Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Ottawa Public Library

I remember when libraries were places of quiet contemplation, a place where people could go and peruse the stacks, pick out a good book and sit in quiet or collect their thoughts and study, leaving behind the hubbub of the outside world. Here in Ottawa, though, the library system seems to have become preoccupied with remaining "relevant", with the result being that it tries to be everything to everyone: a gaming centre, a place for teens to socialize, a place for kids to play as though at a park, an internet café.
At my local branch of the library, Greenboro District, the din at any given time of the day is deafening at worst and distracting at best. Long gone are the days where merely clearing your throat would earn a sharp rebuke from the librarian. Open season seems to reign with little in the way of noise constraints, kids running among the stacks, groups of people congregating to talk on the stairs and in the stacks, phone conversations, raucus game playing on the computers and little in the way of even basic courtesy for fellow patrons. I shouldn't complain, they do have a quite room tucked away in a dingy airless corner of the second floor for those of us who crave a little peace.
I guess I am just hopelessly old fashioned. I do wonder, though, if in the library's eagerness to attract a younger crowd, which admittedly does seem to be working, it is alienating the old fogey demographic like me who now just dart in and out as quickly as possible to pick up a book or two. We no longer seem to be welcome.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Project 52:Week 4 Update

Well, incremental progress.  I finally finished the book on the history of libraries.  It was a light, though dry, read.  I would recommend it for the bibliophile, but otherwise I wouldn't bother.  I also continue to work my way through Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.  As I have mentioned before, this feels contrived - written because he needs the money rather than out of any artistic compulsion.  Nonetheless, I will continue to read it until the end for the rare morsel that pleases the palate of the mind.

I have also made modest progress on my cane.  I have formed the tenon onto which the cane head will fit, so now I am ready to epoxy the cane head and tip onto the body.  I'll try to get that done in time for the next Project 52 update.

I have also read and understood the pattern for my lounge pants, and will hopefully begin the real work in the coming week.

Sadly, my commitment to lose 35 lbs. has not gone according to plan.  Indeed, I can't seem to conquer the Freudian trap of soothing my wounded psyche with oral comfort.  I have gained three pounds in the month since I fashioned my plans to shed unwanted weight.  I have to muster up some energy to get more exercise and get my eating under control.

Look forward to hearing from other Project 52-ers on their progress.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Ministry of the Inane: Part II

I once worked in a policy shop at a time when we were expecting a new Government to come in - well, the same party but a new leader and Prime Minister who was expected to clean house and fill the cabinet with his cronies.  This is known as a "transition" and departments get to work putting together briefing materials for their new ministers to bring them up to speed on what the department does and what the burning issues of the day are.  One part of this process I was responsible for was canvassing all parts of the department for "legacy" issues - issues that the minister could be proactive on and put his or her mark on. 

To do this I created a template that the various branches could fill in describing the burning issues of the day.  One section of the template was something along the lines of "Operating Environment".  Under this heading I explained that "Factors in the operating environment that may have an impact on the policy initiative (e.g. economic climate, federal-provincial relations, public opinion, etc.).

We convened a staff meeting to discuss the template and when we got to the Operating Environment section, my director said "Nobody will understand this.  They'll just pick one of those things and be done with it."  I explained e.g. meant exempli gratia, or "for example".  This is universally known and I assured her everyone would know these were examples.  But, no, this wasn't good enough.  What did I end up having to put in brackets?

"Examples may include, but should not be limited to, any one or combination of the following."

Instead of "e.g."

Within a couple of months I was on stress leave.  The bureaucracy's ability to complicate and obfuscate never ceases to amaze.

Again, I look forward to your own tales from the trenches.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Ministry of the Inane: Part I

I am a Canadian federal public servant with about 15 years of pensionable service under my belt.  In my time in the public service I have witnessed my fair share of silliness, so I thought I'd write a few blog posts talking about some of my tales from the Ministry of the Inane.

A little background for my first story.  In Canada, Government decisions are made by Cabinet.  Various instruments, usually prepared by the bureaucrats, are employed to support the Cabinet in making these weighty decisions of state.  Key among these instruments are Memoranda to Cabinet (or plain old MC's in the trade).  These documents outline the issue up for discussion and decision and make recommendations to Cabinet about the best course of action.  As I say, the grunt work on MC's is done by public servants and part of this process involves having an "interdepartmental" meeting, where all the departments that have a stake in this particular decision review a draft of the MC and provide their input and raise concerns.

Writing MCs is a big deal in Government, an experience coveted by policy wonks throughout the public service and I was lucky enough to write one as a co-op student.  I worked hard on this document and after I produced several drafts, I was ready to hold the interdepartmental.  The meeting went off with nary a hitch just before the Christmas holidays.  Work slowed over the holidays, and when everyone was back in the new year, I continued polishing the document and navigating the minefield of process that needs to be followed to get ministerial approval for the MC and have it sent off to Cabinet for decision. 

Two months to the day after my interdepartmental meeting my phone rings.  I answer it and someone says "I'm So-and-So from the Department of Such-and-Such and I'm here for the interdepartmental meeting and nobody is in the conference room."  The lad was sounding pretty annoyed with me.  I was pretty annoyed, too, since I was the lead on the file and who was calling a meeting without telling me?  I confessed I didn't know about any meeting and this just ticked him off more, suggesting I wasn't competent.  This guy is in a huff and I hear him shuffling papers - he's going to read me the invitation to the meeting.  Then there is dead silence on the phone.

"Oh.  I think I made a very big mistake, " he says.  Turns out he showed up two months late for the meeting!

For my fellow public servants, or those who have had contact with the public service, I would love to hear your own tales from the Ministry of the Inane.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Project 52: Week 3 Update

Some slow and steady progress on my goals:

6.  Make a cane:  I continued work on the cane I am making from a piece of ash.  I am doing this completely by had.  I have roughed out the shape of the cane and it is a bit thicker that I would like, so I have decided to carve an ivy and floral pattern into it.  I have also tapered one end to accept the cane tip and have began forming the tenon for the handle.

20.  Read 10 of the unread books on my bookshelves:  I am making progress on my history of libraries and am now about half way through.  I am also reading an e-book by Kathy Reichs called Spider Bones.  I'm beginning to find her books tiresome and am not sure I'll bother reading any more.  One aspect of her books that really bothers me as an anglophone from the Montreal area is her gratuitous use of French in ways that anglos never do.  Downtown Montreal is downtown, not the centreville she uses.  Salle 4 is Room 4.  Rue Ste. Catherine is Ste. Catherine Street or just plain old Ste. Catherine.  Anyway, I've nearly put that one to bed.

That's it for week 3.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Art in the National Gallery of Canada

My daughter, the Bean, loves art but asking her to spend three or four hours with me at the National Gallery would be a test even for the most patient kid.  So, I look for ways to make our visits more interesting for her.  This past summer, we invaded the gallery wielding notebooks and pens with a mission:  identify our five favourite pieces of art.  Here are our results:

The Bean:

  1. Italian Cabinet (1610-1615):  A beautiful piece inlaid with stone, metal and exotic wood.
  2. Canoe Paddles:  A pair of beautiful maple canoe paddles elaborately carved from 1880.
  3. Nunali (Jackoposie Oopakak, 2003):  This is a stunningly carved Inuit sculpture with a caribou head carved from serpentine with hunting scenes and snippets of daily life carved into a rack of caribou antlers.
  4. Tabernacle (Paul Jourdain, c. 1741):    A beautiful carved wood tabernacle that graced the St. Antoine de Longueil church near Montreal.
  5. Apron Kwaka'waka:  A lovely Aboriginal beaded apron.

I'm interested in why the Bean picked, with one exception, craft items.  When asked, she shrugs amd says "because they're cool.  Good enough, I guess.


  1. Kitchen Door and Esther (Christiane Pflug, 1965):  I love this painting for its pure sentimentality.  Something I enjoy doing is surreptitiously watching my daughter from afar when she is intent on some task - writing, reading, drawing.  This painting reminds me of that.
  2. To Prince Edward Island (Alex Colville, 1965):  This is an iconic Canadian painting and I am nothing if not Canadian.  I know realist paintings are hopelessly out of fashion among the cognescenti, but they can stick it in their ears.
  3. Nunali (Jackoposie Oopakak, 2003):  See above.  This is the first sculpture you see when you walk through the doors of the Indigenous Gallery.  It impresses in its scale and the detail and skillfulness of the carving and highlights an important element of tradition of Canada's Northern Indigenous people.
  4. Eve, the Serpent and Death (Hans Baldung, c. 1510):  I love the macabre and grotesque Death juxtoposed with the coquettish Eve.
  5. Iris (Vincent Van Gogh, 1889):  I am crazy about Van Gogh.  Hard to believe this guy was depressed with his wildly colourful and joyful paintings thick with impasto.

If anybody is ever in Ottawa I highly recommend the National Gallery.  They have a pretty good collection and the building itself is worth the price of admission.  If you're travelling wth children, I recommend finding a way to engage them, otherwise, you'll end up with a lot of impatient whining.  I suggest them picking their five favourite pieces, or a favourite from each themed gallery, or an art scavenger hunt - find a painting with an insect in it, a motorcycle in it, etc.  You can reasearch these things on the National Gallery website.  The Gallery also has special activities for kids on certain days through its Artissimo program.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

a Visit to the Oncologist

Those of you who know me or who have been following my blog for a while know that my wife, Kate, was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer back in October.  Life since then has been a series of medical appointments and chemo sessions.  For the most part, a lot of these appointments have become routine, except for the ones with the Oncologists.  These, for some reason, remain scary.

Although Kate responded noticeably well since the very first chemo treatment, with her hypercalcemia-induced nausea being brought under swift control with the Pamidronate and her breast lump shrinking significantly, I still half expect to get bad news when we visit the oncologist.  We've learned that no two cancer patients are alike in all their symptoms, how they respond to treatment and in the way the disease behaves in the body.  Further, just because the breast tumour has shrunk is no guarantee that the metastaces (or "mets" in cancer parlance) in her liver and bones have shrunk and no guarantee that the cancer hasn't spread to other parts of her body.

Yesterday, we had a big appointment with Dr. G, Kate's medical oncologist.  We were getting the results of a round of imaging, ECG and blood tests that would compare progress from the tests they did in October after she was diagnosed.  In the days and hours leading up to the appointment, I felt so nervous I was sick.  Kate has gotten noticeably stronger in the last few weeks, but what if the pain medication was masking what was going on inside her body?  The doctors have her on cutting-edge treatment, but chemo is hard on the body and her cocktail is hard on the heart in particular.  What if complications arise from that - will that jeopardize their ability to treat her?  Though trying to stay hopeful, these types of questions keep popping into my head and fear's icy hands give me a deep body massage.

Fortunately, my fears proved to be unfounded and we got only good news yesterday.  The scariest of her mets are the ones in her liver.  You have only one liver and without it, well, you simply cannot survive.  The cat scan results show that her liver is still riddled with cancer, but the largest reference tumours, one of which was as big as a large apple, have shrunk by as much as 75 percent, and that is just after two rounds of treatment.  The bone mets are somewhat ambiguous since the CAT scan can't really differentiate between tumours and healing bones.  The radiology report said the bone mets are worse, but Dr. G told us that we shouldn't be concerned and that they expect wacky results for the bones because the test results are hard to interpret.

So, things are moving in the right direction.  Dr. G., who in our first meeting said he doesn't sugar-coat things (not to say he's mean - indeed he is extremely compassionate), said we have every reason to be optimistic that this can be managed for many years.  Though I believe him and hope and optimism are more my companions than fear, I expect I will always be sick with worry when we visit the oncologist.  That's just the way I'm built.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Project 52 Week 2 Update

Sadly, this has been a slow week on the project 52 front.  Now that the holidays are done, Kate's and my medical appointments are ramping back up again, leaving little time for anything else.  Having said that, here are some areas where I've chipped away a bit:

2.  Buy and learn how to play guitar with my daughter, the Bean - learn to play, wait for it, Stairway to Heaven (remember the scene in Wayne's World?):   The Bean and I had our first lesson this past Saturday with Jessie.  We learned how to play some scales and played around with the E-minor chord, playing rhythm for Jessie while she played harmony.  I'm already channelling Jimmy Page.

8.  Learn how to sew and sew a couple of projects: I've bought the pattern and material for a pair of loungie-pants.

20.  Read 10 of the unread books on my bookshelves:  I am currently reading two books.  One book I am reading is With Strings Attached:  The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars, by psychologist, author and guitar aficionado Jonathan Kellerman.  I will write a little more about this book in a future blog post.  It is sumptuously illustrated and written.  Another book I am making my way through is The Library:  An Illustrated History, by Stuart A. P. Murray.  This is an okay book, but not as good as I had hoped.  Nonetheless, I will continue reading it until done, because that's just what I do.  Finally, I am attempting to get through Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.  On the whole a disappointing read.  I really enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour, but this latest instalment is like week-old cold leftovers that the dog even turns its nose up at.  Bourdain has nothing new to say.  He offers an apology for selling out, and I'm afraid this book is just another example of him doing it.  It feels contrived and insincere.  I am a few chapters in and will reserve final judgement to the end, but not off to a great start, I'm afraid.

Well, that's it for this week.  I look forward to trolling other bloggers who are taking part in this challenge.  See everyone next week.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Hockey Head Shots

A recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal looked at NHL regular season games from 1997-2004 and found that 559 physician reported concussions occurred.  This is a lot of concussions.  We know the problem is ongoing.  Concussions occur for a lot of reasons - falls, legal checks, fighting, getting pucks in the head.  What is most troubling, though is the deliberate head-hunting that goes on in the League.  Even NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan's strong statement of long suspensions for these types seems to be ineffective in curbing these types of hits.

I would argue that one reason the suspensions have been ineffective is because a lot of them are being perpetrated by third- and fourth-liners or seventh defencemen.  Not to understate the impact these players have on the outcome of the game, but they are easier to replace than a top-six forward or top four defenceman.  The solution, to me, would be to make sure the whole team pays for the miscreants.  How do you accomplish this?  My modest proposal would be to force the team to play with a shortened bench for the duration of the suspension.  A team is allowed to dress 20 players for a game.  Under my proposal, a team with a suspended player of whatever duration would not be allowed to replace that player, forcing them to dress only 19 players for the term of the suspension.  The system will effectively become self-policing with no player wanting to put their teams in that position and, I imagine, coaching staff and management would put that kind of player on a tight leash. 

Dinosaurs of the game like Don Cherry and Mike Milbury, who played in an era where you drank after games and all summer long and skated your way back into shape during camp and the season. would have you believe that punishing these head shots more harshly would effectively take hitting out of the game.   I think this is a red herring.  I use Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators as an example.  He is still laying BIG hits on the opposition and has never once been suspended for a dirty hit.
I look forward to hearing from you hockey fans about head shots in general, my proposal specifically or other views on how to deal with the head shot issue.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Big Screen Televisions

We recently bought a 60" Plasma HD T.V.  Holy mackerel (what makes a mackerel holy anyway?).  This television replaced our 32" standard definition television.  I liken this switch to moving up from driving a Lada to a Ferrari; to wrestling with your 5 year-old then stepping in the ring with Ali at his prime; to writing with a Bic ballpoint and changing to a solid gold Mont Blanc fountain pen.  You get the idea.  The experience is sublime.

The lads from the Geek Squad were over yesterday to install this Leviathan of digital awesomeness.  When they were done, they set up the television for me.  As Geek #1 punched his way through all the set-up screens, I'm thinking, "This is pretty cool."  The he switched to an actual channel that shows what programming is coming up and I'm all. "Wow!"  Then he switched to a sports highlights show that just happened to be showing hockey highlights and, I'm embarrassed to say, I became suddenly incontinent.  You could see much more of the ice than standard def t.v.  You could actually follow the puck without losing sight of it.  You could see the pores the players' faces.  Geek #2 must have seen the sudden rapture on my face, because he started giggling like a little school girl.  We stood there side-by-side, jaws slack watching the action.  This young nerd spends his days installing these things and still, he admitted to me, he gets a bang out of seeing us HD virgins get our first blast of uber-crisp bigness.

That night, my family and I watched our beloved Ottawa Senators deliver a sound thrashing to the much loathed Pittsburgh Penguins.  My wife must have gotten tired of me saying to her "this is amazing, eh?  This is amazing, eh?  This is amazing, eh?"  Clearly, though, guys get far more enjoyment out these things, because all she could muster in return was, "It's fine."  And not like I might say Halle Berry is FINE but just plain ol' unadorned "fine".  Maybe women really are from Venus and men from Mars.

Hockey is my biggest true love, but I'm beginning to think my childhood interest in other sports like football, basketball and, most of all, baseball may be renewed.  Seeing the games on a big screen is even better than being there in person because you can see so much of the field the game is played on, but much closer, like you're on the field with the players. 

This was a great investment.  I look forward to watching all manner of programs - sitting on my couch, mouth agape, a hint of drool spilling over the top of my bottom lip.  This bad boy puts the ID in idiot box.  You'll have to excuse me, I hear House Hunters International coming on...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Project 52: Week 1 Update

I'm finding Project 52 quite a motivating endeavour and I have made some progress during my first week:

2.  Buy and learn how to play guitar with my daughter, the Bean - learn to play, wait for it, Stairway to Heaven (remember the scene in Wayne's World?):   Guitars bought, enrolled for lessons.  I'll be strumming those soulful notes in no time.

4.  Get into shape to run 10K:  I have begun exercising again, using mostly my Nordic Track ski machine, which, in case you're interested, provides a super workout.

6.  Make a cane:  Shaped the main body of the cane out of a piece of ash I had.

39:  Go to one of Shaun's bonfires:  Done.  Shaun and his wife Sue were delightful hosts.  The Bean and I enjoyed it very much.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Early Days of Kate's Cancer

As I have written about before, those early days after Kate's breast cancer diagnosis were the most difficult of our lives, not that I want to speak on Kate's behalf.  We didn't really know what we were faced with, but what we did now was that Kate was very sick.  Our GP was the lucky fellow who got to break the news to us.  We could tell he was devastated. He had had Kate as a patient for nearly 20 years, me for almost ten and the Bean since she was born.  Before we left the appointment, he got on the phone with the Ottawa Women's Breast Health Centre, which got us into the system of cancer care.  He hugged Kate long and hard with tears welling up.

The people over at the Breast Health Centre  ordered more imaging, tests, biopsies to confirm the diagnosis and and referred Kate to Medical Oncology at the Ottawa Cancer Centre and gave us that first taste of hope.  This was treatable over the longer term.

That initial hope, though, was dashed over the ensuing days and weeks.  Kate became increasingly symptomatic and was very sick indeed.  She had a hard time keeping food down and her mobility was getting worse and worse as her cancer-riddled vertebrae began to fracture.  If I am being honest, I didn't think she was going to make it to her first appointment with the medical oncologist.  We had a pre-scheduled appointment with our GP, and when we went to see him, I fairly near begged him to see if he could get her into see an oncologist before her scheduled appointment which was still two weeks away.  Turns out, I didn't need to beg, he worked the phone and ended with assurances that they would see what they could do.  By the time we got home, we had a message that she could see an oncologist in two days.

The day of our appointment, Kate was even sicker than usual.  She was in a lot of pain and vomiting frequently.  When we finally met the Oncologist, Dr. G, he told us that the news wasn't good in that a stage four diagnosis was never good, but he thought there was a good chance, though no guarantees, that the cancer could be brought to heel and treated as a chronic disease.  He is an endearing man. with a dark beard and hair and that day was sporting a red plaid flannel shirt and black jeans.  He looked for all the world like a lumberjack.  Both Kate and I liked him immediately.

First things were first at that initial appointment and Dr. G began trying to get her nausea and pain under control.  As the day progressed, Kate remained violently ill and was in and out of sleep as the doctors tried to control the pain.  Kate was in a gurney the whole day before she was feeling well enough, though still not great, to be released.  Meanwhile, Dr. G had arranged to start Kate on chemo therapy the very next day.

The next day, still vomiting frequently, we showed up for Kate's first chemo session.  One of the first drugs they started her on had nothing to do with killing the cancer.  Dr. G explained the day before that Kate was hypercalcemic, meaning that she had excess calcium in her bloodstream.  This was a result of the cancer metastases attacking her bones, and could be part of the culprit for her nausea.  So they were giving her a drug originally designed for patients with osteoporosis called Pamidronate.  The goal was to repatriate to her bones all that calcium circulating in her blood.  That part of the treatment went well. 

Next, they started her on Herceptin, a biological concoction that binds to the Her2 receptors on the cancer cells and keeps them from dividing.  That, too, went well.  Next, though, they started her on another drug called Paclitaxel.  Within seconds of starting her on that, her face and arms started turning an alarming shade of deep pink.  They had to abort the treatment.  Turns out, reactions to the medium the Paclitaxel is dissolved in is fairly common.  This was on a Friday.  They rescheduled the remainder of the treatment for the following Monday and started introducing the drug at a slower rate, which did the trick. 

The most amazing part of that first Friday treatment, though, was that Kate's nausea disappeared, the Pamidronate doing its job.  Also, while she was undergoing that first round of treatment, she met with a RN, Nurse J, who was able to get her pain to a tolerable level.  Nurse J has continued working with Kate and the pain is fairly well controlled now.  Also amazing is that with just that one round of treatment, the primary lump in Kate's right breast shrunk noticeably.

Finally, the fear subsided quite a bit and we began to hope that, yes, this might go our way after all.  Those first few days, though, with Kate so incredibly sick, I had to consider the unimaginable.  That's a place I hope to never have to go again.

If you want to read more about Kate's experience with breast cancer, please visit the blog she has started on the subject:

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Today I went to a wildlife park about an hour north-east of Ottawa with my family and a couple of my daughter's friends.  The kids in the back were talking about various pranks they had pulled over their still short lives.  This got me to thinking a little but about some capers my friends and I pulled.

Some were a little lame, and in retrospect, kind of stupid.  Like the time my friend (who shares a name with a famous clown that shills for a major fast food chain) and I (who coincidently was voted class clown for my graduating class) assaulted (with emphasis on the syllable with "ass" in it) our highschool english teacher with a water balloon.  The teacher in question gets an A+ for not turning us in.  Sadly, he went on to commit suicide the following year.  Nothing funny about that.

Much later, I was working at Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC) in a group that could best be described as a dysfunctional daycare.  In a good way.  Our Director General (DG) was this petite 50-something woman who was former warden of some of Canada's meanest penitentiaries.  The Warden was more ring leader than boss.  She herself masterminded a number of pranks, and we perpetrated a number of them knowing that our erstwhile boss would have our backs.  In order to protect the innocent, I won't detail those pranks here, but I raise it because it was at this job that I met The Doberman.  He was a partner in crime and we quickly became friends.

After I left AAFC, The Doberman and I stayed in touch and we became less partners in pranks and more each other's victim.  One of the things we did while working together was that while our colleague was away we put a ballon with a weird angry face drawn on it in the neck of her snowsuit that she left hanging in her office.  Lame, I know.  But months after I left for another job, I got an envelope at my new office and found inside the flaccid balloon, looking for all the world like an evil tribal shrunken head.  Hilarious, though I guess you had to be there.

Fast forward a few years and my wife Kate is looking through her childhood stash of Barbies to show my daughter.  Many of them had been disarticulated - a jumble of legs, arms and torsos and many heads with weird haircuts giving them a maniacal look.  Remebering The Doberman's funny joke with the deflated balloon, I thought, "wouldn't it be funny to pack up some of these doll parts and send them anonymously to him?"  I giggled for days at the though of him opening the envelope and seeing the parts and thinking WTF?  A few days later, the Doberman calls with a slight quaver in his voice asking if I had sent him Barbie parts.  I strung him along for a while until he told me his wife was a little freaked out and he sounded not unworried himself.  I finally confessed.  I felt pretty bad, but I really thought he would recognize my hand behind the prank and I guess I didn't see doll parts as the threat to life and limb that some may have interpreted it as.  I was forgiven, I think.

Another time, The Doberman was taking a weekend woodworking course at the local college.  I happened to be near the college one Saturday morning and I thought I'd stop by the college and see if he was free for a coffee.  I got there just as he was leaving the shop class.  I quickly ducked behind a bush and followed him to the parking lot and to his car.  He opened the back door of his car and leaned in to put the beatifully machined parts of his project on the seat.  That's when I jumped behind him, pushed him into the car and muttered threateningly into his ear that "you better give me all your money or you're dead," or something along those lines.  To his credit, he remained calm while he twisted his head, saw it was me and said "oh, hey."  "Oh, hey?,"  are you kidding me?  Not the reaction I was hoping for, but in retrospect, I could have induced a heart attack in the poor man.

I was retelling these stories, and some others, to my brothers, no slouches in the prank department themselves, and even they had thought I had stepped over the line.  So, I apologize often to The Doberman for amusing myself at his expense and have began atoning for what will be the rest of my life.  He is a very good friend, a guy for whom I would unhesitatingly take a bullet.

I would love to hear about any pranks you've put into motion or have been the victin of and have been able to laugh about.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Hockey Talk

I love the game of hockey.  It has everything going for it:  speed and grace combined with bone- crushing physicality.  One thing I could do without, though, is hockey speak.  Watching the highlights shows, player interviews and even the broadcasts.  Yeesh.

One ongoing sin from the world of highlights and game broadcasts is the use of the word "frame" instead of the proper term "period."  This drives me to distraction.  Hockey has periods, baseball has innings, football has quarters, soccer has halves and bowling, and only bowling, has frames.  Hockey is definitely NOT bowling.  Another annoying development of highlights shows is when a player scores a goal in the top of the net and they describe it as going "top cheese."  And don't get me started on referring to goals as "markers."  Scrap that, please.

They may as well do away with player interviews because when is the last time a player has had anything insightful to say?  "We have to go out there and get more shots on net, get some guys in front of the net and score some goals;" or "we gotta play a full 60 minutes;" "we just gotta go out there and play our game;" "we gotta simplify our game." Sorry, boys.  What you really gotta do is find something original to say.  Where's Jeremy Roenik when you need him?  Better stick with the coach interviews, they generally have more interesting things to say.  New York Rangers coach John Tortorella alone is worth watching.  You just know that one day the poor man is going to have a stroke during a post-game press scrum.

Young players are funny to listen to because everything is so "surreal".  You'd think the NHL had a LSD problem on its hands with all the surreality.  Google "hockey quotes surreal" and you'll get 151,000 hits.   You'd think the game was played in a Salvador Dali painting.

Forgive me for whining but I get like that when I'm tired.  I really do LOVE the game.  As long as hockey is being played, soccer does not deserve the title of "The Beautiful Game."  Well, time for bed and surreal dreams of pink elephants playing their own game in front of the net for sixty minutes putting pucks top cheese in the third frame with 00:03 left.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Project 52

An old childhood friend of mine, Kim, a blogger herself ( put me onto an interesting blog challenge called Project 52 (  The purpose of this blog seems to be to list 52 projects you wish to accomplish or goals you wish to reach in the coming year and provide weekly updates.  I can do that.  So here we go:

  1. Host a party when we get news that Kate's cancer is in remission.
  2. Buy and learn how to play guitar with my daughter, the Bean - learn to play, wait for it, Stairway to Heaven (remember the scene in Wayne's World?)
  3. Lose 35 lbs.
  4. Get into shape to run 10K.
  5. Build Tool chest for under my workbench.
  6. Make a cane.
  7. Resolve my depression.
  8. Learn how to sew and sew a couple of projects.
  9. Relearn how to draw.
  10. Look into making a documentary.
  11. Make a soufflé.
  12. Make a critical decision about my career (should I stay or should I go?)
  13. Refinish/Restore dining room furniture.
  14. Have our shower retiled.
  15. Never say no to an opportunity I can afford.
  16. Always try to make lemonade from lemons (i.e. turn a negative into a positive).
  17. Make a small trebuchet.
  18. Shoot off a rocket.
  19. Weave a basket.
  20. Read 10 of the unread books on my bookshelves.
  21. Watch the 1972 Summit Series on DVD.
  22. Look for and buy a nice mini-metal lathe at a super bargain basement price.
  23. Restore something mechanical.
  24. Carve a Celtic cross for my father-in-law.
  25. Carve lovespoons for the Bean and Kate.
  26. Learn Calligraphy.
  27. Make a woodworking plane.
  28. Make paper.
  29. Take a university course in art history.
  30. Try not to despise a particular neighbourhood family so much.
  31. Clean out gardens.
  32. Resod the backyard.
  33. Build a garden shed.
  34. Research my grandfather's WW II service record with the Veterans Guards of Canada.
  35. Write an article for a newspaper or magazine.
  36. Make woodworking prototypes for selling at craft shows next year.
  37. Blog the A-Z Challenge.
  38. Go to the Hudson Flea Market.
  39. Go to one of Shaun's bonfires.
  40. Re-learn how to take apart and rebuild small engines.
  41. Get a bicycle repair stand and do a full maintenance of my family's bikes.
  42. Learn how to download e-books from the Ottawa Public Library to my Kobo E-Reader.
  43. Learn how to play the harmonica.
  44. Brush up on some academic disciplines like math, physics, chemistry.
  45. Learn how to pay household bills.
  46. Grow gourds and do some gourd vessels.
  47. Start a new blog or blogs on local artists, artisans and craftsmen.
  48. Learn how to use Photoshop Elements.
  49. Start doing science experiments with the Bean.
  50. Build a crystal radio with the bean.
  51. Make some Ukrainian Easter eggs.
  52. Do the aircraft carrier model I got for Christmas three years ago.
Whew.  Not a bad start.  With my depression, getting anything done is a challenge, but maybe having a list like this will motivate me and help me along the path to recovery.  I'm somewhat ambivalent about this exercise.  On the one hand, not making much progress can be demoralizing, on the other checking things off can be quite satisfying.  Anyway, number 15 on my list is to never say no to an opportunity I can afford and I can definitely afford to do this.  So here we go...