Friday, May 28, 2010

Bug off

There are benefits to every season, but that time between the cold of winter and the oven-heat of summer is by far the best.
Some people call it springtime.
It is when temperatures rise to comfortable levels, trees break out in leaf and residents of the Okanagan come out of hibernation like pasty white ghosts to once again enjoy outside activities.
But humans are not the only ones waking from a winter slumber.
Bears are waking up from their annual slumber and woodland creatures of all shapes and sizes are venturing into the sun in search of food and some, um, er, well, you know.
But there is a more, insidious breed of creature waiting to resume it's reign of terror upon the land. A beast of such horror grown men and small girls flee in stark raving fear.
I refer, of course, to bugs. I hate bugs. Doesn't really matter what kind of bug it is, I hate 'em.
Even suspecting a bug is on me is enough to make me twitch and dance around like a fool. I could pretend to care if people see me spaz out, but what is more important looking cool to those around you or getting rid of a bug, or even the possibility of a bug being on you.
Well, call me Disco Darren because I will do the bug dance every time and I do not care who is around to see it.
�Excuse me, but is your husband OK?�
�Yes, he's fine. He just has a bug on him. Or near him. Or he is thinking about them. Or someone told him there was a bug with 20 metres of him. Or he felt something brush against him and he assumed it was a bug. Or...�
Snakes � no big deal. In fact, they are pretty cool.
Bears � treat them with caution and respect and you will be fine, but there is no rational way to deal with a bug because bugs are pure evil. They are mindless monsters with a single mission in life � to crawl down my shirt.
That has got to be one of the worst feelings in the world. And even after you get rid of the bug, you spend the next several minutes imagining there are more of them crawling over your skin.
When you are on fire you are supposed to stop, drop and roll. When a bug crawls into your clothes it is more like strip, smash and flail.
And those little mutli-legged beasts are the one thing about spring I truly hate. After a bug-free winter, your defenses are down, your reaction time has slowed and you have been lulled into a false sense of bug-free living.
So when the bugs do start coming back out, I spend more time dancing than Fred Astair.
Even as I sit here writing this in a relatively bug-free office, I can feel hundreds of the little blighters crawling all over my head in a bid to race down my neck, get under my shirt and build a nest in my arm pit.
I am not sure if this is true or not, but I have heard stories of spiders laying eggs just under someone's skin and that person carries the eggs around until they hatch and a billion little spiders come cascading out.
If that were to ever happen to me, well, let's just say it is a good thing I have a life insurance policy.
If I survive the horror and my heart doesn't leap out of my chest and go running down the block, I would likely never set foot outside of a hermetically sealed room again.
At least not without a full bio suit on.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sorry ladies, but we don't know


Ladies, if I may, I would like to offer some free relationship advice.

I would like to talk about communication between men and women ñ neither of whom actually speak the same language.

Men can communicate, but not in the same way you ladies can. When guys get together there is tremendous communication about important things like hockey, cars, the job and other matters men can relate to one another about.

What men rarely talk about is emotions.

"Y'know Bob, when you said my moustache looked cheesy, it made me feel all bad inside. It made me feel less attractive."

"I'm sorry Frank, I meant it as a joke. C'mere, gimme a hug. I love you, man."

I have never, and I mean ever, been a part of such a conversation and I have been a guy for as long as I can remember.

Because men rarely talk to each other about emotions and feelings and all that gooey stuff, we are not very good at talking to our spouses about those same topics.

Women talk freely about their feelings and emotions and how their emotions make them feel. 

Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to talking about inner-most feelings, men are sadly out of practice, while women could make it an Olympic event.

My wife could easily make the national team on sharing feelings, while I would be relegated to the water boy or something. 

So here is where I will impart my meagre wisdom upon the world whether they want it or not.

When it comes to talking about feelings and emotions, ladies, I implore you to talk slowly, use simple terms and most importantly of all never assume we know how you feel, because we don't ñ ever.

It is not that men are dumb (I know, there's lots of room for argument there), or we don't care (still more room), it's just we can't pick up subtle hints the lady in our life thinks is a blaring clue as to what is wrong.

If there is a problem, subtle hints work about as well as trying to knock out an elephant with a feather.

But if you say it in simple, straight-forward terms, the chances are much better our man brains will be able to connect with that little, tiny, miniscule part of our gray matter that controls emotions.

Yes, men (most men anyway) do have an area where they can look at and examine their emotions. It is typically buried under a pile of brain clutter consisting of information about motorcycles,  hockey, movies and why beer and nachos are possibly the greatest food combination ever devised by the human race.

But once you get through all that stuff, the emotional brain does exist. Subtle hints have little chance of penetrating the man brain and getting past all the other stuff we men find interesting and important.

Not that our significant other's feelings are not important, they are, honest, really, I mean that, but over the centuries men have had to concern themselves with matters other than our emotions such as hunting for food, defending their land from attacking hoards and watching the play offs.

I doubt there is a man alive, now or through out the history of time, who has not had the line, ìWell you should know how I feelî dropped on them.

We don't know. It's that simple.

After more than two decades of marriage, I can tell when something is bothering my wife, but she has also learned after 22 years subtle hints don't work and the direct approach is most often used, thus allowing me to detect how she is feeling.

See how it works? My wife tells me how she is feeling and I recognize how she is feeling and then we have a big, happy talk about how she is feeling, I apologize for whatever it was that made her feel that way and life can get on as normal.

Plugged in


I know I am sounding like an old fuddy-duddy with the following comments, but I am going to say them anyway.

I do not know if I am old enough to be a fuddy, but at middle age I guess I might qualify as a duddy. I am not sure though, as there are no hard and fast rules on fuddys or duddys, so the area is  murky at best.

Anyway, I can remember back to the days when people actually spoke to each other in person. Nowadays, the most popular form of communication is electronic.

Little, hand-held devices have replaced good, old fashioned face-to-face chats. 

The electro-talk craze has hit the younger generation hard.

Just about everyone in the nation (except me) has a cell phone that they chat up a storm with, but the texting craze is the biggest difference in communicating person-to-person, or P2P, as the whippersnappers call it.

The younger crowd walk, sit, visit and eat with their heads buried in the latest electronic gadget. They are always hunched over some sort of device.

It kind of makes them look like chimpanzees digging out a tick from their fellow primates.

But it is the future, and there is not a thing anyone can do to stop it, so we might as well get used to it.

My dad, who is a full-blown fuddy-duddy (with a bit of grumpy old man thrown in for good measure) has never understood the electronics craze.

Even when I was a teen ñ which was a loooong time ago ñ he did not understand why I had to wear a Walkman, a 1980s-era personal cassette listening device. (I  told you it was a long time ago.) 

ìHow can you get anything done with those things stuck in your ears?î was often dad's rant as I did yard work or worked on my car.

ìWhat?î was often my teenage-induced sarcastic reply.

It was no big deal to listen to a cassette while doing work. At the time, a Walkman was some very advanced technology.

We were impressed that we could listen to a tape on such a small device. The technology of man was truly amazing.

The Walkman was followed by the Discman and it won't be long before someone invents the Beam-a-song-straight-into-your-brain-man.

Until that day arrives, kids will have make due with iPods, which allows them to surf the 'Net, send emails, play games, listen to music, perform open heart surgery and have your pets spayed or neutered.

That Walkman was the closest thing we had to fancy pants electronic gizmos and all it did was play music, and we liked it.

Several years ago, my kids stumbled across my old record collection and looked at it much like someone would look at an ancient mysterious object ñ which to them it was.

ìWhat is that thing?î asked Junior as he held up the plate of grooved vinyl.

I explained it was a record and it worked by dragging a special needle across it that would take the sound to the speakers and viola ñ you have a scratchy, somewhat muffled version of a song.

They didn't quite get the whole record-player concept, so I told them it was like a big, plastic CD.

That they understood.

An average record would hold about a dozen or so songs. Junior's iPod holds hundreds, plus movies and games and whatever else can be turned into megabytes.

Records used to get scratched and skip, tapes used to stretch and then someone invented the CD. Woo, a major step in personal entertainment, but they too had a tendency to skip if you were moving around, and that would never do, so everything went digital and nothing skipped, scratched or sounded muffled.

It also meant nothing was simple to use anymore with even the smallest device having more buttons and programs than the Lunar Lander. 

I still have the old Walkman, but cassettes are as rare as an honest politician so I guess I will have to stick with CDs, even if it is ìoldî technology.

A riding we will go - in the rain

After several days of warm, sunny weather, I decided it was time to put the motorcycle on the road. The warmer the temperature gets, the louder the call to two-wheeled adventure is.
Seeing as how the weather had changed, the cool, cloudy days seemed to be behind us and the rain, although much needed, was giving way to typical Okanagan sunshine, I knew it was time.
Time to dig out the Mastercard and pay way too much money for a little sticky piece of reflective plastic that says I can legally ride my bike on the road.
I skipped into the insurance place with the sun on my back and dreams of hitting some of my favourite twisty roads dancing through my head.
I could hardly wait to feel the freedom only a motorcycle can provide. There is something almost Zen-like about riding. You put that helmet on and life just seems a lot simpler.
It is just you, the bike and road. Oh yea, and bonehead drivers who don't watch out for motorcycles. But other than that...and deer, did I mention deer.
Deer are by far one of the greatest hazards to someone on two wheels, aside from those dopey drivers I mentioned earlier. Deer, dopey drivers and gravel on a corner.
OK, so aside from bonehead drivers who are oblivious to anything smaller than the vehicle they are driving, gravel on corners and deer that are so stupid they will literally run in front of you when they have a million kilometres of forest to hide in, riding a motorcycle is a very relaxing experience.
I have had a motorcycle off and on since I was 13 years old. I learned about deer when I was 14 when I rode under one.
I was heading down a dirt road when a dumb buck bounded out of some bushes and stopped right in the middle of the road. This was the first time I noticed deer were incredibly stupid.
The deer saw me the same time I saw him and both our eyes got bigger than hubcaps on a '61 Cadillac.
The deer jumped straight up and I laid down on the tank and went right under him. My buddy riding behind me said it was the coolest thing he had seen. I was wondering where I could come up with a clean pair of underwear in the middle of the woods.
Ever since that day, I have been a little weary of the cows of the wild.
Anyway, back to the present day and the thrill of hitting the streets for the first ride of the year. Like I said, when I bought my insurance the sun was shinning, the anti-HST petition was going very well and life in general was pretty darn good.
I bought the little sticker, put it on my bike and woke up the next day to cloudy skies and rain, which has repeated itself pretty much everyday since.
Hmmm, if I believed in conspiracies this would be near the top of my list, right below sasquatch shooting Kennedy.
So after paying a small ransom for the privilege of riding my bike on the road, it is sitting in my garage, waiting for the heavens to clear.
I know, all the hard-core riders are calling me a wimp right now.
ìC'mon, a little rain never hurt anyone. It's just water.î
Rain never hurt anyone? Go tell that to Noah's neighbours.
Besides, it is water I no longer have to ride in. When I was a young lad I had to ride in the rain because my bike was the only transportation I had.
I now own a car and a bike, so when a precipitation occurance happens, I put down the helmet and grab the car keys.
I am too old and spent far to many kilometres riding in the rain to care if someone thinks me wimpy because I don't want to get all wet. If I don't want to, I don't have to.
I am still waiting for the skies to clear before I can hit the open road, but until that happens I will be hitting the open road from the dry confines of my car.
I would rather be a warm, dry wimp, than a cold, wet and uncomfortable rider, and thankfully I have that option now.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The meat of the matter

It was one of those things that made you stop and scratch your head in a whimsical sort of way.
While walking through a local grocery store, my wife spied a package that made her laugh out loud. The creators of the package and its product were probably not even trying to be funny, but funny they were.
Written across the top of the box in big, black letters were the words: Meatless meatballs.
Huh? How's that? Isn't that called air.
I shook the box half expecting it to be empty.
'This week only, half off a box of nothing. What a deal. Buy two boxes and we will throw in some invisible plates.'
Perhaps you could wash your meatless meatballs down with a nice big glass of liquid-free water.
Why don't they call it what it really is ñ vegetable balls. 
At least, I hope it was made of veggies. What the heck else could be in there?
Perhaps bark mulch and lawn clippings?
But in the end, it is just another example of veggie lovers trying to be as cool as us carnivores. If mashed up sprouts are so good, why do they have to pretend to be eating dead animal? I'll tell you why, because sprouts taste just slightly better than 10-year-old running shoes.
They may be more nutritious than vintage Reeboks, but that's about the only advantage they have.
Man was made to eat dead things and animals were meant to be those dead things.
Why else would God invent the barbecue?
The bible is full of verses telling people it is OK to eat animals. I can't think of any at this exact moment, but I am know they are there.
And if God did not want us to eat animals, he would not have made them so darn tasty. Instead, they would all taste like brussel sprouts.
But meatless meat is just one of the items you can buy without really getting what you are buying.
You can buy alcohol-free beer ñ why, I don't know, but you can do it.
There is sugar-free candy, that will not rot your teeth, make you fat of quench the desire for sweets.
Diet pop offers all the great stuff a regular pop offers, without the sugar. Instead, there is some weird, scientifically generated sugar substitute with a nasty after taste.
Instead of natural sugar, you can gulp down some form of chemical additive that after years of ingesting will probably cause a third arm to grow out of your butt or something.
Mmmm-mmmm good, give me more of that. 
Thanks, but I think I will stick with two arms and a pop full of sugar.
There is smokeless tobacco ñ also known as 'chew'- which is the most disgusting thing I have ever tried in my life. 
A friend of mine used to rant and rave about how great ìchawin' tobacciî is, so I figured I would give it a try. 
My foray into the world of smokeless tobacco lasted about two minutes before I quickly reached the point of spit it out, or barf it out.
ìYou're right pal, that is some goooood stuff. I bet is is almost as good as chewing on a dog turd.î
There is fat-free this and fat-free that. Trans fats are, of course, just slightly less evil than the bubonic plague and are being shunned throughout the land.
But what this world really needs is exercise-free exercise. All you have to do is sit on your behind and just think about working out and the pounds will melt off of you.
I heard a martial arts master once say, ìEat right, exercise lots, die anyway.î
Truer words have never been spoken.
I wonder if he has ever tried meatless meatballs. 

Waterslides of ick

Who knew a little incident at a local water slide park would wind up being the topic of conversation that would provide entertainment for my friends well into the winter months.
It all began with a family outing to the aforementioned aquatic recreation facility that has a rather shallow landing pool. That is the part at the bottom of the slide where you splash into the water and a time of merriment is enjoyed by all.
The problem is, this particular water slide has a rather shallow landing area. Well, it was shallow for me anyway as my 100-something kilogram frame does not slow down in water like a little 10 year old does.
To counteract this lack of depth in the landing pool, I have to slow down ñ a lot ñ before I reach the end of the slide, a fact I forgot on this particular trip, which was the first of the year.
So, I happily went tearing down the slide as fast as I could, while thinking about all the fun I was having. Just as I reached the exit of the tube of doom, a faint memory flashed through my mind about slowing down long before I arrived at this point.
I hit the water with the force of a Russian nuclear-powered submarine and the thimble-full of water did very little to stop my scraping along the bottom of the pool. To keep people from slipping and sliding in the pool, sand is painted into the floor, offering excellent traction, but in my case it was like doing a knee-slide along a big patch of sandpaper.
The instant I was wracked with searing pain I realized my error. I got out of the water and found a huge strip of 'road rash' that was as painful as it looked.
I headed to our picnic table to assess the damage when one concerned citizen approached me, ìExcuse me, but do you know your leg is bleeding?î
ìWhat! My leg is bleeding? You're kidding me? Holy moly it is. Thanks for pointing that out, if you hadn't of done that, I never would have noticed the burning pain that was shooting through my body. Sure am glad you were around.î
A little first aid stopped the bleeding and over the next couple of days two impressive scabs formed over the gaping wounds.
A buddy of mine summed it up best, ìIt looks like you have two strips of bacon glued to your leg.î
Thanks pal, I appreciate it. 
To add to the situation, we were joining those same friends on a trip to a northern Alberta city that has a huge water slide park located in a mall on the west side of town.
When we got to the slide entrance area, I asked the girl behind the counter if I was allowed to go in with my wound.
She looked at my knee and without changing expression in the least said, ìOh yea, no problem. We've had worse than that in here.î
For a brief moment I was relieved I would not miss out on the fine family fun, but the joy was quickly replaced by the thought of, ìHow much worse?î
If two strips of bacon weren't enough to keep someone out, what was? Deep down I did not want to know, but all of us adults found the declaration a little unsettling.
I blocked the thought from my mind as best I could and off we went to slide the day away. I must warn you the following is kinda gross, and by kinda I mean, very.
When you spend a lot of time in the water, any scabs you might be packing around with you become rather soft. After one particularly fast slide, I noticed I only had one scab left on my leg.
I apologize for the mental image, because I am sure everyone is picturing the same thing I did ñ a giant, alligator-sized scab floating around the pool. I really am sorry about that.
When I told my friends they were completely grossed out and the scab that got away has been a topic of conversation ever since.

See what I mean

It would seem God gave men and women different eyes.
The mechanics are the same, with retinas and all those other eyeball thingies, but they just don't see the same things.
For example, there can be a few items on the kitchen counter and to a man's eyes they are just fine where they are, but to a woman they are clutterish (if that is even a real word) and they must be put away - immediately.
A guy can look at the items many times and not see a need to do something with them. That is not to say men are slobs. OK, some men are slobs, or neatness challenged as the politically correct world calls them, but I am talking about a couple of minor items here.
A woman, or more accurately my wife,  can look at a room and see a dozen things that need to be done, changed, moved, cleaned, burned, have an exorcism performed on them or simply left alone.
I can look at the same room and think, 'Looks good to me.'
So how come her eyes can see such a different world than mine do? Beats me.
However, I have noticed that once we step outside a role reversal takes place and I start to see thing she does not.
Our lawn can bethree metres tall with a family of hillbillies living in it and she would not see a need to mow the grass. There could be more weed per square foot than Woodstock and she would simply walk by them every single day.
My man eyes however, see the need to get the motorized lawn chopper out and make the yard somewhat presentable. The weeds, of course, must go, the hedge has to be trimmed, the trees pruned and something must be done with that darned spreading juniper that is attempting to take over the entire front yard rock garden.
ìWe have a spreading juniper? What's a spreading juniper?î was pretty much my wife's response when I told of the cedar situation that is threatening to create havoc in the entire western hemisphere.
I will show her the bush that is just slightly smaller than a 747 and she will invariably respond, ìOh, I never noticed it before.î
Funny how that excuse does not work when it comes to a pile of laundry.
ìWhat do you mean you did not notice it? How could you not notice a pile of laundry next to the wash machine behind a closed laundry room door? It's so obvious. Juniper? What juniper?î
Let's just say the yard work has been left mostly to yours truly. Fortunately I have two big strong sons who willingly jump in and help me with the back 40.
OK, willingly might be a bit of a stretch. I think forcibly is a more accurate description of their helping out with the greenery.
Teen eyes are also different than adult peepers ñ man or woman. Human eyes must change over time, because teens do not see things that need to be done inside or outside, and once they enter their bedroom they must go completely blind, but that is another column.
My wife's eyes do notice the gas guage now, which is a good thing. For a while she had a blind spot for that particular vehicular function and I would often jump in the car to go somewhere to find it had less gas than a squirrel fart.
But that's OK, I never quite did get the hang of noticing when we were out of shampoo (Hey, I'm a bald man, shampoo is not a real big concern for me.)
But eyes can be trained. My eyes have learned to notice when the floor needs to be vacuumed, but for some reason I am still somewhat blind to a pile of dirty dishes.
My wife has figured out the gas thing, but for some reason remains oblivious to the plight of the lawn.
Perhaps glasses might help us both.