Friday, December 31, 2010

People who lit up my world in 2010

Another year tucked away in a life that has seen 68 New Years Eves, and reflections on a few folks who distinguished themselves this year in my own little corner of the cosmos.
• Deidre, our young friend, a teacher, who was told just before Christmas that she has bone cancer and is heading for months of chemo and radiology treatments. Her resolve is impressive, and her sense of humour raises the spirits of her many pals. If thoughts and prayers have any effect, the force is with her.

• Paul, who threw a birthday party this summer for an organization both he and I care a lot about. A long time champion of the cause, he brought together a roomful of supporters and well-wishers to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Talk is cheap. Paul walks the walk.

• Tracy, who stepped in to help in a time of need that extended to eight months, despite a full calendar and the demands of raising a family. She managed a thousand things with grace and good humour. I admire her ability to handle whatever comes down the pike. I think that's called aplomb.

• Patti, a go-getter grandma who cares about both her community and the future of the planet. She ran for public office this fall, and won. The good part --- she did it for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones. We need more like her.

• Penny, another grandma, who persisted as the driving force behind a community effort to preserve the unique character of her special corner of Canada, in the face of a wall of money and industrial influence arrayed against her and her neighbors. After years of struggle, the payoff came as a Christmas present when news arrived that they had, finally, won the day in a precedent-setting OMB decision. Don't mess with grandmas.

• Judi and Colin, on a volunteer mission to Cambodia since mid-October, Judi advising an HIV/AIDS support organization while Colin works to improve the lot of orphans. There are many such Canadians leaving the comforts of home behind to make a difference in people's lives. I am proud to be their friend.

• The gang at Sleeping Children Around The World, the only charity I know that uses 100% of donor dollars to fund its program. Its travelling volunteers pay for their own trips to distribute bedkits to kids in underdeveloped countries, while its volunteers back in Canada make sure the operation continues to run smoothly. More than a million kids have received the gift of a good night's sleep so far. How about giving them a hand?

• Elizabeth, a wonderful woman in Zimbabwe who repeatedly went the extra mile to help our Sleeping Children team get the job done this summer, in very trying circumstances. Thanks also to her for trusting me with her own story of childhood hardship and triumph. It was a treasured gift. My first Christmas card of the 2010 season came from her.

• More friends doing selfless work at home and abroad --- Marg and Mike, Clarence, Grant and Leslie, Doug M., Linda, Helen, Hilda, Sidney.
It is a privilege to know them. Happy New Year, to all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

How to build an igloo

Okay, you can make love in a canoe, but can you build an igloo? This 1949 short film from Canada's National Film Board shows how. NFB films were classroom treats for those of us who grew up in the fifties.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Off to a golf course in Florida

Photo by Muffet

Friday, December 24, 2010


Very best Holiday wishes to all who have put up with my ramblings all year, sent comments, contributed amusing graphics and story ideas, and coerced their friends into reading this blog.

Here's a little musical treat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Great Rollback --- Dispatch # 2

[Sent along by Fred]

Nettie Banks, retired police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, retired fire captain, is working as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Retired police captain Eddie Ragland is living on help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars. The retired fire marshal was found dead in his house with no electricity and no running water.

What the hell is going on in Prichard, Alabama?

Look for plenty more stories like this as The Great Rollback picks up speed.

For years, Prichard warned that its pension fund would run out of money by 2009, and it did.

So, it stopped sending pension checks to its 150 retired workers, even though a state law requires it to make those payments despite the fact there is no money.

Municipalities with this problem, and there are many of them everywhere, must either raise taxes, borrow, or cut services to pay these entitlements. All of these options are out of favour these days.

A Catch 22 that will be headline-making when it happens in a major city .


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pet wars

Cats vs Dogs

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have a nice day

Friday, December 17, 2010

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, a trend that puts our entire food supply at risk because bees carry out the essential task of pollination. Nonetheless, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide on a wide variety of crops.

Gravity in the Hudson Bay area of Canada is lower than it is in other parts of the world.

• The 1915 Briggs and Stratton Flyer may have been the most basic automobile ever built. It had no body, no doors, no windshield, and no roof, and its engine had just 2 horsepower.

• In 2011, the public will be able to tour the security zone at Chernobyl, where a nuclear reactor exploded in 1986. It was been evacuated and sealed off.

• The first commercial retinal implant is about to go on sale.

• If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.
How about that?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tech support simplified

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• A new startup, Recorded Future, funded by Google and the CIA, claims its online tool has the ability to predict the future. It analyzes the content of web pages of all kinds to find connections between people, places, and events to find patterns that are predictive of product releases, mergers, natural disasters, and so on.

• 5.6 million Canadians, representing 23.1% of taxfilers, claimed a charitable donation on their income tax forms for 2009. This was a drop from 24.1% in 2008.

• Canadians are evenly divided on whether or not religion is a force for good, according to an Ipsos poll. 48% believe religion provides common values and ethical foundations, while 52% believe religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress.

• More than 13 percent of people ages 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the United States last year, and more than 4 percent of people in that age group drove under the influence of illicit drugs, according to a new government study.

• The risk of having your identity stolen is much greater than you think. In fact, the chances are about 1 in 18, or probably worse because those are 2005 numbers.

• In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
How about that?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I mean, c’mon

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Zen and the art of body part maintenance

The phone rings. You are on a ladder, or on a toilet, or in the basement, or on the porch. You are expecting a call that you don't want to miss, so you dash to answer it before the caller hangs up or the answering machine cuts in.

Of course, this applies only to those of us who are still using phones that are connected to a wall. Modern people carry their phones with them at all times, and have little microphone thingies sticking out of their ears, so they can be alerted to spring into action when needed, like if the Prime Minister is under threat or there is a sale on batteries at Wal-Mart.

But I digress.

This happened to me the other day. I had recently had my annual medical checkup. I have that every 10 years, even when I'm feeling healthy. I mentioned to the doc that I have a ringing in my ears. He said it is Tinnitis, and that usually not much can be done for it, but he would refer me to an audiologist for a look-see.

He also said he thought I ought to have a colonoscopy, which he said everyone is having these days. So, of course, I said that if everyone is having it, count me in. I mean, I like to keep up with the trends, so why not give it a go. So he said he'd refer me to someone who would give it to me, so to speak.

So now I am waiting for these phone calls from an audiologist and a colonoscopist (try saying that without a lisp). Also, I am feeling a bit of urgency because I'm planning to bug out soon to our Florida hideout.

Phone rings. I dash up a couple of flights, down a hall, and grab the receiver on the last ring. My heart is thumping and my Tinnitis is running at 110 decibels, but I manage to detect that the caller is one of the clinics to which I have been referred. I don't register the name of the clinic, but the pleasant lady starts running through a list of screening questions with me, and finally reaches one about sleep apnea that is a showstopper for her, at which point she says they can't do the job, someone will be calling, and hangs up.

My assumption is that this was the audiologist. I stupidly assume sleep disorders are more closely connected to my ears than my ass.

I then hear from a clinic calling to book my colonoscopy, which I do.

After a couple more weeks of not having heard anything from the audiology front, I call my doctor's office to inquire. I am told that there is no record of my having been referred to an audiologist. I say, "Well how come I was called by one?" She says that can't be true, and that it must have been a colonoscopy clinic.

I hate when I am treated like a doddering old fool, so I get a little dudgeonly and say something about still being able to tell my ass from my ear, and she says she will leave a note for the doc.

I recount the entire sorry tale to my wife, and we both agree that unfair assumptions are too often made about the mental competence of folks in their seventh decade and up.

Now I start thinking about this. Like Hercule Poirot, I apply my little grey cells, and gradually decipher the probable chain of events which, it now appears, began with a call from a colonoscopy clinic, not an audiology clinic, and ended with me having to acknowledge my dodderingness after all.

Regrettably, I have further burnished the belief among the under-40 crowd that we seniors illuminate the world with the incandescence of a 25-watt bulb.

Update: Colonoscopy day arrives.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

But you get to browse the tabloids

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Things I learned this week

I learned that:
• In the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, fat women are considered to be sexy and desirable. Girls are force-fed milk, cream, butter, couscous and other calorie-rich food to achieve the required tonnage to attract a mate. In contrast, the ideal for Mauritanian men is to be slim.

• The U.S.Homeland Security Department has recently seized dozens of domain names for websites that let people download copyrighted music or buy bootleg goods, such as fake designer handbags. The sites include,, and, all of which now display a message from Homeland Security.

Humans walk, drive, and sail in circles, rather than in straight lines, if there is no fixed point of reference, according to research by the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

• The first digit of a credit card number indicates the type of institution that issued the card:
1,2: Airlines
3: Travel/Entertainment
4,5: Banking/Financial
6: Merchandising/Financial
7: Petroleum
8: Telecommunications
0,9: Other
• The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, owned by the provincial government, takes in $6 billion in annual revenues and has annual profits of $2 billion.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.
How about that?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weight loss breakthrough

Forget all that nonsense about diet and exercise. The answer is ... TAPEWORMS!

And, they're sanitized for your protection.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Flash mob in the food court

So, you're at the mall in Welland, Ontario, chowing down on your Wendy's Old Fashioned Combo or your KFC Big Box, and suddenly a glorious din erupts...