Monday, December 21, 2009


Today we'll do the medical; next time we'll do the Biblical. (The Biblical is quite fascinating, because it doesn't mean what most people think today.)

Catracts are patches on the lens of the eye through which one cannot see. The standard treatment is to remove the lens using a technique called phacoemulsification. A surgeon uses an ultrasonic beam to break up the hardened lens, and then vacuums up the pieces from the eye with a suction device. An artificial lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL, is inserted to replace the cataract lens.

That's what happened today — right after lunch. (No breakfast this morning; tea and a tiny bread roll post surgery.) All kinds of drops put into my eye, to fight any potential infection or inflammation, and then to "freeze" the eye. They to the surgery. Then Home. (NO I didn't drive mysef — Momma Bear did that — thankfully!!)

Over the next week my vision is supposed to get better. Right now, it's worse — which is why I'm writing in such large type -- so I can "sort of" see what I'm saying. I have to keep putting drops in my eye for the next four or five weeks, to prevent infection.

The really fun part is that the surgeon will check my eye again tomorrow. At 7:00 a.m. In his office downtown. (Is there really a 7:00 in the morning? I thought they got rid of that a few years ago.)

And bye and bye the surgeon will do the other eye, which is almost as bad.

Other than that, the day was fairly boring. Sadie and Nuala hardly notice anything. I slept when I got home, sitting up. My eye is starting to hurt so I'll take something for that. And I'll probably go to bed fairly early. For not having done much today, I'm feeling awfully tired.

I trust you've found this "insightful."

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Since I try to be an ethical person, I make of point of giving credit where credit is due. In this case, it's all Sonia's fault (more or less).

If you don't believe me, you can check here current piece on gift buying, or an earlier piece on a similar theme.

Christmas, I'm told, is the time of year when we spend money we don't have, buying presents we can't afford, to impress people we don't like. Or words to that effect. That's really bah, humbug!

I was reflecting on Sonia's second piece about people who "have it all." I wouldn't say I have it all. I would say I have WAY TOO MUCH (a problem which plagues our entire family, and much of most of our nations). And I am desperately trying to unclutter my life. I'm seriously focusing on simplicity. Besides, like many people, our economic resource base is shrinking in today's "interesting" economy.

This year, I'm going to "re-gift" some things I got last Christmas, that I haven't really opened.

Basically, if I need something, I buy it, when I need it. If I need an extra shirt, I'll get it from the Salvation Army or the Mennonites. There are a number of things which will work wonderfully if I sew a missing button on them. (I"ll wait until after my eye surgery to try that.)

I recall a tape to which both my wife and I listened a number of years ago. One of the notes was that, if you want to have a happy occasion, buy yourself the present you really want. There are only two things I want. One is a beautiful Celtic ring -- silver with a green stone -- modestly priced. The other is a brown leather vest. I like vests because they have so many pockets, and I tend to carry lots of different (small) things with me -- easier in a vest than in a brief case.

This year, we are consciously giving donations to groups and individuals which/who need some help. Community projects, friends going through a bad time, etc. We're giving some things to our kids and grandkids, too. (Or actually, some things to each other that we can do with the grandkids.)

I think we have far too many unfortunate, overblown expectations about presents, and mind-reading, and present-giving. As if, somehow, it's Christms so we have to give somebody something. If you look at Christmas, for example, God's gift was a person, not a gold watch for everyone in Bethlehem. If you know something that would really brighten someone's day, get it. That's great. But if you're just guessing -- skip the thought.

Kahlil Gibran, in this book The Prophet makes the observation that we give very little when give of our possessions. It is truly when we give ourselves that we really give. So
what would happen if we thought, instead of giving a present, we decided to be a present to someone? What form might that take?

Back to you, "gutsy" Sonia.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Had a marvelous day today. Best part was when our son bundled up his two kids in their Chariot (modern carriage for kids) and walked them to part of the facility where Momma Bear worked for 20 years before her retirement.

The point of the exercise was that Grandson F. performed his first solo violin concert (at the age of 5) -- about nine of the dozen tunes he knows.

It was much enjoyed by the crowd of seniors who live in the building, and staff who took few minutes off work to attend.

Then we bundled the grandkids back up and into the chariot, and son walked them to our place (about three-quarters of an hour). It was sunny and -19°C (though the wind chill make it feel like about -28°C). But they all know how to dress for the weather and were warm as toast when they arrived.

The youngsters are having a sleepover at our place tonight. Their Auntie came over for supper and helped them decorate their grandparents (very small) Christmas tree.

Good fun all around.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


November in our part of the world was quite lovely: warm, sunny, dry.

December is, however, like Eric the Red -- a Norse of a different colour. Last night's temperature was down to -33°C (-27°F), the wind chill took it down to -37°C (-35°F). When Sadie and I tried to go for a very short walk, she would just stop and hold her paws up, one after the other. So we beat a hasty retreat home. I went out for a short walk by myself, mostly just to stretch out my back. But it was too cold for me to go very far. By then, the temperature was up to a balmy -31°C, when I checked it out.

Yesterday, the ice pans on the river were quite large. We could hear them scraping against each other. Sadie kept stopping and trying to figure out what this strange, new noise was.

Today, we're one step past that.

The ice pans have piled up, and river is frozen right over, except for a few open spots.

There is still mist coming off the open bits of water, and the sun lends an etherial quality to the scene.

But the geese haven't left!

Silly as a goose, or what?

This is pretty much what it will be like until spring. Makes for hardy stock -- human and animal.
If you want to come for a visit, just make sure to bring your ice skates (we've got lot of skating rinks -- but no skating on the river -- too dangerous!). Or you could bring your cross-country skis.

Here's hoping you have a pleasant day, wherever you are. Sadie and I will likely sit on the sofa, beside the gas stove. I'll read; she'll sleep.

Friday, December 4, 2009



Temperatures hit -20°C last night (-4°F). Under such conditions, our world is transformed -- at least along the river. The cold air hitting the warmer water raises huge clouds of mist.

The sand bar on which the ducks and geese are accustomed to gathering turns into an island of snow and ice.

And the world around us is turned into something of a fairy castle -- suitable for Fairy Nuff, and others.

Ah, yes; it IS that time of year. Soon it will be too cold for taking Sadie out, except for the shortest of walks. Even the birds have gone into hiding.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Yup. It's getting colder these days. High temperature for the day estimated at around -10°C (or 14°F).

It's snowing lightly now. We've had snow for several days. Pretty soon I'm going to have to go out and shovel the walk. Grr$%@#*&%@rr. (That's Bear-speak for s0mething you can't say in "polite" company.)

The river-bank trail is getting covered.

The near side of the river is still fairly open -- though the ice pans are much larger and thicker.

But the sand bar where the geese hang out is totally covered with snow and ice, while the ice pans on the far side (where the current moves more slowly) are starting to pile up.

Still, the sun is shining -- or at least trying to!

But don't worry; it will get a lot colder before it gets warmer.

I think it's finally hibernation time!

Monday, November 30, 2009


I've been dragging my proverbial tail around for some now. This is not fun. It is not what I signed up for. The fact that I tripped over Sadie in the middle of the night last night, and landed flat on my back, most certainly did not help the situation of either mind or body.

What made things worse recently was burning a box of papers. It was from a project which I and some other very talented people started in the late 1980s. (The Blog Fodder was one of those who helped us along the way.) It was my idea, but it resonated with a lot of others, who picked up the ball and ran with it. Then they hired me to run the non-profit operation. Bad mistake. I knew what needed to be done, and some of how to do it. But my knowledge of actually running a business could be written legibly on the back of a postage stamp. After two yeas, I removed myself from the leadership position. I continued to be a member but someone more capable took over the reins and carried on, until the organization was betrayed by a couple of "friends" -- and failed. As the nominal founder of the project, most of the organizations documents found their way back to me, though they properly should have gone to someone else. I took most of them to the provincial archives, which was happy to receive them.

Anyhow, 15 year after the Foundations demise, I finally burned the old financial records. An appropriate enough thing to do under the circumstances, I suppose.

What it did though, was remind me of my "Anti-Midas Touch." You remember the story of King Midas -- he had the power to turn anything he touched into gold. With the "Anti-Midas Touch," everything you touch turns into garbage. That was my reflection on my involvement in the Foundation. Then I thought of another case when my "Anti-Midas Touch" had been at work. And then another, And then another. And. . . . By then, my soul was like the ashes in the fire pit. I came in, laid down, pulled a blanket over me, and slept for several hours. I didn't even get up for supper.

I will not let this kill me. But some days I have to reach up in order to touch bottom.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Once upon a time in Britannia, there were three different kinds of creatures with spikes or spines for protection.

There were Hedgehogs . . .

there were Porcupines . . .

and there were Echidnas.

All three groups were given the opportunity to travel the world, explore new places, and see if they would like to settle elsewhere.

The Hedgehogs, after considering the matter, declined the invitation.

The Porcupines and Echidnas, however, agreed enthusiastically.

So off they went.

The first stop, to re-provision the ship, was Canada.

The animals look around as saw beautiful forests and lakes.

"Let's go check it out," said the lead Porcupine. So they did.

When the ship was ready to leave, there wasn't a Porcupine to be found anywhere. So the ship left without them. (Frankly, the Porcupines thought that was just fine.)

After a number of stops, the ship finally reached Australia. The Echidnas looked about. Hot and muggy in some parts, showy mountains in other parts, and a desert in the middle. They were not terribly impressed.

"Where to next?" asked the chief Echidna to the captain. The master of the ship replied, "This is the end of the line, matey."

So, one by one, the Echidnas disembarked.

That's why, to this day, you have Hedgehogs in Britain, Porcupines in North America, and Echidnas in Australia (and thereabouts).

Is this story true?

Don't ask me -- what do I know? I'm just a Bear. The only thing I understand is to stay away from critters with pointy things one them.

(Oh, yes; and see what happens in/to my brain when I take my dog for a walk?)

Monday, November 23, 2009


For those who like to drive to their local health club or gym for their "physical fits," (or fitness), this will probably be of little interest. While I do, from time to time, stop to take pictures of my world, by time Sadie and I get home from our walk, both my heart rate and respiration rate are up. Is that an aerobic work out? You tell me. I simply draw my inspiration in this matter from Exmoore Jane. You can take it up with her.

§ * § * §

Once we're past the turret house (described in the first part of this adventure tale), it's a simple walk along the trail until we reach the water treatment plant. At that point the trail is closed, and has been for about four years, while there have been renovations to the plant.

Here's the Water Treatment Plant. Buried deep within this complex is the city's old "Filtration Plant." It is made from the same Tyndall stone of which many of our city's major old buildings were constructed. Sadly, many of them have been torn down. The remaining examples are buildings on our university campus.

At the Water treatment plant, we turn left and head west.

Across the street from the water treatment plant is the water department's maintenance building. It used to be a simple garage for housing water department vehicles. Many homes, some dating from the early part of the last century, were expropriated for this maintenance building. As you can see, much of the expropriate land is vacant, or filled with piles of dirt and rubble, Very sad!

As we continue along our walk, we pass by older houses with beautiful gardens and trees.

At the end of this block, we turn left again, and go two block south, until we reach home.

§ * § * §

The one other piece in this story was a question from "Chesrhire Wife," and a very reasonable question: "Do you walk the same route all the time or do you vary it?"

The answer is "usually." Sometimes, for the sake of variety, I take a slightly different route. When there is road construction, I avoid it.

And in the evenings, I stay away from the San Site. There are no lights there, and the path is within 100 yards/metres of dense bush. Teenagers like to party there. But they're not really the problem. The bush is home to skunks (the primary carriers of rabies). And Porcupines (the North American equivalent of hedgehogs or echidnas). And racoons. And deer. And cougars (also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region).

During the last few years, there have been several Cougar sitings well within the city limits. In fact, last year, a cougar was shot (dead) within two block of our grandchildrens' home. Just a bit unnerving, considering that a small child, or dog, would stand no chance if attacked by a mature cougar -- and an adult's chances would be not much better. So Sadie and I tend to be fairly circumspect in terms of where we go in the evnings.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Sadie and I went for our usual walk last night, just after sunset. It was dark, but we could still see things farily easily.

No fewer than seven flocks of Canada Geese flew over us, all heading for the sand bar on the river, just below our house.

When we walked this morning, the sandbar was covered with geese, and a large number had been resting along the shoreline (which they quickly left as Sadie and I approached).

This of course, got me thinking. Are there more Canadians in Canada than Canada Geese, or are there more geese than people? If anyone has any ideas, I'd be interested in knowing. If this fall has been any indication, I would think more geese than people. But I'm only a Bear -- what do I know?

Friday, November 20, 2009



Actually more than one hair got cut. She was getting kinda woolly, like a little lamb

I didn't want Crystal Jigsaw mistaking my puppy for one of her lambs.

Now, this is better.

She actually looks like a poodle -- but she' still only five months. And NO, she won't be getting anything fancier than this for a hair cut for the future. She looks just fine the way she is!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


It wasn't so long ago that Nuala and Sadie came to live with us.

(Nuala at two months; 10 pounds)

Well, the puppies have grown up. Instead of just sleeping in the back porch, Sadie uses it as a guard tower.

(Sadie at five months; almost 45 pounds)

Sadie is (usually) a good dog; she has a lot of things she likes.

1. Going for walks.

2. Dog biscuits.

3. Sleeping -- floors, furniture, beds -- wherever.

4. Watching the world.

5. "Playing" with her sister, Nuala (though they play pretty rough).

6. Walkies.

7. Watching the geese on the river.

8. Dog food.

9. Fresh water.

10. Watching other dogs, and trying to play with them if they get close enough.

11. Trying to play with people, if they get close enough.

12. Playing "fetch" with one of her toys.

13. Playing with her toys, and chewing on bones and chew sticks (especially if someone else holds the end of the chew stick).

14. Watching workers in the community.

15. Chewing on spruce cones. (There are lots of spruce tress in our area, which grow seed cones. And seed cones fall to the ground. Sadie loves to pick them up, carry them around, chew them a bit, then drop them. And pick up the next cone she sees.)

16. Did I mention going for walks -- morning, afternoon, evening, or night?

And one other thing.

17. Chewing on things she shouldn't be chewing -- like window sills that are close to the floor. (But she only does that when bored, meaning I've left her too long).

NO! She is not for sale.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Those are magical words in Sadie's ears.

For those of you not familiar with her story, Sadie came to our home to walk me.

(Now, mind you, that's not the whole story, but it's a good beginning.)

So, three times a day, we go for a walk (unless I'm in a lot of pain).

"But where do you go?" you might ask.

Well, I'm glad you asked, because I'm going to show you.

We're one house from the end of the block (where there is a "T" intersection). So we go to the end of the block and turn right (head west).

At the end of this block there is a park, which I've mentioned before. (We'll turn left and head south.)

(Holiday Park)

On the east side of the road is Abbeyfield House, a home for seniors. I have known the manager for a number of years; one of the staff I have known (through Scouting) since our earliest years in Saskatoon.

Across from Abbeyfield, the Park continues. (You've seen the reverse angle of this picture.)

At the end of the block, we get to the Bowerman House.

This was the "hunting lodge" of Allan Bowerman, head of one of our city's early prominent families. It was quite a bit outside the city when it was built (in 1907), at the edge of a ravine, not far from the river.

Then, things changed.

It's 1925, and a Tuberculosis Sanatorium is built next to the Bowerman property. It was far enough out of the city to be "safe" but close enough to be easily serviceable from the city. Bowerman, a land developer, had sold the "lodge" a few years earlier, when the city went from boom to bust. The home became the residence of the Sanitorium Director. (That land from the Bowerman house, up to and including Abbeyfield House, held residences for other doctors at "The San." )

(Site of the former main buildings at "The San.")

When the buildings were demolished in the mid 1980s, the arrangement at the time is that this would stay a park, and no new buildings would go up, except where that had already been buildings. One building has now been put in place.

This is on the west side of the property, where the Nurses' Residence was located. (In one of the congregations I served in the city, there was a woman who had been a nurse at The San during WW2.) This building has some of the outline features of the old residence. (The architect must have done his/her homework.)

This is a low-rent public housing project. Very nicely done. Not at all your typical "Council flats."

We turn our backs on the housing, and walk the trail to the south-east, until we come to the river.

There are still a few geese who have not left, yet. In fact, there will be geese on the river all winter. A mile (more or less) upstream from here there is an electricity generating plant, named in honour of HRM Elizabeth II. The "Queen E Power Plant" (as it is known locally) used coal to generate power through turbines. Those were converted more recently to natural gas. But the plant still needs water (primarily for cooling, I understand). So cold water is taken out of the river, and it is replaced by warm water. No pollution, I'm told; just water exchange. Hence, the geese have a relatively nice place.

You'll also notice ice pans beginning to form on the river. That starts at about -10°C. If we get warm weather, those little thin sheets disappear. But in the cold of winter, the river will freeze right over, except for openings where the current is strongest.

From here, we turn left, and head north for about half a kilometre.

The "Turret house" is interesting. It was built as a modified A-frame house. The original owner, so the story goes, had a piano, which was to move to the upper floor. But the stairs were not big enough. Hence the turret was added on, so the piano could be hauled upstairs.

To this point, we've travelled about a kilometre. If I want to cut the walk short, particularly if I'm having trouble walking, we can turn left here. Our property is located across the back lane from the Turret House, so we're within 100 yards of home at this point.

(To be continued.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009



In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army.

McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in France. That may have been the same hospital at which my uncle died the previous spring, a victim of wounds suffered in the Canadian offensive at Vimy Ridge.

Sunday, November 8, 2009



When Sadie and I were out walking yesterday morning (fairly early) we managed to flush a Roughed Grouse.

No, Sadie didn't find it, I did. And she's supposed to be the "gun dog" (category set out by various Kennel Clubs for Standard Poodles as a breed, along with other types of what most folk call "hunting dogs").

But that's OK. She's still just a puppy, so I'm still not expecting (or trying not to expect) too much of her. Besides, the only hunting I ever do is for stay sheep -- of the two-legged variety. She might be helpful when it comes to that. Who knows what life will bring?


Canada Geese, just south of our house. A massive flotilla of them today, stretched out in larger and smaller groups along a half-mile stretch of the river. (Or three-quarters of a mile.) Every so often a group would let out their "group yell (or "group honk") and lift off the water. Sometimes others joined in; sometimes not. All heading north. (I didn't say geese were the smartest birds in all creation; I think they're trying to go south by flying over the North Pole. From there, everything is south, right?) I can't explain it. I suppose they wheel around and head south once they're out of the river banks, which are a bit higher along this part of the river.

Otherwise, just commenting on a provincial pandemic plan -- and trying to keep colleagues up to speed. And learning to cook yam, in order to have some ready for tomorrow morning. I've got a recipe of a yam and banana breakfast, done in a frying pan. It says you cook the yam first. So I had some for supper and will try something new for breakfast. It isn't hunny, but I guess is it will be OK. Hey -- maybe I should put some hunny on it! (We'll see -- Bear might be out of hunny tonight.)

Friday, November 6, 2009


Once upon a time (the way all good stories start, right?) . . .
we invited two little puppies into our household. They were named Nuala and Sadie.

Remember when Nuala was so small and cute?

(Nuala at the window; 2 months of age; 10 pounds)

Well, the puppies have grown a bit, to about four times the size they were when they arrived.

(Sadie sleeping on the love seat; 5 months; 40 pounds)

You'll notice Sadie more than half fills the love seat. When the puppies first arrived, they were little balls of fluff that would easily fit in the corner where Sadie's rump is resting. By time the pups are fully-grown dogs, each will fill the love seat. Their bodies will get a bit bigger, and their legs will get much longer. (Our previous Standard Poodles looked like a mass of legs with a bit of a body when they were lying down.)

Yesterday, Nuala lost her first tooth. Yup, that time is coming. A whole new set of teeth by six months (more or less). Both of them. All that chewing is not in vain. (Ive only lost a couple of fingers, so far.)

Reminds me of the story of a little boy whose pup had lost a tooth. He had figured out that, when he lost a tooth, if he put it under his pillow at night, the tooth fairy would take it and leave a coin in exchange. The youngster, ever the entrepreneur, decided he would try the same thing with the puppy's tooth.

When he awoke in the morning, and checked under his pillow, an exchange had taken place. He found a dog biscuit.

Saturday, October 31, 2009



Oh the weather outside is frightful . . .

(First there was snow; then came the freezing rain)

The roads and walkways were quite treacherous.

But, inside, the fire is so delightful!

(It's nice to have a gas stove in the basement)

But by time the "Trick or Treaters" were out, the temperature had moderated some, and some of the icy spots were quite a bit better. When I took Sadie pup out for a walk later, things weren't too bad.

But the gas stove was still nice to have, in the meantime

Saturday, October 17, 2009


A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
ll never see a tree at all.

~ Ogden Nash, "Song of the Open Road," 1933

Now that I'm starting to feel better, Sadie puppy is taking me for walks more often. Today we walked through the civic park just a block from our house, and had a chance to observe some of the beautiful trees there.

(The Larches are turning. These are the only coniferous trees to shed
their leaves, or needles, all at the same time.
The Aspen at the borders of the picture have already shed their leaves)

(The Blue Spruce stand tall and ready for winter. In the
you can see the stately elms, which are tuning.)

(The Junipers are ready for winter too, and will continue to be
while the shrubs in the background are leafless.)

It is really such a joy to live where we do. One block to the east, we're at the river. One block to the west, we're at the park (where there are also play structures for children, and a baseball diamond further west).