Practical Magic, Easy Exercise

playdough manWhat is that sad looking lump of Playdough in the mirror?  Speedo season is just around the corner. Time to get a bit more exercise in the bones.  But I’m a lazy lump.  To help, I’ve designed an easy,  practical workout scheme that anyone can follow. Here are a few tips to combine exercising and practical everyday needs. 

Firstly, I hate gyms – they are smelly, cost too much and are littered with judgy, neurotic people.  I need something much more practical.   Part one entails running.  I also need some necessities. Wow, what a great idea, combining running and shopping (New Olympic Sport?). Off I go.  However, once I get my groceries: –  one large bottle of Vodka, some cranberry juice (a healthy alternative), a bag of oranges and Doritos (I need the carbs after my twenty minute exhausting run) – I realize that my knapsack is too small, so I give the oranges to some guy hanging around the liquor store. But the best thing! I killed a flock of birds with a giant boulder – exercising, shopping and saving cash – there’s only so much you can pack into a knapsack, so you don’t buy  crap you don’t need.

Now what else can I do for that Speedo bod? I go into the basement. My bike. I will ride my bike to work. That way I can save on gas and parking. Ok, but I’ll need to be prepared for this one. It’s still very icy  and cold outside (spring really doesn’t come here until June). Snow tires. I look at the bald tires on my bike (Ok, so I haven’t ridden it since the seventies). Studs. No problem I can make those. Thumb tacks will work just fine. I take off the tires, poke a few thumb tacks through the very thin rubber and seal it with sealant I used (ok so I intended to use) for a kitchen sink repair. Pluck on the long ginch, strap wool socks over (yes over) my tennis shoes and wrap a long florescent scarf over my face and head. I have to debate whether to take the vodka or not. It’s cold out there and I might need some warmth on my twenty minute bike jaunt. Plus the extra weight is good for exercise, right?  Vodka wins.

Another great idea. I’m going to get a pet because you have to get out and actually walk the thing, right? But I don’t have the time to take care of an animal. But guess what? There’s an app for that. You choose the kind of pseudo pet you want (I chose a min-pin, yorkie, pit bull cross – the dog has attitude but lamas and lizards are also options) and the app tells you when to take it for a walk, a pee or feed it, so you actually have to get off the couch and take care of your pet. Not only do I get great exercise, but the app is way cheaper than actually owning a hound. (Ok, so there’s isn’t a pet app but if you’re looking for an invention!!!)

One final great idea.   There’s a free stairmaster in any apartment or office building on your way to work or after work.  It’s called the stairs (brilliant or what?). And if you break in illegally, you can have the overweight security guard chase you up and down the stairs –  great for a high tempo run. So there you go – triathlon training at it’s best – running to the liquor store, biking to work with spirits on your back and swimming in the bottle of vodka you take on all your training exercises.

Please don’t try these at home kids. Leave exercising to professionals – now go back to Netflix binging.

Trump-Dumb, the new nation

Welcome to donald-trump-election-caricatures-582450ec49347__700Trump-Dumb – the grope is on!  Usually with America, one just laughs, shakes their head and moves on, but the business of Trump-Dumb is directly affecting my beloved nation.  Canada is the first country to feel the stupidity of Trump-Dumb.

One of his first executive orders was to ban refugees and visitors entry into the US from seven selected countries.  Of course they are all Muslim dominated countries and economically poor (didn’t see Saudi or Kuwait or Dubai on the list). His message as the leader of the free world, “I, as head of Trump-Dumb,  am condemning your whole culture as a group of bloody terrorists.”  However, the real subterfuge is to anti-Muslim and anti-immigration groups who now believe it’s pay back time for immigrants who do not conform to their narrow-minded ideals and values (whatever the hell that is and I guess religious tolerance is not ideal).

And what happens the day after the order?  A white guy (Trump-Dumb and Marine Le Pen supporter on Facebook) goes into a Mosque and kills six innocent Muslims and injures another eighteen while they are peacefully praying.  Nice work there Donny-Dud. You have no understanding what a message from your office means (this is not a reality show). And where did this horror take place?  Canada, the peaceful benign home of trees, maple syrup and moose. We get the honour of receiving the first negative repercussions of a Trump-Dumb executive order.

The scary part?  This is just beginning of his dictatorship. His attorney general says she doesn’t think the Muslim ban is constitutional.  The person who is in charge of US law says the executive order is unlawful.  So what does small hands do?  Fires her for insubordination.  So much for free speech in the country that has it as a fundamental right in their constitution.  I just hope the American constitution has a dictator provision. Even more disturbing is when my eighty-eight year old mother-in-law, who lived through the Nazi occupation in Belgium, says “You know this is how Hitler started.”

As a personal gesture I’ve decided to no longer buy any thing American or shop in any American stores.  Painful as this is, it means no more Costco (ahhh cheap gas and edamame pasta,  the horror!).  However I won’t paint America with one broad stroke (unlike the King of Trump-Dumb) and I will continue to enjoy Starbucks because Howard Schultz has decided to hire 10000 refugees (see article here).  I’m so glad so many American companies have joined the anti-Trump immigration ban, including Google, Apple, Nike, and Netflix (thank you Reed Hastings,  Santa Clarita Diet is safe).  However after all the support against the ban,  I’m not sure a business ban is the way to go (bring back the edamame noodles, but haven’t heard a peep from Costco).

Hope springs eternal.  When I started this article Trump-Dumb  was in full swing with a horrendous number of executive orders in just over a week. This week however, the train wreck appears to have slowed.  Lady Justice has stepped in and protected liberty. A judge in Seattle (who ever thought a judge would become a national and world-wide hero?) had the audacity to stand up to the King of Trump-Dumb and hold his malicious order accountable.  The action restoring my faith in America.

If there is one thing King Trump-Dumb has done is bring people together, but not to the liking of the King, I’m sure. Opposition is a powerful weapon. And for now, Lady Justice has a very shape blade her hands.


Thank you Froz (???) for the picture.

Rachel Notley’s kind relpy

Here’s the Premier’s kind reply to my letter (ok maybe not her personally…but).

A few words first .. I am sure I’m in the minority of responsible citizens who believe a carbon tax is the way to go to curb energy use.  I’m also positive the correspondence the Premier is receiving is less than encouraging.  It should be because it’s good for the environment and at least we are doing something to help future generations.

The tax is making me think how I use carbon.  I have made it a rule that I will not idle my car for more than five minutes.  I was going for thirty seconds but in minus cabillion, it is just too uncomfortable. I need to see out of my windows.

After reading my blog, I see I was a bit ambiguous.  But when I look at the children in my life and realize the mess we are leaving them, a carbon tax is the least we can do.

And  a drum roll please ..

Dear Mr. Reid,

On behalf of Premier Notley, thank you for your kind words about the government’s environmental plan. I appreciate you taking the time to write and share how you lessen your carbon footprint as well.

The carbon levy is the key tool that will pay for the transition to a more diversified economy. As you mention, over the next five years, the levy is expected to raise $9.6 billion, all of which will be reinvested in the economy and rebated to Albertans.

o   $3.4 billion will help households, small businesses, and communities adjust to the carbon price, including:

  • $2.3 billion for consumer rebates to help low and middle-income families – 60 per cent of households in the province will receive the full amount of the rebate and an additional six per cent of households will receive a partial rebate.
  • $865 million to reduce taxes for small businesses by one-third
  • $195 million to assist coal communities, Indigenous communities and others with adjustment.

o   $6.2 billion will be reinvested to support the economy, including:

I hope this answers some of the questions you have about how funds from the carbon levy will be used.

Leanne Stroh

Manager, Premier’s Correspondence Unit

Office of the Premier

Carbon Tax

Dear Alberta Premier Notley,

carbon-taxI am writing because I am very excited about the environmentally responsible course you are carving for us. Many see our beautiful province as nothing more than a giant carbon polluter with zero responsibility to climate change. My west-coast, treehugging friends, ignore my instagram snaps of me on my mountain bike in -25 or the army of car-to-gos in the C-train parking lot. They only see the dirty tar sands. We definitely need action on climate change (as much as I love the idea of becoming the new Miami – it’s not good for the rest of the world because  EVERYONE would want to live here, including coastal dwellers).

But is the January first carbon tax the way to go? Taxes send a scary shiver up my spine like prairie cold snap in January and this tax is a giant windfall (some 9.6 billion over 5 years). Where is the money going? Is is going into the “general revenue fund” to build schools, roads, pay salaries or is it going where it should – into research, development and implementation of new Eco-technologies to reduce our carbon foot print (as well as the plow the bike path fund)? And if it goes into developing new green resources will tax payers see where the money is spent? Will the spending be transparent? Transparency for governments is as scary as Donald Trump actually becoming President of the most powerful nation in the world (oops).

Or maybe the rationale is to make carbon so expensive that no one uses it like in Europe where gas is over two dollars a litre. Not a lot of pickup trucks or SUVs in France or Germany.  This is a wonderful benefit – pick up truck reduction on our roads is as pleasing as a Chinook after a cold snap. Gas at two dollars a litre will make smaller cars more culturally acceptable. And perhaps prevent bad habits like idling our cars for half an hour (you only need 30 seconds).  Hopefully, the high cost of carbon will curb use and make alternative means for transportation more culturally acceptable.

High taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gas only hurts people who can’t afford it. However, I am glad you are giving people who don’t make a lot of money a subsidy to help with the high cost of essential living expenses like food and heating.  The danger is, of course, until the next government gets in and says, “You mean we can get even more money if we cut subsidies?” (Government trust is a misleading as “wind chill.”)

But you know the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions is through education, not tax. People didn’t stop smoking because of high taxes, they did it because they knew about the health concerns. I look at myself. It’s not a carbon tax that makes me ride my bike to work in -25, but the awareness of environmental responsibility.

 We need a carbon tax. I just hope that it’s not a “cash grab” and there is transparency around how the tax is used. I think it’s a good way to force people to use more responsible means of transportation like public transit or riding bikes and make other transportation means more culturally acceptable. Calgary has a fantastic bike path system (and commuter routes need clearing). It’s time more people use them. As for riding in winter, after the first ten minutes of -25 the cold is so numbing, you don’t even feel it. I just hope it’s not the same plan for the Carbon Tax.

Poles Dangling over a Hole

icefishing-hutsFirst of all, kudos to those guys who pack giant amounts of stuff in a pick up truck, drive out to the middle of a frozen lake with twenty other guys, set up a tent in minus a bazillion below zero with the wind howling a hundred clicks an hour. And then sit on a little stool with a fishing line for hours, attempting to catch a slowly moving fish that’s already half frozen. It is certainly better than going to Costco and buying a forty dollar bag of organic fish skinned and deboned ready for presentation on my table. Good on ya.

Personally I wouldn’t mind ice fishing except for the slimy fish thing and putting a slug like critter on a fishing line. Or the sitting on an ice cold bench for hours, waiting for some exceptionally slow moving animal to tug on my line. I’m not that patient. And it’s not the cold. I love to go outside running when it’s minus a bazillion, but the key here is running, as in moving as in staying warm. Not sitting on a cold wooden bench getting hemorrhoids.

icefishing_nice-cabinHowever, one day I looked inside one of these huts and I was amazed. I expected an old Gandolf looking guy with a grey beard dripping with icicles hanging his bent and withered body over a hole in the ice, waiting and waiting – the epitome of patience. But that’s not the case. This hut had a couch with a cooler full of beer, a small stove and a radio (check out the above picture – this guy has a microwave. I guess you need to to thaw the fish after you catch it?)  Yep they were sitting on a couch, drinking beer, smoking a cigar, waiting for a frozen fillet o fish to tug their line. And their poles weren’t even in their hands they were stuck into the ice with bells that rang in case a fish decided to bite. This, I found out is a handy feature, especially if you doze off on the couch.

icefishing_sunkSo I had to ask, why do you guys do this? I mean it’s freezing outside. The wind is howling like we’re in the Antarctic. The fish are too cold to even swim – they hadn’t caught a fish in hours. And it was creepy. Every once in a while the ice sent a shivering crack throughout the hut. Fear ran through me as I thought at any moment the couch, TV and inhabitants of the hut were about to fall through the ice and become food for whatever monster lived at the bottom of this lake (for weeks after the visit I had dreams I was slowly falling to the bottom of a green clear lake, my body too cold to move, sinking, sinking without feeling). There had to be a reason for this insanity.

Then I realized why this is a sport. Well not so much a sport but an adventure in escapism. They are temporarily away from it all – no jobs, no family, no responsibilities – these people love isolation. And this sport is the ultimate in isolation – well maybe except for a nice vacation to the Antarctic for three months. I considered briefly taking up the sport if it wasn’t for the fish thing, the cold thing and the not moving for long periods of time thing. I think I’ll stand outside and see how long it takes before I become Otzi the iceman.

Digital Jezebel

shaghai_jezI’m sitting in bed on a lovely Sunday, my most pensive day, oh Great One. Coffee steaming on the night stand. I am covered in my soft and comfy duvet while surrounded by massive pillows propping me up. But something is wrong. Laying around me is techno-carnage: my cell, tablet, e-reader and strapped on my wrist is a smart watch. I sit back and look in horror (Brando echoing in my brain), “Do these ridiculous pieces of plastic and metal actually enhance my life or are they just giant blocks of concrete dangling around my neck,” I think while rubbing the top of my head (fortunately I still have hair – thanks mom). I jump out of bed and as I hit the floor, my brain quickly dashes to my step counter. “Will I reach my goal for the day?” The thought repulses me. Immediately, I unstrap the device and put on a good old fashioned Timex – no counter, notifications or GPS, just the time (remember those days, my friends, when all watches did was .. you know … tell the time). I start to tremble after I realize that my personal world record of 25 continuous days of 10k steps is just about to end. I grab the dog and go out the door not caring if I hit the step mark or not. I feel a great rush of freedom. My dog, on the other hand, looks up and says, WTF? I was in on that record dip-shit.

Now for the cell phone. Device number two is starting to control my life a bit too much (as if the dog doesn’t do that enough). Prune number one. Turn off the little light that blinks every time I receive a notification. Do I really need this? It continuously flashes – pleading me to pick it up and run my soft luscious fingers across her screen, “Please Danny, just a little touch, come on big boy.” I try to ignore it , but it’s impossible. That ugly block of black glass just sits there, blinking, tempting me like a giant bowl of Halloween candy three days before the masks and costumes come out (plenty of time to replenish!). It’s hard.  I turn off the light and blinking Jezebel – gonzo. Prune two. I’ve decided to put the phone directly into my knapsack and not look at it until I get to work, which is a good twenty minutes from the time I jump from bed in the morning (I know right, awesome or what – the control on that man).

As for my e-reader, no problem because I have never even turned the WiFi on. My e-reader does one thing – shows me words that form paragraphs and stories. And this is not a bad piece of advice. If you get an e-reader make sure it can minimally perform one function – read ideas. I’ve pretty much abandoned my tablet for the same reason. Every time I start to read I constantly get distracted. For instance while the dog starts barking out the window as I am reading, I go to Kijiji and search for “People looking for cute dog.”

It’s been a good week now with all my tech modifications and I feel great. I sleep better. I focus better (relationship here!). I actually listen to my students in class. And I think about shit before I actually Google it. The big lesson, though, is either you control tech or it controls you. Surprise, surprise.

The Salty Air of Vancouver

20160403_135401I love going back to Vancouver. The minute I step off the plane my dried out hair and flaky skin just suck up the moisture. The change was so abrupt I actually heard sucking sounds from the itchy pores all over my body. After your lifeless skin has returned to the living, your nostrils take in the salty air, making you feel like you should be on a schooner traversing the globe while wearing a yellow sou’wester as a salty spray drenches you in freedom or dead fish depending on your TV commercial / dream sequence (aren’t they kind of the same?).

And you walk and walk and walk until your legs ache which is such a wonderful thing about the coast. There’s Spanish Banks, False Creek, and finally the Sea Wall, great to do on Monday morning while every one is working. But do people really work out there because there were an awful lot of people on the Seawall for a Monday. One day, I walked over fifteen kilometers (I tracked it on Runtastic). With the excellent transit system, and a good pair of shoes you can be as fit as every second person you see riding bikes, running, or walking.

Then there are the oh so tasty morsels and libations and other comforts I love about Vancouver. I only really had one awful meal there (Steam Works in Gastown). But that was my fault. Reminder – always order salad dressing on the side or you get a vinaigrette soup with a bunch of leaves floating in it, but at least the pilsner was scrumptious. Another excellent thing about Vancouver is the beer – Red Truck Ale, Stanley Park Amber Ale, Fat Tug, Yellow Dog and a few I can’t remember. Who can after the fourth? Ok fifth, but who’s counting. I don’t think  I had a bad beer the whole time I was out there (or maybe it was the excellent company). Yep every day at three o’clock spicy edamame and beer and Jeremy – Oh man, life is so good.

And can you say salmon? I swear by the time I left I had gills along with urges to swim upstream. I also had the best Chinese food ever at this place in Richmond, “Tin Tin Seafood Harbour.” Yep I don’t think there’s a city on the planet that can beat Vancouver for food and beer and walking (they do go together). Ok maybe the planet is a bit strong. But you get the point.

My only concern is the temperament of some people out on the coast. Can’t you say hi or smile? For all the beauty out there it’s amazing how unfriendly people are. Maybe you’re too stressed out because you can’t afford to leave your house because every dime you earn goes into your over-priced mortgage. Or maybe you feel confined because the price of gas is so high, so you can’t drive (you know you can bike or walk or take transit – they are all convenient and cheap) However, I found a way to get people to say hello. If you are out on your walk or run, all you have to do is yell. In a rather loud voice shout,”HEY GOOD MORNING!!!” And you know what? People always respond in kind. Or they run back to there million dollar one room condo, screaming`TOO MUUUCH TAAAXX.`