Thursday, September 9, 2010

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Those who know me well know that I love to read. A manual on how to build a garage -- no problem. A discussion of what it was like to fight in a war -- bedtime reading. A thick tome on the development of the theory and practices behind underwater firefighting -- bring it on. I can read just about anything as long as I can find something to be interested in. For hours, I can sit and loose myself in a novel. I can digest instructions on how to do something. I love to learn new information on a topic that I know next to nothing about. Funny how all that changes when you are required to read something.

Now that I'm a student again, I know in my head that there will be lots of reading. The difference in what I read before I go to bed or what I read to procrastinate in the afternoon to avoid doing something is that, in those situations, I'm the one doing the choosing. When reading for class work, there is no choice. 'This is the proscribed article, chapter or text and you need to read it by the end of whenever.' The problem with reading for someone else is finding that 'thing' to be interested in. I know, I know… I should find the interest in knowing that if I complete the assigned readings and work that I will receive a degree at the end of the program and that will be my reward. I know it. You can tell it to me. Putting it into practice is something else entirely.

I find that the problem in reading academic articles and books is that, too often, the author seems to like the sound of their own voice (typographically speaking), too much. Instead of stating something in 200 pages, it seems to take 5 or 600. Do these people get paid by the word?

Anyway, I'm here now. I know that the end result will make up for the required reading time. Hopefully as the semester goes on the readings will get more interesting. I just hope nobody draws on me when I fall asleep in the library.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sorry, We’re Closed

It would be an understatement to say that I dislike shopping. I see it as a kind of necessary evil in life. It's like getting a root canal or cranberry sauce at thanksgiving. You know in your head that there is a reason for it and that it might make things better, but you don't rush out to get it.

I believe that shopping should be avoided for as long as it can be and then gotten over with as fast as possible. I don't mind grocery shopping. It's the shopping for clothing that I don't like. I'm not one of these guys who sends their wife out to buy underwear or socks or whatever. I do it when I need to. It might take a while for me to get around to it, but when I make up my mind to go shopping I want to do it right now. Kind of like tearing off a bandage. Best to just rip it right off and get it over with.

This evening was one of those times when I decided to pick up a couple of things. I don't care if what I want is on sale or is even more expensive than normal when I decide to go shopping – I want it now. So I went online and checked availability of the items I wanted at a national chain store located in my town and checked the store hours to make sure that they were indeed open (I hate going to a business during normal business hours only to find them closed). So yes, open until 9:00pm – Great!

My bride and I drove to the establishment in question and arrived at 6:45pm only to find the lights off, the doors locked and the place closed up tighter than knot. So slightly frustrated, we tried 3 alternative stores that I thought I might have what I wanted. No luck with them either. Apparently there is a conspiracy to keep me from spending my money on clothing. Call me crazy, but if you publish your store hours on a website and make it public, should you not be open during those stated hours? Not in my town apparently.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Here We Go Again

Back in 2008 when I started this blog, it was just after we had completed a Federal Election here in Canada. Now here we are in 2010 and in New Brunswick, we are beginning a Provincial Election. I thought it only fitting to put a few words to computer screen in honour of that event.

The thing I think I love the most about elections in general is the fact that politicians are so determined to get themselves elected or re-elected that they promise everyone everything. Then they wonder why the public gets upset when they can't come through with the goods. We are only a couple of days into the process here in NB and already the promises are flying fast and furious. So far our politicians have promised to decrease taxes, increase spending and reduce the deficit. Now, I don't remember being overly good at math when I was in school, but I do know that you can't reduce income (taxes) at the same time you increase spending and reduce debt. Simple logic tells me this, not math genius.

Anyway, it will all be over in a month and we will be richer democratically for the experience, if not provincially. In anticipation of a long month of politicians promising me the world I give you my New Brunswick Election 2010 Playlist.

  1. On The Road Again – Willie Nelson
  2. Little Lies – Fleetwood Mac
  3. Hard Times and Misery – Travis Tritt
  4. No Honour Among Thieves – Toby Keith
  5. Keep On Talking – World on Edge
  6. A Little Less Talk & A lot More Action – Elvis
  7. What Might Have Been – Little Texas
  8. Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone – Glass Tiger

Enjoy the promises and electioneering. Don't forget to exercise your democratic responsibility. Vote.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

Back around Father's Day I developed a new, kind of, sort of, hobby. For Father's Day I received a new iPod Touch and have been fascinated by the whole iTunes thing ever since. I know, I know, I'm coming late to the dance, but there it is.

What I find particularly fascinating is the variation of what pops up on the screen when browsing Apps for the device. As I understand it, in some search modes, the Apps that appear come up in relation to how popular they are. Not surprisingly, the first few pages that you browse are mostly games and productivity Apps. The things that help to make you both a better and worse user of time. It's the Apps that show up as you browse farther and farther into the selections that really crack me up. Not necessarily the uses for the Apps but the Apps that appear beside one another.

One day while browsing the offerings I noticed some pairings that seemed odd beside one another. Now I find myself looking for these incongruous couples almost every time I log on. In one grouping I found a listing for a pacifist group directory next to a directory of gun dealers in the U.S. Another time there was an App on how to deal with problem animals next to something for the SPCA. The one I really had to laugh at though was one that, given our society and the number of divorces and failed relationships, seemed to explain it all. It was a grouping of five apps on the same line. Reading from left to right there were apps for a dating service, a wedding planner, a sexual position guide, and a divorce info app and another dating service. Quite a commentary on how things are isn't it?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Cousin’s Nephew’s Daughter’s Father-in-Law…

I think that there should be a limit on how far we can go to describe someone's relationship to someone else in public life. Unless you are filling out a genealogical form and are trying to describe who in your family crossed the land bridge from Asia to North America, there is no reason to describe someone as your 'mother's sister's nephew's cousin's Great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather's niece 3 times removed.

I don't know what it's like in your province or state, but here in New Brunswick I think we have a bit of an insecurity complex. We seem to need to find ways to connect ourselves to famous people in the news. The other day as I was listening to the provincial news and there was an item about how some guy somewhere got a new high profile job. 'Good for him,' I thought, 'but why is this local news?' Then came the reason why it was included on the news -- he had a vague distant relationship to someone in New Brunswick. Great on the guy. He worked hard and got a great job and is in charge of all of the Underwater Firefighters in the world or some such, but who cares who he's related to here.

The next time I heard the item I traced the relationship and it turns out this guy's great grandmother was related to the distant cousin of someone who lives here. My question becomes – Who cares? Why do we care how he might be related to someone here. He probably doesn't know where we are and couldn't care less. Are we really that hard up for news that we are now farming obscure relationships in order to fill the news broadcasts? There must be something happening somewhere that merits reporting more than this. At least I hope so. Would it have been so bad to just leave this story off the news? Even no news is better than this.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot

Well, it is now going on the third day of +30 degree temperatures here in Atlantic Canada. I don't mind the heat so much as the humidity that goes with it so often here. For example, right now as I type this at 10:15am the temperature outside is a balmy 21C. Not too bad right? Add in the humidity and that temperature feels like 28C. Forecasts for the rest of the day are looking like 30C and humidex (we even have a word for it) rating in the high 30s. So in recognition of the first real taste of the summer heat I present the Hot, Hot, Hot playlist.
     1. Summer's Comin' – Clint Black
     2. Burning Love – Elvis
     3. Hell's Bells -- ACDC
     4. Standing Outside The Fire – Garth Brooks
     5. Weather With You – Crowded House
     6. Summer in the City – The Lovin' Spoonful
     7. California Sun – The Rivieras
     8. Summer Nights – Van Halen
     9. Thunderstruck – ACDC
    10. Here Comes the Rain Again -- Eurythmics
    11. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet

 Enjoy the Heat!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cheers, Jeers and Tears

So we are now thirteen days into what has been billed as the biggest sporting event in the world – The World Cup. Even here in Canada, where hockey takes centre stage for 10 months of the year, soccer (or football, if you prefer) is a huge sport. The simplicity of the sport has a lot to do with it's popularity. Really all you need is a ball. Unlike most other sports where you need hundreds and even thousands of dollars of equipment, anybody anywhere can cobble together a ball and have a game of soccer. I also like the fact that for 3 years and ten months you also hear very little about the sport. Than there is a big flurry of excitement during the World Cup and then poof, nothing again for 3 years and ten months. The players go off and begin another run up to the next World Cup in the shadows of Major League Baseball, NFL and Hockey coverage.

Even while watching matches on television you can see why the sport is so popular. It has everything. You get to see the drama of the underdog pulling off a win over the favourite. The bitter taste of defeat for the loser and the rejoicing of the winners. You've got suspense, mainly because of the interminably long times between goals and the large numbers of close misses. Comedy comes from the invariably British commentators and their dry wit and cutting comments. Then there are the ridiculously insane fans who dance and sing and make fools of themselves on world wide television. All in all what more can you ask for? Perhaps less acting?

If you have even seen a soccer match on television for twenty seconds while channel surfing, you've probably seen what I'm talking about. One player bumps into another and the second player falls to the ground in a wonderful exhibition of dramatic acrobatics and flailing. Then they begin acting -- clutching their foot, ankle, shin, knee, thigh, arm, head… really any body part that comes to mind. Then we get to watch them roll about on the ground moaning and keening about their injury for several minutes. In some cases you think to yourself – 'Wow, that guy is really hurt.' It even goes so far as to require the medical team to run out onto the field, stretcher in hand to check out the injured actor, uh um, make that player. Sorry. Finally, miraculously, the player stands, shakes the offending body part and runs off to continue play.

Don't get me wrong, soccer can be rough. I remember a friend who played having his nose broken during a match. Ankles get sprained and broken, and muscles pulled and strained. We were always taught to play hard, do your best and play it straight. If you went down with an injury you had better be injured or the coach would pull you out of the game and you spent the rest of the day warming the bench. Why not make it the same World Cup play? If a player goes down and then miraculously, after a huge show, can continue playing with no ill effects – off he goes. He should be done for the game. Period. These guys are supposed to be the best players in the world. If they can't win by playing their best, too bad. Try harder next time. If they want to perform they should go to their local community theatre group or to Hollywood. At least in Hollywood they give out trophies for outstanding dramatic performances.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life After The Book of Faces

Even though it has been a month since my last post, it's nice to know that some things remain constant. There are still examples of foolish political decisions, sports stars are still doing foolish things and we are still destroying the environment at an astonishing rate. Surprisingly, the last month has also brought the largest changes in the world of my computer/online life as well. I took the plunge and deleted my account with facebook. I know. Wow! And yet, the sun is still rising in the east and the tide is still rising and falling as usual.

It's hard to imagine how ubiquitous this social networking site has become until you leave it. People quickly get into the habit of going online every day (sometimes for hours on end) and checking up on what their friends are doing, stalking old girlfriends and boyfriends and lurking on people's home pages. This site has taken over social events, business functions and personal news to such an extent that when you no longer take part it's like you've left a cult. Because 'everyone' is on facebook, people no longer tell you about what is going on because they think you are still there.

When I left I took the step of announcing it in my status a couple of weeks before I hit the delete button. It was there in type, proudly proclaiming my intention to leave at the end of the month. I got much grief over this from co-workers. My reasoning was that there were people, 'friends', who I was not in contact everyday or even every week, who might like to stay in contact with me when I was gone from the site. This would give people a chance to get my e-mail address and blog info before it was gone. Pretty considerate, I thought. It was then that I began to realize that people don't read status updates.

Just the other day, almost a month from the date that I left facebook, someone who was a 'friend' stopped me in the street and asked me why I didn't show up on their friends list anymore. After I explained why I was no longer there I got an ear full about how inconsiderate I was not to be on facebook and how I should go back on. Because I was having a not so great day I decided to turn the conversation around and asked why they didn't know I was going to quit when I had announced it for everyone weeks in advance. Turns out that this 'friend' had blocked me from their news feed, because they only wanted to follow a few people's news. As I pressed further, it turned out hat this person was not really interested in who their friends were only in how many friends they had online. I thanked them for making my point and continued on my grumpy way.

In the month since my departure things have gone back to the way they were B.f. (Before facebook). I see co-workers when I work, talk to relatives intermittently, and I attend the events and activities I want to attend. All of this with no requests for boards for barns in 'farmville' or requests to join the fight for some-cause-that-I-should-care-about-but-really-don't-group. I must say that I don't miss the site at all. My life has gone on much as it did before and that really says it all doesn't it?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Winds of Change

Can you hear that slight gurgling noise? That's the sound of the most recent environmental catastrophe/disaster/fiasco that we human's have inflicted upon this planet. Yep, thousands of litres of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. For almost a month now the fruits of our industry have been polluting the waters of the gulf and every attempt to fix the problem has so far failed. Beginning with lobbyists who convinced the government that there was no issue when it came to blowouts on wells in the gulf, to the ridiculous plans to fix a rapidly growing environmental nightmare, I'm beginning to wonder if this oil company has ever dealt with oil wells before. The question is now becoming, not what can we do to stop this problem, but who can we blame.

If this oil leak doesn't spur us on to look for alternative sources of fuel and energy there is something wrong. It's not like we have no other options when it comes to this. What about solar energy? Why not take some money and focus our efforts on equipping every home with a solar panel or two to help reduce the need for reliance on fossil fuel for heating and electricity? What about wind farms? Why not put some money into developing more efficient ways to harness the power of the wind? Use that to further reduce the need for coal burning power plants. It will undoubtedly take time and money, but if we don't start calling for major changes and soon, things can only get worse.

We all give lip service to the whole 'green living' thing, but we really don't care. If we did we would have mandatory composting and recycling and would have a maximum number of allowable garbage bags on the curb per week. Anything over that number and we pay for it. Watch how fast your household waste diminishes when you begin to pay for all those items you throw out that should be sent to a recycling centre or put in the compost bin.

If we really cared we would all be driving the smallest vehicle we could based on need. There would be very few SUVs on the road. When I was in town the other day, I saw a woman parking a huge truck that was proudly emblazoned with a 'V12 Engine' badge. Why on earth does anyone need a huge truck to go get groceries and pay the bills? I like driving as much as anyone, but do we really pay what we should for gasoline? Do you really think that $1.03 a litre is the real cost of producing gasoline? What if we add in the money spent on cleaning up the Exxon Valdez spill and the Ocean Ranger, the Great Barrier Reef and now the Gulf of Mexico? How much is that litre of gas now?

If we really cared we would buy what fruits and vegetables were in season at the grocery store and based on where they came from. If we had to pay for things based on how far they travelled from where they grow to the grocery store shelf would you really need that pineapple? Last I checked, strawberries don't grow well in Canada in January. When was the last time you went out for a walk saw a mango tree? Kiwis grow where?

We need to start calling for smarter design in our appliances so that they are more energy efficient. We need to start building houses and buildings with an eye to making them as efficient as possible so as to waste as little energy as possible. We need to start telling our politicians that where we live (the planet Earth) is important to us. Until we do -- change will never happen.

When it comes to answering the question of who to blame, we need only to look in the mirror. If we don't make changes in how we live and soon, we soon won't have anywhere to live.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pre-Natal Weight Loss Plan

There have been plenty of items in the news over the last couple of years bemoaning the fact that people are getting bigger. Not just getting taller or evolving bigger feet, but getting bigger weight wise. I've even bemoaned the fact that I too have a few extra pounds that I would rather be without. Now it seems that we've given up on trying to get people to watch their weight themselves and are now going after that last remaining area of weight loss potential – babies in the womb.

A new study is going to track pregnant mothers and their caloric intake and exercise during their pregnancy to see if what a mother does and eats during the nine month gestation will have any effect on the future weight of their baby. In an attempt to prevent fat kids, doctors are hoping to head off the chubby at the pass. The idea is that if mothers follow a better plan during their pregnancy, the result will be more 'normal' birth weight babies and a reduction in childhood obesity.

I'm not a scientist and I don't even play one on television, but I do have kids. I've seen kids. I know of kids and I know people who have kids. Here's what I've noticed. Those people who have kids and participate in sports (or get any kind of exercise) and get off the couch, have fairly 'normal' weighted kids. Those who do not go out for walks, play in the park, play sports, walk the dog (scratch their bums, whatever) and spend more time in front of a television or playing video games have rather more, shall we say, large children. This is by no means the same in every case and not every situation is the same but…

When I was young (cue the old time music), days were usually spent outside running around like untamed lunatics. Most of the kids I hung around with were of, what most people would consider, 'normal' weight. There were a few kids who had a couple of extra pounds (probably what would be considered obese today), but that was 'just them'. They were 'big boned'. That was what they were. There was no real judgement and life went on. Looking at these kids now that they are grown ups (at least chronologically) they look 'normal'. Some of those who were what might be seen as the fittest when we were kids are now not. Some people grew into their fitness and some grew out of it. That's life.

I think that if we, as a society, really want to combat childhood obesity then we should look at the real culprits – fast food, lack of exercise and helicopter parenting. It's a vicious circle. A kid spends too much time in front of a television, begins to get fat, starts to feel bad about himself, doesn't feel like exercising and the parent takes him to a fast food place to eat crappy food to make him feel better and then writes notes to the phys ed teacher to say that little Theophilus can't take part in gym class because it makes him feel bad about himself. Repeat cycle.

Last I checked, feeling good about yourself and self esteem were self generated and nothing anybody can say or do will give them to you – just like fitness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Man vs. Mother Nature

We humans are a funny lot. We are so ego-centric that we can hardly see past our own sense of self worth and accomplishments. Looking at what we have done over the last few thousand years or so and you can see why this might be the case. Pyramids of various designs. A giant wall. Large buildings and hydro electric dams. Automobiles and airplanes. Wireless communications and the internet. Space travel and the moon landings. Man has done all of these things in a relatively short amount of time. We've only had the ability to fly for 107 years. That's not really very long. How many thousands of years did it take for Mother Nature to carve out the Grand Canyon? So yes, I guess it might be understandable for mankind to become a victim of believing in it's own success. But then every so often Mother Nature gives us a smack upside the head.

Mankind has always had the 'lets conquer nature because we can' kind of attitude. We try to tame rivers for power. We overcome the fact that we can't fly naturally and build machines to help us do that. In case you might not have noticed, there is no life in space because there is no air there. But we humans don't avoid space. No. We build space craft to enable us to leave the one place that has an environment that allows us to live in order to travel somewhere that doesn't. We humans are never content. We believe that the world is our oyster and that the grass is always greener somewhere else. Then something happens that shows us how the deck is really stacked. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, snow storms and flooding all show us that our accomplishments are really just passing fads.

Take the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland. Nothing like some dust spewing from a volcano to make things come to a screeching stop. For the past five days the air space over eastern Europe has been closed to air traffic. People are sleeping in airports and paying outrageous amounts of money for a tiny piece of floor space in hotel rooms because their flights have been cancelled due to what amounts to Mother Nature farting. Because really in the most basic sense that is what a volcanic eruption is—the planet passing gas. If Mother Nature can cause this amount of chaos with a fart, lets hope that she never gets tired of us living here or we're in deep trouble.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Centennial Edition

This post is a thank you. A thank you to you the readers of this blog. This post right here, that you are reading, right this second, marks the 100th post in the online life of Good, Bad & Ugly! One hundred posts! Wow. Who would have thought that when I posted that first piece about the results of the federal election on October 16, 2008 I would still be posting in 2010. Over that period of time there have been approximately 728 (as of this morning) visits to the blog. Not only from Canada and the U.S., but places like Brazil, Pakistan, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Great Britain and Japan. Who would have thought?

Many of you have commented on pieces that I have written and have even signed on as 'followers'. It's nice to know that someone out there is reading my ramblings and feel comfortable in responding to something that I've written – either to agree with what I've said or to provide a different perspective on a given topic.

One of my kids asked me the other day how long I was going to continue writing the blog. My response was 'as long as people continue to read it'. Goodness knows that there is never any shortage of topics – only time.

So again thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Feel free to pass the link along to others who you think might enjoy it. The more the merrier.

Here's to 100 more posts! Cheers.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Lirpa Sloof Day

Well in the spirit of the day I have decided to pass along some of my favourite April Fool's day pranks that have been perpetrated on the public over the years. An expanded list can be found at
Swiss Spaghetti Harvest – In 1957 BBC reported that thanks to a warmer than normal winter and the elimination of the Spaghetti Weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper crop of spaghetti. The story included photos of happy farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. The BBC received many calls from people wondering how they could get their own spaghetti tree.
Left-Handed Whopper – In 1998 Burger King Restaurants announced that they would be offering a left handed whopper for their left handed patrons. The burger would have all the regular ingredients but the condiments on the burger would be rotated 180 degrees for better enjoyment of left handed people. Thousands of people requested the new sandwich and many complained that there was no special right handed version.
Metric Time – In 1975 Australia's This Day Tonight news program reported that the country would soon be switching to Metric Time. Under the new Metric Time system there would be '100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days'. Along with the new time system would come new names – 'seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays'. The report went on to state that new 10 hour Metric Clocks would be introduced.
Wisconsin State Capitol Collapses – In 1933 it was announced by the Madison Capital-Times that the Wisconsin State Capitol building had been rocked by a series of mysterious explosions and had collapsed. The explosions were attributed to the 'large quantities of gasses' expelled by legislators during debates.
MITkey Mouse – In 1998 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology web page broke the news that the famous tech school had been sold to the Disney Corporation. It went on to report that new schools of study would be offered and would include 'the School of Imagineering, the Scrooge McDuck School of Management, and the Donald Duck Department of Linguistics'.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Answer To The Great Question

Well it began again this morning. They rehashed it again on the radio. The question that arises every couple of years. The question that everyone wants an answer to. It's a question that really gets me going. It drives me nuts. That question is, of course -- why don't more young people take part in politics? This question usually comes up just after an election (why it showed up today is beyond me) because statistically, people at the lower end of the voting age limit, tend to not take part in the process. This disengagement with the political life of the country, province, city or town, where these young people live worries those elected officials in the halls of politics. After all, if the younger people don't vote, how will they get elected? Many reasons for this lack of interest are given by people 'in the know'. Lack of knowledge, lack of engagement with the issues of the day, lack of a will to do anything about the problems facing our world. All good reasons. All potentially correct, but none of them address the real problems.

Over the last few years here in Canada, we have seen many things happen in the political world. Not all of them good. There have been scandals involving money. Political parties using less than squeaky clean procedures to divert money to supporters. Questionable awarding of government contracts. Election funding problems. The list goes on. Then there are the people who we actually willingly voted for to represent us in the House of Commons. If you happen to have access to CPAC or are able to attend a sitting of Parliament you will quickly get the picture. I will admit that not all of the representatives are taking part in the chaos but what is with the catcalls, yelling, interruptions and bad behaviour? How can anyone possibly respect these elected officials? I won't compare them to children because that would be an insult to children. Most kids know when they are behaving badly and take steps to change. The sad thing is that the ones who are behaving properly and doing their jobs are being painted with the same brush as the yahoos. Then come the public displays of stupidity that seem to happen every day (or at least every other day). Tirades in airports. Blame for mistakes shifted to staffers. Lack of accountability for personal actions. Misrepresented facts and seemingly complete disregard for the intelligence of the people who elected them.

Personally, I don't think that young people (and yes, I include myself in that group) are being given credit for the intelligence that they have. We can see what's going on. We do listen to the news. We do read newspapers and websites. Perhaps the reason for the lack of engagement of younger people is so obvious that it escapes the notice of the people in power. If our political representatives are looking for reasons why younger people are not engaging in the political process then perhaps they should look in the mirror and ask themselves a few hard questions. What did I do today to make my country better? Did I do anything that might reflect badly on myself, my constituents or my country? Did my political party live up to it's ideals today? What can I do tomorrow to make things better?

If our elected officials are not part of the solution -- they're part of the problem.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I’ll Watch… If It’s Convenient

As I've probably mentioned before, we don't watch a huge amount of television at our house. There are only 5 or 6 shows that we watch on a semi regular basis and maybe 2 or 3 more that we will watch if they are on and we happen to be in front of the television without the remote. One of the reasons for this lack of television viewing is that we lead fairly busy lives and between work, running kids about and our preference for reading, television sometimes gets pushed aside. The other reason for this is that we don't have cable or satellite service. Not that it isn't available where we live, we just don't choose to pay for it. That and let's face it, I'm cheap. The good old rabbit ears on top of the t.v. are good enough for me.

If I do miss a show that I want to see I just head on over to the internet and watch it online. There are several things I like about this option. I like that I can watch when I want to watch, no set schedule to follow and be hampered by. There are fewer commercials to sit through. I realize that programming has to be paid for but when you figure that 1 hour of television is actually made up of about 18 minutes of commercial time… Let's just say that I have better things to do. That leads directly to the fact that watching online takes up less time. I can watch what would be an hour long program on television in about 45 minutes online. One thing I have noticed is that the few commercials that do appear online seem to load, buffer and stream faster than the show I am trying to watch. Not always and not all the time, but enough to notice. If you can get the commercials to play that way why not the show itself?

I have to admit that in this case the old way might actually be better than the new. Remember when you had to set your VCR to record the shows you wanted? Obviously this assumes that you managed to get the clock on it set right in the first place. You had to make sure that it started and stopped at the correct time so that you didn't end up with an episode of (insert sarcasm here) Melrose Place instead of the vastly superior 90210. Although it did have it's drawbacks and problems, at least when you watched what you recorded it played from start to finish without the annoying 'Buffering' message. You could still watch the program faster than on television by fast forwarding through the commercials and you could stop it and start it at any point in the program to go and get another slice of pizza. The other main benefit to the old way was that the show was longer. Yep. Only 12 minutes of commercials in the late 80s and early 90s. Ah, the good old days.

Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Cause That Was The Fashion Of The Time

Fashion trends come and fashion trends go. We've all seen them. Remember the whole Michael Jackson-red-leather-jacket-with-zippers-all-over thing? I usually don't go in for the latest greatest thing when it comes to fashion. I was never a big fan of and am proud to say I have never owned parachute pants. Sometimes, and not very often, in the now far distant past (read mid to late '80s), I did get sucked into the whole fashion trend thing. I'm sure that somewhere, although I hope not, there is a photo of me dressed like Sonny Crockett from Miami Vice. Yep, white linen pants and jacket with a pastel coloured t-shirt and boat shoes with no socks. Then there was the MacGyver phase. Luckily I came to my senses before my mullet got too out of control. I do still carry my Swiss Army knife. For the most part though, classic blue jeans and a t-shirt suit me just fine. For dress up times, perhaps a nice pressed cotton shirt and some cotton pants. If I must, I will wear a tie.

Why is it that some styles fall out of favour, while others just keep going? Think about all of the fashions that have come and gone (read most clothing purchased in the 80s). In some cases the style changes because of environmental factors. Can you imagine tramping through the Canadian winter with a nice pair of Shakespearian hose keeping you warm? Corsets have gone the way of the dinosaur. Ladies, how would you like to be laced into one of those torso squeezing torture devices every morning? The list could go on and on and on.

The one thing that has kept being used though is the neck tie. It was first used in the 1600s and although it has gone through several changes, has been in almost constant use for the better part of 400 years. Why? Neck ties are just a… well, pain in the neck. I once heard wearing a neck tie described as being choked by a really weak person for the whole day. Over the years the neck tie has been used as a symbol of belonging to certain clubs and schools and still are to some extent today. Eventually they have become synonymous with what is considered business attire. Why? Even in places where the wearing of a tie could be dangerous they are still used. Instead of getting rid of them we developed clip on ones.

'What's the big deal,' many people say. The problems with deciding to wear a tie are seemingly never ending. Firstly, which tie do you choose? Paisley, solid, stripped or novelty? Do you wear pattered ties only with solid coloured shirts and only solid ties with patterned shirts or can you mix and match? Then there is the never ending struggle to get the thing tied correctly. Do you use a Windsor knot? Which of the four ways to tie the Windsor knot do you use? Or maybe a Half-Windsor? Or maybe a Four-in-hand, or a Kelvin, or Victoria, Oriental, St. Andrew, Plattsburg, Cavendish, Grantchester… There are even books to help you decide on which of the 85 possible knots to use and how to tie them! AARGH! All of this aggravation for a piece of cloth to show how 'professional' you are.

Remember the saying "You can't tell a book by it's cover"? I always figured that people were like books. Some of the best books I have read were pretty rough on the outside. By the same token, some of the most interesting people I have met were the same. Just because someone has on a nice tie does not make them any more or less professional.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It’s Not Summer Yet

It happens every year. The sheath of ice that covers the river in front of my home gets dull and grey. Then as the days get warmer and the strength of the sun increases, the ice grows dark menacing patches. Eventually the incoming and outgoing tidal action forces breaks in the ice cover and the shrinking chunks float towards the bay. I love this time of year. It's nice to know that soon I will be out on the water again in my canoe. That soon the woods will be clear of snow and I can hit the trails on my bike. Although the days are warmer and the temptation to break out the warm weather gear is there I still remember my father saying "It's not summer yet."

The other day I was running errands in town and while I was enjoying the warm day, I was also aware of the chill that was ready to grab at me from the shadows. Being the middle of March that should not be surprising. But some people seemed to think that summer had already arrived. One guy was wearing a tank top and his girlfriend was in flip flops. I was going to point out the date to them and which season it still was but figured that I would either pay for their stupidity through my taxes (for their inevitable health care costs) or with my teeth (from his evident potential for 'roid rage') so I let it go. Even though my father was one to wear his long winter underwear until at least mid-June (and put it back on at the end of August) he did have a point. Although the days are definitely warmer and the snow is going fast, as soon as that ice leaves the river the temperature takes a drop. It has to do with the water temperature and the wind blowing across the surface of that cold water. Although the temperature on the thermometer at the south side of the house shows shorts and t-shirt time, just walk around to the north side of the house and into the wind for a minute. Does a phrase concerning a brass monkey come to mind?

So while I will enjoy the increasing temperatures and the decreasing snow banks, I think I will spend my time in preparing my toys for the coming season instead of forcing it to come before it is ready. Like dad said "It's not summer yet." But maybe it's getting close!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Cut The Cheese?

We've all been there. We do something that at the time seems like a, well maybe not a good idea, but at least not a bad one, and something untoward happens. I remember when I was a little kid my parents telling me not to put anything into the electrical outlet (except a plug). There was no reason why, just don't do it. Of course, being a little kid, I had time on my hands and a fork. Lesson learned. Many of life's lessons are like this. We try something and we learn something from the result of our actions. Most of the time it is the fear of the results that keeps us from doing that particular thing again. Touching the hot stove, learning that your bike only defies gravity for so long before you crash into the side of the ditch, touching your tongue to the frosty metal swing set, holding that firecracker just a little too long.

You would think that a little pain, or even seeing a little pain in others, would be enough to dissuade us from attempting something questionable or dangerous. Apparently not. In England there is an annual event where a cheese wheel is rolled down a steep hill and people chase after it. (Don't judge, just accept it and move on.) Now, before you dismiss this event, lets just say that this hill would be one you would be hard pressed to walk up, let alone run down while trying to catch a cheese. Apparently the cheese can hit speeds of 65 kilometres an hour! Injuries are an annual occurrence. Sprained ankles, broken wrists, broken arms & legs, cuts, bruises, and concussions all occur on a regular basis. Take a minute and look it up online. Better yet search out a video and have a look. Now you know what I'm talking about.

This event has taken place annually for the better part of 200 years! Now it has, sadly, been cancelled. Not because the cheese has never, in 200 years, been caught. Not because people got tired of waking up in hospital or got scared off by the sight of people pin wheeling down a hill after a cheese, or because there was a lack of interest. Nope. The cause of the cancellation was too much interest. Last year 15,000 people showed up to watch or take part. Apparently they ran out of room and spectators were starting to get hurt. Not surprising. Can you imagine showing up to watch and getting hit by a speeding cheese wheel? In this case it wasn't people taking part in the event learning from the painful results of their actions that caused the end of the race. It was other, smarter people, protecting participants from themselves that put the brakes on things. I guess someone decided that common sense was not so common and decided to cut the cheese.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nothing Is Ever Easy

Why is it that what you might suppose should be an easy job ends up being an exercise in pain and suffering? I don't know if you do any of your own car repairs, but most of the time, doing things yourself is a great way to save some money. Changing your oil, rotating your tires, changing lights and such yourself all saves money. Sometimes though, what seems like a good way to save a few dollars ends up being a time consuming experiment in human patience. Take my latest attempt at saving money for example – changing a blown headlight bulb.
At first look you might think that this would be an easy job. First you have the problem. A broken bulb. So you look up the part number and head to the local purveyor of car parts and buy a bulb. (I got two just to save a trip later. Smart eh?) Then I headed home to what I thought should be a 15 minute job. Pull out the old bulb from the holder and unhook the electrical connection. Hook up the new bulb and replace in the holder. Wham bam thank you man. Easy as pie. What follows is a step by step outline of what really happened, minus the muttered, shall we say, unfriendly, language. Feel free to use this in your next attempt to change a headlight bulb.
  1. Lift the hood of the car.
  2. Locate the bulb to be replaced.
  3. Realize that my hand is too big to fit into the space available.
  4. Remove the plastic shield that is causing the restricted space.
  5. Again attempt to remove the bulb from the headlamp.
  6. Again realize that the space available is too small. (Swear.)
  7. Realize that the battery must be removed to access the headlamp. (Swear.)
  8. Try to remove the battery.
  9. Realize that the retaining bold is rusted in place.
  10. Soak the retaining bolt with penetrating fluid.
  11. Wait.
  12. Wait.
  13. Wait.
  14. Attempt to remove the battery retaining bolt. Drop the socket into the engine compartment. (Swear.)
  15. Spend 10 minutes trying to retrieve the lost socket.
  16. Finally remove battery retaining bolt and battery.
  17. Remove the protective cover from the headlight assembly.
  18. Pinch my fingers trying to remove the retaining spring.
  19. Unhook electrical connections.
  20. Discard broken bulb.
  21. Hook up new bulb and replace in headlight assembly.
  22. Realize that there is no way to test the new bulb without replacing the battery. (Swear.)
  23. Replace battery.
  24. Test headlights.
  25. Rejoice that the new bulb works.
  26. Reassemble the parts from steps 4 thru 13 in reverse order.
  27. Wonder what the extra bolt is for. (Swear.)
  28. Disassemble parts from steps 4 thru 13 while muttering swear words.
  29. Reassemble parts from steps 4 thru 13 correctly.
  30. Close the hood.
  31. Wonder why this aggravation is worth the effort.
There you have it. Usually I am able to accomplish most tasks with a minimum of fuss and bother. But in this case I think I should sent a bill for my pain and suffering to the designers of this car. What could they have been thinking? Of course to make matters worse, when I finished the job and compared the driver side headlight assembly to the passenger side one… Lets just say that the four step process would have been possible if the other bulb had burnt out. Just my luck.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sins of Omission

Ladies Moguls – Silver. Speed Skating Ladies 3000m – Bronze. Speed Skating Ladies 1500m – Silver. Men's Moguls – Gold. Ice Dance – Gold. Men's Snowboard Cross – Silver. Ladies Ski Cross – Gold. Ladies Snowboard Cross – Gold. Speed Skating Ladies 5000m – Bronze. Speed Skating Ladies 500m – Silver. Short Track Ladies 3000m Relay – Silver. Speed Skating Ladies 1000m – Gold. Women's Bobsleigh – Gold. Women's Bobsleigh – Silver. Men's Skelton – Gold.

Not a bad list of accomplishments for the Canadian Olympic Team after 13 days of competition. So far we've seen athletes compete injured. Come back from severe injuries to win medals, and overcome devastating personal tragedy to put in personal best performances. Pretty amazing. Considering it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something, to be able to step onto a podium to receive a gold medal at the Olympics must come with a huge amount of satisfaction. We should be shouting these athletes' names from the rooftops in recognition of their hard work and determination to succeed.

Last evening after a long day of herding cats (supply teaching), I was looking forward to sitting down to see some of Canada's best and brightest compete. Much to my amazement and frustration, I saw very little of the events I was hoping to see and very little presented to me in the way of athlete profiles for sports other than hockey. Sure it was a big night for hockey. Canada vs. Russia. Considering Canada has not beaten Russia in Olympic hockey in 50 years, I can understand the hype. But let's recap the accomplishments of the Canadian Men's Olympic Hockey team so far. A couple of wins and a loss. Gold medal yet? No. Silver medal yet? Nope. Bronze medal yet? NO! The hockey team is still advancing through the preliminaries to the finals. What's with all the coverage of players who get plenty of coverage for 10 months of the year?

I hear you saying that if you want coverage of the other sports go to the newspaper or online. Yes I agree, fine. I can search it out if I want it. But why are the accomplishments of our athletes who are WINNING bronze silver and gold medals being overshadowed by the fortunes of millionaire hockey players? Why is it when I sit down to watch coverage on television that hockey is first and foremost even when the team isn't playing on a particular day. Why, on what is supposed to be the flagship network for Olympic coverage, are we wasting time on hockey commentary instead of focusing on our Olympic Champions during what is prime time for most of the country? Why are we getting so up in arms over the failure of to 'Own the Podium' when apparently we don't seem to care (at least on prime time television) even when our athletes do win?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Excuse Me While I Have A Nap

Well once again, I'm ahead of the game. By doing something that seems natural and feels right I have come out on the winning side without knowing it. I speak of course, of the afternoon nap. Being a stay at home dad, I am often left with a few minutes just after lunch when I have completed my list of tasks and have a time before my youngest child arrives home from school. What better time to have a quick 40 winks and catch up on some sleep. Now it turns out that this is just what my brain needs to become smarter. I wasn't being lazy after all! Who knew?

Scientists have determined that basically your brain gets full of information and needs time to shift that knowledge from short term to long term storage. Apparently a nap is just the thing. Your brain basically goes into neutral and the long and short of it is that you get smarter. I guess this is why kids learn things so fast. I remember when my little ones were little-er and they would try something new and fail. Then they would try again and fail and so on and so on. Then they would have a nap or go to sleep for the night and the next time they tried whatever it was they were doing -- taa-daa! Miraculously they were suddenly experts at whatever it was they were attempting to do.

Thank goodness for scientists. They have now given me the excuse, uh, make that the reason, I needed to take that nap in the afternoon. Come to think of it I'm feeling a little sleepy right now…

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dog Ate My Computer

The month of February has been a busy one. By the time it ends I will have had only four days where I have not worked. Not bad for a substitute teacher. I have been lucky this school year to be able to spend quite a lot of time in the classroom with students. It's getting to the point where I know many on sight and am able to create some kind of teacher/student relationship with them. This familiarity also comes with increased responsibilities (most of which I place upon myself). I feel that when I am in a classroom, replacing the regular teacher, I should keep to that teacher's plan. I'm not there to be friends with the students. I'm not just there to baby sit. There is a job to be done and I take pride in doing it to the best of my ability. I can, and am willing, to do more than just press play on the DVD player. I especially enjoy those times when I can be in the same classroom for four or five days or more in a row.

I find that after about three days, you begin to really get to know the students. That also goes the other way too. They get to know you as well. I also enjoy helping them through assignments and deadlines. Of course, they get no sympathy from me if they haven't used their time wisely. If you spent your class time talking about the colour of your new iPod, instead of reading your novel or working on that essay that is due in two days… Don't come looking for extra time. You won't find it here.

I have to laugh though. I remember when I went to school and the big excuse for not having your homework done was to say in a pleading and pitiful voice that "The dog ate my homework!" I'm sure that at some time, in some school, somewhere, someone, actually had a dog that ate their homework. It was the perfect excuse really. Who in their right mind was going to check? If you didn't actually have a dog it became problematic , but it was worth a try.

Today, "My computer crashed," or "My printer broke," or "I e-mailed it to you," has become the new "the dog ate it." If you think about it, how can you disagree? We've all been there. You are just about to put something to sleep on your computer and just before you save it for the last (or sometimes the first) time -- poof! Gone. It happens. Everyday. If you think about it this is really a better excuse than the dog. You don't even need a computer, just access to one. Once you hit send on the e-mail… Gone. Who is to say that you didn't send it, or try to print it off or save it?

Whatever the reason, kids will always try to get that extension on the deadline at school. It's nice to know that no matter how much change technology brings some things will always be the same.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Book Has Closed

It is a sad day here in Canada for those of us who know our history. John Babcock, the last living soldier to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War has died. He was 109.

Although Mr. Babcock never saw combat duty at the front during the war, he was too young at the time, he represented the last touchstone we Canadians had to the men and women who served this country so well during The Great War. Although I never knew Mr. Babcock, he was, for me, a connection (however tenuous) to those in my own family who served in the First World War. To those who came home and to those who did not. He has now joined the 650,000 other Canadian soldiers who served during those years. The living history book of the First World War is now closed. Rest well Mr. Babcock.

"…and at the going down of the sun, We will remember them…"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gold Medal for Desperation

As of today we are almost half way through the Apocalympics (not my original word, unfortunately). The whole thing seems to be plagued by one unfortunate event after another. Bad weather, protesters, training accidents, planning snafus and tragically a death. I'm thinking that the organizers are tipping back a few stiff ones in the evenings to get through it all.

On top of all of this, comes the national (or perhaps just media) hysteria over gold medals. For several years we have all been hearing about the 'Own the Podium' initiative that is supposed to funnel more money to athletes for training so that they can increase their chances of a medal (preferably gold, one supposes) during these and future Olympics. It doesn't help that Canada, up until a few days ago, had never won a gold medal at an Olympics that was hosted here. Leading up to the Olympics attention was focused on who could potentially win medals and when they would be won. What must it be like for these athletes? What happens, if for some reason, they don't perform as well as expected?

The pressure must be incredible. All for a sporting event that only happens every four years. Not to brag or anything, but I'm raising three children who, like every other child in the country, is the future of this country. As corny as it sounds, all of these kids will be the next teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians… the leaders of this country. Guess how many people are looking over my shoulder as I get them ready for life? I don't have commentators estimating my chances of raising the next Nobel laureate.

With these huge expectations it is, of course, the athlete who loses out. I enjoy a great come from behind victory as much as anyone else. I am, for all my nit picking, a proud Canadian. But let's keep things in perspective. Let's support our athletes by taking some of the pressure off them and results. Should we expect them to do their best? Absolutely. Should we get our knickers in a twist if they don't perform as well as we think they should? No. But never fail, every four years (every 2 years if you count the summer games as well), the national self doubt sets in. So instead of properly funding sports and recreation with ongoing support for proper training and preparation we panic, throw money at the 'problem' in bursts and hope that this will somehow solve things. That we will be able to 'Own the Podium'. Are we really so desperate for a small piece of medal to represent our worth as a country?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

All of the Goodness, None of the Flavour

I don't know what it is like at your house, but here at Rancho Relax-o I tend to do most of the meal preparation and baking. My bride can and does cook and bake well. But for some reason I do most if it. Don't know why or how it ended up this way but there it is. I just usually end up in front of the stove when it's time to cook something. Not all the time, but most of the time. I don't mind that. I actually enjoy preparing the meals and planning the menu. Cleaning things up afterwards – not so much. Most of the time things turn out well. Sometimes things go off the rails.

One of my recent successes was with an Irish stew. After browning the beef and adding the onions and garlic, instead of adding water to simmer the meat in, I pour in a bottle or two of stout (you know the super dark, heavy beer, like Guinness, only I use my own brew) and let it simmer away for a couple of hours and then add the rest of the veggies and such. MMmmmm. Delicious if I do say so myself. Even the kids like this stew and they eat like they've been cast members on Survivor whenever it is served.

Then there are those dark days when things don't go so well. The kids love to recount the one and only time the breadcrumb topping on the seafood casserole actually caught fire in the oven. To hear them tell it you would think that a fiery rain was pouring down from the heavens.

Just today we have another unexpected event to add to the annals of family gourmet history. My lovely bride, in an attempt to cut back on packaging and to try and keep us eating healthy made some cookies. They were the oatmeal, low fat, high fibre, chocolate chip, twigs and bark, non peanut butter kind of cookies. Looking at the recipe you would have thought that these cookies had it all. That's what we thought. Taking each of the ingredients on their own, these cookies should have been great. How can you go wrong with milk chocolate chips? They even called for a little butter! Great we thought! So off she went to make these gastronomic wonders.

Fast forward a couple of hours and the cookies were cooled and ready for eating. They looked great and so I took large bite of one and was overwhelmed with the lack of taste. They had the look of cookies and the texture of cookies and the weight of cookies but none of the flavour of cookies. They were like eating crunchy air, or warm ice or something. Lots of flash but no substance. Just kind of blah. So now we have these wonderful cookies that are good for us and the environment and no one will eat them. Not even my bride, who would usually eat them just to prove a point, won't go near them. They've been sitting on the counter all evening, like some sort of nutritious leper colony. I'm half convinced that even other food is slowly edging itself away from these things. All of the goodness and none of the flavour. Perhaps if we let them age like wine flavour will develop.

Maybe some cream cheese icing and chocolate sauce would salvage them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Six More Weeks Of Winter

Well, for those of us in the North America, what seems to be both the most eagerly awaited and the most dreaded day on the calendar has come and gone. I speak of course of Ground Hog Day. Yes, it is true. We base our hopes for an early spring on a rodent that is yanked from its burrow by some guy in a top hat and whether or not we think it sees its shadow. What a fool proof system. Thank goodness we haven't spent loads of money in setting up weather monitoring stations and developing computer programs for modelling weather systems. Oh, wait… D'oh!

Anyway, I digress. Back to the most eagerly awaited part. My youngest child, who is 6 years old, was incredibly excited about Ground Hog Day this year. All we heard from her for days was "It's almost Ground Hog Day," and many variations of this, several times a day and sometimes a couple of times an hour. Ground Hog Day hysteria was sweeping the house. My bride and I could not understand this whole interest in what is essentially a made up 'holiday', which if you care to look at your calendar, has no impact on the length of the winter. Any more excitement over this and we thought we might have to invest in a scale replica of a ground hog to set up in our living room.

So, anyway, the big day comes and my daughter gets home from school and wants to know "Did the ground hog see it's shadow?" To which I said, "Which one?", because there are about 10 or so different rodents who 'predict' the coming of spring. My humour was of course lost on her, so I broke the news that, yes, it saw it's shadow and that there would be six more weeks of winter. Her face crumpled in disappointment and I stood dumbfounded at her reaction this piece of ridiculous news.

After she got over her initial disappointment and some questioning on my part, I came to find out that it was not whether or not spring was going to come early that was her concern. In her mind she figured that if spring came early then so would her birthday! I don't know if she thought that the 6 weeks that lie between Ground Hog Day and the first day of Spring would just disappear or what, but… Needless to say that after the kids had hit the hay for the night my bride and I had a good laugh at the logic behind the desire for an early birthday.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Olympics Here We Come Pt. 2

Just about a year ago I posted a piece about the Olympics (see Olympics Here We Come 2/12/09) and how, inevitably, they are going to cost we taxpayers a fortune. Way back a year ago, the cost overruns were skyrocketing and the potential loss to Canada was huge. Now here we are a year later and guess what? Even more costs involved in the whole thing. Last year I predicted that snow storms would probably send the city of Vancouver spiralling into chaos like a 5 year old on one of those flying saucer sleds. Well, so far no storms (although I still have my fingers crossed). In fact, the exact opposite is happening. Vancouver is experiencing warmer than normal weather and the Whistler Blackcomb site is getting rain and warm temperatures which have melted the snow pack on the ski runs. Now, added to the cost of security, accommodations, travel, building venues and shuttling athletes and spectators from point a to point b, we have to add the costs for trucking in snow to the ski and snowboard runs so that the whole overblown show can go on.

This is a situation where technology can help. I know I usually bemoan the gradual slide of society into the technological commode, but in this case I think I have the solution – both to the weather problems and to the huge costs involved in this thing. Video games. Yep. Why not just pimp out a Nintendo Wii and hook it up to a giant big screen. Problem solved. Athletes no longer have to travel, they can compete online. Venues can be smaller and we could stream the whole thing on the internet so that accommodations are now people's living rooms. Weather ceases to be an issue and the whole thing goes off whether there is snow or not. Problem solved. Sure there are some technological hurdles to jump, but nothing is insurmountable. Get a few of the big brain computer people into the mix and wham bam there you are. Online Olympics and lots of cost savings.

Just remember you heard it here first Olympic Organizing Committees and make sure that the cheque is made out for $50 Million (one time idea fee, what a bargain). I'll keep my eye on the mail box.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

This Blog Is Miles Pro

Is it a sign of being old that I find the language used by teenagers today to be painful to the ear? I don't mean bad language, I mean the English language. I work as a substitute teacher. I get to hear a lot of language. The swear words I hear, although often inappropriate and unintelligently used, are the same ones that were in use when I was in school, when my parents were in school and probably when my grandparents were in school. It's the every day words that are driving me nuts.

Using slang to make your point is nothing new. I remember when I was 10 or 11 every car that I thought was cool (a slang term in itself) was 'wicked'. I didn't mean that the particular car in question was 1. Morally bad. 2. Playfully mischievous or 3. Troublesome or unpleasant. Obviously it would have made no sense to refer to a sports car as 'morally bad' or 'playfully mischievous'. Neither of these meanings really conveys the coolness of the car in question. 'Wicked' in my prepubescent slang was meant as a term of desire and admiration.

The slang today just doesn't make much sense. My daughter uses the word 'random' a lot. Not in the 'lacking any definite plan or prearranged order' sense of the word. She uses it in sentences to describe events. She might be describing something that happened at school, perhaps someone got into trouble with the teacher for not having their home work done and she will finish the story by saying 'It was so random.' No. It wasn't. The kid didn't do his homework, so logically, it directly follows that he might get into trouble. There is nothing random about the sequence of events. If the kid had been rewarded with $1000 and someone else placed in a jail cell for the same offence, then yes, I would agree that would be a random event.

Another is 'sweet'. 'I love this section of the road, it is so sweet to drive on.' So the road is covered in sugar? Sweet is a descriptor of a flavour, not of the physical of mental attributes of something or someone. This is like asking someone what their favourite flavour of Popsicle is and having them reply 'purple'. Purple is a colour not a flavour.

Probably my least favourite of the slang today is the word 'pro'. 'That guy (or girl) is so pro.' He's a professional? He's for some cause or event as opposed to being against it? When I was in school if someone was a 'pro' it was because they were out behind the ball field bleachers doing things for money at lunch time. My best guess on this one is that the person in question is good at whatever they are doing. If they are really good at doing that activity they are 'real pro´ and if they are exceptional they are 'miles pro'. Which I guess could apply to the meaning I remember for this word too.

Anyway, if getting older means that I have to become a guardian of the English language and proper usage, than I guess that's o.k. Even knowing that this trend in slang will probably disappear in a few years in favour of something else is somewhat of a panacea. Until that happens though, I guess I should go out and buy some sweet, miles pro earplugs.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Need Less Stuff… Or Fewer Hobbies

Don't get me wrong. My family is a busy one and I don't mind that. We take part in activities both as a family and as individuals. At this point, we all have things we like to do and we are fortunate enough to be able to do them. But sometimes the stuff that makes doing these activities possible gets to me. It just accumulates and I'm convinced that at some point my poor house and garage are going to just explode at the seams and vomit this stuff all over my yard.

'But it can't be that bad', I can hear you say. Really. Lets look at just a couple of our activities. My bride and children like to cross country ski. So in regards to that we have ski boots (in various sizes and styles), skis, poles, wax for the skis and little tools for spreading it and smoothing it and clothing for skiing. I, on the other hand, like to snow shoe, so I have snow shoes (and the rest of the family does too) and poles for that, as well as clothing for snow shoeing. That's not the worst of it though. At least these items get used on a fairly regular basis during the season (assuming we have more snow than we do right now on average). Oh, did I mention that we also have skates that rarely get used but unfortunately don't disappear when not in use? That's not even taking into account the guitars, fiddle, drum, piano keyboard, French horn, canoe, paddles, PFDs, exercise equipment, ball gloves, balls and the thousand other items that it takes to keep these things in working order that seem to find their way into the house and garage.

Let's move on to mountain biking. I love this sport. It combines skill, speed and a slight element of danger with the outdoors. I also got a new bike recently so that's good too. But the stuff involved with maintaining a fleet of bicycles is unreal. Spread out between my basement and garage are bicycles, various extra tires and tubes, tools, spare parts, extra pedals, seats, cables and rims. The worst thing about it is that all of it is necessary because it only takes one breakdown on a Saturday evening to put an end to your biking for the weekend if you don't happen to have an extra thingamajig, and the bike shop is closed. When I say that I have a bare bones operation in regards to out bikes, I mean bare bones. I am the first to head out to the bike shop for repairs. Usually it is much easier for them to do things than it is for me. They're also faster. I have just enough to get me out of a bind if need be. But that's still a lot of stuff.

Then there is archery. Aside from bows and arrows there is specific tool kit for this sport. There are things in this area that are used for nothing else and have no other use than to keep the arrows flying. Believe me when I say there is nothing better for putting feathers on arrows than a fletching jig. It is fantastic. Does that job incredibly well. But it has no other use. Granted, because my daughter is getting really good I use it a couple of times a month during archery season (she shoots the feathers off her arrows sometimes) but it still takes up space. Then there are the feathers, arm guards, finger slings, and strings and bow squares and…

I guess I shouldn't complain. From the stories on the news lately about the health of Canadians, I think my family is doing o.k. But the stuff. Ugh! I guess it could be worse -- my kids could play hockey.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Repetition Makes The Heart Grow Weary

Well, with a new year, and a new decade, I decided that this was the time to make some changes. I can feel it happening. I've started to get back into shape after years of sloth and indolence. I've even managed to complete almost a whole month of a new exercise regime that will enable me to finally get into that leopard print Speedo (stay calm ladies, I'm happily married!). I've even decided to go back to school and complete my education degree (assuming that I get in of course). But even with these changes and decisions, sometimes I just like to sit (by which, I really mean lay) on the couch and watch a couple of hours of mindless television every once in a while.

I know we've all been there, those evenings when you finally get to plant your bottom in a comfortable chair or on the couch and you think, "If I never move from this spot again I could be perfectly happy." About a week or so ago, I was enjoying a moment of blissful, mindless, television viewing. Just sitting there. Absorbing. Amoeba like (I think there was even a little drool involved, but I'm not sure). The latest greatest episode of whatever show was on, was winding it's way to the predictable foregone conclusion, when I noticed something strange. Usually during this time of sloth, I have the remote for the TV firmly planted on my chest and all I have to do is move one teeny tiny finger to either change the channel or mute the sound. I do this to avoid commercials, especially those loud annoying ones. This particular evening however, the remote was on the coffee table three feet away (it might as well have been on the other side of the Solar System) and so I had no way to protect myself from the onslaught. It was then that I noticed that there was one particular commercial that kept repeating over and over during every break. Sometimes it would even play two times, back to back, during the same commercial block.

Now, I know that commercials are a necessary part of commercial television, but why the same commercial over and over again? Is there not enough advertising to fill the spaces available? I can see the same commercial running several times over the course of an evening, maybe even a couple of times in an hour, but five or six times an hour? I remember when I saw the ad in question for the very first time. It had a neat hook and was well produced. It was very simple, but I watched because it was different. After that evening, I now hate that commercial. I now also make sure that the remote is close at hand before I sit down. I guess at least one good thing came of the whole repetitive commercial evening. My reaction time with the remote has become lightening fast. Wonder if there is a way to work that into my exercise log?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Worst. Job. Ever.

You know, there are a lot of jobs that could be in the running for the title Worst Job Ever. Some might think garbage man or sewage and septic sucking, or even customer service rep at Air Canada. There is even a show on the Discovery Channel called Dirty Jobs. Basically the host takes on jobs that seem bad or dirty in some way (strictly PG of course!), and we get to watch his antics as he tries to do the job as well as the professionals he is working with. All of us, without exception, have a list of what we would consider the worst job. I now have a new one that tops my list.

That new job to take over the top spot on my worst job ever list is the person who now has to sit and watch the images from the new full body scanners at the airport. In case you haven't heard, because of the threat of terrorism, almost every major airport will now be installing a new type of full body scanner which actually 'sees' through clothing in an attempt to detect explosives or other dangerous items that people might try to sneak onboard an airplane. Results from these scanners are mixed at best. Yes they 'see' through clothing. Yes, they can detect some hidden objects and materials. But they do not work every time. Some test have shown that depending on where the items are hidden, the scanners will not detect said item. I leave it up to you to determine where these places might be.

There have been many comments about these scanners. About how they intrude on our privacy and infringe on our ability to be private. My concern is over the people who have to sit for hours on end and watch these scanner images flash on a screen. Take a minute and think about all of the different body types you see on the street every day. Now take a minute and think about being able to see through all of these people's clothes and what that might do to your mental health. Ugh! I will be the first to admit that the list of people who might like to see through my clothing would be pretty small. I know that the list of people whose clothing I might like to see through is even smaller. These poor people looking at these images! Worst. Job. Ever.

Oh, the second worst job ever? Anything that ends up with my being labelled with the moniker 'Underwear Bomber".

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Enter A New Year

Well here we are, the start of a new year! If you listen to the media it is also apparently the start of a new decade. So what is in store for us in this first year of the second decade of the 21st century? It would probably be easier to determine what is not likely to happen than to predict all kinds of new things. I know that may sound pessimistic but let's look at what we were supposed to have by now and don't.

Way back when I was in elementary school, I can remember the first computer lab we got. It was full of giant, clunky computers that basically had an operating system and not much else. You had to actually type in the code for the program you wanted and then we all sat amazed while a few tiny pixels on the screen flashed on and off in sequence. WOW! I remember the guy who was the computer tec genius back then saying that these machines would change the way we worked and that they would make offices paperless. Well computers certainly changed the way we work… but paperless offices? Nope. Not even close. I don't know about you but there is more paper around my house and home office, and every other office I've been in or seen or heard about, than ever before. So much for that prediction.

I also wonder where my flying car is. Weren't we supposed to be travelling around in hover cars by now? I can remember seeing an ad in a magazine when I was about 10 years old, showing a dramatic representation of a person flying to work in his hover car. Can't say I've seen many of those about. I had visions in my ten year old brain of flying to school in my cool hover car and being the envy of the guys and the sought after companion of all the girls. You can guess how that turned out. While I'm on the subject, I also want to know where my bubble house under the ocean is. Why do I not look out the window every morning and see tropical fish everywhere?

And what about those Space movies? 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Where is my HAL 9000 super computer? O.k. Maybe things didn't turn out well with the whole HAL thing, ('Just what do you think you are doing Dave?') but why aren't we travelling to other planets and exploring new worlds? In 2010 we were supposed to be exploring Jupiter. We barely still have the technology to get to the moon anymore. And what about the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman? Why can't I jump over buildings and run as fast as a car?

I can tell you one thing – the next ten years better show me some of these fantastic leaps of technology or I'm going to ask for a refund of my television and movie ticket costs!