Preservation of Life

I kick-started my day with this thought expressed in a discussion I’ve involved myself in on Facebook:

Economics is a field used to describe and quantify the distribution of goods and services in our world – it is based on a zero-sum assumption – “When the gains made by winners in an economic transaction equal the losses suffered by the losers. It is identified as a special case in GAME THEORY. Most economic transactions are in some sense positive-sum games.” Of course, the positive-sum is only awarded to the winners in the game. The fewer the winners the greater their positive-sum, the greater number of losers. Unfortunately a positive-sum winning is an “empty calorie”, it has no actual human worth in terms of species survival. Tastes great to the winner in the short term, but has no sustaining qualities.
There are ways of looking at the world that are not predicated on the polarity of winners and losers. Unfortunately economic theory is not one of those ways of looking at the world. Unfortunately most of us have accepted economic theory as the foundation of the world we are creating. Maggie Turner on Facebook

The Facebook “friends” I have are connected to me by serendipity; I like it that way. Every day one of this diverse subset of the human race has something to say that is either interesting or inspiring or both.

Recently Kate posted this video about an amazing “new” drug, I liked it so much that I sent it to my loved ones and now I am posting if for you.

I needed this little boost because I spend all of my day either sitting in a car or sitting in a windowless little room in front of a computer screen, for which I am paid very little. So, on January 8, Attila and I figured out how many lengths of the house I would have to walk to equal one half mile, between eighty and ninety trips from one end to the other, indoors. Once I had that calculated, I began to pace back and forth. Usually this type of pacing is associated with distress, but not in this case. I began my almost daily “hamster walk”. I miss days, but I don’t care, I just start again soon afterward and all is well. I have discovered how much more pleasant it is to walk in stocking feet, far more comfortable. This summer I will switch to bare feet!

Recently my sister sent me a link to my game-developer nephew’s new game. I don’t like games, and seldom if ever play them. I had to try it though, out of courtesy if nothing else. Now I am hooked! The concept is preservation of life, rather than destruction. See for yourself… Eggman. It is delightful to be related to this young man! My brothers and sisters and I have brought such wonderful people into the world!

This morning when we awoke the temperature was -21 C. The house had cooled and the bedrooms are definitely chilled, but still above freezing. Attila quickly had a fire roaring in the hearth and it is quite comfortable in the ten foot radius around the masonry heater. The temperature drops as you move out of that zone and towards the outer walls and windows of the living area.

Luckily I have switched to the small, wheeled, computer desk. I can move it closer to the masonry heater between firings, and further away when the fire is a roaring 375 C. Masonry heaters burn full out, and they burn hot.

Tonight it is predicted to be colder still, -26 C. Attila will fire the masonry heater three times today, and build a fire in the little wood stove downstairs.

We are again staying in our country house for the weekend, cooking and cleaning and catching up. We really cannot leave when the temperature drops to -20 or below, someone has to keep the hearth fires burning!

Worldly Distractions


-21 °C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.6 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -21.3°C
Dewpoint: -23.8°C
Humidity: 81 %
Wind: NNW 15 km/h
Wind Chill: -30


“He woke at half-past two, an hour which long experience had taught him brings panic intensity to all awkward thoughts. Experience had also taught him that a further waking at the proper hour of eight showed the folly of such panic.”

The Forsyte Saga
John Galsworthy 

I Made Me Do It

Barn near our little house in the city.

Barn near our little house in the city.

My mind, while at work, is totally focused on the job at hand.  While I am driving too and from work my attention is totally absorbed by the road, and the roadsides as well as this is the season for moose and deer to venture out onto the pavement, attracted by warmth.  A portion of the day is taken up preparing to leave for work in the morning, and preparing for the next day in the evening.  Neither Attila or I have much in the way of discretionary time.

We use that discretionary time to perform personal tasks such as meal preparation, cleaning and of course traveling to and from the little house in the city, and all the projects we have undertaken at the little house.

Today, it all caught up with me.  I didn’t want to go to work!  I downright resented the whole idea of getting myself ready and heading out the door again, after putting in five full days of work.  Despite my internal resistance, I made me do it, go to work, and it was fine.  Oh to be two years old again and be able to pull out all the stops and have a full blown temper trantrum!!!  But who would listen, who would care?  Only Attila and he works the same long hours that I do, at a much more physically demanding job.  It would hardly seem fair to impose a temper tantrum on my fellow sufferer.  Besides, he would have every right to do exactly the same thing, and I wouldn’t enjoy that one little bit!

So here we are, two tired souls on a Saturday night.  I think we will take a break tonight, after dinner.  We will put our feet up and watch television.  Well, not television, we haven’t had television reception for a while now.  And not NetFlix because we haven’t had high speed Internet service for while now.  But, all is not lost.

I will explain.

We have a TV and DVD player at the little house in the city.  We actually have two CRT television sets donated to us, one from Terra and Lares and another from Luna and Janus.  We purchased a $20 DVD player and we were in business.  Terra and Lares lent us some of their DVDs which we have been watching occasionally since we were given the television sets.  We have watched and returned the DVDs to Terra and Lares, with many thanks.  While on vacation this month we were on the lookout for something interesting to view during the evenings, when it was too dark to work on painting the exterior siding.

While grocery shopping we came across a DVD package of the complete television series “The 4400”.  I’d never heard of the series, we found it in a discount bin and it seemed that it could be interesting.  And the price was right, $20 for the entire series, four seasons, so we took a chance.

We have been enjoying one episode per evening ever since.  There are still a few episodes left to watch and tonight we will close the blinds, put up our feet, put the DVD in the player and watch the end of the series.

But until then, Attila is out in the yard dealing with the autumn leaves.  I am sorting through bills, sizing up the bank account to see how and when these little gems can be paid.

Sitting here I just noticed the reflection of dancing flames in my monitor, from the masonry heater.  Attila has spent the last week curing the masonry heater and today is our first full firing.

I turned to feel the warmth and caught site of Mist, grooming herself in her basket which is strategically placed in front of the roaring fire.  Happy place, this is a happy place.  And I am in it.

Well, it just doesn’t get any better than that, by my reckoning.

Worldly Distractions


8 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 8.2°C
Dewpoint: 1.8°C
Humidity: 64 %


“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
Samuel Johnson
1709 – 1784


“Samuel Johnson was the son of Michael Johnson, a bookseller, and his wife, Sarah. From childhood he suffered from a number of physical afflictions. By his own account, he was born “almost dead,” and he early contracted scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands)…

In 1728 Johnson entered Pembroke College, Oxford. He stayed only 13 months, until December 1729, because he lacked the funds to continue. Yet it proved an important year. While an undergraduate, Johnson, who claimed to have been irreligious in adolescence, read a new book, William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which led him to make concern for his soul the polestar of his life. Despite the poverty and pride that caused him to leave, he retained great affection for Oxford. …

In 1735 Johnson married Elizabeth Porter, a widow 20 years his senior. Convinced that his parents’ marital unhappiness was caused by his mother’s want of learning, he would not follow their example, choosing instead a woman whom he found both attractive and intelligent. His wife’s marriage settlement enabled him to open a school in Edial, near Lichfield, the following year…

A Dictionary of the English Language was published in two volumes in 1755, six years later than planned but remarkably quickly for so extensive an undertaking. The degree of Master of Arts, conferred on him by the University of Oxford for his Rambler essays and the Dictionary, was proudly noted on the title page. Johnson henceforth would be known in familiar 18th-century style as “Dictionary Johnson” or “The Rambler.”…

Throughout much of his adult life Johnson suffered from physical ailments as well as depression (“melancholy”). After the loss of two friends, Henry Thrale in 1781 and Robert Levett in 1782, and the conclusion of The Lives of the Poets, his health deteriorated. Above all, his chronic bronchitis and “dropsy” (edema), a swelling of his legs and feet, caused great discomfort. In 1783 he suffered a stroke… He died on December 13 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.”


Mountains to Move

Our firewood has arrived and I am now officially a firewood widow. Attila has mountains to move!

Attila versus the big wood.

Attila versus the big wood.

Heating with wood is wonderful, there is nothing so comforting as a roaring fire on a cold white night. There is a lot of work that has to be done before that roaring fire becomes a reality. Other years Attila has felled and cut much of the firewood. But this is a hard go for a man who works six days a week, year in, year out. So we purchased firewood that was sectioned and split and had it delivered; it was delivered tonight.

As you can see, despite the fact that a great deal of the work has already been done, there is a mountain of work left to do. All of this wood must be stacked and dried for the winter. All this wood must be stacked by Attila. Then when winter is upon us, Attila will carry that stacked wood into the house and up the stairs to the masonry heater, where he will build two fires a day, 50 pounds of wood per fire.

Luckily for us Attila is one of those people that likes to keep physically active. This will keep Attila very active. Heating with wood is hard work.

Me, I like to keep busy with things that involve thought, organization and data. I am a different sort of animal altogether.

Between us, Attila and I get things done.

We visited the little house last weekend. Attila cut the lawn, which was lush but not out of control. The peonies in the front yard were blooming and beautiful, I sent a bouquet of them home with Terra, in a vase I bought at a yard sale that morning. Attila transplanted a clematis plant that was wasting away under a yew by the front step. Now it is thriving in the sun along the fence in the back yard. The vegetable garden looks great, kept watered by Terra and Lares who made a gift to us of a watering can.

On Sunday we got the gas BBQ going in the backyard at the little house. It belonged to Luna and Janus before they moved, but they decided to get a new one and left this one behind for Terra and Lares. It is our good fortune that it ended up in our backyard. It wintered well, but there was a yellow jacket nest in it when we first opened it. After that was dealt with, Lares cleaned the grill and Terra cooked our dinner!

This week Attila found another great deal on a window. This one was a special order, a very high quality window that is an odd size; it just happens to be the exact size we need for our bathroom at the little house in the city. Right now, the window in the bathroom is two storm windows, one screwed to the outside of the house and the other screwed to the inside of the house. It isn’t pretty and it is barely functional. There is no actual window! Soon though, there will be. Attila got this brand new, energy efficient, custom order window for $75.00, which is a real bargain.

Of course, our little house in the city needs all new windows, but two is a good start.

I just received a missive from Annie in England. She will be coming to Canada in late June and we hope very fervently to be able to get together. It is difficult to arrange visits with Attila working six days a week, and now I work six days a week too, some weeks anyway. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we will be able to share a meal and a bit of time with Annie and Frank.

Worldly Distractions


23 °C
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 23.0°C
Dewpoint: 9.2°C
Humidity: 41 %
Wind: calm


“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labour and there is invisible labour.”
Victor Hugo
1802 – 1885

Sunshine by Proxy

Attila and I have had a busy week. We both worked as paid labour every day, which is a necessary evil in modern life, one we are fortunate to experience only because the alternative is destitution.

Attila is working today. During the winter he works only part of Saturday, but when spring arrives, bringing with it the seasonal residents, he works almost the whole day Saturday. We have now entered long-Saturday season.

On Thursday and Friday a fellow brought loads of wood with brush attached, from trees he felled on his urban back yard. Attila spent both evenings, after work and until it was dark, removing the branches and burning them, and sectioning the wood for this winter’s fuel supply. It was a nice mixture of pine and maple. The pine makes excellent kindling and the maple excellent firewood. We have ordered next winter’s firewood, and it will be delivered when the load limits come off the township roads. It feels soooo good to know there will be enough fuel to keep our masonry heater going strong all next winter.

I spent the evening last night catching up with bills and bringing order to chaos on my desk. I am doing all the little things that get passed by when one is too busy to pay attention to day-to-day life, like recharge my Kobo.

This morning there is laundry in the washing machine, in the dryer and on the bed neatly folded as I work my way through several weeks worth of neglected domestic duties. There are dishes to wash, floors to sweep and surfaces with my name written on them that are in dire need of dusting. I mean that quite literally, my name is written in the dust. And then there is the issue that the removable drive that stores my daily files is full, which means I really need to move everything on there to a removable drive with more memory. The files are important so this must be done with care, I’m not sure I’m feeling quite careful enough today!

My emotions are beginning to return to a conscious level as I adjust to having some time off work, like today. My emotional state goes underground when I must appease adversarial, unbalanced humans; my feelings return to the surface only when the pressure has passed.

This go round, the emotions that are popping up are primarily pleasurable. I find I am enjoying my friends and loved ones, the colour of the spring foliage, the antics of the birds perched on the deck railing and just about anything that catches my eye or my ear, with renewed intensity. Despite the constant rain I am experiencing sunshine by proxy. How cool is that!

Worldly Distractions


13 °C
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 13.0°C
Dewpoint: 12.5°C
Humidity: 97 %
Wind: SSE 15 km/h


“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d;”
Alexander Pope
1688 – 1744


Eloise to Abelard

“Published in 1717, Eloisa to Abelard is a poem by Alexander Pope (1688–1744). It is an Ovidian heroic epistle inspired by the 12th-century story of Héloïse’s illicit love for, and secret marriage to, her teacher Pierre Abélard, perhaps the most popular teacher and philosopher in Paris, and the brutal vengeance her family exacts when they castrate him, even though the lovers had married.
After the assault, and even though they have a child, Abélard enters a monastery and bids Eloisa do the same. She is tortured by the separation, and by her unwilling vow of silence — arguably a symbolic castration — a vow she takes with her eyes fixed on Abélard instead of on the Christian cross.
Years later, she reads Abélard’s Historia Calamitatum (History of my Misfortunes), originally a letter of consolation sent to a friend, and her passion for him reawakens. This leads to the exchange of four letters between them, in which they explore the nature of human and divine love in an effort to make sense of their personal tragedy, their incompatible male and female perspectives making the dialogue painful for both.”

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.”