Thursday, 11 August 2016

Camrose? I Mean, I Know You Said Camrose ...

My wife thinks I don't listen to her.

So ummm... what does a man do from here? Denial will only make it worse, so you better come clean.

I admit, SOMETIMES, I might not listen as carefully as I should;
When she told me recently that we'd been invited to spend the weekend at the Best Western, I'd have sworn she said Canmore. I said "Cool, let's do it!", thinking how much I love that little mountain town and the serenity I feel, surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.

A short exchange later, I was exposed as not paying attention. While I can't remember her exact words, the sentiment was "I said 'Camrose', dummy!"

And I thought to myself, "Camrose? For the weekend?" I might've even said it out loud. The Camrose of my memories was a sleepy little town populated by retired farmers and CFCW's Bev Munro telling us about the Big Wheel Trucker of the Day. Through occasional visits with relatives, as a kid, I have memories of skating on Mirror Lake in the winter and seeing the resident swans there, in summer. I remember wondering, why don't we have a lake in the middle of town.

I snapped out of my reminiscing, realizing that my full attention was required for this task. I was again informed that we were going to the Best Western Plus Camrose Resort & Casino. And I thought to myself, "Did you say casino?", I may have even said it out loud too.
A pleasant, short hour-ish drive from Edmonton, puts you in Camrose, Alberta, home of the Big Valley Jamboree. But there is a lot more to the City of Camrose, much more than was there when I was a child, on my way to great-aunt Edna's house. A full compliment of 21st century urban amenities may have replaced the sleepy farming town of my memories, but anywhere that still has a main street remembers its roots.

So just like the Fresh Prince, we rolled up to the Best Western Plus Camrose Resort & Casino, I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there. Not having set foot in the place, my expectations were already exceeded. Nice. Very nice.
Our family of four paraded through the lobby, down to our rooms, and I remained impressed. Clean, bright, well appointed accommodations.

Next, a glorious seafood buffet. Damn, but I do love crab legs. Making a mental note, they do this every Friday. Expectations exceeded again.

Off to the lounge, for some live entertainment. While I generally consider the term "dueling pianos" to be a misnomer for an act without any swordplay, flint lock pistols, or bloodshed, I did find myself thoroughly entertained, and yes, I was singing along wherever I knew the words (or even when I didn't). Blame it on the rain. Or beer. Once again, I was impressed.
The casino, while not a cavernous expanse that will leave you wondering which way is which, has more than enough game variety to keep me happy, and of course, poker tables. We played a fun little tourney of Texas Hold'em, and I did alright... Actually I won, but I'm just ridiculously humble. O_O

The next day included a trip to the pool with my 10 year old, and everyone knows that kids judge hotels by their pools. Complete with water slide, and a water spouting "umbrella" in the pool, she approved of the facilities.

Being invited to a resort, it's easy to enjoy one's time (especially when shown extensive hospitality on someone else's dime), but the real question comes when you ask yourself "would I feel good about spending my money here?"

Answer: Yes, the pricing in the hotel, dining, and lounge provide a very good value for the dollar, and while I initially may have misheard the name, I would definitely return to this surprisingly good destination for a close to home getaway. Just remember, Camrose, not Canmore. Prairies, not mountains.

Yes dear, I'm listening. (Insert winky-face here)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

OK, I Admit it, I Love This Song

I trust you guys, so I'm going to share with you. My music. No, I'm not in a band, not secretly writing songs for Taylor Swift, and won't make you listen to me play Judas Priest on a ukulele. I'm going to let you see some of my Guilty Pleasures playlist; The songs that if you browsed through the 1200+ tunes on my smartphone, that you'd raise an eyebrow and whisper "WTF?" Even if you too secretly love these songs, you might hesitate to admit it.

Remember that scene in We're The Millers, in the motorhome, when Kenny... What do you mean you don't? It's ok, you're in a safe place, you can confess your love for B Comedies. Anyway, Kenny goes deep into TLC's Waterfalls, not just singing along to the chorus, like most of us (I know you do it too), but really shows T-Boz, Left Eye &Chilli some love. Waterfalls is obvy on Kenny's list. It's on mine too.

10. Waterfalls  -  TLC
Not ashamed to share his Jam, even in front of his fake family. Go Kenny! If you prefer to hear the ladies sing it, Click here --> TLC - Waterfalls 

Some songs catch us, and stick with us, and even if you try to resist, you end up bopping along like you're in some sort of nightmarish Night At The Roxbury reunion. That means you like the song... and that's why I have to admit I really like...

9. Believe  -  Cher
Yes, Cher, I Believe, and I don't care what anyone says. If you listen to it, and by the end of the song you're not grooving along, I say you're a robot.

In the modern age of movies, the soundtrack has moved front and centre. Some music is introduced to the public through a movie or TV show, and some music will never break that link. If you can hear Kenny Loggins song, Danger Zone, without seeing Goose and Maverick hi-five on the deck of an aircraft carrier, I don't think we can be friends. Danger Zone and Top Gun had a baby in my brain, named happiness.

8. Danger Zone  -  Kenny Loggins
I feel the need... the need for speed!

Sometimes the music ends up carrying a film, or maybe it was the excuse for making the movie in the first place? Sometimes even stinking garbage movies leave you with the blessing of music. That's sort of how I feel about Coyote Ugly, a truly unremarkable film, in my opinion, and some might say this song is junk, but I say you Can't Fight The Moonlight.

7. Can't Fight The Moonlight  -  LeAnn Rimes

I think that some songs become victims of overplay on the radio, initially benefiting from Top 40s style short playlists but soon transitioning to annoying earwig for most listeners. I like H.O.L.Y., but get out of my head Florida Georgia Line! For me, one song to survive massive overplay is... 

6. Call Me Maybe   -  Carly Rae Jepsen
I know it's not a landmark in the progress of music, but I like it. And the idea of putting it as my ringtone makes me laugh. Every. Time. Here's my number, so call me maybe.

Even after massive overexposure, and the passing of an appropriate length of time, some music will pop back into our culture, like when the fine folks at Molson employed the Proclaimers to demonstrate the lengths that people might go to get their beer. Hyperbole or not, I still dig those nerdy Scots. I'm on my way!

5. 500 Miles  -  The Proclaimers
I chose the Molson ad (with actors, not nerdy Scots), because beer. 
See a live Proclaimers version here -->500 Miles
Even musical juggernaut Imagine Dragons have offered homage to the awesomeness that is 500 Miles, see it here -->Dragons 500

From Proclaimers to DISCLAIMER:
Because the numbering on my list appears as a countdown, and I'm too lazy to go back and change it, I'll insert the note that this is not supposed to be the definitive list of shameful music joys, but just a few of the songs that get commonly lumped into the Eww! of music, and Eww or not, I like them.

My next pick was discarded from popular music as Grammy winning Milli Vanilli was exposed as a fraud, in so much as the members of the band didn't actually sing on the record. Oops! Whatevs, you got to blame it on something...

4. Blame It On The Rain  -  Milli Vanilli
Cuz the rain don't mind, and the rain don't care...  O_O  Same. Sing it loud.

Pop culture icon, Britney Spears, has always had her nay-sayers; From her post-Disney coming of age and rise to pop stardom whilst breaking some Timberlake kid's heart, through the (Eww!) Federline days and apparent mental health struggles, bouncing back, and on to Vegas headliner. But no matter the highs or lows, whenever I heard that school bell ring and "Oh baby, baby", I was hooked. Let's have a listen, c'mon ...Baby One More Time

3.  ...Baby One More Time  -  Britney Spears
... My loneliness is killing me.. I must confess... I still believe, still believe... 
Yes, you caught me singing along, to which I can only say, Oops! ...I Did It Again (Yeah, that's officially on my list too).

After admitting to being a Brit fan, it's easier to tell you all that I love these Brits too. I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want. Girl Power! Looking at the state of the world today, I think we all could use another measure of the Spice Girls...

2. Wannabe  -  Spice Girls 
Everyone has a favourite Spice Girl, who's yours?

To top this list, I decided on an often maligned song, sneered at by critics blinded by jealousy and unable to embrace the song's truly inspirational tone. For me, it took on a much deeper meaning when featured in a classic film... Sometimes a song elevates a movie, sometimes the movie elevates the song. In the context of Hot Tub Time Machine, here it is:

1. Hero  -  Enrique Iglesias
Would you dance, if I asked you to dance? Would you run, and never look back? Would you cry if you saw me crying? Would you save my soul tonight?  O_O  Wait, what?
See Enrique, without the movie as a frame of reference, here -->Hero
Whatever man! Music is a beautiful thing!

What's the point? The point is music can make you happy, and it doesn't matter what that music is, as long as you enjoy it. So Whip Your hair with Willow, blast some Nickelback, or Roar with Katy, and don't let anyone's words bring you down (I love you too, Christina Aguilera).


Friday, 10 June 2016

The Fridays of Summer - An Introduction

Gather 'round kids, I'm gonna teach you how to Friday, and yes you can use Friday as a verb. Don't argue, it just makes you look Monday (yup, that's an adjective).

Around here, summer is short - we can have snow 6 months of the year (or more), so a sunny summer Friday is nearly sacred.

Also I think you'll agree, the week is split rather inequitably, with 5 days devoted to the workweek and only 2 days of weekend; so the key to a really good summer weekend is taking full advantage of the potential of Friday.

I like to think of Friday as more of a flex-day than a workday, meaning yes, physically I may in the office, but you know I'm mentally already halfway to the patio. You might need 50 sales reports copied, collated, and stapled, but you can't keep me from dreaming of freedom (and an ice cold beer).

I've Fridayed for a long time, and it's become sort of second nature to me, so I'm going to let you in on a few secrets that'll help get the weekend started...

Step 1:  Check the calendar
Make sure it's Friday. Nothing is worse that going around the office half the morning, in a fantastic Friday mood, only to find out it's Thursday.

Step 2:  Know the weather report
Your needs on a sunny day will differ substantially from those of a cloudy, or worse - rainy day.
Sunscreen, bug spray, hats, and jackets, all have a place, but you can't carry them all around with you without looking suspicious (and nerdy).

Step 3: Make a plan
Alert the crew that you're Fridaying. While this point seems obvy, it is possible that one of your dim, devoted, coworkers may have overlooked the fact that it's Friday. Once your peeps are notified, identify the locale of the day. A good Friday leader won't rely on "the usual", which then becomes a rut, and then it might as well be Tuesday, dammit.

The key to the Friday plan is much like effective government... meeting the needs of the people. Unlike chameleon, you can't be all things to everyone (run run away... uhh... Never mind), so keep your group size manageable; it's not the company barbeque, FFS.

 Also, keep expectations reasonable. You're going for a couple beers to prime for, and stretch out, the weekend, so don't advertise it as some mystical quest. Make it special, but don't try for epic, you're not that great, Gandalf. For my crew, the formula is simple - the drinks and food you want, at a reasonable price. That's it. Over-deliver, not over-hype. Mix it up, try different places.

You want more? Well, yes, it would be nice to have breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Yes, it would be nice if the waitress was cute, and thought you were funny. Yes, it would be nice if someone unexpectedly picked up the tab; But this is the real world, so just be happy with the icy beverage and spicy wings, anything beyond that is a bonus.

If the last memory you have of your workweek is cocktails and appetizers, it might be enough to lure you back to the hive on Monday, worker bee. Can't hurt, can it?


In future days, we'll examine more advanced techniques of Fridaying, like calling in sick, and sneaking out early. Keep your Friday on!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Life Is How You Look At It

Do you have one of those people in your life that always seems happy, cheerful, and optimistic?
Ok, if it truly is ALWAYS, perhaps their medication needs adjusting, or maybe you can rub their belly for luck, because they're leading a charmed life. Perhaps that person is just a grinning idiot.

But I think that the people who are generally happy, and smiling are on to something; In the words of modern day philosopher, Eric Idle, "Always look on the bright side of life".
Notice the little things
Life isn't always easy, things aren't always good, and we can get bogged down thinking about all the things that are wrong in our lives and in the world. We can't ignore these negative things, because they are part of our life experience, and it's okay to be sad, or angry, and even to feel sorry for yourself. But don't let those negative feelings block out the positives in your life. Don't let those negatives become who you are. I say this, because I've struggled at times; for twenty years I've been self employed. and there have been many highs and lows. Sometimes the lows seem to outlast the highs, and make me doubt myself, make me feel down.
Look up, feel the wonder
My wife often has advice for me, sometimes it's in the form of a questioning critique, "Why'd you park way out here?" or "Why'd you go this way?" I could live without those interactions, but sometimes she is right. That's what I said: she's right, like when she tells me "Stop worrying so much" or "think positive" or "be open to opportunity" or "don't assume the worst". She also says a lot of other things that remind me of Charlie Brown's teacher, but let's not get distracted, the point here is we will see the world the way we want to.
Have some silly fun
If we can look for the good, focus on the positives, and believe that good things are coming our way, we will likely find that things do work out.

We all have a multitude of reasons to be happy and grateful, remember yours.

Life is beautiful.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Prediction: You're Gonna Love Meghan Patrick

Just a couple weeks ahead of the release of Grace & Grit, the debut solo album by Canadian country artist Meghan Patrick (due out on April 29th), I am willing say that you're gonna love it.

The album is packed from end to end with songs that could be radio singles, and the sound is well polished and produced. There are some pretty big names that have lent a hand on this record, including Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, who co-wrote and produced her first single - Bow Chicka Wow Wow

Meghan, I hope you've got your seat belt on, because you're poised for a ride to the stars.


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

No, YOU'RE immature!

Can you imagine, there are people who have suggested that I'm immature? To those people, I say "I know you are, but what am I?" Best comeback ever, I've been using it since second grade.

I admit, I am the friend who will laugh at you when you fall... after I know that you're not seriously injured, of course... but still, I have been known to laugh at inopportune times.

If you unwittingly drop a double entendre, I will reply with "Phrasing", just like my cartoon hero, Sterling Archer; If you do it intentionally, I'll give you a blank stare, like I have no idea what you're talking about.

If we're at the pub, having lunch, and you are ignorant to the big smear of ketchup on your shirt, I'll hold off for the waitress to clue you in... If she's too shy / polite to say anything, that's when I'll point it out, in front of her, of course.
Marginally relevant image -
Do these things make me immature? Maybe, but I think too many people take themselves, and life in general, too seriously. Don't get me wrong, I want the pilot to be sober while the passengers have mile high happy hour. I don't want the surgeon to flip a coin on which of my livers to remove... O_o ... or whatevs. As is the case with so much of life, it's like a Kenny Rogers lyric, "you gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em".

I try to treat people the way I'd like to be treated, so you won't likely see me be willfully hurtful to another, though my sense of humour might be a little darker than some can appreciate. Those people will be among my acquaintances, not my friends.

There have even been formal studies that demonstrate the healing benefits of laughter, reducing stress, and even triggering the release of mood enhancing hormones. Surely, it can't hurt to have a little fun. Lighten up, man!

Finally, 51% because I want you to be happy, and 49% because I've been looking for an excuse to include this video here again somehow... Please enjoy some Michael Bolton. Cheers! to my friends and blah! to the haters. Now back to the good part!

Monday, 1 February 2016

John Scott Doesn't Need Anyone To Stick Up For Him, But We Will

If you're a hockey fan, you're probably well aware of the recent NHL All-star Game "controversy" of fan vote favourite John Scott, Captaining the Pacific Division Team. There are many among the NHL brass, who didn't want to see the 6'8", 270 lb. giant take to the ice with the league's elite.

At first glance, Bettman and his cronies appear to have a point; If you're not familiar with John Scott, and someone told you he had 5 career NHL goals, over 285 career games, in 8 seasons, with 6 different teams, while amassing 542 penalty minutes, you'd probably make some assumptions, rightly - that he's not there for his soft hands; and wrongly - that he's a neanderthal, with nary a thought beyond his next gladiator battle.

Maybe it is difficult for the NHL front office to do, but let's forget his statistics, they don't tell the whole truth. A simple message to the NHL... Don't give the fans a vote, if you can't live with their decision.

I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised to read Mr. Scott's recent contribution to The Players' Tribune blog, to find that he has an engineering degree, and is acutely aware of his (increasingly rare) role in the professional hockey world. If you haven't seen it, take a moment to read  "A Guy Like Me"; It's more than worth the time.
What likely started with a group of guys drinking a little too much beer as they filled in their fan votes for the All-star Game, thinking "wouldn't it be funny if John Scott were there to rag-doll a couple of the pretty boy goal scorers?", turned into genuine grassroots support of a colossal underdog. When it became clear that Scott had the votes to put him into the line up (and make him captain), it seemed to embarrass the NHL. And they further embarrassed themselves trying to keep John Scott out of the All-star spotlight. I'm thrilled, but not surprised, that he wouldn't back down. You don't stick around as an NHL tough guy for that long, by backing down.

In this instance, I think the biggest failure of the National Hockey League was to recognize that there are a lot of folks who can identify with Scott, and the need to fight for a place at the table. We might watch, dreamily transfixed, as Ovechkin or Malkin dangle the puck on a string; But grinding away, doing our little part in order to feed our families is a much more familiar spot for most of us. And after all, why the f@ck not let a 33 year old man eyeing the end of his career on the ever growing horizon, live a couple days above his pay grade?

Scott played. He scored twice. His team won.

In the end, the scoreboard read: John Scott 1 - Gary Bettman 0

While Bettman was gritting his teeth behind a forced showman smile, as he handed over the oversized novelty cheque for the $1,000,000 payday, recipient John Scott's grin was as genuine as the love that the fans and his fellow all-star players were heaping upon him.
With 17,000+ fans cheering "Scott... MVP", the NHL was again forced to yield, and John Scott, with his 5 career goals and 542 penalty minutes, skated off with another unlikely award. Even if the ride is over, not The Commish nor any other stuffed custom business suit, can ever take that experience away from John Scott... and he didn't even need to pull Bettman's jersey over his head to make the point.

Cheers to John Scott, tough guy, engineer, father, husband, all-star, MVP, and human being!