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 "Pokerstars.net" 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.