Saturday, August 26, 2006

I, Charlie Brown

Okay, so I attended my first Mystery Dinner Theatre tonight. They're all the rage, I guess. In fact I just read something or other in some online newspaper or other to that effect — that they're popular in Canada.

It was fine in a way. I mean the theatre part of it was fine. The actors did well and were funny and stayed in character throughout the meal, even when they weren't actually onstage. They kept hold of their accents well. One was American, one was British, and two had Belgian/German accents. I love it that they could do that. I tend to be able to pick up an accent fairly well, but I can lose it easily too. My French accent will quickly devolve into Italian and from there to Irish and so on.

But I seem to possess a certain amount of Charlie Brownishness. It crops up at certain times. Tonight, for example, there was a pillar in the old restaurant where the play was performed. Of course, I was sat nearer to it than anybody else in the establishmentt. Of course, the stage area turned out to be right on the other side of that pillar. A few people near me had bad sight lines too but none as poor as mine.

If you had told me ahead of time that one seat would be unsighted, I would pretty well have guessed that it would be mine, for the Charlie Brown syndrome does seem to strike me on occasion.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Processing Words

Did you know that Google, our friendly supplier of blog space, has given the world a new free tool? It's called Writely. "What exactly is a Writely?" you ask. Well, it's an online word processor, and it seems to be a pretty good one at that. It's there for you at wherever you are and whatever machine you're on. It has the ability to save files in various formats including Word or PDF. I'm writing on it right now. Maybe I'll continue to use it. Maybe I won't, but it's nice to have the option.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Road Warrior

As I said recently, the drives both into and out of Toronto did not go badly at all. But, I indeed did not enjoy our major drive while there. We went from the core area way out to the northwestern suburbs —— a trip entailing four (count 'em) four expressways — the Gardner, the 427, the 401, and the 410. Oh, I did fine, but 45 minutes of fast and intense expressway driving is not my idea of fun.

When we left the city yesterday, the further we got, the less the traffic and the greater the pleasure. Mostly. But permit me to rail just a bit at rural drivers.

I don't so much mind the slow drivers: those odd and bizarre souls who insist on travelling at precisely the posted limit. How can I get too upset? They are obeying the law after all. But I do get a tad exasperated with those who can't make up their minds. They drive slowly; they speed up for no apparent reason; then, they slow back down — again for no apparent reason. You see, I like to use cruise control, and it's ever so frustrating when others drive so erratically. One guy really took the cake. He touched his brakes and slowed down whenever a car went by —— cars going in the opposite direction if you please. Whenever he wasn't going around a bend or dealing with the trauma of cars going in the opposite direction, he managed to speed up and render the passing of him quite problematic. But I just had to find a way to do it (pass him) ... or else go mad ... even madder.

Because it was only a two-lane highway and because there are slower vehicles on such roads, every so often the good road people add a passing lane where the slower cars are to pull into the right lane to allow faster vehicles to pass. This usually works quite well, but every now and then you come across a total nitwit. Said nitwit creeps along until he gets to one of those passing sections. He then revs 'er up making it deucedly difficult for anyone to actually get by him. Seriously, one guy I was following yesterday dawdled at 90kph until we got to the passing sections where he speeded up to 110kph. What's with that, eh?

Just so you know that I'm not an excessive speed monster, I also have aught against the gal who tailgated me for 15 minutes without passing. It's one thing to follow ever so closely behind when you're looking for an opportunity to pass the car in front, but if you're content to proceed at that same speed for mile after countless mile, then do drop back and give some room for goodness sake.

Behold, these are some of my gripes about rural drivers. If only more motorists could approach my level perfectionton —— humble perfection, of course.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bon Voyage

That's got to be just about it for the mad gaddingabouting that we have been caught up in of late.

This past weekend we were off to Toronto to visit D2 and friend. When I say Toronto, I really mean it — not the burbs but downtown. I used to drive there without care, but that was a long time ago. Since then, I have been living in small places, and Toronto had begun to seem foreign and a little bit overwhelmingg to me. Since we were heading downtown (not the CBD but pretty darn close to it), we decided that it would be prudent to drive in on Friday evening. We reasoned that the traffic should be somewhat more tolerable by then. And I guess it was. We found the girls' apartment without too much angst or traffic congestion.

That night, they took us for a walk along Bloor St, a major east-west street, lined with shops and eateries for block after block after ... well, I'm not sure if the commerce ever stops, both geographically and temporally. We walked the street very late at night, and it seemed that everyone was out —— everyone and their dogs — literally. Toronto has become a very dog-friendly place. They and their people walked in and out of shops at will. I've never seen that anywhere else.

We did a lot of walking the next day too, many kilometres as a matter of fact. The girls bought footwear and other necessities for their upcoming sojourn to Thailand and other countries of Southeast Asia. We walked along King St, up Yonge St, and over to The [Gay] Village on Church St. We snacked at a restaurant there, and for the first time in my life, I noticed guys checking me out. I guess women get used to it, but it was a new experience for me. Now I'm not saying that they looked at length ... or twice ... or longingly, but I guess it's just a guy thing — to do that quick visual scan. In fact, sometimes I catch myself caught up in a long admiring stare. I try not to do that, particularly in my aged and enfeebled state, but there you have it —— boys will be boys —— whether hetero or homo or young or old, I guess.

But it was fun: seeing the sights and being reintroduced to life in the big city after the passage of so many years. And it was good to see D2 and Puff. As I said, they're leaving for distant lands in just a few short weeks. They'll be gone until almost Christmas, so today's parting was not easy or dry-eyed for Mom and Dad. They'll always be our little ones. They won't really understand what that's all about until they have their own little ones. None of us do.

Bon Voyage Ladies. Be safe.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


The cottage, Riverwood, sits on a large piece of mostly forested land — about 120 acres. In addition to this expansive Riverwood outdoors, the actual cottage contains a fairly large kitchen and a decent sized living room, but we have a certain predilection to gather in the porch. So, here's the family: five adults and two dogs in a small space with AC and Zeus just barely outside the door (possibly contemplating their next duet). It seems to be ever thus — that we scrunch ourselves into this tiny space.

That's Cuppa's brother, top left, and his wife, top right. Her sister is in the middle right beside her husband's knees. My family? Heck I'm an only child.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Going to the Dogs

Greetings from holiday land.

Actually, we are no longer in holiday land, but we are still on holiday, so to speak. After visiting BIL and SIL, we are back home but only for a few days before we head off to Toronto to visit daughter2 and friend. This will be our final get-together with them before they fly off for an extended romp around Southeast Asia. Although it will be a few weeks early we'll also celebrate D2's birthday while there. Meanwhile, we have a few days here at home to recuperate before this next round of visitations.

It seems that Cuppa's family all and always have dogs. I like dogs, but we are the misfits and usually seem to have a cat or two hanging about. I like cats too, so this is no hardship for me. Maybe I'll have a dog someday, but the proper timing and circumstances have not yet seemed to converge. For one thing, our cat isn't young, so it doesn't seem best to foist a dog on him. Yet, as I say that, I am also forced to admit that he is an even-tempered and easy-going beastie who would probably adapt quite well. I guess that it I who am not ready for a dog. Maybe I never will be and will remain the family oddity.

But like them I do, and I was able to enjoy them for four days. The first two, below, seen through the screen door, are my BIL's dogs. They are purebred dogs — King Charles Cavalier Spaniels if you please. I am at pains to refrain from genuflecting whenever I say that. Anyway, they are delightful little pooches. The brown one, Oliver, is much younger than Charlie but not as much larger as he appears in this photo.

Then there is Zeus, my SIL's canine. I'm not sure how he came by the name, for he is a much beloved mongrel, a lab-shepherd mix if I understand it correctly. Cuppa took this picture of Zeus sitting by me as I read a magazine.

Of course, since he is called Zeus, and given his exalted stature in the household, at some point, we began referring to him as God of the Dogs. And so it has come to pass that when I was am visiting on a Sunday that I have taken to singing The DOGsologoy (get it?) to him or rather with him. I know it's irreverent, but given his name and status, it seems appropriate. So I sing, "Praise Dog from ... " and so on. And the great thing is that he sings along with me. I don't know if that is what we are singing in the picture below, but I do know that we are singing ... or howling at that point. His singing startles me sometimes. You see, I am the type to hum, whistle and sing without thinking at any old sporadic moment. Sometimes, I forget that he's around and am unaware that I am making a joyful noise of some description, so it surprises me when a dog suddenly appears howling and singing at my side. I love it though.

There is a small river on the back of my SIL's recreational property (the one that we call Riverwood and that I call a cottage and Cuppa calls a farm). On a hot day SIL's hubby and I might go in for a dip. Here we are returning from such an event. I am wearing my new Aussie-type cowboyish hat. I have a more North American one, but it has never been comfortable. While on this little vacation I happened to try this one on. It fit and the price was right. But I think the pained expression on my face in this picture was the result of being surprised by yet another random shooting by my wife who doth snap the shutter with reckless abandon.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Taking Off

From the frequency or lack thereof of my posting this summer, you probably won't notice any difference, but we are going visiting for the next little while. For how long of a while we're not sure yet.

What we do know is that we're heading west on highway 7 to visit with Cuppa's brother tomorrow. From there we were going to visit daughter 2 on the weekend, but now we're not. We'll head to the cottage instead. We may stay for a few days, come back here for a few, and then visit daughter in Toronto, or we may stay at the cottage for about a week and go to Toronto from there.

Regardless, it rather looks like I won't get much if any posting done for the best part of two weeks. Sometimes, I post from the cottage, however, so we'll see. In any event, take care.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Concert Security

Two faces of security personnel at the festival — Grumpy and Smiley.

Quite a Jam

Riverside Jam has ended. Cuppa and I worked our three volunteer shifts putting in about 23 hours of surveillance: mostly standing and peering at little armbands (coloured bracelets if you will) to determine colour and access privileges. Black, hardly a standout choice, was the dominant colour at our gate. You would not be stretching your imagination a whole lot to deduce that we must be a trifle weary this morning.

I could barely believe the influx of people for this event. We arrived for our first shift many hours before the first concert was scheduled to begin and the campgrounds already appeared to be full with all sorts of trailers of various levels of opulence. This was very impressive to a guy who can barely afford a tent. And as we later learned, the campgrounds spread a long, long way from the prime campground next to the river – in the very same quiet little park that Cuppa and I often frequent on a pleasant day.

So, it was a major event for this little town, and I must say that it was pretty darn well organized and run. Oh, there were glitches and some poor decisions that we soon became aware of at our gate. We spent time trying to prevent regular concert-goers from accessing the campgrounds, for example. We'd refuse (not so much me but the stick-to-the damn-rules folk) old couples entrance to the campgrounds (from the concert area) because they didn't have a camper to escort them, and we'd give kids (under twelve without passes) a hassle about getting back into the camp (from the concert area) because their parents were supposed to accompany them, but, lo and behold, the parents were already in the campgrounds. But then as the weekend progressed, guests of the sponsors could more or less come and go at will by simply mentioning the family name. Ah well, as I said, it was pretty well run on the whole. This is still only the third year of the event, and there remain some glitches to be ironed out.

What I heard of the music was pretty uneven. Some of the bigger performers didn't excite me too much. Some shouted songs with incomprehensible lyrics. The influence of Rock music on other genres is pretty doggone profound. Many of the acts, especially those who performed earlier in the day, were closer to traditional country, however, and were really quite pleasant to listen to. The main and closing act last night, Ricky Scaggs, was rather insipid and anticlimactic in my humble and untutored opinion, but the act before him, a group called Ambush, sounded very good to my ears.

Things got a little bit hectic last night. It was hard to keep control of our gate. There were those who faked armbands, and I'm sure that some of them got by us. Of course, some kids got a little rowdy, but Response Security was pretty on the ball, and nothing got very out of hand. Really though, with thousands of people on a small area and with much alcohol being consumed most people were happy, friendly and compliant. I would never ever ever never contemplate working at a Rock venue, however. Uh uh.

Final wonderment: how do people afford to drink like they do? Beer was selling for $4.50 per glass, and it was being consumed prodigiously. Some were deep into it all weekend it seemed. I could never afford to be a drunk.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It Could Have Been Worse

The upshot of my hearing aid tragedy of about ten days ago is that it can be fixed – sort of.

As you know, I trod upon it and smashed the shell to smithereens. However, we gathered said smithereens and sent them off for a post mortem. Apparently, the electronics still function. The company still has the specs for the ear mould and will put Humpty back together again for just a little over three hundred dollars. I am rather relieved.

I'm not sure when I'll receive the refurbished piece, but I will be happy when I do.

Yes, it could have been worse — much worse.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Unchanging

My nephew and significant other have just departed for a night in Montreal. They will drop by tomorrow on their way back to the cottage. If they're late, they'll stay overnight and continue on the next day. It's all fine with us; they're really nice kids. Some people despair about "kids today," but people have always done that. I taught for three decades, and kids were always kids – always nice in other words.

So, we took them to see some small towns and the locks on the Rideau Canal system. We even saw a whole street in Merrickville move aside to let boats through – just small pleasure craft, that's all. It was a swing. Two workers crank the cranks, and the street (bridge) just swings to the side on a rail. It's century old technology (even older), but it still works a treat. We then proceeded to the Hershey factory in Smiths Falls where none of us could resist loading up on cheap chocolate. We almost always do that with new guests on day one: take them to see the small towns, locks, and the Hershey factory.

On day two, we're likely to run into Ottawa. We'll take them to parliament hill, the Byward Market, and the National (Art) Gallery. The changing of the guard is rather splendid to watch, so we headed in bright and early yesterday morning. They perform the ceremony at ten o'clock, but we leave around 8:30 in order to drive in, find parking, and walk to the Parliament Buildings. But we're not having much success with The Changing. Definitely not; it has become The Unchanging of the Guard for us.

It first happened in June last year. I had wondered if they would perform the ceremony in June; so I looked it up on the Net. Yes, according to the site, they started in June and continued through July and August. What the site didn't say was that they only begin in late June, just before the Canada Day weekend. And, of course, we were there early in the month.

But yesterday was the heart of summer, so there was no question that the show would go on. I lie, however, for there was a question. You see, yesterday was the hottest of the year in these parts. It was torrid: about 95F but feeling more like 115F with the humidity. So, they cancelled The Changing.

I don't blame them at all though. The soldiers wear those big bear skin hats and wool uniforms, and it would have been cruel to make them perform yesterday. Even the Mounted Police, the ones that saunter around The Hill on horseback and in their scarlet tunics, stayed away.

So I'm not mad or bitter. Not me 'cause I'm Canadian eh? And good Canadians try to accept our lots and take things in phlegmatic stride. But jeez louise I would like our visitors to be able to view this rather wonderful spectacle.

One blogger has written to say that this site is behaving rather badly. The print is small and there are error messages. Is anybody else experiencing difficulties?