Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Halloween, gimme candy

It's almost that time of year again. The leaves are turning their magical colours, the air is crisp with a hint of frost glistening off the hood of my car as I head off to another day in the salt mines.
Yup, it can only mean one thing: Halloween is just about here.
I love Halloween. I always thought it should be a stat holiday. How can a kid concentrate when he or she knows there is boundless amounts of candy waiting for them at every door?
I know when I was a wee lad the school day was pretty much a write off. Kind of like most days actually, but this time I had a legitimate excuse for not paying attention.
All sorts of hideous creatures with their scary faces and foul stench were seen roaming the hallways at my school, and some of those people dressed up for Halloween as well. There were always a few kids who were too cool to wear their costume to school, but later that evening, when all that free sugar was being handed out, they were jostling for position with the best of them.
You are never too cool to get free candy.
The spooky commercials and TV shows would start a few weeks before the big day adding to the excitement.

Is it just me, or was the world a lot less weird back then? Some of the stuff coming out in the form of horror movies these days is downright disturbing.
I never saw it in the theatre – I was way too young – but I can remember hearing about The Exorcist and how scared people were. I can remember news stories on how people were terrified about being possessed.
Now days, it would likely be viewed more as a comedy than a horror, but back then it was some scary stuff.
I know I am rambling on like an old fuddy-duddy, but movies seem to have crossed the line from being scary to being gross and filled with mindless violence.
But then again, I am sure older people said the same thing about the horror movies I used to go to as a teen.

Either way, horror movies and Halloween go together like Denny's and fat people.

TV is also besieged by ghastly ghouls of every description and that is just the political debates.

Every show has to get in their Halloween special featuring everything from cute and cuddly monsters to some scary beasts that devour humans like Elvis on a deep-fried doughnut.
Before the invention of TV, people used to sit around in the dark and tell scary stories to frighten each other.

“So beware. The beast is out there. It is waiting for you. It is horrible, strong and terrifiying. We call it HST for short.”

Eeeek, that monster is bad enough to rile up an entire province and end political careers.

TV and movies have replaced the telling of stories, with visual effects that could not even be imagined a few decades ago.
The costumes available today are also way more intricate than when I was a kid. My friends and I had to suffer those thin plastic masks with elastic band straps that depicted vampires or werewolves or other ‘scary’ creatures.

The problem was, the only scary thing about those masks was when your friend ran up and pulled on it before releasing his grip and laughing as the mask smashed into your face. It is amazing how many times that would happen in a single night.
But no matter how things change, the more they stay the same. Halloween is still about dressing up, having fun and getting a bag full of free treats.
So like clockwork, every Oct. 31, parents dress their children up, send them into the dark of night and encourage them to take candy from strangers.

I can hardly wait.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Invention can be a real mother...

Many people may not know this, but I am a bit of an inventor.
I have not solved the riddle of cold fusion, or developed a machine to tell what women are really feeling (cold fusion is easier), but I have had a few ideas rattle around my cranium.
Along with The Missus, we have come up with some brilliant and ground-breaking ideas that were sure to change the world and make us so rich we can vacation with Bill Gates.
Well, maybe not that rich, but rich enough that our annual family vacation can be spent in an actual exotic location, instead of a camper in my inlaw’s driveway.
The first idea we came up with was sure to be a hit with dog lovers.
The idea struck us like a bolt of lightning while watching our hounds jump around the back seat of our car like a couple of hyper, yapping bouncy balls.
The dogs would jump from side window to side window just to see what was there and to make sure they barked an adequate amount before the subject of their attention was gone.
Having two dogs barking in the backseat of a compact is like sticking your head in a steel drum and hitting it with a stick – only more annoying. We could tell them to be quiet, but the jumping around back there was a little harder to control.
So it was in that moment of inspiration the doggy seat belt was born.
The idea was to use the existing seatbelt and a custom-made webbing that would keep the mutts secure and stop them from bouncing all over the place.
In the event of an accident, it would also keep the hounds from becoming canine projectiles. We talked about the idea at length and could see dollar signs floating in front of us.
So why didn’t we patent and develop the dog-belt system that was sure to attract animal lovers from around the world?
Someone beat us to it and had already developed the doggy seatbelt. I am not sure how, but I suspect they had spies watching us and had our home wired with audio and video so they could steal our idea.
Just because you are paranoid, does not mean they are not watching you.
Our second get-rich invention was for the ladies.
No it was not a spray that would make husbands want to do housework, which is too bad because that would have sold like crazy.
We called it ‘The Air Bra’ and it involved a bra that could be expanded by pumping air into it.
I know, brilliant isn’t it?
It could have changed the face of the world, or some other parts anyway, and now that I think about it, it might have helped in the housework department as well.
“Hubby, would you please vacuum for me?”
“Not now, I am busy watching the game.”
Pump. Pump. Pump.
“How about now, big boy?”
“You betcha honey. Anything for you.”
The Air Bra would have a little pump in it similar to those found in certain over-priced sports shoes that would allow the wearer to expand their um, er, ah, attributes to whatever size they felt necessary.
Of course a limit would have to be put on the device to prevent men from hooking up an air compressor and taking things to a whole new level.
But once again those spies learned of our idea and beat us to the punch. A couple years after we had the idea, a company started making and marketing bras with the exact same idea.
I guess we didn’t keep our secret from Victoria.
Currently I am working on yet another invention, but this one is geared more toward men.
I am trying to come up with a contraption that, when applied properly, will nullify the sounds of the incessant chatter of mother in laws.
So far the only idea I have come up with is a well-placed blow with a croquet mallet, but that is temporary and somewhat illegal.
Gentlemen, I will keep you informed of my progress.
Darren Handschuh can be reached at For more of his ramblings, check out his blog at

Monday, October 8, 2012

Terrific teens and their big brains

The lead of the story said "What were you doing when you were 14?"
It got me thinking about life 30 something years ago and what I was doing - riding my dirtbike, playing hockey and figuring out that girls really weren't icky after all.
Pretty typical stuff I would imagine. My friends were all doing the same thing so I assumed that is what you did at 14.
However, my teenaged antics were put to shame by some modern youths.
Teen No. 1 went beyond typical high school achievements - way beyond.
It would seem the young man in Texas has invented a contraption that attaches to a bicycle that when peddalled desalinates seawater via reverse osmosis. One hour of pedalling produces 20 gallons of drinkable water.
Wow, and my parents were proud when I brought in a solid C in science class.
This next lad is comes in at the ripe old age of 15. The genius in jeans came up with a medical procedure that has doctors around the world sitting up and taking notice.
According to the news story, the young man from
Maryland, "created a test for pancreatic cancer that is demonstrably much faster and more accurate than current diagnostics by using carbon nanotubes that can be specially activated by applications of the signature pancreatic-cancer protein, Mesothelin."
I had to look up what half of that stuff was, but before I could get a good understanding of the concept I was distracted by a shiny object.
Now, let me think. What was I doing when I was 15? Still riding dirtbikes, playing hockey and chasing girls. When I was 16 I was driving a beat up little car, riding dirtbikes, playing hockey and chasing girls. When I was 17, well you get the idea.
Those are some pretty amazing kids. My parents were just happy if I did not get a police escort home on a Saturday night.
This next one is not about brilliant kids, but bonehead administrators.
The controversy surrounds a four-year-old with hearing challenges. His name is Hunter and he is proficient in using sign language, which make sense considering he can not hear.
What doesn't make sense is how officials reacted to the way he signed his name. Because his name is Hunter, his fingers make the shape of a gun which violates the school's anti-weapon's policy and his parents were told he would have to stop doing it.
I hope his parents showed the administrative uptights what they thought using a little sign language of thier own. The parents were understandably shocked at the school's response and have launched an official protest.
Having grown up with a sister who has physical and hearing limitations, I understand how important any form of communication can be. My sister used sign language and I knew a few words so I could connect with her. Without that sign language, my sister had her communication with the rest of the world effectively shut off.
Now little Hunter is being told he can not sign his own name. How is a four year old supposed to figure that out?
He can use sign language for regular communication, he just can't tell anyone what his name is.
I am all in favour of anti-violence rules in schools, but this seems a little over the top.
The last story I read on the subject was the parents were fighting the school and the boneheads, er, I mean, administrators who are hassling a kid who has enough challenges in his life already.
Good luck to them.