APPS: What’s this blog all about ?


The Blog takes a lot…

but reader feedback encourages!


As you are reading this, you are either curious about the things I write about, or you are entertained by them, or you have enjoyed something which I posted somewhere and want to see if I can do it again. Well, I keep trying.

Explaining the blog has no purpose2014-07-31_15h21_13

Explaining my blog has no real merit; either you enjoy what I write or you think I am off the wall! Recently, I received a really astute observation about my email addy, The writer asked me if my handle should be read as “zippy one go” or “zippy on ego.” When, I gave it second thought, I saw the writer’s point. I think every writer, would be author, has ego issues and many do not pander to the whims, derelictions and current interests of their readers, unless they write for a pay cheque. I earn nothing from this blog. Like Cuba, it is commercial free. I may advocate some product, usually computer software or an application, but not for money. I write about what interests me, when it does.

2014-07-31_15h22_15It would be an act of self-delusion to see Ernest Hemingway reflected in my mirror when I shave each morning, but without such aspirations, how would the verbal struggles ever resolve themselves. Rosie Dimanno gets channeled in me every time I touch this keyboard. 2014-07-31_15h24_12I once asked a group of older students of mine, “How many read Rosie?” Wrong question! “How many ever heard of Rosie D.?” would have been more appropriate. And these were adult students!!

Failing as a blog cartographer?2014-07-31_15h27_03

Getting around my blog is easy peasy, in my books. Sure, ’cause I hold a mental map in my hand and can see the route at all times. Readers come here to explore for the first time must be challenged as the blog can too easily become an unintended navigational challenge.


I designed a big, black MENU bar to be my roadside destination signs. There should be no thinking, no perplexity over each area labelled there. Each area has an explanation of what the topic is about. I wonder if I am succeeding with my intent of clarification, of if I have failed.


“What’s active now,” shows

Ever notice that what you are involved in in your life, dominates all your activities. If you are taking a cooking course, all you think about is menus, ingredients, cooking methodologies. Travelling right now? Your dominant thinking is about suitcases, luggage, weight limits and flying. In my case, one of the associations I belong to is taking a great hold of my attention, maybe more than it should. Like a scab, playing with it is irresistible. It pains me but I can’t resist the temptation to pick at it. So it dominates the blog, unnecessarily so, but then it’s a scab.

2014-07-31_15h29_56Navigating this
lexiconic sea

Let me explain the map. Click on a topic in the MENU Bar, a menu drop down will pop down showing you the subtopics which are available. Some subtopics may have secondary subtopics, displayed once you highlight one of them to display a fly-out secondary set subtopics. When you are hovering over a topic which piques your interest, click on it to open it. Read, comment if you like (there’s a comment box at the bottom), I would like that. Go back up to the MENU and click on another topic.

Photos say so much2014-07-31_15h31_51

I love photos, always have. Digital photography was my eye candy store. I cannot count the number of digital photographic devices I have. I can’t call all of them cameras because are computer devices like iTouches, iPads, Android tablets but each takes photos. I have cameras too and have forgotten the many things I have learned about their use over the years. However, the computer based photo editing programs are very forgiving of almost every photogaphic error I make. Too dark, lighten it; distracting background object, crop; too bright, edit; there is almost no error that cannot be repaired except one, poor composition. Study the work of Yossouff Karsh, Margaret Bourke-White, Andrew Prokos, Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz. Examine their works, you’re never return to

You came, visit again, and again to put a bit more “zippy on Ego !!”

Come by again. Visit again and again to see what new stuff I have posted. Leave a comment, a compliment, a criticism. I will read the comment, enjoy the compliment and reject the criticism…yeah, sure, like the princess who ignored the pea under the mattress.



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SPEAKERS: Cheryl Cooper, teller of tall ship tales

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The Canadian author, Cheryl Cooper, addressed the PROBUS Pickering Club monthly meeting in July speaking about life on tall ships and on the warships during the War of 1812.

For those who are history buffs, the talk had an inherent attraction; for those who are not, the expectation was ‘nap time.’

Cheryl did more than keep the members awake; she amused them, teased them and titillated them with her tall ship tales. The lexicon test was the most fun for everyone.

You undoubtedly have heard these terms before but did you know they originated more than 200 years ago during the era of the War of 1812 and they are still in use today:

3 square meals
loose cannon

Cheryl tested our knowledge and surprisingly, a number of the members knew the meaning and derivation of the words/phrases. Maybe even more surprising was the extent of knowledge of our members. Someone among our members was always able to respond to whatever historical question Cheryl presented. It was engaging and positive for both, audience and speaker.


HMS SHANNON escorts the USS CHESAPEAKE into Halifax harbour

She talked about historical naval battle movies such as “Master and Commander” and writers of historic novels about tall ships, both fiction and real, writers such as Frederick Marryat and Patrick O’Brian, the former, a British Royal Navy officer likely the father of sea faring authors, the latter, author of the ‘Master and Commander’ which may be the epitome of tall ship warfare novels.

Cheryl was a captivating. Her anecdotes were engaging and illuminating, as well as being entertaining stories. Her enlightening talk shed light on the War of 1812 clarifying many of the surrounding myths. Canada never really won the war. But neither did the USA. This was not a Canadian-American engagement. It was a British-American one. Canada was not a major player in the war. Napoleon was for this was the era of the Napoleonic wars. This was not a geographically specific war restricted to Canadian and American locales. It was a world war fought mainly on the high seas. As always, money was the cause. British revenues were being seriously undermined by American privateers. Worse, the Royal navy’s ranks were being seriously depleted by American impressment. American war ships attacked the British ones more and more once they learned how readily Royal navy sailors would abandon their ships, never mind their country. Cheryl blew the myth of British high seas superiority out of the water. American vessels were faster, sleeker, more modern and used better naval battle strategies. For example, the Americans changed the naval warfare tactics from “mast shooting” to “hull penetration.” Once again, American technology and innovation leads to American victory!

Life on these ships was far from the romantically portrayed one of early films, pre-Master and Commander. Work on the the tall ships was dangerous, all the time. Falls from the high masted sails would be fatal, more often than not. Disease and illness from poor diet was rampant. To make the food more palatable, a stretch to say the least, the Royal navy introduced rum to the daily diet of their sailors. Soon after, they discovered adding lime or lemon had medicinal benefits, thwarting the common seafarer’s disease of scurvy. Now you know why cocktail drinkers ask for a wedge of lime with their rum and coke…they want to avoid contracting scurvy!!!

DSC_0670Port disembarkation was uncommon for the regular Royal navy sailor. If he got the chance to leave the ship, he would likely to never return. Why should he? Royal navy pay was poor; ship board life was poorer, if not outright dangerous; warfare on the high seas was far from the Hollywood romantic portrayal. If you weren’t blown to smithereens but the horrendously inaccurate but grossly explosive cannon fire of other warships, you would die from your injuries or the infections which surely followed. Most sailors never learned how to swim as those who were blown overboard during naval battles were too injured to survive in the ocean. Besides, how far could you swim? The ocean guaranteed death. No need for chains or dead weights for the sailor punished to walk the plank. The ocean’s sentence of capital punishment was deadly efficient.

DSC_0675Cheryl’s talk was entertaining, engaging and enlightening. She has written two books at this time.


Coming looking for me


and after hearing her speak, I believe a number of avid students of history will be knocking at the door of our local library to reserve one of them. Her books may seem to be romantic history but they are based on serious and extensive research for Cheryl will not use any dialogue or wording which has not been authenticated by her research. If it is authentic, it becomes part of her book; if not, she jettisons the word or phrase no matter how tempted she is to use it.

DSC_0676Cheryl Cooper was definitely a writer and speaker to be heard and to be read!


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ACTIVITIES & SOCIAL EVENTS: Phantom of the Opera at Westben Art Festival Theatre

DSC_0747Powerful!  Dramatic!  Smashing!

Often clichéd compliments are tagged on to a musical production to enhance ticket sales. In the case of the Phantom of the Opera production at the Westben Arts Festival Theatre in Campbellford, every descriptive tag applies.

They rehearsed it; they practiced it; they polished it and then, they performed it. What a performance! Comparable to the best of Broadway considering the budget restrictions inherent to any rural production company. This show surpassed all limitations. Simply, it was outstanding!


Samantha Marineau, the local born soprano, sang the role of Meg. Her light, smooth voice was like the pleasant trill of a morning bird punctuating dawn’s breezes in the trees. She was a delightful melodic counterpoint to the more mellow, timbered voices of the other cast members.


05 GABRIELLE PRATACarlotta, the doomed soprano of the opera within the opera, was beautifully sung by Gabrielle Prata. She was a great success singing wonderfully while maintaining her position of secondary angel to the show’s leading one, Christine. What a challenging position to be in: sing your best but do not outperform the lead. She did and she did not!

02 MARK WILSONMark Wilson played the role of the opera house manager in the musical. His duets along with the Viscount were beautiful aural flowers in a garden of delightfully sung melodies. It was a pleasure to hear his voice complementing the others whenever he was on stage.


03 ROBERT LONGOChristine’s romantic partner, the Viscount of Chagny, was performed by Robert Longo.  His rich, full bodied baritone served as a resonating  vocal background, a luxurious canvas for the mellifluous sopranic pastiche applied by the star of the show, Christine.


04 MARK DUBOISThe Phantom was portrayed by Mark Dubois, with his lyric-tenor voice. His role demanded a voice of volume without sacrificing quality. Dubois’ voice sacrificed nothing. He was amazing in the skillful development of the drama of his part; richly embellishing the character of the Phantom vocally, evoking the sympathies and empathy of the audience as the rejected suitor. As the protagonist with malevolent motives, he increased the suspense and tension of the unfolding drama in incrementally small steps. Tension, more tension and even more. Would he kill the viscount causing Christine indescribable anguish? Would he augment his own stature with the murder? He advanced the palpable tension of the show with singing that was increasingly suspenseful with its staccato pacing and memorable dramatic flair. The audience was never sure which way he would swing!

06  DONNA BENNETTWithout a doubt, the star of the performance was Christine Daaé played by Donna Bennett.

Donna and her partner, Brian Finley, entertained the PROBUS Pickering Club at one of our spring meetings as our guest singing speakers. They were so good, a block of tickets to the very popular Phantom of the Opera quickly sold out that morning. Donna sang a variety of musical numbers for us, pieces from Showboat, South Pacific and other well-known musicals, finally teasing us with a bit of the Phantom. She hooked us. At that time, none of us realized her power as an opera singer. We do now, after watching and listening to her perform at the Westben theatre. To say she was amazing is a disservice to her indescribable performance. Her voice was powerful, sensuous and sensational, dramatic and awesome, all wrapped into one. A stellar show, rich beyond description, soul-stirring and breath taking. Could it be credited to the Westben’s electronics? Its acoustics? No way! It was simply Donna Bennett, at her finest. An outstanding soprano in her prime, professionally at her peak and performing to an incomparable level.

One must acknowledge the music of the Phantom of the Opera. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s melodies are captivating and timeless, the Phantom’s score, haunting and enchanting.

07 BRIAN FINLEYHowever, the amazing fact about the score for the musical was that it was played entirely by one person, solely by Brian Finley. He was superb, altering instruments, organ and piano, switching volumes, crescendo to diminuendo, charming each member of the audience. He played with the score: at times building the suspense; at other times a bit more playful to lighten the tension. It was enthralling. A maestro of the keyboard with fingers as gentle as a surgeon one moment, the next, an industrious carpenter pounding the nails but with the artistic purpose of entertaining and pleasuring the sensibilities of his audience. He succeeded. No electronic device could give Brian the feedback as to how deeply his playing affected his audience. It was a performance that could stand on its own.

IMG_1437Nearly a thousand people attended this performance of the Phantom, and undoubtedly, every one of them would have given this production rave reviews. Professional, polished, perfect. The PROBUS members who attended got more than their money’s worth. They experienced a performance that would be the talk of each one’s home for a very long time.


Melanie Hancock and Shirlie VanPutten, the PROBUS social committee organizers behind the scenes of this very memorable day, deserve the highest of compliments for their tremendous work. The organization was Swiss watch efficient. The picnic lunch prior to the show was enhanced by delicious wines. They bribed Mother Nature into delivery ideal weather, intermittent swatches of sunshine interspersed by cooling cloud cover. In short, the whole day was a smash hit!

This was a glorious way to spend an afternoon in small town Ontario.




GARDEN CLUB: Tom’s garden, unique !

DSC_0684Tom Skinner tends a different garden than most gardeners. They grow flowers and shrubbery, bushes and trees. Tom tends a more spiritual garden, developing hearts, minds and souls.


Tom is a bachelor, by fate, a widower, who lost his wife not long ago. One way he finds comfort and solace now is through his children and his grandchildren who visit and sit with him in his garden. There he gives them his love and caring to helping them to grow in his very special human garden.


Anyone would find comfort in Tom’s backyard garden: a place of refuge, of escape, an oasis of calm, peace and tranquillity. Tom’s family finds comfort here too as he nurtures them and supports them there. As well, Tom’s friends enjoy the garden for the same comforting reasons.

Tom has tended to his family garden for the many years, more so over the past couple of years since his wife passed away. He is a gentle man, one of optimism and positive outlook, maybe becoming more that way as the need was thrust upon him by his recent loss. His backyard is a place of escape for his family, a place where his children and his grandchildren come to find comfort by bonding with him and with each other.

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Tom’s other garden is a reality too with its corners of comfort, seating areas where family members sit together blending hearts, souls, sorrow and love in communal comforting.

DSC_0699 DSC_0690With three and four year old grandchildren and very young children of his own, teens, Tom continues to consolidate and nurture the familial bonds as all of the family deald with the grieving. He does this with modesty and humility, gently comforting every family member. They are fortunate to have such a patriarch with such a ‘special green thumb,’ aware of the need to strengthen their family bonds so challenged by the loss of someone so close.

Tom has two backyard gardens: the natural one has flowers, bushes, shrubbery, pines and even live bunnies and the family one which has grieving youngsters looking for reassurance and comfort at his supportive hands.

DSC_0686Almost like the flowers that eventually wilt away, the pain of loss wanes but it never disappears completely, so Tom continues his dedication of time in comforting his family around him. His garden has pockets of respite, of calm, of escape, escape from the trials and tribulations as experienced by all of us in this world. It is a garden that is far more than flowers and greenery; it is a spiritual resurrection, a soul’s resuscitation and it isn’t the garden that brings the comfort, it’s the gardener. His garden soil helps mend broken hearts.

DSC_0702More beautiful gardens cannot be planted; visiting Tom’s is relief, for the heart and the soul.

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