Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Summer Vacation Is Almost Here!

Knowing that there are 8 days left in my kids' school year, and that field trips, parties, and make work projects will occupy most of that time, the obvious question of "what are we gonna do with the kids?" has surfaced again.

Summer camps? I suppose so, and there are a wide range of options, NAIT, the University of Alberta, and YMCA, all have some interesting day camps. Practically speaking, 2 kids x 8 weeks x $250 to $300 per camp = carry the four... cha-ching... O_O ... Not a viable solution.

Maybe we could let life imitate art, and the kids could re-enact their favourite Phineas and Ferb episodes? We could use a roller coaster in our yard or some sort of -inator. However, in the real world, the laws of physics and potential liability concerns prevent this solution from proceeding further.

The 9 year old would be content to play Minecraft all summer, and while she does fashion some rather amazing structures out of her virtual blocks, I'd be worried that she'd end up pixelated too.
Our 13 year old would coast through the summer posting and commenting on social media, but I'd rather see him climb a tree than ROFL.

Summer is short, so let's get out there and have some fun! My wife's work schedule isn't as flexible as mine, so she'll be chained to her desk (just figuratively - I think), while I'll be cannon-balling into the Stony Plain pool, and having ice cream with the children. What? Like you wouldn't if you could.

That said, summer's not just about the kids. There will also be ample time for more adult oriented recreation. Here's my recipe for summer fun:

1. Take two parts sunny patio
2. Add the shade of one large umbrella
3. Order a beer, or a rum drink if you'd prefer that tropical feel
4. Cheers with friends
5. Add hot wings or nachos if desired
6. Repeat steps 3 - 5 as seems reasonable

May your days be sunny, drinks be plentiful and icy, 
and may you have the opportunity to share them with the people you love.

Monday, 8 June 2015

On Top Of The World

When my 13 year old son, Oscar, invited me to be his guest at the Imagine Dragons concert, I was pretty happy. Truthfully I wasn't his first choice, but when his lifelong friend couldn't go, due to other commitments, I got the nod. Too bad for you, Tate.

I knew the band well enough to name a half dozen songs going into it, and was aware that they are from Las Vegas. I also knew that they are one of my kids' favourite bands, I've heard Radioactive enough times, I could probably perform it myself. Okay, maybe not.

Rexall Place was busy when we got there, and the crowd expanded though entertaining performances by Halsey, and then Metric. By the time Imagine Dragons took the stage, the building was packed.

It was loud, and the energy palpable. Which is exactly how the bass felt in my chest. Oh god! I hope that's the bass, at my age it could also be a coronary event.

The Dragons are a tight and talented band, and they delivered exactly the show that their young fans were looking for. I couldn't help but be impressed by the way the band swelled to 14,000+ members, as the crowd joined in the chorus of On Top Of The World, and I Bet My Life.

Watching my son's joy and enthusiasm at witnessing his first live rock concert, brought me an equal measure of happiness, and soon I found myself singing along to the infectious choruses. And now, I too am a fan of Imagine Dragons.

Thanks Oscar, for letting me join you, it felt like I was, yup, On Top Of The World.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Smile For You

This is a comic strip from Calvin and Hobbes, by the brilliant Bill Watterson.

It makes me smile, and I hope it does the same for you.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

What I Learned From Boko Haram Kidnappings

Usually, I like to be right. It's nice to know that I can anticipate the outcome of an event, like a Super Bowl, or predict the "plot twist" in the evening's 44 minute television crime drama. But today, I sadly say I was right.

2014 Demonstration in Nigeria - from 2014 Demonstration in Nigeria - from

You see, it was a year ago that the social media world briefly united, interlocking arms and thrusting #BringBackOurGirls into the top of the trending terms. And for good reason, Nigerian terrorists Boko Haram had boldly snatched away nearly 300 girls from their families in a mass kidnapping that caught the news and inspired outrage in every decent human being on the planet with access to a news feed.

Even as I was tweeting along with everyone else, I knew that #BringBackOurGirls wouldn't bring back the girls. Boko Haram didn't pop up over night, and the abductions weren't their first foray into kidnapping of young girls, nor young boys for that matter. Some social media experts will argue that the bulge of Tweets and Facebook posts brought massive attention to this tragedy and forced action. I saw photos of Michelle Obama holding a sign that read #BringBackOurGirls, and I'm sure that as a parent, her heart ached along with the rest of us. I know that government leaders around the globe had advisers researching what to do.

Could we free these girls through social influence? No. Could we pressure our governments into pressuring other governments in Nigeria and the surrounding region to action. No. Well, yes, maybe we could have. We could have, if the focus remained on #BringBackOurGirls. Now to be fair to the foreign ministers of whichever country you want to point the finger at, and even to the Nigerian government, you have to remember that Boko Haram are terrorists, who kidnap girls and women to enslave them and be used in servitude of their cause. They kidnap boys and men threatening them with death if they don't adopt the cause and fight along side of them. These people use their kidnap victims as human shields when faced with opposing forces, so imagine how difficult it would be to launch any effective rescue mission, or negotiate any release of the abducted. This is a complicated issue. Acknowledged.

And then our attention was diverted elsewhere, many elsewhere's.

So here we are, a year later, and I started my day following a link on Twitter, and reading a news story reminding us of the horrific kidnapping, and in the time that I've been typing this post, I see that hundreds of new tweets have again shown support in using the hashtag, and again I know that it will do no good. Not unless your support of #BringBackOurGirls is sustained and in tangible form. Write letters to your members of parliament, or senators, or governors, your president, prime minister, or whoever you can. But we have to do it on a sustained basis, and then, some day a long time from now, with continued effort, the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria will be eliminated.

There are thousands of good causes out there that need support, and there's no way we can support them all, not in meaningful ways. When something strikes you as important, act on it, do something to contribute. I'm not saying don't tweet it, or post it, or talk about it; But we need to do more than retweet the hashtag for the cause of the day while we wait in the queue for our venti latte or while sitting in the drive-thru for a large double-double, or we risk that as we flit to the next cause and hashtag, that we forget those girls.

I guess I wrote this piece because I feel bad that we didn't do more, that I didn't do more. Actions speak louder than words. I guess I learned something: Don't just talk about doing good or making change, DO IT.

Monday, 23 March 2015

How The World's Strongest Redneck Helped Me, Help You

Inspiration takes many forms. Sometimes it's easy to connect the dots, like the beauty that Claude Monet found in his first wife, Camille; Or like Eric Clapton's desire for Pattie Boyd (who was George Harrison's wife at the time) helping old Slowhand convey his emotions in the classic Layla. Often there's a practical approach: "here's the problem, let's find a solution", like Joseph Salk and the world changing polio vaccine. Upon occasion, discovery and inspiration are the product of crossing paths of seemingly random forces, as the folks at Reese's can surely attest.

It's fair to say that my brief interaction with Steve McGranahan (@wsredneck) on Twitter today is an accidental inspiration, and not the workings of the muse of the lovelorn artist. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that Steve's a great dude, but honestly, I couldn't paint my way out of kindergarten. However, in less than 140 characters, Steve's brilliant insight into the human condition pushed my little red wagon of thinkin' down the biggest hill in town. Here's a recap from Twitter:

Spark of Inspiration;  from Twitter Spark of Inspiration; from Twitter

When Steve commented on the pothole situation in Ohio, suggesting that the state might want to highlight the road breaks to assist motorists, I thought about our own road conditions in and around Edmonton, and what that might look like. I came to the conclusion that the whole road might look yellow, or blue, or red, or green, or whatever colour the City chooses to fix the potholes with.

This is stream of consciousness problem solving at it's best.

Twister. Ah ha!!! Don't pick just one colour, use them all, that way motorists could easily differentiate the potholes whilst navigating between them (if they're ridiculously agile and talented drivers). For those who are unfamiliar with Twister, it's a game, with rows of multi-coloured circles, and participants try to... Maybe it'd just be easier to show you? This particular video isn't in English, but it's a simple enough game that I think you'll get the idea.

You might ask, why painting potholes is the right solution to the cavernous gouges littering our roadways?

I'm glad you asked, here's the answers to that very question:

1. Painting is cheaper - because less machinery is required, and unskilled workers could easily apply the colouring

2. It will look pretty - from a distance, a roadway decorated with multi-coloured patches may even take on an impressionist styled appearance (think Monet)

3. It is fun - did you watch the Twister video? Hell yeah, that looks like fun!

Today I think we've learned that we don't need any high priced think tank undertakings, or even a formal mandate to solve real world problems. Astute observation and creativity of everyday folks will go a long towards making the world a better place.

So get to work, and think you some thinks. I personally find that I do some of my best thinking with a beer in hand.


Friday, 20 March 2015

Shania Twain Is Coming To My House For Ice Cream

Oops! That was a typo, it should say she's going on tour, but this is my blog so Imma tell it my way.

If you're a music fan, and live in Canada, you probably know that Shania Twain is gonna "Rock This Country" with a tour, for the first time in over a decade.


That's big news, because Ms Twain has helped shape the music landscape in this country and sold over 75 million albums worldwide, and because for 20+ years Shania Twain and I have had "a thing". Okay, maybe it's more truthful to say that I've had a thing for Shania, but can you blame me? Tell me she don't impress you much.

So beyond the chart-busting hits, mega-selling albums, and our long standing relationship; I'm excited for Rock This Country, because Wes Mack will be the opening act for the Canadian dates.

Wes is a super-talented young man, and is going to break big because of the exposure of being lead blocker for Shania's coast to coast rush (Sorry, for the sports analogy). I saw Wes last fall at the CCMA fanfest, and was impressed by his presence. It's nice to see him get the spotlight on a big stage like this. Twenty years from now, you can say "I saw Wes Mack when he opened for Shania... before he was big-time."
 Wes Mack and  Jeff Johnson - 2014 CCMA Fanfest Wes Mack and Jeff Johnson - 2014 CCMA Fanfest;  photo: BigDaddySaid[/caption]

Mr. Mack's latest single - Before You Drive Me Crazy - is a great tune, and is getting heavy radio play in advance of the tour. You can check out the video below, which was also directed by Wes. Yeah, as I've said before, he's a multi-talented guy (But I can still probably drink beer better. So, no, I'm not jealous; Not one bit).

People, if you're so lucky as to get your hands on a ticket for what will undoubtedly be a sold out tour, Rock This Country will surely rock your world.

Now, will that be chocolate or vanilla, Ms Twain?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Venn Diagrams, Hugh Hefner & The Maytag Repairman; My Life Working FromHome

As 2014 ended, I made the transition from a daily commute to an office, to working at home. 3 months in, and I have real mixed feelings.

Positive: No driving in poor conditions, save money on parking and gas, start answering email before I would even make it to the office, and I have my coffee from a fancy French Press.

Negative: Some days lack structure and direction, numerous distractions of home, blurring of work / home responsibilities, and massive spike in my Cheez Whiz consumption.

And truly, I am unsure which category to put wearing pyjamas while working...

Let's call it positive, after all, it works for Hugh Hefner.

Hef and Paris;
Hef and Paris;

Overall, the pluses outweigh the minuses, as eliminating the driving has added a couple of hours to my day. The question is how do I spend that time? Some days, it has allowed me to complete a heavy day's work, without staying late at the office, other days I've managed to accomplish a couple of household tasks that might otherwise have been postponed until a weekend day where an uncommon combination of ambition and opportunity cross paths. (Insert Venn Diagram, resembling the proximity of Neptune to Uranus ... whatever that means)

One slow day at the home office, I decided to tackle the chore of fixing the clothes washer. For a period that surely could be measured in weeks, the performance of our washing machine had been declining, to the point where it wouldn't complete a cycle without hanging up with a couple of errors.

Consult Google, to find out what the error code means - revealing a problem with the pump. Check in with YouTube to see if anyone else has encountered a similar issue and had the presence of mind to record their experiences. If you take time to think about it, the family washing machine is put through some pretty serious torture. Over the last 5 years, it's probably cleaned over a thousand loads of laundry. I figured if I could repair it, perhaps it could do another thousand?

Long story short, I removed the pump, extracted a surprising volume of refuse from said pump, re-installed it, and crossed my fingers while a "test" cycle was completed without incident. I won't describe the sensory stimuli that I encountered in this task, but I have to share the photo I snapped of the assortment of treasures I pulled from the pump. Quite remarkable, really. Yes, that is a sock, along with the coins, Lego, and dryer sheets. Definitely a "WTF?" moment of discovery.

photo (3)

And now I know why the Maytag Repairman is so lonely: He insists upon showing people the stuff he's recovered from their appliances. Fortunately for me, I'm much more charming. O_o

Even better, the washer works, just like brand new. Cause for celebration.

Oh, that reminds me, one more positive to working at home. Happy Hour starts now.