Jack’s Walk

Jack is not ready to go home. ©voyager, all rights reserved.

Here are some things I’ve learned from Jack.

  1. Winter is the most wonderful time of the year, especially if there’s lots of snow.
  2. Cold weather gives you energy and calls for prancing and pouncing.
  3. Chasing invisible mice through the snow is great fun.
  4. Smells are more interesting in the snow.
  5. Yellow snow is especially interesting and requires long and careful sniffing.
  6. You need to leave p-mail in more places when there’s snow, so tank up.
  7. A walk around the neighbourhood will take 50% longer because of all the above.
  8. Scooting in the snow feels nice and is a great way to wipe your bum.
  9. Lying down in the snow is fun and makes your belly go bright red.
  10. Lying down in the snow is also a great way to make your walk last even longer, so stop and drop often.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 8

Calling all rockhounds…Here’s Nightjar with the exciting next chapter in her series.

Chapter 8 – West Hill: Phyllite rocks!

It’s not only the vegetation that is different here, the rocks are very different too. We left sedimentary rocks behind and we are now in the domain of metamorphic rocks. Mostly phyllites. Phyllite is a metamorphic rock originating from shale sediments, it’s soft and highly foliated, easy to split into sheets, and it smells of clay. The most wonderful characteristics? The colours and the sheen! You can’t mistake that sheen for anything else. Phyllites here are really pretty.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Tree Tuesday

Trees in the News: According to Vox, the trees at Joshua Tree National Park in California are now one step closer to extinction thanks to the current US government shutdown.

According to National Parks Traveler, visitors are creating illegal roads and driving into some of the park’s most fragile areas. They are also chopping down trees, setting illegal fires, and graffitiing rocks. With Joshua Tree being roughly the size of Delaware, the eight on-duty law enforcement rangers had no way to stop all the prohibited activity.

Joshua trees are already facing possible extinction, with scientists claiming that the Joshua Tree habitat will be lost to climate change by 2100. Smith told National Geographic in October, “We’re just in crisis mode right now.” Twenty days into the government shutdown, vandals are accelerating the trees’ demise.

Why? Why must people be so short-sighted and destructive? The article at National Parks Traveler notes that Joshua trees were cut down so that 4 wheelers could go around entrance gates. Once inside the trespassers continued their destruction, tearing up virgin desert, running over plants, camping in off-limits areas, leaving behind heaps of trash and generally behaving like 3 year olds high on sugar and let loose in a toy store with no supervision. It’s one more thing we can add to the list of things that Trump is destroying.

Cracking the Iron Curtain

[Note: This is not a historian’s overview of the events, so if you want to pick at the historical details, feel free to do so but don’t expect me to participate. I have compiled several sources of information and added my own personal impressions. That is all.]

It was two weeks in the frigid January air, two weeks waiting for an unknown future, two weeks that culminated in a night of violence but a final victory, of sorts.

The Barricades (LatvianBarikādes) were a series of confrontations between the Republic of Latvia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in January 1991 which took place mainly in Riga. The events are named for the popular effort of building and protecting barricades from 13 January until about 27 January. Latvia, which had declared restoration of independence from the Soviet Union a year earlier, anticipated that Soviet Union might attempt to regain control over the country by force. After attacks by the Soviet OMON on Riga in early January, the government called on people to build barricades for protection of possible targets (mainly in the capital city of Riga and nearby Ulbroka, as well as Kuldīga and Liepāja). Six people were killed in further attacks, several were wounded in shootings or beaten by OMON. Most victims were shot during the Soviet attack on the Latvian Ministry of the Interior on January 20. One other person died in a building accident reinforcing the barricades. Casualties among Soviet loyalists are considered likely, but the exact number remains unknown. A total of 15,611 people have registered as having been participants of the Barricades,[citation needed] but other data suggests that more than 32,000 Latvians took part.


There’s a small photo gallery here (25 photos).

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Jack’s Walk

The River Thames, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Finally, it’s proper winter in my part of Canada. On Saturday we had an old-fashioned snow storm with lots of blowing and drifting and when it was over we had an accumulation of about 15 cm of snow ready to be shoveled.  On Sunday, though, the sun broke through and everything sparkled and glimmered and the world was so bright that I needed shades. Today the sun is back again and its glow on my face felt warm even though the temp was only about -12 C. Jack is as happy as a tick and spent our entire walk snorfling in the snow chasing imaginary mice and pouncing like a cat on the tracks left by rabbits. I  may be a bit giddy from all this light, but it’s a glorious day and walking with Jack felt like a treat.

Mt. Lofty

Some beautiful night shots from Lofty,

Well it was too hot to sleep well this morning, so I got up at 4:30am and rode my bicycle across the top of our little mountain, Mt Lofty. The city lights sparkled below while the Flinders Column kept watch with the planet Venus looking over its shoulder. The restaurant lights allowed the local magpies to forage for moths and stuff. After a quiet moment I swoosh back home at 60km/h for a cup of tea and breakfast. The forecast top for the city today is for 41°C. Some places in the deserts north of us reached 47-48°C yesterday.


©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

©Lofty, all rights reserved

I hope you’re finding ways to stay cool, Lofty. Thanks for sharing.

Not a Solution

To be honest, it’s a serious medical condition, but I can’t help but feel a smidgeon of envy:

A woman in China is making headlines for a rare type of temporary hearing condition that makes her unable to hear men. According to the Daily Mail, the patient, only identified as Ms. Chen, woke up one morning and couldn’t hear her boyfriend speak.

Unfortunately, the condition seems to be brought on by a lot of stress and fatigue:

The night before, Chen felt nausea and suffered from a ringing in her ears. She was also under a lot of stress, working late and not getting enough sleep. Chen thought little of it and went to sleep as usual before waking up with the condition.

Doctors were initially puzzled by her symptoms, but she was eventually diagnosed with “reverse-slope hearing loss, in which she could only hear high frequencies.”


Dr. Xiaoqing believes fatigue and too much stress may have contributed to Chen’s hearing loss and expects her to make a full recovery.

I’m glad to hear, but perhaps in the meantime, someone can invent a certain type of earphones that produces the same effect? I’d buy a pair and wear them at work. It won’t stop the mansplaining, but it might buffer enough sound to reduce my annoyance.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 7

Here is Nightjar with the next chapter in her series.

Chapter 7 – West Hill: Going Up

We are now at the southern base of the West Hill and the entrance looks inviting. We are in a totally different environment, the soils here are obviously more fertile and can sustain denser vegetation. Let’s go up.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Fearless Tit

Yesterday we had sun, but I did not have camera ready. Today I had camera ready, but there was no sun. I got lots of blurry or dark pictures of dinosaurs.

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

At least some of the tits became accustomed to feeding directly at the windowsill. They flee when we move too suddenly behind the window, but as long as we are careful, they do not mind. They are the only birds who do, others are not as fearless. Tits are really forward.

Driftwood Art

This short informative video caught my eye the other day:

The CBC covered the artist a couple of years ago:

When Alex Witcombe decided to make a raptor from driftwood, he never thought it would get so much attention.

The Comox Valley resident enjoys strolling on beaches and looking at the driftwood, and that became his studio space.

“I like the gnarly pieces,” he says. “Ones with character.”

One summer day he was walking on Stories Beach in Campbell River when he was just inspired by the driftwood and got to work, building ‘Sheila the dinosaur’ in just a day.

And now he does animals, aliens, and imaginary beasts, too! He’s also on Instagram. Here’s a couple more samples, via Seashore Inspirations:

And my favourite:


Slavic Saturday

I was not struck by inspiration this week, so today’s Slavic Saturday is going to be a bit silly. I am going to show you the various forms that one word can take in Czech within the various cases.

Our word will be the word for a dog, which in Czech is a noun of the masculine (animate) gender and in its singular form is universal to slavic languages. Btw, Czech has four genders – masculine (animate), masculine (inanimate), feminine and neutral. That means a lot of fun.

Lets start with singular grammatical cases:

pes – nominative
psa – genitive and accusative
psu/psovi – dative, locative
pse – vocative
psem – instrumental

That is not all, there is also plural:

psi/psové – nominative and vocative
psů – genitive and accusative
psům – dative, locative
psech – locative
psy – instrumental

Of course that still is not all, there is also singular diminutive:
pejsek – nominative
pejska – genitive and accusative
pejskovi/pejsku – dative, locative
pejsku – vocative
pejskem – instrumental

And plural diminutive:

pejsci/pejskové – nominative, vocative
pejsků – genitive
pejskům – dative
pejsky – accusative, instrumental

But that is not the only diminutive. There is also alternative diminutive “psík”. And “psíček”. And “pejsánek”. And “pejsáneček”. The “če” you can then add for further diminution in principle ad infinity. It would sound silly to say it more than once, but it is gramatically correct.

And there is also augmentative “psisko”.

And the adjective “psí”. Which has different forms depending on the gender of the noun it qualifies.

But I won’t torture you with all their forms, you are brave enough if you read so far. To learn this is a torture even for native speakers. No wonder foreigners have rather hard time when they try to learn this. But at least we are not the worst, there are languages with more cases even here in Europe (looking sideways at the finno-ugric family).

Jack’s Walk

Millenial Trail, ©voyager, all rights reserved

I’m sorry that Jack’s Walk didn’t get posted yesterday. It was one of those days. The day began suddenly when a painter, painting in my friend V’s living room, fell 5 feet from a ladder while holding a gallon of white paint. V and I were both still sleeping soundly when it happened, but the sudden crash and cries of pain woke us both bolt upright right away. The fellow was already up and trying to mop up, but his forearm was lacerated and there was blood. And paint. Everywhere. My first thought was actually “Wow! That’s just like in cartoons!” and I had to stifle a nervous giggle. My next thought was “Oh, shit. Where’s the cat?” and finally, when I’d taken in the whole scene, it occurred to me that I’m trained in first aid and should be doing something more useful than standing there gaping. It was just so spectacular to see. Probably a once in a lifetime thing to see. I wish I  had pictures, but it didn’t even occur to me to take one. We sent the painter home with an icepack and encouragement to see a Dr. and then began the tedious chore of wiping up white paint spots from literally every surface in the room. The small spots dried quickly and required some scraping and the large spots just schmeared and made more of a mess. By the time I looked at my watch it was 12 o’clock and I had a 12:30 train to catch. The rest of the story is familiar to every weary traveler; hurry-up and wait. It’s about missed connections and not having a chance to eat. It’s about feeling grubby and irritable and wasted, but then finally it’s about being home. A Very Good Place to be.

Surrounded by Rocks: An Exploration Series, Chapter 6

It’s time for the next chapter by Nightjar and today we’re looking up to see the vast landscape around us.

Chapter 6 – East Hill: The Views


I’m always searching for rocks, fossils, flowers and insects, and often I have to remind myself to look up at the views. But let’s look up from the ground now. The first thing we see are some windmills in ruins. There are several here and they were made with limestone, of course.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Looking down south we can see the vineyards in their full autumn display and some green fields. The round trees in the foreground and among the vineyards are olive trees. There are still many people here that produce wine and olive oil for their own consumption and to share with family. My family’s vineyard is a little bit more to the right and not shown in the photo.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

On the foothill there is the village’s soccer field. A match was about to start!

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Let’s look west now. Those houses are the northern part of the village and in the background we can see the West Hill. It looks very different in terms of vegetation density, doesn’t it? Can you guess what those trees are?

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

In the next chapter we will explore the West Hill and see this one from the other side!

Thanks, Nightjar.