Monday, May 29, 2006

Another (Eventual) Campfire in the Woods

I learned a lesson on Saturday about firestarting.

The sunny, humid day followed a rainy foggy day and I was in a wooded valley north of Oakville. I brought my knife and firesteel - and after we hiked in a while we settled down at an old site where it looks like a party had taken place - beer cans, bags etc... laying all around. I grabbed some leaf litter and tried to spark a fire. There was not a birch tree in sight - this would have done it straigh-away. It took about 20 frustrating minutes to get a successful flame - it kept starting and quickly dying in the leaf tinder. Finally after much crouching, scraping, sparking and searching for tinder, the fire started and our campfire burned hot for about an hour before we left. Monty chased chipmunks and curiously splashed through and up the creek.

We burned the paper and tidied up the garbage for the trek out.

Lesson - bring tinder supply in a box - lint, cotton wool, compressed wood fibre and wax etc... as you never know when the weather will turn. Getting kindling is always easy, it is the tinder that is the tricky part.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lush Gardens of Green Grass

Were I to make an entry for my blog today I'd want to make something that people will find useful, and not something that only I for unfathomed reasons could possible find interesting, so I should try to find some sort of universal theme, and inject a little bit of dry humour or even self-deprecating humour into it to give it a little umph.

Maybe I could talk about our new lawn. Yes, I think that is what I will talk about. Now I won't be able to inject much if any humour or include a universal theme (except for hope and striving towards a lawn), but hey.

Well, our balcony overlooks the Spadina Quay Music Garden, and the Island Airport, and finally of course the lake, but don't forget if you turn to your right you can see the Gardiner Expressway, well, I'm sure you wouldn't but I really was just reminding myself to mention it.

We have window boxes that last year lay in fallow due only to my lassitude and failure to be a farmer (of flowers etc...). But this year, not only have I planted copious flowing gardens in the three window boxes, I have also planted a lush, luxurious, deep, cradling and soft lawn. About 15 inches by 15 inches square. It took about 4 days for tufts to appear, and 2 weeks later the grass is not quite as high as an elephant's eye, but heck it is getting there.

I don't know what I'll do when it gets so high that it needs a good mowing. Monty can't reach up to have a pee on it either. I'd like to walk through it in bare feet, feeling the grass rustle through my toes. But I'd likely topple over the balcony walls and fall 7 stories to arrive mangled and bruised at an emergency ward.

So, without further ado, I present to you our new lawn:

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Camping mistakes I have made. You shouldn't make them.

  1. I used the blade of a non-lock-blade folding laguille knife to lift a cooking pot off of a fire. We'd just arrived after an arduous 19-kilometre-long (phew) portage and canoe-journey, and the light had fallen quickly, and I'd just had an 'arrival-beer'. Luckily it didn't cut my finger completely off.
    You should have used a stick to lift the pot.

  2. November camping once, I set up my tent on a promontory, on a thin spit of land between lakes. I turned to get the fire going, and a gust of wind threw my tent into a solitary bush by the beach - if it hadn't have been there, my tent would have been in the lake.
    You should have tied down the tent with pegs and against a tree.
  3. To keep a pesky racoon away from my food one evening, I placed my food containers in my tent. Then I went to bed. Then I woke up to the sound of some vicious snuffling outside of my tent. I froze in horror, stepped out of the tent, and watched a bear's dark shape race off into the woods.
    You should have used a bear-bag and tossed it up into a tree - away from the camp.

  4. I didn't bring a lantern, and arrived on site an hour after dark.
    You should have brought a lantern.
  5. I got into a who-can-toss-the-largest-rock contest with 2 very large guys. I had my very first rotator-cuff injury ever, and didn't bring pain-killers.
    You should have not thrown large rocks, and you should have brought pain-killers - injuries hurt so much more at 3 in the morning.

  6. To start a stubborn fire, I tossed naptha gas in the firepit and lit it. I narrowly avoided burning my face off.
    You should have learned how to make a fire properly.
  7. I drank a drinking-box of wine instead of packing glass - it was the environmentally right thing to do. My hangover the next morning was evil.
    You should never drink wine from a box again.

P.S. Read more camping lore from Mungo...

Friday, May 5, 2006

Hunky Dory

A week ago tonight I heard a snippet of a song on the radio and it threw me back in time, hurled me back to when things were different and I still love this album. This is one of my top twenty seven albums of all time.

Eight Line Poem Lyrics
The tactful cactus by your window
Surveys the prairie of your room
The mobile spins to its collision
Clara puts her head between her paws
They've opened shops down West side
Will all the cacti find a home
But the key to the city
Is in the sun that pins
the branches to the sky

Porter Goss steps aside.

Porter Goss's retreat.
Statement by CIA Director Porter Goss

This morning, I notified the President that I will be stepping aside as Director of CIA. It has been my distinct honor to serve the President, the people of the United States, and the very able men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency. I am grateful to President Bush for the trust and responsibility he placed in me, and for allowing me the privilege of serving him, and the people of the United States.

When the President asked me to become the last DCI, I fully recognized and embraced the challenge of leading this Agency through historic change, not just for the CIA, but the entire Intelligence Community. It was my desire to lead the CIA – this is where I started my career, and where I always wanted to return.

I am proud of CIA's leadership team. They share a deep dedication to improving the Agency's capabilities, and are driven by a complete dedication to mission. Given the new IC architecture, it was imperative to have a team that worked not as individual directorates, but as one. They have helped me, and CIA as a whole, in our ongoing inter-agency discussions related to this new architecture.

When I came to CIA in September of 2004, I wanted to accomplish some very specific things, and we have made great strides on all fronts, from our field-forward approach, to welcoming record numbers of new employees who are today receiving better training than ever before. We have reintegrated support, and improved tradecraft across the board – part of which is keeping our secrets. We also are reinvigorating and enhancing our analytic capabilities with an even stronger role for alternative analysis. And, there is no question, that CIA remains the leader of cutting edge research and technology, which enables our security mission.

CIA remains the gold standard. That has been recognized within the new IC structure – CIA is the National HUMINT Manager, the place for all source analysis, the bulwark of our nation's analytic capability, and remains central, from support to our technological advantage.

Over the next few weeks, I will be here to ensure a smooth and professional transition, which is the tradition of our Agency, as we welcome the next Director of CIA. During the time of transition, I am fully confident that the men and women of CIA will be solely focused on their critical mission.

The past 18 months have been among the proudest of my five decades in public service. Every day, I have had the unique privilege of knowing first hand the extraordinary work the men and women of CIA do in the name of our nation's security. It has been an honor.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006


Stars are up there
and it is dark around here
and the dog is wandering in the grass in the dark
and people walk by less
because they want to be home now
and planes intersect and approach and grow and dim in the sky past the moon
and the seat I'm in affords me a good view of feuding ducks and a lone swan
and silhouetted against the sky from my vantage point
if I crane my neck
are the buds of a tree poking out green in the twilight
and that's my sort of poem
of the evening light
earlier tonight

A Little Tiny Camp Fire

I did it again. I wandered up to a dried weedy stalk on the beach, crumpled up a handful of fuzz, struck a spark with my pocket knife and started a hand-sized conflagration on the beach. I stomped it out with my heel. I did it just to pretend I was camping. It is the busiest time in the webcasting industry apparently. And I feel it. In addition to tons of webcasting production, I have oodles and oodles of software requirements analysis and project management and client expectation management and account management which I haven't done much of before but mostly it is business and project management and that is okay but non-stop lists of priorities and to-do's and Campbell's Chunky Stew every day because I can't give myself any time away from my desk due to the constricting forces of anxiety and schedules and it-has-to-get-done-now-or-it'll-all-explode-edness. Or maybe I'm just being dramatic. Maybe I just like camping.

Denmark royal recommends dog meat

This story I pulled off of UPI is real. And apparently this guy is the honorary president of the Danish Dachshund Club. Gives new meaning to the term Sausage Dog. Not sure if the link will still work, but here it is.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, May 3 (UPI) -- Denmark's Prince Henrik -- who is honorary president of the Danish Dachshund Club -- says dog meat is one of his favorite foods.

The 72-year-old prince consort has created controversy with his interview in the magazine Ud&Se in which he urged his countrymen to try dog meat, either fried or grilled, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.

"I do not mind eating dog meat at all," he said. "The dogs I eat have been bred to be eaten anyway, just like chickens.

"It tastes like rabbit, like dry venison, or like veal -- just drier," he added.

He suggested the dog meat be sautéed or grilled and cut into thin slices.