Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year for 2009


And so ends 2008, the second year of this blog and while there have been some negatives for me in cyberspace, on the whole it has been a wonderful experience to interact with you, my blog acquaintances, some of whom have morphed into friends.

I said this last year and it still remains so true I'm will repeat it. You have all enriched my life in so many ways. You've challenged my mind with your posts, you've helped me with my tech problems, you've taught me so much about your different worlds, you've entertained me with your humour. Some of you have shared your poetry and stories and your beautiful paintings and photographs. You've welcomed me into your lives and shared your innermost thoughts and I am grateful to each and every one of you.

I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity for 2009 and being half Scottish, I'll close with the words of Rabbie Burns in Auld Lang Syne and make a toast (non-alcoholic, of course) to you all.

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right guid willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

or for the linguistically challenged English speakers

And there is a hand, my trusty friend!
And give me a hand of yours!
And we will take a right good-will drink,
For old long past.

Eddi Reader, Scottish singer/songwriter, in a very different version of Auld Lang Syne

NB: Words and translation from the World Burns Club

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Switching from the Darkside or to the Darkside?

Yes, this is my new "toy". It is not a photo of my new MacBook Pro however. For some reason, unfathomable to me, my photo is uploading here sideways, so I cannot use it nor rectify it for the moment. I had to nick one from the internet and it is not exactly the same but you get the idea.

So since last Thursday I have been tearing my hair out as I try to master the OS X operating system which I have been told is intuitive. It seems all my intuition has been educated out of me or maybe I never had any but it is not as easy as everyone tries to tell you.

We actually went to buy a new high end PC laptop from the local huge electronic store which sells both PCs and Macs. The first salesperson was useless and did not convince us that anything was right for my needs. But we were hanging around discussing the situation when another salesperson came along. Miss Powerhouse. Obviously very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and she had just about convinced us to buy a Sony Vaio when we started to talk about her own computers. Yes her two Macs. She had switched some time ago. A very good salesperson and some thousands of dollars poorer we walked out with a 15 inch MacBook Pro.

Now of course one can return it up until Jan 5th, after putting it through its paces. So that is what I have been doing. Sort of. Naturally you want to connect to the Internet and I downloaded Firefox for Mac. No problems there. I am sure Safari is fine but I like Firefox so that was my choice. Mmm. The colours on this screen are a bit pale. My poor blog looks quite washed out. You must be able to change this somehow. But how?

I downloaded and printed out the manual which I have to tell you is terrible. Not only is it for the previous MacBook Pro but it keeps referring you to the help section online. Not good Apple. Some people are book people and want to turn from page to page and not cruise around the internet, getting totally lost. I have ordered a fat book, Switching to the Mac: the Missing Manual but unfortunately it has not yet arrived. So I am floundering around.

Of course I also downloaded Second Life immediately. With the help of several friends in SL who are Mac users I have tweaked a few things to make it better but I am a little disappointed that it is not vastly better, considering this is much more powerful machine than my Dell and considering it cost a small fortune. But it could be the limitations of Second Life. Who knows?

Today I went to the Genius Bar in the local Apple store for a consultation. I found a very helpful chap, who sorted out my screen problems in a flash, showing me where to change the settings to my liking and answered the questions I had written down in a long list to ask. I'm still a PC person, wanting to know how to do the same things on Mac. Actually I was very happy with my current system except for the keyboard not working, but I have to say I got my money's worth from it. I hope I will be able to say the same thing from this one. So probably I won't be switching totally to or from the darkside, depending on your point of view, but running both systems, at least for a while.

Today I signed up for what I think is quite a good deal. $99 (plus taxes) for a once a week one-on-one tutoring session for one year, which also includes transferring files from the old computer to the new one. Of course I will be away for a month in Australia during that time and the cost of parking downtown once a week will soon make it not such a bargain. But I still think it is a good idea.

After a few hours I go back to my old Dell laptop, with its clunky external keyboard and find it very relaxing in comparison. It is not a pleasant experience to feel so ignorant again. But I look forward to it as a new challenge. Something to keep the old brain cells firing on all cylinders. Well that's what I tell myself.

OK, I promise not to turn into one of those awful smug Mac people who harangue you about how great a Mac is and how you should switch. But did I tell you how much I love my iPods? My old mini and my new iTouch. Now they are brilliant and you should definitely not muck around with anything other than an iPod. Just saying!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Cancelled this Year --- Well Postponed at Least

Yes, I'm afraid we were snowed in on Christmas Day this year after all. My son could not make it here with his car and was unwilling to face the multi bus journey across town. So after lots of consultation with our friends we have postponed our Christmas celebration until later. Gifts sit under the tree unopened, for we still remain snowed in. In this part of the world we remember well the blizzard of 1996. Now we have the blizzard of 2008 to add to the books. At least we still have power, so far.

It does seem ludicrous in this day and age of four wheeled drives (no we don't have one, although here many do) and modern equipment that in parts our city has come to a halt. Vancouver is just not equipped for snow removal on this scale. I guess with the four day weekend there is no need to be out and about except by necessity, so traffic has not packed down the snow on the roads. Everyone around us is hunkered down it seems, for there is no one going by on our street and we are half a mile to the nearest main road which is probably cleared for the buses. Not quite true, as another car was stuck outside our house this morning. But we are above freezing and it is starting to melt slowly, so now we have flooding to look forward to. Sigh.

I made the Christmas pudding which is still in my refrigerator. Uncooked it does not look so enticing does it? But I love Christmas pudding.

Ready in the steamer for the three hours boiling required to cook it. On the day you just re-steam it for one hour and serve it with Foamy Eggnog Sauce to which we add brandy and is absolutely delicious and much better than traditional Hard Sauce.

No you don't get to see the cooked result, since it is resealed and ready to steam again. I wonder if we will ever get to eat it. But you can have a cookie instead. If these look similar to last year's, it's no wonder. I make the same ones every year and there are a couple of other kinds plus a Christmas cake which I will not bore you with here.

Actually it is not quite true to say that all the Christmas presents are under the tree. One, with a card marked JMB, I fished out and have been playing with since Christmas Day. I'm just about ripping my hair out with frustration over this new toy but I'll leave it until later to tell you about it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Are Reindeer Mean?

Merry Christmas to you all from both JMB and me.

I have sort of come to the conclusion that Reindeer are maybe not all that nice, cute as they look. I figure there is a lesson to be learned from that for us all.

Now I have it on good authority from no less an expert than the Late Great Dean Martin...

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide mien sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudy the red-beaked reindeer,
you'll go down in history!

That second verse... What does that tell us about Reindeer?

Rudolph had a slight problem, a red nose. Nothing too bad you might say. Lots of people get red noses around this time of year.. for one reason or another ^_^

Did Rudolph get sympathy and support? Did he heck. They laughed at the poor little guy. They were mean and called him names and ostracised him.

What's more it looked like that was the way it would stay. That is until the most powerful figure in their lives thought he could make use of Rudolph's unusual nasal properties.

As soon as Rudolph was accepted by their ultimate Alpha Male suddenly they couldn't get enough of the previously not good enough Rudolph.

Well Rudolph hadn't changed any had he? Just how they saw him.

Well we aren't reindeer, maybe we can think about that Laughing at thing and the calling names thing, and the ostracising thing? Are we a bit like those reindeer sometimes?

Maybe we need to think about that just a little? Not just at Christmas...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

For Unto us a Child is Born 2008

The Adoration of the Magi
Fra Angelico and Fillipo Lippi

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

To everyone who is celebrating this feast, may I wish you and your families a very Happy and Holy Christmas.

From Handel's Messiah the wonderful chorus, For unto us a child is born.

Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is fast approaching!

The sexy Santa, Miss Moggs and the more sedate Santa, JMB got together in Second Life to make one of those Christmas photos that many send out to their friends at this time of year wishing them a very Happy Christmas. Well yes they are usually better at it than I am, but we only had a few hurried minutes together as Miss Moggs fitted the photo shoot into her busy SL life. Two ladies in red.

My outfit was rather on the risqué side too, but I added a red shirt underneath it as befits a lady of my advanced years. Yes there is lots of snow in SL. It magically appeared everywhere the day after American Thanksgiving and it does look a little strange to see people dressed skimpily skipping around in the snow.

But in Real Life we are snowed in too. For crying out loud I live in the banana belt of Canada. It is not supposed to be like this. We have had snow on the ground for the past week and for the first time since 1971 the whole of Canada will have a white Christmas.

I looked out my window this morning when I awoke to see this sight.

Yes poor fellow, he was digging his car out from where he had become stuck in the snow on our street. Ten more inches had fallen in the past twenty four hours. It is really ugly out there if you want to go anywhere. We never see a snow plough in our part of the world although if you can get out the main roads were cleared by noon.

Well truthfully it is very pretty in a way at the moment. This is my cornus florida or pink dogwood, covered with snow such that it looks as if it is in white leaf instead of green.

All that white stuff, everywhere you look. All the trees and shrubs are bending over under the weight of snow and I am sure there will be a lot of damage to repair come spring.

The lucky Old Scientist got to shovel the ten inches off the driveway. The trouble is there is nowhere to put all this snow. We have piles from the last fall and supposedly there is more on the way tonight.

When we stupidly went out later for a trudge in the snow the OS got to push the postman's van as he had spun his wheels through to the pavement in his effort to get the mail through. The UPS man had just abandoned his van at the nearby stop sign and disappeared.

Yesterday was the winter solstice, thus the shortest day of the year or alternatively the longest night of the year. So this was taken just before 4 pm. I remember well the days of going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. Today was garbage day but few actually believed the trucks would come and indeed they did not. Our neighbour however had faith.

I hope we will be able to get to our friends' house for Christmas dinner. She has the turkey and I am bringing the Christmas pudding. They also live in an off the beaten track housing development so while their streets are equally messy and unploughed they do have four snow tires and a four wheeled drive and are getting about. Next year I think I'll become a snowbird and go south for the winter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the First Day of Hanukkah

A "quirky" one from Dino's collection, the fifth day

As I said last year, you may be surprised to see something about Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights, on a non-Jewish person's blog, but once again I want to share with you the special posts on the collection of Hanukkah menorah (plural menorot) of one of my medblog reads, the No 1 Dinosaur, who last year, for the eight days of the festival, posted one per day of the family's collection, culminating in the pièce de résistance they bought last year. As an aside, technically the nine branched candelabra for Hanukkah are called Hanukiah.

Since Dino's collection consists of over two dozen different ones, this series could go on for three years without a repeat but of course each year they add another or two so it could be longer. Unfortunately Dino is unable to continue the series this year due to time constraints, but fortunately has given us the links to last years photos.

I picked the above one to highlight the series since it certainly is not an image that springs to mind when one thinks of the word menorah. Dino describes it thus:
The candle holders are those things that look like little coffee cups on top of each shoe. It feels like it's made of clay. It's about fifteen inches long and the shammas (the highest heel) is about three inches high.
Happy Hanukkah to all those celebrating the festival and especially to Dino's family who makes it so interesting for us all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Carolling Craziness

My last post was related to religion, and so is this one. Possibly it might get people irate also.

The “Ship of Fools” web site highlights the fad for mutilation of much loved traditional carols by out of touch misguided clerics. It looks like it is fuelled by misplaced political correctness.

For instance some nut changed “O come let us adore him” in “O come all ye faithful” to ” O come in adoration”, apparently to avoid being sexist!

It is not the worst example, but last time I heard no one was seriously disputing that Jesus was a boy, so why on earth would it offend, even the most professionally prone to take offence to call him… well... him?

Some other genius decided to change “Born to raise the sons of earth” in Hark the Herald Angels Sing to “Born to raise us from the earth”, again you have got to figure because they thought it might have been sexist. Someone pointed out it can actually make it sound divisively less inclusive.

My real bug about that one is it absolutely changes the meaning of the thing. It is also nowhere near as good as the original. Bland mediocrity pointlessly defacing something that is better, both aesthetically and in how it is expressed.

Most of us know Christmas carols by heart anyway. Play the tune and you get the traditional words from most people. Change them and you get a verbal train wreck when the ones singing from memory crash into the ones reading it. Change the same one into several different versions and you create chaos.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt ---- Wide


For this theme all I could think of was wide open spaces but nothing sprang to mind at first. Then several ideas struck me. Alaska is the largest state in the USA and filled with wide stretches of open land and ice, nowhere more impressive than Glacier Bay.

The terminus of the Margerie Glacier

For interest a closer look. Note the blue colour

But what about the heavens? How wide is that space, stretching endlessly above us? This photo is one I took recently when the moon and Jupiter and Venus were in close juxtaposition, to our eyes at least. Not a great photo but click to improve slightly. It has appeared here before but not for Photo Hunt.

But in actual fact, in distance they are widely spaced apart from each other and from earth. The moon is the brightest, closest and smallest of the three and is 252,000 miles away. Venus, the second brightest, closest and smallest, is 94 million miles away, while Jupiter is 540 million miles away. Now doesn't that boggle the mind?



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Lunch at my House ---Thursday Walking Group

You would think that people who have lunch together every Thursday after walking would not do a special Christmas luncheon but it's a long time tradition and it has been at my house for the past three years. This year some people were away and some had more pressing commitments but last Thursday whoever could come gathered together to celebrate our friendship and the Christmas season.

Welcome to my house for the annual Thursday Walking Group Christmas Luncheon

Only ten this year so we could all fit at one table instead of
the sixteen we had last year

Would you like a glass of wine or sparkling mineral water?

It is a pot-luck affair but I did not get photos of some of the things in the confusion
Tabbouli, one of my contributions and a personal favourite
as well as being easy to prepare

My seafood quiches, a little overdone you could say, but absolutely delicious
anyway. Shrimp and crab, another favourite.

Others brought garden salad and I added these healthy nibbles
Sorry no photos of the salads

We always remember C at this time of year since the Christmas
luncheon was the last time we saw her before she died
ten days later.
Someone brought her Sunken Grape Cake for dessert.

Ambrosia Cake with Grand Marnier was another dessert contribution
by a group member.

Of course there is always a story connected to any event. This one involved my Turkish friend who was very ill on the day but she had promised to bring a salad. She called to tell me and said she was sending a cab with all the salad ingredients which were in sealed containers from the store, along with olive oil, a lemon and a lime and a Christmas stollen. Unfortunately she had left her cell phone in the bag and she asked me to send the cab driver back with it to her house. I said that she should not have bothered since we always have too much food. But she said a promise is a promise and this is just the way she is. She is someone you can always count on and she always offers her help whenever and wherever she can. So all I had to do was put the salad together at the last minute. Thank you so much T and we hope you are well again soon.

Also among those missing this year was our sometime member from Moscow. Every year for quite a few years she has accompanied her physicist husband who comes to work at TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics here at the University of British Columbia. Usually they come twice a year, Spring and Fall and they leave to go back around Christmas so she is usually with us for our Christmans luncheon. But sadly not this year. It seems that it was not possible for them to come at all this year and we hope that they will be back next year. She had sent us each a card and we all said we hoped to see her soon.

N at the Christmas luncheon several years ago

It was a very happy occasion and thanks to all those who contributed to make it such a successful event and somehow we ended up with more unopened wine than was drunk which made the Old Scientist happy too, even though he had dental surgery on that day. Poor thing he was rather neglected in his misery but he survived.

Since we are under three or four inches of snow we won't be walking together until after the New Year when we will definitely need the exercise to get rid of some of the excesses of the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A private eccentricity?

OK I figure this post is likely to be a real “hard hat” post. Maybe I ought to get me a pic wearing a yellow hard hat for these, my friend P has one. I really don't intend anyone should take offence ok?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who is arguably, (along with the Arch Bishop of York) one of the two most respected and influential Christians in the UK is concerned that the UK has become an 'unfriendly' place for religious people to live in.

He thinks that rise of secularism has led to a society, hostile to Christian morals and values, where religious belief is viewed as "a private eccentricity".

I figure he may have a point... to some extent. But I don’t think he is seeing the big picture, or understanding it.

It is natural enough he interprets what he sees as a Christian, but I don't think it's about Christianity as such.

He may be seeing it as society in the UK has become, shall we say.. "Stonier soil" for Christians than it used to be, but I figure this is just a part of the picture, a by-product.

I have chatted to friends about this. The feeling is there are still underlying Christian based morals and values in the UK, but they are deeper and generic, not knee jerk ones.

Here is what I figure. It is obvious signs of strong faith that is coming to disturb the people of the UK these days.

There is a sort of underlying awareness of what religious conflict and intolerance can do. The reformation and the subsequent problems it caused left it a sort of background idea. Eventually things settled.

Then in recent memory the IRA waged a campaign of terrorism. They were strongly Identified with Roman Catholicism. Then in what looked like a reaction there was a counter movement that was identified with Northern Irish Protestantism.

For most of us it looked like crazy killing that probably didn’t really achieve anything that might not have been got by ordinary political process. As you can see with the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments.

A plague on both their houses?

Also the problems in Northern Ireland don’t seem to have entirely gone away, just become less large scale red handed.

These problems made it unfashionable to make overt religious displays, except in a very generic sense.

Meanwhile, all this time the politically correct have been busy ensuring that we are aware that "All faiths are equally valid". Being aware of that is something that is important in getting a job, or promotion, or pay rises in the UK. Including for Teachers.

Next came the matter of Islamism and its associated Terrorists. They clearly identify themselves with the religion Islam. They use religion to justify the evil they do, plus we hear every now and again when preachers talk Jihad. The UK has a significant Islamic minority.

So the UK has experienced another wave of what is clearly seen by the public as religiously inspired terrorism, evil and indiscriminate murder.

This is not something, the US for instance, has had to contend with. Many of its original settlers came to get away from exactly that sort of thing. Its constitution was, amongst other things, wisely designed to prevent it, with its separation of church and state.

It has been repeatedly said that the recent terrorists were often pious model citizens. Their relatives could not believe they would do such a thing. Teaching Assistants, even Doctors!

To put it bluntly and in its harshest light, small wonder that the public perception in the UK is beginning to look at evidence of strong religious belief, even in the respectable, in the same light as early signs of rabies in dogs.

We hear the religious promoting faith based schools, but many feel they can't trust the state school inspectors to spot evidence of indoctrination, we see that when the police finally track down leads and raid places. The public also see that these schools get public funds.

Maybe it is that people in the UK are starting to think of strongly religious people as being susceptible to some sort of an “invasion of the body snatchers” type religious mania reprogramming. They don't feel they can legitimately oppose one sort of faith, or faith based education, so some become increasingly wary of, even hostile to, all forms.

Basically they worry who might have been bitten by a zombie and will suddenly go berserk and start eating random people's flesh.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Favourite



Sadly for my figure two of my favourite things are food and chocolate. How about this for a combination of the two of them? A delectable delight from the Pacific Culinary Institute, our favourite luncheon stop when I walk at Granville Island with my Thursday Walking Group.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Deck the Halls...

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is upon us. This post, like JMB's last, has a foot in both rl and the virtual.

Over the weekend we put up our decorations. Lights, garlands, wreaths for the front door and of course the tree.

We have an artificial tree. It is quite realistic and saves a tree every year. My motives are not so much planet crusading, as I don’t like to see a tree (or anything else) die needlessly, and I really hate needles all over the floor.

I used to try to get trees with roots in buckets of soil, but they all died anyway, just took longer.

Our tree, apart from being artificial, is old fashioned, traditional. None of this having it upside down or such like. It has lights and strings of decorations, pine cones, artificial fruit, icicles, and glass globes with an angel on the top. All green silver red and white.

By coincidence. I logged into SL over the weekend and what should pop up in instant Message but an invite to go shopping with two of my close friends. Naturally I accepted without even noticing where they were.

Well, when I got there, imagine my delight when I realised it was the equivalent of a large outside garden centre that specialised in Christmassy stuff. If you want to visit search on NIRVANA Christmas & Winter.

Picture this: It was dark, snow lay all around, a light snow was falling steadily. There was the look of a misty coldness in the air.

There were lights, trees Christmas trees and old fashioned gas type street lamps everywhere, strings of lights, snowy hedges, paths, frozen over ponds for skating, ice sculptures. It was all so realistic yet magical in that moment.

On top of it all there were A and P. We all live on the same land and they were shopping, to not just decorate for Christmas, but guarantee we had a full on traditional white Christmas, deep and crisp and even.

Well at this point I don't know what got into us but we all started exploring and rushing around like kids in fresh snow. A was more grown up about it, P and I less so, me? I fear possibly least so.

My excuse?If I need one, I was caught by surprise by it all and regressed ^_^

I know it is not real and all, but even so, that made me feel so cheerful and full of fun.

Like the new hair do btw? D, who is a model, pointed me to the place that did it.

My outfit? Yes I know I was not really dressed for it. What can I say? I wasn't expecting snow... and I have experienced English summers ^_^ I did put a jacket on after as you can see.

I was looking forward to seeing the results of the expedition. I logged in and arrived home today to find P had been hard at work. The first thing I noticed was that it was snowing quite heavily. Then I saw the trees and hedges. Not all in place yet, but it is going to be just great, I know it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Buildabearville -The Virtual World of the Five Year Old Plus

One of the many branch stores of Build-a-Bear Workshop

For months my daughter had been telling me that my granddaughter Sofia has been waiting for me to visit so that I could be her "friend" in the Buildabearville virtual world. She first discovered Build-a-Bear Workshop at a birthday party. This American company has grown to over 300 stores world wide now and as a birthday party venue it has become very popular. Sofia and the other children were taken to the store and "built" their own bears and even were given some clothes for them. Now that must have cost some mother and father a pretty penny.

But the most important thing you get is a birth certificate for your bear with an ID number so that you can create an avatar in Buildabearville and you and your furry friend who travels with you in your backpack can play games by yourself or with others to earn "bear bills "so that you can buy things like clothes or things to decorate your very own club condominium.

Thus Sofia Astronaut was born and with her Koala Bear which she named Cody she has learned to navigate this world with great skill. However she was not allowed to make "friends" with anyone else nor was she allowed to buy anything without asking her parents first. But she seemed to enjoy it all immensely and has been allowed a limited time there almost every day.

So almost as soon as we arrived, off we went to the closest store to buy a "bear" for Nanna, the thought being that the "bear" would be given away to a charitable group distributing presents for Christmas. Now I was allowed to choose my own furry friend and naturally I chose a dog, an Alaskan malamute in fact and of course I named her Cleo. Sofia was allowed to buy another furry friend but in fact they had a special for Christmas with a pair called Hal and Holly Moose which also included a book so that was her choice.

Samples of Sofia's choice of Hal and Holly Moose

A sample of Nanna's choice

This huge stuffing machine is operated by the store employee with
a little help from the purchaser as each
bear is "built"or stuffed.

Cleo is stuffed and ready to go

Back home I logged onto the site and Joanna Astronaut was born but now the tyranny began. Sofia Astronaut had been waiting for a friend to play with for a long time and poor Joanna was dragged from one place to another in her wake. Not only that, but in real life if I was a bit slow to respond the mouse was dragged from my hand as she operated both avatars and darted back and forth between the two laptops as she showed Joanna the ropes. She also started to call me Joanna in real life, even when we were doing something else. Come on Joanna, let's do this or that. It was actually quite funny.

After she had gone to bed I played around a bit with earning a few more bear bills and became a bit more familiar with the workings of the site so I wasn't such a dufus. But I never did catch up to her level of skill. Sigh. It's pretty depressing to be outclassed at something by a five year old.

As you can see these furry friends have become part of Sofia's real life and I am not sure that Cleo will be moving on to some other child's house via the Charity group. I think they will have to come up with another toy for the group to give away.

On the day before we left to come back to Vancouver, we made another visit to Build-a-Bear so that my daughter could redeem a certificate that she had acquired and now she is Susanna Astronaut with her furry friend, a dog called Niccolo, and she has joined Sofia and Joanna as the Astronaut family. I wonder how many other mothers and grandmothers are cruising around in Buildabearville, decorating their condos and fishing in the pond to earn bear bills or are we unique? I mean did I wop a five year old at baseball or was it perhaps someone's granddad?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Breakfast


When you are in Paris you are quite likely to visit the boulangerie to find your breakfast. There the choice is between croissants, pastries or even one of the many types of French bread.

Perhaps you would like some cheese with your bread for breakfast as they often do on the Continent. There is certainly a great choice here.

Let's top it all off with a caffé latte. Ok, ok. This is back in North America!


Still on the road. Will visit everyone sooner or later.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Rare Astronomical Occurrence

Click the photo to improve it somewhat

Every day while we are staying with my daughter the "old scientist" walks up to the local Library to read the New York Times. Yes we could buy it, or he could read it online as I do, but he likes the constitutional as well as catching up with the news since there is no TV in this house.

As he returned on Monday evening, later than usual, he noticed this rare configuration in the sky. It was a new crescent moon forming a close triangle with the two planets, Venus and Jupiter. I rushed out to take some photos and while most of them were useless I thought this one perhaps worth posting here. While others have talked about it appearing as a smiley face, the configuration did not have that aspect here. Last night the moon was much farther distant from the planets, with clouds in between so there was no chance of getting a better photo.

A few salient facts from the Telegraph where there is a much better photo:
"This certainly is an unusual coincidence for the crescent moon to be right there in the days when they are going to be closest together," said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine.

The moon is the brightest, closest and smallest of the three and is 252,000 miles away. Venus, the second brightest, closest and smallest, is 94 million miles away, while Jupiter is 540 million miles away.

The three celestial objects come together from time to time, but often they are too close to the sun or unite at a time when they are less visible.

The next time the three will be as close and visible as this week will be Nov 18, 2052, according to Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

Thanks to Colin Campbell for providing the link to the information and saving me the trouble.