Archive for January 2009

Walking to Work at Minus 37 Celsius

January 16, 2009


Sun is barely up.

Out the front door.  Ice forming on my beard within seconds.

Air is dead calm.   You can hear a pin drop.

Eyes watering.  Eyelashes freezing together.

Feet making loud scrunchy noises on the snow.

Breathing through my nose, and getting an ice-cream headache.

Ski jacket makes funny crinkly noises.  The materials’ gotten brittle.

Face burning…especially two spots on my cheek, where I once got frostbite years ago.

Approaching my office.   (Jesus this is cold!)

Still, I’d rather be here outside…

…than go inside to work!



Recent Update on Basil the Special Dog

January 13, 2009

It’s been a while since I reported any progress on my Basil story book.  So I thought I’d give an update.

A few months ago, Karen J.L. provided me with some great consulting.  She gave me some excellent feedback and constructive criticism on how to improve the story and some of the artwork.

Since then, I’ve been revamping the whole book.   Developing characters.  Researching different mediums (pen and ink, watercolor, etc).  Selecting colors.   Learning more about Photoshop, etc.  And sketching, sketching, and sketching again.   Practicing drawing trucks, trees, dogs, houses, furniture, etc….Here are a few examples:

Holy cow…what I thought would take me a few short months to crank out is turning into a serious Magnum Opus.    We’re talking hundreds of hours here, before this is all said and done.

But that’s okay…if you want to do something,  you might as well do it RIGHT.

Moral of the story:  Putting together a kids book is NOT as easy as you think!

Anyway, the book isn’t done yet.  It’s a work in progress.

But as you can see, I’ve been busy…

But slowly but surely, I’m getting closer to completing the real thing…

More updates to follow on the coming months


Calorie Counting with Perfesser Friar

January 13, 2009

Now that New Years is here, and the big Holiday pig-out is over, lots of us are making resolutions to lose weight.  And we’ll say it’s time to start  “counting calories”.    But how many of us really understand what a calorie actually is?

A calorie is  a unit of energy.   Energy is the ability to do work (applying a  force to move something).  Or the ability to generate heat.    With the exception of nuclear reactions (which I wont’ get into here) that’s pretty much how all the energy is used in this Universe.  Energy goes into work, or is dissipated as heat.

By the official definition (in the thermodynamic sense):    

1 calorie = the energy required to raise one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

And that’s actually NOT a lot of energy.   One gram of water is one cubic centimeter.  That’s smaller than the dice you play Monopoly with.   And a change of one degree Celsius is barely something you’d be able to notice by touch.

In fact, if you rubbed your hands together, there you go!  You probably burned several calories’ worth.  The warmth your palms generated could easily heat a dice-sized cube of water by several degrees.

Now, what about FOOD calories?  (The numbers you see in cookbooks or on the food packages).    Those calories are same thing, right?

Well, er…not exactly.

You see, a FOOD calorie is a thousand times larger than a thermodynamic calorie.

(Yeah, I know it’s confusing.)  But don’t blame me.  (Go yell at the science-geeks who made up these names!)

To get back to that definition:

1 food calorie = 1000 thermodynamic calories = 1 kilo-calorie (or 1 kcal).

In the more recent literature, they often talk about food in kilo-calories (kcals) to try to avoid this confusion.

Depending on their size,  a typical adult requires approximately 2000-2500 food calories (or kilo-calories) every day.   And of course, we get this energy from food, that our body burns and metabolizes.   But exactly how does this work?

Think of a log burning in the fireplace.    The log is plant material.  The complex molecules in the wood (cellulose, lignin, resins) react with the oxygen in the air and break down into simpler compounds (carbon dioxide, water, and waste (i.e. ashes).   This combustion process release energy.

The exact same thing happens when you eat an apple, or a piece of bread, or a Big Mac.   Our body converts the complex molecules of proteins, sugars and fats, and breaks them down into simpler molecules  (carbon dioxide, water and waste).  This is also a combustion process, and it also  that releases energy.

Except the food doesn’t burn quickly all at once in a burst of flames.   The process happens happens more slowly, through the biochemical reactions within our cells, spread out over several hours.   But it’s a similar reaction.  Food (i.e. plant and animal material) plus oxygen go in.    Heat, water, carbon dioxide and waste goes out.

In fact, that’s how they measure the caloric value of food. They actually BURN samples of food in specially-devised instruments called “calorimeters”  and measure the heat given off.   The laws of physics don’t care whether the food is burned in a fire place, a calorimeter, or in the mitochondria of our cells.    For a given chemical reactions, the net release of energy remains the same.   And our body takes this energy, and converts it into heat and work.

The heat part, we can easily relate to.   Hold your hand in front of your mouth when you exhale, and feel the warmth of each breath…that’s the heat of your body burning your food.  Anything alive has a metabolic rate and generates heat.

But what do we mean by”work”?

Work, from a physical sense, is defined as (Force x Distance).

Basically, work means pushing something (with a force) to make it move.   We do that all the time with our muscles, when we walk, run, open doors, play with our kids, open the cork on wine bottles.   In fact, right now, I’m using a bit of force with my fingers to make the keyboard move, so I’m doing “work”, in a physical sense.

Anyway, getting back to the 2500-odd kilo-calories you use up every day.   That’s equal to 2.5 million thermodynamic calories, which is quite an impressive number, when you come to think of it.   I wont’ bore you with the calculations, but if you do the math, that’s  enough energy to bring 4 liters of water (just under a gallon) from room temperature to the boiling point.

No way!”, some of you might say.   “Boiling a gallon of water?  That’s way too much!  Surely I don’t get all that energy, just from the food I eat?

Well,  “Yes way!”   You DO burn off that much.   There’s a lot of energy packed into the food you eat. (Have you ever seen a bacon grease fire?) .   Imagine half a pound of buring bacon grease…that’s approximately 2500 calories.  You could probably heat a lot of water with that.

But thankfully, the energy you burn is spread out over the whole day.   Lucky it doesn’t burn all at once, like the grease fire, our you’d have steam coming out of your ears.

Just think how much energy it takes to keep that big hunk of meat you call your body at a  temperature 98.6 F.   In fact, if you do nothing else but breathe and EXIST, it takes a minimum of about ~ 1200 kilo-calories to sustain life.   The remaining 800-1300 kilo-calories are used up moving around, and doing the things you call living.

Now, here’s an interesting fact:  each person gives off about as much energy as a 100-watt light bulb.

Makes sense, if you do that math.    2500 kilo-calories a day = 2,500,000 thermodynamic calories.

Divide this by the 86400 seconds there are in a 24-hour day, and you get (2,500,000) / (86400) =  29 calories per second.

Again, I won’t bore you with the unit conversion.  But 29 calories per second  works out to about 120 watts of power.   Which is close enough to a 100-watts.

So next time your’e in a crowded auditorium wih no air conditioning, you’ll know why to room seems so stuffy and hot.   It’s because each person is giving off as much heat as  a bright lamp.  Ten people give off as much heat as one blow-dryer on “high”.

Now, how does this tie into the FOOD we eat?  Howcome we can scarf down a Big Mac in 2 minutes, but it takes hours to burn it off?

Good question.   That’s because of the way the laws of physics are designed.   Physical work (moving things) dosen’t burn off that much energy.   Not when compared to all the chemical energy stored in food.

But that’s a topic that will be covered in the next Perfesser Friar Science post.

The Amazing Friar’s Psychic Predictions for 2009

January 10, 2009

Hollywood will take an old comic strip or an old TV show, and it will be re-hashed into another tired old movie-remake.

Canadians will have one of the coldest winters in recent memory, and nobody will say anything. But there will a week-long heat wave in the summer, and all the Global Warming alarmists will suddenly start screaming.

There will be a Latest Gizmo (video game, cell phone, Ipod-thingy). Everyone will HAVE to have one, and they’ll be lining up outside stores overnight to get it. Six months later, the NEXT Latest Gizmo will come out, and the old Gizmo will be in the bargain bin at Wall-Mart.

“Twitter” will become obsolete, and will no longer be the “Cool Kids” blogging tool of choice. It will be replaced by something called “Tweedle” or “Twirtle”.

A hurricane will hit the Gulf Coast. A Fox News reporter will be out there, covering the event live, trying to talk to the camera in 90 mph horizontal winds.

A celebrity will say or do something really stupid, which will cause a scandal. North America will obsess on it for 2 weeks, and temporarily forget about the financial crisis or the problems in the Middle East.

Oprah may chose to invite said celebrity on her show, and publicly absolve them of their sins.

Even with Obama as the new president, half the planet will still still hate the U.S.

A blogger will write a touching post about their kids, causing a global estrogen-gush of joyful empathy from the Blogosphere.

More wind-farms will be built, thus reducing our dependence on non-renewable petroleum resources by 0.0001%

One of the Big Three auto makers will come up with a new Behemoth-SUV that gets 2 gallons per mile. Thus increasing our dependence on non-renewable petroleum resources by 5%.

A Newbie blogger will write a literary masterpiece and nobody will acknowledge it. A Cool Kid blogger will write about what jam they ate for breakfast  and they’ll get 1450 comments.

The goverment will implement a tax-cut to help quell the financial crisis. This will be the equivalent each family being able to afford one additional large pizza a month.

China will somehow find a way to screw-up yet another consumer product, and there will be massive re-calls. (Possibly lead-based lip-balm, or baby food containing ground glass).

Madonna will change her image once more, to keep distracting us from the fact that she has no talent.

Simon Cowell will make someone cry on Americian Idol.

The Deep Friar will continue to make smart-ass posts like this one. 😉

Unhealthy Crap I Love to Eat, but Probably Shouldn’t.

January 7, 2009

Yes, I know it’s bad for me.   Yes, I know Ronald McDonald is probably  cutting down the rainforests and is responsible for Global Warming and making baby polar bears cry.

And YES, I know that “Supersize Me” guy got really sick eating McDonald’s food.

But I don’t care.  I need my regular does of Rotten Ronnie’s.   I love the stuff, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Besides, that Supersize dude was was an idiot.   If you eat 5500 calories a day of ANYTHING, you’ll get sick.

Wonder Bread

Oh, I know you Moms out there just ROLL your eyes whenever Wonder Bread is mentioned.    It’s full of formaldehyde, you’ll say.  It’s so full of chemicals, my God, it doesn’t even get moldy, not like bakery-fresh bread does.

No…don’t eat Wonder Bread, you’ll tell me.   You should stick to a seventeen-grain bread, with pieces of tree bark and wheat chaff still stuck in it.  It’s better for you, it’s got more FIBRE.

Yeah, but colon-blow whole wheat does NOT compare to the delicious taste of Wonder bread.

You know when you get a fresh bag from the store, its so soft and squishy?   Admit it….don’t those make the BEST peanut butter sammitches EVER!?

Lucky Charms and Cap’n Crunch
We didn’t have junk cereal as kids.   Mom was pretty strict about it.    It was typically Corn Flakes, Shreddies and Rice Krispies.  Anything with more sugar was reserved for special occasions, like camping trips or Christmas.

So junk cereal became a “forbidden fruit”.     And maybe this triggered a bit of my rebellious nature.  Because now as an adult, I will occasionally buy and eat the stuff.   Because I can.

By the way, every year, they seem to keep increasing the marshmallow-to-cereal quotient in Lucky Charms.  It’s only be a matter of time before the magical 50-50 ratio is reached.

Ice-Berg Lettuce

It’s crunchy,  it’s cool, it’s sweet, I LOVE the stuff.  I don’t care if it’s mostly water and is devoid of nutrition.

I much prefer it to the dark-green lettuce that I find bitter-tasting.

Dandelion salad…Hmph!!!  (Why don’t I just eat lawnmower clippings while I’m at it?)  😦

The Piggie Burger

This double-decker monstrosity is found at the nearby truck-stop.   Picture a Big Mac, but maybe three times the size.  With a side order of greasy fries and gravy, all for 8 bucks.

Mmmmm…Piggie Burger (Drool!). When I eat one of those for lunch, I usually don’t have to have supper till 8:00 PM.

And I don’t have the most productive afternoon at work either.  (Not with 8 pounds of meat digesting in my stomach).   ZZZzzzzzzzzz.

I can only handle a Piggie Burger once every 3-4 weeks.    Anything more would require an angioplasty.

The Meat Lovers Pizza

This is found in a local mom-and-pop pizza joint in the neighboring town.   A small costs 22 bucks.  But MY GOD, we’re talking a LOT of MEAT here.

There’s a least a quarter inch thick layer of sausage, pepperoni, bacon and ground beef.  That’s not counting the cheese on top.  The pizza’s almost an inch thick.    I can only eat two small slices, and I’m done.

It’s a cardiologists nightmare.  (Plus, I realize the Vegans are probably holding candle-light vigils as they read this).   But MAN, that’s good pizza!

Except you have to drink about three quarts of water afterward, it’s so salty.   My body can only handle so many of these cardiologist’s delights a year.    I need at least a month or two before I can eat the next one.   I do this maybe 3-4 times a year.

A Big Honking Steak

My family is not into eating big steaks.   To them, 6 ounces is plenty, that’s all you need.  Fill up on salad instead, they’ll say.

In fact, my Dad’s opinion was that NEVER IN HIS WHOLE LIFE would he eat something like an 18-ounce steak.

Even though I pointed out to him that one can regularly find such items on restaurant menus.

Well, those people are PIGS, he’d say.

Imagine if he knew that I did a FORTY-FIVE OUNCE steak once.   My buddy and I both walked into a restaurant in Niagara Falls, and ordered one…EACH.   (That was back in the days when we were really into weight lifting and we both had huge appetites).

The manager was so thrilled, he came out and delivered them to us personally.  “Now that’s-a good-a steak“, he proudly announced to all the other customers.  Each steak covered the entire plate, and was two inches thick.

I don’t care what anyone says.  This wasn’t gluttony.  This was the best damn steak I ever ate.  It was all tender meat, with not one bit of fat or gristle.

I still remember that day, 15 years later.    To me, that proves it was worth it.


I know some people who swear off caffeine.  They don’t want to depend on it.  They feel more alert and more healthy without it.   They’ll drink blueberry-dandelion-PMS herbal teas instead, and then go watch Oprah.

Well, that’s fine for them.  But I NEED my damned coffee! (You dont’ wanna see me without it!…especially given how “stimulating” my office job is!).

And it has to be a “double-double” (That’s two creams and two sugars, for any American readers not familiar with Tim Hortons).

Geez.  I have so many other vices in life right now.   I’ll take care of those ones first, before I tackle my caffeine addiction.


They say alcohol in moderation is good for your health.   One drink a day is actually GOOD for you.

Well, I don’t drink anything all week.  But then I make up for my weekly quota in one night.  Usually with my Beer Therapy sessions with Brett.

But still…that averages to one drink a that’s okay.


….Right?  😉

Grampa Friar Remembers Telephones

January 7, 2009


Oh, you young whipper-snappers with your cell phones and text-messaging.   You don’t’ know how easy you have it nowadays.

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 70’s.     Back then, there was just ONE PHONE in the house.  It was usually in the kitchen.   And it was a big deal to see a push-button model.    Those were the “fancy” kind that the rich folks used to own.

That was back in the days when Lewis and Clark just discovered Missourah.   Most us us regular folks used rotary phones.  To phone someone, you had to turn a round circle-disc thingy with your fingers.  It was called “Dialing”.  You goddamn kids today…I bet you never dialed a consarned thing in your life.   Do you even KNOW what dialing is?

When I went to college, if we wanted a phone in our dormitory room, we had to RENT them. Back then, you couldn’t just BUY phones in the stores.    Nope, the only place to get them as at the Ma Bell Trading  Post.    Twenty beaver pelts for a phone, back then.  And we were lucky to get one.

The push-button models were more expensive to rent.  So were the ones that were colored (white, red, blue, green).   We saved money by ordering the standard black model rotary phone.  You could still find the rotary phones as late as ’85.

Weren’t no such thing as cordless, either.   The receiver was connected to the main phone with a short wire.  No such thing as privacy if you needed a quiet place to talk.

One day, I think it was the winter of ’72, my Ma had a special long cord installed on the kitchen wall-phone.    It stretched to about 10 feet long, allowing her to stand up and walk around the kitchen while talking. Oh, my.  We thought that was just the bee’s knees.   That was high-fallutin’ technology back then.

Then the CORDLESS phones came out, in the 80’s.  Land sakes, I recall that was the same year the glaciers receded from Wisconsin.   We though we had died and gone to heaven.  Imagine, bein’ able to take the phone into another room.   It was the best thing since the telegraph.    I remember they used to show those fancy cordless-type of phones a lot on a TV show called “Seinfeld”.  That was in the Gay 90’s.

And voice mail?  Hah!    Didn’t exist.    The phone rang and if you didn’t answer it, tough cookies.  That’s why you still see people today jump to the phone every time it rings.  They still remember the days when they’d miss important calls.

Didn’t matter if it was a job interview, or the house was on fire, or if your cat was in labor.   Nope, if you missed a call, you missed a call.  There wasn’t any way anyone could take a message.  Not unless you wrote it down on a piece of paper.

Do you kids even KNOW who to write today?   With all your LOL’s and OMG’s.  You just use your thumbs like a bunch of apes.   Seems nobody can’t speak the Queens’ English no more.  Ahhh…what do you know?  Penmanship and writing is becomin’ a lost art.

Then I recall, years later, they came out with “Answerin’ Machines”.   These machines recorded the messages on pieces of plastic tape that was spun around on spools on an electrical box.   It was still a novelty to hear your voice being recorded. People would amuse themselves by leaving clever instructions to “leave a message after the beep”.   Oh, how we used to laugh about those!    But you had to make sure the message-tape didn’t tangle up, or you’d lose everything.

About the first cell phone I recall seeing was in a movie called “Trading Places” back in the 80’s.   They showed some rich folks driving a limousine, and using a phone in the car.   I though they must have been really fancy rich folks, to be able to phone from their car like that.  That seemed to me, to be the wave of the future.

Then suddenly it seems EVERYONE had a cell phone.   We’d use them to talk to each other when hunting the last great Buffalo Herd on the Great Plains.    Back then, the phones weighed about 120 pounds.  Some of them were powered by steam, I think.  You had to keep an extra supply of coal in your pocket, in case you ran out.

And those phones were just PHONES.   All they did was allow you to speak and listen.      They didn’t have Vid-ee-yah games and cameras and text messages and GPS’ like you kids have nowadays.  No.  If we wanted to play a Vid-ee-yah game, we had to go to the arcade and pay a quarter.    There were four quarters to a dollar, back then.

And we were DAMN glad to have those phones too.  Not like you kids today, who need the latest gadjets and gizmos.  Godammit. kids today don’t’ realize how good you have it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hose down my drivway, and then go watch The Weather Channel.

Life Skills 101

January 5, 2009

My God.

It’s only the first week of 2009, and already I’ve overwhelmed.

There’s just a huge amount of advice and inspiration out there on the Blogosphere, and I can’t keep up with it.       

I feel like such a screw-up, because I’m barely trying to keep my own life in control.

Yet everyone else already has the answers.  

Everyone knows better than me on how I can improve my mundane miserable life, and save the planet.

And everyone is going to publish that best-selling novel and self-actualize in 2009 (except possibly me!)    

Well, to keep in spirit with this BlogoLand Feel-Good-About-Yourself Theme, here is my own advice for the New Year

  • Let’s stop poverty.
  • Let’s stop pollution.
  • Recycle, and try to carpool when you can.
  • Don’t procrastinate.   Do the important things NOW. 
  • Become a Good Citizen of the Planet.
  • When you have a problem, evaluate all your options, select the best one, and implement your solution.
  • Learn to be HAPPY.
  • Learn to RELAX.
  • Just be yourself.
  • Let’s not be sexist.
  • Be creative
  • Write
  • Learn to prioritize.   Do the important things first.  
  • We are all one community, let us share our love with our fellow bloggers.
  • The Children.  My God.  Think of our children!
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Stay away from greasy foods.    
  • Eat your broccoli
  • Floss regularly
  • Don’t forget to flush
  • Hug a sequoia
  • Serenade an Orca with a Pan Flute

There…I’m done preaching now.   That pretty much covers everything you need to know about Life.  

For the rest of 2009,  I’ll try to just blog about fun stuff for my own amusement.

(I know that’s pushing the limits, but I’m willing to try something completely different!)  😉