Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doing The Hour

We did the Earth Hour last night. At 7:55, I started shutting down, and dutifully notified everyone that it was the official 5 Minute Warning, then I flipped the switch. There was no power to be had.

I must say, it was very enjoyable. Candles were lit, adding a nice ambiance, although that part was a little lost on Larry, but whever. I enjoyed it. I think Steph enjoyed it too. We had a wonderful meal and dessert, and enjoyed each other's company for 1-1/2 hours! It was nice to have some family time and some good conversation. We also noticed a number of houses lit by the glow of candles, or were dark, so they were presumably participating.

And apparently, Canada proved itself to be the world leader in the Earth Hour... and on a hockey night too (it probably helped that the Leafs sucked so bad!) You can read more here.

Why bother? Here are my reasons:

Make our opinions known - speak out. If we speak out by participating in this small gesture, the more the politicians might notice, and actually do something. The decision makers will know how many of us care, by knowing how many of us registered to participate. These numbers are backed up by the drop in hydro usage. It is a statement of "show me the money", and we did. So now we can say, we are ready to do something, what are you going to do about it.

I believe that we have become energy addicts. We drive everywhere, flip on lights, turn on TVs and computers without thinking, and then just walk away. There is no such thing as darkness anymore. Everything glows. Even our power bars glow, and this just eats away at our precious resources. So we can start breaking these habits, and that starts at home. Who knows where it can go from there.

This video explains why I think we need to do something... to make that statement. It explains why I think we need to make a difference in our world. Consider making the Earth Hour part of the everyday changes of your own lives.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, March 28, 2008

Dogs in the 'Hood

The Dog Walkers are finally out. Another Sure Sign of Spring. Larry goes out every morning, early. Apparently that's not a favourite walking time for Dog Walkers in the winter. But he informed me today that they're back, and out and about. A good and sure sign of Spring.

Even through the winter, though, there are dogs on the inside wanting out. Dogs in the neighbourhood:
  • Ellie and Storm - Storm is the older quiet Lady of the 'Hood. Sometimes though, a little crabby attitude seems necessary. Her newest family member, Ellie, is a very young, adventurous, but very sweet doberman. I think Storm demands that Ellie is just so.
  • Ivan and Igor - Ivan and Igor are always yelled at by their owner, in a heavy Russian accent, "IVAN... IGOR..." (I must say, not the first names that come to mind for Miniature Schnauzers). They always ignore him... as if to say, "Yes, those are our names... whatever". But Keeta would like to show them "what for" with much bravado
  • Jack and Jerk - First off, Jerk isn't Jerk's real name, but it sounds so good. Her name is actually Jinx, and is the willing companion to Jack. Jack is a little terrier with a nasty disposition. We met Jack first when he attacked one of our previous guide dogs, Dylan, who had to go work for someone else because of the attack. Keeta feels that she had to defend Dylan, and has forever since, REALLY hates Jack.
  • Albert - Albert's owner walks through the green space behind our house every Sunday morning. We hear, "Albert ... Albert ... Albert". Apparently either Albert is deaf, or at least conveniently deaf. Keeta gives Albert a piece of her mind every time he goes by.
  • Car Starter Dog - His bark sounds just like a car starter gone bad. Keeta doesn't really have much of an opinion about Car Starter Dog. We just think his bark is too funny.
  • Yard Dog - She's the big Rotty who is always in the backyard, I think really wants to play, but can't get out, and has a big scary bark. Keeta doesn't concern herself much with Yard Dog. Yard Dog is just always been there.
  • Window Dog - Actually, Window Dog has now moved away, but we loved Window Dog. She was always inside, and lived a couple of houses away from Yard Dog. Yard Dog would alert her that a "Dog Is Coming", and she would wait for us, and then run from one window to the next, and back again, thumping against the wall and glass, just trying to ... well... I don't know what, but she was very excited.
And today there was Fella. Larry and Keeta met up with Fella, a new dog to the neighbourhood roster of dogs. This is the story as described by Larry:

One who made me laugh is a little guy named Fella. Like Penny, Fella likes to bark bark bark at the top of his little lungs whenever he sees another dog. What really made me laugh though is Fella's mummy, a lady who sounded as though she left her younger years behind sometime back. With every bark, Fella's mummy responded by speaking his name with ever-increasing alarm.

So we heard: Fella, Fella. Fella? Fella! FELLA! With every utterance of his name sound, Fella barked louder and with more enthusiasm as though to say, "I know what you want and I'm barking just as loud loud loud as I can!"

By the way, Keeta ignored him as not worthy of even a second glance.

And now you know the Dogs in the 'Hood. I expect we'll have more Dogs in the 'Hood stories as the Spring and Summer comes upon us.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another Sure Sign of Spring

Today I am going to share a dog story with you. It also contains some very good advice.

In my post of a couple of days ago, I shared the Sure Signs of Spring that I've noticed. And today, I noticed another Sure Sign of Spring, which is the de-stink-tive aroma of skunk in the air.

As preface to this story, all I can say is, thank goodness Keeta has only downed dead squirrel (to my horror and disgust, by the way). Anyway, I'm happy to report that she has never tried dead skunk, and I hope to keep it that way.

NT sent this article to me today, and I knew that this would be the perfect place to share it. It appeared recently in the Manitoulin Recorder, a small community paper from the Manitoulin Island. I don't know who wrote it, but perhaps if NT still has the article, he could share, or maybe the author chose to be Anonymous*.

Not to change the subject completely, but has anyone ever experienced the joy one gets when their dog eats a dead skunk?

We recently found out just what a truly remarkable event this can be in one's life. We can only assume that the poor dog didn't realize she was eating not only a skunk carcass, but also the intact musk gland.

In the interest of clarity, it should be pointed out that dogs are apparently incapable of digesting musk glands. These noxious nodes seem to make their way through a dog's digestive system until they reach a point where they can begin to function as nature intended.

Unfortunately nature never intended for this function to occur in an enclosed bedroom... repeatedly... all night. If only there was some way we could have captured the essence of the sweet nocturnal emissions that we were treated to, then people could understand the suffering that was ours for a night.

Quick word of advice, never ever let your dogs dine on skunk, or if they do, make sure they sleep in the kids' room for the night.

*I can only imagine that after a night of basking in the musky scent of skunk, the author of that article would certainly be well known around town, and have many offers of tomato juice... and not for the purpose of drinking!

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clearing It Up For The Kids Sake

I have learned to tolerate spinach. My mother spent much of my youth thinking of different ways to cook it, after all, it was good for us kids. But as far as I was concerned, it was a dark green lump of mushy stuff, often sitting there on my plate, looking rather lonely. Later, I learned that it didn't have to be cooked, and could be respectable in a spinach salad.

But there apparently is more to the story, that moms need to know.

Everyone knows that spinach is loaded in iron and makes you stronger - Just look what it has done for Popeye's career. Well, Popeye was wrong. So were all of those parents that stuffed it down their kids' throats.

In reality, spinach has no more iron in it than any other vegetable. Even peas have three times more iron than spinach does.

This spinach misconception dates back to the 1950's when a food analyst made an error while calculating the iron in spinach. His decimal place was off by one place, suggesting that spinach had ten times as much iron content than it really did.

So Popeye, you were wrong. Kids, listen up... tell your moms that spinach is definitely overrated, and smoking isn't good for you either.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sure Signs Of Spring

As I was driving home through a snow squall this evening, it occurred to me that Spring must MUST be on the way. I'm sure of it, and there are signs. So I've just compiled my own list of the Sure Signs Of Spring.

Sign #1

Keeta has been playing Director General in the dog run. With Spring comes the Green Space Walkers and their Trusted Dogs who walk through the green space behind our house. Keeta demands that they pay her proper attention, and will stand her post, just waiting for them to come by so she can comment in her Big Dog Voice.

Sign #2

Penny has found her little patches of warm sunlight. In the long winter months, the sun has been so weak, that she would just curl up in her nest of blankets. But she's now stretching out in her favourite sunlight patches - one in the family room and one in the living room. She's also been staying out in the dog run longer than she used to. She doesn't have the great big undercoat that Keeta sports, and she hasn't been staying out for long this cold winter. Poor Keeta just doesn't understand why she can't be her Ensign to her own Director General. She doesn't understand that Penny's pink underbelly must just cringe in the snow.

Sign #3

Rocky is insisting he HAS to go out. He has been an indoor cat for the better part of 2 years now, but every Spring, he starts to plan his escape. Last weekend he managed to pop out twice. He stopped in his tracks once outside the first time, like he didn't know what to do with this newfound freedom, however, that made him really easy to catch. The second time, he paused and then started to run, but I scooped him before he could get far (good thing, because he's a fast one!)

Sign #4

Petey has always been an indoor cat, but even he is saying that he HAS to go out too. He begs, meowing in his most pitiful pleading voice, please PLEASE can he go out, as he stretches his long body trying to reach the door handle, as if to show me what he wants. If only he had an opposable thumb and some fingers. Last summer I used to take him out on leash at night. He's a most perfect leash walker, even better than the dogs. But whenever a car goes by, he becomes absolutely panicked and must get back as fast as his little paws can take him, with me running a distant second to him.


So Spring is definitely coming. Really.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tropical Strings for a Snowy March

I'm a little bitter right now. I believe this is the end of March, right? So is it right that yet again, we wake up to sub-zero weather (-11C/12F) this morning, and had to brush the snow off the car, knowing that half my family is busy vacationing in Hawaii.

But really, I know Spring is around the corner. So to give it a little nudge, I thought I'd bring you a traditional and very underrated instrument, the ukelele. Now don't start rolling your eyes... I'm not going to be doing a Don Ho thing here. Bear with me...

Jake Shimabukuro
Jake Shimabukuro, plays "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", showing us exactly what this tiny 4-string instrument is capable of:

'Iz' Israel Kamakawiwo Ole
Iz does an amazing rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World" with his beautiful voice and simple ukelele chords. This was recorded in one take, one night and on the spur of the moment. Although he passed away more than 10 years ago, he became a legend in Hawaii. Here you'll see why.

And while watching the video, we can dream of rainbows and of Spring. I hear it's coming soon.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Furballs ~ About Bunnies

If you happen to be one of those people who doesn't celebrate Easter, that's okay, because these rabbits are just so darned cute. Just being a furball fan is enough to make it worthwhile to watch.

And for those who do celebrate this holiday, Happy Easter.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hysteria in the Kitchen

Today was Adventures in the Kitchen. Or perhaps it would be more appropriately Hysteria in the Kitchen. I've been getting ready for tomorrow's big dinner, the special breakfast that I always make each holiday, and some treats too.

First I got tonight's dinner into the crockpot. That would make it much easier, or so I naively thought. Then I started to peel and chop up the squash in preparation for the baked squash casserole, for our big dinner for tomorrow. Again, I just know this will be a cinch. While that is boiling, I put on some Dulce de Leche on the stove, which although doesn't take long to prepare, it has to boil for a few hours. So I cook some sausage for the breakfast casserole, but luckily I got the pre-shredded cheese. That ought to make things easy too.

Let's just say, that's where things went horribly wrong. Every pot and bowl was dirty, stacked on the counter and in the sink. Not an inch of counter space left, I was moving one dirty pot to make room for yet another. With this space restriction in the sink, I ended up sloshing water all over the floor. Not once, not twice, but 3 times as the pot shifted in its tower of pots and bowls.

This is when I started to laugh; the whole situation was just so ridiculous, as I stood in the centre of a huge spreading lake in my sock feet.

And in only 2 hours, I finally had things back in order, counters wiped down, pots, pans and dishes washed. But if I may say so, my baked squash casserole is outstanding!

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, March 21, 2008

Useless Fun on a Friday

Sometimes it's fun to just surf around, doing stupid stuff on the computer. And now I will share what I discovered.

  1. Go to Google
  2. Type "google xx-elmer"
  3. Click on the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.
Apparently there are bored Google gurus out there with nothing better to do than re-program the Google search page. These aren't even parody pages - they are real Google pages.

A special note from Larry's perspective - sometimes the blind experience of the internet through the eyes of a screen reader is very different than for the rest of us.

For example, type "google 133t"

Screen readers don't like reading these pages. Larry's "talking man", Window Eyes, his screen reader, tries to read everything literally, and tries to make words out of any letter combination, and painfully reads each number out. So when you "google 133t", just think about what kind of sense that would make to someone with a screen reader.

Even an unusual smiley like ;) isn't recognized as a smiley, and his screen reader calls it "semi colon right parenthesis" - and he's left wondering WTF... Anyway back to our Friday Fun.

You can also try:

google gothic
for those with a dark side

google xx-piglatin
alwaysway unfay otay alktay inway iglatinpay

google bsd
Great one to set your homepage for Valentine's Day

google linux
For penguin or operating system lovers

And just in time for some pre-holiday Easter fun:

google easter egg
A cute game for the kids (or yourself) - make sure Java is installed

Note: If you are googling from any of these "special" pages, sometimes you get unexpected results, or no page found. It worked best if I went back to normal Google first, and clicked the I'm Feeling Lucky button from that page.

I wonder if the bunny in the video that I posted earlier today would have done better if he clicked the I'm Feeling Lucky button?

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

The Saddest Story Ever Told

We all know that bunnies can be very busy creatures. Well some of them are anyway. Here's a very sad story as told by a rather desperate bunny.

Kinda sticks in the head, doesn't it?

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Penny's Snit

I'm onto Penny. She had that wool pulled over my eyes... or more accurately that underwear pulled over my head (her personal fave), and every night she dutifully tells me she really REALLY has to go out to do her business. And lately it's been ramping up to 2 times a night. I'm not at my best at 3 in the morning, and obligingly let her out. She always did her business and came right back, so I think, she must have needed to go. I'm so gullible, and she was laughing under her little doggie breath.

On reflection, I realized that she really can make it through the night. After all, she's 2-1/2 years old. She gets let out one last time around midnight, and chances are she'd be good until 6, when we get up. That's what I figured out anyway.

So I've gathered my sleepy wits around me and just told her, "No! Get back to bed", in the best semi-intelligible mumble that I can muster. I've now managed this for a few nights, and she has grudgingly shot me a look over her shoulder that clearly said, "You don't really mean that", and head down, went back to bed.

To add to a sad doggie situation, this morning it was raining. Penny hates the rain. She has always hated the rain. And cold rain is the worst. When she was younger, her alternative "spot" has has always has been on a warm dry rug. What's the problem with that, I'm sure she wondered. That wasn't so fine when she was 6 months old, but understandable, and little puppy pees are pretty manageable. But they're definitely not so fine at her age. Luckily she gave that up at 2 years old, and hasn't resorted to that yet.

But it doesn't change how much she hates the rain. And it doesn't change the fact that I have stopped letting her out in the middle of the night. And she told me what she thought of this. When I told her it was time to go out, she responded with a little low grumble under her breath, directed at me. No tail wags, no happy good morning greeting. Nothing. Penny was definitely making a statement, and it wasn't pretty.

So it's official. Our Penny was in a snit.
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't Raise the Ire of this Irish Girl

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd share a video from YouTube from Becky Barry, a 9 year old who lives in Dublin. She had a very important job for a local demolition company.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hug The Trees

Consider this - how many newspapers does any one family need to read?

I'm not very good at the environmental thing... after all, I commute for more than an hour each way to work, so there's not much room for me to criticize, but we do try to do the right things.

For example, we're big freecyclers, and as much as we get many good things, we give away as much stuff as we can that we no longer need, that others might appreciate. We keep things out of the dump this way.

But today I noticed how many newspapers we get, and there are several. It occurred to me how many trees must go just to feed our paper habit. I counted them all today as I was gathering them up for recycling- from Thursday through Sunday, we get 7 papers. We have subscribed to 2 of these - one each on Saturday and Sunday. The rest are "free".

I think we need to ask the question - do we really need all of these papers.

Of the local community papers - there's 3 different ones, all with tons of flyers and advertising. On top of that, all of the papers arrive in their own little baggies. That's an awful lot going to waste. Sure, with our dog furballs in the house, they make great scooping bags, but how many could any one family possibly need?

Do we read all the papers? Sometimes. When we have time. And in addition to all that newsprint with valuable community news, flyers and ads.

This can't be good for the environment. If you do the math - how many people in town actually read these local papers. I'm betting not too many - maybe a half if we're being generous? All the "news" in these papers is notably geared towards church groups and gossips, and those interested in the latest fights at Town Council.

There is a lot of news about church suppers, fundraising drives, local hockey games, and what was discussed at the recent Town Council meeting. Also, if the Town has some important "business" to communicate to its residents, it will publish it in this local rag. I do know though, that many people don't even see these notices. I see them unopened, still rolled up in their bags, in their recycling bin.

I think given the number of trees that are lost, and how this affects our environment, our landfills, the amount of energy put into recycling this paper, that we, as a community - as a society - should look at other ways to get the information out there. I think the Internet is here to stay, and new ways of getting community information out there should be looked at.

For example, community boards are not a new idea, but maybe we should re-examine what an online community board could do. For example, what about the Freecycle model - and use this type of technology to share community information. What about if towns and cities started an email communique of important community notices.

As a society, and as a community, we should look at some new ideas. Let's do something to help our environment while supporting our local businesses. And there's nothing wrong with hugging a few trees along the way.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Let The Games Begin

Today we have a Rocky story. You see, Rocky has us both wrapped around his little paw.

And it started innocently enough. He will cry at the top of the stairs, as if to tell us that he can't remember where his food bowl is. So when we go to see "what's wrong", he will rub our ankles, nibble on any accessible and vulnerable toes, and then down the stairs one of us will trudge, just to show him his bowl, which in all likelihood, already has food in it.

Once downstairs, there is the obligatory rub around the ankles again, and he jumps up to his counter - better yet if he's picked up, and he's shown the bowl. He likes that. He purrs. Rocky rarely purrs. And we do it because he doesn't like to be touched, unless he is hungry or sleepy, and this is one of the few times he seems to actually like us, and he seems truly happy.

He's got some other funny quirks too. To set this up, the cats have one of those food dishes that is made up of two food bowls, and we always make sure there is kibble in both. We make the assumption that the two cats can eat at the same time if they like, or choose whichever bowl has the most kibble. Seems easy enough. Apparently that's not the way it works.

Rocky will only officially acknowledge the food in his right bowl. Actually both cats will eat out of the right bowl. He ascertains that the kibble in the left bowl is no good. But you can just take a handful of kibble from the left bowl, and put it into the right bowl, that kibble is now okay. He can eat that kibble out of the right bowl. But a good kitty must not eat out of the left bowl.

So that's the way it is.

But there's a new twist on this little game. Today, Rocky was crying at the top of the stairs. All right. Down Larry goes to show him his kibble.

But something is different. There's no ankle rubbing. No nibbling toes. You see, a certain other cat, our Petey, was busy in the litter box. Rocky cried, as if to say, "Make that cat get out of the litter box."

Note that there is another litter box there. But Rocky apparently wanted the litter box with the cover. Not the uncovered litter box. And the chosen box was being defiled, right when he wanted it, and he wanted Larry to do something about it. Now.

Of course, Larry didn't do anything about it. As far as he was concerned, Petey had about as much right to use the litter box whenever he wanted - that you gotta do what you gotta do. Besides, there was another one right there.

It could have ended right there, however, as if to say it was okay to Rocky, Petey finished up right then, and exited his temporary domain.

And in Rocky's eyes, it worked. He had brought Larry down to get Petey out of the coveted box, and sure enough, Petey got out. I can just see where this is going. What began as a simple food game, is now becoming something of a problem.

And if you know something about cats, and they don't like their litter situation, they might just leave a certain present for an unsuspecting person to step in.

And now a rather unpleasant precedent has been set in our household, and Rocky knows he has the upper paw.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, March 14, 2008

Who Is That Knocking on Heavens Door?

If that statue of St. Michael that sits on top of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, looks familiar but misplaced, it's because the model is more often seen playing a guitar, not waging a battle in the heavens.

This statue was created in 1969 by Sculptor Kristofer Leirdal as part of the cathedral's renovation. Leirdal admitted that it was created in the image of Bob Dylan, as "a representative of American opposition to the Vietnam war."

I wonder if Leirdal thought he sang like an angel too.

Bob Dylan's Knocking On Heaven's Door, from "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid"

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rocky's Favourite Video

It's a slow day today, so I will play Rocky's favourite video, The Mean Kitty Song, starring Sparta and his owner, Mr. Safety. Rocky says Sparta reminds him of Petey, and sometimes I wonder who's being mean to who when Rocky and Petey are in their room upstairs, and I hear the thundering of their footsteps over my head... what is really happening up there? Anyway, he hopes you enjoy Mean Kitty.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Our Kitty Escape Artists

Petey in the Morning

Petey just wants a good time. He wants to play. And a good game of bed mice is the Best Game Ever. You see, under the covers, Larry's feet make the best, and most intriguing bed mice. From above, he will hunt them, stalk them, and jump on them, and chews them. That's okay when it's 10 a.m. on a weekend. Somehow not so charming when he plays the game at 5.

Rocky in the Morning

Rocky is a little more on the destructive side, and like Simon's cat, is more motivated by his stomach. First he tries to motivate by walking around behind our heads. Then he proceeds to lick Larry on the nose. Then mine. Then he works his way over to my nightstand. Wham!! Book thrown to the floor. Thud!! There goes the box of kleenex. Then it's on to the glass of water, dipping in his paw, and ever so slightly nudging...

So it didn't take long to decide that these guys will sleep in the basement.

Escape Wars

But Keeta, the Escape Dog, isn't the only Escape Artist in the house (see Diary of an Escape Artist). It's not easy keeping cats in the basement either. Although they do have a cat door, which during the day operates just like a normal cat door to give them access to their facilities, but in the night time, that's where they are put to stay.

But it didn't take long for Petey to learn how to open the door. Yes, it had a lock. But he figured how to work that. Then he taught the finer points of the operations of the cat door lock to Rocky, and then the two of them could come and go at will. Eventually the lock was broken. Kitty success.

But what Petey had created was a kitty monster bent on escaping. And he found that if Rocky did all the work to escape, he could follow.

So next was packing tape. Two pieces on the outside of the door, one vertical, one horizontal. But Rocky is a persistent dude. He decided that if he worked hard and long enough, he could break through. And then, one day he did, and then it didn't matter how much tape was on the door. He knew the trick. And Petey followed.

Then came the cassette case. This case is not your average case - it holds about 100 cassette tapes, and has a handle. That went in front of the packing tape reinforced door. Rocky discovered that if he worked hard enough, he could then break through the tape, get the door jammed up on the case, so that the case actually held the door open. And Petey followed.

So now there's packing tape, a cassette case, and a braille writer in front of the door. Now, a braille writer makes the old Smith Corona look like a toy. It weighs a good 30 pounds of solid cast iron. Maybe more. And that's done the trick. Miss any one of these items in the system, and you can count on Rocky in the wee hours, breathing on my face with kibble breath.

The cats are contained, safely secured in the basement, and no cats visit us unsolicited in the wee hours of the morning. There they stay until we're ready to let them out.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, March 10, 2008

Work In Progress

You may have heard about the Encyclopedia of Life. If you haven't, it's supposed to be the only resource which will include every living thing on this planet. Admittedly, it's a work in progress.

Never before has there been a one-stop-shopping place for every single living organism. And EOL will endeavour to do just that. Apparently there's 1.8 million known species to date. And the creators are very excited about this Wiki-type encyclopedia, which will have contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.

Being the curious sort that I am, I decided to search "lion", clicked on "African Lion" and got back the result "we have not obtained authenticated information yet". I then searched "cat", clicked on "house cat", and got the same report.

But they do have 25 "exemplar" pages all ready for me to look up. I can learn all about the American Burying Beetle. That is ready to go, along with 24 other species.

I wonder why they decided to release it? It does have promise, after all. Perhaps they thought if they launched it now, they would attract contributors. After all, even Wikipedia had to start somewhere. But perhaps a little less on the fanfare, and more proactive in asking for contributors to come forward. But I guess nobody asked me, did they.

I don't mean to rain on EOL's parade or anything, and I do admire their sincerety and belief in reaching their goal. I really do. But if you ask me, I just don't think they're quite ready for prime time yet.

Visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Digging Out

This morning some drifts were as tall as Keeta. Penny had to do her hop-skip-jump move to get around the yard. But we were lucky again, our Snow Angel dropped by and used the snow blower on our driveway. Thank you, Deb, who is now the Snow Blowing Angel of the Neighbourhood (don't Google that - you may get results you don't want!!). All I can say is that both Larry and I were grateful.

On the other hand, we had to actually shovel our backyard. Yes, our backyard. To keep our nimble Escape Dog of the North in her run. Otherwise she could have just stepped right over and taken herself for a good run of the neighbourhood. Who ever heard of that? So there's Larry and I, shovels in hand, clearing snow from the edges of the entire run, piling snow in the middle.

Ahh, what we won't do for our Furballs.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's March Madness Out There!

It's March, right? March 8th to be exact. Now for anyone who's counting, there's only 12 days of winter left.

The clocks get changed back to Daylight Savings Time tonight... that's the first sign of Spring, isn't it? I get to lose an hour's sleep, but it means Spring is here. Right?

Hell hath no fury like Winter 2007/08 in Ontario, which for those of you visiting my little blog in this little bit of Canada, it started officially with the first dump in mid-November. And it seems that it's been dumping on us ever since. A couple of reprieves, but those are quickly forgotten as we dig out from the latest dump.

Apparently Mother Nature's knickers are in a knot because she's got a good case of the frozen sniffles. Nothing like a good slap in the face by wind-whipped snow to remind us that March is the cruellest month.

Yes, I know what I wrote before. And I've been pretty good up until now. Canadians talk a lot about weather, because no matter where we come from, it's what we all have in common.

But now I'm officially whining.

Even Keeta didn't appreciate having to squeeze through the 8 inch opening in the sliding doors to get outside. I don't really know what her problem was - she hasn't had a problem squeezing through a 3 inch opening in a gate to get a dead squirrel last summer... ahh, I remember summer.

Penny wasn't too impressed with having snow up past her hips to do her business, and who could blame her. Without an undercoat like Keeta's, there's not much to protect her pink underbits. I can see some trouble brewing later - I think it might take more than a little encouragement to get her to do her business later.

Rocky and Petey just looked at the snow piled up with some vague kitty interest, no attempt to leave though, as the snowflakes wafted in with the wind, tickling their little twitchy noses. Nope. No kitty outdoor excursions lobbied for today.

And so, tomorrow I get to shovel. I wonder where my Snow Angel is hiding? Probably hiding under a blanket of snow, waiting for the first sign of Spring.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, March 7, 2008

What Are The Teachers Teaching?

I am still under the weather, but doing my best to do the right thing to keep our Furballs alive... so here we go...

Apparently stupidity is running rampant in the schools. I don't know where this letter originated, but I've seen enough to believe it could have come from anywhere. And we wonder why our kids seem to show a lack of respect for teachers?

Now, I've always taught Steph not to take crap from teachers. I didn't use the word "crap", but you get my drift. I have taught her that if she feels that she has some kind of issue, or point, that she can always respectfully challenge the teacher.

Now, granted, none of us here were privy to what actually happened in that classroom, and perhaps some attitude was there when that child challenged the teacher, however, there needs to be some regard for his own inappropriateness.

What did that teacher really teach those children, and especially that child? That it's really best to accept this bull than to protest it? Truly is the case, "Thou dost protest too much?"

That's just my thought for the day. Now, back to my sick bed.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Angels In The Snow

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

~Mark Twain~

I would like to thank the angels out there who shovelled the snow in our driveway. Actually I'm pretty sure the angels aren't checking my blog, but I'm thankful just the same. I wasn't looking forward to shovelling out, after the snow dump last night. I do not know who you are, or where you came from, but your act of kindness is appreciated.

As I shared in my previous post today, I've been a little under the weather, as it were. Maybe we should all engage in a little pay it forward. Make a difference. Be an angel. And once I get over this blasted cold, I will do just that.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Just Give Me Anything But The Dinosaur

I don't get to watch much daytime television. I normally have a life, getting out and about, going to work, and other stuff too. But this week I've been somewhat under the weather, and during some of my (relatively) better moments, I've had some time to watch some TV.

One show that I haven't had much time to watch is Ellen, which I think is mildly amusing. When one has a cough such as mine, you really don't want to laugh too hard anyway, and when you are sneezing 10 times in a row, it's easy to catch up on what you missed.

Now as I was channel surfing in search of Ellen, I must say that I passed by some of the worst kids TV shows I've ever seen. Perhaps I didn't give them much of a chance, but face it, you can usually tell very quickly whether they are worthwhile. I'm sure some programs are better than others, but I noticed a proliferation of really bad shows out there. For heavens sake, what are we doing by making this programming possible? There must be people out there plopping their children in front of these shows.

Personally, I've always hated that purple dinosaur. This takes stupid to a whole new level. Actually today I passed by shows that would surpass that insipid dinosaur in stupidity. However, I'm sure you have your own short list of most hated children's programming.

And let us remember, as we perhaps give ourselves a "break" from our kids, to have a brief nap (sure, like that happens), or clean the bathroom, or make a hot lunch, as we tell them they can have some TV time, let's opt for something that might inspire them, instead of having their eyes glaze over at the very sight of his Very Purpleness.

Anyway, after I separated myself from my couch nest today, I first checked my work email, to find that the world has gone on without me, and then went to Ellen's website. There I stumbled upon a clip of Emily Bear.

Emily is only 6 years old, a tender age to be an accomplished pianist. Not only that, she is charming, without being precocious. We need to appreciate that our own children are capable of much more than we think they can achieve. We need to encourage them to set goals and help them achieve these goals. Teach them about hard work, having fun with it, and making a place for themselves in the world. It's never too early.

Emily Bear practicing at the Coronado Theatre in Rockford, IL before supporting the Ramsey Lewis Trio later in the day. This song is an original composition, written for Ellen on occasion of Emily's appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

Emily's performance on Ellen's show. Emily tells the story of how she came to write this composition.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Angel Eyes Closed, But Not Forgotten

I was sad to learn that Jeff Healey has passed away. He was a musician who could rock with the best of them. He played onstage with some great musicians, including BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He recorded with George Harrison and Mark Knopfler. In recent years, he was able to devote his music to what he loved: jazz.

He was host of a long-running CBC radio series called My Kinda Jazz, and later hosted another show on Toronto's Jazz FM, and would feature long forgotten jazz songs from his collection of 30,000 (!!) vinyl records and 78s. I will always remember him as a rock musician. Healey was the frontman for the Jeff Healey Band (well, I guess that's obvious). He won a Juno award, had international acclaim and platinum record sales with his album "See the Light."

There is more to his passing than just another musician gone silent early in life. He was only 41. Although anyone who had seen him play, or knew anything about him, you would know that he was blind. Jeff had lost his sight at the age of one due to cancer. But blindness did not define Jeff. Cancer did not define Jeff. Blindness perhaps drew attention because of his unique playing style that he developed when learning how to play the guitar at 3 years old.

Instead of wallowing, Jeff got busy with life, making life work for himself with the talents that he was blessed with. He toured as a young man, got married and raised a family, ran businesses, played in a couple of bands, and probably a lot more that I don't even know about. He carried on with life, instead of letting blindness or cancer define him.

There's a lesson in that for both those struggling with disabilities, and for those out there who hold these people back based on their perceptions of what these people can achieve or become. Blindness isn't their biggest handicap, but given their own perceptions of self and by others, that can become the biggest handicap.

I leave you with Angel Eyes.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Who Says The Sky Is Falling?

Has the world gone mad? Have we somehow subscribed to Chicken Little's Sky Is Falling Theorum?

Rick Mercer says it best. Enjoy.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Who Here is Old?

As we grow older, we must discipline ourselves to continue expanding, broadening, learning, keeping out minds active and open.
Clint Eastwood
Now listen up everyone. Just don't get old.

I'm not talking about a number, or your age. That's just a number, nothing more and nothing less. Who cares.

For example, when we think about those born on February 29th of a Leap Year? We always remark, John turns 10 today, and he's really 40. You could also say he's 480 months old. You could say he's 14,610 days old... well, you get the point. (You know you can find out just about any stupid inane fact that you want to find on the internet!)

Anyway, I'll get back to my point now.

I admire those who have been around a long time. All have experience. Some have wisdom. I am lucky to know a few who have wisdom.

That brings me to Peter Oakley, known to YouTubers as Geriatric1927. Now here's a man that I'd like to adopt as my Grandpa. Here's an older gentleman, 80 years of experience behind him, living somewhere in the U.K., and has a video blog, a website and is part of a music group on MySpace.

Geriatric1927 has now posted 110 (!!) video blogs on YouTube. He has recently made a video, has uploaded it, and it is being released this year. He has a website in which he challenges other geriatrics to embrace the new technology, and use it for all its worth.

This is his very first attempt at posting on YouTube, only 1-1/2 years ago. Watch this, and appreciate that it has had more than 2.7 million hits!

Additionally, it is only fitting that Peter is now a member of a group called The Zimmers - and very worthwhile to check out their MySpace page. And don't forget to turn up your sound. Rock is meant to be played loud... so the seniors can hear it!

The Zimmers at MySpace

The average age of the The Zimmers is only 79, and Winnifred, the most senior member of the Zimmers, is 99. Gotta love that! (Yes, I know I said age doesn't matter, that it is just a number, but I'm still impressed.)

A Final Note

If Geriatric1927 can do it, imagine the possibility of millions of grandmas and grandpas out there on the Internet. Perhaps it's not practical to believe that they'll have their own blogspot pages, posting their videoblogs, sharing pics in their Flickr accounts, and playing online poker. But the possibilities are out there. You get my drift, I'm sure.

Don't stop learning. Don't stop trying. Try new things. Try old things you've never tried before. Try being nicer. Try being assertive. Try calimari (or not!). It's when you stop trying that you truly get old... old in the doddering sense of the word.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens