Saturday 28 February 2015

Friday 27 February 2015

A Reminder

We all have heard that as one gets older, he begins to be a little more forgetful. If the person is lucky, it will be simple things like where did I put the car keys, did I pay that bill, why am I in the basement and finding that you have two cups of tea on the go at the same time. Less lucky would be finding out you have Alzheimer’s and your mind is slowly slipping away.

I am pretty sure that I am just getting a little forgetful, but there is always the worry about Alzheimer’s of course. No one in my family has a history of losing memory, but you never know.  I once heard an unsubstantiated rumour, devoid of fact from an untrustworthy source that cooking with aluminium pots can cause Alzheimer’s. I choose to believe it because it is better to have something or someone to blame other than yourself. Yes, I still have aluminium pots, but I don’t use them as often as I used to. Well, I can’t remember using them anyways.

It’s frustrating to need a word and not be able to call it up just when you need it. You are stumbling for the word and those around you think they are helping by attempting to guess which word you are searching for. If they would just shut up you might be able to dredge it out of the fog. Everyone starts thinking that you are either losing it or that you have indeed lost it. It doesn’t help when five hours later you shout out “MONITOR”. They really think you are nuts then or perhaps that you have Tourettes.

I have never been very good at remembering things. I still have trouble with how old I am and what the day of the week it is. I need to put birthdays, anniversaries and any other important date on a calendar or I am sure to forget it. If I am out with a buddy and he is looking for a certain tool that I may or may not have, I tell him that I’d look for it and let him know. Days later, the memory surfaces just as I am lying in bed and in order not to forget it again, I get up and look for the tool. I mean well…

This week, my daughter asked me to pick up Tornado from the day home and drop him off at his play school. No problem! I love spending even a few minutes with him where ever and when ever I can. I told her to give me a reminder call just on the off chance I forgot my obligation. Louise reminded me in the morning and that was the last I thought about picking Tornado up until my daughter called an hour or so after I should have picked him up.

She was concerned that something happened to me. She was relieved that I was safe and not at all concerned that Tornado missed his school. I did forget and that makes me worry that my memory is getting worse. Tornado didn’t care and he was safe at his day home. Missing a day at school isn’t a big deal for anyone. Well, it is a big deal for me and I just feel terrible. I don’t know how I am going to make it up to him, but I assume that donuts, chocolate and some plastic toy might just be involved. Maybe I will win the lotto and take him to Hawaii with me. Just so long as I get a reminder to bring him back with us on the plane.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Anything is Possible

Do you ever think about time travel?

Every now and then I do. I don’t have a plan laid out waiting for someone to invent time travel and to tell you the truth the plan that I don’t have changes from day to day. I would stay clear of anything that made it into the history books. Those books are full of war, pestilence, disease and all sorts of unpleasant experiences. Even the fun things are not as fun as what has been reported. You might think that Woodstock would be interesting to see with all of the music, peace and free love, but I kind of doubt it. I was at Watkins Glen Concert that had 600,000 people and had a thoroughly unpleasant time. I didn’t even get close enough to the stage to hear any music. Time travel is one of those “be careful what you wish for” things.

The only historical figure I would really like to see is a certain Hebrew carpenter that lived a couple of thousand years ago. I would love to get a table, turned bowl, plate or possibly a foot stool to take home with me. It would be nice to go back and have lunch at a lunch counter in the summer of 1955 having burger, fries and a coke for less than a dollar. I would like to go and talk to a few men that had survived the war while they were happy to be alive and didn’t have too much time to think about the horrible things they saw.

We all think it would be a good idea to make some investments based on knowledge of the future. I could buy gold at $32 an ounce, or invest in some fledgling computer companies. Pretty much any blue chip stock purchased in the fifties would have made a fortune by the time the millennium came around. The drawback to that plan is that in order to make those investments you would need money. 1950’s money. You would have to get a job making 50¢ per hour, get a place to live, buy food, entertain yourself and in all probability if you were single you would get a significant other. As we all know, significant others take up a significant amount of time and money. I doubt I would have enough money to invest with the cost of living factored in.

I imagine that I would spend a good deal of time watching myself as I grew up. Not a great deal of time; it’s not cool to be arrested as a pervert who hung around playgrounds. I wonder if I could just watch while I made the mistakes that turned me into the person I am today. There are several moments when that young kid needed a kick in the ass or even just a word of advice on how people should be treated. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t listen to some old grandfather that gave me advice. I didn’t listen to anyone back then and I can’t imagine why I would change.

No, I probably wouldn’t go back to change anything, invest money or to visit any prophets. I think I might go back to breathe air that is clean and listen to a silent world. It would be nice to spend time in a world that wasn’t afraid of terrorists, toxic food, air, or water; a world that was working towards a bright future where anything is possible. In short, it would be nice to visit a world that had recently conquered evil and was busy putting the past behind them.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Dream Self

It’s funny how dreams work. Well, I can only assume that all people dream the same which is probably assuming far too much. I have heard that Paul McCartney woke with the song “Yesterday” fully formed. I’ve never managed to dream one of the most popular songs of all time, but every now and then I do wake up thinking about blog ideas. I know, pathetic!

This morning I woke thinking about a friend of mine who will be retiring very soon. I was visiting him for some reason which the dream didn’t think important enough to let me know. Dreams can be assholes sometimes. Anyways, my buddy wanted me to go on a drive with him. My dream self didn’t think to ask where we were going, I guess dream selves have never heard of people having psychotic breaks and murdering other people in the woods. It was a nice, sunny, warm summer day and we headed into the country talking about this and that. Eventually we turned down a dirt road and still my dream self wasn’t worried.

We pulled up to a field that was behind some lake front cottages and parked the car. My friend told me that he bought a lot on the lake and he planned to camp there on and off when he retired. He has always loved the woods, so this would be a perfect place for him. We walked through some bushes and there was his daughter, smiling and jumping up and down with joy.

She grabbed his hand and led him to a small cottage. Somehow, she had called in a few favours and managed to get a building put up for my buddy. He shed tears of happiness and hugged his daughter as he should have. It was a small A-frame with large triangular windows with a lake front vista. Just perfect!


My dream self just couldn’t keep his mouth shut and let well enough alone. I should have smiled and been happy for my buddy, at least for one day. But, it appears that I couldn’t do that. I looked around at the cottage and started listing the jobs that needed to be done in my head. There isn’t a lot of room in my head, so of course that list just had to come out.

“You know, you are going to need to get a coat of stain or paint on the outside of the cottage before winter, and there isn’t any eavestroughing or down spouts that I can see. Is there a fresh water well on the property? No? You are definitely going to need one or you will be hauling water from the city every other day. Speaking of hauling water, is there a septic system here? No? Hmmmm… You could dig a pit I suppose, but that gets old pretty fast and a guy like you is full of shit. Hehehehehe! Before all of that though, you really need to get in touch with the power company and see how much it will cost to run a power line into the property. I know an electrician who is friends with my son-in-law and he might be willing to help out. I don’t know any plumbers, but most of that you could probably do for yourself…….”

My dream self just wouldn’t shut up even though I watched my friend getting more and more depressed. Thankfully I woke up before my buddy committed suicide. That would stay with you even if it were just in a dream.

Tuesday 24 February 2015


Okay, so I ordered my new glasses online. Well, I ordered them back at the beginning of the month and it has taken this long to get them. Sixteen days isn’t really that long when you consider they have been manufactured in China and gone through two post offices, eleven time zones and Canadian customs.
 Zenni Optical Eyeglasses
I have been intending to order glasses from China for a couple of years now but have worried about quality and just the logistics of the purchase. My ophthalmologist told me that he orders his glasses online and he has never had a problem. I was worried that I would screw up some obscure measurement and end up with glasses that Bozo the Clown would be proud to own. It took two years to build up the courage, but I did it.
Part of my problem was that I had trouble wrapping my head around the difference in pricing. The last pair of glasses I bought in a store cost about $750. I am very lucky in having a vision plan which covers $350 every four years and Louise also has a plan that covers most of the rest of the cost. The $750 was for a pair of glasses and a pair of sunglasses, kind of a buy one get one free. It seemed pretty steep at the time, but like I said it didn’t cost me much. This pair of glasses $82 US which worked out to $119 Canadian, a savings of $630. What???

My insurance company is going to love me. Now, I don’t know how long these glasses will last, but if I get a year out of them then I will be ahead of the game. They seem to be pretty light, but as long as I treat them with respect, they should respect me. Time will tell I suppose.

The pair of glasses I am wearing currently developed a tiny scratch which has been driving me crazy! Most of the time it just blends in with the dirty lens, but when I try to ignore it I get a head ache. I have been waiting over a month to order the glasses, so I am looking forward to a scratch free view of the world.

Now I have to figure out how to send my claim into the insurance company. I have to make sure I get the cost of the glasses and the US dollar exchange rate I have nothing but time.

I am going to recommend people use Zenni or the slightly more expensive (but better variety) Clearly Contacts, especially if they don’t have a vision plan with work. If you read a blog in the near future about what a piece of shit online glasses are, you will know something didn’t go exactly as planned.

Monday 23 February 2015

Sorry Mom

The human mind is a pretty wonderful thing. It is also a pretty strange thing. It is one part of our bodies that the scientists know very little about.

I always marvel at how my memories are triggered. Louise’s mom’s memories were triggered by food. She would remember a meal and that memory would help to cascade all of the memories of when she had that meal, who was at the dinner and all of the little things that happened there. My memories are often triggered by smells. There is a certain smell that a home will have that reminds me of my buddy Mike’s place when we were kids. Every now and then I will enter a home and it will have that smell which brings back memories of cool Kool-Aid on a hot summer day. Hours spent waging war with little army men on a crumpled blanket on his bedroom floor.

I still see Mike now and then, but not often and his home now doesn’t have that same smell. That is probably for the better because although I still have my army of plastic soldiers, I seriously doubt if he could produce any army at all. Even if he could, I would still kick his ass.
The smell of burning leaves always reminds me of autumn during my childhood. We would make huge piles of leaves and they would burn and smoulder for hours, filling the entire neighbourhood with low hanging clouds of light grey smoke. If the mosquitoes were especially irritating, we wouldn’t go inside; we would stand with just our heads poking out of the smoke. I didn’t say we were especially intelligent. Of course the smell of our smoke saturated clothing would bring other memories. People today aren’t allowed to burn leaves, too many people would complain I suppose. Maybe the smell of burning leaves will be replaced with the smell of diesel that the garbage trucks leave behind. Progress…

Every now and then around Chinese New Year I will catch just a hint of incense on the wind. Immediately I am transported back to Firecracker day. I guess it was Victoria Day or Canada Day, but my friends and I just called it Firecracker Day. All day we would unravel packs of firecrackers, lighting the wicks and watching them blow up. For a kid it was like having permission to use tiny sticks of dynamite. Many of those plastic soldiers suffered explosions and I doubt there was an intact ant hill in the entire metropolitan Toronto area. We would use “punk” to light the fire crackers because it would smoulder slowly and was much safer than lighting the wicks with matches. The “punk” was what I now know as incense.

Today I was making a cup of tea and a tiny drop of water splashed onto my foot. I felt a sharp pain, not too painful but just enough to trigger the memory. I flashed back to the first real sunny, warm days of spring when I would dig out a magnifying glass and go out to find something I could burn. The challenge for me was to actually start a fire, but I can’t remember ever being successful at it. I would get bored pretty fast and turn to other, more interesting things to burn. I would find an old piece of newspaper and spell my initials on it. The challenge was to keep the glass the right distance from the paper so that it would scorch evenly. Often, while burning the paper, I would burn right through the paper and burn my pants. It was that same pain that I felt when a drop of boiling water landed on my foot today. Today I won’t have the pain of my mom’s disappointed look when she saw the hole in my new pants. There was never enough money for me to ruin pants as soon as I got them.

Sorry Mom…

Saturday 21 February 2015

My Voice Doppelganger

I have never been very good on the phone. Some people can just yabber away for hours and hours, saying everything and nothing at the same time. The way I see it, if I like someone enough to talk to them for hours then I will make the effort to go over and talk to them in person.

Maybe the problem is that I just don’t like anyone enough to talk to for hours and hours. Maybe I like my friends too much and feel that they deserve my full and undivided attention. Anyone that knows me will know that it is a chore to get me to shut up when we are in the same room. I have never been comfortable with “comfortable silence”. To me, “comfortable silence” is just “awkward silence” tarted up.

Sometimes I wonder if my being not willing to ramble on the phone stems from my not liking my voice. I have hated my voice since the first time I heard it on a tape during my weekly speech therapy sessions when I was in public school. Inside of my head, it has always sounded …normal. When I listen to the recorded version it just sounds like some high pitched idiot. I am always thrown for a loop when my voice is played back to me. How could anyone take this guy seriously? Fifty years later and I’m still not comfortable with my voice.

There was a time when I had to make hundreds of phone calls at the beginning of soccer season. I’d have to arrange for coaches to grade the kids and then have to call all of the parents and explain time and date of the try outs. Once the try outs had been held, I would have to call the parents back and tell them where to take the little darlings for their first practice. I don’t know what the parents thought of my voice, no one ever laughed in my face. I did get used to being on the phone for hours at a time and I counted my blessings that I didn’t have a job that entailed time talking on the phone. The job I had was more or less solitary for the most part.

Now, if I need to talk on the phone to set up an appointment or ask questions, I have great difficulty organizing my thoughts. If I don’t write down all of the pertinent information on a piece of paper in front of me, I just start to babble. Often if the call goes to voice mail, I don’t leave my number or name or even the reason for the call in the first place. I intend to leave my name, number and reason for the call, but I get flustered. I feel like that little boy in a small supply office at Maryvale P.S. who has to leave class because he doesn’t talk like all of the other kids talk.

Some things in life keep following you throughout the years and no matter where life’s journey has taken you, they stay the same. I am who I am and my voice is a part of what makes me…me.

There was a fellow in the coffee shop that looked at me today and said “I feel like I should know you.” I told him that everyone should know me, but in this case I didn’t think so.”

His buddy told him that he knew who I reminded him of but it was more voice than looks. I wonder if my voice doppelganger spent his life trying to avoid talking on the phone.

Friday 20 February 2015

Discretionary Income

Discretionary income. Hmmmm…. I suppose that refers to money that is left over after you have made all of your monthly payments, bought your food, clothing, paid for the kids extra curricular activities, put away a little something for a rainy day and of course you need to factor in a little for entertainment. Money left over? Hahahahahahahahaha!
 Image result for opera
Where do we put our “spare” money? The rich feel a need to support the arts. Things like philharmonic orchestras, art galleries, the opera and other more or less useless charities like “Spats for the Homeless”, there is no need for them to be homeless and look bad. I know the rich do a lot of good, partly because they are civic minded and partly because donating money to worthy causes give great tax deductions. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.
 Image result for wild horses
There are people in our province who are raising money to save the wild horses from a government declared cull. Horses are noble creatures and deserve to live their lives without fear of being killed simply because they are successful in the wild. The ranchers in the area don’t like the horses because they compete with the cattle for forage. I can see that both sides make very good points. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.
Recently a woman had a couple hundred dogs taken away from her because they were in a terrible state. Most were on the verge of starvation, some were very sick, some had to be euthanized and all were living in deplorable conditions. This woman had done the same thing in Saskatchewan and or BC. I don’t think there is any doubt that she loves dogs. I don’t think there is any doubt that she has a mental problem of some kind. There is a lot of money being raised to help treat these animals and then find them homes. Our Humane society does a wonderful job and I have gotten all of my dogs from them. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.
Every day on my way to have coffee, there is a homeless man at the intersection of 32nd ave and 36th street holding his hat in hand and begging for dollars. Other intersections have other men with cardboard signs that declare they are HOMELESS AND HUNGRY. There are wonderful organizations in the city that provide food and a warm bed for the needy. The Salvation Army, the Calgary Drop In Centre, In From the Cold and The Mustard Seed all do wonderful jobs for the less fortunate peoples in Calgary. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.

Over the years I have attended a number of different churches and all of them do many good works both home and abroad. They have programs to help the cities youth, keeping them occupied and away from drugs hopefully. They will council adults that need spiritual guidance and give them a place to belong. Most of the major religions have programs to help the needy in other poor countries around the world. I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.
 Image result for the red cross
The Red Cross is an organization that is a first responder whenever there is a catastrophe anywhere in the world. They mobilize needed items like clothing, food and temporary shelters immediately after earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or fires. They have the expertise to give the people and government a hand up when needed.  I can’t decide if this is a worthwhile use for my discretionary dollars.

There are so many places to give your hard earned dollars that it is difficult to know just where it will do the most good. I suspect the key to giving is you should find an organization that does good work and that also makes you feel good at the same time. That’s how to decide if it is a worthwhile use for your discretionary dollars.
Image result for smile

Thursday 19 February 2015

Edison’s Miracle of Light.

I watched a documentary about Thomas Edison today. If you ever want to see something that will make you feel you have spent a lifetime wasting a lifetime, this is the show for you.
 Image result for thomas edison pbs
In his lifetime, he accumulated over 1000 patents on many diverse subjects, from phonograph to the electric light bulb and motion pictures. He made and lost a few fortunes over the years and had more failures than successes and yet he kept working. One comment that struck me was that he never looked back. If he had a failure, he didn’t let it get him down, he would spend a while thinking about his next project and dive right in.

I knew that he invented the incandescent bulb, which was thought by most people to be an impossible dream. Edison was all about doing the impossible on a daily basis. What I didn’t know about the electric light was that inventing the bulb was just the beginning. He had to sell the idea to the general public, city officials and of course financial backers. Once that was done, he needed to dig up all of the roads in a square mile of Manhattan to lay copper wire which would then connect up to all of the buildings in that section of the city. He also had to design (invent) power generators that would supply those homes and businesses with electricity. The show didn’t talk about light fixtures, but Louise and I have a hard time picking them out from a show room. He would have had to have someone design and fabricate those fixtures.
While all of that was going on; the uber rich wanted their own personal generating station either in the basement or in an out building on their property. Somehow, he managed to get all of this done and in only four years. He was often to be found in the ditches helping the workers wire Manhattan.
One story I loved came towards the end of the program and his life. He, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs would go on summer camping trips together, caravanning from place to place. They called themselves the Four Vagabonds and of course family, retainers and reporters would follow along. On one such trip, something went wrong with one of the cars and they pulled into a small service station to get some help. The mechanic looked at the engine and said “It appears to be a problem with the electrical system.” Thomas Edison said “I’m Thomas Edison and I have checked the electrical system and it is working perfectly.”

The mechanic then said “Well, if it isn’t the electrical then it is an issue with the fuel line.” Henry Ford said “I’m Henry Ford and I’ve checked the fuel system out and it is also working well.” 

The mechanic looked at John Burroughs who had a long white beard and said “Why don’t you fellows get Santa Claus here to fix the car!”

The show was called “Edison’s Miracle of Light” on PBS show the American Experience. If you get the chance, watch it or you could go to the library and read the story of his life. It might have just been called “Edison” American Experience. 
Image result for thomas edison pbs

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Painted Into a Corner

The other day I made a glib comment on facebook about the horrible weather a friend is having that lives on the other side of the country. It isn’t as if I don’t care how cold it is or how high the snow is piled on roofs, it is just that there isn’t a thing I can do about it. Even if I were there, I couldn’t do anything about it. There is a good possibility that I would just be thankful I wasn’t having the same problem.

Generally, my way of dealing with tragedy is to make light of it. I suppose that my thinking is if you are laughing, even for a short time, then you will be able to make it through the emergency. The problem with that kind of thinking is that I make the assumption that everyone has a sense of humour. Also, that their sense of humour is more or less the same as mine. What I don’t consider until after I have had my say is that not everyone is able to appreciate the rainbow after the storm.

Quite frankly, for the most part other people’s tragedies are my entertainment. They are filmed and reported upon in a professional way and I am given 30 to 120 seconds to learn about the issue, react emotionally and then I have to move on. I don’t have the time to be concerned about something happening thousands of miles away. Every day tragedy will strike somewhere on the planet. A hurricane devastates the American Midwest, killing thirty-two, injuring a hundred and causing millions of dollars in property damage. Thousands of children in Africa and the Far East will starve or die from sickness or thirst. It is tragic!

There is nothing I can do about it short of giving to a reputable organization that will buy food and medicine. Does it make me lose my appetite? Will I not wash the car? Should I not throw out items that I no longer have a use for? Being hungry in an overcrowded garage, in a dirty car won’t help anyone. I’m not sure anything I do can help. It might help a few people short term, but long term solutions never seem to do much good.

Sometimes during my life, I have been devastated when my car broke down and I was faced with a large repair bill. At the same time, somewhere in the world, people were being enslaved, dying from disease and starving to death. My tears were for the car and the money it would take for repairs. I’m am aware that my priorities are in the wrong place, but not knowing who is suffering and where they are suffering allows me to distance myself.

You can’t be held accountable for all of the problems in the world. We all do our best to make this a better world, some try to improve a large part and others just work on their little corner.

I’ve painted myself into a corner.