Bruce Did It

Our resident moose: Bruce

I’ve been re-reading some of my favourite books. For the past month I’ve been immersed in the wit and wisdom of Robert Fulghum.

In one of his stories he describes how his family settled on a way to discuss the normal daily shortcomings and idiosyncrasies of family members  – in a playful, respectful way.

In my Seattle household there are seven of us: five core family, a housekeeper, and a large stuffed moose …

One morning when I was raging around the kitchen over who drank the last of the milk again and didn’t go to the store for more again, in walked Myrna with the moose. “John (the moose) did it, ” she said, ‘and he’s so very sorry.’ The moose did look guilty. We laughed. John took his chastisement gracefully. Milk crisis forgotten.
– Robert Fulghum in the essay ‘My Fault’

Well, we just happen to have a resident stuffed  moose too (we named him ‘Bruce’). With only two humans in our household, shall we say we are experiencing a certain degree of ‘testiness’ caused by 13 months of a lot of two-some-ness. The idea that all of our fumblings, mumblings, faults and foibles were actually the work of Bruce the Moose  seemed like a brilliant idea.

Everybody knows they could do better, but nobody feels bad getting reminded in a secondary loony way.
– Robert Fulghum –

It has worked very well. ‘Bruce’ is silently stoic, but you can sense he is  building a database of good things to remember, such as: buy crunchy peanut butter – not smooth –  always, not almost always; if you add a lot of beans to the family diet don’t comment on the ‘noisy response’ a few hours later; don’t stack three slippery, loosely covered containers on the top shelf of the fridge.

Have you and your family developed some new coping mechanisms in the past year?

‘Rona #32 – Efficacy and Straws

Straw efficacy: Tim Horton’s has retired their red plastic straws. In my ranking system, these straws had a 95% efficacy at removing the contents of a Tim Horton’s Iced Capp. The new white cardboard straw has only a 90% efficacy because it is wider than the ‘valley’ that holds the “good to the last drop” stuff at the bottom of the cup. The red straw has a 100% efficacy rate for durability. The white paper straw has a 75% efficacy rate because it starts to get squishy about 3/4 of the way through the drink.

The word ‘efficacy’ is very old. It dates back to the 1200’s! It didn’t enter my consciousness until this year, when the term was used in relation to COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine Efficacy
A vaccine with an efficacy rate of, say 85%, means it demonstrated in trials that it could reduce moderate to severe disease by 85%. To do that, the vaccines initiated an immune response that  reduced the number of viruses in the lower respiratory tract. To date, the vaccines are not believed to be sterilizing vaccines that completely stop the virus in the upper respiratory tract too.

In time, the vaccine may prove to be a sterilizing vaccine in some or most of the population. Until then, some governments, such as the one in my province, explain the vaccine in terms of effectiveness in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19′.

Here is an excellent explanation of the Covid Vaccine: University of Colorado.

What about Mask Efficacy?

I somehow doubt there will be a mask efficacy rating for the products used by the general public during Covid. There are simply too many variables – material, fit, care in use; indoors vs outdoors; social distancing and other factors limiting people’s activities;  age, immunity, viral load and length of exposure of participants… Analyzing masking is going to be either a statisticians dream or nightmare.

In preparation for the (hopefully) soon removal of mask mandates, last week I performed a small test on public perception of an unmasked person (me). I had to drop a sample off at a medical lab. I walked two car lengths across a parking lot, stood in an outside lineup of one (me) for about two minutes then handed the sample (while still outside) to the masked attendant who, by protocol, stepped outside to receive it.

While I was being a line of one, there was, for a few seconds, a lineup of two – another ‘client’ arrived. Unlike me, she was masked. When the attendant moved to the door to summons me, the masked lady behind me swiftly moved forward to try to hand her item to the attendant. As she came up beside me, she suddenly drew back. I don’t know whether it was because she saw I was unmasked or whether she realized that I was handing a sample to the attendant too.

Either way, I didn’t learn anything about public perception because the attendant and the client were masked – I couldn’t read anything in their faces.

Efficacy of the Virus

Efficacy isn’t actually the term used to describe Covid mortality – it is called  Case fatality. In both Canada and the USA it is 1.8%. There are, however, an unknown number of people who have had Covid, but were not diagnosed with it, which drops the case fatality rate by some unknown amount. The fatality rate in terms of the entire population are .07% for Canada and .18% for the United States.

I’m hoping we aren’t invaded by a new and more deadly variant so that our province  can move towards full removal of restrictions by the end of June… inshallah…

‘Rona #31 – We Got Shot

Vaccines are in short supply here in Canada – so The Car Guy and I decided we would delay getting ours (we are retired seniors who can easily continue to shelter in place). We hoped  that ‘our shot’ would go to younger, but more vulnerable people. (That part worked well – our younger siblings got their shots a few weeks ago.)

We would have kept delaying ‘shot’ time for several more months if the various governments and venues hadn’t  fouled things up a bit. Our Province decided to delay the timing for the second shot by up to four months. Other governments and service providers started to talk about two dose immunization as a requirement to travel or take part in normal life again. We started counting the months until we’d like to visit our home and friends in Arizona and decided we should book our shots.

We ‘got shot’ last Friday. Just in time to be locked down again.

The Province of Ontario is in lockdown too. The Police can’t actually come to your house, of course, but I’m sure there are a few people who wish that officers could do removals…

Hard to forget early 2020 – toilet paper was a major issue. This year, in some places, it is lumber. Prices have gone up by as much as 50%.

Also in 2020 – remember Flatten the Curve?

The goal, you might remember, was to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed. Fourteen months later, we’re doing it all over again. It’s like trying to staple jello to a wall.

There have been a number of Anti-Lockdown Rallies in Alberta. Some people have been pushed to the limit of their endurance. There are concerns that these Rallies will be super-spreader events. The one that caused the most uproar was a Rodeo  that was attended by about 4000 people over the course of 2 days. It has been 10 days since it took place and no cases have been linked to the event so far.

Last June, 15000 people in Edmonton Alberta attended a BLM Rally. That rally, and all the BLM rallies across Canada did not result in an increase of Covid cases either, officials say.

I think many people understand that lockdowns are more damaging to some people than to others. The question being raised in some quarters recently – are lockdowns actually Systemic Racism?

I think we are going to see interesting ‘discussions about best pandemic practices’ once the virus and the world have come to a mutual understanding!

‘Rona #30 – Spike and the Variants

You can find many photos of ‘Spike and the Variants’ on the internet, but the pictures are kind of fuzzy and they make one variant look just like another. Not to worry. With a little imagination and a Pigma Micron No 03 pen, I think I captured their likeness very well.

My home province, Alberta, is currently a hot spot for the wild performances of the spike protein virus, SARS-CoV-2.

‘Spike’, having been booed off Alberta stages twice now, called for some fresh new faces to liven up the act. A group of  ‘Variants’ answered the call.

Experts say there are too many variants to count and most of them are functionally no different than ‘Spike’ the original. However, The WHO has clarified that there are seven variants “of interest” and three variants “with real potential”.

Variant B.1.1.7 from the U.K. has been the most active in Alberta; P.1 from Brazil has tried to make it onto the mainstage, but without much luck. Variants B.1351 from South Africa and B.1.617 from India have so far not been allowed to perform more than a handful of times.

On a more serious note, Government has reacted to ‘Spike and the Variants’ by locking us down for a third time (though in reality, we’ve been in some degree of lock down for over a year now.) Fortunately, the weather has improved considerably – we are ‘allowed’ to meet up with one other family, outdoors, social distanced, as long as there are no more than 5 of us…

All my other ‘Rona stories are here: health-virus.

Picture Perfect Flowers – Anticipation

Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
– A. A. Milne –

In a month or two, my flower beds should look like this…

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.
– W. E. Johns –

Before that, though, there will be lots of non-gardening weather…

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.
– John Ruskin –

which gives me sufficient time to put the photo through my filter factory.

A Digital Marble
Topaz Studio Fantasy Filter
Topaz Studio Impasto Filter
Topaz Studio Quad Tone filter

A Spanish magician prepares the audience for his final trick…
He yells “UNO!”
The crowd falls silent in anticipation.
“DOS!”
Everyone’s eyes are wide, laser focused on the performer.
Then, the magician vanishes… without a tres.
– Author Unknown –

What are you looking forward to in the next few months?

Northern Leopard Frog

The Amphibian Notes
Name: Northern Leopard Frog
Species: Lithobates pipiens
Native to :  Canada and the United States. Only isolated populations in the southern grass and wetlands of Alberta. The grandchildren used to find them in the creek and the golf course water hazards near where our cabin was. Hard to say where the frogs ended up after the area was flooded out in 2013.
Date Seen: September 2009
Location: South Eastern Alberta near the Bow River

Notes: One of the largest frog species found in Alberta, they vary in size between 2 and 5 in (5-13 cm); green or brown in colour with numerous dark spots. Fairly easily caught by young boys – who release them a short time later.

Photos: Northern Leopard Frog in a bucket of water with photo filters applied in the program Topaz Studio:

After the flood:

Moose – Nature at our Door

Most people never get to see a moose in the wild. In contrast, in our neighbourhood it seems like just about everyone is talking about ‘their moose’ – the sightings are that frequent!

I recently watched a video from the CBC’s series The Nature of Things called The Incredible Things I’ve Seen while Following a Moose and her Calf for a Year.

A field naturalist, Hugo Kitching, spent 13 months tracking two mother/calf moose pairs  in Jasper National Park (Alberta) so he could document the dangers to moose calves in their first year of life. These mountain moose are in decline – death rates for baby moose are high. A year tracking moose in Jasper National Park is a short story of Hugo’s experience. It gives a further glimpse into the challenges Hugo faced in finding and following these majestic mountain dwelling animals (and avoiding the animals that make a baby moose’s life so dangerous.)

As I watched the video, I kept thinking how much easier it would be to do a similar study of Alberta foothills/prairie dwelling moose. Tracking the moose in our neighbourhood, for example, would sometimes be nothing more than walking out the front door. Other days the search for the moose might take longer, but it would be on mostly flat terrain that is never more than a mile from a road… it is easy to see why The Nature of Things never did a video called “Watching Alberta Prairie Moose is like Watching Paint Dry”.

Moose (Alces alces) colonized the Parkland Region of Alberta during the 1980s and early 1990s, and later colonized the Grassland Region by the early 2000s. They are not a declining species here because there are few areas with the major predators – wolves (Canis lupus), black bears (Ursus americanus), and grizzly bears (U. arctos). Cougars (Felix con-color) are also at very low density, although the abundant coyotes are a small but possible threat. Between 2001 and 2014, the provincial moose population increased ~25% from 92,000 to 115,000. (Status and Management of Moose in the Parkland and Grasslands of Alberta .)

One thing that I learned from the video: our mama moose will drive her calf away later this spring in preparation for giving birth to her next calf! Hard to say how far the calf will go, though, since there are already two other moose loosely associated with the mother moose – possibly her calves from the previous few years… but I’m just guessing.

Mother of all moose and her almost year old calf.

Here are all the moose photos I’ve posted so far.

There are about 700,000 moose in Canada. That means there is one moose for every 54 Canadians ! Mostly moose choose to live where people don’t live, however…

To set the record straight, moose are rarely dangerous and they are vegetarians…

 

Treed – Man Vs Moose

Piecing together the story

What I saw: The neighbour up the road hired a Tree Trimmer/Remover for a job that was well beyond the capabilities of the crew at the ‘Munching Moose Tree and Hedge Maintenance Service’.  The work was such that a man, with a chain saw, climbed a tall tree and then methodically removed branches. When that was done, he would then be able to take down a ‘skinny’ tree that wouldn’t damage the surrounding shrubbery nearly as much.

He had removed most of the branches when I walked by on the road. I stopped to watch, partly because it is quite interesting to see a man confidently using a chainsaw when he is about 25 feet up in the air… and partly because one of the Munching Moose was calmly eating the branches that the man had dropped to the ground.

In turn, the man was taking pictures of the Moose on his cell phone. (This is when I wished I carried a cell phone). I headed for home as fast as my little legs could carry me. Fifteen minutes later I was back at the scene with my camera, but by then the moose was gone and the man was back at work. I took a photo of the man in the tree.

What I was told: The next day I returned to the scene. The owner of the property was out front surveying some of the other work the tree trimmer had done. I told him that I had seen the ‘Treed’ man. The owner said the moose delayed the man’s descent for a while. The man kept throwing branches down towards the moose, hoping to scare it away. The moose just kept on eating. Eventually the man got low enough down the tree and the chain saw got noisy/menacing enough that the moose moved on.

From the perspective of a moose: As I was walking home, I spotted the moose in the aspen forest across the road from our place (about 150 meters (500 feet) from me.) There were at least four of them, possibly five.

I can just imagine the story that one of them told about the adventure the day before: “I tell you, it was raining branches yesterday! They just kept falling from the sky. I ate until I could hardly move!”

Photos of this group of Munching Moose. I’m making an assumption that the four moose we usually see (either in pairs or as a group of four) are always the same moose. One is a female with last springs calf. The other two are perhaps her calves from the previous year/years.

The newcomer to this group is a bull moose with antlers. It might be a younger male, since older males usually lose their antlers by now.

Bull moose on the left
Bull moose with antlers
A moose has poor eyesight but their hearing and sense of smell are excellent.
Moose are not normally aggressive unless they are harassed or it is mating season or mothers with young calves are protecting their young.

That’s it from the land of Munching Moose for this week!

 

More Munching Moose

Two representatives of the ‘Munching Moose Tree and Hedge Maintenance Service’ were here again last week. When I pointed out to them that I really didn’t want any more pruning done, this is what they said:

“Well, we chose your yard for a free complimentary call! I’ve got a young trainee with me. Junior hasn’t got the skills of our more experienced crew, so really needs the practice.

Junior can’t reach the taller branches, so I’ve assigned him to hedge duty. He should have your willow cut down to about 3 feet before the morning is over.

While he is doing that, I’m going to work on this aspen tree over here. What’s that you say? It was pruned just a few weeks ago by our other crew? Well, they missed a few branches. Look at how lopsided it is!

See how we eat everything and never leave a twig behind for you to clean up! Well, yes ma’am, we do leave these round brown lumps on the ground, but we don’t charge you a thing for our Munching Moose Tree and Hedge fertilization program.