The Other Side of the Coin

 

A beloved male lion is lured outside the preserve, killed by a “big game” hunter and decapitated.

A six year old cat in Gatineau QC doesn’t return home then is found brutally beaten and has to be put down.

There is a war on against felines it seems. I suppose we have to face the facts that cat haters are out there and they gonna hate.

Yet if you look at the reasons given by ailurophobes they don’t really stand up that well to scrutiny – at least in my experience they don’t.

  • Cats don’t really love you. They are just there for what they need.
    Well, I’ve seen lots of videos where a cat has food, water and clean litter but they wander the house with their favorite toy, meowing for their absent human. Maybe cats aren’t as demonstrative in their love (or as needy) as dogs but it’s there. I nearly missed out on adopting Mr. Oates because he had lost his family and home and was lying about depressed in the shelter. Since he came home with us he’s been a totally different cat – vocal and totally friendly.
  • Cat’s aren’t affectionate. They just rub against you to mark their territory.
    I scarcely feel like a scratching post or sofa when Oatsy climbs up on the computer desk to lie next to the monitor, or snoozes on the floor behind my chair – just because I’m here. Nor do I think that rubbing, head butting, snuggling up or purring is simply marking me out as territory. Puh-leeze.
  • Cats are an eco-disaster, killing wildlife and breeding out of control.
    Feral and barn cats are expert killers, but the average housecat isn’t. Even if one does manage to get outdoors, it’s more likely to be a clumsy inefficient hunter. Real domestic cats learned to chase wand toys as kittens, not rodents and birds. The feral cat population is a problem and Trap Neuter Release programs can help reduce it – as can rescuing feral kittens at an early age and making housecats out of them. And if everyone took the responsibility of a pet owner seriously it would go a long way to help the ecology.
  • Cat poop can spread Toxoplasma gondii parasites – you’ll all go crazy.
    Again nobody likes to find cat doo-doo in the flowerbeds and T. gondii can cause all sorts of nastiness including birth defects. But keep your cat indoors and don’t let it hunt and kill infected rodents. Chances are you’ll have no problems. A pregnant woman should steer clear of cleaning litter in any event. Man up, guys!
    I’ve cleaned up far more doggie doo on my property than cat poop so the dog owners shouldn’t feel too superior about fecal matters.

I suppose that it’s understandable that a certain segment of the population may feel uncomfortable around cats – especially if you have severe allergies. But I can never accept treating any animal with cruelty – be that a majestic lion from an animal preserve or a simple neighborhood moggie whose owners should keep her away from predation and accident. That’s my $0.02 worth anyway.

 

 

 

Gotta Love ‘Em

 

It didn’t start out this way. I was a dog person for the first half of my life – I grew up with dogs. I didn’t think about having a cat until I met a couple of Siamese in the early 1980s. Then we got Brio – the most dog-like cat you could have ever imagined – and a cat in spades besides. I was hooked, and after 33 years of being a cat staff member I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what is it about cats that has turned my pet owner world around? Quite a few things, actually.

  • A cat’s love for you is more subtle but it’s real. To know this you have to watch them and learn their language. A wagging tail does not mean the same thing as it does with a dog.
    Hanging out where you are and snoozing next to you are more a cat’s speed. Also a cat’s love is based on equality rather than servitude so don’t expect anything less than genuine give and take. Mostly take. 🙂
  • You can spoil a cat and you won’t get a behavioral problem. In fact the cushier a cat gets it, the more he likes it. Cats seem to luxuriate in warm places or soft pillows, and they love those treats.
  • Cats don’t always do the expected. Why Mr. Oates likes to sleep in a bathroom sink rather than a cat bed is a mystery to me – he hasn’t decided to confide in me yet.
  • Contemplative calm. When a cat is in his element, he’s not boisterous. It’s more a slow, heavy lidded eye blink and a peaceful countenance that tells you he’s in Zen City.
  • That purr. That wonderful purr that heals pain, lowers blood pressure, calms everything within earshot, tells you that it’ll be OK, it’ll be OK. Nothing like it in the world.
  • The sheer reliability of it all. Wake, hunt, eat, groom, sleep…rinse and repeat. No cat would have it any other way. And don’t try any changes, Buster. That includes new food, different litter, and above all trips to the vet.
  • Cats are infinitely adaptable given time. Mr. Oates lost his home and family and spent some time in a cat shelter. That shook up his world but he’s sure got his Mojo back now.
  • A head butt and a touch of a paw at 4 AM. Just checking to see if you’re still here. You can get the cat toys out later.
  • The experience of living with a panther without minor inconveniences like being ripped limb from limb. No mice around either.

Two great feline pals in 33 years and now starting over with a guy who’s an amalgam of the first two. Talks like Brio, hunts like Sam. Loves his sinks. Go figure.

Three Hour Tour

Our cruise was coming to an end early on the morning of May 1 as we slowly made our way under the Lions Gate Bridge and into Vancouver Harbor. All that was left was a leisurely disembarkation and a brief tour of the city before a dropoff at the airport. Piece of cake, right? Right.

 

Past the container port with a look back at the Lions Gate.

Quick view of the Vancouver skyline then off to breakfast and the Departure Lounge. This would be our last experience of the beautiful Solstice for some time as we don’t plan on more Australian cruising, nor will we go to Seattle for an Alaska cruise.

 

Grand Princess joining us at Canada Place cruise terminal.

 

A bit cloudy but all in all not bad. We didn’t expect any delay in getting home.

 

One last photo from the upper deck. Things went south from here in a hurry.
First our embarkation was delayed by late arrival of Canada Customs officers. When we did get off they told us our luggage wasn’t there yet, but we found it after a frantic search. Then we were in line for customs, and after that in a massive queue for our bus – which arrived late. Not a good start.

 

The bus drove slowly through the city. There was a lot of traffic and construction delay – especially near the BC Place stadium. Then we were off to Stanley park. The bus soon developed engine trouble and the driver had to stop here to let it cool down.

 

A bit further and we stopped again due to overheating, within view of where we started. Now we suspected why that bus was late in the first place. We got as far as the Lions Gate overlook in Stanley Park and the bus died completely. We had less than an hour to get to the airport and it was going to take 30 minutes to get a new bus.
There were three groups who had to make our flight. One of the younger guys ran to a local ice cream stand and ordered up three taxis. We pulled our luggage off the bus, piled into a cab and after a hectic ride made it to the airport with about 20 minutes to spare.

Air Canada rushed us through check-in and we raced to the departure gate.

At this point we were advised they had mechanical issues and the flight was delayed 90 minutes. We were starved and stressed out so we headed to the nearest fast food spot – a Rice Tales. There was a lineup there and by the time we ordered an announcement came to rush back to the departure gate –  they fixed the aircraft quickly and we would be leaving very soon. We had the folks at Rice Tales pack up our lunch to go and got on the plane. Whew!

The flight was jammed and we barely had room for our luggage, but we made it. After a 5 hour flight, reclaiming our bags, waiting for the Park ‘n Fly bus and then driving home we got back to Almonte around 12:30 AM local time. That’s all folks. What a day.

 

 

 

The Big Island – Part 2

 

Our final visit to Hawaii was on the windward side of the Big Island in the town of Hilo. In Hilo we did not have to tender as we docked  in this rather un-scenic harbor.

The view on the opposite side of the ship was a bit nicer, though.

 

After a brief tour of Hilo we were off to see Akaka Falls.

 

Our guide said that The Big Island has 11 different climate zones, and Akaka Falls is one of tropical lushness. They get about 5500 mm of rain per year at this 440 foot waterfall.

 

On the nature trail to see one of the smaller waterfalls.

 

You can just see it across the valley here.

 

And here’s the main waterfall. Pretty impressive.

 

Maria enjoyed the nature trail and the lovely view.

 

Gorgeous tropical blooms everywhere you looked.

 

Another fast flowing tropical stream.

 

And yet another.

 

And here’s another. It was a Garden of Eden.

 

Next we were off to the city zoo and botanical garden. Things were a little more civilized there but just as lush.

 

I was standing outside the gift shop when this fellow said “Hello” so I had to take his picture.

 

The zoo had all kinds of lovely tree lined walkways like this one.

 

And plenty of friendly inhabitants. Nothing too scary though.

 

More beautiful flowers everywhere you looked.

 

After a tropical downpour, and a visit to a Macadamia nut factory we returned to the ship and got ready to say goodbye to the Hawaiian Islands. It was a lovely visit. Next stop Vancouver!

 

 

The Big Island – Part 1

Our final visits before heading across the Pacific again were to the big island of Hawaii. We started out on the Kona side once more – this time at the port of Kailua Kona. It looks rather hazy here because of volcano smoke. That’s a feature of the big island I guess.

Here’s the landing area at Kailua Kona where the tender boats arrive. Some more shopping was available here if you didn’t get enough in Lahaina.

 

A rather sobering sign. Kailua Kona has been hit with several tsunamis over the years including the one from the Japanese  Tohuku earthquake in 2011.

Off on our tour, our first stop was at the Royal Kona coffee factory. As we sipped our coffee on the deck, we could look across the bay to the Captain Cook memorial site. The place where Cook was killed is actually a United Kingdom territory.

Some vintage coffee processing equipment.

Next we visited the Painted Church – St Benedict’s on the slopes of Mauna Loa. The church was built in the late 1890s.

It’s the interior that’s painted . The pastor was a decent if untrained artist and he decorated the interior in the style of a European cathedral to give his parishioners a feel for what it was like. It’s pretty cool and a big tourist attraction.

A primitive statue of Fr. Damian – who ministered in this area for a few years before he went to the Molokai leper colony.

Our final stop on the tour was at the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park – which combines the residence of the Hawaiian chiefs with the Pu’uhonua Sanctuary.

The Hawaiians had a system of Kapu (Taboo) laws and if you were unfortunate enough to one of break them your sentence was death normally. However if you managed to escape the Kapu Kops and make your way to the sanctuary, you could meet with the Big Kahuna, get absolved of your sins and start over. It wasn’t that easy though, The approach from the sea was guarded by a lot of lava rock.

More obstacles in your path.

The sanctuary was partitioned off from the chief’s residence by this massive wall built in the 16th century. No sinners allowed inside here.

Behind the wall the chief had his residence, his fish ponds and the burial sites of his ancestors.

A typical Hawaiian workshop with the chief’s canoe. The roof is made from coconut palm leaves.

The national historic park is well worth the visit to get a feel for Hawaiian culture before the Europeans arrived. It would have been better to be a chief I think. I don’t like the idea of trying to get to that sanctuary.

Maui – Part 2

On our second cruise we returned to Maui for a couple of days and this time we had a brief tour of the island outside of the town of Lahaina. Our first stop was at the Maui Tropical Plantation.

The plantation is primarily a tourist attraction – it has an excellent motorized train tour. But it also grows a wide variety of crops which are sold locally. There is need to irrigate though as the plantation is still on the Kona (dry) side of Maui and gets only about 450 mm of rain per year. Here we see some workers in the field. Not quite sure what they are up to, but they’re out there.

Here’s a photo of a (wait for it) Jack Fruit tree.

And here is our guide with an enthusiastic coconut opening demo.

Here are pineapples being cultivated. Dole and Del Monte used to have huge pineapple plantations in Hawaii but that’s all gone now because of high labor and land costs. Most canned pineapple comes from Thailand and the Philippines now, and fresh pineapple is grown in Costa Rica for North American markets.

And here they grow bananas for the local market.

Coffee plants here. Those mountains in the background stop most of the rain from getting here.

And here’s where all that water ends up. In the Iao valley on the other side of the mountains, they get 9800 mm of rain per year – over 20 times the amount on the dry side.

Lots of lovely little streams running down the valley.

This is the Iao peak. We were lucky to get a good view as it’s very often foggy and rainy here.

A bit better look at the Iao peak and the rugged valley beside it. Hard to imagine the difference between this area and the sunny dryness of Lahaina only 30 minutes away.

From here you can look all the way down the valley to the sea. Very cool.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the other side of Maui.

Memorial to the Greatest Generation

The veterans of the Second World War are part of the Greatest Generation – and there is no greater Memorial to them than the one which honors the memory of USS Arizona (BB-39) and the gallantry of her crew.

A visit to this Memorial has been on my bucket list for close to 60 years – and I finally got there on April 20, 2015.

The Arizona Memorial is part of the Pearl – Hickam military complex which is still actively used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force. In addition to the Valor in The Pacific Museum there are some historic ships moored there, including the Battleship Missouri and USS Bowfin, a veteran of 9 war patrols in WWII. Of course the absolute highlight is the remains of the USS Arizona.

To visit the actual Memorial you have to get a reserved ticket. After watching a film on the Pearl Harbor attack, you board one of these boats. They are operated by US Navy sailors and bear the same number as the Arizona itself. Cassin Young won the Medal of Honor at Pearl Harbor, by steering his ship USS Vestal away from the stricken USS Arizona. Captain Young was later killed in action at the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.

You can see the USS Missouri in the background. The US Pacific war began with the Pearl Harbor attack and ended aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay nearly 4 bloody years later.

As we approached the Memorial we saw the mooring dock where the Arizona was anchored on December 7, 1941.

Now we were ready to disembark and enter the Memorial.

It’s a serene place today considering the hell it must have been 74 years ago. Here is the list of fatalities plus a few surviving shipmates who died decades later, and whose ashes were returned to be buried on the wreck. There were 1174 lives who vanished in a moment, including those of Admiral Kidd and Captain Van Valkenberg.

Part of the damaged section under the memorial. This is about where the bomb landed that blew the ship to pieces.

There were plans for the Arizona to sail back to the Mainland in December 1941, and she received 1.2 million gallons of fuel just before the attack. A lot of the oil burned in the fire that raged for days afterward, but there is still some oil trapped in the Arizona’s hull and small quantities escape and color the water to this very day. It’s not an environmental hazard since the quantity is small at this point and biodegradable. Just a poignant reminder that we are visiting a war grave.

The base of one of the main gun turrets that protrudes above the water. Most of the Arizona’s big guns were salvaged, but the furthest forward turret was so badly damaged that the guns there remain in the turret beneath the surface.

Wreckage near the bow of the ship. Most of the forward portion was destroyed and sunk, but a few sections remain above water. The Arizona was never in any naval salvage plans and was just left as a tomb for her sailors and marines. Most of the other battleships that were sunk or damaged in the attack were raised and repaired, and took part in the war later on. Many people think that the Arizona is still in commission since the American flag flies prominently at her wreck. However she was taken off the Navy List about a year after the attack. The Arizona’s ship’s bell was salvaged and I have seen it at the State Capitol building in Phoenix, AZ. The Memorial structure itself was opened in 1962.

And here is one of the USS Arizona’s massive anchors that was also recovered from the wreck.

All in all the visit we made to the Arizona Memorial more than met my lifelong expectations. It was a stirring highlight of our visit to Honolulu and it is not to be missed.

 

 

Kitten Explosion

I was in the local Pet Valu yesterday, and in the process checked out their adopt-a cat cage. They had 3 kittens in there. The oldest girl was 3 months of age. Her brother had been adopted and to keep her company the store got two more kittens. They were only two months old – scared and disoriented, huddling together at the bottom of the cage for mutual warmth and support. It was so sad to see.

Technically Mr. Oates is a kitten I guess but at 8 months he’s growing up fast. He was already friendly and cuddly when he joined our household. He also knew how to use the litterbox. It took him a couple of weeks but now he owns the place and is oozing confidence. He’s asleep next to me on the computer desk as I type this.

I don’t think I could cope with a two month old kitten any more. I asked the lady at the store why these poor little guys were here. They apparently are overrun with kittens at Ottawa Cat Rescue and it was best to get these little guys out in the community where their chances of adoption are greater. The mother was apparently feral so the kittens need to be socialized somehow. Everybody loves kittens you see.

All I can say is please people have your furry pal spayed or neutered. And if at all possible keep the cat indoors. There is no need to reduce the robin population, nor does your cat need to be lunch for a coyote or fisher, or possible roadkill. We have had a decade and a half with each great pet because we kept them in the house and let them “kill” cat toys and not be killed.

I read somewhere that 50% of the cats who come into a shelter in the US are simply put down because there is no place to find a home for them. A lot of these are probably kittens. Not much of a life prospect, is it? And if everyone adopts a tiny kitten the older cats languish in the shelter as well. Be responsible, please.

Honolulu Confidential

 

If you’re a normal tourist flying into Honolulu and staying in Waikiki in a luxury hotel near all the high end shopping malls, your impression of Honolulu might be a bit different than if you arrive by cruise ship. First of all you won’t see this outside your hotel room.

Nor will you get this view of Diamond Head across the terminal parking lot.

Nor will you experience the Aloha Tower from the water.

These were all photographs taken from the ship, of course. The land experience is a bit different. In fact the Honolulu cruise terminal was one of the more disappointing places we encoutered on this trans- Pacific journey. It’s clean and modern enough; however, there is absolutely no reception for cruise passengers, no maps, no tourist information, nothing. There’s a shuttle to a local mall but that’s it.

This caused a lot of problems for us, given that we wanted to go to the Arizona Memorial. We had some idea of the bus we wanted to take, but where to find a bus stop?

We began a walk downtown and after some directions from a local guy we found this nice little park.

Not far away were the Iolani Palace and the Hawaiian Supreme Court you may recognize from Hawaii 5-0.

Next we discovered the Old Stone Church – the first Christian Church in Honolulu.

Next to the church is the tomb of King Lunalilo – a true Hawaiian monarch of the people.

And right by the church was a bus stop. Unfortunately it was in the direction of Waikiki, not the Arizona Memorial. I didn’t have a good feel for the area but I knew this direction wouldn’t be right. So we kept walking.

After a circle tour through an industrial strength shipping area we found ourselves back near the terminal. A short distance away was another bus stop and this turned out to be the right one. No thanks to the Honolulu Tourist Bureau though.

We waited about 30 minutes and then good old city bus #20 showed up. After getting a cheery “Aloha” from the bus’s electronic messaging system we were off on a tour of the bowels of Honolulu. We saw such tourist highlights as Costco, Home Depot and Walmart before passing the former Dole Pineapple Cannery. Apparently this is now a not too successful shopping mall, but we didn’t get off the bus to find out.

Next we had a nice drive under the elevated Interstate, and then a tour of the Airport, terminal by terminal. After that we were at the Arizona Memorial – which was phenomenal and the subject of my next blog post.

When we finished our visit to the memorial we had to find our way back to the highway at a different bus stop – this one had a grotty homeless sleeping area behind it. Then we were back on the bus with some of the more bizarre fellow riders I’ve met – including one guy wearing an NFL official’s jersey. We toured the airport again, and finished up with a drive through Chinatown that would not be on any tourist bus itinerary, believe me! At last we found our way back to the cruise port.

The next day we decided to visit the Aloha Tower as that was a stop off point for a real tourist hop on hop off bus. There was supposed to be a mall there too – but we found that it was totally dead except for Hooter’s and a couple of similar eateries. Redevelopment is underway as a residence for Hawaii Pacific University.

The tower was open though. It was a free elevator ride to the top.

And the view from there was quite impressive. Definitely worth a visit.

Next to the tower is another dead attraction – the Hawaii Maritime Center. Closed for some years according to Google.

And a historic sailing ship – Falls of Clyde – is just rusting away in the harbor. What a shame.

We hopped on our bus and off we went to see Waikiki – all the luxury hotels, Rolex shops, and pristine beaches. Quite a difference from the Aloha Tower area near the ship.

Next we drove by the Art Museum.

Then we finished up with a visit to the lovely Foster Botanical Garden.

Oh yes we went through Chinatown on this tour as well, but it was a considerably sanitized version compared to our city bus trip.

So there you have it. The real Honolulu, not the Disneyland version you’ll see if you go to the Waikiki beaches.

 

 

 

10 Years On

10 years ago today the movers finished loading the van and we locked the door at 56 Pennington Crescent, Georgetown for the last time. As I recall it was in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. The next day we moved into our current home in Almonte, after a 400 Km drive and an overnight stay in Peterborough.

10 years is a long time, especially as we get into the sunset years of our lives. It’s been a good time in many ways although we have had our share of sorrows too.

The move to the Ottawa Valley was a very wise one to make. This area is gorgeous, much like the vacation area I frequented as a young person. The air is clean, the night skies dark and full of stars. Nights are cool and days are warm in the summer and – although the winter tends to be harsh, it’s mostly snow not freezing rain – so we manage. There are times when I’m on my way home from points south that I can scarcely imagine I live in such a great spot.

We are closer to family and this has enabled us to assist with both the previous generation and the next two succeeding ones. We were able to be there when beloved family members got ill and passed away.

Our lovely old cat spent the majority of his life here and found kind and compassionate vet care at the end of it all. A new furry pal came from a shelter not far away.

Our grandchildren are growing up before our eyes. Even the youngest is now talking a blue streak. The older two are solidly plugged into the school system and on their way to maturity.

We have discovered the joys of sea cruising, been across the Atlantic multiple times and the Pacific as well. We’ve seen places I only dreamed of as a child. It may have taken 60 years but I got there eventually.

We’ve transitioned from middle aged early retirees to seniors. No longer do we have to feel guilty about leaving the workforce early – although frankly I never did. Those old folks around here who claim they love their jobs and don’t want to retire are mostly working at Walmart or Tim Horton’s. No thanks.

Maria keeps busy at a volunteer job with the community second hand store. I’ve learned how to refurbish, fix or build computers, how to set up wifi networks and work with Linux, Windows and OS X. I’m vastly more skilled at this than the average senior so I do a lot of IT work in the neighborhood and in town. I could probably make some serious money doing this, but the people I help are mostly poorer than I am so I won’t ask them to pay. It keeps my mind active getting them out of trouble.

Our health has been pretty good – aside from getting old. We have good medical and dental care nearby. Generally it’s been a great time to be retired and able to do the things we had on our bucket list. We wouldn’t trade the past 10 years for anything.

It’s almost unfathomable to realize that 10 years has flown by – but we’ve lived every day of it – one day at a time.

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