Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An end and a beginning

Today is the last day of 2013. Let me wish everyone a Happy New Year, and all success for the future.

In addition to being the last day of the year, it is also my last "working" day. I decided at the beginning of this year that I'd shut down my business and retire at the end of the year. From now on, my business is a passive entity and exists only for so long as it takes to clean up the "loose ends", i.e. close GST and PST accounts, and collect outstanding accounts receivable, and a few other things. I will no longer actively provide the services which were the base of my business. After all these things are done, my business will no longer exist.

My wife and I are looking forward to more travels, I look forward to the pursuit of my various hobbies (astronomy, photography, electronics) and generally not having the time constraints imposed by operating a business. A big thank-you to all my loyal suppliers and customers - we've had a great business relationship.

Again, the Best to all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The end of a house

We've lived in our house for 42 years, and in all this time or neighbours' house has stood there. I estimate that it was built around 1930. The same people have lived in there during all the time we were in our house, Paul and Celina.

Paul died a few months ago, and Celina decided that she would sell the house. She did that about three months ago.

The house stood empty until last week. Then, a demolition crew finally arrived and started its work.  The people who handled the backhoe were experts. They even felled two big trees which we had seen grow from saplings, but had grown so big that we had concerns about them hitting our house, if a strong storm ever blew them down.

Here are some pictures:
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
taken by Marina Miller
totally flattened
the blue spruce, the peach and apple trees, and the big camellia bush are gone
The big cedar at the front... gone
some of tree leftovers

some of tree leftovers.

We temporarily have more open sky in the south than we've ever had. I think that the new house will be a duplex as big as is currently the norm. It'll likely fill up what used to be Celina's garden, and which we enjoyed from our back porch (see top picture). 
Can't stop progress.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall is back

The rapidly shortening days in the last month were, as usual, an indication of the year approaching its end. The weather also changed rapidly - cloudy, rainy, and the first serious storm showed up right away. This was quite a change from the beautiful summer days which preceded the fall equinox - the day when fall begins.

I also became busier in my business, because it involves the universities and colleges. This is normal; the semester starts at the beginning of September.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to retire at the end of it (December 31). That means I'll close my business, and it will no longer exist. Most people with whom I deal have already been notified. Both my wife and I are looking forward to this, and hope to be able to do some more travel, and follow our other interests.

In 2002, our family arranged for a memorial bench for my mother, who had died a year earlier. The period for the dedicated bench lasts ten years, and can be renewed every ten years after that. So, we renewed the dedication, and had the memorial plaque on it redone to reflect the death of our son over two years ago. For the two of us, this is bittersweet. Here are a couple of pictures:

Our son Derek at my mother's bench in 2002

The new plaque, commemorating Derek

Thinking of Derek

Life goes on. We are glad to have Derek's and Airdrie's two daughters next door; he lives on in them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A nice summer

We've been rather busy travelling in the last month. Beside the previously mentioned visit to Saltspring Island, we visited a good, long-time friend in Chico, California, and attended a wedding in San Ramon, east of San Francisco. We also took time driving and wine tasting in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Wine tasting in California is an expensive proposition these days, each winery charges twenty or thirty dollars for a wine tasting tour consisting of about five samples of wine. I think some part of these fees is imposed by the state of California; I recall reading about the budgetary problems they are having. So, soak the tourists.

A driving visit to the somewhat bleak Crescent City area, and a spectacular visit to, and including a tour of the Oregon caves were other interesting events.

The traces of the economic recession seemed still evident to us. Crescent City showed little activity during our admittedly short stopover.  In Napa City we found many of the tourist-brochure-advertised places shuttered and empty. With the recent upswing in the US economy, we hope that things will improve for everyone soon.

The wedding itself took place in San Ramon, California. The groom was our son's boyhood friend. He visited us a couple of years ago to pay his condolences regarding our son's death. We were surprised and honoured by the wedding invitation and certainly wanted to represent our son on that occasion.

The venue was the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California. The ceremony itself took place in the open plaza in front; the reception inside. Since the groom is of Chinese ancestry, and the bride French; it was a delightfully mixed theme, with elements of both Chinese and European character.

The museum itself is exhibiting antique, prototype automobiles, dating from about 1870 to 1970. All cars are originals, and belong to the collection of one private owner. Needless to say, they were all in pristine condition. An area on the museum floor had been cleared to accommodate the guests and wedding party, and for dancing.  A few pictures:

It was certainly an original, and unique wedding.

Since the weather here at home was wonderful, we felt as though our vacation continued after we came back. We had our usual happy hour (a glass or two of red wine) every day on our back porch, with temperatures reminiscent of California.

A nice, summery July and early August...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A close paradise

Last week, we spent a few days with good friends on Saltspring Island. They have a wonderful house located near the top of a ridge, overlooking the waterways between some of the Gulf Islands.

They are great cooks, so we had some excellent meals. There were only the four of us - it was a "cozy" visit.

I took my Celestron C-8 telescope along, and, since the weather co-operated, we had a great view of the planet Saturn with its rings and moons, globular and open star clusters, and much more. The sky in the area is relatively free of light pollution, even though the "light domes" of Vancouver to the east and Victoria to the south were noticeable.

The ferry trips themselves were like "microcruises"; we tend forget how beautiful BC is - a paradise close by.

Some pictures:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A summer day

Today would have been Derek's 44th birthday. This is always a somewhat sad day for us. But we've also had some good experiences in the last couple of weeks.

Our older granddaughter won an award for being the top English student in her grade level. She now moves up one grade and, in three years, will be graduating from high school. Our younger granddaughter graduated from elementary school. She also won a general service award, and, in addition, a once-a year school award for exceptional volunteering and helping teachers and students. Her sister received the same special award two years ago. Starting in the fall, both will be attending the same school again.

Yesterday, we spent a lovely afternoon at my wife's sister's friend's house (how about three apostrophes in a row?), enjoying the warm, sunny afternoon on a very nice and secluded sun deck. I was the only man among five attractive and intelligent ladies; what more can a guy ask for? Clarification: the fifth lady was my imaginary mistress who looks just like my wife.

Today, we've been sitting in our back yard all afternoon, had a few glasses of wine, and raised a couple of toasts in our son's memory. It's now 8:40pm, we're still sitting here, and it's 30 degrees C (86F). A beautiful day, the rather warm temperature is rare for our area, though.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The "Fixer"

A couple of days ago, a few of these mushrooms appeared in our "lawn" (mostly clover, as you can see). Mushrooms appear every year there, and they have an important function: they are a catalyst in atmospheric nitrogen transformation for use by plant and tree roots. This is a two-way street. The mushrooms, in turn, benefit by having access to plant sugars and nutrients.

Here's the nitrogen "fixation" cycle, as taken from Google images:

As shown, there are other plants which do this kind of "work". In our case, the mushrooms shown above are located in the roots of our cherry tree - maybe we'll get some of those cherries later on in the year, before the birds rob them all.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A vacation

We went to San Diego a couple of weeks ago to visit good friends, and returned last Tuesday. There was a bit of jealousy on our part regarding the weather here. While we were going through the normal for this time of year cloudy-sunny-cloudy-and even rainy regimen for San Diego's shorelines, the weather here was summer. On top of that, we both contracted some nasty cough (I even had a bout with fever). We're still battling that now, on the long weekend. Sometimes you wonder whether our aging bodies are telling us to stay at home and deal with germs they know, rather than fight new "enemies".

Well, we'll resist that notion.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A life together

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary. Through all those years, we've never lost our love for each other, through joys, adversities, and family tragedies. Our relationship is built on trust, mutual respect, and love. 

We were in the company of our daughter-in-law and our two granddaughters, the three people in our family who are closest to us. The five of us had a very nice dinner at the Cactus Club at Metrotown. It was a "gentle" celebration.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter

We have a nice, sunny weekend ahead of us. Since it's Easter, today (Friday) is a holiday for most people, and Monday is another semi-official one. Many provinces don't observe Monday, though.

We have plans to take the granddaughters to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and also to have  lunch at the "Flying Beaver" -  a Harbour Air floatplane/pub combination on the banks of the Fraser River arm south of Vancouver International Airport.

The cherry blossoms are about to burst out on our street as well. It looks like spring may have finally sprung.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Sunny Day

Today is Sunday, with a clear, blue sky, and sunny. It's beautiful, and we intend to go for a walk to soak up some of those rays.

In another way, the memories today are not so sunny: today is the second anniversary of our son Derek's living wake (http://www.penmachine.com/2011/03/my-living-wake). At that point, Derek had exactly two months to live; we didn't know this, of course. So today, we also remember that it is exactly twenty-two months since he died.

We'll raise a toast or two regarding these events in our lives, and as a thank you to our extended family and all the friends who helped us deal with those. We miss Derek, but we also have proud memories of him - he made a difference in many peoples' lives.

If you wish to do so, you can also leave comments on the memorial page at http://www.legacy.com/guestbook/vancouversun/guestbook.aspx?n=derek-miller&pid=150846264

Life goes on.

Monday, January 7, 2013

One more year

Our family's Christmas arrangements were geared to the young ones in family, as usual. We also had the family annual Christmas dinner at our sister-in-law's, also as usual. Our son Derek and brother-in-law Ray were missed by all, they both died of cancer within the last two years. There will always be a bittersweet memory of them. Our grandchildren in the family were the stars of the show - and reminded us all that family comes first.

My wife and I flew to San Diego after Christmas to attend the 50th wedding anniversary of close friends, and to celebrate the New Year with many more good friends, all of whom we've known for many years. It seems that it doesn't matter how much time has passed since we last saw each other - it is always as though it was just yesterday. Here, too, we raised a toast to the memories of friends who departed this earth recently.

We had the additional pleasure of attending a "tribute to Vienna" concert performed by the San Diego symphony. It was a world-class performance and a fitting end to our quick trip.

At our stage in life, we must enjoy the days as they come.