Monday 30 November 2020

Porch Pirates

I was raised in a kinder, gentler time. We didn’t have any crime, people were nice to one another, parents were thoughtful and caring and politicians had the best interests of the people dictating there decisions. Everyone had jobs they loved, trees grew straight and tall and the birds sang all day long. Well, that was the view of an eight year old Ken and somewhat colours my take on reality.


Six decades later I have come to realize that although some of my perceptions of the world were accurate for my life, the rest of the world didn’t always behave the way it should have. People used to know right from wrong and there were lines that you didn’t cross. Of course there were criminals, but they seemed to have a code that they would live by. Stealing from corporations that had insurance or spent their time legally stealing from the public was fair game. Sure there were psychopaths and just plain evil people but thankfully those were a very, very small minority.


Criminals in the old days made a living from people that were on the edge themselves. I know that I have a simplistic view of the world. Maybe if we all shared that view things would be a little better.


I don’t know when things went wrong. Perhaps it was when drugs became much stronger and people needed to get higher and higher. If you are stoned all the time you can’t keep a job and if you don’t have a job then you steal what you need for your habit from regular people because they are easy prey. We all contribute to where our society is now and with the advent of online sales forums we are able to turn a blind eye about where an item comes from. A deal is a deal. Right?


How do you determine if the “reconditioned” cell phone, TV, or DVD player came to be sold by the original owner or someone that broke into a house and took the electronics late at night or in the afternoon while the owners were at work.  It is a strange world we have invented.


The latest crime of opportunity are being done by Porch Pirates. With the rise in online shopping it is a simple thing for someone to follow the Canada Post truck or Fed Ex truck and run up to the house and take the parcel that had been left. They don’t know what they are getting, it could be a kids toy, a cell phone, new pots, but what ever it is can probably be sold and with the proceeds they can buy their drugs. I find it offensive that the media outlets call them Porch Pirates. I am sure these scumbags like the idea of being pirates. Stealing from the rich and making a living by their wits. Well, it takes no intelligence to get out of a car and run up to a house to take the package on the porch.


These people are pathetic and deserve to be called what they are. Thieves and criminals. Scum. The people they steal from are devastated and never can live a peaceful life again. They have no conscience and if caught there should be a mandatory jail sentence doing hard labour. Make the bastards work until they drop. I guess I don’t believe in rehabilitation today. Maybe tomorrow.


Thursday 26 November 2020

Take a Drink From The Sprinklers

Buster and I were out on our morning walk today when we noticed something new. Well, new to us because I am sure it has been there for the better part of a year. I remember people installing a couple of metal boxes in the field close to the soccer pitch. I have a hazy memory of asking what the boxes were for and I think the reply had something to do with irrigation. I couldn’t understand how metal boxes in the middle of a field would help with irrigation and really did they need such large cabinets to protect a couple of taps.


Well, this morning Buster and I saw (for the first time) a pole coming out of the boxes and what looked like a small weather station on top of the pole. I Googled it when I got home and it turns out that the city uses things like that to determine when the field needs to be watered, collecting data on humidity, rainfall and temperature among other things. It makes sense of course it is just that I had not considered anything that fancy would be used to water a field.


I am sure there was a time when cities or towns would let Mother Nature look after the watering of public fields. There were probably a lot more fields with dead, brown grass back then. I remember when I was a kid the city workers would put out these powerful sprinklers to water the fields and on hot summer days we would run thru then playing tag and getting soaked. Eventually, one of us would be dared to take a drink from the sprinkler. I can remember a powerful jet of water catching the inside of my cheek and having that cheek hurt for hours. The pain didn’t stop me from taking a drink the next time, it just made me be the first one to dare someone else to take a drink.


I don’t know when it happened or when I noticed it, but there was an “Adopt a Field” program that had neighbours take responsibility to water the fields. Probably the city could let some workers go and get the job done for free. Of course some fields were well looked after and others had dead, brown grass. That is the nature of having volunteers working for you. I don’t think that program worked out very well.


The next stage I remember was the city watering the grass once a month which of course left us with grass that was dead and brown unless Mother Nature pitched in a few millimeters a month. I guess that is why a couple of years back Buster and I noticed the city workers digging up the fields and laying pipe down. It makes sense now, they had a long term plan. Who knew?


The sprinklers probably come on in the wee hours of the morning when all of us good people are dreaming and there is less demand on the water system. Next summer I will have to spend some nights checking on when the fields are being watered. I’m retired so I can catch up on my sleep during the day. Besides, I kind of have a hankering to take a drink from the sprinklers.

Sunday 22 November 2020


I think that I have established that I am something of a pack rat. To me a pack rat is somewhere between a collector and a hoarder. I am not a collector because I’m not committed enough to stick to collecting and quite frankly I am just too cheap. I’m not a hoarder probably because my wife won’t let me be. Don’t get me wrong, when I die the kids are going to have to fill a large bin with stuff that they will wonder “Why in God’s name did he have this?” That is just the way it is going to be…not my problem, I will be dead.


I am more or less harmless and can be convinced to get rid of things. The key for me is that if I think I will need an item or a hundred items in the near or distant future then I need to hold on to whatever bit of crap it happens to be.


A year or two ago one of the neighbours put a perfectly good picture frame in the garbage. It had a perfectly awful picture in it that definitely deserved to be in the garbage. Of course I rescued the frame and tossed the picture. I had in mind that if I put cork in the frame I could display the artwork I get from the grand kids. It would have worked to except for the fact that I rarely if ever get anything from the grand kids and even less since the onset of Covid.


A month or so ago I was cleaning the computer room. Well, cleaning is a little strong, I was moving piles of things around the computer room and found a stack of last years Christmas cards. I stopped “cleaning” and shuffled through the cards and noticed that there were more than a few really nice cards. More than a few crappy ones as well. I have a friend or two that send hand made cards which are mini works of art. Some people put a lot of thought into buying just the right card for each person and others are just wonderfully funny or touching. They shouldn’t be tossed into the recycling bin at the end of the year. Well, other people do that I guess. After a not so difficult search I found the cards from 2018 and 2017 and there were wonderful cards in those piles too.


Well, I put the empty frame and the wonderful cards together and came up with a new Christmas decoration that will subtly change from year to year. It looks pretty good too and makes me look like I planned keeping all of those cards over the years. It also gives me an excuse to keep Christmas cards in years to come without any guilt what so ever. There is also the added benefit of having something else for the kids to toss into the dumpster.



Monday 16 November 2020

Thank You

I was born in the middle of the last century. That makes me sound a lot older than I am or maybe I am a lot older than I feel. Be that as it may, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a changing world.


Up until the mid century give or take a decade or two, communication was much more difficult than it is now. Mostly people would physically talk to one another or they would write letters. There was the telegraph, but it was expensive so you really couldn’t do much more than say I am fine or send me money unless you were wealthy and then you wouldn’t need anyone to send you money. The telephone was certainly all over the place, but again, long distance charges were expensive. I used the phone system to keep in touch with my friends, make plans on where to meet and talk to any girls that happened to be interested in me. So…no girls on the phone.


My parents generation were writers. They would send letters to loved ones and friends just to see how they were doing and they would get replies back in short order with an answer and well wishes. Letters would be written to complain to businesses about consumer problems and the president of the company would write back thanking you for bring his attention to whatever the problem happened to be. I’m sure it was his secretary, but that is where the real power lay anyways.


Not everything was sunshine and roses however. If you were sent a birthday card, Easter card, Christmas card or a card of congratulations, then you were expected to send a thank you letter or card back thanking Aunt Flo for her thoughtfulness. If a present were involved then it had to be more than a scribbled thanks at the bottom of a letter your mom wrote, you had to promise undying devotion for the rest of your life and longer since of course there was a God in heaven. I didn’t understand why a phone call wouldn’t do even better than a card or letter. I guess Miss Manners would have been able to explain it to me.


I just chaulked the whole Thank You note up to an old people thing. My friends were happy with a phone call but you had to write a letter thanking Aunt Ev and Uncle Tom for the silver pickle plate they sent for your wedding. Don’t think about it…just write.


I shouldn’t complain because I made my living delivering cards and letters for the Post Office. We dreaded this time of year because the volume of mail was unbelievable. Well, at least when I first started, by the time I retired the Christmas mail volume was a shadow of what it had been. Every year we receive fewer and fewer Christmas cards and I really can’t remember the last time I got a letter. Email doesn’t count! In fact I am starting to hate getting a Christmas Email from people that should be sending Christmas cards. You can’t display animated Christmas emails on the wall, no matter how cute it is that eight dancing reindeer turn into eight naked Santa’s. That’s wrong!


I sent my grandson’s a coded letter about two weeks ago and have been waiting to hear how they liked it. Last night I texted my daughter and she texted back that she hadn’t checked her mailbox for a while. I can’t imagine going not checking my mailbox on a daily basis on the off chance that someone might send me a thank you note. It could happen… Anyways, Hurricane liked the coded letter and had translated the first page. I imagine Tornado looked at it and thought this is hard, fuck it. I will find out the next time I am talking to them. I may send them another letter, maybe I can start a trend. At the very least I will contribute to my pension in a very real way.


I can send myself a Thank You note.

Friday 13 November 2020


Okay, it has been a couple of days since Remembrance Day and I feel safe writing this. Well, safe…ish.


My dad fought in the great war and I thank God or dumb luck that I never had to fight any kind of war. The people that went to war come back just a little bit off and I can’t blame them one bit. In fact they should be commended that they are just a little bit off. Some of course came back with lifelong emotional problems that I just can’t fathom. For this I thank them and remember them and pray that the kids growing up today have the same difficulty that I have understanding the horrors of war.


Having said that, I have to acknowledge that my formative years were spent protesting the war in Viet Nam. I was Canadian so my protests were mostly listening to protest songs and watching the youth in the US protesting on TV news. I read about the draft and the war and for the life of me I just didn’t understand why the American government sent all of those young men over there. I still don’t get it. I am sure democracy battling creeping socialism had something to do with it but at the end of the day it had far more to do with selling weapons. War is good for business!


The Second World War was more about battling the real enemy that wanted nothing short of world domination. The atrocities that happened during that war are well documented and they are the reasons that we should never forget and stay constantly on guard so that it can never happen again.


On Remembrance day all that I could think of were those that stayed behind during WWII. Unless people were different than today I can imagine that it wouldn’t be easy to be a young man that was unable to go to war. Many had physical problems that kept them from going to war and many more worked in industries needed to support the war effort. My father in law was a farmer and exempt from fighting. Thank God for those that kept everyone fed during that difficult time. I would bet there would be shaming when they went into town. Can’t blame the moms and wives that lost a son, boyfriend or husband for being a little bitter.


Not to mention that food and goods were rationed so that the soldiers would have enough to keep fighting. Those women that remained also had to work in factories not just to keep food on the table, but to manufacture the weapons of war. These deprivations went on for years and even after the war times were very difficult. I just can’t wrap my head around what those brave people put up with and thank God that I will never suffer through a war.


When I think about what that was like it makes the sacrifices I am making because of the Coronavirus19 fade into nothingness.


I remember how fortunate I am and that my good fortune comes at the expense of those millions of men and women who really suffered and died.



Sunday 8 November 2020

Smarter Than That

On a Friday or Saturday night when I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and go and hang out with my friends. Sometimes there would be a party, but mostly we would just walk or bike around talking and goofing off. We would set a time and place to meet and then decide what we would do that night. Every now and then my friends would get to the place early and assume that I wasn’t coming and then would head out leaving me stranded. I would spend the rest of the night trying to find them and since there was no set place for them to go I just wandered by myself. The odd time I got lucky, but more often than not I had an early night spent at home.


I know, that sounds kind of pathetic and it probably was but that was also life. I wasn’t the only one left high and dry, I was often with the group that took off without whoever stayed in watching Gunsmoke. There just wasn’t any way to get in touch because we were wandering thirty or forty years before the cell phone. Part of the problem is that we wandered such a large area and hopping on the TTC to go downtown to check out Sam’s or A &A record stores was common. I liked wandering down Yonge street. I rarely bought anything but it was fun hanging out with my buddies. Well, if I could find them of course.


I am still in touch with those people and for the most part nothing has changed. We still tease each other and laugh a lot when we talk. The topics we talk about now involve knee surgeries, grand kids, the weather and of course Covid. One of the good things about Covid is that we have an open Zoom meeting every Saturday at 2:00PM for whoever wants to chat. Mostly there are four or five couples and the odd time we have had nine or ten but if yo can make the call then that’s cool. I look forward to talking and catching up because I am out west and they are pretty much all in southern Ontario. Bottom line, it is fun.


There was another Zoom call this afternoon. I was a little late getting set up and didn’t sign in till about ten after two. I was the only guy on the Zoom meeting. I sat waiting for the others to come online but after a few minutes it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. I can only look at myself on the computer screen for so long, I am beautiful but I can get better resolution in the bathroom mirror. As I was waiting for someone to come on I began to think about those high school days. Did they meet up on time and decide to go somewhere else on the web? Did they have their video turned off and were having fun watching me watch me? Did they go downtown?


I think that they were all taking advantage of the 20°C day in Ontario while I sat inside in Alberta watching the beginnings of a snow storm.  I hope they had a good day and I will talk to them next weekend unless the time of the Zoom meetings has changed and they just don’t want to talk to me any longer. Nah…they are smarter than that. 

Thursday 5 November 2020


Like most of the world, I have been anxiously awaiting the result of the US election. The first night of the election was heart rending, but when the mail in and absentee ballots started to be counted the outcome that I wished for started to be more likely to happen. It isn’t a given of course, but I have a more positive feeling than I have had for the past four years.


I had hoped that there would be a resounding landslide victory for Biden, but if he wins at all it will be by squeaking through. That to me is a sad commentary on life in the US. For the past four years they have had a leader that is really just a disgusting human being only looking out for himself and constantly lying to the populace he is supposed to represent. He has racist leanings, treats women as second class citizens and most of the population are just there to serve his needs. Still, they flock to his banner! Just how awful is it to live in the US?


We have problems here in Canada but for the most part anyone I come in contact with if asked would say they are mostly happy with their lives. That’s not to say that a million more dollars in the bank wouldn’t help or a trip to some island paradise in the winter would ever be refused. Now, understand that I was born and raised middle class and have lived my entire adult life as a white, middle class man in a middle class neighbourhood of a wealthy, vibrant city. My family have mostly avoided serious health problems and financially we have been lucky enough to have enough. Life is good.


I know there are marginal people in Canada, people that have fallen through the cracks of our social safety net and it seems that those holes are getting bigger every year. We don’t care for our sick, elderly, poor and mentally challenged as a modern industrial nation should. There should be no starving children in Canada, there should be no homeless people in Canada, there should be no one in Canada that has to go to work or school hungry. We should be embarrassed that those people exist in our country.


We can fix things, but we need to be a little less greedy. We need to willingly pay our taxes so that our cities and provinces can afford to keep the services we need funded. We need to look at a person begging in the street and think “How can I help?” instead of “Why don’t the police do something about that eyesore?” We need to punish those that willingly hurt others and our society for their own gain. We have to change the laws that protect the guilty. We do need change.


I’m not sure that we can be better people. We really haven’t changed in four thousand years and judging from what I have seen in the election south of the border, it just may be another four thousand years before there is any change. Maybe we should look to artificial intelligence as a good thing. Perhaps the machines as they take over more of the traditional roles humans have done until now will force us to become better humans.




Maybe those smart machines will flick the switch and put an end us all for our own good . In time the machines just may flick the switch back on and say 


Tuesday 3 November 2020

Orange Asshole

The next few hours will determine the fate of the world. No pressure on the American public at all. I can’t visualize a scenario that would give Donald Trump another four years, but in 2016 I couldn’t visualize a scenario that would elect a bozo like Trump to be president for the first four years. I just don’t trust my reading of the American people.


I have to be honest, I have never really liked the American people. Oh, individually they are fine, caring and thoughtful people that are capable of doing wondrous things. However, as a group they can be total assholes. The ugly American is alive and well and quite possibly be casting a ballot for Trump right now. The USA have done wonderful things and spawned incredible music, movies, literature and scientific marvels. We have to give credit where credit is due, the Americans can move mountains if they are so inclined.


Perhaps I have been disappointed these past few years because the US has collectively withdrawn from being a glowing example to the rest of the world of what could be and what should be.


Once we were hit by the Corona virus, I had hoped that the US would be reminded of their destiny and rise up to help save the world. If not save, then they could and should have set an example of how to react to fight this disease. Of course that didn’t happen because the country is led by selfish, greedy people that will not willing do anything for anyone unless there is a financial or political benefit for them. If this were paper, there would be a teardrop right here ….→


In my world, the drug companies, universities, government think tanks and all of the really smart people should be working together to beat this plague. Once a vaccine is found (and it will be) there should be no expense spared to produce enough for every man woman and child in the world. This could be the human race’s moment of greatness!


Sadly, I think that if there is anyone left this moment will be the point that is recognized as the downfall of our civilization. At least the dinosaurs got to blame a meteor impact. We get to blame an orange asshole.


Have a good night and let’s hope there is a good tomorrow.

Monday 2 November 2020

Code Breakers

I recently finished reading a book that talked about modern day ciphers that are used by governments to keep their secrets secret. They are very complicated and use computer algorithms or whatever the terminology is for really, really, mind blowing, crazy complicated.


Codes and ciphers have been around for as long as important, paranoid people have been around. Mostly military secrets of course about battle plans or the timing of the attack which is something that generals want to keep from the enemy otherwise the attack would fail and the attacking general might just end up with his head on a spike. Codes can be life or death. Of course lovers have used codes to profess their love without the parents finding out that the perfect match they had in mind for their baby isn’t the match that baby wants. Conan Doyle wrote the “Adventure of the Dancing Men” in which Sherlock Holmes solves a mystery that involves codes.


During the second world war the German army developed the Enigma machine which mechanically changed codes daily and the code was impossible to break. Well, until the allies captured a machine and managed to break the secret of the Enigma machine which aided in shortening the war. There have been numerous books written about the machine and the people that aided in breaking the code, More than a few movies as well.


I had codes on the mind this past week and decided that I would send Hurricane and Tornado letters written in code. I chose to use the “Pigpen Code” which is one of the simplest of codes, using a few grids to substitute the grid shapes for letters. The idea being that I would send them each a short letter in code including the code key so that they can decode the letter. Sounds like fun and it would give them a challenge that they hadn’t had yet. Whether they will find it fun or not, I will have to wait on the Post Office to deliver the letters.


I do know that it isn’t easy to write a letter in code and it took an hour at least per letter. By the end I could remember the shape for “A” “E” and “L” and several others, but I had to try not to screw it up. Decoding will be tough enough if I did it right, but if I screwed up a letter then that word wouldn’t make any sense. It is possible that the boys will take one look and toss the code in the recycling bin. Breaking a code can’t be as much fun as a video game.


I guess I think that they might just get into it and write funny notes about their teachers and possibly get detentions for passing notes in class. Better to get a detention for a note that the teacher can’t read than have the teacher read that you think they stink and have a funny face. Maybe something even less flattering.


Well, I guess I will find out next week, but it was fun for a while picturing my grandsons as the world’s preeminent code breakers and knowing that I set them on their course.