Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sometimes I think my cycle of life should include a bike, but then I think better of it

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Periodically, though not often, I think that maybe I should get me a bicycle – again.

I am conscious of and distressed by the contribution of massive internal combustion engine usage and its role in climate change and all sort of other hideous environmental ghastliness like the Tar Sands, pipelines, the selling out of our national soul and pristine coastline to greedy Asia and all sorts of other unconscionable nonsense.

Yeah, I think, I should get me a bike. Good for my health, good for the earth’s health, cheap transport, t’would make me immune to the near criminal price-gouging behaviors of government-sanctioned big petro, and a host of other justifications for such a decision.

Yeah, I think all those things, and then I get in my car and drive around for a bit until the feeling passes.

‘Cop out’, or worse, I can hear you thinking – well, I can’t really hear you thinking because that would make me psychic which I am predominantly not – but you get my drift. I am not oblivious to criticisms of my unwillingness to take such a vital step for the sake of the planet’s well-being.

I used to have a bicycle. But, I sold it about a decade ago. It was one of those 10-speed things with a little narrow ball-crushing seat – such seats evidently do even nastier things to girly-parts, but I wouldn’t know about such matters. But, I let the bike go for a couple of reasons, the basic ones being it took up space in the garden shed because it was, like, never used, and because of the excessive traffic on our roadways and drivers being such inconsiderate assholes.

bike sobIndeed, motorists are only surpassed in their assholeishness by certain elements of the cycling community, and are devoid of that cyclist sense of moral superiority. Not that all cyclists have a sense of moral superiority – just most. No, I josh. Sort of.

But there are elements of cycling that distress me. For one, in a physical conflict a motor vehicle, the cycle will lose. Secondly, don’t go down Comox hill faster than cars go down Comox hill because there could end up being ugliness when the road levels out down below and normal cycling speed must be resumed. Normal cycling speed is relatively slow. Even those dorky green lanes don’t make cycles go faster and they certainly don’t make them any safer in terms of contact with motor cars.

Oh, and my final reason is, being a person of moderately decent sartorial taste, I would never, ever, ever, ever want to wear any of that hideous cycling garb donned by too many Lance Armstrong wannabes, minus the steroids, I hope, but certainly not possessed of any garment decency understanding.

And finally, I want to make a comment about kids and cycling. It’s obvious they don’t teach safe cycling rules in schools any longer – they actually did when I was in school – when I see the dangerous behaviors of kids on streets with at least ten times the traffic that existed when I was in school. .

For one, you see the tiniest tots wobbling along on their little cycles. I mean, these are infants not much past the pants-peeing stage of their lives and they are out there vulnerable to the tiny dick drivers of big Ram trucks.

Another thing, kids, you ride in the direction of the traffic, not on the other side of the street. And finally, you never, ever ride on the sidewalk, though I see kids doing this all the time.

So, no, I think I’ll stick with my car or walking. I enjoy both.

I sometimes think climate change is a crock, and then I look out our front window

 

Comox%20Glacier%202According to a recent report, Canada’s glaciers are going bye-bye at an alarming rate, and included in that mix of going kaput is our beloved Comox
Glacier.

 

 

 

That report was in Victoria’s Times-Colonist newspaper and it may amount to little more than a newspaper’s dictum that holds virtually all stories, regardless of how remote from our lives as they might me, “must be localized.”

 

 

 

But, I don’t think such is the case here.

 

 

 

i-hos-khinThe Comox Glacier, known to the original inhabitants of the area as Queneesh (the great white whale), has been revered since time immemorial (and maybe even before then) and has been much loved by those who originally owned the place and also by the European originating latecomers who acquired the place with or without permission. Shit happens. (The Queneesh image shown is by local Native artist Andy Everson)

 

 

 

It is kind of a geological talisman for what the Comox Valley is and many would find it difficult to come to terms with it being gone. Yet, the article in the TC suggests, via reputable scientific study, that end-game is nigh and the glacier has maybe a quarter of a century left. That is, of course, if you believe climate change is a real thing. Well now, despite the lack of enthusiasm by Creationist quarters and certain relics in the federal government, it seems to be a foregone that there have been a lot of changes within a brief span of time. So, while I was slow to embrace the virtues of the metric system, I am pretty sure there is some substance here as pertains to the Glacier.

 

 

I believe it because I have watched it diminish over recent years and quite seriously, it’s disquieting. They report that if you make the challenging hike to the top – which I don’t plan to do as I find the steps up the cliff at Goose Spit challenging enough – there exist already a lot of holes and chasms that weren’t once there. So, I have never been to the top other than to have once flown over it at close quarters in an Air Force jet. And at that vantage point it was pretty cool and left me with more of a kinship with good old Queneesh.

 

 

The waning of the glacier is disturbing at a number of levels including the obvious environmental consideration, but waning it is. Now, I could be a realist and point out that glaciers are remnants of the last great ice age and throughout the history of the planet over multi-millennia, glaciers have waxed and waned, like some marriages, I understand, and we are currently in a waning realm so they are bound to diminish. We are coming into an eventual ice-free mode on the planet and it’ll be tropical beaches for everyone. Great, I like the tropics.

 

 

But, the big question is ‘why has it gone away so quickly?’ I have often thought how, when I was a child, we used to get a great deal of outdoor ice skating in winter, but now that never seems to happen. And since I have lived in the Comox Valley that magnificent glacier has progressively diminished. Hey, stuff does change, as I suggested, but more than a why, the point that is disquieting is, ‘why so quickly?’ Did we do that? Are we responsible? Do 87-lane LA freeways have something to do with this? Do thousands of Chinese smelters and coal-burning locomotives play a role. Well, and I may be wrong, I think they do.

 

 

But, perhaps what is most disturbing to me is that the time will ultimately come when we will want to sell our house. And the view of the glacier outside that front window is a big selling point:

 

 

Hey, sport, take a gander at that glacier. Pretty nice thing to look out on every morning, no?”

 

 

What glacier? All I see is a big naked hill.”

 

 

Yeah, well I can show you pictures of what was there when we bought the house, OK?”

 

Even if you don’t read my musings I have to write — it’s what I ‘do’

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So, what it comes down to is, ‘write, I must’. As I must eat, sleep, urinate, periodically make love and do a host of other bits of functioning, writing is part of that mix and cannot be denied.

We go back a long time, writing and me and I cannot imagine not writing – even for a day. In recent years I have taken to ‘not’ packing notebook, electronic or conventional, or laptop or any such other paraphernalia with me when I go on vacation yet I have to accept I’ll go through a bit of withdrawal.

Is writing an obsession with me? Probably, but I think it really is part of my genome structure and like hunger, thirst, fatigue or horniness it wants to be addressed and satisfied.

I was fortunate as far as career went. First I was a teacher, including being a teacher of English and creative writing. That’s a pretty wordish way to spend one’s days. And, in those pre-computer days I was strictly a writerly hobbyist. But then I went into newspaper work in my main calling in life – you know, the one that didn’t pay brilliantly and left me with no pension – and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Scribe was me, and even better than that, I got my own column that ran for years all of which proved to me unequivocally that God is great, God is good, God jumped over the candlestick.

blogBut, when I left newspapering, other than freelance writing to other publications, all of which I enjoyed and all of which I still miss, I discovered blogging. Since my column had gone, I could still write a column and could even put in the odd dirty word and sexual reference and nasty political comment I couldn’t get away with during newspaper days. All that and I didn’t need to worry about not being paid. Oh, right, that is one of the downsides of blogging. It comes cheap.

Yet it still offers a certain ego-boost in the form of responses. In my newspaper days I used to love getting letters-to-the-editor in reference to my columns. Even if they were negative letters, it still meant I was being noticed. Furthermore, I appreciate the fact that writing for public scrutiny is slightly ego-driven, and I am egotist enough that I welcome all comments, counterpoints and sexual propositions. Doesn’t mean I will honor them all, but I’ll still welcome them.

But, here is the difficult part for me. I have been blogging for nigh on 10 years, now, with three different blogs. In the early days this was heady stuff. Everybody was blogging and I made some wonderful friends via my blog. Some of them have gone, and some of those who have gone I genuinely miss. I even developed kind of a crush on one blogger, long since departed and whom I never met since she lived far away did that lovely and candid southern belle, but it was a fun little wordy affaire that always left me looking forward to her musings. Then, one day, she foolishly activated a joint attraction with another blogging pal – not me, I assure, he lived nearer to her – and poop hit the fan, her husband dumped her and she outlined what had happened, and then stopped blogging.

All considered, though, a good time was had by all. In the early days my traffic was huge. Now it is paltry and is only shored up by a handful of still valued friends, most of whom I also keep in touch with on Facebook and with personal emailing back and forth.

But I no longer get anything resembling the commentary I once did, and I really miss it. I miss it so much that sometimes I think, screw it. Why do I bother? That was a good blog and was responded to by from zero to two people, whereas it once might have attracted 20.

So yeah, I often say screw it and maybe I should drop it. It’s a thought that enters my head nearly every day. But I know it’s not just an addiction for me to cobble words together — it’s ‘who’ I am.

But I know I won’t. Writing, as I said, is what I do and I cannot ‘not’ write and if nothing else my blog limbers me up for my other writing – which I assure you, does exist.

Everything you might or might not have wanted to know about Victoria Day

queen

We are having a long weekend here in the not-so-frozen-but-slightly-chilly-today north.

It’s called Victoria Day.

It is another of those vestigial nods in the direction of the misapprehension by certain Canadians that anybody here really gives a ‘royal’ act of coition anymore about our one-time tie with the land-of-hope-and-glory with a little white-man’s-burden thrown in connection with the British Crown.

All I can say is that any excuse for a holiday is acceptable so Victoria Day it shall be and bless her for having been born or we wouldn’t be getting a day off.

So, what does Victoria mean to me? Well, she was a stumpy, cranky little thing in her old age who was horrid to her daughters but sucked up a big chunk of the planet into her fiefdom. As a young woman, newly married she was moderately cute and, I gather, while her husband, Prince Albert (named after a town in Saskatchewan) was still around, she was a randy li’l vixen who produced about 28 children, many of whom married up with some of the viler crowned heads of Europe and eventually caused World War One.

Victoria is also the capital of British Columbia named, I suspect, after the woman under discussion, who sent out soldiers and trappers and other sorts to claim a land that actually was already owned. But, under God’s guidance, the missionaries of the era went and snatched up as much neat art as they could and gave it all to Queen Victoria (via the British Museum up near the Elgin Marbles that they also pilfered) who ended up slightly amused by it all. “More stuff for the Queen Empress!” she was often heard to exclaim. “It’s good to be me and have commoners, colonials and dusky people to attend to my wants and needs, as my wants and needs are huge.”

beckhamDuring a reign of about 200 years lots of stuff was named after Victoria, like the island where Hong Kong sits, the aforementioned BC capital, a big waterfall and huge lake in Africa and an English footballer’s sourpuss missus. And in her lifetime she gave spawn to the current dynasty on the UK’s throne, some of whom have been good, like the current Queen, and some of whom have been bums, like the Queen’s creepy uncle. So for all that somebody or other should be grateful.

Me, I’m grateful for Victoria Day and I bet you are as well now that you know, thanks to my historical input, what it’s all about.

A simple day in the life of Max the Wonder Dog

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The following is an excerpt from a day in the Life of Max the Wonder Dog. He’s very bright, but he can’t actually write, so this is an ‘as told to’ piece of stream-of-consciousness.

 

 

Morning:

Oh good, that guy’s up. I can hear him peeing, and now the toilet’s flushing. He’ll be out soon and I can go outside. Sonofabitch must think I have a bladder the size of a football. Here he comes down the hall. No, don’t go and turn on your %$#*& laptop. Let me outside so I can pee and then piss you off and awaken the neighbors by barking when the newspaper carrier arrives. Hee-hee. Bastards sleep too late in this neighborhood anyway.

DSCN1854OK, he’s got his coffee and newspaper and she’ll be up in a minute. Now to grab 40 winks now that they’re up. I mean, why not? It isn’t as if I have an actual job to do in the morning – or any other time, for that matter. They fetch and carry for me and right now it’s just a matter of filling in time until brekkie. I pretend I like my breakfast, but it does get boring to have the same old crap every morning and then only to have it repeated at dinnertime. Have they ever thought how much I might like a goodly chuck of chateaubriand? Sometimes I don’t eat breakfast. Sometimes I don’t eat it until dinnertime. I like doing that. Gets them all exercised wondering if something is wrong with me. I don’t push it too often or they might take me to the vet who will give me a shot and stick a thermometer up my ass.

Ooh, it’s now across-the-park walk time. Been waiting all night for this. Hope Abby’s out there. She’s my special sweetie and I’d marry her if we could do such a thing. Shit, I don’t see her anywhere. That’s just not right. Maybe if I look longingly at her house she’ll come out and see me. Nope, don’t see any sign of bitch. Oh, and for any humans that might be offended by the term, bitch isn’t an insult in our world. I mean, I’m a son-of-a-bitch. But, if I apply it to my human, it is an insult. Clear? Oh great. There’s some of the doggie-treat guys out this morning. Just make a beeline for each of them, I guess. I mean that’s why they’re here, isn’t it? To give us stuff because they’re needy and want us to like them? I think so.

OK, heading back now. She’s going to work. She does that every morning. I mean, she just buggers off. Wouldn’t she rather stay home with me? A bit insulting, I must say. I mean, I can see her not wanting to stay home with ‘him’ particularly, but me?

DSCN1968OK. He’s having his shower now. Soon we’ll hit the road. Whoopie. He’ll wanna go out for coffee and I get to go and sit in the car with bugger all to do. My fault really, I always get enthusiastic and act like I wanna go with him. I do want to go, really. Not sure why. It gets pretty boring. If only I could drive I could just take off in the car when he’s having coffee. Wouldn’t that surprise the hell out of him? But, I can’t. I mean, I’ve mastered the theory. I’m observant but, you know, the old lack of opposable thumbs thing screws me up. Oh, and I could never master driving a stick. At least if I knew how to read it might help pass the time. Oh good. He’s coming out. We can go home again and I can put in time until our afternoon walk.

Wait! We’re not hitting the road. At least I’m not. He pathetically tried to explain it to me and told me it was too hot. Hell, heat. I laugh at heat. No, I don’t really. Hit’s me pretty hard. I hear about those assholes who stick their dogs in hot cars. It’s not stray pets who should be euthanized, it’s stray brain dead dickwads. So, I’ll stay home and look all forlorn at him to make him feel bad for leaving me.

Hiatus time. He’s back again. I’d really like to bite him for leaving me, but I won’t because generally he’s a pretty good guy and he did rescue me from the slammer and that counts a lot. Bugger all happening, however. He’s sitting in that other room pecking away at his computer while I am sitting and waiting for good stuff to happen. Seems like I’m always waiting. That thumbs thing again. I’d so like to get up and turn that knob and take myself for a walk. Well, maybe I’ll go and bark at a car that has parked out in front so some moron can talk on his mobile phone. That violates my space, jerk, and I’ll bark at you through the window.

(Later)

 

 

He’s finished his lunch. Hoo-boy. That always means we’re going for a walk. Where’re we going today. OK, let it be a surprise. Climb in the car and go where the road takes us. One time it took us right to the end of Oregon. That was cool. All those sandy beaches to run on. Why don’t we do that all the time? Nope, we’re going to the woods. Almost as good as Oregon. Ohboyohboyohboyohboy – we’re going to the woods.

I like going to the woods. They say there are sometimes cougars there. I don’t want to meet a cougar. They may be just &%$#@ cats, but they are big and mean @#$%& cats and rumor has it they eat dogs for breakfast. So, I don’t want to run into one but I like the fact that the possibility keeps me on edge. Otherwise I just plod down the trails, check the pee-mails from other dogs, pee myself on each and every blade of grass and dawdle as much as possible because I know it irritates the hell out of him. It’s OK. I know he isn’t going to give me away like that other asshole did the first time around. Oops, now we’re at the sandy place. I like to have a refreshing crap here. He doesn’t mind either because it’s easy to pick up. I have him well trained and he always picks up after me. Oops, there’s a golden lab juvie. Don’t be too rambunctious son, or I might have to put you in your place. Good, he showed the proper respect. Makes my job easier. Well, back at the parking lot again to head off home.

Not a bad day in all and now I’ll just chill out on the lawn by the patio. My day’s work is done and soon it’ll be dinner.

So go and party your pants off (maybe literally) but just don’t invite me along

partei

I hate social functions. There, I said it. I think I have always hated social functions.

I think anybody with a lick of common sense should hate social functions. But maybe that’s just me.

I hate them because they challenge me and stress me out. I think they challenge and stress out everybody, or at least those with the aforementioned ‘lick of common sense.’

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not antisocial. I love (some) people and am happy to be in their company. As it stands I’m heading out in a half hour to have lunch with a dear (and did I mention ‘pretty’?) friend of mine and am looking forward to it since we haven’t linked up over nosh for a while.

Should be nice. And there is the crux of the matter, it will be a case of a deux, No confusion when there are just two people. Just me and her making chat and enjoying a meal. Ideal. In similar context, my wife an I can have another couple for dinner or meet them somewhere, and that’s nice too and with a minimum of stress. In that context though, there remains a problem if they come to our place because you can’t just tell them to leave if they seem to be overstaying their welcome. You cannot just up and say: “Well, it’s getting late so could you folks just bugger off now?” Better to go to theirs because then you can say: “Gee, is that really the time? How did it get to be 9:30 already?”

The social functions that really put nits under my skin are parties. I hate parties. I have always hated parties. I mean, I have been to lots of them and have hosted lots of them (in years past, not latterly), and I have concluded I always hated them.

donLast night, watching Mad Men, we were presented with a party hosted by Don Draper’s comely wife. Don was tense at it. He reflected my feelings because just watching the party scene made me tense, I’d rather watch a gunfight any time. No, I’d feel uptight as people were boozing, passing joints (“aren’t we fuckin’ cool, man?), hitting on people they shouldn’t, and it brought me to the conclusion that a lot of people are tense at parties, and even angry. This is why they drink too much, smoke dope when they don’t normally, hit on people they aren’t hitched to, and even sometimes get into fistfights or nasty verbal exchanges.

I had a dear (now departed) uncle who once said: “In my opinion the only reason to go to a party is to get drunk or get laid. And if I can’t do those things I’d rather stay home and read a book.”

At one time I used to drink. Some might have even been driven to say, “Too much.” Booze, as per my uncle, made parties tolerable. Since I no longer do that has rendered parties much less tolerable. In that context the best parties were the ones I attended when I was young, had lots of stamina and libido and was blessedly single. Then I could hope to link up with somebody special and, in the ugly cliche, ‘get lucky.’ Sometimes it even happened. And, since I was young and had founts of energy, I didn’t much suffer from the rigors the next day.

Those days have long since fled and I don’t have an ounce of regret that partying has left me in its wake.

Now I have that book I want to finish before turning in at a reasonable hour only to awaken the next morning feeling refreshed and contented.

Call me a stick-in-the-mud and I don’t care at all.

And now it’s sugar’s term to knock us off prematurely — salt is so last week

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As we continue with our in-depth study of First World Woes, today we look at the stuff that is killing us – this week.

 

It seems it was just last week that excessive salt use was throwing us in our graves prematurely and those bastard manufacturers of foodstuffs were being indicted for blowing our our hearts, sending our blood pressure into stratospheric realms and trashing our kidneys.

 

Prior to that it was so-called ‘transfats’ and we were told that most of the products we were consuming were clogging our arteries at an unheralded rate and we were all going to die sooner rather than later.

 

Go back a little further and butter was a major evoker of health-crisis panic. Like trans-fats it was also clogging up them old arteries and we were exhorted to eat shitty margarine in lieu and expected to fall for the myth that we are unable to “believe it’s not butter.” Sorry, but it’s easy to believe it’s not butter. And bless dear old Julia Child who lived forever and consumed butter by the hogshead each day.

 

They’ve worked long and hard over the years, have our health authorities, to convince us that coffee is contra-indicated. I don’t care what they find out in that realm. Take my coffee away and you won’t like the sort of human being you leave in its wake.

 

camels-228x300Of course the jury was out on smoking years ago, despite all those doctors, dentists and ballplayers who sucked back nicotine like there was no tomorrow. We’ve all seen those quaint old ads with the nine out of 10 doctors preferring Camels, or whatever brand. I guess maybe for some of them there was no tomorrow.

 

Well, today the arch-villain that is knocking us off like flies is sugar. You know it’s a bad thing when Maclean’s Magazine here in Canada has devoted a huge spread to the scourge that is annihilating us.

 

By sugar they aren’t talking about the boring ‘good’ sugar that is found in fruit and vegetables. They aren’t even obsessing as much about what you sprinkle on your corn flakes, or that is found in your donuts, Danishes or cakes. Well, yeah, they are, but I happen to like those things so I’m choosing to ignore the findings. I live on the edge – sometimes.

 

cakesOne of the major culprits is sugary soft-drinks. Especially humongous sized drinks that kids scarf down in massive volumes. When I was a kid that crap (and it is crap, as tasty as it might be) came in seven or ten or 12-ounce bottles. Nothing bigger. And we got it rarely as it cost money, times were tight, and my parents lived by the mantra ‘don’t overindulge the little bastards’. Consequently, I never developed a huge taste for it. I don’t mind the odd Coke or Pepsi on a hot day, but that is about it. Otherwise, it’s not in my frame of reference.

 

In truth the major villain in a health scourge that has led to unheralded obesity, diabetes and a shortened life-span (they say) is ‘hidden’ sugar and especially in the form of ubiquitous corn-syrup. They pump that shit into everything from ketchup, to peanut butter, to pasta sauce, and assorted other things you might not dream contained sugar. Even unsweetened breakfast cereals are chock-a-block with added sugar. And sweetened yogurts so favored by women (real men don’t eat yogurt) have as much added sugar as ice cream – and are nowhere near as tasty, my bias tells me.

 

How do we get around this? Well, the manufacturers ain’t gonna roll over and play dead on products that are hugely profitable, so it’s up to you, the consumer, to fastidioiusly read labels. “Phew”, say the manufacturers in collective voice, “people are too damn lazy to read labels.” They may be right, alas, but you really have no other options.

 

Other than that, learn to avoid products that contain extra sugar past acceptable daily allowances, get sugar from fruit and veggies, and take charge of your own well-being. And maybe you’ll live long enough to wait for the next First World health scourge.