July 23, 2008

On The Road Again

We leave soon for a tour of the Maritimes. Doing a feature for GO RVing, an association specialing in all things RV.

So, true to form, I'm losing my mind trying to get everything assembled, trying to imagine every scenario (I will do doubt leave out the only emergency that actually occurs), and counting clothes to avoid doing laundry as long as possible. The boys have taxed themselves beyond all bounds, as usual. "Where do I sleep? Where do I plug in my computer?" pretty much sums up their contribution to the prep work.

I'm fighting a losing battle with the ants in my house, and finally caved and called a Bug Zapper place. By the time you find an ant on your toothbrush, you wave the white flag - hard.

We'll be wired for blogging, so you may hear from my at random points. I offered to get Webgod Jeff to guest blog in my absence, but his reply was pretty succint: "The only things I could think to blog about would be things I hate and people that piss me off...". Such an upbeat guy.

Many of the summer editions of magazines have some great fiction pieces (see 'Nine', below), and if I can find more I'll link them. Or, if you're at a newstand and see a fiction issue of nearly anything, it makes for great summer reading whether you're on a dock or a porch.


Nice short story in The Atlantic. Really nice if, like me, you remember being a nine-year-old girl. Author Aryn Kyle beautifully captures the wisps of wants of that age, the ones that stay forever no matter how many more birthdays you have.

"They will stand to the side and watch her be alone". Lovely line, that.

July 18, 2008

Ardent Automotive & Computer Corner

One of those days when everything could go wrong, but because of decent people it doesn't.

I took the van in and told them to do whatever it needed. I love my mechanics (Ardent Automotive in Burlington - Jim & Nigel), and trust them implicitly. We have a big trip coming up. Now, 'do what it needs' is a blank cheque to some places.

I picked it up....53 bucks. Less than half the cost of a tank of gas.

On the way to picking up the van, I had to drop off my computer tower. It was overheating or something - I diagnose computers with less aptitude than I do vans - and I had no clue what to do. In the past, I have been known to freak out and run and buy a new computer. No computer = no job. To top it off, I couldn't remember the name of the place I wanted to take it.

The last time Webgod Jeff and I were doing some computer repairs (okay, that's a stretch to include myself in that sentence), we needed a fan. Jeff said. So, we went to one of the Big Places, and got told a new fan was something like $45. 'No way,' announced Jeff, heading for the door as I was pulling out my wallet. He told me we were getting ripped off. We eventually found this little computer place in an industrial mall - the fan was fifteen bucks.

All I could remember was kind of where the place was. Poor Sod and I drove around looking for it (which consists of me yelling 'right there!, no, forget it, WAIT!, pull in here, nope, forget it....'). We found it.

At 5:00, Computer Guy told me it wasn't shutting off, and he couldn't find anything wrong. I told him I'd pick it up (mostly to try to get a backup off of it - yeah, I never do that often enough) anyway, and see what happens over the weekend. I went to pay him. No charge.

Computer Corner on Harvester Road in Burlington. It's where I'm buying everything from now on, and where all my computers will be going when they need a doctor.

Now, if someone would just miraculously drop dinner off, my day would be *perfect*.

Thanks, guys.

July 16, 2008

Omar Khadr & Jon Benet

I often remark that some of the best writers around will never get published, while much swill is rewarded mightily. I consider myself neither, for anyone debating hopping on.

The Omar Khadr issue is a brilliant, terrifying flashpoint for much that has happened since 9/11. The Toronto Star's Michelle Shephard has spent years on this case, and her recently published book is nowhere near the end of the discussion.

In a most unexpected forum, I found this. Read this beautifully balanced piece on this issue by an anonymous poster in Craigslist. Yeah, that's right. That hotbed of crap-on-a-stick rants produced this.

Earlier today came this piece from Slate on Jon Benet Ramsay by William Saletan. Her family has been officially cleared in her death. Remember when everyone was so certain her parents killed her? Or her brother? Remember? Everyone playing judge and jury based on headlines and photos and their long distance gut feelings?

Both pieces lend a sane voice to a contentious issue - justice. We think it's there. We think it rides the leading pony. We think we are entitled to it, and we think we will receive it.

Think again.

July 13, 2008

Back In Black

Sorry for buggering off there, folks. Escaped to Haliburton to a friend's cottage for a day, and ended up staying for a two. It got the kids' fingers pried from their computers, and a couple of days on a dock was perfect.

I remembered how much I like driving, and how much I'm going to miss being able to do it whenever I want. The crunch has been ramping for a few years, but now it's painful. Remember as kids, going for a drive? We used to do that because we couldn't afford to actually go anywhere, or do anything. Now, the act of driving requires a serious investment at the pumps. My Dad must be staring down, quizzically.

The Jolie-Pitts have had their kids, every news source is informing me. Thanks for that, but, whatever. A wee bird just flew into my kitchen window, stunning himself. I went out to check on him, and when he finally up and flew away, I realized I cared more about the bird on my deck than some rich folks spawning.

Made the mistake of reading these next two pieces one after the other. You want to know what's wrong with the world, in a bit of a nutshell? Read this piece on Hummers in the Washington Post, then this one from A.A. Gill in the Times Online. There's much truth in the first - everything that matters about America is demonstrated in a Hummer - and much sadness in the other - the disparities in world economies will kneecap us all, eventually.

Okay, a little gloomy. Sorry and all that. I've lost two dear readers this week, a day apart. Joyce Sinclair and I have traded emails and visits for a couple of years, an older lady who followed my auto column though she'd never held a licence. I saw her just two weeks ago - she was ready to go, but selfishly, I wasn't ready to lose her.

Ron Bezant on the other hand, has fought his cancer bravely and noisily in the two years I've corresponded with him. A wonderful writer, his marvelous tales of his childhood always made me smile. You may remember last summer when I had the Mini Cooper I wrote about taking him for a ride in the back roads. This gentleman did not go gently, but he did go nonetheless. I will miss him.

July 7, 2008

CHCH Live@5:30 Monday

Can men and women just be friends?

This should be fun...

Tune into CHCH at 5:30, repeat at 11:30....

July 6, 2008

Sirens Piece

I've been asked about the 'right turn on red light' part of a column I did on emergency vehicles. I was told by a fire official last year that you can make a right turn on a red light - when safe to do so - even when you're not in the right lane.

The Highway Traffic Act is vague to my reading, hence my research last year. I'll look into it again with the police, and post what I find out.

Global Warming vs The Olsen Twins

Most newspapers now have a feature on their homepage (online version) which keeps a tally of the most-read stories. If you want to know why the world is going to hell, click on any paper around the world at any time, and see what real people are reading when nobody is watching.

It's a scream. 'Horoscopes' are always near the top. Constantly. Advice columns. In the Star today, 'Why your beer costs more than it should' has been riding high for two days. On the British Timesonline, Uma Thurman has been duking it out with soccer scores, though a piece on Iraq did make an appearance. In Los Angeles, where hundreds of fires are burning out of control, a piece on a jewelery thief is taking precedence.

Since the Globe & Mail expanded their Life section, there has been constant derision from the higher brow readers of that tome. And yet, over and over, pieces from the frothy section are being read. Must be the old 'riding a scooter' thing. Everyone wants to do it, nobody wants to be seen. I went to check out the Washington Post for you, but there was a hottie picture of Roger Federer on the front that I couldn't get past...sorry.

The New York Times 'most read' section is always a good cross-section of opinion and news. But something interesting - every time there is an article about health stuff, foods you should be eating, the proper way to exercise, how to live your life better - those features always ride high for a week or more. It's like we care about politics, but we really, really care about how big our arses are getting.

In my own totally unscientific reasoning, I think more and more papers are bolstering their, shall we say, purient sections because when people are reading on line, they go to that stuff. I remember commuting on the train to Toronto years ago, and you knew everything you had to by what paper someone had with them. The G&M people, the Star people, the - shudder - Sun people. Even the book people - I used to totally make assumptions based on these things. And everyone knew it. I recall some company used to make fake book covers so you could pretend.

But with the relative privacy of the net, people can click on what they want. And as formerly staid papers are upping the fluff factors, you better believe it's because people are clicking on it. My favourite time waster is to check out the comments sections most papers offer. The same ten boring idiots post repeatedly to every single story. And most of them start off the same way: 'Slow news day? What a waste of time...' and yet, they've read it (sometimes - many, many people post without reading, because they already know everything, doncha know), and taken the time to comment.

The 'most read' boxes - a glimpse into our nutty little heads.

July 3, 2008

Balm Beach Balm

Unbelievable. Have you been following the debacle taking place on the shores of Georgian Bay at Balm Beach? One set of cottage owners have erected a fence - a butt- ugly wooden fence - to keep people from crossing 'their' precious spit of sand.

For real? While I'm not a fan of the chainsaw approach that was recently taken to removing it by frustrated citizens, I certainly see why people are demanding something be done. Maybe legally you own the property down to the water's edge, but ethically - are you really good with erecting barriers to keep out anyone and everyone else? When you purchase property adjacent to areas zoned for commercial use, or in high traffic areas in resort towns, did you ever really expect that you were settling in some kind of nirvana where you could claim something for your own selfish self as natural as a shoreline?

Would I want tons of people trekking across my shoreline at my own humble cottage? Not on your life. Hence, said abode is on a tiny, tiny lake with none of the recreational attractions that would draw such trekkers. Hikers are welcome to cross all of our properties, being respectful of the wild nature of all of them (the properties, not the hikers), not littering, not stealing our noodles, and not peeing against our tinny.

You couldn't pay me to own in more populated areas. But if that were my choice, I would recognize that ribbons of sandy beaches would be an attraction - as they should be - and hardly start erecting wooden barriers to prevent people from daring to traverse 'my' property. You have to be pretty dim to not notice which lots are going to be in the centre of the action. You want remote, ferchristsakes Canada can provide remote.

Sell at an inflated price and go away. But something tells me the trouble will go with you, and I pity your new neighbours.

July 2, 2008


At the risk of sounding either older than I am or even worse, dreadfully uncool, I found this article about Facebook really, really entertaining. It articulates everything I dread about this entity. Read the first lines:

"You last saw Colin when you were twelve years old. From what you can remember, he was once sent home from school early after stabbing you in the leg with a compass. Now, fifteen years on, Colin seems ready to make amends. What a happy coincidence; he still lives nearby, and suggests meeting up for a drink.

Why does Facebook always succeed in resurrecting those old faces that one has worked so hard to leave behind? The classroom nerds, the former colleagues, the drunken lapses in judgement. "Pokes" from strange women who are invariably either ropey-looking, selling something, or men in real life. In all likelihood, you are the first person Colin has contacted since his escape from Belmarsh prison."

I will admit up front most of what I know about Facebook is what my sons have grudgingly let me in on. But I stand by my premise that it is best suited for the kids - there comes a time when, while you may be the right height for a certain ride, you are definitely too old. And yeah, I know I'm insulting a bunch of you right now - but you're entitled to love it, and I to hate it. Keeps things interesting. It just feels like the world's biggest revolving yearbook - everyone wants the most signatures, and will ask anyone at all to sign in their quest for that honour.

Facebook also reminds me of a neverending high school reunion. I attended one, for about ten minutes, and it was pretty horrible. Why - I mean it WHY - do we think anything will change with time? I watched all these women (in my head, still girls, in spite of a little extra girth and a little too much mirth) as they went running headlong into each other's arms, squealing loudly enough so eventually only dogs could hear them. The only thing I could think, over and over, was 'if you liked each other so damned much, why didn't you keep in touch?'

Facebook lets anyone into your arms, to squeal in any pitch they please. I sometimes get invites from 'friends' to join, but, as I'm not a Facebook member, I figure I'm outside the loop and therefore don't have to respond. Let's be honest; anyone who wants to contact me is able to, and they don't need to write on my 'wall' to do so. I've heard from lots of old friends and acquaintances since I began writing, and I've often thought it would be nice if there were a directory people could sign up in with contact info if they so desired. Facebook just seems like overkill - way too much information for anyone to access. I know, I know, you can put limits on it. But for some people, they learn too late that less is more, especially teenagers.

Anyway, that's cranky enough for one entry. It was just nice to see somebody else put into words exactly what I feel....