Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Even my doctor recommends Sonny Drysdale

So, I just got home from the doctor’s office, have to write fast, I leave for hockey at 3 p.m.

Before my physical exam (don’t worry, I passed) a young lady measured my weight and height. Both short, traumatic events.

I need to lose 5 pounds and I’ve shrunk.

The extra pounds, no problem. I’ll just skate faster today.

However, though my driver’s license says I’m 5 ft. 6 and one-half inches tall the young lady said, “Not anymore.”

I’ve lost two inches.

Fast forward to the doctor’s arrival.

“Any problems you’d like to share?” she asked.

“I’m getting shorter,” I said. “What’s a good man to do?”

“Sonny says The Sex Show is coming to town. Think about going.”


Is this the direction modern medicine is taking?

2:58. Gotta go.


Link and Learn: Do you understand what I’m saying?

Hello to the person from Roosendaal, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands, who visited It Strikes Me Funny recently.

I have a question for you:

I occasionally run with Ruud Veldhuizen, a great young fellow (well, young compared to some of the older fellows) from the Netherlands, and we share great laughs together at times.

Occasionally, however, we don’t get what the other is saying. Then we just stare at each other blankly. We did a lot of staring when we ran the 100 km relay together in Hell, Michigan a few years ago. Of course, 100 km isn’t something to laugh about. I still have scars.

Does my humour (if I can be so bold) come across to you?

Drop a line.

PS Do you know Ruud? Short guy, rumpled clothes?


This is how trans-Atlantic communications begin today. Try it yourself.


Young at Heart: I’ll put my paint brush where my mouth is

Yeah, that was me. I suggested London City Hall should give over some sidewalks to cyclists and paint them blue. Robin egg blue.

Paint the sidewalks. Not the cyclists.

My reasons:

Robin egg blue paint is cheaper than building new bike paths

Some sidewalks don’t get much pedestrian use so a trial run would only put 3 noses out of joint in Hyde Park.

Not kidding. I walked from White Hills to Hyde Park at the beginning of summer (wrote a brilliant column about it), had coffee at Ungers, bought cherry tomatoes at Van Horiks, and encountered only one other pedestrian while walking the whole time. Even the one I did see turned around and took his doggy back home when he saw me with my vegetables. He was likely overwhelmed by the fact someone else was using the sidewalk. In broad daylight.

["Such a lovely colour for a bike path"]

Another reason:

There aren’t thousands of cyclists, I know (city planners have accommodated cars, trucks, SUVs etc. for so long many people have actually fallen in love with the interiors of their vehicles and have forgotten what their legs and feet are there for), but more people might be encouraged to dust off their two-wheelers if there were several safe routes (or even one) to get to a mall, downtown, hair dressers, Dollar Store, Timmies (_______ insert another place you could cycle to that’s dear to your heart).

And, this is where my paint brush comes in: If City Hall designates the sidewalk on one side of Cathcart St. as a bike route, I volunteer to paint it between Duchess and Bruce.

(I mean Bruce Street, not Big Bruce Henderson).


Got a paint brush?


My Point of View: License bicyclists? We’d be spinning our wheels

Nicholas H., Delaware, thinks it’s time to “license cyclists and educate them to the fact they are not the only ones using our busy roads.” (Letter to the Editor, Sept. 21 issue of London Free Press)

But the behaviours he is concerned about (i.e., “cyclists sail through stop signs, ignore red lights and generally abuse common sense road rules so they can reach their destinations without slowing down”) can all be attributed to licensed drivers as well.

Licenses don’t come with a lifetime supply of common sense.

Tickets occasionally solve a person’s bad habits. Maybe we need more police to enforce the rules that are already there? Cameras? How about cameras busy corners?

While people debate the best way to control driving habits, whether in a car or on a bike, allow me to say that a lot of problems would be solved on our congested streets if cyclists had safer spaces in which to ride.

Click here for more brilliant details.

I admit, even with more separate routes, there will still be the odd maroon on a bike, just as there are maroonic drivers on the 401 or 407 - with licenses. Really, go count ‘em.


Convert some sidewalks to path paths? A good idea?


Now I Know: How Melba’s toast was invented

The rye bread we had in the house this morning was a bit stale but I threw it into the toaster oven anyway and pressed ON.

It was taking forever to toast so I investigated through bleary eyes and found the toaster oven was set to OVEN. I popped it open.

["The hat is definitely a mistake": GAH circa 1972]

Though the stale rye had been ovenated it still looked pale, so I popped it back in and toasted it for added colour.

Two minutes later it looked more like toast and after adding pb - so it could stick more firmly to the roof of my mouth - I noticed it tasted more like Melba’s toast, a product that is making her a fortune.


Are there other products, made by mistake, that sit on store shelves today?

Leaf blowers qualify, right? I mean, you wouldn’t set out to actually make one, would you?


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Newspaper Clippings: Frugality and saving money - the new black

Staying in the black, and not red, may be around for awhile? A long while?

So says a recent clipping:

“New-found frugality and the tendency to save more may be permanent changes brought about by the recession, according to a new national survey released yesterday.”

It’s about time, eh? And here I thought my ‘Live Small and Prosper’ philosophy wouldn’t catch on until the middle of the next recession. (Most of my predictions are way off. At least I’m consistent).

“The survey found that 63% of U.S. consumers surveyed said the way they spend and save has been forever changed.”

So, if two-thirds of our neighbours don’t buy a leaf blower or large plastic wagon to haul bags of leaves from their yard to the curb, yet at the same time put money away for retirement because pension plans (if they have one!) are in the crapper, then that’s a good thing! Right?

Yes, it is.

“The survey (also) found that around 60% of respondents said they would continue to cut back on everyday expenses, would save and invest more, would continue to cut down on credit-card purchases and to reduce debt.”

I know the above almost sounds unpatriotic and the opposite of everything we’ve ever been told by banks, businesses and governments but I call it a big step in the right direction. One day we may be living a lifestyle that we and the planet can actually afford and sustain.

I tip my hat to 63 per cent of you.


Teachers’ Pension owns Maple Leafs, now mattresses. Connection?

If you didn’t hear, here’s the scoop, as reported in the Sept. 26 issue of The London Free Press:

“One of Canada's largest pension funds, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board, cited "attractive industry fundamentals" yesterday for its decision to buy a major stake in Simmons Co., the iconic but troubled U.S. mattress manufacturer.”

Very good, I thought. As a retired teacher I want my pension to be safe - and by golly - everybody has to go to bed sometime.

["One... two... now go to sleep"]

Then I read the part about “iconic but troubled.”

Geez, we already bought into The Toronto Maple Leafs. What’s more iconic and troubled than the Leafs? Shouldn’t we be buying things that are perhaps a little less troubled, you know, for the sake of balance?

Then I made the brilliant connection.

Leaf fans turn on their TV. Watch the Leafs struggle. Start to yawn. Rub their eyes. Say, “I’m going to bed, Sweetie-pie.”

And what’s beneath their bottom sheet? Ca-chinga.


Anything else that’s ‘iconic and troubled’ that would be a good fit for my pension fund?

Don’t suggest any of Canada’s political parties. Please.


Give cyclists 20 per cent of Deforest City’s sidewalks

And paint them blue. No signage will be needed.

As I said recently, the stories and issues related to city cyclists are never-ending.

After 60 - 70 years of successfully accommodating more cars and trucks than necessary - at great expense - our City Fathers and Mothers could easily and fairly accommodate cyclists without having to widen existing bike paths, allocate piles of money (literally, piles) to build new ones or kick cars off one of their lanes on some busy streets.

All that’s needed are buckets of light blue paint (I think robin egg blue would be lovely. Thanks for asking).

Paint 20 per cent of London’s sidewalks (east - west, north - south, a couple of the zigzaggy ones) robin egg blue and ask pedestrians to use the other side of the street to play it safe.

“What if I live in a house that faces a blue sidewalk and I wanna walk downtown?”

Walk to the other side of the road. Look both ways for cars and cyclists. Then walk, walk, walk, 'til your heart's content.

“What if I still can’t cycle to where I’m going on the blue sidewalks?”

Use the road on occasion. Stick to the right side of the lane. Wear a helmet.

“What if it robin egg blue doesn’t match my shutters?”

Talk to the Mayor. I’ll be outta town.

(Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll be in my workshop. But talk to the Mayor anyway.)


20 per cent is a good start. Only 4 pedestrians would have to make a bit of accommodation.



Small Pleasures: Twin grand-daughters, Anna and Ella

My new twin grand-daughters left the hospital yesterday, arrived home in Fenelon Falls in good health and spirits, and immediately (at less than one week old) asked their parents to rearrange the furniture in their room.

I said to my son, "Get used to it. See you in 20 years."


Any tips about caring for twins?

Buy twice as many diapers. Check.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Newspaper Clippings: Retire now? Can’t afford to? Yipes

If you’re under the age of 16 and still live at home in reasonable comfort or in jeans without a belt, switch to another station.

Otherwise, start saving money for your future apartment and lifestyle, wherever and whatever that may be, right now.

Not kidding. The way things are going you could be as poor as the proverbial church mouse by the time you get fired for the last time or retire with most of your hair and teeth.

This from ‘Retirement savings lacking,’ Sept. 17 issue of The London Free Press:

“The pension system needs to be reformed quickly (it won’t be) because Canadians aren’t saving enough to maintain their standard of living in retirement...”

Start saving now or be prepared to accept a smaller lifestyle (not entirely a bad thing, in my humble opinion).

From the news article:

“The Canada Pension Plan is on solid footing, the head of the CPP investment board says, but it only provides retirees with about 25% of their pre-retirement income, or about $11,000 a year in today’s terms.”

So, if you’re house, car, loans, VISA, etc., aren’t going to be paid off when you turn 60 or 65 and you need more than 11 grand to survive, save money. That’s right - reduce spending now, survive later.

Methinks it could get worse too.

The CPP and many other plans rely on steady contributions and steady, high returns on investments, which cannot be guaranteed during times of high unemployment or when a country subscribes to an unsustainable economic model.

So, save. Reduce spending. Live small.


I Ask You Why

Why do chai tea and cottage cheese sound as if they'd go together?

They don't.

Why do 11 million Canadians not have any company pension coverage?

No, they don't.


Another Hit Single: I Was the Last One To Go

1. You called me last week, said, “Come over at nine.”
And if I had time, call a few friends of mine.
We planned to stay in, maybe watch some TV,
But after my friends left, I said, “Please dance with me.”


I was the last one to go, was the last one to go,
We had the house to ourselves, no more movies to show.
You said, “Sure, we’ll dance when we put things away."
Yes, I was the last one to go, after you had your way.

Click here to find more hit singles.

Hey, anything’s possible!


Letter to the Editor: Cyclists are second-class citizens

It’s a never-ending story.

Cyclists get no respect. Cyclists should be on the road. Cyclists need more bike paths. Cyclists should be licensed. Cyclists show no respect to pedestrians and small cars. It’s a madhouse out there... and so on... and so on.

But it’s a good story and one we should keep alive because there are so many interesting sides to it and much to gain (environmentally, socially, physically, intellectually, etc.) by offering solutions to the congestion out there on city streets and sidewalks.

Read the whole letter by James H. (‘Cycling unsafe for cyclists,’ Sept. 23 issue of The Londoner) highlighted below:

“I agree drivers and narrow roads are unsafe for cyclists using many London roads and agree to use of sidewalks where possible.”

“The cyclists are obviously not practiced based on their driving skills and dress.”

“These people (cyclists) seem to weave and never stop. They usually go briskly and don’t look or show respect for pedestrians or motorists.”

“Unfortunately many intersections are blocked by outcropped buildings, thick fences, parked vehicles, and flowers and hedges.”

The London Free Press had letters about the issue during the same week: ‘Keep bikes on streets,’ and ‘Cyclists should stop playing chicken with cars,’ in the Sept. 21 issue.

I feel it’s a never-ending story for many reasons, but chief among them is the indisputable fact that cyclists have been treated as second-class citizens for 60 - 70 years in urban centres (our own Deforest City included) and have and will never be accommodated in the way drivers of Dodge Rams, SUVs, vans, small cars, delivery trucks etc. have been.

There is a basic unfairness to the situation that will never go away until bike paths litter the city for the sake of future generations and safety in much the same way that modern roadways litter the city for the sake of convenience, comfort and commerce.

Let the letters continue.


Been on your bicycle this past summer?

Are you a frequent cycler? Is it safe out there?


Sunday, September 27, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: The lighter side of the Classifieds

Right after C St. ends I usually read the paper.

Sometimes in front of the TV, other times while on the exercise bike. (I need to lose five pounds and keep my wheels in shape. My hockey team needs me).

After reading world and local news I turn to The Classifieds. You never know, I may need what someone else is trying to sell, as long as the price is right.

Funniest classified so far: 1 golf ball, $1.00

Reaction: Who sells just one golf ball? He's got nothing else in his basement or garage worth a buck?

Recently for sale: Sorry game, excellent condition. $8.

Reaction: Is it sorry or is it excellent? It can’t be both.

And $8? Sorry.

For Sale: Toronto Maple Leafs dog poncho, $10.

Reaction: Can the dog play defense?

For Sale: Men’s jeans. Like new, 28” waist, 38” leg, $2.

Reaction: I’m a 34 - 28, but at two bucks - I’m still tempted.


Who bought the golf ball? Anyone? Anyone?


The Week That Was: Hard labour has its rewards

My gosh. My son’s to-do list was as long as his arm. And his other arm, and throw in a leg.

Twins were due at any second and when he phoned last Sunday I could tell by his voice that he needed my help before he asked for it.

["Home under construction": photos by GAH]

I spent the next three days in Fenelon Falls helping him check things off his list, as he tried to prepare a home, still with rooms under construction, for the arrival of twins.

["One down, one to go"]

["A wave good-bye on Wednesday"]

On Thursday evening, while relaxing with a friend in my workshop (I needed it: Wednesday’s rain made my drive home a miserable, tiring experience), another call arrived from Fenelon Falls. Water broke. Come to Peterborough. Twins on the way.

My wife, younger son and I arrived at the hospital at 2:30 Friday a.m., and did what most people do in the Waiting Rm. Until 1:00 Friday p.m.

Beautiful girls arrived safely. Anna and Ella.

And their room at home is ready.

Three million more photos to follow.


Ollie and Me: Photos of his new twin cousins will soon arrive

Yeah, we’ve been away. And now we’re waiting.

Ollie’s waiting. I’m waiting. (It’s taking forever.)

But we’re certain it will arrive shortly; i.e., an album of digital photos of Anna and Ella, his new cousins, my new grand-daughters (born Friday at 1:00 p.m.).

I mean, his dad took scores of photos and just has to download and press send - to Grandpa.

Meanwhile, we wait.

At least Ollie is doing something constructive while waiting.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zoom w a View: Buzz off. That’s my cookie

Yellow jackets arrive and depart every second.

Moments ago, I had a clear view of their hive’s entrance (a hole in the wall of my neighbour’s house) from my perch on my porch, tea and Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers in hand.

The Fingers attracted visitors and my assignment for the day - “take it easy” - flew out the window.

I ate the rest of the cookie quickly and walked into the house for my camera.

I’ll finish tea and cookies, and take it easy, on the safe side of my screen door.


I wish I could see inside the hive. There must be thousands of bees in there.


From The Workshop: Six words I love to hear

My three day trip to Fenelon Falls to help set up shop for new twins (they’re due any second now) pooped me out.

There were contributing factors:

Sure, I’m getting older, though not very

Driving in the rain puts a strain on my brain

And I hurried back home on Wednesday to play hockey (my team really needs me; I have the pucks in my equipment bag; high expectations e.g. “get to the rink on time,” are stressful)

This morning, after coffee and a refill at The Red Roaster in Wortley Village, my wife said a few words I love to hear:

“You should take it easy today.”

There’s easy work to be done in the shed (roofs and coats of paint on ten GHs, sweeping) but maybe I’ll just lean on the broom.

I know how to do that.


“I know how to do that.” Six words. I love symmetry.


It Strikes Me Funny: Have two cribs, will travel

I was so focussed on trying to help my son and his expectant wife get ready for the arrival of twins I didn’t slow down long enough to smell the roses.

Or take a handful of pictures, as I usually do, of the peaceful river as seen from their deck in Fenelon Falls.

My wife wanted pictures of their house reno too. Check. And the new room for the twins. Check. And pictures of the cribs, once assembled. Check. And this and that. Check and mate.

Luckily, while snapping pix here and there I happened to glance out the window of the new bedroom for the twins.

Ahhh. Lovely. No wonder I plan to retire to their room once they leave for college.


Got your retirement fully planned? Don’t leave it to the last minute. Competition for the best view might be fierce.


Monday, September 21, 2009

From the Workshop: Ten GH birdhouses coming down the line

The GH (single or duplex) is based on the JR, circa 1946.

[The JR is pretty, eh. In my humble opinion, so was my last batch of cedar bird boxes]

(Go to: Google -> Images -> JR birdhouse; you will find more pictures and plans for the JR.)

JR was a rich young fellow and used teak for the body, aluminum for the roof, and chromium screws to hold the two together. Boxes built in 1946 will look almost as good today as they did 63 years ago.

My latest patch are made from rescued pine and cedar and will last until 2039, at least. I’ll be 90 years old. If the paint is chipping off, sue me.

Today, holes were drilled and sanded, and if I have time before heading off to Fenelon Falls at 3 - 4 p.m., I’ll add a coat of primer to 8 of the GHs.

I’ll add linseed oil and a titch of maple stain to the last two, and they’ll last until 2045. If not, you know what to do.


Postcards From the Side of the Road: The lure of the motorcycle

I left London before noon yesterday, turned south at Nilestown, and a mile north of Belmont I turned left on Harrietsville Rd.

Maybe I’ll spot Jim Jackson cutting his grass, I thought. (Jim and I play hockey together on Wednesdays).

I had the road completely to myself. Only a few buzzards flew overhead, waiting for me to stop and fall down dead at the side of the road.

I pulled over near an old farmhouse to take a few pictures. I didn’t fall down dead. The buzzards looked elsewhere. [More pix here.]

(Spellcheck just alerted me that ‘farmhose’ is an incorrect spelling. More about farmhose later).

Familiar smells filled the air and I removed my helmet so I could feel the slight breeze blow through what’s left of my hair.

Alone on the country road I could sense that time was slipping by very slowly... one second... one second... one second at a time.

Freshly rolled hay caught my attention, as did the sound that soy beans make as they’re maturing under a clear blue sky.

[“The 1994 Virago is first rate, but I miss my last one”: photos by GAH]

I heard a car approach so I stepped off the centre line and gave a slow wave as it passed.

I got a slow wave back.


Did you get out for a short ride yesterday? End up at Shutters in Port Bruce? Good coffee, eh?


Another Hit Single: I Ain’t the Bank

All my cracks about pursuing The Small Economy actually led to a brilliant song:

I Ain’t the Bank

(Sing along... the tune is easy)

["Sing as if Piggy is empty again. Is that so hard?"]

1. Don’t spend my money, honey, I ain’t the bank.
Don’t spend my money, honey, ‘cause I’ve got you to thank...
For driving us to the poorhouse, straight down the 401.
You bought a big car, an SUV, you thought it’d be great fun.
Payments bigger than my cheque, well, this ain’t fun for
Don’t spend my money, honey, this ain’t fun for me.

2. Don’t spend my money, honey, I ain’t the bank.
Don’t spend my money, honey, ‘cause I’ve got you to thank...
You drove my credit rating, straight down the 402.
You bought a house, with four bathrooms, less would never do.
I really never pee that much, you have spelled our
Don’t spend my money, honey, you have spelled our doom.

Click here for more three more verses and countless hit singles (each one a piece of true art).


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Zoom w a View: One barn, two gulls, three million red peppers

Today's motorcycle ride went by the numbers.

[Harriestsville Rd., SE of London]

[Off the pier, Pt. Bruce]

[Millions of 'em, near Half Moon Rd., NE of Pt. Bruce: photos by GAH]


Letter to the Editor: Is PM Harper a hypocrite?

The actual heading in Saturday’s issue of The London Free Press read:

‘Harper a hypocrite?’

Beth McC. wanted to point out that the Conservative attack ads on TV, depicting Liberal Leader Ignatieff as one who might cozy up to socialists and separatists, are hypocritical, since Harper is doing just that “to fend off an election.”

Personally, I don’t want to spend time answering the question.

["All hands are needed today."]

I don’t want to enter a political minefield where parties lob stink bomb after stink bomb from one deep trench to another, hoping to prove how hypocritical, hateful, harmful etc. the enemy is.

Or can be - even in their sleep, if the enemy ever sleeps.

I’d like more Canadians to engage in debate about:

- the best way(s) to develop a sustainable economy for the future, while at the same time developing, maintaining and restoring our natural environment wherever possible.

- what to do to restore or create jobs that provide people with an adequate lifestyle
how best to dial back our present excessive lifestyle (and expectations for the future) in order to ensure that the needs of future generations are addressed

- how to get diverse political parties to work together for Canada’s good

The effort and energy of each member of parliament and citizen of Canada will be needed to address and resolve the great, pressing issues of the day.

Stink bombs are yesterday’s news.


Pressing issues of the day, the future? What are they?

One party can’t address them single-handedly anymore, can they?


Deforest City Blues: We shoulda thought of this sooner

I think the opportunity for London to be a world-renowned Compact City has slipped out of reach.

Deforest City has accommodated and is committed to sprawl. (Have you seen NW London lately? It’s gawd-awful.)

‘Love cars, will travel’ should be our motto. ‘Buy a big home in the distant ‘burbs. Forget the trees.’

One day, far off in the future, we’ll ask ourselves, “When is the best time to plan a Compact City?” and we’ll know the answer - 40 years ago.

This morning, while taking my first sips of dark roast on my front porch in Wortley Village I saw a glimpse of what could have been our glorious future through the branches of the old, struggling maples on Cathcart St.

I think The Renaissance came too late. (Too expensive too! This from a retired teacher with - you know- bags of money all over the house).)

How can we save the downtown, and the compact concept, while being committed to sprawl at the same time?


Young at Heart: 15-grain bread anyone? Anyone?

As a kid I loved rye bread. Still do.

One grain. One loaf that lasted for two weeks at the back of the bread box. You hardly ever knew when it got stale.

Later came 3-grain bread. Rye, a few oats, a bit of whole wheat.

Healthier? Who knows. Maybe it just looked and sounded healthier.

["Yup, I could live on toast and tea."]

But I didn’t like it as much. Stuff stuck in my teeth. Occasionally I’d bite down on a burnt oat or a whole wheat and feel a bitter shock wave from a cracked molar or loose filling all the way to the tips of my toe nails.

After living through a brief, safe, Bambi white bread phase, my wife set me back on a healthier course by supplying me with a steady diet of 7-grain bread (it was all the rage). Seven ways to lose a filling, I thought.

I often felt eating toast was akin to throwing a handful of gravel into my mouth. Bite down hard, eh. You’ll get used to it.

Now it’s 12-grain bread several days per week. Bambi is dead to me. And I have a greater fear of burnt toast than riding my Virago the wrong way on the 401. With what’s left in the bag after eating the last crust you could feed a billy goat - if he’d have it.

In 35 - 40 years, if all goes as planned, I’ll be living the high life in a retirement home staffed with young ones on roller skates who will answer to my every beck and call.

I’ll ring a small bell every morning.

“Want some breakfast today, Gordie? Or should I call you Gorgeous George?”

“Yes, please - to both. A bit of toast. A cup of tea,” I’ll say. “And glide a little closer.”

“We’ve got some fresh 15-grain bread in the larder. Happy with that?”

“Sure, I’ve got one tooth left. Let’s give it a go,” I’ll say.

See, by that time I’ll be used to how to deal with the darn stuff.

Don’t chew. Just swallow.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conserve Energy: Sounds ridiculous to a North American

Conserve energy? What?

Of course it sounds ridiculous to our ear. We’ve been hearing and living the contrary in our homes, businesses and governments for over 60 years in a row.

“Plug it in, buy this product, support the economy,” are as familiar to our ear as denim is to our ever-expanding blue jeans.

Almost as ridiculous as asking North Americans to reduce their lifestyle by 10 per cent, a task that would be fairly easy for so many, with so many benefits to boot.

But conserve we must.

This from The Suicidal Planet (Ch. 2 - As If There’s No Tomorrow):

“Our excessive fuel consumption is not the only cause for grave concern. There are other alarming effects with the consumption of land, fish stocks, and freshwater also reaching their limits. There is a measure called the “ecological footprint,” which shows the combined impact of consumption of energy and material resources. The application of this measure reveals the extent of our predicament: If everyone on the planet consumed as much as each person in the United States (and Canada, I’m sure), we would need five planets from which to produce the resources and deal with the waste.”

Five planets.

Because we’re eating out own too quickly.


Letter to the Editor: Nuclear vs Wind debate solves little

The letter by Dr. Albert D. was very well written and I’ll classify it as ‘recommended reading.’ (Today’s issue of The London Free Press).

Perhaps, years in the future, Canada will be pursuing energy sources such as wind, sun, hydro-electric and nuclear with equal fervor.

(And pursue we should, with determination).

But as the debate continues (and continue it will, pushing the delivery date of more eco-friendly kilowatts well into the future, meaning we’ll rely on coal until all our hair and air turns grey) we should consider the cheapest, most environmentally friendly, safest, healthiest, most reliable energy source of all time.


For example:

If we used our own muscle power to wash and dry our clothes, instead of appliances that rely upon (to a large degree) coal-fired energy, we’d not only breath easier but the ‘where will we get eco-friendly energy - debate’ could drag on a little longer than it already has.

If we walked, cycled or car-pooled to work or play once per week we would reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels by 20 per cent in a five-day work week. More, collectively speaking, if you picked up more than one person in your 6-passenger van.

Sure, conservation tips are a dime per dozen, but the benefits are worth far more.


How many clothes lines does it take, in your basement or back yard, to drop the hydro consumption of your dryer by 50 per cent?

What’s healthier and saves you money at the same time? Consumption or conservation?


The lifespan of my stretchy jeans has been surprising

Everyone needs at least one pair of stretchy jeans.

I bought mine several years ago at Value Village, not knowing they were stretchy jeans at the time, and I think had I known, I might have scoffed at the idea.

“I don’t need to accommodate a bulging waist. I’ll keep in good shape by exercising various muscle groups 12 times per week.”

Yeah, I’m so mature.

["Can you spot the elastic?": photo GAH]

However, once I discovered I owned a pair of stretchy jeans I used them regularly, and for special occasions, especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals.

The jeans have held up surprisingly well (and have helped me keep my pledge to not buy new clothes until 2010; see Green Ideas 2009, way down side margin). I think they’re closing in on 10 - 15 years old, and since I feel like I’m only 40 - 45 years old, have help knock 20 years off my age.

Not bad for an old pair of Mustangs.


re Green Ideas 2009. Due to a brain cramp I bought a new straw hat in June. Once I realized what I had done I put it away, and purchased a used straw hat from Venezuela - found at a flea market in Fenelon Falls.

Used and sexy lookin’. Yeah, like my jeans.


60th Birthday’s Over: I feel 40 - 45 years old again

Everybody made such a big deal about the number 60 yesterday that I actually started to feel older than I usually do.

My shoulders slumped for awhile, and I complained about my hip.

(I never complain about my hip).

["A full slate of plans": photo GAH]

But today is the dawn of another new day. I have coffee on the brew, a full slate of plans for the day, and though I said last night “I feel all of 45 - 50 tops,” I swear I’m back to feeling my true self, i.e., 40 - 45 years old and capable of fitting into jeans with a 32 waist.

How is it I can keep such dreams alive?

First, with the help of an attitude of gratitude for all that comes my way (don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill; make lemonade).

Second, with the help of a stretchy waist band in my miracle jeans.

Oh yeah, I can hit 32 inches for the next 40 years!


It doesn’t take much to humour me, eh?


Friday, September 18, 2009

Zoom w a View: Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The pieces of pine are cut and stained for the next chair that will soon grace a friend’s back deck.

All wood was rescued from board and batten that came off my house last year during a reno.

Linseed oil and a bit of maple stain turns white pine into a very warm colour.

["Warm white pine": photos by GAH]


Ollie stole my new motorcycle boots

10:45 p.m. Sept. 18. My birthday. And I feel all of 45 - 50 tops - though my birth certificate says otherwise.

You can’t argue with the birth certificate. Especially the ones laminated with quarter inch plastic in the late 1940s.

All guests were assembled by 5:30, comfortably seated in my small living room, enjoying grandson Ollie’s antics.

My brother-in-law, Dave T., asked if I had any pearls of wisdom to share after living as long as I have.

Oh, I had a quick answer! (All I needed was a soap box).

“Live small,” I said. “Love your neighbour. Pursue a simple life. Blaze a new trail. And maintain a sense of humour at all times.”

“Slow down,” he said. “Sounds like I should be taking notes.”

Presents were presented and I asked Ollie to help me unwrap them. He eagerly obliged.

In fact, he walked off with the biggest package, which later turned out to be new motorcycle boots. We all had a great laugh watching him trundle around the room as he talked about Christmas.

["Bird boxes need a coat of primer. Beauts on the way": GAH]

New boots will be a gift that keeps on giving. They may even get a workout tomorrow if I get my next column typed up by 3 p.m. and the sun is shining, and I don’t get the bug to work in The Shed on my next batch of birdhouses and chairs.


What’s the weather look like tomorrow?


“What would you like for your birthday?” she asked.

“New motorcycle boots?”

I am fully aware it’s a big one (i.e., birthday - you only turn 60 once), and I wear 30 - 40 year old Grebs I bought for 25 cents at a church bazaar, so I said, “Let me think.”

My mind turned to several things:

Nothing. I’d like nothing.

I’d like to spend the day in The Shed moving 10 GH birdhouses down the line.

Two cold beers, rather than the usual one, at 5 o’clock on the back deck.

C Street, 6:30 p.m. A pound of one and a half inch galvanized nails. A phone call from my oldest son. A visit from Ollie.

Sorry, I can’t continue. It's 5:12. Company has arrived. And there’s two beers in the fridge with my name on them.



Rescued lumber ends up as a small house behind a nice home

The Muskoka pine scrap, found at a recycling yard in Bracebridge, became the back bone of two birdhouses recently.

Both were sold within days of completion - my kind of process.

["Behind a nice home in Byron": photos by GAH]

I.E., rescue some scrap lumber, design a project, cut, sand and assemble pieces of free lumber, sell finished product for big bucks.

Sure, the process doesn’t always work out that way, but when it does, it’s cause for celebration.

Perhaps a large bottle of Chimay for the workshop fridge would be nice, for those times when a friend or neighbour pops around to see what’s happenin’ in the shop.

And trust me - there’s always something going on in The Shed.


Canada seems to be the land of twigs (for my Kelly Kettle) and lumber in need of rescue.

I’ve picked certain hobbies well. You?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

From The Workshop: 101 things I learned from my dad

Actually, I lied. There are over 101 things I picked up from my dad along the way, the man who could often be described as a crusty old fart.

1. Be prepared to duck.

2. Don’t throw anything out.

These first two I have memorized. The rest come back to me - at any time of day, several days per week.

I'm often reminded that I'm a chip off the old block. I suppose it's true.

He had a well-used workshop. So do I.

I call my workshop ‘The Shed.’ I work in The Shed, on average, 4 - 5 days per week, a few hours at a time, often with scrap lumber (Rule number 2).

Excess scrap is kept in The Annex, a 7 x 9 ft. shed in the corner of my small backyard that’s made from scrap (Rule 2) from another person’s shed.

I shingled the roof of The Annex for free. (3. Don’t be afraid to pick up what others leave on the curb.)

And my latest project on the go in The Shed is the building of 10 GH birdhouses using strips of pine leftover from last year’s house reno. (Right. Number 2.)

Dad made hundreds of birdhouses. I'm well past my first 100.

Great-uncle Henry (Hank) Catton carved decoys from old telephone poles (Got it? Number 3). I picked up cedar poles this past spring, with wooden bowls in mind.

["Wooden bowls come to mind": photos by GAH]

So, in my opinion, I’ll likely spend a goodly portion of the next 27 years in my shed turning scraps into... something.

["A Hank Catton decoy. Unrelated to Rule 1"]

4. Everybody needs a shed.


Stay tuned. Ten GHs are underway. I may give linseed oil a rest and try a bit of paint.

5. Try different things.


Mining the Past: A clean shirt and jeans - so out of character

Before yesterday’s hockey game I took off my dusty workshop jeans and ratty workshop t-shirt and put on decent clean clothes.

In the past, seven times out of ten I’d go as I was, but I’m making an effort to change that percentage and not be so much like my dad (gone now for five years).

At a recent family reunion my youngest sister walked toward me across the back deck and said, “When you stand and talk like that you’re so much like dad.”

(This from a woman who looks and moves so much like our mother - now gone for nine years - that I sometimes think, for split seconds at least, mother has returned for a visit).

Hearing that on occasion takes me aback. I don’t feel like dad. I feel like me, and several years younger than my real age. I don’t see dad in me, though I hear him in the words I choose. I regularly mimic his speech.

“Don’t throw that out,” I’ll say in a gravelly voice to my siblings. “I’ll build a birdhouse out of that or use it as a shovel.” (A shovel? Long story.)

More often than not, dad-like speech is preceeded by dad-like thoughts. Before most hockey games I’ll look at my dusty clothes and think, who gives a shit? I’m not playing with the Queen. And it’s true, I’m not. She can’t make Wednesday afternoons.

Though she’s not there, I’m going to try to go from dusty to decent.

Among my reasons: Jim J., who plays on my team, is a bit older than me and reminds me of my dad. He always dresses so nicely. It’s a good look.

And my wife and mother will be so pleased.


There are workshop rules and out-in-public rules. We’ll see which ones win.


72 per cent of Albertans love the US of A. Me? Somewhat

“More than 72 per cent of Albertans see the U.S. as Canada’s best friend and nearly one in three want to scrap the border.”

In my opinion, the love-fest in the west is linked to barrels of oil and buckets of money.

Me? Can’t buy me love, as the Beatles used to say.

Other Ontarians agree.

“Those in British Columbia were the least likely to consider the U.S. as Canada’a best friend [Too many softwood lumber disputes?] while Ontarians were most in favour of the border.” [More Beatles fans in Ontario?]

At least so said a recent Leger marketing poll as reported in The London Free press yesterday.

And what age-group loves the US the most?

“The poll also found that the older the respondent, the more favourable they were to the U.S. While only 33.2% of 18-24 year olds thought the U.S. was Canada's best friend and only 15.6% of them wanted to get rid of the border, among 65-74 year olds, the poll found 75.4% considered the U.S. to be Canada's best friend and 37.4% wanted to scrap the border.”

Me? I’d like the US more if our relationship was based more on common positive ideals and less on trade, energy resources and the economy.

I’m more of a small economy type of person, waiting for conservation of resources to become more important that consumption.


More about The Small economy in this week’s column.