Wednesday 31 July 2013


Today, Louise and I were watching the Weather Channel and Louise said “Hey! Isn’t that Don?” I looked up too late of course, but thanks to the miracle of PVR’s, we went back in TV time and then paused at the appropriate spot. Sure enough, the guy on TV looked just like my buddy from Toronto. The only problem is that it was a news feed from Vancouver. I suppose that it is possible that Don would be in Vancouver, but the guy looked like he was texting and Don just doesn’t text. Well, I don’t think so anyways.

The only other explanation is that Don has a double and he lives in Vancouver. With 6 billion people on the planet, having a double is not unreasonable. It would be more reasonable if Don were Asian or Black, since they constitute 70% of the world’s population. However it is possible that Don does indeed have a doppelganger. Louise and I have wondered why the Germans have a word for a persons double, and have yet to come up with a viable reason.

It would be pretty cool if Don did have this person who he didn’t know. It could be that he and his twin brother were separated at birth, being raised on different sides of the country. I know Don’s mom and she would have kept both kids no matter what the circumstances. No, it probably isn’t twins.
What was it that Sherlock Holmes used to say? “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

I suppose that the guy in Vancouver could be Don. It could also be that the guys at the weather network screwed up and showed a Toronto feed with Vancouver written underneath. I may never know. Oh, I guess I could call him, but where is the fun in that? Maybe he’ll read this blog and reply. Time will tell.

When I was twenty something in Toronto, there was a guy like me hanging around. He looked like me (poor bugger), dressed like I did, he rode the same kind of bike that I did and he must have lived relatively close to me. My friends would often accuse me of ignoring them when we passed on the street. Those days were a might foggy and it was possible that I could pass them on the street, but I would never ignore a hello. That’s like not answering a ringing phone. Can’t be done.

I never met my doppelganger, but I would wager that he is a wonderful person with a heart of gold. So too for Don’s double. Maybe the next time Don and I get together, we might run into both of our doubles walking towards us on the street. I see no reason that they wouldn’t be friends too.

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Check Your Pockets

A while back, the city of Calgary found they had a 52 million dollar surplus. I think it was from the school board maintenance fund which it turns out was covered by the province. I won’t mention that the school board has put off regular maintenance for the past twenty years or so in order to do the primary job of teaching kids to read, write, add and subtract, play the flute, golf, ski and play football. The last figure I heard is that it will cost about a billion dollars to bring the schools back to acceptable levels. But I won’t mention that.
I guess it is kind of like you and I putting on a coat we haven’t worn in a year and finding five dollars in the pocket. What do you do with it? Pay down your debt, buy a coffee, pick up a couple of lotto tickets or buy some gas for the car. Calgary is a city of over a million people, so you would think that they would have accountants that are paid to make sure that there aren’t any financial surprises. Maybe if they look a little deeper they might find where the money actually belongs.

The city council had the enviable job of deciding just where and how the money should be spent. Should they give it to the school board, put it towards city infrastructure, mass transit or should they give it back to the tax payers.It's not too surprising that when a poll was taken, giving the money back to the tax payers was by far the favourite choice.
Since the money was discovered, the city and southern Alberta has been hit with a once in a hundred year flood and the city owned assets were damaged to the tune of $500,000,000. It was in all of the newspapers, at least the ones that managed to publish. The city crews, police, fire and emergency workers were working 12 to 16 hour shifts, seven days a week for close to a month. There was and still is a lot that needs to be fixed in the city. I just assumed that the 52 million surplus would go to fix something in the city that was damaged by the floods. Imagine my surprise when it was reported yesterday that the city council was voting on what to do with the money. WTF?

This morning’s paper announced that the money would indeed go towards fixing the flood ravaged city. The thing that amazed me is that it wasn’t passed unanimously by the council. The mayor wanted to take the money and use it to fix the city, and was joined by nine of the 14 aldermen. I guess we know which five councillors are more interested in getting re-elected than they are in helping the city.

One particularly vile alderwoman Diane Colley-Urquhart put forward the motion to pay back the taxpayers which was as I said, defeated. She went on to say “You bet this is an election issue.” She’s right; none of the five that voted to kiss the electorates ass instead of doing what was right, should be re-elected this fall. Ald. Shane Keating, Ald. Peter Demong, Ald. Ray Jones and Ald. Andre Chabot should take a hard look at why they are in politics and just who they should be protecting. Ray Jones is my Ald., and I have voted for him in the past four elections, but maybe it’s time he started working privately again in order to get a back a sense of what is right. He doesn’t have my vote this year. I can't imagine he is too worried about losing my vote, but if enough people feel the same way then perhaps we will be noticed.

I have to buy coffee for my buddy tomorrow, so maybe I should go and check the pockets on my winter coats…just in case there's $52,000,000 in one of the pockets that I forgot about.

Monday 29 July 2013

From Cool to Freaky

I had a friend that passed away over thirty years ago and although I don’t think of Ken every day, it would be safe to say that I think of him three or four times a week.

Things like…
  • I wonder what kind of a man Ken would have turned into.
  • What would Ken make of this of this government we have?
  • Would we still be friends?
  • What would his kids have been like?
  • Would he be a good father?
  • I wish I could show Ken this.

I wonder if I miss him because he was the first of us to go. These are just the kind of things that I would imagine everyone wonders about the dearly departed.

I was thinking about Ken yesterday and low and behold when I checked out facebook, another friend had posted his picture. Obviously he had been thinking about Ken as well, but he decided to do something about it.

This kind of coincidence happens often enough that it borders on strange. I am a believer in the untapped power of the mind. It can produce miracles if only you believe in miracles. I took a course once that attempted to develop the mind and one saying that has always stayed with me deals with belief. Don’t say I’ll believe it when I see it, but rather I’ll see it when I believe it. That is pretty easy to say, but to put it into practice is considerably more difficult. Thirty years later and I am just now beginning to understand what it means.

There was a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen or talked to for several years. He lived in Rochester NY and I was living in Toronto at the time. I was at a party and the noise, smoke and general busyness had driven me to close my eyes and I suppose I went into kind of a trance, or a waking dream. A hole opened up in front of me and I was sucked into what became a long tunnel. I travelled for an unknown amount of time and began to slow down when my buddy from Rochester appeared. We looked at each other in stunned disbelief and all of a sudden the link was broken and I was back at the noisy, smoky party, wide awake and trying to make sense of what had just happened.
Six months passed and I ran into my friend from Rochester. The first thing we did was to point at each other and said “Hey! Did you…?” We talked about how amazing it was and tried to figure out why it happened. We guessed that for some reason, we were thinking about each other and a connection was made. It hasn’t happened since, but I am open to the possibility. It sure would save a bundle on my phone plan.

Perhaps in some small way, John and I had a connection yesterday when we were both thinking about our buddy Ken. I’m just as happy that it was between John and me, if Ken had joined in it would have gone from cool to freaky. 

Sunday 28 July 2013

A Good Day To Be Alive

Louise and I will generally make Sunday a nice leisurely day. We sleep in a bit, spend a while waking up and eventually we will go and do some running around. Sometimes to stores, sometimes for coffee, sometimes just to get out and enjoy the day.

I don’t think we are alone in doing this, because Sunday is more or less the one day in the week that the family can spend time together. Not all families, but a goodly portion of us are able to spend that quality time.
I’m old enough to remember when all stores were closed on Sunday. I guess some gas stations were open, smoke shops were open and there might be one pharmacy and one grocery store open on a Sunday, but they were usually quite far away. Most people could get to a store and do their shopping during one of the six days that they were open. If God managed to create the world in six days, surely we humans can pick up milk, bread and cereal in the same amount of time. You know, no one ever seemed to have a problem.

When Louise and I hitch hiked out west in the late 70’s, we decided to visit her uncle and aunt that lived in the Southern Saskatchewan of Wood Mountain. We set off early one Wednesday morning and caught a ride in the right direction (south) really quickly. He dropped us off about half way, and then we stood and sat at the side of the road for hours. One of the few cars that we saw that day was a different aunt and uncle of Louise’s, but unfortunately they were headed the wrong way. While the men wandered off into the field to see how the wheat crop was progressing here, the ladies explained to us that Wednesday was a bad day to hitch hike because everything is closed on Wednesday. What?
I guess that since the stores and businesses were open on Saturday, they took Sunday off of course and also Wednesday, so that the people working retail could have two days off each week. They told us that no one would be driving anywhere, because there really isn’t anywhere to go to. With that, they gave us a hug, shook our hands, piled into the car and drove off. We watched them driving away from us for five or ten minutes and then just kept staring for another ten minutes or so. We needed something to do. We looked at each other and I’m not sure what Louise felt, but I was sure I would be eaten by coyotes, wolves, jack-o-deer, raped by the guys from the movie “Deliverance” or any number of other horrible things could happen. I didn’t cry until I realized that I was down to five cigarettes and there’s no way they would last all night.
I guess Saint Christopher took pity on us and sent salvation in the form of a guy heading to visit his family in Assiniboia. He dropped us off and headed to what would more than likely be a fantastic home cooked meal. Lucky sod! The only thing open on Wednesday in Assiniboia was the bar. It was well stocked with beer, potato chips, cigarettes and an assortment of crazy, drunk, wonderful people who will soon populate one of these blogs.

You know, that is a great memory, and any day that ends in a great memory is a good day to be alive.

Saturday 27 July 2013


I can remember when a guy would walk along the street pulling a cart that had a sharpening stone along with an assortment of tools. He would ring a bell to announce his presence and the house wives would bring out their knives, scissors, axes and anything else that needed to be sharpened. He would also perform small repairs. If it was too complicated to do on the street, he would take it with him, repair it and return a day or two later. These guys knew a lot about the fix it business.
Almost every neighbourhood had a corner garage that would sell gas, cigarettes, tires, head lights, fuses and any number of other goods and services that pertain to the automobile. If you had a particular problem with your car, the corner mechanics would repair it. If you couldn’t afford to buy something new, they would jury rig a fix that could take you and your car another thousand miles or so. Minor body work could be done and even some small upholstery repairs. You became the garages staunchest supporter and it would never occur to you to go elsewhere. I always bought my cokes from the machine in the corner station.

The years have passed, and our population has grown to the degree that corner stations couldn’t make a living any more. It doesn’t make sense, but over the years those corner stations stopped repairing cars and stuck to selling smokes and gas. I suppose that it is more economical to have places that specialize in oil changes, transmissions, tires, windshield replacement, gas and detailing. Detailing? WTF? I don’t fault the individual owners, but I do miss them. These guys were miracle workers and they worked pretty cheap.

Recently, I have been looking for people who think outside of the box for a few different applications. They are not easy to find. It seems that in most fields, people have become specialists, knowing a lot about one thing and virtually nothing about anything else. This is due to economics of course. I took a computer in for repair, and the girl at the service desk told me that by the time I paid $80 to take it in and the $100/hour service charge, not to mention the cost of the parts, I would be better off just buying a new computer. Not only that, but the new computer would have more memory, better graphics…yadda, yadda, yadda. Why does a tinkerer get $100/ hour?
My buddy took his watch in for repairs and got the same song and dance. People just aren’t learning how to repair things any more. Why bother? It is cheaper to buy new from China and have it shipped over here rather than fix the one you already have.
Part of the problem is that we don’t have people who are interested in many different things. Sometimes a carpenter should know how the electrician does his job and the electrician should know how a plumber does his job and the plumber should know how to fix his own tools. We just don’t cross those lines any more. It is partly the fault of the unions, partly the fault of the employer and partly the fault of the employee. The union has the job so quantified, that you don’t dare do anything else for fear of doing someone else’s job. The employer wants the employee to do one job and do it very well. The employee is just happy to get a check and get through the day without having to think.

Yes, very simplistic, but we need to start making things in our own country, fixing the things we make and we need to learn the names of those people who do work for us. We need to become a nation of tinkerers, not specialists. It will never happen, but it would be nice if instead of someone at the store saying “ No…we don’t have anything like that.”, they would say “You know, if you took a geegah and ground down the one end so it would fit this jimshaw, you just might be able to get it working again.”

Yeah that would be nice!

Friday 26 July 2013

Random Acts of Kindness.

Random acts of kindness.

That sounds pretty nice. I have heard of people going into a toy store and paying for someone’s toy that is on lay-a-way at Christmas time. If it is on lay-a-way, then you can be pretty sure that the person could use a hand with the finances. Nice thing to do. There are many other ways to do random acts of kindness; you can compliment someone’s outfit, hair, shoes or really anything. Who doesn’t like a compliment? I hold doors for people and try to give them smiles whenever possible. Like I said, there are many ways to do a kindness.
 A cup of coffee is poured at a Tim Hortons coffee shop in Toronto on May 14, 2010. Staff at a downtown Edmonton Tim Hortons were having an ordinary day Monday until a young man in his mid-to-late 20s walked in, ordered a large double-double and a Boston cream doughnut, and posed a question.
The last few days in Calgary, there have been three or four anonymous people who have bought the next five hundred coffees at certain Tim Horton’s locations around the city. My wife tells me that often people will buy the coffee for the next person in line at the drive through. This is the first time I have heard it done on such a large scale. A free coffee won`t change your life or solve your problems, but it will make your day. It is a good thing.

I can`t help but think that the eight or nine hundred dollars could be put to better use. I`m not saying that the people who use the drive thru at Tim`s are all rich, but they have money enough for a coffee and are more than likely on the way to work. There are food banks that $800 would help to keep running for a week or so. The Salvation Army could buy some more of those survival kits that they gave out a month ago to the flood victims in Calgary and southern Alberta. It wouldn`t be so random, but it would be an act of kindness.

Yes, I would love to get a free coffee. It would start my day off very nicely. Who knows where that act of kindness will end up? It might end with someone opening a door and giving a smile to a perfect stranger. It might inspire someone to buy a toy or two at Christmas. It might give someone an idea of how to help the homeless. I suppose that you just never know where it will all end. Perhaps the 500 cups of coffee was inspired by someone else buying that anonymous person a coffee for no other reason than they thought it would be a nice thing to do.

You can`t see me, but I am giving you a smile and I encourage you to come up with your own version of a random act of kindness.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Bees and Wasps

A friend of mine was clearing things up around her shed today and when she lifted up “something”, she found herself in the middle of a swarm of bees. Like any sane being, she ran screaming into the house in terror and pain. Unfortunately, the bees were flying angry just as fast as she was running scared and they not only followed her into the house, but found a way under her skirt. I’m in pain just thinking about it. She was stung nine times and she is feeling somewhat better after several hours of Benadryl, ice packs, Afterbite and a bath. I suggested alcohol both internally and externally. Couldn’t hurt.
Don’t bees know that generally we don’t want to hurt them? Sure, we steal their food that they store for their young and I guess we take the nurseries they make for the babies and make candles out of them. We make them live in boxes and then steal pretty much everything by using smoke to stupefy them. Maybe we do deserve to get stung, we are pretty much bastards.

I can remember the first time I was stung. It was by a dead bee. I know the bee was dead, because I was the one that killed it. It was sucking on some clover flower and I stomped it many times for no good reason at all other than the fact that I was big and it was small. When it was well and truly dead, I got all scientific and decided to study it. I picked it up using my thumb and forefinger, and drove the dead bee’s stinger into the ball of my thumb. Boy that hurt! I did learn never to pick up a bee and I haven’t in the 50 years or so since then.

I remember being with Louise when we were young and in love at some water park. I decided then and there that I was going to quit smoking and tossed my pack of cigarettes into the big garbage can. We walked along hand in hand, her being proud of me for quitting and me feeling really good about the decision. Just about fifteen minutes later, Louise went to the bathroom and I went back to the garbage can. There must have been fifty wasps hovering around the can, but I stuck my upper torso in and rooted around the garbage until I found my smokes. I guess wasps can appreciate how hard it is to kick an addiction and didn’t sting me. Louise was less than proud of me after she found out.
I was stung a few times by wasps while I was delivering mail, usually in late August and early September. The wasps seem to get really angry at that time of year. It might be because that’s about the time they find out that even though they busted their asses working all summer, now all that’s left for them to do is die. Sucks to be a wasp, and to tell the truth I’d bite anything that came near me too. Maybe that’s the same reason that old men are such angry drivers.

The last time that I was bitten by a wasp, it was quite memorable for me. I was drinking coffee in the lunch room with a couple of guys after work and all of a sudden I felt something crawling up my leg under my shorts. I knew there shouldn’t be anything crawling on my upper thigh, and when I tried to check it out, there was a pain like a hot knife stabbing into me. I jumped up and down screaming, and when the wasp finally fell out; I jumped on it until it wasn’t an it any more. I’m just glad it didn’t crawl any higher. My friend Jodi was there and to this day, whenever she looks at me, she starts to laugh. I know why she’s laughing and I try to ignore her, but she will tell anyone and everyone that’s around the story of Ken getting bit in the thigh while I was drinking coffee. It’s not that funny!...Really!

I hope that Carol is feeling much better tomorrow, and I hope that I never get another bite. I don’t think I can stand the pain or the humiliation.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Stupidity and Lethargy

I’ve said many times that ignorance is bliss, and it is some cases, I suppose that it is true. However it is much better not to know how many partners your significant other had before you came into the picture. I don’t really want to know just how many of our tax dollars our elected officials are “legally” putting in their pockets. The only benefit to knowing when you are going to die is that you could really screw over the insurance companies for a change. I prefer to think my friends and family all like me and have no criticisms whatsoever. I never wanted to know how much we owed as opposed to how much was coming in. I don’t want to see my weight; I prefer to gauge that in belt holes. I don’t want to know how our food is prepared and processed before we get it at the market.

I’m sure there are a few other examples, but on the whole, ignorance is definitely NOT bliss. I one time had to replace a starter on my car a while ago. Replacing a starter is really quite easy, on this particular vehicle I just needed to undo a couple of wires, take out three bolts and then repeat the process in reverse with the new starter. It was maybe a ten minute job, fifteen at the outside. Three hours later, with numb fingers and an ass so cold I was sure that I’d have to have it amputated, I called my mechanic to see which tow truck company he would prefer I used. Ted asked what the problem was and I told him, trying to appear somewhat manly while holding in the tears. Ted asked “What happened when you gave it a boost?” ahhhhh…. “You know, most batteries will lose their charge when you are trying to start them with a bad starter.”

“Thanks Ted…I’ll give it a try and let you know how it turns out.” The only thing worse than ignorance would be someone that isn’t, and then rubs your nose in it. I have tried my hand with mechanical things over the years and never had much success. The pictures in the Haynes manuals rarely looked like my engine. My engine was covered in grease and goop. Just about five years ago I decided that mechanics are indeed much smarter than I am when it comes to…mechanics.
 2 Advent Recoton K965 Black Wireless Bookshelf Satellite Speakers No Trans/Cords
A few weeks ago I saw something at the second hand store that I have wanted for years. Wireless speakers! Now, understand that I don’t need wireless speakers and more than likely wouldn’t use them, but I have wanted them for quite a while. There was a pair of really good speakers for only five dollars! I knew they were good because they were heavy and in my mind heavy = good. I was so excited that I set them up as soon as I got home and then turned on the stereo. I have never heard better static.

It turns out that for the speakers to work, you need to have some kind of transmitter which of course I didn’t get for five bucks. No problem, I’ll just contact the company and order a transmitter; I can’t be the only person to “lose” a transmitter during a move. Notice how I have my lie all ready? I was prepared for every eventuality, except the one where the company has gone out of business. Shit! No problem, I will just make use of ebay and order a transmitter. The only thing that ebay had was another two speakers with a transmitter for $50. I can live with that, I’ll have four working speakers and all for $55. Perfect! Well, it would be perfect without the $85 shipping charge. I don’t want the freakin’ speakers that much.

Several weeks have passed and every where I have gone hasn’t had any solution at all. Most of the people just give me that “Why would you bother?” look. I don’t blame them, but I am into this thing for a couple of months and five bucks, and I won’t even mention the humiliation every time I try to explain what I need. Tomorrow I am going to buy some speaker wire and attempt to solder the wire in the right place inside the speakers. I don’t know what the right place is, but tomorrow is Thursday and our garbage day here is Friday. One way or another, this stage of my life will be over by Saturday.

Ignorance isn’t bliss. Stupidity and lethargy might be though.