Sunday 30 June 2013


I’ve never been one to volunteer. I have done so over the years, but I’ve mainly been driven by Hobson’s choice. Either I do it or someone else will do it, and not as well as I could, and if I don’t do it, I can’t complain. I like to complain, so really I have had no choice.

 I would imagine that my reticence of volunteering began early in grade school. The teacher would ask a question and knowing the answer, I would eagerly wave my hand back and forth until she would pick me to answer. I would give my answer, but instead of the awed silence at my wisdom, there were giggles and titters from my classmates and a simple “No” from the teacher. I don’t mind telling you that it doesn’t take too many of those embarrassing situations before you spend most of your time in class avoiding eye contact with the teacher and hating the “brainiacs” that put up their hands, who actually knew the right answer.
I suppose that the culmination was in grade 11 French when the teacher, Dr. Dawson, kept me after class and made a deal with me. She would never ask me another question if I promised not to disrupt her class. It seemed like the kind of a deal that would work for both of us and strangely enough, once the pressure to perform was taken away, I did much better in the class even though I didn’t have to pay attention.

Many years later, a friend talked me into going to the Annual General Meeting of the Properties Soccer Association. His reasoning was that I had three kids playing soccer and I should know where the money goes. Makes sense…right? There was a point during the meeting when they needed to fill the empty positions on the board. I watched the poor suckers who put up their hands when Treasurer, Secretary, Equipment manager, and Fields were filled. Didn’t they even go to grade school? Maybe they were the brainiacs and this was their punishment, serves them right!

The position of Girls Co-ordinator came up and I looked around while sitting on my hands wondering what sucker would get conned into this. My buddy Wayne Hanson (Fields) put his hand up and said “Ken has two girls in the program and would be a great co-ordinator.” I checked to see if I were still sitting on my hands and was wondering if I were finally having one of those recurrences that the cops promised I would have back in the good old days. I stammered that I knew very little about soccer and have never been a good organizer. Wayne said he’d give me a hand (never did) and the others promised that it would only be about two hours a month of commitment. Lying bastards!!!!!! I did the job for about six years, winter and summer, and it was just as much trouble as I thought it would be. It became something I was proud of and I met many very nice people and I wouldn’t change a minute of it. I also will never go to any AGM again.

Many years later, I put my hand up again when Scouts needed a co-leader for the Venturers. I knew I was getting into a several year commitment this time, but I hoped that I could give the boys an experience they would remember over and above what they had already done in scouting. We let the boys make most of the decisions and gave a little advice when it was needed and watched when they learned the hard way how things should be done. The only rule that we had was “Don’t do anything to embarrass us!” They did of course, but that’s part of being a teenager. I like the men and women that these youngsters have become. Maybe I had something to do with it…Nahhhh!

Generally speaking, whenever I have volunteered during my life I have never regretted it. Most of the good friends I have as an adult come from going against what common sense dictated. I guess that just goes to show that I don’t know what the hell I am doing most of the time.

Saturday 29 June 2013

A Guys Got to Have a Hobby

This is the first real hot day of the summer. Well, I think it is a pretty hot day. I put the fans in the window to blow cool air into the house and the first thing tomorrow morning, the AC is going in the window. We are also going to see about getting a small one for the bedroom window. It isn’t hot compared to places like Las Vegas where it is going up to 48° C or somewhere Louise told me about in BC where it is going up to 42° C. It will get down to 14° tonight and up to 27° tomorrow, but it will feel like 32°.

I know there are people out there saying “WTF Ken? That sounds pretty much perfect to me. I’d prefer heat to cold any day.” All I can say to that is “You are wrong!” When it is cold you can put on a coat, and if it gets colder, you can put on more clothes. That can really go on indefinitely and if it gets so cold that you have run out of clothes, you just stay inside, sit by the fireplace, have a warm or a cool drink (your choice) and thank all of the Gods in heaven that you don’t have to go out to work in this weather.

When it gets hot, you are limited to the amount of clothing that you can take off. The younger and good looking, you are, the more you are allowed to take off. Well, allowed is wrong, it’s more like encouraged. Those of us with a more wrinkled visage are encouraged to cover up any and all skin that might peep out. The best you can do is to sit inside, have a cool drink and thank the Gods in heaven that summer in Calgary only lasts a month or so.

It’s cool outside now, but the mosquitoes are hunting in large packs thanks to the floods and large amount of standing water throughout the city. Some people can sit inside a cloud of the little blood suckers and it doesn’t seem to bother them at all. If there is one in the house, I can’t rest until it is dead. Last year I took the time to sever the heads off of twenty mosquitoes and mounted them on pins at the doors and windows as a warning to the other mosquitoes that their kind is not welcome here.

It didn’t work, as far as I can tell there are as many of the little beggars around here as any where else. I suppose I’m not too surprised, they have very tiny heads and even tinier brains. There brains are so small they could be politicians. I am going to work on a few more tiny torture devices like the Judas Cradle, the Iron Maiden, the Pear of Anguish and the Rack to start with. I plan to be the Vlad the Impaler of Pineridge. I know it is a little twisted, but a guy’s got to have a hobby.

Friday 28 June 2013

TV and Naps

I was trying to keep busy today while the roofers were doing their thing to the house and rather than get involved in something creative or meaningful, I was wandering about the house looking for something to pique my interest. I came across all sorts of interesting things, but none of them reached out and grabbed me.

I picked up the guitar and strummed a few chords (badly), looked at the beehive and wondering if I should put another coat of varathane on it this year. None of the books attracted me and besides, with the constant pounding of the roofers I would have trouble concentrating on even the Dick and Jane collection. I did make a new CD mix that I can play doing the dishes and in fact I am listening to it right now. “Nowhere Man” just came on, that wouldn’t be the world giving me a hint, would it. I waxed the new lockbox I picked up. I got it with the belief that if you have somewhere to keep money and valuables there is a good chance that nature will fill it with money and valuables. Nature abhors a vacuum doesn’t it? I do as well, but that is more me being lazy than balancing the universe.

Part of the trouble with wandering around the house aimlessly, is that you start to notice the jobs that need doing which you have put off for far too long. I put an end to that pretty quick. I couldn’t just watch TV because I didn’t want the roofers to think that I had nothing better to do with my time than watch TV. Busy body roofers! I went into the bedroom with the thought that I might put in some ear plugs and have a little power nap. The trouble with the nap is the same as with the TV, I wouldn’t want the roofers to think I nap all of the time in the afternoon. Just as I was leaving the bedroom, I noticed the Tiddly Winks. Perfect choice, it is active and sedentary at the same time, just perfect for an afternoon trying to fend off nosy roofers.

I bought these a few years ago when I was nostalgic about the good old days when we didn’t need the TV or naps to entertain ourselves. We would spend hours and hours playing Tiddly Winks, smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. Well, that’s how I remember it. The truth was more likely that we would argue about who started with the Tiddly too close and you have to use the proper Tiddly shooter, a penny just wouldn’t do. On the set I have, the orange and the red appear to be exactly the same colour. I guess the girls would have an easier time with the subtle shades of colour than us boys.

It says that there is a 20 page historical handbook included (lost already) six different coloured shooters, 36 matching Winks in six colours, and one Scoring platform. Now, I just tried my hand at this and either I have lost any hand to eye co-ordination I ever had or it is a lot tougher than I remembered. I had trouble hitting the table! No trouble hitting the floor of course and I imagine looking for the lost Tiddly’s was a big part of the game. I suppose that’s why you find tiny plastic disks whenever you rip up the carpet in a kid’s room. This is a really tough game! There is no way anyone other than a guy with a life sentence for murder would be able to get good at this.

When I think back, I am pretty sure mom gave us a dinner plate to aim at and even then more would hit the floor than the plate. The idea is to use the “Shooter” to flick the “Wink” and put it where you kind of hope it might go. If today was any indication, either modern “Winks” are thinner and more obstinate than the older ones. Instead of me spending hours and hours playing “Tiddly Winks” with joy in my heart, I bet I was trying to put one in my brothers eye. When that failed I would go and watch TV or have a nap. I never managed to put out Steve’s eye, and I bet you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the world that suffered an injury from a “Wink”.

I just Googled Tiddly Winks and it appears there are national organizations and even international competitions. There is skill and strategy as well as terminology, it has a history with the game or versions of it going back to the 18th century as an adult party game. You can’t really blame the Victorians, they didn’t have TV, but naps have been around forever. We humans are odd infestations on the planet.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Back Home

Buster and I walked past the Village Square Leisure centre today on our walk. It has changed somewhat in the past week due to the flood that has hit the city. The building itself is the same of course; it is just that the people who are using the facility aren’t the same as the people that normally are there.

It is being used as a reception centre for those that have had to evacuate their normal residence. The facilities are being reserved for their use, as it should be. It seems that a lot of the people who are there are from the Drop In Centre in downtown Calgary.

The Drop In Centre is mainly for the homeless in downtown Calgary. They are homeless for varied reasons, but all have somehow or other slipped through the cracks of our social safety net. There have been many cuts over the years to social programs that at one time would look after most of these unfortunate people. In recent years, there are many that are the working poor, people with jobs but who are unable to afford housing. It has been about twenty years since Calgary has built any affordable housing and the apartments that used to be affordable have been converted into condos. It is one of those quirks of life that a city that is so concerned with accumulating wealth; we would have so many poor people.

Such is life I suppose. As I mentioned, a good number of people from the drop in centre are in our neighbourhood until the city manages to clean up the downtown core. I think one of the hardest things about being poor (aside from not having money) is that you have all sorts of free time with nothing to do. I have all sorts of free time with nothing to do, but I suppose the difference is that I have a place where I can do nothing for as long as I want. I also have access to a certain amount of money that fuels my coffee habit.

It just seems wrong for the streets of suburbia to have the homeless wandering around aimlessly by themselves or in pairs. Wrong in the sense that you know something is out of kilter. Some of the tot lots have nice shady spots where they can just enjoy the beautiful weather we have been having the past few days. I suppose this is the life they live and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference to me. I don’t count though, they are not in the place they have come to know as home and home is a state of mind as much as it is a place.

I don’t like it when I am not at home and I can sympathize with the people that have been evacuated from where they find comfort. I hope that they can get their lives back as soon as possible.

When I started to write tonights blog, I knew that I wouldn't be able to get the point across that is in my head, and I was right. I kind of sound like I don't want the homeless in my neighbourhood. The evacuees have been nothing but polite and thankful for all that is done for them. What I wanted to say is that I couldn't live their life and it takes a special kind of person to do so. I am just not that brave or resilient. 

If I sound like an ass, I apologize. Not for being an ass, I can't help that, but for sounding like an ass that doesn't like the evacuees.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

There Is No Magic Spell

Sometimes your best just isn’t good enough. I have been thinking about this lately and no matter how good your intentions are or how focused you stay, it just isn’t good enough.

There were times in school that I really did my best, studied for days and still my marks just weren’t good enough for a pass. Somewhere, I misunderstood what the teacher or the book was trying to get across and came up with the “Ken” version of math that didn’t belong in this dimension at all. I don’t mind the idea of knowing another dimensions math; it’s just that everyone in this dimension thinks I am an idiot. In that other dimension they are putting up statues of me. Maybe…

There is a very disturbing scene in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” where one of the good guys (Allies) and one of the bad guys (Germans) come upon one another and have a knife fight to the death. The scene is very quiet and it is clear that the bad guy is going to win, but the knife takes so long to find it’s mark that I had hoped there would be a happy (for me) ending. There wasn’t. That is the way life is sometime, no matter how hard you wish or how hard you try, that knife will eventually pierce your heart.

In Southern Alberta we are going through the aftermath of one of those once in a hundred year floods. Thankfully there were few fatalities and injuries, mainly property damage. The early estimates for the damage is anywhere from 4 to 6 billion dollars. Most of the damage isn’t insured because it is an act of God. Some people have had their power out for days, the roads are impassable, businesses have been shut down since the flood and of course many thousands of people have lost varying degrees of their lives.

Yes, they are just things, but they are the things that define a family. Things like pictures, that Dr. Seuss book you read to the kids and looked forward to reading to the grandkids. The clown growth chart on the back of the basement door that marked in inches your children becoming the people they are. The quilt Aunt Leslie made for you the Christmas of 2003 and that stupid stuffed animal that you and your wife treated like a child until real kids came along. Your dad’s memorabilia from when he was a prisoner of war and the pictures of him as a young man.

There are thousands of things that are meaningless to everyone else, but they become part of the fabric of your life. That fabric has been torn apart for thousands of Albertans in the last week. All across the city, a soggy mess of trash that used to be memories, sit on lawns and boulevards waiting for the city garbage men to haul it to the dump.

There is a town called High River where the people have yet to be allowed to return to their homes. They have been patient with the authorities, but are beginning to lose that patience. They just can’t understand why they can not go and try to salvage some of the life they had before this “Act of God”. The authorities have been working tirelessly trying to get the roads repaired, electrical, gas and water back on line and making sure that the townspeople have enough of the necessities of live to carry on and that they are safe. They are trying their best.

Through no fault of their own, the people can’t get back into their homes and will never get their old lives back no matter how hard they try. The people in authority are in a no win situation, but they have to do what is best for everyone concerned. Those of us who weren’t affected try to help in any way that we can, but it is not enough. We are all trying our best, but unfortunately, our best in this case just isn’t good enough.

There is no magic spell that will wish all of this away. Well, there is, it is called time and eventually with enough time, people will start their lives over again, build new houses and make new memories. Someday they will be able to tell the stories of how they survived the flood of 2013. That day is a long way into the future.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Have Fun With Your Billions

Some of the fun of writing a blog is to see who reads it. Well, I can't actually see who reads it, but I can get general numbers and the country that they are from.

It makes me wonder just how someone manages to stumble upon this drivel. Most of the people are from North America, but I do have a lot of page views from China, India, Malaysia, Germany, France, England and the Ukraine. I kind of would like to know who these wonderfully twisted people are. Kind of…

The last few days, someone from Qatar has been reading a few pages. To tell the truth, I didn't even know that a country named Qatar even existed, or where it existed. I have to take the blame for that and since I seem to be pretty happy then the old adage is true, ignorance is bliss. How could I not know about a whole country? Most education systems tend to be a little self centric, but the Canadian educational system is pretty good when it comes to the others who share the planet with us.
It’s possible that Qatar was mentioned during one of Mister Benskies geography classes that I was absent for. I missed a lot of his classes; well, as many as I could. I felt that he just didn't like me very much and from his point of view I was a distraction for the rest of the class. I never liked it when someone messed around when I was trying to work. So, if you are still alive Mister Benskie, I am sorry I was such a dick in your class. Sort of…
Qatar it turns out is a tiny country that is a peninsula in the Persian Gulf. Historically it has been a very poor country noted mainly for its pearl fishery. It gained independence from Britain in 1971 and shortly thereafter discovered an obscene reserve of oil underneath the arid soil. Good for you Qatar! It is the richest country in the world and I read that even the infants have a per-capita income of over 100,000.
I was going to quote a lot of statistics about Qatar, but you can read about it yourselves if you find you have an interest.

The cool thing to me is that it is very possible that some multi-millionaire Qatatis is reading my blog. I hope he/she likes it and that I have done nothing to offend. Don't get mad if I have offended though, because eventually I manage to offend all of my good friends. I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that there are many millions of people out there who deserve my respect and admiration. Anyone that has been earning six figures since they were born gets my respect. I'm not kissing up in the hopes of getting some fancy bauble or a cash gift, but who am I to say no if it is offered?

I don't know who my friend in Qatar is, but welcome to the dark side. No one expects anything from you just so long as you don’t expect anything from the rest of us. I do hope that you enjoy the blog as much as I enjoy writing it and have fun with your billions. 

Monday 24 June 2013

Stay Unconscious Till Morning

When I was lying in bed this morning, somewhere between sleep and awake, I had a great blog idea about Louise and I being at an all-inclusive Mexican resort and how silly it would be to live there. Unfortunately there was a phone call that interrupted my cloudy ideas and try as I might; I just couldn’t pull them together again. Too bad, I have the feeling that you would have really liked it.
That semi sleep state is pretty elusive. It doesn’t come every morning, but sometimes it will come at the end of an afternoon nap and the odd time just before my nights sleep. I have thought many great thoughts while I was in between and I suspect that we all do. If only we could somehow tap those thoughts and record them, who knows what mysteries would be solved.

My daughter has an app on her iPhone that will record her speech while she sleeps. There have been some pretty funny and pretty odd things recorded, but since only fragments of what is happening in the dream state comes forward, it’s like listening to one side of a phone conversation through a closed door. Just tantalizing tidbits and in Maegan’s case, just a little funny. The app is called the Sleep Talk Recorder and it is available from iTunes and Google has the same app available at their store. I’m not sure if I talk in my sleep or not, but it would be kind of fun to find out. I might make sense when I am unconscious.
There is a site (of course) where people have uploaded their night talk and it is pretty funny/strange/weird. I don’t know why anyone would want to listen to strangers from other countries talking in their sleep, but it turns out that people have accents even when they are asleep. I don’t know why anyone would want to upload their sleep talk, but I don’t know why people put up all of that shit on facebook. Who cares how you got to work, who cares how tired you are and you know what…everyone hates going to work every day! There is a great line from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” that applies to facebook everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You're a miracle—your stories have none of that. They're not even amusing accidentally!
If you want to hear what some English guy is mumbling in his sleep, here is the site.

That state between waking and sleep is called REM, which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. This is the stage that dreams occur and I suspect it is the stage that I was in this morning when Louise and I were on the beach in Mexico. This state of mind can also be consciously achieved with meditation and many wonderful things can be achieved when you get there. There are people who can control their dreams and I feel that when you control your dreams you control your reality.

Well, it’s time for me to go and get ready to control my dreams. I think tonight I will close my eyes, slow my breathing and with any luck stay unconscious until morning.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Bake Their Brains

The other day I was looking out of my bedroom window with a pair of binoculars. I had put up a birdhouse that up until the other day had gone vacant, and I was just trying to see what the new, feathered neighbours look like. Don’t get me wrong, if I could see anything in the windows of my other neighbours I probably would, but curtains and trees have put a stop to my being the neighbourhood Peeping Tom.

The term “Peeping Tom” used to describe a voyeur is thought to have started from a guy named Tom who watched Lady Godiva when she was riding naked. I guess all of the other peasants must have been busy working in the fields, because I don’t know many men that wouldn’t watch a naked woman riding by on a horse. It just isn’t the kind of thing you see everyday. Well, perhaps Tom does, but I don’t.

The birdhouse is made from a pot with a couple of holes drilled into it and if I were a newly married small bird couple, it would be a terrific home to start raising a family. I might upgrade in a few years once my career as a bird took off as it were, but for now a nice clay bungalow would fit the bill…or beak. I think the bird couple are Thrushes, or they could be Sparrows, to tell the truth, all of them look the same to me. I would have liked to have Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, Warbler or an Ovenbird take up residence, but since the only thing I am getting for providing a house is bird shit, I really don’t care.

The point of this bird talk is just to let you know I was looking through the binoculars. When I got bored looking at the birds (about a minute) I raised my sights and saw the roof of the garage. It looked really cool with the corners all turned up and most of the grit having been washed off and I thought that it would make a good picture. The trouble with architecture that will make good pictures is that generally speaking, the part of the building in question is in bad shape. I have put off calling in the roofer because; well, because, well, yeah, I don’t know why. I just can’t put it off any longer.

Once the roof gets done, there will be nothing hanging over my head anymore. Well, the roof will be over my head and it will be waterproof for about twenty years. Whoever owns the house after that can worry when the roof of the garage looks really cool. I suppose that by then they will have done away with asphalt shingles and be using some kind of energy shield. It is possible that the city will be under a dome and there will be no use for roofs at all. Well, as long as they keep the birds out of the dome there shouldn’t be a use for roofs.

However, for now we still need to keep the water and snow out of the house, so I will wait by the phone for Mohamed to call back and eventually give me a quote. I still haven’t decided whether or not I will do my own garage, but I am leaning towards letting the professionals break their backs and bake their brains.