Thursday, December 17, 2009

Death of a frog

It was one of those times when I got into trouble and it wasn’t even my fault – honest.
How could I have predicted the bizarre series of events that would end in the tragic and accidental murder of a frog?
The tale of the doomed amphibian dates back to my youth. I was 18 years old and in the army militia and we were on a training exercise at a shooting range.
It was pretty much a day like any other: the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and a group of teenage boys were shooting high-powered rifles and loving every minute of it.
Now before any of you get worried, I did not accidentally shoot the frog. No, Kermit’s long-lost cousin was not killed by friendly fire.
There was no weaponry involved in the death of the webbed wonder. In fact, there was not even intent to cause the green guy any harm, but when you get 20 or so teenage boys together something stupid is bound to happen.
We spent the morning running through the woods with our rifles doing various exercises before heading to the rifle range and making our guns go bang over and over again.
Personally, I loved shooting. I always have. I have never killed anything bigger than a bird – starlings to be exact – but I was a crack shot (not a crack pot as some may claim) and I have squeezed a trigger thousands of times in my life.
As a kid growing up in a rural area, I took my pellet gun and a can of pellets every where.
It was a different time back then and no one blinked when they saw a kid walking down the street with a rifle.
I can remember waving to the neighbours with my pellet gun resting on my shoulder as I walked up the road to the nearby hills and they would wave back without so much as a second glance.
Of course everyone knew everyone else so if I did do anything stupid my parents would hear about it before I was done doing it
If a kid was spotted with a gun today, every cop for 150 kilometres would be called in to action.
Anyway, back to the tale of the hard-luck frog whose luck was about to run out.
It happened during a mid-day meal break – civilians call it lunch time, but that would just make too much sense for the army.
A good buddy of mine, whom I had gotten into trouble with in the past and likely deserved it, had found a rather large bullfrog lounging near the shore of a pond we stopped at.
He pounced on the critter and held his prize for all to see. I am not sure why, but for some reason he decided to see what would happen when he flipped the frog straight up into the air.
Now, before PETF (People for the Ethical Treatment of Frogs) gets all in a tizzy, I would just like to say that, um, er, alright, it was not a very nice thing to do to a frog.
Upon launching said amphibian, my buddy noticed Kermit’s arms and legs spread out and he looked like he was doing a jumping jack or something.
Several people found it amusing, so my buddy did it a few more times before one of the officers, a renowned frog hugger, noticed and told him to stop.
My friend did, and he flipped the frog back into the pond from whence it came.
Now this is where fate stepped in.
I was about five metres away and not having much interest in flying frogs, I was not paying too much attention to what was going on. I was however throwing softball-sized rocks into the lake. I was kind of lobbing them over my shoulder without even looking at where they were landing.
So, my buddy threw the frog into the water and this creature could have gone in any one of 360 directions and as he began to swim, I lobbed another rock.
As I released the miniature boulder I watched it arc to the water and that’s when I noticed the frog.
I watched the rock come crashing down on top of frog, making a near perfect impact on his head.
What are the odds - a frog in a big pond getting clobbered by a randomly thrown rock? I guess the odds were good enough for it to happen and the world had one less frog to accommodate.
The frog-loving officer witnessed the killing and went absolutely ballistic, claiming we had conspired to whack the frog.
It was kind of hard to defend ourselves because we were trying to look innocent without laughing out loud.
In the end, we convinced the officer it was a tragic mishap and we had no intention of deliberately hurting the critter.
But for the rest if of my time in the unit, that officer kept a close eye on the ‘frog smasher.’

Long live the king

I am not sure what is stranger, the item itself or the fact that someone out there is willing to pay good money for it.
The item in question is none other than Elvis Presley's nasal douche.
That's right, you read correctly – some lucky soul could soon be the proud owner of the King's personal glass nasal douche that he used to clean his nose to its very depths before each show.
The item, that looks a lot like a bong actually, will go on the auction block along with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and other stuff that used to belong to people who are now dead.
No word if some of the King's nasal drippings are stuck to the glass contraption, but if there was, I am sure it would drive up the price.
I mean, who wouldn't want to own one of Elvis' boogers? Talk about a conversation peace.
“Hey, Bob what do you have there.”
“That,” replies Bob swelling with pride, “is simply one of the greatest treasures ever sold at auction. It is a real, authentic piece of Elvis snot.”
Wow, indeed.
It would seem the King of Rock and Roll used to spray a saline solution up his honker before every show, because, well, I am not sure why, but I assume it made him sing better.
Either that, or he had a thing about blasting water into a body opening.
I am just thankful he was not in to enemas because that would be too weird (and quite gross actually) so let's not go there – ever.
It seems there is no end the bizarre items people are willing to shell out money to own.
Would I pay to own a nose douche, even if it was the King's? No, but you can bet someone will.
A while back some famous movie star type person sold a used hanky on eBay. Yes, someone paid good money for the soiled piece of linen, but at least in this case the money went to charity so I can understand it.
And a few years ago, there was the grilled-cheese sandwich with the likeness of Jesus on it that sold for thousands of dollars.
But when it comes to the ability to sell things at auction, nothing beats the King.
An empty prescription bottle recently sold for US$2,600. I have paid less for cars.
A microphone he used at a concert sold for US$15,000.
Some guy even sold a Styrofoam cup that Elvis took a sip of water from before one of his final concerts – or so the owner said anyway.
But of course, it sold to some sucker, I mean lucky memorabilia fan.
I know Elvis is the icon of rock and roll and probably the most recognizable figure in all of music history, if not all of entertainment, but I just do not understand the borderline psychotic fascination with the man.
Some people have lifted him (which would have required a crane to do in the latter years) to near god-like status. People build shrines to him, impersonate him and basically worship at his blue suede shoes.
He has been dead for decades (sorry folks, but he really is dead) and he is still one of the top money makers in the music industry. Even I have to admit that is impressive.
Don't get me wrong, I am not an Elvis hater, I just don't get it.
I wonder if Elvis would have generated the same response today? Doubtful because there are so many artists out there, and besides PETA would have launched a massive anti-Elvis campaign because just one of those leather jumpsuits took 14 cows to make.
The King is dead, long live his revenue stream.

Light me up

Christmas is the time of year of good will toward man, woman, child and, yes, even in-laws.
It is also the time of year hydro executives salivate over.
Throughout the land, countless thousands of people brave the winter chill to get their festive lights strung up in hope that St. Nick will be able to use them as landing lights and visit their home.
Around my homestead, the tradition of putting up the lights unfolds much in the same manner every year. First, I dig through a stack of boxes at the back of the garage looking for the ones marked ‘outdoor lights.’
Of course, I forgot that I forgot to mark them last year, so I get to open every box I think might hold the beacons of the Yule Tide until I get the right one, which is, of course, the last one.
I then hoist the 40-pound ball of green wire and little lights out of its summer hiding spot and spend the next five hours trying to untangle them.
The good-cheer-o-metre is already falling a notch or two as I struggle to separate one set of lights from the other.
For a brief moment I contemplate simply hanging the entire ball of lights from the apple tree in my front yard and calling it art Noel.
The tangle would represent the chaos that can come with Christmas and the lights are beacons of hope in the midst of modern-day madness.
You’re right, I am not buying it either.
Once the lights are untangled and the appropriate amount of ‘special’ eggnog consumed, it is time to put up the glowing orbs of merriment.
Here is where I will impart a piece of wisdom I learned the hard way: always make sure the lights work before you string them up.
After spending hours untangling and stringing the lights, the good-cheer-o-metre takes a serious hit when you plug them in and only half of them work.
Some very un-Christmas like words may form in the back of you mind and you risk being put on the naughty list if those words should accidentally slip out.
Years ago, my wife and I decided we would buy one strand of lights for each Christmas we shared together and then when we are old and grey we can look at all the lights and think, “I am waaaay to old to be climbing an ice-covered ladder in the middle of winter to put these up.”
Or something like that anyway.
We kept the tradition of purchasing a single strand of lights and after a while the front yard was looking pretty good.
However, I began to notice a flaw in the plan. The more lights we got, the more work it was putting them up and the more time I had to spend outside in the cold plugging things in, wrapping them with electrician’s tape and spending countless hours searching for that one burned out bulb.
That messed up bulb has been my festive nemesis on more than one occasion and the longer it takes to find the problem, the more impact is has on the good-cheer-o-metre.
But thankfully, there are people out there who are like a secret Santa with a desire to help and save me from at least some of that work.
Once, such a special person visited our festive display under cover of night and relieved me of a lot of work by running off with several strands of light.
My son was heading to school the next morning and asked, “Hey, dad, what did you do with the lights?”
OK, that’s not exactly what I said, but it was pretty close. About three strands of lights had been ‘liberated’ from our front yard.
The good-cheer-o-metre took a definite hit, but in keeping with the love of the season I got over the act of a Scrooge and thought, “Oh well, they must have needed them more than I did.”
That’s what I thought, honest.
Despite the act of Grinchery by unknown bad guys, we continued with our humble decorations.
But of course, there is always that one guy in the ‘hood who has more decorations than Santa’s workshop.
You know the guy. He has so many lights UFOs think it’s a homing beacon.
With around seven-million lights, 4,000 figurines and at least 500 Santas of all shapes and sizes, the yard lights up the night sky to the point where you need sunglasses just to drive past. It generates so much heat the snow is starting to melt four houses down.
It is without question the brightest and boldest house in the ‘hood.
I wonder if he is compensating for something.

You leech me, I punch you

There is spa right here in Canada that features blood letting as one of its attractions.
Some spas offer a room with a hot tub in it or a beautiful view, but these guys figure the real money is in letting ancient swamp dwellers suck the blood out of people.
Great business plan guys, what else do you have going on? Perhaps full body massages by anacondas, or using pit bulls as motivation for the running club?
The leeches are used for a treatment the resort calls Ratamokshana, which I believe is an ancient Monrovian word meaning, “There’s one born every minute.”
According to the spa people, letting a slimy, bloated slug look-a-like suck your blood is good for you.
I disagree, and anyone trying to stick a leech onto me is going to learn what a napalm enema feels like.
The stupidest part about this is I am sure there are people out there paying good money to have some weirdo put leeches all over them.
Someone somewhere will argue blood letting is an age-old method of treating ailments and is actually good for you.
Well guess what Sparky, I am pretty sure modern science has done away with the need for letting a water-dwelling mass of black goo suck my plasma.
Ancient ‘doctors’ also used to drill holes in your head to let out evil spirits, so I think we can pretty much rule out Merlin and his apprentice as the last word in medical care.
I just hope the leech idea doesn’t catch on with the government or they will soon be recommending the Swamp Thing open an office in the nearest bog and start his own medical practice as a form of cost saving.
Of course, should a politician need such a treatment they would get it for free – professional courtesy I think they call it.
I have interacted with leeches in the past and I cannot say they are something I would intentionally seek out. In fact, I am pretty sure I would make a lot of effort to avoid them and I certainly would not pay money to have someone put the little blighters on me - that I guarantee.
So if I am spending so much energy avoiding them, how did I come in contact with the vampire slugs you ask? There was a lake near where I grew up that we used to go swimming in quite a bit. It was a mountain lake with clear water, fish, birds and the occasional leech.
Looking down and seeing one of those slimy implements of ickyness latched onto you was enough to make you scream like a small frightened child. Actually, I was a small frightened child at the time, but I doubt my reaction would be much different today.
The lake was not infested with the disgusting critters, but once in a while you would see someone come out of the water with a black thing stuck to their back.
It was then that you had a decision to make. Should you tell the person about the unwanted passenger, or should you tell your friends first so you could all be grossed out in a fun sort of way.
Typically you would tell your friends, then the person. This would provide the best of both worlds allowing you to be grossed out before being the hero and saving the person from the blood sucker.
The leeches tended to stay near an area that had bushes and plants growing in the water so if you avoided the plants, you generally avoided the leeches.
But of course, there is always some cranially challenged swimmer who splashed too close to the bushes and ends up getting a leech treatment for free.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Done in record time

How sweet it is.
Sitting at my computer, I took a glance at the calendar and noticed it is the second week of December.
Why is that so sweet you ask?
Is the light covering of snow gracing the land making me feel all warm and cozy inside as I kick back with a hot chocolate? Nope.
Is it the Christmas cheer that is growing throughout the city as people are a little nicer to each other? Nope again.
It is because I have finished my Christmas shopping. I bet you ladies never saw that one coming. That has got to be a new record for just about any man on the planet.
I have two full weeks to go before the big day and I am done, finished, kaputzki on the shopski, I have purchased all I need for that special day for my wife, parents and siblings.
I am sorry if I have broken some sort of man code that says guys cannot finish their Christmas shopping early, but to my detractors and critics who claim I have broken this unwritten rule I say – bite me. It feels great to be done so early and while you last-minute shoppers are bouncing off other last-minute shoppers and ripping around the mall like a fart in a hurricane, I will be kicking back with a 'special' eggnog wondering how the less-organized people are making out.
Getting the shopping done early has another bonus: those two weeks might be enough time for me to wrap the presents, as I am possibly the worst gift wrapper upper in the world.
Anything I wrap looks like it was done by Stevie Wonder while hanging upside down over an alligator pit.
I have never used the services of the mall wrappers who adorn your gift with fancy paper and bows, because it would be too obvious I did not do the wrapping.
I like to provide the personal touch of wrapping the gift myself. Besides, it is fun watching my wife wrestle with the present as she tries to open it.
You see, I make up for my lack of wrapping skills with copious amounts of tape, something I learned from my dad.
Whenever Pops mails us a package, it has enough duct tape on it to rebuild the space shuttle. It typically takes about 20 minutes and the use of power tools to open, but at least it is secure and Dad is doing his part to boost the economy by purchasing duct tape by the crate.
But when it comes to Christmas shopping, I was not always so efficient. Not by a long shot.
I used to be one of those lunatics who would start hitting the malls around Dec. 23 or so. It was like a sport for me back then. There was strategy involved as you cut through various aisles trying to get to the perfect gift before some other hapless husband happens to put a hand on it. Some physicality comes in to play as men push and shove each other to get what they need so the Missus won't stick a candy cane up their nose come Christmas morning.
The latest I have ever left my Xmas shopping was Dec. 24. Yup, one year I literally waited until the last moment possible.
Not the smartest move I have ever made and one I have not made since.
Even though I finished my shopping early this year, it does not mean I rushed in choosing my gifts, especially for the Missus. I had a pretty good idea of what to get her before I even headed out for the first swipe of the debit card.
The key is to pay attention to subtle hints that may be dropped when she spots a sweater in a store that she likes.
Hints such as, “It sure would be nice if someone got me that sweater for Christmas.”
It's all about paying attention to the little things.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What I know I know

I have learned many things during my time on this earth.
From childhood to adulthood, life has been one big lesson after another.
One of the most important things I learned as a youngster was, no matter how good your intentions, your cat does not need swimming lessons.
Trust me on this one folks, that has bad idea written all over it.
Such action gives you a bonus lesson on just how strong - and sharp - a cat can be in a time of feline crisis.
Around that same time, I also learned it is not the best plan to jump up and down in the bathtub. It is only a bad idea of you don't want to fall on the edge of the tub, driving your top teeth through your lower lip causing the blood to flow line wine at a frat party. If you are into stuff like that, then go ahead and have fun.
In my pre-teen years I received many lessons in how gravity works. It's amazing how educational falling out of a tree can be, once you regain consciousness that is.
You not only learn about gravity, but about what happens to the human body when it endures a rapid deceleration after falling from about 10 feet up. Like introducing your cat to the world of water sports, trees offer multiple lessons. You learn that grass is not a very soft thing to land on and you also get the added knowledge of what it feels like to have every last molecule of air forced from your lungs.
Racing downhill on a bike provided multiple lessons as well. Gravity once again plays a role, but the real lesson is in the first aid skills you develop, such as how to stop the bleeding, the best way to clean a wound and how to put on six feet of medical gauze.
That lesson led to an up close and personal look at how the body heals itself. I got to watch how scabs form, how they eventually fall off and the cool scar they leave when it is all over.
This was a lesson I would learn several times actually. I never said I was the brightest bulb in the marquee.
As I reached the teen years, I embraced the attitude that comes with them, but I quickly learned to never (and I mean ever) say to your dad, “What are you going to do about it.”
I found out real fast what he was going to do about it and it was a learning experience to be remembered. I may be dumb, but I ain't stupid.
As the teen years progressed, I learned police do not like it when you call them a crusty butt hair.
It tends to make them rather annoyed actually, usually leading to a vehicle search and having your name put on the every-single-cop-in-the-city-will-be-looking-out-for-you list.
Unfortunately, I was well past my teens before I learned that kind smart-ass attitude will not help your cause in the least.
When I had children, I learned I really wasn't that busy pre-child. Before the little ones started arriving, I thought life was crazy busy. With two or three things to do that whole day, how can I keep up?
Now that my home has been invaded by kids (I know it's my own doing) I do two or three things before breakfast.
More recently, I learned sucking in your gut does not make you weigh less when you jump on the scale.
All those old injuries I brushed off in my youth have taught me the value of ibuprofen (which I purchase by the crate.)
And in marriage I have learned a happy wife makes for a happy life and no matter what, the mother-in-law is always welcome in your home (even when you would rather chew tinfoil).