Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bird Watching: "everything is on sale"

The feeder has been a madhouse this morning. I've seen the following:

a pair of chickadees

a pair of cardinals

a pair of jays

a bevy of mourning doves

a gang of sparrows

and a flash of juncos.

According to the blue jay, I'll need to put out more seed because more birds will be arriving by noon.

["Hey, we're almost down to the floor boards here!"]

I think he's right. I haven't yet seen my finch and it looks like everything is on sale at the feeder.

Photos by GH

More Bird Watching.

Bird Watching: "early morning mourning dove"

It is early morning and I resisted turning on the flash on my camera. Therefore the photos are of poor quality. At times like this I turn to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for clearer pictures.

["From The Cornell Lab's exhaustive website"]

     Mourning Dove: A graceful, slender-tailed,
     small-headed dove that’s common across the
     continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone
     wires and forage for seeds on the ground. 

Though generally seen on the ground in Gord's backyard, one occasionally supplements its breakfast by visiting his feeder. (Gord must put out a nice seed mix on a regular basis).

     Their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft,
     drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking
     off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinny
     -ing. Mourning Doves are the most frequently
     hunted species in North America.
     [The Cornell Lab]

I find that last line quite interesting but not unbelievable because I recall pigeons used to be a common Sunday supper across North America. I also handled frozen gaming hens - not any bigger than a pigeon or dove - as a teenager while working at a grocery store in Norwich, Ontario. More details follow, from the The Globe and Mail, October, 2013: 

     Dawn Sucee, a fish and wildlife biologist with
     Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said
     she is both a birder and naturalist, but she supports
     hunting mourning doves, which are abundant and
     prolific - some raise six broods in a year. "They make
     excellent table fare. You can grill them, broil them,
     roast them," Ms. Sucee said. "They are an excellent
     choice for Canadians who, out of concern for the
     environment or a desire to support the local economy,
     choose to eat food grown close to home."

["Gord, you're looking at me funny today!"] 

Undoubtedly, my mourning dove is close to home but I'm not ready yet to make it my evening meal. Though I must say, it's nice and plump!

Photos by GH

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Monday, December 30, 2013

It Strikes Me Funny: "I'll get the hang of it"

Tonight will be Popcorn Movie Night. Maybe.

["By Betty Crocker. By golly!"]

The first gift I opened on Christmas Day was the last thing I expected.

Sweets should know by now I'm not good with things that come with more than two instructions. I prefer 'plug and play' items, or 'put on and wear', 'open and eat'. I especially like topical books. 'Turn cover, read.'

But for her sake I persevered, got through 15 pages of fine print and tonight will surely be a fine movie night accompanied by freshly buttered and salted popcorn in a Betty Crocker Movie Nite serving bowl.

I generally scorn instruction booklets because most begin and end with instructions so obvious and demeaning they make grown men cry. And before opening the popper booklet I knew it was going to be more of the same. First thing I saw on the cover made me wince.

["It's all these things, maybe more"]

What's on the cover? 'Movie Nite', followed by 'CINEMA STYLE'. Ms. Crocker needs to say things twice to me? I wouldn't catch the theme otherwise? I also read 'household use only'. Well, I thought, there goes my fun at the beach next summer, eh? And there goes my idea to loan this little thing to the Hyland Theatre on Wharncliffe whenever their industrial popcorn unit breaks down.

I shook my head, turned the page and waded into the instructions and safeguards. Some made me laugh. Some made me cry. One was totally unexpected and another presented me with the ultimate challenge.

["Hey kids, what shouldn't we touch?"]

How is one supposed to feel when the first safety precaution or instruction is to read all instructions? I felt someone was trying to put me back a grade after I'd already started their assignment. And about number 2. I know I shouldn't touch hot surfaces but... how do I know which surfaces are hot?

The handles and knobs are likely not too hot because I'm told to hold them, though a later diagram recommends I use oven mitts. Mitts = hot surface, in my mind. I know the cover gets hot when corn is a-poppin' because Betty Crocker says so. Betty, thanks for the heads up, I say. But what about the bottom half where the heating unit is installed? I bet the bottom will get even hotter than the cover and it isn't mentioned at all. Should I touch it when in use to find out? Or call my lawyer now?

["This safeguard is a really good one. Yes, really."]

Shortly thereafter I found an opportunity to laugh. The inclusion of number 7, a warning to avoid 'accessory attachments', was likely prompted by a letter much like the following:

     Dear Mrs. Crocker. I wanted to make popcorn from
     the comfort of my Lazy-Boy 'cause I couldn't get 'er
     done during commercials, and I was missing part of
     my show, so I took a long wooden pole (it was out
     in the shed) that reached to the kitchen counter and
     stuck it on your popper with duck tape but on the very
     first try the heat melted the tape and I wrecked the rug,
     what with the hot butter you mention in your guide.
     So I need you to buy me a new carpet. And some new
     wood floor boards. Mine got stained by your butter too.

I had been thinking about hanging the popper from the ceiling with a nylon cord, so it would be right over the spot I lay my head on the couch, but I pitched that notion after reading number 7.

Where the idea for the 10th safeguard came from - a letter or hot flash? - I'm not sure, but I found it funny, in a 'who would ever do this?' sort of way: 10. Do not place (popper) on or near a hot gas or electric burner, or in a heated oven.

In other words, the CINEMA-STYLE unit cannot survive being cooked inside a convectional or gas oven. And wood burning stove? Probably not. That being said, however, some buyers of the Betty Crocker popcorn popper will say,"What's a guy to do when it doesn't heat up by itself and I can't use my oven?"

I say, use the microwave*.

The second last precaution did not make me laugh or cry. Initially I felt it was helpful...

["Helpful, and unexpected. Do I own oven mitts?"]

... Helpful, because most people would want to know when they're handling residual materials that could cause severe burns and prevent them from using their hands for a week or more. As well, I wasn't expecting that my popcorn popper would force me to call an ambulance moments before Chicago Fire - Sweets' favourite show - hits the screen. I mean, if I turn it the wrong way, there goes movie nite, eh?

All in all, however, as I went along I began to feel that I would eventually manage - quite expertly; I go back a ways - the popcorn popping process as Betty Crocker envisions it: Buy kernels, add vegetable oil and heat. However, she threw me a curve in the ninth. Get this.

["Divide 1 and 1/2 Tbs by 6? WTHeck?"]

I'm now on my third try. My gobs of butter are not equal. The Butter Reservoir is getting loaded with little, medium, big and bigger bits of butter. And I'm running low on supplies.

No doubt I'll have a system perfected by Friday, but Sweets says our movie starts at seven. It's enough to make a grown man cry. 

 Photos by GH

* What are the odds that someone will put the whole popper into a microwave? Keep in mind Earth's population now exceeds 7 billion.

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

It Strikes Me Funny: ". . .extraneous. it's extraneous"

A Visit to The Underwear Store

The year is 2033, about a week after Christmas. I'm 84 years old, as agile as a cat and still playing hockey twice a week. Yesterday my left winger says something about the elastic on my old undies, I'm sensitive about stuff like that, so today I walk from Wortley Village to The Underwear Store downtown. I don't even get winded. But I learn something.

"Navy blue cotton boxers?" I say to the first salesperson I see.

She nods and points to a greying, western cedar shelf unit that covers half the west wall of the former Kingsmill's Department Store on Dundas Street. 

Before I reach the long shelf I can smell it and say, "Excellent lumber. Got size 32-inch waist?" She points toward the left side of the shelf unit. I begin my search. There's dozens of cubbies with numbers and arrows beside each pile of cotton briefs and I soon find my way. But something's different. 

"There's no price tags," I say. The girl is nearby and helpfully points to a sign above the cedar shelf. '$5/pair.'

"There's nothing on plastic hangers," I say. 

She shakes her head and says, "Piles are easier."

I say, "None of those fussy, sticky strips on each pair with the size?" She shakes her head.

"In other stores some undies come wrapped with a strip of cardboard showing a few details, like size and type, even come in small boxes or plastic bags," I say.

She nods and says, "I know. But we've cut down on packaging."

I nod approval. "And some have tags attached with plastic filament and, gee, you can hardly get those off without ripping something, like your fingers. And then there's some with seals of approval on the inside  - you can't even see them unless you look real close. Sometimes they come off in the wash and you wonder what you've been eating."

She laughs. "I know. All that is extraneous. It's extraneous and people complained, so now we go this way."

I give her a thumbs up and we walk to the till.

"Got change for a fifty?" I say. I rub a new synthetic, modular bill between my fingers to make sure six or seven aren't stuck together. "Fresh off the clothesline this morning." 

She smiles. Winner. Now there's a store I'll shop at again.

Photos by GH

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Dad's Navy Days: December, 1943 - Packing up

The Spit at Comox, Vancouver Island

In February 1944 there were 51 landing craft on the
west coast of which all but 8 were based on Comox.
[pg. 232, The Naval Service of Canada Vol. 2]

About this time in December, 1943 my father was packing a three-foot deep canvas bag - property of the RCNVR - with his clothes and Navy kit. He would have been an expert at packing and he likely could have squeezed in a ball glove and bat if he'd known what adventures were ahead.

["Comox and Courtenay were Navy towns in the early 1940s"]

He was to embark soon to a train station that would carry him - and several Navy buddies - "to Givenchy III," he says in his memoirs, "known as Cowards Cove, at Comox on Vancouver Island." He later called it Heaven.

Only two stories and a few photos connected to my father's time there exist. Only a few people alive today can recall specific details related to the Comox Navy grounds because it closed shortly after WW2 was over.    

["Aerial view of The Spit, circa 1930"*
compliments of Comox Library/Archives]

Details related to the above photo:

     The Spit extending from the mainland (beginning
     upper left) is about 1.5 miles long

     There were few buildings on The Spit in 1930

     RCN presence grew significantly in the 1940s

     It was home to a network of government oyster beds

     My father ate a lot of the best oysters for free

     One ship is anchored at Comox's long pier

     My father became very familiar with that pier

     A pub was very close to the pier in the 1940s

     * click on photo for enlarged view 

Little remains of the long pier today but Comox is a thriving, friendly community. The Spit is now called Goose Spit and though one can drive onto the neck of the goose for about 500 meters, the existing Navy base is closed to visitors. (However, the fellow I met manning the gates was pretty friendly and helpful with information).

More to follow.

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Bird Watching: "and the star of the show?"

Mr. and Mrs. C live close by, travel together, visit my feeder frequently and display interesting habits.

["Mrs. C usually visits the feeder first, Mr. C waits nearby"]

["When Mr. C arrives he wants the space to himself."]

["Mrs. C will wait atop the feeder or nearby, patiently"]

["Mrs. C isn't nervous about taking a second helping"]

Mr. C occasionally acts bossy and aggressive toward others, including his mate, but Mrs. C tolerates others at the feeder. All told, I think Mrs. C is a class act.

What  bird behaviours to you see and appreciate?

Photos by GH

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Photo Study: "who are these guys?"

I off-handedly posed a question yesterday after suggesting one of my favourite Christmas gifts (Buddha Board Mini) reminds me of a Rolling Stones 45.

["Water sketches evaporate rather quickly"]

"Anyone? Anyone?" I asked.

Remember the flip side?

Photos by GH

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Recommended Reading: The Canadians at War 1939/45 (2)

I'm really getting my money's worth out of this used, two-volume set of books from Reader's Digest (my younger son Paul found them for $15). I've read the first volume and 1/4 of the second and have gained a wealth of information about Canada's role in WW2.

     Halfway through the war, Canada had become
     one of the most powerful of the Allied countries.
     The nation so woefully weak in 1939 was now
     making enormous contributions to the eventual
     victory. [flyleaf, Vol. 2]

Dozens of chapters and individual stories paint a vibrant, horrendous (at times), and finally triumphant story that affects all Canadians to this day. Some sentences, paragraphs or stories take me to the very beaches and ports my father visited between December, 1941 and December, 1943, i.e., to his first landing in Scotland, then to his training locales - in part - in Southampton in southern England, to later invasion sites in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, and to his return home via Halifax 70 years ago this month.

The pages of each volume contain significant history and personal lessons:

["My father landed troops/supplies on Sept. 3 at Reggio Calabria"]

["Did my father see this particular scene?"]

["Many lessons learned in war"]

["A high percentage of bomber crews never returned"]

["So, Canada's troops went off to Sicily in July, 1943"]

["Men of Combined Operations landed Canadian
troops in various boats and barges"]

["Homework - does the Haida still survive?"]

I recommend these books highly to those wishing to learn more about Canada's role in World War 2.

Photos by GH from Volume 2

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It Strikes Me Funny: "eat half? HA!"

"Is this ever good," I said to my wife.

"Maybe you should just eat half, save some for later," she said.

["English Toffee by Purdy, 55g"]

What else could I say?

Photo by GH

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Bird Watching: "it took a phone call"

Yesterday over the phone a friend and I compared feeders.

   Don: We're getting lots of birds - especially juncos - but no cardinals.

   Gord: Cardinals and jays come by here everyday. I'll send 'em over.

   Don: A finch is on the feeder right now.

   Gord: I haven't see any finches. Tonnes of sparrows though.

We exchanged a bit more chitchat, but hung up within the minute.

And only minutes after that a lovely finch arrived for lunch.

Photos by GH

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Photo Study: "today is the day"

No projects. Coffee in hand. Full pot nearby.

Today is a relax day.

What say you?

Photo by GH

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Bird Watching: "nothing like a good tree"

A good-sized feeder helps. A tasty seed-mix helps. Living in an area well-populated by a variety of birds helps. Bird watchers know these things as they ply their trade.

["We're just catching rays while waiting our turn"]

Binoculars, camera, bird book. Keep them handy.

And there's nothing like a good tree close to your study window.

Photo by GH

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The Workshop: "no, this is the last project, 2013" (2)

["A birthday gift for Reg. He knows what it is"]

On Boxing Day, while some people were shopping for the latest and cheapest deal at their local malls, I was in the workshop boxing up a metal plate that I'd removed from my dining room's baseboard after lunch.

The very last bit of that job involved tapping four 1/2-inch nails into place, to hold two thin strips of wood down that said 'a small handful of people in the world know what this is... and Reg W. is one of them. gah 2013'. Some will look at the project and wonder what Reg - and a few others - know about furnaces that they don't.

["The plate held two chains that controlled temperature"]

From my FB page:

     Margeaux Collyer (writes) The two tunnels on the
     mount act as "guides" for chains which regulated air
     flow to and from the furnace. Me thinks!

Smart cookie that Margeaux. Pull one chain or the other - connected to levers in the basement - to control draft and flow. 

Reg told me about it one night a few years ago. He is a 'modern' man and wins a prize.

Photos by GH

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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Workshop: "the second last project"

I finished the second last workshop project of 2013 with two hours to spare.

A shadow box for a former draftsman's birthday party.

Photos by GH

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The Workshop: "no, this is the last project, 2013"

I was wrong. What I said would be the last shop project for 2013 turned out to be second last. Before a friend's birthday party began I found I had two hours to spare in the shop.

Bingo. I built a wee frame for a Modern Furnace baseboard plate.

["A small handful of people in the
world know what this is..."]

["and Reg Watson is one of them" gah]

The party started at 4 PM. I arrived 15 minutes later with two nicely wrapped gifts.

Photos by GH

Q1: Do you know what function the plate served?

Q2: Do you know what special item was served at the party and how many I ate?

A1: I'm also part of the small handful and I'm not telling... yet.

A2: Asparagus in a blanket. 104.

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