Sunday, August 27, 2017

Boys are just plain gross

Boys can be gross little critters.
They don’t necessarily mean to be, it’s just the nature of possessing testosterone without the maturity to wield it.
Testosterone is kind of like the Force. Once you learn how to control it, it can be of great benefit, but if it is unchecked, it leads to the dark side, and the dark side usually involves something that will gross out mom and dad.
Mind you, when boys grow up, testosterone can still lead to some uncouth situations. I highly doubt it was a refined woman who invented the globally popular Pull my finger gag.
Not too long ago, I was talking to a lady who was appalled by the actions of some of the young boys in her neighbourhood. The lads were around 10 years old and full of vinegar and puppy dog tails or what ever else they are supposed to be made of.
It would seem these future leaders of our nation decided it would be more fun to pee in their water guns and squirt each other than to just fill them with boring old water.
When she told me and another father, I had to chuckle.
They looked at me like I was demented.
“You both only have girls, don’t you?”
They did, and were thus unfamiliar with the minds of little men. I doubt a girl would ever think of doing such a thing.
I know it is disgusting and I am certainly not endorsing it, but it is something little boys do, and parents who only have girls simply do not understand.
Most girls are all cute and sweet, while boys are more like chimpanzees on a sugar high.
I am sure boys are where the term ‘perpetual motion’ came from, because it seems little boys never stop moving, doing things or looking for new adventures, which translates into getting in to trouble.
They don’t necessarily mean to get in trouble, it just kind of happens.
One day, my oldest son was looking at this small, black thing he took out of his pocket.
I assumed it was a rock or something and I asked what he had.
“It’s a bird’s stomach,” was his matter-of-fact reply.
I stopped dead in my tracks and contemplated his response.
“A what?” was my somewhat horrified reaction.
“I also have what I think is a heart and a lung.”
My mind raced at the information I was hearing.
“OK, calm down. There are plenty of good psychiatrists in town. That’s it, all he needs is a little assistance. He will be fine. All little boys carry animal parts in their pocket – right?”
My next concern was how he came into possession of said body parts.
He explained that he had found a dead bird behind the shed and decided to take it apart to see what was in it.
He always enjoyed taking things apart which, until that moment in time, I thought was a good thing. He was expanding his knowledge, exploring how things worked – now it was just a one-way ticket to Barf City.
He did not have any surgical tools or even a pocketknife, so he pulled it apart with his fingers.
I would just like to say – eeeeeeeewww. Now, that is disgusting.
He did not know it was gross, he was just a curious seven year old with no concern for minor details like germs, bacteria, malaria or the plague.
Again, I doubt most girls would ever do that.
While girls are having imaginary tea parties, Junior was performing a do-it-yourself autopsy.
“Go in the house and wash your hands – a lot. Use the entire bar of soap and don’t touch anything on the way in. Just keep your hands in the air. Wait, let me open the door and turn on the taps.
No! Don’t touch me. No! Don’t touch the cat either.”
“Can I keep the stomach?”
Boys just do things differently.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Licking the frog to get high

I recently received an email with little-known facts about life and the world we live in.
Information such as at any given hour there are more than 61,000 people in airplanes over the United States is interesting.
Well, it is to me anyway, which gives you some idea of just how pathetic my life is and just how easily amused I a can be.
I would also find life much easier if there were not so many shiny things lying about to distract my already distracted brain.
Another amusing, yet absolutely useless piece of information is the first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
Oh, how times have changed.
Now it would be acceptable to show Fred and Barney in bed together.
Anyway, one of the items in the email of useless (but interesting) information sent me on a short-lived quest to verify the validity of the claim.
The statement was simple: you cannot lick your elbow.
My first thought was, “Why would you want to?”
My second thought was, “I wonder if that is true.”
So I casually found a quiet space where, that’s right, you guessed it, I tried to prove them wrong.
Feel free to give it a try yourself. Go ahead, you know you want to.
You have likely just learned the same thing I did, which is the same thing the original author learned and that is you can’t lick your elbow.
Perhaps some people can, but they are as rare as an honest politician.
I got to wondering who the first person to try this feat was, and more importantly why did they try it.
I guess some people just have waaaay too much time on their hands.
It is just another example of people doing strange things that most of us probably would never even think of trying.
The elbow incident got me thinking about other strange activities and how they came to be. There have been stories over the years about people licking toads and frogs to get high.
First of all, that is truly disgusting. Secondly, who knew licking an amphibian would give you a buzz?
Who was the first person to lay tongue to toad and think, “Wow, that’s groovy man.”
Were they sitting around a campfire moaning about not having any money for beer when a frog hopped across the lawn and someone said, “I know, let’s lick that frog for fun?”
The only thing stranger than the guy who came up with the idea, is the person he got to join him in getting fresh with a frog. I refer to the inventor of the getting-personal-with-a-frog-as-a-form-of-entertainment game as a male, because, honestly, I do not know any females dumb enough to try licking a frog for fun.
Or perhaps it started at Woodstock where someone decided to take the ‘experimental stage’ of their life to the next level and include woodland swamp creatures to help with the expansion of their mind.
“Hey, what’s wrong with Mikey? He’s freaking out.”
“He got hold of some bad frog, man.”
“Bummer man, I wonder how many flies he’s gonna eat before he comes down.”
In my years on this earth, I have never considered a frog a party accessory, but others have and if it wasn’t for those willing to push the limits of idiotic behaviour, there would be much less to talk about in this world.
Thank goodness it never caught on, or police would be raiding grow ops one week, and frog farms the next.
“Pssst, hey buddy. You lookin’ to score some amphibian? I got frog. I got toad.”
And as everyone knows, frogs are the gateway amphibian.
One minute it’s a simple pond frog, then it’s a big ol’ bullfrog and the next thing you know, you’re all the way up to snogging an iguana.
Pretty soon you are sleeping in the bushes next to the zoo just waiting for the chance to sneak in under the fence and make off with a creature of the Kermit variety.
Instead of asking for spare change, you are asking for directions to the nearest swamp.
As if actually licking a frog was not enough of a reason not to try it in the first place, the thing that creates the ‘high’ is actually a mild poison secreted from the critter to fend off attackers.
How smart do you have to be to ingest poison for a cheap high?
I guess if you are willing to lick a frog in the first place, the answer presents itself.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A camping we will go...for some reason

I have to admit, I didn't really understand the whole camping thing.
When I wed my beautiful bride, she wanted to leave our home and sleep on the ground under the trees wrapped in canvass.
I had been working hard for many years to prevent that sort of thing and now I was supposed to do it voluntarily.
Like I said, I didn't really get it, but because I was in love I readily agreed — and the cooler full of adult recreational beverages didn't hurt in convincing me either.
So off we went, leaving our lovely rented apartment behind so we could sleep on the ground like a wild critter.
The first thing I noticed about camping was how much work it was. You had to load everything you needed into a vehicle, drive to the campground, unpack everything, set up the tent, bedding, cooking utensils etc. only to reverse the whole process a few days later.
And don't even get me started on the insects, especially the eight-legged monsters that haunt my dreams when I am in my own bed, let alone sleeping in a sack of stuffed material on a thin layer of foam in the middle of bug central.
Camping actually goes back to biblical times. Moses did it for 40 years. It may not have been by choice, but he still spent four decades pitching a tent and looking for just the right fauna for personal use.
I get tired of camping after just a couple days.
And speaking of fauna for personal use: where the heck did they find fauna in the middle of a desert in the first place? And if there was no fauna, what did they use?

On second thought, maybe I don't want the answer.
Fortunately, provincial campgrounds have bathroom facilities of some sort and what a thrill it is to make a boom-boom in an outhouse.
The most distressing part of the outhouse was the aromatic essence of the structure. Outhouses have a special odiferous quality that just can’t be described without actually experiencing it.
But young love ruled the day, so camping became a regular part of our summers — wooden toilets and all.
The longer we were married, the more our camping evolved. We went from a small, three-person tent to a 10-person tent that was so large it had room for our queen-sized air mattress, baby playpen, luggage, a full basement and in-ground pool.
The tent of wonders eventually gave way to a tent trailer, and not just any tent trailer, the largest tent trailer ever built by the human race.
The thing was so big we dubbed it The Land Whale. With the wings out, it was 26 feet long. In the right light, it could be seen from space.
What an improvement it was. I was no longer a ground-dwelling barbarian, but had an actual bed to sleep in. Camping was still a lot of work, especially with three little ones, but the Land Whale made it a lot more bearable.
My favourite part of camping was sitting around the fire with those adult bevvies I was talking about while the kids slept quietly in their beds.
But it still took many years for me to really enjoy camping.
The change started when I saw how excited my children were to leave our home and head for the hills.
When my son was 18, he said he can't wait to go camping with us and his own family (when he has one).
In that moment, the importance of family camping became clear. Suddenly, I loved camping. What an awesome way to spend a weekend with the family.
Now, if we could just do something about those bugs.  

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Beware the spider vendetta

We all saw its shadow before we saw it.
“It” was a humungous rock spider that was walking out of the campfire. That’s right, I said walking out of the campfire.
It was the colour of granite with a big round body, huge fangs and a bad attitude.
It cast a shadow from the fire and was calmly walking within inches of the hot embers.
A friend took a stick and poked the multi-legged terror and it reached up with one of its front legs grabbed the stick and slammed my friend to the ground.
OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but you could see it pushing the stick down a little bit.
My buddy was stunned at the strength of this thing and I felt a shiver go up my spine that lasted for the next 17 minutes.
I had visions of this Godzilla of the spider realm hiding in my sleeping bag or attacking me from below as I used the outdoor loo.
Any such interaction with the arachnid (especially the loo part) would cause me to squeal like a small, frightened school girl moments before I passed out.
Spider, one; big, strong man, zero.
As we examined the spider he, or she, or whatever it was, took up a defensive pose and would push the stick every time it came near him.
I suggested we nuke the spider, so it would never frighten small children or big adults again.
“Hey, why don’t you put on those leather work gloves, pick the spider up and throw it in the fire?” I suggested to my friend with the stick.
“Why don’t you?” was his response.
“Are you out of your mind? Look at that thing. I’m not going anywhere near it. Why do you think I suggested you do it?”
Four fully grown adults stood trembling in fear over a spider that probably weighed less than my fingernails, but no one was going near it — no matter what.
OK, plan A was a bust.
Plan B involved death from above and a bombing run using a five-pound stone was decided upon as the best way to rid the world of the grey terror that was holding us at bay.
I threw the rock and it kind of hit the spider on his side. He then seemed to bounce off the rock and the last we saw, he was shooting across the hot embers to the other side of the fire.
No carcass was found, so we assumed he had survived the assassination attempt, which sent more chills up my spine (kind of like right now actually.)
This freaked all of us out as none of us are overly fond of spiders or any other type of insect, for that matter.
I had more visions. This time it was of a wounded monster spider hiding in the woods, plotting its revenge, waiting for the perfect moment to attack.
Perhaps it would limp its way up the tree behind me, climb out on a limb and then drop onto my hair-challenged head.
“Eeeek,” does not even come close to what my reaction would be.
Maybe it would die a slow death, but survive long enough to pass on a message of vengeance to its 20,000 offspring.
That would be just my luck — to have a small army of ticked off arachnids hunting me and my kin down to fulfil some sort of insect vendetta.
There were only so many rocks I could throw.
Fearing retribution, I conducted a more thorough search of the area around the campfire, but no sign of my new nemesis could be found.
Sure, we all hatched the murder scheme, but it would be my scent on the rock. I don’t know if spiders can smell, but I do not want to take the risk.
We tried to relax around the fire and laugh off the incident, but deep down every one of us was keeping a close eye out for any sign of the spider of terror.
We have been back to that spot since that fateful night and have yet to be carried off into the woods by avenging insects, so our fears of a sci-fi like rebellion by an arachnid army are unfounded.
My fear of spiders remains, however, as strong as it ever has — perhaps even more.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I prefer to be at the top of the food chain

“When you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain.”
Those words of wisdom came from a buddy who has made several trips to the sunny climes of Mexico and the warm, shark-infested Pacific waters that lap at the sandy beaches.
I thought about it for a second and realized how right he was. Personally, I prefer to be near the top of the food chain rather than another morsel in an ocean smorgasbord.
When you are splashing around in the ocean, you are little more than a fishing lure with life insurance.
The top of the oceanic food chain is the shark, more specifically the great white shark, because the great white is the biggest and baddest the ocean has to offer.
If it weren't, it would be called the pretty good white shark, or the slightly-above-average white shark.
I splashed in the Pacific Ocean when I was a kid and not once did I think of the food chain scenario. But now that I am older, wiser and more of a fraidy cat, I realize just how true my buddy's words were.
I read a story a while back about a swimming competition in Australia that involved some 700 people. It also included a couple of non-competitors in the form of sharks.
One was a hammerhead shark and the story did not say what the other kind was, but I am sure it was not the kind of fish you would want to meet in a dark alley.
One of the competitors had a rather nonchalant view of the whole shark situation.
“I was swimming along and a couple of guys put up the shark signal, I figure they had 700 of us to choose from and they couldn't decide by the looks of things.”
My reaction would be slightly different and would likely involve some type of high-pitched squeal followed by a panic attack.
I wonder if urine would act as an effective shark repellent because there would be plenty of that floating around my general location.
If someone had seen a shark in the vicinity, I would not go in the water even if I was on fire. The last thing I would want to do is provide the shark with not only an easy meal, but a barbecued easy meal at that.
A good friend moved to Australia where he was a high-level competitive surfer. He would talk about what he said were “big sharks” with little more concern than someone saying they saw a guppy at a dentist's office.
I asked what he did when he saw a shark. “Oh, you just try to avoid them and get out of the water.”
Well, no duh. I could have figured that out all on my own. I don't know if it is possible to run on top of water, but I am pretty sure I would come close as I hauled out of the Big Blue.
He made a good point that it is kind of like hiking in the woods of B.C. where there are bears and the occasional cougar, both of which can detract from an otherwise good time.
So instead of bears, he had to watch for sharks. I am not sure how you would do that seeing as how sharks attack from below while a bear has to come crashing through the woods.
When a bear attacks you can play dead until it goes away, with a shark no playing is involved.
I would rather attempt to outwit a bear than out swim a shark, but I've always wondered if urine would act as a bear repellent because....

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Friday, June 30, 2017

Here come the Lobster People

One of the things I always find amusing about summer is the Lobster People.
No, these are not people with weird deformities that causes them to resemble a delicious and expensive sea crustacean.
These are the people who are vacationing in our sunny climes and are as red as a stop sign from too much outdoor merriment.
It helps make tourists easy to spot as they look like tomatoes with legs.
Locals have either already gained a bit of a tan, or they know enough to lather themselves in SPF 4,000 before going out.
But many of our tourists come from a flat part of the country (I'm not mentioning any specific areas here) where summer is typically a couple weeks in late July so getting out and enjoying that great big ball in the sky is too much to resist.
So they doff their work boots, jeans and hardhat in exchange for a bathing suit and a floatie, and splash around local lakes as the sun slowly and subtly cooks them.
It is not until the next day they realize the folly of their actions. Then they grab all the after burn ointment they can find and cover every bit of bright-red skin they can reach.
I don't even want to think about what happens to nudists.
They are exposing parts of their bodies to the sun that typically don't interact with that big ball of brightness.
I have never been to a nude beach, and the world is a better place because of it.
I could see myself ditching my swim suit to splash around eu natural, only to cause the other beach goers instant blindness and nausea so bad not even a six-pack of Pepto would be able to help.
It would cause a mass exodus from the beach as if a land shark was gobbling up people like a fat guy at a Vegas buffet.
In other words, me running around the beach naked would be a bad thing.
I would also like to take a moment to apologize for any mental images I may have generated with the previous paragraphs.
Don't worry, with the proper amount of therapy and deep hypnosis the image will fade.
Having spent my entire life living in the region, I have made a peace agreement with the sun: I will not run around with hardly any clothes on (again, you are welcome) and Mrs. Sun has agreed not to roast me like a pig at a luau.
Besides, even when I was young and in good shape and could run around without a shirt, I didn't because I don't tan so much as turn into a walking, talking mass of human bacon.
I have two colours: pasty white and lobster red. There is not much middle ground.
And, it would seem many of our foreign guests have the same problem.
They are ghostly white when they show up, and devil red when they leave.
But I suspect it may be a little harder to distinguish tourist from locals this year. We had a spring so wet even Noah was complaining about the rain, and that meant the local sun lovers had minimal exposure to the big bright ball in the sky.
And that means they will be pastier than usual when the big bright thing in the sky finally gets to shine – literally.
But at least the locals – well, many of them anyway – know when to get out of the sun.

So sit back, relax and watch the tourists turn red. It's always good for a laugh.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Man's disgusting best friend

Where would the world be without dogs?
They are man’s best friend, loyal companion and are great at cleaning up food dropped on the floor.
I never truly appreciated that last quality until I had my first kid.
Junior spent more time throwing food on the floor than he did throwing it in his mouth, much to the delight of our two mutts.
The dogs were a little put out when we first brought this squawky little human home, but once he was old enough to eat from a high chair, all was forgiven.
The hounds clued in real fast that the squawky little human was a good source of treats.
Problem was, once Junior got old enough to interact with the dogs, he discovered that if he dropped something they would pounce on it and soon it became a game.
He would be flinging grub around the kitchen like the lid had come off a blender and the dogs were lovin’ every minute of it.
Dogs are also good at barking their heads off when a hoard of bad guys are at the gate and about to invade your home, or if someone walks by, or they hear something, or they think they hear something.
They're a food-disposal system and alarm system all rolled into one. Who could ask for anything more?
Actually I could ask for a few less things, such as a dog’s ability and willingness to eat really disgusting things.
A friend was thoroughly repulsed when he noticed his then three-month-old hound chowing down on a nice, big pile of deer droppings.
He literally had to pull the beast away from the stack of mouth-watering morsels and the closer he got to the hungry hound, the faster the pooch would eat.
I readily admit, I have never sampled deer droppings, or any kind of droppings for that matter, so I cannot definitively say they taste terrible, but I have also never smashed my kneecap with a hammer and I am pretty sure that would hurt.
For some reason, their dog finds stuff like that very appealing. He is now much older and still scrums down on doo-doo every chance he gets.
I present you with reason No. 2 why I never let a dog lick me — ever.
Why is that reason No. 2, because reason No. 1 is equally as bad, but more common among our furry, four-legged friends.
Reason No. 1 is universal among canines. While not all dogs eat poop, every dog I have ever had has eaten their own vomit.
Why? I don’t know. If a cat hacks something up, they look around like someone better clean that up."
If a dog yacks something up, they look around like, “Hey, hey, where did that tasty morsel come from? Don’t mind if I do.”
And then they do.
Don’t blame me if you find the subject gross. I don’t make them dine-on-dog upchuck, I am just saying they do it.
Dead things are also a popular entrée for hounds — the deader the better.
My dog brought in half a dead mouse that the cat killed and left outside in the middle of January. Murphy the Wonder Dog thought the mouse-sicle was the greatest find ever.
He came bounding into the house with his prize clamped firmly in his jaw and I had to chase him down to see what it was. I finally got hold of him and he clamped down even harder.
It took a minute to figure out what it was, but as I looked closer I noticed his treasure was staring at me with a buggy mouse eye.
I added that to the ever-growing list of why I don’t let dogs lick me — as if poop and puke were not reason enough.
Man’s best friend — absolutely — a very disgusting best friend, but a best friend nonetheless.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Friday, June 9, 2017

Yes, I am a spider wimp

I'm man enough to admit it.
I'm not ashamed to admit I made a noise typically reserved for a small, frightened child before fleeing like I was on fire when it happened.
And I had every good reason to be scared, because it was scary.
It happens every spring and gets worse as the days get warmer and stretch into the summer months.
But with all the rain this year and the cooler weather, it really hasn't been that bad.
"It" is interactions of the spider kind.
I hate spiders. Not many things in this world scare me as much as an arachnid. Big, small, fat, skinny, you name it, if it's a spider I do not like it.
My most recent encounter with one of the eight-legged terrors was when I was working in my garage.
I grabbed a pair of coveralls I have hanging from a nail to do an oil change on my car.
For some reason, I shook the garment before putting it on, something I never do.
Call it the voice of God, dumb luck or some other glorious interaction of the divine kind, but when I shook it, a large spider fell out of a sleeve.
Eeeeek! does not even begin to describe how I felt. And this was no ordinary spider. This guy must have been on steroids because I have never seen one this big, this early in the year.
Sure, there are billions of little spiders roaming the area, and being the big, tough guy that I am, they hardly bother me, but this one was the size of a bagel.
It was so big, I could feel the ground vibrate as it fell from my coveralls and landed on the concrete.
OK, maybe the ground didn't vibrate, but I did pee a little and jumped 10 feet straight back as the black mass of doom raced for cover under a nearby cupboard.
It was at that moment, I knew I must take action, for if the monstrosity managed to find cover, I would likely never be able to enter my garage again knowing it was in there, watching, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
So, I summoned up all of my courage and sprang into action: I leapt across the room and smashed my foot down on the offending critter with such force my toes were numb for an hour; the impact of rubber sole hitting the smooth concrete was so loud it sounded like I had shot the spider instead of crushing it to death.
At least, I hoped I crushed it to death. I stood for second frantically looking around to see if the beast,which must have been some sort of Jurassic spider because of its sheer size, was embedded in the bottom of my shoe.
Slowly, I lifted my foot and to my relief I found an assembly of spider guts and legs smooshed into a gooey mass.
Yay, me.
I had survived a potentially lethal encounter with an arachnid.
Then one of the scariest thoughts I have ever had formed in my mind: if this spider was that big this early in the year, what will be waiting for me over the next few weeks.
Even as I write this, I shudder at the thought.
Perhaps going outside is over-rated.
Perhaps there are benefits to living in a sealed room with filters and screens and anti-spider lasers surrounding the house.
Am I over reacting?
No! No, I am not.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Look out, here comes Grandma Dinomite

It was one of those things that was so odd, it was funny.

I was driving down the street when a little, old lady in a silver car pulled in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid some up-close-and-personal interaction with granny.

I managed to slow down and swerve to the point where the collision was avoided. You could say I was a little annoyed at the almost accident, until I noticed it was a kindly, little, old lady behind the wheel.

That changed my attitude rather quickly because who could possibly be mad at granny?
And besides, stuff happens, no one is perfect and I was sure she simply did not see me. No biggie.

I gave granny a little toot on the horn just to let her know I was there and we almost got to exchange phone numbers and insurance information.

This sweet, kindly, granny-looking, little, old lady, peered into her rearview mirror and proceeded to flip me the bird. 
I must admit, that was probably the last thing I expected a little, old lady to do. Shouldn't she be at home baking cookies for the grandchildren, or knitting something instead of making an obscene gesture?
Especially when you consider it was Grandma Dynamite who was at fault in the first place. And this was not a quick flip of the driving finger.
This was a prolonged, hey-butthead-behind-me-I-got-your-granny-greeting-right-here kind of gesture.

It took a couple of seconds before I fully realized what was going on. At first, I thought she was waving to say sorry for almost causing our insurance rates to go up, but most people use all five fingers to do that.

I stared for the duration of the salute and sure enough granny was giving me the what for with a certain finger reserved for non-verbal communication of the unpleasant kind.

So I did what any other driver would do, I got in close, hit her car from behind and spun her into the on-coming lane where she was creamed by a dump truck.

I'm kidding, of course. It was a cement truck.

In reality, all I could do was look on in a mild state of shock. I pulled up beside the car to make sure it really was a granny and not a teen wearing an old-people costume, but sure enough, this was a full-fledged, grandma-type driver.

I tell you, seniors are getting harder and harder to raise these days.

Once the initial surprise wore off, I had to chuckle at granny for not taking any crap from one of those young whippersnappers.

Now, I have never snapped a whipper in my life, but according to Hostile Hilda in the Honda, I was just some punk kid with an attitude. A punk kid who, at the time, was in his mid-30s.

What is the protocol in that situation? I couldn't give her the finger in return. Flipping granny the bird would be too strange and just seemed plain wrong.

Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter how good that second wrong feels.

Eventually, granny went her way and I went mine, both with stories to tell:
  • Hers was of some jerk in a little, red car who was harassing her with his horn.
  • Mine was of a member of the blue-hair crowd who gave me hope that when I become a senior, I won't have to take any guff from some punk on the street.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I nod, you nod, we all nod

I call it The Nod.
The Nod is when you are walking down the hallway at work, or down the street and you see someone you know, but not very well.
Usually, it is an upward nod for an acquaintance.
And how much you do the up nod depends largely on how well you know the person.
If it is someone you have seen once in a while, there is just a slight upward nod to say yes, I recognize you, but don't really know you. But because we both sort of know each other, social convention dictates we acknowledge each other, so I am sending you the up nod to say I know you, just not very well.
The better you know the person, the bigger the up nod.
A full head tilt means I know you to the point there have been a few conversations, but you are not exactly on my Christmas card list. However, there is a personal connection and I am acknowledging that.
Then, there is the up nod with a smile or perhaps with even a “Hey” thrown in.
This is for people of an even higher social status, but are still not at the point of being considered a friend.
However, their presence is important enough to warrant a full up nod and a vocalization that I see you there, I have some sort of connection to you and in general I would consider it a favourable connection.
There is also the down nod.
The down nod is almost exclusively for those people you don't know at all.
Perhaps you are walking down the street and happen to make eye contact with someone who is also walking down the street.
Rather than stare at each other awkwardly, social convention has developed the down nod.
The down nod says several things:
  • I see you and acknowledge that you are in fact, alive.
  • That you exist on the same planet as I do and because we made eye contact – intentional or otherwise – it is polite to acknowledge that we are both alive and living in the same community even if we don't know each other and will likely never see each other again.
  • It is sort of an “Attaboy for being alive” kind of greeting.
There are numerous variations of the up nod/down nod. And they can be altered to best suit whatever situation you may find yourself in.
You could run into someone you have known for a long time, but don't like. That is when the down nod is acceptable.
But nodding is mostly used for face-to-face encounters.
While operating motorized vehicles, there are other forms of non-verbal communication that can be employed.
We all know what the No. 1 signal is for drivers, but only slightly behind is when you use all five fingers to wave.
Cut someone off in traffic? No problem, a little wave of the hand means I see I cut you off and I acknowledge the fact I did so, but I gave the little wave so that's means it's OK because I just apologized.
Whether the other driver accepts the apology is determined by how many fingers are used to wave back.
If it involves two or more, all is good. The driver is not offended and realizes stuff happens. If they wave with only one finger, then they are not in a forgiving mood.
Cut someone off in a parking lot?
Give them a little wave and all is good.
Nearly hit them backing up in said parking lot?
Pull out a little more than than you should have, causing them to touch the brakes and have a hostile look on their face?
Run over their garbage can, flower box and garden gnome?
Wave and you are good to go.
Well, that last one may require a little more than a wave.
Perhaps a wave and a nod.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some free advice for the ladies

Ladies, if I may, I would like to offer some free relationship advice.
I would like to talk about communication between men and women — 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 important matters.
What men rarely talk about is emotions.
"Y'know Bob, when you said my mustache 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. 
So here is where I will impart my meagre wisdom upon the world, even if it doesn't want it.
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 — 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 grey 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.
But once you get through all that stuff, the emotional brain does exist. But subtle hints have little chance of getting past all the other things we 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 throughout history, who has not had the line, “Well, you should know how I feel” dropped on them.
We don't know. It's that simple.
After many years of marriage, I can tell when something is bothering my wife and she has learned subtle hints don't work and the direct approach is most often used.
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.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Do you see what I see....probably not

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 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 things she does not.
Our lawn can be three metres tall with a family of rednecks 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.
“We have a spreading juniper? What's a spreading juniper?”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 an aircraft carrier and she will invariably respond, “Oh, I never noticed it before.”
Funny how that excuse does not work when it comes to a pile of laundry.
“What 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?”
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.
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 conditioner (Hey, I'm a bald man, conditioner 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.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I'm not Gutzilla...not yet anyway

It was a sad day indeed.
I remember it vividly: the angst, the sorrow, the disappointment.
It was a day where I sat back and took stock of my life: the decisions I made to get me to this point; the paths I should have taken; the paths I did take. 
Yup, it was the day I could no longer suck in my gut to make it look like I didn't really have a gut.
Like I said, it was a dark day indeed.
I knew my gut was getting bigger. 
Hell, it was right there in front of me, so how could I miss it?
It seemed like every day my middle section became more prominent.
For a while, I could clench my abdominal muscles and make it look like I had a flat belly.
However, this could only be done for a short period of time before my face turned red and I passed out from lack of oxygen.
A small price to pay for beauty, though.
However, as Father Time continued to slap me around, sucking in the flab became harder to do until one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and realized no matter how hard I tried, my gut would remain out there for the world to see.
So I did the only logical thing: I bought larger shirts that would seem baggy on me and make me look thinner.
And it worked great – in my mind anyway, but at the end of the day, my abdominal shame was on display for all to see.
I had a shirt full of belly and I knew it.
And the stupid mirror knew it too.
Every time I would walk past the blasted device, my shame was there for me to see — protruding like some sort of carnival side show freak. 
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it was noticeable.
I was hardly Gutzilla; that would be my neighbour who looks like he is 18 months pregnant with triplets, but I was hardly the svelte lad of yesteryear.
But then again, neither are my friends.
When I go a period of time without seeing them, the first thing I do is compare abdominal regions to see if they have outpaced me in the getting flabby competition.
Some of my friends have, some haven't.
Now, I just spend more time with the ones who are more abdominally enhanced than I am. Not necessarily because they are better friends, but because it makes me feel better about myself.
This works at the beach as well. The key is not to find the best spot with the best view, but to find the fattest person or people.
By dropping your towel next to a weight-enhanced individual, you automatically take a couple steps down the flab-o-metre. 
The problem is when someone does the same thing to you to make themselves look good. Eventually, there is a line of people from XXL to XL to L to M. all in a row along the beach.
But packing on the protruding pounds is part of getting older I suppose.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. I worked with one gentleman who was several years older than I was who was in fantastic shape. Flat belly, outstanding cardio – the guy was as fit as someone half, or even a third his age.
Yup, I really hated that guy.
There was a day when I could eat whatever I wanted and not have to worry about gaining so much as a pound.
Scrumming down a bacon cheeseburger with fries, gravy and Coke at 3 a.m.after a hard night of clubbing was not unheard of. 
And I would not gain an ounce of flab.
Now, just writing about the mouth-watering, late-night treat I put on three pounds.
So, if you will excuse me, I have some really baggy shirts to buy.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Excuse me, is that a lizard in your nose?

I know I'm not the only person who has had this happen because I have witnessed the dilemma from both sides of the table.
The other day I spent a few minutes chatting with a buddy  after church. Nothing odd or embarrassing about that – well, wait for it.
The conversation was not the problem. The problem was I had a booger hanging from my nose that was just slightly smaller than a Smart Car.
I had no idea this Green Monster of Ick was crawling its way out of my nose ready to destroy the world like a Canadian version of The Blob.
However, as soon as I ran into the Missus, she kindly pointed out I had this thing sticking out. The only thing that kept it from escaping completely was my abundant nostril hair.
Now, the question is: was the Booger of Doom hanging out the entire time I was talking to my buddy, or did it get loose after the conversation?
He never said anything about it, so maybe it wasn’t there. But if I were on the other side of the situation would I mention it?
“Hi, Brian, how are ya? Good to see you. By the way, you have a giant snot slinky slithering out of your nose. So, how are the wife and kids?”
It is not something you can casually slip into a conversation without the recipient of the news feeling at least somewhat embarrassed. And once the protruding bit of nose phlegm is pointed out, what then?
Does the bearer of the booger just go macho and wipe it away with his hand? If he does, will you shake his hand at the end of the conversation?
I thought not.
He could excuse himself, head to the nearest box of tissues and rein in the offending piece of matter, which is probably the most sanitary and least disgusting thing to do.
Of course, the conversation is over at that point. "Sorry, pal, I’ll be right back I just have to shake this booger loose.”
Not many conversations get restarted after such an interruption, unless the conversation is about boogers hanging from your nose.
If so, you have the perfect conversation starter at hand, or rather, in nose, or should it be partway out of the nose? I don’t know; booger etiquette has never been my strong suit.
When you are a kid, having a greenie hanging out is a topic of laughter from the boys and, usually, an ‘Ewwww, gross’ from the girls. Why boys find gross things funny is a topic for another column. But the younger the kid, the less they care about nasal discharge.
Every parent has seen their kids come home with glassy sleeves. To a kid, sleeves were invented to be portable tissues. What other purpose do they serve than to slide across your nose? To a kid, none. Being a snot collector is about all they do.
And children use the full length of the forearm – from elbow to wrist – without so much as a second thought.
Hey, I can remember being far too busy playing to go find a tissue and wipe my honker every few minutes. Besides, I had these cool sleeve things that were the perfect built-in tissue.
The sleeve device was always with me, I had two of them should one lose its absorbency and I did not even have to stop playing to take care of the situation.
Of course, as an adult I now know how truly revolting walking around with a sleeve or two covered in nose goo is, which is a strong argument for washing the children’s clothes separately from the civilized people in the house.
Like death and taxes, boogers are a part of life. I just hope to avoid all three for as long as possible.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Eeeeek, the bugs are back

Spring is, without question, my favourite season.
The snow is gone; the sun is out; the trees start to bloom and, over all, it is just a wonderful time to be alive.
There is, however, one small drawback to spring: the return of bugs.
The winter months, while cold, are a bug-free environment, devoid of the nasty, little critters that go into stasis until it is time to re-awaken and scare the snot out of me once again.
During the winter, I forget what it is like to have a creepy, buzzing, insect fly into my hair (what little of it I have) and twist around to get free.
This instantly and without fail causes me to thrash wildly as I try to get the vermin off my head lest I do something in my trousers I have not done since I was a small child.
In case you haven't guessed, I don't like bugs.
When I was a young lad, bugs did not bother me a bit. I used to catch them, hold them in my hands and, in general, I was at one with the insect. But the older I got, the less I liked them.
My first bug encounter of this year involved some sort of flying beast.
It was a cross between an ant and a pterodactyl, only bigger and scarier.
It landed on the back of my neck and threatened to work its way down the back of my shirt.
Without thinking, my ninja-like reflexes grabbed the winged horror. It squirmed between my finger and thumb and I almost – almost – screamed like a small, frightened girl.
As soon as I clamped down on the unholy abomination, my mind started to race.
First, I was amazed at how big this thing was. Shouldn't it just be a tiny little insect at this time of year?
This monstrosity was a full grown bug.
And whenever there is an encounter with a bug of any kind, the question looms: what kind of bug is it?
If you ask entomologists, they will say there are millions of types of bugs out there. I am not a bug expert, but I can tell you that there are only two types of bugs in the this world – ones that will hurt you and ones that won't.
I did not know what type of bug this was.
Was it the kind with a giant stinger, or pincers, or a knife — or a gun? Who knows?
Or was it one of those friendly, Disney type bugs that instead of hurting you becomes your adorable little friend?
I did not know and as I felt the beast try to get free from my grasp I waited for the pain. The searing, instant pain that only an evil bug can deliver.
All these thoughts tore through my semi-panicked mind in a nano-second. Time slows down when you are in great peril and holding some form of nasty bug between my fingers was great peril indeed.
As I pulled my hand away from my neck I looked at the critter and saw this brownish-red head with huge eyes looking at me.
However, there was no pain, so either I had it in such a hold it could not unleash its insect fury or it was one of those friendly bugs.
With reflexes that would make Chuck Norris look like a sloth on Valium, I threw the offending beast to the ground only to watch it spread it massive wings and soar away, blocking the sun as it passed.
I still don't know what kind of bug it was, and to tell you the truth I don't really care.
I survived my first up-close-and-personal contact of 2017 with an insect.
But if this is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a long summer.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 14, 2017

We don't need no stinking seatbelts

Every year, my parents would go on a two-week vacation that typically involved a marathon road trip somewhere in the United States.

We would all pile into the station wagon with the fake wood grain finish and head out on the open road while towing a tent trailer that would be our home for the next 14 days or so.

My parents would, of course, sit in the front, my two sisters in the back seat and my brother and I would lie down in the back with some pillows.

Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinking seatbelts.

We would wave at police as they went by and sometimes the police would wave back. No one gave it a second thought that we did not have any seatbelts and the only thing keeping us back there was gravity.

We were kids; we never thought of the possible dangers. What did we care if in the event of an accident we would rocket through the air like little, pink missiles. We had the back of the family wagon to ourselves and it was sweet.

It was a different world back then. We would drive at 60 miles an hour for hours on end and the only safety device my brother and I had were the pillows that would hopefully pile up at the windshield before we did, thus cushioning the blow as our young selves hurled around the interior of the car.

Other kids would be sitting in the back of their cars waving at us. It was like a rolling convoy of kiddie carnage just waiting to be unleashed.

When dad had to slam on the brakes, we would go sliding up against the back seat, books would be flying around, pens, pencils and what ever else we had back there with us would projectile to the front of the car.

A sharp corner had a similar effect only in a lateral manner rather than back to front.

It was kind of like a home-made rollercoaster, except there were no seatbelts.

We never thought of the possible hazards, nor did our parents, the police, the government or anyone else.

Now days, everyone has to wear a seatbelt, which is a good thing. You are also supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bike – another good thing.

As a young lad, I learned to ride a bike with no protective gear whatsoever.

Helmets? Those were for motorcycles. No one needed them on a pedal bike.

These days, when most parents send their kids out their bikes they have:
  • helmets
  • knee pads
  • elbow pads
  • a full suit of armour
  • home-made airbags on the handlebars
An still, some over-protective parent will run beside their child with a large pillow to throw beneath them should they have an unplanned dismount from their metal steed.

Of course, no child should be sent out without being completely encased in bubble wrap. That way, when junior crashes, all there will be is a multitude of popping noises as the child bounces down the street.

Crash – pop, pop, pop – bounce – pop, pop, pop.
“I’m OK.”

The kid will look like the Michelin Man, but the new mantra is safety first, so there can be no such thing as too much gear.

One area where safety has not penetrated is the world of skateboarders. You will see the occasional helmet, but, in general, the only thing between a skater’s melon and the cold, hard concrete is a hat or some goofy hair.

I guess it’s not ‘cool’ to be wear a helmet, but one good whack on the bean and you are eating Jello and playing with crayons for the rest of your life.

I am sure eventually the skater safety attitude will change and soon everyone on a skateboard will be covered in a titanium suit that could stop a speeding freight train.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world will already be several steps ahead in safety and all cars will come with dozens of airbags, all occupants must wear complete hockey gear – football gear would be an acceptable substitute for our American cousins – and, of course, the car, the driver and the passengers will be completely encased in bubble wrap.

Remember kids, safety first.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

When did riding a bike become so hard?

OK, something is wrong here.
Over the winter, I took up snowshoeing and encountered a worrisome situation: it seems Earth's gravitational pull is increasing.
How else can you explain how hard it was snowshoeing up a hill?
For some reason, trudging through the woodland realm in the middle of winter was challenging and the only thing I can think of is an increase in gravitational pull.
Has no one else noticed this?
It can't be me, because I am a in shape — the shape happens to be round, but it is still a shape.
I do exercise on a regular basis. No. Really. I do.
I go on my treadmill at least six days a week for up to an hour per session.
I used to do martial arts until Father Time slapped me around too much and I could no longer keep up with the young whippersnappers.
I also don't heal as fast as I used to, so it was time to hang up the gloves, but I still keep active.
That is why I couldn't believe how hard it was to go for a mountain bike ride.
I bought a new bike a few days ago and couldn't wait to go for a nice, long ride.
The bike is decent, not a high-end $10,000 bike, but a decent two-wheeled roller ideal for an old-ish guy like me.
Besides, if I had 10-grand to spend on a bike, it would come with a motor.
The last bike I bought was 22 years ago. It was fairly high-end and thanks to a buddy who ran the bike shop, I got a pretty darn good deal.
I put a lot of hours on that bike both on the street and cross-country trails.
I was doing martial arts back then as well, so I was in decent shape.
It has been a few years since I have used pedal power as a form of exercise, but it was always something I enjoyed, so I decided to dig out my old bike, which, after being used by friends of my teenage son, had seen better days.
I didn't mind as I figured I was due for a new bike anyway — buying a new steed every two decades is acceptable. I bought a new, shiny, black bike and as soon as I got home, I grabbed my shiny, new, black helmet and took off for what I knew would be an epic ride.
And it was, for the first few blocks. The epic transitioned into exhausting, especially when I hit the first hill. Half way up, I did the stop-and-get-off-the-bike-and-look-at-the-gears-like-something-is-wrong-so-I-can-catch-my-breath routine.
I was stunned at how out of shape I was.
This can't be right. I do a run/walk/lean on the treadmill for at least an hour a day. every day, so why was this so hard?
I used to rip up hills on my mountain bike like I had a jet pack strapped to my butt. Sure, I have not been on a bike for a few years, but this can't right. It should not be this hard.
Could it be that my middle-aged, somewhat flabby physique was that bad?
I was once a mighty athlete. OK, I was once an athlete. OK, OK, I attempted to play sports when I was younger, but now I could barely ride up a little hill.
Was I getting that old and out of shape?
Then, it hit me. Memories of the snowy climb that left me gasping for air flooded my mind, the sweat, the sore muscles, the gasping for air (I know I mentioned that once already, but I feel it was important enough to list twice) and I knew what the truth was.
I knew why things were so much harder: Earth's gravitational pull had increased even more since the winter.

I knew there had to be a logical explanation.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I thought this parenting thing would get easier

I thought it was supposed to get easier.
I thought the older the children grew, the easier the task of raising them would be.
I thought wrong.
When our first child was born more than two decades ago, I thought the task was insane.
The whining, crying – and that was just me; you should have seen the fuss the newborn made.
Going from no kids to one kid was a big leap. Raising the wee one becomes all consuming. You are at his every beck and call, 24 hours a day.
Feeding the little gaffer several times a day, changing his diaper every two or three days, I mean come on, how much can be expected.
I am kidding about the diaper thing, of course. As any parent knows, when Junior needs a diaper change, he needs it now and he is none too shy about vocalizing his displeasure when the garment that gathers recycled food matter becomes uncomfortable.
Eventually, the diaper days are done, then, it's potty training where you make a big deal when Junior goes poopoo on the potty.
Any self consciousness is wiped away by the time you finish dancing around the bathroom with a toddler because he made a stinky in the potty.
But with potty training comes accidents, so you never leave the house without at least one extra change of clothing because, as I learned quickly, when Junior has to go, he goes.
“Daddy, I have to go peepee,” said Junior while we were in a store one day.
“OK, son, hang on I will get you to the nearest bath....”
“Too late, Daddy. I already go.”
Cue the change of clothes.
Similar stories can be told of all my children, and I am sure every parent can relate.
I was prepared for that aspect of child rearing – sort of – before we had children. I knew once a child arrived, my life was no longer my own and I accepted and even embraced it.
I really did enjoy being a dad — maybe not the cleaning up barf from all over the floor, crib and wall at 2 a.m. — but, most of the time, it was a task I did enjoy.
It was fun to watch them reach milestones like:
  • successful potty training
  • going to school
  • going to high school, etc.
But I must admit, once they got into early adulthood, I thought my parenting stress and responsibility would reduce.
This is where the parents of adult children snicker at my naiveté.
I am learning one set of parental stress is simply traded for another.
Helping them through the early years of adult life is proving to be a bigger challenge than I thought. I used to think once you're an adult, you are on your own to forging your own path.
While they are forging their own path, that path leads through post-secondary education and that means money – lots and lots of money.
My two oldest are in university and working hard to get by. Both go to school full time and work part time, but they still need a little help once in a while.
When they are a few dollars short on rent, or tuition or books, it is often up to the Bank of Mom and Dad to help out.
So the stress of getting them out of the baby and teen years morphs into the stress of helping them through the young-adult years.
Not just the financial stress, but there is also emotional stress as they navigate life, love, loss and all that other stuff young minds encounter.
There's the stress of watching them make less-than-ideal decisions, or trying to help rein in the raging hormones of a teen girl (that is a story in itself.)
But that is just part of what parenting is all about, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Now, if you will excuse me, tuition is due for both of my oldest, so I am going on eBay to sell a kidney.
Any takers?

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Computers are nothing but pure evil

The more I use them, the more I am convinced computers are vile entities designed to make me crazy.

I suspect I am not alone in my assessment of the ‘marvels’ of technology.
Many movies have been made about computers running rampant and destroying humanity. I say we are almost there.
The electronic beasts have effectively taken over the world and are in control of everything from traffic lights to international banking.
They were supposed to make life easier, but as my home computer proved this week, that’s like saying alcohol makes people wittier.
My computer had been acting up for some time and the other day it gave the electronic version of a death gurgle and shut down.
My computer at work is in good shape, but it still drives me crazy because, after all, it is a still a computer.
Then there is the perennial problem of the electronic terrors crashing without warning. One minute you are merrily working away, your fingers happily caressing the mouse and then - BAM – you are left staring at an error message.
I think I know why quirky little things happen when using the infernal machines: computers are evil.
More than once I have wished I could bring a computer to life just so I could have the pleasure of killing it.
“Hi, I’m your computer. I have just come to life.”
“Really, that’s great.”
“Reboot that.”
Acting as a buffer between feeble-minded computer users – I’m not mentioning any names here - and the technologically bloated machines are the tech experts, who are sometimes referred to as geeks.
I, of course, would never call them that and have a deep and heart-felt respect for their astounding ability to communicate with said machine, and to correct whatever digital crisis the device may be enduring.
I really mean that. I am not just saying it because there’s a chance the company tech will read this and take offence to being called a geek.
Because if he were to take offence to the comment (which I am not making) the next time I go scampering to him for help, he might just stick his fingers in his ears and go, “La-la-la-la-la” until I went away.
Or worse, he might put his hands over his eyes and say, “Where’d the tech go? Where is he? He’s all gone.”
When it comes to fixing computers I am lost after re-booting, which is the first thing I do no matter the problem.
Smoke and flames could be pouring from the hard drive and my first course of action would be to reboot. If rebooting doesn’t work, I might try hitting it on the side like the Fonz would have done. I would like to add that never works on computers or anything else for that matter.
I would then think bad thoughts about the computer before running to our most beloved in-house computer tech who is not unlike a knight in shinning armour waiting to battle the evil, glitch-breathing dragon that has dared attack one of his flock.
One time I explained the problem, but he was too busy to tend to the matter immediately, so he rattled off some possible solution and asked if I knew how to do it.
I said I didn’t have to know how to do it. That’s what he was for.
He corrected the problem in about four seconds.
“The least you could do was make it look difficult so I could salvage some shred of self worth. Maybe spend a whole minute fixing it or something, I mean, c’mon will ya. Every body is watching.”
Maybe I’ll just sit back and wait for this whole computer “fad” to end.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long wait.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm old and wise. I used to be young and stupid

It happened once again.
The clock kept ticking and another birthday came and went – just like it does every year.
I have been roaming this earth for a little more than half a century, soaking up knowledge and storing it in the vast intellectual vault that is my brain.
OK, I will admit a lot of that knowledge is absolutely worthless. Did you know cockroaches have teeth in their stomachs to break down their food? Now you do.
Just another useless tidbit of information I have archived over the years. I could barely remember the information in a book I am studying, but I do know all bananas have a very low level of natural radiation.
But I am much wiser now than I was 20 or 30 years ago.
There is a difference between being smart and being wise.
Smart will help you figure out quantum mechanics, wise will help you realize you are not smart enough to figure out quantum mechanics.
There have been many instances when I have passed my hard-earned wisdom on to my children – only to have it completely ignored.
Not because it was poor advice, but because teenagers know everything in the world that has ever been worth knowing.
Junior bought a truck a while back. A great big four-wheel drive that is much more truck than he required.
A co-worker asked me why he needed a truck that big.
“He didn't 'need' one that big, he 'wanted' one that big.”
And to a teen, 'want' and 'need' are very often the same thing.
While the truck is in pretty decent shape, it needed new tires before long
Wisdom told me the rubber would be expensive. And when I mentioned that to Junior, he replied, “I know.”
I told him they would cost more than $1,000.
“I know.”
I told him with the bank loan, insurance and his social life, coming up with that kind of money will be hard.
“I know.”
Well, the time has come for the rubber to hit the road and that rubber is going to cost a bundle.
When I mentioned it is time to replace all four tires, he replied “Ya, but they are expensive.”
To which I had the great pleasure of responding with, "I know."
My son is very smart, but he is not very wise.
What young lad is, really?
I wasn't at that age.
It has taken five decades to accumulate such a vast wealth of knowledge and intelligence. Well, knowledge anyway, I have never claimed to have an abundance of intelligence.
It is a shame you cannot download all that wisdom to your children, saving them from making he same mistakes you made at that age.
But because it is the first time they have done or experienced something, teens think it is something completely new and us 'old people' wouldn't understand.
What the kiddies don't appreciate is us 'old people' have already walked that path, we have already experienced what they are now just discovering.
I am sure my own father wished he could have injected his wisdom into my teenage brain, just like his father and his father before him.
But before you can be old and wise, you must be young and stupid.
I admit, I took the stupid part to new heights (well, new to me anyway), but what teen didn't do stupid things in the name of adventure and excitement?
Wisdom teaches you it is not smart to try and jump a barbedwire fence with your dirtbike. The stupidity of youth says 'Go for it, dude.'
Wisdom also knows new tires for a big truck are expensive, eating fast food several times a week is not good for you and the world will not stop rotating if you do not get the latest and greatest gadget.
Not all 'old people' are wise, and I have some peers who are still making some very dumb decisions. Fortunately, I am now wise enough to not make the same choices.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I love dinosaurs (and they love me)

I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but I just love them.
I have been fascinated by the Jurassic critters for as long as I can remember.
Every time I saw a drawing of one, I always got this odd feeling inside. I am far from being a kid anymore, but when I went to a local dinosaur exhibit, I got same feeling all over again.
Perhaps I should have been a paleantologist instead of a media guy. Or a firefighter instead of a media guy, or a singing barber instead of a media guy or a...never mind, you get the idea.
Anyway, as a wee lad I just could not get enough of the ancient monsters.
Because in a way, that's what they were – real, live monsters.
Growing up, I had books on dinosaurs, life-like plastic dinosaurs and was (am) a fan of pretty much every movie ever made that includes a dinosaur.
I know the movies are not factually correct, but I am willing to over look that just for the chance to see a dinosaur moving and roaring.
However, as a kid all of my toy dinosaurs had to be factually accurate and a silly 'pretend' dinosaur would just not do.
Those dinosaurs usually ended up in the business end of my pellet gun. Which, I must admit, was pretty darn fun.
I would envision myself as being lost in time and having to battle my way past a hoard of gnashing teeth and flesh-ripping claws.
Of course the beasts always lost, and I was always the hero. Childish, I know, but give me a break, I was only 23.
Actually, I was around 10 years old when I got my first pellet gun and discovered the joys of shooting things – like rampaging dinosaurs.
But not the realistic dinosaurs. Those were far too important to fall to the lead projectile of my break-barrel air rifle.
I knew more about dinosaurs by Grade 5 than most kids know in a lifetime. By Grade 6, my teachers forbade me from doing any more book reports on dinosaurs.
By high school, dinosaurs had been replaced by my other passion: motorcycles. I have loved motorcycles for as long as I loved dinosaurs.
Cars, girls, work, motorbikes, girls - all distracted me and my focus on dinosaurs faded into the far reaches of my mind – until my son got old enough to become interested in things and he became interested in dinosaurs.
I did not prompt him to want books and toys on the great beasts, he just gravitated to them on his own. I was one proud papa, and in my 30s I was once again laying on the living room floor playing with plastic dinosaurs.
Junior knew a lot about dinosaurs. He knew many of their names, what they ate and other 'vital' information.
But he too grew out of the dino phase and the numerous plastic dinosaurs were relegated to a corner of his room where they waited to once again roam the earth.
They only had to wait a few years. A good friend of our had a son who was fascinated by dinosaurs to the point that was all he talked about, played with and drew.
This was my kind of little dude.
So I gathered up all the toy dinosaurs we had and, with the permission of junior, gave it to our friend's little guy who looked like he had just won the lottery as I handed him two bags full of the beasts.
Dinosaurs may be long gone, but they are definitely not forgotten.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why do you even ask?

“Why do you even ask?”
I have thought that a lot more than I have said it when it comes to queries from my wife, and it’s a question as applicable now as the day I got married.
I really noticed it during a pre-Christmas shopping outing. My wife and I were looking for items for her step-mom, my mom and sister.
My wife picked up an item for her step-mom and said, “What do you think of this one?”
Examining the sweater I thought, “Ya, that will do,” so I responded accordingly.
“Looks good to me. I think she will like it. The colour is nice.”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”
She put the item back and kept on shopping.
This happened with the next two items as well, prompting the question, “Why do you even ask?”
After almost three decades of marriage I have learned not to ask that question out loud.
When I did express such sentiment the answer is always something along the lines of “Because I want your opinion.”
Now that is only part of the answer.
The full answer is, “Because I want your opinion which I will immediately disregard and go with what I think will be best unless I am in agreement of course, but thanks for playing along.”
Which brings me back to, “Why do you even ask?”
I could probably say just about anything with the same results.
“What do you think of this one?”
“I think it is perfect. If you do not get it, you are making a colossal mistake, one that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Right, what I meant to say was it is the ugliest piece of rat cloth I have ever seen and even a beggar wouldn’t be caught wearing it.”
Either answer would typically get the same response, but at least she includes me in the goings on.
I am typically not offended by her inclination to disregard my advice. We both know my main goal when shopping is to get out as quickly as possible, so my answers may be skewed by the fact I am starting to break out in hives and am being overwhelmed by an urge to run like a madman.
My wife, however, has the shopping tenacity of a pitbull.
When she heads into a store it is with a purpose – until she gets distracted.
When men shop, they go in, get what they need and get out.
Browsing? What is the point of that? If I need something all I have to do is find it, buy it and get on with my day.
My wife on the other hand – and I have heard similar tales from my married male friends – will be looking for something and wander off to look at something else.
We can go into a store looking for shoes and she ends up trying on jackets.
“Well, I was heading to the shoe department when I noticed a really nice sweater that was on sale. The colour was similar to my jacket and I got to thinking how ratty it was looking so I decided to check out what other jackets they had…”
This is not her fault, nor is this a criticism of her or any member of the female persuasion. It is just that men think differently. Brain doctors, aka psychiatrists, have discovered men tend to have a more singular focus than their opposing gender counterparts.
With men, each thought has its own little box and being the big, strong guys that we are, we can usually only use one thought box at a time.
Women, on the other hand, can jump from one topic to the other with ease and even integrate topics such as trying on jackets while looking for shoes.
A guy would look at shoes, then, if needed, he would head to the jacket area of the store, his single-thought brain happily switching from shoe mode to jacket mode once shoe mission is complete.
Personally, I can only spend so much time in a department store or mall before my eye begins to twitch and I know it is time to leave or I will lapse into a grand mal seizure.
For my wife, shopping can be an all-day affair, and she will keep trudging through the store until she finds what she wants.
If she can’t find the item by closing time, she heads to the camping department to hunker down for the night.
She joins the myriad of other female shoppers who are setting up tents, digging out sleeping bags and preparing meals in what can only be described as shoppers’ refugee camp.
In the morning, the mass of die-hard shopping aficionados returns to their mighty quest.
Meanwhile, their husbands have fallen into a coma and can be revived only by sitting them in front of a TV – preferably with a hockey game on – and by putting a remote in one hand and a beer in the other.