Sunday, December 22, 2013

A CHRISTMAS POEM-THE TRIP TO THE MALL!

Here's a little Christmas poem I've thrown together for you.


Three Kings, shepherds and a babe in the manger.

The Eastern star and presents from strangers.

Carols and fruitcakes, poinsettias and holly,

And the chubby little guy so happy and jolly.

Christmas traditions that began years ago,

We follow and add to each year as we go.

Mistletoe, stockings and the nativity scene

Houses decorated in bright red and green.

The Grinch and the reindeer and Christmas cards too.

Candy canes and eggnog, to name just a few.

Now a new Christmas tradition we can add to them all

Is the latest tradition of the trip to the mall.

We could have started earlier to avoid the frustration

If it hadn’t have been for that procrastination.

Our time’s running out because we’ve delayed

So this rushed shopping trip just has to be made.

We’ll scream to the city and jump into the fray

And hope to get it done in one single day.

We brave the cold weather and the traffic so thick

And there’s no way at all that it’s going to be quick.

The parking lot’s jammed and the stores are all too

But we join in the lineups ‘cause there’s nothing we can do.

Now I’m off with a load of some gifts that we bought

But I’ve lost the damned car in this huge parking lot!

Yes, we will all meet up later, that’s what we will do,

But why would you pick the crowded food court zoo?

Now, we’re all back together comparing our lists

And because of the rushing there will be something that’s missed.

But we’ll take what we’ve got, we must get out of here

That’s about all we can take until this time next year.

But despite all the trappings of the trip to the mall

It will usually turn out to be not bad at all.

With the right attitude and a smile on your face

It can sometimes be good to be in the Rat Race.

Too many are alone at this time of year

So we should take all we can from all Christmas cheer.

From the Hubbard Family to you and yours. Merry Christmas!

OFFICE PARTY DO'S AND DON'TS


“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is zipping by us once again. The big day is fast approaching and it seems like there’s still a lot left to do. For many of us it’s a busy, busy time of the year with concerts and parties and decorating and parties and shopping and parties and baking and…

Speaking of parties, I was listening to a talk radio station on the way to work the other day and the early morning on-air personnel were discussing their recent corporate Christmas party. They were comparing what happened at their corporate party to an on-line list of what you are NOT supposed to do at Ye Olde Office Christmas Party. To me, these things should be your regular common sense kind of things, but, as a wise man once told me, “if common sense were so common everybody would have it”. Good point.

I’m sure there may be more than a couple of you out there who are saying that you could have used this information a couple of weeks ago but please keep it in mind for next year’s events if this year’s embarrassments aren’t enough to keep you from repeating the faux pas from the 2013 version of the Company Christmas Party.

Mind you, if everyone followed the list of things not to do there really wouldn’t be a need for a list of the things not to do and there would also be a lot less to talk about when everyone gets back to work after the party.

            The list includes the standard items like keeping your hands off of your co-workers and it tells you to try not to corner the boss and talk his/her ear off and watch how you gossip about the people you work with but that’s just everyday office etiquette if you ask me.

The list also includes items like “don’t get the police involved” which, to me, once again, seems like a pretty good rule of thumb for everyday life. I am a little curious, though, as to what they mean by “involved” but the list is a little short on particulars.

The list also says “don’t under or over dress”. I’m guessing that “under dress” would likely mean scantily clad or showing off that great amount of chest hair you have, or something, but it could also mean don’t wear your coveralls when the party notice says “business casual” and don’t wear the powder blue velour disco tux either.

And then there’s the warning about “inappropriate dancing” which again may mean twerking, (Google it if you don’t know), or suggestive dancing or maybe they mean plain old bad dancing. If you are unsure what “inappropriate dancing is” just stay seated. Please.

The number one thing on the list is the big, big one and if you didn’t do this one then most of the above wouldn’t be happening anyway and, of course, that would be the over-imbibing of the alcoholic beverages. Be wary the “Open Bar”. Do not treat an open bar like a water fountain for bad things can and will happen during a drunken stupor. I believe we have recently seen evidence of that, haven’t we? Hmmm, I wonder how the Toronto City Hall Christmas Party went?

I hope you had a great non-embarrassing Office Party, if you had one at all, and just be careful if you haven’t had one yet, but in any event, have a safe, wonderful and Merry Christmas. From my family to you and yours.

“What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”-Phyllis Diller. (1917-2012).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS


I’m going to be talking to you about numbers this week. Of course, numbers are extremely important to everyone. Time, wages, bills, age, height, weight…are all numbers and they impact on everyone’s life all of the time. It seems that there are a number of significant numbers that have recently come to my attention inspiring this week’s theme.

            If you open this edition of the paper on the 12th of December and you are reading this column you will be reading it on my 57th birthday! Thank you, thank you. How nice. Send gifts or cash or both to…just kidding.

            Fifty-seven, eh? That’s not a bad number, I guess. For a classic car! The 1957 Chevy Bel Air Sport Sedan and the 1957 Chevy Nomad station wagon are in a classic car class by themselves. In fact, a couple of my old buddies ran ’57 Chevys back in the day. I racked up more than a few miles in the 1970’s with Ronnie Balogh in his classic black Bel Air and around the same time Tim Morson’s immaculate yellow Nomad could be found in more than one parade around here, too. If you Google the Top 10 American Cars of All Time the picture of a ’57 Chevy comes up. ‘Nuff said.

            This Friday will be the second and last Friday the 13th of 2013. There must be at least 13 reasons why the number 13 is considered unlucky and there are probably even more reasons that Friday the 13th is REALLY unlucky but we just don’t have the time nor the space to cover all of that information so maybe ask any Triskaidekaphobian, (a person with an acute fear of the number 13), and they’ll tell you why 13 is so unlucky. Of course, all of us Rider Priders know that the number 13 was unlucky in the 2009 Grey Cup game but extremely lucky in the 2013 version. Two completely different tales of the 13th man indeed!

            Coincidentally, the Friday December 13th edition of The Citizen will probably hit your mailbox on Thursday the 12th of this week leaving only…count ‘em…13 days ‘til Christmas. I know!

            Here are some other very curious numbers for you. Potash Corp of Saskatchewan announced on December 3rd that they were laying off 1045 employees globally, 440 of which are from their Saskatchewan operations. Getting laid off is never good news but three weeks before Christmas?! Yikes!

If given the choice between being laid off three weeks shy of Christmas, before the bulk of the shopping and spending has been done, (unless your one of those damn keeners, but I digress), or getting a notice on the 3rd of January when the bills are due and the New Year has just begun…I think I’d maybe take the early Christmas Bah Humbug news, don’t you?

Now, let’s get to the most interesting numbers of all…Potash Corp’s CEO, Bill Doyle and four of its key executives had a combined total of $24,310,327.00 in compensation packages in 2012 alone. That was a 28.65% increase over the previous year (stats provided by Morningstar.ca). Bill Doyle alone has been compensated through salaries, bonuses and stock options to the tune of nearly 30 million dollars since 2008! Potash Corp’s Key Executive Compensation for the years 2008-2012 inclusive are a staggering $103,411,583.00. That’s for five people. Just saying.

“It is a sad day for the employees and the company. One that we know is tough on a lot of folks. We have great concern and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that these people are well taken care of.”-Bill Doyle (PotashCorp President and CEO).

Monday, December 9, 2013

MUM...MUM...MUMA MY MOVEMBER!

2013 was the first year that I have fully participated in Movember Madness. If you are unaware as to what “Movember” actually is I will quote from their website- “As an official global charity, Movember’s vision is to have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health. During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of millions of moustaches around the world. Through the power of the moustache, vital funds and awareness are raised to combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges.”


The growing of mustaches, (Mo’s), as a fundraiser was unofficially started in Adelaide, Australia in 1999 and by 2004 the Movember Foundation Charity had been established and now there are over twenty countries hosting Movember charity events annually. Canadians, not surprisingly, are the largest donation contributors of any nation. (Interesting statistics for your information: Canada-173,215 participants=Total money raised-$28,594,193; UK-254,885=$22,562,934; Australia-122,358=$20,189,277; USA-219,151=$20,182,355).

For a first-timer I think my humble efforts in both the mustache growing and the fundraising were pretty decent. While I didn’t manage to get corporate or personal donations amounting to the $131,727 like the top-spot Canadian contributor I’m pretty happy with my few hundred dollars. Wait ‘til next year.

I can always improve my fund-raising techniques but there is only so much one can do in the mustache growing department, I would think. Putting it simply, either you can or you can’t. I had to remind an overzealous, competitive young male co-worker that mustache growing is neither a skill nor a talent. A person’s facial hair will grow where it will grow as fast as it will grow based on your genetics, unless artificially enhanced, of course.

Now, I suppose one could get some hormonal injections or have some back, nostril, eyebrow or other various anatomically located hairs surgically removed and then implanted somewhere on one’s face, if one was so inclined and one had oodles of money to spend on frivolous and foolish type stuff, but I think I’ll just stick to what nature gave me and call it a day. Or 30 days, as it were.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, when men’s hair was long and shaggy and facial hair was even longer and shaggier, the pressure was definitely put on young males to get busy and grow something, you know? I spent years wishing I could grow a decent moustache and a longer time actually growing one that didn’t look like it was penciled in. Being a late bloomer, I was well into my twenties before it finally started to look like something. On the other hand, I know buddies who had sprouted facial hair and were shaving in grade six! And, no, they weren’t 18 years old. Although there was that one guy…oh, nevermind.

My guess is that during Movember it doesn’t really matter what kind of mustache you grow or how long it grows or how salty or peppery it actually is but that you just grow one. And raise some money and awareness of men’s health issues while you do it.

Mustache quotes are hard to come by so I’ll leave you with this one: “I hate it when you give someone a sincere compliment on their mustache and then suddenly she’s not your friend anymore.” Anonymous.

Friday, November 29, 2013

101st GREY CUP GAME!!


The 101st Grey Cup game anticipation started ramping up for me immediately after the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Calgary Stampeders by a score of 35-13in the Western Division Final game played in Calgary on the 17th of November. That win put the Riders in the Grey Cup game which is being hosted in Regina this year. This is the first time in the team's 103 year history that they will be playing in the Grey Cup game at home in Mosaic Stadium (Taylor Field for us old guys). Regina hosted the Grey Cup game in 1995 and 2003 but the Roughriders didn’t make it all the way to the big game in those years.

            The “I can hardly wait” phrases started as soon as the last seconds of the CFL’s Western Division Final game ticked off the clock, too. Try as we might, many of us are guilty of wishing time away with our sight so focused on a distant goal that we forget to live in the present. The older I get the faster time seems to go, too, so I make a determined and conscious effort to not push time forward. Regardless, it is a very, very difficult thing to do when events of this magnitude loom only days away. The waiting is interminable.

            As luck, if one could call it that, would have it, the weather decided to take over centre stage by bringing us January-like weather for Grey Cup week solidifying the rest of the country’s impression that we are in a deep freeze here in good old Sask-at-chee-wan about eleven months of the year. A reality we stubbornly refute while acknowledging that it’s too damn close to the truth! The nasty cold conditions seem to be keeping our minds off of the slowness of the clock as we creep along toward the game-time kickoff of the Roughriders impending destiny as Grey Cup Champions in the last Championship game that will be hosted in Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field.

             It is a well-known fact that the previous Grey Cup parties, and week-long celebrations of the Canadian Football League’s Championship Game in the host city of Regina, are arguably the best the league has ever seen. We sure know how to host a fantastic party for a bunch of “Gappers” (you know, there’s Manitoba and then a GAP and then Alberta, haw, haw, haw).

            Now, we’re at t-minus 5 hours: 31minutes: and 40…39…38…37…seconds to kick off and, as usual, the time has seemed to have flown away from seven long days ago. I am going to leave this article right where it is and go watch a few hours of the pre-game show and then I’ll be back with some closing thoughts after the game. Until later…

            Well, well, well…wasn’t THAT something! WOW! The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the 2013 GREY CUP CHAMPIONS! Again, WOW! Anyone who knows me at all will know that the following statement is a rarity…I am speechless. And a little teary-eyed.

            Of course, I cannot remain speechless forever so on we go. I’m usually not an “I told you so” kind of guy but let’s recall what I wrote in the September 19th edition of this paper shall we-“I, myself, am fully optimistic that the “13th Man” incident from the 2009 Grey Cup game will finally be vindicated in the 101st Grey Cup Game at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Regina on the 24th of November, 2013, and that the true “13th Man/men-women-children” will have much cause to celebrate.” Told you so. You’re welcome.

            Hours old and the whole story has already become the stuff of legend. The freezing cold temperatures of Grey Cup week turn, overnight, into an unbelievably glorious day with sunshine and above zero temperatures and the Riders, despite a third quarter lull, leave little doubt in RiderNation that they will indeed be crowned Grey Cup Champions as they soundly defeat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at home in the last championship game to be played in their historic stadium in front of an overwhelmingly partisan green-clad home crowd. It has been over-stated and over-stated but you just can’t make this stuff up. What a storybook ending it was.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships,”-Michael Jordan (1963-).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

JFK-50 YEARS LATER


There are certain events in history which, for those who were alive at the time of the event, will remain imbedded in their memory for the rest of their lives; whether it was a sporting event, a world catastrophe, great human achievement or the death of an important or famous person.

If your long-term memory is as acute as mine, (it’s strictly genetics folks, my Mom had it, her Mom had it and some of my siblings have this gift/curse), you will remember details of exactly where you were, who you were with, what the weather was like and how others were reacting to the same event. VE Day, the first manned landing on the Moon, Paul Henderson’s goal in the Summit Series in 1972, or the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, are exactly the kinds of events that I am talking about.

            John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas, exactly 50 years ago this Friday. Fifty-years ago and the debate still rages on as to who killed JFK and why, but more on that debate later.

            My Dad, Mom and five of my nine siblings were living in Gravelbourg at the time. My brother Gordie was my closest friend and he was a year-and-a-half older than me. We did everything together. We always walked the five or six blocks to school and home every morning, lunchtime and at the end of the school day, usually with our buddies Bobby Nickish, and Wayne and Walter Schmidt.

            We were always jacking around doing six and seven-year-old stuff, roughhousing and such, and November 22nd, 1963 seemed no different than any other day walking home for lunch. But Gord and I knew that something was up the second we walked through the back door of our house. We were shushed sooner than usual and the seriousness and sorrow in the room made it obvious that something terrible had happened. Did Grandma die? Did someone else in the family die?

            When you’re very young and your parents and older siblings are really upset…you’re upset. What was going on? Dad quietly explained, as best he could to two young boys, about what had transpired in Dallas and at that particular moment there weren’t a lot of details other than the fact that the President of the United States had been shot. Mom and Dad and my older sisters were watching the TV and listening to the radio reports as they were coming in but my brother and I were shooed back to school before President Kennedy was even pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. So many years later, acute memory aside, the memories of that day have faded somewhat but I do recall a solemn walk back to school wondering how such a terrible event could happen at all and who would do such a thing.

            That was the general feeling of most of the free world that day and the helplessness would feed conspiracy theorists for the next five decades. How could a Communist sympathizing, 24 year-old high-school dropout, (ex-marine dropout, by the way, with a US Marines’ shooting test classification of “sharpshooter” in 1956 and “marksman” in 1959), buy a mail-order rifle and shoot the King of Camelot, the American Golden Boy and THE President of the United States? If he wasn’t safe who the heck was? Who was next?

            I’ve read reams and reams of information on the subject and watched numerous documentaries and there is so much information available on the internet now that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to digest it all but I’m leaning towards the “lone gunman theory” regardless of the Conspiracy Theorists.

            You don’t have to believe me, though, do your own research and decide for yourself, if you haven’t already, but before you do check out author Brad Meltzer’s Decoded series for an in depth look at the complete story.

             Fifty years later and the subject will still spark a lively debate. Whether you were alive at the time, or not, the assassination of John F. Kennedy will remain one of the most talked about, tragic and infamous moments in, not just the 20th Century, but in all of human history.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”-John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

SO YOU HAVE SMOKED CRACK!

An old friend who is a peer-age co-worker and happens to share similar political views as I do, also happens to be much more obsessed with the Excited States of America’s political activities than our Canadian politics, because he says that Canadian politics are bland, vanilla, boring, blah, blah, blah, in comparison to the old US of A’s.


Now, granted, they’ve got some interesting stuff going on down there, what with the Republican Party shutting down the government recently and the whole Obamacare thing and then there’s their love of guns and the resulting mass shootings etc.; oh…wait…sorry...”Guns don’t shoot people; people shoot people” yada, yada, yada, (but that’s a debate for another time), so it’s hard not to look over the 49th Parallel fence to see what’s happening in the next door neighbour’s yard, you know? But that was before November 5, 2013, that is.

I will disagree with him completely when he says that politics in Canada are boring and especially on a day when three Canadian Conservative Senators, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were suspended from the Senate without pay or the use of Senate office resources, over allegations of “gross negligence” related to their expense claims, for the remainder of the current parliamentary session, which ends in 2015.

The unprecedented suspensions of the three Senators was overshadowed, if you can imagine any other news overshadowing this kind of action, by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s bombshell admission that he, in fact, HAD “smoked crack cocaine “about a year ago” and had been lying about the whole sordid affair ever since an alleged video of him smoking crack first came to light months ago.

But in his typical Rob Fordian confrontational style he said, “Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But I am not an addict. Have I tried it? Probably…in one of my drunken stupors.” Oh, oh…“drunken stupor”…okay, then…when you put it like that, you know, everything’s better because you were in a drunken stupor at the time and who doesn’t do weird and wacky stuff when they’re in a drunken stupor? That makes all the difference in world, eh? All better now.

As if that admission wasn’t completely lame enough he goes on to say that, “I’ve made mistakes but I love my job, I love this city, I love saving the taxpayer’s money and I love being Mayor.” Isn’t that special? And he continues…”For the sake of the taxpayers…we must get back to work immediately…I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing.” So, you know, shuddup about it already…I’ve already said I made some drunken stupor mistakes…so…are we good? Can we move on? No? What’s the problem?

Ford said he’d work to regain the trust of Toronto residents and that they’d “have a choice to make” in next year’s municipal elections. Only Rob Ford could take an admission of this magnitude and turn it into a campaign pledge! If you Googled “audacity” whose face do you think would come up? Me too.

Before we continue, I will admit to you that I know a little bit about drunken stupors first hand and there are things that have occurred in said stuporous states that maybe I wouldn’t easily admit to either, but, I also don’t think I’m in the minority there…AND, here’s the kicker, I am not the Mayor of the fourth largest city in North America behind only Mexico City, New York City and Los Angeles who has been lying to his 2.8 million constituents for the past six months.

Yes, we Canadians probably cover eighty times as much United States news as they’d ever cover of ours but Rob Ford has changed a lot of that with a few “mistakes” and I’m thinking that the three scandal-ridden Canadian Conservative Senators, Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin, may be just a wee bit happy that he’s stolen some of their contemptuous thunder this time around.



“It is the public scandal that offends; to sin in secret is no sin at all.”- Molière.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

IT'S A SCARY WORLD OUT THERE!


As Halloween is upon us and all things spooky dominate the conversation I harken back to the days of my youth when the Moose Jaw television station we always watched would put on a “Night of Fear” a couple of times a year showing horror movies from dusk ‘til dawn. They would show the standard scary flicks involving monsters and ghosts and aliens and killers of all kinds. Most of our gang of friends would gather at someone’s house to watch as many of the movies as we could before getting too scared or finally giving in to sleep. I always preferred our friends coming to our house so I wouldn’t have to walk home in the dark from someone else’s place.

I was about eleven or twelve-years-old at the time and thoroughly enjoyed being scared and scaring others. In fact, the Hubbard siblings, like every other family I would imagine, would quite often attempt to scare the crap out of each other by jumping out from behind something or chasing each other around with real or manufactured insects or some such scary object. Who didn’t like a good scare?

I don’t know how it works with other people but my interest in horror movies waned years ago. I guess daily life is scary enough for me now so I don’t feel the need to scare myself artificially as much anymore. Canadian winter driving is just about enough to scratch my scary itch nowadays. Paying the bills and worrying about that weird looking mole and losing the satellite signal right at the most crucial time in my favourite show is about all the frightening I require.

Having said all of that, I still have imagination enough, though, to creep myself out when I’m climbing back up the stairs after my three-in-the-morning visit to the loo and imagining a skeletal hand reaching through the banister spindles to grip my ankle as I hurry my goose-bumped self back to bed in the dark.

So what’s with the human fixation on all things spooky and scary? Why do we feel the need to get scared? My research revealed that, “The hormonal reaction we humans get from responding to a threat or crisis is what motivates us to ‘like to be scared’. This is the same flight or fight syndrome which guaranteed our survival in more primitive times. At the moment we are threatened, we have increased strength, power, heightened senses and intuition. This increase in mental and physical capacity is commonly referred to as an ‘adrenaline rush.’ Basically, you can get this feeling defending yourself against a lion in the jungle or sitting in a theatre watching a horror movie. We, as humans, appear to be hard-wired to be drawn to this feeling. It is older than we are as a species, and is tied to our survival; without it, we would have perished and died long ago.”

So that makes sense I guess. Broken down to a simpler form one could say that being scared makes us feel more alive.

While I might not be up for another all-nighter of horror movie watching I can still get a little excited around this time of the year as we indulge ourselves during the spookiest time of the year. Enjoy your Halloween everyone!

“When you’re scared, when you’re hanging on, when life is hurting you, then you’re going to see what you’re really made of.”-Sylvester Stallone (1946-).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

WORKING AT SEEDHAWK INC.

September 11th is the 254th day of the year (255th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, and, of course, it is also the infamous day in 2001 when a series of coordinated terrorist attacks were launched by the Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda, upon the United States in New York City and in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. September 11th also happens to be the date when I started my employment at Seed Hawk Inc in 2006, ensuring that I would not be able to forget either anniversary.

Depending on who you ask, I think I was employee number 38, 39 or 40 because there were a few of us that started around the same time that year. Today, seven very fast years later, there are around 250 employees, give or take a few, and according to the company’s stats, “Seed Hawk’s sales have grown by 700 per cent” since then. Coincidence you ask? I think not...Just kidding.

My employment started just weeks after Seed Hawk Inc had sold a minority share of its business to Väderstad-Verken AB of Sweden, a leading European agricultural equipment manufacturer, and the partnership only enhanced and accelerated the rapid growth that had already begun at Seed Hawk and I am fortunate enough to have come along for the ride.

My employment at Seed Hawk has also paralleled in timeline my guest editorials in this very paper. In another bit of coincidence the Owner/Editor of The Citizen at that time, Mike Kearns, was the person who offered me the opportunity to express my views in a weekly editorial in his paper and now he’s a colleague of mine and a fellow full-time Seed Hawker.

I have always felt conflicted about writing about my full-time employer in these editorials as it may have made me look like a bit of a suck-up, or brownnoser, if you will, and I prefer to do that in person…ha-ha…just kidding again...kind of.

At the same time, though, I have always felt proud about my association with Seed Hawk and I think I may have joined the team a few years too late, but we cannot re-write history can we?

Mike and I are good examples of Seed Hawk’s willingness to set aside any pre-judgments of potential employees at the company, (he and I being of the somewhat-advanced-but-still-lower-middle-aged demographic), regardless of gender, race, religion, colour, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or as mentioned earlier…age, the largest concern is that the potential employee bring a strong work ethic to the work-site. Many, many companies advertise their anti-discrimination rhetoric but Seed Hawk lives it.

So, maybe you are wondering why I chose to write about my full-time employer at this particular time? Well, if you hadn’t heard, Väderstad has recently acquired 100 per cent of Seed Hawk and I felt that it was a good time to acknowledge and thank the original ownership for their dedication to farming science, manufacturing and especially their employees. Thanks Pat and Brian.

As this is not a journalistic news story you will have to obtain details of the deal from other sources but suffice to say it will remain business as usual at Seed Hawk with the same leadership team and, as always, it’s onward and upward and I will be along for the ride until my usefulness to the cause has been exhausted and retirement is imminent. With any luck that will be at the same time.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”-Colin Powell (1937-).

Monday, October 14, 2013

I AM THANKFUL FOR...


Please bear with me this week as I may be all over the place with my thinking. There are a few subjects I’d like to touch on so it’s going to be a smorgasbord of ideas being thrown at you here.

            First off, I want to wish our first-born child the best 30th birthday a person could ever have and I’m sorry for publicly divulging your age Meghan. It could be worse you know…you could be as old as me! Thirty years?! Why, that can’t be…because that’d make me…hmmm…you were born when I was how old?…scritcha, scritcha…carry the one…that makes me…OLD!

            Our Meghan Rose was born at 5:35pm on Tuesday, October 11th, 1983 in the General Hospital in Regina. It was the day after the Thanksgiving long weekend and her birthday and Thanksgiving have been the cause for a double celebration in our family every year since then and this year it’s going to be even better! I can hardly wait.

            Thank goodness we started our family thirty years ago because a recent article in the “Chicken Little Times”, or as they refer to themselves- “MACLEAN’S-Canada’s National Magazine”, revealed that the average cost of raising a child from birth to eighteen-years-old is a staggering $678,952.99 or roughly $38,000.00 per year. The cover story reads, “THE UNAFFORDABLE BABY-Inside the distressing new math of raising a child in Canada”. “New” math is an understatement because I really think this must be a ploy to control the over-population of our planet or something. There’s more than a little fudging of the numbers to get it to their inflated number and I would say that the monetary cost of child-rearing has always been pretty high. Relatively speaking, of course. Today, or thirty years ago, if a parent had had any idea how much raising a child would cost nobody but Warren Buffet or Bill Gates would have even considered it!

            Then I read this insightful headline, “The Rich Sleep Better in Canada, Research Finds”. Really? This is a revelation? The article goes on to state: "A new national survey finds 76 per cent of households whose incomes top $100,000 get six to eight hours of shut-eye every night — the highest proportion of any income group — while Canadians in one of the lowest-earning groups ($15,000 to $24,999) are likeliest to average fewer than six hours."

            It kind of stands to reason, don't you think? The rich guy crawls in to a big warm bed with a full stomach and his security system engaged only worrying about how to avoid paying more taxes while the minimum wage earner is worried about keeping the heat on and food on the table while keeping one eye and an ear open for intruders and also worries about how to avoid paying more taxes. Who do YOU think would sleep better? Thought so.

                Thankfully, the “Chicken Little Times” occasionally throws us a good news story, too, as they recently related the story of Joey Prusak of Hopkins, Minnesota. Joey, a 19-year-old Dairy Queen attendant was serving a blind customer who mistakenly dropped a $20 bill. A woman in line pocketed the money and swore at Prusak when he refused to serve her unless she returned the bill. He politely asked her to leave and then gave the man $20 from his own wallet. Another customer emailed an account of the incident to the owner, who posted it online. The note found its way to the attention of billionaire investor Warren Buffet, whose holding company owns Dairy Queen. Buffet congratulated Prusak and invited him to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting in May 2014. I’m guessing Joey Prusak’s actions will not go unrewarded.

            I am thankful that Joey’s parents didn’t hear about how expensive it is to raise children or they might not have had this fine young man and raised him so well. I am thankful that there are always good news stories to hear regardless of how seldom our news media tell them. I am ever so thankful that I was in that delivery room when our very first baby took her very first breath. I am thankful that my wife and I chose to have, and raise, three children, the cost be damned. I am thankful to have a warm bed to sleep in tonight even though six to eight hours in a row is a stretch. I am thankful that there are different ways to determine “rich” and monetarily is not the only way.

            Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
            “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”-Oprah Winfrey (1954-

Sunday, October 6, 2013

IT'S FALL!!


            I’ve got to use it. I don’t want to but I have to. I have got to use that four-letter word that begins with F. No…not THAT one, sheesh, the other nasty four-letter word that starts with F…FALL.

            Yes, it’s that time of year again when the Autumnal Equinox comes around. I know a couple of weeks have passed since it actually occurred on the 22nd of September but I have been doing my best to ignore it.

            I know that I should be doing the whole, “Live every day to the fullest” and “enjoy all things in life” and all the rest of that inspirational/motivational phraseology but I think my equilibrium has been thrown off by the Equinox and I don’t feel particularly inspired or motivated, to tell you the truth. I’m not the only one that seems to be affected, either. I am detecting a pattern here, too, by the way. Apparently, according to my journal, I have suffered from the same sinusitis infection around this time of year, every year, for a few years now. Hmmmmm? I know that migraine sufferers have also commented that their headaches have been longer and more intense than usual. To me, it just stands to reason that the changing of the seasons will affect a person both mentally and physically.

             “There’s a reason that, in poetry, Autumn has often been associated with melancholy.” Speaking of patterns, that previous statement was a quote from a column that I wrote a year ago. I know many people who love autumn and of the four seasons I would rate them: #1-Summer; #2-Fall; #3-Spring, #4-Winter. It’s not that I can’t stand Autumn it’s just that I totally love Summer. And it’s gone. And maybe I’m blaming Fall for that a little bit. Only my therapist knows for sure. 

            I can and do admire the beauty of the fall season as much as the next person, I guess, what with all the red, yellow, orange and green colours dominating our landscape one would have to be sight-impaired to NOT enjoy the beauty of the season.

And if you’re an outdoorsman there can’t be too many better times of the year than right now. Whether you’re a duck and goose hunter or an early season big-game hunter or a quadder zooming through the Moose Mountains it must be a great time of year.

            I am none of those things, however, so I must content myself with sipping my chicken soup while chomping down some Cold FX tablets and fuddling my way through the Fall season. Maybe I’ll throw on some Tony Robbins motivational tapes or something before the next season is upon us and we’ve moved on from Autumn Melancholy to the Winter Blues.

            “Shuddering under the autumn stars, each year, the head sinks lower and lower.”-Georg Traki. (1887-1914).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

IT WASN'T ME!!!


It never fails…in last week's column I predicted that there'd be a terrific harvest and it’d come off early and everything and then lo and behold we get more than an inch of rain! And frost! But it's not my fault! At least I am not going to take the credit for it, or blame, I should say. I sure didn’t mean to jinx the harvest or anything.

It was only a short set-back to a very good run anyway, and, besides, back in my day we used to call them "beer clouds". A little R&R was usually in order after going day and night for a few weeks. In the farming business a person tends to burn out a bit during this hectic time of the year so a little "stress release" doesn't hurt too many people too often, when kept within reason, of course. It’s always good to take a breath now and then, get rejuvenated and get back at it with some renewed energy and focus. Weather permitting.

            Besides halting a good harvest, the rain turned the grid road that I commute to work on into the world's longest slip-'n-slide. Mud, slip n’ slide, that is. Sidebar here: To the Rural Municipality # “Not To Be Named In a Public Forum”…a little gravel wouldn’t hurt now and then, you know, school children are riding buses that travel that road, too, on a regular basis and it’s dangerous out there, especially after only a ½” of rain makes it nearly impassable. And this is a major grid road! Just saying. 

Now, where was I, oh yeah, I'll be perfectly honest with you, I'm not much of a mudder. I just feel so totally out of control slippin' and slidin' all over the road. My ex-brother-in-law’s brother, (you following along?) was a very good friend of mine and we spent a lot of time working on the farm and we had our share of cruisin’ backroads together on many occasions.

His name was Brent and he loved driving in the mud! I recall more than one occasion when we’d be cruising down a sloppy section of road and he’d be steering with his left hand and banging out the drum beat to "Wipeout" on the dashboard with his right hand, with a cigarette between his lips, squinting through the smoke and keeping the car going forward at an 84 degree angle to the road while I sat silently in the passenger seat chain smoking and trying to act all cool and everything and doing my best to show that I wasn’t actually scared to death!

As good as Brent was behind the wheel his brother and my ex-brother-in-law, (you still with me?), Maurice, was better. We did a lot of driving together, too, and there wasn’t a road condition that he drove in that intimidated him. He was always in full control of every vehicle he drove…car, truck, semi, tractor, combine…whatever; if it had tires on it he could drive it anywhere.

I’ve managed to keep my little Dodge Dakota between the ditches, (touch wood), while commuting in all kinds of weather conditions but mud’s the worst. I’ve logged a few million kilometers behind the wheel of various vehicles over the years and have come out unscathed from some close calls and I’m a confident and competent enough driver but whenever I turn onto a muddy road the old butterflies start up and the sphincter gets a little tighter while I put a death-grip on the steering wheel. Damn mud.

Very soon I will not have to worry about slippin’ and slidin’ my way to work on a gravel-less grid road after a few drops of rain because we’ll have a brand new old highway to drive on. It’ll be a few klicks more than my current backroad drive but what I spend extra on gas I will more than make up for with less stress and a lot more carwash cash.

“The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.” – Dave Barry (1947-).

LUCKY TWENTY-THIRTEEN!


Is this it? Is “next year” finally here? Is the “13” in 2013 finally a lucky number? Many of my pessimistic, cynical friends are going to hold out that something disastrous may still happen but it sure looks like this year’s harvest is going to be one of the most bountiful in history.

            The latest crop report from the Government of Saskatchewan’s Department of Agriculture is a week old and it stated, "Of the crop that been harvested, above average yields are being reported in most areas." Anecdotally, while speaking to area farmers, reports are coming in that there are some very good yields in many varieties of crops in our immediate area and an awful lot of it is in the bin already. Up until now, that is, because you just never know what kind of evil will rob of us of this bounty, you know. Then again, as they say, experience is a brutal teacher.

            However, barring an asteroid hit or a freakish September tornado, or something, I think we’ll be okay. By the way, the law of averages says a “city-killing” asteroid hits the Earth only once in a thousand years but my pessimistic, cynical friends also figure that, using those odds, maybe we’re about due. Who knows?

            So it goes with our Saskatchewan Roughriders, too, eh? They started the year off with eight wins in nine games and now that they have lost the last two in a row, including the famed “Banjo Bowl” against the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers, good ol’ Rider Nation is going nuts. They’re taking hand-wringing to new heights, in fact.

            Adding to the ‘Rider fans’ agitation and frustration are the recent rash of key player injuries, (see: Rey Williams, Weston Dressler, Ben Heenan and Kory Sheets to name a few), and then tack on the news that three Roughrider players have just been charged with aggravated assault, resulting from an incident at a Regina night club in August, and it would be difficult for even the hardiest of fans to remain hopeful for a championship-type season.

Sticking with the “experience is a brutal teacher” theme it’s no wonder that ‘Rider fans are always cautiously optimistic/eternally pessimistic having had their hearts ripped out too many times. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have won just 3 of the 18 Grey Cups that they have played in. These are the facts, people, not justification for defeatism.

I, myself, am fully optimistic that the “13th Man” incident from the 2009 Grey Cup game will finally be vindicated in the 101st Grey Cup Game at Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Regina on the 24th of November, 2013, and that the true “13th Man/men-women-children” will have much cause to celebrate.

So, maybe 20-13 is really going to be our lucky year. Believe it. Why not? The crop is this close to being fully in the bin, the ‘Riders have a great mid-season record, a very competent and confident Management/Coaching team and as talented a group of players as any other team in the league and I’d much rather think and hope that good things will happen than to think that “next year” will never come.

‘I have friends who are very pessimistic. They say you can’t possibly be an optimist nowadays. But I think, taking the longer view, you can still be as optimistic as you want.”- Edwin Morgan (1920-2010).

Tsk, tsk, tsk...Oh Pamela!


Now that summer is over and "normal" is what we're supposed to be getting back to, after the "dog days" that is, it's time to resume our daily lives and adjust back to the weird and whacky world that we live in. That world includes endless Middle East problems, world economic uncertainty, (also ongoing) and, of course, the standard political scandals.

            I am fairly certain that ever since politicians first came upon the scene, so many years ago, scandals would have followed soon after. One of the most recent Canadian political scandals involves one of Saskatchewan's own, former journalist and Canadian Senator, Pamela Wallin.

            If you are like me and you have been ignoring the news for the past couple of months in an effort to not put a damper on an easy, breezy summer, Senator Wallin has been embroiled in the Senate Expense Scandal that included three other Canadian Senators, most notably, another former journalist, Mike Duffy, among them. Senators Wallin and Duffy have been audited for ineligible expense claims and both have been ordered to pay back large sums of money for the ineligible claims.

            In Pamela Wallin’s case, the auditors flagged $121,348 in inappropriate expenses and the Senate committee later determined Wallin owed another $17,621, bringing her total tab to $138,969. She has until the 16th of September to pay it back before the Senate garnishes her wages, should she miss the deadline. Wallin has already repaid a portion of the funds owed and has promised to reimburse any disallowed expenses out of her own pocket, with interest.

            How big of you, Pam! To her credit though, Senator Wallin, she is still a Senator by the way, has taken responsibility for the wrongful claims and hasn’t shifted the blame to an underling or an accountant or some such person and says that she signed the claims and ultimately the buck, (or many bucks, as it were), stops at her. Wallin says that she made some "mistakes" with her expense claims and will make full restitution on her "mistakes". "Mistakes?" That's $139,000.00 worth of mistakes!

            Her defense was a good offense as she lashed out that the Deliotte audit was “fundamentally flawed and unfair” as the auditors were using old criteria to determine if any of her claims, old or new, were eligible and all of the claims in question were travel expenses only. Also, Wallin has stated that her expenses were approved by the Senate Finance Committee so some responsibility had to be given to the people approving the expenses in the first place. Point taken.

            I’m not sure how the Senate communicates their processes to each and every Senator but Wallin seems to have missed a few memos as her travel claims have been sketchy from the moment she was first appointed in December of 2008. Either she honestly didn’t know she was submitting false claims or she was hoping that a “fundamentally flawed and unfair” audit, or otherwise, would have missed them altogether.        

            Pamela Wallin is an Officer of the Order of Canada, having received Canada's highest civilian honour in 2007, and receiving the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1999.She has fourteen Honorary Doctorates and among many other honors, she has been named to the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame, she received a national Visionary Award in Canada, and has been recognized four times by Queen Elizabeth II for her public service and achievements.

            It's not easy, in this jaded world, to believe any politician isn't just covering their derrière and it certainly doesn't look great for Senator Wallin but I am going to reserve final judgement until after an RCMP investigation in to the whole sordid affair is completed.

            "A British politician is usually caught with his hand up a woman's skirt while a Canadian politician is usually caught with his hand in the till." - Sun Media columnist Valerie Gibson.

 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

PHIL ESPOSITO LET'S 'ER RIP...SANS CLICHES!!


             Forty-one years ago, on September 8th, 1972, in Vancouver, BC, Team Canada lost the second of four Summit Series games played in Canada against Team USSR. Canada felt that they had never had the opportunity, until this series, to really play our best against their best as professional North American hockey players had not been allowed to compete in the Ice Hockey World Championships or the Olympic Games. The USSR team had dominated those two championships for years.

The two world ice-hockey powerhouses were to meet in an eight game series from September 2nd to September 28th, with the first four games being played in Canada and the last four games in Moscow. In the previous three contests, in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg respectively, Team Canada had lost the first game, won the second and tied the third. In Vancouver, before a frustrated Canadian fan base, who were expecting Team Canada’s pros to handily beat the Russians, Team Canada lost the game 5-3 to the boos of the home crowd.

Amazingly, Team Canada won three out of the four games in Moscow to win the series 4 wins-3 losses-1 tie. Paul Henderson became a national treasure and hero with his game winning goals in the final three games, the last of which came with just 34 seconds left in game eight.

            But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let us flashback to the end of game four in Vancouver to another hero for the Canadian squad…Phil Esposito. Esposito led Team Canada with seven goals and thirteen points in the series and he was their emotional leader.

Following the fourth game loss to the boos of the crowd Esposito was interviewed by CTV’s Johnny Esaw and Esposito let fly with a rant for the ages. Esaw, a savvy sportscaster, knew he had a classic right from the start. Standing on the ice near the end boards while going on live television, with sweat pouring off of his face, having near-by fans throwing things and shouting obscenities in his direction and trying not to swear himself, an emotionally charged and clearly frustrated Esposito had this to say: These are his exact words-

 “For the people across Canada, we tried. We gave it our best. For the people who booed us, jeez, all of us guys are really disheartened and we're disillusioned and we're disappointed in some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've gotten in our own buildings. If the Russian fans boo their players like some of the Canadian fans - I'm not saying all of them - some of them booed us, then I'll come back and apologize to each and every Canadian. But I don't think they will. I'm really, really, I'm really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Some of our guys are really really down in the dumps. We know - we're trying. What the hell, we're doing the best we can. They've got a good team and let's face facts. But it doesn't mean that we're not giving it our 150 per cent because we certainly are...”

“Everyone one of us guys, thirty-five guys who came out to play for Team Canada,” Esposito continued, “we did it because we love our country and not for any other reason. They can throw the money for the, (NHL Player’s Association), pension fund out the window, they can throw anything out the window – we came because we love Canada. And even though we play in the United States and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home and that’s the only reason we come. And I don’t think it’s fair that we should be booed.”

That speech was as important to the success of Team Canada ’72 as Henderson’s last goal. It solidified a struggling team, it established Phil Esposito as its true leader and it propelled them to an improbable victory.

Through the wonder of modern technology one can watch that speech in its entirety on YouTube. And I did. And it gave me goosebumps and a lump in my throat all over again. Esposito’s heartfelt words are in stark contrast to the “canned” responses of today’s athletes who are controlled by Public Relations Directors and Sports Management Conglomerates and seem to only elicit clichés instead of thought provoked statements.

In today’s “sports-speak” Phil Esposito, “Put the team on his back” and Team Canada who “had their backs against the wall”, “took it one game at a time” while they “came to play” and “played within themselves” thus “taking it to the next level” and “overcame adversity” as they “left it all on the ice” and prevailed when “no one else gave them a chance.” Thank you, Phil, for your commitment to team and country and for using just one cliché in your entire rant.

“I would rather read a poorly structured story that has fresh ideas than a tightly structured one with clichés.”-Douglas Wood.

WHY "LABOUR DAY"?


           Once again, the Labour Day Weekend is upon us so the time has come, (ALREADY), for me to do my annual “the summer is over” whiny schtick. Any of you regular readers of this column will be all too familiar with my love of summer and hatred of its ending but I won’t bore you with any more details than that this time around. For a detailed view of my humble opinion on the matter you can go to my blog site: http://pnhubbard.blogspot.com/ and search out last year’s write-up and save us both some time. Thanks.

            The summer of 2013 will actually end on September 21st but for all intents and purposes the Labour Day Weekend will signify the unofficial and symbolic end to the summer season. According to traditions of old, after this weekend it’s time to put away the white outfits and break out the backpacks and book-bags. But before that happens you should hit the cottage, the lake, the swimming pool, the water-slides and the vacations spots one more time before getting back to “normal”. Yes, like it or not, summer has passed us by one more time. There might still be some “summer-like” weather conditions for a while but once the calendar flips to September, boy, she’s all downhill from there. For summer lovers, that is.

            If the last long weekend of the hot season is summer’s last gasp…why is it called Labour Day? Funny you should ask…I was just wondering the same thing.

            According to my research Labour Day has been celebrated here in Canada on the first Monday of September since the late 1800’s. The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to December of 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. At that time many workers were working at least twelve hours a day. The Toronto Trades Assembly called its twenty-seven unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25th.

            George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe, hit back at his striking employees pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with “conspiracy”. Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on the books in Canada and police arrested twenty-four leaders of the Typographical Union.

Labour leaders decided to call another demonstration on September 3rd to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawa prompting a promise by Canadian Prime Minister, and Brown’s political foe, Sir John A. MacDonald, to repeal the “barbarous” anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act the following June.

The parades in support of the printer’s strike became a yearly event. After attending one of these labour festivals in Toronto, United States labour leader, Peter J. McGuire went back to New York and established the first U.S. Labour Day on September 5th, 1882. It took a while, but in July of 1894 the Conservative government of Prime Minister Sir John Thompson officially made Labour Day a national holiday.

I am not promoting this column as a pro-union statement but, historically and factually, without the sacrifices of past union labourers and leaders there would be few workers’ rights today. So while you float around the pool or lounge on your cottage deck or take in the Labour Day Classic you could give a little silent thank you to the many people whose vision and sacrifices have made it possible for so many workers to enjoy weekends, (long and short), a standard 40-hour work week, overtime, coffee and lunch breaks, paid vacation, sick leave, minimum wage, maternity leave, Child Labour Laws, Occupational Health and Safety, Worker’s Compensation, pensions, wrongful termination laws…

“Without labour nothing prospers.”-Sophocles.

Monday, August 26, 2013

ROCKIN' WITH SIR PAUL

     Right off the bat I will have to say that I have been a huge Beatles fan ever since The Fab Four first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 to the screams of my older sisters and the bewilderment of my parents. Why would you scream at a TV screen? And for a rock band no less? Dad could understand screaming at the TV if the Canadiens scored or the Yankees won, again, but for four guys from Liverpool? Singing? C’mon. But he watched. Screams and all. Mom had lived through the Sinatramania period so she had a better understanding of what my sisters were going through.
     Like millions of other children growing up in the 60’s I was swept up in Beatlemania, too. For me it continues to this day. I have vivid recollections of the moments in my life that I associate with their greatest hits. From their first album “Please, Please Me”, in 1963, to their last album, “Let It Be” in 1970 I was hooked. Their songs were the soundtrack to so many people’s lives in the wild decade that was the 1960’s; including mine. We grew up with them. Sure, there we other bands and Elvis, of course, but to me it was always The Beatles.
    So you can imagine my excitement when our dear children presented Deb and me with the tickets to see one of the original Beatles, Sir Paul McCartney, live and in concert at Mosaic Stadium on August 14th. In Regina, Saskatchewan, if you can imagine? Like a zillion other people I had wanted to see these guys, even one of these guys, perform live but I had never made it happen.
    Deb and I pulled into the Victoria Square Mall parking lot around 5:30 pm on the 14th to catch one of the shuttle buses to the stadium. We thought we’d have a bit of time to grab a bite to eat and browse around the mall before catching the bus to the eight-o’clock show but to our amazement the line-up of people for the buses was from the old Zeller’s entrance door, on the east end of the mall, all the way back around to the other side of the Safeway store and this close to the Tim Horton’s on the west side of the mall parking lot. Yikes! We made the best of it though. There’s a certain camaraderie in like-minded people. We found some common ground with a few of the folks waiting in line with us, sharing our Beatles memories and, of course, as most Saskatchewan people do, we all know somebody who knows somebody, you know? and before long the wait was over and we were on our way.
     We got off the bus on Albert St. to another long line-up to get to the stadium gates but this time some friends of ours let us butt in line cutting the wait time in half. I told you that Saskatchewan people always know someone who knows someone. However, nothing was going to discourage us from enjoying this show. Not the line-ups and the line-ups and the line-ups or the people whining about the line-ups and the line-ups and the line-ups…. Or the fact that it started almost an hour late because there was a snafu in getting 44,000 people into Mosaic Stadium, or the inflated food and beverage prices, or the middle-aged-rhinestone-clad-bleached-blonde-reeking of cheap perfume and beer sitting right behind me all noisy and talking all night long and everything…It didn’t matter. We were there to enjoy an evening with Sir Paul. And we did.
     I am not going to tell you that we’ve seen hundreds of live shows but we’ve seen enough. Big name acts and also-rans, great shows and not-so-great shows. I admitted to you right away that I was a huge Beatles fan so my expectations were almost low but Sir Paul blew everyone away! Of course, there’ll be that tiny minority who wouldn’t be impressed by anything but they are so few in number I shouldn’t have even mentioned it. But, “ to each their own”, eh?
     Now, do me a favour. Close your eyes and think of a seventy-one-year-old-man. What do you see? I thought so. On August 14th, 2013 we watched a seventy-one-year-old Beatle rock the house down better than a man half his age or younger. Sir Paul McCartney performed for three hours straight and he and his band, with a cameo accompaniment from the City of Regina Pipe Band, played 39 songs all together and it was the most amazing live show I’ve ever seen.
  “Being in the audience actually looks like quite a lot of fun.”-Paul McCartney (1942-).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

DRIVE SAFE, PEOPLE!


            I’ve logged a lot of kilometers across this province of ours during the past three months and there are a few things that stand out to me regarding the experiences that I’ve had driving at this time of the year on Saskatchewan highways and byways.

            Not only is it summer-time but it’s also tourist season and, most importantly of all, it’s ROAD CONSTRUCTION season! Between the lateness of our spring/winter and the constant downpours of rain the road construction industry has been under even more stress to get the amount of work done that has been contracted to them in the limited time that this far too-short season allows.

            Saskatchewan has the largest municipal grid road network in Canada totaling 165,000 kilometers. In combination with the province’s highway network, the province boasts over 190,000 km of rural roads-the most roads per capita of any jurisdiction in the world. That’s an awful lot of road to look after so no wonder it has taken forever to get those last fifteen miles between Kipling and #9 highway finished! The same could be said for sections of Hwy #42, #47, #123, #35, # 155 and the list goes on and on.

            The bad news is that there are so many roads to do upkeep on and the good news is that there are so many roads to do upkeep on, if you know what I mean. I’d like to be able to take the fastest route possible on the best road conditions possible between destinations and that’s a pretty tall order, but we’re getting there. The amount of highway construction being done on the highways, grid roads and municipal streets in this province is another indication of Saskatchewan’s robust economy, (cue politicians to line up to take credit here).

            I can’t seem to locate any accurate statistics so I cannot say with any certainty that the number of inept drivers is higher in Saskatchewan than anywhere else but it sure seemed like it on some of the days, well…most…of the days that I’ve been on the road. In fact, Saskatchewan set a new record for the number of highway fatalities in 2012 and distracted driving surpassed drunk driving as the number one cause of death on Saskatchewan’s roads.

            Last year SGI recorded 173 fatalities up to December 17th, 2012 with 57 of those fatal collisions attributed to distracted driving and 54 to drinking and driving leaving 62 deaths to what? Selfish driving? Dangerous driving? Carelessness? Lack of skills? A little bit of all of the above perhaps? We really need to pay more attention to what we’re doing out there folks!

            Sidebar here: I was recently cruising down Saskatchewan Drive when I was distracted by an electronic billboard whose message was a read-out stating that distracted driving was now the #1 cause of road accidents and I damn near rear-ended the car in front of me while I was reading the sign telling me not to be distracted while driving! Sheesh! Take those stupid things down already before someone really gets hurt. It’s probably too late now anyway.

            So, mister smarty-pants, what gives you the right to preach to us about driving, you’re thinking? Here’s the thing-I got my driver’s license in 1974 and my first car in 1976. In that time I’ve had two speeding tickets, (both bogus calls by the way), but okay, they’re on my record and I have never had a claim in to SGI for any vehicle that I have owned in 37 years. (Touch wood that I haven’t jinxed myself now!). Nothing! Not a fender bender, not so much as a scratch in a  parking lot. Have I done stupid things while I’ve been behind the wheel? Yes I have. More than I’d like to admit to and I am thankful for the road angel that’s been looking after me all these years but most of my luck has been because I was trained as a defensive driver and I still apply those techniques while I’m driving and I will take some of the credit for going nearly 40 years accident free.

            On August 29th it will have been one year since the senseless death of Ashley Dawn Richards, the 18-year-old pregnant flag attendant who was killed by a speeding passing motorist while she was working in a road construction zone near Midale. In my recent time on the road I must have been passed a dozen times by drivers too selfish for their own time to obey the rules of the road in these construction zones. One small misstep and dozens of lives will be affected by one driver’s bad decision, so, please, people, let’s be careful, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention out there.

            “It takes 8,460 bolts to assemble an automobile, and one nut to scatter it all over the road.” ~ Author Unknown.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

CREATING MEMORIES


We just finished the 2nd Annual Hubbard Family Pike Lake Camping Trip and it was great. Again! The weather could have been better but it wasn’t terrible; having only a few hours of rain to interrupt the festivities.

            Pike Lake Provincial Park is located 32km southwest of Saskatoon on the shore of Pike Lake, an oxbow created by the South Saskatchewan River. It’s a great place to go to if you ever get the chance.

            Last year, after we were done our week of camping there, Deb and I headed back home to Kipling heading east on the Yellowhead Highway and then wound our way down through some Saskatchewan countryside that we hadn’t seen much of. This year we came back down the other side of the river through Outlook, Lucky Lake and made our way across Lake Diefenbaker on the Riverhurst Ferry. It was also great.

            The Riverhurst Ferry is how Highway 42 crosses Lake Diefenbaker. Highway 42 also goes by, or close to, a couple of body parts towns like Elbow and Eyebrow and meets up with Highway No. 2 at Tuxford. We chose this route for two reasons. 1.)-to cross the lake on the ferry and, 2.) to follow 42 Highway through some old stomping grounds of mine as the highway goes through Brownlee, Keeler and Marquis. I had lived in Marquis from 1965 to 1970 while Dad was the United Church Minister for the Marquis, Keeler and Tuxford Pastoral Charges and I had also spent some time in the Brownlee area as I worked on my then brother-in-law’s farm at Lake Valley in the ‘70’s.

            Debbie, our youngest daughter Emily and I made the drive and I showed them many spots that I hadn’t seen in years and years. I was reminded of old hockey games in the Brownlee rink that’s still standing and we were this close to Tugaske, which isn’t on the highway but very close, where Barty Backzuk and I spent a memorable few hours in a drinking hole there in the summer of ‘77.

            We pulled in to Marquis and then the old stories really started flying. Here’s the Manse house where we lived and the one-room schoolhouse I attended in grades four through six and the church where Dad did so many services and here’s where my brother Gordie fell on that broken bottle and ripped up his knee that Halloween so many years ago. Here’s Dora and Con McCann’s store where we had to meet the bus to get to school in Moose Jaw. Here’s Brad Duzan’s old house where we played a couple of thousand ping-pong games and snuck smokes out of his Mom’s purse and here’s where we built a state-of-the-art snow fort and here’s where I took that tomato juice can off the noggin playing kick the can in our back yard. Oh, the memories!

            The drive from Marquis in to Moose Jaw threw me back to the old school bus riding days and I was surprised that there are still so many of the landmarks along the bus route that I had used way back when to figure out how much longer we had to go to get to school or home. I was reminded of how the panic would set in when we passed the anhydrous station on #2 Highway and I knew that we were this close to school and I hadn’t gauged the time properly to get my procrastinated homework done in time! Some things never change.

            I’ve seen mountains and I’ve seen oceans and I’ve even seen a tropical paradise but there is a particular beauty that only the prairies hold and maybe it’s just us old farmhands who can appreciate the Saskatchewan flatlands but that drive through the green and yellow and blue fields was priceless. And then throw in a dip into the old nostalgia pool and now we’re making memories with memories. What a ride.

            “There’s a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left.”-David Guterson (1956-).

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