Archive for March, 2015

Electronic books

As the family well knows, I love to read books.  I have always been a book reader since a kid and even when I had a busy life.  I currently read between 50 and 60 books a year.  Granted not that spectacular I suspect to some, but more than most people.

I love to open a book and savour the opening line that is the true sign if the author is serious in his or her craft.  It was a dark and stormy night……….

A few years ago my Brother-in-law Ralph was showing off his Kindle and telling me this was the way to go.  My kids told me the same thing as did other friends, but I stayed true to the proper tradition of paper and print.  Then I bought an IPad.  Now the family knows we bought it to replace the Sonos hand controller not as a reader.  As it turned out we did not need it for that role and I started experimenting with the Apps that have taken the world by storm.  Who of my generation, knew you could point it at the sky and recognize planes flying by or constellations?  Who knew your could point this thing at a scene, take a picture and immediately email to the family?  Who knew that Angry Birds could teach you hand-eye coordination?

In one major development I received and then purchased some books that I could read with this device.  At first reluctant to give up the texture of paper and physically turning the page, I became enthralled.  A device no thicker than a small cutting board .  Just touch the right hand of the screen and there is the new page.  Just go to the library and there are 80 books just waiting for me (I have added a few)  Furthermore there is instant access to the internet with only a button push away to look up terms or pictures referred to in the novel that in the past you only shrugged and said “whatever that is”.

Over the last year it has been practically the only way I read books.

However today I decided to start reading the Ken Follett trilogy starting with Fall of Giants.  I have been waiting to start this for some time. Without a doubt my favorite book of all time was his ‘Pillars of the Earth’ .  I was given a hard copy of the Fall of Giants book as a gift from my family some time ago.

So I am lying in bed last night propping up this tomb of a book (1000 pages) on my chest and wondering how people managed to read these heavy things over the last 1000 years.  Furthermore I have to have a night light on and I could easily get paper cuts from the pages.  Going to be hard to tell my great grandchildren the joy of reading an actual book.  Hope it does not fall over on me if I nod off and crush me.



Sunday afternoon and Pat and I attended a Cello concert with several singers presenting Bach and Mozart at her church.  These are all local artists and the event was a fund raiser for a group providing water to a series of Honduras villages.

Many years ago we might go to Roy Thompson hall in Toronto on a Sunday for classical enlightenment.  Today’s show was not quite as professional but way beyond what you would expect from local people.  The Cellist was wonderful but of course brought up and trained in Korea but now lives here.  What Canadian kid spends years learning to play the Cello?

I remember as a kid going to events where local musicians and singers presented.  My sister was a wonderful singer and I attended many of the presentations because she was one of the artists.

Along came TV and afternoon football and hockey and who goes out for local cultural events any more?  Not a bad day.

Ukrainian Specialties

Problem with this title is I am probably going to get a million hits but there are no recipes attached so move on…..

Cabbage Rolls, Perogies and Kolbassa sausage.  The fundamental Ukrainian specialties.  My sister married a Ukrainian and I was introduced to these items early in life.

We have learned to make our own Cabbage Rolls but for Perogies and Kolbassa we have always purchased.  Perogies can be bland but there is a network of stores that promise The World’s Best Kolbassa.

For many years in the various places where we lived, there would be regular fund raising events where local Ukrainian women would sell their home made items.

It has been many years since we were able to attend one of these.  Lets face it there are not a lot of Ukrainian farmer families in Oakville Ontario or for that matter on Vancouver Island.

You can imagine our excitement when we saw a notice in the local paper last week that the Comox Ukrainian society would hold a sale of “home made” Ukrainian specialties at the Comox Mall on Saturday morning.  We learned from friends that this is an annual event (which we had not seen before) and they sell out quickly.

This Saturday Pat and I went early and even then there was a lineup to the small set of tables.

I was initially disappointed because there was not a single lady in a Babushka or wearing a print dress behind the table.  They actually looked like regular valley women.

Never-the-less we bought some cabbage rolls and perogies and a Kolbassa.  I was further disappointed when they produced the Kolbassa from a box of pre packaged and vacuum sealed sausages from some meat company.  Only afterward realized the meat company was a small specialty company in Saint Paul Alberta.  Lets face it outside of getting a Kolbassa from Kviv Ukraine, you cannot get more authentic than St Paul Alberta.

We had some of the cabbage rolls tonight and they were wonderful.  Granted Pat can make just as good but she spent a lifetime augmenting the recipe from one she acquired from a friend at the Ukrainian cultural festival in Toronto and uses pickled cabbage from the recipe used by her Grandma Sullivan.  Not the store brand frozen cabbage rolls.

Great meal and more to come.



A new Start

Well it is a reflective time when I finish a model, particularly one like the Victory that has taken almost 4 years.  I have a couple of small details before it is complete but must await a flag that I ordered from England.

Not letting any grass grow under my feet, I have already started my next project.  It will be The Mathew the caravel that John Cabot sailed in 1497 to discover North America (or rediscover if you believe the Vikings)  John Cabot was Italian and traveled to Bristol to find a sponsor for his voyage of discovery.  The Mathew was supplied by local merchants.  It was a small (50 ton) craft more suited for local freight delivery around the English Channel and maybe into Spain.  He sailed across to what is now believed to be Bonavista in NewFoundLand and later explored the coast of Labrador and possibly Nova Scotia and claimed the land for England.  As such he actually preceded Christopher Columbus in reaching the mainland since Columbus had only landed on Caribbean Islands at this point.

The first step in building a ship or a model is laying the keel (in this case along with the sternpost, and the stem)  That is as significant a date as the actual launching.  I had a few glasses of wine to celebrate that evening (granted not much different than many other nights.   This model has been commissioned by Ryan and Corrie.

Keel of

Keel of

Will my Hobby Pay Off?

I have been building ship models for probably 35 years.  It is a great hobby but one declining in interest.  Who wants to spend years in a small shop cutting little pieces of wood and drawing bamboo for trenails.  (for those that are not aware, trenails are wooden dowels used as nails in wooden ships to fasten planks) to build a model when you can get rough copy of the same ship made in Indonesia cheap.

Over the years I have spent a fair amount of money on books and plans for the various projects that have consumed my spare time.  Along with these are unique tools and mini lathes that I acquired for my passion.  Now it is a hobby and I have never thought that I would ever make money.  Certainly I have not made a lot of money on selling my finished models to the family.  Blaine did buy me a lathe for his Endeavour and I did get a dinner paid by Ralph for the 6 years spent on the Sutherland.  I have always viewed this as the same as amateur painters that give away their artwork.

For an exercise, I went on ebay to see if there were any old coots like me still interested in buying books on model building.  Turns out there are still a few model shipwrights alive and some have some money.  My collection of Jean Boudriot books on building the 74 gun (this is a set of 4 huge books that I originally paid $100 each and used for the Sutherland) is now selling for $1250.  I have a copy of a long out of print book by Longridge that I paid $17 thirty years ago is now fetching $75 and maybe more in an auction.

I may never make money on my models but maybe my books and tools will turn a profit.  I still refer to these books so do not intend to sell them and use the tools daily.  Might be worth more money one day but I suspect that the hobby is a dying art and when I eventually try to sell (or my estate) there will be no one left to appreciate the value.

Still, I have no regrets.  I love my time in the shop working on models.

The Martian

James sent me an epub version of a book on-line that he had just read.  Even though it was slightly Sci -Fi he thought I would enjoy.

Now there is no question that James and I have far different taste in novels.  He has an entire wall of books that I would not consider reading, but he did acknowledge our difference in tastes and said.. “Dad try this”

He is my son so despite the 30 or so books that I have lined up in my repertoire, I immediately read ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir.   Absolutely loved it.

It is not a Sci Fi with weird monsters, it is an adventure.  Think of a combination of Robinson Crusoe and Apollo 13 and the movie Gravity.  An astronaut is accidentally marooned on Mars by NASA and has to use his wits to survive until he can be rescued.

I connect to the guy because he is a Mechanical Engineer who has the ultimate skill of being HANDY.  Sort of like me……. in my dreams.

Great book with lots of excitement and humour, but not to everyone’s taste if you do not like nerdy details like when he figured out how to grow food fertilized with his excrement.

I am always open to new adventures in reading from my kids like “The Book of Negroes” and “The Help”



Our Local Field’s Store

There has been an announcement that our local Field’s Store in Comox is closing along with the rest of the stores in small town Canada.

In the local Comox mall there is a grocery store and a Government Liquor store, a drug store, but one of the base merchants was a Field’s store.

Field’s is a Canadian merchandise chain that goes back to 1950.  Stores in small town Canada that offered the open shopping experience for the growing wealth of the post war population.  Chains like Woolworths and Kresge’s and the Saan store.

Eatons, Simpsons, Sears and Hudson Bay would only build in big cities and sold their products by catalogue shopping to all the rural and small town people.  If you lived in small towns and wanted the experience of actually touching something before you purchased, you went to the small chain stores.

Over time the demand for lower cost made the chains sell out to bigger stores.  Woolworth’s became Woolco and failed,   Kresge became KMart and failed.

In Western Canada Field’s struggled on by staying in small towns including Comox which has only 8000 people.  But Comox is attached to Courtenay and Walmart came along with Costco and SuperStore.

The local Field’s store became a competitor with Dollarama and despite the loyalty of the owners and their aging staff they could not compete and now are closing.

I admit that I would drop in occasionally and buy something small, but despite my feeling of nostalgia for the chain, never truly supported it.

It is another example of the passing of time.

St Patrick’s Dinner Dance

Our Probus club (a club for retired people) held a St Patrick’s dinner dance tonight (Mar 20)  I know you are saying why not on the 17th but the local Legion Hall was booked and that is the most economical place for us to hold it.

Just like old times.  $15 per person with a full 3 course Roast Pork meal and a live band for dancing after.  True bargain so about 96 people signed up.

By now we know almost all of them because of other events we do with the club so a great evening.  Almost everyone dressed in Irish green with fancy hats and decorations.  The band played celtic music until the wee hours… well wee for our group try 10 pm.

Lots of laughs and conversation with cheap beer and wine but it was obvious it was a senior group.  Let me give you an example.  I mentioned to the guy next to me that the Guinness beer was the truly only authentic thing being served.  He maintained that Guinness was an English beer and another guy maintained that it was actually started in Scotland.  Other guys came in on all the views (including one Polish guy that that was sure it started in Warsaw and was stolen by the British)

Now I knew they were all wrong so asked for anyone in the group to show me their smart phone or I phone.  Indication of our generation that NO ONE had a smart phone.  Finally someone a couple of tables over came with an IPAD and I was able to prove to everyone that I was correct.

Can you imagine a dance party with our kids or grand kids where we would not be able to access the internet within 30 seconds?

In any event, there were prizes for the best dressed Irish outfit.  I had told everyone that Pat should win because she was the only authentic Irish Descendent Catholic in the group that was observing Lent.  Must have turned the judges because she won the prize.


Thursday Night Home Alone

Pat is off this evening for a meeting of one of the various groups she belongs to.  We have had dinner so all I have to do is plan my evening.

I have decided to watch one of the movies I recorded that Pat would absolutely refuse to watch.  “Hangover”

I think it is an Avant-garde movie with the flashback scenes and juxtaposition of reality.  Right up there with Run Lola Run and Memento… or at least that is my recollection having seen it once.

An intellectual experience.

Great Covered Songs

A few years ago our family had our usual Christmas contest to come up with great songs in the past where a song was covered and the cover was better than the original.  Interesting evening because we held the party at the Masonic lodge in Nanton and with all the guests we must have had 30 or more people.

The contest went on regardless of the guests and everyone took part in the voting including German relatives that did not necessarily understand what was going on.  Democracy ruled.

For those that were there and forget, the winning combination was “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” original done by Bruce Cockburn and well covered by Bare Naked Ladies.  The winner in the family was Jorg who was so bashful for the victory that he claimed he did not recall even entering the contest but still got his name on the trophy.  A great night….

Anyway Pat and I were listening to nice music tonight at dinner and I was again thinking of great songs that had been covered many times.  I was contemplating this that might make a future contest for our family Christmas (we are nothing if not competitive)  I thought of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen or Try a little Tenderness by Otis Redding, Yesterday by Paul McCartney

I went on-line and realized that there is no way you could have this contest.  First of all you have to eliminate all national anthems,  then eliminate Happy Birthday,  For He is a Jolly good Fellow and For Auld Lang Syne plus every Christmas Carol ever recorded.

So this will not be a suitable subject for a future family contest.

Still, in my research I did watch the video of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy, which made my time spent in the endeavor worth while……