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Easter in Alberta

April 5, 2015

Happy Easter from the Flurfels

I Heart Podcasts

April 3, 2015

They’re like on-demand radio blogs. Like radio, they’re free listening. Like blogs, you can subscribe to them. And anyone with an internet connection can make or listen to them.

I listen to podcasts when I can’t sleep because I’m suffering from what I would call an over-active mind. Know what I mean? Sometimes I get so sick of hearing my own deep thoughts tumble around in my skull, and I’d just much rather hear someone else’s deep thoughts tumble around in there.  That’s when a well-crafted lecture from the comfort of my own pillow is ideal. Jane Goodall doesn’t mind if I fall asleep while she’s talking about the lessons learned in a distinguished career.

Some people love music podcasts. Some love interviews with great people and some love conversational banter between great friends. Podcasts are good at that too.

If you’re not already too jaded by the 21st century to listen to TED talks, in fact if you’ve NEVER listened to a TED Talk, start there. I dare you to not find someone with something interesting to say.  My favourite is Brene Brown on Vulnerability.

lpodcasts_app (2)

If you have an iPhone or some other iThingie, look for or install this app.  Poke it with your finger. Add some search words for things you like. Listen.

If you don’t have an iThingie, the easiest way to find podcasts is on iTunes.

Here are my favourites:

TVO did a Big Ideas podcast with lots of deep thinkers thinking lots of deep thoughts.

Grammar Girl is great for sleeplessness. I’ve seen it put a tense 9 year old to sleep in under 10. The bonus is, if you can’t sleep, you learn something about participials or some such.

I’m smitten with This American Life. (So is everyone else).

Stop Podcasting Yourself almost always makes me laugh though it’s not for everyone. This is That makes me laugh too, and I think it is for everyone. And by everyone I mean most Canadians, probably.

My favourite single podcast episode of all time is Mooallempalooza by 99 Percent Invisible. So good.

Do you listen to podcasts? What do you love?

Lunar New Year

February 28, 2015

I’ve been meaning to tell you, dear Reader, “Happy Lunar New Year.” Goodbye Year of the Horse, Hello, Year of the Sheep and / or Ram / and or Goat. That it’s unclear whether it is the year of the sheep or the year of the goat is very non-Western, isn’t it?

When I think of sheep I think docile, I think consumer-culture, and I think Jesus:

Jesus and sheep

Baaaaah.  When I think ram, I think Rocky Mountains, I think aggression, and I think trucks. Don’t you?


Throwing goats into the mix, oh man:


Goats have long been associated with demons in Western culture. As Cake succinctly put it,”Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.” Goats have a really bad rap in the Bible.


But think of our mountain goats in Jasper National Park. I’m going to wish you that kind of a Happy Year of the Goat.

What I mean is this:


I wish you the courage to take a few great leaps this year.


I wish you grace and strength in the difficult spots we invariably find ourselves in.


I wish you wisdom in choosing your battles. (Not like goats.) And strength to fight the ones you do choose.

baby goat jumping

I hope you remember to be playful and kid around, at least some of the time.

bateman goats

I wish you the kind of pleasure that can only be got from doing something difficult and challenging.

And I hope you find yourself ascending to heights you hadn’t thought possible:

Mountain Goat (Oreamos americanus) on rocky outcrop, western montana.

House of Flurfel

The Spoils of December

January 25, 2015

By this time of year, it is always clear, that some gifts are hits, and some gifts are …


… not going to get the love you imagined they might. Poor colouring book, without even a scribble of colour even though all the trappings of Christmas are long since tucked away, ‘cept that wreath made of wine corks that I keep forgetting to take down.

But then there’s those surprise hits:

Who knew Uno would steal the show? Thing is though, after many Christmases with kids, I’m beginning to notice an obvious pattern: it’s not the money spent on the gifts that make them the best ones ever, it’s the amount of time you invest in playing with it with the kid you give it to that makes ’em the best gift ever. Have you noticed that too?

Muskeg Creek Trails

December 29, 2014

Muskeg Creek Sign


This is one of my favourite places to be. Maybe you know it.

Muskeg Creek Trail

You could call it stark. Or you could call it “subtle.”  I prefer subtle.

Bare Trees

In the summer there are leaves. In the winter there are none.

Muskeg Creek Trail 3

The pictures come out dull but when you’re out there, the colours do blaze at you.


Ever notice how many shades of white there are? If “snow white” was a single colour, we couldn’t see tracks.


Bunny tracks in Muskeg Creek white…

Paper Birch


Paper birch white…

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker white…

Woodpecker Downy Male

This is the male Downy Woodpecker; he has a flash of red on his head.

Can you tell I got a new camera for Christmas?







Damn You Auto-Collorectal: Or, How to Punk Yo Mama’s iPhone

December 23, 2014

I get mad at the auto-correct on my iPhone when I text. It twists. It mangles. It un-cutes cute spellings and it cutes things that shouldn’t be cute. Like when Mr. B. texted me after a November bike commute that he almost froze his “button off.” It wierds things up. Sometimes I want to use non-standard spellings. If I want to spell “kuh-razy” like so, well then I want to spell “kuh-razy” like so. I’ll admit it’s not very kuh-lassy of me, but it’s my beeswax. Don’t judge me, iPhone.

And of course I need to use words that aren’t in my phone’s meager little dictionary. If I want to text, “Zipadeedoodah,” it’s because I want to text, “Zipadeedoodah.” I’m not going to type a 13-letter word by accident and I resent having it auto-corrected to “Zips Dewdrops,” so that I have to type it all over again.

If I’m on my way to Athabasca, it’s not helpful to have my message corrected to “on my way to Arty Tabasco.”

Why, iPhone? Why do you continually correct my, “I love you texts,” to read: “I live you.” To whom would I say that?

But at the same time, I do appreciate the technology of predictive texting. I.e. when your phone uses it’s “intelligence” to guess what you’re going to say to save you the time of having to type it. Stephen Hawkings says it has allowed him to communicate twice as fast and that he wouldn’t be able to continue to lecture and write articles without it. He said this, mind you, in the same Guardian article in which he said Artificial Intelligence might predictively spell the end of the human race. Maybe. Or maybe A.I. will spell the end of the human rice.

A confession: I am a huge fan of This website is dedicated to unintentionally hilarious auto-correct fails. I think it’s the funniest thing on the internet. I laugh until I cry. I just do. It features such gems as:


Oh, I know. I know. “Naked Pastor.” But I just can’t help laughing and laughing and laughing. It’s a love hate thing. I hate when predictive texting makes me write dumb things but I love it when it makes other people say dumb things.  And I also loved it when auto-correct auto-corrected my text in which I cursed auto-correct to:


… I laughed for twenty-two minutes. Why is auto-colorectal in my phone’s dictionary? OMG. Clearly it’s there just to make me belly laugh until I’m 10 months younger. The auto-colorectal incident reminded me how much I loved spending time on which is where I discovered this:


McWrap posted this to her Tumblr Feed. She changed every word she could think of in her mom’s keyboard shortcuts to “nugget.” Oh my. This is just a game changer for auto-correct fail lovers everywhere. Did I laugh? Oh I laughed. And of course I told Mr. B and our darling daughter all about it, and the more I pictured Emily’s mom’s flubber-gastedness at this strange new technology her digital-native daughter was using against her, the harder I laughed. So of course, while I was busy laughing at this stranger, Mr. B and our D.D. went into another room with my iPhone and set it to predictively text “Nugget” whenever I typed “Th”; to substitute “i am poop” for “the” as well as “doing”; “Rutabaga” for “kids”; and “fat bug in a rug in a jug” for “you.”

So when my friend got back from Prague I told her that I’d love to hear about her trip. But it came out this way:

I would nugget

It took me weeks to fix it too. Not because it’s hard to fix, but because I seem to only text when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time just now to figure out how to change my keyboard shortcut settings. Well.

Now come on. Does yo mama, who birthed you, and fed you, and clothed you, and cared for you from infancy deserve this sort of treatment?  If so, here’s an instructable on how to do it:

Merry Christmas,

The Flurfels

What to do with Formula Samples

November 24, 2014

I’m not going to go on about how mother’s milk is better than formula. We all know that food that comes in a box and has a shelf life is not as good as the other type of food — whole food, natural food, whatever you call it, you know: food food. But infant formula is food for babies who don’t have access to mother’s milk for whatever reason and like me, I’m sure you don’t have any desire to keep babies from food. And just like if someone were to send you a jar of peanut butter, a crate of oranges, a pumpkin spice latte, a bunch of kale, a can of mace, or a puppy by mail, when you receive a box of infant formula by Canada Post it is your moral problem to do something with it.

You can eat it. You can chuck it. You can put it on a shelf in case you need it later. You could try having it sent back to the return address. Or, you can try to get it in the hands of someone who needs it right now.

My friend mentioned that her church was collecting goods to donate to Win House, so I sent my unsolicited box of mail-order formula with her. Win House accepts donations by appointment. I did remove the coupons first, though, as the internets tell me that as soon as the coupons are used, evil robots send more formula directly to your home.

I asked the Edmonton Foodbank about how they distribute formula and was told that it is only given to people who ask for it. Families ask for infant formula by brand and by type. Formula is on the Edmonton Foodbank’s list of “most needed” items. You can drop off donations at any major grocery store, fire department, or take them directly to the Foodbank.

The Foodbank produces a “Hunger Count” report on who is using their services. 841,191 Canadians use the food bank each month and that number is climbing. Of those users, more than one in three (36.9%) are children. If 6% of those children are infants (0-1) that means that at least 18,717 babies are fed by the food bank every month. (6% is likely a very low estimate and is based on a quick gander at census data from 2011 — I expect the number of infants to be much higher because families with new babies are more likely to need the food bank.) Grossly assuming that 6% of the food bank’s population are infants: at least 18,717 Canadian infants are being fed by the foodbank monthly. If 1 in 4 of those babies are exclusively formula fed 6 bottles per day, the food bank needs 10 million bottles of formula a year to support them. If, however, 9 out of every 10 of those babies are exclusively breastfed, only 4 million bottles are needed per year. If bottles cost $2.50 each, a 90% breastfeeding rate among food bank users would save 15 million dollars per year. But still: 4 million bottles would be needed. 4 million bottles. So don’t chuck it. Donate it.

One of the many heartbreaking things about those big numbers is knowing that formula companies are actively trying to tip the balance and increase the number of formula fed babies, whether or not they come from the most vulnerable population sectors. They’d rather Canadian food banks need 10 million than 4 million bottles of formula per year for obvious reasons: it’s a good business model for them to prey on newborns from low-income families. Do I sound paranoid?

This week, Reuters reports that a heap of Italian doctors has been arrested for taking bribes from formula companies (including lavish holidays, luxury cruises, televisions, apple computers, etc.) to prescribe formula instead of breastmilk to their patients. Yuck.

Baby food represents a more than 1/2 a billion dollar industry in Canada.When it comes to preventing predatory marketing by formula companies, Canada is “Failing to Make Baby Steps“. Which means formula companies are free to play their hunger games with Canadian babies. What to do about it? I wish I knew.