Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Wonderful Stupor of Submission

We have what I consider a lot of counter space in our kitchen. I enjoy seeing all that countertop clear; it looks big, spacious, clean and ready for action! A couple of weeks ago, a holiday cookie jar mysteriously appeared in a corner of the countertop. I moved it to a separate counter. The next morning, the cookie jar was sitting conspicuously in its original corner. Again, I moved it to the separate counter.

The next morning, after having cleverly managed to roll its way back to the original corner, it sat, glaring defiantly at me. It may even have snarled. Grumbling, I moved it back to the separate counter before I left for work. I wondered impatiently to myself, "What possible difference could it make to Susan where this confounded cookie jar sits?"

There would be no lulling me into some automaton-like stupor of submission! On it went, until the weekend came and she challenged me on my repeated attempts to move the cookie jar elsewhere. I explained, importantly, how I appreciated seeing the countertop surface clear and clean.

Case closed.

Today is that inane day named for the sport in which short-tempered shoppers are most likely to engage, while in crowded stores stocked with insufficent numbers of low-priced items. I prefer lying low on Boxing Day, so I've made it "Blogging Day". Christmas has come and gone and, hey, there will be no more sinking feeling when I play drums! For the last couple of years, whenever I played, the drums around me would gradually get higher as my drum stool slid downward. Santa fixed all that by bringing me a drum stool that must be spun to have its height adjusted. Now when I play drums, the height of my snare, cymbals and tom-toms stays the same! It makes drumming so much more pleasant.

The headphones I mention in my blog of August 25th, 2010, kept on breaking. The first time they broke, I sent them away for repair and it took a couple of months before I finally got them back. Lately, repairs to the same headphones have been improvised by a kind colleague. First, the right side snapped and a screw and nut were used to put the broken part back together. Then, the left side snapped, with another screw and nut put in place to hold it together. Santa solved that problem, too! Now I have my own pair of Bose headphones with which to listen to my 4494-song iPod during daily train commutes. Once or twice, when my headphones broke, I managed to mooch my son's Bose headphones.

I am a mooch, no more.

Along with a few other items, Tristan decided he wanted the Kinect for Christmas. His request came a little late and, to tell you the truth, we could have been more prompt in our pursuit of the unit. Just as he asked a little late, we got busy buying a little late. As a result, for weeks, we searched high and low for the unit. We went to big electronics stores day after day, in the hopes a magic shipment might arrive; we found nothing but hollow apologies. Susan scoured the internet, checking the inventories of individual store branches. That, inevitably, led us on a few wild goose chases! We would excitedly race to stores, only to be told the forty that had been listed at the beginning of the day on the internet, had sold in a matter of sixty minutes!

We checked smaller stores, obscure stores and stores for boneheads who'd started shopping too late. Nothing. We couldn't find it anywhere and smug store clerks would look at me with quasi-scolding expressions as they solemnly announced, "You won't be getting it this Christmas." It wasn't looking too good when, out of the blue, a couple of days before Christmas, I got an e-mail from my wife explaining how a colleague of hers had found one and immediately bought it for us! I was astonished, elated and relieved, not necessarily in that order, although that may have been the precise sequence of emotion. She would have the Kinect with her when I met her for lunch in about an hour. I'd have to see it, to believe it!

Indeed, there it was. I must say, thanks to Michael's kindness, that lunch hour, with our son's main gift request safely in our hands, we were like the little dog who'd managed to steal a big, fresh, meaty bone right out from under the big dog's nose! We know exactly what that looks like because that's how our Westie, Spike, looks every time he goes for a walk! Anyway, that was us as, later that same lunch hour, we headed into the same electronics store we had been desperately visiting regularly. As the doors slid open, my wife said, flippantly, "Wouldn't it be funny if they had a whole stack of Kinects here, today?" I was still smiling and nodding as we stopped in front of the huge stack of neatly-piled Kinects welcoming us into the store.

Ho. Ho. Friggin' Ho.

Happily, the Kinect has already paid for itself! Seeing "The Great Geez", which is how we refer to nephew Tyler, try to guide his horse around the show jumping ring was worth all the shopping anguish. Unfortunately, for Tyler, the game instantly added itself to the long list of things we may never let him live down!

The holidays are going well. The first of two yearly "holiday hockey" sessions happens tomorrow. I rent the local arena and invite friends and relatives to come out and play some shinny.

Susan's mother is staying with us for the holidays.The first time I entered the guest room after she arrived, the door jumped back in my face, nearly whacking me in the forehead. Her suitcase was lying on the floor behind the door. I slid it just enough to allow the door to open freely. The next time I went into the guest room, the door jumped back in my face, nearly whacking me in the head. Again, I bent down and slid the suitcase just far enough from the door so that it could swing open freely. If, at this point, you're wondering why I didn't just avoid going into the guest room, it's the only way into the laundry room.

The next time I pushed open the door, it bounced back in my face, nearly fracturing my nose! Grumbling now, I slid it just out of the way of the door. As I stood up, I suddenly stopped, stunned. As a queasy feeling quickly grew in the pit of my stomach, I realized I hadn't checked  the whereabouts of the cookie jar lately.

Monday, December 20, 2010

He's Checking It Twice

Not even the delightful rendition of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" by The Living Voices could ease the boil. I wish my reaction could limit itself to mere annoyance, but I won't lie, it's usually anger.

Perhaps it's none of my business. Then again, I sit in the seats, my wife sits in the seats, friends sit in the seats, along with other civilized commuters. The cost of my monthly pass is almost certainly calculated on the basis of seat sustainability, along with the cost of cleaning and maintaining the seats. Therefore, it's entirely my business.

I do give them a disapproving glare, sometimes, more than one. I yearn to bark sternly, "Put your feet down! You know, you're not alone on the planet! Have you ever heard of consideration?"

Why would these louts and boors put their feet up on train seats? People come straight off the outdoor platforms into the train with snow, sand, salt and dirt on their boots. The floor, inevitably, becomes wet and dirty.

These jerks make themselves comfortable and put their feet up on the seats, boots and all. On the train home tonight, it was some young, thick-thighed walrusette. Not only was she blabbing loudly on her phone, but she put one of her boots up on the seat facing her. On the way into work today, it was a young guy with his hoodie pulled over his head, who sat down and promptly put both his mucky feet on the seat in front of him so he could type on his laptop.

A few weeks ago, a couple of train employees with the word "Surete" on the the back of their vests told one of these louts to put their feet down, but their patrols are few and far between.

The young ones seem to put their wet winter boots on seats, while the older galoots take their boots off and put their stocking feet up on the seats in front of them. How nice for you and thanks for welcoming us into your living room!

These are common wal-mart oxen for whom the rules apply to everyone else. They park in handicapped spaces. They don't pick-up after their dogs. On their way to the bar, they park on your lawn and litter it with beer bottles. Wal-mart oxen give oxen a bad name. They ought to be taught consideration and respect for others with the help of an electric cattle prod!

Is it me?

It's me, isn't it?

Is anyone else angry that inconsiderate boors roam our society, unchecked?

What I need is my share of diffuse responsibility, where we all get such a small slice of social responsibility that no one is compelled to actually be responsible. On the train, I listen to my music so I don't hear them bellowing self-importantly on their cell phones (see September 12, 2010 blog), next, I'll close my eyes so I don't see them putting their boots up on train seats.

It'll be a wonderful world until I open my eyes and ears to see and hear what I haven't done.

Still, what's the point of being considerate, obeying the rules and respecting others while wal-mart oxen ignore the rules at our expense with no consideration for anything but their own whims?

Is it me?

It's me, isn't it?

What do you recommend? Should I knock back a bottle of chill pills, or wisely resolve to wallow in social indifference this New Year?

It's Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year!

Besides, according to The Living Voices, the list will be checked twice; I'm good.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Am Disappointed Sam I Am

Nice going, Sam!

Only one province in Canada chooses not to suspend the license of a driver with a blood-alcohol level of .05 and that's Quebec. Long live drunk driving; innocent victims be damned!

In every other province, a blood-alcohol level of .05 is too high to be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. In every other province, driving with a blood-alcohol level of .05, or 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, will automatically get your license suspended for 24 hours.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving points out 20 per cent of drunk driving deaths are caused by drivers with a blood-alcohol level of between .05 and .08. Here in Quebec, it seems those lives are worth the gamble.

Why? Here's the explanation offered by Transport Minister Sam Hamad this week, "We have to listen to the people and Quebecers aren't there yet."

Are you kidding me?

Quebecers aren't "there" yet? Aren't "where" yet? They're unable to act like responsible members of society yet? Unable to make responsible choices yet? Too immature? Too stupid? We don't have enough jail cells to pack them all away?

Who did you ask, Sam, because I'm pretty sure it depends on the Quebecers you asked. You see, if you ask a Quebecer who's lost a loved one to a drunk driver, I have a feeling they're "there" now and have been "there" for a while. If you ask someone like myself, who doesn't drink and drive and who is often out on the road with my family, I'm "there" now!

If you ask other responsible Quebecers who buy into the "don't drink and drive" or, "if you drink, don't drive" philosophy, we're all "there" now. We'd certainly rather not be out on the road risking the lives of our loved ones as drunk drivers travel amongst us, whether their blood-alcohol levels are .05, or .08, or higher. We'd rather our loved ones never had to share the road with drunk drivers.

Don't you feel that way, Sam?

Have you spoken to anyone who's lost a loved one to a drunk driver? No other opinion should matter. One life lost is one too many.

On top of which, since when do you let Quebecers decide safety regulations? If it were up to Quebecers, mandatory seat belt use, 100 km/hr speed limits and warnings on cigarette packages would likely still be proposals.

Is human life worth more in other provinces?

In 2004, Nicolas Fortin was hit and killed by Gilles Francoeur in the Laurentians. The drunk driver drove from the scene of the accident with the 18 year old victim's body embedded in his windshield. Two other pedestrians suffered multiple fractures in the hit-and-run. Francoeur got two years. No justice there. Hmmm, perhaps human life is worth less in Quebec.

In November 1997, a young dentist who'd recently graduated from McGill University, Djavid Khales, was out for a walk when he was hit and killed by a drunk driver in Dollard-des-Ormeaux. The drunk driver, Edward Lariviere, had three times the legal limit in his blood, he was driving without a license and he was giving his 16 year old daughter a lift at the time. Lariviere got three years. No justice there. Clearly, human life is worth more in other provinces.

Alberta adopted a legal limit of .05 in 1975. It was adopted in British Columbia in 1979 and, in Ontario, in 1981. In Saskatchewan, the legal limit is .04. Even in France, where the legal limit was lowered to .05, human life is worth more.

When she was Quebec Transport Minister, Julie Boulet tried to have the legal limit lowered to .05. L'Action democratique and the Parti Quebecois united to reject her proposal. What's the problem, is there heavy drinking going on in caucus? Do too many contributors pull out of fund-raiser parking lots, tipsy?

In May 2001, drunk driver Andre Sweeney hit and killed 6 year old Kevin Lavallee in Masseuville. The little boy was riding a bicycle up and down the sidewalk with a friend. Sweeney had two previous drunk driving convictions. In Thetford Mines, in 2001, drunk driver Bertrand Gagne hit and killed 12 year old Marie-Pier Roy and her 9 year old brother, Mathieu.

I have a file crammed with disgusting drunk driving cases with even more nauseatingly flimsy sentences.

Listen, Sam, these are people who choose to put more alcohol in their bodies over choosing to act like responsible members of society. These are people who are choosing to drink and drive. Telling them .05 is ok is like saying it's ok to drink and drive just, if you can, try to avoid killing anybody.

Sam, you can't possibly be suggesting human life is worth more elsewhere. What happened to zero-tolerance? Once upon a time, wasn't that the goal?

You boast Quebec's going after repeat offenders? Nice, Sam, Russian roulette with innocent motorists. Think of our loved ones, Sam, out on the road late at night, steering their way through a crapshoot.

When you say, "We have to listen to the people", what exactly are the "people" saying? Are they saying, "Sam, we're driving drunk; Sam, we have alcoholism issues; Sam, we're a bunch of losers, leave us alone"? They're gratuitously killing and maiming people and your leniency is reprehensible.

In 2001, a 48 year old drunk driver was arrested in Laval, speeding along Souvenir Boulevard. It was his twelfth arrest for drunk drivng and his blood-alcohol was .20. That's a lot of gambling, Sam, old buddy.

The cops should be stationed at bars like the one down my street. They're not. It's all a big joke.

In some ways, Quebec can be so progressive and yet, when it comes to drunk driving, our Transport Minister speaks like an ignorant jackass who owes a beer company a favor.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chirping Crickets

Only one moment of panic during today's live broadcast. In my ear, our control room in Edmonton was asking for the name of the guest who'd just sat down beside me. As the Alouettes player took his seat, I shook his hand and introduced myself. His introduction, though friendly, didn't seem to include his name. Normally, as an interested and long-time fan of the CFL, I could quickly and confidently identify most of the starting players from any of the teams in the league. I had no idea who this fellow was. I had raced through my mental files of  teams, faces and numbers, only to emerge with chirping crickets.

We were live from Place des Festivales. The player sat there, quietly waiting. Again, the crew asked for his name so they could prepare the "super" that would appear on the screen as he spoke. The enthusiastic intern who'd wrangled the player assumed I knew who he was; an entirely fair assumption given I had easily identified the other players she brought to the seat beside me. Here, however, was the exception.

I slowly leaned back in my chair to see whether the name on the back of his jersey was visible. He was wearing a hoodie, the hood of which was draped over his name. I didn't want to have to ask for his name and position. The Alouettes had just paraded through the streets of downtown Montreal. They had just had a rockin' party on stage, as thousands of fans cheered, shouted and chanted, wildly. This was a man basking in glory! I got up as though I had some something pressing to attend to, excused myself and took a few steps from my chair in the hopes the resourceful intern might be nearby. I could see Gloria at the other end of the universe, eagerly lining-up another guest. I stepped back toward my seat, leaned toward my cameraman, Yannick, and said, "Je ne connais pas ce gars la."

As I made small talk with the player, Yannick walked behind our chairs and returned with a whisper, "Le nom sur le chandail est Fontaine". I was still up a creek paddling frantically with my hands! I had no choice. Edmonton was demanding to know what was wrong, we were close to going on-air, so I turned to the man labelled "Fontaine" and said, "I'm sorry, what's your first name?" He answered, "Raymond". Now, I knew he was Raymond Fontaine, but I had no idea what position he played. I asked. He responded, "Linebacker".

I must say Raymond Fontaine was a terrific interview! I hope I get to meet him again.

My part of the two hour broadcast was a lot of fun! I got to soak up the atmopshere and I met some nice people. I interviewed fans Kevin, Shannon, Jerome, Phyllis and Tom. I spoke to quarterback Anthony Calvillo, guard Scott Flory, defensive tackle Eric Wilson, head coach Marc Trestman, Shelly, the wife of kicker Damon Duval and linebacker Raymond Fontaine.

Did I mention Ray is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 230 pounds, was born in Ottawa, played in Kentucky and wears number  16?

Don't forget it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Feeder Fodder

There are days when I could swear the black-capped chickadees are so ticked that, if they could, they'd hurl their black caps at me! They chirp vigorously and incessantly, as they flitter from branch to branch, as if to say, "the feeder is bare". I've pointed out their frantic behavior to my wife, explaining that I think they want me to top-up the birdseed.

When you first set up a bird feeder, books tell you it's important to keep it filled with seed. After a while, experts explain, the birds depend on the food in the feeder for their survival, especially in winter. They can't afford to arrive at your feeder in -22 degrees Celsius, only to find it empty. For more than a decade now, I've kept the feeder full, with two varieties of seed.

The benefits have been substantial, if not enriching. There are stunning cardinal couples who stop at our feeder regularly; he, in his blazing red and she, in her earthy brown, with bright orange beak. There are sparrows, nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, blue jays, grackles and, of course, the busy black-capped chickadees. I've begun to incidentally notice a lot of other birds in the yard, such as pileated woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, ovenbirds, common yellow throats, red-winged blackbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

When my wife and son first suggested hanging a feeder from a branch of the maple tree in our backyard, I voted against the idea, knowing full well I, inevitably, would get saddled with the responsibility of keeping it full. That's exactly how it worked out. During the first couple of years, I nearly suffered a nervous breakdown trying to fend off our freaking Cirque du Soleil squirrels! I tried everything short of dynamite to stop them and would have resorted to TNT had there not been a municipal by-law in place banning  its open-air use. These squirrels built pyramids, zip lines, trampolines, pole vaults and a trapeze! At all hours of the day, I could hear their squeaky, rodent giggles echoing around in my head! Thankfully, I'll be done my treatments in eight months.

As I was saying, I'm the one who makes sure to buy and stock the constant stash of seed and I'm the one trudging out there to keep the feeder full. Sometimes during the busy season, all the seed is gone the next day!

Last spring when I started back at the television station, I was told the best way to make sure things went smoothly was to supply candy. True to their words, I brought candy and things have gone smoothly. I have made sure to have a stash of candy in my locker and, as much as possible, I have placed and replaced containers of candy on the most accessible desk in the newsroom.

While I only supply the birds in the yard with two varieties of seed, I have been supplying journalists with several varieties of candy, including gummy bears, ju jubes, jumbo gums, licorice and gummy worms.

I've discovered that, like the birds, journalists feed regularly. They invest little bursts of time before winging their way back into their busy days. There are Mikes, Tims, Martins and Louies. I see Karens and Finicky Phils, along with Alexandras, Karols and Yannicks. They sometimes chat as they pry open the lid to peck at the treats inside. Often, they express gratitude, if not with a quick word of thanks or an appreciative smile, then with their repeated consumption and enthusiastic ingestion.

Much the same way seed in the feeder helps fuel the birds, the candy seems to provide a little lift!

When the desk is bare, or the container empty, they are not happy. Like the frenzied chickadees, they become noisy and agitated. Yesterday, an otherwise elusive Cheeky Dan came flittering around the desk, chirping and demanding to know what kind of workplace allows a candy container to go empty!

His reaction to the missing candy container has me worried colleagues have begun to depend on the candy for survival. To make matters even more worrisome, winter's right around the corner!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Good To Go

They certainly add warmth to a house! Susan put up our Christmas decorations yesterday; the tree inside the house, along with all the ornaments, and she strung the lights on the tree outside the house! Stand back, Mrs Claus, make way for the holiday dervish!

What a nice time of year! Growing up, Christmas was magic. It became a thousand times more magical when Tristan came along! Throughout his childhood, there was always such incredible excitement! It's hard to believe his childhood is already behind us. He's fifteen now, but it's still so much fun.

I look forward to seeing Susan and Tristan open gifts I've chosen for them. I live dangerously and don't ask for lists of possible presents. Lists are no fun; whether giving or getting, I like the element of surprise!

The company Christmas party happened Friday night in Laval. In spite of the horse whinnies and Tarzan yell that I inadvertently contributed to the blooper reel, I somehow managed to win an awesome door prize! Not surprisingly, the new iPod Nano with multi-touch was quickly appropriated by the teen bean.

On the front windows of our house, Snoopy is glowing. Does anything say Christmas quite like Snoopy holding a sign that reads, "Let It Snow"?

Exactly. We're good to go.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poop on Publi-Sac

When they find each other, it's heart-warming, but disconcerting. They happily encourage each other in the pursuit of their peculiar passion. To their flier-fed indulgence, the connection they form adds mutually massive amounts of momentum.

My son wanted to bring a friend over. The mother of the friend called my wife to see whether the visit was OK. How the subject came up, I can only imagine, but Susan and Jennifer somehow discovered their shared passion for Publi-Sac.

Oh, goodie.

Publi-Sac fanatics treat the contents of the tacky plastic bag with misguided awe. They lurk, most often in the early morning hours, like solitary wolves, sipping their steaming teas and coffees, as they intently pore over the week's specials.

Some have fliers stacked neatly on the kitchen table, while others have them strewn sloppily across the bed. I've met one who, while hunched in her seat on the commuter train, scouring her countless fliers, will scold and scowl at those who dare to disturb her ritualized research. They may differ in technique but, make no mistake, the craving for deals is no less intense from one to the other.

Publi-Sac fanatics silently and stealthily stalk the aisles of supermarkets, fruit stands, department stores, pharmacies and electronics shops. With single-minded determination and the occasional unsuppressed snarl, they search for specials promised in the pages of the flimsy and colorful weekly fliers that stuff our mailboxes.

If only that were all they stuffed!

I steer clear of some cupboards in our home. They've become danger zones and I imagine them surrounded by blinking red lights, barbed wire and barking buzzers. Pulling this cupboard open during a momentary lapse of judgement, will see you quickly buried by a slow-sliding mountain of fliers, dating back to Confederation.

Susan loves her fliers and if they aren't rammed into our mailbox on-time, she stares wistfully out the front window for hours on-end, her eyes hopefully scanning the length of the street.

The bag's arrival brings joy, but once it is opened, even for this preliminary perusal, she is not to be disturbed. I wonder, did she cram for finals with as much zeal?

Where's the adventure if you're told where to go and what to look for and if the whole world is going there with you, in search of the same specials? The Publi-Sac, unapologetically, threatens to absorb otherwise normal and civilized people into the herds of wal-mart oxen who greedily graze on the Plain of Bargain.

If I need laundry detergent, I buy it where I see it. I'm not eager to venture into the parallel-laned pastures of the grunting and smelly wal-mar t oxen. Having my foot crushed by clumsy hooves, or having to steer around fresh mounds of stinking oxen dung; none of that appeals to me! Nevermind what the fliers promise; poop on Publi-Sac!

What a thrill to be wandering the aisles of the grocery store only to stumble, unexpectedly and spontaneously, upon two-for-one cucumbers! It's innocent serendipity versus the push of propaganda, surely you can appreciate the difference.

I'm not a complete galoot. In fairness, having a Public-Sac fanatic in the house has its upside! If I need the cheapest price on something, I don't have to go far. Chilling but true, the other day, Susan casually rattled off all the styles of Levi jeans a certain department store keeps on its shelves.

She's become a resource centre for prospective cell phone buyers! She is constantly consulted by colleagues, relatives and friends in search of the most consumer-friendly cell phones and cell phone packages.

She is the last word on bargain bottled water!

Still, to accompany her on a bargain hunt is beyond my physical and emotional stamina. For me, a trip to Ikea is like chatting with a Dementor.

Moreover, Animal Planet forgot to mention wal-mart oxen migrate between the aisles of their natural habitat and the aforementioned Swedish furniture store!

A Publi-Sac fanatic is a lot to deal with, I know, but therapy provides a big boost.

Just don't day the words "candle party" around me; I'll need a peaceful week at meditation camp before I can even go there.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Feel Like A Heel

"I lift you up, Jonathan, and I drop you in the middle of a Gambler's Anonymous meeting, what would you say?" That's one of the questions I dumped on World Series of Poker champion, Johnathan Duhamel, when he came into our studio today for an interview.

When I originally thought of the question, I had, evidently and perhaps inadvertently, partly climbed aboard the bandwagon crammed with cynical critics, all of whom are grumbling about the horrible and unrealistic example the new champion is setting. His win, they argue, pours fuel on the fire of false hope for obsessed poker players already in over their heads, destroying their own lives and, sometimes, the lives of their families. I thought the question was stark, provocative and potentially insightful.

When I asked the question today and, as Jonathan graciously pondered reasonable responses, I decided it was quite unfair. He's not 42 years old, neglecting two children, a wife and mortgage. It was too late, the question was out there. As he sat beside me at the interview desk, cameras rolling, making an honest attempt to answer, I thought to myself, "Jonathan, you're 23. You're really not supposed to know the answer to this question. Don't worry about it. Enjoy your win, take your money, stay healthy, try to make smart choices and have fun." Now, I wish I had shared those thoughts with him and our viewers.

Right now, he's a great kid! He's kind, patient, obliging and has an unassuming smile and handshake for all the people who were so eager to talk to him. Standing in the hall, he gladly and candidly shared stories about his nerves and his incredibly hectic schedule. He admitted to doing fifteen to twenty interviews every day since winning the title in Las Vegas last week! His interview with me early this afternoon was number seven on the day! He happily autographed two "" baseball caps, which I gave away, on-air.

Three years ago, he opened a $100 on-line account. At the World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas, he won $8.94 million US. To win the title, he beat the odds and 7300 other players! Jonathan is articulate, bright and bilingual. He plans to return to school to finish his university degree. He's already donated $100,000 to a foundation for children.

His parents, Luc and Johane, have reason to be proud, but they don't need me to tell them so. On Monday, Jonathan expects to ride the publicity whirlwind to New York City for some television interviews there.

I've never played poker. I never got past the card game, "Hearts", so I have to thank John, a former work colleague, for contributing a couple of poker-savvy questions.

The interview airs at 6:30 Saturday evening on our cable and satellite channels and, next week, will be available on the station website.

I'm not a fan of poker or gambling, but, if Jonathan has no objection to squeezing a heel onto the list, I'm certainly a fan of his!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Which Way is Exxor?

You learn something new every day.

Monday of this week was a pedallogically day for my son. Knowing the next day was a pedalillogically day, Tristan stayed up later than usual Sunday night. Not surprisingly, he seemed on the groggy side the next morning as we rode the train into the city for his annual medical check-up. The train left our hometown at 10 o'clock in the morning!

Give me a break!

After the fifth time he generously showcased his gaping piehole, I politely suggested he cover his mouth when he yawns. We hadn't even left the station yet! I told him covering your mouth when you yawn is the polite thing to do. I also told him that by seeing who covers their mouth when they yawn and who doesn't, I can instantly differentiate between the classless bumpkins I refer to as "wal-mart oxen" and people of slightly more sophisticated breeding. I assure you, this detection method is virtually foolproof!

I also told him that by covering your mouth when you yawn, you thoughtfully eliminate the possibilty of accidentally spitting on someone nearby. He wondered, quite reasonably, what yawning had to do with spitting. It was a can of worms I seemed, reluctantly, destined to open. Sometimes when I yawn, I explained, I notice a spray come shooting, inadvertently, from my mouth.

He was aghast and he was doubtful! I'm pretty sure he was more aghast than doubtful!

I helpfully suggested he check with his pediatrician to see whether what I was saying bore any shred of truth. He dismissed that option with an indignant snort.

I've never checked whether this happens to anyone else. Fearing I was innocently bound for freakdom, I headed for the "trusty" internet.

Oh yes, it revealed, accidental tongue pressure on the sublingual gland can cause saliva to spray from the mouth. This is called gleeking.


Now there's a word well-suited to pedalgothically day!

I thought "gleeks" were exclusively "Glee" geeks. Alas, no. "Gleeking" occurs when an accumulation of saliva in the submandibular gland is propelled outward in a stream when the gland is compressed by the tongue! Many people experience unintentional bouts of gleeking when they yawn deeply or consume hard candy or other tart, spicy foods which stimulate the salivary glands.

How fascinating! I yearn to know more and make up your mind; is it the sublingual or submandibular gland, or both?

The "trusty" internet went on to explain, in the most empirical of terms, the word "gleeking" comes from  the 70's superhero cartoon series, "Spaceghost",  which I used to watch. The space monkey character, Gleek, who came from the planet Exxor, would often spit from under his tongue. Strangely and perhaps understandably, that part of "Spaceghost" seems to have escaped my memory!

Sitting in the newsroom today, I kept wondering whether I would find "gleeking" in my "far more trusty" edition of Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary. I'm home now and, on page 495, the word "gleek" is there, which, while handy to remember for scrabble purposes, did little to support my internet discoveries. The dictionary says the word "gleek", origin unknown, means gibe, or joke.

Hang on here, I just checked the year; this is a 1993 dictionary. Perhaps my dictionary is simply behind the times. Let me check Merriam Webster on-line.

I'm back. The on-line definition is the same as the book definition, intransitive verb; gibe, joke.

Now what? Here I am, a self-confessed occasional gleeker, who always covers his mouth when he yawns. It's just one of those smart habits, like using your blinkers when you drive! Acquire these smart habits and rote will automatically provide when you need them most!

The implications of gleeking could rock my world! Wow! I'm going to have to keep a little umbrella in a holster on  my hip, so that when wal-mart oxen yawn in my face, I can whip out the umbrella, pop it open and avoid being doused with unwanted submandibular excretions.

Either that, or move to Exxor.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

September 14th All Over Again

What did I do to deserve this kind of pressure?
"Call of Duty Black Ops" came out today and, once again, my fatherly duties were required to far exceed my fatherly capacities!
I was asked by my dear boy to make sure I was at the store by the special 8am opening time to buy the latest installment of the "Call of Duty" video game franchise.
The first sixty people into the store would be entitled to a free "Call of Duty" tuque.
Do you think I expected to see eighty people lined-up at the door when I pulled up at eight o'clock sharp?
I jogged toward the door and joined the line ahead of a few other late stragglers.
As the line crept forward toward the cash, I thought to myself, "No way I'm getting the tuque."
By the time I made it to the cash, I was bug-eyed and twitching from badly frayed nerves.
I kept counting the number of customers in front of me, while watching the pile of free tuques steadily dwindle.
"Console?" the clerk asked.
"No, I just want the game," I responded, firmly.
"No, what platform do you play your game on?" demanded the clerk.
"It just sits on the top of my son's bureau, " I blithered, twitching, as another tuque lifted itself from the free tuque pile.
He took me by the hand and slowly guided me toward the cardboard boxes where the games were stacked, "Does one of these look more familiar to you, sir?"
"This one," I said meekly, pointing to the box with the green trim.
He handed me one and then asked which style of free tuque I wanted.
My son had given me strict instructions.
Deep breath.
What were his instructions?
Oh yeah, "the black with the grey" was the tuque my son wanted.
I chose the tuque, paid for the game with the money my son had saved up and shuffled back to the parking lot.
It looked like eighty people.
I'm hoping I can pull myself together by the time "Assassin's Creed Brotherhood" comes out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fifteen and Full of Fire

There's so much at stake. The hopes and dreams of four promising young men were in my hands.
I couldn't help but consider the awesome responsibility as I drove my son and three of his buddies home late last night.

It was just a regular drive and these four fellows joked with each other and played with their little electronic gadgets, oblivious to the notion that my decisions and the decisions of drivers around us could have a massive impact on the course of their lives. That's the way it should be; they should be carefree. The responsibility was mine and, as a father, it was daunting and welcome.

I had the son of a city worker, the son of an entrepreneur, the son of a test pilot and my own son in the vehicle, rolling down the highway on a Friday night. Those fathers have intensely sincere hopes and dreams for their boys, as I do mine. Those men know their boys are entitled to all the experiences life has to offer; the incredible thrills and spills of  love, work, family, sport, friendship, travel and all that other good stuff we cram under the heading of "life".

I listen to them and laugh at their stories and antics. Fifteen and full of fire! They brim with humor, mischief, playfulness, pride and talent, as the unmistakable force of life beams from their faces!

I prefer to think smart parents care about the safety of their children. Smart parents trust that other parents will treat their children with the same attention and care as they would treat their own children.

I was honored to accept last night's trust and I alertly kept both hands on the wheel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harrowing Halloween

Pillow cases bulging, practically bursting at the seams from the mounds and masses of candy I had collected "trick or treating"; my memories of Halloween drip with the breathless anticipation that seized me the moment I headed out the door, my scratchy Spiderman mask held against my face by one of those flimsy elastic strands!

The entire process, the chill, the dark, the unfamiliar doors, the outstretched hands, the tumbling chunks of treasure, the colorful sorting, the self-imposed rationing, was sheer delight!

Like the most fervent "trick or treaters", I scoffed at the darkened houses of the horrible Halloween scrooges and sneered at the grinches, who cheerfully handed out crummy apples and pennies! When climbing the steps of a well-decorated house, owned by an obvious Halloween enthusiast, I steeled my nerves for the inevitable case of the creeps that would infect me.

It was riotous fun!

I've always wanted to keep the Halloween traditions alive, carving a pumpkin, giving out candy and making young "trick or treaters" squirm, by wearing a mask.

As far as I can tell, I'm doing everything right! Yet, lately, Halloween has become a harrowing ordeal.

As fate would have it, one of the most ardent Halloween scrooges sleeps beside me, while her accomplice sleeps down the hall!

As soon as I buy the candy, their self-proclaimed, giggle-infested mission is to locate and ruthlessly raid the stash. What is that about? Surely, they've seen candy bars before!

Last night, while relaxing in front of the television, Susan happened to watch a commercial for peanut butter cups. It apparently triggered a sudden and uncontrollable compulsion to ingest one. Not only did she casually inform me I had peanut butter cups in my Halloween stash, she raced to the room where I kept it, determined to eat her fill!

As I got up to prevent the transgression, Tristan jumped on my back, trying ro restrain me. By the time I managed to claw my way to the room, the door was locked! Tristan continued to wrestle and restrain me, shouting updates to his mother, urging her to quickly eat as many as she could. By the time I got the door unlocked, Susan had gobbled her way through three, possibly four, packs of peanut butter cups! It was a frightfully ghoulish sight, with torn candy wrappers strewn everywhere and the woman of my dreams, sitting on the floor, feverishly ripping another pack open, as her frantically chomping jaws attempted, in vain, to ease the strain against her bulging cheeks.

At this rate, I'll be lucky to have empty wrappers to hand out to "trick or treaters"!

Not only do Susan and Tristan raid my candy stash, they scold me for handing out too much candy! They snarl and snap as they demand, "Why do you give out so much?" I'm not exagerrating; they're nasty about it!

Granted, I scoop liberally, but to hear the "ooo's" and "aah's" of the children, brings me back to the highlights of my own Halloweens.

My Halloween grinches eat the candy before I can give it out. They tell me I give out too much candy and they refuse to go to the door to hand out candy themselves! They grumble about the age of the taller "trick or treaters" and suspect certain "trick or treaters" are returning to our door more than once.

Who are these people? Isn't there supposed to be some vague shred of genetic similarity?

I'm amazed that, in this day and age, people still have enough faith in society to allow their children to knock on strangers' doors and eat goodies strangers give them. I can't let these people down and, in the name of "how it used to be", I will continue to battle the forces of, let's face it, gluttony.

There's nothing spookier than this pair, at this time of year. I should carve Susan and Tristan's likenesses into the pumpkins we place on our stoop! Of course, then, people would be far too afraid to even approach our house. Besides, fewer "trick or treaters" would play right into their hands and I can already hear them snorting and grunting, excitedly, "More candy for us!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Canada's Cruel Joke

The public's memory is at best short-term; it's a statement I've heard many times with regard to scandalized politicians seeking re-election. Unfortunately, the statement is as true as it often is nauseating. Society doesn't necessarily "forgive and forget", but it definitely and inexcusably, "forgets".

Lately, I've begun to wonder whether the public has any memory at all. How can Karla Homolka be allowed to raise children and freely walk our streets? Back in 1995, many Canadians were pointing to Homolka and Paul Bernardo as justifications for bringing back the death penalty.

Their victims were 14 and 15 year old schoolgirls, who were sexually abused and tortured, before being strangled to death. In equally twisted circumstances, with video camera humming, Homolka murdered her own sister with Bernardo's help.

The case prompted the Canadian Police Association to call for the return of capital punishment. The death penalty was eliminated from the Criminal Code in 1976, although it remained part of the National Defence Act for such crimes as desertion, cowardice in the face of the enemy, violent mutiny, unlawful surrender and spying for the enemy. It was finally removed from the Act in 1997.

In exceptional cases, with the ultimate choice belonging to the victim's family, capital punishment should be brought back. Weak-kneed, self-righteous bleeding hearts, preaching about the moral evolution of civilization, will, ultimately, prevent capital punishment from coming back. If it were to be brought back, Colonel Russell Williams should be shoved to the front of the line.

As far as I'm concerned, it's precisely to underscore the sanctity of life that it should be reinstated.

Whether it's drunk drivers being convicted for their twelth consecutive offence, drunk former airline pilots fatally running down pedestrians, a daycare molester being released back into the community, a deranged immigrant beheading a young bus passenger, a murderous pig farmer, or teenagers beating a minister and his wife to death as they sleep, justice in Canada is a joke.

It's enough that bullies, who routinely withhold basic respect for fellow citizens and their property, are allowed to live among us, but it revolts and infuriates me that overtly grotesque monsters are permitted to do the same.

The colonel won't meet justice in the courtroom, but perhaps he'll meet it in jail.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Win and Vanish

Close game, but he won again!
Tristan continues to carry the title of reigning household ping pong champ.

I was in the process of downloading more material onto my iPod, when he came downstairs, curious to know what I was doing.
My iPod is at 4060 songs and counting; as previously confessed in my blog of August 25th, I'm crazed.

Anyway, Tristan suggested we play.
As a desperate underdog and one eagerly itching to assume control of the ever-elusive household ping pong crown, I heartily agreed.
I led.
I trailed.
I trailed.
I led
I lost.
Eager for a rematch because hope really does spring eternal, I went to change the CD from "Sandy Nelson" to "Rihanna" and dashed back to the ping pong table only to find two abandoned paddles and remnants of my tattered pride.
I'm beginning to suspect the secret to his success is "win and vanish", that way you don't risk a rematch going awry and you can continue admiring your shiny crown in the mirror.

In spite of my ping pong defeat, it's been a good day!
I know Tristan will agree.
You see, we managed to persuade Susan to come out to play a touchfootball game.
I paired with one of Tristan's unsuspecting buddies.
Tristan paired with his Mom, who, in spite of mounds of evidence to the contrary, continues to politely insist she is "not competitive"!
They won.
For a visiting fifteen year old friend, there seems to be something unsettling about looking up and seeing a mother hurtling down the field in your direction.
I can't imagine why that would be.
Then again, it's probably not so much her blistering speed, as it is all the snarling and frothing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Colors of Fall

Autumn is the ideal season to marvel at the changing colors and, for politicians of wobbly principle, it must be their favorite time of year.

There are reports former Parti Quebecois ministers Francois Legault and Joseph Facal are in the process of forming a sovereignty-free political movement. Its focus would be the economy, although most observers seem fairly certain the movement will never become a party. For his labelling of the Clarity Act as "crap", his accusations that Stephane Dion had "totalitarian impulses" and  his dismissal of  a possible revival of constitutional talks as a "schizophrenic pipe dream", the ever-eloquent Facal is certainly known to Quebecers.

Luckily, credibility, integrity and moral substance are not prerequisites for becoming a politician. To change one's political color from black to white is to invite the burning question, "What were you thinking?" Yet, on it goes, men and women pulling their political stripes on and off  like childrens' Halloween costumes!

It's utterly nonsensical! Stand up for what you believe in and believe in what you stand up for, otherwise, go back to the hole you were living in and spend a little time getting to know your own mind!

Before becoming Liberal justice minister and, more recently, honorary monkey wrench, Marc Bellemare was a Parti Quebecois cabinet minister.

Before becoming a Liberal cabinet minister, Raymond Bachand was a former private secretary to PQ leader Rene Levesque. Five years ago, Bachand decided Quebec can easily develop and flourish within the federal framework, which is why, he pointed out, separation is not needed. Former Parti Quebecois Premier Pierre-Marc Johnson said in 1992, he was no longer convinced separation could be justified. He said the four reasons for a nation to become independent, oppression, cultural affirmation, overlapping constitutional jurisdictions and economic autonomy, could all be dealt with within federalism. A year later, Pierre-Marc Johnson was being talked about as a possible leader of the Quebec Liberal Party!

How can you work to pull our great country apart and then, abruptly, stop and say, hey, we really don't need to do this after all?

Guy Bertrand, in 1993, dismissed separatism as the work of a frustrated nationalist elite involved in an "outmoded debate which is full of hate". Bertrand was a founding member of the Parti Quebecois and, at one time, ran for its leadership.

In 2000, Nic Leblanc, a founding member of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, renounced sovereignty and, together with fellow Bloc MP Richard Belisle, jumped to the Canadian Alliance.

Richard LeHir resigned from the Parti Quebecois in 1996 and, two years later, called federalism the best bet for the future of Quebec. He also urged the provincial government to set aside the linguistic debate, arguing it "projects an image of racism and intolerance".

In 2004, former Bloc Quebecois member Jean Lapierre announced he was running for the Liberals in Outremont.

Lucien Bouchard was fitted for a "top of the line" impact-resistant helmet in the hopes of preventing repeated concussions as he bounced like a blurred pinball from federal Tory cabinet minister to the separatist Bloc Quebecois and Parti Quebecois.

While separatists seek to build fences and destroy the Canada we know and love, federalists seek to improve upon what we have now. To think politicians have the inherent ability to switch from "destruct" mode to "construct" mode is as ridiculous as saying PQ leader Pauline Marois speaks English to her children at home, or former PQ leader Jacques Parizeau chooses to be treated at a predominantly English hospital.

Marois does speak English to her kids and you know where to find Jack when he's sick.

Politicians are not that sophisticated. They're regular people pursuing power, not people promising poise and principle, but therein lies the strength of the democractic system; "government of the people, by the people, for the people".

You get what we are, warts and all.

Thankfully, some of our political leaders know what they're talking about and manage to stand, solid and strong, like oak trees, in the face of howling winds of change and suddenly shifting political climate.

With their intensity and variety, the colors of fall stun and dazzle, but perhaps their most astounding characteristic is their unpredictability.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Beanie Baby Mentality

I just hung up the phone with BBM.
If it exists, I should probably subscribe to the universal values and virtues newsletter.
I certainly hope there hasn't been an update and honesty still is the best policy.
I took the dogs for a walk this morning and when I got back, I decided to check the answering machine.
There are times when, inadvertently, Susan and Tristan forget to tell me I was left a message on the machine.
I've discovered my random spot checks of the answering machine can sometimes reveal gold.
I decided to listen to the last message that came in and, as it turns out, it was someone from the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement calling to do a phone survey on our television viewing habits.
They left a call-back number.
I called back and was told they would contact us tonight. They asked me what the best time to call would be, to which I replied, after five o'clock, because, by then, Susan is home.
I get home later.
I was just sitting at the computer tonight, when the phone rang.
Glancing at the call display, I saw the letters "BBM".
I answered and the woman explained the survey would take six minutes.
I told her, as agreeably as I could, I would be happy to do the survey.
The doomed and brief exchange went something like this:
Question 1, "What were you doing when the phone rang?"
Answer 1, "Working on the computer."
Question 2, "Are you over 18 and a member of the household?"
Answer 2, "Yes."
Question 3, "Do you, or does anyone in your household, work in the media, for a television station, or for a radio station?"
I paused, trapped.
Answer 3, delivered with detectable reluctance, "Yes, I work in the media."
Declaration 4, "Then you are not eligible to participate in this poll. I apologize for wasting your time."
I could feel the scratching of precious ratings, slipping like grains of sand, through my fingers .
I could have royally, heftily and gleefully skewed those television viewing results in favor of the television station where I'm working.
Has there been an update, are nice guys still finishing last?
Of course, the question I was most itching to answer, was, "Who is your favorite news anchor?"
Tee hee.

Friday, October 1, 2010

International Music Day

It started with singing in the elementary school choir and, enthusiastically, evolved into bongo drums, a drum set, buying records, school music classes, high school bands, guitar, songwriting, rock bands, studio recordings, solo performances, a jazz trio, anthem singing and, along the way, music has steadily lifted, thrilled and saved me!

My iPod (see Aug 22 & 25th blogs) is at 3502 songs. I thought it would be fun on International Music Day, to list fifty favorite songs and reasons why, in a word, I like each one.

Chemistry - Semisonic (cheeky)
Suite: Clouds, Rain - David Gates (magical)
Dragonfly - Mahogany Rush (solid)
Wild Eyes - Stampeders (classic)
Get Down Tonight - KC & The Sunshine Band (boogies)
Sweet Emotion - Aerosmith (stellar)
Teacher - Van Halen (bratty)
Killer Queen - Queen (slick)
Until The Night - Billy Joel (brooding)
What A Fool Believes - Doobie Brothers (brilliant)
Hot Blooded - Foreigner (awesome)
Being Alone Together - David & David (honest)
Control - Puddle of Mudd (raw)
Wednesday Morning 3am - Simon & Garfunkel (exquisite)
You Shook Me - AC DC (mighty)
Ordinary World - Duran Duran (shines)
Sailing - Christopher Cross (smooth)
I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight - Neil Diamond (dreamy)
Love's Theme - Love Unlimited Orchestra (sparkles)
New Girl Now - Honeymoon Suite (gritty)
I Really Love You - Ian Thomas (bare)
Another You - Nat King Cole (touching)
Belief - John Mayer (stirring)
En Pleine Face - Harmonium (pretty)
Time - Alan Parsons (silky)
Mediterranean Sundance - Al Dimeola (energetic)
The Air That I Breathe - Hollies (inspiring)
Calling Out - Leon Parker (compelling)
Call On Me - Chicago (posh)
Time After Time - Bireli Lagrene & Sylvain Luc (wails)
Concierto - Jim Hall (soothing)
Sir Duke - Stevie Wonder (bustin')
All Or Nothing At All - Frank Sinatra (grand)
Brother To Brother - Gino Vanelli (sweeping)
2001 Space Odyssey - Deodato (visionary)
Basically Blues - Buddy Rich (swings)
Chameleon - Herbie Hancock (innovative)
Well You Needn't - Gonzalo Rubalcaba (frenzied)
Give It One - Maynard Ferguson (blisters)
Sympathy For the Devil - Rolling Stones (sears)
House At Pooh Corner - Loggins & Messina (endearing)
Funk #49 - James Gang (gigantic)
Pretty Lady - Lighthouse (irresistible)
Invincible - Chantal Kreviazuk (sweet)
Pick Up the Pieces - Average White Band (funky)
Fever - Madonna (grooves)
One Step Closer - Linkin Park (thrashes)
She Sells Sanctuary - The Cult (powerful)
Get It On - Chase (sizzles)
Go Down Gamblin' - Blood Sweat & Tears (roars)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Canada's Saddest Day

Whether you're English or French and in Canada, you should be able to settle anywhere in this country, feel welcome and at home. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, your culture should be reflected in the street signs and community organizations around you. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, your children should be able to attend school in the language of their choice. Whether you're English or French and in Canada, you should be eager and willing to help protect and promote the rights of the official language minority.

Instead of building fences and shutting themselves in, Quebecers should be knocking down fences and kicking down doors across Canada, demanding the rights of francophones be respected in PEI, or Manitoba, or BC. That way, they and their children can have access to the best Canada has to offer, whether it's a specific academic program at a west coast university, or the most fertile potato-growing land in the country on the east coast. Anglophone Nova Scotians looking to excel in the aerospace industry should be able to move here and be comfortable, just as Quebec francophones looking to conquer the recreational resort business, should be able to move to Whistler and feel welcome.

Why would Quebec francophones not support the efforts of the French-speaking community in St-Boniface as it fought for bilingual store signs in 1996? Why would Quebec francophones not support Acadian parents as they battled, in 1999, to have PEI build them a French-language school? It's about opening doors and new opportunities for all Canadians.

After all, it's not just Quebec that belongs to Quebecers; all of Canada belongs to Quebecers, just as all of Canada belongs to every Canadian from any part of this great country. It is a country that, for so many reasons, is the envy of the entire world.

A poll published in 2008 by the Association for Canadian Studies, showed Quebecers lead the bilingualism effort. A year later, the same association published another poll showing Quebec City francophones are more bilingual than Ottawa anglos. Modern Quebecers know the many benefits of bilingualism. In many cases, we live them. Modern Quebecers understand that 2010 is about opening doors and I like to think we're setting the example for the rest of Canada. We can speak English and French and, on a day-to-day basis, we get along with each other and look out for each other. This happens in spite of the Quebec government's unilingual signs, restricted access to English schools and various other narrow-minded policies.

More bilingualism in more communities across Canada means more opportunities for bilingual Canadians and a concrete reason for anglo Canadians to learn another official language.

Given the right inspiration, Canada could one day set an example for the rest of the world; a bilingual, bicultural, open-minded, respectful nation. A just society.

That's my dream; a dream handed to me by this country's greatest visionary.

Thank-you, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

This day ten years ago was a terribly sad one for his family but, with the fire behind the dream fading still, it was a much sadder day for Canada.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatball Surprise

Susan had a rough start to her day, waking up an hour late because her alarm clock, unplugged at some point over the weekend, had been set to display afternoon hours during the morning. Somehow, she still managed to feed the dogs, give Moose an insulin injection, prepare a quick lunch for Tristan and walk to her train, on time! Of course, if ever she's running behind and is forced to decide who, among her significant others, will be provided sustenance, rest assured, the dogs have nothing to fear. I, on the other hand, will be pawing the earth for bones!

I deliberately try to minimize my intake of red meat. A study released in March 2009 reinforced earlier research and only served to encourage me in that regard. It suggested men and women who eat about four ounces of red meat per day had a higher risk for overall death and dying from heart disease than people who ate less than one ounce of red meat daily. As a result of the study, the Canadian Cancer Society now recommends limiting red meat to 500 grams...or 18 ounces...per week.

When we first started dating, Susan made me "sweet & sour meatballs". I thought they were extremely tasty but, apparently, the tedium of meatball rolling was so cruelly intense, that they rarely crossed my dusty plate. Forced to fend for myself, I learned the recipe and became the household's official meatball cook. I'm also its official hamburger cook, but that shameless scam on the part of Susan and Tristan, served to illustrate a glaring and troublesome truth; I'm also the household's official meatball.

Susan and Tristan really enjoy meatballs. After her stress-ridden morning, I decided I would make the meatball recipe before going to work, to surprise them. I still feel terribly guilty when I eat them because it's red meat.

The recipe takes time and I also had a train to catch, so, at 8 am, when the local grocery store opened, I hurried in, bought chili sauce and cans of cranberry sauce, but the store had no ground beef. I bought the supplies I had collected and then headed over to another local supermarket. There, I grabbed two packages of extra-lean ground beef and proceeded to the checkout counter. At the cash, I patted down my pockets only to realize I didn't have my wallet! I told the cashier it must be out in the car but, when I didn't find it there, I ran back in and put the meat back in the section where I had found it. I then headed back to the first grocery store, hoping they had found my wallet, which, as usual, was carelessly crammed with thousand dollar bills. Oh, wait, those were discontinued ten years ago. Would you believe it was full of twentys? How about fives? Fine, it was empty.

I walked into the first store and the cashier, who was serving another customer, looked up, smiled and said, "Votre portefeuille....".  I said, "Oui, l'avez vous?" They had it. I thanked them as sincerely as I could and, had my wallet been full of thousand dollars bills, you can bet your bottom dollar I would have given them each one. Then again, had my wallet been full of thousand dollar bills, I would have demanded our cook whip-up a batch of meatballs and I would have contentedly slept in!

Since I was back in the first store, I went to the meat section and there sat neatly-placed new packs of extra-lean ground beef. I cooked and prepared the meatballs and stuck them in the fridge. Tristan and Susan were both delighted and thanked me. I smiled; end of story.

Yeah, I'm thinking there's a moral here, too.

One possibility is "nice guys finish last" or, "be prepared" or, "stress begets stress". Perhaps it's simpler still; "wait until the butcher brings out the morning stock".

Frankly, I'm stumped.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Can Keep Kovalazy

He attracted a lot of attention in junior and a lot of salivating teams were eager to see him in their jersey. In fact, the Senators were accused of losing games deliberately, so they would finish last and get first pick. Ottawa got him and signed him to a whopping 5 year, $12.5 million deal! At that time, the deal was positively mammothian! I thought listeners would like to hear what he thought of all the excitement and hype, so I set up an interview with Alexandre Daigle. It was 1993 and on  June 26th, the Sens selected Daigle over the likes of Chris Pronger and Paul Kariya. In our radio newsroom at the time, there were no digital machines. Instead, we had analog, reel-to-reel machines. I got Daigle on the phone, started the tape and asked him a bunch of questions. I thanked him and hung-up, only to realize, after checking the tape, that I had forgotten to press "record"! I sheepishly called back, explained the mistake, apologized and asked if we could re-do the interview. He was very easygoing and kindly agreed. That incident got me watching the Senators.

For a few seasons before then, I had found watching the Canadiens, intensely frustrating! Many times, I would think to myself, "they lack jump, they lack fire, there's no hustle and they don't seem to care". "I could have made that play," I would often grunt to myself. You know an NHL team is in serious trouble when I'm under the impression I can make plays that are not being made!

The young Sens were dynamic and played with incredible enthusiasm, energy and fire. They put out piles of honest effort. They had Daigle and had signed Alexi Yashin in April of 1993. I became a fan.

In the 93-94 season, Daigle finished with 20 goals and 31 assists. He left the team a few years later and is down in the books as having collected 74 goals and 98 assists for 172 points in 301 games with Ottawa. He, unfortunately for all concerned, turned out to be a bust.

There have been some great Senators over the years, players who, while with Ottawa, have made and are making, important contributions to franchise success. They include Yashin, Fisher, Alfredsson, Hossa, Heatley, Havlat, Bonk, Spezza, Lalime and Chara. They're here and they're gone; puck chasers have become buck chasers! Rather than reward fan loyalty with player loyalty, the predominant theme in professional sports remains, "show me the money"! Incredibly, the Senators have a couple of exceptions to that rule.

As it turns out, the year I began watching the Senators is the year Montreal won their last Stanley Cup! Coincidence? You  Habs fans can thank me later.

The Sens are playing their fourth pre-season game tonight. Their opponent is the Canadiens. The tendency on the part of Habs fans to begin hallucinating about the Stanely Cup at the start of every season is as tiresome as it is positively Pavlovian. Sens fans have learned to be much more realistic about things; we take things a week at a time and absolutely do not hold our breath!

Every playoff season, in spite of colossal chokes, misfires and flats, I strive to remain a Sens fan. Every summer, in spite of player departures, player arrivals and coaching changes, I strive to remain a Sens fan. I have often had to swallow hard to accept uninspiring changes. A glaring case in point is the current number 27. No one in their right mind can objectively tell me that, out on the ice, he cares about anything but his paycheque. I'm hoping his multimillion dollar indifference doesn't taint the rest of the team.

He's been with Pittsburgh and New York but, if you Montreal fans really think you had something special there, by all means, you can keep Kovalazy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Closet Quaker

Today at work, a colleague asked whether I would be attending a movie with some other staff members. It turns out the movie they were going to see dealt with a particularly dark and disturbing subject. With apologies for taking his lighthearted remarks out of context, when I pointed out the film's dark subject matter, the colleague jokingly suggested that to deal with the intense movie content, the staff members planned to sit in the back row and smoke pot. Then, he suggested that if I joined them, I would be one of the "cool kids". I told him that, at school, I was never one of the cool kids, to which he replied, "It's never too late!" As he started to walk down the hall, I called out to him, "It is for me."

Growing up, I never tried drugs, never drank beer, didn't swear and never put a cigarette in my mouth. Nothing's changed. In my heart, I always thought I was pretty cool for doing what I believed was right and, as I went on through school and life, seeing the effects of alcohol, drugs and smoking only confirmed what I already knew.

I never liked what alcohol did to my friends. Most were hilarious when they were drunk, while others were nasty jerks. I never wanted to be someone I wasn't. I never wanted to do things I wouldn't remember. I always wanted to be in control and responsible for my mind and body.

A lot of people need alcohol or drugs to have a good time. That's fine, as long as their indulgence doesn't hurt anyone. Drunk drivers are the most disgusting animals and yet, they are rarely given sufficient punishment. Instead, it's the victims and their familes who suffer most. Justice is a joke and drunk driving laws, far too lenient.

About six years ago, 60 year old Gilles Francoeur hit three people in the Laurentians while driving drunk. The body of one of them, an 18 year old boy, was embedded in the windshield of his car as he fled the scene. He got two years less a day. In May 1997, drunk businessman Ron Carriere struck and killed a 14 year old boy who was riding his bicycle along Highway 338 in Dorion. Carriere hid out and was only arrested in August. He got 18 months in jail and two years probation. The list of similar Quebec cases is never-ending. One 48 year old man was arrested in Laval in 2001 and charged with driving drunk for a twelfth time! A poll released in November of the same year, reported one-in-six Canadians admitted to drinking and driving within the last month.

Who would risk causing one of these tragedies? What kind of a person would do this to innocent human beings? I'll tell you; they're people who cannot have a good time unless they get high, or drunk.

How many people have died because of alcohol? The people drinking this stuff are too ignorant to stop themselves from driving. It appears people cannot be responsible and drink. It's been tried and it continues to fail. Beer companies must be proud. To make a nauseating situation worse, authorities are now suggesting bartenders and cab drivers are to blame for the irresponsible decisions and behavior of drunk customers? It makes me puke.

Take responsibilty for yourself. There are consequences to your decision to have "one more for the road".

There's a bar down the street from my house. Gee, I wonder whether any customers might be getting into their vehicles intoxicated and over the legal limit? Officer, how about indulging in a little thing called "law enforcement"?

There should be no second chances for drunk drivers who injure or cause death. Do their victims get a second chance? No. If they don't, you don't. That's real justice.

The bleeding hearts say the dead victims are gone and it's important to help heal the living. If that's true, do more to help the relatives of the victims cope with their unspeakable suffering, so they can go on living with as little pain as possible. One way to help is to keep killer drunks locked-up, regardless of whether they're ordinary jerks, or professional athletes.

I won't be going to the movie with my colleagues and I won't be smoking pot in the back row.

Chris Michaels, a disc-jockey buddy with whom I worked for years at a rock radio station, once referred to me as "a closet Quaker". Chris pegged me. It still cracks me up!

I'm not trying to be "holier than thou", this is just me...and there's no closet in sight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Never Too Old For Fun

Forget about missions such as "343 Guilty Spark", today's mission was far more precarious. My assignment was to secure a newly-released copy of "Halo Reach", the latest installment of the classic science fiction video game series initially created by Bungie. It came out today and my instructions were crystal clear; be at one of the points of sale the moment it opens for business.

My son had given me the necessary cash and the only fatherly financing required from me was covering the cost of tax. As soon as the doors were unlocked, I went into the first store. I pushed my way through the circle of stupefied employees gathered near the front door and found my way to the electronics section. There, I waited fifteen minutes for some clown to finally appear and begin filling her cash register with money. I pointed rather impatiently to the "Halo Reach" poster and said, "I want one". She called to another employee and asked him to go see whether the stock room was unlocked. He came back with a tall cardboard box on a trolley. He slid the box off the trolley, plopping it on the ground and then pulled off the cardboard frame. A ready-made "Halo Reach" display stand suddenly stood in front of us.

I flipped through the games along with a younger fellow and a store employee, on break. There were wasn't one English copy. The younger fellow, also in search of an English copy, expressed the dismay that echoed silently through my paternally-inclined mind. I hurried outside and hopped into my vehicle and drove to another nearby store. I found my way to its electronics section to discover a customer inquiring, in English, about "Halo Reach". As the store employee unlocked the display case, I asked whether the game was in English. The employee handed each of us a box. There, on the back of the box, at the top, were the telltale words,  "Every Legend Has A Beginning". Satisfied, I waited in line, bought the game and proceeded back to the parking lot, where I saw the younger shopper from the previous store pedal up to the entrance on his bicycle.

Misguided, you say?

Ah, but I vividly remember the days of the original Halo, when my son and I drove around in our Warthog, wondering, "What comes next?" We were stuck in the very first mission. We seemed to have done all there was to do when, after checking on-line, my nephew, Ryan, told us we had to jump the gap in the cave. To our amazement, a whole new mission opened up and, until the day we completed the last mission of "Halo", I rushed home every day to sit beside Tristan as we excitedly discovered the dazzling graphics and characters, heroic and sinister, of  "Halo". He was a child getting into his first video game and I was getting into my first video game as a chronologically older child!

It was riotous fun!

To this day, the "Halo" games are considered some of the best first-person shooter games on a video game console. In the first twenty-four hours of its release, "Halo 3" sold more than $170 million US worth of copies. Thanks to a well-connected communications firm with whom I had worked on video industry news stories, my son had a copy of "Halo 3" the day before it appeared in stores. As part of the same promotional campaign, we even posed for a picture with our favorite cybernetically-enhanced human super soldier, Master Chief. We vowed, with him, to "Finish the Fight".

I'm no longer my son's preferred battle companion. It seems I am more a liability than an asset when the battles intensify. I still play "Halo", sometimes on my own and sometimes, by invitation from Tristan, when he's desperate for a battle companion.

He's upstairs doing the "Halo Reach" campaign on "Legendary" with the same nephew.

You can never be too old for fun!

T-minus 8 days and counting until the new racing game, "F1 2010" comes out. Woo hoo! You know where I'll be when the store opens.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An Apple A Day...

Compared to traffic congestion and dealing with the incompetent jerks who've somehow managed to dupe authorities into granting them driver's permits, the train is, normally, an entirely more sensible option. Thankfully, I'm able to ride off-hour trains. The general lack of consideration induced by the standing-room-only circumstances of rush hour train travel, often cause me to boil.

Sardine-friendly commuter trains boost the probability of encountering "wal-mart oxen", the grunting, slovenly, bovine-brained, ignoramuses who haven't got a considerate bone in their misleading human forms.
I've discovered that wal-mart oxen who have broken from the herd, can, occasionally and unfortunately, stray onto trains.

LM Ericsson AB estimated in July that worldwide cellphone subscriptions have reached just under 5 billion. Place a cellphone in the hooves of wal-mart oxen and you get inconsiderate morons who loudly yammer away on quiet trains as though they're alone in a closed phone booth. Look around; use your big cow eyeballs to notice there are other people near you, who are not the least bit interested in being subjected to the endless and stupid, donkey-like braying emanating from your mouth!

Not to mention, the more you grunt and snort into your phone, the more you reveal your thorough lack of class, ignorance, illiteracy, language deficiencies and personality flaws.

Just, stop; read a book, or if the words are too big and complicated, borrow a picture book from a neighbor's child. You may love the sound of your own voice, but I don't! Do you have so few friends that when you reach someone on your cell, you don't dare hang-up because you know they'll never call you again?

In 2000, researchers at Rutgers University discovered cell phone users are often perceived as needing to display their phones because they're insecure and have something to prove. Shucks, that's sad and everything; go dip your seuss in sugar!

Far be it from me to tell a reasonable person when he or she can and cannot use their cell phone. By all means, make a call or two, or three, keep them short, considerately quiet and I'm good with that. I understand some of you do business as you travel. Again, keep those calls within the parameters of basic crowd etiquette and consideration for your fellow commuter and I can handle it. At some point, however, the onus shifts to the blabbermouths, blowhards and loud-mouth cell phone users who really ought to realize their conversation volume and duration are far beyond the limits of what's socially reasonable, tolerable or acceptable.

A nationwide Palm Canada/Leger Marketing survey four years ago showed that while most Canadian cell phone users are guilty of bad behavior, that doesn't make them tolerant of similar social blunders by others. Fully 91 per cent say they have been annoyed by fellow cell phone users in public places.

Wake up, bumpkins!

I have come eerily close to standing up in a rolling train and demanding, "Is anyone else bothered by this guy's big mouth?" I have almost turned and said to a female ox, "Go sit somewhere else because I don't want to listen to you!"

An Apple a day keeps the conflict away. The i-pod my wife bought me in Florida helps. By putting it on, I can shut out the oxen. I know they're there, grunting and snorting, because the ever-present stench of manure is unmistakable. I also realize that by shutting them out, I'm not solving the problem. I'm giving these buffoons carte blanche to continue their ignorant behavior and to keep acting as though they're the only humans on the planet!

I apologize for abandoning the rest of you civilized folk, who expect reasonable behavior from fellow members of society. I realize that, as I sit revelling in the sounds of Art Pepper or Semisonic, you're still subjected to the grating noise pollution of oxen on the phone. You're on your own.

As for you cell phone slobs, on the off-chance I someday forget my Apple, or my i-pod battery suddenly drains, please, shut the hell up!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nothing's Worth That

For a 21 year old star quarterback, eager to begin his sophomore season and continue shattering records, it must be devastating. When I received the news release this afternoon, I was shocked and then, immensely disappointed for Jonathan.

The day after the interview aired, McGill visited the Rouge et Or in Quebec City. Jonathan suffered a serious knee injury in the third quarter of the game and is gone for the remainder of the season. An MRI revealed two torn ligaments in his left knee and a stretched nerve. He's expected to undergo surgery sometime in the next three weeks. In the news release, he says he knows he can come back from the knee injury with therapy and hard work; he is more concerned with the numbness in his foot. I'm hoping surgery goes well, the numbness disappears and he heals completely. I get the feeling he's too confident to change his outlook or his level of determination to make a difference on the field.

I stand-by what I blogged yesterday; he'll be back. He's too talented and determined not to be.

I watched as Winnipeg QB Buck Pierce dislocated his throwing elbow over the weekend. There is a guy who has been dogged by a slew of injuries, from broken bones to concussions. As I watched him being helped off the field, I thought of Troy Aikman. The former Cowboys quarterback has had back surgery, separated shoulders, torn rib cartilage, torn hamstrings, lacerated and fractured fingers, a strained calf, bone chips in his elbow and sprained ligaments in both knees. In December 2000, Aikman's tenth concussion ended his playing career. Already, in 1994, at 27 years old, Aikman was quoted as saying he felt 40, adding he was feeling pain every morning and throughout the off-season. Imagine what life is like now.

After their careers, countless former professional athletes live with incredible and persistent pain. They pop pills and endure agonizing physio just to accomplish basic, everyday movements.

I'm tempted to say nothing's worth that. It's a question I wholeheartedly and sincerely hope Jonathan never has to answer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rookie of the Year

As the lopsided 50 to 9 score suggests, the season-opener didn't go so well, but I can tell you McGill's sophomore quarterback won't take "no" for an answer. Jonathan Collin struck me as a supremely confident fellow. The 6 foot 5 inch, 235 pound Greenfield Park native told me in an interview last week, McGill knew going in, the game Sunday afternoon would be an important test. After all, the Rouge et Or are the number-two ranked football team in the nation and the Redmen were meeting them on their home field  in Quebec City.

We taped the interview Thursday afternoon and it aired on Saturday evening. I had also expected it to air Saturday morning but, for the first time in several weeks, our morning slot had, inexplicably, been spoken for. It makes it hard to attract viewers when they are unable to find the show in the same time slot where they initially found it. Oh, well.

On the program we taped Thursday, I also did an interview with the people from Beyond the This is a Montreal-based internet shopping company that offers members limited time sales on brand names at up to 70 per cent off. Lori Krebs, the site's Public Relations Manager and Yona Shtern, the CEO, came in for the interview. Their company had been selected to provide "swag bags" to Emmy Award nominees and presenters, which I thought was pretty cool. Lori came in to the studio during the commercial break and began setting up samples of their stock. About five minutes into the interview, Lori began to show us some of the stuff that had been in the swag bag. The gifts included a $500 Beyond the Rack shopping credit, a few other items and a pair of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses, which she tried on while on-camera. Cool shades. During the second commercial break, when the interview had ended, she began packing stuff up. Jonathan was already in the studio, waiting to have his microphone put on. Lori started to move toward the studio door, but the Ray-Bans were still sitting on the desk in front of me. I  looked down and debated with myself. After a few seconds, I said, "Here, Lori, don't forget the glasses." Jonathan just smiled, knowingly.

Once Lori and Yona had left, we both jokingly admitted a pair of Ray-Bans would have been a sweet addition to our wardrobes. We came out of commercial and began our interview. He is only the 5th true freshman in the 125 year history of Redmen football to start at quarterback. As a rookie, he led the league in touchdowns scored and the education major was fourth among league leaders, with an average of 191.1 passing yards per game. He was named Rookie of the Year in the Quebec University Football League and recently won a  Montreal Alouettes scholarship. During the interview, he calmly outlined his goals for the new season, 2700 yards passing and 300 yards rushing! Yikes! While he admits "big plays" are the high point and his approach to football involves having fun, Jonathan makes it crystal clear wins are goal number one.

Before we started taping, I had taken him in the studio to show him where we would be talking. He spotted the script in the teleprompter and wryly asked whether he'd get to read it. He was the last guest on the show, so when I heard the 30 second cue in my ear, I told Jonathan to go ahead and read the "outro" off the prompter. Without missing a beat, he read it, smooth as silk.

No sweat.

It was a tough first game, but the Rouge et Or have consistely been a championship-calibre team. My athletic career at McGill may have been limited to intramural touchfootball, but after meeting him, it's pretty safe to say, he'll be back. First and foremost, I wish him good health throughout his playing career; I'm pretty sure he'll do my alma mater proud. If Jonathan ends up teaching high school geography and history, judging by his reaction to the Ray-Ban dilemma, I'm pretty sure he'll do himself proud.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whippets Rule, Cookies Crumble!

At four bucks a pop, justifying the presence of the box in the grocery bag has become a rather creative endeavor. Here's my story and I'm sticking to it!

When I venture out to forage and hunt for food, typically, I am alone.

Vulnerable. Exposed.

The family is back at the homestead, safe and warm, comfortably nestled, as the hunt, inevitably, leads me into the precarious confines of the local grocery store. As I cross the rusty threshold of the automatic sliding door, I lift myself into a state of heightened awareness, whereupon, I alertly and conscientiously begin my tour of aisles.

Natural selection, do your worst!

The onslaught is omni-directional. Camouflaged and perched strategically on shelf tops, foods assail me from all sides. Calmly, while battling to suppress gluttonous impulses in favor of reason, my rattling grocery cart negotiates a flurry of extravagances and indulgences; spready and bready, munchy and crunchy, toasty and roasty, freezy and squeazy!

Diligently, I concentrate on the nutritious and necessary staples. Though deliberate, I am unsuspecting and entirely innocent.

Generally, I'm somewhere between the canned corn and bottled water when I first detect the faint calls. Over and over, tentatively at first and then, more assertively, my name is being repeated by a small voice.

Work with me.

Of course, my first reaction is to do what you would surely do, ignore it. But the longer I ignore the waif-like calls, the more they implore and compel me. Finally, when the choice is no longer mine to make, I stop and unwillingly orient myself. The reluctant search begins.

It's not the bags of pasta; it's not the cheese slices, or juices. By the time I'm locked on to the trail of the sound, it hits me; I realize I'm like the rat in a learned helplessness experiment; nothing I do alters the fact I'm destined to replay the same scenario each time I shop for groceries.

My seach ends, knowingly, in front of the Whippets, where I stand with a sympathetic scowl. "Take us home," they whimper. I am only human, after all.

They smile from the top of my over-stuffed cart.

For many years and, perhaps, still today, the Whippet has been the top-selling cookie in Quebec.

Whippets rule!

Invented in 1927 by Theophile Viau and apparently named for the breed of dog he loved, the Whippet is an unfairly treacherous mixture of pure chocolate, marshallow and biscuit. Some say it's the pure chocolate that's most addictive. The Viau cookie company was bought by Imasco in 1969 and it, in turn, was purchased by Culinar in 1983. The Culinar plant on the street named after Theophile Viau, produced 50 million Whippets a year. At least half of them were capable of pronouncing my name.

In 2001, Culinar was bought by Dare. Since then, the company has introduced several Whippet variations, including "Triple Dark Chocolate", "Strawberry", "Raspberry", "Black Forest" and "Dark Original". Why, oh why? I wince at the thought of ingesting anything but "Original".

Dare closed the Viau plant in 2003.

On the morning of Thursday May 12th, 2005, I was privileged to visit the Dare plant in St-Lambert, Quebec, that produced the Whippet. Relentless rows of biscuits, rounded puffs of marsmallow and drizzling chocolate; what a sight! The feature segment I put together with my cameraman, aired on a Montreal morning show, May 25th.

It's hard to believe others are being deprived, but the Whippet cannot be found on the store shelves of many Canadian provinces. Its supposed substitute, the all too forgettable Viva Puff, doesn't even come close.

Though a staunch fan of the dome-like delicacy, I'm guilty of having underestimated its cultural stature. Like so many things, the Whippet is unique to Quebec. It's also unique to a healthy diet.

Shake not your heads, according to nutritional information provided on the Dare website, two Whippets provide you with 8 per cent of your daily recommended iron intake. Sure beats spinach!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Somebody Stop Me!

We arrived home from Cocoa Beach Saturday afternoon. It's now Wednesday night. In just over four days, I have relentlessly poured 1,359 songs into the iPod Classic that Susan got me for my birthday. I haven't even broken a sweat!

For the last year or so, my son kindly loaned me his iPod so that I could listen to music on the train. I discovered some good tracks in his stash! When we got home from vacation, Tristan gave me a crash course on basic iTunes functioning and showed me how to transfer compact discs into my new device. His instructions, I'm fairly certain, make him an accomplice to my current affliction. As for Susan, well, she bought the darned thing for me!

Here's the typical day, wrapping up. I finish the newscast, get changed, walk to the station downtown, find a seat on the train, plug my Denon AH-D550 stereo headphones into the jack and soar.

I get home and load more podworthy compact discs. I cook supper, then load a compact disc. I clean the kitchen, then load a compact disc. I walk the dogs, load a disc.I brush my teeth, load a disc. I sneeze, load a disc. Snore, load a disc. You don't even want to hear about weekends!

Somebody stop me! I have no desire to be the target of a shriek-laden intervention!

Tonight, I am seriously restraining myself. I restrain, then load a disc. So far tonight, I've added Blood Sweat and Tears' Greatest Hits, Supertramps's "Even in the Quietest Moments", "Woodface" by Crowded House, Nathalie Imbruglia's "Left of the Middle", Michel Donato and James Gelfand's "Setting the Standard" (vols: 1 and 2) and Daniel Powter.

I've filled 11.3 gigabytes...yippee, only 137 to go!

iPod Anonymous, maybe?

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm A Believer

To me, the very greatest politicians speak from the heart. They are unscripted and sincere, popularity polls be damned. They want to lead more than anything else and the burning desire is bigger than them. They are unafraid to lose power and are far more afraid of failing to have constituents share in their ultimate vision, whether that goal is a united Canada, or a separate Quebec. The great Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque were such leaders. They said what they felt, made no apologies and were true to themselves, before all else.

For years, I believed Jean Charest was such a politician. However, I have the impression he has been afraid to lose power and politicians in that position are open to compromises because they don't like being unpopular. When he finally decided in March 1998 to run for the Quebec Liberal leadership, he was unshakably focussed on a unified Canada, but some of his policies since then, have clearly been designed to appeal to the separatist vote.

He decided to maintain the status quo on Bill 101. In 2003, under his leadership, the Quebec legislature unanimously proclaimed Quebec a nation. He has promised to have Quebec "specificity" enshrined in the Constitution. In January 2001, he said he was open to a referendum on "updated federalism". In 2004, he defended the separatist, Bill 99.

When he decided to enter Quebec politics, I, like thousands of others, was overcome with hope, relief and optimism. Quebec had finally found someone who could lead this province to its rightful place in Canada. Not only would Jean Charest make certain Quebec remained within this magnificent country, he would make sure Quebec laid claim to all that Canada has to offer. Since arriving on the provincial scene, he has floundered. There's no detectable passion for his province, nor his people.

A poll in today's paper suggests only 31 per cent of Quebecers would vote Liberal if an election were held today. Since December 2009, Charest's popularity has dropped to 18 per cent, from 29. A poll released in April showed only 22 per cent of Quebecers with a good opinion of Charest and yet, the same poll also showed he remains one of the most popular leaders in English Canada.

Lead, Jean. You know where you want us to go; take us there. We'll follow. Toss the poll-driven strategies and speeches aside and speak from the heart. If it's not already too late and provided you emerge from the Bastarache Bashfest unscathed, that, as far as I can see, is your only chance...not to mention, ours.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crazy for Cocoa Beach!

Susan rolled all the silver coins in our change jars and, just like that, our car rental was paid! When I picked up the vehicle, the rental company ever so considerately upgraded us to a Chrysler 300C, with the hemi. Hear me roar!

I've driven vehicles with automatic headlights before, but this car had wipers that sensed raindrops on the windshield and telepathically adjusted wiper speed based on the amount of rain that was falling. Clever beast. Not only that, it blew the doors off any American motorist who dared challenge the license plate from "Kwee Beck". Thankfully, its ventilation system spewed generous amounts of cool air, without which, our two dogs would have quickly shrivelled into Westie raisins.

We packed the 300C with our favorite snacks, beach chairs and dogs and set a course for the 401 west. We rolled into the United States at the border crossing near Thousand Islands. Some of Susan's work colleagues suggested this crossing as a way to avoid the tolls, traffic and construction common in big cities like New York and Washington.

It must have been the air in Pennsylvania; it does wonders for your vision, providing a sudden and noticeable surge in strength and acuity. I wish! The lettering on road signs in Pennsylvania, at least in the southbound direction of I-81, has been changed to a much bigger size. Gotta get the geezers to where they wanna go! I realized over the course of our vacation, that parts of interstate highways in parts of states, had managed to change their road signs to larger print. The changeover, I imagine, is costly and continuing.

The first leg of our trip to Cocoa Beach sputtered to an exhausted end in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

As we finally crossed into the state of Florida on I-95 early Sunday afternoon, I was extremely disappointed and dumbfounded to see cars from a variety of states parked at the BP filling station in Yulee, Florida. How could people be pouring money into BP coffers after what the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had done to the Gulf of Mexico and the American economy? Perhaps BP had been forgiven by Americans, or Americans  could really care less about the environment, or BP customers in Florida suffer from short-term memory issues. The more likely possibility is that motorists we saw using BP pumps throughout our stay are the reason Florida does not have helmet laws!

At any rate, I never once turned our vehicle into a BP station.

Our hotel was right on the Atlantic Ocean in Cocoa Beach and we had opted for a "partial ocean view", which was suitably impressive.

Our smartest and prettiest Westie, Moose, is diabetic. That means every twelve hours she has to be fed and injected with insulin. The diabetes has also left her blind (see "Diabetic Moose" blog). Our other Westie, Spike, is just goofy, but dripping with loveability. The hotel we stayed at was one of the few to accept dogs at no charge. The staff are also very accomodating and are willing to clean rooms around the schedule of hotel guests and their animals.

The complimentary hotel breakfast was terrific and we made sure to ingest sufficient quantities of sausage, waffle, toast, orange juice, tea and bacon to offset the daily cost of our room. Plus, bloating ourselves provided added buoyancy while swimming in choppy ocean waters.

My son and I frolicked in the water for hours on-end, bobbing in the warm, salty waves as they gently lifted and dropped us.

Between frisbees and footballs, he would occasionally back flip into breaking waves, while I tried to dive over them. I must say, when my eyes were supersaturated with salt, turning to see my wife, who had the sun at her back, induced tears and ghastly squinting and if someone had so much as brushed a lit match against my salt-crammed lips, I'm certain it would have resulted in nuclear meltdown.

Our dogs met plently of other dogs at the hotel dog walk, which came complete with complimentary poop bags. We had a chambermaid exclaim at how our dogs were so beautiful! They became known around the hotel as "the twins". This woman says she was convinced the Westie on the television commercial had been computer-generated and couldn't possibly exist. Spike had his eyes locked on her carelessly held foil-wrapped meal and would have gladly provided her with ample proof he existed, while her lunch had never been there at all. She probably fills-up at BP.

Whew, it was crazy hot in Florida at this time of year, with temperatures well into the nineties. The weather people on television, when reporting the next day's high, would inevitably add, "but it will feel like 104 or 106 degrees". It is humid and sticky and if Florida had any shred of decency, they would change their license plate slogan to "The Furnace State" or, "Home of the Breathing Workout". I think the passage of a mandatory helmet law could, quite conceivably, result in high numbers of Floridians drowning in their own sweat.

I bought Susan a pair of Uggs for her birthday on Wednesday, but then she outdid me by buying me an iPod Classic for my birthday. While we were in the store in Melbourne, we saw the Dyson air multiplier. It's a ring on a stand that acts like a fan by accelerating air through an "annular aperture". The pamphlet explains that it draws in up to 5.28 gallons of air per second, with airflow amplifying it 15 times. Cool device. I don't for the life of me understand it, but, cool device.

We signed up for a manatee and dolphin cruise...I dressed up as the manatee, while Susan dressed as the dolphin. Ben, the guide on the trip, says October is when the heat takes a hike and Florida's season of "paradise" kicks-in. We cruised through Florida's Thousand Islands Nature Conservancy, which is mostly lagoon and saw manatees, dolphins, ospreys and the endangered wood stork, who just stood nonchalantly in the park as we boarded the catamaran.

The hotel swimming pool was a definite highlight. Surrounded by palm trees, with water kept at a constant boil, it was a great way to decompress and desalinate. We did the ocean-then-pool-thing every day and, around suppertime, my son and I could make-believe it was our own private pool because we were the only ones in there.

I've read articles claiming the technology has advanced significantly and, for that reason, nuclear energy is making a comeback. As we were driving to the factory outlet stores in Orlando, we passed a nuclear power plant. I thought it was the St-Lucie plant, but it wasn't. Florida claims to have only three; Crystal River is closer to Tampa and Turkey Point is near the tip of the state, so I still don't know which one it was. They sure are big and ominous.

On Thursday night, there was a big thunderstorm. My son and I sat out on the balcony chatting, as forks of lightning flashed all around us and torrents of rain caused the pool waters to swell. At one point, we spotted a possum trotting along the hotel wall beside the pool in search of shelter.

Susan and I would walk along the beach in the morning, snapping pictures of various things. One morning, we managed to take a picture of a bird that our Sibley's Field Guide seems to identify as Haematopus Palliatus, or an American Oystercatcher.

Swimming in Destin along the Gulf of Mexico a couple of years ago, we were stung repeatedly by jellyfish. It mostly feels like annoying pinches. This time around, in Cocoa Beach, we were oblivious to jellyfish and by the second day, we had concluded, to our immense relief, they would not be a concern. On the third day, Susan finally came in the water and close to an hour after we'd been splashing and playing together, she let out a suppressed shriek. We looked over and saw a jellyfish of substantial girth floating through the waves. I think it winked at us. Until that  moment, we had been on Level Two Alert. Given the drifting jellyfish incident, we had no choice but to promptly upgrade our Alert Level to 8 on our self-devised Jellyfish Alert Scale and, believe me, trying to frolic while respecting the criteria of our Level 8 Jellyfish Alert Scale is not terribly relaxing!

Ron John's surf shop in Cocoa Beach consists of 50 000 Ron John T-shirts and other knick knacks. Hansel and Gretel could have saved their bread crumbs and borrowed Ron John billboards to find their way back home. On the way south to Florida, you practically have to weave around them every 50 yards you travel along the interstate.

There were some unpleasant accusations directed at me by offspring and spouse. They, rather gracelessly, alleged I am a "closet clipper", obsessed with clipping my nails. I have confessed I am coming unravelled, with bits of skin on the sides of my fingernails constantly breaking free and causing me annoyance and discomfort. For the record, I continue to vehemently deny the charge and the case, to this day, in the eyes of the court, remains unresolved.

The trip home went as follows; Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. The first half of the drive home ended in Winchester, Virginia. We had lunch at Arbys in the Village of Whitney Point, New York. We did I-95 to R17, to I-66 to I-81, crossing at Thousand Islands. In Watertown, New York, we stopped at a store to buy some junk, including those wax candies with colored liquid in them. What an exciting blast from the past! When I was little, I used to buy those things, bite them, drink the liquid and eat the wax. Alas, it seems I was the only idiot who ate the wax. Susan recalled the candy, but claims to have never eaten the wax. My son just thought the whole concept was weird. Looking back now to when I was a kid, I do, too.

I often end-up associating a song with summer trips. The "summer association song" for our 2010 trip to Cocoa Beach, will be Katie Perry's "California Gurls"... and if I hear it one more time, I will voluntarily commit myself.