If anybody is wondering how we have been affected by the rain in Palm Desert - it is the first real rain we have had here in our 5 years of visiting. We managed to work in 2 hours of tennis before it started to sprinkle. About 11AM the rain really started and it kept up for about 7 hours. Our eavestroughs overflowed (must be full of Bougainvillea or grapefruit). Here is a photo of the mountains covered in snow this morning.

SnowOnSanJacinto PanFriedChicken

We went out for dinner in the rain with a bunch of friends and neighbours. Murph's Gaslight for "family style" fried chicken - pails of beef barley soup followed by great platters of pan-fried chicken with bowls of mashed potatoes, kernel corn, black-eyed peas, and gravy, accompanied by platters of corn bread and dinner rolls, and finally finished with strawberry short cake. We could only eat about half of the chicken on the platters, so they came by and topped each platter up to full again, and then give everybody a doggie bag to take the chicken home. More than once I heard "it really is is good fried chicken". Cholesterol counts in the neighbourhood are off the scale this morning.

Star Wars


Tonight we will be avoiding all of the potential terrorist sites in Palm Desert. We will not be watching Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on CNN. We will not even be watching all of the angst and concern over the terrorists on CNN. Quite honestly the terrorists are a waste of time. We hire governments to deal with terrorists.

Terrorists Kathy and Anderson

We are going to use our precious time to see Star Wars (the movie). Tomorrow, ahh, it is a new year we will be visiting with some friends from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Seattle, Colorado, California, Alaska - - all of us assembled here in Palm Desert solely to share some of Jim Johnson's New Years ham. Marinated lovingly for 3 or 4 days then slow roasted for 10 hours, served with rye bread and a good dollop of Dijon mustard. A terrific way to bring in the New Year.

!Hint: Carol and I wish everybody a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard in the new year.

Star Wars

Happy New Year all!

We are waiting impatiently for 7:30 AM PST to roll around. It would not have mattered what time was chosen for the online christmas morning meet-up on the web (aka FaceTime), we would have been impatient for that time to arrive.

Jackson Eryn Billie

To fill the few minutes before the call - we started christmas eve in the morning with a couple of hours of tennis. I expected to see more of the players dressed in red and wearing antlers, but it was just pretty typical drop-in tennis. When play was finished people seemed to sit, drink coffee and eat cookies for a little longer, and there were cheers of "Merry Christmas" as people drifted away, but otherwise a typical southern California morning here at Silver Sands.

The afternoon was spent picking up a few last minute supplies for christmas dinner and then off for christmas eve dinner at Fresh Agave one of the several good Mexican restaurants in the valley - ok, one of several Mexican restaurants that know how to make a good margarita and also serve good Mexican food. Dinner was with good friends from the San Francisco area, Amy and Robin. Amy is also my partner in crime with our little website venture.

I may have put my foot into christmas day. We have been invited to dinner with some other friends Ken and Carol (of Seattle). I have made a big fuss about turkey cooking bags - how easy they are to use and how wonderful the turkey cooks that the traditional cooking method is being nervously abandoned for the new method. If the turkey is not ready on time, if one morsel is not cooked perfectly I will be roasted on Boxing Day. i await my fate.

Listening to a lot of Dallas Green, You+Me, and City and Colour - all Dallas Green. I have managed to signup for Pandora One. Hope I can haul it back to Canada in the spring.

Don't Panic!


A few months ago I caught a glimpse of a documentary on TVO titled Don't Panic, The Truth About Population. I needed to see the rest of this documentary, so I found it on YouTube. It is about an hour long, but the presenter was so energetic and his messages so exciting that I did not want it to end. In fact I have watched it more than once. Hans Rosling, the presenter is a Swedish medical doctor, academic, statistician and public speaker. I have concluded after watching a few presentations by Dr. Rosling that I do not know very much about the world. I have always felt that we were making progress on the important gender, health and economic issues, but then there is the despair built by CNN groaning on and on about the problem areas of the world, seldom showing the progress, just focusing on politics and shootings. Watching a bit of Hans Rosling can be a tonic for all of the negativity of normal broadcasting. I recommend watching:

When you are finished, if you enjoyed it, try Googling for more video presentations. I was not disappointed.




I am thinking about sending out christmas cards. Here is a candidate: HeathensGreetings

Maggie Doyne Ten years ago, with her high school diploma and a backpack, Maggie Doyne left her New Jersey hometown to travel the world before college.

She lived in a Buddhist monastery, helped rebuild a sea wall in Fiji, then went to India and worked with Nepalese refugees. There, she met a young girl who wanted to find her family in Nepal. Doyne went with her.

That's when Doyne's life took an unexpected turn.

A decade-long civil war had just ended in the country, and Doyne witnessed its effects firsthand. She met women and children who were suffering, struggling to survive.

"It changed me," said Doyne, now 28. "There were children with mallets that would go into the riverbed, pick up a big stone and break it into little, little pieces (to sell). And they were doing that all day, every day."

Doyne called her parents and asked them to wire her the $5,000 she had earned babysitting.

In 2006, she purchased land in Surkhet, a district in western Nepal. She worked for two years with the local community to build the Kopila Valley Children's Home.

Today, Kopila -- which means "flower bud" in Nepali -- is home to about 50 children, from infants to teenagers.

Doyne started the BlinkNow Foundation to support and grow her efforts. In 2010, the group opened its Kopila Valley School, which today educates more than 350 students.

Doyne lives in Nepal year-round, traveling to the U.S. a few times a year.

The CNN Heroes team traveled to Surkhet and talked to Doyne about her work and the community she supports. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

Maggie Doyne

CNN: How does it work, raising nearly 50 kids?

Maggie Doyne: It's communal living, for sure!

We're a family of almost 50 kids ages 8 months to 16 years. Everybody just pitches in and helps each other. They all have their chores. They all have their duties. And everybody cooks the meals together and makes sure that they do their part to make the home run smoothly. The staff at the home, we call them the aunties and the uncles.

We wake up in the morning and go off to school. And then come home and do homework and eat our meals together, and everybody goes to bed at night.

CNN: How does a child come to live in your home?

Doyne: Our first priority as an organization is to keep a child with their family if at all possible.

In order to come into the home, you need to have lost both parents, or in some rare cases have suffered extreme neglect, abuse or have a parent who's incarcerated. We have to conduct a full investigation. So usually that involves going to the child's village, making calls, doing police checks, getting documentation and paperwork. We have to dig up birth certificates, death certificates, make sure that everything lines up the way that they say it does.

CNN: Meanwhile, you have 350 children attending your school. What is their background?

Doyne: Every single year we'll get from 1,000 to 1,500 applicants. And we choose the ones who are the most needful and really won't be in school without us.

Most of them live in one room, a mud hut. A lot of them are just in survival mode. We try to relieve the burden from the family, so that the child has food, medical care, books, zero fees for education.

CNN: What have you learned working with the local community in Nepal?

Doyne: I learned very early on, from the beginning, that I couldn't come in and just be like, "Here, I have a vision. This is what we're going to do." That doesn't work. It has to be slow; it has to be organic. And it has to come from the community and be a "we" thing.

It's really important to me that this is a Nepali project, working for Nepal, for the community. So the faces that you see are strong Nepali women and amazing Nepali role-model men.

CNN: How does the project continue to grow?

Doyne: We started with the home and then school. We run the school lunch program. Then we needed to keep our kids really healthy, so we started a small clinic and then a counseling center. From there we started getting more sustainable and growing our own food. And then from there we decided to start a women's center.

We just bought a new piece of property to create a totally green and sustainable off-the-grid campus. This year we converted to solar energy. So we'll have a high school and then a day care, preschool, elementary, all the way up, and a vocational center where kids can become a thriving young adult with everything they need to succeed moving forward.

It's become so much more than just a little girl with a backpack and a big dream. It's become a community. And I want to teach and have other people take this example and hope this sets a precedent for what our world can be and look like.

This young lady is brilliant!


never forget

For several years i have been loaning money through Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of micro-finance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. I am one of 1,363, 259 people who have loaned a total of nearly one billon dollars to thousands of people around the world. Individual loans are small, but are combined with the loans of many others to invest in small business in developing countries. I like to support women in these countries, and specifically those that are working to start or build grocery stores.

Have a look at Kiva. If I can answer any questions let me know. I think it is a very good way to contribute.

Nobody told me that I had named the song incorrectly for the past few weeks. Everybody - keep your eyes on the fries.



Two of my favourite musicians have come together to sing one of Canada's iconic songs (one of everybody's favourites). The song is Songbird, written my Gene McClelland and originally recorded by Anne Murray.

Kathleen Edwards was born in 1978 in Ottawa and after high school became a full time singer-songwriter and musician - a 20 year career recording and travelling. I admire those who stick to the dream and come out the other end healthy and sane. Today she runs a coffee cafe in Stittsville, Ontario - lets drop in.

Bahamas was born Afie Jurvanen in Toronto but was raised in Barrie, Ontario - in other words, a local boy.

Arrived safe and sound on December 1st and we have settled in very nicely. The house had been cleaned and the furniture moved out into the patio, but we needed to get food and water. I always leave a few bottles of beer and wine in the fridge when we leave so there is not a lot of pressure. Tennis started the next day so the social side is also under control.

Carol arrived with some gruesome headaches and I arrived with my sinus faucets wide open. Some antihistamines and pain killers and we are starting to come around.

Yesterday we purchased some gardening tools and started to spruce the place up a bit. We intend this to be a lower investment year, so it seemed appropriate that Friday we were at Best Buy purchasing a new washer and dryer and today we have ordered a new front entrance door. The good news is that we feel quite at home. Temperature is in the low sixties at night and mid seventies during the day. We cannot complain about that.

I dragged my baking steel 15 pounds of steel to California (put it on Carol's side of the car to balance the weight) to master BBQ pizza. The steel was heated to about 500 degrees (F) and then I slid a homemade pizza onto it. The result - about 1/16th (ok, maybe an 1/8th) of an inch of carbon, then 3/8th of an inch of nearly cooked dough covered by the toppings. The toppings were good. Carol and I ate enough carbon to filter our liquids for about a week. Next I will try the oven, I have had quite a bit of success with this at home. Gotta keep pushing the envelope though.

We are watching Anderson Cooper's annual Heroes show. Very inspiring! A must watch every year.

Hope all is well in the North.

Mid-sized drive yesterday, and best of all - Carol drove for two hours; I had a midday nap. The weather was much, much better - blue skies and dry pavement - 80MPH the whole way. We stayed at a Drury Inn, so some of you know what we had for dinner. The steamers were as good as ever. It is now 6:30AM and we are up and showered and ready to go. There is one more time change so we will easily be in Palm Desert by noon.

With not much to do last evening, Carol started planning the entertainment calendar for this winter. First up:

early December at a local casino; just cheap tickets.

Getting old is miserable. You lack the stamina you used to have and muscles give up when they are needed. We did not get out to see Coco in Austin. After a full day of driving in the rain (9 hours) we were just too tired to leave the hotel room. Instead we slept. Then got up and drove in dreary grey rainy weather for a good part of today. Finally the forecast says that we will get some good weather. We did stop yesterday in Shreveport LA for lunch. Ken Whitaker had sent along the lunch suggestion:

Herby K's

Have a look.

  • Ken: Happy Thanksgiving! I am recovering from overeating yesterday. We're going to the new James Bond movie this evening and will leave Boise tomorrow to head South. It looks like we will be arriving in PD in the evening on Monday 11/30. Are you guys going to be there by then? If not let me know when you will be arriving and we'll try to get tennis set up.

and then later when Ken heard that we did go for lunch -

  • Ken: I hope you had a Shrimp Buster and went inside where there is a profile of an Indian shot into a piece of metal by the original Herby K. It's now run by the ex daughter-in-law of the founder. The son (her ex-husband) had a drug problem and the daughter-in-law used to run it with the mother-in-law (wife of Herby K) until she died.

That area of town died around the bar but they never moved. They tried expanding to a second location but that didn't work for some reason. We went there after my mother's and my father's funeral. As a kid my mother and father would sit in one side of the old wooden booths and the 3 boys on the other and Dad would drink draft beers from big frosted glasses.

We did have Shrimp Busters - very nice.

Ken referred to the "area of town dying". There were two or three blocks of buildings that have been abandoned and are falling down. the restaurant is right in the middle. If it had not been raining we would have explored and taken photos. Very interesting.

We are only in Jackson trying to avoid the storm and it appears to be working. There was just enough rain yesterday to make me stop the car and remove the bicycle seats. I had forgotten to do this as we left home. We pulled into Jackson early did some laundry and went to bed. Austin TX for Saturday night. We will attempt to get into the Saxon Pub tomorrow night to listen to Bobby Whitlock and Coco Carmel. Bobby played with Derek and the Dominos and Bonnie and Delaney in the old days. Coco is just Coco.