Thanksgiving thankfulness(Canadian version)

turkey

Now that thanksgiving is over for us Canadians, it’s time to reflect on what we should be thankful for besides a new turkey leftover recipe. So here goes in no particular order (ranking lists are the scourge of the internet). First, I’m thankful I didn’t write a top ten list on what I should be thankful for (I got dizzy writing that).

To start, I’m thankful I live in one of the cleanest cities in the world (is there a list for this?) even though we have the ugliest and dirtiest place on the planet just 750 kilometres to the north. The Alberta tar sands makes me very, very sad. Quite the contradiction here – the disgusting tar pits and crystal clear breezes flowing down from the Rockies. At least the tar sands keep our gas prices the lowest in the country and for this I’m happy. How can anybody afford to drive anything but a donkey and a cart with gas over 1.50 a litre (coming soon everywhere, I’m afraid)? Maybe it’s time to buy Amish stock in anything or buy an ass.

I’m also thankful I can buy beer and whisky at moderately low prices because the price of booze is not ruled by an archaic government that can’t get its greedy hands off booze dollars and let the free market decide the costs of things. And please make me thankful for the Calgary Flames, the best junior hockey team on the planet (rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding).

I’m glad I live in a country where it is NOT OK to buy guns in a shop across from a high school. Then with this nefarious purchase, go shoot little kids. Next year please make me thankful this ugly piece of gun culture is gone from the planet so I don’t have to watch these horrible atrocities on the six o’clock news, seemingly every week. I’m also happy I don’t live in a country where fear rules and I don’t have to worry that some religious fanatic who doesn’t understand his religious holy book is going to murder the people I love.

My students, who come from some of the most horrible places on the planet, say the most remarkable think they love about Canada is the ability to sleep in peace. The horrors of their home countries will never leave them, but at least they can put head to pillow and feel safe. And like them, I’m thankful for safety and I promise never to take advantage of this most precious sense of security.

Yea to large feathered birds, native to this land, that give me everything from hot turkey sandwiches to turkey soup to hot pickled turkey loaf. And to the wonderful people who spend hours cooking these gigantic birds only to have them decimated in under twenty minutes. After which we find our family flocks stuffed, on the couch, drowsy with their pants undone. Please uncle Pete do up your pants BEFORE you stand up.

But most of all, I’m thankful to my amazing wife and parents and my kids who are still finding their way (but who isn’t). They always make me proud. Also my beautiful nephews and nieces who make me realize life is a joy and keep me young. Finally to my coworkers who make my work environment anything but dull. Thanks to everyone because without you I couldn’t be me.

Blinded by the Light

blinding light

Winter comes quickly to the lovely city I live in. Just last week, we were hit by a massive snow storm. Yes in September. Officially that’s still summer. Another problem living here in the northern climes is the darkness. It comes very early. Soon we’ll go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Yep, early fall means we start the move into our northern “cave.” No light except for that dim beacon at the very far end of the cave, called summer. Only nine months away. Well, that was until I met some cyclists on my morning run. Thanks to them the light of summer is eternal.

Usually I go for an early morning run around five-thirty. It’s the only way I’ll get it done (no interference – life doesn’t get in the way before the sun comes up). I especially love to run outside. All summer long it’s been great. It’s been a beautiful sunny Zen experience. It’s not unusual to see beaver, deer and the occasional coyote bouncing across my path. No pit vipers, crocs or nasty spiders in this pleasant garden of Eden. Ah the quiet days of summer. Just me, the trees, the bright rising sun and a few friendly dog walkers who are out at the same time as me.

However, this week it all changed, paradise lost as well as the sun. My route was tranquil because last year we had a flood and it wiped out part of the path. This made it difficult for cyclists because the detour is a rough and narrow make-shift path through the bush. One has to be very careful, especially in the morning darkness. If you tip over on your bike or make a wrong step, it’s a fifteen meter drop into rocks and river. It kept the snakes out of Eden. We pedestrians had a code to keep it a secret. “Quiet this morning, eh?” “Yep.” And then a two finger salute. Sometimes we’d make a hissing sound just as a reminder.

But the code got broke. Somehow, those cycling snakes realized the route around the flood damage was passable (they must have some nefarious network where they gather commuting plans to take over the world). The pit vipers have entered Eden. And with them came their lights. They use these blinding halogen lights that are so bright you’d think your minutes away from an alien abduction.

After these lights blind you, you can’t see anything but dancing dots. It’s as if you had looked directly into the sun for an hour. When I die and see the light, I hope to hell it’s not one of these halogen lights because I’ll crap my pants for fear that I’m going to cyclist hell. This hell is a very bright and hot place where you ride a stationary bike for eternity, but the horror is you actually think you’re going somewhere.

Now, not all cycling commuters are pit vipers with halogen lights. It’s the racing and reckless bastards who need to share the path. Slow down, be courteous and realize there are other people on the path, especially in the morning darkness. And take it easy with those lights. They can burn a hole in a person’s retina. Ah, screw it. Time to hit the gym and run through the bright sunshine of New Zealand. On a screen, of course. The funny thing is I actually think I’m going somewhere.

Picture courtesy unfocusedpolaroids 

Grow up, City Boy

KeepoffGrassI’m in my tranquil and beautiful backyard. Man I love this place. Luscious green grass (as close to Augusta National as I’ll ever get), flowers, trees and a peaceful ambiance (with the exception of the continuous highway buzz and the noxious gas fumes). Continue reading

Remember the Fallen

poppy11:11, November 11th, 2013. Remembrance Day (Canada, Australia, France, Belgium) Veterans Day (US) Remembrance Sunday (UK)

So my favourite holiday is  coming,  Remembrance Day, and  not just because I  think it’s  very  important to remember our fallen soldiers, but  it’s the day I get to go  to shopping  malls and  plaster poppies on  car windshields in the parking lot or shoot paintballs at consumers who have  no respect for our military men and women  or walk through malls with a sandwich board that says, “Did they die for Target?”  Then just before 11:11,  I get to run to my favourite memorial service (because the mall cops are chasing me). And where I live you have to go to  early because services fill up quickly (such a good sign). It’s quite a fun-filled, active day.

Still, before 11:11 a large percentage of uncaring people will flock to the malls. Forget the vets. I want to get the latest Barbie Camper or Lululemon underwear before they sell out.  TV commercials beg us  run to the mall and buy, buy, buy. So we attack the malls. What did our vets die for? Walmart? To see a generation of young people not “get it” and fight for a bargain at The Gap – a gap indeed.

However, the times-they-are-a-changing because I haven’t seen the onslaught of Christmas commercials on television.  Maybe it’s because most of my television is commercial free (I don’t know how it happens but all my favourite programs land on hard drive…ummm, really?).   Or maybe it’s because corporations have actually listened to the majority and have calmed down on the degrading pre-Remembrance Day Christmas commercial barrage (wow that’s a mouth full).  Yes, there is hope.

As we all know at 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month, the armistice was signed in World War One – the war to end all wars. But war didn’t end in 1917 with 35 million casualties. No, war continued. WWII – 60 million people died – over 2.5% of the world population. Korea – over 3 million soldiers and civilians and the two countries are still in a state of war. Vietnam nearly the same number of senseless deaths. Afghanistan – over 3000 deaths and increasing daily. Will it ever end?

War is ugly but we must remember the brothers, fathers, uncles, aunties, mothers and daughters who fought and died for what they thought was the advancement humanity. Even if you’re a pacifist and don’t agree with war, take the time on this most honouring of days and reflect on the idea of no war.

Soon there will be no vets to help us remember our two largest wars, WWI and WWII.  Our last Canadian WWI vet, John Babcock, died in 2010.  Our WWII vets are getting up there – most are in their eighties. How nice would it be if they saw a country united in respect for their courage, suffering and sacrifice before they moved on?

I’m beginning to alter my anti-shopping mall campaign because I see change.  Maybe the government doesn’t need to step in and make laws against shopping.  We are doing it all on our own. Maybe those brave men and women fought for our right to choose – to shop or pay respect.

However,  this is  a problem. What am I going to do next year? I have a garage filled with sandwich boards, poppy stickers and paintball fuel. Well there’s always Halloween – that sugar filled death trap, propagated by a secret society of dentists.

Edward Snowden – The Interview.

Vector_Russian_Flag_KGBToo many drones overhead, so I decide to leave the country.  I take the cool 150 bucks I’ve got saved under my mattress and go to a casino in Edmonton.  The 150 quickly becomes a thousand.  Whoohoo, mama needs new shoes and she gets it.  The spying Gods must be shining down on me.  I make my way to Alaska and catch a freighter to Russia (I was going to swim but I forgot my trunks).  In Moscow I find Edward shopping at the local “Targetski.”  I ask him if he’ll talk to me.   He says fine.  We go to a daycare centre and order a couple of vodkas. We put on our tin foil hats and both sit facing the front door.

Me: Cheers. (Eddie raises his glass).  So Edward, how’s Russia been?

Ed: Great.  The people are nice. But the weather is a little colder than Hawaii.  Man, I miss the ocean.  But the vodka is outstanding.  You can get it anywhere – stores, daycare centres.

Me: You worked in Geneva, right?

Ed: Yea, I did a stint there.

Me: Bad memories?  You had a “letter” put in your file (I use my fingers to show quotation marks).

Ed: Yea, what of it.

Me: Make you mad?

Ed:  Nope, don’t really care. My boss was a grumpy dickhead.  You know the expression “absolute power corrupts…”

Me: So what are you going to do after the year the Russians gave you? Cuba? Venezuela? North Korea? Iran?

Ed: Don’t know.   Cuba sounds good – rum, cigars and good health care.

Me: Let’s cut to the chase.  Traitor or Whistle-Blower?

Ed: I did it to help the citizens of the world. We need discussion on the topic. The government needs clear guide lines about when and why they can monitor citizens. In this age of technology, it’s too easy to collect data on citizens.  You can just press a button and wham.  It’s like the proverbial cookie jar.  If it’s in clear sight, you’re gonna grab all the cookies you can.  You don’t care about how fat you get or if they’ll kill you. Now, if your mom is in the kitchen you’re gonna be careful.  You have to make sure you ask and you only get a cookie if your mom knows it won’t spoil your dinner.

Me: The cookie jar is information?

Ed: That’s right.  Ten or twenty years ago it was much more difficult to get information.  You needed people and equipment and a judge. Now, just press a button and you’ve got cell phone, computer, car and cameras anytime. In London there are over a million cameras.  It’s just too tempting for the government.  We need discussion.

Me: Have you seen Enemy of the State?

Ed: Yup, love it.

Me: Despicable me?

Ed: One or Two?

Me: Are you gonna give yourself up? You know there’s talk about a movie.  Matt Damon is gonnna play you.

Ed: Really?   Matt Damon?  I was thinking Steve Carell.

Me: Well, Ed I gotta go.  It’s a long swim back to Canada. Hey, can you spot me a couple of bucks? I need to buy a bathing suit.

Ed reached into his pocket and gave me a fist full of roubles – it worked out to five bucks. He told me to go to Targetski.  It wasn’t a lot of money but enough to make it back to Canada.

It is so sad that these two encrypted sites (Lavabit  and Silent Circle ) had to shut down due to government interference.  They want these sites to hand over data (although it appears Silent Circle is up and running).   If you can help and save democracy, please do.

Thanks to GURPS for the graphic

Damn you, Edward Snowden!

large_woman_tin_foil_hatI have tin foil secured wrapped around my head and all my windows are painted black.  I have withdrawn my entire bank account (all 150 bucks) and securely tucked the cash under my mattress.  I don’t need a bank machine. I’ve gotten rid of my cell phone and computer.  I sold my new car due to the event data recorder (EDR) or black box installed in it.  I bought a 1979 Chevy Impala because in ’79 a black box for cars was unheard of. Oh how I long for the seventies, when you could walk down the street and know you weren’t being watched.

I read a very interesting article recently (see link below) about how easy it is for the government to track a person if they want to.  I’ve always known this (see Enemy of the State), but to see it laid out in black and white was a revelation (quick look outside, are those cameras, pointed at me because I wrote the “E” name?).  Fortunately for me, the only thing they need to track is that nasty wine habit I have (just how does he afford it on a teacher’s salary). Luckily, I don’t live in the US. Our government is so “spy” incompetent they couldn’t track a black bear on a sunny day in the frozen arctic.

Yes, it only takes the push of a button, a small selection on a drop down menu, making sure they have the proper legal rights, and all your bank accounts, cell phones, computer and car data is now monitored (makes me want to move in with said bear). However, that’s not the scary part.  Certain governments (I won’t mention the two for fear of tin foil penetration, but one government uses drones and the other has the most CCTVs in the world) are in collusion with cell phone companies and are forcing them to create “back doors” into your cell phone so they can access them any time they wish. And if you create inscription software, the government needs a code to break in. So much for free enterprise.

I know, I know. All this is to protect us from the bad guys and if you’re a good guy you don’t need to worry. But that’s not the point. This is an impingement of our civil liberties.  What if by writing this article, it makes me a bad guy? We have the right to know when and why we are being stalked by any person or entity. And this is a global issue. Don’t think that Timbuktu government or incompetent government won’t phone drone government and ask for a favour; “Hey we’ve got this guy who drinks way too much wine.   Can you stalk him and then put a drone on him?”  “Thanks, sure I can get you Stanley Cup tickets.” Or vise versa, “Hey we want to track one of our nationals in your country, is that Ok? Sure I’ve got Super Bowl tickets.”

Snowden’s revelation wasn’t a shock. What worries me is that we are doing nothing to stop it. Do you really trust the government that much? (Ouch, this tin foil really uncomfortable.) We, as a global community, need to monitor this situation closely because the repercussions are very dangerous. Well I have to run.  I hear a drone circling over my house and I need to watch “Enemy of the State” for the tenth time this month.   If you never hear from me again, I’ll be living with Edward Snowden in Siberia. Damn you, Snowman.

Guardian article by John Lanchester

Thanks to Mind the Gap for tin foil head graphic

Please, go change your diaper

diaper-aboy1First of all let me begin – NO ONE is perfect (in fact some people are going to look at this and say, “Are you serious? You cantankerous, nut job.”).  We all have our ups and downs, good days and bad days.  It’s part of the human condition. However, I can’t  understand  how some people are in constant need of a diaper change.   If you are not happy, fine, but  why do you need to make everyone around you miserable.  We don’t want or need to share  the smelly mess in your pants.  It  is the most selfish act I can think of.

I mean how hard is it to say hello or good morning or just crack a smile. One morning, I’m out for my run.  I see my normal retired guys who always say hello, even when a freezing cold  -25 wind is whistling around them.   One glorious day, I’m out.   The sun is shining,  not a cloud in the sky when I spy two dapper looking gentleman walking on the path.   “Good morning,” I say, cheerfully chirping like a songbird.  Nothing.   “GOOD MORNING,”  I say again, much louder (maybe the old farts can’t hear).   The two old guys now remind me of  those two curmudgeons on the Muppet show.  You can’t even spew two words?  Fine! No problem, the endorphins from my run are kicking in, so I’m good, so very good.  La Dee Da Dee Da, you miserable old farts.

Then I go to work and my boss rips my head off, as he does every morning because he is a shitty person.  And for no reason –  he has nice house, car and job. Maybe it’s because he has no love life – but you wonder why?   The  guy probably goes on dates and rips the wings off flies and then eats them.  Maybe he tells his potential dates on “Plenty of Poop in Your Pants” how he loves to drown kittens.  Oh yea, that’ll get the women, pal.  This guy has no morning happiness at all and for no other reason then he gets up.  You can’t even consider a conversation with the guy until afternoon. And the thing that is so bothersome is these acerbic morning people know they are terrible, but they never apologize for their crappy moods. Why is that? Admission that you’re miserable is just too horrific to deal with?  Maybe that’s the first step in your recovery process.

However, to balance off the office smelly pants is Mrs. Happy (and yes, her pod is decorated with happy faces and kittens and rainbows).  This person is in a good mood all the time – 24/7.  People actually call her if they are  feeling down so she can pick them up.   She should start a “Happy School” and send stinkers like my  boss to it.   She is in the same position as dickhead boss – nice house, car, thirty cats, but no love life.   However,  her pants are as clean as a bleached  diaper.  Spreading happiness should be a motivating factor for your life and for this person, thank goodness, it is.

I have some cures for poopiness.   First, stop the addiction if it makes you grumpy- booze, nicotine, coffee or drowning kittens, whatever the cause, STOP IT.  Try breathing.  Before you spew anger and hostility, take a breath and relax. Or maybe listen a pick me up song (see my sunshine list below). Or see a doctor. Get some  drugs.   Or try this.  Instead of ripping heads off, tell someone you love them (or better yet yourself).  Hug a kid.  Find some random kid and hug  them (of course be careful because the authorities frown on this  kind  of behaviour).

The reasons for curing incessant poopy drawers are many and the cure is at hand.  But the simplest way to relieve the diaper rash caused by “poopy drawers”  is to make a conviction that you will  be happy.   Now, please go and have someone change your diaper or have your  miserable doppelganger do it  for you. Life is too short to smell poopy diapers whether they belong to you or someone else. 

Thanks to diaper boy for the graphic

Monsanto, GMO and Spawns of Satan

evil foodFood, food glorious food.  I love it, but I also hate it. I love the taste and the smell of meat on the barbeque or the scrumptious taste of a cheeseburger or a ripe juicy berry in summer.  What I hate is the politics of food.  Corporate mongers have GMOed (genetically modified) food so bad the new plants don’t even resemble what nature originally gave us. Sadly, there is not a child on the planet that has had the pleasure of tasting a non- GMO strawberry (unless they grow their own). And the biggest evil incarnate is Monsanto.  Not only are they creating potentially toxic food but they are also the most unethical company on the planet.

We all need to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies and who is creating these horrible products.  The modification of our food is so bad that your grand, grand children are going to say while pointing to a picture in an ancient copy of Wikipedia; “Grandpa, what is this tall grassy plant called?”  “Wheat, we used to make bread and cakes  with it. Grandpa, you mean wheat isn’t purple?”   Food is food, right? No food is what makes us strikingly healthy organisms.  If  the food we put  in us is harmful, what does that make us?

My awareness started with a friend of mine handing me a don’t buy Monsanto  list - the world’s most evil corporation. As a result, I’ve been selectively eliminating items off the list. Most of the crap I don’t use anyway, but I can’t believe how hard it is to find pit rub (underarm deodorant) not made by a spawn of Satan, like Unilever or Procter and Gamble, a family corporation (yea right, if you want three headed children).

I decided to go deodorant free.   That lasted a week.   Same friend who gave me the evil incarnate list said if I was not going to use deodorant she’d move across the office, so for the sake of our friendship, I now smell like a mixture of Non-GMO lilac and rosemary.  My friend now walks by my cubicle at Usain Bolt speed. I think the herbal mixture is worse than my natural odor.  I’m not sure what`s worse – BO or NON-GMO.

And check it out … Doritos are on the list.  I cried for weeks over that one.  But not only are the chips made by an evil corporation, they also contain corn – the most GMOed plant on the planet.  However, I did find an alternative – homemade salsa (they haven’t GMOed cilantro and tomatoes from my garden yet) accompanied with organic blue corn chips and they are actually better than the commercially produced bag of salt made by Frito-Lay, a Monsanto devil child.  So if you want to escape the evil clutches of corporate hell, make your  own food.

You are what you eat and right now my diet is restricted to NON GMO, Non-monsanto (they don’t deserve capitalization) food which means I am eating that lovely lilac and rosemary pit rub as we speak.  And unfortunately today, food is politics.  How the hell did we get here?

Thanks to  nhiluu97 for the fancy graphic.

Cash Strapped Voices in my Head

yelloutNothing is coming to me. My creative impulses have fallen down a deep, dark, stinkhole (but really, what time have you actually put towards your creativity in the last few weeks, pal?). There’s always these little voices in my head, complaining, arguing, but never encouraging. Why is that?

Money is my problem. I need money to pay for the time I need to write or do any other worthwhile endevour, like travel or ponder the existence of the universe. Why is that? I have a full time job to pay for my excesses and the financial responsibilities that hang over me like a giant guillotine blade that’s ready to deposit my head in a basket any moment (and what have you done to curb the spending nightmare buddy? bought new workout underwear? and what is your wine budget for the month? … time to think about switching to boxed wine). Why doesn’t money or wine grow on trees? (it does moron, think about where those boxes come from….)

Money, money, money – it’s the vicious gerbil wheel we live on. Lately, I’ve been putting a considerable amount of time in the world of money. Checking the price of this and that. Where is my money going? How can I make more money? And nothing pollutes my brain more than dirty dollar bills running through my creative process. This fixation on financial goals is blocking my creative output (whatever!! sounds like excuse number 3,746 ). Yes, money and art do not live in the same bed. Why is that?

Life is not about money (yeah right, keep telling yourself that, buddy) even though lately I’ve been praying like a man ready to vomit at the porcelain altar of capitalism. I’ve got to pull away from the iron finance fist of cash that can lull you into destruction. As Henry Miller warns, (nice hero there, bub, why not try an honest man like ummmm Conrad Black) “…to walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money.” Money gives us a false sense of security. We think it will protect us, but it does not.

No, life moves outside of the capitalist fist. We need to direct ourselves towards life: family, trips to the mountains, wine, chicken wings, beer and other delectable hobbies. Again my pal Henry, “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” Creativity rests in the embrace of life. And getting sucked into the money game destroys our sense of the lush forest around us. There’s a reason it’s called can’t see the forest for the trees – money makes us see trees that produce paper not the forest, “..but what makes money make money?” Yes, Miller is right. Life is Art and the greed money lends itself to has no place in the portrait of our life.

It’s all about perception. We can listen to the negative voices around us (are you talking to me?). Or we can change our destination, “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things” (Miller, again. Isn’t this a bit redundant?). Oh shut up.

Floating cyber barge, where did my articles go?

garbagepileTen years ago I wrote some terribly serious biographies for a web site (they kind of suck). I tried looking for them recently but they are gonzo. Some evil wizard hiding behind a machine erased them from the cyber universe. What evil incarnate is in control of this vicious act and made my articles extinct? What happens if all my musings are removed? Do I, do I … become extinct. Will I become fossil fuel for a new generation in a million years? A dirty a piece of coal or in a few million years more, a shiny new diamond for some future Kardashian creature.

Now that I think about it, where do all these deleted pieces of writing, photos and twitter bleeps go? Do they float around on some cyber junk raft like that giant mass of plastic that roams the Pacific ocean (see picture above) – a human created non-biodegradable mass that is inching towards Vancouver, ready to wipe out the entire west coast of Canada. Is this what happens to lost articles that get expunged when taken over by another cyber company? The new enterprise chucks these precious thoughts into a giant bin and lets them float around in a binary ocean, forgotten by the entire planet. Or is this more like all those single socks that get lost in the dryer. When you die you get them all back – socks, articles, keys and tweets.

Yep, just checked again and they’re gone. I was hoping I may have pressed a wrong button and the articles were still alive, but no. They’re sunk. One of the articles was a biography of Jack Kerouac. I always liked googling my name and Jack because it brought us up together, on the same line. I could do the same with Alice Munro or Somerset Maugham (the other biographies I wrote) – and there we were together, me and Alice, ahhhh.

Legally, does this mean that those articles have come back to me? Do I get the copyright back so I can resell them (for more than the three cents I received) to some unsuspecting Wikipedia start-up who’s looking for slightly used articles that no one has read except my family and only because I threatened them with excommunication. I’m not a lawyer but when you discard them like a used plastic doll, Mr. Evil Wizard, it means I can resell them in a cyber garage sale (along with those three hundred pet rocks I bought in 1983).

However this got me to thinking. Is this how we measure ourselves today? How much we ply our thoughts, emotions and ideas on Facebook, Twitter or in the blog world. Will these musings last an eternity? Digital letters do not erode like dinosaurs or human emotion. Unless, of course some nasty power hungry person presses the delete button and relegates you to a floating plastic cyber-barge. Will our cyber personalities last until the next millennium? Will cyber-anthropologists look at our society and profess rash judgments like, “these early cyber geeks were vicious man-eating creatures who nearly destroyed the planet with their overabundant, egotistical silicon use.” But it doesn’t matter what happens because the articles will always exist for me. Right here on my laptop. The device that gets chucked on my funeral pyre.

Photo from here. Thanks