The Blogger Who Went Missing and Can’t Stay On Topic

Tomorrow I am going to meet with friends to talk about blogging.  It is not easy to keep writing blogs over time.  Some of it might be the knowledge that if you slow down and then stop blogging you may find out no one really cares.  I recall a segment in one of Garrison Keillor’s CD’s (it was a tape when I first heard it), The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.   He talks about hosting a university radio program on classical music.  He took it on mostly to impress a girl he admired but had never spoken to.  He screwed up his courage and asked her, one day, if she listened to the program and she said “All the time”.  The next day the sound engineer told him there had been a transmitter problem and the show had basically not gone out over the waves for several months. And no listener had called in to ask why.  In other words, no one missed him.

Blogging, is sort of like that.  It might be fun while you do it but when you quit, well, unless you’ve got a special talent or topic or you’re a celebrity, no one misses you.  That said, I am happy to share the little I know about blogging with others who plan to use the platform for good things.  Their interest has piqued mine.  I went so far as to change the picture from a winter scene (it hasn’t been winter for months) to one that looks like Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland at this time of year.

Since I haven’t blogged for so long I need to refresh my memory of how to do things and so will end with a totally unrelated (to the topic above) series of photos.   We were on a road trip to Eastern Canada earlier this month.  We logged 5700 km in two weeks traveling and sightseeing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Not long into the trip I started to take pictures of the salt and pepper shakers. Don’t ask me why.  I wish I’d thought of it one day earlier as I missed the little white Eiffel Tower set in Edmundston, NB. And so, to the seasonings of the Maritime provinces. 

And if there is anyone out there reading this, let me know.  


What Do You Expect Me To Do?

In the little bubble that is my life and observations of same, there is something very weird.  Some may say, my take on it is skewed, it’s anecdotal and could not be proved in science.  Frankly, I don’t care what others may think, for as my friend Mike would say “there is a truth”.  And the truth in this instance is my believe that machinery and events conspire around me.  And they do so largely when the more mechanically minded of the two of us (and usually the purchaser) is away.   I think the machines and events converse in some dimension we never thought existed and they say “Let’s have some fun today.  Let’s break down or do something weird to make Barb think we are conspiring against her.”  And you know what, it works.  I’ve written some about this before and here we are three years later and it’s still a truth.  The thing is, the conspiracy is usually centred around something I have no understanding of or ability to fix.  Hey, I am happy when I figure out how to change batteries in the thermostat.  And if duct tape, a coat hanger and a hammer don’t work (and I’ve used them all), then I’m sunk.  I have found forcing it, though, is not always a successful plan.

My husband travels for his work on occasion. Things happen when he is gone, all the time.  Well, maybe not all the time.   Not all that long ago when he was away I noticed a new droning sound in the house.  I tromped around the place putting an ear to the fridge, downstairs to the furnace and into the laundry area thinking the washer might have decided to do a load on its own.  Nothing.  Then I opened up the door into the garage.  Attached to the ceiling is some sort of woodworking accoutrement designed, I think, to clean the air when woodworking.   It was purring away-on its own.  There is NO switch on the wall to turn this device on, it’s never turned on by itself before and there was no reason for it to turn on this time.  Guess who called to some far off place to ask said husband what was up.  As you might expect I was met with a “what do you expect me to do from here”.  Well, for one thing, tell me why this thing can be attached and assembled and sit there for 10 years before deciding to self-turn-on (when you are away).  Turning it off meant climbing up high on a step ladder and swatting the plug out of an outlet in the ceiling.

Why does this come to mind now?  Well, probably because of the for-no-reason eternally spinning wheel on the computer when I try to turn it on.  I didn’t do anything, honestly.  And I don’t plan to call to him to ask what to do.  Now, where is that hammer.


How Difficult Can It Be To Buy Toothpaste

Toothpaste is something that doesn’t need to be purchased very often.  A large tube lasts a long time, at least it does for me.  Somewhere along the way, I think largely listening to my dentist (and we have a very wonderful dentist), I have formed this opinion that keeping it simple is the key to good oral health: 

Floss regularly: (I have a friend who hates flossing and she says when asked if she flosses regularly she say yes-as she does floss regularly but her definition of ‘regularly’ and her dentist’s are not the same)

Brush regularly.  Use specialized toothpaste with due care and attention e.g. the toothpaste for sensitive teeth shouldn’t be used willy nilly.  It should be used only on the sensitive part and not routinely.  The same goes for toothpaste that includes various abrasives and who know if the home bleaching stuff works.

Buying toothpaste:  Popping into a pharmacy last week, I planned to make a quick purchase-a tube of regular toothpaste that contained fluoride.  That’s it.  No whiteners, no sensitive gum protection, no stronger, higher, faster than a speeding bullet.  Well, I have clearly been living under a rock for this is what the shelves look like when it comes to buying toothpaste:


I worked in pharmacies for the better part of 20 years and we used to sell toothpaste with fluoride, period.  That’s what I wanted to buy. Instead there was sensitive pro-relief, optic white, pro-enamel (don’t try to tell me toothpaste will help me grow more enamel), cavity protection, total defence, gum protection, advanced fresh and whitening gel, brilliant whitening and cleans your closets on Tuesdays.  For a few moments I thought there was no such thing as regular toothpaste any more.  And then I saw two little rows of regular toothpaste on the very bottom shelf.   Good thing I am able to bend over and select items from a bottom shelf or I’d be brushing with some striped, optically brilliant, pro-enamel, tartar and plaque fighting sparkly gel with gentle abrasives and a bonus foot massage.

There’s An App For That

It is a truth ( to use my friend Mike’s saying) that everything takes longer than you think.  And sometimes you just need to laugh about how long some things take when they should take no time at all.  Laughing is a great option since crying or cursing would be a close second.

This morning I misplaced my iPhone.  I had it in my hand and thought I put it in my purse as I left the house but it wasn’t in my purse when I looked later.  When I got home I looked everywhere including the mindless places I could have put it-the fridge, the bedside table, the microwave and so on.  

No worries, technology wizard that I am, I know there is a Find My iPhone App.  And so to find the app-I look on my iPad, on my computer and nada, can’t find it.  I try to find the app to download it.  No luck.

In the end I found the phone before the app.  I’m sure I’ll find the app one day when I’m looking for the broccoli I’ve misplaced.  



Housebound For A Day : An Observational Study of One

Today was a very windy, somewhat showery day.  There have been wind warnings and 21,000 homes in our area have lost power.  I had no need to leave the house and thought I’d spend the time on a variety of activities, many of them overdue.  One thing about re-wirement is you have more time to be an observer of life’s ordinary moments.  Here are my observations of a day of being housebound.   Fair to say there were 6 or 7 things I thought I’d get done today.  How could the day be summarized?

Everything takes longer than you think.

  1. A planned 30 minute DVD on exercise takes almost 60 minutes when I can’t get the DVD to play immediately.  It may be a generational thing (i.e. I am, as some might say, getting long in the tooth). where remotes are not intuitive.  I’d like to think it’s a technical problem, not of my making.  
  2. A plan to fill out a form online, a PDF form, ends up taking a looooooong time when I wasn’t able to enter any characters into the form.  Off I go to Google to search what the problem might be.  Look at the tool bar, look at the settings, look at things I didn’t know existed and in the end I gave up.  Convert it to text…or was it Word and muddle through it. 

I fell far short of the things I thought I’d get done today.  I did a number of things that I hadn’t planned as one thing lead to another.  A day is sometimes like picking up a thread and following it around corners and down stairs and into nooks and crannies when you should have just left that thread untouched on the floor.  

Now that I think of it, this day is not all that terribly different from days in the workplace.  At the start of the day you have great plans to accomplish a number of things but by the end of the day you realize a number of things will be carried over to another time.  The beauty of today is I didn’t have to go out in the howling wind to be inefficient.  I could do that without stepping out our front door.

Do you have advice for me on how to be more productive?  Some tips and tricks you use in your daily routine?

Roy Romanow and Gravy on the Side

This is a true story. It was brought to mind when my (all female) golf league, CWGI,  listed for sale recently.  It’s a great league and I hope the new owner will grow and develop it as much as the current owner has done over the past decade.  The thing is, leading and /or belonging to an all-female organization can be interesting.   I say this based on my experience and assessment but hey, I am not a man and men may feel there are unique qualities, shall we say, about all-male organizations.  

And the story?  It was around 1980.  We are long time Saskatchewan residents and were  living in Regina.  I was in business and a friend invited me to a meeting of the Regina Business Women’s Network.  Great, I thought, this will be a wonderful opportunity to meet others, make new friends and to learn from each other.  I’ll go to this meeting and see how things work and if it is a good fit, I’ll join the Network.

The guest speaker at the evening meeting was Roy Romanow.  At the time Mr. Romanow was an elected member of the Saskatchewan provincial legislature and he was working on patriation of the Canadian constitution.  This from Wikipedia “During the 1981 discussions over patriation of the Canadian constitutionAttorney-General of Ontario Roy McMurtry, Chrétien and Romanow worked out the final details of Canada’s new constitution, resulting in the famous late-night Kitchen “Accord. Romanow objected strongly to any protections on private property in the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and none were included.”  This was very high profile and important for our country.  I was very impressed that as busy as Mr. Romanow would have been at the time that he came to speak to a group of business people in Regina mid-week on a cold early winter evening. 

The business meeting was still in progress when Mr. Romanow and his assistant quietly slipped into the room and patiently sat at the back waiting to be introduced.  People were aware he was there as the meeting continued.  The final item on the business agenda was the Christmas gathering, the President reviewed the date and time.  At that point a woman asked for the floor and proceeded to make an impassioned plea for gravy placement at the upcoming dinner.  You see, last year the gravy was put on top of the potatoes and there was too much gravy.  This year, she said, please ask the restaurant to serve the gravy on the side. 

Roy Romanow is waiting at the back of the room to tell us the patriation of our country’s constitution and the subject just before he speaks is about serving gravy on the side.

I’ll leave it to your imagination as to whether I joined the Network.



A Very Busy Day For Meteorologists

I imagine this day in our local weather is something meteorologists must love.  When they stand around the water cooler at work the conversation would really be about the weather.  

“Did you see the size of that low pressure system!  I haven’t seen anything like that since 2006. “

How about that forecast of the micro-burst?  Was I accurate or what!”

“I knew that storm would track south of the lake and I predicted the rain would fall around six.  And what time did it start to fall?  Six!”

Plough wind, southeast Saskatchewan.  Need I say more?”

There’d be little chat about politics or television or movies or families.  It would be all about the weather.  Today the water cooler chat in Ottawa must be very lively.  Since the day has dawned today we have had one advisory after the other.  Sometimes we have had two advisories at once.  First there was the humidex advisory.  The temperature plus humidity was forecast to reach +41C.  Within an hour or so there was an advisory about the UV rating.  It was very high today (first time we’ve had this warning this year).  Then came the severe thunderstorm watch which turned into a warning and to cap it off we are now under a tornado watch.  



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On Monday morning there will be lots to talk about at work around the meteorologists’ water cooler in Ottawa.

I wish they would also issue tomato plant advisories.  The six plants I have in the backyard have gone from vertical to horizontal.  

Remembrance Day 2012-Thank You Dad

Our father, Bill Allen, served in the army in World War II.  He initially trained others to drive tanks here on Canadian soil and then he served overseas-Northern Africa and Italy.  He service ended before the end of the war due to serious illness.  He contracted rheumatic fever and was sent home.

He was a man of solid character, our Dad.  A bit of a rascal some would say.  Well perhaps many would say that and we (three daughters) enjoyed his sense of adventure, wit and humour.  He was full of mischief.  His service in the war was never a big topic of conversation or perhaps I just wasn’t listening.  If it was the latter, that is a shame for Dad never lived long enough for me to be wise enough to ask him more.  He died at the relatively young age of 61 in 1979.  I can only imagine the experience, the impact and the horrors of war that our Dad experienced.

Men and women who served and returned must hope and trust their work and sacrifice makes the world a better place.  This was brought home to me in a very real way when in the 1970’s I was held up at gun point while working in a pharmacy in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I was not harmed.  Shaken, but not harmed.  When I called my Dad to tell him what had happened, he said “I never served in the war so that some ba@#$rd could hold a gun to my daughter’s head!”.  And I thought how he and others might have held hope the world would be rid of all evil as a result of their efforts.

If Dad were alive today, I’d travel to wherever he lived from wherever I lived.  I’d accompany him to a Remembrance Day Ceremony.  And I would tell him the world is a better place because of his service.

Thank you Dad.

A Eureka Moment-Scrubbing Data

It’s back to school time.  Today there’s a fleet of yellow school buses on the road and the newspapers have been filled with stories of how to pack nutritious lunches and how to encourage conversations with your children and so on.  Under the banner then of the well-known phrase “And what did you learn today” and as a testimony to lifelong learning, here goes my true story.  

I am not a researcher but I have worked with many a talented person who was.  I would hear them speak of ‘scrubbing data’ or ‘cleaning data’.  My understanding of what it means is meagre but I get the concept.  You take a bunch of information that is stored in a database and through some mysterious process you separate the wheat from the chaff as a farmer would put it, or you remove the extraneous bits and keep the solid data that can be used in your research.  

I have discovered a new method for scrubbing data and am putting it out there for researchers to comment upon.  Perhaps this eureka moment will save a lot of time for those who toil in the details of data. 

Step one:  You are the secretary.  Using your laptop and a memory stick, take minutes at the Annual General Meeting of a local organization.  No paper back up is needed.  Good for the environment and efficient too.  Save the minutes, the only record of the meeting, on your memory stick.

Step two: Stick the memory stick in your pocket after the meeting (you don’t want to lose it).

Step three: Do laundry.  Washer and dryer.  Find memory stick in drum of dryer after cycle is complete.  

Step four:  Sweat.  Insert memory stick and find out….ta da!!  It works!

Moral of the story, well actually two morals:

1.  There is more than one way to scrub data.

2. Those high-efficiency (HE) front loading washers really are gentle on your belongings.

A true story.