Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A learning experience

The child is three years old. It has been a learning experience watching her learn words.

Mama and Dada came first, easily. Followed by Pa and Ma [Grandpa and Grandma].

The name of objects also came easily – show her something new, or she brings an item, a question in her eyes. Tell her the word for it and it seems she holds the word in her mouth as if tasting it. She repeats it once or twice out loud, and is done. She will remember.

An interesting part of this process was witnessing her learn and understand abstract concepts: time, space, quantities, qualities.

She learned her numbers to the teens. I think learning by rote, like singing a song repeatedly until you know it [baa baa black sheep...] becomes automatic after a while. But knowing the words of the numbers is not the same as understanding them. 

One day, two grapes lay on her table. She raised one finger, said the word "one," then raised a second finger. "Two." It was as if something clicked, because she has been counting ever since.

About the same time, she began speaking in terms of, well, time. She now knew the greater the number, the more time was available. Bedtime. "Two more minutes?" became "five more minutes." She began saying "later" "tomorrow" "next time." These are things she did not learn by herself but heard others say and pieced together their meaning.

"Too far!" She said to someone who was, well, too far to catch the ball she was throwing. "Ready!" When she was prepared to catch the ball.

She began using what I call "degree words" when eating her dinner. Ask her how something tastes, she'll either nod enthusiastically with two thumbs up, make an "ugh" face, or say "not bad." Ask her if she wants more she'll say, "a little bit." Ask her if she's done, "almost."

It came so fast – the multisyllable words, back and forth conversations with the rest of us or with whichever toy is talking to her. 

Parents are the major influence when it comes to children learning words, then grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins. Then there's that big influencer – television. And an iPad her parents set up for her with kids' learning games, music and songs, and some of the thousands of child-related websites. 

Learning is never finished, though. There will always be something new. But I have a feeling this child will do well in school, and life.

Earlier, she stood on a kitchen chair, flung out her arms, and announced, "I'm King of the world!"

Well, maybe she will be.

— Cat

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bring on the robots –

Sex robots. I guess those inflatable dolls aren't good enough. Too much one-sided action.

I couldn't find anything on Snopes, but I did find the article that was on the news about it. Even so, I'm still a huge skeptic.

So, is this someone's fantasy to fill a void in their life? Husband and I asked each other a number of questions pertaining to such a robot. Does she talk? [Or just moan?] Is she warm to the touch? Is she interactive, that is, is her response aggressive, passive, hot to trot? Surely she can be programmed to play different personas?

We had other questions, and comments, not fit for public viewing.

I imagine they would come in all colors – hair, eyes, skin. And all sizes, because some men prefer petite, others curvy.

And my big question – do they make a man sex robot? Now I grant you, many women already have a small sex robot that works fine. But some might prefer to cuddle with a handsome, lifeless, souless bot who will listen but never comment, who follows every order, who exists to please.

And yes I discovered they do have them. Interesting article in GQ about their skills and how good they can be for a marriage.

Watch them fly off the shelves. Both sexes. That is, if they're real. And if not, it was a good joke. [Can't believe anything on the news – it's all likely fake, given us by Russians or maybe North Koreans.] 

In an age where there are so many problems, isn't it nice to see that researchers are tackling all the important issues first?
— Cat   [the articles I referred to may not show that they are linked, but they are. Just click the word 'article'above, there are two of them, if you want to read further.]

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking – 1942 – 2018

                                                      RIP Stephen Hawking


                                                                January 8,1942 –  March 14 2018

                                                          You are my hero!

– Cat

Friday, March 09, 2018

Oh that fun computer!

A series of blunders

A few weeks ago I succeeded in deleting an important folder from my desktop. I don't know how it happened, only that it did. Could not find the folder in the recycle bin or anywhere on the computer.  Wasn't worried at first because I have an external hard drive backup system. Should be no problem restoring the missing folder. Right?

And now I'm ashamed to admit that in the four or so years I've had this backup I never learned how to use it. I didn't have a reason. So it was a complete mystery to me.

It took me three days to find the folder. Just getting into the external drive was hard enough. Then, I could not find my folder, or anything else in fact, because the stupid thing only backed up my C drive. Programs and settings. The D drive, all my data, was not getting backed up. For a whole year!

Last year, on February 2, 2017, a computer geek brought me a new computer and used the external backup to transfer everything from my old computer. I paid no attention to how it was done and only knew that it did the trick. Everything was transferred, and the geek set up the external hard drive to backup my new computer. [So it was his fault, right?]

Thankfully, my old computer data until February 2, 2017 was still on the external backup drive,  And there was my missing folder [minus, of course, anything I added and 2017].  Just as I was ready to grab that folder the lights on the external drive began flashing like crazy.  Then the flashing stopped. And it seemed the drive no longer existed, no longer showing on the computer.

Before I could get through cussing, the power suddenly went out, the house, the neighborhood, were totally dark. Great. Just what I needed!

I read by candlelight for about an hour, and then like magic the lights came back on. And the external drive was back, lights and all, intact. That missing folder is now on my desktop again!

I downloaded a recommended recovery program to search for any 2017 files from the folder, but because I didn't know that I should not have used my computer until I recovered the files, they were overwritten and unrecoverable.

Learn something new every day.

I decided I had better figure out how to setup the external drive to back up all my data.  More bad news. Clickfree, the maker of the external drive, was no longer in business. I could find no information, no help, no support, only a bunch of dissatisfied customers.

Doing some research on which external hard drive/backup is easy to use and comes with support.

So there went 3 to 4 to 5 days of aggravation and worry. And then the other shoe dropped.

A day or two later my speech recognition program suddenly stopped working. Not a problem, I thought. This happened before. Uninstall the program. Reinstall from a disk. It took about 45 minutes, and everything was humming, then a message popped up that setup failed due to corrupt registry keys or drivers.

I may try to fix it myself, or I may just hire a tech expert to do it for me. In the meantime, I'm using windows speech recognition, which works OK, but is not really user friendly. And because I'm still running on windows 7, it's about eight years old and needs an update badly. Which will never happen.

I'll need to throw in the towel and get windows 10.
But not before making sure everything is backed up!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sparrow's Journey

As they have done for the last few years, sparrows have chosen one of our hanging fuchsia plants in which to build their nest and get on with the business of life.

We don't know if it's the same pair of sparrows who return year after year, or if it's one of their offspring. They busily collected twigs and sticks, and for several days flew into and out of the plant.

Finally the nest was complete, and on May 10, the nest became a nursery.

The sparrows continued to fly into and out of the planter, usually approaching from underneath. On May19th we noticed the eggs had hatched. Mom and Dad sparrow were now busier than ever. Insects, worms, bird seeds – constantly feeding the little ones.

By May 24…

And the work of the providers continued. Back and forth, back and forth Mom and Dad sparrow flew to keep the hungry little birds fed. By May 29…

The babies had feathers! In less than a week they learned to fly, left the nest, and never came back.
At least we think they never came back. Maybe they returned at night and slept there. Maybe they just grew so big we didn't recognize them, couldn't tell them apart from their mom and dad or any other sparrow.

Baby birds don't stay small for long. We learned this one year when crows hatched some eggs in a nearby tree. Those babies cawed and cawed  all day, it seemed. I had the mistaken expectation that crow babies would be cute, at least for a little while.

But when I finally saw one that had fallen from the nest, I got a reality check. The baby was as big and ugly and temperamental as any full-size crow.

Well, that's nature. Hatch the eggs, feed them fast, throw them out of the nest. What birds do in two weeks takes humans 20 or more years  to accomplish with their young.

It's nice to know these birds feel safe enough to nest in our presence.  [The abundance of bird seed holders we have might also factor into their decision. A regular bird smorgasbord!]

– Cat

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cosmic conversations

He: I heard they shot a rocket into space the other day. Going to Mars? The moon?

Me: heading to the International Space Station with a load of supplies.

He: so, what kind of supplies?

Me: if I had to guess, I'd say food and toilet paper...

He: ha ha. Wonder what they'd do if they ran out of food.

Me: they'd have to eat each other.

He: what, like you eat my hand and I'll eat yours? Kind of impractical.

Well, at least one of us is sensible.


He: I heard they discovered a bunch of new planets...

Me: yeah. Far far away. They call them exoplanets.

He: and one of them could be another earth...

Me: lots of people on this earth are probably ready to pack up and leave. New planets to plunder. Too bad they are so far away. 39 light years.

Considering a light year is 9 trillion km, it'll probably take 500 years to get there.

[Apparently the current fastest spaceship would take more than 18,000 years to travel 1 ly. So my calculation's a bit off. A lot off, according to the link..]

space travel time

He: guess  they have to invent warp speed. Beam me up, Scotty...

Me:  who knows – maybe they already have and aren't telling anyone. I think they're also working on teleporters. The future is now.

And now I have his picture in my mind. Billionaire explorers land on new earth and find it's a beautiful unspoiled world inhabited by peaceful natives who take care of their planet. There will be a "take me to your leader" moment. And then the natives will be decimated. Oh, wait, didn't all this already happen?

He: maybe they learned their lesson...

Me: I have become a pessimist where earthlings are concerned.

And here's a cute lesson on our own solar system.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Remember Mama

Judy Hartwell  January 10, 1922 –  June 21, 2016

Mom would be 95 today.

Although it's been six months since her death, I still catch myself thinking did she see or hear about that, or I wonder what she'll say when I tell her this, about a news story, or showbiz gossip, things she was interested in. And then I remember ...

And I have many memories of Mom. A few highlights:

Whenever she sang those familiar German songs, all was right with the world.

Christmas Eve was a big event in our house. We would dress up in our finest clothes and line up, smallest to biggest. [the line got longer every two years!] When we heard a bell tinkling, we entered the living room and got our gifts. Pandemonium! And lots of fun. Turkey and potato salad for dinner. The one time of year we were allowed to drink Canada Dry Ginger Ale. And of course the delicious cookies and fruitcakes she made.

When I was nine, the second oldest of six, we moved into a new three-bedroom house. With Mom and Dad there were eight of us, sometimes nine when Granny came. One bathroom! But Mom made it work. We had our chores and the young ones were well-behaved. Though rambunctious at times.

Mom was a good cook. She always had our meals ready: breakfast, lunch, dinner. We ate healthy. Liver, spinach, tasty when she made it, not so much when I tried. Fridays were fish day. And Palatschinken, pan sized crepes filled with jam and rolled up, dusted with powdered sugar. Special treat! [The only other person? I ever heard say the word was the Count on Sesame Street!] I think about those weekly food shopping trips and shudder. As she had so much to look after besides groceries, it was convenient that  throughout the 50s so many things came to the door: milk, bread, dry cleaning. She kept track of everything, including the weekly $0.35 to the paperboy and the $1 donation every Sunday to the church.

She was what today they call a fashionista. She kept up with the latest styles–how I loved peeking through her closet. My school friends always commented on how good she looked. In the late 60s/early 70s she was more modern than me! [Miniskirts, hotpants, high boots…]

Once a week she would get her hair done. And every week a surprise for us. Would she be blonde? Redhead? Raven black? Once she came home with blue/green hair! It was for display, for her stylist. And I do believe she or her picture were on TV. One of those local noon hour shows on our Edmonton CFRN television station.

Mom always kept our brood together on vacation trips. She had a system. She kept track of the youngest child. Then the oldest kept track of the next youngest. And so on. The highlight of my life, at age 11, was our trip to California. Dad borrowed a small trailer from a friend. Li'l Loafer. And it was SMALL. Comfy for four? But Mom made it work. Six slept in the trailer, two, either Mom and Dad or my sister and I slept in the car. I remember the route we took, the cities we saw, how we all sang "California Here I Come" over and over.

Good thing there weren't seatbelt laws in those days. Dad and Mom were in the front seat, along with my older sister holding the youngest; I and my three younger brothers played, argued, read, and slept in the backseat.

Then there were carefree summer vacations spent at a cottage at Lake Eden. And once again, for eight people it was a SMALL cottage. Two bedrooms, kitchen, living room.  Outhouses strategically located. But for us it was the greatest place. Mom made it so.

In May 1965, Mom had her seventh child. Less than three months later we went to the lake as usual, and Mom wore her bikinis as usual, without any sign that she had just given birth!

In June of that year my sister got married and left home. So there were six of us again. A year later I married and left home. In 1967, Mom, Dad, and the five younger kids moved to British Columbia. Every few years we would visit them, always returning home saying, "We  have to move there one day."

That day came in July, 1980, when we packed all our belongings and moved to B.C. Mom, Dad, and my youngest brother were living on a lovely acreage in South Surrey. [The oldest of my brothers got married in 1973, the next oldest died in 1975, the next one lived in his own house, and my younger sister moved out in 1976.

Over the next 20 years Mom saw her family expand as everyone got married and had children: 17 grandchildren. Family get-togethers were fun and hectic. [And still the family grows – 11 great-grandchildren at last count. . .]

When my father died in 2001, I, my husband and son moved in with Mom in the big South Surrey house. It was 35 years since I last lived with her, and I worried that it might be awkward, for we had grown apart, separated by time and distance.

But how amazing to discover we had much in common. Starting with some TV programs that we both enjoyed. Every day we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. We were both fond of Frasier and watched it together until its cancellation. We watched every figure skating competition on TV and became armchair critics of each skater's style and outfit. I found it curious that both of us had over the years watched almost every British mystery series on PBS  and CBC.  How we loved the original Sherlock Holmes shows, and of course our beloved Poirot. And, we even watched the same soap opera!


Mom kept scrupulous track of her finances. In that again I echoed her, having for years tracked bills and mortgages on spreadsheets, first by hand, then by computer. She did everything by hand, and didn't quite trust calculators–she did math on paper or in her head. Oddly, I've done the same.

She kept on top of the news and knew what was happening where and when in the world, and never failed to voice her opinion on world leaders, reality stars, or the mayor of Vancouver. She had a radio beside her bed tuned to an all-news channel. She never listened to anything else unless it was Strauss waltz music by AndrĂ© Rieu. 

Mom and I were both readers. She went through the morning newspaper from cover to cover, as did I. She read magazines and her weekly TV guide until her eyesight started failing and she needed a magnifying glass to make out the words.

In 2004 Mom sold the old acreage and purchased a new one several blocks away. Her "dream house" she called it, and was so happy and proud to live there. We moved with her, and enjoyed the larger space, the beautiful yard, the quiet neighbourhood. We had such good times there together.

But in 2010, after nine years with us, she decided that at 88 it was time for her to move to an assisted living facility. We purchased the house from her, and though it was ours, it took us a long time to get over calling it Mom's house. [Even now, we call the bedroom she used "Mom's room."]

She had a lovely suite at Whitecliff, and I believe she was happy there. Once a week we picked her up and went to IHOP for dinner [a habit we had gotten into when we first moved in with her]. There we could catch up on what we thought about world events, our soap opera, what our kids were up to, gossip about our waiter, who we had come to know quite well, or the world travels of the lady who trimmed our toenails.

What a sharp mind and terrific memory she had. She told us many tales of her childhood and youth, about a world so different from ours. It was easy to see her as a sassy teenager and bold young woman. Come to think of it, she was still sassy and bold till near the end. 

In early 2016 Mom suffered a health episode from which she never fully recovered, and on June 21 she passed from life.

But the memories live on. As does the music. For you Mom, with love, from Cathrine: