Archive for June 2009

Scaring the Crap out of Kids: 20 Truths They Should Know About Adulthood.

June 29, 2009

1.  You can’t just get up and run around and play like you do now.   You’ll have stretch and warm up first.  Otherwise, you’ll tear a muscle or hurt yourself.

2.  You can’t just knock on your friend’s door and ask them to play.  No, they’ll be “busy” and their entire summer will be “booked”.   If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see them 8 weeks from today.

3.  Even if you DO manage to get together with your friends, be aware that you won’t actually “play” anything.   Grownups prefer to have dinner, and then spend 3 hours telling “stories” about what happened to them God knows when.  Imagine the fun you’ll have.

4.  And if you’re a woman,  you can’t just show up empty-handed.  You have to BRING SOMETHING to eat.    And it has to be something that took you hours to make, by your own two hands.    It can’t be store-bought, that doesnt’ count.  (Kind of like the Christmas cards they force you to make in school).

5.  Nobody’s stopping you from going into the store and buying all the candy you want to.   Only now you don’t want to.

6.  You’ll be too busy to just get on a bike and go for a ride.   Instead, you’ll drive an hour to go to the gym to use their stationary bike for 30 minutes.

7.   Imagine getting a huge allowance, but you have to give half the money back to your Dad.     Welcome to the world of Income Tax.

8.   You no longer look forward to getting new toys or games.   Instead, you’ll get “excited” about showing your friends the new drapes for the living room.

9.  You know all that stuff you’re working so hard to learn in school:   geometry, algebra, dissecting frogs…?  You’ll never use 99% of it in the real world.   EVER.

10.  You can watch whatever TV you want, including the “viewer discretion advised” shows.   But you won’t.  You’ll probably prefer something lame-ass,  like Gray’s Anatomy, or CBC Newsworld.

11.   Your Mommy no longer nags you about eating healthy and staying away from junk food.  That’s what the family doctor is for.

12.  There’s something men have called a “prostate” gland, and it’s NOT fun. (You’ll find out why, during your first physical checkup after age 30).

13.  You cant’ just eat whatever you want anymore.   You might get fat.   If you do, everyone will scold you and remind you of it at every meal.

14.  Even if you stay skinny, you still might have high cholesterol.  And everyone will scold you and remind you of it, at every meal.

15.  You know how much you hate naps right now?   When you’re a grown-up, you’ll actually ENJOY and LOOK FORWARD to them!

16.  The good thing is bullies aren’t around the schoolyard anymore.   The bad thing is that they’ve now moved to the workplace.   They don’t beat you up, but they can yell at you and make you feel angry and sad.  Which in some ways, is even worse.   There are no grown-ups to turn to for help.  Because you ARE the grown-ups.

17.  Are you thinking of becoming an astronaut?   Then you’ll need a PhD.   It will be like going to Grade 23.  (What grade are you in now?  Are you even one-quarter finished yet?)

18.  You’ll now have to pay for boring things like soap, socks, nail clippers and garbage bags.   Out of your own pocket.

19.   You know how teachers can tell you that you can be ANYTHING you want to be?   Well, not really.   Otherwise, everyone would be a jet-pilot or a hockey player.   It depends on a lot of things.    How smart you are, how much money you have, if you have the right body or not, and a LOT of luck.  And that’s just to start.   You also have to work at it.

20.  You’ll have to go to school for 25 years.  So you can learn to work at a job for 35 years.   So you can save enough money to enjoy the last 20 years of your life.   (IF you’re lucky to live that long!)

Small-town Momemts #561 and #562

June 27, 2009

Last year, I bought a cordless lawn trimmer from the local Crappy-Hardware store, which is part of a large nation-wide chain.

Last week,  the whipper-cord spool ran out, so I went back to the Crappy-Hardware to buy a refill.

They’d actually expanded the store since then.   It’s now a huge brand-new shiny building, filled to the ceiling with merchandise.   It’s on par with similar stores in the big cities.    So you’d think they’d be stocked with everything, right?


Nope.   They couldn’t find the refill spool I needed.

Not like they sold out and had some on back-order.

No, there wasn’t even an empty peg on the wall, to show where it might have been.  It’s like they decided to stop selling it.

They had re-fill spools for every make and model of lawn trimmer, EXCEPT for the one I had bought in their store.

(Pretty good.)

The 18 year old clerk didn’t know what to suggest.   Except that maybe I try the Crappy Hardware store in the other town,  45 minutes away.

(Even better.)


Later that day,  I wanted to buy a Sudoku book for my mom.   You can buy these anywhere.

But, being in the generous mood I was in,  and wanting to support the community,  I thought: “Hey, why not give the bookstore in town some of my business instead?”

It was 4:50 PM, I thought I can just make it before closing time.   I mean..that’s when MOST normal businesses operate, right?


Big suprise.  The store said “CLOSED”.

Silly me, I should have realized that on Saturday, they only work from 10:00 to 4:00 PM.

But AT LEAST there was a small sign on the bookstore’s  front door, reminding us to “Buy Local”.

I love shopping in this town.

Really, I do.

A Tale of Two Brothers

June 23, 2009

Once upon a time, there were two brothers.

Both were clever young men, and both worked at well-paying jobs for large companies.

Brother One worked at Flipperty-Jibbit, Inc., while Brother Two worked for the Sinkhole Widget Factory.

One day, both brothers received some terrible news.  Their mother had been in an accident.  Both brothers rushed over to the hospital to make sure she was being taken care of.

It turns out their mother had suffered a serious injury, and would have to remain in the hospital for several months.   Both brothers wanted to stay with her as much as possible, but both also had to work for a living.

So once their mother was stable, they reluctantly returned to their jobs, to work as best they could.   They would visit their Mother on evenings and weekends.

Now, you can probably imagine how difficult that first week was when Brother One and Brother Two were back at work.

I expect they were so worried about their Mom, they had a hard time concentrating on their tasks.  They were probably often distracted.

In fact, it wouldn’t’ surprise me if  at least one of them would often be found on the the verge of crying while sitting at their desk.

Now, both brother’s bosses knew about their mothers’ situation.   And each boss provided guidance to each brother, in their own special way.

Brother One’s boss showed sympathy, and every day, asked how his mother was doing.   Boss One went easy on Brother One, and did not expect him to work very hard that week.

Brother Two’s boss also showed sympathy on the first day.   But on the 2nd day, Brother Two was reprimanded.   Boss Two told Brother Two he had been chatting too much with another co-worker.

Brother Two was told that he was expected to work so many hours a day, minus lunch and two coffee breaks.    Non-work-related chatting was discouraged.   He was accused of distracting several co-workers, and was told that next time, he should tell the other co-worker to leave his office.

Now, let’s imagine how each brother felt after talking to their boss.

Brother One probably felt a teeny bit little less sad and worried.  His boss probably helped made things a teeny bit better, in their own small way.

Brother Two, on the other hand, probably felt just as sad and worried as before, if not more so.   His boss did not help things at all.  In fact they probably made things worse.

Brother One probably felt a little bit more respect and loyalty or his company.

As for Brother  Two… he probably didn’t know  WHAT to think.   But even if he did, I suspect it would have been some pretty harsh words, not suitable for children’s bed time stories.

The Moral of the Story is…well, there is none.  This is just Life.  Things happen.

But if you were one of the brothers, which boss and which company would YOU rather work for?

I know which one I would.

Feeling Superior

June 20, 2009

There’s something about Lake Superior that gets to me.   Especially the North Shore.


I don’t know what it is.  Superior doesn’t have any spectacular snow-capped peaks like the Rockies.  There aren’t any dramatic icefields or fjords like you find in Alaska.

Superior is just a big body of water, surrounded by lots of forest and rock.  Occasionally punctuated by a few towns trying to eke out a living out of the Canadian Shield.

Still, there’s something about the Lake that gets to me.

Part of it is the the sheer SIZE.  It’s not so much as a lake, but an inland sea, cutting a big chuck of the continent in two.  It takes a good 7-8 hours to drive from Sault. Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay (if you push it).

Imagine explaining this to someone from Australia:  a freshwater lake so big that it takes a good part of a DAY to drive past.

North Shore Superiour Quick Study

And the water is cold.  REALLY cold.    It could be late May, stinking hot and 80 degrees.  But as you drive around the Lake, you’ll get pockets of fog and suddenly feel the air cool like it came out of a giant refrigerator.

That’s Superior…reminding you of her presence.

(As for swimming…don’t even GO there!)

Another thing I like is the remoteness.   There are no huge cities and urban sprawl out here, like on the lower Great Lakes.  Even today, in the 21st century, Superiour still has huge tracts of roadless shoreline that you can’t get to except by boat.  If you can arrange to be dropped off, you can hike there for miles, and get a sense of how things looked like before Europeans arrived.

As for roads, the Trans-Canada Highway is still mostly single-lane.   In fact,  Lake Superior was one of the most difficult places to build the highway.  The connection between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie didn’t get completed until 1960.

Just think, men were already starting to venture into space, but there were still sections in Northern Ontario that weren’t’ connected by road yet.

Autumn Shore

Superior is the unofficial dividing line between the crowded South and the still relatively unspoiled North.   When people talk about “North of Superior”, there’s a bit of reverence in their voice.

“North of Superior” evokes images of still-existing patches of virgin forest, loons swimming in pristine lakes and pinkish granite rock.  Not to mention fishing lodges only accessible by bush plane where you’re guaranteed to catch some whoppers.

Even the forests change as you around the lake.  The friendly maple trees and majestic white pine start to disappear, and give way to the haunting black spruce and scraggly birch trees of the Boreal Forest.    Reminding you that you’re a long way from home…and don’t get LOST in these woods, as the nearest help might be miles away.


Pukaskwa Shore_B

Sometimes, Superior can be a darling.  At the right time of year, she’ll say “Come on in, the water’s fine“.

Batchawana Ba

(And late summer, there ARE a few places where you can swim without hypothermia).

Some of the most refreshing swims you’ve ever had, that make you shiver, not with cold, but with sheer ecstasy as the blue-green water seeps into your armpits and between your toes.

And giardia be damned, sometimes you just want to stick your head under water and gulp in the cool, cool sweetness.


But on other days, Superior can be a bitch.   The sky will turn grey, the winds will pick up, and suddenly she’ll turn on you.

Don’t MESS with me!“, she warns.



And you don’t.   Because she WILL mess with you, if you’re not careful.

Just ask the hundreds of boats that she’s shipwrecked.  Or unfortunate kayakers stranded on a remote island for three days because it was too rough to head back to shore.

Superior Shore_B

Two Trees on Lake Superior

But what I like best about Superior, is that it’s one of the few places on the planet where I can get my head right.

Whenever life gets to be too much,  I’ll make a special road trip, and sit on the shore.

I’ll stare at the infinity of the horizon, and feel the chest-thumping crashing and pounding of the waves.  And just take in the sheer POWER of it all.


Neys Provincial Park

And all the crap…the job, family issues, financial problems…it all melts away.

None of that means a damned thing out here.   Superior dosen’t care.   She’ll wash it away, and empty your mind.

It’s just you and the Lake.

And when you’re in this state of mind, if you listen carefully,  she’ll talk to you.

“Don’t worry, Friar.  It’s all right.   Everything’s going to be all right…”

And hearing that, alone, is worth the 10 hour drive.

At least for me, it is.


Money Well Spent

June 16, 2009

Back in 2001, I had a brief career in Hi-Tech.    I worked for THAT company.

You know..THAT company’s who’s stock skyrocketed, then crashed….

THAT company that laid off thousands of people.  (I was one of them).

THAT company that’s a heart-beat away from bankruptcy today.

Anyway, for the brief 8 months I worked there, I contributed to their pension fund.

It wasn’t much at the time.    But it’s even less today.

Though I still get income statements.  Including this one from 2008.

One Cent

(*Insert sarcastic clapping here*)

Clap.  Clap.   Clap.

Bravo, Canada Revenue Agency.


Good job, making sure you keep track of that ONE PENNY I earned.

You cheesy weasel-bastards.

You know, any dumb-ass first-year programmer could have written some code, to say “If amount = $0.01, then ignore printing out costly tax receipt”.

But I guess that’s beyond the Tax Man’s comprehension.

I guess they prefer to spend the $10.00 in man-hours that it probably cost to process this information and send it to me.

But that’s okay.

I’m going to send in this receipt in my (late) tax return, out of principle.

Out of spite.

So that they can spend another $10.00 processing it all over again.

Travels with the Bear: High and Low Points

June 12, 2009

A while ago, I wrote about how Junior Bear has been from  Coast to Coast to Coast.

He’s also been at the highest and lowest places in North America.  (At least, the places you can get to by car).

Twice, actually.  Here are photos from both trips.

The high point  is Mount Evans, Colorado, at 14240 feet.

Bear Mt. Evans 1

Normally, getting to 14,000 feet without an airplane involves investing a big chunk of time and physical exertion to hike there.   While also making sure you have enough food, water, proper clothing and survival gear.

But on Mount Evans, you can leisurely drive to the top in your Honda Civic.   Wearing shorts and flip-flops.   For crying out loud.

Mount Evans-S

Mount Evans 7

Mount Evans 6

Why on God’s Earth would they build a road there?

Probably because they could.

Only in America.

(But of course, I still had to drive it!)


The Low Point is Death Valley.   At 240 feet below sea level.

Bear Death Valley

Like Mt. Evans, there’s nary a tree to be seen.  But for different reasons.



The temperature might have something to do with it…


You know when you’re cooking something in your kitchen, and you open the oven door, and there’s a sudden blast of hot dry air in your face?

Death Valley’s like that.

Except it’s not a one-time blast of hot air.  It’s continuous.

Lucky, my Honda Civic sat this one out, this time.

My friend was nice enough to lend me his air-conditioned truck.

Otherwise, the Bear would have melted.

Tipper Update

June 9, 2009

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, Tipper was found after being lost for 24 days.  She was a few steps away from starvation, and barely had the strength to walk.

Now, my sister reports that Tipper is back to her normal hyper self.  Running around, chasing the ball.

Friar’s Mom was trying to garden yesterday, and in typical Duck-Toller fashion, Tipper kept dropping the ball into her lap.    Over and over again.

Tipper,  time out.   All done.    (Can you PLEASE stop playing for FIVE minutes?)

Tipper at Home

She’s still skinny, but is filling out nicely . She no longer looks starving.

In fact, the dog’s become FINICKY with her food again.   She’s been given the canned high-nutrition supplement from the vet.  Now she expects it..and turns her nose up at her regular dry food.

Sheesh.  You’d think nothing had ever happened to her this past month.

But that’s dogs for you.

Live in the moment, they do.

Vikings Versus Dinosaurs

June 7, 2009

Who’s wining?

I call it a draw….

Vikings Vs Dinosaurs

The Dog who Came Back

June 2, 2009

A few weeks ago I had written that Tipper, my sister’s dog,  had run away.

Back then, we were starting to get worried.   She had already been lost for over a week.

Then there was a reported sighting,  near a grumpy farmer’s property.  Who was rumored to have shot dogs before.

That’s about when the  sightings stopped, and we began to fear the worst.

Day after day, with still no word about Tipper.

Emotions up and down, like a roller coaster.

Then we started to accept that maybe she might be gone for good.

And we did our grieving.

It was like a lump in my chest that wouldn’t go away.

I felt like I had just lost my best friend.


Well, my best friend is BACK!!!

Yesterday, Tipper showed  up in someone’s barn, all miserable and bedraggled.    Apparently the cats were teasing her, and she was too weak to fight them off.

The farmer had a copy of one of the flyers we had sent out, and phoned my brother-in-law.     Within hours, Tipper had seen the vet and was safely back home.

The dog’s been MIA for 24 days.  She went from 32 lbs. to 22 lbs.   She’s a walking bag of bones, and totally exhausted.

Lord only knows what kind of anxiety and trauma she’s been through the past three weeks.   I don’t even know how she fed herself.

But aside from being hungry and tired, the vet said she’s otherwise okay.

Tipper Found1 - small

Tipper Found2 small

And of course, yesterday I had to get in my car and drive for a few hours, to go see her.

The first thing she did when she saw me was bark excitedly, and then go get her ball.

The silly mutt barely had enough strength to walk,  but here she was, trying to lure me outside into the back yard so I could play with her.

Because that’s the special game that Tipper plays with Uncle Friar.   And only Uncle Friar.

I’m not ashamed to admit, I just plopped down on the floor, and bawled my eyes out.   Out of  sheer joy and relief, this time.

Of course, Tipper didn’t care to notice.  She just kept yapping at me.

C’mon Uncle Friar!   C’mon!  Let’s PLAY!

You stupid dog!

You stupid, lovable dog!

Welcome back.

Tipper Found3 - small