Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WINTER .SO INCONVENIENT!

            I’ve whined and sniveled enough in this column about my detestation of the winter months here in good old Sas-katch-ee-wan. Then again, you don’t live on the Canadian Prairies for the number of years, (58), that I have and not find a way to cope or even kind of enjoy the winter conditions…given the proper activity, of course, and the proper clothing, too.
            I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the total inconvenience of winter that I really can’t stand; not the actual weather, per se. Cold temperatures or stormy conditions can be somewhat enjoyable, too, if you’re in a cozy house with a warm fire, a hot beverage and a good hockey game or two to watch. However, that said, freezing one’s digits off while clamping the booster cables to the battery posts is a different story altogether.
            Take the difference between July and January. On a typically July Saturday morning you get up and throw on a tee shirt, shorts and some flip-flops, hop on the bike or stroll on down to the post office for the mail and come back and sit on the patio reading the weekly paper while sipping on your coffee. Easy peasy.
On a typical January Saturday you get up and throw one, three or six layers of clothing on, put the touque on over your earmuffs, pull on the snow boots and mitts over your gloves, put up the parka hood and start to shovel your way to the car, all the while hoping you remembered to plug in the block heater the night before and pray that the stupid thing will even start, and, if it does, then you brush off the snow and scrape off the ice and shovel a path out of the driveway and hope that the snow removal crews have been out so you can get down the street crossing your fingers that you won’t slide through the intersection and hit something, or someone, and then when you get to the post office and get out of the car you’re hoping that you don’t slip and fall on the ice and break a hip or crack your noggin or some damn thing…see what I mean? By the time you get back home from getting the paper you’re too exhausted to read it, never mind pouring a coffee! Sheesh!
Then again, as stated earlier, given the right winter conditions and the proper cold weather clothing you can enjoy some winter activities like I just did over the past weekend. The weather was unseasonably mild for this time of year with less than the usual gale-force wind and the sun was shining so I threw on the snow shoes and tromped around the golf course for a little while.
The gale-force winds that we had been experiencing recently had sculpted the snow into odd looking drifts adding a rather surreal, otherworldly look to the landscape. The drifts had the look of whitecap waves on a lake that had been instantly frozen. The only sounds out there were the crunching of the snow shoes and the huffing of my breath. There’s nothing like a close touch with nature to help you feel alive.
Then, the next day Deb and I took our five-year-old grandson and three-year-old granddaughter out to the toboggan hill in their hometown of Wolseley and slid down the hill a number of times on the super-sliders. All of us. What a blast! Treyton and I even did a little skating on the outdoor rink that they have there, too. It’s at those particular moments when winter is most appreciated. Still inconvenient…but appreciated.

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”-Sinclair Lewis. (1885-1951).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 PREDICTIONS

          Well, we’re about a week, or so, past Elvis’s birthday so it’s got to be the middle of January already. That’s great, isn’t it? That half of the nastiest winter month has passed--not that you missed Elvis’s birthday…or maybe you didn’t…oh, never mind…
Now, where was I? I don’t mean to wish my life away but knowing that we’re that much closer to warmer weather will put a smile on my face and raise my tolerance level for these frigid temperatures a bit.
As 2014 fades in our memories it’s time to pull out the old crystal ball or the pig spleen or the bowl of water, (ala Nostradamus), or a future predicting instrument of your choice, and predict, some say guess, at what may transpire in 2015.
We know that there will be all of the usual predictions of continued global strife, a pandemic or two, global economic uncertainty, (like there’s ever been certainty!), a political scandal, or two, or three, or four…some natural disasters and, of course, the odd good news story will emerge as well.
Saying that there will be unrest in the Middle East or that Putin will continue to flex his muscles or North Korea will alienate itself further from the rest of humanity is pretty much a given so there’s no point in wasting some crystal ball magic on that kind of stuff.
Predicting who will win the Stanley Cup and be right doing it…now there’s some top-notch prognosticating. I’d do that for you, you know, but I think we all know who’s going to win the Cup this year. Yup, that’s right.
What I will do for you is tell you who WON’T win the Cup this year, and it breaks my heart to say it, but a guy’s got to face facts, and…here it is…you heard it here first…the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be carrying the Stanley Cup around after the last NHL playoff game is played in June or July or something. There!...I’ve said it. 48 years and counting.
I’m sorry, you’re right, that’s an easy one, too. More predictable than Israeli/Palestine relations continuing to be strained.
Back to the Leafs. You know that that wasn’t really a prediction anyway, it was just my sad attempt at reverse jinxation. I’m crossing my fingers that I am completely wrong on that one.
I’m hoping that the Doomsayers are wrong also. Their last prediction was that the End of the World was going to happen on December 21st, 2012 and when it didn’t occur they said that it was merely postponed. Yes, postponed. Apparently, the Mayans miscalculated something in the calendar and Doomsday’s been postponed. It’s supposed to happen on September 3rd, 2015 now. Something to do with back-to-back years with three Blood Full Moons in a row, I think…I don’t know, I stopped reading about it, I’m tired of stressing out about nothing.
There’s another sure-fire, dead-on prediction: Stress will remain stressful and we will all continue to get stressed that we are under such stress.
Then again, the sun will shine and spring will arrive and flowers will blossom and it will again be warm and then it might even get hot and another year will unfold with events that we have seen way too often before and other events will unfold that we have never, ever seen. Time will tell.
Oh, yeah, it’s the Montreal Canadiens…wink, wink.
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time,”-Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865).


Friday, January 9, 2015

REALLY? WHAT'RE YOU THINKING??

 Friday January 2nd was a cold and blustery day and the warnings of “Heavy Snowfall” were coming to fruition as I headed home from work at Seed Hawk, which is located on #9 Highway a few kilometers north of Langbank. It was around two o’clock in the afternoon and the driving conditions were deteriorating quickly as snow had really started coming down and the wind began to pick up, too. The snowfall made the visibility bad enough but vehicles passing from the opposite direction or following behind another vehicle created near whiteout conditions.
The Highway Hotline lingo “drive with caution” was never more applicable. Mind you, to me, every time you turn your vehicle on and drive it you should be “driving with caution”, but I digress.
Cautiously, I turned on to Highway 48 and headed west toward Kennedy and Kipling. I came up behind another half ton truck and settled in behind it as it was moving cautiously as well. Because of the swirling snow I couldn’t see if any other traffic was coming towards us so I settled in for a slower drive home but I was only going to Kipling so an extra four or five minutes wasn’t going to kill me but impatiently pulling out to pass the slower vehicle and running in to oncoming traffic probably would.
As we approached a curve I could see good enough to know that there were a few vehicles ahead of the truck in front of me, too, but there was nothing in my rear view mirror at that time. Again, there didn’t seem to be any reason to take a risk on passing so I just bided my time and hung in behind the half ton in front of me.
We travelled like that for most of the drive between Kennedy and Kipling and then as we passed Bender I could see lights in my rear view mirror. I assumed, which is always dangerous thinking, that the driver approaching my rear would fall into line like everyone else and we’d “convoy” it into Kipling.
I noticed the vehicle behind me was closing in fast and it got so close that I could plainly see its distinctive Mercedes Benz hood ornament and it was also close enough that I couldn’t even see the grill on the front of the cube van. I kept my foot on the accelerator but lightly tapped the brake enough for the brake lights to flash on hoping my signal would tell the driver to back off. Either the driver didn’t know what my signal meant or they didn’t care because they sure didn’t back off at all.
Keep in mind that all of this was happening while the visibility was horrible. I couldn’t even see the taillights of the vehicle directly in front of me and we were only a couple of kliks away from Kipling by this time. The goof behind me kept on my rear end right into town. Even then, as we came in to Kipling and slowed to the 50km/hr speed limit, you couldn’t see clear enough to know if there was any traffic approaching from the other direction or how far ahead the vehicle in front of you was.
Unbelievably, the moron passed me right in front of Bumper to Bumper! I saw lights coming towards us from the east-bound lane and slammed on my brakes so the idiot could pull in before a head on collision occurred. Sheesh! Then the fool pulled out as soon as the oncoming car went by and passed the next vehicle in front of him a block later! IN TOWN! With ZERO visibility! What the deuce?  Or words to that effect crossed my mind.
I don't know if the guy had a death wish or not and I didn't care because I don’t and I’m  not done living quite yet, thank you very much, and I didn't appreciate the fact that he was risking everyone else's life around him in the process of his dangerous, selfish driving. If you're going to drive like that take it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah or the middle of Bender Lake or something where you're only endangering your own life, for crying out loud!
Oh, by the way, I timed out how long it takes to drive all the way through Kipling at 50kms per hour from the speed limit sign on the east end of town to the western outskirts and it's two minutes and four seconds.  2:04:00! That's all! Worth risking lives over? I think not.
The guy was driving a corporate vehicle, with a passenger no less, so, needless to say, the corporation is going to get a copy of this diatribe complete with a few more details.
My apologies, Dear Reader, for starting off the New Year with a cranky, full-moon, claws out rant but the mindless fool's stupidity really rankled me. If you hadn't noticed. Thanks for listening, though.

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”-Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Thursday, January 1, 2015

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR COMES TO A CLOSE.

            "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is coming to a close quicker than wanted for some and not soon enough for others. It flew by far too quickly for me. But it always does.
            The belly's a little bigger and the wallet's a little lighter and the melancholy’s starting to creep in a bit but the memories that were made were oh so worth it.
            To quote a famous Elvis Presley Christmas song: “For if everyday could be just like Christmas, What a wonderful world this would be.” Maybe yes, maybe no. If “everyday could be just like Christmas” how would it be so special then? To me it’s kind of like living full-time in a vacation home...where do you vacation? Hmmmmmm? Just saying.
 I do understand the sentiment though; about everyday being just like Christmas, it’s the feeling of peace and harmony and glad tidings to all, which I do completely agree with, but there is also an undeniable warmth that is felt, by most people, I would hope, during this season of the year, that makes it especially special and unique and that kind of feeling would be hard to reproduce on a daily basis.
            There’s another quote by American writer, publisher, philosopher, Elbert Hubbard, (no relation; at least as far as I know), who famously said, “Next to the circus, there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit!”, suggesting, also, that making “every day just like Christmas” would be a daunting task indeed. Again... difficult to sustain, don’t you think?
            So, we move on and life gets back to “normal” and we return to our regular routines, but, hopefully we will carry a wee bit of the spirit of the season around with us. For a while at least.
            There can be a bit of a letdown as the aforementioned after-Christmas melancholy kicks in so that’s why entering the New Year is a bit of a reset and allows one to get one’s bearings. Setting goals and making resolutions for the upcoming year can also lift one’s spirit and give you something to look forward to.
            Do you think that it’s coincidental that there is a direct correlation between the overindulgence of the Happy Holidays to the top three New Year’s resolutions? They are in order: 1.) lose weight, exercise more and improve one’s physical well being; 2.) improve finances...get out of debt, save money; 3.) improve mental well-being...think positive, laugh more often, enjoy life. Again...hmmmm.
            For me personally, I think 2014 was a pretty good year. I will, of course, promise to do the above things, as well, and maybe a few others, too, because everybody could use some self improvement, don’t you think, and there is never a better time for that than the start of a new year. A new beginning, as it were.
            Of course I’ll have to give myself a day or two to finish up the holiday food and beverage leftovers and wallow in the melancholy before I tackle that procrastination resolution....
            I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, whether it was too short or too long, and I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.
Happy New Year!!

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.”- Benjamin Franklin. (1706-1790).