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Jan 28, 2007

Forward utterances...

"Send in more troops!"
January 28, 2030 - An 85-year-old George Bush is pictured above, at the shooting range on Dick Cheney's ranch 'Baghdad', in Mexico, the newest American state. Mr. Bush was captured by photographers advising a successor president on foreign affairs. (with apologies to Norman Mailer)

A few perfect words

A few perfect words
and the haiku is defined:
a few perfect words

Jan 26, 2007

Oops! Grandpa wasn't a slasher

William Cardwell, the cotton slasher, is not my great-great-grandfather after all. In my previous blog I did not check my facts, leapt to a conclusion, and committed an act of identify theft. William Cardwell, the cotton slasher of 1881, from Preston, Lancashire, is someone else's great-great-grandpa, not mine. My William Cardwell, from Blackpool, Lancashire, was a farmer, and fell to his death from a hay wagon in 1868.
The mix-up came about because I got over-excited (...didn't think I still could) about the history of the Cardwell family, of which my recently-discovered, 3rd cousin, Marilyn Nagy, has been making me aware. My apologies, Marilyn, for not being patient and running off half-cocked. As a creative blogger, I make a lousy genealogy reseacher. Oh well, I've always learned my lessons the hard way. Maybe it's in the genes.
I have to be careful, with my cousin, not to besmirch her years of Cardwell research. She has been to Salt Lake City to check the Latter Day Saints' genealogical microfilm, and she has walked the streets of Blackpool, which are haunted by generations of Cardwells. So she knows of what she speaks. She may already be regretting her offer to share information with me.
And now I have to worry about the credibility of the family history book which I am writing, entitled 'In Search of a Better Life'. Until I admit that I am basically lazy or prematurely senile, all family history errors, from here on, shall be referred to as computer data malfunctions, which I will vigorously run to ground, in the pursuit of accuracy.
Well, as my friend Peter Marsh says: 'Until I knock on your back door,'
Please comment if you wish.

My great-great-grandfather was a slasher!

My great-great-grandfather, William Cardwell, was a slasher! A cotton slasher, that is, in Preston, Lancashire, England, in 1881. So says the British Census of 1881. His two daughters lived with him then. Mary was a housekeeper and Catherine was a cotton weaver. Presumably, Catherine worked at the same cottom mill as her father. A fourth person lived in William Cardwell's dwelling at 47 Maudland Bank, in Preston. Her name was Catherine Hodkinson. She was 81 years old, unmarried, and a lodger in William's home. Her birthplace was officially recorded as the '...Moor'. How intriguing. I've discovered all this through a new acquaintance and, hitherto unknown, 3rd cousin: Marilyn Nagy, of Goodyear, Arizona. Marilyn has being researching the Cardwell family history for several years and has kindly offered to share some of her research with me. I hope to include it in a family history book I have been writing for the past year and which I hope to finish this year...more on that another time.
Marilyn tells me she and her husband moved to Arizona about 10 years ago to escape Michigan's winters and snow. Yesterday, it was 20 degrees Celsius in the Phoenix, and minus 18 degrees Celsius here in King City, Ontario. I envy you, Marilyn.
I see by my calendar that Groundhog Day is just a week away (Feb. 2). I'd like to propose that Groundhog Day be celebrated in Washington, D.C. this year, on the lawn of the White House. If, when George W. comes out of his den, and doesn't see his shadow, the war in Eyewrack will be over in 6 more weeks. If he does see his shadow, the war in Eyewrack will be allowed to continue for just 6 more weeks. Back in his den, George won't remember these supposititious rules anyway and the wheels to stop the war will already be turning. Sadly, this January fantasy is an early April Fools joke. I probably should have found out if Marilyn Nagy is a Republican or a Democrat before I wrote the above. I may not get that genealogical research after all.
The caption under my picture, at the right, says 'old dog learning new tricks'. Starting my own blog site was one of those tricks. Embracing modern forms of the traditional 17-syllable Japanese haiku is another. Here, for the first time ever, are my attempts. The first is entitled Minus 18 and the second is entitled Birdbox.

Mercury down
Frozen degrees shatter on the icy snow
Hard sharp sticks
Soft feathers and moss
Eggs then birds
February 2 is also World Wetlands Day. Ask a politician what his or her plans are for wetlands this year.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 18, 2007

I have new great-grandparents

John Cardwell and Maria Atkinson have suddenly appeared in my past life that is. Well, not really in my lifetime, but back in my paternal grandmother's lifetime. Emma Cardwell, my father's mother, was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on August 26, 1884, and she was the daughter of John and Maria Cardwell. This is really important because I am writing a family history and did not know this information, until this week. This information was suddenly provided by Dr. Marilyn Nagy of Goodyear, Arizona. Like me, Marilyn Nagy is a great-grandchild of John Cardwell and his wife, Maria. Somehow she tracked-down my father's surviving, half-sister, June Rodgers, who now lives in Norval, Ontario, near Georgetown. I've written a letter to Dr. Nagy, asking for information, and am eagerly awaiting a reply. Goodyear is about halfway between Phoenix and the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona. It was sunny and about 16 degrees celsius there this week. Hmmm...maybe a visit to the good doctor is in order.
This week's haiku was actually written a couple of months ago, on the occasion of my 65th birthday. Both daughters and their hubbies took credit, but I think HJP might have been the real ghostwriter.
Jupa turns six-five
Grandkids look with wonderment
Could be just the beard

Jupa is short for Grandpa Jupiter. Neither of the ankle-biters can say Jupa yet, but I'm sure it's on the tips of their tongues. Why Grandpa Jupiter? Barry is such a wussy name. As Grandpa Jupiter, I can rant and roar and throw thunderbolts. Grandkids do need proper role models,
n'est ce pas? Speaking of grandkids, here's the latest photo (right) of grandson Will Bailey, who is now nine months old. Will's next-door-neighbours just returned from a vacation in China. Upon their return they presented Will with a gift, with which he could celebrate Chinese New Years. I have dubbed him 'The Little Emperor'.
Linda and I saw 'The Queen', starring Helen Mirren, this week. Unlike Queen Elizabeth, who is portrayed in the movie, as lacking of heart and acting badly, Helen Mirren couldn't act badly if she tried. My favourite Helen Mirren performance, apart from that of Inspector Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, is her turn as the wife in Peter Greenaway's 'The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover", the black comedy filmed in 1989. A warning about this film: it features cannibalism, frontal nudity, cruel violence and was rated R originally. Oh, and the cinematography is a masterpiece. So Helen Mirren has now played Elizabeths I and II on film. How many actresses can make that claim? Helen Mirren, by the way, is one of those women who proves that real sexiness has nothing to do with appearance.
Please comment if you wish.

Jan 13, 2007

Haikus, bluebirds, books

I don't want to die
I just want to end this life
The vacuum awaits
Haikus, by definition, are like snowflakes. No two are alike. They are supposed to be crystal-clear and succinct, the distillation of a thought to one inimitable meaning, and using 17 syllables. The one above wrote itself on my computer. I was pecking away at the keyword, trying to write my own haiku, looked up, and there it was. It was close to what I was trying to say, but appeared on its own. Is it about unhappiness, housecleaning, afterlife? I'm not sure, and yet it seems undiscardable. Yes, yes, I know. There is no such word as undiscardable, but this is about making up verse, so why not make up words. Words are, like life itself, sometimes perverse. Hence the challenge of the haiku. The one above appeared on my computer screen, so I have to take some ownership of it. In fact, one can write many similar haikus about the same thing, but in the end all but one must be withdrawn. So this is the one that remains. I feel a little cheated because I'm not sure where it came from. Oops! I just ended a sentence with a preposition.
Friends Pieter, Ron, Dennis and I spent the morning, yesterday, putting up nine Peterson birdboxes on posts, at Cold Creek Forest and Wildlife Centre, on the 11th of King. We also posted eight 'No Hunting' signs around the property. We have had hunters poaching deer with bows and arrows, while hikers and birdwatchers are in the same woods. Apparently hunting is allowed in some conservation areas - go figure. We are now up to 45 birdboxes at Cold Creek. Last year, every box was occupied, mostly by Tree Swallows and House Wrens, along with a few Eastern Bluebirds. The birdbox program seems to be a success. Last spring, I opened a bluebird box during nesting time and lifted a small child up close to see the tiny blue eggs. It was hard to say who was more thrilled, the young lad or his parents.
I am not generally a reader of fiction. Every once in a while I will pick up a book that has been recommended by someone who is an avid reader. More often than not, the book is excellent and I kick myself for not reading more fiction. Last week, my roomate, Linda, told me Mark Haddon's 'A Spot Of Bother', which she had just finished, was a good read. I'd noticed it was on The Globe & Mail's list of best books for 2006. I picked it up, started to read it and couldn't put it down. It rattled me to the core and I'm still upset. Linda thought it was sad, but funny. I thought the opposite: funny, but sad. It knocked me 'arse over tea kettle', as my Grandpa Thomas used to say. I guess that's what the really good books are supposed to do.
I think I'll go outside and get some sunshine. That always cheers me up. Oops, ended with another preposition.
Please comment if you wish. BtheB

Jan 8, 2007

What's in a blog name?

Friend Pieter Thoenes sent me an email this week addressed to barrythebirdertheblogger. That was followed by one from friend (and I use the term loosely) Peter Marsh addressed to barrythebooger. Then my sister Denise sent an email which she signed denise the drifter. When I asked her about this sign-off, she replied that when she and my other sister, Diane, saw my barrythebirder blogspot, they too had to have neat monikers. Hence, Denise, who likes to travel, is now denise the drifter. Diane, who likes to garden, is now diane the digger. My naughty sisters decided that our brother Bob should not be the one sibling left out. He is interested in insects and will henceforth be known as bob the bugger!
Well, let's get serious for a moment. This weather is spooky. I got an email this week from fellow-Baillie Birdathoner Diane Piche that she had seen Tundra Swans and Mergansers on Lake Wilcox last week. I swung by there after doing the grocery shopping and sure enough spotted a Tundra Swan and half a dozen Red-breasted Mergansers. These birds normally summer around Hudson's Bay and beyond. By January they should be nicely settled, down south in shallow, sheltered, salt water. They are particularly fond of the mid-Atlantic-states' coast. I sure hope they know what they're doing. Actually they could fly to the Carolinas in the same length of time it would take a carload of good-old-boy golfing buddies to drive from here to Myrtle Beach. The motivation would about the same: escaping freezing temperatures and snow.
My former colleague at Metroland, Sandra Althoff (now retired like me) emailed me to say she has a male Northern Cardinal waking her before dawn every day with its spring mating song. I guess he figures it's never too early to practise his pick-up lines for the ladies. Sandra said she also had Forsythia blooming in her backyard last week. I accused her of having too much eggnog and ?, but she swore it was true.
I cleaned out 33 birdhouses at Cold Creek Forest & Wildlife Centre last week in preparation for the new nesting season. Every box had been used by either Bluebirds, Tree Swallows or House Wrens, so our new nesting-box program is a real success. We're installing 9 more new boxes this week, which were assembled by students from the King City Secondary School Environmental Club.
This week's haiku...

Our brave army works
To protect poppies and Bush Oil
Too bad some must die

Please comment if you wish.

Jan 2, 2007

The blogyssey continues...UFOs

I noted with interest this week the headline about UFOs, out of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. This is no big deal, people. I see them all the time. I have many friends who see them regularly. We sometimes see them together and we're not shy about reporting them. As birdwatchers, we see Unidentified Flying Objects, or Unidentified Feathered Objects, everywhere. Just last week, while hiking with good friend, Pieter Thoenes, at Cold Creek Forest & Wildlife Centre, on the 11th of King Township, I spotted one that I had never seen at Cold Creek before. Drawn by its eerie presence, I crept closer and closer. Turns out it was a Brown Creeper and it became the 111th bird on the Cold Creek Bird Species List.
There is another whole segment of the birdwatching community out there who prefer to call hard-to-identify birds, like the Brown Creeper, LBJs, or Little Brown Jobbies. They people have their feet firmly planted on the ground and can be a little boring.
I came across two new nectars during Christmas and New Years. The first was offered up by Friend Thoenes, who shared a dram of his Glenrothes Vintage Malt Whiskey which I can only describe as sublime. The other was Forty Bench Barrel Select Whisky, shared by my sister-in-law, Marg Asbury and her husband, Richard. Smells like Port, go downs like a Scotch, but is all-Canadian. On the palate, it's like a moose antler - big, bold and beautiful, and the finish is as smooth as an otter's belly.
Old friends, Cam Inglis and Murray Skinner, both think I missed a golden opportunity, with my first blog, to morph from BarrytheBirder to BarrytheBlogger. Oh well, life's rich pageant is filled with lots of those little missed chances. Daughter number one, Allison, thought it was 'cool!', while daughter number two, Auralee (the writer and English professor), can't believe her old man's got a blog site before she has.
I have two haikus this week and they are for my new grandkids, Will and Emmy, who are pictured below, at Christmas.

I was an ancient
Then you were born my grandson
Joy is bouncing back

Bright brown eyes pierce me
My life is starting over
This child is a gift

Well, I must wrap this up. It's a beautiful day and I have to cut the grass. I wouldn't surprise me at all to see snow one of these days, before the end of January.

Please comment if you wish, BtheB