Monday, December 29, 2008

May I pour you one, dear?

Just ran across this Telegraph newspaper article about men vs. women and "beer goggles".

"Researchers found that women who drink even moderately develop a reduced ability to rate attractiveness in male faces, even when they are sober.

Those who drank were less able to detect male facial symmetry, a marker of attractiveness and good genes which is thought to play an important role in the choice of a partner.

Results show that the more alcohol the women had drunk during the previous six months, the lower her performance on the symmetry test.

Even women who had the equivalent of five drinks a month scored less in the test than those who had no drinks. Each additional drink led to a reduced score. "

Apparently while us guys wake up and smell the roses the next day women do not. Their so-called beer goggle effect just keeps on building up as time goes by.

Does this mean that as we men fall apart a little bit (speak for yourself) over the years with minor things like bald heads and beer bellies that our wives won't notice? A comforting thought, don't you think guys?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Late Saturday... or is it early Sunday?

In a rut… and I didn’t even realize it. I guess all the snow over the past couple weeks got me down a bit, that plus the seasonal BS and a few other things. However things are looking up tonight all thanks to a little rain. Yesterday morning I was shoveling snow over a five foot bank beside the driveway and now I can actually see grass in a couple places. It started raining last night, has continued all day today and is supposed to end sometime tomorrow and in the meantime I’ve been…

…recharging with a little Led Zeppelin, a little Guns ‘n Roses, some Doors, Eric Clapton and just a touch of Frank Zappa thrown in for flavor. Mix in with that some mellow Diana Krall, Martha Wainwright and Bessie Smith along with a good series of Norah Jones tunes and there’s not much finer on a rainy evening. Life is very good right now… would you care to join me on the deck for a cigar and single malt a little later? I’ll be waiting…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who cares?

Well over a month ago I lost my watch. I know it’s around the house here somewhere but… who cares? I haven’t needed it and I don’t miss it so I’m not going to bother replacing it. Sure I still have a few things that have to be done at certain times but my trusty Palm Pilot reminds me whenever I’m supposed to be somewhere or doing something important. I think it’s great that those events are few and far between and I like it that way.

Where is the pleasure in not having to work if you are worrying about what time it is all day long? I get up in the morning when it starts to get light and I go to bed when I feel like it with no obligations or worries.

Ah yes, retirement is good... I should have done it years ago!

December 16th: Watch found, mixed in with my Watkins inventory.

December 28th: Still haven't needed my watch. Think I'll just throw it away.

(Photo under Creative Commons License)


Back when the world was young the tradition was that the Christmas feast was controlled by my father and the evening before the big event my brother and I took turns helping him to make the dressing for the turkey. The old hand crank grinder was cleaned and clamped onto the work bench in the basement and out came the ingredients and several baking sheets to catch the mixture as is squeezed out through the holes of the grinder. You may ask what went into that dressing but you won’t get an answer from me. I don’t know exactly how far back it goes but I know my copy of the recipe is carefully hand-written on an old piece of paper towel in my grandmother’s handwriting and goes back to the early 60’s. She got it from her mother and for all I know she in turn got it from her mother and so on back. All I know is that it is darned good!

After our cranking was over (and following much wiping of tears caused by the onions in the mix) my father took over for the stuffing of the bird. There was always plenty of dressing to fill the cavity and two or three meat loaf pans as well which were carefully sealed with tin foil ready for the oven. The turkey itself went in around midnight and spent the overnight hours slow roasting and getting more and more tender and juicy. In the morning the heat would be cranked up for a few hours and then the top would come off the roaster for the last little bit just to brown everything up nicely. To keep the skin from drying out during such a long roast a few strips of bacon would be placed on top of the bird and the fat would keep everything soft and add a great flavor at the same time.

Christmas dinner would be at noon and naturally came complete with mashed potatoes and gravy, turnip, peas, the turkey itself and of course that great dressing which was all the better because “we” had helped. To top the entire event off was that great home-made steamed pudding and sauce made by my mother. The recipes for both of these delicacies are lost now unfortunately, but dessert sure was good and every one of those thousands of wonderful calories in that sauce were really something special. Following the feast there was much groaning and loosening of belts, for us guys anyway. My mother was much more sensible and ate very little so didn’t have the same problem as we did.

Ahhh… the old days before I got into retail and quickly learned to passionately hate Christmas (a subject for a future posting). If there was only some way to just keep that special feeling of the annual feast without all the BS it would be great. Sure, we can cook a turkey with all the trimmings anytime but it just isn’t the same as that once a year tradition to me. What about you?

(Photos used under Creative Commons License - Turkey - Cash Register)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Can I change my vote?

OK, I can’t stay quiet any longer. Would all the cry baby, spoiled brat idiots who sit in any form of opposition in Ottawa please grow up and shut up! I can’t believe that we actually elect these stupid, useless little babies who don’t give a shit about the country but only about having the biggest toys.

“If I can’t be boss then I don’t want to play.” Grow a freakin’ brain people! Yes, it’s a minority but they were elected by the people to do a job for us. If you don’t like it, tough! Just sit down and shut up and let them do the job that the people elected them to do. Will they be perfect? No. Will you be any better? No.

Stop playing games and help to run the country instead of being a poor loser and a bad example. If you have some good ideas and present them properly then anybody with a brain will listen to them. If you have nothing constructive to contribute then shut up! The problem is we can’t hear any of those whiz-bang thoughts you may have because you won’t stop whining just because you weren’t picked first for the playground hopscotch tournament.

By the way, I didn’t vote for Mr. Harper, but I’m sure ashamed that I placed my X for the other fellow about now.

(Click here for information on the Creative Commons Jackass photo)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

At what point...

Where in our lives does fear start to set in?

I'm sitting on the deck today, puffing a pipe and having a glass of a great BC Shiraz and watching grandson Nicholas romping around the yard. Fearlessly he is jumping off the lower deck, frontward and backwards, galloping across the yard and launching himself as far out into the air as he can off the edge of the hill towards the driveway. To myself I say... that would really hurt.

I wonder at what point I stopped taking chances, going for broke, taking that leap and be darned with the dangers. If I tried any of the things he's doing right now I will most likely hurt for hours or even break something. In my mind I can already feel the shooting pains in my back and the agony that at least one knee would feel.

So, are the pains real or imaginary? When did I stop "going for it" and start playing it safe? When did I become comfortable and decide to sit back and wait for life to pass by? How do I learn to live again and fight the good fight?

I guess it's just do or die, so what to take on first?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time Once Again...

Yes folks, it's time to stock up on Watkins Cooking Spray. Why? Because in addition to it being the best darned cooking spray you'll ever try, it's also fantastic at making your winter months a little less frustrating. How?

Use #1: Spray it on your TV Satellite Dish to prevent the snow from building up and blocking your signal. Don't you just hate having to run outside to bang the snow off your dish so you don't miss the latest crisis on Y&R? Or the last 30 seconds of a tied hockey game?

Use #2: Spray it on your snow shovel and even the really sticky stuff won't stick and add all that extra weight with every scrape. The snow will just shoot off the blade and your job will go much faster and easier.

Why can't I use something like PAM you say? Well you can of course, but the Watkins brand will give you almost 4 times the number of squirts that your PAM will. But PAM is cheaper you say? No, it isn't because with the extra sprays you get with Watkins each one works out to cost less than 1/2 cent compared to more than 1 1/2 cents per spray of the PAM. Therefore you save almost $18.00 over PAM when you purchase a can of Watkins Cooking Spray.

Oh yeah, most importantly...

Use #3: The Watkins brand is also fantastic for cooking and tastes and smells like butter without the chemical odor that I think PAM has. Want another perk? Calories per spray for PAM = 4. Calories per spray for Watkins = 0.

Where can I get some of this fantastic wonder product you ask? Drop me an email or comment on this note and I'll get in touch!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Act of Remembrance

They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them.

(Poppy photo shown under a Creative Commons license)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Day at The ROM...

Gloria and I recently spent a couple days in Toronto, she for workshops and I as a tourist. I walked many a mile around the city during our stay and found myself one afternoon at the main entrance to the Royal Ontario Museum. Thinking "when will I have this chance again" I went in.

There are over 6 millions items in the museum collection and while I'm sure I didn't see all of them I'm certain a good many of them passed through my view that afternoon.

One of the special exhibits open at the moment is "The Nature of Diamonds" being presented by De Beers. This is a fantastic display showing every aspect of the diamond mining process with a multi-multi-multi million dollar display of jewellery and gems including this one... "The Incomparable Diamond." This stone is a fantastic 407.48 yellow diamond cut in the shield shape and was found in its original 890 carat state by a young girl playing in the rubble beside her uncles house in the Congo. Value? Only about $12 million! I had thought about picking it up for Gloria but looking around at the 12" thick steel vault walls, the cameras and the security guards complete with bullet-proof vests sort of discouraged my idea a little bit!

How about Marie Antoinette's dress? I know someone who claims that in a previous life he was a soldier in the French court who actually saw this lady on several occasions. He swears that he never saw her in this particular dress but that she was in fact a bit of a show off and normally wore more colorful and flamboyant apparel. Probably one of the things that got her in trouble with the good citizens of the day as she was beheaded shortly after my friend remembers being drowned in a fountain by a group of rioting peasants.

The museum is crammed full of human artifacts from all over the world some dating back 5,000 years and I won't even try to describe them all. Suits of chain mail and weaponry from the time of the knights, statutes of Buddha, Japanese porcelain, dinosaur skeletons, Hawaiian costumes, Chinese tombs... a person could spends months here and still not see and understand everything. I'm going back for sure... anyone care to join me?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

October 31, 2008…

Everyone needs a road trip now and then and yesterday was the perfect day for one. I got underway a little bit later than planned but still arrived in the general vicinity of where I wanted to be just about when I had calculated.

There was no wildlife on the road with the exception of a confused rabbit that travelled with me for a couple hundred feet. He running straight up the center double lines and me in my proper lane. Who know how long we would have continued like this had a transport truck not approached from the opposite direction. At that time he decided to get back to where he belonged and chose to leave me right beside a “Danger, Moose on Road” sign. Guess he really was confused as to who he was, or perhaps he actually had been a moose in a previous life and was just reliving his earlier days once again.

I awoke this morning looking at the lake. Not ‘my’ lake but one that I don’t even know the name of. It doesn’t matter as the rising sun was the same one as at home and there was the little red car waiting patiently for whatever adventures the day might bring. I’ve no plans and nowhere to be until tomorrow so let’s top off the tank and roll!

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of The Little Red Car and friends.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Smoke and Fire?

I just took a 'Burnout Test' located at one of my newly found favorite web sites called Mind Tools. Their introduction and explanation of burnout is...

"Burnout occurs when passionate, committed people become deeply disillusioned with a job or career from which they have previously derived much of their identity and meaning. It comes as the things that inspire passion and enthusiasm are stripped away, and tedious or unpleasant things crowd in."

I actually took the test twice, with the first time looking back to the way I felt before retiring on August 31st. My score based on the old days was 63, which puts me in their "You are at very severe risk of burnout - do something about this urgently" area. Hmmm...

I then took it again based on how I feel today and got a score of 30 putting me in the "Little sign of burnout here" section. I always though that 'burnout' was a myth and just something people used as an excuse to not produce fully, but now I'm not so sure. While I refuse to use this to explain and apologize to friends and family about some of my past actions and attitudes, it still makes me wonder how much the old job situation was getting me down.

What about you out there? Do you have an opinion? I share mine far too often but I'd be really interested in hearing your views on burnout, job stress or other work-related topics.

My Top Ten....

A recent conversation with someone and a TV showing of one of my favorite movies tonight reminds me that I haven’t posted my top ten list of favorite movies lately. Here they are in no particular order and please, feel free to comment or make suggestions. I’m sure your list is different, let’s hear it.

Deep Impact
My First Mister
Das Boot
Scent of a Woman
Beautiful Mind
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Almost Famous
Field of Dreams

Hmmm.... It occurs to me that there seems to be a common theme underlying every one of these movies. This is strange because I am not what anyone would call a "people person" by any stretch of the imagination!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Slowing down...

So is it just me slowing down in my old age or are people driving faster?

Sure, in my young and foolish days nothing ever stayed in front of me and nothing passed me either. Nothing... ever. Not a transport and not even a Greyhound bus. I remember being overjoyed once because I'd kept a fancied up Camero behind me on the autoroute all the way from the Champlain Bridge to the Sherbrooke cut-off. What giddy and foolish days those were... and I’ve smartened up a lot since then. Now I stick very close to the speed limits and if some fool wants to pass me then more power to you, buddy.

My complaint for today however is that even with all we are hearing about slowing down giving us better gas mileage and the high cost of gas no one seems to be listening. Sure, I hear lots of people complaining about the prices they are paying at the pumps but I still get passed every day by cars and trucks, big and small. The worst ones seem to be these big "Look at me I'm macho!" pickup trucks that try to push everyone else off the road. To them I say "I'm getting between 45mpg and 47mpg on my vehicle, how are YOU doing?"

Now, one last comment to whoever pulled their school bus out in front of me in Sheguiandah yesterday... IDIOT! Granted that I saw you, but did you see me? The car IS bright red and I suppose could have been mistaken for an autumn maple tree moving down the road. If we forget about that part how about the posted speed limit? It is a 70 zone and yes I was closer to 80 but what was your speed as you zipped away from me, still in the middle of town? By the time I reached the legal 80 zone headed south you were already past the Batman cut-off headed up towards the big hill.

Hope you read this Mr. Driver and be advised that next time I will catch up to your bus, and I WILL be checking the license plate number. Am I the best driver on our roads? No, but I also don't have a load of kids that I'm responsible for sitting behind me either. Am I wrong?

November 1, 2008 Update: I just got over 49mpg on my last tank of gas!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Can't let go...

It seems to me that I still haven't quite given up and let go. A part of me is still back in the stores working away. I say this because my Palm Pilot (my magic memory machine) still pops up each and every Saturday with a weekly reminder of what reports are due this week. I can tell you that today I should have sent in the Variance Report for Week 38 and that the Payroll Reports should also have been forwarded for processing. Why haven't I deleted these memory joggers from my system yet?

I have no idea. Am I afraid of cutting the last ties from that part of my life? Do I actually think that I might break down and go back to work some day and need to have this information available? I sincerely hope that the latter is not the reason.

No, I think I'll plead to a form of inertia. The 60 hour work weeks are gone, the living out of a suitcase is gone, the waiting for an email containing the instructions for my next assignment is gone but... There is this hesitation over removing the last link to my 35 year history.

Maybe next week I'll have the courage to erase these last remainders and move one. The future is out there, I'll overcome and find it soon, dont' worry about it, I'm not.

November 2, 2008 Update: I just deleted all my weekly references to reports that are due when, how and where. Whew... glad that's finally over!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Out and About...

I’ve been touring around the island for the last couple weeks just checking out the colors and seeing new places. I enjoy hitting new roads that I haven’t been on before and I know you think that Manitoulin isn’t that big but you’d be surprised how many little lanes and side roads there are. Still quite a few out there for me to explore but now that I have the time we’ll make it to every one eventually. Here’s a few photos from my recent excursions.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Gordon's Park

Another of my favorite places to visit on Manitoulin is Gordon’s Park. I had the opportunity a few days ago to get a guided tour from Rita and Terry and we had a great time heading up through a couple of the trails, getting all the way up to the old cabin and the Dark Sky Sanctuary. The fall colors are out in full force and I snapped lots of photos of our outing, some of which you see here. Gordon’s has LOTS more than just hiking trails and astronomy so make sure you stop in whenever you visit Manitoulin Island. Tell them “Our Manitoulin” sent you and we’ll see you on the trails!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What is to be?

It’s just occurred to me that what I’m looking today is the rest of my life…

I am now retired… I have no further obligations in a working and contributing sort of way and feeling. I don’t HAVE to get up tomorrow, I don’t HAVE to be in the store by 8:00 to make sure we’re ready to open at 10:00 staff or not. I don’t HAVE to be ready for the truck/plane/ship/barge to be here at 10:15, I don’t HAVE to listen for the alarm or a knock/punch/bang/thump/breaking glass/shot in the middle of the night, I don’t HAVE to appear positive and gung-ho and smile for a lot of other people I don't really know. I must now be me… and it’s scares the hell out of me.

Have you ever had a 35 year long routine and responsibilities that ended overnight? What is my life to be, how can I matter, is there a purpose... I’m sure there must be but it will take me time to find, and I’m very lucky to have some great people to help me work through this time. I hope they are very patient…

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New ship in town...

I stopped by the Little Current docks for a few minutes today and this ship was tied up. She is the United States Geological Survey ship Sturgeon, out of Cheboygan, Michigan and at 101' long it was an impressive site to see. I'm not too sure what it's in town for but the USGS has lately been investigating the decline in fresh fish in the great lakes so something to do with this is a safe bet.

Make sure you stop by these docks if you are a visitor to Manitoulin. It's full of boats of all sizes throughout the summer but looks pretty quite right now. Come take a look in July or August and you'll see a big difference. The bandstand can be a real hoppin' place also, especially during Haweater Weekend. What's Haweater Weekeng you ask? You'll just have to come and see for yourself, the first long weekend in August every year. I'll save you a hot dog!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Things I had to come to Manitoulin to see...

I've looked for one of these things for years and last night my mission was accomplished. One of the neighbours dropped off some beets from her garden and when Gloria was getting them ready to cook into pickles this thing hopped out and onto her shirt. Wow, what a fantastic insect. He willingly walked onto my hand and slowly made its way up my arm over the next few minutes. Right now he/she is on a plant on the deck where I let it crawl to after that.

Other things I've only seen here?And oh yeah, don't tell Gloria because I didn't, but there was one of these on the road near the house when I came home yesterday. Just a small one, maybe 3 feet but definately a Massassauga Rattler, probably one of the last in this area as it's been 2 or 3 years since I last saw one. They normally do everything they can to avoid humans but I guess the warm road was just too much for this one after these cool autumn nights. They probably wouldn't kill you but with the closest antidote being many hours away in Toronto you have to wonder what the experience would be like. You try it first and let me know, OK?

October 5th: I'm told that it is most likely a Fox Snake that we occasionally see on the road near our house and not a Massassauga Rattler. Tell you what... next time I see it I'll give you a call and you can go pick it up to examine more closely. I'll stay in the car, thank you! :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Home from the hospital (garage)…

The little car is all better and home where it belongs with no damage to the transmission. What happened was that the radiator blew and when that happened anti-freeze found its way down into the transmission casing. Because I had it off the road and shut down within a couple hundred feet and in less than 30 seconds there was no serious damage. I was just lucky that I was in a place where I could do that, and I have this nasty image of how much fun it would have had I had been in the middle of the Champlain Bridge in Montreal.

Even though they say it’s OK I’m still going to take it back in a few hundred kilometers to have them flush it out again just to make sure nothing nasty shows up, but at this time everything looks good. The bottom line is a new radiator, a few seals, hoses, clamps, fluids and only a few hundred instead of a few thousand dollars. We’ll keep you posted.

A trail less travelled...

I spent a few hours yesterday at one of my favorite spots on Manitoulin, McLean’s Park. It’s a couple kilometers down New England Road lined with trees whose branches overhang the gravel road. I’ll post some photos of that in a couple weeks after the colors have started to change.

I go out there as often as I can just to enjoy the silence and walk the trails while occasionally enjoying a pipe full of whatever tobacco I have at the time. There is an old porcupine that I see quite often and though I didn’t get a glimpse of him yesterday I could hear him shuffling through the leaves a ways off the trail. The routes vary from short to over 7 kilometers and you can cut back and forth among most of them to create your own customized tour. The vegetation varies and there are many old trees that have been well worked by the woodpeckers. Naturally you have a chance of seeing raccoon, deer and there must be black bear around also.

Park facilities are clean and well kept and some days I don’t even hit the trails at all but just sit at one of the tables reading and reflecting. Only rarely do you see anyone else there and other than an occasional car or school bus going by it’s a very quiet and peaceful location, except for the scolding of the chipmunks of course! They seem to think the forest is their private domain and anyone visiting is violating their space. Maybe they’re right.