Monday, November 26, 2012

NUMBERS TELL THE STORY


When talking about various things, money in particular, people throw numbers around that are so large we can’t even comprehend how big they are. Here are some examples: if you were counting at a rate of one number per second it would take you 11 days, 13 hours, 46 minutes and 50 seconds, of continuous counting, to count to a million.
            Counting non-stop, again, at one number per second, again, it would take you 31 years, 251 days, 7 hours, 46 minutes and 39 seconds to count to 1 billion. A trillion is 1000 billion so approximately 31,000 years from now you’d be closing in on the end of counting to a trillion. If you didn’t stop, that is.
            Now that we have a little perspective on the massive size of these numbers I’ll give you some statistics that I’ve recently read.
            The National Hockey League’s estimated revenue for the 2011 season, after the Stanley Cup playoffs, was around 3 billion dollars. No wonder these guys are fighting it out to the last greedy little nickel when these are the kind of numbers that they are negotiating over. To me, the problem is that there’s no revenue for anybody to squabble over while there’s a lockout and it shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that their Collective Bargaining Agreement was running out, you know? But, then again, what the heck do I know? They’re the smart ones, aren’t they?
            The NHL’s revenue is chicken feed compared to the kind of bucks being collected by the National Football League, though. Their revenues were an estimated 7.6 billion dollars in 2007, (or roughly 245 years of continuous counting). In 2011 the revenue had increased to 9.5 billion and leaked documents from the league’s office have revealed that they are shooting for 25 BILLION dollars in revenue by 2027. You can do the math on that one!
            Now, in the category of …HUH?? The United States Government is 16.3 TRILLION dollars in debt, at the very moment that I am writing this, and that number is growing every second. Who do they owe it to? Your guess is as good as mine and it’s so convoluted that I am not sure if you gathered the smartest mathematic and economic wizards and geniuses from around the world and put them into one room you’d ever get a straight answer from any of them either.
            In comparison, Canada’s current national debt is $594,944,869,323.47. Five-hundred-and-ninety-four billion, nine-hundred-and-forty-four million, eight-hundred-and-sixty-nine-thousand-three-hundred-and-twenty-three-dollars and forty-seven cents. Whew! Five-hundred-and-ninety-five-billion dollars is almost nothing compared to the Americans’ debt! We’re barely half-way to a trillion dollars.
            Again, when Rocco and Bubba come a calling to collect on our debt, and I’m not exactly sure who they’d be collecting for and, again, some financial wizard will probably have it all figured out as to what goes where and who gets what, that’s if anyone was ever going to pay anybody back because, at this point, how could you? You know, pay it back. But now I’m just starting to hurt my head here so I’d better close this thing out.
            Numbers, statistics, millions, billions and trillions…bantered about willy-nilly like so many pennies in a jar. Confusing, confounding, incomprehensible but always informative…numbers.
            “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”- George W. Bush 43rd President of the United States of America. (1946-).

Monday, November 12, 2012

NEW STUFF

Hi there Faithful Reader (s)...I know in order for any traffic to come to my blog-site I'm supposed to post something daily but life, and well-honed procrastination skills, sometimes delays me doing that. However, that said, I am posting some new material here. Have a look. I will vow, once again, to keep up this thing on a more regular basis but we all know how that's going to go. I'm going to try to keep trying. 

HOW COLD IS IT?!

Here’s something that you may not know. I’m a Hyperbolist. What is a Hyperbolist, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s not an actual word, per se, until now, that is, but according to Perrypedia: “A Hyperbolist is a person who uses great exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally.”


In fact, one time my hyperbolic tendencies led to an embarrassing situation for one of my children. I had been telling stories around our supper-table one night and I was saying how one of my Aunt Marys, (I had three), had something like thirty-five kids and they lived in a little house blah, blah, blah…Well, because I exaggerated in most of my stories I didn’t think too much about it until Nolan came home from school the next day, I think he was in grade two or three so he really didn’t quite have a firm grip on the “not meant to be taken literally” part, and he said how everyone laughed and laughed at him because he said his Dad’s Aunt Mary had thirty-five kids and of course nobody believed him! Poor little guy. I had a bit of explaining to do after that one. I still feel bad for him. Sorry Nolan.

I guess I was influenced by some great story telling Hyperbolists while I was growing up, like Mark Twain-from Old Times on the Mississippi-“I was helpless. I did not know what in the world to do. I was quaking from head to foot, and could have hung my hat on my eyes, they stuck out so far." Or Bill Cosby who talked about his kindergarten experiences where he was writing “with a pencil as big as a horse’s hoof on paper so raw it still had pieces of wood in it.” And Johnny Carson’s use of hyperbole was so well known that audience members would prompt him to use it. Johnny: “It sure was hot in Burbank today.” Audience: “HOW HOT WAS IT?” Johnny: “It was so hot I saw a robin dipping his worm in Nestea.”

We Canadians are well known for our hyperbolic statements about Canada’s cold weather as in “it’s so cold outside that we had to chisel the dog off of the lamppost”, or, “it’s so cold outside I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets”, ba dum dum tish. That last one isn’t really a great example of hyperbole but it sure is funny.

As Winter is already here I will give you a few more examples of “How Cold Is It?”

Here we go…

It’s so cold: “I'm shivering like a mobster in a tax office.”

It’s so cold: “You light a candle and the flame freezes.”

It’s so cold: “Your shadow freezes to the sidewalk.”

It’s so cold: “When I turned on the shower I got hail.”

It’s so cold: “You have to break the smoke off of your chimney.”

It’s so cold: “You have to open the fridge to heat the house.”

It’s so cold: “Your false teeth chatter…and they are still in the glass”

It’s so cold: “Jennifer Anniston was downgraded from ‘Hot’ to ‘Tepid’.”

It’s so cold: “Only people named “Ed” and “Bob” have enough time to write their names in the snow.”

It’s so cold: “A flasher was caught “describing” himself to women.”



“All comedy is based on exaggeration, big or small, whatever you can get away with.”- Drew Carey. (1958-).

LEST WE FORGET.

November immediately brings two things to my mind…well, three…I guess, the inevitable entrance of Winter, Remembrance Day and the Dale Blackstock Memorial Hockey Tournament. Two of these three things I look forward to. You want to guess which two I like? Not Winter? Good guess.


Remembrance Day has always been near and dear to me. Although my father didn’t see active duty overseas he was in the military during World War II and he became a long-time member of the Royal Canadian Legion. Dad taught his family to respect all of those who had sacrificed so much so all of us could enjoy so much.

Growing up in the 1960’s it was hard not to be reminded of the costs of war. While the world was still trying to get over the devastation of the Second World War there were still many conflicts going on around the globe. Africa, the Middle East, Vietnam, Central America and, of course, the Cold War which was a really weird kind of war because it didn’t have an actual battle ground, per se, it was fought in a different kind of way and it inspired so many books, TV shows and movies and kept many of us worried that the end of the world could be this close every day.

Mankind has proven time and again that it is really good and really consistent in creating war. Maybe it’s God’s plan to keep the herd weeded, or something, but my hope is that we will eventually learn from our history and that, in time, we will finally put an end to this madness. That is why we all need to take the time for remembrance and hope and pray that future generations will not relive our mistakes.



November also reminds me of the past twenty-six years of Dale Blackstock Memorial Hockey Tournaments. Twenty-six tournaments? Wow, how time flies, eh? I won’t be able to strap on the skates again this year but that won’t stop me from spending a good portion of the weekend at the rink catching up with old teammates, rivals and friends from years past. We’ll share some memories, (actual and made-up), and maybe a wobbly pop or two. I can hardly wait.

There is one sure way of putting winter out of mind and that is to stay as busy as possible and that won’t be a problem on the weekend of the 9th, 10th and 11th of November. Between the Dale Blackstock Memorial Tournament, Remembrance Day and the Roughrider’s playoff game in Calgary on the 11th there won’t be a shortage of activities to wile away the hours. No wonder time flies by so quickly.



“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”- H.G. Wells. (1866-1946).

NO WONDER THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US!

Hmmmmm…what to talk about, what to talk about, let’s see…you know, there’s just so much…like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” or the Iowa jeweler who’s offering a free rifle to anyone who spends at least two-thousand dollars on an engagement ring or Hurricane Sandy or, more precisely, the idgit reporters covering the thing. How about we talk a little bit about all of the above, shall we?


Have you seen the TV show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” which airs on the TLC channel? No? Then don’t! Please don’t. I beg of you. I watched it for fifteen minutes and I lost 10 points off of my IQ. Seriously! Ben, a peer-age friend of mine said, “We were raised not to point and snicker at folks like this and now they’re being shown as ‘Entertainment’!” This show is a clear sign that the Apocalypse is upon us.

According to Wikipedia: “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is a reality television program on TLC that features beauty pageant participant Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, along with her mother June Shannon, father Mike Thompson and her three older sisters. The show is mostly filmed in and around the family’s hometown in rural McIntyre, Georgia, USA. The Thompson’s originally gained fame appearing on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, (more mind-sucking caca [my words not Wikipedias]), which follows the lives of child beauty pageant contestants and their families.”

While some critics claim that this show is “pure exploitation” others praise June Shannon “for her ‘keen business sense’ with which she feeds her family on $80 a week by clipping copious coupons, playing Bingo, exploiting roadkill (???) and acquiring child support checks from each of her four children’s fathers (????).” Tsk, tsk, tsk…we’re doomed.

Then there’s the story of Iowa jeweler Harold van Beek who wanted to “do something for the boy who doesn’t like to hunt for diamonds but likes to hunt for deer.” His store, “Jewelry By Harold”, (nice ring to it, eh? haw, haw, pun totally intended) is giving away a gun for every $1,999.99+ engagement ring sold. Insert announcers voice here, “the rifle offer is subject to Iowa laws on gun ownership, those barred from this offer include felons and addicts.” Oh, thank God! And you wonder why the Excited States of America’s gun-related deaths are eight times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it. Wow!

Okay, now, before I question the sanity of the reporters who feel compelled to stand in the middle of a Hurricane to give us “Eye Witness News”, while debris, medium sized animals and small cars are being swept away in the background, I’ve got another question to ask…who named this thing? Hurricane Sandy?! Really? Sandy? I guess it’s not the worst name for a nasty tropical storm, (I’ve looked them up), Fifi doesn’t exactly conjure up images of something ferocious either, I guess; Klaus or Hortense, maybe, or even Katrina, but Sandy? I get an image of a beach band’s shaggy-haired drummer or a blue-eyed, blonde-haired All-Canadian kind of girl. Come to think of it, why and when did they start using names to define a terrible, terrible storm? Years ago: “Awww, we better take cover there’s a hell of a Jim goin’ on out there!” Why? Why not number them? Or how about Roman numerals like the Super Bowl games and they can confuse us with numbers like XLIX (49 for those of us Roman numerically challenged)?

So, now, back to the reporters, I think every comedy show in recent history has lampooned these Extreme Reporters who stand in the wind-driven rain in their plastic rain gear and rubber boots, hanging on to their fisherman’s floppy hats while they’re screaming into the microphone about how dangerous it is for anyone to be out in this kind of thing and that everyone should take shelter or evacuate or, basically, GET OUT OF THE STORM!! Thanks for needlessly putting your life on the line for us and all, but geez, there’s got to be limits.

That’s how I’ve seen the world this week…You know what? I’m writing this on a Full Moon night. Figures.

GOTCHA!

Once again, as Halloween is fast approaching, we find “political correctness” attempting to intervene on the centuries old fun holiday of Halloween. While school districts and parents conduct their annual fight over what should or should not be allowed for Halloween fun I will continue to re-live all of the great memories I have of Halloweens past. The trick-or-treating, the costume parties, the jack o’lanterns, good ol’ bobbing for apples, horror flicks, scary stories and Halloween pranks all carried on at home and at school.


I remember this one time when I was taking our kids trick-or-treating from house to house here in Kipling and as we approached Martin and Lois Dundas’ front door we were admiring what a great job they had done with the scarecrow sitting dead-still on the bench near the sidewalk. You can imagine our surprise and terror as the thing sprang to life with a scream when we were only a few feet away! Grant, the Dundas’ oldest son, had decided a little Halloween prank was in order and worked the trick to great success over and over again that night. I cannot remember if we turned and ran, after screaming and screaming, or continued on to the door for the kid’s treats but I do know that the trick’s desired effect was not wasted on us! Yikes!

One of the greatest Halloween pranks of all time was conducted on October 30th, 1938. The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American Radio Drama anthology series The Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series and aired over the CBS radio network. The episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel, The War of the Worlds, and it was directed and narrated by actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.

Keep in mind that in 1938 there was no, or very limited, television, no internet, no instant messaging and radio was the only means of receiving immediate news. Also bear in mind that Hitler and the Nazi’s were stirring up a lot of trouble in Europe and the threat of war had been on the world’s mind, front and centre, for months. So the atmosphere was ripe.

The first two thirds of the sixty minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress. The Mercury Theatre on the Air also ran without commercials adding to the show’s realism. Many people were duped and panicked and there were sensationalist accounts in the press about the supposed panic in response to the broadcast but the precise extent of listener response has been debated ever since.

In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who had believed that the events described in the program were real. The program’s news-bulletin format was described as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast and the episode secured Orson Welle’s fame.

Many listeners even sued the network for “mental anguish” and “personal injury” but all suits were dismissed, except for a claim for a pair of black men’s shoes (size 9B), by a Massachusetts man, who spent his shoe money trying to escape the Martians. Welles insisted the man be paid.

Although many were panicked and believed in the “invasion” those who would have listened to the broadcast to its conclusion would have heard Welles close out the broadcast with the following disclaimer:

“This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that "The War of The Worlds" has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet (or as a scarecrow!!) and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!

Starting now, we couldn't soap all of your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night... so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the C. B. S. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business.

So goodbye everybody, and remember please, for the next day or so, the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian... it's Halloween.”



SURPRISE INVENTIONS.

As a very recent user of hearing aids my curiosity got the best of me so I did some research into the invention of hearing aids and their evolution to today’s state-of-the-art models and I was surprised to learn that folklore holds that Alexander Graham Bell undertook telecommunication experiments in an attempt to restore his wife Mabel’s hearing which had been destroyed by Scarlet Fever close to her fifth birthday leaving her completely deaf for the remainder of her life. I was also surprised to discover that Mabel Bell’s maiden name was Hubbard. I knew that hearing loss runs in the family but could it be?? I’ll have to Ancetry.com that one to see what I can find. I am sure that A. G. Bell would probably flip his lid if he were to find out what a phone can do now, eh?! Or hearing aids, for that matter.


While researching the history of hearing aids I came across a number of useful and popular inventions that got their start as a search for something entirely different, usually as enhancements for the tools of war or something, but many final results resulted in everyday items. The following are examples of accidental inventions.

Microwave ovens: Percy Spencer was a known electronics genius who was responsible for vast improvements to the manufacturing of radar parts for the war effort in 1941. He was an engineer at Raytheon in 1945 when he started fiddling with a microwave-emitting magnetron and melted a candy bar in his pants pocket! Good thing that was all that melted in his pants, but I digress. Spencer observed that the microwave radiation from the magnetron was responsible for the chocolate bar’s melting. Development of the microwave oven grew out of these observations, and by 1947, a commercial oven was being sold by Raytheon. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Percy!!

Slinky: In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer at William Cramp and Sons Shipyards, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas. James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring stepped to a stack of books, to a table top, to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright. James thought that with the right tension and property of steel he could make the thing walk and after tinkering with it for most of a year he arrived at the final product which got neighbourhood children excited when he showed them. James’ wife Betty named it “Slinky”, (meaning sleek and graceful), after finding the word in the dictionary, and decided that the word aptly described the sound of the metal spring expanding and collapsing. The couple took out a $500.00 loan and introduced the “Slinky” to the public at the American Toy Fair in 1946, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold between 1945 and 2005, and the original Slinky is still a bestseller!

Velcro: The hook-and-loop fastener was conceived in 1941 by Swiss engineer, George de Mestral when the idea came to him one day after returning home from a hunting trip with his dog. Using his microscope, he took a closer look at the burrs of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and the dog’s fur. He noted that there were hundreds of “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop and immediately saw the possibilities of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops. It took a decade to perfect the materials and the loom to create a mechanized process that worked. He submitted his idea for a patent in Switzerland in 1951 and the patent was granted in 1955 but it was another decade before NASA saw the benefits of the “zipperless zipper”. As Velcro only became widely used after NASA’s adoption of it, NASA is popularly — and improperly — credited with its invention.

These are just three of a vast number of products that have been introduced and have stood the test of time after its original purpose either failed or was re-directed. Now you know.

“What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. - Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965). 33rd Vice President of the United States.

Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”- Mark Twain.

So how was your Thanksgiving? Good I hope. Mine was…well…different, I guess. At least it’s the term I’ll choose that, to me, best describes my Thanksgiving weekend.


I am still adjusting to “sharing” our two married children with their in-law families. I am not being nasty here, just selfish. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes, isn’t it? Especially when you selfishly want to spend the special holiday time with your children and their children.

Anyway, due to sharing time we had to wait until Monday for our family Thanksgiving dinner so the rest of the weekend seemed pretty normal to me and that included too many items on the old To-Do list to get done inside and out before Old Man Winter makes his way here.

Now, I’m not sure how your home projects go but ours kind of follows a pattern that defies that fact that my wife and I have been together for thirty-three years and home owners for all but three or four of those years.

First off, you pick a project, or it’s chosen for you, and either way, you don’t really want to do it, so you find little things to do to put off the big thing you are supposed to do until there is just no way to get around doing it so then you give in and accept that the baseball playoffs will not be getting viewed today and if you want to watch the ‘Riders’ game on Monday you’ll have to get something done so you can say you did something so then you can take some time off.

You with me so far? So, then you get things lined up to put that door that you bought last spring into the pantry and of course you’ve got to make a couple of trips to the hardware store first to buy something that you already had, but couldn’t find, so now you’re getting a little testy about the whole thing, you know, missing the ball games and not finding the thingamajiggy and having to go uptown and everything, so now the project is becoming an even bigger pain in your derrière, so you think excessive swearing will help, but it doesn’t, but you think it does so you keep it up until YOU’VE become the derrière pain yourself and you’re told “don’t do it then if it’s going to be that bad”, “No, no, honey, it’ll be fine, it’s just…you know…getting started…mumble, mumble…” head hanging.

Sound familiar? No? Lucky you! Anyway…you get started and get to the point where there’s no turning back so now you have to make the best of it because, in the end, you know HOW to do it you just don’t WANT to do it and then there’s a little bit of a time-frame in there when project is going okay until you inevitably cut yourself with the utility knife or some such injury that gets you swearing again which eliminates any sympathy coming your way so you bandage yourself up and get back at it and the cycle continues…effort equals progress equals calamity equals redoing work or re-bandaging fingers increasing swearing…and around and around we go.

Eventually, the job gets completed and most of the time it does the trick or even exceeds the expectations but the hassle hardly seems worth the result…or is it the other way around? Either way, another task is off the list and we’ll have a few days respite before the cycle begins anew with the next item because there is always going to be a next item.

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”- Mark Twain, a Biography.

Howdy folks. I am in the process of upgrading my blog page so you may have to look around a bit to find what you're looking for. At the ...