Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Cellular revisited…
March 5, 2010

About a year ago I wrote a rant about Cellular service and as I recall decided the best course was to do nothing until my contract time was over. It’s over! It ended in December 2009. I decided to be cell free! I feel … I feel… I feel a sense of freedom! Getting there was fun!

Last spring (2009) I made the discovery that my cell phone was text message capable. That is it had the feature for sending and receiving text messages turned on. The truth is I had no idea that I was the proud owner of such services mostly, I suppose, because I don’t text. As it happened, I was standing in a long line-up in a department store waiting to cash out when my phone rang. Dutifully I opened the phone, brought it to my ear and said hello. There was no answer. I pocketed the phone and continued my wait in line. But the phone was insistent. It rang again! This time I happened to look at the tiny screen as I brought the phone to my ear and it read, “Papa r u coming 2 lunch“. To which I responded out loud, “No!” and hung up the phone. I had no idea how to respond other than saying “No!” out loud. I turned the phone off and put it back into my pocket.

You can only imagine the trouncing I took from my then 12-year-old granddaughter for not answering her message. She was less than impressed when I told her that I did answer her message by saying, “No!” She then proceeded to give me lessons in texting. I watched and listened intently and the very next day went to TbayTel and asked them to disconnect the text feature on the phone. They said they had done so and I left happily knowing that I would never again have to deal with another text message.

The reality is I really don’t want to talk to people on a phone all that much and especially by typing cryptic messages on an undersized keyboard. It all seems pretty inefficient and impersonal to me. I was a happy man.

Fast forward to October. Same year. I’m sitting in sanctuary chatting (face to face, live, warm body type chat) with family. My son was over and we were catching up on his most recent adventures when my cell phone rang. That was unusual in itself because I didn’t often have it turned on. But I digress. The cell phone rang. I opened it up, put it to my ear and said hello. There was no response so I glanced at the screen to see if a number showed that I might recognize. Nope! There was a … you guessed it! … a text message. It read, “…Larry get over here. Melissa is on top of James and I am getting peed off… lol“.

OK. I am certain you will understand my perplexity because 1. I am not Larry; 2. I don’t know Melissa or James; 3. I don’t care what Melissa is on top of, and; MY PHONE DOESN’T SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES! Sorry! I didn’t mean to shout! My son waded into the moment saying that he would respond and did so telling the sender that the message arrived at my phone in error…there was no Larry at this number and signed it, “George”.

I put the phone away and within seconds it rang again displaying the text message, “Who the f@%k  (they wrote the real word) is George?” And again my son texted, “The owner of this phone.” and again I hung up the phone and put it in my pocket.

But the phone was insistent. This time the message read, “Don’t you want to know who this is“. I thought “No.” and put the phone away. It rang again. “Aren’t you curious” I thought “No” and put the phone away. It rang again. “I’m legal” the message read. OK! OK! Too much information. I turned the phone off and determined next business day to call TbayTel and have this feature deactivated once again.

Heh! Heh! You thought the story was over! I called TbayTel and got a very pleasant young sounding male voice on the phone. I explained that I had earlier requested the texting feature be deactivated on my phone and apparently it had not been done. Could he please check and see if that was the case. “Yes” he replied. “You have texting on your phone and it is active.”

“Would you turn that feature off, please.” To which he responded, “But its free and it is part of your package.”

“Yes,” says I. “But I don’t want it.”

“Why?” he queried.

Surely you see where this is heading, don’t you? “Because I don’t text”, I said.

“Why?” he asked again.

“BECAUSE IT IS MY PHONE AND I DON’T WANT TO SEND OR RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES!” my exasperation breaking through. (Sorry, I know I am shouting again.)

“OK”, he replied. “Its done. Have a great day.”

Now I can’t help but wonder about the conversation that went on in his office after we disconnected. Probably something like this:

Customer Service Employee: (to his colleagues) Hey you guys will never believe the call I just had…some old guy who wanted me to disconnect his texting service…”

The last month of my relationship with my cell phone was blissfully quiet. No texts. No phone calls. Hmmmm? I wonder if it was turned on?                     –GRB

Reeee-session…
March 5, 2010

We live in a resource based community. The two major industries are pulp and gold. Mining, because it is an extractive industry has a finite life. When the gold runs out, the industry is gone. Our  community has been anticipating the decline of the gold mines for some years now. Little did we realize that our forest industry was in greater jeopardy.

The truth is that the forest industry has been under seige for some time now and we have been slow to recognize the signs. As with most industry today the world price of a product aids in the determination of life expectancy; in this case the price offered per ton/tonne of pulp has gone down; the price of gas and diesel to deliver raw materials has gone up; the distance from the harvest has become greater; past practice of not replenishing the natural resource–replanting regularly, deliberately; all culminate in the closure of many mills in Canada and more specifically here in north western Ontario.

I find myself looking at the displaced workers from our mill. Many are people I taught in either elementary school or secondary school at some point in their lives. Memories of conversations with some of them frequently pop into my head as I observe the changes in the rhythms of the community and its inhabitants. “Hey, Sir!” said one of them in a Gr. 12 Law class 25 years ago. “I’m going to graduate at the end of this semester; go to work in the Mill and buy a new TransAm!” And he did; he did; he did. I know because the following year that same student brought his new TransAm to the school to show me. So much for attempting to convince them to stay in school and get their Gr. 13 and go on to College of University. And I thought then, “How do I argue against this?” If only I knew then what I am seeing now!

That student was one of many whose attitude was that the “Company” would always be there; the money is great–I will always have enough; I don’t need more education, my life is set.

For the past year, many of those who saw the mill as a way of life; as a way through life, are finding that they cannot get jobs elsewhere because they have insufficient education to fill the expectations of current employers. Those same people are struggling to go back to school to get high school equivalency or to get sufficiently upgraded so that they can go on to higher education in order to be retrained. All are struggling to do this now on Employment Insurance along with paying the mortgage, put food on the table, heat the house for a six or seven month winter, and on and on… The Insurance should run out shortly.

It says something to me about the need for all of us to become life-long learners. Deliberately! Take a course of some kind every year of your life. Become used to the skill of learning. Make learning a habit! Wake up each day determined to learn one thing new today that will help one grow in one’s life. Plan for the future…for the unexpected. Know that nothing in our lives is carved in stone.                      –GRB

Remember the S@%* word? Well I just said it again!
May 16, 2009

Heh! Here I thought I could get away without ever cursing again and Mother Nature throws us a curve. It is the May long weekend–the first camping weekend of the season and the temperature is 3C and this morning it snowed! There I said it again–the “S” word. Forgive me! I really don’t mean to offend, but I would like to go outside and work in my garden. I just don’t want to do it wearing long johns, an overcoat and snow shoes.

This winter has dragged on long enough. Joy and I drove to Nipigon this past week and noted on the way that there is still ice clinging to the rock faces and on the south side of the highway snow can still be seen in some of the sheltered nooks and  under tree overhangs. Water runoff from spring thaw has not been nearly so spectacual this year because the melt has been slow and gradual.

I suppose that is a good thing in some ways. It means that much of the normal runoff may have been absorbed by the soil. That should bode well for the fire season by delaying the dry spell some. Heavens, the dry spell may never come this year if the temperatures don’t soon get at least back to normal.

Sigh!             GRB

Today I used the “S*%@” word…
October 2, 2008

Snow! There I said it again. Today it snowed! October 2, 2008 and at 2:03 pm it snowed on sanctuary. Mother Nature, we need to chat.            GRB

The fruits of one’s labour…
August 23, 2008

Hey! All that farmer stuff I referred to earlier has paid off. We continue to work in the backyard throughout the week. At some point Joy suggested that it was time the potatoes be hilled. Now this is a significant statement in that it did not name who was to do the hilling. Since my name says it all I did the hilling. In the process two new potatoes were exposed. They ended up on the dinner table that night. Yum!

There are things growing in the garden! Eatable things! I will have some cucumbers the “Good Lord Willing and the creek don’t rise”…or words to that effect. And I am going to have brussel sprouts, too! I have been wondering where the miniature cabbages appear on the plant and today I made that discovery. I don’t want you to think that I am really this dippy when it comes to gardening. The brussle sprouts were sort of a filler when the frost killed off many of the cucumber plants that I put in after June 10th. I wanted something to fill in the great blank spaces in the garden and the stores had no more cucumbers in their bedding plants. But they did have brussel sprouts. I like brussel sprouts! So I planted them without checking to find out anything about them or how they grow.

I think surprises are good! It restores one’s belief in magic happenings-like edible plants growing when one doesn’t expect much. The good news of all this is I can now crow about all this produce to my brother-in-law. His garden isn’t doing so well this year. It’s not that I wish him or his garden ill will, I am just really pleased that my garden is growing in spite of my ignorance. Heh, heh! Want some dill pickles, Dave? Heh, heh.

Now that I’m home I’ll pay more attention to what is going on in the garden. We have begun to eat the fruits of our labour and I can assure you it is marvellous.                     GRB

Rubbing shoulders with talent
August 23, 2008

I began writing this in July while visiting my sister and brother-in-law. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it at the time but there are some thoughts that are worth being journaled and read over in the future. Mostly I want to have all who are interested experience the talents of two young photographers with whom I am acquainted.

Being with family, even after lengthy absence, is like putting on comfortable clothing; everything fits. It just feels right! It was meant to be! I’ve been at my sister’s home in Sault Ste. Marie and having dinner on the deck. Dave informed me that we were going to have the old Saturday night traditional dinner for Wednesday night’s meal–barbecued hamburgers. And they were good, with all of the required condiments and salads and roasted potato thingys to satisfy the greatest of hungers. We washed it down with some good red wine.

Errup! Burp! Excuse me!

More important was the company. Family and friends and conversation and story and good food. It was a perfect evening. G. an dher son Chris came for dinner as well. Chris is here visiting his mom. He is a young Canadian photographer with considerable talent. He and his partner have spent considerable time in the Canadian north and most recently in the Queen Charlotte Islands and his photographs are truly amazing. One can sample Chris’ talent at http://www.chrissiddall.com/. What a wonder it would be to travel with Chris on one of his adventures and learn to record what one sees with such artistry. He has the potential to be a great photographer.

Some of Chris’ images remind me of another young talent. (I’ve noted that I use the term ‘young’ frequently when I write. I’ve just hit my senior birthday and I see anyone under 65 as young.) Kevin Palmer currently of Winnipeg, MB has been making pictures and music as long as I can remember. Kevin and I have spent considerable time working in darkrooms and toasting successes with a good single malt scotch. He has continued to invest in his photographic skills. Check out Kevin’s talent at http://www.superiorimagephotography.ca/gallery_01.htm. Both of these photographer’s deserve notice.

But back to the warm clothing of family…

Whenever I visit my sister we manage to sit up into the we hours of the night catching up on all of the things we each consider really important in our lives. We talk of our children and the woes and successes of their lives. That includes, too, the frustrations we feel as parents when our grown children display behaviours that are more akin to childhood. Mostly, though, Barb and I rekindle our relationship as brother and sister and friends. There is always a sense of nostalgia to our gathering. We were best of friends while growing up. That’s not to say we didn’t have the usual brother and sister fights and squabbles–mostly attributed to me as the younger doing what little brothers do best to maturing sisters–pester. And I was good at it! I could probably still give lessons to brother-in-training.

In the morning we always moan and groan about how foolish we were to stay up so late and vow not to do that again all the while knowing that the next time we are together our respective spouses will retire long before us and we will continue our ritual dance of renewal of family and friendship.          GRB

Some days are just fraught with frustration…
August 23, 2008

Isn’t there a Murphy’s Law about when you are already really, really busy that a thousand other things will need your immediate attention? This week has been much like that so if there isn’t a Murphy’s Law about it there certainly should be one.

Joy and I have been busy all week preparing a wedding feast. We are well organized and have everything mostly ready for the event tomorrow but there have been so many interruptions that have drawn us away from the task at hand. Some of the interruptions are quite delightful; one never really minds when grandchildren appear and need a hug and a snack on their way to another great adventure. Aidan and Tannon frequently stop in on their way to their Grandma’s and Grandpa’s home (maternal grandparents live on the same street as we) or to the park at the end of the street. Three days ago Cloudia and her friend Hanna with Abby and Morgan in tow stopped in for a bathroom break, hugs and snack on their way to the park. Those are the good breaks. They refresh us and enliven us and bring considerable laughter to our home and to our lives.

It is the phone calls with blank air when one stops to answer a call while in the midst of putting a spice rub on pork tenderloin or seeding and chopping a dozen tomatoes. I am hoping that we can mitigate some of those annoying calls when the Canadian “Do Not Call Registry” is up and running. I am not certain about its effectiveness because our Federal Parliament does not have the political will to put any real teeth into it. But we will give it a try and then begin our own form of harassment to have it made into something worthwhile. Note to self: Think of creative ways to harass federal MPs  over lousy Do Not Call Registry*Grin*

More than that is the anxiety we have been feeling over getting the meal ready and dealing with the problems with our church’s manse. The church had the manse fixed up last summer and then we rented it in December. Our tenant left at the end of June and now we  are preparing the manse for the arrival of our Intern Minister. Much of last summer’s work has had to be redone. So we have been arranging for cleaners to come in and for the heating people to service the furnace and clean the ducts. In the process of getting this done we have been anticipating having to do the painting ourselves. That really means getting a group of our congregation together (in summertime) to do the painting. We have one week and also have another meal to cater on Wednesday next week.

The good news is that the painting contractor called to say he has finished a job elsewhere and “…if we still want him to paint the manse he is available…”. Now I am not prone to running about kissing people without at least more than a passing acquaintance but let me tell you, I came  close at this call. We inspected the house, accepted the price, chose the paint and the painting will be all done tomorrow. Yesssssss! *Big sighs of relief*

That’s the good news! Isn’t is strange how there is always a flip side? Yesterday I spoke to the cleaners. They are a diligent crew and do excellent work but our meeting was a litany of things they were struggling with: there is a hole in the toilet bowl so when one flushes the water rises above the hole and goes–you guessed it–on the floor. Now I know why the rags were wrapped around the toilet bowl when our tenant left. So we need to replace the toilet. When any of the hot water taps are turned on rust comes out. The water lines are copper and don’t rust. The culprit, a crack in the liner of the hot water tank. We need to replace the hot water tank. And speaking of toilets we may not be able to do much with the one in the basement. Anyone out there know any good plumbers that have time on their hands?

Then the other shoe fell. They have cleaned the carpets and they look great! It is the smell of the dog urine that they are having difficulty removing. So they are going to try some other things but if it doesn’t work then the carpets may have to be removed… Arggghhhhhhhhh! Livingroom, hallway and three bedrooms. Be still George. Note to self: Check blood pressure; have large drink; check blood pressure; have another large drink; forget blood pressure; hae nuthr dink…

A  r r u u u   u g   g    g h   hhhhhhhh hhhhh!                       GRB

Home from holiday…
August 18, 2008

Well, the first full day back from holiday has been relatively slow. It is not that I’ve done nothing; I’ve just paced myself. There was a storm during the night and the temperature has dropped to a cool 7 C. I actually slept in until 10 am today. Mostly because I slept poorly last night. My hips were aching quite badly. I’m certain it is from the number of continuous hours I’ve spent behind the wheel of the car. The seats in my Escape are not very comfortable on long drives. I managed to get my two morning coffees into me by 11 am and took the trailer back to U-Haul. The rental was a tad more than I had anticipated but what the heck I was able to take most of my home with me to Tobermory. I think we took most of David’s home, too. No, we really didn’t need all that stuff. It was a ‘just in case’ scenario.
 
I cleaned out Cloud’s nest from the back of the car and returned all of the treasures she had tucked away in every nook an cranny. She is like a squirrel/chipmunk in the way she creates a nest in the back seat of the car. There are little stashes of food (candy/two day old pizza) and drink (partly consumed cans of pop and bottles of water) strategically placed so they are easy to find when she wakens from a travel nap. Now that I think of it, there is a distinct comparison to the condition of her bedroom at home.
Joy, Aidan, Cloudia and Tannon at lunch in the Crows Nest, Tobermory, ON

Joy, Aidan, Cloudia and Tannon at lunch in the Crow's Nest, Tobermory, ON

I am constantly reminded of her presence with us. Every time I put my hand in my pocket I find a new treasure the she has deposited there for safe keeping. My God! I’m a part of a squirrel nest. For every treasure I find tucked away, in trust that I will care for it, I am reminded of a moment in time when we were together and in great confidence Cloud would say, “Papa, please hang onto this for me. I don’t want to lose it.”

 
Days later, sometimes weeks later, I find the treasures entrusted to me and I add them to the pile of things that need be returned someday. And we’ll sit and laugh about how the treasures ended up in my possession and what stories we will share. (grin) I had to go to the grocery last night to fetch some staples–you know, the important stuff like bread and milk. The larder was quite bare. While shopping I ran into Dave, Jen and the twins. They arrived home from our shared holiday a few hours prior to us. They, too, were doing the same thing following our weeks adventure to Tobermory replenishing the food stocks. Tannon latched onto me in the store and decided that he was coming home with me. It appears that he had not had enough ‘Nana and Papa’ this past week. Actually, I think he would have stayed the night if we encouraged it in any way.
 
I did get some exercise in the backyard today. I am determined to continue with the work we started prior to the trip to Tobermory. So I spent most of the afternoon digging out roots of crabgrass. It felt good to be working beside the garden and admiring the way it has grown in the week we have been away. There are tomatoes on the tomato plants and there are really cucumbers on the vines. I can taste the dill pickles now. It really doesn’t matter that there are only two cucumbers almost ready to harvest. What is important is that two cucumbers grew. I am confident more will grow. The challenge now is that it happen before the first frost of the fall. That can happen any time now. It is evident that gardens grow, quite well, in spite of our ministrations, to produce the most delectable food. David picked radishes last night that were the size of small apples and left them on the the counter top in the kitchen for our dining pleasure upon our arrival home. What a delight!
 
But I digress. The digging finished, I moved about twelve heavy paving stones to the back of the property. Thank heaven Joy came along to help me do some of the lifting. I am too tired to lay the stones today. That can be a tomorrow job. I’ve cleared enough roots to lay at least three more stones in the walkway. Then I’ll dig again. I’m thinking I’ll call DJ, our grandson and see if he would like to earn some spending money over the next week. He is a young 16 with strong muscles.
 
Right now, I think I need a nap before preparing dinner. Yes, a glass of wine, a nap and dinner. Just what the doctor ordered. I’ll get to it then.                            GRB

George – Farmer (of sorts)
August 4, 2008

I checked! http://www.behindthename.com/name/george One of the meanings of my name is “farmer”. To be sure, that is not what I am. But I have a better appreciation for the role having toiled this summer, with Joy (Ha! a pun), in our backyard.

View from the house to the green space.

View from the house to the green space.

It is beginning to pay dividends. I can now see a design emerging from the chaos. Who knows, perhaps by next summer it will be sufficiently completed that we can sit and enjoy the sounds of the birds, wind in the trees and butterflies flitting about.

For the moment I am more aware of an aching back, and tired hands and feet. It is a labour of love! That is the litany that keeps me at it. At least that’s the story I’m using today. And I’m sticking to it. Oh, oh! Here comes the litany of love again. I’d best get back to work!                         GRB

Where are you Noah when a fellow needs an ARK?
August 1, 2008

Today the car needed servicing so I travelled an hour down the highway to the dealership and left my car in their care. I did note that there was a lowering sky. Heavy dark clouds were building north of the town and in the distance I could hear the deep rumble of thunder. Actually the clouds were more than dark; they were black, intensely black and they were piling up higher and higher. There were some powerful updrafts raising the tops of the clouds heavenward.

I watched a while longer standing out on the street in awe of the power of nature. Meteorology was one of my favourite courses when doing my Degree in Geography. It was a very loud clap of thunder that wakened me from my reverie. “That one was much closer”, thought I unfurling my umbrella in anticipation of becoming very wet and striding off in haste toward the restaurant.

No sooner did I enter the restaurant than another clap of thunder shook the building and lightning streaked across the sky. The rain started, first lightly then with increasing force until it was like watching someone upturn a large pail of water. Individual drops were replaced by a torrent and now other patrons were on their feet faces glued to the windows.

It was about that time that I began to think about the great flood. You know the one where God said, “Noah! I want you to build an ark.” And Noah responded with, “Riiiiiight! What’s an ark?”

But the Creator wasn’t done this day, yet! Powerful winds drove down the face of the cliff across the highway opposite the restaurant. The glass in the large picture windows bowed inward slightly from its force and it drove the rain sideways. The prudent ones stepped back from the glass not quite trusting its strength. Building eaves were no protection at all.

I watched two young women make a dash for their car in the parking lot; their squealing could be heard above the din of the driving rain. Long before they reached their car to fumbled with the key in the lock, their hair was plastered to their heads dripping rivulets from each strand. Chances are good that they sat in puddles when their botoms hit the car seats. It must have been a very important appointment that drove them out into that rain. Then again, maybe they still liked running through puddles. It is still high on my list of entertainment.

I started making plans, mentally sketching out the architecture of an ark. Where in the heck is Noah when a fellow needs an ark? And what’s a cubit anyway?

As suddenly as it started, it stopped! Dead calm! An occasional plip into one of the myriad puddles in the parking lot. So I’ll just put these ark plans on hold for now. I’m ready for the real thing. Was this a test, God? Heh! Heh!            GRB