Saturday, October 31, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Hallowe’en is a Canadian tradition? What the...

Last Thursday I clipped the following letter and circled 3 things that prove a very unhappy Canadian woman (as unhappy as I’ll be when a grumpy teen knocks on my door this evening in search of sugary treats after spending all of 30 seconds throwing a ‘grumpy teen’ costume together) lives in St. Thomas by the name of Mary T.

Mary wrote (under the heading ‘Costume ban out of line’):

“Why does the minority rule?” (I circled that one.)

“I’ve just heard Hallowe’en costumes are no longer allowed in many of our schools because some minorities don’t celebrate this fun time. (I didn’t circle ‘this fun time’ but I coulda).

“Too bad! It is a Canadian tradition (I circled Canadian tradition. Wouldn’t you?) and if immigrants come to Canada to find a new way of life, new traditions are part of the package deal.

“Let’s start writing our politicians and give them something else to do besides squandering tax dollars.” (I circled the last four words). Signed Mary T.

Am I right that this sounds like one unhappy lady?

Let’s start with Mary’s opening shot at minorities.

Mary, talk to your child’s homeroom teacher. I bet he/she had something to say to the class about costumes, and a party, and Hallowe’en activities, and candy, and how much time would be spent on the aforementioned after collecting information and having deep discussions with the principal and school board.

Smile. It might come down less to ‘minorities rule’ than you think, if at all.

[Photo sent by my sister - with no acknowledgement: She's shameless!]

And, ever heard of double dipping? Why would schools need to spend even 3 minutes on Hallowe’en when there are so many people like you who love it and will do it up big in the neighbourhood?

So, buy yourself some candy and share it with the kids. That’s on you, not the school board.

You say Hallowe’en is a Canadian tradition?

Good grief! I don’t know where to start.

I think, first of all, tradition is too nice a word to waste on the hour or two that children spend collecting candy in my neighbourhood. If it’s anything more than that in the eyes of the majority of kids, Mary, let me know.

Secondly, may I say again, more aghast than the first time - a Canadian tradition?

Hockey isn’t even a Canadian tradition and look how big that is.

I think Hallowe’en can be more aptly described by the words habit, excuse to promote commercial activity (Hallmark and candy companies love Hallowe’en), tooth decay, and a wasted evening (for many - another minority? Maybe, but it’s growing).

And finally, if we paid in taxes what we squander on candy and cookies we’d be out of debt in a big, fat hurry. And we’d be a healthier country.

Tell your politician about that instead, Mary. You’ll do more good.

Signed, Gord Harrison


Read another Letter to the Editor by clicking here.


Young at Heart: The hockey game added a wrinkle to my brow

With my new A. Ovechkin hockey stick in hand, I had hoped I might add three notches to my goal total by the end of yesterday’s game.

But men in dark jerseys kept me so busy playing stay-at-home defense I barely had the opportunity to get a shot on the opposite net.

So, a hat trick didn’t materialize. Not close.

["Waxed and ready for next week": photo GAH]

However, I’m not sitting here with my chin in my hands.

I stopped Junior (a tall, fast skater) from scoring more than a few times, and he wasn’t the only one who saw my A. Ovechkin stick (likely named after Alexander’s twin sister, Alicia: I heard she plays solid defense too) steal the puck away at the last second.

Next week - a goal for sure.


When you heard PM Harper was going to China, did you...

hope he would stay there?

smile knowingly because economic junkets always pay off?

or switch to the Leafs game?

Whatever the case, PM Harper seems optimistic and if a trip to China (and India) will keep him away from photo ops at the piano for awhile then it’s fine with me.

Plus, his stated goals are good for a laugh.

About his December trip to China he said (reported in the Oct. 29 issue of The London Free Press), “Our two countries enjoy a growing partnership, sharing significant interests in trade and investment, the environment and regional security.”

China and Canada are interested in the environment?

China leads the world in carbon emissions by country and Canada is in the top three per capita. Together they’re going to agree to reduce their emissions?

I wait with bated breath.

Pa da pum.


Newspaper Clippings: Running out of room for the dead?

In London, England people are now being faced with a problem most North Americans will never have to consider: The city of eight million is running out of places to bury their dead. (Full story here)

Londoners are having to develop a new mindset about certain matters as the city’s largest cemetery tries to persuade them to share a grave with a stranger.

As I read the story and people’s comments I saw similarities between London’s dilemma and Ontario’s rising debt load (written about here recently and definitely here again).

For example:

A London receptionist said, ”I don't even want to think about it. It's not showing respect. It doesn't matter whether or not the person has been buried for 25 years or 100 years, that is their space and you should give them respect."

And that apparently is “an attitude that frustrates advocates of grave reuse. Julie Rugg of the Cemetery Research Group at the University of York in northern England jokes that Britain's problem is that "we weren't invaded by Napoleon." Countries that adopted the Napoleonic Code have been reusing graves for almost 200 years.”

But a change in attitude in London will happen eventually (grave sharing will occur in one region, then another, then another, until it is relatively commonplace), as will a change in attitude in Canada concerning our debt and our personal responsibility toward it.

Just as Londoners will learn they are running out of room for the dead and need to share limited space, we’ll learn our excessive lifestyles need to be trimmed as limits are discovered concerning our unsustainable economy.


Friday, October 30, 2009

From the Workshop: Rescued lumber, a bit of paint...

a sampling of trim - and sometimes good things can happen.

["This set of eight - finally finished": photos GAH]

I’ll finish one more set of eight (now underway) or sixteen birdboxes and I’m done with them ‘til spring.

Unless, while I’m building the next set, another design comes to mind. That’s often the case.

Wood in hand produces ideas inside my head.

But, I want to move onto wooden bowl production.

The set above, however (and others), are sitting on my wood lathe.

Time to clean house, fire it up the lathe, and see what happens.


Motorcycle Miles: Is one last ride possible...

before I put the Yamaha away for the season?

In short shirt sleeves, I step onto the front porch just about every day now, hoping the weather will be clear and mild enough for a bike ride to Port Bruce and back.

St. Marys would be nice too. Teeswater. Norwich. Long Point or Dover.

["Find me at the side of the road": GAH]

I really don’t care about the destination. I’m looking for a feeling.

The feeling that the season is over and I’ve had one last great ride to wrap things up until April.

Fall colours visible from my porch and yard are perfect, but the weather ain’t.

["Photos from the porch and yard": GAH]

Maybe tomorrow.


Click here to see photos from the motorcycle's point of view.


Young at Heart: An Ovechkin stick for $14.99 could mean...

that this afternoon I score my first hat-trick in three years.

While at a Canadian Tire store yesterday (my sander was ready for pickup and I really needed it; eight modern-style birdhouses are ready to roll), I decided to see if any wooden hockey sticks were still being made and sold, and if any were on sale.

["Waxed and ready for action": photos by GAH]

(Call me old-fashioned, but I like a wooden hockey stick. None of this carbon fiber ultra extreme for me)


Wooden Ovechkin sticks (lots of black paint, matte finish, incredible scoring power) were on sale for 15 bucks and they weren’t even a Junior size, though I’ll use a Junior stick on occasion if it reaches from the floor to my nose.

Sure, the photo reveals it’s an A. Ovechkin stick, possibly named after Alexander’s uncle Astrinko, but I took a chance and bought two of them anyway.

This afternoon - something incredible could happen on the ice!


Young at Heart


Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Lighter Side of the Classifieds: Do I need more trouble...

in my already troubled life?

As far as household routines go, I usually hold up my end of the bargain.

But I don’t think my wife would want me to buy the following item as listed in The Flea Market (recent London Free Press):

For Sale: Toilet seat, raised - $25

I’m thinking... I already raise our toilet seat by habit.

What I need is one that goes down on its own so I don’t get an elbow in the ribs after my wife returns from the bathroom in the middle of the night.


Click here for more of The Lighter Side


From the Workshop: Trim needs one more coat...

and then I can apply bits of it to eight birdhouses and clean up for an upcoming shed night, a time when problems of the world get solved - often in a creative fashion.

Red boxes get yellow trim and visa versa. White bits go on green. Green on white.

Should make the sturdy boxes, with a lifetime of 25 years at least, stand out from the crowd.

Next week, I’ll attempt a new birdhouse design that came to me while planning (in my head) a bunkie for my son’s property. A model birdhouse - done in a creative fashion - might just sell him on the idea that his ol’ man is ahead of some kind of curve.

["Rescued cedar, already cut for never-before-seen birdhouse design": photos GAH]

What kind?

I’ll ask friends at the next shed night.


When our province has a $25 billion shortfall, should we... PT 2

expect to pay more taxes?

reduce spending, pay off personal debt and save money?

pray our economy returns to business as usual asap because there are so many material things you want to buy e.g., another new ottoman?

If it was up to me, I’d make it clear that the first two suggestions make a lot more sense than the last one.

As the Arctic gets hotter our our responsibility to pay the full cost for our economic programs should rise and our personal spending on material goods should cool.

A recent study “suggests there could only be one culprit for the warming Arctic: carbon dioxide emissions that began rapidly during the Industrial Revolution.” (The Canadian Press, Sept 4, 2009)

I.e., human kind and its thirst for the better life. (“Large screen TV anyone? Anyone?”)

A large debt load should be on our shoulders, not on the backs of future generations.

We’re the ones who support governments with a low tax mantra and hope that high production and excessive lifestyle will pay for a clean environment by 2020, maybe 2050. Oh what the heck - 2075 sounds even better.

It won’t happen. Our unsustainable economy is based on a faulty model. When it collapses then our environment will start its long return to health, if it can.

While many Ontarians (not all; some are off the hook) deal with the massive debt, make every effort to spend less and save money.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When our province has a $25 billion shortfall, should we...

panic in the streets (it is a record of sorts, after all),

review our stock portfolio with an eye to sell high,

lower our material expectations for the next 10 years,

start the day with a very strong drink,

just keep smiling and plugging away,

all of the above,

or other?

Personally, the answer depends on so many variables.

A job-oriented person (“Can I have a successful, long-term job in this climate?”) will react differently than a cause-oriented person (“Maybe the climate will improve as the economy withers?”).

A person with expensive lifestyle or materialistic goals will react differently than a person with sustainable environmental or more spiritual goals.

A person with a secure job and pension might plug along. A person with few job and security prospects might despair.

After a 60 - 100 year strong-economic-era that has been good to many people (on the back of growing production and cheap oil), a growing debt load at least should make us pause to wonder:

Are we in for a long period of decline?

Do our present economic goals periodically or eventually lead to failure?

Are we facing some of the true costs (that aren't often talked about) of a high-production and fossil fuel based economy?

Will austerity and lower financial expectations become the norm?

Should our government and business leaders now consider developing an economic model that will appear very sustainable and sensible 20 years from now?

(And the $25 billion question...)

If government is just hoping everything will go back to business as usual, but that approach brought us to this dismal point, might the next order of business as usual be even worse for us?


I don’t think business as usual is the right choice for governments.

More to follow.


It’s the school teacher in me

I couldn’t help myself. Old habits die hard.

While helping to care for twin grand-daughters recently I took time out of my busy schedule (I peeled potatoes more than once) to teach Ella the number 1.

["Grab one finger, not two": photo GAH]

It took a bit of work (I’d left my flash cards back at home) but just before she fell off to sleep she got the hang of it.

Very smart, very cute - so unlike her grandpa.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Zinger is a type of tea that, in my opinion...

has an unusual flavour, kinda spicy and flower-like (notice I won’t likely ever get hired to be a taste-tester for any product: “Yeh, your grilled chicken product kinda tastes rubber-chickeny, maybe even with a touch of charcoal stuff. Not that I’ve ever eaten a rubber chicken”), and proves the theory that some people - including me - will drink almost anything to help reduce their caffeine addiction.

Now that I’m back from my first lengthy visit with my new grand-daughters I can return to my caffeine-free Mint Green Tea.

Kinda minty.


I’m still drinking coffee, but a lot less.

And I’m calmer. I said I’m calmer.

You heard what I said.


Would we miss KFC if it grilled its last chicken tomorrow?

KFC is promoting the crap out of its grilled and fried chicken (5,000 US stores to soon give it away for free) but a restaurant analyst (Larry) recently said KFC’s latest performance report was disappointing.

I thought, will we miss it when it’s gone?

The majority of the bones in my body (82%, incl. the little ones inside my inner ear) say NO.

Reasons we won’t miss it:

There will still be 3,489,842,909 fast food joints out there. KFC could disappear at noon and we wouldn’t even burp at its passing

["One that got away": photo GAH]

There are 4 billion other distractions to occupy our frazzled brains. E.g., where are my car keys?

Many people are too busy making their own sandwiches to care. They’re thinking of saving money instead

Of all the reasons (yes, there are likely others), I like the last one best.

Tuna on whole wheat is not only healthier but it’s always nice to learn a new skill.


Do you know how to make a healthy sandwich?

What’s for lunch?

KFC who?


Zoom w a View: Dibs on the spare bedroom when I’m 85

When I turn 85 I’d like to move to Fenelon Falls, live comfortably with my oldest son and his wife, and get waited on hand and foot by my lovely twin grand-daughters.

["View from the upper deck": photos GAH]

["Happy Hour will be under the tree today, girls"]

I’m sure they’ll have their own opinions about bringing me bowls of soup at noon (mush would be OK too) and hot toddies during Happy Hour (every afternoon at 5) but about the spare bedroom nearest the upstairs deck - dibs!!

My wife just roller her eyes when I explained what ‘dibs’ meant to the girls, but in 25 years, she’ll be very glad I did.


I saw treasure in the palm of her hand

I recently spent five days in Fenelon Falls with my son, his wife and their lovely four-week-old twin daughters.

["Great treasure in the palm of her hand": photo GAH]

The twins have received more gifts in one month than I have at all my birthdays combined, and because our birthdays are a week apart and Christmas is coming I’ll just have to get used to being over-shadowed.

During a quiet moment yesterday, before we travelled back to London, I realized my wife and I were at the beginning of a long love affair with the latest members of our family.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

What are the four words every boomer wants to hear?

I had my regular physical recently, and because I’d passed a line in the sand as far as age is concerned, volunteered certain useful information (“I have an ache here. And one more down here.”) and asked a couple of reasonable questions (“What’s wrong with me? Am I dying?”) my family doctor recommended 45 - 50 different tests and procedures.

One such procedure was an exercise stress test at the London Cardiac Institute on Pall Mall St.

Yesterday was my day of reckoning.

“Hi, my name is Gord,” I said to the receptionist when I arrived at the appointed hour.

“Hi, Gord,” she said. “We’re ready for you.”

I followed a young lady to a small room and was told to remove my shirt.

That was stressful, and I wondered if more stress was around the corner.

It was.

She proceeded to stick a dozen sensor tabs to my chest and when she couldn’t get two to stick she pulled an electric razor out of a desk drawer.

Crap, I said to myself, starting to sweat. I play hockey in two hours and that patch of hair she just removed won’t grow back in time. That one either. That one either. That one either.

By the time I was asked to step onto a treadmill I was a sweaty mess.

But, because of years of marathoning, regular exercise and two games of hockey per week I was greeted by four lovely words once the 15 minute exercise drill was finished.

I was hoping for “you broke the machine” but will happily settle for “your heart is perfect.”


Well, almost perfect.

I didn’t take time to tell the doctor that back when I was in Grade Six a young red-head named Karen Shultz turned down my offer to take her bowling one Sunday afternoon.

I had taken a bath, was all dressed up, had politely knocked on her door...

I may still have a picture of her around here somewhere.


The good news is... I have lots of leftovers

The good news first.

According to Tuesday’s Free Press, London may soon put its name on the map as a producer of biogas.

An article by N. De Bono stated:

“StormFisher Biogas, a London company that will turn vegetable waste into electricity, has inked its largest deal yet, partnering with Loblaws stores across Southwestern Ontario to take their leftover fruit and vegetable for use in its local plant.

“The London facility will generate 28 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,800 homes.”

I believe the facility is cause for celebration because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few decades it’s that North Americans have plenty of leftovers.

My gosh, we’ve got reusable trash coming out our ears.

The bad news.

We can’t celebrate too loudly. A biogas facility in London means we’re only about 30 years behind the times.

As reported in the front page article:

["Thirty years late again?": GAH]

“As innovative as the process is for Ontario, it's common in Europe, where organic waste has been diverted from landfills for decades. Europe has 6,000 bio-gas generators.”

(Hey, at least in a region known for its corn and soy bean crops - grown mainly to feed cattle - we’ve shown we can think about more than beef on the BBQ every once in awhile. Well done).

And more bad news for me.

I can no longer wear the T-shirt that proclaims in bold print that I’m the ‘World’s largest producer of natural gas.’

Number two again.


Why are we always 30 years behind the times around here?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: It dawned on me... how old am I?

My previous post is brilliant. And hopefully relevant.

(You really should read it first for some semblance of context, though it’s not entirely necessary).

A friend and I had planned to get together yesterday day to assemble two chairs so I called to confirm (otherwise I’d go for a bike ride - the weather is beautiful here in SW Ontario) and during the brief conversation I asked, “Do you like squeaky cheese?”

(I thought I’d take a bowlful out to The Shed, with swiss crackers, for break time. Breaks are very important at my age).

All I heard back on the phone was silence.

Then a “huh?”

“You know, curds. Curds and whey. Little Miss Muffet ring a bell?”

“I think I’ve heard about Little Miss Muffet,” my young friend replied.

["Where'd I put the sarsaparilla?": GAH]

It was then I realized my language is as old as I am... and I’m how old?

I used the phrase ‘many people have more money than Carters has pills’ in the previous post and felt I had to explain what I meant. So I did.

I wonder, if my language is as old as I am and I’m writing and talking and blogging a fair bit... how much of my current language doesn’t compute?

I mean, I may only be 72.4 % relevant and not even know it.

I’d better pour myself a cold sarsaparilla and think this over.


Are you saying things that date you? Such as...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Ban more than cellphones while driving

Oh, what to do, what to do?

Jodie VR wrote the following to the Free Press on Monday:

“If you are going to ban cellphones while driving, what about banning eating while driving?

(That’s right. Eating a Whopper while driving through the intersection at Dundas and Waterloo is more distracting than a short chat with your mother. “Did you say pick up milk or cheese? They’re both dairy products and I get them confused.”)

“What about listening to iPods, putting on makeup, reading the paper and laptops?

(Go get ‘em, Jodie.)

“What about dogs and cats roaming around the car and sitting on the shoulders of drivers?”

Yes, I saw that same dog!

Because Jodie mentioned just about every possible distraction that could cause an accident while we drive our home on wheels around Deforest City, I thought I’d address the punishment issue.

Personally, I don’t think a ticket is enough of a deterrent.

Cellphone use at every opportunity is a lifestyle choice, and a fine won’t slow people down. Many people have more money than Carters has pills.

(I believe that’s the first time I’ve used that old saying. For those younger than me, allow me to explain. The Carter family made liver pills, and they made billions of them once they discovered, after careful research, that everybody’s got a liver, right? Sorry, I digress.)

Here’s what the police should do after pulling over a cellphone law breaker.

They should staple the phone to the hood of the car, right where a chrome hood ornament used to be on older cars.

["Always keep 1 inch staples on hand"]

Then, using a bullhorn, the police should say, “Okay, Mrs. Johnston. Follow us back to your home to drop off your cell.”

With sirens wailing, the noncompliant Mrs. Johnston should be walked to her front door and asked to leave the remains of her phone on the kitchen table. She could be allowed to check with her mother about the milk or cheese issue if the officer so chooses.

Then, she should be escorted back to the scene of the crime, patted down to see if she has any other phones on her person, and if clean, instructed to get on with her day.

“Have a good one, Mrs. J.”


There, that oughtta do it.

Be careful out there.


If water is at risk what happens to our favourite cold drinks?

They’d likely get more expensive. Filtration systems don’t come cheap.

Though the Grand River system (the closest to London of Canada’s rivers that made a recent World Wildlife Fund report initially mentioned here) is reportedly ‘well managed’ (though ‘increased demand for water from growing cities is a threat’) the same may not be said for the once clean and mighty Thames River, now a bare shadow of its former self.

If conservation of natural resources ever becomes important to the majority of people we may see some improvements in all natural waterways near high population or agricultural areas. But only if we change our treatment of those resources.

In the case of our waterways, how could we reduce our demand on them?

["Fresh water at Tobermory": GAH]

Stop washing our car with a hose, or as frequently

Take 2 minute showers

Eat less meat (meat industry is water intensive from start to finish)

Give up bottled water (plastic industry is water intensive)

Wash dishes by hand

Reduce coffee intake (coffee industry is water intensive)

The Great Lakes will thank you.


I need one more water conservation idea. I want seven in all.


Yet Another Hit Single: My Restless Heart

Background: “After I learned a fourth chord on my guitar I branched out, got all fancy., and wrote a few songs a travelling man might sing. With my voice it’s important to know the way outta town.” gaharrison

My Restless Heart

1. I took a job in Kansas City,
I swept some floors and motel halls.
I soon moved on to better times,
I cleaned some basements, painted walls.


But when I earn a million dollars,
My restless heart will take some rest.
Might get it in my mind to come back home,
If I could settle down with you.

2. I took a job in Colorado,
I packed some bags and cut some hair.
I soon moved on to better times,
I sold some brooms and cooking ware.

Click here for more verses, hit singles and prose.


Monday, October 19, 2009

From the Workshop: Only four more to go

I lit a fire under my hinder parts yesterday because a friend said she’s coming over tomorrow (at one o'clock? Cripes!) to help put two chairs together in The Shed.

Until I went to work space was tight in there because eight birdhouses needing trim covered one temporary bench and wood for three chairs was scattered about.

I took the wood stacked on one Rietveld chair and built a second. (They make a lovely pair for my wife and I to enjoy on the back deck when warmer weather returns).

I’m looking forward now to tomorrow’s assembly exercise because my friend and I cut, sanded and stained pieces of lumber to make another of my favourite styles - the Audrey Chair (see side margin).

And what will I do with all the space once the Audrey’s have gone?

Easy. Four piles of rescued lumber stored in The Annex require sanding, staining and assembly too.


I’ll slow down when it’s not fun anymore to rescue and reuse lumber.

Can’t see that happening for quite a while.

Plus, I need gas money for a few motorcycle rides before winter comes.


Link and Learn: The price of oil brings some confusion

Today I could buy one barrel for $78.53. Tomorrow? Who knows.

Click here - The Price of Oil at Oil Change

(Where would I put one barrel of oil? My workshop is full. The Annex is over-crowded too).

The price is up a bit from last week, and when I read ‘consumers may see a bump upward in pump prices but only a slight one, experts believe, because gas supplies are greater than what they usually are at this time of the year and demand is still low due to the recession’ I get confused.

(Yes, it’s true, I confuse easily. My VCR periodically shows 00:00, sometimes 12:00, other times the correct time plus one hour. I have no idea what time my TV thinks it is. Good thing I own a watch. It’s around here somewhere).

But if the supply is a bit high shouldn’t prices be a bit lower?

And if demand is still low shouldn’t prices not 'bump upward'?

Where am I?


If we hit peak oil (mentioned in this week’s column and online tomorrow here), and most things we touch are in some way connected to our dependence upon oil, should our city invest in an airport cargo hub?


Deforest City Blues: Have we backed the wrong horse again?

From cigars, to cars, to cargo? Can we get it right?

Years ago London was known for its fine cigars. Puff.

The industry went up in smoke. Other locales could do it better.

Then we backed car manufacturing. And after years of faithful partnerships the cars drove south.

Now we’re going to sink millions into turning our airport into a cargo hub. Will the project have wings?

I express doubts in an earlier post.

In last week’s column (and this Wednesday’s) I point out a few weaknesses to the scheme.

And now I read that not only do airports ‘face a slow recovery after the recession caused a significant erosion of passenger traffic’ but ‘the recession has also produced challenges for air carriers (individual companies), especially Air canada, which accounts for more than half of traffic at Canada’s largest airports.’ (Canadian Press, Oct.16)

Those who know the connection between passengers and freight will know our city has not bet on the winning horse again.

Add to this the fact a growing number of people now link carbon production to climate change and want to see action taken.

An air cargo industry (very carbon intensive) may put Deforest City into the position of ‘flogging a dead horse.’


Could we breath life into Ford Talbotville by producing an awe-inspiring small car?

Would urban commuters drive an enclosed 3-wheel scooter with a grocery compartment?

How’s 100 mpg grab you?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: Modern talk at the baseball park

When I was a kid, when Niagara Falls was no bigger than a leaky faucet and half the girls in Gr. 5 were way tougher than me, my baseball education was so neglected.

Case in point...

During Sun. night’s baseball game between the Phillies and Dodgers a commentator said the following when the Phillies came up to bat in the second, leading 4 - 0:

“It’s very important that the coaches talk to their players about The Add On Run after they get a quick start like this, up four runs after one inning. The Add On Run is really important at a time like this.”

My coaches were years behind in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Not once did they take us aside between innings and individually or collectively speak to us kids about The Add On Run.

Sure, we wanted to hit the ball, get on base, run all the way to home, score a few runs here and there, but I would have felt like a real ball player if just once the coach had mentioned The (All - Important) Add On Run.

["Let me tell ya what Coach told us! No guff.]

Coach: Boys, I know we’re out ahead, but you know this team. They might come back. They might score enough runs over the rest of the game to tie us up, maybe even go ahead and win.

Me: Win? You think they can actually do that, Coach?

Coach: Heck, ya.

Tommy (Tommy was always one to ask questions too): What should we do? I’m startin’ to sweat.

Coach: I want you boys to go out there and try to get what I like to call The Add On Run.

(Man, I can see us turning our heads and looking quizzically at one another, mouths open, eyes clouding over, as if Coach had gone and said somebody has just landed on the moon. Land on the moon? The Add On hooey what?)

Coach: You don’t want to see the other team catch up, do ya? Hernendez, listen up you big cheese!

(You knew Coach was really serious when he called somebody a big cheese. Especially an illegal alien.)

Team: No sir, Coach!

Coach: You want to win don’t you?

Team: Yes sir, Coach. Yes sir we do.

Coach: Then I want... OK Ump, we’re about ready. Just another sec... I want you boys to go out there and score some more runs. Add on to what you already have. Build up an even bigger lead.

["Coach, is that like The Add On Goal?": GAH circa 1955]

Me: You mean, not be slackin’ off, Coach? Play ball like we do every other night of the week?

Coach: I think you got it, Gordie boy. Now get out there and get...

The Add On Run.


MLB. Almost as much fun as Sudoku.


The Lighter Side of the Classifieds: How large is the animal?

Most Flea Market ads in the Free Press are quite easy to understand.

A few aren’t.

For example:

For Sale: Large animal cage for small animals - $20

My thoughts: How large a small animal can you put in it? Or, ... ?

Also For Sale: Electric wood stove looking heater - $40

My thoughts: Say it again, with meaning.

For Sale: Christmas tree for the computer with all trimmings - $8

My thoughts: What if I have a computer without all the trimmings? Would I still need a tree on it?

["Rocky has lost his charm?"]

Final Sale: Singing Big Mouth Billy Bass - $20 (with same phone number as another ad for Rocky the Singing Lobster - $20)

My thoughts: Is it possible to have more fun for 40 bucks?


For more Lighter Sides click here.


Guess where the early Spaniards threw their dead horses?

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Canadian rivers are in trouble.

Of the 10 largest river systems in Canada only 2 are in near natural states. Six are in fair or poor condition. Five are in declining states.

North Americans have a long history of trying to control natural surroundings for their own good to the detriment of the environment and their own well-being.

From Land of the Eagles - a natural history of North America: A Narragansett chief named Miantonomo summarized the impact of early New England colonists on the land from a native point of view when he spoke to a tribal gathering in 1642:

“You know our fathers had plenty of deer and skins. Our plains were full of deer, as also our woods, and of turkies, and our coves full of fish and fowl.

“But these English having gotten our land, they with scythes cut down the grass, and with axes fell the tree; their cows and horses eat the grass, and their hogs spoil our clam banks, and we shall all be starved.”

The English had kind of a ‘let’s just do what we want’ kind of attitude. It still persists to this day.

Earlier still, when Spaniards tried every conceivable effort to gain control of what is now Mexico, they brought certain peculiar habits along with them.

When horses died they dumped them in the rivers, believing perhaps they had carefully washed their hands of the matter.

We may not be doing any better today.

The worst of the ten river systems is the S. Saskatchewan, and a recent report said about it the following:

"Canada’s most threatened river with 70% of its water drained for farming use."

70% more conservation of natural resources may be needed soon - from all of us.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Newspaper Clippings: How bleak is bleak to you?

Did you read the World Wildlife Fund report on Thursday in the London free Press? Very enlightening and discouraging at the same time.

A subhead said a mouthful! “From the St. Lawrence to the great rivers of the northwest, a damning report due out today finds troubling undercurrents - mainly from human use - for Canada’s 10 most significant river systems, including the Grand in SW Ontario.”

["Suzie, after Mommy hangs the wash, we'll go water the lawn and wash Daddy's big Chevy"]

As far as the Grand River system is concerned (the one closest to our taps, toilets and manicured lawns), a brief comment on the front page of the paper says: “Well managed but increased demand for water from growing cities is a threat.”

I admit, I like my water. Showers, laundry, tea, cold drinks with ice - none would be the same without my water. But can we do nothing right?

Yes, we can.

According to the report:

“The Nipigon River in Northern Ontario was cited as an example of progress. Fish stocks had suffered from a series of hydroelectric dams until operators got together and adjusted the water flow to more closely resemble natural conditions.”

Team work, thinking, talking, adjusting... all factors that work.

Likely, the key will turn out to be conservation of resources (taps, toilets and manicured lawns spring to mind, along with many other things) but conservation is not a habit that the majority of Canadians practice.



More to follow.

Click here for more Newspaper Clippings.


From the Workshop: 3 top coats are better than one

After applying the first coat of paint last week to eight birdhouses I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right decision.

Raw lumber plus linseed oil seemed to produce better results with rescued grade C lumber, in my humble opinion.

After applying three top coats, however, I now like the results to a large degree (84% in favour) and will be completely happy once trim is applied in various colours (yellow on red, white on green, etc.).

Should be fun.

And because the walls of the boxes are almost one inch thick I think the birds will have fun for about 30 - 40 years.


You can see linseed on cedar on two birdhouses in the background. They’re still my favourite.


Zoom w a View: One of a kind photograph - striped iceberg

My oldest sister tries to impress me every once in awhile w photos from some website or another.

Well, she did with this one.

Icebergs in the Antarctic area sometimes have stripes, formed by layers of snow that react to different conditions.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Lovely (?) fall scenes from the back deck this morning

Early this morning my wife said, “There’s snow on the car.”

I rolled over in bed, looked at the time (7:45) and said, “No there isn’t.”

“Yes there is,” she said, fully dressed, ready to go to Ollie’s house.

["Time to fly south." "No it isn't." "Yes it is." "No it isn't.": GAH]

“No there isn’t.”

“Yes there is.”

I give up, I thought. There’s no sense arguing with someone who is awake and had time to look out the window while I tossed about wondering why I keep dreaming about being back in the classroom with a bunch of unruly kids and no supplies. Not even a measly piece of chalk.

[Message left by unknown cat, in place of usual deposit: GAH]

My gosh people. She was right.

However, I remain confident that a seasonal-type fall will return and I’ll get several motorcycle rides before winter settles upon our fair and chilly land.


Overly optimistic?

Might be because I’m still in slippers and a bit more caffeine-free than usual.


Caffeine-free Mint Tea: New hope for energy for Friday hockey?

I’m finished with the Elder Flower tea though it helped me lower my coffee intake.

Downside. Too much like compost.

Up side. Reminded me of three lovely aunts during better days.

["Mint Green Tea - does it have legs?": GAH]

I’m moving on to a new box of Mint Tea. I’ll try anything once to help shake the coffee habit. Sometimes two three times in a row before it dawns on me that I don’t really like it.

Smells suspiciously like Elder Flower but that might be because the boxes were stuffed side by each inside a small drawer.

Fortunately, it has a fresh, almost minty taste. That’s what I look for in a mint tea.

I worry about the caffeine-free, however. Will I have the legs to chase the young guns during my first Friday hockey game of the season today?

This group are more than a touch faster than my 50-plus gang. My lungs ache already.


Have you switched to caffeine-free? Are you a better person now?


Dog drives car thru core: Stink - didn’t have my camera

I had to visit the dentist yesterday afternoon and while driving through downtown London I spotted an accident waiting to happen.

I stopped at a red light in front of the train station and beheld the following scene:

A woman, short blonde hair, age 45 - 55 (Don’t trust these numbers. I can’t tell a person’s age to save my life anymore. A woman I chatted with at The Red Roaster the other day told me she was 73. I would have sworn she was 56... 57 tops. I was off by 15 years! Sorry, I digress), correction, maybe 30 - 70 years old, turned left out of the 217 York St. building, window down, with a white dog perched on her lap, as if driving the car and partially obscuring her view.

She made the turn. Tomorrow, maybe not.

Here’s what I’d like to say to the woman:

Put your window up so that your dog doesn’t jump out and cause a major accident.

Of course, it would be your fault

Now, pull over and strap pooch into the back seat.

Before you go, here’s your $150 ticket for endangering the public.

Notice I didn’t swear or use demeaning language. I’m such a boy scout.


What would you say?

(Not about the boy scout thingy... the lady).


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Airline sheds 1,000 jobs - good news or bad?

I’d hate to lose my job.

(Regular readers likely know I’m a retired school teacher who makes birdhouses, chairs, bowls, odds and sods in my spare time to pay for gas for my motorcycle - so there’s really no job to lose. But, if I was back in the classroom, I’d hate to lose my job).

However, as soon as I read ‘British Airways PLC is shedding 1,000 jobs, putting 3,000 more employees on part-time work and reducing the size of cabin crews at Heathrow’ (The Associated Press) I had to ask myself, is that good news or bad?

Losing a job can be an upsetting, mind-bending and earth-shattering experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

But I wish more strongly - because air travel is the most polluting and carbon-intensive form of transportation - that sustainable, eco-friendly jobs were more the order of the day.

According to The Suicidal Planet (mentioned in a previous post and this week’s column), “our culture urges us to travel more often and farther both within the U.S. and increasingly overseas. The travel sections of newspapers clearly show the avenues for future growth: They are full of advertisements and articles encouraging ever more flying.”

Yes, I’m sure some air travel to another part of the globe would take our breath away. Unfortunately, it will take more than our breath away in the long term.

We know air travel is showing the fastest growth in fuel consumption of all forms of transportation.

We know the final result is more pollution and more carbon emissions and that limits to both are around the corner.

We know we’ll soon need more green, eco-friendly jobs available for those coming off the planes.

We know more discussion is needed about what those green jobs will be.

And that’s why I wrote the following in this week’s column:

That’s right. You heard it here first. I’m not sure if City Hall’s plans to turn London’s airport into a cargo gateway at a cost of $11,000,000 has long-term legs.

Or wings.

Some city councillors and business leaders will wonder, why don’t I just sit still, be quiet and let the experts get on with the job?

For three reasons....


Someone in Austria is laughing at me right now Pt 2

I have to reduce my coffee intake.

So I'm drinking Elder Flowers tea again this morning.

And I can’t get the song ‘Doh’s a deer, a female deer’ out of my little round head.

Yes, someone in Austria is laughing right about now.

Small price to pay, however, for the extra energy I feel. Scored two goals yesterday during a 50-plus hockey game... with the taste of compost in my mouth. Small price.

As well, today I want to introduce the four ladies in the attached photo.

Left to right: Aunt Murt (deceased), Aunt Jessie (deceased), unknown, Aunt Gert (deceased).

My three aunts were my father’s older sisters and though they each made it up a few steps from the poor digs they grew up in, they never made it to the fashion or big homes and gardens pages of the newspaper.

I found a note from Aunt Murt in a Christmas card to my dad while tidying his earthly possessions after he died and it sounded like her last years were spent in anguish of some sorts. She lived with one of her sons and his wife but it wasn’t going well, according to her words.

Aunt Gert, who seems to be whooping it up in the photo, had the hardest life, so I’m told. An abusive husband.

Aunt Jessie did better. Husband Wilf was a gentle man and they shared a lovely small house in Ingersoll that today is still dwarfed by a weeping willow in the backyard.

During one of my last car rides with my dad we sat in front of Jessie’s house and recalled a few memories. She always kept herself as neat as a pin. Her livingroom was the same. That’s why she made the kids play outside. We played hide and seek under the willow tree. Very small house. Lovely kitchen at the back.

If I can find my way alone, I’ll park out front one day in the future too.


The Lighter Side of the Classifieds: How old is old, Elvis?

I check out Flea Market in the local paper because you never know when you might need the world’s cheapest GPS unit.

For Sale: Globe, older, excellent - $12

I’m thinking: How old? How many sticky labels will I need to bring Africa up-to-date?

Also For Sale: Rocky the singing Lobster - $20

I’m thinking: I missed that fad. Elvis is dead?


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We all have fathers and feel deep loss when they pass

When a parent dies, tributes are made.

Written, spoken, unspoken, deep from the chest.

["Better times": photo file GAH]

I read one yesterday - part of a long story, I imagine - shared by a local writer. Fitting words.

I recommend you read it too.


Someone in Austria is laughing at me right now

I have to reduce my coffee intake.

So I'm drinking Elder Flowers tea this morning.

["Three elderly aunts and a friend" photo GAH]

I'm pretty sure, after several sips, I'll never get addicted to this flavour.

Is Elder Flowers code for grass clippings? Compost?

Is someone from Austria laughing at me right now?