Friday, October 10, 2014

Mushroom "Forest"


We have a couple of dozen or so mushrooms growing in our lawn again. This happens every year. I don't know whether they are edible (personally, I don't eat mushrooms). In any case, they are important or the well-being of the trees (they are a catalyst in the storage of nitrogen in the soil).

A made a reference to the "mushroom cycle" in May of last year:  http://penmachinedad.blogspot.ca/2013/05/the-fixer.html




I'm always astounded when these mushrooms appear quite suddenly, apparently "out of nowhere".

Nature is amazing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eclipse wipe-out




The Moon went through a total eclipse this morning (from 3:25 am to 4:24 am PDT). Before totality, as the the Moon moves into and out of the Earth's shadow, it goes through a number of stages.

The magazine "Sky and Telescope" published a very descriptive illustration of the process:



I had decided a couple of days earlier that I'd try to photograph this event. On our back porch, I set up a Canon 60Da camera with a 500mm telephoto lens on an iOptron SkyTracker mount (to compensate for the Earth's rotation during that event). The camera can be controlled via our home computer network; I'm a creature of comfort and did not want to sit out in the cool night. Instead, I watched the process on my desktop computer and took pictures as things progressed. All evening, the sky was covered with thin clouds, but the Moon was visible through them.

Here's what that looked like:



As the time for the eclipse approached, the clouds turned more variable, so camera exposure times had to vary with the varying transparency of the clouds. Alas, just as the time for the beginning of the "total" phase approached, the clouds got so thick that the Moon could not be seen and the sky stayed that way until late this afternoon.






The penumbra is apparent on the left edge.













Getting into the partial phase.












Almost into totality. The clouds are quite dense. This is a 4-second exposure.








The last trace of the Moon. A couple of minutes before totality. This is a 6-second exposure. The brown tint on the clouds is the wasted light from sodium vapour street lights which pollute the sky in the lower mainland.

Can you find the Moon in this picture?





Being into astronomy, the weather rules. It can be frustrating. I never got to see, or photograph any part of the remainder of this eclipse. There are many good pictures of all of the eclipse on the internet, taken in parts of the country which did not have cloud problems.

This was a really badly timed wipe-out.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

The year goes on.



Looking at the rainy view outside our window, and considering the rapidly shortening days, I think that we've reached the end of summer. We'll probably have a few more sporadic nice days, but autumn is near. We've had some beautiful months, weatherwise, reminiscent of California, without the drought which people have to deal with there. We've also been lucky that there have been no floods here, devastating storms, or forest fires, events which were experienced by many people in other parts of this continent.

Winter fun is coming up - skiing in the local mountains, or at Whistler. We live in a beautiful part of the world here in Canada. Let's be thankful.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A nice summer



Last week, a good friend from California on a visit at our house and we spent a wonderful time with our friends in their spectacular home on Saltspring Island, as we did last year around this time: (http://penmachinedad.blogspot.ca/2013/07/a-close-paradise.html). We had a wonderful evening as a part of the "Puerto Vallarta" contingent, and had more than our accustomed number of glasses of wine (we calculated one-and-half bottles for each of us over the course of the afternoon and evening). The "P.V contingent" is a group of people who got to know each other over the years at our (now deceased) friends Ernie and Al's B&B there.

Later in the week, we had a fabulous evening dinner with about twenty of our hosts' friends and neighbours on the terrace which surrounds our friends' home. These people are an intelligent and fun group - it was a real pleasure to interact with them.

Just before our trip we got word that our very close family friend Erlyne had died quite suddenly. She fell when she missed the bottom step on some stairs, broke her hip, and never recovered. Erlyne was my wife's friend for fifty-seven years; they got to know each other when both of them worked as time and script controllers for CBC television in the days when every broadcast was live. Erlyne was also a bridesmaid at our wedding more than forty-nine years ago. We are saddened by her death.

It is obvious that we have reached the age at which one loses more and more family members and friends...

Monday, June 23, 2014

A trip south, happy and sad

For the last month, Hilkka and I have been in Southern California, visiting friends and many of the places we particularly like. This was a car trip, so, on the way, we stopped in Oregon, both coming and going. On the way back, we stayed for a day at Oregon's Crater Lake Lodge.

We have visited Crater Lake about a half dozen times over the various decades, several times with our son Derek. The lake is a water-filled caldera which is what is left from a huge explosion of a volcano now named Mt. Mazama. This time, we stayed at Crater Lake Lodge, as we have on several occasions in the past. It's a fairly expensive stay, with somewhat spartan "luxury" rooms, no TV, which is a good thing; you should get outside and take in the view from the various view points. There is internet access. The restaurant has improved considerably over the years; the food and service is first class. Scenery from the lakeside rooms is impressive.

In his blog of July 2007, Derek wrote about some of the places on Earth which he had visited, and which had a special connection to family and friends for him (http://www.penmachine.com/2007/07/my-favourite-places-and-when-to-take-me). This blog entry was written just before his first operation for the colon cancer to which he would succumb four years later.

This time, our visit to Crater Lake was sombre and sad. In the evening, we dispersed some of Derek's ashes from a promontory close to the Lodge (see pictures). The wind blew them down towards the lake, and we wept, thought of his wife Airdrie and his daughters Marina and Meredith, but felt a certain comfort in having fulfilled one part of the wishes Derek had expressed in his blog.

Next morning, the sun rose above the lake in what became a beautiful day; we take this as a sign about the bright future Derek wished for his own family. 


Here are the series of pictures taken at Crater Lake - an expanded set of the ones we posted on Facebook a few days ago: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mimiandpapa/sets/72157645217732272/ . Click on any of the pictures for a closer view and a related description. 

From now on, any trips we take to this beautiful area will be in memory of our son. Crater Lake is situated in southern Oregon, about two hours' drive east of interstate highway five, so we will likely stop there, even if it is for just a day visit. We quite often fly to California; Crater Lake is located on the flight path from Vancouver or Seattle. We'll have a moment of silence when we pass overhead.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Family is everything

Yesterday, it was the third anniversary of our son Derek's death. We miss him - we light a candle in his memory every day. This void in our family will never go away.

We maintain a perpetual memorial on-line here: http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/vancouversun/derek-miller-condolences/150846264?#sthash.xPQfXgEU.dpbs . You may leave a comment there at any time.

A couple of weeks ago, Hilkka and I celebrated our 49th anniversary. We are both as much in love with each other as when we got married. Our daughter-in-law, Airdrie, invited us to an Easter dinner a couple of days later and we had a wonderful time with her, her parents, and our granddaughters.

Hilkka and I made an impromptu decision last night to invite Airdrie, and our granddaughters Marina and Meredith to breakfast at our place this morning (they live in the other half of our duplex home, so that's easy). We always enjoy their company; Derek would be so proud of the beautiful young ladies his daughters have become.

Family is everything.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring is here

During the last month we've had a new roof installed. The installation took several days, and was sometimes interrupted by rain. The only thing left to do is chimney repair - the mortar between the bricks has deteriorated to the point where mortar reinforcement is necessary. All work so far was done by Best Quality Roofing. The company lived up to all of its promises and I expect that their chimney work will also be top notch. If you ever need roof repairs or related work done, I highly recommend that company. They are located in Coquitlam. I'll post some pictures once my hip joint allows climbing onto the roof again.

Update: Pictures of the roof repairs are here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mimiandpapa/sets/72157642643261244

At this moment, I'm sitting in the garden, with a cherry tree in bloom and the sun shining on my back. This past month, my "disability" has diminished to the point where I can walk almost normally. The hip joint socket x-ray showed that the the hairline cracks and the one break appear to have healed. The orthopaedic surgeon recommended that I still use my cane, but not to rely on it too much. So, I walk around the house without it, and that seems to get easier by the day. Stairs are no longer an obstacle; I have the run of the house again. We also take walks around the neighbourhood when the weather permits; my stride is quite a bit slower, but I think that'll improve with time.

While our trip to Europe was cancelled due to the problem with my hip, we are going to "substitute" a visit to close, long-time friends in California soon. We like California a lot and have been there many times. We'll be staying in La Jolla for the most part, but also in Chico and various other places on the way there and back. Since we'll be driving, we have the freedom to make drop-of-a-hat changes to our itinerary and travel routes and can take more baggage along. We're looking forward to the sun and seeing our friends again.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Progress and memories

For those of you who may be curious about the situation regarding my damaged right hip joint socket, I can report that real progress is evident to me. I can use the walker to walk quite well, and a cane to walk more slowly. I still have to be careful about putting too much weight on my right leg. I've even made my way upstairs (and back) to the first landing on our interior steps, halfway to the upper living area. I think I may soon make it all the way, which would expand my currently limited confines. Since the right leg's range of motion is now almost the same as that of my left leg, and since  the strength of my muscles is back to near normal, I expect to be able to drive our cars pretty soon. I'll wait until after my next x-rays scheduled for Friday of this week, which will truly tell about the degree of healing that has taken place.

Today is the third anniversary of the "living wake" (http://www.penmachine.com/2011/03/my-living-wake) which our daughter-in-law, Airdrie, arranged for our son, Derek - who died two years and ten months ago. It's always a bittersweet time for us when the various anniversaries relating to our son's life come up. We are lucky to have his two daughters (Marina and Meredith [Lolo]) and Airdrie living next to us. For us, Derek lives on in them.





Monday, February 24, 2014

Snow continues

Taken with a wide-angle lens

The view from my wheelchair

Here's the view from our basement window yesterday. As most of you know, I'm confined to the lower floor in our house because of my broken hip joint socket; climbing stairs is not possible for me at this time (see previous post). Thank goodness for the large rec (for me: wreck) room window.

The joint is healing nicely, I can stand up without support. That's how I took the top picture.

In general, things are progressing well. Using the walker to steady myself, I can use the right leg in a limping walk by putting only a little weight on it. That's quite a bit of progress from even a few days ago. At that time I could not use the right leg at all.

It's been snowing continuously here for the last three days. Since Hilkka had a cyst removed from her thyroid gland last Friday, she is not allowed to do anything that requires a lot of physical effort. Therefore, both she and I can't shovel snow; all that snow is building up in the driveway. It blocks our way out of the house. Our two granddaughters do clear the sidewalks and driveways once a day, but that can only happen after school.

I have postponed the x-ray test and evaluation by the orthopaedic surgeon for one week. By that time, I expect the snow to be gone. Why take chances?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Starting with a thud

I started out my retirement with a thud, literally. A week ago, I slipped on ice up on Mt. Seymour, and broke the socket in my right hip joint. A whole new experience; I'm reliant on a wheelchair for the next couple of months, until the bones heal. Things one takes for granted have to be thought out in detail, since I can't put any weight on my right leg. Getting into and out of bed, bathroom, washing, dressing, all the basic things have to be planned - all with a view of "no strain" on the right leg. I have a much better insight now regarding what people permanently subject to these kinds of limitations need to do.

Fortunately, the lower level in our house has a continuously laid hard floor (no door sills)  which makes getting around much easier. The upper floor is unreachable for me at this time, so the lower level is now our "headquarters". One of the rooms is our rec room - I guess it should now be spelled "wreck" room - and the lower level is even with the carport and the street. When we get warmer weather, I'll be able to get out. My wife sure has to do a lot more work now; things would be a lot harder for me if it weren't for her taking care of all the details related to the house. We have access to a couple of internet services here. We've always done banking on line anyway, so paying bills and depositing cheques is no problem.

We had a very competent moving company (Top Movers) swap our two electric beds upstairs with the beds in the downstairs guest room, which has now become our bedroom. The electric bed is a real help for me; I can adjust it so that my right leg is comfortable. I sleep well, even though turning around in bed is very limited and have no pain worth speaking about. If necessary, a couple of extra-strength Tylenols do the trick.

Our trip to Europe in April is off, naturally. I'll miss seeing my 100 year old aunt - she is sharp as a nail, but totally deaf - and my cousins there, but hope to be able to do that later in the year. The best laid plans...


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An end and a beginning

Today is the last day of 2013. Let me wish everyone a Happy New Year, and all success for the future.

In addition to being the last day of the year, it is also my last "working" day. I decided at the beginning of this year that I'd shut down my business and retire at the end of the year. From now on, my business is a passive entity and exists only for so long as it takes to clean up the "loose ends", i.e. close GST and PST accounts, and collect outstanding accounts receivable, and a few other things. I will no longer actively provide the services which were the base of my business. After all these things are done, my business will no longer exist.

My wife and I are looking forward to more travels, I look forward to the pursuit of my various hobbies (astronomy, photography, electronics) and generally not having the time constraints imposed by operating a business. A big thank-you to all my loyal suppliers and customers - we've had a great business relationship.

Again, the Best to all.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The end of a house

We've lived in our house for 42 years, and in all this time or neighbours' house has stood there. I estimate that it was built around 1930. The same people have lived in there during all the time we were in our house, Paul and Celina.

Paul died a few months ago, and Celina decided that she would sell the house. She did that about three months ago.

The house stood empty until last week. Then, a demolition crew finally arrived and started its work.  The people who handled the backhoe were experts. They even felled two big trees which we had seen grow from saplings, but had grown so big that we had concerns about them hitting our house, if a strong storm ever blew them down.

Here are some pictures:
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
totally flattened
the blue spruce, the peach and apple trees, and the big camellia bush are gone
The big cedar at the front... gone
some of tree leftovers

some of tree leftovers.

We temporarily have more open sky in the south than we've ever had. I think that the new house will be a duplex as big as is currently the norm. It'll likely fill up what used to be Celina's garden, and which we enjoyed from our back porch (see top picture). 
Can't stop progress.








Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall is back

The rapidly shortening days in the last month were, as usual, an indication of the year approaching its end. The weather also changed rapidly - cloudy, rainy, and the first serious storm showed up right away. This was quite a change from the beautiful summer days which preceded the fall equinox - the day when fall begins.

I also became busier in my business, because it involves the universities and colleges. This is normal; the semester starts at the beginning of September.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to retire at the end of it (December 31). That means I'll close my business, and it will no longer exist. Most people with whom I deal have already been notified. Both my wife and I are looking forward to this, and hope to be able to do some more travel, and follow our other interests.

In 2002, our family arranged for a memorial bench for my mother, who had died a year earlier. The period for the dedicated bench lasts ten years, and can be renewed every ten years after that. So, we renewed the dedication, and had the memorial plaque on it redone to reflect the death of our son over two years ago. For the two of us, this is bittersweet. Here are a couple of pictures:

Our son Derek at my mother's bench in 2002

The new plaque, commemorating Derek

Thinking of Derek

Life goes on. We are glad to have Derek's and Airdrie's two daughters next door; he lives on in them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A nice summer

We've been rather busy travelling in the last month. Beside the previously mentioned visit to Saltspring Island, we visited a good, long-time friend in Chico, California, and attended a wedding in San Ramon, east of San Francisco. We also took time driving and wine tasting in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Wine tasting in California is an expensive proposition these days, each winery charges twenty or thirty dollars for a wine tasting tour consisting of about five samples of wine. I think some part of these fees is imposed by the state of California; I recall reading about the budgetary problems they are having. So, soak the tourists.

A driving visit to the somewhat bleak Crescent City area, and a spectacular visit to, and including a tour of the Oregon caves were other interesting events.

The traces of the economic recession seemed still evident to us. Crescent City showed little activity during our admittedly short stopover.  In Napa City we found many of the tourist-brochure-advertised places shuttered and empty. With the recent upswing in the US economy, we hope that things will improve for everyone soon.

The wedding itself took place in San Ramon, California. The groom was our son's boyhood friend. He visited us a couple of years ago to pay his condolences regarding our son's death. We were surprised and honoured by the wedding invitation and certainly wanted to represent our son on that occasion.

The venue was the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California. The ceremony itself took place in the open plaza in front; the reception inside. Since the groom is of Chinese ancestry, and the bride French; it was a delightfully mixed theme, with elements of both Chinese and European character.

The museum itself is exhibiting antique, prototype automobiles, dating from about 1870 to 1970. All cars are originals, and belong to the collection of one private owner. Needless to say, they were all in pristine condition. An area on the museum floor had been cleared to accommodate the guests and wedding party, and for dancing.  A few pictures:







It was certainly an original, and unique wedding.

Since the weather here at home was wonderful, we felt as though our vacation continued after we came back. We had our usual happy hour (a glass or two of red wine) every day on our back porch, with temperatures reminiscent of California.

A nice, summery July and early August...


Saturday, July 20, 2013

A close paradise

Last week, we spent a few days with good friends on Saltspring Island. They have a wonderful house located near the top of a ridge, overlooking the waterways between some of the Gulf Islands.

They are great cooks, so we had some excellent meals. There were only the four of us - it was a "cozy" visit.

I took my Celestron C-8 telescope along, and, since the weather co-operated, we had a great view of the planet Saturn with its rings and moons, globular and open star clusters, and much more. The sky in the area is relatively free of light pollution, even though the "light domes" of Vancouver to the east and Victoria to the south were noticeable.

The ferry trips themselves were like "microcruises"; we tend forget how beautiful BC is - a paradise close by.

Some pictures:
Saltspring

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