Cold Out There

Last night was a bit colder than expected, -29C at six this morning. Attila’s diligent attention to the hearth fires yesterday has succeeded in keeping the house reasonably comfortable. There is just a touch of chill in the air, in the house, this morning. I must dress warmly to stay comfortable. If I dress warmly I am comfortable.

Today is the last day of January, thank goodness. This morning when Attila left for work there was enough light in the sky that we could actually see one another clearly to wave goodbye, facial expressions and all. The distant horizon was pink and silver behind him, and now, an hour or so later, the tips of the tree tops are blazing in the sunshine.

Yesterday we made a quick dash to the village to buy some bread, and other supplies. There is a small store about five miles from here, but it only sells bread contaminated with my allergen, and prices are much higher there than in the village. The drive into the village was beautiful: sparkling snow, white frosted evergreens, blue, blue sky. It was great to get out for a few hours.

Attila is also coming down with cabin fever. We are busy making escape plans. Making plans temporarily alleviates the worst of the symptoms. Cabin fever is about failing human interconnections, and develops slowly as human connections slow or cease. Digital contact helps, but it only addresses the symptoms and is not a solution.

My shower this morning was akin to a polar bear dip, as I stepped out of the shower and into the icy bathroom. Very invigorating. My clothes had been warming on the hearth for quite some time, so I sprinted to the masonry heater to dry myself and don my warmed clothing.

This is an old video about masonry heaters, one I hadn’t seen before; this is not us, our masonry heater or our home. This must have been produced in southern climes, because when it is -29C outside, you need three “50 pound” fires every day, and that is not a small armful of wood by any means. Regardless, our masonry heater heats our house using about 12 face cords of wood per winter. That is a lot of wood and a lot of work, but we are almost exclusively “off-grid” when it comes to heat in the winter.

Worldly Distractions


-29 °C
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 103.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -29.0°C
Dewpoint: -31.7°C
Humidity: 78 %
Wind: 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -33


“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.”
H. P. Lovecraft
1890 – 1937


“A masonry heater (or masonry stove) is a device for warming a home (or any interior space) that captures the heat from periodic burning of fuels (primarily wood), and then radiates that heat over a long period at a fairly constant temperature. The technology exists in many forms from the Roman hypocaust to the Austrian/German kachelofen. The hypocaust is a system for heating the floors and walls of buildings (especially baths) using the smoke and exhaust of a single fire. In Eastern and Northern Europe and North Asia, these kachelofens (or steinofens) evolved in many different forms and names, such as a Russian Stove/Fireplace (Russian: Русская печь), a Finnish Stove (in Finnish: pystyuuni or kaakeliuuni, “tile oven”) and the Swedish Stove (in Swedish: kakelugn, “tile stove” or “contra-flow stove”) associated with Carl Johan Cronstedt. The Chinese developed the same principle into their Kang bed-stove.”

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.

Sunday morning 6:00 a.m. and I’ve been awake for what seems like hours. Attila is sleeping, the windows are spaces coloured black. With cabin fever one cannot afford to lie in bed for too long, black thoughts eventually outrun you. So here I am at the keyboard, at six on a Sunday morning, by lamplight. “Ain’t nobody here but us chickens.”

My inner voice has all sorts of sayings and phrases from my childhood. I hardly notice them and seldom verbalize them. This morning they are keeping me company.

Funny, the phrase “ain’t nobody here but us chickens” has always been a part of my world. I never thought about the origin until this morning, and it does make sense. It is possible that I listened to the Decca release of this song as a child, or perhaps just heard the adults around me use the phrase. My grandparents had a windup gramophone and we delighted in playing “old” records; which were actually relatively recent releases in those days, but since they belonged to my grandparents we thought of them as “old”. My favorite song as a child was Side by Side by Harry Woods, although I don’t know who performed the song on the actual recording we played, it might have been Nick Lucas or Kay Starr.

Tonight the outdoor temperature is due to dip to -27C. Attila will try to get ahead of this cold snap by splitting and toting enough wood for three fires in the masonry heater and two separate firings of the little wood stove downstairs. Heating with wood is a love/hate thing, love the heat, the crackle, the dancing flames and hate the inflexibility, chopping, splitting, toting, wood chips, ash and cleaning. Mist thinks this is just silly, wood heat is all good; until the humans fall behind in the quest for fire.

I usually pay no attention to jokes, as many of them these days are made at the expense of others. A fellow “classmate”, who attended the program for old workers with me, forwards email jokes and images that she finds amusing. I love her sense of humour and enjoy almost all the missives she sends my way. Neither she nor I were assisted by the program in finding work that would support us, so the humourous messages are a nice way of keeping in touch without bemoaning the deplorable state of non-employment/under-employment we both experience. This morning three new jokes appeared in my inbox, two of which elicited loud guffaws from both Attila and myself. One of them I found on the Internet, moral of the church gossip, classified as a church joke. However, to my mind it represents life in a small town, or in any place/group with a limited membership and control issues.

Worldly Distractions


-11 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -11.0°C
Dewpoint: -12.1°C
Humidity: 92 %
Wind: WNW 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -14


“who… didn’t show any bitterness about his truncated life, as if he were oblivious to all the evil he had suffered. How different the old man was from some Chinese dissidents who were well supported by universities and foundations.”
A Free Life by Ha Jin (2007)


Song: There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens (1946 hit)
by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five
“There ain’t nobody here but us chickens
There ain’t nobody here at all
So calm yourself,
And stop your fuss
There ain’t nobody here but us
We chickens tryin’ to sleep,
And you butt in
And hobble, hobble hobble hobble
With your chin”

Joke: moral of the church gossip
“Mildred, the church gossip, and self-appointed monitor of the church’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several members did not approve of her extra-curricular activities, but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town’s only bar one afternoon.
She emphatically told George and several others that everyone seeing it there would know what he was doing. George, a man of few words, stared at her for a moment and just turned and walked away. He didn’t explain, defend, or deny. He said nothing.”
Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred’s house … and left it there all night.

Cabin Fever

Suddenly we have cabin fever here; I have cabin fever.  Curses!

Besides the now ongoing challenge of cabin fever, life is pretty good.

As often happens, the universe conspires to delight me in small ways.  For instance, as I was glumly driving to work yesterday morning the sun suddenly illuminated a panorama of beauty, right in front of me.  Although it is all private property, this beautiful landscape, the trees and clouds and snow and sunshine do not for one minute acknowledge the hubris of entitlement.  The universe reminds me that it is real, more real than any rapacity the powerful minority of humans can muster.  This scenery, this natural force, is that to which I will return.  I find that beautiful.

And then of course, there is chocolate cake!  My birthday has come and gone, and it was a good one.  It went according to plan; I talked/corresponded with loved ones, had my pizza and chocolate cake and watched a good movie with Attila.

Kobo customer service continues to disappoint.  I still cannot access the book I purchased, nor have I received my discount coupon promised at time of purchase.  What they seem to be doing is to answer the phones, take down the information, “escalate” the call to unnamed individuals and then leave you waiting for a reply.  Since January 24th there has been no reply.  They also ask you to rate the call to customer service, which you really cannot do because no one has addressed your issue, they only escalate it into the ether.  The questions on the customer survey are not designed to explore the issues that concern me.  I am not happy with the Kobo support team right now.

The food labeling “write-in” has reached 3,690 as of early this morning; thanks to everyone who has participated. I do hope it succeeds, it would make my life much more bearable.

It looks like our plans to visit the little house in the city must be canceled again!  Lows of -20C to -26C mean that we have to stay at home to keep the hearth fires burning.  We have been trying to get away for just one night since the beginning of January.  Maybe next week!  Curses!

My desk was clear and clean just a few days ago, really it was.  Now it is piled high with bills, notes-to-self, doodles of a portable bed design I thought of while watching the fire this morning, professional magazines, flyers, notes on phone calls I have to make, forms I have to fill out…  Unfortunately not one of the items on my desk is interesting in the slightest.  My goal for today is to resolve all bits and pieces and clear my desk again.

Worldly Distractions


-18 °C
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -18.0°C
Dewpoint: -18.9°C
Humidity: 93 %
Wind: 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -21


“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”
Thomas Jefferson
1743 – 1826


Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in, in a small space, with nothing to do, for an extended period (as in a simple country vacation cottage during a long rain or snow). Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, irrational frustration with everyday objects, forgetfulness, laughter, excessive sleeping, distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow or dark.



The house is once again cozy and warm.  The weather outside has warmed considerably and the thermal mass in the house is warming as well.

We signed up for a free month of Netflix, and I’ve been hard at work making the most of the service while we have it.  I’ve been checking out programs that must run on channels we never get on television, like Drop Dead Diva and Huff.  There are a lot of older excellent movies we have not seen yet, out here in the bush.  We watched “A Beautiful Mind”, about the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Funny thing though, Mr. Nash doesn’t look a bit like Russell Crowe, who gave an entirely sympathetic performance as the troubled economist.

The Kobo continues to delight me.  However, they have not addressed the issue that a book I purchased from them is not available for download onto the Kobo, as it should be.  I’ll have to send them yet another email about this.  How long should this take!  They’ve got my money, I’ve got no book!

Tomorrow I am back at work, thank goodness. I become extremely inactive when confined to the house for long periods of time. My work is physically challenging. I’ll be tired tomorrow night and then I should acclimatize to the increased activity levels.

Today has been quiet, filled with pleasant conversation and very enjoyable.

Worldly Distractions


-5 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 5 km
Temperature: -5.0°C
Dewpoint: -5.0°C
Humidity: 100 %
Wind: calm


“The name we give to something shapes our attitude toward it.”
Katherine Paterson

Food Labeling

Sometimes things shock me, that shouldn’t really shock me at all. One of them is the limited response to the Allergic Living “write-in“, a citizen’s opportunity to let the government know that accurate and thorough food labeling is important to Canadians.  My interest in and knowledge about food labels developed in response to my condition of anaphylaxis.  When I last checked this morning, only 1,545 individuals felt the issue important enough to let their voice be heard. Thanks to anyone out there who has already participated.

Where are the rest of my fellow Canadians, the other 33,738,355 Canadians, to be exact? Where is the media coverage that would bring this serious issue to the attention of Canadians? Why exactly is this issue not receiving the public recognition it merits? Whose interests are being served?

I can think of several examples where people have assumed that food or beverage were safe. They were wrong and people died. The Franklin Expedition, for example, assumed that the canned goods they ate were safe, and never knew that they had been poisoned by lead, which affected their cognitive functioning and compromised their ability to survive the other hardships they faced. Another, more recent, example is the Walkerton Tragedy, Walkerton is a community that assumed that government regulations ensured a safe water supply. They were wrong. And then there is tobacco, more Canadian labeling under fire.

It was interesting that at the time of the Walkerton Tragedy, when it first hit the news, I spoke out and voiced my concerns on a public forum. I was openly ridiculed for voicing concerns that were eventually addressed by the Walkerton Commission.

I find public complacence about food, beverage and substance safety issues shocking.

The sad thing is that I have no rational reason to find this complacence shocking.

Worldly Distractions


-13 °C
Condition: Snow
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 11 km
Temperature: -13.0°C
Dewpoint: -13.8°C
Humidity: 94 %
Wind: SE 9 km/h
Wind Chill: -18


“People need to be shocked out of their complacency about tobacco”
David Byrne


The Franklin Expedition
Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin KCH FRGS RN (16 April 1786 – 11 June 1847) was a British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer who mapped almost two thirds of the northern coastline of North America. Franklin also served as governor of Tasmania for several years. In his last expedition, he disappeared while attempting to chart and navigate a section of the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. The entire crew perished from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, scurvy and exposure before and after Franklin died and the expedition’s icebound ships were abandoned in desperation.

The Walkerton Tragedy
“The Walkerton Tragedy is a series of events that accompanied the contamination of the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, by E. coli bacteria in May 2000.”

Tobacco Lobby
“Canada became the first country to implement health warnings on cigarette packages when they initiated the use of warnings starting December 2000. Cigarette packages are required to have a health warning cover 50% of the front and 50% of the back of the package (one side in English and the other side in French, the two official Canadian languages). Overall, 50% of the package space is appropriated to health warnings. In addition to health warnings on the outside of packages, 1 of 16 rotated messages are required to appear on the inside of each cigarette package, either on the slide or on an insert. A set of 16 health warnings are rotated on packages.
Canada also prohibits the terms “light” and “mild” from appearing on packages
As well, Canada requires tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and benzene emission numbers to appear on the side of packages. Two numbers appear from each emission: one from the ISO and one from the Health Canada machine smoking method.”

“Health Canada’s abrupt decision in September to back down from expanding warning labels on cigarette packages came after tobacco company lobbyists waged a co-ordinated, sometimes secretive lobbying campaign, CBC News has learned… But in September, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said plans to update warnings on cigarette packages had been halted, and the government’s new focus would be on fighting the sale of contraband cigarettes.”