Posts from the ‘Opinion’ Category

Day 16 of 100 Happy Days – The fruits of our labour…

Day 16-100

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?….

Day 16 of 100 Happy Days

I take my lunch to work everyday. It varies…sometimes it is a sandwich, sometimes leftovers, sometimes it is a something grilled on some greens. Tuna, beef, chicken, pork…all of them have been in there in some way.

But regardless of the midday, brown bag, main course, there just has to be a piece of fruit, or two. Fruit  makes the lunch whole, and signals that it is over!

Today, there are so many different types of fruit…citrus, melons, berries, whatever you call the banana family, the apple and pear gang, the fruit with pits like peaches and plums, and cherries and grapes,  and then the whole bunch of exotics– pineapples and passion fruit, persimmons, lychees (or is that a nut), papaya, guavas and so on and so on. (I won’t include tomato in this list…though technically it belongs here. I just have never had a tomato with whipped cream….)

If you have not tried them all, and sampled the cornucopia of other fruit that is available, do you know what you are missing?

As a kid with braces, fruit was became our candy as gum, gummmies, and toffees were not on the “allowed list”. Of course there was the occasional sweet – usually plain milk chocolate –  but my parents were smart. They knew fruit could scratch many itches: it was special, we loved it, and it prevented scurvy!

The real treat was on a weekend afternoon when we used to share a massive fruit plate – usually after the Sunday 10km walk through Toronto’s valley parks (my Dad’s favourite hobby, since fresh air was cheap). Mom would peel and core the apples, wash the cherries, slice the bananas, quarter the oranges, add the grapes. And If it was on sale, we would get the treat of a fresh mango or two, watermelon, or a  whole peeled, cored pineapple – you know the kind that came in the large clear plastic tubs.

And if the fruit was expensive, or out of season, the fallback was tinned fruit – a British delicacy!  I remember the joy, just short of squeals,  that a tin of fruit would elicit – probably more than fresh fruit. I think it was because the sweet syrup was manna from heaven by itself, let alone when Mom jacked it up by adding some evaporated milk to it.  The peaches and pears in the fruit cocktail was great – except for those washed out cherry halves that looked like discarded shrunken clown noses and those grape halves that looked at you like some kind of aged eyeball. .

We are incredibly lucky that we can enjoy fruit even if it has to be trucked in from southern climes. I have to remind myself that for many it is an unaffordable luxury.  Sometimes I forget that.

That is why I am happy that everyday can include a little bit of nature’s bounty.

Eat your fruit!

Later,

ASF

The shame, and joy, of doing nothing!

to-do-list-nothing[1]

I have a confession to make.

I did nothing today.

Well that is not quite true. I did do some things. I showered. I emptied the dishwasher. I ate. I watched TV. I actually went outside and turned on the water sprinkler.

But did I meet the Facebook criteria of doing something? Did I build a deck, or bake a cake or wash my car? Nope, nope, and nope. So technically, I did nothing because I have nothing to brag about.

Maybe that should be something to brag about.

But it was not easy.  The idleness came with a price tag. A nice dose of self-shame. Crazy! Why do I feel guilty about doing nothing? Why do I feel I need to busy – like the ant instead of The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopperthe grasshopper? Does busy ever end?  I mean, there is always the sense of satisfaction in doing things, but it is never like I get any closer to getting everything done.  Every time I finish something, there is always another thing surfacing…it is like the Three-Headed Hydra:  my list gets longer as each completed task seems to spawn two more!

And I tell you, being busy takes effort. There is always something to fill the time –  something to tighten  because it’s loose, to glue because its broken, clean because it is dirty, polish because its dull, cut because its long, empty because its full, fill because it’s empty…the list can go on forever and ever.

All of us that have come out of the long winter hibernation know that the brief period between “snow thaw” and “mosquito season gets busy.  (I think it is called spring – a time where Canadians don shorts and flip-flops at a balmy 6*C.)  You know the to-do list…thatching and weeding and fertilising and planting and mowing and gutter-cleaning, organising, vetting, discarding, washing, cleaning, assembling dandelion_farmetcetera. And no one wants to be the home-owner who brings down the neighbourhood property values with the huge dandelion farm, or the lawn that looks like a grade school baseball diamond.   So I will admit that there has been a tiny degree of panic and stress because I needed to get a few things done or yard will continue to look trashy, the garage will stay chaotic, or the summer clothes reamin buried under boxes and boxes. There is so  much that should be, or really “could be”, done.

But let’s park the whole spring-thing aside. The spring clean and renewal will happen eventually – hopefully before Labour Day…

I have to ask, “Why is ‘being busy’ my default setting?”  Why am I embarrassed to do absolutely nothing productive? And when did I forget how to relax idly? Even calming things, like running or biking, seem to have become agenda items.  Why do I plan my “down time” and not just let whatever is going to happen, just happen?  And it seems like I am not alone – check out all the Facebook statuses – full of accomplishments and activities and running around and getting things done.  Rarely do I see the status, “I did sweet FA this weekend, and I am good with that!”

I remember being a kid, bouncing from activity to activity carelessly.  One minute it was staring at the clouds, the next examining the anthill, then a game of hide-and-go-seek, then my paper route, then a game of street hockey or soccer or touch football,  and then homework and a bit of TV, and then bed, all the while looking forward to the next day full of who-knew-what!

kids playing

And today, things have changed now that I am almost half a century old (ouch!). Let me think about it…oh yeah, responsibility, reliability, dependability, accountability.  All those translating to timings and deadlines and tasks and task reminders and “to do” lists. It means not letting down the side and not being the point of failure, the choke point. or the weakest link. It means checking and rechecking and confirming and rescheduling and prioritising and eventually, completing.

And what if it that has been a part of your life for 30-odd years? What if paying attention to detail and ensuring the equipment is ready for its next use, that the car is full of fuel before the big trip, or the clothes are laid out the night before to save time, is part of your being?  What if your whole life has been an exercise in finding time and maximising concurrent activity and minimising effort expended?

I guess it means that it is hard to relax.

Not impossible, but hard. It takes a few days to get into vacation mode.  It means accepting that things might not get done.  That the lawn will be weedy for one more week and that I will have to dig through the Rubbermaid totes in the garage for my favourite pair of cargo shorts.

its-better-to-be-doing-nothing-than-to-be

So today, I took my first step at doing nothing. I was able to sit around and take control of the big screen and eat leftovers and basically chill. It was great. It wasn’t completely blissful – I did have the inevitable pangs of guilt: yes, I thought about the lawn (rationalising that the seeding I did last week was too fragile to be mowed); I shuddered at the winter disorganisation as I tossed the empty pop cans into the garage recycling bins. But I fought through the shame and managed to find my way back to the man-cave and Lucky Slevin. I made my peace…

And to quote the sage Dr Seuss, once you make that peace, “Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!” So let the fun begin.

And as for those other things, I’ll get them done later.  When there is nothing good on TV, or the internet ends.  watching-tv

Later,

ASF

Seriously?…Is it back to “Packie Go Home!”

TSNs-Gurdeep-Ahluwalia-and-Nabil-Karim-Twitter

It has taken me a bit to think about the recent kafuffle over the Sportscentre show on TSN last Tuesday (19 February 2013) (thanks for the edit AP).  If you aren’t aware, the show was hosted by Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim. A couple of homeys from Toronto.

Now in the ethnic mosaic that is Toronto, running into people named Gurdeep or Sanjay, or Xul Li, or Dieter or Jorge or Ahmad or Olympia or Ndongo or any number of fantastic names found across the globe, is pretty high. It is the beauty of our country, the mosaic versus the melting pot.

Two Canadian of Indo-ancestry hosting our national sports desk…we have made the big time. I hope it will soon become a non-issue like two women hosting the show, or a Canadian of Chinese ancestry as the news anchor on the National…can’t wait for other “firsts” to become non-issues too! There were a lot of positive comments about the “breaking story”, but…

You would think that after over a century and a half of immigration, we would come to realise that our diversity makes us strong and makes us better.  Well, you’d hope.  And most of us do. But evidently not. Take a peek…

2013 Spray Paint 12013 Spray Paint 2

2013 Spray Paint 4

Reading those tweets, I had a throwback to my youth, growing up around Danforth and Greenwood Avenues in Toronto in the early 70s.  At that time the “Asian Wave” was hitting Toronto. (Mind you the first “Asian wave” hit British Columbia in the 19th century during the Canadian National railway construction – flow interrupted by the Continuous Journey Regulation of 1908 that effectively managed any immigration from China, Japan and India until officially struck from the books in 1947!)

When I was young, the tormentors were the more established Greek and Italian kids, whose families had arrived a decade or two earlier. Historically I guess they had their initiation back then too, probably at the hands of the Scots, the Irish and the English!

Looking back, the taunts and events were comical in some regards. I remember one of my many fights involving a remarkably dense duo of eleven year-olds (I was 10), spray-painting a wall in the alley way we called Craven Avenue. Their message, a deeply imaginative “Packie Go Home!”.  I, a stereotypical Indian kid – good at spelling and math – could not take the insult and stupidity in silence. Indignantly I thought, at least if you are going to insult us, get it right…it’s P-A-K-I as in Pakistan.  Not P-A-C-K-I-E for packing something!! (BTW wiktionary defines  “packie” as a package store in Massachusetts) .  I proceeded to correct their spelling in a rather

at least they spelled it right...

at least they spelled it right…

excited and agitated way, following with my own taunt of,  “What, are you ignorant or somethin’?”  I think the question was rhetorical, but I didn’t really know what that meant in Grade 4. Anyway, the beating ensued, and I wish I could say I won – but I didn’t. I was just a nerdy Indian kid who went home crying and bleeding.  No worries, it wasn’t something a samosa and a glass of chai while watching an episode of Batman couldn’t fix!

Why were they like that? I remember my Dad teaching us to show respect to everyone. Colour, shape, abilities or disabilities meant nothing – we are all human and deserve common respect. I also remember my Dad telling me to turn the other cheek – not a bad use of a Christian adage by a Sikh chappie. But I also remember my Dad, as a young father – younger than I am now – chasing some asshole teenagers who had insulted his family in the park with racial taunts. I can only imagine how unfair he felt it was. He was just a fellow looking to set up a better life, in a better place, for his family. What did colour have to do with it?  He was working hard, he contributed to society, he paid taxes, he liked hockey and maple syrup; he wore a toque and shovelled the snow from his driveway like all other Canadians. He drank Red Cap and Black Label. Why was he any less of a Canadian, with any less of a right to be there, simply because he had more melanin or came from another culture?

Why don’t they just fit in and adapt to our culture?

Holy shit are you kidding me?  How much more can Gurdeep and Nabil fit in than hosting Sportscentre and talking about jams and flushes and biscuits and all that other jargon the sports guys throw about.

Now I can be a joker at times and I like to crack what I think are the occasional witticisms.And yes,  I have from time to time made an off-colour joke that has gone deep into “non-politically correct” territory – always followed by an immediate apology. So I get it  – once in a while we get it wrong. And no matter how educated and enlightened we are, we always have baggage. Maybe we are intolerant of the ridiculously liberal, the hard right, the deeply religious, the creationist, the evolutionists, the gun lobby, the oil people, the granolas…or whatever cause or ideology that causes us angst.  And I am sure we have had a not so kind thought to ourselves – but I am sure that we had our say using our “inner voice” only.

But I can’t understand these guys – the 2013 equivalent of my Grade 4 spray-painting buddies. What were they you thinking?   Twitter?  Yeah, that won’t go viral. And once you have put yourself out there, I don’t care what you say or what you think – you are forever known as The Racist.  Apologise if you want – you ain’t getting that spray paint off the wall.

So, whether it was a joke or not, the words were tweeted; the sentiment was expressed for millions to see. Their close-mindedness about what makes a Canadian, and what being a Canadian is all about, was evidently clear. These will be the same kind of guys who complain that the immigrants are stealing their jobs, the janitorial ones or taxi ones or fast food – you know, the ones that they are just lining up to apply for (not) – or that the immigrants smell like ethnic food…I have heard it all  before.

“Why don’t they just go home?”…followed by “just kidding”.

I am hoping that we have moved on from 1970s Toronto. But you know what, in the end it doesn’t matter. Because, when all is said and done, the immigrants will suck it up and carry on. They have done it for a century or a half,  whether they were British or French or ex-Black Slaves or Ukrainians or Slavs or Scandinavians or Australians or Asians or Arabs or Africans or South Americans or Central Americans…and on and on and on.

And perhaps they will, like I did, enjoy a wry bit of irony later. My Dad told me he ran into one of my childhood tormentors a couple of years ago – life as a late night parking attendant was suiting him fine. Maybe he should have learned how to spell…

Later,

ASF

Slow down fer pete’s sake…there’s a foot of snow on the ground!

The white-out...aka The Squall

The white-out…aka The Squall

We were supposed to drive to Ottawa today, to have a nice reunion dinner with friends.  But as you are all aware, Eastern Canada – including sweet little Kingston – enjoyed a full dump from Old Man Winter’s icy bowels.  We had a nice deposit of 30 cm of snow over the past 24 hours. That pretty much choked our road network like an Occupy Wall Streeter hit with pepper spray.  The plows and sanders did an admirable job – most of the main arteries were passable – but I was required to bring out my best Swedish Snow Rally Driver skills as my little VW Golf churned through the piles of white stuff on our little side street. The Little-Car-That-Could did well.  But at the risk of being immodest, knowing how to drive in the snow helps too.

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

It is obvious that not everyone in our stretch of the woods does. Now I won’t call the drivers that are on the road the same lovely pet name  used by The City of Vaughan…which I believe rhymes with “duck-butts”…but over the past two weekends I have noticed that many people drive like morons when facing snow. It was just last week that we were caught in a surprise squall 20 km west of Kingston (and that last 20 km took 45 minutes to travel!), and this week I took a brief spin on the 401 to see if a drive to Ottawa was worth it. From what I saw, it wasn’t.

All I can say is that some people have no right to call themselves Canadian, or drivers for that matter, based on their skills, their etiquette, or their common sense.

What is going through their brains? I do not know if they have some sort of invisible force field, or Star Trekkian deflector shield.  How do they develop the audacity and boldness to drive like that? Do they have some sense of invincibility, of immortality, because they are driving shiny SUVs? Or are they  exempted from the laws of physics.

Doubt it.

I just think they are duck-butts.

Unless there is a dying person involved, I can think of no circumstances that create such urgency that rushing quickly to any place is more important than staying alive. They must have some logic or rationale, because driving the way they do creates life or death situations.

It is stunning.

how the heck....

how the heck….

To be honest, they piss me off. In the end, I do not care if their vehicles end up in the ditch or kissed against a guard rail.  Again, I wish I was a perfect human being, but I am not. I have to admit that I enjoy that wee bit of schadenfreude when the driver who sped past you ends up in the snow bank (uninjured of course). Or gets a speeding ticket. You know the one that I mean. That guy with the halogen headlights on high beam that cause those retinal burns; the one that violently splashes icky yucky salty slush across your windshield (leaving you vision-less as your windshield wipers fought valiantly and frantically to restore sight), or creates that snow rooster tail that obscures the road. We have all met him.  Truthfully, once you know all is alright and no one is injured, who amongst us hasn’t smirked to ourselves, “How’s that Porsche Cayenne working for you now, Ducky?”

And honestly, I could care less if they are waylaid. But you know what? These same morons are the ones that create the accidents. Lane hopping, tailgating, quick braking, they create confusion and mayhem, that inevitably ended up creating collision chain reactions.

By relying solely on their daytime running lights  they are invisible…duh…half the battle in not getting hit is taking action to be seen. Don’t people know that most rear vehicle lights are not on during the day? Turn-the-lights-on in bad lighting conditions!

And as the Classic Rock radio guy commented today…”What the hell, people?” There is a foot of snow on the ground. It is not August. You can’t go roaring around at 80 km per hour, and then expect to stop in 10 metres. You-are-going-to-slide!

Regardless of the energy you try to impart on your brakes – à la Fred Flintstone – the equation for momentum, P=Mass x Velocity, means that your car will keep moving when you are screaming for it to stop. Force=Mass x Acceleration, will decide how much of the car in front of you will be destroyed as you plough into it. The physics is easy…either you start driving around on a roller skate with no mass, or you slow the “duck” down.

And use your brain. To see snow physics in action – your hysterics will be twinged with incredulity, and at some stage in the video, just plain pity for their errors and consequences – check out the Utah drivers at this link… Snow Turns Utah Drivers Into Morons Too (Editorial Amendment – this video is a little more scary… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RK0x20SJVY )

Still from the Utah Drivers...

Still from the Utah Drivers…

That is in town. What about those highway drivers?

Their lack of snow plow etiquette is staggering . Yes they go slow. But they make the road safe. Let them do their job; follow them and take the cleared, sanded road. Why do people drag race them? The plow  will win the ensuing collision. An empty snow plow weighs 60,000 lbs and is armed with a 12 foot steel wing plow that can push tons and tons of snow. The average car weighs 4,000 lbs. I betcha it’ll just toss that car aside like an Emo kid brushing aside their bangs.

The Plows will always win!

The Plows will always win!

And, I also heard someone say that it took over 6 hours to get from Kingston to Brockville  – a distance of 83km. (I admit, it was second-hand, from the radio announcer who knows a guy who knew a guy who had a Timmy’s coffee with that couple who apparently took 6 hours).  They were waylaid by the accidents, the snow ploughs, the closed-off sections, and the

Near Montreal...

Near Montreal…

road conditions

white-outs…I can believe it. They must be living in a cave where there is no internet, or TV, or radio. Do you not have the Weather Channel so you can check the conditions when you drive? Oh yeah, the roads are bad, but man, I just need to get there …or my car can handle it…or I have snow tires…or I could do it. Maybe you can, but what about your fellow travellers?

People are so optimistic about car travel. We’ll get there.

Jeez…when do you give up and get a hotel room, grab a case of beer and hunker down eating a pizza watching Pay-per-view?  Or dig into your Facebook contacts list and refresh that acquaintance with your Grade Six BFF who lives in Gananoque?

And I would love to know how many of them have an emergency kit in their car. Oh right, their car coat and Esso ball cap will keep them warm in sub-zero temps. (If you need a steer on what to pack in your car for those unavoidable winter trips, check out Winsconsin’s link here…How to Make a Winter Car Survival Kit

winter_car_kit

I know friends who safely made the drive down from Ottawa today. At one point I was fairly confident in my ability to navigate the 401 and 416 to Ottawa. But as we moved down Highway 401 from our house to the West end of town (12 kilometres) to do some errands, both m y wife and I Iooked at the nasty and brutal end results of two spinouts and one multi-car collision. The vehicles were The Invincibles– pick-ups, SUVs and mini-vans. And I know that they are all safe and sturdy vehicles that if driven with care can get you anywhere.  Great vehicles really that should not crash with proper care. The only variable was the duck-butts who were driving them.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

And that, in the end, the thought of sharing the slippery roads with people like that was enough to make me stay at home.  So we stayed home, all stress-free, and dug out the movies (and watched the Leafs pot 6 goals against the Canadiens – sorry I couldn’t resist).

It’s winter. If you have to drive, drive safe. If you don’t have to drive, crack a bottle and enjoy being warm and cozy – and safe.

Later,
ASF

Canada: It’s cold with a Capital F

winter bird

So I heard on the news today that Environment Canada, our national weather service, is thinking of issuing a NATIONAL cold weather warning. A NATIONAL COLD WEATHER WARNING.

Whoah, whoah, whoah…this is Canada, people. A land where Canadians pride themselves on their ability to adapt and handle the cold.

How cold does it have to friggin’ get before we need to issue a warning to everyone in Canada? (Except, I am guessing, the wool sock and sandal-wearers on the West Coast – it is a balmy 3*C there…)

I think this graphic shows our predicament clearly. It is so cold, that I heard some guy comment that his nipples and penis were actually the same size. That’s effin’ “shrinkage” cold.

It's figgin' cold....

It’s figgin’ cold….

idyllic coldI know, I know. I can hear the diehards saying,”… but winter is so beautiful”; the snow, the crisp air, theBonhomme tobogganing, the skiing, the skating, ice fishing…blah blah blah.  They are selling kool-aid; a stereotypical but seldom attained image of an idyllic cold – warm snow encrusted cabins, cheerful winter carnivals, and beautiful hoar-frosted winter-scapes.

But where are those stupid visions now?  Now after several freeze/thaw cycles, the snow is that crusty, dirty, yucky brown. Now when I step outside to enjoy the great outdoors, my nostril hair freezes instantaneously. Now when I turn the key, my car starter and battery generate that low groaning “whrrrr-whrrrr-whrrrr”, which literally translates to “Seriously…it was -29*C last night.  You expect me to start?”

Where is the beauty in any of that?

Cue flashback…

When I was a kid, I think I liked, and maybe even loved, winter; but then I used to eat dirt, too.  I used to stay outside and play street hockey, and skate on the outdoor rink, and sled with my friends and my brother.  I would stay outside so long that when I came into the house for supper, my hands and feet ached with unimaginable pain – neurons thawing as my hands and feet fought to make it back to an appropriate body temperature.  And what kid didn’t try to hurry the process by sticking their hands under warm water…duh! Every other week, it seems I would forget the painful feeling of my fingertips and toes “exploding” and would try again.

When I was a kid, temperature was irrelevant…maybe because I was so busy generating heat that I forgot it was cold, and I had the metabolism of a rabbit.

You all know I love Canada.  It is a great country full of great things. And I take great pleasure in complaining about the cold and telling the rest of the world they are wussies as they bundle up in their frigid temperatures…

While the East Coast basks in relatively warm weather for mid-January, California is being hit with a blistering cold front. 

Oooh...those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians....

Oooh…those frigid fahrenheit temperatures. Poor Californians….

The unusually frigid weather has brought snowstorms and temperatures below 30 degrees to the Pacific Coast state, alarming motorists, farmers and zoo keepers, among others.

I take pride that our winters are harsher and tougher and meaner…makes us look stronger.

I still, on occasion, enjoy the Canadian winter for brief flashes; especially when it is sunny, and there is no wind and the thermometer is hovering around the freezing point.  I love it when my layered winter clothes keep me warm and cozy as I glide effortlessly on the ice or enjoy the bright, white landscape – everything so clean and fresh – and I love it when I enjoy a cold starry night sipping a bottle of beer in a bubbling 104*F hot tub, my bald pate protected by a colourful woolly toque with a bobble. (Sadly, I do not have a hot tub nor any friends with one now; alas, this is one of those idyllic images). 

Truthfully though, this “winter-affection” exists just before and during Christmas. Then, the love dies.

After Christmas, when there is nothing but months and months of darkness and cold to endure before Canada and the North tilt back toward the sun, I hate it. It sucks.

It sucks that I understand how to measure wind-chill in  watts per metre squared – and that I know a rating of 1600 watts/m2 means likely frost bite. I hate that I need a snow scoop (and more specifically that I do not own a snow blower.) Actually, I like my snow scoop…it’s the relentless snow I hate.

NL Blizzard WarningI mean, what Canadian has not been there…looking with dread at their driveway? Hoping beyond hope that the neighbour living two doors down, the one with the TORO Power Max 8260XE (26”) Dual Stage with the Briggs and Stratton 250cc OHV 4 cycle engine, will show mercy and save you 90 minutes of your life, and an aching back and possible cardiac arrest. You hope that he will clear your driveway in the same 15 minutes it took to clear his. (For those who don’t know, I am talking snow blower/snow thrower). Sadly, most times you are disappointed…and fuming; fuming that your neighbour is cracking a cold one while you struggle with your task, and that you gambled on the 52” LCD TV and Wii Fitness instead of the snow blower. But using The Force, you can channel that anger and disappointment into clearing that snow. Your only dilemma is where to put all the snow Mother Nature has dumped on your drive – plus the repeated bonus of the crusty, heavy, soul-destroying furrow of road snow that the “Plough-guy” gleefully pushes into the end of your drive (several times). Aaaaarrrgghhh…

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!...

Damn you SnowPlow Man, damn you!…

I hate that every excursion now takes on the same epic proportions of Scott –Amundsen racing to the South Pole: sweater, fleece, coat, gloves, scarf, hat, boots. I hate that I have the agility of the Michelin Tire Man when I am appropriately bundled up.  I hate that I have too few layers to fight off the cold when I am outside, but too many layers to walk about inside a building without perspiring like an influenza victim.

..Say no more...

..Say no more…

And I hate scraping my car, and the wet trouser legs from my car mats. I hate the high heating bills and the cold spots in my house. I hate the winter…Please make it stop.

I hope this cold snap ends soon – I hate to see those Californians have to put on a sweater to stave off the extreme cold.

I hope we go back to “idyllic winter” because I want to go skating on the Rideau without risking my nose snapping off.  And I want winter to end, so that we can get to a Canadian summer quicker…the thing that makes a Canadian winter endurable.

A nice idyllic Canadian summer – and hopefully one that is not “crazy hot and humid” – ‘coz that sucks too…

Later,

ASF

No one will ever trust you again, Lance…

Lance Armstrong

in·teg·ri·ty  [in-teg-ri-tee] adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. c.1450, “wholeness, perfect condition,” from O.Fr. integrité, from L. integritatem (nom. integritas) “soundness, wholeness,” from integer “whole” (see integer). Sense of “uncorrupted virtue” is from 1548.

“The big question this week is not whether Lance Armstrong cheated (we know he did) but why he has decided to admit it now…The short answer is money.” – OpEd piece by By David Michael Lamb, CBC Sports Posted: Jan 15, 2013 2:49 PM ET

Zero to Hero.  And sadly, Hero back to Zero. How quickly they fall, eh?

Lance Armstrong is a household name…and his baby, Livestrong, has been a focal point for good-hearted people to show how they feel about cancer. I will commend him for Livestrong, which I still believe is a good cause…it still seems a noble way to show solidarity with those who are fighting the Big C. Livestrong is still looking for new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach and facilitate collaboration in an effort to improve the cancer experience.  These trusting, kind people have given money and time and exposure to this cause, in good faith, with hope, with courage, and with honesty.

And in one fell swoop, Livestrong – and its founder –  are sullied.

I am sad the organisation now has to prove beyond a shadow of  doubt that it has not been a “Church of Oral Roberts” venture for Mr Armstrong…funding his private jet and contributing to his $125 million net worth.  No matter what happens, Livestrong’s reputation will  be forever linked to something dirty.

I am not going to listen to Mr Armstrong’s story as he discloses his justification and rationale for doping. (Okay, I will watch it on tape delay later…) I am sure he will have his excuses for super-oxygenating and drugging his blood, for having a doctor replace his blood with transfusions of un-doped blood. All this manipulation and dishonesty just so he could rise to the top of his game, with an undetected mega-advantage. Some say “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I would counter with, “if you’re cheating, you’re cheating.”

Now I, like you,  know that people make mistakes. Sometimes  an act of cheating is just a bad decision, an error of judgement. Who hasn’t at some time, wished for a life “mulligan” and hoped for a re-do. We are human, after all and as Alexander Pope wrote, “…to err is human”.

But in this case, I am not sure I can respond with the “to forgive, divine”.  You forgive a transgression, or perhaps two. Can anyone forgive seven?  Seven years of “bad judgement”, and 16 years of denial. I mean as late as June of last year, he was still fighting like General Custer…

‘These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.” – The UK Mail, 13 June 2012

I guess the best defence is a robust offence. Just look at his hatchet job against fellow cyclists and against the media. The latter have dished out millions in slander and libel suits. Just like how he cheated his way to convincing cycling victories, when Lance Armstrong lied, he lied convincingly!

And though he has limited impact on my life –  he makes me mad.  I feel jipped. I feel betrayed. I feel used. It all feels dirty. I suppose I can grudgingly accept such tactics in politics and in business (though I do not like it); however,. I do not like it in sports at all.

I do not think I am upset that he doped – in the wake of Baseball’s Steroid Age, the probable use of drugs in hockey and rugby, and given the rampant drug use on the Cycling Tour  – Mr Armstrong was just using “cutting edge” technology to get ahead. Perhaps he considered the treatments as a weird, though damaging and illegal version of the swimmer’s full body “shark suit”, or the metal hockey stick, or the space-alloy prostheses on Paralympians. You do what you can to  gain an advantage. And besides, they were all doing it. It is just happens that  Lance Armstrong – either by virtue of his drugs, or the skill of his doctor, or his athletic ability, or his bicycling know how – was just better at the cycling thing than equally doped up rivals. I get that. I can get over that too.

What I can’t get over is 16 years of lies; the outright bold-faced lies to his teammates, his fans, his supporters, the media, and the world.  I can’t get over the lives he damaged, and those reputations he shattered, in defending the tapestry of falsehoods that he wove.  I can’t get over the fact that we trusted him, we cheered for him because we wanted to believe in the incredible strength of the human spirit – personified for a long while in the cycling cancer-beater.  If Lance Armstrong could do it – overcoming cancer and climbing to the top of an élite sport – then anything was possible if you worked hard enough.

And I did not believe it when the first the cracks appeared in the wall. But through bravado and intimidation and money, Mr Armstrong patched the damage. We questioned, and became skeptical, but we still held onto the threads.

And then, poof!  With allegations unchallenged, and in the resounding echo of his silence, the international sporting bodies revoked his medals, stripped his title. The dream vanished along with his Yellow Jerseys, his Olympic medal and his endorsements.

But more importantly, he has lost his credibility and his integrity will always be stained. Who will ever believe anything he says now? Everything he does from now on will be questioned and “slightly dirty” in some way. He has a lifetime of infamy to look forward to now. I hope his 16 years of fame was worth it.

Later,

ASF

There is no such thing as Free Parking – if you want a good spot, that is…

free-parking

Parking… to bring (a vehicle that one is driving) to a halt and leave it temporarily, typically in a car park or by the side of the road: he parked his car outside her house (Oxford Dictionary)

Simple, eh? Take car, turn steering wheel, select gear, ease on accelerator and brake, stopping the car between the lines or at an appropriate distance from cars in front and rear, and sufficiently close to the curb.

Easy-peasey.

So many options…parking lots, roadside parking, reversing into a spot, parking illegally, double parking, and the dreaded PARALLEL parking.

Parallel Parking

Why is there so much emotional capital invested in the simple act of parking a vehicle?  Really, I don’t think you can be indifferent about parking. You either love it or hate it.

Having lived in England for three years driving a mid-sized North American left-hand drive vehicle, I got pretty good at squeezing the SX2.0 in to some pretty small spots. Add to that the joy of renting vehicles all across Europe and I must admit that I love “the parking”. I love the challenge.

The quest for a parking spot is one of the Great Hunts in life. And like any serious quest, its hidden bounty is even protected by a Parking WardenGuardian. In this game, it is the Bylaw officer or Traffic Warden who is the Gate Keeper. Walking the streets in their omnipotent patrols, sensing the expiring parking ticket or attuned to the ticking meter, they circle like birds of prey, waiting for the opportunity to open their book of doom. They are reviled, taunted, abused – and when defeated, all rejoice in the Vanquish.  Wardens must be rewarded on a quota, they dish out their fines and judgement with unsympathetic abandon. It is un-human! Hopefully they receive good self-esteem training – they probably need it after all the abuse I have seen them take.

Aside from the fine, the Wardens tap into a volatile part of our souls. Why do we exhibit such passion and angst and joy when it comes to parking? A good spot can make your day. A bad parking experience can ruin one.

Maybe it is because parking appeals to a basic instinct. It is like the need for a parking spot sets off this little klaxon in the brain, the kind that warns of a prison break. It is like someone gave the competitive spirit a Red Bull and Vodka. There must be some sort of “hunter/gatherer” thing that comes with parking. For me, I feelthe primitive urge to “hunt for the perfect spot”  as soon as I see my final destination.

Why does the pituitary flood the gates with adrenalin when I need to stop the car?  What’s the problem with a few extra steps to get to wherever I am going?  I tell you what is wrong with it– it is accepting the “merely adequate”, the “just okay”. It is mediocrity…

I love The Chase. I love it always. Except at Christmas.

Christmas parking sucks. The parking frenzy with all its emotion – mostly negative – surrounding the December outing is absurd.

Now, because it is January, and all the Christmas shipping done and the Boxing Day ludicrousness is over, I am calm enough to think about the December parking horrors as they are nothing but a distant memory, like the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I have healed from the “no quarter” battlefield that is the War of the Xmas Parking Spots.

Peace on Earth? Goodwill to all Mankind?  Not when it comes to the Christmas parking places. At Christmas it is every driver for themselves – yelling and cursing and “flipping the bird” and honking…as ubiquitous as Fa-la-la-la-la and Boughs of Holly.

But Christmasn is just a few weeks.  I have noted that rgardless of the season, there are some parking constants…

The HuntThe Parking Spot Hunt is a game of cat and mouse with several key spots. Whether at the Shopping Center, the main shopping street, a box store, a strip mall, an outlet centre, the workplace party, the restaurant, the Christmas tree place, the rink, the theatre, the bank –  it begins with selecting a section of the lot and then narrowing it down to a specific “lucky” row. If the instincts were right, a spot will be waiting – as Sid Vicious would say, “Pretty and vacant” – for your car to slide into like a hand in a glove.

And if the spot eludes you, the chase continues in ever widening circles to find the next best spot.

The truly fanatic “parksman” will brush aside the passengers’ counsel and sightings of potential spots, with a positive feeling that there must be one closer. There is always a mental anguish when committing to spot.  One cannot commit too early… there might be a better one available!

The parking spot hunt has many phases, guises and sensations…there is “the Chase”, “the Stalk”, “the Deception”, “the Disappointment” or joyfully, “the Quickening”. If you are very unlucky, you will suffer an anxious “mix and match”, like the “Chase and Wait” or the “Chase and Deception” or the extremely unlucky “Wait followed by Deception, followed by Disappointment”.

The basic components always include spotting, or stalking a departing patron and the commanding the entry in the soon-to-be vacant as the occupier departs – the Chase.  The frustration comes in waves as the “parkee” leads the “parker” on a wild goose chase, dodging from aisle to aisle as the “parkee” frantically tries to figure out which car is theirs.

The first test to the will is “the Psyche”.  It starts with finding the seemingly perfect spot. You turn your wheel to slip into the spot like a ship berthing at its home port, and then your brain screams, “Abort! Abort! Abort!”. The vacant spot is not so. It is “half-filled” with a motrocycle, a FIAT 500 or damn SMART Car, or a stray shopping cart blocking the spot. You were bamboozled. Goshblarnit!

Next comes the Wait, those tantrum-inducing moments as the “parkee” dillies and dallies in/around their vehicle – taking eons to unload the cart, taking the cart back to the corral, unlocking the  vehicle, sitting, adjusting the seatbelt then the rear-view mirror then  the radio, moving to applying makeup or combing the hair…blah blah blah. Aaargh! Hurry up already, I HAVE THINGS TO BUY! Baby needs a new pair of shoes.

It doesn’t get worse than that. Oh wait it does.  The dreaded Deception.…that is the culmination of the Chase, the Wait, and the complete Disappointment as the person who entered the car did it only to retrieve a wallet or a phone, or to deposit the first wave of shopping.  All you get from the experience is the unsatisfactory shake of the head or dismissive wave of the hand – but the gesture only comes after  committing to the now evaporated parking spot.  As you sit there, feeling that “fight or flight” rush, your turn signal becomes a beacon of your disappointment, your ire, and your disbelief – probably aggravated by the unheard giggles of those drivers from behind. The ones that you let by you, because you had your cross hairs on the Prize.

Loser.

So many emotions all swirled together. Parking is not simply the temporary halt of your vehicle as you pick up that Best Buy gift certificate or that standby bottle of perfume. Though it seems to get worse at Christmas, the whole parking experience can be a  simple snapshot of the worst parts of the human condition.

No Parking for DBs

Unsure of what I mean…let me describe my take on the turds that are competing for those valuable spot – in my order of ascending “douchebagginess”:

  • park far awayThe Far Parker.  This is more of a complaint as a passenger, as you ride with the person who parks in the furthest reaches of the parking lot. You know the ones – they park further away than the mall makes its employees park.  Out by the massive winter snow pile, or the yucky brown pile full of road sand and pebbles.  Usually drivers of BMWs or very shiny SUVs, free of car seats and that gummy goo that kids manage to leave in the seat cracks and windows.
  • The Close Parker. Not quite the opposite of the far parker, the Close Parker is technically correct, as the halt between the lines. But they park so close to one side of the spot that it is impossible to open the door closest to them. If you are unlucky, they will have arrived after you, and have blocked your driver side door. Your only way to exit is to enter the passenger side, straddle across your stick shift and try to limbo into your driver’s seat.
  • The Door Banger, aka the cousin of the close parker. The door banger is self-explanatory as they leave traces of their car’s DNA all over your car…complete with nice dents.
  • The Two-Space Taker.  The two-space taker has no idea where to put his car, where the lines are, or more probably just Two Spacerdoesn’t care. Their car may straddle the line, may actually stop on the line, or worse, they park diagonally across the two spots to protect their car. They try to get the security of the Far Parker achieves with none of the legwork.  Douchebags.
  • The Spot Stealer.  This is almost the douche-baggiest driver in the parking lot. As you follow proper parking lot etiquette, waiting patiently, the Stealer forgoes the wait and jumps in to your parking spot – totally devoid of any class, manners, upbringing or civility.
  • And the douche-baggiest…The Disabled Spot Violator. The blue markings and wheelchair symbol are just a guide. The Violator is just going to be a minute, or just does not give a hoot about whether the old or the infirm or the broken or the infirm are allowed access to the spot society has granted to them. Whenever you see them you just hoping to see the Traffic Warden…where are they when you need them.

Violator

I am glad that the Christmas rush is over. The crowds have dispersed and the population does not have the crazed retail fervour, that Post-Apocalyptic Yuletide Zombie look. Parking spots abound. The frenzy has ended.

But The Chase is never over.  Somewhere out there on my next jaunt, awaits the White Rhino ofall  parking spots. My quest continues.  I can’t wait to find it before anyone else does.

Later,

ASF