Friday, February 26, 2010

Excuses, excuses, excuses

“OK, dad, don’t get mad.”
There has never been a conversation in the history of parenthood that went well after that opening line from a child.
I have had that line dropped in front of me a few times over the years, and the conversation always went downhill from that point.
Those five words are often followed by an explanation of why I should not get mad.
“We were just sliding down the stairs in that big cardboard box and we accidentally went through the wall at the bottom of the stairs. It’s not that bad. Really. See, it’s only a small hole.”
A small hole? A St. Bernard could do a back flip through that hole.
That is a true story by the way.
It was partly my fault, because I saw what they were doing and thought, “That looks like fun. Go for it, dudes.”
For half a second I even thought of joining them, but then decided recovering from a back injury was not the best way to spend the weekend.
They did go for it and I got another chance to practice my drywall skills. I did not get angry at their impromptu renovations of our home seeing as how I endorsed the activity, besides that wall needed a square metre replaced, puttied, primed and painted anyway.
Now had my wife seen their home-made roller coaster I am pretty sure she would have put a stop to it.
When I saw what they were doing, I suggested they bend the top of the box over their feet so it won't get caught on the carpet and they could go faster.
It worked too, they went so fast they put a hole in the wall.
Another line where nothing good has ever followed: “Uh, dad, do you have an extra set of car keys on you.”
That one has happened a couple of times and usually after a conversation where Junior asks for the keys to get something out of the van.
“Don't worry, I will bring them right back. Yes, I'll lock the door. No, I won't lose your keys between here and the van and back.”
Junior then goes off while mumbling something about how annoying worry wart dads can be.
The return trip had a lot less mumbling in it as Junior tried to conjure up an extra set of keys and weigh his options before getting to the worry wart.
The situation was, he opened the door, put the keys on the seat, got what he was looking for and locked the doors.
Well, at least he did not lose the keys. We knew where they were – safely locked inside the van.
Sometimes disaster strikes with out the youngsters even realizing it. The other day, Junior was going downstairs, but walking down all of the stairs was way to complex, so he decided to introduce his own way of going from up to down.
He decided to jump. No big deal, he and his siblings have been jumping from the bottom couple of steps for years.
Only this time Junior, who is a teen and built more or less like a miniature Ahnold, decided to jump from the very top, that is 12 stairs worth of free fall before he reached the first landing.
He landed with a boom and carried on like it was nothing, which at the time it was. However, a hour later I went downstairs and something just did not feel right.
Upon closer inspection I discovered the landing, which is about a metre square, was now four inches lower in one corner, the corner Junior landed on. The bottom three steps were also loose.
So now we get to share a father-son moment where we team up to repair the house and where Junior promises never to do that again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The furry reaper

There was a story a while back about a cat that could predict when someone was going to pass to the great beyond.
The cat was a resident of a nursing home and would cuddle next to someone during their last hours on this earth.
It was also the most feared animal that ever walked the planet.
How would you like to be taking a little snooze and look down to see the furball of death cuddled up next to you? That alone would probably induce a fatal heart attack leading to the kitty prophecy coming true.
It would seem Oscar the cat, a.k.a. The Furry Grim Reaper, made 50 correct calls over the span of five years.
Dr. David Dosa was so amazed with the cat, he wrote a book about Oscar.
I think the book is called 'Keep that damn cat away from me,' or something like that anyway.
According to the news report, 'The feline's bizarre talent astounds Dosa, but he finds Oscar's real worth in his fierce insistence on being present when others turn away from life's most uncomfortable topic: death.'
"People actually were taking great comfort in this idea, that this animal was there and might be there when their loved ones eventually pass," Dosa said. "He was there when they couldn't be."
That sounds pretty good actually, unless of course you are a cat hater, then it is probably not the best way to say farewell to these earthly shackles.
It also might not be the best plan for people who are allergic to cats either, but it is still a pretty amazing ability.
So how does Oscar do it?
Beats the hell outta me.
The good doctor doesn't know why either. All he can says is Oscar does it with amazing accuracy. He suspects Oscar might be able to smell the dying cells or something, but cannot prove how Oscar does what he does.
Somehow the cat just knows when someone is about to go on the final journey and is so accurate, staff notify family members when they see Oscar cuddle down with someone.
Dosa said most people are too sick to even know the cat is there, but still, laying in bed and looking up to see the gray and white tabby walk in your room...Well let's just say you might want to cancel your dinner plans.
Dosa said they placed Oscar in the bed of a patient who was gravely ill, but the feline took off and refused to stay.
Upon seeing the commotion the patient sat up and blurted, “Get away from me, I was just napping. Doesn't anyone around here know how to take a pulse?”
OK, I made that part up, but according to Dosa the patient rallied for a few days before passing, and yes, Oscar did return to be with the person for their last few hours on this earth.
While the residents and their families may be enjoying the efforts of Oscar the death-predicting cat, there is one resident who does not: the dog, because every chance Oscar gets, he sneaks in and curls up beside the hound when he is sleeping.
The dog is not dying or anything, Oscar just likes to freak him out.
A cat with the gift of prophecy and a sick sense of humour, just what the world needed.
OK, I made that part up as well, but the part about the feline predicting someones passing is based on actual events and an actual cat.
Oscar lives in the United States where he is watched closely by doctors and residents alike – some with interest others with nervous anticipation.
I wonder if just before Oscar passes, a resident will curl up next to him.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's luge time

The Olympics are the height of athletic achievement, and this year the best in the world will be right here in good old British Columbia to compete in a variety of events that take place on various forms of frozen water.
Most Olympic events have historical and traditional aspects to them and while some of them are newer, they are still popular enough to make it to the global competition.
However, in both the summer and winter events there are a couple of odd ducks floating around I do not understand.
The summer competitions make sense, except for one – the pommel horse, which is the strangest event in the Olympics and a sport I have mentioned in the past. Big, strong men swinging around by their arms on top of a “horse” is an odd sport indeed and I often wonder how someone decides they want to dedicate their lives to such an obscure event.
Javelin, pole vault and discus throw are also some out-of-the-norm sports, but at least I can sort of see the historical connection, such as the javelin being bred out of throwing spears for hunting or warfare.
That's an easy one.
The pole vault could have been used by soldiers to breach a wall and overthrow the evil king. The discus could be used as a weapon I suppose, a cumbersome, inaccurate, short-distance weapon, but still there is some historical merit to it, maybe.
But the pommel horse is just plain weird and I don't get it.
When it comes to the Winter Games, hockey is king (and queen considering how kick ass our women's hockey team is) so there is no need to explain any sort of value to the event. It is simply the greatest game ever and deserves to be in the Olympics. Is football in the Olympics no? Is baseball? Well, yes, but I find it so boring I can't watch for more than two minutes before my brain goes numb so I won't count it.
One of the somewhat stranger winter competitions is the luge. When I was a kid we called it sledding, so I suppose that is where it's historic sporting value comes from. Kids have always raced each other down the hill and the luge is an extension of that to the tenth degree. Besides, it takes a set to go ripping down an icy tube at 100-plus km/h, but what baffles me is the two-man luge.
Not even once as a kid did I say to my buddy, “Hey man, why don't I lay on my back on this sled and you can lay on top of me and will go down the hill real fast. Then when we are done, we can pick out curtains together.”
How did the two-man luge come to be? If you know, please tell me because I don't get it.
I also noticed there is not a two-woman luge for some reason, and unlike the women's ski jumping debate, I have not heard of any ladies complaining they want to lay on top of each other wearing spandex unitards while blasting down a the tube of doom at a gazillion miles an hour.
The other popular sliding sport is the bobsleigh. They are simply a kid's sled on steroids and the more people you pack into one, the faster you go.
It is like loading up a toboggan, except in the case of the toboggan you always made sure the fat kid sat at the front where he could benefit everyone in a number of ways. He can block the snow from blasting those in back and he can be used as an air bag of sorts in the event of a rapid deceleration of the snow craft due to contact with an immovable object.
He should also be in front so he does not squish everyone should the rapid deceleration result in the accordion effect, which is where four people are forced to fit in a space typically large enough for two.
You not only have fun, but you learn about planning ahead and physics all at the same time.