Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Lite News: Could the Nissan Cube be used for something else?

I saw a Cube pass by while I sipped my dark roast this morning outside the Red Roaster in Wortley Village.

I thought, boxy. Quite boxy.

The driver was a woman in her 60s or 70s - smokin’ like a sailor.

I thought, boxy looks good on her, poor girl.

A few more cartons and she may have to drive it straight into a hole in the ground.

Yes, she was coffin at the time.


Please click here for more Lite news.


Live Small and Prosper Pt 1: The more solar projects the better

Don’t ask me how it works (I don’t have a mind for business and I can prove it), but the more widgets you sell, the more efficiencies you develop (don’t even ask me what an ‘efficiency’ is), the cheaper you can sell an individual widget, and that’s a good thing, especially for those who what to add to their collection of cheap widgets.

They’d likely even be cheaper by the dozen. (I think that’s why the ‘baker’s dozen’ was invented years ago by a guy who baked more buns than he could eat in a week).

The above sounds good in theory but looks even better in practice.

And that’s likely why the Ontario government offers solar- and wind-energy producers a really good price (50 - 80 cents) for 20-year contracts for every kilowatt-hour they produce for the province’s electric-power grid.

["The sun works for me": link to photo]

And where do the widgets and magic theory (sell more, it gets cheaper) come in, as far as Ontario is concerned?

Here: The more solar projects on the books, the more jobs are created, the cleaner the energy, the better for future generations.

There’s more to it than that, of course.

Recurrent Energy, a California-based company, has 19 solar projects on their books for Ontario that are expected to produce about 150 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 21,000 homes.

By receiving 50 - 80 cents per kwh, Recurrent may turn a good profit after expenses.

Too good? I’ll let the business minds figure that one out. But our hydro rates will likely be affected (we pay less than 10 cents per kwh for juice at the moment, but if the province is paying 50 - 80 cents to produce it, someone will have to pay for the difference.

My thought: Ontarians will soon pay more for energy in order to establish green-energy production for future generations to use. Future generations may even pay a more reasonable price for hydro than the present one after the 20-year contracts have expired.

How do I feel about that?

Not bad, actually. The present generation is passing on a lot of debt (record amounts right now both provincially and nationally) so our grandchildren ought to have their hands full with the financial mess we’re leaving them - along with a lot more messes I must say.

There’s more to it than that too, of course.

Stay tuned.


I don’t mind turbines. They work for me.

I don’t mind solar panels and higher energy bills. (It’s a matter of fairness, I suppose).

Have I had too much sun?


Zoom w a View: Turbines work for me

Works of art.

Clean Hydro.

Clean air.

Fewer climate change concerns.

["There is a season... turn, turn, turn.": photos GH]

Their message with each turn of the blade: Conserve energy.


Wind Turbines: On a hazy day they don’t obscure the view

Four photos tell a story.

You may love wind turbines, you may hate them, you may say they are beautiful or you may say they obscure the view.

The photos say (the first three taken Sunday, west of Port Burwell, just across Lake Erie from Ohio Valley), if it’s a hazy day they don’t obscure the view at all.

On many days the haze obscures the view.

And what causes the haze?

I’d say this: In part, the haze is produced by coal-fired energy plants in the Ohio Valley and oil refineries in Toledo.

["Can you spot 30 - 40 turbines east of Port Bruce?": photos 2010 GH]

The more fossil fuels we burn, the more wind turbines look like a great idea.


If you say turbines obscure the view you are not alone.

In the long-term, however, are turbines one of the healthiest and cheapest ways to produce energy to meet our growing demands?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Birdhouse Spotting Pt 2: Highway 3, 1 mile east of Courtland

About a future return trip to Courtland to buy a particular birdhouse I earlier said the following:

I’ll take more money next time. I saw one I want to buy for sentimental reasons.

One reason - I spent many long hours working in tobacco fields as a teen and old kilns are disappearing faster than 30 in. waist Levis in boomers’ closets.

["Peterson houses on a fence behind the birdhouse warehouse": photos GH]

Another - the birdhouse builder is an easy talker, e.g., about birdhouse building.

“I build ‘em as a retirement hobby,” he said.

“Me too,” I said. “It puts gas in my motorcycle.”

“It helps me pay my alimony,” he shot back, quick as a wink.

I couldn't help it. I laughed right out loud. (He didn't disapprove!)

But the best reason to go back came to mind during another brief exchange.

He said, “I have some active bluebird houses on the back fence.”

I’ll go back to watch for bluebirds.

Then he said, “I still have 90 - 95 bluebird houses around the county.”

“You might know my dad then,” I said. “He had scores of them on fence posts near here, in Oxford County.”

Yes, he knew my dad. With his white waves of hair, he even reminded me of my dad.

So, I’ll go back to talk more about how he knew my dad.

Life gets more interesting with each passing day, does it not?


The last person I spoke to recently who knew my dad was a birdhouse builder as well, and still living in my first childhood home.

Small world.


Birdhouse Spotting Pt 1: Highway 3, 1 mile east of Courtland

While biking north out of Port Burwell yesterday with a satisfied grin on my face (the Spiderman ice cream from Simply Scoops had been pretty darn tasty!) I formulated a plan.

["The birdhouse shop is easy to find. Look for the red tin roof"]

I.e., turn east at Straffordville, follow Elgin Rd. 38 to Courtland, try to find the birdhouse builder on the north side of The King’s Highway 3. Then get home for supper.

["A sturdy, unpainted purple martin house": photos by GH]

I did all of the above and more.

The birdhouse builder and I had quite the chat and I know I will return for another one - lengthier - in the near future.

I’ll take more money next time. I saw one house I want to buy for sentimental reasons.

["I spent many hours working in tobacco kilns, as above."]

Yes, I could make it myself but I don’t like to paint my houses. I’m more of a linseed oil kind of guy.

Plus, the builder reminded me of my dad and I want to support his work.

I could have taken more pictures but I got busy talking.


Have you passed through Courtland on your way to Tillsonburg, Delhi, Simcoe or Port Dover?

Ever stopped at the corner birdhouse warehouse?

If you go, stop at Nick Nickerson’s house in Salford (H. 19) on your way.


In the Workshop Pt 2: What’s that in the corner?

Not only was the dust getting so deep I couldn’t see out of the shop window but I was starting to trip over piles of ‘miscellaneous lumber.’

(‘Miscellaneous lumber;’ definition - scrap that is good for something - surely to goodness - but I’m not exactly sure what at the time of rescue)

So, while vacuuming dust bunnies the size of banana boxes and before settling into a last minute-y project I carried a few armloads of scrap to The Annex. (Yes, I have a second shed. Guess what it’s filled with).

["The GH model made from 3 in. high pieces of cedar": photos GH]

But before locking The Annex door for the day I noticed a nice piece of wood over in the far corner.

I wondered, what could that be?

It turned out to be a lovely remnant from a cedar fence post. And... there was a second remnant beside the first.

["The 3 in. model requires an interior skeleton for greater stability."]

I formed a plan.

Finish the project on my bench, then start another one (much like another recent birdhouse project), but cut and sand the lumber outside so that I don’t have to vacuum again for three months.

Surprise! I stuck to the plan.


It’s a wonder I saw the cedar fence posts.

The Annex is stuffed to the gills with misc. lumber.

I think I see more Rietveld chairs in my future.


In the Workshop: What’s that under the bench?

I’ve enjoyed busy times in the shop lately but the dust was getting so thick I couldn’t see out the window.

A ‘shed night’ was scheduled for last Thursday so, the afternoon of, I lifted the shop vac off its wall mount.

["Three small birdhouses ready for fence posts": photos GH]

(‘Shed night’; definition - neighbours get together and - while sipping cold beverages and the occasional single malt - attempt to solve problems of the world, or not; e.g., “Anybody brave enough to trap the skunk I saw last night in our yards?” No answer.)

["The tall one was made from rescued lumber from Bracebridge"]

While vacuuming I spotted a pile of dusty lumber under my main bench.

I wondered, what could that be?

Upon closer inspection I discovered leftover bits of cedar, nicely cut and sanded, from an earlier project.

Two hours later I had three small birdhouses ready for fence posts in the country.


Photos from the country should soon follow now that the linseed oil finish is dry.

Is this good motorcycling weather, or what?

Please click here to view other recent shop projects.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Birdhouse Spotting: Port Stanley, Ontario

I went in via the back way.

I.e., from St. Thomas to Dexter Line (no relation to the TV show), then west to the water tower, then south and steeply downhill to the main street.

["South of the water tower in Port Stanley": photos GH]

Between the tower and main street traffic lights I spotted a large, round birdhouse with a peculiar roof. The unit sat atop an 8 ft. pole.

Another model, farther back from the road, was accompanied by smaller houses near the middle of the pole.



I left Port Stanley after enjoying a small order of fries - and watching gulls hang in the air - at Mackey’s.

Yes, the fries were yummy.

Please click here to visit the birdhouse capital of SW Ontario.


Climate Change Concerns: Pt 2 Don’t let the headline fool you

Though the headline (“Putin Convinced Climate Change Now A Threat” Aug. 24, London Free Press) sounds almost positive and the Russian Prime Minister at least admits the climate is changing, his recent visit with climate scientists working at the Samoilovsky island station was likely scheduled just so he could appear concerned in some small way.

After all, his country just suffered through a two-month heat wave, Russia’s worst on record. (Click here for more details and link to full article).

Though Putin will likely do little to reduce his country’s greenhouse gas emissions (Russia was the fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2009, according to energy firm BP) if he revisits the Samoilovsky island station on a regular basis he’ll get a first-hand glimpse of the costly changes related to global warming and his own desire to drive the Russian economy on the back of cheap fossil fuel.

["Melting permafrost": Please link to photo site]

His island station scientists (who began studying the melting Siberian permafrost in 1998) will likely be able to tell him that “the melting Siberian permafrost - which stretches up to 1.5 km into the ground - will accelerate the global warming process further, as huge quantities of methane gas are released into the Earth’s atmosphere.”

First hand evidence may open his eyes.


Putin once joked that, because of global warming, Russians would have to buy fewer fur coats.

Was he high on methane at the time?


Zoom w a View: Name this boat

While in Gravenhurst recently I snapped a few shots of the mighty "what's its name."

The name is just on the tip of my tongue.

["The old and mighty 'whooszy-whatzit": photos GH]

Anyone? Anyone?


Please click here for another Zoom w a View.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Climate Change Concerns: Pt 1 Don’t let the headline fool you

The headline sounded almost positive.

“Putin Convinced Climate Change Now A Threat” (Aug. 24, London Free Press)

I read farther.

“The climate is changing. This year we have come to understand this when we faced events that resulted in fires,” Mr. Putin told climate scientists working at the Samoilovsky island station, opened in 1998 to study the melting Siberian permafrost. (Link to online article Globe and Mail)

I realized that Putin only admits the climate is changing and, I suppose, he has to appear as if he’s concerned in some small way after a “two-month heatwave, Russia’s worst on record, killed 54 people in forest fires, destroyed a quarter of the grain crop and shaved at least $14-billion off the economy.”

However, I learned he is “still waiting for an answer whether global climate change was the result of human activity or “the Earth living its own life and breathing””.

Though his country has suffered this year due to climate change, he doesn’t sound like the kind of person who will lead his country toward positive changes of behaviour.

However, in the next 10 years or so, if Putin regularly revisits that particular station, he may learn first hand that behavioural change is strongly needed.

What’s so special about that particular site?

Stay tuned.


Please click here to read more Climate Change Concerns


Wind Turbines Pt 3 and the loud call for public education

Love them or hate them, more wind turbines will eventually be marching across our landscape just as metal hydro towers with electrical lines over their shoulders (and delivering coal-fired energy) did many years ago.

Some will fear for the loss of a pristine view of the sunset, others will fear for the loss of tourism dollars, others will fear higher bills in the mail, others will fear the turbines won’t be built quickly enough for their own benefit (or for the benefit of others).

Whatever the case, more public education about matters related to the pros and cons of wind turbines needs to takes place.

“Nobody is telling anybody anything and the deadline is fast approaching,” said Cam Spooner of Arva who has a cottage with a view of the lake (Huron). (Aug. 18, London Free Press)

And from the same newspaper article:

“Residents are organizing to fight an enemy whose face and plans aren’t entirely clear.”

Whether the information re turbines (e.g., where, when, how many, at what cost) is out there or not, the government and turbine companies seem to be leaving citizens with the impression that not enough is known about the future of energy in this province.

In my humble opinion, the Ont. government is missing a golden opportunity to inform the public about the pros and cons associated with all forms of hydro production and what the real costs are associated with the high-energy lifestyle that so many Ontarians wish to pursue.

Whenever someone complains about how a turbine affects the view or real estate values our Premier or Energy Minister should talk about how coal-fired energy plants affect the view in a worse way and how coal dust affects the lungs and who pays for the surgery or burial of those affected by respiratory illnesses.

Whenever someone complains about the spike in their hydro bills our government leaders should inform the public about exact expenses related to coal-fired hydro plants from beginning to end, as well as about present and future wind turbines, and nuclear-power plants.

The citizens of Ontario are well educated and can absorb history and economic lessons about costs related to energy production going back 50 - 60 years. And such lessons might put our lifestyles in perspective. I.e., they may be quite excessive because of cheap fuel and energy costs.

We might also learn that the clock is ticking on cheap power and subsequent inflated lifestyles.

In conclusion, the loudest call should be for public education. Not that lovely views, tourism dollars, real estate values and low hydro bills aren’t important.

But we can’t continue to live without the knowledge of the true costs associated with the vast amount of fuel we require to live as we wish.


Live small and prosper.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Letter to the Editor: “I’ll happily look out at a few wind turbines”

I guess I’m not alone. Someone else - a cottager in this case - has something to say in favour of wind turbines.

Bruce K. writes: “For anyone complaining about their spoiled view or reduced property value from wind turbines, I urge you to visit the London Health respiratory clinic. Pay attention to the crying...”

“The Ont. Ministry of the Environment said in a 2005 report that 5,800 Ont. deaths were caused by smog due in arge part to coal-fired electrical generating stations.”

“I’ll happily look out at a few wind turbines and feel proud that Ontario is doing something to lives.”
(Aug. 23 issue of the London Free Press)

As I said earlier, turbines - in the long-term - may be one of the cheapest and healthiest forms of producing hydro.

Pay now or pay later.

Please click here to read Wind Turbines Pt 3


Climate Change Concerns: A wind from the east blows good...

... For neither man nor beast.

And it won’t be long before the wind blowing from China comes bearing more coal soot than you can shake a stick at.

China’s economy is now the second biggest in the world.

Also, according to the International Energy Agency, “China is now the world’s biggest consumer of energy and burns about half of the world’s total coal production.” (Gwynne Dyer, Aug. 21, London Free Press)

China also now makes “makes more cars than any other country in the world. Indeed, it makes as many as Japan and the US together.”

So, add more than a titch of greasy smog to the soot soon to be coming our way.

And, if you didn’t know already, “as long ago as 2007, China became the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

Soot, greasy smog, greenhouse gases. The triple whammy.

["The cheapest, healthiest source of energy?": photos GH]

Recommendation: If you don’t like the sound and smell of the winds from the east, then get off the cheap-goods-from-China consumption habit.

Stay out of Wal-Mart and The Dollar Store and any other that is supplied chiefly by China and cheap labour.

Slow down the big coal and big oil engine and save money for the future at the same time.


If we want good news stories related to climate change, I think we’ll have to write them ourselves.

Please click here to read more Climate Change Concerns.


The Lite News: Crisis averted - I'll search for Stanfields in 2011

Hearty thanks to Liz and L. Dee for their comments related to an earlier post re my need for a few pairs of sturdy Stanfields.

Good news - I found several pairs on a clothesline in the basement. Forgotten for two weeks but now dry and ready to return to their rotation schedule. Ahh, life is good.

["Be ready. New rotation schedule starts on Saturday!": photo GH]

I now believe I’ll make it to 2011 without buying any new clothes.

I’ll see on Jan. 1st if anything is still ‘Made in Canada’ anymore.


Please click here to read more Lite News.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where can I go to buy a pair of Stanfields?

After my shower this morning I looked inside my underwear draw to begin the process of choosing matching clothing items for my Wednesday ensemble.

What a sad state of affairs inside that drawer!

I’m into my second year of buying “no new clothes” and though my sock drawer and t-shirt drawers are in good shape my unmentionables (the aforementioned underwear aka Stanfields) are almost all at the “paint rag” stage.

Two very important thoughts crossed my mind.

One, can I get to the end of 2010 - another 128 days - with this very sad lot of rags around me bottom?

Two, on January 1, 2011, will I be able to find any clothes at all ‘Made in Canada?’

According to Ruth Snow (Letter to the Editor, today’s issue of The London Free Press), who asks, “Is anything made in Canada anymore? Shop Canadian, where?” - maybe not.

While Ruth wonders “if anyone else has noticed the failing North American economy while China is growing exponentially” I wonder if it’s because we shipped our jobs overseas so we could have cheap products.

Really, I’m willing to pay more for Stanfields. But where are they?

I have 128 days to find out.


PS I’ll settle for Fruit of the Loom.

Are they made down the road in Woodstock anymore?


Wind Turbines Pt 2 and the loud call for cheap hydro

I’m interested in the topic of wind turbines for several fascinating reasons.

In my opinion, the tall white productive giants are like living art installations.

“They spoil the view,” some will say.

“They are the view,” I say in return. “And a lot more beautiful than urban malls, big box stores, snout houses, and transport trucks flying down miles of tarmac atop some of the best arable land in the world.”

["What do turbines say to you?": photos GH]

(We could have fewer turbines if we reduced our spending on consumer goods, stayed home, dismantled our electric leaf blowers and raked the lawn by hand. The growing number of turbines make that statement with every artful sweep of their blades. Sorry, I digress).

In my opinion as well, turbines may actually produce power more cheaply than some other conventional means, i.e., coal-fired and nuclear energy plants, when you consider all the costs we bear related to hydro production.

“What the heck?” some will say and point to a complaint voiced by G. Drimmie in our local paper:

“Of more serious concern (i.e., than spoiling a view) - and a concern that affects all residents of Ontario - is the increasing electricity cost that these ‘green machines’ will inject into Ontario’s electrical grid. My bill is 19.6% higher than a year ago and will increase progressively as more and more expensive generating capacity is added. Electricity is becoming unaffordable to residents... and from a business standpoint we are pricing ourselves out of the market.” (Aug. 19, London Free Press)

Is hydro getting more expensive? Do turbines add to the cost?


However, we need to ask ourselves if the cheaper bills of the past - for which so many people yearn - were subsidized for us in some way.

Or, were we paying a high cost for cheap hydro in some other way?

The answer again is yes.

High numbers of people entering our over-burdened health-care system with respiratory illnesses suggest we are paying for some costs associated with cheap, coal-fired energy with our very lives.

I suppose that’s one reason we have life insurance. Another cost, right?

Are there additional costs, other than on our hydro bills, associated with all forms of energy production, including wind power?

Certainly. And it would take a genius (which I’m not; I can prove it) to tease the costs out of all the various government and business departments (associated with manufacturing new energy plants, health care plans, towers, turbines, distribution lines, billing systems, etc.), but, in the long-run, I wouldn’t be surprised if wind energy turns out to be one of the cheaper forms of producing hydro, alongside solar panels and water-powered turbines as one of the healthiest forms too.

Let’s take the long view and consider all the costs, rather than complain about the loss of a sunset view and the costs of just wind turbines.


Q: Would you rather lose a view or a lung?

Public education about pros and cons associated with all forms of hydro production is a government responsibility, right?

To whom should I send my bill?

Sorry, I digress.

Please click here to read a Letter to the Editor and then link to Wind Turbines Pt 3


Somewhere in the deep past I lied

When I see a good birdhouse design I steal it, but not because I want to be immortal. (Well there is that, but not fully because of that, at any rate).

I call the following the GH cube house. It’s made of 1” thick white cedar and will last 40 years.

[“Immortality, here I come - slowly.”]

[“12 white cedar slabs per GH cube house”: photos GH]

[“Rescued red cedar fence posts start the immortality process”]

I stole the JR birdhouse design and modified it for my purposes, not just because I want my cube houses to dot the countryside long after I’m gone, but because it’s a historic (circa 1946), durable (originally made of teak, with an aluminum roof attached with chromium screws), and - in my opinion - beautiful design.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a teak or cedar cube? Really, think about it.

And while I’m bearing my secrets, I must say I lied a while back.

I said I was going to make four- and six-plexes out of rescued barn board and I ended up with four- and five-plexes.

One of the units got dropped in favour of a feeding area. I may even put a dish on top of the side porch to act as a bird bath.

My deepest apologies.


My conscience is now almost clear.

Should I write to the Griffin Pub and confess to bin diving?


I walked out of the Griffin Pub but not empty-handed

I spent the weekend in Bracebridge, Ontario.

Brace yourself for several photos of the surrounding area, including the work of a Four Star Gardener, but none of the Griffin Pub, a lovely wee treasure at the back end of steep alley. My kind of place. Hoppy, flavourful offerings, e.g., Hoptical Illusion, Smashbomb IPA.

After two such pints friend Jim and I walked out the door and I spotted a bin bearing a few scraps of lumber.

I nabbed them.

Another patron joked with us.

“What have you found there?”

["The wood was a steal": photos GH]

“Some fine birdhouses,” I replied.

Three in fact.


Warning to Bracebridgians - Never leave your scrap lumber unguarded, even if it’s littered with nails.

Please click here for The Lite News


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wind Turbines Pt 1 and the loud call for a pristine view

Love them or hate them, wind turbines are in the news and may soon be parked offshore at a beach near you.

I like standing right under them and taking photos of them as they fade toward the horizon.

["Turbine at Orchard Line, west of Port Burwell": photos GH]

Others like them so far away they can’t be seen.

A recent government proposal “is for the turbines to be five kilometers from shore, but at that distance they would still be visible and would ruin the beautiful views of the lake,” says R. Leduc (Dashwood), Aug. 21, London Free Press.

["Turbines fade away east of Pt. Burwell beach"]

Mr. Leduc wants people to tell the government to place them “far enough from shore so they will still provide the necessary power but not be visible. This would be a win-win solution.”

Wait just a minute.

It would be win-win until Mr. Leduc pays his hydro bill.

Then he’d notice it is inflated due to higher construction and maintenance costs.

First, more far-off turbines would be needed to insure sufficient outputs (hydro is lost from lines as it travels toward its destination; the farther it travels, the more is lost, and we pay for the lost hydro; check your last bill).

Second, crews would need to be dispatched by boat or chopper to distant turbines for any repair.

Do boat and chopper crews work for free? Mr. Leduc’s got money to burn? Not likely.

However, he has likely grown quite accustomed to many other things that long ago spoiled his view.

I bet he’s seen power lines suspended from poles and towers for so many years now he doesn’t even notice them as they wind along his city streets delivering electricity right to a pole attached to his house.

And the 60 - 80 ft. giant metal monsters carrying wires from county to county through fields and forests are likely invisible to him now.

["On a hazy day 30 turbines become invisible at Pt. Bruce"]

Case in point. I used to stop and take pictures of turbines every chance I got when I first noticed them 3 - 4 years ago as they stretched from Port Bruce to Port Burwell. I even used to tell others to take a day and drive down to see the shiny new monsters. I was impressed with their beauty.

Now, I don’t notice them as much. I’m used to seeing them. They’re part of the landscape.

They do, however, still add to the view, in my opinion, when I glance over my shoulder while riding my bike along the lakeshore roads.

More than needing a pristine view, we need to conserve electricity.


What are other examples of things that once were very noticeable - spoiled our view - but now just blend into the background?

Large trucks on highways?

Big hair?

Front yard driveways filled with two or three cars?

Apartments taller than 4 storeys?

People over 6 feet tall?

Please click here to read Wind Turbines Pt 2


Monday, August 23, 2010

Deforest City Blues: Headline - “Builders Officially Go Green”


Get out of town.

I mean it. Get out of town if you believe the headline. (June 9, London Free Press)

Yes, London home builders occasionally embrace energy-efficient technologies in home construction.

But, “officially,” they’re a long way from going green.

Why do I say that?

Because Deforest City builders still ignore the greenest option of all - smaller homes.

If we built homes that were 20% smaller than the average, what would happen?

We’d use 20% fewer building materials. That’s energy-efficient, eh.

We’d require less fuel to heat the home.

We’d require less furniture.

We’d likely require fewer electric appliances.

We’d have a smaller mortgage and not use as much energy sweating about our monthly finances.

So, are our builders officially going green?

Not by a long shot.


How many square feet do you need in order to be a happy home owner?

Please click here to read more Deforest City Blues.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

pretend this is real textng

[Partially observed at McDonalds]

hey, big duke. sup u. narlydog

nada. driving in car. u? BIG DUKE

home. watching tv. u. narly

still driving. store shopping. bd

what for. nd

getting stuff fr skool. BD

do u hv mrs. dobson ths yr. Narly Dawg

yes. u. BD

dont no. but mrs. d is cool but she gives to much hmwk. nd

lik wut. bd

lik spelng. bunch crap. narl dg

wut gr. you in this yr? bD

4. u. dawg

3. bumr. duke

gotta go. cartoon up. dawg

see ya. going in for shoos. big duck

And so life goes at the local hamburger joint.


The above almost really happened today.

sup. dude.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Strikes Me Funny Pt 2: We may just be tired of spending our money

It’s bad enough that we sometimes disappoint parents, spouses, employers and customers.

But should we care if we disappoint North America’s three biggest retailers?

I say no. (I say instead, oh, boo hoo, boo hoo).

I say a meaningful recession, a retreat form 65 years of over-consumption is more important than the news that Walmart Stores Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Sears Canada Inc. each posted lower-than-expected same-store sales (a common measure of performance) recently.

["Slow down the shopping"]

Here is what Michael Antecol, director of the marketing research, said about the recent drop in sales.

“Canadian consumer confidence took a big hit earlier this summer as negative headlines filled the business pages.”

“The fact of the matter is any recovery is going to be consumer led,” he said. “And if consumers don’t start spending and if they just sit on their wallets, it’s never going to happen.” (Aug. 18, London Free Press)

I say in my most recent column that something far more important that positive retail results will come about if people (note I didn’t say ‘consumers’; we’re more important than that) keep “their cold hard cash tucked safely inside their wallets, purses and savings accounts.”

I say that people can “change the rate of (global) warming. A purposeful retreat from over-consumption (in other words, a meaningful recession) would have a big payoff globally if the warming engines of coal and oil were kept turned-down-low for a longer period of time."

["Speed up the inexpensive hobby"]

No small thing compared to Wal-mart profits.

When I read about slowdowns in retail sales I think that people are reading and heeding my comments. (It only slowly dawns on me that ‘it’s not all about me.’)

Maybe we’re tired of our credit card debt and monthly payments.

Maybe we’re just tired of spending money as if the economy depends on it.

Maybe our consumption habits are due for a big change.


What do you think?

Should we drive the economy more slowly, more sustainably?

Maybe clean out the garage and basement and hold a gigantic yard sale?


It Strikes Me Funny Pt 1: We may just be tired of spending our money

It’s bad enough that we sometimes disappoint our parents.

“Get a haircut. Get your feet off the couch. Get a real job.”

I know. I feel your pain.

It’s bad enough we sometimes disappoint our employers or customers.

“Get a hairnet. Get your feet off the grill. Make me a real cheeseburger.”

I know. Real cheese is hard to find.

And now, according to the following headline, we’re disappointing someone else:

“Shoppers disappoint retailers this summer”

Oh, boo hoo. Boo hoo. Boooo hoooo.

I shed crocodile tears for all concerned.

You’ll see no real tears from me, even after reading that ‘three of North America’s biggest retailers reported lacklustre sales in the spring/summer quarter, supporting growing evidence the economic recovery may be losing steam as consumers tighten their purse strings.’ (Aug. 18, London Free Press)

["Stay out of stores as much as possible. Find a cheap hobby": photo GH]

I’m sure you would expect no less from me.

In my most recent column, entitled ‘While temperatures grow hotter we remain cool to change’ (Aug. 19, The Londoner), I wrote the following:

“It is readily apparent that, though governments will likely make shallow commitments (re climate change) - ‘shallow’ may be a gross overstatement - individuals can change the rate of (global) warming by keeping their cold hard cash tucked safely inside their wallets, purses and savings accounts.”

Rather than rescue retailers I think we should be making a significant retreat from spending and consumption of many retail goods.

I call it “a meaningful recession.”

I’m disappointed with retailers who don’t agree.


Stay tuned.

Tired of spending?

A savings account spells r-e-l-i-e-f.


Be It Resolved: I’ll walk a marathon per month

Are these phrases familiar?

A gaggle of geese.

A school of fish.

A pride of lions.

A batch of BBQs.

That last one is my latest invented phrase. Good one, eh?

A batch of BBQs isn’t something I saw recently - it’s something I endured. And it ain’t over yet.

My weight is going up (I’m now 5 pounds over my legal limit) and I must do something about it after I return from Bracebridge and one more BBQ supper already scheduled at my sister’s house.

What to do?

I’ll still cycle 100 miles per week and play Wednesday hockey but I’m toying with the idea of walking a marathon per month on a regular basis.

["Photo from a short morning walk; I must go longer": photo GH]

I like walking. I like walking with a camera. I like walking speed (it’s a great speed for thinking and observing interesting architectural features on neighbourhood houses, i.e., spying on folks).

But I usually just walk short distances in the ‘hood, e.g., to the corner of Coffee and Hardware for my regular fix of java and bag o’ nails.

I need to bump it up, to 26.2 miles per month, to lose 5 pounds.

I’ll be back in 30 minutes.


Is a marathon a month too much?

I’ll figure out how long it takes me to walk a mile, then do the math.

We’ll see. I may have to settle for a half-marathon per month.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ollie and Me: In 20 years he’ll be one of my best friends

Grandson Ollie arrives at out house four days per week before 9 a.m. and - like a typical “free-and-a-half” year old - his engines are in top gear as soon as he walks or bounds through the door.

He likes doing just about everything my wife and I suggest and enjoys participating in gym and karate activities planned by his parents.

He organizes some activities on his own and invites me to play.

For example, he loves to arrange six banana boxes in a row and take the train to Halifax. I sit behind him, but have noticed it’s getting harder to get in and out of a banana box than it used to be.

He loves to join pieces of wood together with nuts and bolts while I sit on the couch beside him, but it’s getting harder for me to stay awake while he performs the same routine a dozen times.

However, since I make the effort to play he thinks I’m the greatest.

(At least I think he does).

As well, he usually seems pretty eager to join me in some of my own routines: Together we feed the birds, chase the squirrels away, sweep the workshop floor, pick weeds and water the tomatoes just about every morning.

Occasionally, when I look down the road in my mind’s eye, I think he’ll make a great mate in the shop in 20 years. He seems at home there. So do I.

Maybe after his last class at the university (unless he becomes a Fireman Sam) he’ll stop by to see what I’m doing, and join me for ‘Happy Hour’ at five o’clock.

We should have lots to talk about.


Thing$ Going $$South Pt 3: The US economy? Oh, oh Canada

Our over-inflated dog of a lifestyle here on planet Earth may be coming back to bite us.

Not only are many expenses going north (collect the whole set!) but there are signs that the global economy is going south.

One result - those that are bitten turn a bit snarky. (And snarky is worse that starkers in may ways, isn’t it? Just asking).

One thing for certain that is going $$South is home ownership.

Another is Greece. Whoops! It’s so slippery.

["Get ready for a lot of company, Pee Wee"]

Could the North American economy be the next thing that goes south?

After all, according to recent news, the following bad economic signs are evident:

Home foreclosures are reaching record highs again

Jobless claims are rising

Core retail sales are falling

And, because the Canadian economy is strongly reliant on the US economy, if the US economy goes south so does Canada’s.

Isn’t that exciting news?

It gives a whole new meaning to “let’s go south for the winter, Edith.”


I should start listening to cheerful music every morning.

You hip? Any suggestions?