Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I wish you all the very best in the new year, 2010. 

I am enjoying a quiet evening with old friends in Whistler, we are all hoping we will manage to stay awake to toast the new year in with champagne (old fogeys that we are!). 

This afternoon some of us went cross-country skiing, some of us went snowshoeing. Leia the dog fell through the ice into a lake! But she valiantly pulled herself out, shook herself off, and proceeded as if nothing had happened. We however, noting the shivering of her hind legs, decided that our little expedition was over and we should hurry home. 

Hope everyone else manages to stay awake for the new year too...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Night walk

Last night I tried to take Hiro for a solo walk after dark, he just went crazy with joy to be out on the trail, running, leaping, jumping, even twirling in mid-air. It was great to see him so happy, but it did some damage to his wound so he doesn't get to go out off-leash any more. If you look closely you can just make Hiro out at the edge of the darkness. He's wearing a T-shirt to protect his wound.

While he was leaping for joy and tearing his wound apart, I was taking night photos...

The moon was only half full, but it was enough light to see quite clearly by, and there were sharp shadows on the bright snow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Downed in D'Arcy

The Teeny Tiny computer went belly up last night. It's been just over six weeks since I bought it and it appears to be kaput.

Wow. Probably the shortest lived computer I've ever had.

I called the store where I bought it and they said bring it in to the nearest outlet and they'd see what they could do for me. Because I bought the extended warranty the fellow I talked to said they would attempt to go the extra mile for me. Technically it's still under manufacturer's warranty so I'm supposed to deal with the manufacturer.

I have not backed up this computer since I left Toronto, but I don't think I've lost a lot. All my photos are still on my camera memory card, and my email on a Yahoo server. A few small files that I have downloaded might be lost but the fellow I talked to seemed to think they could recover the data from my hard drive at a reasonable cost. In the meantime Sam is loaning me the use of his laptop while I am at his place. After I leave here I'll be netbook-less until I get back to Toronto as I really don't have time to drop in at the nearest computer store outlet to have them look at my computer. And this still being the Christmas season I imagine they are terribly busy right now anyway.

It does feel weird though, not having my little netbook. You know you're an addict when a brief period of no access sends you into a tailspin! Really should do something about that, but I am at a loss as to what.

Aside from that setback things are fine here, we're just hanging out with the dogs.

Hiro is wounded and although he is feeling fine any rambunctious behaviour stresses the stitches and the wound is not healing properly. So we are trying to keep him more or less immobilized. Might be do-able if it were just him, but Hapi really really wants to play with him, so we have two very big, very frustrated dogs here.

This afternoon Hiro got loose just when I was trying to bring Hapi in from a walk; the two dogs took off in a great play fight all over the field in front of the cabin. I spent several minutes chasing them and yelling at them to quit that, which of course they had no intention of doing. I finally managed to collar Hiro but Hapi kept trying to attack him anyway.

I think it's going to take another couple of weeks for Hiro's wound to heal enough for him to be free to play again, I am sorry I will not be able to witness that.

Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Christmas Day, so this must be D'Arcy

Merry Christmas to everybody. I am at my son Sam's place in D'Arcy for a week, enjoying a winter wonderland in the mountains.

We celebrated Christmas a little early, a couple of days ago at Josh and Kim's place in New Westminster. It was a bit of a comedy of errors, Josh planned to have the turkey in the oven by 2pm, but with traffic delays and whatnot, we did not manage the trick until 4pm. However all turned out well, it was a great turkey and a great dinner. We took a break between the turkey and the apple pie to walk Brewster (the resident shih tzu) around the neighbourhood and look at Christmas lights.
I'll be in Whistler for New Year's, and if my stamina holds out, I'll be visiting Seattle briefly before heading home to Toronto. Am thoroughly missing my little truck for getting around!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A shameful first: child soldier faces trial for war crimes

According to today's Toronto Star, Omar Khadr---the only Canadian imprisoned at Guantanamo---may be moved to a new facility, "Gitmo North", just outside of Chicago. Omar faces trial before an American military commission, and will be the only child soldier in world history to be tried for war crimes. He was captured at age 15, seriously wounded, and charged with the murder of an American soldier (the evidence supporting this charge is rather sketchy).

Omar has been imprisoned without trial since 2002, suffered torture, and not been permitted any visits from his family in Canada.

Shame on the American government for torturing, charging and trying a child soldier, shame on the Canadian government for keeping silent.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This 'n' that

I'm not finding a lot of time to keep up the blog right now, so I'm afraid you're just going to have to be patient with me. However a few quickies today:

1) Yesterday the coldest place in the world was Edmonton Alberta, at -49C. Yikes!

2) A link on Rebecca's Pocket to The Seven Foods Experts Won't Eat. Yikes again, I'd say at least half of them are regulars in my diet...

3) I'm in Victoria BC now; we decorated a Christmas tree last night with eggnogs and rum in hand, Carolling, Carolling on the CD player, and a gentle snowfall outdoors. How seasonable! However the forecast is for warm temperatures and rain for the rest of the week so the snow will be short-lived.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

D'Arcy expedition

Josh and I drove up to Sam's place in D'Arcy last week, and I have only just now had a chance to write about it. Josh beat me to the punch, you can read his version of the trip at his blog. We photographed some of the same stuff, although I didn't photograph the Noxious Weed. Or the CC-177.

It was just an overnight trip, a three hour drive and arriving early afternoon, then leaving early afternoon the following day. We drove into town to see Sam's house and the D'Arcy waterfront (Sam lives in a rental cabin, and rents out his house), then walked back in the bush to see the now abandoned runway.

I had to laugh, Sam invited us to make sandwiches when we arrived, and Josh had to clean Sam's kitchen before attempting to prepare food in it. Usually that's what I do, clean up the kitchen as soon as I arrive there, but this time Josh did it. Since the last time I was there Sam has acquired a dishwasher, so at least the sink wasn't piled high with dirty dishes.

Then there's the dogs, Hapi and Hiro. Very sweet dogs. Huge, but sweet. Their fur is thoroughly matted with burrs from their daily walks in the bush, and it must be over four inches thick. It will have to be cut off before it can be brushed or combed, it is quite badly matted. They are used to sleeping outdoors, Sam has a very good kennel setup for them.

We went for quite a long walk the next morning up a logging road to a viewpoint and then back again in a large loop. It was cold and frosty with snow on the mountains but not in the valley.

The pine beetle is a huge problem in BC, I don't know how much pine forest has been lost to it, but it's a lot. The land where Sam lives has a lot of beautiful old ponderosa pine on it, the owner is trying to save it. This involves cutting down and destroying infected trees, and using pheromones to keep beetles away from healthy trees. They look like little white paper packets stapled to the tree trunks; they are supposed to convince the beetles that these trees are already occupied and they should look elsewhere for a pine tree to infest.

Trees that have to be cut down are debarked so that the cold winter will kill any beetles remaining in the tree.

Beetle traps are also attached to downed trees.

The beetles don't actually kill the tree themselves, but they carry a fungus that clogs the tree phloem and chokes the tree. All the needles turn red and fall off. An infested forest turns red, then grey.

When an infested tree is cut down, you can see the fungus stained wood just under the bark. It turns the wood blue.

They are attempting to market this blue-stained wood as interesting building material; it is still perfectly good pine wood but with a mix of the normal and blue colours.

The drive to and from D'Arcy is magnificent. We had lovely clear sunny weather for it, and Josh was driving so I got to enjoy the scenery. Many mountain vistas, views across Howe Sound to the mountains beyond, the ski hills of Whistler (mountains, not hills), the tall trees, and more.

There was snow on the ground in Whistler and the snow-making machines were very busy there preparing for the Winter Olympics. Josh tells me they imported hundreds of snow making machines for the occasion. Usually Whistler gets more than enough snow, but there has been the occasional winter when nature just didn't come through with the white stuff, so they're not taking any chances.

Security has flipped into high gear here, all the stories I heard about how China allowed no nonsense to occur there during the Olympics is no different from what is happening here. The place is turning into a police state for the occasion.

But I love the time I get to spend in D'Arcy, it is a wonderful place.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I had dinner with a friend last night. Mona (not her real name) used to be president of the strata council of the condo complex where I lived in New Westminster. In BC a condo complex is known as a strata. She sold and moved out about a year before I did, and when I sold my condo she offered me a house-sit while she went off to Arizona to visit family. It was timely for me, my condo was sold but I was not yet ready to move eastward.

Mona's parents lived in Burnaby, they were working class folks who raised a family and lived in the same house for over forty years. Mona is the youngest of three sibs, she has a sister in North Van and a brother in Arizona. As these things go, her parents began to show signs of dementia in their 80s. Mona, as the never-married daughter, became more and more involved in their lives, until last year she was spending all her weekends and after-work time at their home. She did get home-care help but it was tricky, her mother resented strangers in the house.

Then last August on a fine summer evening her parents went walk-about. For six hours. Mona was frantic, called the police, helicopters were called in, the whole nine yards. Eventually she got a phone call from someone who lived many miles away who had noticed an older couple sitting on the kerb in front of their home and had managed to coax a phone number out of them. It was time for a nursing home.

In BC you can get into a nursing home situation on subsidy fairly quickly, but there are strings attached. Major strings. You can for example look around your region and pick three nursing homes you like, but you won't get into any of them. You get slotted into one you don't particularly like and wait for a "lateral transfer" to one of your top three picks.

If you are a dementia patient, that first move into a crappy nursing home far from friends and family will probably kill you, so the lateral transfer will in all likelihood be unnecessary. In addition, if you are a married couple, you will be separated. The province will guarantee that you will be placed in the same complex, but the chances of being in the same room together are pretty slim if not non-existent. If you are a married couple with dementia, then for sure that move will kill you.

Mona's parents were hardworking frugal folks, it turned out when the kids went through all their papers, they realized that their parents were well off enough to afford private care. There would be no estate but their parents now had options. With private care they could be placed in a nursing home nearby in the same room.

"Private care" sounds superior, but in fact it is exactly the same as "public care". Mona and her sibs placed their parents in a nursing home that also has public care residents, and there is the slim possibility that her parents can shift to public care in the future and stay in the same accommodation. So the family home was sold, the family finances arranged to pay for the nursing home, at a whopping $9,000 a month. For a tiny room and less-than-perfect care.

Mona says that her parents got better care when they were still at home. At the nursing home she has found her Dad in dirty diapers, apparently unchanged for many hours. Their room reeks of urine, she has taken their laundry to her own home to wash. On $9,000 a month.

Mona is no wimp, she has reamed the nursing staff out on more that one occasion, made threats of dire consequences if they don't smarten up and treat her parents with dignity and respect. Her sister on the other hand is afraid of retaliation from the nursing home and tries to get Mona to shut up about the abuse, the sister is afraid that the parents will never get on the public care option if they rock the boat too much. Mona angers both the nursing home and her sister by continuing to advocate for her parents. I'm a bitch, she says.

Mona has no social life, she has lost a significant amount of weight in the past year. Her doctor applauds the weight loss but not the method of achieving it. She feels a tremendous amount of guilt because her mother is rather upset about losing her home and being forced by her own family to live in this godforsaken place. They are somewhat safer there, but have on occasion gone walk-about from the nursing home.

Once Mona was in Arizona visiting her brother when she was called that her parents had gone missing. Her response was, "And you are calling me because?" Did they expect her to rush back from Arizona to help in the search? Mona's mother can present as sufficiently normal to exit the nursing home as if she were a visitor there. But there is nowhere for them to go, their home has been sold to pay for the nursing home care.

Mona's sister says she will kill herself before she will let this happen to her. Mona says, How will you know when it is time? Do you know that dementia runs in families? Will you follow through on that plan when your mind is gone?

If we treated children like this, there would be public outrage about child abuse. It is OK to treat elders this way. Sooner or later, we are all elders.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.