Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From the Workshop: LP album frames take time

Company is here - had to cancel motorcycling yesterday (that’s why you haven’t been subjected to 200 more photos of birdhouses in Port Bruce) - but I’ve been able to sneak out to the shop on occasion to get an assignment done.

The Little Red Roaster, my local coffee shop, has invited me to adorn their walls with LP albums in cedar frames (the place needed a do-over), so I’ve been busy.

["Cedar frames take time but last forever": photos GAH]

While sorting albums I came across a rare find - a 4 - track tape of my favourite Stones album, Flowers, circa 1964.

So, after making 7 new frames I made a wee box frame for the tape.

I’d like to put it on my shop wall right away but the linseed oil takes time to dry.

Everything takes more time when one’s in a hurry, doesn’t it?

Ok, back to my guests.


What’s that old saying that applies here?

Is it, “The hurrier you go the behinder you get?”


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Motorcycle Miles: Art in motion

In the previous post I mentioned a few words about what I see in a motorcycle, including art in motion.

From various angles a bike is far my interesting to the eye than almost any car I've ever seen, in my opinion.

Why is that?

["My first Virago, 1984, 1000cc": photo GAH]

Why do people get hooked on bikes?

I know I'll be riding one into my eighties. Maybe not another Virago, but something.

A scooter around town, maybe?

Sure, as long as it looks interesting to the eye.


Motorcycle Miles: More birdhouses to be found in Pt. Bruce

Whenever the sun hits my face in the morning I think about motorcycling in the afternoon.

Whenever I pull the tarp off my Virago I see a practical, reliable, economical machine that also qualifies, in my mind, as a work of art.

After tossing the tarp aside, it took me three seconds to plan a route:

Aylmer via Belmont on highway 74, Pt. Bruce via highway 73, purple martin houses a woman told me about last week.

Economical machine, art in motion, nature on the wing.

Sounds like a pleasant trip already.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Easy Exercise Program: Will I dodge 5 or more prescriptions?

I’d like to stay really fit until I’m 85 before letting myself go - just a little.

I don’t think I’ll run anymore marathons (thirteen, including Boston, feels about right to me), though more half-marathons may be in my future.

While sorting out my running goals, i.e., to have any long-distance goals at all, or not, I’ll continue to read and ride and play hockey every week.

Being a guy who likes to keep stats (I’m knee deep in old running logs) I keep track of how many miles I ride on my recumbent bike and run on the treadmill (which I’ll get back too once the belt is repaired).

For example, I’ve logged 1093.1 riding miles in the last 11 weeks, or an average of 99.4 miles per week. In the same time period I played 20 hockey games.

(Easy schmeasy, so far. I read while I ride. One on One by Peter Mansbridge is very interesting. Saving Planet Earth by Tony Jupider is enlightening as well).

["Next up - What They Didn't Tell You in the Sixties"]

When the treadmill is fixed my weekly average should hit 108 - 110 miles, but until that time I’ll try to bring up my average to 100-plus.

That’s not my only ‘fun and fitness’ goal, however.

I also want to buck the trend, and NOT start taking 5 or more prescription medications once I reach 65-years of age, as 67% of Canadian seniors are now doing.

Just on its own, I don’t think my $200 exercise bike will help me reach my goal.

My diet must change somewhat and I need to not only tighten my own belt but fix the one on the treadmill so I can walk/jog/shuffle on a regular basis too.


Can I dodge 5 or more prescriptions?

Advice welcomed.


The Four EEEEs Pt 2: Oh, what a tangled web we weave

I know. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

In Part 1 of Tangled Web I mentioned you could visit a fast-food restaurant wherein a group of 65-year old people are tucking into cheeseburgers and fries and discover that 67% of them possess five or more types of prescription drugs, 21% have 10 or more and 6% have 15 or more.

I also asked, why are so many seniors taking medications, and shared the following:

Statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol, are the most commonly prescribed drug, with 40% of seniors taking them. Next on the list are ACE inhibitors, which 32% of seniors use to treat heart failure and high blood pressure. (Mar. 20, The Free Press)

In part, the answer seems to be - the Canadian lifestyle is very harmful to human health.

As well, it may be easier to prescribe medications than assist seniors with preventative measures.

But because the taxpayer spent $11.4 billion in 2009 on prescription drugs (a significant chunk of which was spent on seniors), isn’t it time to make a play against the Canadian lifestyle and assist seniors with healthy goals?

How should we proceed? (‘We’ = the Royal We, i.e., government and citizens working together in a cooperative fashion with one mind. Isn’t life cozy?)

["Reduce tax on walking and running shoes?": photo link]

Tax the crap out of crap?

It should be considered.

Raise existing consumption taxes so that people are nudged toward choosing fewer food items. Here’s hoping they select the healthier fruits and vegetables instead of Oreo cookies.

Encourage health practitioners to prescribe healthy lifestyle programs instead of medications to patients (no matter the age) at the first sign they're killing themselves slowly with bad diets and lack of exercise. A discounted membership at the local YMCA would pay dividends to the health care system in the long run, and we do have to think ‘long run’ in health matters.

I’m sure we can come up with other long term solutions but that’s a beginning at any rate.

Anyone wanting to buck the trend (67% of people over 65 with 5 or more prescriptions is a serious trend, isn't it?) should cross certain items off their grocery list right away (cut off cookies and soda pop, just for starters) and begin a 30 - 60 minute walking program, 5 days per week, as soon as I stop typing.


Are you already walking for your health?

Cutting down on sodie pop and cookies?

Good one!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Searching For a Glass of Fine Beer: Labatt Blue

Gord, have you ever purchased a case of 24 Labatt Blue?


What about a 6-pack?


Why not?

Let me explain by showing you a photo from April, 1969.

["No Blue in Bermuda? I'm OK with that": photo of GAH,1969]

In it I’m sitting on Horseshoe beach in Bermuda with a bottle of beer in my hand.

Labatt Blue, Gord?

No. It’s Bass Ale. Even when I was under-aged I preferred beer that had interesting flavours, something to write home about.

And after drinking the Bass Ale, did you write home to tell your mom and dad you were spending your tuition money on beer?

Hmmm... let me think.

Back to the present: Why am I reviewing Labatt Blue today?

Two reasons.

["A Blue that was left behind": photo GAH]

One, it’s a decent, though unremarkable, example of a typical Canadian beer. It’s Canada’s Pilsener - says so right on the can.

Two, a fellow hockey player left two cans in my workshop after a recent chili night and I thought I’d do more than just say, "Thank-you, Johnnie. Kiss your beers good-bye.”

Blue is rated at 5% alc./vol. and is probably often sold in large quantities - i.e., by the jug - to hockey players who are simply looking for something cold to drink after stepping off the ice.

In a glass, the foam settles quickly and presents light, pleasant, grainy flavours to the nose, not much more. Because I live five blocks from the Labatt Brewery in London, Ontario, I am well-acquainted with the smell.

About the taste, I’d say mild Pilsener, and though it is described as ‘a well-balanced beer, matured for a smooth body and a full, fruity flavour’ in Beers Of The World (by David Kenning), my notes read as follows:

If it’s Canada’s pilsener then we must be mild-mannered with medium interest in good beer.

I’ve declared before that my chief interest lies in ruby red ales and rich, thick stouts (flavoured wheat beer on occasion) and I’d be more interested in earlier Labatt beers - that one cannot get any more - than present-day offerings.

["Labatt Bock, anyone? Anyone?": photos GAH]

I’d love to try Labatt Velvet Cream Stout but it has likely been off the scene - due to poor demand and sales - for many years.

Today, as I drink the last mouthful of Johnnie’s beer, I wonder what the two original founders of the brewery would say of today’s Labatt corporation?

(John Kinder Labatt and fellow Irishman, Samuel Eccles, formed a brewery in partnership in 1847, about 17 years after Labatt immigrated to Canada).

Would they tap on the bar at a local tavern for a home-grown stout and not be able to find one?

It’s a pity, I say.


Please click here to read my last beer review - Dead Elephant Ale.

Find Searching For a Fine Beer in lower right margin for more beer reviews.


Searching For a Glass of Fine Beer: Dead Elephant Ale

I initially turned away from it.

I saw a bottle of Dead Elephant at a local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), it raised an immediate question (“What parts do they use?”), the bottle was sitting beside Iron Spike beer, I knew the two beers came from the same brewery in St. Thomas, Ontario, and I’d sampled Iron Spike when it was early days for the brewery and didn’t really like it.

I’ll rephrase: I really didn’t like it.

So I looked at other offerings on the LCBO shelves.

Within 10 seconds I looked back at the colourful Dead Elephant label and wondered if I should give the young brewery and female brewmaster another chance.

["Only one Dead Elephant in the house. Drat!": photos GAH]

Though I had to part with $3.40 for a 500ml bottle, I’m really glad I did.

I caught the smell of burnt caramel off the foam, lovely citrus flavors from my first sip and immediately tipped my hat in the direction of Railway City Brewing Co. in St. Thomas, and Jumbo, the elephant that died many, many years ago near the town’s railway tracks so that it could be served up later in nice-sized brown bottles.

(The strong of heart may visit the brewery’s website to view the story of Jumbo’s tragic death @

The elephant is immortalized in a strong ale (6.5% alc./vol.) with a clear, pale orange colour and receives a compliment in my notes, i.e., “it’s chompy” and “lovely, lovely.”

Those who like Tankhouse Ale from the Mill St. Brewery will recognize a few similar flavours - hoppy, citrusy, sour - in milder form.

I allowed the last half of the bottle to warm up while I cycled for an hour and enjoyed that half as much as the first.

["Gord's gourd w living elephant beside Dead Elephant"]

In other words, it was still just as chompy.

Because I feel a few nicely balanced flavours provide a satisfying mouthful I would gladly buy it again and recommend it to others.


Please click here to read my last beer review, re Bucanero Fuerte, and visit Searching For a Fine Beer in lower right margin for all reviews.

Let me know of a beer you would like to recommend.


The Four EEEEs Pt 1: Oh, what a tangled web we weave

Surely you read this. Surely your jaw dropped.

Surely you at least put down your bottle of prescription medicine for a moment to read the fine details.

A recent headline shouted, Canadian seniors take 5 prescription drugs on average.


I immediately thought, if this isn’t a story that entangles issues related to the Four EEEEs (Economy, Environment, Education and Entertainment) I don’t know what is.

I read the following:

The Canadian Institute of Health Information study says 67% of people over 65 take five or more types of drugs, 21% take 10 or more and 6% take 15 or more.

Public spending on prescription drugs in 2009 totalled $11.4 billion, a significant chunk of which was spent on seniors, the report says
. (Mar. 20, The London Free Press)

Though I’m not 65, so the report obviously didn’t apply to me, I quickly spit out the hotdog smeared in four condiments I happened to be eating. (Usually I add five but we were out of cheddar cheese cubes).

Let’s look at this another way.

Say you walk into a fast-food restaurant and notice a group of 65-year olds tucking into cheeseburgers and fries.

2 out of 3 have 5 or more pill bottles hidden away.

1 in 5 have 10 or more bottles of pills.

And 1 in 16 has a sore shoulder from carrying 15 or more bottles of pills.

Only 1 in 3 of the seniors has four or fewer prescriptions.

I must ask: How many seniors are not taking any prescription drugs? There must obviously be very few.

Why are so many seniors taking medications?

The article says the following:

Statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol, are the most commonly prescribed drug, with 40% of seniors taking them.

Next on the list are ACE inhibitors, which 32% of seniors use to treat heart failure and high blood pressure.

The above raises more questions, doesn’t it?


Please click here to read Part 2.

How many prescription medications are you taking?

Are there preventative measures that are just as helpful, if not more so, than prescriptive measures?


Hit Single in Progress: Livin’ a Life of Quiet Desperation

Backgrounder: After a hockey game last week I drove to a friend’s house to watch the Knights’ game on cable. As happens on occasion, the revs from the motor and hum from the tires combined to produce a melodious sound inside my head.

The following began to take shape:

Livin’ a Life of Quiet Desperation

[Three backup singers begin with... pada-pum-pum.]


Livin’ a life of quiet desperation [Pada-pum-pum].
Wearin’ a shirt that smells of perspiration [Pada-pum-pum].
Wonderin’ if you’re the girl for me [Pada-pum-pum].
Wonderin’ how happy I would be...

With you [Backup echo: With you].
With you [With you].
With you [With you].
With you [With you].


Do you know how this man thinks? [Pada-pum-pum].
Do you know hockey equipment stinks? [Pada-pum-pum].

Do you know I only wash it once a year? [Pada-pum-pum].
Do you know after a game boys drink beer?

That’s me [That’s me].
That’s me [That’s me].
That’s me [That’s me].
That’s me [That’s me].

That’s it so far.

I plan to fit in lines about ‘every man needs a shed’ and ‘together ‘til we’re dead,’ then do a quick wrap up.

My wife already just rolls her eyes but I think it’s a real winner, eh!!


Please click here to view many completed Hit Singles.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Point of View: Maybe the HST will help Ontario pay down debt.

You’ve heard it from politicians: The market economy will save us. No new taxes.

You’ve heard it from economists: Lower taxes and the economy will surge and debts will vanish.

You’ve heard it from me: The federal government grows debt 80 per cent of the time, e.g., from 1960 to 2014, including forecasted budgets. Our provincial government grows debt 67 per cent of the time, e.g., from 1985 - 2012, including forecasted budgets.

And though Ontario’s revenue plunged and costs soared in the recession Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is on record saying there will be no new taxes in the next budget even though the government is looking at all options to help pay down an unprecedented $25 billion deficit.

["Try to save money to help pay down personal and provincial debt - you own them both"]

Of course, we know that on July 1, 2010 the Harmonized Sales Tax will begin.

Perhaps we’ll see a link between our consumption and the lowering of provincial debt in the next year or two and the HST won’t be the ‘hated sales tax’ in as many minds.

I predict we may see a rise in personal and corporate income taxes in the next few years as governments realize the economy (especially a faltering one) is not be the only answer to digging ourselves out of a very deep hole and paving the way to a more sustainable future.


Should governments call taxes by prettier names, e.g., ‘lovely revenue streams’ in order to disguise the fact we need to pay our way?


At The Londoner: Earth Hour editorial makes a lot of sense and cents

I don’t refer to The Londoner, my city’s community newspaper very often because it would sound self-serving, and if there’s one word I don’t want to appear on my gravestone it’s self-serving.

(Please click here to read my weekly column. Okay, sorry, I’ll stop.)

As well, I don’t want firebug on my gravestone, but that’s another long (though rather exciting) story.

The editorial this week by Don Biggs, however, ended with a very interesting paragraph.

And I quote:

“Imagine the positive impact we would have on the environment, our health and our social well-being if we did this (turned off the lights and many other appliances) for just a half hour every night. Or at the very least, turn off the boob tube and walk around the neighbourhood every night after supper.

(Allow me to interject just this once: “... after supper and the exciting conclusion of Coronation Street” would have suited me better, but I’m not the editor).

“The incidence of heart disease, diabetes and other cardiovascular afflictions would decrease, and we will be doing our part to save the environment.”

Makes sense and cents, doesn’t it?


Climate Change Concerns: Earth Hour shines light on interesting facts and details

The popularity of Earth Hour has spread from being a single event in Sydney, Australia in 2007 to, reportedly, ‘become the largest environmental action in human history.’ (Countdown to Earth Hour, from Mar. 23 issue of The London Free Press)

The goal of Earth Hour, to raise global awareness about climate change, may be embraced by over 1 billion people in more than 100 countries this year, up from 88 countries in 2008.

Participants will voluntarily make efforts to reduce energy consumption in some ways in hopes that by so doing a message will be sent to world leaders that action on climate change is needed.

In Canada, participants in Earth Hour are being informed that ‘using candles can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions’ (GHGs) because almost 75 per cent of us rely on hydroelectric and nuclear power to produce electricity, and neither source produces GHGs. (We’re told a better option is to use electric candles or LED flashlights).

Many also know by now that we can reduce energy in more significant ways. Since 45% of energy in an average Canadian home is used by heating and cooling systems, 30% by appliances, 13% by the water heater and 11% by lighting, we can lower our consumption more by turning down the heat, turning off appliances that bear a phantom load, and washing clothes in cold water than sitting in total dark.

Do leaders still need to hear the climate change message? Here in Canada, 52 per cent of adults thought so in 2009, up from 49 per cent a year earlier.

The highest support in Canada for the climate change message in 2009 came from 62 per cent of the adults In Ontario, and from 59 per cent of the adults in the four provinces of Atlantic Canada.

The level of support may not only be gaining momentum but producing encouraging results.

There has been more news in the last 3 - 4 years about solar projects in and around our city and province than ever before. Provincial and federal governments have financially supported home owners who made improvements in the energy-efficiency level of their homes. I received $6,000 in rebates after insulating the walls, basement and attic of my home and installing energy-efficient windows throughout. (My wallet thanks you all).

But more can be done in the energy conservation department.

Though 75% of Canada’s energy comes from non-GHG producing sources, 18.2% still comes from coal, a major factor in our country’s GHG emissions.

Alberta leads the way, producing 81.7% of its hydro from coal, followed by Nova Scotia and PEI (71.7%), Saskatchewan (55.8%) and Ontario(19.7%).

And some East Coast provinces still produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases by burning heavy fuel oil (includes petroleum coke) to produce hydro. The worst culprit is New Brunswick, producing 36.1% of its hydro in this manner, followed by Nova Scotia and P.E.I. (15.8% combined).

Earth Hour 2009 saw a 6% decrease in Ontario’s energy usage, but we still have a long way to go to reduce overall GHG emissions and assist in the global battle against climate change.

One hour on a Saturday night won’t change the world but ‘lights out’ or ‘grab a sweater, Dear’ is still an important message, and seemingly growing more important each year.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Climate Change Concerns: Gorillas under threat = climate concern?

When I read the title (Congo Basin gorillas under mounting threat) and three short paragraphs re a recent report in yesterday’s London Free Press I related the matter to climate change.

Because of two words really. Can you see which ones?

Gorillas may become near-extinct in Africa's Greater Congo Basin by the mid-2020s unless action is taken to prevent poaching and to protect their habitat, a UN-backed report said on Wednesday.

The situation is particularly critical in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where activity by local militias has hit local gorilla populations, according to the report by the UN Environment Programme and Interpol.

Illegal logging, mining, and escalating demand for bushmeat, or meat for food, an increasing portion of which is ape meat, have also taken their toll.

If you said illegal logging you are correct.

Not because I know tonnes about illegal logging. (Yes, I rescue lumber for birdhouses from an area landfill site but that’s only slightly dodgy).

I know some things re illegal logging and its connection to climate change because I’ve been reading Saving Planet Earth by Tony Jupider recently and came across the following:

[Congo Basin gorilla: photo link]

In addition to being cleared to free land for agriculture, the tropical rain forests are also being plundered to supply the world with wood... the loggers are targeting the large blocks of natural forest that remain in Amazonia, New Guinea and Central Africa... including the Democratic Republic of Congo. (pg. 192)

The growing demand for exotic woods and beef from North American, European and Asia drive deforestation tactics that lead to wasteful, fossil-fuel dependent agricultural practices (e.g., soy production for cattle feed), the emissions of more climate-changing gases and biodiversity loss.

Not only are natives driven off their land, but as ape habitat is lost the animal’s often end up on dinner plates - and visa versa (for apes).

“An expanding trade in so-called bushmeat, now driven by demand from urban centers where animals caught from the rain forest, including gorillas, are considered as delicacies, is one of the main reasons for the loss of biodiversity across the central African forests.” (pg. 193)

I think Joni Mitchell got it right when she sang, we won’t know what we’re missing ‘til it’s gone.

Please click here to read about other climate change concerns.


Zoom w a View: Will my chickadees return to nest?

Yesterday, while opening the door to my shop, I noticed a pair of chickadees scooting in and out of two birdhouses in my yard.

["I cleaned this one out in 10 seconds": photos GAH]

My feeders are now parked on a shelf outside The Annex, so I haven’t been spotting as many visitors to my yard on a regular basis, and to see the couple inspecting the houses gave me a lift.

While watching each bird pop in and out through the entrance ways, I wondered, should I sneak inside the house for my camera?

["Spring cleaning took 5 minutes 'cause I added a perch. Recognize it?"]

I decided to stand still and watch instead. They soon completed their peekaboo and sped off.

Will they return to nest? I sure hope so.


Any birds inspecting your bird boxes or trees and hedges?


The Harbour Light still shines in Irvine, Scotland Pt 2

On Wednesday, November 18, 2009 I mentioned that I’d like to visit Irvine, SW Scotland, perhaps even raise a glass at The Harbour Lights Pub.

I’d even buy the first round for any remaining members of the Skinner family that poured rum down my dad’s gullet to warm him up after his stint on a lonely sandbar during a training exercise for WW2.

With me, however, money is always a factor (and last year’s house reno put more than a minor dent in my financial picture), and though I’m ready to start saving up, it will be some time before I’ll be sitting down with the Skinners for a cold brew.

However, I did write to the proprietor(s) of The Harbour Lights Pub that still survives on Harbour St., Irvine.

I asked if any ‘world-famous’ Skinners frequent their establishment on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing in return.

So, readers, off we go to Scotland again (by Royal Mail) to see if we can scare up any Skinners who helped my dad out of a cold pickle about 70 years ago.

Mail to:

The Harbour Lights
6 Harbour Street,
Irvine, Ayrshire,
KA12 8PY

Dear Proprietors,

I discovered recently a few words about your fine establishment in a story written by my father concerning a naval training mishap off the Ayshire coast near Irvine in 1941 or 1942.

Gordon Douglas Harrison, age 20 or 21 at the time, wrote the following:

“We were perhaps headed south (for a midnight training exercise) and it was rough. Our craft ran aground on a sandbar.

“Koyl ordered Bailey and I overboard to look or tread for deeper water. (Koyl, flotilla commander, entered the water as well).

"Wandering in sea boots, underwear, duffel coat, I fell into deeper water and hollered, “Over here, sir!”

“So we worked our asses off to free the ALC and we were successful. Koyl’s fuming, “We are going to be late!”

“Bailey and Koyl were able to get back aboard. I wasn’t and they drove off and left me out in the water.”

Though my father found the next couple of hours in the water unbelievable, after the landing exercise and what felt like an eternity, Koyl and his craft returned to the same area and plucked my father from the water before he gave up hope.

He later wrote:

“When we returned to Irvine, Koyl, Bailey and I hurried to a local pub (now known as the Harbour Light). We were given hot porridge, rum, and our clothes were taken to be dried and we were wrapped in blankets.

“All of this help came from ladies.

“It was late afternoon before we left the pub (the Royal Sovereign or King George?).”

A copy of an old photo of the King’s Arms Hotel appears with my father’s story and a note that members of the Skinner family helped warm and revive the three sailors.

I write this letter to ask if The Harbour Lights was once known as the King’s Arms Hotel?

And if any members or relations of the Skinner family from the early 1940s still remain in Irvine, visit your pub on occasion and can remember or verify my father’s fine story?

If so, I’d love to hear from them.

Yours very truly,

Gordon A. Harrison
Have Rum Will Travel


Now, if you’re reading this, are from Irvine or know the Skinners, please let me know.


Hit Single: Lovers Stand On Every Corner

Backgrounder: “I don’t have a recollection of any incident that sparked this song. Maybe my wife didn’t pay for coffees one morning at The Little Red Roaster in Wortley Village and I got all pouty and hurt. Maybe I have an over-active imagination.” gaharrison

Lovers Stand On Every Corner

Verse 1.

Saw you walking passed my door,
went to call but then I swore,
we can’t return to where we’ve been,
and life’s too short to open up that wound again.
Saw you at our old café,
couldn’t find the words to say,
like, let’s just have an easy talk and not get close
and open up that wound again.

[Link to painting]


Lovers, stand on every corner,
remind me of what might have been.
Words I’ve never said
have opened up that wound again.
Alone now, my head is on your pillow,
knowing there’s no answer
to things that I’ve done wrong.
Mistakes that I have made
have opened up that wound again.

2. Walked behind you to your street,
inched along on silent feet.
I practiced words, found a few.
But can words help us open up our hearts again?
Shuffled home, went to the phone.
Could one call just bring you home,
and stir our minds to better times?
But can words help us open up our hearts again?

Saw you walking passed my door,
went to call then I swore,
we can’t return to where we’d been,
life’s too short to open up that wound again.
Saw you at our old café, couldn’t find the words to say.


Please click here to read other lyrics and brilliant pieces of prose.

Brilliant? Hey, It could happen.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Strikes Me Funny: Community Theater must be a hoot

I mentioned my older sister’s latest hobby or interest in abstract oils in a recent post.

While looking at photos of her paintings I came across several related to costumes used in a just-finished community theater production in Gravenhurst.

The costumes were delightful and one made me laugh out loud.

Some might think, what a lovely candle.

But is the boy thinking, please, oh please, don’t let any of my high school buddies be in the audience?


It’s okay, pal. I’m sure nobody from “Gravenhurst, Ontario” is checking out my blog to see photos from a “recent community theater production” based on a “Walt Disney film” entitled “Fantasia” and your cheery smile.

Well... pretty sure.


In My Workshop: I may have to get out my oil paints

My oil paints sit in a small cardboard box under my basement work bench - collecting dust.

They’ve been there for a long time, ever since my brother the artist said he needed space for one more in an art class, so could I switch to the next year. (I guess he was thinking 2018).

However, I may dust them off.

One of my older sisters sent me photos yesterday of her latest abstract oils, and a red light went off in my head.

After changing the battery in the smoke alarm I thought, I could use that technique to depict some of the sunsets I admired while visiting Lake Superior a few years ago.

Can you see it? Can you dig it?


And if I get to Halifax and back in one piece in June, I’ll retrace my miles along the North Shore of Superior because those sunsets and highway views are still in my mind.

What happens if you click on Lake Superior below?


Today’s Cool Weather: Grab a warm sweater and to-do list

I was hoping for a warm sunny day. Didn’t happen.

I want to take my motorcycle for spins on the 401 several more times before my trip to Halifax in June. I want to get used to heavy traffic, become one with the bike. It will have to wait.

But if I put on a warm sweater I’ll get a few jobs done out back in the wee yard.

My spring cleaning to-do list is as long as my arm and one leg.

Snow shovels need to be put away. [Photos GAH]

Holes in the sod - made by an industrious skunk, I imagine - need to be tamped down.

Routes of entry under the Annex for the aforementioned skunk need to be blocked.

And fall leaves and sawdust need to be turned over in the wee garden.

Just one problem. Where are my work gloves?


The snow is all gone, as predicted.

Please click here for my last pictures of winter snow.

How many jobs are on your spring cleaning list?


Ollie and Me: The kid uses a funny putdown on me

Ollie has been in our home long enough to know that when something needs to be fixed I’ll get around to it in my own sweet time.

Years will go by before I change a bulb.

["I'll help you fix it, Ollie," I said: photos GAH]

After Ollie’s mum showed us how to attach a wooden trailer to a toy truck I said, “I think Ollie and I can do it now.”

Ollie began to sing, to the tune of Frere Jacques:

“Ollie’s papa, Ollie’s papa,
Cannot do it,
Cannot do it.”

["You can't do it, you can't do it"]

All the adults were quite amused. And in his own three-year old, French-Canadian sing-song way, he made me happy that he’s going to be my buddy for a long time.

When I find time I'll teach him how to change a bulb.


Please click here for another exciting episode of Ollie and Me.

PS - I do know how to attach the trailer.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Young at Heart: Why would I say ‘yes’ to such a thing?

April could be a really embarrassing month for me.

As some of you know, I drink many cups of coffee per week at The Little Red Roaster in Wortley Village - yes, the dark roast is yummy.

And for the last few months, not only have I been enjoying the coffee but a changing array of art work and photographs supplied by local artists.

["More CD frames underway": workshop photos GAH]

Because I also have a few birdhouses on display there I was recently asked if I’d like to show off a few more of my creations. (The owner wants to fill the walls again once the photos of scenes from Portugal come down at the end of March).

["You don't like the Stray Cats?"]

Caffeine, adrenaline, nervousness kicked in simultaneously and I said, without much thought, okay.

Gulp. I can’t just throw up empty wooden frames for CDs or LPs. They should have CDs and albums in them.

["More cedar LP frames are on the way"]

So, in April, albums reflecting my taste in music (along with a bit of prose and a few more birdhouses) will adorn the walls of my favourite coffee shop.

Laugh at the Stray Cats if you will, but I like ‘em.

Geez, I'm embarrassed already.


Just wait ‘til you see Barbara Streisand in one of my cedar frames.

She’s beautiful. And so is Ms. Streisand.

(That’s The Way We Were many years ago).


In The Workshop: Birdhouse-building season is here - what’s new?

I knew it was coming.

Birds have been at the feeder for months. Several chickadees recently checked out the birdhouses in the back yard. Piles of rescued lumber began calling my name.

So, I stained my last four-plex with linseed oil - to make room - and started to think, what should I build next?

["Once this dries it goes on a pole": photos GAH]

I studied several piles of old lumber and waited for inspiration. Waited. Waited. Opened a birdhouse book. Turned pages. Looked at a bag of cedar rescued from an old fence.

["Hmmm... a bag of cedar scrap. What can I build?"]

Got it. Small, light, sturdy houses for warblers.

There’s a first time for everything. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

3Rs Rock: Is there energy (and $$$) in old tobacco kilns?

Yes, we have such a long row to hoe in Canada when it comes to 3Rs, conservation of energy and other valuable resources.

However, though ‘for the second year in a row, Canada has placed second-worst among 17 countries on an international ranking of consumer behaviours that have an impact on the environment’ (Canadians lost points due to their preference for car ownership and large houses, said a 2009 report), a man from Simcoe may one day supply area farmers with a unique energy source by recycling old tobacco kilns.

According to a recent article found in the London Free Press, ‘old tobacco kilns are loaded with high-quality biomass. The wood -- mostly pine -- is decades old and has been subjected to repeated curings.’

Yes, I’d like to recycle some of that pine myself for birdhouses but I’m not jealous of Mark Bouchard’s idea.

["Can old kilns become energy in an environmentally-friendly manner?": photo GAH]

If he can turn the pine into fuel for farmers and reuse or remove asphalt shingles, tar paper, asbestos and spray foam insulation in a cost-efficient way, a temporary industry will be born.

I read that ‘since last fall, he has reduced 60 kilns to wood chips with a 500-horsepower Morbark tub grinder. The powerful machine can reduce three kilns to sawdust in 60 minutes. The chips are a popular fuel with greenhouse operators and other businesses that need a plentiful, inexpensive source of heat.’

[Please click here to read more about turning tobacco kilns into biomass fuel.]

Recycling and extracting the biomass, Mr. Bouchard said, is the environmentally responsible route to take (for tobacco farmers).

"I applaud them," he said. "It would be so easy for them to dig a hole and just bury it."

Mr. Bouchard works in an area I often motorcycle through, so I may try to get a look at the Morback tub grinder in action.

Though I bet I’ll need earplugs.


Have you heard of other enterprising people trying to turn 3Rs into a worthwhile business?


Are you a Facebook Fanatic? (Don’t forget to flush)

I found several things disturbing in an article about tweeting and other forms of social networking (or not working) in this morning’s London Free Press.

Among several other fascinating things re a recent survey Kate Dubinski wrote the following:

48 per cent of people said they check their Facebook or Twitter accounts when they wake up in the middle of the night or as soon as they wake up in the morning.

Wha...? I find so much wrong with that.

People should be sleeping at night, not trying to keep up with what Ashleigh did after downing her last Rusty Nail at Mitsy’s Sister.

How can anyone engage in crisp, important dialogue at 3 a.m.? Sorry, it’s not possible. We’ll just give or get the wrong impression about the real level of ability of Canadians. It’s impossible to design a better car, electric train or anything than the Germans at 4 a.m. Go back to bed.

["Really. Go back to bed"]

And really, if you’re that lonely, buy a teddy bear. A good one. One with affectionate-looking eyes. One that can make coffee at 9 a.m., when normal people are just waking up.

Kate D. also wrote:

Another survey found that 17 per cent of tweets and 12 per cent of other social media posts are done in the washroom or on a toilet.

Good grief, Canada!

The only thing worse than that would be to know how many are only using one hand, and what’s in the other hand.

Having read that, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight.

But if you’re one of the late night or bathroom networkers, don’t tweet or FB me.

I’ll be watching Seinfeld reruns.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor: So, how do I get Canadian-made mittens?

I’m not sure if the following letter to The London Free Press (Mar. 18) is ironic, satirical or loudly mocking:

“Foreign-made products symbol of capitalism”

Regarding the letter, Made in Canada matters!

I am astounded at the amount of people who are surprised that our Olympic merchandise is manufactured in places like Vietnam and China.

["Can I knit them myself?": photo link]

When things like that need to be mass-produced and turn a huge profit, people here should acknowledge that poor people in developing countries will be making it.

They work hard so we can have nice possessions.

That’s called capitalism.

Ryan N., St. Thomas

The letter also makes me wonder how I can get my hands on a pair of red, Canadian-made mittens.

Will I have to knit them myself?

Can a guy my age learn to knit?


My Point of View: Pt 4 “Is the Money Out There?”

Of course the money is out there to help Canadians pay down the growing national debt.

[Please read Part 3 for some context.]

We have vast amounts of money for essentials, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, and services related to transportation, communication and recreation.

We have vast amounts of money for non-essentials or extras, many of which have an initial cost which we’re very willing to pay and subsequent costs we’re paying (perhaps not knowingly all the time).

For example, attached to the initial cost of bottled water, beer, cigarettes, cookies, Coca-Cola (some information provided re costs in previous posts) are substantial follow-up costs related to recycling plastic and caring for the many who fall prey to the ill-affects of tar, nicotine, sugar, salt, fat, etc., in a weary health-care system, to name a couple.

When I mentioned the five extras above (bottled water, beer, cigarettes, cookies, Coca-Cola), some readers likely felt I could have go on farther.

["Sit. Soak. Solve the debt problem."]


While looking at lists of reports re other consumer products I was amazed at the number available.

My word. In canada alone we mist spend billions upon billions for such things as pets, ice cream, clothing and foot wear, coffee, calming and sleeping products, bath and shower products, cosmetics and toiletries, deodorants, smoking cessation aids and noodles.

Yes, there is a consumer report re NOODLES!

If you want, you could be buried in paper about how much we spend on consumer goods.

The quantity of goods and extras makes me feel that Canadians are very good at being consumers.

In fact, we may be spoiled rotten in a lot of cases and have far more goods than we actually require.

We also have more debt than we require.

Consumption in many areas, particularly in those with substantial follow-up costs, could be curtailed for the benefit of us all - both financially and health-wise.

["This pig doesn't need to sink."]

What must we do to pay down national debt in this vast land of essentials and extras?

Public education re the true costs of excessive consumption of wasteful consumer goods?

More education re specific revenue streams? E.g., Coca-Cola costs 10 cents more per can to combat higher costs in health care? Plastic bottles of water cost 25 cents more per unit to pay for recycling costs?

A fairer income tax system for individuals and corporations, e.g., 20 - 30 wage/earnings categories rather than the 6 or 7 we have now?

Higher consumption taxes, like the harmonized sales tax, but 2 cents higher?

Perhaps all of the above and more?

I know some will say their budgets are already stretched to the limit. There is no room for the extras I put my finger on.

I know that. A fairer income tax system might actually help.

Because many Canadians are buying essentials and extras in an excessive and ultimately costly (to us all) fashion. A wider net would help.

And with that I conclude the series “Is the Money Out There?”


Raise your hand if you like higher taxes.

Not many.

Any other solutions to rampant, oft-harmful consumption, to runaway household and national debt?


Live Small and prosper Pt 4: Things Going North ($$$)

Wasn’t it just yesterday I added something to this list?

Life seems to be getting more expensive here in Canada by the week, and now I wonder - is it all just long overdue?

Have we been living too high off the proverbial hog for decades?

["The proverbial hog?"]

My list, started in early March, is now up to ten expensive items.

Core inflation increases: Our inflation rate, which includes the effect of volatile items such as fuel, fruit and vegetables, rose more than forecast in February and is now up to 2.1% for the last full year.

Higher car prices and a steep jump in accommodation costs during the Vancouver Olympics were the main factors driving the gain.

Raise your hand if you didn’t buy a new car or go to the Olympics.

Hey, me neither. We pay anyway.


Anything else going north in Canada?


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Live Small and Prosper Pt 3: Things going North ($$$)

I may have missed something, but to my limited knowledge I don’t think anything has gone North ($$$) in Canada since Tuesday, March 9, 2010.

However, I just spotted news about another item that will soon cause monthly expenses for the citizens of Canada to rise, so I need to add it to the bottom of my growing list.

The list so far:

1. Canada’s national debt will pass $620 billion in 2014, according to Canada’s Dept. of Finance. So far, PM Harper and his Conservatives have not lowered our country’s debt by one thin dime, only added to it.

2. Hydro bills will rise once we switch to the new ‘smart meter’ rates, leaving many to wonder, what’s so smart about a smart meter?

3. Oil recently past $82 US per barrel.

4. Canada’s average household debt to income ratio just went from 140 to 145 percent (predicted by experts to be at 160 soon). So, what happened to 150 and 155? I guess our debt is moving so fast we’re skipping certain levels.

5. Experts predict that higher interests are on the way, so mortgages and lines of credit will cost Canadians more. Where’s your wallet?

["Are we sinking the pig?"]

6. The HST (Hiked Sales Tax) will be starting on July 1, 2010 and many shopping purchases and monthly bills will cost Canadians more.

7. Ontario’s provincial debt is approaching $200 billion. Is there a province or territory actually in the black?.

8. A copy of Batman’s debut in a 1939 comic book sold recently for $1.075 million US. So, if you’re into rare comics and other extras in life, start saving up.

9. This just in - Canadians are paying an average of 12 cents a litre more for gasoline at the pumps than a year ago ($1.04 average/litre at present), and they tend to move even higher in the spring, causing many drivers to wonder if they should drive fewer kilometres to save money.

Okay, that’s enough good news for one day.


Did I miss anything else going North ($$$)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

It Strikes me Funny: More tax cuts from Conservatives past and present?

At the recent PC Party Annual Meeting talk buzzed around the room that the party will look for tax cuts, wherever they may be, to win voters.

["Psst... Bob. Pssst... Bob"]

While closely examining a QMI Agency photo (Mar. 8 London Free Press) by Althia Raj of Bob Runciman and Mike Harris I began worrying about where such men get such strategies (or is it strategems)?

["Bob, taxes are too high, ya hear me?"]

Is it just my over-active imagination, or is Runciman being advised to drop taxes wherever he can find them by an apparition floating behind his left ear?

“I don’t care what you cut, Bob. Just cut.”

(Second thought: Do apparitions actually need to wear glasses?)

["Mike, are you listening? I'm thinking rump roast."]

And what is that other ghostly figure whispering in the direction of Mike Harris’ good side?

["Rump roast - no more than a buck a pound, eh"]

Is it saying, drop the HST ‘cause I like a good rump roast but I want it on the cheap?

My theory: If you want cheap you’ll get cheap.

Of course, it could just be my imagination.