Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In the Workshop: Old-fashioned oil adds a richer ($$$) look

The following three phrases prove - dramatically (and we all need a bit of drama in our lives by Wednesday) - I am indeed an aging boomer:

1. “It was good to see you again. Give me your street address and I’ll write you a letter sometime.”

(Yes, I still write letters - neatly too).

[“The two on the left, which have a single coat of linseed oil, look richer in colour, in my humble opinion.”: photos GH]

2. “I banged my head this morning, smelled burnt toast and remembered my first phone number. 494-J. Call me.”

[“The same wood was used on each birdhouse”]

3. “It’s time to add double-boiled linseed oil to a few birdhouses.”

[“I think the one on the right looks better. Don't you?”]

Yup. Getting older. But, in spite of that, I like being a boomer.

Now, back to the linseed oil bit. It has to be double-boiled with a touch of maple stain added. I’ll tell you why.

[“White cedar will weather to a grey colour, but I like the oil and maple touch”]

Raw cedar looks great after a few years of weathering. So natural. But with a coat of linseed oil the wood will last another 4,000 years (this is a rough estimate only and I have no living relatives who can verify the statement) and look the richer for it.

[“The colour of the trim - w oil - really jumped up a notch or two. Brilliant.”]

We all also want the flax seed industry to remain alive too, don’t we? (Linseed oil comes from flax seed and flax seed is an important part of Red River cereal and - on this green planet, I swear - there is nothing better for you after you finish your paper route on a cold winter’s morning, than Red River cereal.

I've also heard 'flax seed' and 'nature's toothbrush' used in the same sentence. Nuff said.


Tell me if you’ve found a better natural oil to put on a birdhouse.

And raise your hand if you have Red River cereal in your kitchen cupboard.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The G20 Process: Knee-deep in wisdom or cow manure?

I won’t make snap judgements here about the G20 summit outcomes. I’ll wait and see if some of the deep thoughts expressed by world leaders pay dividends in the future.

(What else can I do?)

It might take me 2 - 3 years alone to decipher the meaning of PM Harper’s words as he hopes for a sustained global economic recovery:

["Wipe your feet at the front door, cowboy"]

“It is incumbent upon us to act with the same unity of purpose, the same sense of urgency, and the same commitment to the enlightened exercise of our national sovereignty as we did at the beginning of the crisis. The fate of millions of people depend on our actions.” (June 28, London Free Press)

If I recall correctly, at the beginning of the global economic meltdown Harper was doing everything but handstands to assure Canadians there was no crisis. I think his exact words were, “This looks like a good time to invest money.”

Though billions have been affected by poor management of national economies, Harper is concerned only about millions. I don’t know what the rest of you think, but it sounds like a good time to reduce spending and save as much money for the future as possible.

Do you find this summative message from the G20 summit deep in wisdom? (And remember, Canadian taxpayers must now face the $1.4 billion security bill and costs related to damage).

“Getting some countries to save more and some countries to spend more is what the economists call an attempt to ‘rebalance global demand’ and it’s an important objective if the world is to have ‘sustainable and balanced global growth.’”

You there. Spend more.

Wait, wait. We’re not talking about you.

(When will we get the country by country ‘Spend, Don’t Spend’ list?)

How about this statement?

“(When stimulus plans) run their course, all countries agree they have to do something right away to deal with the oceans of red in they’re in because of these stimulus plans.”

Is that deep wisdom I’m smelling?


No snap judgements here.

Hmmm... let me think... what is that smell?


Ollie and Me: Whenever he visits, he comes right to my side

On June 8th I left for Halifax from my back laneway.

Grandson Ollie witnessed my departure and gave me a hug before I put on my leather jacket and biked toward Stratford and beyond.

["Two minutes later I put on my leather jacket, warmed up the bike": photo The Mrs.]

Now, every time he comes to stay with my wife and I (four days per week), he runs straight to my study once inside the front door.

I hear him calling for me and stop what I’m doing.

“Papa, are you here?” he’ll ask.

“I’m back here, Ollie?”

“In the kitchen?”

“In my study.”

And in he walks.

This morning he chattered about blueberries and raspberries as soon as he entered the room and was soon on my lap.

I think he missed me.


My wife, on the other hand, has bought me a packet of maps of the prairies and B.C. coast.


In the Workshop: My motto - don’t throw anything out

You can likely understand why I have such a motto.

I collect or rescue scrap lumber and turn my findings into birdhouses.

(Why birdhouses? They’re easier to build than shelves. Less risk too that a birdhouse will ever fall on my head.)

["Three different pieces of barnboard became two rustic birdhouses": photos GH]

Sometimes I have to think long and hard about my materials. Will this go with that? That with this? What to do with this? That?

["Bits from the scrap box become a bench and perch."]

Eventually, something comes to mind. On rare occasions, it will be a brilliant idea.

["Can you spot the minor (though brilliant) differences in this one?"]

For example, an odd bit of cedar will become a bench. Another bit of barnboard will become a perch.

A beer cap will serve as an outside light or hubcab (or facsimile).

["Right. The stool and hubcap came from different distilleries."]

A cork becomes a stool.

Now, if your basement or garage is getting a bit crowded and you don’t know what to do... may I suggest birdhouses?


I met a fellow two years ago who made birdhouses from the broken decks of skateboards.

Very cool. (One man’s trash is another man’s roof on a birdhouse).


Monday, June 28, 2010

Zoom w a View: Birdhouses born from piles of rescued lumber

A year or two ago I found a photo of a JR birdhouse made from teak, with a quarter-inch thick aluminum plate roof.

It would last 100 years, in my opinion, in normal conditions, i.e., hanging in a tree and not used as a target by reckless - or avid - hunters with large calibre rifles.

["Eight pieces of wood, a roof and floor equals one GH birdhouse. Brilliant."]

I had piles of cedar at my disposal at the time so I modified the JR birdhouse design (circa 1946) to accommodate my needs and skill level (slightly above Ollie’s, my 4-year-old grandson).

["Remember this duplex? I felt something was missing": photos GH]

Since then I’ve made 4 - 5 dozen GH birdhouses from scrap and feel they’ll last any proud owner 20 - 30 years under normal circumstances. (No large rifles allowed. Slapshot practice? I don’t think so).

["The duplex needed a side apartment. The new triplex looks better."]

JRs and GHs are cubes, easy to build and require only 4, 8, or 12 pieces of wood (cut to equal size), a roof and floor. Simple. Ingenious. Thank you, JR, where ever you may be now that Dallas is just limited to reruns all over the free world.

["The duplex (soon to be a triplex) gets a minor adjustment to the floor"]

In that spirit, I hope that when my weekly column runs its course and I retire from motorcycling and discovering Canada in one pair of pants, someone (young and handsome, like I was at one time) will take a GH duplex apart, see it’s intrinsic worth and say, “I’m going to build a million of them and send the proceeds to Gord because he didn’t have an old TV show, or anything else, go into syndication and he likely needs extra cash just for trips to The Roaster, or health care.”

Bless you.


My long motorcycle trip has affected my brain.

You can see that, can’t you?


In the Workshop: Gord is getting his groove back

Hibernation is a wonderful thing, let me tell you.

Last Saturday I wrote, though ‘I have no idea what to do... I just feel like making something.’

Nothing big, just something that would satisfy my desire to putter, saw and hammer.

["In no time, bits of scrap lumber were turned into organized heaps.": photos GH]

And knowing any small project wouldn’t likely win any type of wood working award, I also said ‘don’t wait up.’

["A decorated gourd from Sudan became a wren house."]

After sawing and sanding on Saturday I had one of the best sleeps ever. I woke up Sunday morning about five minutes after Germany kicked-off against England in a World Cup soccer match.

["The bench inside the workshop door began to fill"]

(I’ve opened a door, haven’t I? Someone might know that it was England that kicked off against Germany. Sorry. I was sleeping at the time, perhaps making up for one of the poor sleeps I had on the way out to Halifax two weeks ago. I think I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of robins singing from a sagging phone line on Rue du Radisson in Trois Rivieres, and never got back to sleep.)

["I liked this duplex, but something was missing."]

After the match (which advertised the need for video review more than any other game so far), I hammered a bit, and assembled and photographed my latest birdhouse creations made from rescued lumber.

["The bench is getting full. It's time to build more shelves?"]

Brilliant? I don’t know. I was hibernating at the time, with eyes half closed.


After C Street tonight, I may get back on the exercise bike after a three-week hiatus.

My hockey team needs me and my recent visits to craft breweries in Quebec and Nova Scotia have left their mark.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

In the Workshop: I have no idea what I'll do...

I just feel like making something.

I haven’t clunked around inside the workshop for several weeks. I know there are many pieces of scrap lumber hanging about and I think I’ll just walk inside the shop and follow my limited instincts.

["The last time I worked hard outside the workshop door - I packed up!"]

Maybe a birdhouse or two will take shape.

I’ll take my camera in case I make something that’s really impressive.

Don’t wait up.


The Halifax Diaries: Day 4 - Does Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! warrant a pit stop?

I mean... a full pit stop, including bathroom break and a stop at Tim Horton’s?

Well, I didn’t think so at the time, as I biked along highway 185 in southern Quebec toward Edmunston, New Brunswick.

Here’s all I know or believe about Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, as recorded in my dairy:

Day 4 - Friday, June 11

“Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is a real town. It should end w 4 Ha! Has! to get into the spirit of the name.”

After Edmunston I travelled through Grand Falls and selected highway 105 to take me south along the west side of the St. John River.

Destination - Fredericton, New Brunswick

Estimated mileage - 405 km.

Gord’s mileage - 425 km.

Why the 20 km. difference?

The 105 was a winding road that took me the long way around many a hill, dale, rock and tree. Thankfully I found a small bridge to the east side of the river and shortly thereafter picked up a better road that led toward a great dairy bar, the longest covered bridge in the free world and the Trans-Canada Highway.

I made good time, making up for the bad, once on the Trans-Can.

Once in Fredericton I enjoyed eating supper at Isaac’s Way restaurant immensely and reading a story my dad wrote many years ago.

From the diary re supper:

“I’m trying Picaroon’s offerings (local craft beers). 1. Wheat beer - mild. 2. Irish red - pleasant surprise. 3. Best Bitter - excellent, esp. w grilled pork tenderloin and red potatoes. Wow. More food than I could handle.”

And concerning dad’s story:

“Lots of detail re what Dad saw and remembered (while aboard the Silver Walnut in 1940s), e.g., flying fish, porpoises, a hot foot for a poor tar (sailor). reminds me that he and I are some alike; we like our journeys and watch for and enjoy certain details of life - fun w friends, and nature’s gifts to us.”

[“Lac Temiscouata, just past Saint Louis du Ha! Ha!”: photos GH]

[“Ah, what a lovely bridge. Hope it leads me to a better road.”]

[“Carl’s Dairy Bar. Buy shares if they ever come up for sale.”]

[“The longest covered bridge in the entire world, so they say.”]

[“Isaac’s Way, Fredericton. Order the pork tenderloin and Best Bitters.”]


Today, I have to admit, I saw a lot of beautiful country while riding 20 extra kilometers.


Will the Gulf spill push conservation measures?

A recent newspaper headline, ‘Spill may push oil up’ (June 19, London Free Press) got me thinking.

Will higher oil prices push more conservation measures and lessen the possibility of other spills and damage to the environment?

Not likely.

The article said ‘the worst environmental disaster in US history is likely to push up production costs and oil prices and that may benefit Canada’s oilsands.’

Ouch. It’s not a good thing when dirty oil production benefits from a disaster. Sure, more people are put to work, more Dodge Rams fly off the lot, but there are downsides to those benefits, are there not?

I also read that tighter safety regulations will result in higher oil prices and because ‘an offshore deep water well needs an oil price of about $60 a barrel to break even’ investment in the industry will slow and oil prices per barrel will rise further.

If that’s the case, perhaps we should be thinking ahead about ways to conserve oil as much as possible, in the event the prices get out of hand.

Maybe Dodge Rams could be smaller. Maybe we turn our lifestyle demands down a bit. Maybe we think.


The SS Silver Walnut is on its way to Georges Bank

For those interested in the progress of the Silver Walnut - and I know I am - I have a bit of news.

24 hours after I tossed the Walnut into the Atlantic (June 13) it was found on the rocks by Randy Henneberry from the Halifax area.

["The Walnut in the workshop": photos GH]

(More details will be in my next column. However, the column will appear one week late because I missed yesterday’s earlier deadline. I was watching Ollie graduate from pre-school when I should have been typing. Me bad).

I talked to Randy while I was in Halifax and his plan at the time was to give it to his brother who fishes out 40 miles from the coast.

["The Walnut - modified to fit into my luggage -beside the Atlantic"]

“It will get a good current there,” he said.

Yesterday, I called again from London and he’d come up with a better idea, i.e., to give the Walnut to his cousin who fishes out on Georges Bank.

The fishing bank is over 60 miles out and will surely be nearer or affected by the Gulf Stream.

I think the odds of the Walnut reaching Scotland just went up. And hopefully it lands on a sandy beach and not on the rocks.


Friday, June 25, 2010

It Strikes Me Funny: Oh, I read more than one paragraph

I reread my own column (in yesterday’s Londoner) this morning and thought three things:

What a brilliant column. Who wrote this?

My gosh, I’m still sweating from the ordeal of hiking out to Pennant Point a week ago Sunday with the small boat containing dad’s ashes.

And, though I mentioned ‘I read a paragraph my dad wrote’ before tossing the small Walnut into the Atlantic, I did more than that.

I had a volume of stories (some of which my dad authored) with me, read quite a few passages for old time’s sake, and before giving the boat the old heave ho I had to fold the book double, shove it down the back of my jeans and jam one boot into a crevice so I wouldn’t follow the boat out to sea.

["The Walnut's last minute on dry land": photos GH]

["Poor footing for a man in motorcycle boots"]

["The Walnut sets a course, hopefully for Scotland"]

["I took one last look before hiking back to my bike. There it is!"]

The favourite passage, at the time, turned out to be this one, from dad’s longest story about the Walnut:

“I feel certain that when the time comes for the great sail past of all ships, the Silver Walnut will stand tall, as well as the merchant crew who sailed her, for they were all part and parcel of an ailing ship which had a lot of heart.

“We Canadian sailors became very attached to her as well; her engine room misfortunes became our good fortunes as we enjoyed many hours in Cape Town and Durban, while our comrades suffered from dysentery in navy camps in the desert where temperatures dropped to near freezing each night.”

I thought they were good words. He was on an ailing ship but saw a silver lining.

There’s a lesson in his words for me.


Please click here to read this week’s column.

When on The Londoner’s page, scroll down a wee bit to read last week’s column.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Halifax Diaries: Day 3 - "Ou est mon chapeau rouge?"

See how time flies? I’ve been home from Halifax for only 3 days and already I’m recounting the third day of my journey and editing another112 photos.

Day 3 - Thursday, June 10

After a great night’s sleep in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, I said good-bye to the north shore of the St. Lawrence, asked for directions at a gas station (“Ou est mon chapeau rouge?” “Go est, look for 55, go sud.”), rode across a giant bridge and headed est on the long and very lovely highway 132.

Destination - Riviere du Loup, Quebec.

Estimated mileage - 340 km.

Gord’s mileage - 388 km.

Why the 48 km. difference? Do you need to ask?

I got lost after safely reaching the outskirts of my destination because I met a traffic circle with a few confusing words on it, circled 270 degrees rather than 180 and would have reached Rimouski in about an hour if a little voice inside my head had not said, I bet Rimouski’s nice, Gordie, but your hostel reservation is in the town you left awhile ago.

[“A typical St. Lawrence R. scene. A small village dominated by a massive church”: photos GH]

[“Many houses closely hug the main street (highway 132)”]

["Dead flat fields with farms and villages sitting atop rocky outcroppings.”]

[“A warm welcome awaited me behind the hostel’s front door.”]

Impressions and memories:

Riviere-du-Loup’s hostel is a great rest stop. I parked my bike in a back laneway, then entered a warm kitchen.

My third-storey private bedroom was quiet. I slept like a rock.

A bountiful and free breakfast greeted me in the morning. I returned the following week, on the way home, gladly.

I left the hostel truly believing Day 4 would be the first day I wouldn’t get lost.

Insert laugh-track here.


Please click here to read and view The Halifax Diaries, Day 2.

Please click here to read more about the trip.


The Lite News: Florida moms must be as tough as nails

It strikes me funny sometimes the newspaper clippings I stash in the Tupperware bin under my desk.

I got a kick out of this one:

“A Florida man has been arrested for calling 911 several times to report that his mother stole his beer.” (June 2, London Free Press)

["Son, step back from the beer fridge."]

I can understand a mom stealing a beer from her son on occasion. Hey, it gets hot in Florida and sometimes it’s just easier to ‘borrow a beer’ than make the trip to the corner store.

But, how desperate (loaded, unbalanced, _________, insert another adjective here) do you have to be to call 911 to get police to arrest your mom?

How tough (ornery, loaded - as in packin’ heat - insert another adjective here _________ ) does your mother have to be to need the help of police to guard your beer fridge?

It takes all kinds.


What would a suitable punishment be for the son?

Got any words for the mom?


Returning slowly to a normal routine. Sooo slooowly

Don emailed yesterday with an invitation re coffee, Thursday a.m.

I thought, yes, I need caffeine.

We stayed longer than usual because of the rain and, because we both have returned from long trips, tiredness in our bones.

But enjoying morning coffee and refill is a piece of my normal routine and I enjoyed every sip.

["Put away helmet. Check. Unpack bike. Check. Cut the lawn. Yeah, about that": photo GH]

I stopped at a store on the way. Bought snack food for ‘shed night.’ Lovely routine.

While returning to the house I thought about cutting the front lawn. Maybe pick a few weeds first. Normal routine stuff.

On the porch I sorted out mail from the flyers in the box and chucked 4 pounds of ads.

Once inside I put a few more things away from the trip. Answered an email. Sat at the computer.

I said to myself, I’ll cut the grass tomorrow.

Lovely normal routine stuff.


Initial thots re my return home from Halifax are posted here.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Halifax Diaries: Day 2 - A Timmies - fine. But a mystery hedge?

I’m sure it’s not a world record for a 14-day trip, but I took over 1,200 photos on one camera (not including 5 videos). The second camera still sits on the corner of my desk - unloaded.

(Oh, FYI: I arrived home safely Monday night. Thanks for asking. A few words about my homecoming are posted here.)

So, want to see another five photos (out of 200 for the day)?

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 9

Destination - Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

Estimated mileage - 467 km.

Gord’s mileage - 497 km.

Why the 30 km. difference? I took a wrong turn in Hawkesbury, Ontario and got lost north of Montreal, Quebec. Not a stellar performance but no real harm done. I got to use my longest French phrase, i.e., ou est mon chapeau rouge?

[“I left Kingston and rode on the 1000 Island Parkway. Very peaceful. I saw all 1000 islands”: photos GH]

[“I had real biker food for lunch, i.e., the chili combo. Ouch.]

[“I took a break between highway 138 and the St. Lawrence R. in Quebec.”]

[“A hedge shares a French phrase. Maybe the location of mon chapeau??”]

[“Part of the view from my balcony in Trois Rivieres. Churches were everywhere.”]

I didn't send an email message home or post on the blog while in Trois Rivieres. The hostel computer and I were unable to communicate. However, I had one of my best sleeps in a long time in Room P.


Please click here to view a few educational photos from Day 1.

Please click here to read more about the trip.


Finance Minister Jim Flatulence brags about Canada’s economy...

...Like a used car salesman brags about an old Buick.

Recently Mr. Flatulence boasted that Canada’s economy is getting better faster than expected and I felt like I was a teenager again and listening to some guy with slicked back hair tell me about the exotic features of some old clunker.

“You’ll love how easy it is to reach the volume control on the radio.”

Translation: The a/c hasn’t worked since 1964 and the car dealership won’t put a dime towards it.

“Look how solid the body is.”

Translation: Don’t look under the car.

“There’s only 59,000 miles on this baby.”

Translation: This year alone. The total is over the moon.

When Flatulence says “we have virtually recouped a recession’s worth of economic decline in less than a year” (June 22, London Free Press) he wants us to skip over the fact that our nation’s overall debt and annual budgetary deficit are at record highs.

When he says “Canada has been able to have a vigorous stimulus package” he forgets to mention that taxpayers will have to spend the next decade digging out from under it.

When he says “at the same time, our deficit and debt levels are way below what they are in other advanced countries” he means, some countries really, really, really suck right now but we just really, really suck.

Yup, only 59,000 miles on this baby.


Finance Minister Jim Flatulence does have one plan to try to save Canada some money. But it won’t work.

Please click here to read my careful, and brilliant, analysis concerning his plan.


The BP Slick: It’s bigger than Belgium, Netherlands and more.

Much more.

On page 7 of a small publication out of Ottawa, our nation’s capital, I read the following under a map of the area:

“After 57 days of oil gushing out from BP’s blown out Gulf of Mexico well, the spill now spans an area stretching from just north of Kingston, northeast to Shawinigan, swallowing Ottawa and Montreal in the process.” (June 16, 24H Ottawa)

The accompanying map was a jaw-dropper. The slick swallowed up a pile of territory I had just travelled through by motorcycle.

["The BP slick, and related destruction, is growing, growing": 24HOttawa]

My mileage records state the distance I covered from Trois Rivieres, Quebec (upper right corner of map) to Ottawa (at the center) was 358 km. To get to Algonquin Park (the green shape, left of center) would have been another day’s ride.

In other words, the slick is so big a person would have to motorcycle steadily (no stopping for photos, lunch or bathroom breaks) for 6 - 10 hours to go from one edge to the other.

That’s an area so great it would not only swallow Montreal and Ottawa but Belgium (18,969 sq. km.), Netherlands (23,210 sq. km.), Switzerland (25,653 sq. km.) and Ireland (43,466 sq. km) as well.

And that was a week ago.

There will be no rest for the wicked if they hope to restore the damage .


[Please click here to read an earlier post related to other numbers associated with the BP spill.]

[Please click here to read an earlier column of mine related to the BP spill.]


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Halifax Diaries: Day 1 - including highly educational photos

I just downloaded the most oft-used camera of the two I carried along on my motorcycle trip to Halifax and back.

(Yes, I arrived home safely last night. Thanks for asking. A few words about my homecoming are posted here.)

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 8

Destination - Kingston, Ontario.

[“The bike, fully loaded, warmed up - in our back lane”: photos GH]

Estimated mileage - 490 km.

Gord’s mileage - 526.7 km.

[“Yup, that’s a full load, and I know it’s a bit top-heavy”]

Yes, there are shorter ways to Kingston, but they involve the 401 or 407 or both. I went north to Newmarket, via Stratford, Arthur and Orangeville, then zig-zagged toward the 401 to escape Toronto. Unfortunately, I got off track north of Stratford and added more km. to an already long day. Surely, that won’t happen again.

[“My first break was in Millbank (Mennonite country), NE of Stratford”]

[“I hit Kingston only 5 min. later than scheduled, and the Kingston Brewing Co. shortly after eating a tin of stew.”]

[“Kingston is a beautiful, welcoming old city. On my way home from the pub I spotted an interesting architectural feature from the deep past on a lower step. What is it? Nope, not a funky cheese knife”]

A few notes and impressions:

Hostel kitchens and tins of stew will save me tonnes of meal money.

Most Canadians are very friendly. Sherry, hostel hostess at Skweek's House, gave me use of her garage for the bike.

The scenery NE of Stratford (e.g., around Drayton, home of a small festival theater), made my day.

Dragon’s Breath beer (compared to Regal Lager) at the Brewing Co. is a real ale, in my opinion, and I would have had a second lovely, bitter glass but I had many miles to cover the next day.