Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is this the end of the Twinkie?

There is some disturbing news coming out of the United States.
Is it more dire financial distress? Is another natural disaster going to clobber our neighbours? Did another general get caught with his pants down (literally)?
No, this news struck at the very heart of America and is dominating coffee-shop talk throughout the land: the Twinkie is in peril.
Say it isn't so.
For generations the Twinkie has been contributing to obesity, diabetes, zits and rotten teeth, and for a while it looked like it may disappear forever.
Hostess, which also make a variety of other sugar-laden, empty calorie filled goodies, is kaput. Rising labour costs, more competition and the trend toward healthier eating means the company is toast. I do have some doubts about that last claim based on the girth of our Yankee cousins, but that’s what the news story said.
The good news is Twinkie's have a shelf life of 4,000 years, so whatever Twinkies that have already been made will be around for generations to come.
For a brief while it looked like the Twinkie would go the way of the Dodo, but the company that first turned on its ovens in the late 1800s will sell off some of its more popular treats such King Dons, Ho Hos and the mighty Twinkie.
I must admit I contributed to the demise of the once-grand company. While I do have a sweet tooth (or several teeth actually) I have never been a fan of the Twinkie.
As a child, I did not have access to the cream-filled golden cake snack. You just could not find them in Canada way back then.
I finally had the chance to try one when my family went on one of our marathon family vacations deep into the United States, but the thrill eluded me – as it does to this day.
The Twinkie is probably the best-known pastry in the world and I was excited to sink all my sweet teeth into the legendary snack, but after sampling it with eager anticipation the highest I could rate the plastic-wrapped sugar bomb was meh, whatever.
The Twinkie may have been a bust, but those annual vacations did open my eyes to wonders of what a foreign land had to offer.
Many hours were spent in the back of the family station wagon, staring out the window and occasionally making obscene gestures to the passing cars (without our parents seeing us of course.)
For a kid, the U.S. looked a lot like Canada, until we stopped for gas or at a campground for the night. That was when I had a chance to see just how different our countries were.
It was not the people, houses, or landscape I was interested in, but the candy (and briefly the Twinkies.) The United States had different candy than Canada did back in the 1970s.
I could have cared less about the political upheaval rocking the nation. I just wanted to see what kind of treats they had that could not be found in my homeland.
There were plenty to choose from and I did my best to sample all the exotic bundles of sugar every chance I got. But as the family grew older, the road trips ended and my forays into the United States of Candyland were put on hold for many years.
But a few years ago we gathered the flock and headed to Disneyland. While the Magic Kingdom was all it promised, the candy situation was very disappointing: it was pretty much all the same stuff we had up here.
What the heck? What is going on? Globalization had struck and most of the American candy rack looked the same as the Canadian candy rack, or visa-versa.
There were a few different chocolate bars and whatnot, but the bounty of strange and foreign treats was gone forever.
Gone is another childhood memory that can never be relived, or re-eaten.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The most dangerous dog in the world - kind of

Being a small animal, there is not a lot Murphy the Wonder Dog can do to protect himself.
At a whopping 17 pounds he certainly can’t battle his way out of a tough situation, unless he was being attacked by a Chihuahua, or some other miniature mutt.
So unless his attacker is the size of a rodent, Murph the Surf would not stand much of a chance.
But he is not totally defenseless.
One thing Murphy can do it run like the wind. The dog is not only fast, but he can duck and dodge like no other mutt I have seen.
So when the apocalyptic hoards attack, my dog will lead the retreat by running faster than any creature alive.
But being fleet of foot (or is it paw?) is not his only form of keeping his foes from snatching him.
Murphy has a secret weapon. No it is not a knife or a small handgun he keeps tucked in his collar. This is something much worse: it is a high-pitched bark that can make even the hardcore dog lover consider doggy genocide.
It is the most annoying sound in the world. Yes even more than the incessant chatter of a mother-in-law.
He makes it when he is trying to intimidate another dog.
It is not so much intimidating as it is downright annoying.
Some friends of ours have a lab-retriever cross who is roughly 10,000 times bigger than Murphy. And because the humans are friends, the dogs spend plenty of time together.
Being a little dog with a big attitude, Murphy does not take any crap from Gigantor the Massive Mutt. Or at least he tries not to, but when your opponent is that much heavier than you are it is kind of tough to be the alpha dog.
So Koda, the beast friend of our friends, often knocks little Murphy around whether Murphy wants to or not.
Koda is a beautiful, good-natured dog, but he is not even two years old yet so he still wants to play – all the time. This is usually fine with Murphy who also is also ready to play – all the time.
Murphy’s favourite game is ‘chase me.’ This is where the other dog chases him around and around and around.
Murphy may be small, but he can turn a corner like he is on rails, making him extremely hard to catch. Ducking and dodging is probably the best defense he has. If Koda can’t catch him, Koda can’t knock him around.
The problem is Murphy also likes to sniff things. Nothing is more fascinating to a dog than finding that another dog had recently been through the area.
It’s like they had never heard of other dogs being on the planet and finding evidence of one is the most exciting thing ever.
Murphy will stick his nose mere millimeters away from what I assume is another dog’s pee and sniff like only a dog can.
And this is where things go south for him because when he stops to sniff, Koda pounces and knocks poor little Murphy around like a cork in the ocean.
Murphy will take this once, maybe twice before he becomes annoyed and unleashes his secret weapon.
The other day that weapon hit its mark. Murphy let out such a loud, high-pitched half bark, half squeal that it was Koda everyone felt sorry for.
As Koda pounced, Murphy unleashed his fury right in the ear of his friend, leaving the behemoth to jump around and shake his head for the next five minutes.
Having set the young whippersnapper in his place, Murphy went back to the enjoyment of smelling things.
It was the first time he scored a direct hit on his much larger friend, and it seemed to get the message across. The next time they got together, Koda was much more subdued.
Never underestimate the power of a really annoying sound from a little dog with a big attitude.

Remember, it's poppies before sugar plums

Halloween morning had sprung with cloudy skys, jack-o-lanterns on every doorstep and a major corporation launching its Christmas campaign.
My kids had not even hit the streets to beg candy from strangers and these guys were already pushing Yule Tide sales on me.
Merry Halloween-mas everyone.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Christmas. In fact, it is my favourite (and most wonderful) time of the year, but there is a very important day to recognize before the Yule Tide season can begin.
Today is one of the most revered days of the year, it is the day we honour and salute our soldiers past and present, without whom we would not enjoy the wonderful country Canada is.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook ‘Please don’t do any Christmas decorating until after Remembrance Day in honour of our veterans.’
Many people agreed, as do I.
Although I am not a veteran, I did spend two years in the militia being a weekend warrior.
We would gather several days each month and eight weeks each summer for training where would run around doing all sorts of army type things.
I quickly learned the hurry-up-and-wait exercise was the most common army exercise there was.
I had not been a Saturday Soldier for very long when I received my first lessons in the waiting game. We were on a training exercise, and more than two kilometres from the head quarters tent, when we were told if we were not at the pay officer’s desk in 10 minutes we would not get our money for that month.
Not much can get a group of young men run like that. One is money, the other is girls and the last is beer. (Put them all together and someone is going to break the miracle mile while wearing army boots and carrying a pack.)
Because we all wanted to get paid so we could buy beer for girls, we ran to the pay officer’s tent like we were on fire. I have never seen a group of guys move that fast in my life.
There were 30 of us sprinting as hard as we could and in record time we were lined up outside of the pay officer’s door – where we waited for the next 45 minutes.
This raised several questions, the most obvious of which was why did we have to run so hard our toes were numb only to stand in line for almost an hour. I could have ambled the distance in that amount of time. I could even have moseyed it and still arrived with time to spare.
Later that day we were heading out on another exercise and were told we needed to get a specific piece of equipment in the next 30 seconds or we would be in a world of hurt. So, with seargents screaming like they were re-enacting scenes from Platoon, we piled out of the back of the truck, ran to get the kit and piled back into the truck where we sat for more than an hour, all the while holding that vital piece of equipment.
The army was funny that way. Often, it was a good example of how not to do things, but it was also a good place to learn some important life lessons.
The reserves taught us how to take care of ourselves and to look out for each other.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for all our soldiers, past and present. A good friend of mine spent more than 20 years in the military and it is not an easy life.
He was away a lot, often in less-than-ideal conditions and the days were long and occasionally hazardous.
So let’s remember to hold off on Christmas promotions and decorations until at least Nov. 12.
Until then, the only thing anyone should be putting up is a poppy.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Politics going to the dogs

I am sure you have heard the expression 'going to the dogs.'
It can apply to things that are going downhill, in decay (because dogs love to eat and roll in decaying stuff I guess) or in general it means things are not going too well.
In this case, it is politics that is going to the dogs. I know I will have to be a little more specific. It would seem a member of New Brunswick's Progressive Conservative Party voted to select a leader of the rival Liberal party using his dog's name.
The man registered his hound to vote in the leadership race by providing a name, address, phone number and birthdate.
He was then able to vote in the leadership showdown without so much as a phone call to check the authenticity of the name he provided.
He said he could not use his own name because he is a power player in the PC party, so he listed his dog. Needless to say he is thrilled with the Liberal blunder that is calling into question the integrity of the party.
In their defence, an N.B. Liberal spokesperson said they did call the number, but no one in their office spoke schnauzer so they could not verify the authenticity of the voter information until someone fluent in dog could be found.
Actually, the party official said they try to call everyone on the list, but this one was missed blah-blah-blah, or no one was home blah-blah-blah, it won't happen again blah-blah-blah.
The man who set up the ruse is charging forward like a drunken rhino and can see only good things coming of this for his party.
He is blasting the Liberals with both barrels.
In an effort to deflect some of the embarrassment, the Liberals fired back saying the ruling party should spend more time looking after the province than conducting the shenannigans of signing up a dog to vote.
Nice try, Liberal party of New Brunswick, but you were busted with your proverbial pants down (which has happened to politicians in a more literal manner on more than one occasion.)
Letting a dog vote, what's next? If you let dogs vote, then cats will want to vote, then all of a sudden every animal out there will want a say in who will run the country.
It is hard enough getting people to vote, but a dog would just want to sniff and pee on everything. And a cat could care less, making them more like real voters.
All of this silliness got me thinking (which is often a bad thing.)
Perhaps we should turn the voting over to the animals. If an octopus can predict who will triumph in World Cup soccer (football for all of our European readers) then maybe cats and dogs can pick the best leader for the country.
As far as that goes, maybe they should even start running for office. Have you ever met a dog that did not have integrity? Or a dog that was not loyal and faithful?
A dog would also be happy with whatever accommodations they were provided and not demand to be upgraded to a five-star facility where a glass of orange juice is $200 - unless the dog is named Oda that is.
And of course Canada would have to find dogs that can bark in English and French.
Obviously dogs cannot run for political office, but perhaps our human elected officials should go to the dogs as they are a fine example of how to behave (aside from the licking themselves part I mean.)
I must admit high-level politicians are not my favourite people in the world (as if you could not guess that already) but there are several political figures I actually believe are doing the best they can, some of whom are actively serving their constituents in this riding as we speak and they are doing so with an honest desire to make the country a better place to live.
To them I say ‘Good boy.’