Wednesday, December 16, 2015

DECEMBER BIRTHDAYS


           A couple of columns ago I had mentioned that I was fast approaching the last birthday I will reach in my 50’s. As a matter of fact, I started writing this column on December the 12th and it’s my birthday. 59 years-old. Yikes! Well, at least it’s not 60!

            I was born at five minutes past midnight; a fact that has bothered my sister Judy for…I don’t know… some 59 years, I guess. You see, she was born on December 11th about a decade before me and I was going to be her actual birthday present. I was going to be born on her birthday and I missed it by five minutes! Well, technically, I didn’t have anything to do with it. It wasn’t my call, I don’t think. I didn’t even hear about it until I was much older.

            Being born two weeks before Christmas has no advantages whatsoever to speak of. That’s the way I see it and my sister Judy concurs. It’s pretty tough to get a really great birthday present when the parents are hard-pressed to supply enough Christmas gifts for their nine children let alone throw in a couple of birthday presents in there to boot. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the people born on the 25th, though. That’s a tough one. But still.

            And you can forget about a birthday party altogether as there is no way you are going to gather a bunch of kids in the house when we’re only two weeks away from Christmas. What with all of the cleaning and baking and wrapping and shopping who has time to organize, conduct and clean up after a bunch of wild boys? Forget it!

            Mom’s solution was to combine my birthday party around the time when my older brother Gordon celebrates his very timely May 1st birthday. Five months after mine. You know, have them together. Nobody’d think it’s just Gordie’s party. Why would they think that?

Out of the whole year, May 1st has got to be one of the most ideal times for a birthday party. Everything can be held outside, nobody should get sunburnt like they can at those July birthday parties, most of ‘em probably won’t even use the bathroom in the house, there’s very little chance of them breaking anything in there, either, and their noise will mostly disappear into the air, saving on the headache medication.

But it was okay in the end anyway. Gord was only a year older than I was and his friends were my friends and my friends were his. We all hung out and did the same goofy things we always did together. We ended up having a great time, as usual, with very little household upheaval. Funny, too, though, for all my talk about presents and gift receiving I can’t remember any specific gift at all. All the fun must have blocked it out.

Well, that was my pity party. Thanks for coming. Now it’s time to get ready for the real party. Enough whining. 59 years-old and counting. And I hope for a while, yet.

 

“Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”-Satchel Paige (1906-1982).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

THE 300TH


           Let the bells ring out and the banners fly…it’s hear, it’s hear! Number 300 is here, that is. That’s right folks, you are now reading the 300th submission of the “In My Humble Opinion” weekly column. I know! Already? For a part-time-cover-the-maternity-leave-temporary-position I seem to have been at this for a long time. How long does it take to have that baby anyway? Hmmmmm? I will have been doing this column for six years as of February 7th of 2016.

            Obviously, the previous page four Columnist, Darcie Khounnoraj, decided on a different career path as she did not return to The Citizen after her maternity leave and you’ve been stuck with me ever since.

            So what have you learned, Dear Reader, after all of this time together? One thing I’m sure that you have learned is that I can procrastinate with the best of them, hence 300 submissions but not 300 original columns, as I have submitted some of the columns more than once, due, in part, to those finely honed skills of putting things off.  And, yes, I know, I know, I should be working on that and I will, I will…some…day.

            Another thing you may have noted, over our time together, is that I like sports. Many sports, in fact, and I write about them often. There might be more than a few sports-themed columns in those 300+/- page-four articles.

            If you hadn’t noticed, over these many years, I am also very fond of Daylight Savings Time. Do you remember what Daylight Savings Time is folks? We’ve never had it around here but I’ve heard of other places that do it. If you didn’t know, it’s the twice-yearly altering of the clocks that is done in every other jurisdiction of our country, save Saskatchewan, because Saskatchewanians prefer our daylight early, early, early in the day.

            Do you know what else I like? That’s right, Dear Reader, I really, really like sarcasm. Sarcasm is so very useful as a writing tool, don’t you think? Sometimes you can even get a laugh without really trying. Ahhhh, such a wonderful thing.

            There are other real joys to being a writer from Saskatchewan, besides the fact that we don’t have to confuse ourselves with all that clock altering and everything, and that is this province provides us with a convenient subject that one can never say enough about. And that is the weather. It is so varied and different and changes hourly not just seasonally or yearly giving one reams of material.

            Frankly, subjects are rarely hard to find with so much weird happening in the world all of the time. We are so inundated with information that it would appear difficult not to find something to write about. Yet, it happens.

            So, now what? 300 down 300 to go? I’m not sure about that but we’ll see. I’ve kind of gotten used to this temporary permanent position, though.

 

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”-American writer E.L. Doctorow (1931-2015).

DECEMBER IS HERE!


            2015’s version of Agribition, the 103rd Grey Cup Game and Movember are once again filed away into the memory banks so that must mean that November is over and December is upon us already. That’s another year almost gone. How’d that happen so fast?

            December will also fly by, I’m expecting, as it is the busiest, as well as, the most wonderful time of the year. There are a number of significant events and activities crammed into these next 31 days. Christmas music concerts, local Dinner Theatre performances, school productions, staff parties, decorating, shopping, baking, hangover recuperations…yikes! I’m getting exhausted thinking about it.

            Speaking of hangover recuperating, it turns out that I will be celebrating my last birthday “in my 50’s” this month. More yikes! And more, “how’d that happen so fast?!” questioning as well. Then again, at the very least, I will be celebrating another birthday which is an event, sad to say, that many people will be unable to do.

            Besides my birthday, there’s another birth event that many of us celebrate on the 25th of this month. You know who I’m talking about? Yes, Christmas is coming fast and if you didn’t know that there are less than three weeks of shopping left you’d better get at it. That is, of course, unless you’re one of those keeners who have all of their shopping done and hidden away somewhere. I’m so happy for you.

            Seeing as how I mentioned my birthday ahead of Jesus’ it may be of note that December’s birth flower is the narcissus. Hmmmm…that’s an interesting tidbit of information. Also sharing December birthdates are the likes of Woody Allen, Ozzy Osborne, George Armstrong Custer, Keifer Sutherland, Frank Sinatra, (same day as me), and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, (same day as Jesus), to name but a few.

            There are many other notable event anniversaries in the month of December. It was on December 1st, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man marking the beginning of the modern American Civil Rights Movement.

            On December 2nd, 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII in Paris, then on December 2nd, 1852 The Second Empire was proclaimed in France with Napoleon III as Emperor.

            On December 5th, 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered Haiti. Of course, there was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941. On December 15th, 1964 Canada adopted its new red and white flag. The list goes on and on.

            December really is the most wonderful time of the year. To me it is, anyway. I’m not saying I don’t mind the milder El Nino induced temperatures that we have been getting this last little while but I think we could use a little snow around here. At least for Christmas. Nothing stupid or anything but a few inches wouldn’t hurt the scenery would it? Pretty hard to sleigh ride in the gravel too, I’d think.

            I hope you have a great December. Enjoy the preparations and the festivities. Take the time to soak it all up. It only comes around once a year and you know how fast that goes by, don’t you?

            “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is her before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”-Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I JUST WANTED TO BUY YOUR PRODUCT


           A few weeks ago I was sitting in my favourite chair with my laptop, appropriately enough, in my lap and the Blue Jays' Playoff Game on the big screen, snacks and beverages lined up around me, with my smart phone in my hand to check on the TV announcers’ facts, you know, like all modern sports fanatics do, when an ad caught my eye between innings. Usually I don’t see many ads as I am quite deadly with the remote control flipping through the other channels during the commercial breaks and all but this time I didn’t have a hand free for the remote so I had to watch the whole ad. It was an ad for Crave TV. Hmmm... this looks interesting, I thought.

            So, while I'm watching the game I start Googling Crave TV, which is a Canadian pay television video on demand service, and investigating how we could sign up for the service because it’s looking pretty good. During the investigation I find out that you have to be either a Bell Satellite TV customer or subscribe to SaskTel Max Cable to be able to receive the service in Saskatchewan. By the way, CraveTV is owned by Bell Canada. We don’t have cable and Bell Canada isn’t our satellite provider.

            There are a lot of spare minutes during the watching of a nine-inning baseball game what with the batters taking forrrevverrrr between strikes and the numerous pitching changes and everything so without the risk of missing too much of the ball game I thought I’d give old Bell Canada a call just to see what they have to offer for satellite services and further check out this CraveTV.

            By the time I went through the pushbutton phone directions I finally got through to a human voice which seemed to belong to a fourteen year-old boy. Anyway, he announces that it’s my lucky day and he can provide this, that and the other thing for half of what we’re paying for our current services with CraveTV thrown in to boot. Installed! Excellent! I like it! Sign me up!

            He walks me through all of the information which included my name and physical home address, something fairly important to the delivery of their services, mind you, and he tells me we’d be receiving a confirmation email and the technicians would be out in about ten days to install the system. Sounds great. Back to the ballgame I go.

            I watched the rest of that game and another one, too, forgetting about the confirmation email until the following day. I opened it up and noticed that the Bell-boy/sales rep had mistakenly recorded my name and physical address wrong. They had me as a Mr. Terry Hubbard and our house street address where the Kipling Post Office currently sits. Terry is as good a name as any but it isn’t mine and we don’t live at 600 1st St. Again, information fairly important to the delivery of their services.

            I had to call back in to Bell to make the changes and after another forty minutes on the phone I get reassured that everything is a go and they corrected the name and address. A couple of days later I receive another phone call from Bell stating that the installation service is only provided in Ontario and Quebec. Really? Okay then. Whatever.

            However, upon reflection, I wasn't quite ready to give up just yet so I phoned a local Bell Store and the rep there assured me that Bell Canada does provide the installation service in Saskatchewan so she gave me a different phone number to call and I did that and after another forty-five minutes of runaround the rep on the phone assures me that we'll be getting our new Bell Canada satellite TV system as first arranged. Sounds good.

            The final straw in the whole Bell Canada fiasco came to an end a couple of days later when the last spokesperson that I would be talking to from Bell called to tell me that they don't even know what a Saskatchewan IS let alone find it to put in a TV system at 600 1st St in Kipling...THAT'S NOT MY ADDR....nevermind. I give up.

            All I ever wanted to do was buy Bell Canada's product. It should have been easy. It wasn't. Now, all I'm left to do is chalk it up as another one of life's curveballs thrown my way, forget about the wasted time and continue on with life sans Bell Canada Television.

 




PRETTY SAFE HERE, I THINK


            As if the residents of the province of Saskatchewan didn’t have reason enough to love our rectangular shaped province the outbreak of more terrorist attacks in Paris, France, on Friday November the 13th may have solidified that love. Well, maybe you don’t “love” the province but I would dare say that you would be hard-pressed to find a safer place on the planet to live.

One could Google exactly where the safest place on Earth would be but because there seem to be so few people, including our own fellow Canadian citizens, who know where Sask-at-chee-wan is it’s unlikely that the province of Saskatchewan  would be in the top ten, or even on the radar for that matter. What’s more unlikely is a terrorist strike here…but, then again, you never know, do you? Anonymity can be a good thing sometimes, though, don’t you think?

            I’m certain that if one were to spend hours upon hours upon hours of reading and researching and reading some more and researching and interviewing and digesting the motives and actions of some fanatical zealots who seem to have morphed from Al Qaeda to ISIS but still continue their murderous terrorist actions one could ascertain how these types of people believe they are performing “religious acts”. Hmmm… “religious acts?” It’s a head scratcher to me, I’ll tell you.

            Then again, if you were to read one of the definitions of “religion” in the English Oxford dictionary, (The freedom to manifest religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching encompassing a broad range of acts.”), you might stretch the argument to include suicide bombings and innocent civilian murders and online decapitations etc as religious events but, as mentioned, it’s more than a bit of a stretch. At least to this humble scribe it is.

            A 700 word, or thereabouts, essay on page four of a weekly newspaper can hardly do justice to the deep theological discussions that would be required to fully digest the advantages and disadvantages of organized religion, so I will not attempt it here. Suffice to say, though, that it is not only the followers of the Quran who have killed for religious reasons. Please do not misinterpret the above statement as condoning murderous or violent actions for religions’ sake. I do not. Ever.

            Saskatchewan can be a cold, hard place to live in for many weeks of the year and I don’t think I’m alone when sometimes I wonder why our forefathers decided that this was the place to stop and put down their roots, it must have been a nice June or September or something, but the one common theme amongst the pioneers of the prairies was that they were looking for a better place to live and by all accounts, I think they found it.

            “There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home,”- Rosalynn Carter (1927-).

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

REMEMBRANCE DAY POST


            I have stated this before, but it’s not like you haven’t read something in these articles that I’ve said before anyway, so I’m going to tell you again that sometimes writing a weekly column in a weekly paper throws the timing off a bit so there are times when I cannot exactly sync my column themes to calendar events, if you know what I mean?

            November is chock full of events and two of those events are very near and dear to my heart and they occur very close together in the month and have oftentimes overlapped. One event is the Dale Blackstock Memorial Recreational Hockey Tournament and the other one is Remembrance Day.

            This year, 2015, the Blackstock Tournament came before Remembrance Day so that was the theme for my column right before the weekend of the 7th and 8th. Next week Remembrance Day will fall on a Wednesday so I have to theme this column when it will all be after the fact. Then again, I cannot in good Canadian well-raised conscience not talk about such an important day for our country even though it will have already passed by the time you open up this edition of The Citizen.

            Every year Canadians come together on November 11th to mark the end of World War I and in 2015 it will also mark two milestone anniversaries. It is the 100th anniversary of the writing of Lt. Col. John McCrae’s iconic poem In Flanders Fields and it is also the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II.

            Since 1921 Canadians have been wearing poppies to honour war veterans. The Royal Canadian Legion has a Poppy Manual which outlines poppy wearing protocol. I know, I know, you sure could have used this last week but keep the information for next year and…better late than never I say.

            Everyone who wears a poppy thinks the pin that comes with them is a real pain in the derriere, or finger tip or chest, as it were, and the poppies always fall off but the Legion’s position is that the pins shouldn’t be substituted; including using a Canadian flag pin to hold poppies on but the Legion is a little flexible on this, stating, “It is undoubtedly better to wear a Poppy with a Canadian flag in the centre than not to wear a poppy at all,”.  My suggestion for keeping your poppy in place would be to use a pair of pliers to turn the tip back in towards the poppy. It works.

            Who should wear a poppy? Anyone who wants to honour a veteran. The Royal Canadian Legion notes that 117,000 Canadians gave their lives for freedom, which also means the freedom not to wear a poppy, should you so choose.

            Traditionally, poppies are worn during the Remembrance Day period, which runs from the last Friday in October to the end of the day on Nov 11th. Poppies should be worn on the left lapel close to the heart. Disposing of them by placing them at a memorial for veterans at the end of Nov 11th is particularly respectful. Reusing them next year isn’t.

            I’m writing this before Remembrance Day so I know where I will be disposing my poppy. It’ll be right at the new Memorial Cenotaph across from the Post Office. I am very impressed with the look and location of the new cenotaph; kudos to those responsible. The local Legion Branch could use some help in the funding of the project, too. More work is yet to be done and more funds needed. What better way to honour our fallen than to invest in their legacy.

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”- John G. Diefenbaker (1885-1979).

CANCER TOUCHES EVERYONE


           Before we get to the meat and potatoes of this week’s subject I’m going to let you in on a hot tip. Are you ready? This is for all you risk takers and bettors out there. So here it is…take a sport, any sport with two teams vying for a championship…phone me…ask me who I am betting on…go the opposite way…and…voila…cash in your hands. It won’t work every time but 9 out of 10 ain’t bad. (Writer’s disclaimer-Betting entails some degree of risk. Bettors should inform themselves of the risks involved in engaging in any legal or illegal wager before acting on the advice of said writer.)

            Now, if you had bet on the New York Mets to win the World Series then we’re both losers. Actually, I didn’t bet anything on the series because-1.) Gambling is one of the few vices I don’t have…yet…and 2.) I have never been able to convince my heart what my head knows. There you have it, so congratulations Kansas City Royals, (insert sarcasm here)-yay. It’s not that they weren’t deserving champions, or anything, that is one talented ball club they’ve got there, it’s just that I liked the Mets better, especially after Kansas City beat the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series. Enough with the sour grapes now; let’s move on, shall we?

            As with any sports series these Major League Baseball Playoffs, including the World Series, had their share of great plays, misplays and some awful weird plays going on at different times. There were some very cool moments, too. 

            One of the coolest, most moving and somewhat sad moments occurred on October 30th during Game 3 of the World Series at Citi Field in New York City when players, fans and everyone else in the ballpark on that night joined together to Stand Up 2 Cancer (please visit-StandUp2Cancer.org). Every person at the ballpark that night was given a card so they could write a name of someone they know, or knew, who has had, is battling, or has beaten cancer. Seeing that sea of cards throughout the entire ball park of roughly 45,000 people was quite a moving moment.

            Sadly enough, though, as I was sitting there watching the spectacle, I was running through quite a list of people I knew and know who have or are still battling cancer. Picking one name for a card would have been very, very difficult because, unfortunately, there are just way too many to choose from. Actually, I’m doing an inventory again and I cannot believe how many people it is. I’d put some names to that too-large number but that always leads to somebody being left out.

            It is, however, appropriate and timely that the one name that I will use in this week’s editorial is Dale Blackstock. Dale succumbed to the miserable disease when he was barely thirty-years old. So sad. Dale was a good friend, workmate, teammate and one of the funniest people that I have had the great privilege of sharing company with. A fine example of “the good die young.”

This weekend the Kipling Arena will once again be the site for the 29th edition of the Dale Blackstock Memorial Recreational Hockey Tournament. In 1987, it was a small way for the Kipling Royals Senior Hockey Club’s executive to pay tribute to a guy who loved the game of hockey, loved the team and town he played for and loved the guys he played with. That little gesture has become one big event.

If I was a betting man, and a surer bet you’ll never find, I’d bet that there’ll be lots and lots of fun at the old Kipling Arena this weekend. You can put money on it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN

Hi folks, I have finally made the time to post a few articles from the previous few months. Time rushes by so quickly that it's always a bit of shock to realize that it's been weeks since I posted anything on this site.

In my defence, this fall's weather has been so wonderfully beautiful compared to what we are used to in Southern Saskatchewan, that I've been doing so many things other than writing or posting on this blog. I even managed to get a round of golf in on the 18th of October-as late in the season as I've ever golfed without shivering around the course, I do believe.

Now that November 1st is here there is no doubt that outdoor activities will become fewer and my excuses for not sitting at a computer writing away will become fewer as well. I'm as tired of stating that I'll recommit to posting on this blog site as you probably are of reading it. If, in fact, anyone is reading my sporadic entries. Nevertheless, here I go again pledging to be more diligent in this endevour once again.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Happy Halloween everyone! Here’s hoping you’ll have a safe, fun-filled All Hallow’s Eve. As there is only so much new material one can write about an ancient holiday I will replay for you an article I wrote five years ago on the subject. It’s got a little history of the holiday along with a Halloween tale in this one.


Halloween is an annual holiday observed on October 31 and its roots are in the Celtic festival of Samhain and the Christian holiday All Saint’s Day. The word Halloween is first mentioned in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day, also known as All Saints Day. Up through the early 20th century, the spelling "Hallowe'en" was frequently used, eliding the "v" and shortening the word. Although the phrase All Hallows is found in Old English (ealra hālgena mæssedæg, mass-day of all saints), All-Hallows-Even is, itself, not used until 1556.

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half” and is sometimes regarded as the Celtic New Year. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits, (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as an evil spirit and thus avoid harm. Halloween has evolved, somewhat, over the centuries but the main theme of ghosts and spirits and dressing in costumes still prevails.

My memories of Halloween’s past always start with the Halloween night of 1969, which almost cost my older brother the full use of one of his legs.

It was a cold and dreary night and a four-inch layer of snow covered the ground as my brother and I dressed for the night of Trick or Treating. I was approaching my thirteenth birthday and my older brother, Gordie, was fourteen, so we both knew that if this wasn’t our last Halloween for gathering treats it was certainly close to being the last.

Our plans were to make a full night of it. Gord and I, along with a group of about four other friends, were going to gather treats from the twenty-five, or so, houses in the little hamlet of Marquis, SK., return the goods home, and then go back out to play a few tricks on some unsuspecting (or maybe fully suspecting) households.

I can’t remember what Gord was dressed up as but I remember that I was dressed as a clown. (Yes, I know, insert your own joke here.) Anyway, we were dressed in layers to offset the cold temperatures and although the layering worked to keep us warm it also made it difficult to run smoothly.

We played a few tricks on some of the houses where the resident’s choice of Halloween treats didn’t quite measure up to the treat standards of this group of adolescent boys, (home-made cookies and bruised apples just don’t cut it). A few egg tosses and some window soaping later, our group then headed for what would be the last house that Gord and I would be tricking with them that night.

As we separately approached the house like a company of soldiers in a World War II flick, pretending the eggs and rotten tomatoes in our hands were hand-grenades, we were the ones who got tricked. The occupant of the house and a couple of his friends were lying in wait in the shadows near the house knowing that a group of tricksters would be coming along soon and they were about to reverse the roles on them. And boy did it work! They came out of the shadows yelling and screaming scattering our group of friends who ran off, themselves screaming, in every direction.

With an already heightened sense of fear it didn’t take much to throw a panic into us. I don’t think the residents of the house even tried to chase us at all, they just continued to yell and laugh as we ran, fleeing for our lives, while trying to get as far away from that house as fast as we could.

In my brother Gord’s effort to escape, he tripped on an old rotten wooden sidewalk and went down onto his knees. As fate would have it, his left knee came down right onto a broken whiskey bottle which cut into his knee in several places. I was smaller and slower than he was, back then, so I came upon him when he was already down. He said his leg wouldn’t work and I’d have to help him home. I’d be doing it alone, too, as the rest of our group had fled into the night.

There were only five or six streetlights in that little hamlet and none too close to us now so we couldn’t really see the full damage to his knee in the dark. I struggled under his weight as we limped toward home. Finally, about a block from home, we stopped under a streetlight so I could rest and we could look at the wound. I tore through the layers of clothing and finally we could see the blood-soaked gashes in his leg. “Oh, expletive!!” we said together.

I propped him up as best I could as we kind of three-legged raced it the rest of the way home. Mom was expecting more trick or treaters so the commotion at the back door wasn’t too much of a shock until she saw our faces and Gord’s blood-soaked leg.

Mom and Dad rushed him into the Union Hospital in Moose Jaw and after a three-hour operation the surgeon assured them that Gord would regain the full use of his leg, but a mere millimeter or two, either way, and his tendons would have been damaged beyond repair. It appears that fate looked upon us with both sides of his face that night.

Turns out, that was the last year that Gord and I officially went trick-or-treating. We may have gone out for a few tricks again, in the years after that, but the spirit and the fun had definitely been taken out of the event for us.

So, I say to all of you trick-or-treaters, go out and have a good time but be careful, be safe, and always remember that the spirits work in strange ways.

“It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.”-Erin Morgenstern. (1978-).

THIS EL NINO BETTER BE GOOD!

I guess there are a few items on the agenda this week. I’m writing this on Election Day in Canada so I’m hoping that Canadians will do their part by participating in the democratic privilege of casting their ballot. I don’t care how you vote….well, actually I do…but in any case, as the Nike ad suggests…Just Do It!


Weather definitely won’t be a prohibitive factor for people getting to the polls for today’s election. At least in our area of the province it won’t be. Hasn’t that been something? The weather, that is. I didn’t even want to bring the weather subject up for fear that I’ll jinx our current lovely weather luck but I’m throwing caution to the wind, this time around, because it’s been a long time, if ever, that I can remember the vivid plant and flower life in our yard this late in the fall. Also, I do believe that golfing on the 18th of October in +19C weather in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada was a new experience for me.

My fingers are crossed that 2015’s El Nino, which is supposed to be “one of the strongest El Nino events on record”, according to The Weather Network, will deliver the prairies a milder winter from the most recent -50 degree variety of winter weather that we’ve been dealt over the last couple of winters.

Because of my lack o’ love for our nasty winter weather I take a lot of flak from “True Canadians” who actually love the cold winter months. Or so they claim. I, too, have enjoyed my share of fun times in the good old Great White North’s wintery conditions but you’ll have a hard time getting me to believe that you would rather throw on five or six layers of clothing to shovel your way out to your vehicle and try to start the car that won’t start because the block heater cord wasn’t plugged in all the way, then boosting the car, which is usually in the least accessible location for boosting, while getting frost bite as you try to find the windshield in the snowbank that is your car, then bruise your buttocks sitting down on the frozen seat and getting stuck two or three times in the snow and ice on the commute to work in zero visibility…as opposed to…what?... throwing on a pair of shorts, a tee shirt and your flip-flops and you’re on your way?! Hmmmmm? Which would you prefer? Thought so. Just saying.

Now, I’m getting ahead of myself. I shouldn’t be doing my whiny shtick about winter when they haven’t even handed out the World Series trophy, yet. It was nice, however, to see the baseball fans in New York City sitting at the ballpark in their parkas while we were sitting around here in our shirt sleeves. A complete reversal of roles for this time of the year, too, I’d say.

Speaking of the World Series, as of this writing the Blue Jays are still in the hunt and we’re down to the final four teams so, all in all, it’s been a great year for the Blue Jays and their fans. My Mom was one of the biggest Blue Jays boosters who ever lived and somewhere, somehow, I am convinced, she’ll be cheering them on from the Great Beyond.

So here’s to the Toronto Blue Jays and may they upset the proverbial American Apple-cart and bring another World Series banner to Canada. Here’s to the new El Nino and may he bring the mildest of winters and here’s to the longest, warmest Autumn on record because, quite frankly, I’m not done losing golf balls just yet.

“Voting is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world.” Sharon Salberg (1952-).

OCTOBER--IT'S BASEBALL, BASEBALL, BASEBALL

This won't be news to regular readers of this column but as far as being a sports fan goes this is a most wonderful time of the year. And, yes, I have to tell you that every year!


This year is especially exciting as Canada's only Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, are in the MLB playoffs for the first time since they won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

My Toronto Maple Leafs have started a new NHL season on October 7th with newly hired Saskatchewan-boy, super-coach, Mike Babcock, as their latest head coach giving beleaguered Leafs' fans a glimmer of hope going into the 2015-16 season. Keeping in mind that he isn't a miracle worker, but one can hope, can't one?

Almost thankfully, as of this writing, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have only the skinniest of mathematical possibilities of making the CFL playoffs so we don't even have to worry about watching them if their schedule conflicts with the baseball playoffs or hockey's newest regular season.

However, all that being said, October is baseball time. After a 162-game regular season the playoffs are finally here. I’ve played and watched a lot of different sports and I will honestly tell you that I don’t have a favourite sport. To play or to watch. Well, actually, I do…I have several. I love the sport that is being played at its most crucial time of the year. Do we have to have a favourite everything? Why can’t we love ‘em all the same. So, right now, my favourite sport happens to be baseball.

Baseball is still one of the few sports that I play competitively, albeit only a half-dozen or so games per year, but it still counts. Baseball is so unique in so many ways and the game is always about the numbers, numbers, numbers. You could say any sport is like that, I suppose, but again, to me, baseball takes the cake when it comes to numbers.

I could go on about the numbers which include batting averages, on-base percentages, outs per inning, earned run averages, home runs per at bat, home game records vs away game records etc. etc. etc. But those are just good old boring statistics. There were some very interesting numbers discovered in the recent National League Playoff (winner take all) Wild Card game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs.

Next to my Leafs, and very few others, the Cubbies are arguably one of the most cursed franchises in the history of sport. They were a powerhouse of a team in the first decade of the 20th Century when there were only eight teams in the National League. The Cubs won the National League Pennant in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910 winning the World Series in 1907 and 1908 against the American League champions, in both those seasons, the Detroit Tigers. In the 107 years since their last World Series win they have made the post season playoffs only 13 times and they haven’t played in a World Series final since 1945.

Superstition and sports are synonymous and that fact appeared to come into play for this year’s Chicago Cubs team. You see, they were set to play the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh and the start time of the game would be of particular significance and Cubbie fans were hoping it was going to be a very good omen. The official first pitch time was slated for 7:08 p.m. Central time, which in military time is 19:08. 1908, of course, was the last year in which the Cubs won the World Series.

The date of the game itself is also noteworthy, as it was contested on October 7, or 10-7. 107 years, naturally, is the number of years it’s been since the Cubs have won a World Series title.

Here are a couple of other weird coincidences that have occurred with this year’s Cubs team. Their 97 wins this season are also the same number of games that the Cubs won when they last made the postseason. This season they had 48 road victories which are the most road wins they have had since 1945, the last time they played in a World Series. Hmmmmm. Coincidences or just numbers? You be the judge.

My money’s on the Blue Jays but if one had to lose to a worthy opponent my choice would be the Chicago Cubs. In time, the numbers will tell the story.



“Baseball is an island of activity amid a sea of statistics.”-Anonymous.

USA VS CANADA- THANKSGIVING DAY DIFFERENCES

My favourite internet information source states that, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year.” I have much to be thankful for over these past twelve months and I sure hope you do as well.


The United States of America is our closest neighbour, trading partner and ally. Because of its geographical closeness to Canada, Canadians have been inundated with American television for over 60 years. I’m going to go out on a limb here and also say that Canadians were taught a lot more about American history than Americans have been taught about Canadian history, so…short story long…as usual…between the TV and the history lessons, Canadians are very well acquainted with the American story of the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1621.

Following the Pilgrims’ historical Great Britain roots the event was both a religious thanksgiving as well as a harvest festival and over time it evolved into a single day Thanksgiving event. Many state governors began to recognize an annual “Thanksgiving Day” and the custom quickly spread to many other regions of the country culminating in President Abraham Lincoln declaring it a national holiday in 1863. Many of the states had celebrated Thanksgiving Day on different dates until Lincoln’s proclamation made it the last Thursday in November.

One of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in Canada may be attributed to British explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher and his fifteen ship expedition were searching for the Northwest Passage and his last voyage definitely wasn’t “third time’s the charm” as he encountered ice and freak storms which scattered his fleet. Upon the ships and crews finally meeting safely together again in what is now called “Frobisher Bay” on Baffin Island the expedition’s minister led them all in a prayer to be “thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places.”

Years later, French settlers, having crossed the ocean and arrived in Canada with explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1604 onwards also held huge feasts of thanks. After the Seven Years' War ended in 1763, with New France handed over to the British, the citizens of Halifax held a special day of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year.

After the American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash.

Currently we Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. The reason for the earlier date has often been attributed to the early onset of winter in our northern climate, thus ending harvest season earlier. Prior to Confederation, and similar to our American neighbours, Thanksgiving didn’t have a fixed date as individual governors of the Canadian provinces declared their own days of Thanksgiving, but by the end of the 19th century the date of November the 6th had been established as Thanksgiving Day. However, when World War I ended the Armistice Day holiday was usually held during the same week so to prevent the two holidays from clashing with one another, in 1957 the Canadian Parliament proclaimed Thanksgiving to be observed on its present date on the second Monday of October.

Hopefully you will be thankful for my Thanksgiving history and the reasons why Canadians and Americans celebrate the holiday in a similar manner but on different dates. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving long weekend feasting with friends and family. I know I will.

“Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.”-Amy Grant (1960-).



A HARVEST-TIME STORY FOR YOU

By the time you read this we will officially be in autumn. September 23rd, 2015 is the first day of autumn. I’ve got mixed feelings about autumn in that it is such a visually beautiful time of the year but the shorter, cooler days are something I could do without. I guess you have to take the good with the bad though.


This time of year always reminds me of harvesting the crops. I had the good fortune of working on my sister and brother-in-law’s farm during a couple of harvests in the middle 1970’s when I was just out of high school. I drove truck during the harvest and things were a little different than they are today. Equipment wise that is.

My brother-in-law and his brother farmed two sections of land and they had a couple of smaller self-propelled combines and the truck I used to haul the grain back to the bins was an aptly named 1942 International Harvester. It was a long time ago but my memory tells me that the truck box held about 200 bushels of grain so I ran pretty steady trying to keep up to the two combines.

I had a great time during those harvests. We worked hard but we had fun, too. We built a lot of great memories during those long days and short nights. If the weather held we could cover a lot of ground, too.

One year we finished up our crops and moved over to help a neighbour finish off his last field before a fast moving thunderstorm was about to hit. We barely got the grain in the bin and the equipment into the shop before the skies opened up. Great timing! We were pretty excited that everything was finished and a celebration was in order.

However, my brother-in-law’s brother had promised his father-in-law that we would move over to his land and combine his swathed durum starting the next day. We all thought that the rain would have been pretty wide-spread so we weren’t too worried about the celebration going a little long and hard that night. As luck, or back luck as it were, would have it, the durum crop was completely missed by the rain and was dry as a bone and ready to go bright and early the next day. We, on the other hand, were not, but there was very little choice so we had to suck it up and go.

The farm we were going to was close to forty miles away and we had to drive the equipment to the durum field at an average speed of 11 miles an hour, or something, and it was about 37C that day. Pounding head, sandpaper mouth, no air conditioner, one radio station, water and aspirin for lunch, Rolaids for a snack…what a ride! Needless to say that was one of the longest, hottest, dry-mouthed rides I have ever had to make!

As I recall we didn’t get a lot accomplished in the field before the sun went down that day but we did manage to get a few rounds off before we called it a night. We were offered a full harvest meal and anything we wanted to drink. I was able to eat by then but I think coffee was the beverage of choice that particular day.

As I cruise the area roads I see a lot of crop has been harvested with more still to come in some areas but it looks like things are winding down a bit now. If you’ve been harvesting I hope it went well for you and I’m pretty sure there will be more than a story or two to tell once the grain’s in the bin.

“And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin’ brown and golden under a sinkin’ sun.”-Roy Bean (1825-1903).



THE NEW FALL LINEUP

Here we are with another Labour Day weekend behind us and “normal” ahead of us. Another summer season having passed into the memory banks once again. Now it’s time to settle into the upcoming fall season as we harvest in the garden produce and get the canners and pickle jars out. Those of you with crop in the field I wish you all the best in your harvest efforts and may the weatherman be on your side.


He/She sure wasn’t very kind to us at all during the 2015 version of the Labour Day Long Weekend as it seems that a door was slammed shut on summer-like weather and the cool daylight shortened days door was opened to us far too quickly.

While doing a review of all of the activities that we have enjoyed this past summer and checking on the old ToDo List of Home Repairs show me that there seemed to have been a lot more fun activities than work related activities this past summer. I’m okay with that, though, but I am going to need a pretty fair long fall season to get caught up on my procrastinated handyman chores.

Speaking of the fall season we are constantly being reminded of the new upcoming television lineups as the networks are unveiling some new shows while bringing back some old favourites and rekindling bygone beauties like The Muppets. I love the Muppets and I can hardly wait to see what they are offering in this new version of the old show. We Baby Boomers are a nostalgic lot and we cannot get enough of the old stuff it seems.

Like most, I probably watch too much TV anyway but I’m kind of looking forward to the new fall television season, in between the Blue Jays and Rider games, of course. I’m not a big “Reality” show fan though, because none of it really seems real for me so I’ll stick to news, sports and weather for my reality check.

Speaking of reality I’ve got a couple of pet peeves when it comes to the networks’ efforts on making things “real”. Like using empty coffee cups all of the time and expecting the viewers to accept that they are actually filled with liquid. Why not just fill them with water or something so they don’t look totally fake? Hmmmm? Would it be that difficult? I know it’s television and it’s all fake but they could try a little harder to not assume everyone is a dumb-ass couldn’t they?

Same thing with the keyboard usage whenever there is computer work being done on a TV show. Why is it that everyone else in the world but a Hollywood character uses their mouse the majority of the time while they’re on their computer? Maybe I’m being a bit picky but it just irritates me to no end. Who does that? Clicking away at a keyboard like a madman when a couple of clicks of the mouse is what normal people would do. They seem to go out of their way to make all of the blood n guts and gory details of murdered bodies look as real as possible so why not all of the little details? Is that too much to ask?

As usual, we’ll be seeing some winners and some losers but for the most part the New Fall Lineup will give its intended entertainment value despite the flaws and I’m ready for it.



“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.” David Frost (1939-2013).

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

            I've been a lazy blogger this summer, sorry to say. It's been so beautiful and we've been so busy and being a Saskatchewan boy I know that I've got to make hay when the sun shines which means that when the weather allows it I have to be outside. I could write outside, I guess, but there's always way too much on the old to-do list to sit and peck away in the sun.
            I hadn't posted anything on this blog since we left for a vacation to the BC interior so I've added a few of my weekly columns. Have a look. Once the fall settles in and the summer activities slow down I'll be posting up some more stuff.            

IT'S OVER


            I seem to be suffering from the Post-Family-Reunion-Blues. You know how it is. You anticipate and wait and wait and wait for an event like a family or class reunion or a wedding or a vacation or something and then before you know it...there it was...gone.
            So it was for the 2nd Annual Rose and Lowell Hubbard Family Reunion that was just held in Regina on the weekend of the 14th, 15th and 16th of August. Our family has had many gatherings similar to this year's version but this is the second one that we have had since Mom passed away in 2013.
            Mom's birthday is the 30th of August so for the past while the family has traditionally met around this time of the year to celebrate her birthday anyway but as Mom's age advanced and her health slowed her down she made all of us promise to continue the gatherings even after she was gone. I'm pretty sure we would have continued to meet anyway but it's always a good idea to listen to your Mother.
            This year it was even more important that we get as many members of the family together as possible as the Hubbard sisters and brothers were down a sibling after our brother Jack recently passed. We all have to make the best of the time we have here on good ol' Mother Earth because things can change in a hurry and you just never know how different things may be in a twelve month span.
            My bluesy mood can also be attributed to the fact that our summer is dwindling down all too soon. As we tick off the summer events calendar we are reminded that there are more summer days behind us than in front of us. British Columbia vacation...tick...July 1st long weekend...tick...Geezerball Baseball Tournament...tick...August Long Weekend...tick...2nd Annual Family Reunion...tick...
            Then again, there are still two weeks left until Labour Day so there's a bit of time to cram in some more summer-type events. Hopefully the heat haters haven't been too efficient in their collective wishing for cooler temperatures but I'm afraid that's  also wishful thinking on my part. We did go from 37C to 12C for daytime high temperatures in 48 hours over this past weekend, though. Just saying. Are ya happy now? Brrrrrr...... 
            I guess the rapid drop in temperatures makes the retail outlets look pretty smart as it's a lot easier to buy a parka right now than it is a bathing suit. Go figure. What did they know that nobody else knows? Hmmmm? Was it a fluke? Yes, it was a fluke,  is the answer to that question  because there seems to be a jump on the next season's product lines earlier and earlier every year regardless of what the weather's doing. But I think I'm going to lump them in with the heat haters, too, as far as cold weather-wishing culprits go. Thanks a lot.
            Now I've just gone from bluesy to downright cranky so I'm going to follow some more of my Mom's advice and say nothing more if I don't have anything nice to say at all.


            "Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around."-Bill Watterson (1958-).

PHOTO SPEED ENFORCEMENT....MY VIEW

            Has anyone else been caught by the famed “Photo Speed Enforcement” program? No? Lucky you! I have and for me it sure created some mixed feelings about the whole process.
            My first thoughts on Photo Speed Enforcement ticketing is that it was lazy policing. How easy is it to set up a few cameras and catch speeders as they fly by? And where's the "human element"? What about discretion? What if there was a very valid excuse for speeding? Say... sudden explosive diarrhea? Or your wife is in intense labour pains and she's this close to delivering the baby? Will the camera know for sure?
            Actually those are bad examples. I don't think that if I was experiencing either one of those situations that I'd like a Police Officer pulling me over at any time. I'd take my Photo Enhanced speeding ticket lumps and get to the nearest restroom or hospital but I think you know what I mean.
            However, let's back it up to the $118.00 speeding ticket that I received in the mail that shocked and angered me. I'm like..."what the deuce? When the heck was this? Was this me?" because I'm not a speeder. No, really! I know everyone says that but I'm not! This is the third speeding ticket in my life and I've been driving for forty-plus years. And some of those years I was driving for a living and logging a ton of miles on the road. Oh sure, like most, I'll maybe push the limit a bit but I'm not a 20-30 kliks an hour over the speed limit kind of driver.
            You know what, though? Turns out that it was definitely me, or our truck with the very noticeable HUBZ vanity plate on the rear bumper. It was also the day of my oldest brother's funeral in Medicine Hat and we were on our way to the funeral home at the time of the ticket so it was definitely me driving. And I know that.
             Distracted driving? Yes, kind of, I guess. I was about to deliver my brother's eulogy in a short amount of time and I probably didn't have my head in the driving game. But that's no excuse. I was speeding through a school zone that I had driven through probably a hundred times or more. A school zone! 44km/hour in a 30 km zone. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Again, no excuses! Lazy policing?? I think not. Did I deserve the ticket? Damn right I did. Smarten up! Pay attention...you are endangering children's lives here!
            Let's back up again to the earlier point about discretion and the "human element". Maybe there are a few drivers who could schmooz their way out of the occasional ticket, or something, and there will always be the odd "judgment" call but the percentages would be so miniscule that, in my humble opinion, it doesn't offset the good that can be accomplished by policing our roads 24-7-365 with the technology that is available to us today.(I.E.-Photo Speed Enforcement).
            Do you know how many people speed through school zones and road crew work zones? Do you have any idea how many Highway Patrolmen, Highway Traffic Officers and road construction workers have been killed or maimed by drivers who were speeding or impaired or just plain inept at their driving skills? Even one is too many and we know that the number is a lot higher than that.
            I've put on an awful lot of kilometers on many vehicles over many years and my observance is that there are more people on the road than ever before and there are a lot more speeders than ever before. And excessive speeds, too. When they pass you like you are standing still going 110km/hour then we need to do something about it. And if it's too dangerous to police our highways with actual Police Officers then what are we left to do?
            On July 13th, 2015 a 19-year-old woman was clocked at 195kms/hour (121mph) on the Trans Canada highway west of Regina at 11o'clock in the morning. 195 Kilometers per hour!! I don't care, nobody should be going that fast and we shouldn't even be manufacturing domestic vehicles with those kinds of speed capabilities. It's just too dangerous. If you want speed there are places for that kind of thing. If you have a death wish at 19-years-old then have at 'er honey but take up cliff jumping or rock climbing or parachuting or shoot yourself out of a cannon if you love speed so much but don't drive down one of the busiest public roadways in the country 85 kilometers an hour over the speed limit endangering the lives of every other person on the road.
            Photo Speed Enforcement isn't cheap or cheesy or lazy policing. It is simply using the tools and technology at hand to reduce high-risk behaviour while lowering fatalities on our roadways and increasing public safety. That can't be a bad thing, can it?

"Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.", Jeff Cooper (1920-2006).

MEN BEING BOYS

            There appears to be a few items to discuss this week. Surviving and thriving at the fun-filled Hotter Than Hades Twilighter ball tournament, the rarity of the upcoming Blue Moon and the Saskatchewan Day mid-summer long weekend are all subjects that I’d like to touch on this time around.
            This past weekend the Eden Valley Senators baseball team travelled to Estevan as it was the host community for this year’s Master’s Twilight Baseball Tournament and Estevan’s designation as “Canada’s Sunshine Capital” was clearly on display as the sun shone brightly and the temperatures hit the mid-to-high 30C range throughout the three days of the tournament. Except for a brief and scary thunderstorm that hit late in the afternoon on Friday, the weather was sunny and hot, followed by sunny and hotter.
            Most teams would be a little whiny about having to play two out of their four games at eight o’clock in the morning but it was the best time of the day to escape the extreme heat of the afternoon games and even this heat lover appreciated the lower temperatures early in the day. Mind you, given the choice between playing in the heat over shivering through the drizzle and the 10C weather that we had to endure a few years ago at the tournament in Davidson, I’ll take the heat any time. They don’t call them the “Boys of SUMMER” for nothing. Besides, heat, within reason, is a lot better on the old muscles and bones than the cold is; but that’s just me.
            Once again, the fun level was higher than the baseball ability level but we don’t really care too much about that. It’s become the baseball-family reunion for the members of our team and their extended families. Some of the children of the players cannot even remember a summer when they haven’t attended a twilighter ball tournament. The player’s wives and children have always attended every game and our Eden Valley Wives & Kids Fan Club have become more well-known for their support of the team and their cheering style than the guys have with their ball playing ability on the field. It might even be easier for us to play the games than it is for them to watch us play but they are there every time.
            But, you know, as usual we had some great plays and some bad plays.  Ken Ede cracked a home run, which is always exciting, and there were just as many fine baseball plays on the field, like Daryle Roth’s running grab of a fly ball, as there were Keystone Kops “what the heck are they doing out there???” plays. Either way, it was pretty good entertainment.
            It was another eventful year as a few of our players accepted some long-term awards, including yours truly, which is a testament to our love of the game and commitment to the team. At times, it was hard to know if our muscles hurt more from laughing or playing, which is a good sign, and there’s never a lack of painkiller available in liquid, salve or pill form. There was even a bit of white lightening that somehow found its way into the campground, strictly for medicinal purposes, mind you, but now I’m starting to cross the line of “what happens at Twilighters stays at Twilighters” so that’s about all I’m going to say on that subject. Suffice to say it was another unforgettable tournament and it’ll be hard to top this latest version for fun but we’re ready to give it our best shot this time again next year.
            Now that I’ve taken up all the allotted room talking about the Twilighter tournament I will mention that this weekend it is both a Blue Moon on Friday the 31st of July and Saskatchewan Day on Monday, August 3rd. Too bad the Blue Moon wasn’t this past weekend while we were playing some of our baseball because, who knows, maybe it would have altered our results, but I digress. 
             Have a look at this Blue Moon as we won’t get another one until 2018 and then we get two…January and March and there hasn’t been a Blue Moon since August of 2012 so these celestial events are rarer than one would think.
            I don’t think the Saskatchewan Day Long weekend will quite compare to this past weekend’s fun a frivolity of the Annual Twilighter Pilgrimage but we’ll give it our best shot to have a fun filled weekend. I hope you do, too. Happy Saskatchewan Day everyone!

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”-George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).

LOSING AN OLD FRIEND

            Well we put July to bed under a Full Blue Moon and we’re on to the Dog Days of August now. The summer’s been a pretty hectic one for us and other than the odd bad weather day it has been a very nice summer. Weather-wise, that is. Some would think it too hot while others will think it’s not hot enough, proving yet again, you just can’t make everyone happy.
            Last week we happened to get one of the really bad weather days when that crazy wind blew through town making a nuisance of itself. In fact, it whipped around a big old tree that was close to our house and snapped off a huge branch leaving the remainder of the tree too fragile to salvage so the whole thing had to come down before the rest of it fell into the house. I hate losing beautiful mature trees but at least there wasn’t any house or human damage done, but still, it was like losing a family member.
            It sure saddened our three children when they heard the news as this was the tree where the tire swing had hung for years and years and it was also one of their favourite climbing trees. They have so many fond memories of growing up in this yard and many of them are tied to that tree and others which are, thankfully, still standing.
            Nolan remembered how he once fell awkwardly off of the tire swing and landed in a handstand kind of way giving him “green stick” fractures in both of his wrists. Well, maybe some of the events weren’t so “fond” but they definitely were memorable.
            Emily also recalled how a game of mini-golf around the house ended in a memorable way as Nolan connected on a ball a little harder than he was supposed to and the golf ball ricocheted off of that tree and was flying straight for Em’s face when she was luckily able to deflect it with her hand leaving only a damaged pinky instead of a missing tooth or a broken nose or something. Good times, good times.
            Thankfully we were able to employ the equipment and talents of Benny Baker and Richard Levai as they had the tree cut down, chopped, cleaned up and removed from the yard within 24 hours. Man, those guys can work! Thanks again for your speedy response fellas. Much appreciated.
            In my lifetime I have witnessed some pretty nasty weather including vicious winter storms, tornados and scary thunderstorms. I am not sure if I completely believe that the weather patterns are more severe and numerous now than before but it sure appears that way.           
            Maybe it simply appears that way because nine times out of ten when I look at the weather report on my computer or smart phone there seems to be some kind of weather advisory alert blinking away in red. Severe thunderstorm activity; extreme heat warning; tornado warning; smokey air advisory; heavy rain warning; strong wind advisory…and on and on it goes. It almost seems to be a bit of “the boy crying wolf” going on here, though. If we are in continual alert won’t we get complacent when they don’t develop? I hope not. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.
            I’m more of a glass is half full than empty kind of guy so as sad as it is to see one summer month pass by it’s good to know that we have a full month of summer weather to look forward to in August. We also have a lot of activity planned for this month which will probably make it go by a little too fast but it will be fun making more memories…fond or otherwise.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory”-Dr. Seuss.

WHERE THE HECK'S MY BALL GLOVE?

            Once again, it’s time to dust off the old cleats and see if the ball glove is where I put it after I used it the last time, which was about a year ago, or so, I guess. Mind you, these things have a tendency to move around the house by themselves in the basement or in the spare room or in the hall closet or one of the other places that I know I put the stuff last year but now it isn’t where I knew I put it and, of course, it’s someone else’s fault that I can’t find my ball bag and with only two of us left living in this house and it’s not where I KNOW I put it then “you know who” must have moved it or something.
The conversation regarding the missing ball gear went something like this:
Yelling from basement, “Hey, have you seen my ball stuff?”
“Nope, where’d you put it?”
“I hung it up right here in the basement beside my hockey bag.”
“Is it there now?”
“Would I be asking if it was there?”
“Smarty-pants, if it’s not there then you probably didn’t put it there because I never touched it. Are you sure it isn’t under something, or maybe fell on the floor, or perhaps you did put it in some other closet or room?”
Exasperating sigh, “NO. I hung it up last year when we got home and I put it right here.”
“And you don’t remember moving it or putting it somewhere else?”
“What did I just tell you? No. It was RIGHT HERE!”
“Is it that black Co-op duffle bag that smells like stinky feet and Rub A-5-3-5?”
“Yeah. Probably. You haven’t seen it but you remember how it smells?”
“I don’t remember how it smells because it smells like the bag I just pulled out of the closet.”
“How’d it get in there?! I swear I hung it up downstairs right after the tournament!”
“Sure you did, honey. Sure you did. Here you go…have a nice practice” Or words to that effect. Humble pie has a terrible taste, doesn’t it?
Well, thank goodness somebody found my stuff because it’s “Geezer Ball” time again. Yup, the good ol’ SBA (Saskatchewan Baseball Association)Twilighter Master’s Division Provincial Playoff Tournament is being held in Estevan this upcoming weekend and the Eden Valley Senators are going to be there.
It’s hard to believe that this group of ballplayers and their families have been attending these events for close to a decade now. Daryle Roth assembled the core group of players back in 2006 and while there have been some additions and deletions along the way the majority of these guys will have played together in ten of these tournaments. Counting this year.
We have a blast trying to defy our ages and recapture some youthful exuberance, even for just a day or two, before coming back home to lick our wounds while promising to be better prepared for the event next year. Which we probably won’t be because, like the missing ball bag, we’ll forget where our pain went and just before next year’s tournament comes around we’ll be searching for some gumption along with our ball gear. Then, with a little luck and maybe more than a little bit of help ,we’ll put it together for another go ‘round.

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.”-Yogi Berra (1925-).

IMMORTALITY?....I COULD MAKE IT WORK

Whiling away this past winter’s hours Deb and I became fans of the television series Forever. The basic premise is that a New York City medical examiner dies 200 years ago while trying to rescue slaves as a doctor aboard a ship in the African slave trade and he becomes physically immortal. His long life has given him extensive knowledge in many areas along with very keen powers of observation making him an excellent crime solver while examining the bodies of the many homicide victims he is tasked to examine. His job as a medical examiner also gives him great insight into death and he is hoping to find answers as to why he never dies when killed; which happens in just about every episode. 
            Now, you’re probably wondering why I am all of the sudden a promoter of CTV and ABC Television shows, I’m not and the show is being cancelled after just one season, tsk, tsk, tsk, but the whole point of the information above is to tell you that the character in the series, Dr. Henry Morgan, somehow isn’t too happy with his immortality which goes completely against all human history as the search and desire for human biological and physical immortality has been sought after since the earliest recordings of mankind. Some scientists say it is merely decades away.
            I found it a little odd that, as we were travelling recently, I happened to mention to Debbie that I think a guy would have to be immortal in order to be able to see and live in so many, wonderful and beautiful places this planet has to offer and we were only covering a few miles in Western Canada for crying out loud! Think of the entire world! Even with all of their money Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or some other bazillionaire would have the financial resources but not the longevity to see it all.
            I’m talking about physical immortality here, of course, similar to the fictitious Dr. Henry Morgan, where you would stay around 40 years-old for a thousand years plus or so, not “life everlasting” as in eternal life, if you know what I mean. I’m thinking I’m never going to actually find out what it’d be like but I don’t know how “difficult” it would be to live for years and years.
Yes, I know, you’d want someone to not age right along with you, maybe, but still. And it would definitely be hard outliving all of your descendants but there’d be some upsides, too, I’m sure. Not being able to die means you could try anything. Bull fighting, cliff jumping, high-wire walking, chain saw juggling…you might want to check to see if your limbs would grow back first, you know, maybe start with a toe or a finger, or something…. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you’re getting the gist of my thought process here.
I don’t mean to bore you with another “how fantastic British Columbia is” story but it seemed to us that you could pull over pretty much anywhere out there and find a gorgeous place to live for a little while. I will also include the entire provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in there as well. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if you lived one decade in every spot you would like to call home it’d easily take you past a thousand years. That’s only 100 spots, if my math is correct. It’s barely a start.
As stated earlier, scientists are convinced we will achieve physical immortality soon but we’re supposed to be riding hover boards right now too, aren’t we? I am not sure, with 7 billion of us humans on the planet already, and the average lifespan rising, where we’d put everybody if they were to all live 1000 years plus but if science is able to make us not die it’d probably be able to figure that part out, too. I would hope.
I don’t think we’ll see it happen in my lifetime, but I’m working on my list of places to live, should the opportunity present itself.

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”-Woody Allen, (1939-).

TRAVELLING BEAUTIFUL BRITISH COLUMBIA

            Did anyone else notice my mathematically challenged subtraction in last week’s column? If you didn’t, then shame on the both of us. It was not Canada’s 118th birthday, like I stated it was; it was Canada’s 148th birthday on July 1st, 2015. I’m sure she’d be flattered that I thought she looked a lot younger than she really is, though.
            As mentioned in last week’s column, as well, we did get to celebrate the country’s 148th Birthday on the shores of Okanagan Lake watching the July 1st fireworks at Peachland, BC. In a province surrounded by spectacular beauty the quaint community of Peachland is, as promised, a beautiful peach of a place. It turned out to be a great place to spend Canada Day watching a parade, going swimming, eating ice cream and ooooing and aahhing at the fireworks.
            Of course, as with all good things, they must come to an end so after an eventful, full and fun 10 days in West Kelowna we had to say goodbye to our youngest daughter Emily and the beautiful Okanagan valley and make our way back to Kipling.
            In a reversal of last year’s trip, this year we travelled out to British Columbia via Highway #3 through the Crowsnest Pass and made the return trip through the Kicking Horse Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. I know it’s all mountains and rivers and forests and streams and winding roads but you wouldn’t believe the difference in the road views when you reverse the directions.
            The Crowsnest highway was built in 1932 as a Great Depression project and mainly follows a mid-19th century gold rush trail that had originally been traced out by an engineer named Edgar Dewdney. Dewdney later served as Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories and he was also the fifth Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. The Crowsnest Pass’s highest elevation reaches 1358m (4455ft).
            The Kicking Horse Pass and the adjacent Kicking Horse River, were named after James Hector, a naturalist, geologist, surgeon, and a member of John Palliser’s 1858 Palliser Expedition, who was actually kicked by his horse while exploring the region. It seems the name stuck. The Trans-Canada Highway was constructed through the pass in 1962 following the original CPR rail route. The Kicking Horse Pass’s elevation is 1643m (5390ft).
             Driving the highways through either of these passes can give you the willies at times but one has to admire the sheer determination and mind-boggling feats of engineering that were employed to complete the roadways through the mountains. The drive along Highway #1 from Golden through the Kicking Horse Pass was especially nerve-racking for me and I’m driving it on a finished pristine highway. Can you imagine what the road builders would have seen while they were constructing this thing? Yowza!
            I don’t know how they did it and I don’t know why they did what they did when they did it but the construction of those highways through those mountains is an absolutely awesome great Canadian achievement. And this tourist is happier for it.

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