Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Good Advice

As you may know, I love the absurd. Absurd situations and stories make me laugh out loud, so I love finding these treasures in my inbox. They are often not intended to do so, but let me explain.

I'm a member of several online groups, and there is always a tidbit or two that amuse, irritate, and even inform me. This tip was shared in a support group for diabetics, with all earnestness of someone who really believes this. Now as you read the following, put yourself in the shoes of the wait staff in a restaurant as they draw straws, "Who gets to take the crazy person at table 8?"
Several weeks ago someone asked if there was some way to test to make sure you were given diet coke and not "regular" coke in a restaurant. In the September/October issue of Diabetes Self-Management Magazine, they address that issue. They say to to buy the dip-sticks designed for checking for sugar in the urine from your local pharmacy. Whenmoistened with a drop of sugar-sweetened soft drink, the dipstick will register sugar by changing color. However, if it's diet, it will not display a color change. I don't remember who asked about this before but thought it might be of interest to anyone who can't tell the difference just by taste and wants to make sure they are getting what they ordered.
Perhaps the person who wrote this really believes that it is good advice. And maybe, if this person wants to go to such great lengths to make sure their drink is diet, more power to him or her.

But perhaps, just perhaps, one could just inquire about said drink, and maybe just send it back and ask for another. Perhaps, if this person is the type given to such paranoia, they might consider ordering water with a twist of lemon. Hey, what a concept.

But looking at it from my own corner, as someone with diabetes, it took me years to get comfortable with doing a blood test with my meter at the table - which is one of the unfortunate requirements of my own treatment. But let me tell you, I'm not ever EVER going to be taking out a pee stick - even an unused one - at a table in a restaurant just to see if a Coke is diet or not.

And I think that good advice for anyone not wanting to be called the Crazy Person at Table 8.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Autumn Honesty

Allow me to climb briefly aboard my soapbox to proclaim the official beginning of Fall. No it’s not because the temperature last night dipped to 6C (43F) or because the flowers have given up flowering for another year.

It is because today, for the first time this season, my day was interrupted by somebody ringing our doorbell who claimed, like all his energy pedaling brethren to be bubbling over with the sincere desire to save Jamie and me dollars and more dollars on our energy bill.

Do you experience a similar fall phenomenon at your house? If so, maybe you’d like to join me in wondering about something.

How is it that all of these energy hucksters can save us the same bucketful of money?

Sure, they claim they can. But can they all be as sincere as they claim?

If some of them are truly ready to save us more money then the others, then those others must not be as sincere as they claim. Either that or they are not trying hard enough.

Let’s set the record straight. What they are trying to do is to sell us something. I have no problem with that just as long as the person doing the selling is ringing neither our doorbell nor our phone.

Oh, and one other thing.

When somebody is trying to sell something and I’m on the listening end, do you know what I hate more than anything? I hate it when the seller in question says that he/she has rung my doorbell or phone, not to intentionally intrude on my busy day, but because he/she just wants to save me money.

Really? Ok, good enough. Every one of these door-to-door dealers has my best interest at heart.

Now, having conceded that point, please allow me to offer these door-to-door and phone-to-phone sales folks my own concern, with only their best interest in mind of course.

After having my work interrupted today by the first of many who will offer to perform cost reduction miracles on our energy bill, I especially want to save these energy pedaling guys and gals some real energy.

Please do not expend the energy that it will take to ring our doorbell or our telephone. You may be selling energy nervana and I wish you well, but I’m not buying.

And you know what? I suspect that I am speaking for most of the good people who are reading this. If so, please join me up here on my soapbox. There’s plenty of room for everyone.

Oh, just one small thing, up here on my soapbox, unsolicited sales pitches are not allowed.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Garbage hero?

Yesterday, as I worked away here in my home office, a “green bin” was dropped off in front of our house. For those who are unfamiliar with this medium-sized plastic container, it is supposed to hold one’s “wet” garbage and is something else to be trotted out on garbage day. Inside this container is a smaller one, a mini bin one might call it, which you place in your kitchen for the not always convenient deposit of wet garbage.

Neither Jamie nor I requested this green bin. Yet here it is all the same. When it was delivered, trumpets did not sound a tribute in honour of its arrival to echo off the houses across the street, angels did not burst into heavenly harmony, a rainbow did not spring forth in brilliant colour over the town and the earth did not move. Yet Jamie tells me that this green bin proclaims in written script on its side for all to see, the words, “I’m a hero.”

Huh? A hero? A garbage hero no less?

A quick google for the definition of hero offers this from the Free Online Dictionary. “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”

Now let’s think about that for a second in terms of what is plastered on the side of our brand new green bin. Will Jamie and I risk our lives when we use this thing? I really don’t think so. We may risk our sanity as we try to work out what in the world we’re supposed to dump in it, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll go right on living.

Hero is a word that is, in my not so humble opinion, a word that is vastly overused, even abused. That being said, I hope you won’t mind a thought or two from your faithful scribe, not to mention newly designated trashy substances hero. I am a proud and I think pretty good step Dad. At least Steph isn’t complaining. I’m a happy and fine husband. Jamie seems pleased unless I leave yesterday’s underwear lying around in some random location. I’ve received no customer complaints lately, so I guess that means I run a pretty fair small business and our family of furballs all seem satisfied with me... even Rocky, who can be hard to please at times. Does all this make me a hero? Not from where I’m sitting. It makes me a good person who still screws up from time to time.I can try to improve on the screwing up part, but as long as I’m a good person, I’m pretty well pleased with that.

For sure, I do not wish to be a garbage hero. I will comply with the local ordinance by separating “wet” garbage from the rest, if I can figure out what qualifies. I will do that because I’ve been ordered to do it along with everyone else who lives in the town that I call home. But do I even believe in it? Well, it can’t hurt I suppose. But until industry is forced to stop using every aspect of our environment as a toilet, I seriously doubt that it will improve our quality of life if I toss my banana peels in the green bin.

Hmmm, just by the way, are banana peels officially defined as “WET” garbage?

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Monday, August 25, 2008

A View of the Olympics

As much as I admire those who can do great feats of athleticism, I must share that the 2008 Olympics didn't make a blip on my world. I did see Usain's amazing 100 meter race. I did see Phelp's superhuman achievements, but has anything changed? It seems like the China of the past has faded into the dim recesses of our memories.

We should remember, or consider, that this is all a fa├žade. It is a front for the world to see. Reporters and journalists, broadcasters and news outlets have brought us images of China that have shown us technological advance and historical beauty. The Olympic event itself has shown us athletes of the world at their best. But don't forget, this is a world in which Britney's underwear, or lack thereof, and the opening of The Dark Knight can seem like real news.

I'm not the first to say this but I will. What Were They Thinking?

What were they thinking by bringing attention to a country that has a poor civil rights record?

I wonder, as I've watched the media unfold this event with an idle curiosity, has this country really changed? I'd venture to suggest that the only things that China has changed is that it has learned to hide its dirty laundry.

But will its human rights be brought to those who have been oppressed be restored by bringing world attention to it?

I also could wonder why China invited such scrutiny in the first place. But on reflection, it might well have been about economics and validation. But has anything really changed?

As the world demands more Chinese products, do I believe that workers rights will be enforced? That people will no longer be jailed without trial, even killed without justice being served? I think not. Perhaps Tiananmen Square is in the past, but only driven underground, not gone.

At this moment, the Chinese are drawing a sigh of relief as the reporters and journalists are packing up their mikes and cameras. Sports fans and curiosity seekers are similarly packing their souvenirs, digging out their passports and taking cabs to the airport.

The Outsiders are going home, and China is resuming business... business as usual.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, August 24, 2008

She Deserves the Dough & the Glory

Have you ever heard a song where Elvis Presley and hockey scrapper Marty McSorley are both mentioned in the lyrics? Kathleeen Edwards, a singer/guitarist/song writer from Ottawa writes and sings with no pretense of super stardom, at least none that shows. But she's managed to welcome Marty, Elvis and a few other notables into one of her songs. Finally she's getting some of the attention that she deserves.

Rather than reading my thoughts about her music, check out a video of the song, I Get The Dough, You Get the Glory.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m69S1dfrak

While you're there, check out a few more of her songs. I freely admit that not a lot of today's artists catch my attention. With too many, for me it's a case of been there and heard better. But Kathleeen has my attention. See if you agree.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dog Lesson for a Good Puppy

Here's a tip for those of you who might be, or might one day be in the process of training a puppy.

During the other morning's walk, one which for some reason Keeta and I found to be filled with dog encounters, we met yet another lady who was walking her puppy.

How did I, a blind guy, know it was a puppy?

That was easy. She told me she was training her puppy to sit. Proving her point, every few steps she would stop and say to the dog, "Sit." Of course I couldn't tell if there were any gestures or maybe slight pressure applied to the puppy's back end to enforce the command, but the voice was patient and consistent.

Still, I did see one way that her technique might be improved and for whatever my viewpoint might be worth I shared it with her.

"It sounds like you're doing a good job there," I said.

"Not so much," she replied.

"He's looking at me as though he doesn't know what I want or who I'm talking to. And he should know."

"Does he recognize his name?" I wondered.

"Oh yeah, he caught onto that right away. When I call him, he comes. That's why I don't know what's going on here."

"You might want to try speaking his name before you issue the command," was my suggestion, issued with the hope that the lady woudn't mistake me for a well intentioned know it all.

"Ruggles, sit," she entoned.

Ruggles complied instantly and I'm pretty sure he was rewarded with a cookie or two. Speaking a puppy's name before each command can serve a couple of purposes.

With a new puppy or any dog who is new to you and perhaps has a new name, the repeating of the name sound helps the dog to learn that the name sound belongs to him or her. Then, after the dog's identity is clear in its mind, the use of the name sound calls to its attention. The dog knows that the next spoken human words will be directed at him or her and will quite likely pay much greater attention to them.

Get into the habit of speaking your dog's name whenever you command them or even just talk to them. Your dog's name sound is music to his ears, unless of course your dog is a female, in which case it is music to her ears. Either way, chances are, you'll see improved results. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Furball?

So here's the story. Larry and I arrive home from vacation, and Steph greets us with, "Have a good vacation? Want a kitten? She's really cute!" Apparently a stray cat had arrived at her friend's place, promptly had kittens, who were looking for a home. Going fast! The calico is already gone, but there is a REALLY cute one that needs a home.

What parent hasn't heard that one. But after all, Petey needs a playmate... doesn't he? We're sure he does. Well, that's the best we could do. It was a weak moment for sure. Call us crazy.

So now we've adopted Maximus a.k.a. Maxi a.k.a. Max. See the M marking on her forehead? She's all of almost 3 pounds of energy (especially playing with her new sproingy toy), and loves to cuddle and purr. She's big on purring. And she's our newest and smallest addition to our household full of furballs.

How has she been accepted into our family so far? Well, after some spitting and hissing from Max, Petey decided to watch her from a careful distance, from inside the open kennel, just to make sure there were no surprise attacks. Rocky walked right up to her boldly for the proper nose-to-nose greeting that he knows is the right way to greet any new being in the house. Maxi wasn't impressed, and startled by the boldness, proceeded to hiss, but very soon got over that.

As for the dogs, that will be a work in progress. We took Maxi out to just introduce the dogs from a bit of a distance. Penny wouldn't look at her - as if to say, "If I don't acknowledge that being's presence, it doesn't and will not exist". Keeta hid behind Larry, and stayed out of view. Well, at least there was no growling or lunging, so I suppose a success of sorts. She'll be living in Steph's bedroom for now - a kitten playground of fun and games.

Now we know certain people in our lives might call us crazy. We know it, and are we're okay with that. But she's really cute, after all.

Maxi with the Best Toy Ever!
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thoughts From a Dog Walk

As both Jamie and I have mentioned in a past post or two, my guide dog Keeta and I head out for a walk for an hour or so every morning. As a recently diagnosed diabetic, the exercise is great for me. Keeta loves it too, and to tell the honest truth I really enjoy walking.

Today, I happened upon a couple of other people who got me to thinking about different responses that can either help or hinder the individual who is being guided by a dog. In both cases, the folks who I encountered had the best of intentions, but one strategy succeeded, while the other didn't. Let me elaborate.

As Keeta and I walked along the sidewalk enjoying the weather, I noticed someone approaching. I really didn't give it much thought until, the person was passing in the opposite direction on my left. Just as she passed right next to me, the small dog, apparently held high in her arms chose that very second to inflate eager lungs and bellow forth directly into my ear. With no idea that the lady was even carrying a dog, I was instantly nearly airborn.

"Woof!" Keeta replied, not to be outdone. "Woo woo woof!"

The little guy who had just passed us from it's perch in the lady's arms apparently suddenly saw his position as unsafe. At least I assume that was the case as suddenly the lady shouted, "Ouch! You're hurting me! Bad bad bad little boy! Your wittle cwahzies are sharp and they hurt!"

She then mumbled something else that I won't print here as we run a family blog. And was it my imagination or did I feel Keeta's tail wag against my leg. Just a small wag and only one, but yes, I'm fairly sure that I'm right.

Keeta and I continued along on our walk, when we encountered yet another dog. How do I know? Well, the lady who was walking along nearby said, "I'm walking in the street with my dog." With those few words, I knew all that I needed to know. A few feet to my left was a person and a dog. I could then watch for any sign of Keeta's distraction and move along on my way.

The moral of the stories is a simple yet important one. If you're one of those wonderful people who treats your good dog to a good walk and you should happen to encounter a blind person with a dog, let them know that you and your dog are nearby. More often than not, the guide dog handler will thank you for it.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vacation Furballs

When August rolls around to the thirteenth of the month, it always crosses my mind that Fall is waiting to jump in and take over. I guess that rather automatic thought has rolled through my brain ever since I was a kid who didn't look forward to the beginning of school all that much. Well, the kid has been grown for quite some time now but certain concepts just don't change. So I think I'll distract my thoughts of appraching autumn chill with a look back at our vacation.

Last week, Jamie, the dogs and I spent a wonderful 7 days at a cottage on Eagle Lake, not far from North Bay. It was a bit chilly and a bit too rainy at times, but we still enjoyed ourselves. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we're thinking about making it a 2 week stay next summer. While there, we enjoyed meeting cottage owners Cathy, Morley and Caitlyn. And would it be a Naessens vacation if we didn't meet some new furballs along the way?

This year, the welcoming furballs were a pair of golden retrievers named Dexter and Riley. Dexter is 10, while Riley is a very active and interested 14 years old. Both met us at the car as soon as we arrived. Penny was a bit overwhelmed at first, launching an immediate search for a safe hiding place. But Keeta was ready with a play bow.

That first visit was Dexter's only stop, as his busy life just doesn't give him the time to socialize. But maybe Riley is retired, giving him time to drop by at least once a day. The funny thing is that he timed almost every visit for practically the very moment when we started getting dinner ready. It didn't matter that the dinner hour varied from evening to evening and Riley didn't seem to care whether we barbequed or cooked inside. There was Riley, standing at the screen door, wagging, and imploring for his share. After all, everybody who was anybody offered Riley a bite or two when he came around. They always had, hadn't they?

Well yes they had. In fact, we were the first cottage guests who were specifically asked not to feed Riley. Yes us, the furball pair who would gladly slip him a bite. But Riley's people determined that there would be no more.

Now then, before you judge these nice golden furball owners, let me tell you why they instituted this new anti-canine snacking law. You see, the week before our arrival, other folks stayed in the cottage that we called home during our vacation. Apparently Riley dropped by to visit them on a daily basis and they were happy to offer him a bit of a snack whenever he did. That worked out just fine until the day that Riley dropped by while his new human friends were enjoying some pepperettes.

If you're not familiar with these taste treats, let me tell you about them They're pepperoni sticks, spiced just right. Yes, they are definitely tasty people treats, and if Riley had the words he would tell you that they were a golden furball's favorites as well.

But when good old Riley ventured on home, there was suddenly a certain pungency to the air. As the evening droned on, the air thickened dramatically, making it harder for those around him to breathe with each of his blasts. To make matters worse, poor Riley was not feeling so well. In fact, for a while, his humans thought they were going to have to make a fast trip to the vet.

Eventually though, someone noticed the pepperoni on Riley's breth, and the folks who were his culinary benefactors supplied the details to explain poor Riley's mystery illness.

The good news is that Riley recovered fully and is now back to begging with all of his old enthusiasm intact. The bad news, where Riley is concerned, is that the buffet has now closed. No more begathons for Riley.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Open Letter to the CBC

After some time spent trying to find the elusive opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I finally gave up in frustration. One would think there would be something at Canada's own broadcaster of this event - the CBC - but I came up empty. The broadcaster NBC in the U.S.? Nothing again - yes, they did have it, but only after I entered in my zip code and prove that I was a subscriber to some cable provider, and not a cheater (well, I admit - I was cheating) - after 3 tries, you're out. Yes, even YouTube came up empty. Nada, nyet, nothing.

I'd like to say that I believe that CBC would read this 'Open Letter', write to me, and tell me I'm right, and they are reconsidering their position, but I do doubt that CBC Executives frequent Flying Furballs, so I did write to the CBC directly (like they care!) However, I would like to share it with you as well, and if it inspires you to write too, all the better!
Dear CBC,

I find the Olympics' online coverage and video access to be dismal.

For example, I've heard so much about the opening ceremonies, and have been blocked from seeing it from any source. At the time of broadcast, I did not have access to television (imagine that!)

I wonder, what is the benefit to block viewing this event - is it the agreements between broadcasters and advertisers? Does it have something to do with China's restrictions? Whatever it is, it has been frustrating for a casual viewer such as myself, and I see no benefit to any organization, and whatever its political or financial agenda, to block viewing something that has no earthly use after the original broadcast.

Why not bring more viewers in instead of blocking us out? Whatever the reason, I'm sure it could not be explained to the average or casual viewer. We shouldn't have to work to find programming, and it makes no sense. We can access just about everything else on this planet after all - it's the 2000s.

I am just one very disappointed 'almost viewer'.

Here ends my rant, and letter... for now anyway.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, July 28, 2008

Absurd... Our Canada?!

Now, I love a good bit of absurdity. I love SCTV, Carry On movies have always amused me. Some British series like the Vicar of Dibley and Man About the House amuse me. They are absurd.

But sometimes real life is absurd too. Let me set up the scene for you.

Canada has issued a couple of series of bills which are embossed with raised dots - our $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills in a new series of bank notes.

I think this is great. Larry has a bank note reader, that on more than one occasion will regretfully inform him that it "cannot read" (imagine the downward inflection of disappointment in the reader's voice). He once got a rather surprising reading that a bill was a 50 - which he didn't know he had, to only find out it was a 5. I can just imagine the argument in the store over that one.

So here's something I found at the Bank of Canada's website re our newest bank notes. I quote the following from their site:

Several features in the Canadian Journey and Birds of Canada bank note series are designed to help blind and visually impaired Canadians recognize bank note denominations either by touch, by sight, or by electronic signal. These design elements are not security features and should not be used to authenticate bank notes.

The tactile feature is located in the upper right corner on the face of Canadian Journey series notes. It consists of a series of symbols formed by groupings of six raised dots separated by a smooth surface. Each symbol is composed of two columns of three raised dots. These dots are embossed and back-coated to enhance their durability. These symbols are not Braille: they are a system developed in consultation with blind and visually impaired Canadians after research indicated that not all potential users read Braille.

The number and position of these symbols vary according to the denomination. The $5 note has one symbol, the $10 note has two symbols separated by a smooth surface, the new $20 note has three symbols separated by two smooth surfaces, and the $50 note has four symbols separated by three smooth surfaces. Like the $10 note, the new $100 bank note has two symbols, but the smooth surface or space between them is wider.


Now if you know anything about Canada, one has to appreciate how difficult this country has made something that should be so simple. The absolute absurdity is that instead of some people having to learn new symbols - heaven forbid that those who can already read braille could just have one up on those who don't read it, and those people who don't would just have to learn it. But how hard could it be to learn a total of 5 symbols.

So what we have is an entire population of blind people trying to read money, but haven't a clue.

Larry's seen these bills, and in fact had no idea what until tonight what these dots represented... shouldn't someone have told him? Keep it a secret from the blind guy, and don't tell him what the secret code is?

Or how about this for a forward thinking idea... there are 5 different denominations - a $5 has 1 dot... a $10 has 2 dots... well you get my drift, all the way up to the $100 bill, which would have a grand total of 5 dots.

Amazing. Gotta love progress. Gotta love Canada.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Keep it cool & do your homework

I've written today's post to inspire some thought.

In this morning's paper was a headline, Are Sewage Fertilizers Safe? , about the biosolids, or "natural" fertilizers that are used by most farmers in Ontario and around the world. Although I do agree with the article, that it is something to be concerned about, I am a believer that one also has to consider a whole picture. As we all know, newspapers have papers to sell, and sensational stories involving food and sewage in the same sentence will always elicit a rather emotional response - and paper sales. It is a worthwhile article, and an eye opener, at least worthy of discussion, and perhaps action.

It also brings up some big questions for me.

We are encouraged to support our farmers by buying locally, but do we know what crops are fertilized with? According to the article, 80% of farmers in Ontario use these fertilizers. But when we go to the grocery store, we will never know what they are fertilized with. How can we make an informed decision if we have no idea where our food comes from and what the farmers are using? What about crops from other countries? What about processed foods?

At present there is no way to measure the impact on our health. But one thing comes to mind - Walkerton.

Those of us in Ontario will remember Walkerton where E. coli contaminated their water supply. What if these contaminates - or any others such as heavy metals enter our food chain? How do we know they won't? How do we know that they aren't already? It's not like you go to the doctor and be tested for cholestrol, blood glucose, mercury and lead levels. I don't know, it's just something to think about.

Personally, I do think that until we know more about these fertilizers, there is no place for them in our food chain. But that is this furball's opinion. I always encourage some research and critical thinking, so you be your own judge. In the meantime, I will continue to buy foods from the grocery store. I am not in a position to be growing crops in our little backyard in my limited amount of free time.

That being said, I stumbled across the following article today. It is worth reading to the end.
Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!
The Invisible Killer

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted
thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage.

Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of:
  • acid rain
  • contributes to the "greenhouse effect
  • may cause severe burns
  • contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
  • accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals
  • may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes
  • has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients
Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
  • as an industrial solvent and coolant
  • in nuclear power plants
  • in the production of styrofoam
  • as a fire retardant
  • in many forms of animal research
  • in the distribution of pesticides
  • even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical
  • as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

The Horror Must Be Stopped!

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

And, what is this "evil" chemical? WATER. (H20)


So, this is your thought for today. Just think about what you hear and what you read. What looks really bad can really turn out to be something (like Walkerton), or nothing at all, like Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Take a Pill!

It's been a while since I've posted. Well, I can only say that things have been busy - the kid has graduated, clothes for her new job have been purchased, Penny has been fasting because her condition has flared up again, and now Rocky is on antibiotics for some injury he has sustained.

The vet gave us some pointers about how to give a pill to a cat. He suggested that we wrap him tightly in a towel and just force it down. Now, anyone who has given cats pills would know, that is not a viable option.

We did try wrapping Rock in a towel to get the pill in, but let's just say that was not an option. I then tried hiding it in some tinned chicken (both Rocky's and Petey's favourite). After carefully removing all remnants of the chicken from around the pill, he left the pill untouched in the centre of the plate.

I now have an elaborate system of grinding the pill to a fine powder, adding the juice form the tin of chicken, adding some of the chicken pieces to cover up the wet pill powder. I also have to make a plate up for Petey (no pill in his), only then will Rocky entertain the idea of 'taking' that pill. I then supervise them both to make sure all goes down, and the right cat gets the medicine.

But this whole process of giving Rocky this pill reminds me of a joke that has been circulating for a number of years. I first read it many years when Rock was just a Little Rock. I thought I would share. I have taken some literary license to edit the original a little, tailoring it more to Rocky's disposition. For example, the original suggested that you cradle the cat - our autistic Rocky will never ever tolerate being cradled. He is either needs to be held on to firmly, or he's not having anything to do with it.

How to give a cat a pill

  1. Pick cat up and hold it firmly. Take your forefinger and thumb and apply pressure where the jaw opens. Use your other hand to place pill at the back of his tongue. Shut cat's mouth firmly, and wait a few moments for cat to swallow.
  2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind couch. Hold cat in left arm and repeat process.
  3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.
  4. Get a new pill, hold cat again with left arm, holding his paws tightly with left hand. Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten. This time gently massaging cat's throat from the top to bottom. This will force the swallowing reflex.
  5. Retrieve pill from fish tank and cat from top of wardrobe. Call spouse from yard for assistance.
  6. Get out another pill, kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws. Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while prying mouth open (being very careful to avoid the gnashing teeth). Drop pill into mouth and rub cat's throat vigorously.
  7. Check label and call Poison Control Centre to make sure pill not harmful to humans, drink glass of water to take taste away. Apply bandaid to spouse's forearm. Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Throw shredded clothing away and get dressed again. Treat blood stains in rug with some carpet cleaner.
  8. Retrieve cat from curtain rod, and get another pill. Make note to buy new curtains and rod. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
  9. Wrap cat in large towel as you would swaddle a newborn, and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible. Imbed the pill into a piece of steak, and shove the steak into the cat's mouth, and squirt in water with a turkey baster to help wash it down.
  10. Dry off and ask your spouse to drive you to the hospital for some stitches.
  11. Call vet to ask for replacement pills, and pay for them. Relax, you've only got another 4 days to go.
  12. Seriously consider getting a hamster the next time you are thinking about getting another cat.

How to give a dog a pill:

  1. Wrap it in bacon.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nothing Wrong with a Protest Song

As a child of the 60s, I grew up surrounded by music that challenged us to look beyond mediocrity, to take a good look at a bad war and to stand up for what we believed. Music helped to begin the process of pushing aside a colour line that was all too visible, It shook out some old values, hung them out in the breeze and asked us to wonder how valuable they really were.

This tool of audible inspiration was known as the protest song, a form of expression that almost became a musical genre in and of itself for a time. Then one day it just sort of went away or that’s how it seems to me when looking back. In reality, I don’t think it really just happened all it once, but as the late 70s met the 80s, protest began to sag off the charts.

I suppose some would blame disco. It seems disco got blamed for everything. Personally, I never liked disco, but I didn't blame it either. At any rate, time passed and passed some more, and gradually much of our music morphed into rap tracks which often advocated the very violence that any of us who had anything at all to do with the peace movement condemned.

During much of the past 25 years or so, I’ve found myself listening to a lot of oldies and classic rock, not because I was trying to recapture another time, but because the music of the past 25 years had little to say to me. Yes there have been exceptions, but in general, not so many.

That brings us to the other day when I happened to hear a song on the radio. In 7 minutes or so, an artist named James McMurtry offered us a glimpse at just about every social injustice known to the western world and told us that we had just about reached the time in our history when, “We can’t make it here anymore.”

It’s not a brand new song, not even on Jim’s latest album. But it is new enough to be current and current enough to be new. Its point is strongly stated and I don’t agree with the depths of its conclusions. But what it does is to lead me to the conclusion that complacency is a tranquilizer that we, as Canadians or Americans or citizens of any national persuasion, cannot afford to embrace.

This week as we celebrate Canada Day, and folks south of the border celebrate Independence Day, I hope we will offer more than an expression of patriotism. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting patriotism down, but I think we should also pause to consider those who can’t make it here anymore, as the McMurtry song suggests.

Manufacturing jobs in both Canada and the U.S. are hopping planes for distant shores. Do those of us who live in Canada know what our provincial and federal governments are proposing to help change the picture? I haven’t heard about much. Maybe for me, part of patriotism is doing my best to find out.

Blue collar workers and others are learning the hard truth that they can’t make it to work anymore. Who can afford to drive to work? Who is our government holding accountable and what should we expect them to do when it comes to lending a hand?

Our once-proud public health system isn’t so proud anymore. Too many sick people are staying sick or getting sicker because they can’t find a doctor anymore. And if they can’t find a doctor anymore, some will face the reality that they can’t stay alive anymore. Who is doing anything about it? Lots of rhetoric, but where are the solutions?

When James McMurtry sang “We Can’t Make it Here Anymore”, he was singing about the United Sates, not Canada. An in either case, I’m not prepared to agree with his ultimate conclusion.

Still, if this and other McMurtry songs are signaling even a token return of the sometimes loved, sometimes hated, occasionally condemned protest song, I welcome it. If it can awaken the social consciousness in ten of us then maybe those ten can bring awareness to a hundred, who can maybe bring awareness to a thousand. Is it time for another Woodstock? Hmmm, maybe I’m just an idealist who spent too much time with too many hippies 40 years ago or so.

At any rate, as you enjoy Canada Day, or celebrate the special day set aside for whatever country you call home, by all means, pause to reflect on how your country came to be what it is and where it is today.

But don’t stop there. Give some thought to how your country could and should grow into something better. Are there any among us who don’t believe Canada possesses the opportunity for vast improvement? Is Canada Day the wrong day to pose that question? If you think so, that’s ok. Just ask yourself my question tomorrow. Then, as the next election day nears, ask the question once more.

Are the major parties who garner all the attention advocating improvements while practicing politics as usual? Is it time to give one of the lesser parties a crack at it? Do we refrain from voting for minor parties because we believe no one else will do so? Do we not vote at all because we feel it won’t make a difference?

To me, the most important resolve that you can set in place on the day set aside to honour your country is the resolve to vote. And all of us can do that. I sincerely believe that we can make it here.

The question is, how should we go about it?

Happy Canada Day. Happy Independence day. Please celebrate your heritage by making a difference.

You can find several unofficial videos of "We Can't Make It Here Anymore", by James McMurtry on YouTube. Please note though, the images are powerful and they illustrate realities of life for many. However, given their very nature, these images may offend some. After all, it is about protest and sending powerful messages to powerful people.


Contributed by Larry Naessens

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When The Rock Starts Feeling Rocky

Every now and again, Rocky, our Manx kitty, shows us that there is one way in which cats parallel people. Occasionally, humans require a chance to recharge the old battery. That’s what vacation time is for. But if vacation time doesn’t roll around in time, well, now and again one requires what those of the polictically correct persuasion term “mental health days”.

George Carlin could have had a field day with such an expression and, if I put my mind to it, so could I. This faithful scribe is not politically correct, as I see a world of difference between considering people’s feelings as opposed to the silliness of political correctness. But, like the puppy who chews his leash and wanders away, I’m straying from my subject.

We were talking about cats... specifically our boy Rocky. For the Rock, his need for an occasional day of solitary cathood, fits the term “mental health day” perfectly.

As one of us might have mentioned in this space, Jamie drives for over an hour to Toronto every day, while I stay home, working my own job and caring for the fur people. Part of caring for the kitties involves keeping them confined during the day so that they won’t sneak out when I let the dogs into the backyard. This could easily happen because the cats know that I’m blind and can skillfully and gleefully sneak past me without jingling the bells on their collars. It’s a real talent and they have cultivated it to silent perfection.

At any rate, normally we keep the cats together, but occasionally as the time nears to head for the kitty playroom, Rocky begins to wail like a toddler who has not seen a nap in far too long. His cry proclaims in full voiced complaint that if we leave him in the same room with his “brother”, he will just DIE! Brother Petey will tease him. Brother Petey will pounce on him! Brother Petey will TOUCH him! Horror of all time horrible horrors! “Please,” he begs, “anywhere but the kitty playroom! Just anywhere!”

On those days, Rocky becomes our Basement Hermit. He talks to no one. Some days he even hides among the this and that which collects down there. On those days, he is his own cat living in his own subterranean world where no one TOUCHES him.

After a day or two, maybe three and on one occasion, Day 5, he is happy to return to spending his days with his brother in the kitty playroom. Rocky truly does love his kitty brother... most of the time.

By the way, we are now experiencing Rocky’s third consecutive mental health day. Maybe tonight I can ask him how he’s feeling and he won’t reply by biting my big toe.
Contributed by Larry Naessens

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whose Handicap Is It Anyway?

When asked if he is visually impaired, Larry will say he's blind. After all, what does visually impaired mean? Does it mean he can see? Kinda see? See a little bit? No... it means he's blind. All the way kind of blind.

George Carlin was a master of observation and of language. He had observed that somewhere along the line, our language has been changed. But who's changed it? The media? Government? The public a.k.a. all of us? Carlin has a few words to say on words.

In today's post, as tribute to George Carlin, let it be said that George Carlin isn't late, and he hasn't passed away. There are no euphemisms here. George is dead, and we're going to miss him. The world is going to be a little more blind without him.


George Carlin, May 12, 1937 - June 22, 2008


Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Good Rabbit Lesson

They're just so good they're bad. I mean really bad. But I think one just has to love the Moldy Peaches. Now this song is perfect for a sing along - forget my recent post criticizing sing-alongs and finding the new Maria. Maria just makes you feel bad because normal people can't hit those insanely high notes.

Now, the Moldy Peaches just makes you feel like you can really sing. And you've also got to appreciate the youthful honesty in Kimya Dawson's lyrics. Now follow that dancing ball, and sing along. I've even provided the lyrics below. Sing out loud (really, you will sound good!):

Anyone Else But You


You're a part time lover and a full time friend
The monkey on your back is the latest trend
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

I kiss you on the brain in the shadow of a train
I kiss you all starry eyed, my body's swinging from side to side
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

Here is the church and here is the steeple
We sure are cute for two ugly people
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

The pebbles forgive me, the trees forgive me
So why can't, you forgive me?
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

I will find my nitch in your car
With my MP3 DVD rumple-packed guitar
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

Du dudu du dudu du dudu-du
Du dudu du
dudu du dudu-du
Du dudu du dudu du dudu-du du

Up up down down left right left right B A start
Just because we use cheats doesn't mean we're not
smart
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

You are always trying to keep it real
I'm in love with how you feel
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

We both have shiny happy fits of rage
You want more fans, I want more stage
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

Don Quixote was a steel driving man
My name is Adam I'm your biggest fan
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

Squinched up your face and did a dance
You shook a little turd out of the bottom of
your pants
I don't see what anyone can see,
in anyone else
But you

Du dudu du dudu du dudu-du
Du dudu du dudu du dudu-du
Du dudu du
dudu du dudu-du du
But you
Just as unpolished as their sound is their look. I can safely say that this little indie band hasn't 'gone Hollywood'. Unfortunately the band isn't together anymore, but Kimya Dawson is still doing her thing, and doing it in her own style. One can only appreciate the charming youth and unabashed security in the Moldy Peaches though. Kinda reminds me of Bob Dylan in that way. We all should be so secure.





And not everyone will get up on stage dressed up as a bunny and sing off key. Gotta love anybody who is brave enough to do so.

Maybe there's a life lesson in there ... someplace.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Deconstructing Our Furball Personalities

I remember a comment that a friend of mine offered years and years ago, in fact so long ago that I remember the observation with greater clarity than I recall the friend. As the years fly by, it’s often like that with high school friends. Anyhow, she once observed, “Dogs are people too.”

A simple thought I guess, and at the time the kids we hung with had a good laugh at her expense. I neither laughed nor nominated the bit of philosophy as the insight of the year. I just filed it away as something worth keeping. OK, dogs aren’t really people in the strictest sense, but they mirror their owner’s personality with uncanny frequency. Haven’t you seen it yourself? Friendly person owns friendly dog. Snappy yappy person teaches their dog the same tricks by example.

There are exceptions, of course, and our current furballs are among them. In these days of pet rescue, we see many dogs who are at least in part a personality product of the abuse and neglect heaped upon them before they find their forever home. Both Penny and Keeta wear scars and I don’t mean physical ones. Still, as we work with them I see subtle signs that our girls do mold themselves to us, fitting us into their own daily rituals, anticipating our wishes as we work and play with them.

Of course I wouldn’t share my thoughts on that subject with Keeta. My border collie/lab guide dog believes herself to be her own invention. Further, she sees herself as the molder of her humans and she all but says, “Let me show you how it’s done.”

For instance, yesterday at the grocery store, a cart was in our way and Keeta slowed in her usual fashion, preparing to show me the cart. This is a part of the guiding process which must not be rushed. But in my effort to get around the other person without delaying them, I indicated to Keeta that I already understood the situation by commanding her to go around the cart before actually stopping to touch it.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong!” said guide dog Keeta. I could feel the rebuke in her stance.... in the way that her muscles tensed in disapproval. So, in that way, Keeta might be more intense than her handler. Still, she is very friendly and outgoing, just like me, if I might sound my own horn for just a second.

And Penny? Well since Jamie works away from home and my job keeps me tied to this computer for the most part, I’m also Penny’s handler during the day. Jamie has mentioned that our Penny came to us with a big distrust of people who she didn’t know. Her initial response has been to growl when she sees a stranger. That has held true whether said stranger happened to be spotted through the living room window or from the other side of the backyard fence.

In an effort to decrease the growlies, we’ve been calling her to us and making her sit, whenever we hear that audible sign of her fear. These days, she’s growling so much less that even the neighbours are noticing. And when she does let a rumble slip out, leading us to call her name, she now trots over and sits, even before being told. The best news of all is that Penny’s tail now wags much more than it used to wag. A sign that she is taking on more of her peoples’ demeanor.

Cats on the other hand are another story. When Rocky joined our family he was my first cat ever. I was determined that he would learn to behave according to my dictates. Yes indeed, he would come when called and learn to follow simple commands.

OK, though a really good idea, it didn’t quite work out that way. As Jamie has mentioned here, Rocky comes to me about half a dozen times a day, demanding that I follow him to his food bowl and “show” him that there is food in it. Do I tell him to go get his own food and quit bothering me? Yeah, I really ought to do that. Instead I have to pick him up and set him in front of the bowl. Well, maybe I don’t have to, but it’s really the only time he will let me touch him, so I play along.

Rocky is himself and my impression is that who he is has nothing to do with us. But, if he encounters someone who shows interest in striking up a conversation, Rocky is always willing to have a good cat to human talk. If we make a sound similar to any that he makes, he’ll usually answer. We don’t know what we’re saying and for all I know he could be suggesting that we go play in traffic, but he does converse.

And Petey? For the most part, he is the picture of innocence, the forever little boy. He can make a game out of just about anything and finds cardboard boxes to be sources of endless delight. He trusts most everyone once he gets to know them and would never turn down a good scritch. Both of our aquariums are like interactive TV to him, while Rocky just doesn’t get the fishy attraction. In the Rock’s world, fish are to eat, not to watch.

While we’re talking cats, Rocky would like to point out that Petey is no angel, as he does enjoy running up to the big cat, giving him a poke and then running away, inviting a game of chase. This, as Rocky defines it, is touching and is therefore forbidden. But Petey doesn’t really have a handle on the concept of something being forbidden. That’s OK though because Penny will happily deliver consequences when Petey positions himself on the wrong side of the law.

Dogs and cats... if dogs are people too, then it must also be said that cats are cats. Make no mistake about it. Aside from that, all I really know for sure is that my world is a far better place with dogs and cats in it.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dad's Lessons About Life & Other Cool Things

Of the many many things my Dad taught me, he taught me to appreciate things that are mysteries in life. He taught me that life isn't fair (right Dad?). But he also taught me that it does offer mysteries, paradoxes, ironies and conundrums. That's pretty cool.

Dad specifically requested that he didn't need anything for Father's Day, but what I do know is that he will appreciate this simple auditory illusion. It's called a Shepard tone.



Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, June 14, 2008

CBC Idol?

Canadian TV is different. In fact, all of Canadian broadcasting, TV or radio is different. But let's consider how different our beloved CBC really is. (Please note that my tongue is so firmly implanted in my cheek).

Before we get to the really strange, to be fair, CBC has come up with a few bona fide gems, both recent and in the past. Most recently we have Little Mosque on the Prairie, which has now been picked up in 86 countries. There's Corner Gas, which I'm not sure of the international appeal, however, it does speak to the quirkiness of small town Canada, and has a certain regional appeal. Canada is filled with quirky characters, exemplified in series such as these. Even in the far distant past, The Beachcombers was a hit south of the border.

But this weekend, CBC is launching a new series - not a 'one off' show, but a series - called How Do you Solve a Problem Like Maria. Sound familiar? If you've passed by CBC flipping through the channels, you can't have helped but have seen the promos which fill your screen. If you don't have CBC, if you are from somewhere else, consider an exerpt from the featured article in this week's TV guide in the Toronto Star, CBC is alive with sound of Marias (seriously):
It involves hopefuls from across the country vying for the chance to take on the role made famous by Andrews - nun-turned-governess-turned-von Trapp family matriarch Maria. One person chosen by the audience will be cast in a revival of The Sound of Music at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre in October.
Also,

The firt two taped episodes chronicle the weeding out process, as some 1,000 hopefuls from across Canada are trimmed to 50 contestants and then 20 finalists who are taken to London to meet [Andrew] Lloyd Webber.

The rest of the series airs live each week, with the contestants auditioning for the whole country in a series of tests to determine their singing, dancing and acting abilites.

Each week, the audience votes to eliminate contestants until just one remains.

Enough already! Does the format seem familiar? But there's one important difference - do you think they've got a handle on the audience? I submit it might be a few people out there who love the musical - the movie - but I just can't see it translating well to today's iPod generation. I submit the average age of audience will be of the older set. Can you see Grandma texting in her vote? Even picking up the phone to have the privilege of paying 50 cents to vote? Hmm.

This is not the first time that Canadian shows have been modelled after shows popular in the U.S. Long before current affairs programs or all-news channels like CNN or CBC Newsworld, a little show called Front Page Challenge provided Canadians with a view on the newsmakers of the day - those they read about in their morning papers. Front Page Challenge attracted top journalists of the day, who hosted it. And it's day was long - it aired for 38 years after all!). Guests included figures as diverse as Indira Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gordie Howe, Tony Bennett, Errol Flynn, and Mary Pickford. Walter Cronkite even announced his new job as CBS anchor on the program. Perhaps shamelessly modelled on a popular U.S. format at the time, but yet quintessentially Canadian.

But back to Maria, once again, Canadians, or shall I say the CBC, has put its own unique spin on it. Just when you think it can't get any weirder, it does. As a promotional piece, the CBC presented a screening of the movie. You gotta appreciate the CBC-ness of this. This is CBC re-creating the Rocky Horror Picture Show phenomenon, Canadian style :
SING ALONG TO THE SOUND OF MUSIC WITH THE VON TRAPP CHILDREN, HOST GAVIN CRAWFORD AND WOULD-BE-MARIAS FROM CBC-TV’S NEW SERIES HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MARIA?

For one night only, CBC Television is presenting a free sing-a-long screening of The Sound of Music in Toronto to celebrate the launch of its new series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? Thousands of girls auditioned in open calls across the country, vying for the lead role of Maria von Trapp to be cast in the new stage production of The Sound of Music in Toronto, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and David Mirvish. The series debuts Sunday, June 15.

The fun-filled and interactive event takes place June 10 at the Royal Cinema on College Street, and begins with a vocal warm-up led by CBC’s Gavin Crawford along with specials guests the von Trapp children: Justin, Amanda, Melanie and Sofia—the great grandchildren of Captain von Trapp. They will distribute props to the audience to be used at strategic points throughout the musical, which is complete with subtitles so that everyone can sing along!

And no interactive sing-a-long would be complete without a costume competition. CBC invites the audience to come dressed as an ode to their favourite Sound of Music character, object or song. Previous entries have included:
  • Nuns of both genders
  • Girls (and boys) in white dresses with blue satin sashes
  • A lonely Goatherd
  • A man in a gold lycra catsuit (Ray, a Drop of Golden Sun!)
Creativity is a must and the Maria candidates from How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? will be on hand to judge the best costumes. In addition, celebrity voice coach Elaine Overholt- panelist from the series will pick out the best vocalists during the sing-a-long. One lucky winner in the audience will be chosen by raffle for the chance to win a trip for two to Salzburg, Austria and experience the Sound of Music tour courtesy of the Austrian National Tourist Office and the Salzburg Tourist Board. For those who can't attend the Sing-a-Long or missed the auditions, CBC invites you to sing a few bars from your favourite Maria tune and upload it to cbc.ca/maria. Show Canada the Maria in you beginning June 9!
Oh Boy! Are you excited? Aren't you sad that you missed this? Anyone remember 'follow the dancing ball'?

And just in case you think I made this up, I couldn't even if I tried. Read about it here.

So yes, Canada's media will often imitate U.S. TV, but never fails to put its unique spin on it. And don't forget everyone, let's get pumped and tune into CBC on Sunday to watch our newest series, we can call our very own.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Good Ol' Hockey Game

So the buzz in Canada is that CBC is on the lookout for a new theme for Hockey Night in Canada. Apparently the theme that they've been using... for like ... FOREVER!!! ... isn't good enough for them anymore. Apparently CBC resents, or can't afford to pay the $100 royalty fee per play.

I would like to submit this song as the new theme ... and even better (for the CBC), I'm betting it's part of the public domain (aka royalty free) too.

The Hockey Song, by Stompin' Tom Connors, a bona fide Canadian icon... for like... FOREVER!!!


Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Friday, June 6, 2008

Thoughts of Radio Nation from a Radio Guy

There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one, and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same. ~~From "Little Boxes", a poem by Malvina Reynolds and evolved into a song of the same name by Pete Seger
Mind if I jump right in with a question? It might seem a bit random at first, but it gets there and it actually morphs into another related questions. Hey, maybe not so random after all.

The first question is, does anyone care about radio these days?

And the follow up? Is what we hear all made out of ticky-tacky and does it all sound trust the same?

A fair pair of queries and in large part, the answer to that last one at least is yes. Or so says me myself and I. Whether you live on the Canadian side of the border or the American side, a majority of radio stations are owned by a select group of major players. That, from where I sit stands behind the reason why sameness abounds in radio these days. Dull, dull, dull! It’s about as inspired as a reheated TV dinner.

Still, I’m not going to write a column telling you how great radio was back in the day. I’m not going to report on how I used to walk 20 miles up hill to and from the record store, transistor in hand. Ok, maybe one day I will, but not today.

No kidding though, before you reach for your iPod again, can I offer a reason to give radio one more chance? Two reasons actually. One is called XM, the other Sirius.

Last Christmas, Jamie surprised me with an XM radio. I plugged it into my stereo receiver and I haven’t looked back since. With XM, I can listen to any kind of music that fits my fancy. Or I can channel surf, sampling a bit of this, a bit of that and, if the mood strikes, a bit of everything. I can explore any format I like without having to download and pay for a single track. Sure I pay a subscription fee, but the way I see it, I’m just paying for the privilege of not hearing commercials and for me, that is well worth the price of admission.

Jamie seems to thinks so too. Just last night she mentioned that she would like an xm radio for the car to help out with the long commute.

Yes, we are now members of the XM nation. But Sirius offers their own fine satellite choice. Seriously.

The best news is that you can treat yourself to a free online try out of both services, at either of their websites, siriuscanada.ca or xmradio.ca. Take them for a virtual test drive. Kick the virtual tires and see what you virtually think.

I think that both are worth a listen. Why not see if either one fits your lifestyle? Radio... it isn’t dead yet, but it is evolving.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Messing Up A Perfectly Good Mind

At work, for the last couple of weeks, we've been participating on and off with some team exercises, a morale/teamwork booster of sorts. So in honour of this teamwork psychology, I thought I'd share this gem with you - and just think as you watch, what would you do if you were on this elevator?



Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My First Furball

Wow, what an intro! After reading Jamie’s excellent buildup to my official entry into the furball field, I spent a few minutes thinking about who in the world I am and what I might have to offer here. A few minutes is pretty much all I’ve allotted for that part of the project. Time to get on with getting on with it, don’t you think?

So, during that few minutes of reflection, what did I come up with? Nothing profound, that’s for sure.

I guess you could say that I know a little bit about this and that. Now and again, when this or that pushes my interest button, I look into learning some more about whatever it is. That pretty much defines me as the work in progress that I suppose I will always be. I do have an old university degree in “broadcasting and the cinematic arts”. Or I guess you’d have to say that I used to have one. The diploma got ruined years back in a storage shed flood along with high school year books and a bunch of other memories that I’ve either virtually cataloged somewhere or virtually forgotten.

But let’s wander along the path a bit further. Since leaving the broadcast industry, way back when radio stations were still housed in caves forged from rock, everything I’ve put my hand to has been pretty much self-taught.

As Jamie mentioned, I’ve written a bit and now here I am writing a bit more. I’ve also learned how to restore audio from old recordings and launched a media transfer business based on that knowledge. Then we have the bits and pieces of experience that I’ve collected as a true gift from a lifetime of living with dogs. For me, the house isn’t quite complete until there is at least one canine companion around the place. Personally I prefer the company of two, and would happily explore living with three, to compliment our pair of cats, but that’s just my own personal and perhaps excessive preference.

These days I work with an exceptionally brilliant guide dog who I helped train, but I didn’t start out with a pup who stood proudly on the top rung of the intelligence ladder.

Jingles moved into my kidhood home when I was 7. On Christmas morning my sister and I awoke to hear her yapping and yowling puppy protest over being confined in a large cardboard box. “We got a dog!” I shouted before hurling the covers aside and racing downstairs to meet my new friend. Thus began eleven inseparable years spent with my very first dog, Jingles the cocker spaniel.

It wasn’t long after moving into our house that Jingles set about teaching us who she was and how she looked at life. As winter gave way to spring, she took to jumping up on the screen door for a peek at the outside world. “Bark bark,” she would comment, before cocking her head in a listening pose. “Bark bark bark!” More listening, then a growl, high pitched and really more comical than fierce. A renewed volley of frenzied barks invariably arrived on the tail of what passed for her ferocious roar, accompanied by a kind of doggy dance. My folks hated this aspect of the performance as it was punctuated by claws digging into the screen while the din grew deafening.

It was my Dad who finally figured out what all the shouting was about. Jingles, our new puppy for whom we had such high hopes, was barking at her own echo. When her shrill voice bounced off the house across the street, Jingles seemed certain that an invisible dog was challenging her, calling her out as it were. So it seemed only reasonable to answer the challenge. That is precisely what Jingles did... again and again and again. We figured that when puppyhood gave way to Jingles the grown up dog, she would leave her ear splitting habit behind, but she never did.
My point here is that if you have a dog, cat, ferret, or whatever else goes through life with you as your own special furball, feathered friend or whatever else, intelligence is not a required ingredient for love. Jingles the cocker spaniel proved it.

I’ll never forget the hot summer night nearly eleven years following that super special Christmas morning when Jingles was the star of a seven year old kid’s Christmas dream come true. Now the kid was eighteen. It was one of those nights when heat pressed down on the world, promising rain but never quite delivering.

I couldn’t sleep for contemplating the next day when I would begin training with my first guide dog. Excitement held sleep at bay, but sadness left its own mark. Jingles, by then elderly and in failing health hated other dogs in all shapes and sizes. I knew this for the fact that it was. Jingles was my dog, for eleven years, my only dog. But I was a blind kid who needed to be able to find my way around a large university campus. I knew that a white cane was a fine option for many, but I also knew that the cane and I would never get along all that well.

The hot summer night droned on and sleep was still a far away non-visitor. I knew why. But as I lay there, listening to train whistles sound their call, followed by the rhythmic rumble of wheels that rolled around a distant corner of the night, I hadn’t a clue as to how to square things with my conscience and more importantly with a dog who had given all she had to a kid who sometimes took her for granted.

Finally, I crept out of bed and slipped down to the kitchen where Jingles slept. That night I had a long talk with my long time companion. I explained to her why I needed to start building a life with a new dog and why it just couldn’t wait until she moved beyond a life that was, for her, already clouded with too much pain.

I don’t know how much of that night was spent in talking with my friend and I’ve long since forgotten exactly what I said, but one image is clear - her cocker spaniel head with the ears that probably heard less than half of what was said to her remained raised for the entire conversation. To this day, I believe she understood every word. To this day, I still smile when I think of Jingles, my very first furball.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sharing the Stories

Everything that doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And later on you can use it in some story. ~~Tapani Bagge

I would like to welcome our newest feature writer on staff. Okay, maybe staff is understating it a bit. But I would like to welcome Larry who has kindly offered to help me out, and keep this Furball place busy with posts. Larry has been my mentor and my critic. He has been published. He's my number one fan and is now my partner in more than one way. Best of all, he's okay with the fact that the pay around here is just plain lousy.

Larry will provide a new and sometimes quirky perspective to this Furball space. He's our resident dog whisperer and trainer. He patiently shows Rocky his food bowl for the 1,545,222nd time, and offers a lap to Petey whenever he wants it. He always looks out for the best interests of our fish (his last words to me as I rush out the door - did I remember to close the fish lid. He knows how much Petey loves it when I forget to close the lid after feeding time). You'll also find out that he has a lot to share about music, and can often 'name that tune' on the 2nd note.

I know that sometimes I post infrequently, and cause my loyal fans to wonder if and when Furballs will come back. But sometimes life just gets in the way. So I hope you enjoy what Larry has to share, because he's got plenty to say, and he's pretty good. Above all, I hope you will tune in to enjoy both of our views on our Furball world.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, June 2, 2008

Numb what?!

I can only imagine what is going on in this kids head. I'm amazed he could keep it together as well as he does.


Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What's Your Type

Personally, I can do without Wilfred and his constant badgering about Quaker oats. Enough about the oats alreay! Larry finds this particularly funny, and I had to send the link directly to him (I guess so he can play it anytime he needs a pick-me-up). But whether you like Wilfred or not, you gotta love this one:


Diabetes is in the news - a lot. Type 2 is the new "in" disease. Our doctors and the media are telling us that we have sedentary lifestyles, get fat, we are at risk of getting this disease. In the U.S. 8% of the population has Type 2, and many more are undiagnosed.

Type 2 is a genetic-related disease, generally speaking, often brought on by choice of lifestyle. Only 10% of those diagnosed with the disease are Type 1, otherwise known as insulin dependent, or juvenile diabetes (I swear, I am not juvenile!)

I've noticed that the media has been offering many poorly researched articles and ads by companies wanting to sell the latest weight loss program - and the implication (and sometimes in part stated outwardly), that is Type 2 happens to fat and lazy people. Just lose the weight, exercise a bit, and you'll be fine. Commercially, this phenomenon is a boon to the weight loss industry. Lose weight, you can look great, and be all better! Isn't life just so simple?

The media rarely talks about Type 1, except in hushed tones as it talks about poor Timmy who's only treatment is to take insulin. If Timmy says he has Type 1, adults give Timmy a new respect, because after all, poor Timmy has to take NEEDLES!! (actually many T1s, including kids, use insulin pumps - needles are so 'old school'). But the implication is that, if you have T1, you have a "real" disease.

Now if you have been diagnosed as having T2, the implication is that you must be fat and lazy. The fact is, we are all a product of the diseases we have, and we need to deal with the disease as it affects us.

But let's take a right turn for a moment, and talk about cancer (I'll get back to diabetes in a moment, just bear with me). Now just about everyone knows someone in their family who has cancer. But is there a difference, for example, if you got cancer due to exposure to asbestos or whether you got it because it's in your family? It's still cancer. Causes, treatments, impacts on quality of life and survivalrates may vary, but it is still cancer, and a life threatening disease.

Both T1/T2 diabetes is serious, regardless of why someone has it. It is up to our doctors to determine the appropriate course of action and treatment based on our own medical conditions and set of circumstances, and it is up to the person with the disease to keep on top of things.

If you, a friend, or someone in your family has, or is diagnosed with diabetes, they are part of a growing crowd of people with this disease. But just because there's a big crowd of people, don't assume that all people with diabetes are the same, after all, this disease is so much more than just saying no to the piece of cake.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Swedes Have Landed

This morning started very early, with the huge crash of thunder at about 6 a.m. Keeta isn't the biggest fan of thunder. She desparately tried to lobby her position that we should really check out what was happening out there. Maybe someone was trying to steal our garbage cans... or I don't know what. She was doing her working dog best to convince us to just do something!

A mumbled command or two later, "Keeta, go back to bed!!", she grudgingly lay back down, with another 15 minutes to go before the alarm.

But with the rain this morning, and the rain clouds not too far away, and the fact that it is the last day of May, I am in the mood to share some shiny happy Swedish music that I've found.

Now did you know that there is a Swedish Invasion in music out there? Who knew?! Today's music is brought to you by a Swedish group call The Charade. They have a happy blend of dark lyrics and Martha and the Vandellas doing Heat Wave (check out their myspace page at myspace.com/thecharadesweden for "The World Is Going Under" - I couldn't find that one to share with you).

However, I did find one song of theirs to share and I hope it will usher in a little late spring sunshine to scare away some of those unhappy grey clouds still hanging around after our morning thunderstorm. I'm sure Keeta will be grateful for that.



Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do You See The Difference?

To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. To fly is everything. ~~Otto Lilienthal (b.1848-d.1896), pioneer of human aviation, who became known as the German "Glider King"
Yves Rossy is our first jet-powered flying human. Elton's Rocket Man is the soundtrack. It's only right!



To infinity and beYOND!!!!!! ~~Buzz Lightyear, in Toy Story

Buzz Lightyear, my favourite jet-powered flying superhero. You also can't go wrong with Randy Newman's You Got A Friend in Me.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Petey's Passion

Our Petey loves the game of Toilet Paper Party.

At our house, we like to use those big megarolls of toilet paper, and Petey thinks those are the best. The bigger the roll is, the better. The toilet seat is the best place to work from. He sits on the seat, and with his paws, proceeds to quickly unroll it - and shred it in the process. Apparently a huge shredded pile, left on the floor to be found later, is best. Often if we are caught up in our daily activities, we don't notice, but if you listen, really listen, you can hear the deep rumble and rattle of the toilet roll holder, emanating from the bathroom upstairs.

But there's a game even better than TPP. TPP can be played anytime the bathroom door gets inadvertently left open, but this other game can only be played when a new critter arrives in the house.

This morning I could hear Petey talking enthusiastically upstairs. I saw him sitting at attention, ears perked forward, looking with anticipation at the closed bathroom door. I believed he was trying to convince the Kid to let him in to play a good game of TPP. I should have suspected otherwise though, because that game is best played alone. Those humans always spoil that game whenever he gets caught.

But when The Kid finally emerged, I heard her tell Petey that the spider didn't want to visit him. I then realized that his apparent enthusiasm was actually all about his Best Game Ever, Bug Huntin'.

In this game, Petey will see a bug, doesn't matter what kind - crawly or flying, perhaps somewhere close to the ceiling. Game time!

Sometimes a new unidentified spot on the wall, or a bit of a cobweb can also inspire the game, but we won't talk about my housekeeping transgressions here. Back to the Bug Huntin'.

Petey starts talking and chirping away, as if to convince said bug to come down from its safe haven in an upper corner of the room. He wants it to come down so he could poke at it, play with it, and perhaps eat it. But he's never mastered the art of stalking.

Our Rocky was a good hunter in his day, when he freely roamed the neighbourhood. He has caught his share of hapless mice, and an occasional baby bird. However, he apparently doesn't care that Petey's bug hunting technique is a little off.

There's nothing stealthy about Petey's technique. Petey loves the idea of the hunt, but he isn't very good at it. In fact, on more than one occasion, when the bug misjudged its ability to escape Petey, he would become the victim as a tiny bug snack. However, not realizing where it had gone, Petey would proceed search for the recently consumed bug, and re-examine every place where that bug had been. So the game continues, often long after the bug ceases to play.

Back to our eight-legged friend this morning. By this time, Petey was apparently trying to get at that spider, who had managed to crawl into a small dark space in the door frame. But that does not fool our Pete, who knew that if he just kept working at it, he would either dig his way in, or convince the spider that it wanted to come out again.

For a long while, the spider became his obsession; his mission. In fact, it became Petey's passion. Let the games begin.





Petey is bug hunting from our bedroom window. This vantage point offers a bit of a challenge to the game because of the screen.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Crazy as a Bedbug

Andy Kaufman was as crazy as a bedbug, but he was the most brilliant Elvis impersonator ever. According to Elvis himself, Andy's impersonation was his favourite.

Although Andy passed away from a rare form of lung cancer in 1985, when he was only 35 years old, rumours that he is still living still circulate among some fans. That would have made him very happy - a kind of happiness he never found in his short life.

He started those rumours himself. He often claimed that he would fake his death, long before he died. Wikipedia reports, "It is almost certain that he did indeed die on May 16, 1984. His death certificate is on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services." That sounds like a most definite maybe. Just as Elvis is hanging around somewhere in Michigan, so is Andy.

Taxi was an award-winning show with a large audience and Kaufman was widely recognized as Latka. On some occasions, audiences would show up to one of Kaufman's stage performances expecting to see him perform as Latka, and heckling him with demands when he did not. Kaufman would punish these audiences with the announcement that he was going to read "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald to them. The audience would laugh at this, not realizing that he was serious and would proceed to read the book to them, continuing despite audience members' departure. At a certain point, he would ask the audience if they wanted him to keep reading, or play a record. When the audience chose to hear the record, the record he cued up was a recording of him continuing to read "The Great Gatsby" from where he had left off. ~~Wikipedia

Even if you don't like Andy's Foreign Man/Latka character that is introduced in this clip of the Tonight Show, in 1979 by Johnny Cash, it is most definitely worth sticking around for his Elvis impersonation, That's When Your Heartaches Begin.



Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Remembering

I've always loved this song. Sort of a sad reminiscing thing, with a happy kind of sound. I didn't realize until a few moments ago, when I stumbled on the video, that Paul McCartney is a co-writer of this song with Costello.



Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monkeying Around

Marge, don't discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel. ~~Homer Simpson


Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Moms Really Deal With

In my last post, I promised I'd be a little edgier, so here's a video that might fit the bill a little better.



Contributed by Jamie Naessens

A Thought or Two About Moms

I'm sure everyone knows, the Position of "Mom" is the most difficult job ever. Just recently, someone put a value on the the job position of Mom, and it's a six figure position.

We all know too that Moms aren't perfect. It can be a complex relationship, as we move from kidhood, teenhood, through adulthood. But even Moms aren't perfect. But Moms make us who we are today. Whether our Moms made us clean our rooms when we had something better to do, or whether we got grounded for missing curfews, or hosed us off in the yard when we fell in the mud (actually, that wouldn't have been me - that would be my sister, but Mom would still have to clean up!) We could count on them for a ton of good things too. But to prevent this from getting too sappy, just insert all your happy Mom memories here.

Special Letter for Mother's Day

Dear Mom,

In honour of Mother's Day, I would like to wish you a wonderfully happy Mother's Day. I'm not sure I've ever thanked you for being a Best Mom Ever, but you are. Not only that, you are a Best G'ma Ever. The Kid will attest to that.

I remember when I was a kid, I would proclaim all those things that nasty naughty kids proclaim. Know that I did not mean it. I was an idiot - just like all kids are from time to time.

I have now been a Mom for the better part of 18 years, as every year passes, I appreciate just a little bit more of what I must have put you through. Thank you for putting up with sleepless nights. Thank you for keeping me anyway.

Your G'Kid probably hasn't even tested me as much as I tested you, and for that, I am thankful. I believe your Mom skills helped me be the Mom that I am, and help the Kid become what she is today.

I really hope you don't mind having a very grateful daughter, instead of that six figure income.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Now, a note for my readers. I can see myself bordering on the slightly sappy side for the last couple of posts. Rest assured, I promise to be a little edgier. It's that Prom thing followed by that Mom thing. Thank you for your patience.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I remember when...

I remember when, BLAH blah blah. Don't worry. Please be reassured that I won't subject you to any of that today.

But I will share with you that today is a rather bittersweet day for me. It's Prom Day for the Kid. Yes, it's only May 10th, and it's Mother's Day tomorrow. But it is the day chosen by the high school prom committee - whose mothers are currently admonishing them, "What were you thinking!". However, it is what it is. I told the Kid that she owed me big for missing tomorrow because of 'After-Prom' party.

There's been lots of preparation. The dress was purchased a month ago, and all the accessories have been found. The hair will be done today (the style yet to be decided on), French manicure... although she will be doing her own toes. No point in wasting precious resources on feet!

On the more serious side, she will be reminded to do the smart thing re drinking drivers, and all the dangers that face teenagers. She will likely roll her eyes, and make all the reassurances that she will do the right thing. After all, she wasn't born yesterday, after all (need I be reminded of that?)

It will be wonderful to see her all grown up, and a little sad too. I won't get nostalgic here, but I could go all mushy at a moment's notice.

Today I'm going to counterbalance all this primping, parental concerns, and nostalgia, with a teen sense of humour.

Appreciate this letter, recently sent to the parents of Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon. It was on official-looking school letterhead. It looked real - for a while anyway. Just read on.
Dear Lincoln Families,

Prom is right around the corner. Our juniors and seniors will be celebrating the closing of the school year with this annual dance and the festivities surrounding it. Before our young men and women are let loose upon the dance floor on April l26th, we would like to address a few issues circulating in the Lincoln community.

It has come to our attention, as staff and administrators at Lincoln High School, that abstinance-only education is not effective. Instead of enforcing policy that does not work, we have decided to implement a more realistic approach to the situation concerning drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexual activity. As our students grow into fantastic young adults, it is our job to help them learn and discover along their journey. That is why this year we would like to encourage you - the parents of our wonderful pupils - to talk to your kids about the reality of being a high school student.

You don't have to watch MTV or the latest movies to know that the world our children live in continually bombards them with images glorifying sex and substance abuse. It has been confirmed at the highest echelons of the nation's educational organization that we must begin to change our curriculum to accommodate the changing times and social attitudes. To commence this process, we have concluded that the best course of action is to acknowledge the fact that despite our best efforts to thwart such behavior, our students will inevitably partake in the consumption, or use of illegal materials, and be sexually active.

Before our sons and daughters leave for the dance this April, we would like you to understand that there will be individuals that will be providing access to alcohol and drugs. We do not condone this conduct, but we understand that we cannot stop it. With that said, please don't keep your children from attending prom this year. Instead, talk to them about the possibility of them participating in said behavior, and consider opening your home as a safe, secure place for students to have fun after the dance. If you provide the alcohol, you can have peace of mind knowing that they did not acquire it illegally. Furthermore, you know that they are not going to drink and drive, or hurt themselves or anyone else. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has stated that a fifth of alcohol, like Hennessy Cognac, is sufficient supply for at least 8 adults. One can assume that for 17 to 18 year old individuals, one fifth could probably be spread out to 4 students. Considering our reputation (Drinkin' Lincoln), in some cases one fifth is only enough for a single person.

According to a recent government research article, substance abuse leads to increased chance of sexual activity. To adapt to this news, we have also decided to include a condom with this letter. Once more, although we do not support the participation of sexual intercourse by our students, we want them to be safe. The condom included will provide at least some security to our students, and to you. Whether or not the behavior is appropriate, it will be a relief knowing that the chance of our students becoming pregnant or contracting a venereal disease has been decreased. STD epidemics have spread through other high school communities and we want to prevent such an outbreak as best we can.

We hope that your students have a wonderful prom, and enjoy themselves thoroughly. We would like to continue the tradition of Lincoln working hard, but playing hard as well. After a stressful year of school, this is an opportunity for our students to relax, have fun and prepare themselves for what life is going to be like in college.

Thank you very much!

Sincerely,


The Lincoln High School Faculty and Administration

And I would like to add one more thing - that my Kid is the most responsible, level headed kid, and would never partake of any such activities.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens