Friday, July 31, 2009

Dorks are cool

A friend of mine recently said he would like to do high school again.
Personally I would rather chew tinfoil.
“Great idea, but since we can’t go back in time, why don’t you use a cheese grater on my forehead, pour rubbing alcohol on it, insult me and then laugh at my pain. That will make me feel like I am in school again.”
Sounds like a great plan to me.
Apparently, high school for my buddy was a time of merriment, parties and all around youthful mayhem.
For me, it was more like poking a sharp stick in my eye – repeatedly.
I was kind of shy in high school. Actually, I was so shy I could barely talk to myself in the mirror.
It’s kind hard to be the life of the party when you are terrified of speaking. Around my close friends I was a jokester always looking for a laugh, but in a larger social setting I would clam up.
Overall, those agonizing high school years were about as much fun as sticking my toungue in a blender.
I kind of lived on the fringe of high school society – which is a tough place for a teenager to be. Add that to the insecurity of youth, the zit farm growing on your forehead and the raging hormones that could send a teenybopper from happy to sad in 1.4 seconds and it was just a good ol’ time.
I was not part of the so-called cool crowd.
Nor was I a member of the jock fraternity, although I did play hockey for many years and I could have been a professional NHL star, except I wasn’t good enough. Had I been a much better player I would have made the Canucks for sure.
At the high school I went to, if you weren’t one of the cool kids or jocks, odds are you fell in with one of the dork clans. I always found dorkdum the most interesting group of my peers.
There are several types of dorks - dorkusalotus in Latin - each with their own attributes that set them apart from other dorks.
It is much the same in the animal kingdom. There are countless types of dogs, but in the end a dog is still a dog.
And no matter the stripe, a dork is still a dork.
There were the brainiac dorks who were so smart they were shunned by the rest of the school. They were usually dorks for no other reason than they were too smart for their own social good.
High school may have been rough for them, but those big brains of theirs served them well later on in life.
Their leader, idol and esteemed guide through the world of brainaic dorkdom is, of course, Bill Gates.
I doubt there is anyone on Earth who looked forward to their high school grad reunion more than Mr. Microsoft himself.
“Hi guys remember me. You picked on me all through high school. Well guess what? I am now so rich I just bought Paraguay.”
There were the arrogant dorks who thought they were cool, but came across as being obnoxious.
Those are possibly the most annoying dorks because they do not know they are dorks.
Some dorks moved from one dork clan to another and, on rare occasions, a dork could actually break out of their assigned role and enter the world of the cool people.
It was rare, but it did happen - kind of like an Elvis sighting.
Myself, I kind of just hung out in the background, never really getting involved and not really fitting in to any group.
I guess, under the strictest sense of the word, I could have been classified as a dork. But in my defense, it was a dorkiness bred from shyness (that’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.)
I didn’t belong with the brainiac dorks or the obnoxious dorks, so I was in a kind of dork limbo.
A dork no-man’s land if you will.
My shyness faded as I grew older and in college – if I dare say so – I was considered one of the cool kids.
Who would have ever thought that would happen – the mysteries of life truly are baffling.
But still, to go back and live through high school again, no thanks.
It would be like hoping you could go through a train wreck again, or go to the dentist everyday for years on end.
No, for me high school is just a painful memory that, with the right medication, will fade into the background, never to be re-visited again.

What could go wrong?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a good idea at the time and then turned out to be a less-than-stellar plan?
Dumb question, I know.
Everyone, at some point in time, has done some bonehead move that in retrospect seemed too stupid to be plausible.
Look at 89 per cent of the decisions made by our national politicians – boneheads to the core.
I have noticed most cranial cramping occurs when the maker of the decision is of the younger set. Especially those in their teens and even into their early 20s, brain power and common sense is often out weighed by a sense of, “C'mon, what could go wrong?”
What could go wrong? You could nearly set half the country on fire that's what.
Now before people start getting their knickers in a knot, we did not intentionally set the mountain on fire, it was just a miscue by some fireworks we had in our possession.
A buddy had a rocket-type firework that shot eight brightly coloured balls of fire high into the sky.
He had been hanging on to it for months and that warm August night seemed like the perfect time to send the pretty lights skyward.
We picked a spot on top of a small mountain and tied the festive pyrotechnics to a dead stump and stood back.
Before I continue, I would just like to say we were young and the possibility of something going wrong did flutter through our little brains, but was quickly pushed out by the desire to have some fun.
I looked at my buddy and for a brief moment was gripped with a dash of practical sense.
“Uh, dude, what if one of the flaming balls hits the ground.”“Don't worry about it. It will shoot 100 feet into the air. See, it says so right on the package.”
“Duuuh,OK, I can't argue with that.”
A match was lit and placed at the fuse of the rocket. It sparked as it burned as if to announce festive fun was on the way.
We watched the fuse sparkle as it entered the rocket and that's when things went a tad wrong. No, one of the fiery balls of colour did not ignite the tinder dry brush around us – we should have been so lucky.
When the fuse ignited the rocket it did not send eight colourful balls of flame skyward, instead it just exploded where it sat, sending eight colourful balls of flame in eight different directions.
If we had a brain between us we would have had some water handy – if we had a brain. We did have bottled liquid, but it was not water.
After a fraction of a second of total and complete utter panic we took action and ran around like mad men stomping out the little colourful balls of flame.
It took a few minutes, but we got the flames out, all the while I was reminding my friend about my cautionary tale with a colourful use of verbs and nouns. We spent quite a while making sure every single ember was stomped into oblivion.
We then sat back, had a good laugh and vowed to never do something so stupid again – until the next time we were struck by a bright idea that is.

Driving me crazy

Life at home took an interesting turn this month.
Scooter turned 16, and that means he is eager to get behind the wheel of a car.
It also means he is learning a lot about driving and that is causing a few challenges for yours truly.
He has spent the past few months studying on-line for his written exam and felt confident going in to write the test for the first time, but he got a couple too many wrong answers and has to take the test again – no biggie.
If there is one thing Scooter has it's tenacity. He simply never gives up. He is also a super laid back guy, so coming up short on the first test did not phase him in the least.
I asked what happened.
“There were some questions I did not know the answer to, so I thought, 'What would dad do in this situation?' Most of them were wrong. I think you need to take a drivers course again.”
And so it begins.
He is already correcting little driving habits I have formed over the years that are not exactly in the textbook.
“Dad, your hands are supposed to be at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. Dad, you didn't signal when you changed lanes. Dad the speed limit is not 385 kmh. Dad...”
And he has not even taken a driving course yet.
What kind of juvenile instructional hell am I in for when he gets a really good idea of how to handle himself on the road?
“Dad you're doing this wrong. Dad you're doing that wrong.”
“Son, I appreciate your desire to be a good driver and to study the rules and apply them to the letter, but I am also sure you can appreciate just how long a walk it is to get home, so...”
Getting a license today is much harder than when I was a scruffy-chinned pup of 16.
Back then, you had your learner's license for a few weeks, took the driving test and if you passed you were on your own.
That was it. I did take a driving course, but was woefully inexperienced when I took the wheel on my own.
Of course, I did not know that at the time.
Hey, I was 16 years old, that means I was all grown up. And if I am grown up, it means I am capable of doing grown up things, like drive a car.
Besides, all you really have to do is turn the steering wheel and apply the brake, how tough can that be for a grown up like myself.
My first car was a red, 1974 Toyota Corolla and it was slower than a sloth on Valium – which was a good thing considering my aptitude for going fast.
I bought it on a Wednesday and smacked it up (the first time) on the following Saturday. It was a minor accident where the front fender of my car tried to occupy a space already filled by the rear bumper of a Ford pick-up truck as I scooted through a yellow light. Oops.
There was no damage to the monster truck, but I customized my little red car with a passenger-side fender that was not so much flat as it was wide.
I took the car home, removed the fender and drove around like that for a couple of weeks until I could afford another one.
It did not help that me and my friends were quite, um, how to put this, energetic when it came to driving.
Speed limits were more of a suggestion than anything else and I just thank the good Lord above that none of us were ever in a bad wreck.
It is significantly more complex to get a full-fledged driver's license now days and I say good on them. It should have been tougher back then too, because even a grown-up 16 year old may not always exhibit the best judgment.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Camping in da rain

Can someone please explain this to me: it can be sunny and hot for days, even weeks at a stretch, but the moment we plan a camping trip a typhoon sweeps through the land.
As the day of our woodland excursion nears, rain clouds begin to form and as the minutes pass the clouds grow darker and more ominous.
As we drive to the campground, we watch the clouds form over the area we are headed to. It might be sunny everywhere else, just not where we are going.
The instant we pull into the site, the heavens open up and rains of biblical proportions fall on our heads as we frantically set up camp.
Sometimes the rain stays, sometimes it goes and sometimes it does both.
It got so bad that we started keeping track of how many camping trips it rained. The running total over several years is 18 out of 24 trips were wet ones.
So what do you do when you are camping in the rain? At first we hid under an awning or a tarp and complained about the precipitation, but after so many soggy sorties into the wild, we just started to do whatever we wanted.
We would go for walks in the rain, ride bikes in the rain, roast marshmallows – yes, you guessed it, in the rain.
The weather situation is also proof that God has a sense of humour.
One particular camping trip was a family reunion of sorts as about a dozen of the clan were getting together to pretend we are roughing it.
My father-in-law brought his massive fifth wheel complete with TV, stereo, games room and in-ground pool, so that is hardly roughing it.
Anyway, we were to sleep among the woodland creatures for five days with everyone arriving on the first or second day.
Being camping keaners, and not too bright, we arrived early on Day 1, under cloudy skies or course.
By the time we set up our tent-trailer, the rain had started to fall and fall and fall and fall and...
It poured all night and we woke up to a very muddy campsite. It was also so cold that you could see your breath. The fact that it was the first week of August made the conditions even more deplorable.
The second day showed no signs of the water works easing up, so I caste my eyes to heaven and said a simple prayer that it would stop raining.
And it did stop raining, for about 10 minutes. Then it started to hail so intensely it looked like winter.
I glanced at my wife and said, “Well, at least it isn't raining.”
The hail stopped in a few minutes and within hours the clouds had cleared and the next three days were sunny and perfect.
Thanks Big Guy.
We were actually thinking of renting ourselves out to someplace that is having a drought. We could set up our trailer, the rain would come and in a few days they would be asking us to leave because of fears of flooding.
If I'm going to be all wet, I might was make some cold cash doing it.
Our last few outings have been blessed with great weather, but our most recent outing was planned during a hot spell that had people freaking out about the drought that was consuming the land.
As we started to get the trailer ready for the first trip of the year, the temperature dropped, the clouds started rolling in and forecasters were calling for lots and lots of liquid sunshine.
But the Big Guy threw us a curve ball this time. The first day out was near perfect, sunny with a few clouds. Of course the next morning it rained so hard fish were swimming up the road, but that wonderful first day made it all worth while.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pssst, want to score some toad

I was recently sent one of those e-mails with little know facts about life and the world we live in.
Information such as at any given hour there are 61,000 people in airplanes over the United States is interesting.
Well, it is to me anyway, which gives you some idea of just how pathetic my life is and just how easily amused I a can be.
I would also find life much easier if there were not so many shiny things lying about to distract my already distracted brain.
Another amusing, yet absolutely useless piece of information, is the first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
Oh, how times have changed.
Now it would be acceptable to show Fred and Barney in bed together.
Anyway, one of the items in the e-mail of useless (but interesting) information sent me on a short-lived quest to verify the validity of the claim.
The statement was simple: you cannot lick your elbow.
My first thought was, “Why would you want to?”
My second thought was, “I wonder if that is true.”
So I casually found a quiet space where, that’s right, you guessed it, I tried to prove them wrong.
Feel free to give it a try yourself. Go ahead, you know you want to.
You have likely just learned the same thing I did, which is the same thing the original author learned and that is you can’t lick your elbow.
Unless your tongue is 12-14 inches long, it’s just not going to happen.
I got to wondering who the first person to try this feat was, and more importantly why did they try it.
I guess some people just have waaay too much time on their hands.
It is just another example of people doing strange things that most of us probably would never even think of trying.
The elbow incident got me thinking about other strange activities and how they came to be. There have been stories over the years about people licking toads and frogs to get high.
First of all, that is truly disgusting. Secondly, who knew licking an amphibian would give you a buzz?
Who was the first person to lay tongue to toad and think, “Wow man, that’s pretty groovy.”
Were they sitting around a campfire moaning about not having any money for beer when a frog hopped across the lawn and someone said, “I know, let’s lick that frog for fun?”
The only thing stranger than the guy who came up with the idea, is the person he got to join him in getting fresh with a frog. I refer to the inventor of the getting-personal-with-a-frog-as-a-form-of-entertainment game as a male, because, honestly, I do not know any females dumb enough to try licking a frog for fun.
Or perhaps it started at Woodstock where someone decided to take the ‘experimental stage’ of their life to the next level and include woodland swamp creatures to help with the expansion of their mind.
“Hey, what’s wrong with Mikey? He’s freaking out.”
“He got hold of some bad frog.”
“Bummer man, I wonder how many flies he’s gonna eat before he comes down.”
In my 40 something years on this earth, I have never considered a frog or a toad a party accessory, but others have and if it wasn’t for those willing to push the limits of idiotic behaviour there would be much less to talk about in this world.
Thank goodness it never caught on, or police would be raiding grow ops one week, and frog farms the next.
“Pssst, hey buddy. You lookin’ to score some amphibian? I got frog. I got toad.”
And as everyone knows, frogs are the gateway amphibian.
One minute it’s a simple pond frog, then it’s a big ol’ bullfrog and the next thing you know, you’re all the way up to snogging an iguana.
Pretty soon you are sleeping in the bushes next to the zoo just waiting for the chance to sneak in under the fence and make off with a creature of the Kermit variety.
Instead of asking for spare change, you are asking for directions to the nearest swamp.
As if actually licking a frog was not enough of a reason not to try it in the first place, the thing that creates the ‘high’ is actually a mild poison secreted from the critter to fend off attackers.
How smart do you have to be to ingest poison for a cheap high?
I guess if you are willing to lick a frog in the first place, the answer presents itself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The truth about summer

Summer is here and the keepers of public health want to make sure we, the public, stay healthy.
To achieve this lofty goal, the all-knowing medical type people, or their media relations specialists anyway, have compiled a list designed to keep all of us healthy and happy.
Although the safety tips came via email from the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System where one of their doctors wrote a book about summer safety, many of them apply to those of us in the Okanagan.
I have to admit some of the summer 'myths' I believed, but since an official type person is telling me they are not true, I guess they are not true.
One of the most common summer myths is you have to wait 30 minutes after eating before you can go swimming.
According to the medical experts, you can hit the water as soon as you are done eating, you can even swim while you are still eating, but that will make your sandwich soggy and dilute your soup a substantial degree.
So all that time I wasted as a kid waiting for my hotdog to digest was pointless, kind of like eating hotdogs for their nutritional value.
Another summer myth is a poison ivy rash is contagious. The rash may not be contagious, but the laughter and mocking of everyone around the victim certainly is.
You should suck the venom out of a snakebite.
Even if that myth were true, the victim's chance of survival would largely depend on where they were bitten.
“Quick, a rattlesnake just bit me on the butt.”
“Well, it looks like you're gonna die.”
Sparklers are a safe alternative to fireworks.
Wrong, nothing beats a bag-full of cardboard tubes crammed with gunpowder, a six pack of beer and a lighter for a night of fun.
“Hello, 9-1-1...”
The next myth will apply to many of us, er, I mean you guys.
There is no harm in peeing in a pool that has been properly chlorinated.
Wrong, and gross actually.
I am sure many among us, er, I mean you, have tinkled in a pool before.
It is amazing how kids can spend hours in the pool and never get out, but you ask them to mow the lawn and they gotta go pee every three minutes.
But it would seem children are not the only ones who raise the water level of a pool. According to the medical centre, a recent survey of 1,000 adults showed 17 per cent of them admitted to peeing in a pool.
Survey says: That is disgusting.
There are many truths about summer as well and here are a few for the Okanagan.
Truth: The more beer you have, the more likely you are to see Ogopogo.
Somehow, I am not sure of the exact science, but beer makes people see better, go figure.
Or perhaps brewskis attracts the water beast, who knows. The next time I am lounging near the lake with a cool one I will ask him, or her.
Truth: The car in front of you on a two-lane stretch of road will base their driving speed on how late you are for work. The later you are, the slower they will drive.
Truth: There is always at least one weight-enhanced gentleman at the beach who figures he looks good in a Speedo.
Sir, on behalf of pretty much everyone in the world, I would like to state for the record that you do not look good, so stop scaring small children (and everyone else) and put some clothes on.
Truth: When you park your car under a tree to keep it out of the sun a bird will poop on the windshield in your exact line of vision. That poop will then solidify into a material slightly stronger than cement and will take days to wash off.
Enjoy your summer.