Lafayette, We Are Here

I rarely say anything political on this blog, but I was saddened that the American President would fly all the way to Paris and then not go to Belleau Wood. These were his people – his Marines – who suffered and died and stopped the Germans cold in 1918.

I am grateful that General Kelly and Secretary Pompeo made the effort to honor them.

Perhaps it’s better to recall the comments of Charles F. Stanton at the tomb of Lafayette in 1917:

America has joined forces with the Allied Powers, and what we have of blood and treasure are yours. Therefore it is that with loving pride we drape the colors in tribute of respect to this citizen of your great republic. And here and now, in the presence of the illustrious dead, we pledge our hearts and our honor in carrying this war to a successful issue. Lafayette, we are here.

Lest we forget – the rest of the world still needs you, America.




Spam Slam Thank You Ma’am

Spam isn’t just about email these days. You may have seen a particularly egregious type of  it in comments to news stories or occasionally in blogs like “Bluebird Banter” or “MLB Trade Rumors.” In addition to the legitimate baseball commentary, you’ll see a post about working from home and making thousands in the process – with a link you can click for more info. Congratulations – you have just been introduced to Blog Spam.

The rationale behind Blog Spam is simple. Say you are out to sell soccer jerseys. The more times you can link your soccer jersey site through other websites, the higher ranking it gets in search engines like Google. So you get an automated spider to troll the internet, find as many sites as possible that permit comments. Then you put a bogus comment with a link back to you. Presto! You have just optimized your website for Google.

This sounds relatively harmless until you find that a tiny blog like Almontage can get hundreds of these comments per month. Not just for soccer jerseys either. Lots of porn and penile enhancement comments arrive. Stuff I’m not going to click on, and I wouldn’t want you to either. So how can I slam the spam?

If I chose to use a commercial site like Blogger or then the problem would be more or less taken care of for me. But I prefer to host my own site for flexibility and freedom from ads. That means I have to deal with the Blog Spam tsunami myself.

The first thing I do is moderate the comments. Comments are welcome, but your first one has to be approved by me. After that, it’s clear sailing.

Next, I close the posts for comments after 14 days. I don’t want to go back and check for spam on stuff I wrote months ago.

The final thing is to install an anti-spam plugin called Akismet. This useful app silently kills the worst spam so I never see it. Akismet also flags stuff that it thinks *might* be spam so I can review it later. Most of the time it is correct.

All of this might seem like overkill on such a tiny blog, but it’s worth the effort.

  • If I don’t keep the blog spam free, it looks like I don’t care. Would you want to visit my place if I never bothered to cut the lawn or pull out the weeds?
  • If Google detects spam here, it could ban my blog from its search. Not a big deal as most of my visits come from links I post personally. However, if you Google “Almontage” I am not far from the top of the list and I want to keep it that way.
  • In addition to their salacious content, most blog spam comments are really stupid – and I detest spammers. Years ago they made it impossible to have a Guest Book on a personal website, and now they are doing the same thing with blogs.

As with most things on the Internet, having your own hosted blog can be a mixed blessing. But if I do my job properly, any visitor can read it free of annoying comments and targeted ads. That’s a good enough incentive for me.





Mr Oates Turns 4

Mr. Oates – or Oatesy as he is commonly called around here – will celebrate his 4th birthday on November 11. In cat years that makes him around 30, so he is still relatively young but quite a bit past kittenhood. He’s a handsome devil – as most ginger tabbies seem to be.

It’s been well over 3 years since I discovered him at the Arnprior Humane Society shelter – sleeping quietly in a cat bed, sad and forlorn after his family suffered marriage breakdown and surrendered him and his favorite toy to the shelter. Both came home with us.

He didn’t enjoy the car ride, and it took him a bit of time to feel at home – but by nightfall, he was sleeping at the foot of the bed. He’s done so every night since. Most cats don’t show a lot of gratitude for a second chance at life, but they are nothing if not adaptable. Oates certainly made himself at home.

He’s different from our much beloved Sammy. He is a quiet purrer, but very vocal – almost like our old Siamese Brio from a couple of decades ago. He really loves women. Maria is his favorite person in the world, but other people on his love list are our friend Shari and granddaughter Veronica – the Cat Whisperer.

Oates has his moments with me as well. He usually comes in to cuddle up if I have an afternoon nap. At night, if Maria gets tired of his snuggling in her face, she sends him down to the foot of the bed, where he usually ends up plastered to the back of my calves. “Anyplace that’s warm” is his motto.

At age 4 he is full of energy. He dashes around in the morning, frantically chasing a wand toy mouse or feathery “bird.” Afterwards, he’s ready to chow down and then hit his bed for a few hours of shut-eye. He repeats the process at night before stretching out on the couch near the fireplace.

He is extravagant in his affection. He rubs around your legs, gives head butts, and if you drop him a slow “I love you” eye blink, you are sure to get one back. He’s got a variety of vocalizations, from a soft purry trill to a full-throated Yow! Yow!  Mrrowww! There’s no ignoring him.

His favorite room in the house is (wait for it) the furnace area. Lots of nooks and crannies to explore, and he knows he’ll get a cat treat to lure him out.

In 36 years we’ve had three great cats, each one different but each one special. We have loved each one. They have loved us. Not a bad bargain.

Music on Tap

I was just thinking the other day about the ways I have listened to music over the past 60 years or so:

  1. 45 and 33 RPM records on portable record player.
  2. AM radio on old tube console from the 1940s.
  3. AM radio on Transistor portable.
  4. FM radio on Transistor portable.
  5. AM radio in car.
  6. LP records on stereo record player.
  7. LP records on stereo hifi system.
  8. Reel to reel tape on stereo hi-fi system.
  9. Cassette tape on stereo hi-fi system.
  10. FM Stereo tuner/receiver on hi-fi system.
  11. FM radio in car.
  12. Cassette tape in car.
  13. CD player on hi-fi system.
  14.  Cassette tape on Boombox.
  15. Cassette tape on Walkman.
  16. CD on Walkman.
  17. CD on Boombox.
  18. CD in car.
  19. MP3s on computer.
  20. MP3s on iPod.
  21. Satellite radio in car.
  22. Streaming (Spotify) on computer.
  23. Spotify on Roku box.
  24. Cable TV digital music.
  25. Spotify through tablet connected to hi-fi system.

So it’s taken a lifetime, but I have gone from plastic insets in scratchy old 45 vinyl to nothing but bits and bytes and I’m still listening to rock ‘n roll. Go figure.



These lovely boxes are not speakers for a hi-fi system, but beautifully designed computer desktop units called Thelio. They are made by US computer maker System76. What’s interesting about them is that they are built from the ground up to run the Linux operating system.

I have been a Linux user and techie for a dozen years, and I have never seen anything like this – especially in Canada. We have Windows, Apple, Android, and Chromebook – but Linux machines? No way.

The typical Linux guy starts out like me – installing the system on an old desktop or notebook. Maybe they get a clone built without an O/S and then install Linux. Maybe they get brave enough to build their own desktop for Linux. But I have never met anyone who has an out-of-the-box Linux machine like this.

System76 is sort of like Apple, in that they combine a specially designed Linux box with their own Linux software distribution called Pop!_OS. However, any Linux distro you want can be loaded on to the Thelio desktop unit. Also, the average Linux user will be more tech literate than the average Apple user – so he/she may be unwilling to pay premium prices for compatibility and convenience.

I can see the System76 approach to be more valuable if you want a notebook. Those are difficult to build on your own because parts are not as readily available as for desktops. However, if you want a really nice looking desktop that you know will work perfectly with Linux Thelio is the way to go.

November Blues

We’ll be spending the month of November in Almonte this year. This hasn’t always been the case for at least part of this gloomy month.

In 2007 we were in the Mediterranean, starting in Barcelona. In 2010 we went to Nassau. In 2011 we cruised to the Caribbean from New York. And in 2016 we came back to Florida from Rome.

A lot of the time we got away to shorten up the cool rainy November experience. This wasn’t always successful, as can be seen from the thundery spell we had in Florence a couple of years ago. At least it was mild.

Sometimes the November weather we encountered was pretty spectacular. Just not here in Almonte.

I make a computer-based calendar every year to put on the kitchen fridge, and I use photos for each month from my digital archives. I have very few local photos for November – usually it is a Med or tropical venue. The reason for this is simple. Almonte isn’t at its best when it is cold, rainy or sleety. And I don’t often feel like going for a photo shoot in the grayest, most unappealing month of the year.

Well, this is not a bad November photo I guess – and it’s even in North America. This pic is of the William H. Seward House in Auburn NY – taken on a glorious day in 2012. Not many of those days that I can remember though. This is about as close to Almonte as I can get at this time of year – and still get a decent photo.

As November approaches, I can take solace in the stimulating activities to come – raking up the last of the leaves, putting the BBQ away, getting winter tires on the Jeep, renewing license plates for the cars, blood tests and doctor visits, flu shot…who could ask for more?


The Lyin’ in Winter

One thing about living in the Valley is you are not going to escape the specter of winter. However, October is a little early for the whole scenario. Snow at this time of year is possible, but with cool and rainy November on the horizon we don’t expect it to last for long. Besides, I still have some leaf cleanup to do.

No big warmup is forecast but at least this early white stuff will melt (I hope.) We didn’t go far yesterday and I do have all weather tires on the sedan so we managed. Winter tires on the jeeep are not far away. So winter, I’d appreciate it if this appearance was just a False Flag.

It sure would be tempting to book a cruise though.

Another Birthday

October is a major family birthday month with daughter’s near the beginning, younger granddaughter’s towards the middle, and Maria’s coming near the end.

When we first met, Maria was nearing what we used to call “the age of majority.” It arrived later back then. She was already playing a number of recurring roles as daughter, sister and university student. Later on, she was wife, career woman, educator, mother, aunt, grandmother, volunteer – just to name a few. She was – and is – a Catholic Christian throughout.

She does it all with grace and a keen sense of duty. Many people (myself included) tend to take her for granted, but she always perseveres. She has the inner strength to get through a hurricane or tsunami, but sometimes she gets upset when the cat locks himself in the front closet. Go figure.

We’ve done some traveling, Maria and I. It took a while until we were financially OK to do so but since the late 80s, we got out and about. Above is a pic from a 2003 bus tour – of Italy. Nowadays we usually include the grandkids.

So Happy Birthday my dear and many more adventures to come. God willing.



So What’s the Point Then?

The last couple of posts were rather depressing. Let’s face it – nobody wants to live in the UNFriendly Town. And in spite of some bitterness over the election results on social media, the fact remains that by and large most folks you meet in Almonte will be kind today. The election day is just that – one day. There are 1460 days to come before we have to do this again.

I know some people in the neighborhood who have different opinions on the issues than I do, but that won’t stop me from fixing their computer if they have trouble. Nor will Maria give them a hard time if she volunteers with them at the Hub.

Besides, how does this political stuff affect your life, really? I don’t live near the Rail Trail so motorized traffic won’t affect me much. I am sure I’ll be able to go out on the old railway bridge to photograph the river without being slammed by an ATV 3-wheeler. As for our new councilors – they’ll learn. It looks easy when you don’t have to do it.

So maybe I should change gears, and post about the reasons we live here happily. Why we retired here.

  • There are the river and the falls – always picturesque, breathtaking in the springtime, dazzling in the winter rime.
  • The historic factories and lovingly preserved downtown buildings are a tourist draw that keeps the old town thriving. Almonte is a destination stop for many city folks – especially on the weekend. Antique stores, boutiques, tea rooms, fine dining – find them all on one street. Well, two if you want to go to Baker Bob’s.
  • Festivals and more festivals – all year round.
  • Not many towns have a Black Watch Chewing Tobacco sign in plain view (see above.)
  • Close to the city and a major airport. Also if you aren’t concerned about The Donald, it is a short and comfortable drive to the US border.
  • Good medical care. We have a hospital right in town.
  • Excellent Internet and cable TV service if you live in town.
  • The fact that we have hydropower stations right in Almonte means we never go long without service. Even in the Ice Storm that crippled Eastern Ontario in the 90s, Almonte was only off the grid for a few hours.
  • Our daughter’s family lives within easy driving distance and we don’t have to drive through Toronto to see the grandkids. Maria’s mom and my sister are a couple of hours away via two lane roads. No expressways thank you.
  • Clean air, dazzling sunsets, dark night skies with a million stars.
  • Autumn colors are fantastic thanks to the large proportions of red maples in the forests around Almonte.
  • Want to see deer, wild turkeys, foxes, hawks, blue herons and Canada geese in their thousands? We got ’em. Sometimes even in the town itself.
  • Best Pizza ever.

Not to mention the fact that Almonte was the hometown of a world-class sculptor for the Olympic movement AND his friend, the inventor of basketball.

Being right in the path of a river has meant that Almonte has a long history of bridge building and care. There have been a number of messages on the Web from the mayor, successful candidates, and concerned citizens with hopes that bridge building will continue between the electorate and the council members. I hope so too. We all love living here.





Ode to a Woman of Substance

Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not. (Robert Kennedy)

Mandy Martin and I go back a little bit – all the way to those group lunches at the Dutch Oven in Cobourg. That was in 1970, when she was a kid reporter with the Sentinel-Star and I was trying to learn how to be a food scientist up the road at General Foods.

I met her family, and what impressed me the most was how her parents so elegantly combined the spiritual with the practical, the positive with the normative. His name was Norman, hers is Norma – so normative was pretty much inevitable I guess.

Anyhow, I believe this blend of what is and what should be has served Mandy well in her journalism career. She has done her share of tilting at windmills but she keeps a calm head while doing it.

We lost touch for a while but with the rise of the Internet I was able to read some of her stuff online, and then a few years ago we connected through the magic of Facebook. I found out that Mandy had turned in her journalistic hat for community worker; she and her husband now live in the lovely town of Cramahe (ex Colborne) just a few km east of Cobourg on the lake.

In the past year Mandy – who has been active on many fronts in Cramahe – got frustrated with the political process at the municipal level. So she decided to fix it. She ran for mayor. And yesterday she won. Get ready Cramahe, a new era is dawning and you don’t know it yet!

In my long life, I have been privileged to know many women of substance, both personally and professionally. I even married one. But I want to take time today to wish my old friend Mandy all the success she deserves. She’ll do the town proud, I’m sure of that!


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