Monday, March 24, 2008

More Spring - Flowers! (30)

Spring Flowers

It seems Cousin Marj started something! Captain Chris sent snow pix to Marj, then she sent them to everyone else, they ended up on my blog (see Spring Snow posting #27). Then Uncle Fred sent some. Same thing. Now we're into Spring Flower pix, so thought I'd start a new posting.

Apparently spring has arrived in Canmore. Marj sends crocus pix with the following comments:

Dad forwarded me an astounding email yesterday, from his naturalist friends the McIvors, who had found a few little crocuses blooming in Banff on the 21st. Dad was amazed, as in a lifetime in the Bow Valley, the earliest he ever remembered seeing crocuses in bloom was on his birthday (March 27). So all this inspired me to go out after church today and check out the Lady MacDonald benches, which is where I usually find the earliest crocuses in Canmore. And sure enough, I found some! When I found the first few like this last year, it was on April 8th! The first one I found was the little one still wearing her fur coat, and I thought that might be it, but then I found the others, braving the cold, further down the trail. They're still pretty small, and hugging the ground for warmth, but even so, I guess it really is spring!

Yes folks, I really do have relatives that keep track of things like the "earliest crocuses."

Here they are - and in case you are wondering - these really are crocuses - they are the wild kind, not the nice tame kind you find in your garden. The wild ones are sort of furry - I could imagine them driving around in a '60s VW microbus.

So then Cousin Sandy sent a few more crocus pix from Naniamo. These are tame variety - more streamlined - perhaps tooling around in a '65 Mustang. OK - work with me here - my point is that the "domestic" and "wild" crocuses have different sorts of "personalities" - if that's even possible for flowers. But I digress.

Not only did Sandy send the pix, she also demonstrated her considerable talent as a poet! Here, for all the world, is a poem by Cousin Sandy:

Spring has sprung,
The flowers are growing.
Grass getting too long
It needs a good mowing.

The crocus is finished
And the daff almost done.
The rhodos are starting
To burst forth in the sun.

When the leaves have come out
And the blooms are on show.
We'll send spring on
To those buried in snow!

And here are the pix!

Once again - happy spring everyone!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday (29)

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Long Weekend - Take Your Pick

It was a nice day here in Calgary - a bit overcast to start, but nice. Eric and Monique came over for dinner tonight - and I managed to get a decent picture of them. They are illusive.
Then we went for a drive after dinner. We went west a bit. There was snow over the mountains so we didn't get any good pix looking west, but we did see a pair of geese nesting up in a tree! They were about 20-30 feet up. Joe said it was unusual to see geese nesting that high up - either that or we would be getting a lot of rain this year!
So here are the illusive and unusual couples.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Alberta Election 2008 (28)

Alberta Election 2008

March 23 - Happy Easter if you're into that, or Happy Long Weekend otherwise.

It’s been about 20 days since the provincial election here in our fine province and I’m still mad. So with apologies to Rick Mercer, the king of the rant, I’m going to have a little rant of my own.

Forty-one percent (41%) of all eligible voters actually voted in this election. That means fifty-nine percent (59%) did not. That’s just pathetic and speaks volumes by virtue of grim silence.

If electorates get the governments they deserve, then 51% of Albertans deserve NOTHING. They have no right to complain, no right to make suggestions; they simply have no moral rights at all in a democratic place.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why voter turn out in this province has been so low, and dropping. Reasons like:
· Alberta has a high rate of in-migration and “new Albertans” do not feel a vested interest in the province so do not vote;
· Life is good in Alberta, so why vote? No change is needed – things are going well;
· There was “no one” to vote for – people are uninspired by the selection of candidates;
· Policy debates were lacking in substance – there were no urgent issues; and here’s the big one;
· “My vote won’t do anything to change things. My vote doesn't matter.”

Preston Manning apparently mused something like the following: what would happen if no one went out to vote?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hate to think of that possibility but I do have a few thoughts on why EVERY eligible voter SHOULD vote, so bear with me here…

We are all familiar with air pollution, smog, global warming. These are things that affect our lives daily. Even in our “blue sky” province of Alberta, we see murky brown smog days more and more – at least here in Calgary. What causes this? Not me, surely. I don’t cause all that brown smog. But I do drive my car. I do have a furnace. I do use electricity. Sure, not a lot compared to the grand total of cars, and furnaces and electricity users. But my little bits contribute ever so minutely to the total amount of smog in my city, and in the case of electricity – around the province where the power is generated, because in Alberta, more than half the power I use comes from a coal plant somewhere.

If I didn’t drive my car or turn on my furnace and if I shut off every electricity-using item I own, the little bit of difference in smog reduction would not be noticeable or even measurable. However, if every single person in the province were to do that, most of it would vanish. (I say most, because we export a lot of our stuff, so there would be some smog/pollution/GHG in the province associated with our exports.)

Economists call this sort of dilemma a common property problem: each person, as the result of certain actions, contributes a tiny tiny bit to the total big problem. But because ceasing their actions would not result in a measurable difference and because the benefits each person gets from the actions far exceeds the individual cost of the action, everyone continues with the action.

I think elections are like a common property problem. People, for whatever reason, feel that the effort to vote, far exceeds the benefits they would see by voting. In a province like Alberta, where the same party seems to have a monopoly on government, most feel it is a forgone conclusion, so they don’t vote. And voila! They were right – it is a foregone conclusion.

This is faulty logic. In this case, essentially 59% of Albertans have decided the direction of the province by merely not getting up off their butts and getting to a polling station. If each eligible voter had voted, the outcome may have been much different. We’ll never know. Maybe we would have some resemblance of an effective opposition. Even if the final outcome was still overwhelmingly Conservative, maybe the total votes for other parties would have been higher, which in itself would have sent a message to the incumbents that there is some discontent in the land. And if the result still demonstrated overwhelming support for the PCs, well then at least we’d know the PCs aren't in power due to an apathetic electorate.

Will this lack of voter enthusiasm change? Well – who knows? But I can predict one thing: the PCs will only change what they are required to change in terms of voting patterns, because they are the big winners here.

Voting is not hard! Here are the steps:
1 – get to a polling station;
2 – get your ballot;
3 – go to the little desk where they have the short stumpy pencils; and
4 – make an “X” in the box beside the person you want to vote for.

If you didn’t vote – shame on you. Move to some country where there are no personal freedoms and no vote. Maybe you’d wish you could vote then.

Who do you vote for? Frankly, I don’t care – just vote. Your vote DOES MATTER. In combination with everyone else's vote, it is very powerful: it is the power of a democracy.

But if you want to know how I decided to vote, here’s what I did:
· Pay attention to the literature that comes to your mailbox (in this case, not too much – one or two items for most candidates/parties).
· Talk to candidates that come to the door. Who came to my door? No one – at least when we were home.
· Since no one came, I sent out a couple of emails to ask questions. I was very disappointed with the answers from one candidate, happier with another’s answers. But to their credit, they did answer.
· Is there an all candidates forum? Yes! Oh good – go to that and watch and listen closely. All will be revealed. Seeing the players "live" is always revealing. I can always pick a favorite.

At our forum the PC, Lib, and Alliance candidates were a waste of time. The NDP person was good, but I’m not a big fan of many NDP policies. I liked the Social Credit guy and the Green guy too. The Socred guy was sort of a Grandpa type who wanted to roll the clock back 50 years or so, which is a nice heartwarming thought, but simply not realistic.

I ended up voting Green as the Green guy was most articulate and explained his party’s position and his personal concerns very well. The policies made sense to me. I knew he didn’t have a chance, but I wanted to vote for the person I liked best and at the same time register the fact that not everyone in this province is blue to the core.

My point: it doesn’t matter who you vote for – just get off your bum and VOTE!

OK – if you got this far, congratulations! My rants may not be as good as Rick’s, but they are longer!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Snow (27)

Spring Snow!

Many Days in March

Canadians may feel alienated from each other for a lot of reasons, but we have one thing that binds us, and that's the weather! And, depending on where you live, there can be snow at any time of the year. I've been in Calgary since 1975 and in those over 30 years (wow, that long!!!???), it has snowed in every month in at least one year.

Cousin Marj asked Cousin Chris (otherwise known as Captain Chris - he's a real captain! - pilot for Jazz Air - very cool!) for some evidence of the massive snow fall down east. Captain Chris lives in Montreal, so he forwarded some pix of his place - buried in snow (on or about March 9). I imagine it took hours to dig out!

This is another Captain Chris pix - taken from the cockpit.

Then Uncle Fred weighed in with a few of his spring snow pix - also from Montreal...

I especially love the snow man across the street from Fred's place.

As a way of expressing a common bond among all Canadians, and especially my eastern relatives, I thought I'd share some pictures of our Calgary spring snow! We woke up to overcast sky and falling snow - a blizzard! - on Sunday morning (March 16). By the time we got up, the blizzard had passed, and it was starting to get sunny, but, as you can see, we were left with quite a dump of the white stuff!

See - this is a massive drift on the shed! Look closely - it's got to be at least three inches deep!

And this is the garage roof. We were worried about imminent collapse!

It took Joe minutes to dig us out! Look at it all!!!!

This is the view down the street. It's a good thing this was a Sunday blizzard. It will take the rest of the day for everyone to dig out - look at all those neighbours frantically digging away!

And our guard dino is buried....

A hard working Joe - still at the digging - this is at least 5 minutes after he started...

This is a couple of hours later.

That's Canada Olympic Park across the river - the place where all the snow is...

So my eastern friends and relatives - I just wanted you to know that we share your pain. Snow - it's the stuff that binds us.

Now, lest you think I'm tempting fate with a bit of teasing... I was bootless for about two weeks. I forgot my winter boots at Pam's in Abbotsford. It actually WAS snowing when I left, but of course in Abbotsford the crocuses were out - no snow. So I left my boots in her closet while I was there and forgot to bring them home. As they were old and I intended to replace them anyway - I actually did. Which means that I've cancelled out any bad luck I may have created with my teasing by having new boots. Surely if I'd not bought them, I would really be needing them!

New boots! (And as further evidence of the depth of our Calgary snow, note the fact that they would just barely be above my ankles - more than adequate for around here!)

Seriously, Calgarians think a "blizzard" is 3 inches of snow. In fairness, it can get frigging cold here - and with "wind chill" even colder - but we rarely get the kind of snow they get down east. Only one year in all the years I've been here do I remember getting serious snow. Mostly it's very dry dusty snow.

And also, seriously, we probably will get at least one more snow storm before spring comes for real - which if we're lucky will be before June. After all, in Calgary, we have 2 seasons: winter and Stampede Week!

PS - Not to put too fine a point on it...

Cousin Shirley submitted the pix below from her stomping grounds on the "wet coast" - with the following comments:

We can see snow on the tops of our mountains here, but haven't had any actually at ground level for quite some time - although it is still pretty cool for this time of year, + 4 and +5, rather than our usual +7. I thought I'd send you all a little bit of Spring. I am not gloating. Because every time I gloat, we get a snow storm or a hurricane or something. But I took this picture today.

[Today = March 21]

If it was me, I'd gloat - because, hey - I've got the new boots! We'll see how lucky they really are in the next few weeks! :)

Happy Spring everyone!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bittersweet Weekend (26)


March 1 and 2, 2008

My brother-in-law, Perry, died on February 11, 2008 at about 11:00 a.m. in Spruce Grove, Alberta. Perry had been diagnosed with brain cancer in January 2005. He underwent as much treatment as one person should ever have to endure. He fought the battle as hard as anyone possibly could.

Perry was the husband of my youngest sister, Carol. Carol is my personal hero. She did everything that was humanly possible to take care of Perry and make sure that absolutely everything possible was done to help him through his illness. My hat is off to her.

Life isn't always fair and in this case, definitely not. Perry was a great guy - talented, smart, always there with a helping hand. We'll all miss him a lot.

This is a picture I took of Perry and Carol fairly soon after Perry's surgery early in 2005.

Carol and Wendy, Perry's sister, held a "Celebration of Life" for Perry on March 2, 2008, which would have been Perry's 51st birthday.

As everyone knows, weddings and funerals are the two major life events where family and friends gather. The Celebration for Perry attracted many family and friends. It was a sad occasion, but good to see the relatives and many friends of Perry and Carol's. A bittersweet event.

Our personal weekend began on Saturday when we left Calgary at about 08:00 as we were to meet with some of Joe's family for lunch in Edmonton.

This is what the mountains looked like as we left northwest Calgary. I seem to have a chronic slant to my pix - I never claim to be a professional photographer - I'll keep my day job.

Calgary Trail - south Edmonton.

Joe has five sisters. Three of them live in Edmonton and his sister, Sister Marjorie, offered to host a lunch for the siblings. This is Joe (left) and his nephew, Frank (right).

Brother-in-law Ralph (Irene's husband) and Mary (not me - the other Mary!).


Irene - dig the shades!
The main event - lunch!

From the Sibs, we drove to Stony Plain where we were to meet up with some of The Cousins. We had a long dinner at the ABC restaurant in Stony Plain.


Cousin Marjory and Aunt Mary (another Mary!).

Greg (Marj's husband), Marj and Aunt Mary.
Cousin Sandy.

The next day, we went out to Carol's with good intentions to "help" - but I think we were more underfoot than anything. In any event - a bunch of siblings, parents, cousins and an Aunt can't help but cause a commotion.


Dad (Jack).

Chris's Karl.
Aunt Mary (she is the fifth Mary, I am the sixth - each was the niece of the one before - I have no nieces, so I guess I am the last).


Camera Wars - Or -Mine is Bigger than Yours!!!!

Karl. Again.

Sandy - I guess that one must have been pretty funny!


The Homestead....

Carol's horses.
Carol's house.

From the homestead to the Pioneer Centre in Spruce Grove and to the "Celebration of Life."

Cousin Laurie and Hector.
Elsie and Jack (Mom and Dad).

Elsie (Grandma), Eric (#2 son) and Jack (Grandpa).

Mary and Eric (I know he hates this, but he's so handsome, I can't resist!).

How often does this happen? Four sisters and their parents. The entire family. That would be Elsie (the Mom), Chris, Lee, Mary, Carol (the sisters), and Jack (the long suffering Dad).

The "Little Sister" (that's me - I'm the shortest of the four - and oldest) and the "Baby Sister" (that's Carol - she's the tallest and also the youngest).

I was having a "blond day" so didn't get pix of the general crowd that attended the function - there were many and I know Carol, Wendy and Doug (Perry's step-Dad) really appreciated the turnout and all the support. I hope others will share their pix.