Archive for January 2010

One more year…

January 31, 2010


So I’m skiing with Friar’s Mom out West again,  and that’s something special. 

Because it’s not every year I get to do this. 

In order for this to happen, I need at least three things:   the time,  the money, and the health.   And that’s not always guaranteed.

Because some years, I didn’t have the health.   

Like nine years ago, where I tore  my knee ligament on the first day.   Not only was my ski vacation finished, but so was my whole ski season.    And the next season  after that.

And there was another year where my knees were fine, but I was laid off.   I didn’t have the money, and I couldn’t afford to come here.

And for the years both me and my and my knees were working,  I needed to be lucky enough that there wasn’t some stupid job deadline preventing me from taking the time off.

And that just applies for me. 

 The time/money/health thing also applies to Friar’s Mom.   

And we’ve had a few close calls.

Like the year she had cancer and we didn’t know if  she’d be around for much longer. 

That battle was won, though, and she and my Dad came out here the following year.  And I got to ski with them. 

A few years later,  my Dad died suddenly.  And we werent’ sure if Mom would still want to come out here alone.

But she did.   Packing the van, and driving across the country herself.   For yet one more ski season doing what she loved.  

And though Dad was gone,  at least I still got to ski with Mom.

Then there was that time  we almost lost her in a car accident while she was driving here.     

The van was totalled.   But that  wouldn’t stop her:  within 10 days, Friar’s Mom had bought another car, repacked it, and was on the road again. 

And I got in one more  visit. 

The latest close call was this summer:  a horrible bicycle accident.   

Mom went over the handle bars, and got Medi-Vacced to the Trauma Ward by chopper. 

 Last June, she was lying in a bed with a fractured pelvis, and bleeding into her brain.

At the time,we didnt’ know if she’d even be  able  to  live alone, or drive her car.      

But one of the first things she asked when she woke up , was would she be able to ski this winter?

Because come Hell and High Water, she was gonna.

She spent the summer in a wheel chair, undergoing months of rehab.   Which she did, with a vengeance.  

And now, less than 8 months later, she’s back to cutting tracks in the fresh power.  

So the stars have aligned once again.    

Both me and my Mom have the time, the money, and most importantly:  our health.

And I’m skiing with her.

For at least one more year.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Original Watercolors: Going Bananas

January 28, 2010

This post is dedicated to a guy, who works in an IT department somewhere.

Because I know he really enjoys it when I post my artwork.

Viking Winter Olympic Events

January 27, 2010

Full-Contact Ski Jumping

The objective of the Defense Team is to prevent the Jumper from breaking through their lines.
The objective of the Jumper is to smash through the Defense’s lines, and try to fly to Valhalla.

Whoever wins doesn’t matter.  Either way, it’s all good entertainment.


Warrior Figure Skating

Ten percent of the score is based on skating ability.   Ninety-percent is based on the ability to intimidate the judges.



The Judge Toss

This event almost always follows the Warrior Figure Skating


Viking Curling

What better way to celebrate past victories, than to slide the skulls of your defeated enemies on a frozen pond?

As an added bonus, the skulls, when hollowed out, also make great beverage containers.     The use of controlled substances (such as Viking Grög) is highly encouraged.


The Medal Presentationa

Normally takes place during the end, if the podium isn’t pillaged and burned down.

You’ll know it’s over, when Berthùnkä sings the Viking Anthem.

Five Things Women Do to Make Their Life More Complicated

January 24, 2010

1. Thank-You Cards
Some people will insist on writing these notes  for each and every occasion in life.   For gifts received, for being invited to dinner.  Or even if someone compliments them on their new hat.    

And there’s a whole level of self-imposed stress involved:  for going to the store, selecting exactly the right card,  putting down the exact right thoughts and going back to the post office and sending it out on time.   

Good Lord.

Not to mention, there’s a bit of smugness that comes along with it. 

 “It’s the considerate thing to do.” you’ll hear the card-writers say.  

Yes…but for WHO?  

Because I think it’s safe to say that more than half the population (namely, all males, plus reluctant children) don’t  give a flying-fox-fart about Thank-You cards.   

I mean, it’s nice to get one, but if we don’t, we’re not going to get our knickers in a knot.  

I didn’t cry, for example, when my buddy Brett didn’t send me a card for the X-mas gift I gave him. 

*Sniff*  (Damn you, Brett!)

Meh.   If would make things so much easier, if we all just agreed to DROP the whole damned Thank-You card thing.     

Just say “Thank You” once, in person, and be done with it.


2. Refusing to Acknowledge that White Plastic Thingy  on the Toilet
Anyone who’s been married, has had a girlfriend, or has shared a bathroom with a sister,  is familiar with this age-old complaint: 

Namely, the man is supposed to keep the seat down, to accomodate the woman who has to sit, because they sometimes fall in. 

So…howcum we guys sit down, at least once a day? …And we never fall in?

(Um…because we LOOK first?)

But that’s besides the point.

And if women want to be equals,  wouldn’t it be just as valid for men to ask for the seat to be left up? 

(Yes, I know that sounds logical.)  

But believe me,  guys…just let it go.  Because we’ll NEVER win this argument!

3. Fashion Magazines
Feminists complain that magazines like Cosmo and Vogue are harmful.   Because they portray unrealistic, idealized images of beauty that the average woman can’t obtain, leading to low self-esteem  and even eating disorders.

Fair enough.   There’s a good point to be made for all of this.

But…let’s ask ourselves:  WHO perpetuates these fashions?   WHO creates these myths?     WHO creates a demand for all this literature?   

I don’t think you can blame this one on men. 

Because I don’t know too many guys who find rail-thin 90-lb. women with sunken eyes all that hot.   Especially if these so-called “models” are wearing what looks like some stupid burlap sack wrapped around their jutting collar bones.  

Ladies,  if you dont’ like  these stupid magazines, just STOP buying them.   And the problem will go away.


4.  Bringing Something Over
When guys get together at someone’s house,  it’s to drink beer and watch TV.    Somebody might bring over a bag of Zesty-Mordant Nachos.  


If there’s an actual meal involved, it will invariably be a BBQ with  BYOM (Bring your own meat).     In which case, the host might provide paper plates and napkins.


When women get together, it’s a whole other story.   Everyone is  expected to BRING something.  

And it can’t be something store-bought, either, from the local bakery.   (No, that get you off too easy!)   

No, it has to be something you made by hand, that took you hours, from the sweat of your own brow.  

Date squares, for example, where the date tree was grown from seedlings, and the fruit harvested weeks ahead of time.  Where the wheat was hand-milled to make the flour, and the sugar was extracted from canes imported from Cuba.  

And everything was baked in a 17th-Century wood stove that was bought specially just for the occasion.  

That way, you can be a martyr, and tell yourself:   “It’s the considerate thing to do.”

Hmm.     Maybe so.   But I’ll just stick to my Zesty-Mordants, thank you.


5. Trying to be Equal to Men in Everything
Because face it…we guys do some really stupid things.   

Like sports where the object is to hit the opponent in the head, until they receive enough brain trauma and lose conciousness.   

Or racing high-speed vehicles down a drag-strip,  that threaten to explode at any minute.   

 Or moutain-climbing to extreme altitudes,  where your brain swells inside your skull, your body starts to die, and there’s a good chance you’ll  lose some fingers and toes.

(Need I go on?)

Sure…there’s nothing saying a woman can’t do these same exact things.

But just because they can…doesn’t necessarly mean they should.

We have enough Darwin Awards, as it is.

Viking Training: Wii are the Warriors

January 21, 2010

One bright winter day in the village SmelBaäd, there was a knock on Clöst Aerfrök’s door.

“Why, it’s the Traveling Kilted One!”, he cheerfully exclaimed.   “To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?”


“I come bringing a gift:  a new way to train your warriors to fight.”, said the Kilted One.  “It’s called “Wii.”

“We?”, asked Clöst.

“Wii.”, replied the Kilted One.




“No! No! ….Wii!   Wait an minute and you’ll Sii…er, I mean see.”

“Behold!  Imaginary enemies, on the magic viewing screen!   You can fight them over and over, and keep honing your battle skills.”

Before anyone could say anything, the Berserker rushed forward and cried “Enemies!!!  NYARRRRGH!!!!”, and smashed the screen with his mace.

“I win!!!”,  he  exclaimed, as he gleefully continued to pound the pieces into the ground.

“You…you FOOLS!!!”,  screamed the Kilted One.   “Those enemies weren’t REAL!  It was a simulation!   You were supposed to have fought them with imaginary swords, using these special Wii controls!”

“Sword fight, eh?”, asked Lars.   “Well, why didn’t you say so.  That we DO understand!”      Then he and Hagörf grabbed the controllers, and proceeded to duel with them.

“Though I don’t see the point of this…there is no cutting edge, and these strange devices break when we smash them together!”

Meanwhile, the Kilted One stood there, at a loss for words.

“Hey!”, cried the Berserker.    “There are more of these Wee things in the bag.”

“And look…instead of using them as swords, it’s just as much fun to smash them on your head!”

Hyargen!  Hyargen! Hyargen!“, laughed Lars and Hagörf.

“Give us some!  Let us ALL smash them on our heads!”.

Which they proceeded to do, until there was nothing left intact in the Kilted One’s bag.

“O Kilted One,  that was a strange game, but FUN!”, said the Berserker.   “What will you bring us next visit?”

“Groan.”,  replied the Kilted One.

“Come”, Clöst said sympathetically.  “I think you need a draft of ale.  Or three.   Believe me, that’s the only thing that helps in these situations.”

“It was a worthy idea.   But perhaps this new technology is a bit too delicate and too sophisticated for the average Viking.”

Foods You’re Supposed to Feel Guilty About Eating

January 20, 2010

McDonalds (or any Fast-Food, basically)
Okay…putting the fact aside that you’re killing one of God’s creatures by eating animal flesh…

OMG…did you see Supersize Me?    The dude ate nothing but McDonalds for 2 days, and his liver self-combusted!   Seriously!

That junk is just grease and fat.  You shouldn’t eat it…ever, ever,  EVER.

Not to mention they’re cutting down rain forests to raise the beef for these large corporations.

For every Big Mac you buy, 10 more species become extinct.

Enjoy.   I hope you can live with yourself.   Tree-killer.


Cold Cuts
Full of sodium and nitrates and chemicals.   Forget what Jared says.  Deli meats are BAD for you.

Hang your head in shame, if you were going to eat a Sub.

Store-Bought Soup
So you think maybe you can avoid greasy burgers or sub sammitches, and eat more healthy by having some soup, instead?

Guess again.  It’s full of enough sodium to kill a horse.

All soup is bad, bad BAD.  (Unless you spend 12 hours cooking it yourself, over a hot stove…so long as it’s salt-free).


Cholesterol.   Bad.   Duh.

Ooh.  You have to be careful.    A lot of it has FAT.   Make sure you avoid those like the plague.

Try to be like those 80-lb ladies on the TV commercials.   If they get the munchies, they’re perfectly happy with the fat-free, flavour-free yogurt, served in thimble-sized containers.

Well, not all of it is Free-Trade.    So every time you buy that Hershey Bar, you’re probably exploiting a child laborer in Guatemala.

For SHAME! You oughta be wearing a hair shirt, for what you’ve just done.

Not to mention, it has fat and sugar, which is BAD for you.

If you absolutely MUST….permit yourself one square of dark, unsweetened chocolate, once a month, whether you deserve it or not.

(I know that’s decadent, but hey, what’s the point of life if you can’t enjoy the finer things?)


White Bread
Yes, I know you loved Wonder Bread as a kid.  But that stuff is basically poison, what with it being full of bleached flour and formaldehyde.

Plus it will send your glycemic index through the roof.  I’m surprised our parents weren’t charged with child abuse for feeding it to us.

The only bread you should eat is whole-wheat.  Preferably 24-grain.   Even better, if there are pieces of wheat chaff and prairie dirt stuck in the dough.



Well, now you have to be careful about that too.

If it’s the farmed kind, they’ve been shown to be harmful to the wild stocks.     And if it’s wild, they’re being overfished and you shouldn’t be eating them.

Best to stay away from salmon altogether, to be safe.


Fish in General
The worlds oceans are being depleted.   So stay away from endangered fish, like red tuna, sea bass, orange roughy, monkfish, two-fish, red-fish, blue-fish…

And crustaceans and shellfish…well, they’re full of toxins too.

If you MUST have seafood, go the beach, and skim some algae off the rocks.


Iceberg Lettuce
I know it’s crunchy, but it’s mostly water and has almost no nutritional value.   C’mon.  You KNOW you can do better.

Next time you weed your garden,  make a salad of it.   It’s surprisingly bitter.


Soda Pop
The old kind made with sucrose was bad enough.  But now almost everything is made of high-fructose corn-syrup.   Which messes with your body’s insulin levels, and contributes to obesity.


Diet Soda Pop
Can you trust man-made chemicals?   Too much aspartame is probably bad for you.

Club Soda

Guess again.  Too much sodium.


Bottled Water
WRONG!!!!  Because you’re killing the planet, and Baby Jesus cries, every time you buy a plastic bottle.

Tap Water
As long as it’s properly filtered, to remove the trace amounts of heavy-metals.  (You can never trust municipal water!)

(Oh, and make sure you dispose of your filter properly…used filters are considered hazardous waste.)


Fresh Fruit
The store-bought kind is full of pesticides and toxins.  It’ll kill you.

The only fruit you should eat, is organically grown, and local.   Because you should be sticking to the 100-mile-diet.

So for most of North America (especially Canada), this means only apples, pears, plums, peaches, strawberries, blueberries.  But ONLY for the 5-6 days a year they’re actually in season.

Forget citrus fruit (unless you live in Florida or California).

And tropical fruit (papayas, bananas, kiwis, etc..) are a definite No-No.     Think of the carbon footprint involved in shipping these to your grocery store.

For every non-local fruit you buy, it’s like an ice-floe melts and a baby polar bear drowns.

The Cardiac Breakfast Special (3 eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, ham, pancakes, smothered in lard)
Okay…WHAT are you THINKING?

Have you even been reading this post?

Go to your room.  Right now.   And give yourself a Time-Out!!!

Do I have to come down there?


So what’s left to eat?

Perhaps we can forage for nuts and berries.    Like chimps and other primates do.

(But wait…our urban sprawl has depleted the forests and grasslands.  The best nut-land has already been exploited!)

Oh well.

There’s always grass, I guess.

Tell us why you’re such a loser

January 18, 2010

I remember the interview like it was last week.

I had applied for an internal  job within the company I was working for at the time.   I figured I had a good chance.

After all, I was on good terms with the Friendly Manager, who liked me and basically encouraged me to apply for the position.

Plus, it wasn’t like I was a newbie.  I had 12-years of successful experience,  including five at the company itself.   This job was more like a horizontal transfer, for a change of scene.

Unfortunately, the Friendly Manager was nowhere to be found at the interview.   Instead, he had put his 2nd-in-command in charge,  who interviewed me with two others.

Things were going well, until they asked the standard put-you-on-the-spot interview question:

“Tell us about a co-worker you’ve had conflict with, and tell us how you resolved it.”

Sigh.   Another one of those God-Damned Human Resource bullshit questions.

But I had been to enough interviews that I knew how to handle this one.

I gave a story about how I didn’t get along with a lab technician in a previous job.  Yadda yadda yadda.  How I approached her and asserted myself, and we ended up being very good friends.   Yadda yadda yadda. 

Always put a positive slant on things, I told myself.   Good job, Friar, you handled that well.

Then they asked:  “What’s the biggest disappointment of your life?”

I gave an honest answer, about how I was heartbroken not to have gotten an offer for a professor job I had interviewed for.    But again, I put a positive slant on it.

That was 6 years ago.   Yadda yadda yadda.  And looking back in hindsight, I think things worked out for the best, because I’m making the same money and I have normal work hours and balanced life.    Yadda yadda yadda.

Again, I thought I handled that well.

But the questions kept coming, from all three directions.

“What don’t you like about your present job?”

“Going back to that other job you mentioned:  what didn’t you like about your old boss?”

Oh, for Chrissakes.  It’s going to be one of THOSE interviews.

Again, I  tried to answer the best I could.    I talked about trying to apply “win-win” principles to bad situations.   I talked about learning from my experiences, and continuously trying to improve myself.

But they wouldn’t let up.   It’s like they were sharks circling around me, looking for a weak spot.

“Tell us what your faults are.”

WTF is with all the negative questions?

What are they going to ask me next:  “When did you stop beating your girlfriend?”

“Tell us about another conflict you had with a co-worker, at THIS company.   And how did you deal with it?”

At this point I was getting tired.   I tried to think of the least harmful example I could, but I ended up stammering.

Umm…there was this co-worker, he was difficult to deal with,  he kept distracting me,  I said.   I was being harassed and I ended up talking to my manager about it.

Then came the barrage:

“You said two things:  he was distracting you, and you were being harassed.  Which one was it?   Are these two separate issues, or just one? ”

“What did the manager do?   What did you tell him? ”

“How did you handle it?   How long did this problem last?   What was the outcome?  How was it resolved?

Wham!  Wham!  Wham! They just wouldn’t stop.

At a loss for words, I decided the only thing to do was to be perfectly honest.

I told them, the problem was resolved, when I left the department, and moved to another position.

Right then, and there, looking at the faces around the table, I knew I blew it.

Wrong answer.

At this point:   Piss.   Me.   Right.    Off.

If I didn’t’ know any better, I’d almost swear they had been trying to DISCOURAGE me from getting the job.

They obviously weren’t that interested in my qualifications as an engineer.

Or the fact that I’d been in charge of major research projects.   Or that I’d presented papers in front of hundreds of people at international conferences and had received major awards.

Or that I’d put in my time on the plant floor, supervising extremely hazardous work, responsible for the safety of others, where people could DIE if I wasn’t vigilant.

Or that I’d successfully met deadlines, satisfied clients, and always had good performance reviews.

No, obviously they didn’t want to hear about THAT.

What they were more interseted in was putting me under pressure, like I was some 21-year-old apprentice, and watching me squirm.

So that they could play their bullshit head-games with me.   Until they painted me into a corner and caught me saying something I shouldn’t have.


Needless to say, I didn’t’ get the job.

In fact, some feedback I got afterwards was that they picked up on me leaving the other job, as a way to deal with my being harassed.  That apparently didn’t present itself very well.

Well, congratulations.

You win.

But just as well.

Because…if THAT’s they way they treated me in just the interview (when they were supposed to try to impress me)…I can only imagine what it would be like if I had started working for them.

Friar Versus The Anti-Christ

January 16, 2010

Ahhh…the Anti-Chirst. 

Who’d have thought such a simple assembly of Plexiglas and copper could be so devious and evil?  

If you saw it, you woudlnt’ think there was much to it.  

It  was basically a long rectangular-shaped pipe with two copper pieces embedded in two of the opposite walls. 

The purpose of the Anti-Christ was to measure the rates of mass transfer under conditions of forced and natural convection with applied thermal gradients.   

In English, this meant pumping  some acidic copper solution through it, and applying  a voltage across the copper plates.  This would cause some copper to deposit the negatively-charged plate.   

You’d measure the rate of copper deposition as a function of fast the solution was flowing through the pipe, and how hot you decided to make one of the copper plates.

This was my thesis project for my Masters’ degree..

Sounds simple, yes?  


The Anti-Christ made my existence miserable for the better part of two years.  


CHAPTER ONE:   The Early Battles

I wasn’t responsible for the Anti-Christ’s  creation.  It was already there when I started my degree.   

It was a piece of crap and leaked like a sonnavabitch.   I inherited it and it was my job to make it work.

Imagine trying to measure flow-rates, temperatures, voltage, and current simultaneously,  in a way that had never been done before.   From scratch, with 1987 technology.  

With an absentee supervisor who didnt’ give a flying fox-fart about what you did, and who had very little funding to buy any decent equipment.

I can’t begin to tell you the long nights, evenings, weekends I spent scrounging parts, salvaging, begging, borrowing or stealing.   Patching, fixing, drilling, repairing.    Assembling computer boards, thermocouples, flow-meters, writing code and patching leaks with epoxy. 

The anti-Christ fought back.   Acid leaked.  Electrical connections corroded.   Clothes got ruined.   Instruments failed. 

I accidentally destroyed a $1000 immersion heater when it fell in a bucket of water. 

I distinctly remember the acrid yellow smoke when I tried to plug it in again.

Meanwhile my useless-as-tits-on-bull supervisor, Perfessor Finster, was off to Japan or God knows where.   Several months would go by before he’d literally set foot in the lab.  

Sorry about the water heater, though.

(Well, not really.)



I was still fighting the AntiChrist.   I had yet to generate a single data point that could go in my thesis.  

And I was starting to shit bricks, because eventually my funding would run out, and I’d be sent home.   

So I put in the extra time, and worked to the point of exhaustion,  putting in late nights and weekends.  

 And I started to make stupid mistakes.    Looking back, some days, it would have been better to just STAY HOME.

Like the time I heard what sounded like a sudden CLAP! and saw smoke pouring from a power supply.    

In my sleep-deprived state, I had hooked up an input to an output, and had inadvertently fried the $4000  sucker.

This was $4000 in 1987 dollars, mind you.

Sheepishly hiding the destroyed instrument in the basement,  I managed to salvage/borrow another cheaper one, and continued to forge ahead.

I dont’ think Perfesser Finster ever found out, to this day.   

But the Anti-Christ hissed with delight.

It was winning.


CHAPTER THREE:  Now it gets Personal  

After 18 months, just to make things interesting, I decided to go skiing and tear my knee ligament.    

It took over 6 weeks of lying on the couch and physio to recover form the surgery.  

It was not an easy time.  But I was a good little worker bee, and I returned to work as soon as I could.

At that point, the Anti-Christ turned on me.    The bastard.

One afternoon, a hose-clamp blew, and 50 liters of acid spilled all over the lab.  

 I had to neutralize the mess with an acid spill-kit and spent the next few weeks cleaning up the lab.   Bending on my hands and knees, barely off crutches, and my atrophied leg held in place with knee-brace.

For years afterward, you could still see the footprints of my sneakers in the cement floor, where the acid had etched it.

Looking back, this was not one of the happier moments of my life.

Oh, by the way: still no data points.


Chapter Four:   The Perfesser Intervenes

I was now down to just a few months left, before my funding got cut off.  

I basically spent most of my waking hours in the lab, trying my best to get all the widgets and gizmos working at the same time, before they fell apart or corroded with the acid.

So one day, the Perfessor finally decided to grant me an audience, and showed up in person.   

He asked what the problem is, why can’t I get the experiments to run?   

Nothing works, I told him.

Show me, he said.

So I did…I hooked up the connections, and, for the first time, in TWENTY MONTHS…the strip chart recorder jiggled, and I actually MEASURE something. 

For crying out loud.

It figures.

The ONE day this boson finally shows up, now everything works hunky-dory, like it’s supposed to? 


Have got.   

To be.


Shitting Me.

Unconvinced, Perfessor Finster looked at me like I was some kind of idiot, and left the room. 


Chapter Five:   The Final Battle

Well, now that all the planets and stars and karma were aligned,  and the Anti-Christ was up and running,  it was time to start some experiments. 

And of course, I didn’t know if the Anti-Christ would run for one day, or one week,  so I treated every day like it was the last.

One of the first things I did was a marathon session, working around the clock, for 22 hours straight, running the Anti-Christ into the ground. 

I generated about half entire data on that one day.

The next month was a blur.  I continued the same pattern:  Waking at 10:00 AM.   Arriving at the lab at noon, and working till past midnight.    Over and over, ad infinitum.  It was my year without a summer.

But slowly, I was generating enough data points.   Though it was a race against time.

You see, the Anti-Christ was not pleased, and it putting up one final fight.   

 The hot acid was taking its toll.   Sealed leaked.   Thermocouples corroded.   Things were threatening to fall apart…but this time, for good.

There would be no second chance, there would be rebuilding and fixing  things.

Not to mention that once I had the data, I only had just two months to analyze it, and write a master’s thesis and submit it.

Who would win? 

Me, or the Anti-Christ?

It was going to be close…


Chapther Six:  Aftermath

Fast-forward, a year later. 

I was in the parking lot in back of the Engineering building, it was a bright sunny day.   And I was holding the Anti-Christ in my hand.

Yes…I had won the battle.  

It had almost killed me, but I had completed my experiments, and everything had held together.   Just barely.   

I had submitted my thesis on time, defended it, and now the hard-cover bound copy was sitting in the library.   

I was working for the University again.     But not as a lowly grad student, but as a Research Engineer with another Professor.   With a three-year contract,  a decent full-time salary and benefits.

And one of my first jobs was to clean out my old lab with all of Perfesser Finster’s junk,  because that’s where our new Research Center would be located. 

 Funny how Life’s like that, sometimes.

Of course, Perfesser Finster (who was no longer my boss)  was telling me to hold onto the Anti-Christ, and store it somewhere safe.    Because  he might want to use it again.

Hah!   That piece of scrap?

As IF…!

No.   I had something else in mind.

Hefting the Anti-Christ in my hands to judge its weight, I tossed it into the air. 

For a split second, it hung there, ten feet above me.  

I can still see the shiny Plexiglas reflecting the sun, like dozens of diamond-like gems against the azure sky.

And then, gravity took it’s toll, and the Anti-Christ accelerated to the pavement.

I watched with pure, unadulterated glee as it went  


…into a million little pieces.


It’s always good, when you get closure. .




Silence by Head-Lamp

January 13, 2010

There’s something special about going cross-country skiing at night.   Leaving your warm, comfortable house, getting away from the TV, putting on your skis, turning your headlamp, and going trekking off into the cold dark woods.

It’s almost a little frightening,  going off into the bush by yourself at night (What the hell am I doing?)   But it’s also kind of exhilarating.

Besides,  I know the trails well enough by now not to get lost.  At the very worst, if something happens,  I might have to spend an uncomfortable night, before another skier discovers me the next morning.   After all, I’m just outside town.  It’s a calculated risk I’m willing to take.

But tonight, I have the whole place to myself.  There’s only one other car at the trailhead.  Only one other fanatic, who shares my stupidity passion for the outdoors.   I probably won’t even see them.

As I forge on through the forest, the only sounds are the swishing of my skis, and the chunk!  chunk! chunk! of my pole plants.  My whole universe is the 50-foot beam of light in front of me.

The trees appear ahead, glide by silstently, and disappear into the darkness.  It’s a steady rhythm, as I gobble up distance, and go deeper and deeper into the woods.

Chunk!  Chunk!  Chunk! The further I go, the further the day’s stress gets behind me.    All the bullshit,  project deadlines, office politics,  household all falls away from me.

The forest is quiet this time of year.   It’s so different.     Everything is dead and sleeping.  No bugs.  No birds.  No frogs.  No yammering, chattering squirrels.

But I’m not alone.   The carpet of snow is littered with critter tracks.   Foxes.  Deer.  Maybe the odd wolf, even.

Suddenly my reverie is interupted.  There’s a flash of brown ahead, and it momentarily scares the Be-Jesus out of me.   Then I realize it’s just a rabbit.

Wabbit twacks,  I tell myself.  Haw-haw-haw.

I now reach my favorite point in the trail.   The section by the river, the furthest away from the trailhead.   The opposite shore has nothing.  No houses, roads, towns, nothing, for 30 kilometers in either direction.

Around me are century-old white pine that the loggers somehow missed, mast-straight, towering majestically overhead like quiet sentinels.  I turn my headlamp off, and just listen.

I remember the game my Mom taught us a game when we were kids.  She’d tell us to be quiet, and ask us how many different sounds could we identify.

Right now,  two.    The occasional (barely audible) hum of cars on the highway, a few miles away.    And the tree next to me is cracking.

But in-between, for long intervals, there is silence.   No wind.   No movement.  Nothing.

It’s so quiet, it’s deafening.  My ears are almost ringing.

It’s The Silence.

And I empty my mind, and let The Silence enter my head, into every pore of my body, into the depths of my very soul.

This is what I came for.   To hear The Silence.

Forget inspirational quotes, self-help videos, or webinars.   Forget Life Coaching,  Zen habits,  religion, church, whatever…

This is what it’s all about for me…getting in touch with nature, and listening to The  Silence.

Some people get this.  Some don’t.

I pity those who don’t.

I stand there for a few minutes, soaking it in.     Because that’s all you really need, actually.

Satisfied, I turn on my lamp, and head back.

Chunk!  Chunk!  Chunk!

30 minutes later, I’m back at the trailhead, drenched in sweat, hungry and tired.

But at least my batteries have been re-charged.   For at least the next few days.

Back to reality, back to streetlights, electricity,  heated homes, Twitter, and  TV.

Sigh. Till next time.

Meanwhile, I wonder who Simon will yell at tonight on American Idol?

Ski Watercolor

January 12, 2010

Last Easter, I was skiing at Jay Peak, Vermont.   I was on top of the hill, just getting off the tramway, and I saw this ski patroller just below me.

I liked the composition:  he seemed to be standing in the right place at the right time, so I took the photo.

As you can see, there was no snow down in the valley below.   This was toward the end of the ski season.    But Jay Peak is a big enough mountain, that it tends to have it’s own weather system.  I remember that day alternating between warm sun, and freezing blustery snow squalls.  It was still quite wintery on top.

Anyway, today I decided to do something different, so I painted the ski hill.

As you can see, I deliberately put in the sky and left out the valley.   I did this so that the hill didn’t get lost in the dark background.  Plus it also helps emphasize the mountain itself.

Also,  the drawing is mostly white…which meant I had to leave a lot of the sheet blank. With winter scenes, the secret is knowing what NOT to paint.