Christmas Letter 2013

Pets…

Sheba
Sheba

Those of you who have read my Christmas Letters over the last few years must wonder about our bad luck with our pets’ health. Well, I regret to say, this trend continued again this year.

Our cat Sheba was diagnosed with cancerous tumors in her abdomen while in for a regular check up this past summer. Due to the advanced stage of the disease, we decided to simple keep her comfortable for the time she had left. Sheba was euthanized in October.

Coda and the Christmas candles
Coda and the Christmas candles

We were feeding two cats that our neighbours abandoned a couple of years ago when they moved. We couldn’t take them in at the time since we had elderly cats in the house, but now we were “cat-less”, so we decided to try bringing both of them inside. Coda (a brown tabby mix) immediately adapted to living indoors, however his buddy Mello (a Turkish Van) became a big problem. Reluctantly, we returned Mello to outside living, while Coda now soaks up luxurious indoor living!

Our Jack Russell Terriers Rolly and Tanner are now two years old. How time flies when you are having fun, and life certainly is fun with these two bundles of energy around!

Rolly with a bandaged foot
Rolly with a bandaged foot

Rolly managed to injure his front foot twice this year, with both occasions requiring minor surgery. In August, he picked up a spear grass and it embedded in his toe, causing an infection; and in November he stepped on something sharp, and his foot became infected again. It was an expensive year for Rolly.

Around Home

We took care of a few issues this year to keep our home safe and livable. A tree service came in and spent the day pruning all our trees. It was amazing to watch the crews scramble around in the tree canopy! Time lapse video

We also had the kitchen floor replaced…the only thing not taken care of during the renovation we had done two years ago.

Camping on the Island

Eroding banks of Stoltz Bluff on the Cowichan River
Eroding banks of Stoltz Bluff on the Cowichan River

We took advantage of the gorgeous weather in late Spring to go camping on our beautiful Vancouver Island. The trips in the motor home may have been short, but it was great to get out and about, and yet be so close to home.

We took our year and a half old Jack Russell Terriers Rolly and Tanner to a local beach, where they ran themselves ragged!  This was the first day trip in our motor home for this year’s camping season.

Astronomy

Comet PanSTARRS C/2011 L4
Comet PanSTARRS C/2011 L4

Speaking of camping, I camped solo in the motor home at two star parties held in Metchosin and Bright Angel Park in south Cowichan. I love being under a dark sky, having fun with my astronomy buddies, and observing and taking some photos of our spectacular night skies, while taking advantage of summer weather.

Although I didn’t see Comet ISON in November or December (the supposed “comet of the century”), I did observe and photograph Comet PanSTARRS C/2011 L4 on March 31st. Throughout the year, I also observed the Sun, its sunspots, and spectacular prominences, flares and other solar storms. I didn’t see any resulting aurora this year, unlike 2012 when I saw and photographed aurora twice!

My online astronomy photo gallery

Travel

Woodland Caribou on the Slate Island Tour
Woodland Caribou on the Slate Island Tour

I did not go on any major trips this year, however I attended the Royal Astronomical Society’s General Assembly convention held in Thunder Bay, Ontario over the Canada Day weekend. I hadn’t visited this region since 1967, so I had fun sightseeing, as well as participating in the usual convention happenings. I even saw some Woodland Caribou on Slate Island Park in Lake Superior…a wonderful treat!

Online photo albums of my Ontario trip

2014 Hawaii-Polynesia cruise route map
2014 Hawaii-Polynesia cruise route map

I will be cruising to French Polynesia next February, taking 30 days to visit several Hawaiian Islands, Fanning Island, and then French Polynesia. I booked with Holland America lines on the Statendam, a sister ship to the Volendam, which I sailed aboard on another Pacific Ocean voyage in 2010.

Ever since I traveled to French Polynesia way back in 1978, I have wanted to return to these beautiful islands in the eastern Pacific. So finally, I am fulfilling my wish to return, and I will be seeing many more islands than I visited on my first trip.

High Tech

In addition to spending money on arborists and kitchen floors, I have also spent some serious money on high tech gear this year. I upgraded to the Apple iPhone 5S, which gives me better and faster access to the Internet (through LTE) when I’m out and about (and traveling). I also purchased a Mac Mini Server to replace my aging Windows server. In the process, I’m simplifying my computer gear by using my MacBook Pro as my workstation computer, retiring my old Windows 7 workstation computer. Each of the Apple gear is nicely integrated, so I’m enjoying the change from Windows, and it is a bit of a challenge finding out how to do things using the new gear, which keeps my mind active!

I have enjoyed using my Canon 7D digital SLR…it has tens of thousands of miles on it, as I took it on my travels for the last several years. I had a desire to purchase a new camera with the latest features, and I also wanted to replace my workhorse lens, the Canon 24-105 f/4L zoom since I had scratched the front element lens while in a cave in New Zealand.

Canon 6D dSLR and lens
Canon 6D dSLR and lens

It all came together this year when my favourite camera store in Toronto, Vistek had a super sale on the Canon 6D with the 24-105 lens as a kit. The 6D has all the latest features I’m after: wireless remote control through my iPhone, a full frame sensor, lighter weight than the 7D, built-in GPS positioning, high dynamic range built-in, direct-from-camera wireless connectivity to the Internet, and on, and on. I’m still learning about this new camera, but I am very pleased with the results so far, and I now have a pristine zoom lens with no scratches!

This year I also committed to becoming paperless. I purchased a wonderful Fujitsu SnapScan iX500, which makes it so easy to scan any important paper, file away electronic copies, and then shred it. I also get most of my magazines and the Times-Colonist newspaper in electronic form, which has cut down the volume of paper tremendously. Finally, my bills and bank statements are mostly electronic.

I led two workshops at the Victoria Genealogical Society this year, titled “Paperless Geneology”. Some might say that’s like preaching heresy to this group, but it was fun to challenge people who are highly focused on paper records to try changing their ways!

Life in general

Although 2013 didn’t see me take any big trips, I have to say that life is good, and I’m generally enjoying my retirement years. I am quite healthy for a 61 year old, and Kirk’s maladies were under control and relatively benign this year. I contributed volunteer time to both the Royal Astronomical Society, Victoria Centre, and to the Victoria Genealogical Society, and also participated in their social and educational events. So my mind is active, and I’m engaged with others of like interests.

Curried chicken with roti
Curried chicken with roti

I help my East Indian neighbour to stay in her home. She comes grocery shopping with us every other week, and I help her cope with banking, taxes, bureaucracy, bill paying, and sometimes even her own family! I sure hope someone will step up to help me stay in my home when I get to her stage in life! She treats me like family in return, and makes the most delicious curried chicken with roti I have ever tasted!

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Joe & Kirk, Rolly & Tanner, Coda

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *