Archive for August 2006

28/Aug/2006 – Poetry Corner   3 comments

Web Magnet Poetry

Have fun —

Posted Monday, August 28, 2006 by Grant in Random

26/Aug/2006 – Pluto, What Are You?   7 comments

Pluto—A Planet No More

Does it matter what they call it?

Image of Pluto and its moon Charon

Pluto and its moon Charon.

You already may have heard that Pluto has been reclassified and is no longer considered a planet.

“Pluto, beloved by some as a cosmic underdog but scorned by astronomers who considered it too dinky and distant, was unceremoniously stripped of its status as a planet Thursday.”
Yahoo! News

This news item is hardly as tragic as some others, but it made me a little melancholy, nonetheless. Astronomy was one of my childhood interests and I feel a sense of loss, I suppose. Muted, but there.

It seemeed that a haiku might be in order:

Stripped of planethood.
Cold and distant, but unchanged.
Pluto—it’s still there.

In deciding what to do with Pluto’s classification, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chairman of the Board of The Planetary Society, said, “The more we learned about Pluto, the more it did not fit any reasonable classification scheme that applied to the other planets.”

I don’t doubt it. Yet, I like the way Pluto’s discoverer, the late Clyde Tombaugh, put it: “It’s there. Whatever it is. It is there.”

Posted Saturday, August 26, 2006 by Grant in Random

24/Aug/2006 – Affect vs. Effect   4 comments

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused

Affect. Effect.

By request.


transitive verb

  1. to produce an effect upon, as
    1. to produce a material influence upon or alteration in
      <paralysis affected his limbs.>
    2. to act upon (as a person or a person’s mind or feelings) so as to effect a response


transitive verb

  1. to cause to come into being
    <effect a settlement of a dispute>
  2. to bring about often by surmounting obstacles; accomplish; to put into operation
    <the duty of the legislature to effect the will of the citizens>

These two words are often confused because of their similar look and sound.

Affect denotes having an effect or influence <the weather affected everyone’s mood>. The verb effect goes beyond mere influence; it refers to actual achievement of a final result <the new administration hopes to effect a peace settlement>
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

What about the two words as nouns? Though there is a noun version of affect, it is uncommon. The noun you’ll want is effect <the weather had an effect on everyone’s mood>.

Having said that, however, effect is a timid, evasive noun. Why not choose vigorous, succinct expressions ?

Posted Thursday, August 24, 2006 by Grant in Random

22/Aug/2006 – Dancing Robots   2 comments

Dancing Robots

Courtesy of Yahoo’s The 9 for August 22, I bring you QRIO, the dancing robots.

Too bad I can’t buy you one. 🙂

See the nine other coolest robots at OddPeak.

Posted Tuesday, August 22, 2006 by Grant in Random

21/Aug/2006 – Farther vs. Further   4 comments

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused

Farther. Further.



  1. at or to a greater distance or more advanced point
  2. to a greater degree or extent

I can’t read any farther tonight.



  1. Farther
  2. going or extending beyond; additional

She pursued her further education in another state.

As you can see from the definitions, the two words, as adjectives, are often interchanged. However, there is a distinction. Farther serves better for distance, further for time or quantity.

Further is also used as a sentence modifier <further, the workshop participants were scarcely optimistic — L. B. Mayhew>, but farther is not.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Posted Monday, August 21, 2006 by Grant in Random

20/Aug/2006 – Aggravate vs. Irritate   6 comments

I felt lke passing along some tips that I discovered. I’ll add another entry every day or two.

I hope these will improve my writing.

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused

Aggravate. Irritate.


To make worse, more serious, or more severe; to intensify unpleasantly.

The situation was aggravated by the neglect of those watching.


To provoke impatience, anger, or displeasure in; to annoy

Her brother’s constant teasing irritated her.

Example of incorrect usage:

“Are you trying to aggravate me with that racket?”
Use irritate instead.

Posted Sunday, August 20, 2006 by Grant in Random

18/Aug/2006 – Cottage Vacation, part 3   4 comments

Cottage Vacation

Part 3

Thursday, July 27, 2006

It is already Thursday afternoon and we have to leave in a few days. Today has been overcast and rainy. Plans have been altered. Still, these days of reading, writing, puzzles, and naps are just as much a part of the cottage experience as are trips to Mistassini for ice cream or to Mistouk for cheese.

Yesterday, after breakfast, we made our way to Alma with some errands to run. Our first stop en route was the bank in Saint-Coeur-de-Marie to get some cash and pay some bills. Next was Uncle Boris’s to say, “Hi” and check out his very impressive garden. Unfortunately, he didn’t see us arrive and, as we were poking around the “back forty,” he scurried off on some errand of his own. C’est la vie (that’s life) as they say.

The next whistle stop was about three hundred yards up the road at Babushka’s (Grandmother’s) house. She passed away some twenty-seven years ago and the house is now rented as two apartments. Lydia’s dad wanted to check the property to see what maintenance might be needed. Interestingly, the tenants in the first apartment, Benoit (pronounced: ben·waw´) and Heather, are Witnesses who we had met on Sunday, so we popped in on them. During our chat, I found out that Benoit, for their honeymoon, had taken Heather on a motorcycle trip from Montréal, Québec to Vancouver, British Columbia, crossing the United States. The trip took nine days. Such romance!

We couldn’t linger, however, and soon said our goodbyes. We still had not arrived in Alma, even. Our next stop was the public library to use their Internet access to check our geocache coordinates. It turned out, however, that they were spot on. This left the blame to lie elsewhere, but certainly not on our ‘caching skills. I helped Dad with his email and made sure to clear the browser’s temporary files before logging out.

As Dad and I moved to the library exit, we joined up with Lydia and her mother coming back in. They had been at the Dollar Store. Unanimous consent was that we were hungry. This had us soon walking to nearby restaurant, “Mario Tremblay,” which is owned by the local hockey legend of that name. The food, beer and service were quite good.

Several stops yet awaited us, so there was neither dillying nor dallying for us. Our trip out of Alma and back towards the cottage took us to a few more stops for food staples and, of course, beer. A beer peddler near home recommended a particular brew from Québec, La Fin du Monde (The End of the World.) We pulled into the driveway at the cottage close to four o’clock. Lydia changed into her swimsuit and headed down to the lake. I read.

After dinner, we took in a couple more episodes of “The House of Eliott” and got ready for bed. I had trouble sleeping, so I got up and wrote for a while. As I typed away, a couple of small flying insects were attracted to the light of my laptop screen and chilled out with me for a while.

This morning was slow, due to the drenching weather. I helped Dad with his laptop while others read and puttered. And, naturally, naps were had.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Image of a fountain

Dad’s homemade fountain.

Posted Friday, August 18, 2006 by Grant in Random

11/Aug/2006 – Cottage Vacation, part 2   3 comments

Cottage Vacation

Part 2

Image of stairs leading down to a beach

Stairs down to the beach.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We have just had breakfast and freshened up for a trip into town to pick up some supplies. Somehow, grocery shopping sounds more interesting or exotic to call it picking up supplies. As if we are on the frontier and we need to harness up the horses and wagon for the monthly excursion into the nearest town.

Monday we had saddled up to tackle some geocaches. While we didn’t have much success with finding the caches, we did get to see some interesting sites in the area. The first stop was an old mill that was powered by diverted river water. A fish ladder on the property helps spawning fish make it to their honeymoon hotel upriver.

During our hunt at the mill, a couple from the Kitchener area of Ontario, who told us they speak our language, introduced themselves. They must have spotted our Pennsylvania tag (license plate.) With bikes suspended from a rack on the trunk of their car, they were driving and biking around the lake. Tourism and especially cycle-tourism is a large draw to the area, which is why English is easier to come across here.

Defeated by our first cache, our next stop was one of the last covered bridges in the area. Basically, it sits in the middle of nowhere with no other structures to be seen and only a narrow gravel road to approach and leave. We couldn’t spot the cache here either, but, as a consolation, I snapped a shot of a robin’s eggshell. One must find the silver lining, mustn’t one?

We continued on our way to the next cache near a power station. Much, if not most, of the power generated in Québec comes from hydroelectric stations like this one. Falling water turns turbines to generate electricity.

We found no cache here, either. We abandoned the search fairly early, since the ground was uneven and hidden by long grass. The risk of a twisted or broken ankle soured us on this hide. On the bright side, I took some more pictures. Since we were 0 for 3 in geocaching, we had begun to suspect that we did not have accurate coordinates, but we would need an Internet connection to double-check them and confirm our theory.

In the meantime, to console ourselves, we stopped in Mistassini for some ice cream. This particular ice cream stand is quite popular and for good reason. It tastes too delicious! Especially on a warm day. It is actually a good thing that a 60-kilometre drive separates the cottage from this stand, or we’d be here every day. Well, I might be.

After our break, we were back on the road heading for the cottage. The two-lane highway that circumnavigates the lake is, for the most part, well maintained and the drive is scenic. After a stop to get gas, we pulled into the cottage. On the cottage’s laid-back scale of things, it was a grueling day. To put it perspective, however, I will borrow a catch phrase: A bad day at the cottage is better than a good day at work.

Feeling the need to recover, nonetheless, we took Tuesday at a much slower pace. The stormy grey skies helped us. The day’s largest project was a maze puzzle, which we had started the previous day. The puzzle picture was a maze made of about sixty stand-alone scenes or panels. Once all the scenes were complete, we had to arrange them so that the maze could be navigated from start to finish. We found it a fun and challenging diversion.

Along the way, each day, we have been grabbing an episode or two of “The House of Eliott”. Though it is obviously a “chick serial,” even the men are now hooked, but you won’t tell anyone, will you?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Posted Friday, August 11, 2006 by Grant in Random

07/Aug/2006 – Cottage Vacation   13 comments

Cottage Vacation

Image of a sunset over a lake

Sunset over Lac St. Jean.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I sit late on Sunday afternoon at the table at the cottage. So far the weather has been spectacular, sunny in the low 70’s, with rain promised, but never delivered.

My in-laws’ cottage faces (or backs onto) Lac St. Jean, just outside Alma, Québec, Canada. Through the back windows one can gaze out at the rippling surface of the lake. It is a recipe for relaxation that makes the long haul up here more than worth it. Lydia’s father was born and raised in Alma with his siblings, cousins, and neighbors. Though they have made homes in other places, several family members maintain property here and visit every summer.

We have just finished watching, on the DVD player on my laptop, the second episode of “The House of Eliott.” A “pot boiler,” Lydia calls it, set in the twenties about a pair of sisters who try to make a way for themselves after their tyrant father dies, leaving them virtually penniless. It originally aired on BBC in 1991. We have ten more episodes to take in.

Mom and Dad prepared dinner. Roget, a friend of Dad, made a gift to us of several freshly caught trout. Yes, dinner was a fish fry. This evening’s menu had to be altered to accommodate the surprise main course, but with no complaint because, you know, free fish. The trout were extraordinary and the wine was delicious. Ah, the cottage.

We had arrived before four o’clock yesterday afternoon, at the end of a two-day, more than 16-hour drive from Pittsburgh. As we walked around to the back of the cottage, the side that faces the lake, we met Uncle Alex (actually, the cousin of Lydia’s father) and Aunt Helen who were just leaving. They live in Montréal now, about a six-hour drive from the lake, and also have a property nearby. We had brought some beer from our local Penn Brewery for Alex’s brother Boris, who was up at the lake, too. Since Uncle Alex and Aunt Helen would see him in a few minutes, we took the opportunity to transfer the booty between trunks so Uncle Boris could get his present as soon as possible.

After unloading the rest of the luggage from the car, we fell right into cottage mode by having our first of what will be many naps. After waking and eating late (another cottage standard,) we admired a spectacular sunset.

This morning, we got up early enough for a leisurely breakfast before heading out to our meeting at the Kingdom Hall in Alma. Since the meeting was held in French and neither Lydia nor I have more than a rudimentary grasp, it took a great deal of concentration to follow the talk. We had English material for the second part of the meeting, so we were better able to follow along.

The Alma congregation is very warm and full of the joie de vivre with which Québecers seem to be born. After the meeting, the local brothers and sisters came over to say their greetings and make us feel welcome, though we were meeting them for the first time. It was worth noting that many of them spoke English, since officially Québec is a French-speaking province. Even those who had only limited English, about as good as my French, made sure they welcomed us in our native language.

Many of the people we met had lived in this area for many years, even their entire lives. As a result, we picked up some stories about Lydia’s family, who had emigrated from Russia to the area about 80 years ago. For example, back in the day, some of the children would call Lydia’s grandparent’s property the “Russian Front.” When we told her parents the story, they got a good laugh.

On the way back to the cottage, we popped into Wal-mart to get a few prints made of some pictures we had taken and to pick up some swim trunks for yours truly. It seems it isn’t a vacation unless I forget to pack something and we have to go shopping.

I am already relaxing and looking forward to soaking in the recuperative energy of the cottage.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Posted Monday, August 7, 2006 by Grant in Random