Archive for September 2008

Dear Solar System

September 30, 2008

Recently my good friend Wendi wrote a touching letter to the World.

But this got me thinking…what about the rest of the planets?   I didn’t want them to feel left out.

So here are some letters I wrote to the rest of the Solar System.


Dear Mercury

(Pffft!).   What a wuss!   (I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t tease).     But let’s be frank…you’re really not much of a planet, are you?

I mean, COME ON….some of Jupiter’s MOONS are larger than you!

As far as the Solar System goes, you’re kind of like that annoying cousin that teases everyone and then runs away. Nobody can ever find you when it’s time to come to dinner. (You’re so damned hard to see in the sky, being so close to the sun!).  It’s been rumored that even Copernicus never even saw you.

You don’t really do much.  Though I have to admit, you did help us understand physics.  Newton’s physics couldn’t fully explain your slightly shifting orbit .  But the theory of General Relativity could.

THAT was pretty cool…you helping prove Doc Einstein right, like that.

But that was what?   Almost a hundred years ago?

What have you done for us, lately?


Dear Venus

You’re the brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon.    I’ll give you that.

But you’re actually disappointing in the telescope…just a bright ball of white.

What happened?  You used to be COOL.

You were supposed to be our sister planet. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, there were all kinds of great cheesy science fiction books and movies about you.  We expected you to be covered in jungle, and inhabited by big-breasted Amazon women in togas…

Now, it turns out you’re just scorching hot rock covered with CO2 and acid clouds.    (Remember those Russian probes that landed on you?).   With your 800F temperature (hot enough to melt lead)…you toasted them pretty good, didn’t you?

Most.  Inhospitable planet.    Ever.

Okay…we take the hint.  We’ll leave you alone.

But you don’t have to be such a witch about it.


Dear Mars

Never has a planet inspired so many books and movies.

Evil Martiansbenevolent Martiansfunny Martians, and even Martians with Santa Claus.  .

You’re kind of like the half-brother who’s too far away to visit, but whom we’d like to get to know better.

Just what are you hiding from us, really?

Not that we haven’t been trying to find out.    We’ve orbited you, we’ve landed on you.  Heck, even Ah-nold visited you.

We know you’re dusty, very cold, and sometimes even snowy.

Well, just you wait.  We’ll probably be visiting you sooner than you think.

In the mean time, just keep hurling a few rocks our way.  It keeps the scientists in Antarctica busy.


Dear Jupiter

You’re the biggest -bad ass planet there is.  You weigh more than all the other planets put together.

Not to mention your equatorial bands, and that red spot.  You ROCK!

Your rotational speed is the fastest of any planet.   Just under 10 hours.   So that when I look at you in my telescope, I can actually see you change your appearance, even within 15-20 minutes.

How cool is THAT…?  To see a planet rotate in real-time? .

And remember how you swallowed up comet Shoemaker-Levy without even flinching?   That was freakin’ AWESOME!

Just promise us you won’t self-ignite and turn into another sun (like you did on 2010 Space Odyssey).

That would totally screw up life on our planet as we know it.


Dear Saturn

Okay, I admit.  Your rings are FANTASTIC and you have a shit-load of satellites.   You’re the best looking planet there is.  Everyone loves you.  Everyone wants to be like you.

One word of advice:  don’t let it go to your head.

Remember, your rings disappear ever 15 years or so.

Then, you look like a ball of methane and hydrogen, just like all the other gas-giants.


Dear Uranus

Heh-heh heh.

You rhyme with “anus”.


‘Nuff said.

And you sure messed with everyone, when Herschel discovered you. (Up until then, for thousands of years, we thought Saturn was the farthest planet).  1781 wasn’t too long ago, either.  America was already a country back then.

Aside from that, you’re kind of boring, though.  You don’t really have any features we can see.

But you DO have rings.   So that makes you all right, in my books.


Dear Neptune

Oh you ARE  the tricky one.    Remember back in the 1800’s?   Nobody knew you existed.   But you kept messing with Uranus’ orbit, making him wobble.   Wobble wobble wobble.    Eventually, some science geeks figured out that you HAD to be out there somewhere.   (You were the first planet to be discovered mathematically, rather than visually).

And for some reason, you’re the same temperature as Uranus (even though you’re farther away and should be COLDER!).  You actually radiate more heat from the sun than you receive.  (You’re up to something…I know it)!

On top of that, your orbit is so elliptical, that sometimes you’re FARTHER from the sun than Pluto is (like you were between 1979 and 1999).

You’re messing with schoolkids’ minds, when you pull stunts like that.

Which is all the more reason why you’re one of my favorites.


Dear Pluto

I always felt a bit sorry for you, being left way out in the cold like that.   You’re the black sheep of the Solar System.  The other planets hardly talk to you.

You made Neptune wobble, and that’s how we started to find out about you.    Though it wasn’t until 1930 that you were discovered.   You’re so far away, we didn’t have a clue what your surface looked like until recently with Hubble.  (And even then, it was a pretty crummy picture).

I feel you got ripped off when they demoted you to a “Dwarf Planet” in 2006.  All because of those Johnny-come-lately  Trans-Neptunian Objects.

Well, never you mind them!    As far as I’m concerned, you’re still a planet, I don’t care what other people say.

And cheer up.  At least you have Charon, and Nix and Hydra to keep you company.


Travels with the Bear: Poland, this time!

September 29, 2008

There’s a Paris, Ontario.    There’s a London, Ontario.

But who would have thought there’s a POLAND, Ontario?

Not much of a place, either.    One church, about six houses.    No gas station, no convenience store…nothin’!  It makes Wawa look like a bustling metropolis.

Why this village even merits it’s own road sign, I have no idea.   I don’t even know the history of this place,  You can’t even find anything on Wikipedia.

Has anyone ever heard of this town besides me?

Anyone want to guess where this is?

(Hint:  It’s not too far from Plevna and Flower Station!)

Guest Blogger: Friar’s Mom

September 26, 2008

Okay, I’ve been known to kid around before, and use fake names in my blog. But I assure you, this time I’m serious.  YES, this is ACTUALLY MY MOM!

Mom enjoys writing.   I suggested she try blogging, but she’s not not really interested. (Probably because it would take time away from her socializing, grandkids, and her 80-mile bike rides).

She does lurk around my blog regularly, but she’s too shy to leave comments.    But I have convinced her to write a guest post.

So without any further ado, may I present:  FRIAR’S MOM.

P.S. Be gentle, it’s her first post…EVER!

– Friar


Wee Friar and His Art

Wee Friar was a very active child. However, when he had a Crayola, colouring pencil or felt pen in hand, and a stack of paper, he was quiet for a long period of time.

Children love to draw the typical house, with windows, door, chimney, tree, and sunshine. Some children draw curtains in the window, smoke out of the chimney, a pathway, and clouds in the sky.

Wee Friar did one better. He enjoyed setting the house on fire, with flames shooting out of the windows and roof.

He blew up airplanes in the sky. He crashed cars on the ground. These elaborate collisions showed car tires, steering wheels, car seats, fenders and various car parts flung into the air.

We knew he had some artistic potential and a vivid imagination.

Four-year old Wee Friar lived on a quiet crescent in the suburbs. Mrs. Larch (two houses away) held art classes in her home for preschoolers. We decided to enroll him in his first art class, so he could develop his artistic talent.

I waited anxiously for him to arrive with his first masterpiece.

He came to the front door with outstretched arms holding his first painting.

“Hi Wee Friar. Did you have fun at art class?”


I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw his work of art. It was an 18” x 24” piece of paper, every inch of it covered with black poster paint. Black? Why black? Doesn’t he have any colour sense? What happened to all the creativity he had shown? What’s wrong with my son? Is he depressed?

“Mom, don’t touch it, it’s still wet.”

“Wee Friar, what did you paint?”

“I made Air Pollution.”

Phew! Clever kid! And thus began Wee Friar’s encounter with art.

Increasing your Traffic: Blog Posts that are Guaranteed Crowd-Pleasers.

September 24, 2008

C’mon.  Admit it.   We’ve all done some of these. 😉

– Friar


Write a link post, listing your favorite bloggers.

Write a link post, thanking your favorite bloggers.

Write a link post, thanking other bloggers who wrote a link posts about your blog.

Write a link post, listing the blogs that tell you how to blog.

Post one of your photos.  Any photo.   It will be awesome.

Announce that you’re going on vacation so you wont’ be posting for a while.   Coyly ask your readers if this is okay.

Write about something that makes you cry.  Chances are, everyone else will too.

Pick one of the Cool Kids’ blogs, and write about how great they are.   Don’t people realize these blogs reduce global warming and eliminate world hunger?

Quote a passage from somewhere, and explain how reading it changed your life.

Fill in the blanks:   “Life is like a _________.    How do YOU deal with the _______’s in YOUR life? “

If you slept badly or you have the sniffles,  let everyone know you feel bad.  They’ll be impressed how you soldiered on and kept posting.

Write an open letter to a loved one, and watch the Kleenex fly.

Mention your kids (you can never go wrong with this one).

Write about some mundane everyday task (like combing your hair or taking out the garbage).    Invite readers to comment on how they deal with the same mundane task.

Explain to others how, if they follow your expert advice, they can drastically improve their own lives.

Announce your recent self-discovery that you find your life unfulfilled, and that you have decided that it’s time to make some changes.   You don’t necessarily have to do anything yet.   Just announce it.

If you’re one of the Cool Kids,  it doesn’t matter what you write.   You poo smells like oven-fresh cinnamon buns, and you can do no wrong.

Celebrating my Literary Ignorance: A List of Books I’ve Never Read

September 21, 2008

Okay, before anyone accuses me of being illiterate,  I actually have read quite a number of books in my lifetime, including many of the so-called “Literary Classics”.

Just that I didn’t major in English, so I haven’t read everything the Tortured Intellectual PhD’s tell us we should read.

There are only so many free hours a day, and not all of us want to read 7 books a week.  And many of us often prefer a best-selling author, rather than plowing through literary criticisms of 18th-century poetry.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s all good.  They’re all just BOOKS, and reading anything is a worthy pursuit.    No one subject is necessarily better than the other.  It’s just a matter of taste.

So without any further ado, I’ll stop my rant and list some of the books I probably “should” have read, but haven’t.


Anything by Agatha Christie
If what they show on PBS is anywhere even REMOTELY related to the books, I am SO not interested.

I get the impression that between 1880-1930, half of England was busy trying to “muh-deh” the other half.  Especially on wealthy estates where people wore tweed and sipped tea all day. (As if they didn’t have anything better to do with their free time).

Fine.  Go ahead and kill each other off.  I couldn’t care less.   That’s one less inbred Upper-Class twit the planet has to deal with.


Anything to do with Sherlock Holmes
As I wrote earlier, Sherlock Holmes has been done and re-done so many times before, that I’m already sick of it before ever having read a single book.

When you start to see stupid deer-hunter detective hats on The Muppet Show and in Archie Comics,  it’s time to put this 19th-century chestnut to bed.


Almost all of Dickens
We studied Oliver Twist in Grade 13 English.  And that was ENOUGH Dickens for my lifetime.

Poor Oliver this.   Poor Oliver that.   Poor dear darling child.  His chin quivered as tears rolled down his pale cheeks.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

ARGH!  The goody-goody, maudlin style of Victorian writing drove me and my classmates nuts.

In fact, by the end of the book, we were hoping for Oliver to DIE!  DIE!  DIE!


Emily Dickinson
I’m not saying she might not be good, but I just never got around to reading her.   And I probably never will.

I’m not putting down people who love her poetry.    But hey, I’m a guy.   And an engineer on top of that.

19th-century recluse poetry is just NOT a high priority with me.


Most of Shakespeare
I read and/or saw a few of his plays during my teens.    If I recall, this included King Henry IV Part I, King Henry IV Part II,  MacBeth, King Lear, Twelfth Night.

And that was enough.

Seems we spent more time in English Class trying to decipher the 16th century prose, rather than actually enjoying the story.

I know the English profs will clench their teeth and wring their hands when they hear me say this:

But you know what?  I found it okay, but not great.

I’m sorry, but I DON’T think the Bard of Avon was necessarily the direct pipeline to the Divine Voice of God.

There…I’ve said it.


Most of the Dune Series
I plowed my way through the first Dune book.   Bloody annoying.

First of all, Frank Herbert invented an artificial language that was so complicated,  it required you to use a freaking GLOSSARY at the back of the book.  It drove me nuts, having to flip back and forth just to figure out what the hell they were trying to say.

Enough with the Bene Gesserits and Muad’Dibs!  …why dont’ you just write the freaking story in ENGLISH!??

As for the plot itself…I just coudln’t get into it.

And what are there…something like twenty five more Dune books after that?

Hey, if I didnt’ enjoy the first book my chances of reading the sequels are pretty slim.


Lord of the Rings
Oh, I can just hear the Dungeons-and-Dragons geeks screaming in angst when I admit I haven’t’ read this one yet.

(No!  No!  I loves my Tolkein.   I knows his books is supposed to be good!)

I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

I probably will…eventually…one day.

Just that reading the trilogy involves a huge investment of time.  (What are there, 37,500 pages in total?).

I’m sorry, I’m in a relationship with several other books right now.

I…I don’t know if I’m ready to make that kind of commitment yet.


Pride and Prejudice
The equivalent of a 19th Century Chick-Flick.

Oh, now there’s GREAT READING MATERIAL for a single guy.

‘Nuff said.


War and Peace
This is the one people always say they’ll read one day.  (“Oh, yeah, I’m going to bring it to the beach, my goal is to finish it over the summer.”)

It’s as if completing this book is some kind of literary rite-of-passage.

Like eating your brussel sprouts:  it’s something you do because it’s good for you, but you don’t necessarily enjoy.

I’ve never heard anyone tell me they’ve actually LIKED the book, though.


Most of James Mitchener
I’ve read three of his books. (And that alone, accounts for more reading than many people do in a lifetime).

But I think I’m done here.

Sweet Jesus, his books are thick enough to stop an artillery shell!   With all the plots, and sub plots, and sub-sub-plots, with hundreds of characters you have to keep track of, there is just WAY TOO MUCH reading.

In Texas, for example,  I could have done without the intricately-detailed description of how the wife of a very minor character I never read about again collected wild pecans on her pioneer homestead to make a pie with.

He obviously must have been paid by the word, or something.

Hey!  Authors!   If you can’t tell me your story within 1000 pages, then chances are, you’re babbling too much.


The Bible
I admit it.  I’m a Bible dilettante.

Oh, sure, I’ve read selected passages in Religion Class when I went to Catholic School.  I know bits and pieces of the Gospel from Mass.   But I’ve never read the best-selling book of all time, from cover to cover.

I probably SHOULD.

But I probably won’t.

I might burn in Hell for saying so, but I’m sorry, I find Stephen King more fun to read. 😉

Watercolors: From Sea to Shining Sea.

September 20, 2008

Sad as this may seem, I just don’t really have anything clever or funny to say today.  (...quiet, Kelly !)    I think I just need to re-charge my Smart-Ass batteries for a few days.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve posted some artwork.  So why not right now?

Today’s theme today is the ocean.  I have two seascapes,  showing opposite sides of the continent.

This first one is the Atlantic coast of New Hampshire. (Yes!  N.H. has a tiny coastline…something I tend to keep forgetting.)

This was a late-winter scene from a few years back.  Normally, that time of year, I’d have been off skiing somewhere.   But I had a torn ACL at the time, and most physical activities were still off-limits.   I was bored out of my skull, and decided to do a road-trip from Ottawa to the New England coast for the weekend, to see what I could find.

From the painting, you’d think New Hampshire has a pristine, untamed coast.  But what this scene doesn’t show is what’s behind it…the myriad hotels, antique stores, fast-food joints, beachfront houses, go-cart tracks, roller coasters, souvenir shops, and places where you can buy fried dough.    With the exception of a few State Parks, pretty much every square foot of the Atlantic coast from Portland to Cape Cod has been claimed and/or  developed in some way or another.

Fortunately, all those places were closed and empty when I was there.   It was like a ghost town.   That’s why I always like to see these places off-season.  You get to appreciate the seashore as it is…without the Touron crowds.

The second scene is the Pacific Coast in Northern Oregon.    This was mid-July, and it was a typical West-Coast damp, drizzly day.

But the beach was hauntingly beautiful, and I took a lot of photos.  This day was a gold-mine for inspiring a lot artwork.   This painting is just one of several that I plan to do.

What a contrast from the East Coast!  The beach was mostly deserted.    Consisting of jagged rocks and black sand, and surrounded by coniferous forest, it had a raw, untamed aspect to it.   One can still get a sense of what Lewis and Clark must have felt when they first laid eyes on the Pacific.

Much of the entire Oregon coast is left untouched like this.  I don’t think I saw a single Ferris wheel.  And that’s a GOOD thing.

Coincidentally, I also drove here.  I was out of work at the time, and the job market had slowed down for the summer. I decided to take some time off, and do another road-trip.

(Though this second road-trip took slightly longer…!)

Things I am Ungrateful For.

September 19, 2008

Thanks a LOT, God!

Wussy little planet.  Seriously…what’s it done for me LATELY?

Scrappy Doo
Most.  Annoying.  Cartoon character.   Ever.

Cathy Comics
A quick plot summary:   I’m fat.  I’m insecure.  AAAAK!

Four-Hole Punches
Why do they even HAVE these?

Endless Wipes
‘Nuff said.

Yoko Ono
‘Nuff said.

Remember this one?   “Keep the hot side hot, and the cool side cool”.   Great…when you put them together, your burger was luke-warm.

Low-quality T.P.
Especially when combined with endless wipes.

Movie Trailers

Don’t even attempt to tell me you’re as good as chocolate.

Whole Wheat Wonder Bread
Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Kung-fu for old people, who can’t move very fast.

The planet is trying to kill me.

Crows (Screeching)
It’s 6:00 AM.  Will you PLEASE…SHUT THE @#$% UP?

Loser Tables
When you’re stuck at these, at wedding receptions.

When driven in front of you, by octogenarians.

Nuns and Circus Clowns
They both frighten me.

Bag Pipes
Oboy.  Now I know what a cat being throttled sounds like.

Screaming Kids
See Bag Pipes.