Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Good Cause

So…New Year’s Eve 2016.

It seems just under a year ago it was 2015 and we had high hopes for 2016. Somehow I was going to get into shape with little or no effort. In 2016 the universe was going to reward me financially for being the wonderful person that I am. My family would be healthy and happy for the most part. Haters would stop hating and we humans would start to like each other enough to care about starvation, sickness and war in other countries. Sigh…

Some things came to pass. Some things remained the same. Mostly though, I just managed to age another year watching the world plod steadily forward. Humanity seems to be struggling up a shale slope of hope, two steps up and one and a half back. Some years we make it a little higher on the slope and others we lose ground. Last year I don’t believe we made any real progress at all.

That is what 2017 is for, progress. The coming year will enable our hopes and dreams to soar and with any luck it will be a year that people will sing about for a thousand years. Maybe we will decide that success isn’t about accumulation wealth but accumulating Karma. Maybe in the coming year we can become the people we should be. Maybe we will enable others to become the people they should be. Maybe those in power will realize that they are in power to help those who look to them for salvation.


I don’t believe that 2017 will be a stellar year for the human race. The three most powerful countries have leaders that seem to care more about power than people. The USA just elected Donald Trump. I would have preferred they elected Donald Chimp, but no one asked my opinion. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think so. This looks like it will be one of those years when we slide further back down the slope. I have never wished ill of someone before, but if we all focus our energy I am sure we could cause Donald to have a massive stroke, genital warts or a really uncomfortable rash.

That isn’t true; I have wished others ill before, I just haven’t been successful. Maybe this is the year when dreams come true and the people come together for a good cause.

I hope that in spite of what is happening in the world you will make your corner a little brighter, love a little more and enjoy the small successes you have in your life.

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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

I woke up this morning only to find that we had received the wish of every child on all of those Christmas movies that I have been watching all month long. It snowed just in time for Christmas! We are going to have a white Christmas after all. A Chinook wind had blown thru last week and there were just dribs and drabs of the white stuff left. We are now the proud owners of about ten inches of the white stuff that will let the kiddies try out their new sleds, snowball makers, scarves and mittens and it will give the parents a much needed break half way through Christmas day.
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Sure, I will be praying for a Boxing Day miracle to come in the form of another Chinook wind to arrive and melt most of the white stuff. That may sound mean, but the way manufacturers build things now, all of the sleds and most of the Christmas toys will be broken and languishing at the bottom of a closet with last years toys. Plus, we are lucky enough to live in an area of the country where snow can be found eight months a year just a short hour and a half drive away in the mountains. Everyone is happy, even the idiots that can’t manage to drive their car with ¼ inch of snow on the ground.
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I know that parents of little ones are busy with trying to calm their kids before the big day and at the same time get all of those last minute jobs done to ensure that Santa’s job will be as easy as possible. The big man doesn’t need any glitches to slow him down tonight.
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I have been reading on facebook the efforts that parents have been going to in the month leading up to Christmas to keep the kids focused. We build up Christmas and the kids get very excited as they should. There are letters to be written to Santa, decorating both inside and outside the home, putting up the tree, baking, advent calendars and a lot of households have Elf on the shelf. Busy times.

We had an Elf on the shelf when I was a kid, but it was just a decoration, not a tricky tattle-tale that would hide in a different place each day and send back reports to Santa on kid’s behaviour.
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You know, adults and children look at the world differently. We as adults have learned to separate real from fantasy where kids don’t make that distinction. We can find the Elf on the shelf in a blender and know that it is a cute hiding place but kids see that Elf could be pureed and then what would Santa think. We also see the Elf making chocolate rosettes which is funny to us but might turn a kid off chocolate for a lifetime.
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This is a time of joy and love, not a time to play practical jokes on our kids. We have the rest of the year to do that. I am sure I crossed the line more than a few times and for that I apologize to the kids. I suspect that one of those times had something to do with birds because all three now avoid birds if at all possible. Birds can be creepy.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas and wish that the New Year is filled with love and possibilities.
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Here is a blog I wrote In December 2011 for those that haven’t read enough so far today.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Another World

Appointment in Samarra
There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

Just over a year and a half ago, I was called for jury duty. I had always wanted to serve on a jury, but when I found out that the trial would possible last six months I had second thoughts. There were about two hundred of us potential jurors and just as we were let in to the room that was to be our “home” for the next few days a woman grabbed my arm and said “You’re a talker, I need someone to pass the time with.” Being a “talker” I was pleased with the arrangement.

It turned out that she had retired two days earlier as the English Department head at Mount Royal University and didn’t look forward to jury duty as much as I was. She actually wanted to take advantage of her free time. Luckily for both of us a jury was selected and we were not needed at all. During the hours we spent in the room I noticed a book that she was reading and made note of it. I figured if it were good enough for a professor of English it would surely be good enough for me. The book was “The Long Way Home” by Louise Penny. I mentioned all of this in a previous blog but I figured you wouldn’t remember it at all.
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I loved the book and have been reading the series since then. I am pacing myself because I just don’t want to finish the series. The books are that enjoyable. However, the book that started me on my Louise Penny journey was number ten in the series and I have just now finished reading it for the second time. It was good the first time, but the second reading has been much better because I have watched the characters develop over the past nine books and they are now alive in my mind. I know why Ruth has a pet duck, I know why the Inspector has retired and is somewhat damaged, I know why his wife is so worried, I know why Clara is searching for Peter, I know why Peter left in the first place. In a way I know these people than most “real” people I come in contact with.
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I have three books left to read in the series and if I plan it well enough I can make them last through the winter. After that I will have to start writing to Louise Penny and begging for her to write faster. Perhaps I should write to her and find out what books affect her in the same way. Perhaps I can find a new, wonderful series that will transport me and my imagination to another world.

With any luck I will see you in the spring.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Season For Miracles

Okay, so it’s been a month now and it appears that I didn’t have a nightmare. Donald Trump was elected to be the most powerful leader in the world. I still can’t believe it!
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The world is still spinning on its axis while circling the sun and our solar system continues to rotate with the rest of the galaxy. In the vast scheme of things, the election of a racist doesn’t mean a thing and in fifty years most of us will be dead. See, I can be positive about this.

Thankfully I have Christmas to focus my attention on. It is a season of love and giving, caring for our fellow man and just a general good feeling is in the air. Yea!

There is a tiny flickering light on the horizon of a recount. There is little chance anything will change, but this is the season of hope and miracles…right?
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I’m a retired, white Canadian male so even in a worse case scenario the only effect on me is that I will have empathy for my brothers and sisters across the border. Sure, there could be a nuclear war when the orange monkey with tiny hands starts pushing buttons, but with any luck Calgary will be ground zero for one of North Koreas missiles. I don’t particularly like winter now; I would like a nuclear winter even less.
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Maybe The Donald is just what the world needs at this juncture. Maybe everything will be all right. Maybe the New Year will herald an unprecedented period of growth and we will enter a golden age. Maybe…
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It is the season for miracles.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Three Inch Digital Fire

There are many ways to tell when we are getting closer to the holiday season. One sure way is that the stores have run out of winter clothing for kids. If you didn’t get those parkas in July then your kids will have to make do with last years coats or you will have to rely on the charity of strangers.

Today we received the first real snowfall of the year. It wasn’t much, about an inch or so in our neighbourhood and a little more in other areas of the city. It was accompanied by below freezing temperatures and the roads managed to ice up in spite of the best efforts of the roads department. That was sarcasm because the Calgary roads department no almost nothing about clearing snow and less about filling pot holes. The people driving on the roads have forgotten what it is like to drive in snow if they had ever learned in the first place.

The weatherman is predicting a heavier snowfall for this coming Sunday, so that means that I will be spending an hour on Saturday putting the snow tires on the Echo. Saturday and Sunday will also see the house begin to get decorated for Christmas. We are a little late this year, but things have come up and I have been pretty lazy. Oh well…

The sure sign that the holidays are in full swing is the holiday fireplace on the cable channel. It is a wonderful, bright, crackling fire that causes me to think back on all of the wonderful fires I have been a part of throughout the years. We like to watch it until the mysterious hand appears with a poker or tongs to readjust the logs and/or add a log to the fire. Over three million Shaw customers watched the Holiday Fireplace last year.

It seems that this year we will be able to watch the Holiday Fireplace on our mobile devices. Nothing says Christmas more than a three inch digital fire. Why not?

Here is a sample of the fire on youtube.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016


If I wanted to, I could be the guy that sends out Christmas cards before anyone else.
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The reason I mention it is that we received our first card of the season today. It was from a fellow that Louise used to work with who has moved to Oshawa. Perhaps Christmas comes that much sooner out in Ontario. Perhaps there is an early bird discount on cards mailed more than a month ahead of time. Perhaps these are cards from last year that he is just getting around to mailing out now. Perhaps he decided that this year is the year when HE would be the first of everyone he knows to mail out cards. Perhaps he is one of those “organized” people who just does this kind of thing and doesn’t understand the pressure it puts on others. Perhaps…
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The one good thing about getting this card is that he beat out Mike and Esther this year. I have stopped wondering why they send cards out so early, I just assume they have nothing better to do with their time. Well, either that or they are organized. Either way it is something of a sickness. Mike and Esther are going to have to up their game next year to beat out Doug. The card challenge is on!
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I thought about getting my cards done in early November, but it would never have occurred to me to send them out until at least mid December. I mean, what do I do with that card? I haven’t decorated the house yet and there is a very good chance it will be packed away with all of the un-Christmas stuff and not be unearthed until February. Lucky for Doug we don’t worry about how tidy the house is so it can sit on the table for a week or so. Still, sending the card early is pretty thoughtless in a thoughtful kind of way.
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No, I figure that the Post Office gears up to deal with millions of cards sent in the week or so before Christmas and it just wouldn’t be fair to deny them the challenge of getting every card delivered by Christmas Eve. Everyone works best with a deadline. Early cards are an affront to common sense and an insult to all of the hard working Postal employees across the world.
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Just think of the ramifications if everyone mailed their cards early. The Post Office wouldn’t need to hire seasonal help to deal with the volume because there wouldn’t be any volume to speak of. Card retailers would need to have the cards in stores earlier and in turn the manufacturers would have to print them up earlier in the year when they should be busy printing whatever it is that they print when not printing cards for Christmas. I can only suppose Valentine cards or Mother’s day cards. Maybe Doug and Mike send out cards for Valentines in December and Mother’s Day cards in March.
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Why even bother to have specific days at all? I’m not going to blame Doug and Mike for the potential collapse of civilization as we know it, but that is a very real possibility.
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Maybe I will send my cards out earlier next year, third week in December sounds about right, but I will think about sending them early on in November if I want to…
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Thursday, 10 November 2016

Track Number 5

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I have been thinking about graveyards recently. I’m not sure exactly why, but I suspect there are a number of reasons. I lost most of my family during the fall and winter, Halloween has just passed and of course Donald Trump was just elected president and that could spell the death of a great country. Who knows?

I like graveyards. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend a lot of time in graveyards but I do find them fascinating. I remember hearing that there are people who go into graveyards and take “rubbings” of famous or just interesting headstones. I often think that would be kind of an interesting hobby to have except I really don’t know what I would do with the rubbings once I brought them home. I have too much useless crap that I treasure in my home now.

When I walk through a graveyard I feel that I have to be reserved and respectful, not because I believe there are spirits of the dearly departed hanging about, but because there is a lot of love hanging around. People will inter their mothers, fathers, children and friends and that love stays. Well, it might. I’d like to think that it does.

The thing about cemeteries is that once one of your loved ones is buried and the headstone is in place, it becomes somewhat painful to visit. Not for every one of course, but it has been my experience that the living shy away from the place that hold the mortal remains of those they love. Initially, the grave may be visited fairly often, but as time goes by and life continues, longer periods come between visits. The first generation may continue to visit a parent on a yearly basis and perhaps if grandpa was especially well though of, the grandkids will drop by every now and then. Third generation visits would be pretty rare unless they were putting together a family history.

Surely I am not the only one to notice how empty graveyards are. Well, if you don’t count ghosts and why would you. So, why do we spend so much time and effort on graveyards when it is rare that anyone goes there on a regular basis? Could it be survivor’s guilt? We all die eventually. Maybe headstones are a way to mark that a life has been lived and meant something to someone.

I know I will be forgotten within a very few years after I pass. Hopefully I will be fond memories for a couple of generations and a funny story to be told at family gatherings.

“Remember the time when Poppa farted in the elevator…”

Maybe we need these places of quiet introspection as a society. Maybe the dead just need a quiet place to process the transition. Graveyards just might be travel hubs for the afterlife.

When my time comes, I’ll be taking the 20:45 express to the outer rim. Meet you on track number 5.
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