Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Is the way we think affected by technology? Do the use of computers, and in particular, reading on the the internet, change the way we think? An article in the July/August 2008 Altantic Monthly article by Nicholas Carr called 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?' here thinks so.

I have pulled bits from this very long and interesting article:

[Thinking back in history] "In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, 'cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful'. And because they would be able to 'receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,' they would 'be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.' "

Then there is Gutenburg's printing press (1450s) which marked the beginning of the decline of the use of the pen and quill and the rise (and spread) of the printed word. However, there was the feeling (of scholars? writers?) that this move would certainly weaken the mind.

But back to technology transfer:

Nietsche's vision was failing. Sometime around 1882 he moved to a using a typewriter. "Once he mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page. But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. “Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom,” the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

"You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.” "

So is the internet weakening our minds? Do people read books less? Are writers changing their writing style as they sit using word processors and search engines as their tools? Maybe writers are going from the old rhetorical style to the telegram style, to, nowadays, the sound-byte style?

Letterpress Type and Slugs (top) Photo by Willi Heidelbach: Widimedia. The plate says "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog and feels as if he were in the seventh heaven of typography together with Herman Zapf, the most famous artist of the".
Printing Press Photo: from Wikimedia: source is Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1998. (p.64).
Typewriter Photo: (TheFaulkner Portable Typewriter), Wikimedia, Gary Bridgman,


One of the funniest radio programmes I have heard in a long time is Stuart McLean on the CBC where he hosts The Vinyl Cafe. He is a story teller and humorist who has been around awhile having produced many books, CDs and audio tapes. His photo and website are here.

The CBC blurb states: "The Vinyl Cafe radio show is based on Stuart's visits to 'the world's smallest record store,' where he picks up an eclectic selection of recorded music and some neighbourhood gossip from Dave, the store's eccentric owner. Stuart spins the gossip into short stories, which he interweaves with fascinating music selections."

He celebrates ordinary people and weaves stories about them much in the same way as Garrison Keillor [also see topical footnote] did with his Lake Wobegon tales of this fictitious small town in Midwest USA a generation ago. Actually McLean is also very much like Stephen Leacock, Canadian humorist of the early 20th century, and apparently has many times won the Stephen Leacock Award for Literary Humour.

His topics are as Canadian as Pacific milk and screen doors. Everyone can relate to them. Last week he was in the Northwest Territories and did his live radio show gearing it to the local situation (as I guess he must always do).

I notice that one of McLean's books is called Welcome Home: Travels in Smalltown Canada and Leacock, in 1912, had a book published called Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.

While he has published a number of books, often related to the Vinyl Cafe, it is his voice and his delivery, i.e. timing, that would be the way I would want to 'hear' him. My preference would be audio books here.


It appears that Garrison Keillor's own bookshop opens today in St Paul, Minnesota.
Cutlery photo: Wikemedia.
Book photo: Amazon

Monday, 28 July 2008


Sitting on a floor mat in an empty house with only a radio for company could be pretty hellish if it wasn't for the company of the radio. All stations around here play predominantly country and western stuff. However, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is totally different story.

One of Canada's best-kept secrets has got to be the Sunday evening (British Columbia time) music programme In the Key of Charles. It comes out of Montreal and is basically this fellow, Gregory Charles, sitting at his piano in his living room (with 2 other fellows, he says) and he just plays and talks about his musical choices.

Each week he takes a theme and reflects on it while seated at the piano. The music just pours out him! Obviously very talented and knowledgeable, he has an easy, engaging manner as he chooses pieces and chats about them. It is a real steam-of-consciousness style ... happily going off-at-a-tangent ... right up my street!

Who he is, the programmes he does, as well as a photo of him, are here.


Basic photo:

Sunday, 27 July 2008


Today I discovered a Canadian-born writer Kate Jacobs. She comes from Hope, B.C. and now lives in the USA making her name as a writer. These 2 books have gone from hardback to paperback to translations. A movie is to be made from the first one.

Her website is here . There seems to be a buzz about her books which perhaps is because they are meeting a cultural need for something to read that is 'comforting' when all around is 'discomforting'. At least for 50% of the population, i.e. doesn't look like a man's book here. Must check these out for myself! While not particularly in need of comforting I quite like her descriptive style - see below.

Except from the beginning: "The hours of [the New York knitting shop] Walker and Daughter: Knitters were clearly displayed in multicolored letters on a white sandwich board placed just so at the top of the stair landing.... Slowly she would walk around the shop, running her hands lightly over the piles of yarn that were meticulously sorted by color—from lime to Kelly green, rust to strawberry, cobalt to Wedgwood blue, sunburst to amber, and rows and rows of grays and creams and blacks and whites. The yarn went from exquisitely plush and smooth to itchy and nubbly and all of it was hers."

Excerpt from the beginning: "Gus Simpson adored birthday cake. Chocolate, coconut, lemon, strawberry, vanilla–she had a particular fondness for the classics. Even though she experimented with new flavors and frostings, drizzling with syrups and artfully arranging hibiscus petals, Gus more often took the retro route with piped-on flowers or a flash of candy sprinkles across the iced top. Because birthday cake was really about nostalgia, she knew, about reaching in and using the senses to remember one perfect childhood moment .... one sweet slice fed the spirit as much as the stomach."

Saturday, 26 July 2008


Nowhere is the topic of climate change discussed more than in Canada. These days the focus is on the Arctic and what is happening to the ice.

On the web I ran across the magazine, Resurgence which has an article called Burning Ice by Dave Buckland. The magazine focuses on positive ideas about the theory and practice of good living (we're talking about politics with principles and science with a soul). Among a list of things they write about one is 'permaculture'.

Permaculture? Wikipedia states that the word was coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgreen during the 1970s and is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture as well as permanent culture. It started predominantly being about the design of agricultural systems but has moved towards being a more fully holistic design process for creating sustainable human habitats. Today it is both a design system as well as a loosely defined philosophy or lifestyle ethic.

The article Burning Ice describes the charitable organisation Cape Farewell. They want to engage the public in the subject of climate change; they see themselves as pioneers in the cultural response to climate change.

It is felt that the window of opportunity for dealing with climate change is very short, less than 10 years. Working internationally, they bring together artists (that include musicians, ceramicists, composers, architects, engineers), scientists and communicators to communicate the urgency of the global climate challenge. Artists are invited to join the expeditions to the Arctic and to work with scientists on programmes of exhibitions and events. This way they hope to bring about changes of behaviour in an area where governments have perhaps failed.

In September 2008, the Cape Farewell project returns to Disko Bay (Greenland, -69°N/52°W) where big chunks of ice are coming off glaciers. (Lots of photos by Lynn Davis here.) Others from a Flikr site are here.

Gretel Ehrlich 2001 / 78°N 11.2°E stated in a journal* -
"It also occurs to me that the real and the imagined have long since fused here. Truths are relative to the imagination that invents them. It's not the content of experience that we end up with, but the structure of how we know something."


* Source:
Ice berg photos are from DG. I don't know the original source or geographic location.


The arteries of the nation are pumping hour upon hour, day after day, week in, week out. By that I mean the Canadian Pacific Railway trains are moving through Salmon Arm continuously. There are several dozen each day - some going east with Made in China goods and some going west with raw materials, e.g. potash.

This morning I was intrigued to see this train stationary at the level crossing in town. While I watched, thinking the driver was waiting for an eastward-bound train, he appeared from the coffee shop and, like K.C. Jones in the song, he "mounted to the cabin" and slowly headed off pulling the 90 or so cars behind.

This picture about says it all. COSCO - China Ocean Shipping(Group) Company, an ocean carrier headquartered in Beijing - ships goods in these double size containers which are stacked one on top of the other on flatcars. This load is heading east to the Rockies and beyond with the usual plastic ducks, cosmetics, vacuum cleaners, etc.

The sound of the CPR train approaching from 'way around the lake and the sound of it receding are such a Shusway Lake thing.

Sitting out on the deck at the cabin on the other side of the lake last weekend I told the story of how I thought I was hallucinating when we crossed the North Sea in Seol-na-Mara in 1990. Having left Stavanger heading for Lerwick I was in the cockpit on a lovely starry night when I distinctly heard the CPR train! It was that same Shuswap Lake sound .... buh-baa, buh-baa, buh baa.....of the diesel engine approaching/receding.

Eventually, all was revealed: the port light of a tanker appeared on the far horizon - en route from, say, Newcastle to Rotterdam - and then disappeared for good.

Friday, 25 July 2008


Gallons of pale yellow lemonade has been keeping me going in the hot weather. I buy Minute Maid brand in the frozen food section of the supermarket and chuck the whole thing in a big jug which must be kept in the fridge if it is going to have any cooling effect at all.

However I came across something which intrigued me: Lavender Lemonade. The recipe (below) I found here. It turns out these people run an organic farm and farm shop in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia! I must try to visit on my way back to the coast.

The recipe is:

Steep 2 tsp. organic lavender buds in 8 oz. boiling water for about 3 minutes. While waiting for the tea to steep, place one can original Minute Maid (ordinary) lemonade into a glass pitcher. Add 3 cans of cold water, mix until fully dissolved. Pour strained lavender infusion into lemonade mixture and watch as the lemonade magically changes to an amazing pink. Pour into tall glasses. Garnish with fresh lemon slices and a long stem of organic lavender .

As I do not have a source for 2 teaspoons of lavendar buds I tried it with a few sprigs of Mary's picked from her pot at the front door. It didn't turn the remotest shade of pink and, worse still, it tasted ghastly!

However, I went out and bought some Minute Maid Pink lemonade; it will have to do for now! I see from the label that it has grape skins added which, of course, will give it the pink colour (not grenadine which, I believe, is traditional).


Top photo: Wikimedia. Permission is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Dinner out at the cabin at Canoe Point was a family affair. Deborah, Scott and the girls were in residence for the weekend before heading to Saskatchewan for a big family reunion.

Don with Lauren on his knee and Alison colouring at the table.

Deborah on the left with Mary seated, Lauren in solid pink dress looking at Carol; Alison on the right facing Carol.

Two mythical frogs paying a visit to the sort of thing that I spent half my life playing in as a kid. It might even be the same inner tube!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


Well, there are Maiden Voyages and Maidens Voyaging and today I managed both! At the end of Salmon Arm wharf are a collection of boats. These are not your usual power boats with the go-fast engines but fiberglass open boats which are called Dragon Boats. They could be loosely described as long, rather flat bottomed canoes without the turned up ends.

They are Chinese basically and appear to be paddled in every corner of the world although I can't say I have ever seen them in the West of Scotland.

I went out in one this morning. The group were of 'Seniors' age, mostly women, and Barbara sat at the front with a drum the size of a whisky barrel. The canoes seat 20 (I think). As I have no photos I cobbled together this photo I took in Vancouver 2 weeks ago. The bow and decoration are mine!

I absolutely loved it! The lake was calm in the early morning; it never gets much wind at the best of times. We paddled for 30 minutes over to Sandy Point, went ashore for a swim and some donuts then paddled back again. I am pleased to report that the lake is still warm and being fresh water has a completely different feel from the sea.... silky and slippery. (What was missing, of course, was the shore sounds of the salt chuck.)

Sitting at the front Barbara kept the beat and the pace was fairly brisk the whole time. We occasionally divided for half rest and half paddle. A couple of times I suggested in an aside that we sing but my mate Diane basically said "I can't sing" and nothing developed. (A built-in rhythm section and no music - weird!)

I was unaware of the association of dragon racing, as done by the ladies, to the campaign for raising money for breast cancer. While there are many teams of women who get together in this way there is one special team and they are breast cancer survivors.

So being short of photos of my day, here is a graphic representation which relates to the Dragon Ladies of the Lake!


The wharf is a short walk away. When it cools down in the evening folk - visitors, mostly - stroll down to the wharf and go out to the end. Tomorrow morning I am going to go out to the end to try something I have never done before - paddle in a dragon boat!

What's a dragon boat? One of those long 12 seater boats that I associate with Polynesian countries or maybe China. This lake is quite calm and for that reason there are numerous teams of ladies who head out early in the morning for an hour's paddling. Some are out at 6:30 am and return at 7:30 am for the next squad arriving to have their hour on the lake... and these early birds are the 80 year olds!

So watch this space! They plan is to head over to the other side of the lake for a swim. If I manage to last the pace it will be a miracle! I wonder if it is like riding tandem on a bike where I can let the front person do all the work? The good news is that if I fall in the water is warm!

In my youth the wharf was a working place with diesel pumps and piles of boards. The shore is marshland, no beach whatsoever. In fact, there used to be a Bird Sanctuary adjacent to it. There still are a lot of birds feeding here. These days it has all been landscaped and many different unusual trees planted, like this gingko, for example.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


Alastair and and Dawn dragged me off to visit some of the vineyards near Kelowna. In my youth this land was all planted in fruit trees (as my grandmother's family did in Salmon Arm - the north end of the Okanagan - at the early 1900s). In the 1970s they started to plant vines instead of fruit trees and have been doing so ever since. Changed days! I remember my father never made any money with his fruit; that certainly cannot be the case for these vineyard owners!
We started at Gray Monk Estate in Winfield, north of Kelowna. In Austria and Hungary this grape is called Grauer Monch or Gray Monk and has a very distinctive blue-gray coloured berry.
The winery is a very smart establishment with a deck restaurant overlooking Okanagan Lake where we had lunch. Dawn and I did a fair bit of sampling and between us bought a good few bottles .

The common grape varieties in this region are ones that suit the cooler end of the wine-growing regions of the world. This area is like Germany and they plant similar grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Gewurztraminer. The latitude here is Latitude 50 degrees. This area is due north of the American border (Latitude 49 degrees or the '49th Parallel' as it is more commonly known).

This particular bottle is from a next door winery, Arrowleaf Cellars, Winfield. They are small outfit, - no big car parks or extensive landscaping - and like the others make small-lot, cool-climate wines. In their smaller space, overlooking Okanagan Lake, they have a few pieces of sculpture out on the grass along with some rose bushes and ledges to sit on.

This bottle above, Solstice, is a blend of Merlot, Zweigelt and Lemberger (also known as Blaufränkisch) grapes.

All these wineries invent their own names for their blends. Another one of Arrowleaf's is called Bacchus which is a Riesling x Sylvaner x Mueller-Thurgau crossing.

Lastly, Mission Hill Vineyard (above) is south of Kelowna and is - from the limited visits I have made - in a different league. It is big, imposing and, as Dawn, says, 'very California'! It spoke 'corporate' and 'cultural' to me. While all vineyards have facilities for the big tour buses, this place caters for outside events in their outdoor amphitheatre adjacent to their imposing tasting and catering facilities.

Their big tasting hall has many items to buy along with the wine. To taste, one glass is $2 and you could have 3 for $5. The other 2 wineries above were free of charge.

Missionhill white wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc. The red wines are Cabernet Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rosé.

I tried Pinot Noir in all 3 wineries. Big jammy fruity wine these are not. They were more earthy and somewhat high on acid for me. But these are not Hot Climate wines. Also their production is not on the scale of Australia and California (let alone France and other European countries); I never see these for sale in the UK. Come to think of it I never see them written about either, e.g. Jancis Robinson.


Alastair, Dawn and I went on a wine tour yesterday. I'd love to tell you all about it but the light has gone! I am suddenly in the dark so will have to leave it there ... with some photos of this seedhead which caught my eye!

Don't know what this flower is, probably a weed.


Doodle bug
Out on a Limb
Looking for a Light Bulb!

And lastly, the arty stuff ....

Friday, 18 July 2008


I have discovered one of Canada's Best Kept Secrets: the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio!

Radio 1 is a general magazine, news and information type of programme while Radio 2 is music/cultural. As there is no mast in the area here for Radio 2 (which was very good in Vancouver) I am listening to, and very impressed by, Radio 1!

Today I heard a fascinating interview with the author, Maria Coffey about her book published by Tarcher in May 2008 called ... wait for it ...

Explorers of the Infinite: The Secret Spiritual Lives of Extreme Athletes-and What They Reveal About Near-Death Experiences, Psychic Communication, and Touching the Beyond.
It is a book that probes the ecstasy of extreme sport.

Details are here . (This is the Amazon site.)

She and her husband run an Adventure Company here and, I see, are based in Victoria, B.C. (She is from England.)

A very articulate lady who talked about the 'out there' experiences of people who take risks where they push themselves to the limits of consciousness, those moments of extended reality undertaken by extreme mountaineers, kayakers, divers and the like.

She said she was with Joe Tasker for 3 years. She was intrigued: why did he do those climbs when he was suffering so much? For ordinary climbers, they get a sort of peace; for Joe, she said, this did not happen.

These people have to go 'out there' (in nature) and push away the safety nets. It gives them another realm of experience.

Does a belief system come into this? Well, she says, it is a component. Mystics in various religions also go into this sort of space, i.e. focus, awe, suffering (and fear) are involved.

She said that these sort of 'Extreme' people have to develop Extreme Intuition. (Think of our ancinet ancestors ....). Are these people tapping into powers that we all have? She also said that of the people she talked to, they were all comfortable in their space, e.g. a lady diver who went down, down, down right to the edge of her ability was 'at home' there. (Eghghgh!)

Lastly, she had something for us ordinary folk who could/would never put ourselves in that sort of situation: be open and aware to 'nature' around you; be open to the moment, e.g. if you are sitting having a coffee in a street cafe and a butterfly lands on your shoulder, savour it!


Photo: When searching in Google I was unable to find John's mountain photos on Flickr. But Lo and Behold, I ran across Arctica's photographers who have been busy. I gratefully acknowledge that the photo is theirs.

Thursday, 17 July 2008


On my way to the downtown area to shop it is necessary to step across the Canadian Pacific Railway line, actually 2 lines. The town originally grew up on this line. I came across this piece of equipment sitting opposite the (empty) station office. It's a balast spreader - not a snow plow! - and is used to spread the crushed rock base on which the railway ties are laid.

The path to and from the house is through the blue chicory and yellow yarrow along the track. In the distance are 12 or so empty coal cars on a siding. The cloudscape shows a building thunder storm coming - but not before there was a very red sunset.

What happens when there really isn't a lot of stuff to photo except blue sky, blue flowers and a chemin de fer?

Well, I thought this photo turned out rather well. I think this could be used as an image of how we see our precious resources - Stretching To Infinity.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


A sock crisis occurred today. I got to the point of turning the heel and couldn't get it right. Although Iain's mother taught me how to do a Dutch Heel on a sock I simply couldn't make sense of the pattern I brought with me, nor could I recall how I used to do it in the days when I knitted socks for hiking boots.

So nothing for it but I had to go find some help. The nice lady in the Sewing Shop told me that while none of them were knitters there was a group that gathered at Tim Horton's Coffee Shop on the Trans-Canada Highway downtown every Monday night. Perfect!

Sabina sorted me ... as usual I don't seem to know my left from my right!

This certainly is a good way to meet people when you don't know anyone - or very few - in town. What do Ladies in Salmon Arm Who Knit talk about on a summer's evening? Well all those things that occupy them in this part of the country where fruit, berries and vegetables are abundant: making jam, canning, freezing and the like. "We may be bushed but we'll never be short of food!" It starts in June and finishes in the autumn - exactly as it did years ago with my mother and, no doubt, her mother.

So Ishie (and/or wee Alastair) will eventually get some hand-knitted socks. The only problem is that instead of being for a 2 year old, by the looks of things, they are more for a 12 year old!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


One can never get enough of blue skies! Day after day of it ... ah well ... life's tough!

Alastair and I stayed in the Riverside Inn which is situated on the Thompson River in Kamloops. We arrived very late, in the dark, after driving - Alastair did all the driving - the 5 hours from Vancouver. We opened the curtains in the morning and this was the view.

Same thing the next day, only now we are in Salmon Arm. We spent the first night in a hotel as we were very tired and there is no furniture, at all, in the condo. What is not evident in this early morning blue sky view from the balcony is the ever-present caw-caw-caw of the Resident Crow.

Time for an evening walk along the waterfront at sundown - about 8:30 pm - after a very hot day. There are not 1, but 3!... osprey nests on poles like this. This one sits right in front of the Prestige Inn where busloads of Japanese visitors are offloaded for the night. These buses and their occupants are a daily event as far as I can see. Their arrival is so obvious by the groups of not, 10 or 20 or 30 but always about 100 meandering out of the hotel, or crossing the railroad tracks in search of their evening meal.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


English Bay is the place to head on another sunny day. Lots of cargo ships waiting to come in the harbour. No cruise boats to be seen but I guess that is because it is not the weekend turnaround time.

Very imposing sculpture which appears to be fairly recently put into place.

Three bums on a a beach!