Thursday 31 August 2023

The Bear Beat Us Again

    Every Fall we have to play a game with timing.  The apples are starting to mature on the trees, but they are not quite ready yet, and at the same time, if we wait a day (or night) too long, the bear will sneak in and take them, tearing up the apple tree as he does. 

    Well, when I walked out this morning, I saw that we were too late in picking the apples; the bear had beaten us again, leaving the poor apple tree bare and trashed.  

    This had already been a very hard year for our apple trees.  The spring and summer were extremely dry and hot and the trees suffered.  They hardly had any leaves on them and very few apples.    Now I will have to saw off the tree’s main branch and hope that the tree doesn’t give up totally.

    It is pretty frustrating trying to grow fruit trees so close to Nature.

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Wednesday 30 August 2023

Travel Apprehension

    In the winter of 1987 I had a lot of overtime I had earned the previous summer at Forestry that I had to use or loose.  It had to be taken before the end of March, so I decided to travel to Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize and see some of the many Mayan ruins.  My wife, who I heavily depended upon for help with foreign languages and international travel experience, couldn’t go because she was teaching, so I was going to these foreign countries by myself and I was filled with apprehension.   Here is what I wrote in my diary:

As my day of departure grew nearer, so did my panic.  Would I be able to take care of myself for 22 days in a non-English speaking country?   Would I end up spending the three weeks hold up in a hotel room in some obscure Mexican town, with diarrhea?  Would I die?

My apprehension increased with each relatable story I heard on the media.   I turned on the TV in time time to see a movie about the Florida airline flight that crashed into the Potomac River, killing all aboard,  Gulp.

On CBC Radio, I heard about the many workers who had died while working on the Ocean Ranger Drilling Rig, many of whom had a premonition of the disaster before leaving that week, Gulp.

One of those workers had just cleaned his garage, and yard, “like never before”, so that everything would be in order, Gulp, double gulp:  I had just cleaned the barn for the goats, so everything would be in order before I left.

My wife had been extra nice as the day of my leaving crept closer, and we had several get-togethers with friends before my departure.  To me they seemed like the “Last Supper” to me.  Do they know something, I don’t?  Gulp.

But then I remembered, that many of those friends had given me money so I could buy and bring back earrings and pottery for them from Mexico, and that made me realize that they certainly expected me to survive.  Their expectations relieved my apprehensions and gave me optimism about my upcoming trip, Whew.

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Tuesday 29 August 2023

A Mail Order Bride

    Living in a small very isolated village means there are not many people around.  Usually in these rural settings, there are more men than women, so I guess it wasn’t that unusual for desperate men to seek out wife by going public in some far-reaching publications in hopes of finding a mate.  (These were times  before the internet.)  All that being true, it was a surprise to me, back in the 1970’s to hear that a friend of mine actual got his wife that way.

    Like most of my friends at the time, Mike grew up in the States, then made his way to the Robson Valley as part of the  “Back to the Land” migration of counter-culture young people.  He bought a quarter section (160 acres, 65 Ha.) of raw forested land, without any road access into the place (he had to hike or snowshoe in), but he managed to build himself a log house and eventually made a road in his home.  He was a member of the local Blackwater Co-op, a group of like-minded people who ordered bulk food and shared their labor to help each other out.  

    Industrious Mike accomplished a lot on his land, but he was lonely and wanted a wife.  

    One day the Co-op had arranged to do a work day “root picking” a newly cleared field for a local farmer, who paid the group for the work.  The Co-op members were all there, working away picking up and piling roots in the morning, when suddenly Mike said he had to leave and go to town, and then he left.  The other members of the Co-op were a bit miffed at his sudden departure, thinking he was just trying to get out of the job.  

    A couple of hours later, Mike returned with a woman who introduced as Linda.  Mike had put a “Want Ad” in some large publication, explaining his situation and seeking a woman who might want to share his life.  I don’t remember where Linda was from, somewhere in the States, but she was adventurous and willing to gamble on Mike and living in the “Wilds” of British Columbia.  Linda was an attractive, very likable person, hard working, and she quickly fit right in with everyone.

    Mike and Linda married and had a daughter.  Once when my parents came up for a visit, we took them down to Mike and Linda’s cabin.  My mother was really impressed with the way they lived (without power) and what a nice home and life, they had created in the wilderness.  

    After about 10 years, Mike and Linda did split up and go separate ways, but that is not uncommon.  

    I always admired Linda for drastically changing the life she was living, to pursue something different with someone she didn’t know in a faraway valley in BC.

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Monday 28 August 2023

A Mariachi Evening

        In 1987 I had a stopover in Mexico City on my way to Guatemala.  I decided to spend the evening wandering and sightseeing.

In the evening, I made my way down to Plaza Garibaldi, where I had learned that Mariachi bands congregated at night playing for fees.  It was a warm humid evening, and the park was illuminated with colorful lightbulbs strung above the plaza.  I heard the Mariachi music as I approached, then through the crowd I spotted several bands with their oversized wide-rimmed Mexican hats, dressed in their fancy ornate outfits, busy strumming their unique rhythms and singing in their extroverted vocal style.  As I worked my way through the very crowded plaza, I traveled through the various songs being performed by the different Mariachi bands scattered amongst the milling crowd.

I came upon one old Mexican couple seated on the park bench who had paid to be serenaded by a band. When they noticed that I was enjoying the music, they waved me over to sit with them, which of course, I did.  I was very touched by the kindly couple’s generous and welcoming invitation to join them during the music.  During one song, the elderly woman got up, and sang along with the band.   When the song’s chorus came around, her husband got up and tried to dance with her.  

That evening in Mexico City’s Garibaldi Plaza with the Mariachi bands and the friendly elderly couple, became one of my special travel memories, popping up every time I hear Mariachi music or any reference to it.

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Sunday 27 August 2023

Color Crayons

    Thinking back on the many Christmases that I had as a kid, I particularly remember one, when my sister and I got, as a minor present from an aunt, a box of 64 color crayons to share and a coloring book each.  We both loved to color and to get such a box of so many crayons thrilled me with joy.   In the past we had gotten crayon boxes of 24 and 32, so we were really really excited to get a box with 64 different colored crayons.  We couldn’t wait until all of the other present openings had ceased, so we could get down to using all those beautiful, pristine crayons in our coloring books.

    Crayons and coloring books were our first introductions into doing art, of course once school started we no longer colored in coloring books, but continued to using crayons for drawing creations of our own.  I really credit crayons for starting my lifelong love of art and color.

    In university I majored in elementary education and in an education class about art, I was shocked when they heavily criticized coloring books, saying that they killed creativity in children.  I still think that is horse shit.  Not only does coloring help develop hand coordination in little kids, and even though they are supposed to “stay in the lines”, coloring is still creative in having kids choose what colors they want  to use in the picture.

    That reminds me of the old joke about the teacher who became worried about one of her students, who, no matter what the subject of the art drawing was, always just turned in assignments colored with  black only.  The teacher feared deep psychological problems in the child, so she had him sent to a counselor.   When the counselor carefully questioned the child, the child told him, that black was the only crayon he had.

    Anyway, crayons and coloring books didn’t stifle my creativity or that of Nancy my famous sister, who has become internationally famous with her creative knitting techniques (search: Nancy Marchant knitting).

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Saturday 26 August 2023

Morning Wakeup Exercises

    I guess we all go through our regular wakeup actions in the morning.  Today as I took my walk around the pond, I watched this female duck doing hers.  First she carefully preened herself, after which she went through her stretching exercises.  She finished off with her morning ablutions.  

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Friday 25 August 2023

My Amazing Corn Crop

    In the photo above you can see one-third of my corn crop.  Yes, that’s right, one-third.  I planted a whole row of corn, but only three stalks came up.  This is the only stalk that actually produced an ear.  I hope that the ear will continue to develop into something that I can eat.

    Corn is always a chancy vegetable to grow up here because of our short and cool growing season.  This summer was an exception because it was very hot, but like I said, unfortunately for me, only three stalks came up.  Many gardeners here start their corn in the house then transplant it outside, therefore they usually get a good corn crop.

    The only reason corn exists is because of the amazing agricultural abilities of the American Indians, who through careful breeding, were able to evolve a grass-like plant into what we have today that we know is corn.  Surprisingly, they bred the corn for so long and thoroughly that corn can no longer reproduce itself naturally, it has to be planted by humankind.  Its husk prevents it from reproducing on its own.  

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Thursday 24 August 2023

Me and the Trombone

    A university friend and I have been trading memories of our youth over the internet and have discovered that we had a lot in common.  One of them was that during those early years, we both played the trombone.  Gary’s trombone experiences were a lot different than mine.  He thrived with the instrument; competing, and performing.  My experience was not so positive.

    Even from my very early years, I loved music, but the time I had to spend with the trombone was not something that added to that love.  In fact, it set it back. 

    When I reached the age to be in our elementary school band class, my parents signed me up.  Everyone asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and to me, a trumpet seemed like that would be a cool thing.  However, when the band teacher inspected my lips, it was determined that they were too big for a trumpet, and it was suggested that I should play the trombone instead, something that wasn’t even on my radar.

    So I began several years of lugging a trombone case back and forth on the school bus, along with all my my school books and supplies.  It was not something that endeared me to the instrument.  

    My parents got me a secondhand trombone, I mean, a really secondhand trombone.  While all the other three trombonists in the school band had shiny sparkling brass instruments, mine was a dullish, silver-colored, plated trombone, well broken in.

    The connection to musical notes on the page, to the position of the trombone’s slide, did not come easy for me, and I struggled.  I learned some of the positions, but sometimes, I had to glance over to the trombone kid next to me, to see where he was positioning the slide.  

    The thing that really killed any enjoyment of playing, was the practicing at home.  The band teacher had a strict policy of practicing a half an hour every night.  We had to bring a signed note from a parent every week, outlining how much we had practiced.  I hated having to be in the house blowing into the trombone, while there were so many more interesting things that the time could have been spent doing.  If you practiced an hour, you got “Extra Credit”, but for me, that was not even within my realm of reality.

    After a year and a bit, my parents bought me a better used trombone.  It was shiny brass, and when I received it, I loved it immediately and thought I would eagerly play the trombone forever.  Unfortunately, the nightly practice at home, quickly smothered that thought.  

    When I finally reached the age when I started high school with all of its new classes and schedules, I was happy to “sacrifice” my trombone playing to pursue more interesting subjects.

    Like I said, I always loved music, and by my second year in high school, I had saved my money and bought a banjo, and I was eager to spend all of my free time teaching myself how to play it.

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Wednesday 23 August 2023

An Aspen Forest in the Lawn

    I knew that Aspen trees spread through the roots and that when you see a huge area of Aspen, you are really seeing only one genetic tree.  I never really thought about it very much until recently.  Because it has been so hot and dry, I stopped mowing my lawn, to keep the grass from stressing out and dying.  I was surprised to see what happened.

    I have a very large Aspen in the yard and before I knew it, I had hundreds of little Aspen, sprouting throughout the yard, as the “Mother” Aspen, sought to expand her range.  Seeing all of those tiny Aspen coming up, made me realize just how extensive the root system of the mother tree was.  

    I have heard it said that there is as much of a tree underground as roots, as what you can see above the ground.   In my brain, it always just seems that the the tree stops at ground level, unless there are some obvious roots showing above ground.

    Recent studies have shown that tree roots work cooperatively with underground fungi to share nutrients.  Researchers found a Douglas Fir tree that was keeping a nearby Fir stump alive by providing  nutrients to it, through its roots. 

    There is so much we have yet to learn about trees and Nature.

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Tuesday 22 August 2023

Unexpected Asphalt

        When we first bought our house, the road that ran past our house was packed dirt.  It was solid and firm usually, but could be dusty, and when we got a lot of rain; muddy.  It was such a relief when it was finally seal-coated.  That is a process where gravel is laid down, packed, then a coating of tar put on it and pressed further by the traffic.  It was a solid surface, a bit rough, but so much better than the dirt surface that we had.

    We lived with the seal-coating for a long time, then the next time the road was resurfaced, they actually put down asphalt, just like on a normal road.  That was wonderful; smooth and a pleasure to drive and bike on.  We were spoiled.  However time passed and the next time our road needed resurfacing, I was dismayed to discover that they replaced the smooth asphalt, with rough sealcoat again.  It was a real step backward and I cursed it every time I rode my bike to work.

    In the early spring, crews started tearing up sections of our deteriorating road, creating a mixed roadway of old sealcoating an gravel.   We lived with that for months.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on because of all the many graveled sections, but I assumed they were just going to seal coat those gravel sections.

    Then I was left in total disbelief when they resurfaced Highway 16 on both sides of McBride with seal coating.  Then the paving crew left, leaving the community with horrific thick clouds so dust every time a vehicle drove on the highway.  Yes, they seal-coated the only highway in the area and the only way in or out of McBride, leaving it rough, just a tad better than a gravel road.  Now, when our windows are open or when we are outside, we can now hear the roar of tires going down the highway which is a mile away from our house.  

    After seeing what had been done to the highway, and seeing the paving crew leave the area, I was pretty pessimistic about what was going to be done to our road.  I wondered if our road was even going to be dealt with, leaving us with sections of gravel, without even sealcoating those sections.  

    So you can imagine my surprise and delight yesterday, to see actual asphalt paving being done in front of our house.  They have paved our road all the way from the seal-coated highway.

    I know everyone around here was upset with having the highway seal-coated, so I can imagine they are now probably pretty miffed at seeing our secondary road paved with asphalt.

    Having a smooth road to drive and bike on is, of course, wonderful, but even though I had nothing to do with it, I feel a bit guilty that we have gotten a smooth road, while the highway that everyone has to use, and other secondary roads, just got seal coating.  I guess we will just have to swallow our guilt and try to enjoy our smooth road.


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Monday 21 August 2023

Perfect Timing

    The other day I was watching an old black and white western movie.  It was set in a mining town and the scene was in a boarding house.  In the movie there was an explosion,”BOOM” and it showed a large crack in the wall of the boarding house.  At that same instant, the screen on my TV went blank.  

    “Wow,” I thought, “that was some explosion.” as I stared at my suddenly black screen.

    I waited but the screen remained black, so after a minute, I became concerned and tried switching to another channel and was relieved to discover my TV was still working.  After about five minutes I switched back to the old western and saw that it was now continuing.

    I don’t know what caused the blackout on the TV, maybe it was something in the satellite, who knows, but I was amazed at the perfect timing of the event--exactly when there was the explosion in the movie.

    It reminded me of something that had occurred when New York City had their famous blackout.  A man was just screwing in a new lightbulb into a lamp when through the window they saw the whole city suddenly go black.  The wife turned to the husband and said, “Now, look what you did.” 

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Sunday 20 August 2023

I Wonder If She Has Actually Been Catching Some

    Here is a shot of Kona, the Mighty Huntress, patiently seeking out her prey.  Hunting mice has become the activity of choice for Kona over the summer.  In the house, she is still very impatient and demanding, but whenever she is outside, she will spend a half an hour at a time, not moving, just staring down into a clump of weeds, listening for a mouse.

    Kona used to enjoy our walks around the pond, but now she just gets as far as the pasture, then stops to hunt, leaving us alone to continue the walk.  

    Whenever she begins hunting, we leave her to it and go to do other things, but now I have become suspicious and have begun to wonder if Kona actually catches and eats mice.  She always seemed to be hungry and eager to eat when in the house, but now when she comes in, she often passes up her bowl of food, seemingly not interested in eating until an hour or so later.  Maybe her appetite has already been sated with a crunchy, juicy mouse.

    Anyway, it is nice that she now, often does something on her own, instead of constantly demanding our attention.

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Saturday 19 August 2023

"And I Believe That Mother Nature Is Taking Us To School"

    That is a line from Don Henley’s song, “Praying For Rain” and this summer it sure seems that that is the case.  Summer used to be a time I looked forward to, but over the last four years, I have slowly started to be a little wary, as summer approached, and certainly that wariness will increase after what the world experienced this summer.

    The Hawaiian town of Lahaina, is gone, a hundred dead and a thousand missing, 20,000 people have been evacuated from Yellowknife as a massive fire approached, and yesterday 15,000 people were placed under evacuation in Kelowna, BC as a fire burning on one side of a huge lake, jumped to the other side.  We were even forced to evacuate our own home in early May, when a forest fire raged across the mountain we live under.  

    If it is not fires that are threatening the world, it is floods.  News broadcasts, that used to have a story or two about weather disasters, now fill the first third of their broadcasts with extreme weather stories, and I fear that the world has now turned a corner and is showing us the future.

    We have ignored the warnings of scientists for too long now.   Big oil spent millions trying to throw doubt on climate change so they could keep making money.   Their attempts worked, now we are all starting to pay the price.

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Friday 18 August 2023

Autumn: A Month Early

    It seems that many of the plants we have around here have had enough of the hot, dry weather and are moving themselves into autumn-mode, regardless of what the calendar says.  Above are two photos of our Boston Creeper.  The photo on the left was taken last year in September, while the one on the right, I took a couple of days ago.  The creeper’s leaves are turning a whole month earlier than normal.

    While most of our plants are not “pushing the envelope” as obviously as the creeper, their seasonal cycles have been quicker this year.  Already, bears have been causing problems around the province, because all of the berries have gone, leaving them hungry and searching for food, with still months to go before their hibernation.   Also impacting the bears (and other wildlife), are the hundreds of forest fires that have destroyed their ranges and food.

    I too, am starting to feel autumn early.  The other day when I was outside working, it felt like one of those beautiful fall days.  Most of the trees still have green leaves, but the leaves of the Cottonwoods are yellowing.  

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Thursday 17 August 2023

Tiny Umbrella

     On yesterday’s blog there was a photo of my collapsed fence that I was taking down.  On the side of the bottom photo you can see a section of an old shed.  As I was working close to the shed, I noticed that its metal roof is now covered with moss and through the moss were growing these tiny umbrella-shaped mushrooms.  They were so tiny and fragile looking, that it seemed improbable that something like that could survive for millions of years in this rough and tumble world.

    I looked through a reference book to try to identify them, and found a couple of possibilities, but I think I will just be satisfied and happy in seeing them and leave their identification to the experts.

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Wednesday 16 August 2023

On De-Fence

    It’s deja vu all over again.  On yesterday’s blog there was a 45 year old photo of me working to clear up the old mess in our barn yard.  Amazingly, although I don’t have a photo showing me doing it, I am currently at work, doing the same thing:  Cleaning up the old mess in the barn yard.  Before, I was cleaning up the mess that the previous owner had made; this time it I am cleaning up the mess that I have made.

    Forty-five years ago, I spent days and days, buying lumber, fence posts, and rolls of metal page-wire fencing, then working to put up the fence, to create a paddock for first; horses, and then later Angora goats.  All those animals are now gone and there has been nothing in the paddock for years.  Since there was no need for keeping up the fences, being lazy, I let them deteriorate, and deteriorate they did.

    Now, in an attempt to reduce the fire hazard around our house, I am tearing down the already half-way falling down fences.  It is a job complicated by the wire fencing that you can’t see in the photo, but is nailed to the cross boards of the fence and the fence posts.  As I deconstruct the fence, I am pulling out all of the nails I used, to put into the metal recycling.  Anyway, it all makes for a time consuming job.

    When one is building something, they tend to forget about how time slowly deteriorates everything, and the huge amount of maintenance it requires to keep things useable.  As I age, I am recognizing this truth, more and more.

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Tuesday 15 August 2023

Opposite Wishes

    Back in 1977,  we had saved a lot of money from 4 years of teaching, but we didn’t have a home, so we decided I would resign from the teaching job I had in a place that I hated, buy a place in an area that we liked, move there, and then look for a job.  We ended up buying our five acre hobby farm and moving to McBride, where we met our neighbor Kjell.  Kjell was a teacher, who loved his free time much more than his job.  

    Since I was unemployed I spent my days whipping our new place into order.  Early one morning I was out in our chaotic old barnyard full of miscellaneous pens, cleaning up the place.  Kjell was driving past our property on his way to school and as he passed, he looked down at me and waved.  I saw him and waved back.

    He later told me that when he spotted me out there, he thought, “That lucky guy, gets to stay home all day.”  

    That remark seemed ironic when he told me, because when I was standing there as he drove past, I looked up and was thinking, “That lucky, guy has a well paying job to go to”.

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Monday 14 August 2023

Geez, Not Smoke Again

    It was an unexpected downer to take that first look at the mountains this morning and see a blanket of smoke obscuring the peak.  I am finding these summers of smoke depressing, and like everyone else in the world, I find myself wishing that the weather would return to the way it used to be.   And while I know my complaint is petty compared with what other people in the world are experiencing these days, the forest fire smoke we are forced to breathe, will impact our health.

    Presently there are over 400 forest fires burning in BC.   The forest fire smoke we get comes in two forms.  Today it is a high thick blanket, so I am assuming that it is from a fire away from our valley, but not too far away.  The other type of smoke, which is more depressing and dangerous, is a very dense haze that comes all the way to the ground, partially obscuring nearby trees, and totally obscuring the mountains.     That smoke generally comes from huge fires, very far away.

    I guess I should be happy that today we are only getting the high, thick blanket smoke, instead of the worse kind, but still, I fear for the summers to come in the future, and I do foolishly wish we could return to the weather that we used to get in the summer.  

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Sunday 13 August 2023

Towers of Flowers

    It’s always nice to have some vertical features in the garden, and this year I have two.  As always, I always put up a “teepee” of Scarlet Runner beans (photo above) and this year it grew higher than ever before.  I bet it is 10 feet (3 m.) tall.   As you can see, when it reached the end of the teepee pole support, it just kept growing and the top is now bending over.  I had a closeup of the Scarlet Runner’s brilliant flowers on last Tuesday’s blog.

    The other vertical flowering plant is a Tobacco plant that I had mentioned in a previous blog.  It has grown to the height of 7 ft (2.1 m.) high with its “crown” of dark pink flowers on the top.  This is the first time I have had anything to do with a Tobacco plant and was quite surprised at how tall it grew and its cluster of flowers.

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Saturday 12 August 2023

I'm Afraid to Update

     See the blue icon in the photo?  That’s for the App Store and the red circle with “54” in it tells me that I have fifty-four apps on my iPad that need updating.  I used to update apps immediately when they changed, but not any more.  To me it seems that every update just gives me more bells and whistles and the app, that used to be simple and straight forward to use, just gets worse.  

    I do most of my reading on my iPad.  It used to be when I wanted to turn a page, I would just swipe the screen from the right side, just like I would with a book, but suddenly, thanks to an “update” in the operating system, when I swipe, instead of turning the page, half of the window on my screen is now covered with the last place I was at on the internet, (in the example below, Costco).  It is extremely frustrating after years of turning the page by swiping right, I now have to first get rid of the internet screen and then either swipe from the middle or quickly hit the right side of the screen with my finger to turn the page.  


    For years I have gone to the Apple News app for news.  I would just touch the Apple News icon and the news stories would come up.  Now, after an “Update”, whenever I touch the Apple News icon, the page does come up, but now strung-up along the bottom of the page, are a bunch of small pages.  I suppose they are to take you to different news stories, but they are extremely slow in loading, and are so small I can’t really read what they are about anyway, so now, I have to touch the screen again to make them go away, and often when I touch the screen, the story on the screen where I touched comes up, filling the screen.  Often it is not a story I want to read, so again I am forced to touch the screen, to get rid of it.

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    Most apps used to be very straight forward: they were quick and simple.  Now, so many bells and whistles featuring things I never use have been added, that I am continually having to touch the screen to make them disappear.  As a result, I am now very wary of updating apps.  More likely than not, it will leave me with an app that is worse than the app it replaces.