring. On Groundhog Day, if there was a groundhog out and about, they did see their shadow. When a friend from eastern Canada asked what the state of the weather was on Groundhog Day, I said it had been cold and sunny. Oh, the groundhog saw his shadow … six more weeks of winter. We wish – six weeks would take us into mid-March – that would be early for us. We’ll take it – thank you very much.

February has been colder than normal. At the winter solstice, we get about seven hours of daylight. I know this is a lot by Arctic standards, but going to work and coming home in the dark is not particularly fun. So with the days getting longer but the weather staying cold, it just doesn’t seem fair. This past weekend was a great example. Woke up Sunday morning to clear, crisp skies with an air temperature around -30 C and for one hour at least, a wind chill of -39 C. For me, this was weather to hunker down indoors.

Which, in a roundabout manner, brings me to the subject of this post. I have an original Kindle (I have just ordered a paperwhite version) and I love it. Yes, I know the arguments about the tactile feel of a real book and I agree that the Kindle isn’t perfect. But it is portable and to be able to get a book anywhere (I have the 3G version) is amazing. So, I spent a lot of the weekend curled up with my latest book on the Kindle with my favourite tunes playing in the background. It is a relaxing way to spend time.

However, a couple of weeks ago I ran across articles in both the New York Times and the Atlantic about studies that show we, as a society, don’t read as much as we used to. While I know we have vast new ways of receiving information, it saddens me to think of not experiencing the pleasure of becoming immersed in a good read. A number of years ago a friend went to India for an extended stay and wrote a journal of his experiences. He called it, ‘Sipping from the Fire Hose’ and I was honoured when he asked me to edit and layout the final copy. It is an apt title and one of the reasons he chose it was that the experiences in India were so foreign and overwhelming that he could not fully comprehend what was happening in real time. It took laying out his thoughts and reflecting on the experiences for him to understand what he had seen. And that is what we seem to be doing on a daily basis with all the information being hurled at us from so many directions. For me, there are times I need to turn down the volume and reflect. It would seem that we are moving away from that paradigm. I am not sure that is a good thing. I see many times in my work where judgments are made without knowing the full context and taking time to consider consequences. Yes, you can have ‘paralysis by analysis’ but jumping to conclusions can be just as bad, if not worse. I don’t know if there is an answer to this, but immersing one’s self in a good read is a way to slow the world down and hopefully reduce some of the stress we place ourselves in. So maybe there was an upside to -30 last weekend.


Monty Python

Humour (and yes, that is the proper spelling) is subjective. I grew up in a household that appreciated dry British humour. In fact, it was my father who suggested we what the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus after seeing an ad in TV Guide. The first sketch I recall was that of the flying sheep – I was hooked, and so were most of my friends. It was smart, quick, absurd and most of all – silly. There was a regular discussion about the week’s episode and lines of Python dialogue quickly became part of our regular lexicon. When the CBC failed to pick up one of the new series, we dashed off a 500+ name petition – that three of us spent several hours making up the names for.

Not only did we absorb everything Python, the show had some interesting unintended funny moments for us. When the first movie, And Now For Something Completely Different, came out, we went as a group to see it. As most of us had just passed the age where we could legally imbibe, we went for a few (or for some, more than a few) before the movie. We got to the theatre and settled in as the movie started when one of our group loudly announced that he had to go to the bathroom. We told him to go, but then he started to protest saying he would miss part of the movie. In the next instant he had come up with a solution. Movie theatres are sloped so he would just go down the aisle. On reflection, this did not seem to be the most appropriate action and we voiced our disapproval. Nevertheless, he started the process which then required three of us to drag him to the bathroom. All in the name of Python.

The second one I remember is going to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail with another group of friends. For some unknown reason, there was a short film in front of Python about these poor South Sea Islanders who were forced to leave their homes for a good part of the year to find food to feed their families. Absolutely the worst choice for a short before Holy Grail. The audience were laughing at all the serious bits and making snide comments about the plight of these poor people. It would have been a buzzkill of epic proportions if the audience had not been primed for Python. Before the feature started, one of the group offered to go and get snacks for all. We knew he had come back when we heard this loud call of ‘Albatross‘ as he was walking back down the aisle towards us. While he actually didn’t have any albatross, he did manage to sell most of the snacks to other patrons before he reached our seats – which of course necessitated another trip to the concession. Only at a Python flick.

Finally, I was at the university bookstore during my undergraduate years when I spotted a new Monty Python book on the shelves.

The Monty Python Bok

The Monty Python Bok

The first giggle was that book was spelled incorrectly. But the cover had dirty fingerprints on it so I started to go through the stock to find a clean one. Only to find that each book had the same fingerprints printed on the cover. Another funny – this is looking good. I took the book up to the front with several other books and gave them to the cashier. The elderly cashier went through each book and entered the price into the cash register until she got to the Python book. She stopped and said this is a library book – you don’t need to pay for this. I hadn’t noticed that there actually was a library card fixed to the inside front page – a library card that listed Sammy Davis Jr. and Margaret Thatcher as people who had borrowed the book.

The 'library' card

The ‘library’ card

I thought she was joking so I laughed and said that, no I really did want to pay for it. She smiled back and insisted it was a library book and I didn’t have to pay for it. I think I realized at this point she was serious, so I insisted again that it was not a library book. Afterwards I figured out that the price sticker was white on white (this being before the days of bar codes) and she probably never saw it (you can see the sticker scars on the upper left part of the dust jacket). I tried one more time and again she told me I didn’t have to pay. At this point, the line was getting restless behind me and I figured I had given it three tries, so I agreed and put the book into my bag. It seemed a very appropriate way of acquiring a Python book.

And after all these years, Monty Python still makes me laugh – thanks boys!

A Little Mystery



I have lots of photos. I began shooting when I was about 11 and have been going ever since. I have about 900 on Flickr but there are thousands in boxes waiting to be scanned.

When we were in university in Southern Ontario in the early 70’s, we would go camping as a group on weekends. One of our favourite spots was Sandbanks Provincial Park near Belleville, Ontario. The shot above was taken in 1974 on one of our trips. My friends, Mike and Luke, are pretending to be hobbits – the joke is the vegetation is only about a foot high, but it was like a miniature forest and made for some interesting photo opportunities.

The interesting part is that I uploaded the shot to Flickr in November 2011. For quite a long time, the photo had a few views but nothing spectacular – until recently. Over the last several months, I have added about 400 views and average 4-8 views a day. I have no idea where the link is posted but some folks must like it. I had a similar experience about two years ago when one of my shots from the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix went viral – it was a photo of the first time a safety car had been used in a Grand Prix. The link to that one had been posted on a Turkish Formula 1 blog and in one day, I had over 400 views. Another shot from a trip back east was posted on Reddit and that one took off as well. But the hobbit shot – I have no idea. A friend once likened the Internet to letting something out into the wild – you never know where it will end up!

Morning Light

I don’t know if I have always been a morning person. As I getting older, I find it more difficult to sleep in – plus, it doesn’t help to have a dog who has decided that anything later than 7:30 is past her breakfast (she is doing fine, btw). So, while everyone else is asleep, I have the house to myself. This morning it was a leisurely breakfast following by some time catching up with Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (great web series). When I went back upstairs to refresh my coffee, I was greeted by the sunrise. And yes, it was almost 9:00 but that is the price one pays for living here – short days in the winter.

So, having a camera always at the ready, I grabbed some shots of the morning sun in the front yard.

Soft Morning Light

Soft Morning Light

Rabbit Tracks

Rabbit Tracks



Iridescent Cloud at Sunrise

Iridescent Cloud at Sunrise

The morning light, especially with the sun so low, is quite pretty. I find the morning sun has a ‘fresh’ character about it as opposed to sunset where the light seems more calming. It was -17 C this morning but having the sun out with the beautiful blue sky does help to make up for the chill. And the days are getting longer so these are positive signs.

And yes, I recognize this is Groundhog Day and that a gopher that wasn’t asleep would see its shadow. But for us, six more weeks of winter would mean an early spring, so I’ll take it!

Mortality in Dog Years

It has been a stressful couple of weeks. I resolved that I would update the blog more often this year, but we ran into a little snag. Our dog, Penny, had to have surgery just after New Year to remove a lump on her chest.


Penny at the vet before the surgery. The lump is plain to see.

The vet was pretty sure it was just a ‘fat’ lump – apparently labs are prone to this sort of thing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. It turned out to be an intermediate-grade sarcoma. This made the operation more involved and the vet had to put a drain in afterwards. The lump had to be sent to pathology so for a few days we waited for the outcome. The good news was the lump was benign – the not so good news is that there is a reasonable chance it will return.


Our sad multi-coloured dog. Lots of vet wrap holding the dressings in place.

After five days we got another surprise. Penny began having great difficulty getting to her feet. She was having real trouble with her back end and would cry whenever she put weight on her legs. So, another trip to the vet and this time we got some pain medication and antibiotics. These helped but two days later, the drain retracted back into her and yet another trip to the vet. We were getting really good at dressing changes and dealing with a very sad dog. It was almost two weeks after the surgery that we finally went back to the vet to get the stitches out. The vet’s assistants took into Penny into the back. We knew she was done when we heard scrambling and Penny dragging the assistant out of the treatment room – a much happier dog. So, now things look better. She is still not completely her old self but we don’t have to worry about dressings and leakage and all the rest of the issues.


Penny showing off her war wounds

It struck me that over the last 10 years, I have watched Penny as a youngster grow into an adult and now into a senior citizen – all the stages of human existence compressed into a decade. The prognosis is for one to three years before we may expect a recurrence. This was not a cheap procedure and given her age in a couple of years, I will really have to think long and hard if we do have to deal with this again. It will not be an easy decision. But we will do the best we can do when the time comes. Until then, we will enjoy her company. Hopefully, I can start catching up on my sleep!


A young Penny watching the front door

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


When I think back about Christmas in my past, I find it interesting that I don’t particularly remember what I got as presents, as much as the people and the moments we shared. My memories are about playing with my cousins when I was young – enjoying the Christmas dinner – and after I left home, coming back to be with family and friends. And as I grew older with my own family, there were the rituals that evolved.

For the last few years, board games have been a part of Christmas Day. Being called upon to be an arbitrator in Scrabble disputes or participating in a cut-throat game of Monopoly, it is fun to watch the family dynamics take place. It has become clear that despite the commercial pressures and build-up to the day, the important thing is not the what, but the who.

Penny waiting for her turn at Monopoly.

Penny waiting for her turn at Monopoly.

And this year, not wanting to be left out, our old lab/border collie cross decided she was going to play with us. In the middle of the game, she came downstairs and plopped herself between two of the kids and waited for her turn. Another Christmas memory for us all.

%d bloggers like this: