Monday, 31 March 2014

Sunday, 30 March 2014


So, another gray day fades to black.

This must be what it is like to live in Vancouver, only with snow and cold. I don't think I could take months without seeing the sun, and I don't think the wet, cool weather would be better than sunny, and cold. It might be fun to try it one year though. I have friends that live in BC and they don't seem to mind the weather, but none of them are terribly bright.
I finished reading “The Book Thief”, and I am glad that it is over and done with. You would think that a book written from Death's point of view on a poor German girl who just lost her family and grows up in Nazi Germany would be kind of upbeat and fun. It wasn't! It was an interesting read, but it's one of those books that you keep telling yourself that the happy part is coming, the happy part is coming, the happy part is coming. What does come every now and then are less horrible parts which I suppose might be happy...ish. Strangely enough, I would recommend you read it, but maybe the movie would be a better way to get the story. Hollywood has a tendency to make depressing stories less depressing. I can say that this isn't one of those books I will read every year at Easter to cheer me up.

Maybe it's the book that is giving me such a negative attitude to the weather. I was going to say that starting tomorrow I am going to change my attitude and force myself to enjoy what is left of winter. I'll start in two days, because it's supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow. I like to start the "Happy" with roads I can navigate.
I know that spring is coming, a friend of mine saw a Robin freezing on a branch in his yard, and the city has stopped cleaning the streets of snow and have announced there will be a delay sweeping the streets of the gravel and other accumulated detritus from winter. There doesn't seem to be a connection between one and the other in the cities mind, I guess for them this is just down time. You know spring is coming because they have run out of the medium sized ROLL UP THE RIM cups at Tim Horton's, and soon the painted cartoons of happy customers drinking from winning cups will be washed from the windows. I'm going to sort of miss the crude penis's that have been scratched into the paint. However, the sure sign that spring is coming is that the TAXMAN has his hand out and God forgive you if you don't get HIS money in on time.

I have been wondering about something since I wrote the first line, and it has bugged me in the past, bugs me now and will probably bother me in the future. Whenever I type the word “gray” the spell check function on the computer highlights it and then suggests I write “Grey”. I learned that “gray” is spelled “gray” when I was in school, but it can also be spelled “grey”. They mean the same thing, or at least I think they do. It's possible that “gray” refers to a colour and “grey” refers to a mood. There are some words that are spelled differently in the USA. They tend to be lazier that Canadians when it comes to the English language and drop letters that seem to them to be excessive. Most words that have “our” like “colour” in the proper (Canadian) spelling end up being “color” south of the border.

Who’s to say which version is wrong or right? Well, let's just say that the Canadian spelling isn't wrong. You can set your keyboard to Canadian French, but not Canadian English. I could alter my in computer dictionary, but then I wouldn't get to shake my head when the computer says I should spell “Gray” the lazy US way, “Grey”. I suspect this is one of those times when someone will comment that not only am I wrong, but I am ignorant as well a closet racist, picking on the poor down trodden citizens of America. Maybe you are right; from now on I will spell “Gray” in a way that pleases everyone... “Graey”.

I think that's Gaelic.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Claw Machines

I saw something today that I have never seen before. It was while we were waiting for a table at Denny’s. I was watching a young man at one of those claw machines where you can win a teddy bear or some other crappy toy if you have the hand to eye co-ordination of a NASA astronaut. The kid won a hat today. I saw a show once about how they interlock those stuffed animals which makes it nigh impossible to pull one free.
I went over to him and told him that I’d never, ever seen anyone get anything from those machines. He was my first! It doesn’t matter that the hat didn’t fit, what mattered is that today I found out that all things are possible.

Needless to say, I have never had any luck with that kind of machine and there was a time that I spent considerably more than a stuffed bear was worth trying to win one. I gave up on the bears pretty early on though. I have almost no hand to eye co-ordination and I don’t have anyone to give a bear to anyways.

There was another kind of machine that I fed coins into at an alarming rate once upon a time. They were all over the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. The prizes weren’t stuffed animals or hats; in these machines you could win packs of cigarettes, cigars, lighters and knives. The prizes rotated slowly and you would press a button which would activate an arm that would (in theory) push a pack of smokes into an opening and then they would slide down to a door which would dispense the cigarettes or lighter.
They would create havoc if they were to have those prizes now, but back then, no one cared if I got lung cancer, burnt a building down or cut off a digit or two.  I spent a lot of money trying to win those smokes. The next year, I discovered that not only did carnies not care if I set fire to myself, destroyed my lungs or diced and sliced my way through the city; they didn’t care how old I was when I went to buy cigarettes. I could just go and put down fifty cents, get a pack of DuMaurier Kings and they would give me a pack of matches to go with it. Cool!

I remember sitting up in the nosebleed section in some building, watching horses go round and round, chain smoking. I didn’t know how to smoke at the time, but I knew it made me look cool. I was too young to actually bring a pack of cigarettes home, not wanting mom and dad to beat the living shit out of me, so I had to smoke them all that day. It doesn’t seem like it would have been a challenge, but it must have been.

I distinctly remember lighting five cigarettes at a time and puffing away like a human smoke stack. It isn’t that easy to smoke more than two cigarettes at a time, any more than that causes problems in the hand and in the mouth. I thought I could hold five at a time horizontally in my fingers, but they kept slipping out of order and falling in my lap. Just a hint, when a lit cigarette falls in your lap, don’t try to catch it by closing your thighs.

The best way to smoke more than five at a time is in a bunch. The thumb and forefinger can hold them together nicely and your mouth will naturally conform to the circle of cigarettes. I can’t imagine that I was inhaling at that time; I couldn’t inhale that much smoke when I was a pack a day smoker. I would just suck in the smoke and try to blow smoke rings, mostly unsuccessfully I might add.

You would think that my mom and dad would have noticed the smell of thirty or forty cigarettes on me, but back then they both smoked and so did almost everyone else. They may have noticed and not said anything, hoping that I would stop growing out of my shoes and clothes. Shoes and clothing cost far more than smokes back then.

Friday, 28 March 2014

It Will Be Nice

I know that I keep going on about this winter and how it just doesn’t seem to want to end, but WHEN IS THIS WINTER GOING TO END????

I know that spring is very, very, very close, and that it will be warm and sunny in just a couple of weeks. The flowers will start to push through the soil, the birds will be singing and lovers will be falling in love. I’ll be able to put most of my winter coats down in the closet until next fall. Not all of them of course, because this is Calgary after all and a winter coat can be handy when the summer turns cool.

However, that is some time from now and at the present moment, I am typing with very cold fingers. You shouldn’t have to blow on your hands to warm them up in your house in the springtime. You shouldn’t have to put on a fleece jacket inside the house to keep warm, when your furnace is working just fine. These are things that I have to do. I suppose that I could turn the heat up, and I probably will very soon, but for now I am saving gas.

I find that when I close the curtains, it seems warmer in the house right away. I suspect it is because thousands of years ago our ancestors spent the winter in caves or shelters that were dark and smoky. Winter was a season to tell stories, repair weapons and make beautiful, useful things that life depended upon back in the day. The room that I feel most comfortable in our house is the main floor bathroom. It is located in the centre of the house and has no outside walls or windows. It is also directly above the furnace and if the door is kept closed, it is also the warmest room in the house. Another benefit is that there is indoor plumbing. No TV or computer, but no place is perfect.

I read an article that said Canadians were no longer considered to be a nation that spent a lot of time out of doors. We used to be, but now we have too many interesting things to do indoors. Our homes are just too comfortable. Well, not this home, I feel a little cold, but you know what I’m talking about. The people who live in northern European countries spend far more time outside in the winter than we do. The main reason I think is that their homes aren’t as large or comfortable as ours our for the most part. Might as well go out and find some way to entertain yourself.

My plan is to stay inside until the weather conforms to my idea of spring. I hope it comes soon, but if not I plan on a trip to Las Vegas in a couple of weeks. It’s warm there! Well, warmer than here and that is the important thing. It will be nice to need a cool drink. It will be nice to wear shorts. It will be nice to have warm fingers. It will be nice to have the sun on your face. It will be nice not to have everything white.

I’m going to turn the heat up…

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Healthy and Happy

I found myself at a shopping mall in the south end of the city today. I don’t often find myself that far south, unless I have a dentist appointment or am having a visit with my ophthalmologist. Today I caught a ride down with my buddy who was getting his eyes tested.
South Centre mall is far classier than the malls in my neck of the woods. The people seem to look at themselves in a mirror before they decide to go shopping and put on nice looking clothes. The people that populate the malls in my area of the city will deck themselves out in spandex, sweatpants, pyjama pants and t-shirts featuring their favourite heavy metal band. The southern stores cater to a higher class clientele as well; you know the kind of person that is in the mall to spend money on clothing, shoes or furniture instead of being there on a drug run.

I wandered through the mall while I was waiting for my buddy, watching the beautiful people clutching their new purchases in one exquisitely manicured hand, while holding a grande, double mochachino Peruvian coffee in the other. Life is good!
I spent a lot of the time just watching the people going about their business, moms with toddlers, older couples looking at things in the Disney Store for their grandkids, and the immaculately dressed women in all of the stores. I ended up on the second floor watching the world parade pass by me. I saw when the two security guards approached the two teenage girls and when one of the girls started to cry. They got up and the security guys walked them away. I have little sympathy for shop lifters as a rule, but this one had me hoping they would make a break for it. They just walked out of sight and even though I followed, I lost track of them quickly.

I went down to the main floor and sat by one of the three fountains, listening to the water falling into the pool. I noticed that the bottom of the fountain was littered with coins of all denominations. They were just sitting there within easy reach. Those girls should have helped themselves to the free cash instead of shop lifting. They might have gotten in trouble for that as well, but it’s much harder to prove that the wet coins aren’t yours than the t-shirt with a tag still on it is. If those fountains were in my neck of the woods, the money would be out of reach and more than likely protected by chicken wire.
I suppose that the people stop by the fountains, toss a coin in and make a wish. Wishes are nice things and I guess the beautiful people in the south end of the city have unfulfilled dreams as well. I wonder where all of that wish money goes? Sometimes there is a sign saying where the money goes when it is collected from the pool. Children’s Wish Foundation, the local soup kitchen, some worthy department in the hospital are all good places for wish money to be spent. I’d hate to think that it went for a mall employee Christmas party or even worse to the mall general revenue.

It doesn’t matter where the money goes, the wishes are out there and for some, those wishes will come true. Some won’t be as lucky, but not all wishes should be granted. I know that kids just like to toss money into the fountain, and to tell the truth, so do I. For me the wish is often secondary or I wish on behalf of someone else.

Today, I wished that those I love stay healthy and happy. Tomorrow, it will be a winning lotto ticket.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Black and Orange Polka Dot Bow Tie

Quite some time ago, I had a collection of items in a small cardboard box. They had no value at all and if I had allowed anyone to look in the box, they would just have seen a box of garbage. To me, it was a box of possibilities.

I collected the items of over a period of years while I was delivering mail. The idea at the time was to write a short article or story about each item. It would be sort of an exercise in writing and imagination. I had pretty much forgotten about my box of stories until tonight. I just went through the box and I am more determined than ever to use each of these things to create a story.

In the box there is a large black and orange polka dot bow tie that would look good on any circus clown. I remember picking this one up about twenty years ago. It caught my attention because it was lying on the sidewalk and it wasn’t any where close to Halloween. Halloween is the time you might expect to find parts of a clowns outfit, not mid June. I did have a couple of clowns that lived on my letter carrier walk, but they lived many blocks away and I have a feeling they would look make sure that no part of their uniform ended up on the sidewalk several blocks from their house.

I met this couple when I had a registered letter for “Jo-Jo the Clown”. I knocked on the door and a young woman with a couple of pre school kids answered the door. I told her I had a registered letter for Jo-Jo the Clown and she said that was her husband.

“Your husband is a clown?” I asked with a smirk on my face. She told me that they both were clowns and worked parties and festivals during the summer. Summer is the busy season, but she told me that until the kids were in school she could only work when her husband wasn’t.

Of course I had all sorts of questions and lucky for me, Mrs. Jo-Jo was happy to be talking to someone over three feet tall. She got me a glass of water and we had a nice chat on the steps while the kids ran back and forth through the sprinkler. It turns out that Joe and Jessi (Bubbles) met at Clown College. They would probably have gone to the Ringling Bros. College, but I can’t remember if that’s true or not.

Bubbles talked about being a clown and how much they loved their job. I did get the impression that it was indeed a job. Of course it is, but somehow, the inner “Ken” kind of wants clowns to be special people who have dedicated their lives to making kids laugh. Sometimes the things I want just can’t be.

Over the next few years, I got to know Jo-Jo and Bubbles a little, as much as a mailman ever gets to know his customers. I watched their kids grow up and the family appeared to be nice, normal, middle class people. Well, if your definition of normal is wearing oversized shoes, face paint, baggy pants, a black and orange polka dot tie and a coat with pockets full of balloons to work.

I often wonder if their kids decided to become clowns like their mom and dad when they grew up. Probably not, those would have been pretty big shoes to fill.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

I Wish I Were Santa

I was sitting in Tim Horton’s having a coffee and reading my book when I was jarred back into the real world by a chair slamming down on the floor at the next table. I looked up and there was a short (read wide), middle aged woman who had a sour look on her face and a disposition to match, judging by the way she arranged furniture.

She sat with her back to me and I noticed that she didn’t have a coffee. I looked over to see if someone was getting her a hot drink or perhaps was putting the divorce papers in order. I didn’t see anyone, but since her attitude or marital status had no interest to me, I went back to reading about Nazi Germany and starving people.

Just a few minutes later, a morose, young, dark haired woman in her mid twenties with a cute little two and a half year old in tow, sat down at the table with the sourpuss. She had two coffees for the adults and a small hot chocolate for the little girl. I kept trying to read, but my attention was being drawn to this threesome.

I couldn’t hear any conversation from them at all, which was odd because I was perhaps three feet from the older woman. The younger woman kept her eyes on the child and seemed to be avoiding any eye contact with the older woman at all costs. Normally, whenever there are small children in Tim’s while I am having coffee, they can’t take their eyes off of me. It isn’t often that you see Santa sitting at the next table with a coffee and book. This little one didn’t even give me a second look. I didn’t get the opportunity to smile, wave or make a funny face.

I finished my coffee, rolled the rim (no winners) and got out of my chair just after the young woman did. She gathered her little one and I passed her at the garbage bins by the exit. I held the door for her and the little girl and did the slow walk behind them on the sidewalk.

The next thing I heard was “What the Fuck was that?” It seems that her mother followed us out of the restaurant and was pretty pissed. “You just get up without telling me and leave? That’s not fucking cool!”

“Well, we were finished and it was time to go.” The young woman said, holding on to her daughters hand and trying to negotiate past the patches of ice on the sidewalk.

The older woman said once again just how fucking uncool it was to get up and leave without telling her, and her daughter just shrugged and kept walking and saying “What the fuck do you expect?” The little girl kept her head down and walked beside her mom.

I came to my car and unlocked the door and even though I really wanted to follow this threesome to see how everything would play out. I suppose the older woman and the younger woman will continue to have a strained relationship. The older woman didn’t seem to be the kind to let old hurts pass unmentioned, and the younger woman hadn’t yet reached the point where she tells her mom to stop being a bitch or stop seeing us. She will eventually.

The little girl is the one that I feel sorry for, she had to watch her mom and her grandmother fighting with each other when all she should be doing is having a fun time with the two people in the world that love her the most.

I wish I were Santa, because if anyone needs a magical figure in her life, it’s that little girl. I wish her well…

Monday, 24 March 2014

Maybe a Lobotomy

It’s funny how the mind works, or in my case, it’s funny how the mind works so poorly. Yesterday, I heard a news report that I thought might be an interesting topic for last night’s blog. When it came time to write the blog, I didn’t have a clue what the news report was about. I tried all of my methods of encouraging my mind to remember. Actually, I only have one method, tilting my head to the side and furrowing my brow, but even though it looks like I am thinking it doesn’t really do anything.

The only way that actually works from time to time is to completely forget trying to remember and just go about my life. It worked for me this morning! I was watching a part of the James Bond movie “Skyfall” and after the MI6 headquarters exploded, they moved the base of operations to a section of Winston Churchill’s bunker. Just as soon as I heard “Winston Churchill’s bunker”, I remembered the news story as if I had just heard it. Not to worry, the headquarters of MI6 didn’t blow up, that was just a movie.
The news story was about cyber crime and how the British government is attempting to hire young, computer savvy people to help battle the escalation of cyber crime. Guess where they will set up this cyber crime task force? Yep, Churchill’s bunker! How cool is that?

I’m surprised that this hasn’t happened before now, but the way that governments drag their feet and deny that a problem is a problem until it is beyond fixing, I’m not surprised. No one wants to spend money on something that isn’t 99.9999% sure to work for fear that the voters will blame them and not elect them to a new term of bellying up to the trough. The British government should be congratulated.
If I were a computer savvy geek, living in my mom and dad’s basement, I would jump at this opportunity. Well, at least I’d give it a try. You would probably be paid pretty well, have three or four weeks per year of holidays, all the benefits, and you would get to play with all of the latest high tech doo-dads. Not to mention the fact that you would get in on the ground floor of a new and growing industry. Oh yeah, you would be doing the right thing and stopping these cyber thieves.

I really have come to hate these bastards that are using computer technology to steal from Mr. and Mrs. Joe Citizen. Times are tough enough without some scumbag helping themselves to your life savings. I am behind the formation of an anti computer theft bureau and the government should put these guys on a commission so they don’t watch porn and drink Red Bull all day. They need to have something to do on their off hours; after all they will be government employees.

The government also has to enact some serious penalties for this kind of theft. No slap on the wrists for the cyber scum, seizure of assets and long prison terms should be the norm. These guys aren’t downloading movies or songs; they are stealing identities and causing untold grief to people who can’t fight back.
Personally, I would bring back the medieval tortures. It’s pretty hard to work a keyboard with broken (unhealed) fingers and no access to electricity…ever.

Maybe a lobotomy…

Sunday, 23 March 2014


Interesting day I had today.

Well, probably not for anyone else, but I had fun. I went and shovelled snow off of my buddy’s walk, since he is visiting grandkids for the weekend. I told him that I left the windows and doors open to air the place out while I was there. I figured why should he not worry when I am doing his work. It wasn’t too cold, but then it should be much warmer than it is at this time of year. I know you have your own concerns.
I mentioned earlier that I am cloning my hard drive, but it isn’t going as well as I had hoped. I suspect it is something simple that I am over looking and when the brain fart dissipates the solution should present itself. Of course I just may toss the computer out the window into the snow and let Jack Frost deal with the fucking thing.

Louise wanted some Lego figures for her desk at work and that is what she asked for her birthday. Thanks to some wonderful children, she managed to acquire Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor. There is always someone truly evil in any work place setting, so it might just as well be Lex.
Louise put the figures together and left the rest of the construction to me. The age range on the box said 6 to 62, but that’s just Brendan and Tara goofing off. The real age range is 6 to 12. BULLSHIT!!!! There is no way a six year old could put those 207 tiny pieces of plastic together and make a robot vehicle for Lex Luthor to travel around the streets of Metropolis in. I managed to put it together, but I had parts left over, so it’s a lot like when I do automotive work.

I remember Lego from when I was a kid. They were mainly rectangular blocks basically, and sometimes there were platform pieces and some pieces with wheels. You could make a big block of blocks that would roll (until the tiny wheels broke off), but it looked like crap. I guess some kids could do pretty amazing things with Lego, but it just looked like amazing crap. I could build a wall or if I were being especially creative, I would do a wall with a corner and even a small window if I had the longer pieces to bridge the gap. I usually lost those pretty early on, or maybe my brother Steve would hide then in his quest to drive me insane.

The new Lego is much cooler than the old stuff, but unfortunately kids more than likely can’t build with it. I’m sure that Hurricane will take parts of many Lego creatures and build something that will create cold fusion. That’s in the future, for now he is content to watch his dad put them together and break them apart just as soon as Chris is done.

That’s the way it should be.