Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Can't Fool A Minikinite

Gracious me! It looks like we’re going to have a green Christmas.

A lot of people in this part of the country are praying for snow so that we’ll have the traditional White Christmas. I say, if you want a White Christmas, then see the movie. I, for one, welcome the relatively novel sight of bare lawns on Christmas day. We’ll get plenty of the white stuff before winter is over, believe you me. And all those people who are whining for snow now will be griping in mid-January, “whatever happened to global warming?”

Oh little town of Minikin, 
Your roads are bare and dry. 
The snow’s not deep. 
Snow-blower salesmen cry.

Yet in thy dark clouds cometh 
The ever-blasting snow. 
So never fear, 
When winter’s here 
We’ll see those blowers go. 

Since there is nothing new to relate on the snow-shoveling front, I thought I might send out a little caveat to my readers if they should ever try to sell anything on-line.

I recently attempted to sell my car through a couple of advertising sources on the internet. Unfortunately, the only responses I’ve had thus far are from people looking for me to virtually give it to them (as a Christmas present, I suppose). Otherwise, I’ve just received emails and phone calls from scam artists. One guy sent me the following email. The bracketed interjections are mine:

...my dad will like something like this, so for his birthday i am surprising him by buying this. (If I went through with this transaction, your dad wouldn’t be the only one getting a surprise)

I would have loved to come for the inspection myself but i am mostly away, am an engineer and i work offshore most of the time, needless to say, i wont be able to come myself. (I’m guessing that you are not a grammatical engineer. Since you work offshore, I'll assume that you're an oil-rig-double-dealing-flimflam-bunko-sham engineer)

However I have a private courier agent that will represent me and come for the pick up after the payment has been made, they will handle issue of my details, transferring the name of ownership and signing of all paperwork will be done by the courier agent. (Yeah, that sounds legit. Most used car deals for vehicles under $5,000 are usually handled this way. Alternatively, an Envoy Extraordinary or Minister Plenipotentiary can be hired to complete this type of sale).

As for the payment, i can only pay via the safest and secure way to pay online i.e PayPal here, as i do not have access to my bank account online, but i have it attached to my paypal account hence my insistence on using pay pal to pay. If you don't have a paypal account, you can easily set up one at www.paypal.com and sign up its very easy. (Actually, my good man, can you set it up for me? I’d be more than happy to give you my credit card information.)

I would have loved to talk to you on phone but i work mainly offshore and our satellite server has been down due to the bad weather which restrict our calls, please get back to me!! i appreciate your time. Thanks (Why do those damn offshore satellite servers never work in bad weather during an email scam?)

We may be just small town folk here, but we're not rubes. We're perspicacious, wary, intelligent, and well-spoken. There's an old saying in Minikin — I know it's in Antler River, probably in Minikin — that says, "Fool me once....  shame on...  shame on you....   " you can't fool a Minikinite, I mean Minikiner, uh Minikinian, that is to say a resident of Minikin.

Oh little on-line scam artist
How dumb do you think we are?
Get a real job,
You crooked slob
And buy my (bleepin') car.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

From Bach To Bieber To Bieberbach — More From The SSIC Answer Man

An inquiring reader wrote to us and asked this inquisitive inquiry:

Is it true that Justin Bieber is the acme of thousands of years of musical evolution?

We consulted with Wikipedia for an answer to this excellent question. Their article on music begins by telling us that  “music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence.”

In Justin’s case, the emphasis would be more happily applied to the silence part of the formula.

So, to answer your question, no he is not the acme of musical evolution. That momentous moment of moments should happen around the year 2473 when music will be an “art” form whose medium will be organic sound and electronically enhanced silence. However, there is no denying we’ve come a long way since the days of Johann Sebastian Bach, or even Ludwig Bieberbach.

There once was a pop star named Bieber
who some critics have called “Justin Dweeber".
But the fans, how they rave.
Bach must roll in his grave
and in disbelief cry, “Ach du lieber!”

By the way, Mr. Beiber was born in Antler River. That’s right! — the former headquarters of Snow Shoveling In Canada. I get all a-tingle with excitement whenever I consider that. Sort of the same excitement I derive from putting on cheap aftershave.

Which brings us to our next question from a very questioning questioner:

Who coined the phrase, "the pen is mightier than the sword"?

Those words were uttered by Edward Bullwer-Lytton, former CEO of the Bic corporation (which was simply known as the Pen among ball-point insiders). Bic of course was long known as the leader in quality writing implements, so it was logical that they would decide to produce items for scraping off facial hair.

Soon, Bic was outselling a former giant on the market, Wilkinson Sword (which was simply known as the Sword among shaving insiders). One day, on learning that his brand was outselling Wilkinson, Mr. Bullwer-Lytton expressed his now famous remark.

Another seeker of wisdom and truth asked us:

Where can I find a throat lozenge with attitude?

The makers of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges claim that their product provides "relief with attitude". That’s just the ingredient you should look for when you have a bad cold. Who cares if it has a cough suppressant, or something for nasal relief or chest congestion? You need attitude. In fact, I think every product on the market and every being on this planet should have lots and lots of attitude. This blog is sorely lacking in that quality. So look for us to be more IN YOUR FACE in future posts.

By the way, why do they call their product Fisherman’s Friend? If anything, you would think that any product that allows fishermen to have their olfactory senses enhanced would be considered decidedly unfriendly.

In fact, someone should market a clothespin for fishermen to put on their noses while they work and call it Fisherman’s Buddy.

And while we're at it, someone could promote a set of ear plugs to wear whenever you’re in the vicinity of a Justin Bieber performance and call it Music Lover’s Friend.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Football, Cruises, and Painting Europe

The Holiday Season has officially started. Sure we’ve seen stores decked out with Christmas displays since Labor Day, but the season really kicked off with the U.S. Thanksgiving  (ha ha. get it? kicked off... Thanksgiving... you know... football... forget it).

I like to think of that holiday as Canada’s second Thanksgiving. We don’t get the day off from work, but we do get to call in sick and sit around the house watching the Macy’s parade and a couple of football games.

I’ve enjoyed the Macy's parade in the past, but now it seems to showcase a lot of pop stars that I've never heard of, and, as it turns out, I'm glad that I hadn’t. Viewers had to endure several "songs" by a number of “musicians” as they (the "musicians") made their way past Herald Square before (we, the viewers) got to the real Thanksgiving treat — football.

I’ve been watching NFL football since I was a kid (and, by the way, here in Canada and the U.S. the game where they kick around a ball for half a day and somehow manage to not score a single point even though they’re aiming at a goal the size of New Brunswick, is called soccer). When I was a youngster my dad and I used to be impressed by the size of the players back then. “Those defensive linemen combined weigh over half a ton”, he’d say, duly impressed. No one would be impressed by that these days. Today’s average women’s tennis player must tip the scales about as much as yesterday’s defensive tackle.

The modern day defensive line makes the ones in my day look like four guys from our high school chess team. And the typical NFL offensive line weighs about the same as your average apartment building.

Soon enough (but not soon enough for my wife) the football season will be over. Then it will be time for the missus and I to depart on our very first cruise!

We might have to re-mortgage the house to pay for this voyage. Part of the cost is the many day trips we have planned at all the various stops along the way. I’m wondering though whether or not we should just stay on the ship and explore it from top to bottom. This ship makes the Titanic look like Scuffy The Tugboat.

But just exploring the ship could get kind of boring, Here’s an idea: instead of having excursions at the ports of call, you could have adventures right on the ship. For example, you could zipline from the bridge right into the upper deck swimming pool. The crew could lower a few lifeboats full of snorkeling and scuba enthusiasts into the shark-infested waters, miles from any port. Or you could bungee jump from the aft funnel. For the real adventurous, you could try your hand at Acapulco-cliff-style diving off the top deck into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.

Maybe we’ll see these things someday, but for now we’ve already booked our excursions. By the way, do we have to keep our passports with us at all times? What the heck am I supposed to do with it while I’m zipping along a steel cable 100 feet above an Antiguan forest canopy? Or where do I put it when I’m snorkelling in Barbados with those sea turtles? Am I supposed to secure it in some water-tight part of my anatomy?

Passports are a necessity these days. In Canada, you need to have your passport renewed every five years at a cost of $85 (I think). In addition, you need to have your application endorsed by a guarantor. At one time the guarantor needed to be a lawyer, doctor, veterinarian, school principle, CPA, pharmacist, or some other reliable professional. I’m not sure how they decided which professions were worthy of such responsibility. My CPA is a dirty rotten thieving sneak, while my bookie is a real upstanding guy.

Remember, when applying for a passport you will need:

- Completed forms
- Personal information
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of identity
- Fees
- Photos
- Guarantor
- A note from your mommy

Personally, I’d like to see passports that are valid for only six months and cost $1000. In addition, you would need a reference from all of the previously mentioned professionals. This would discourage people from traveling outside of Canada during the winter months. Then they would stay here and do some damn snow shoveling. I can’t do it all myself!!!!

If we enjoy our Caribbean trip, maybe we’ll book our next cruise to the Mediterranean and see Europe.

I think I’d like to see Europe. I’ve never been there. But it seems to me that Europe needs a paint job. I can see from many movies and television shows that several countries on that continent have never bothered to maintain or upgrade any of their buildings — peeling paint, plaster falling off here and there, bricks crumbling or missing. Maybe that’s supposed to be part of the charm and ambience of the place, but to us here in Canada where we need our shelters to be in tip-top shape, one can’t help but get the urge to call in Mike Holmes.

I most recently observed scenes of this state of disrepair while watching the movie The Reader. If you haven’t seen it, the film is about a young man who has a relationship with a woman about 20 years his senior. She’s illiterate, so he reads books to her. In exchange for the readings, he gets a nice bath — a real nice bath.

If the characters in this movie are representative of Europeans in general, then I would guess they’re a pretty clean people. It’s just their buildings that need some sprucing up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch some football. There must be a football game on somewhere, right?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Printed Nazis Occupy Minikin!

Attack of the Killer Printers

It seems that the problem of world hunger will soon be a thing of the past. The rising technologies of in-vitro meat and 3D printers are blazing the trail to ensure that every person on earth will have the need for a drawer full of Tums.

The test tube meat should make for an interesting culinary experience. Just imagine going to a fine five-star restaurant and catching a glimpse of the kitchen as the waiter bangs through the swinging door. Instead of pots, pans, and cooking utensils, you see a myriad of beakers, Bunsen burners, petri dishes, and pipettes. Of course the lab techs would still be wearing the traditional chef hats.

Then there's the gastronomical promise from 3D printers. As long as the raw materials are available, these printers can actually reproduce an edible cake! I’m assuming you just throw some flour, cocoa, sugar, a couple of raw eggs and a few chopped walnuts into some sort of print cartridge. Don’t throw out your color ink cartridge yet; you may want to use it to add a little color to the icing. Then you copy and paste a picture of a delicious looking cake morsel to your desktop, select print, and voila! an output worthy of what’s sure to become your default print device.

Copy and paste this photo and then use it to print out a tasty slice of devil's food cake. 
Note: You must use a cake-producing printer. Regular printers will just print out tasteless paper crap.

These 3D printers can also print working tools. One shudders to think the future might be should these printers become coupled to super computers. They may someday be able to reproduce themselves. Given the proper raw materials, they may even be able to print out a race of hostile beings. They might try to take over the world! This would make for a great horror film: Attack of the Killer Printers. Too bad Ed Wood isn't sill alive to realize this.

The military will undoubtedly want to take advantage of this new technology. In fact, Canon could probably land a lucrative military contract to produce printers which make actual cannons.

Occupy Minikin

There have been a great deal of news items these days regarding protesters occupying parks in various cities. Recently, someone captured a video of a police officer pepper-spraying a group of peaceful protesters square in the face. What was remarkable about the incident was the matter-of-fact blasé manner in which the cop assaulted this group   as if he were the Orkin man using a can of pesticide to rid the garden of a few pesky aphids. Considering the fact that this was all caught on video and that it has garnered so much negative attention, this nonchalant nincompoop should consider himself lucky if he's not submitting a job resume to Orkin in the near future.

I personally haven’t eye-witnessed any instances of the occupy movement. It’s likely that our hamlet of Minikin is just too small. Besides we’ve no park to hold the protest in. But a couple of our residents could occupy the nearby Mini mini-putt and send a message to the fat cats that run that goofy golf course that we won’t stand for their economic policies. That mini-putt must rake in hundreds of dollars each season by gouging the wallets of the vacationing youngsters that descend upon our area during spring and summer.

And we're not worried about setting up tents for inclement weather. We can just throw a tarp over the windmill, or castle, or the frame that supports the swingy thing that always hits my ball.

A little civil disobedience in Minikin is sure to have enormous impact on Wall Street.

Jawohl Mine Heir

...one born in my house is mine heir.
- Genesis 15:3

Here is a news item from QMI about a delightful little family:

"A New Jersey white supremacist couple, who have already had three kids seized from them by authorities, lost custody of their newborn son 17 hours after he was born. 

Heath and Deborah Campbell gained notoriety for giving their children Nazi-inspired names - Adolf Hitler Campbell, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell."

Aren't those lovely names? The report goes on to say:

"Authorities said that move was done because of past violence in the family, who lived in a home decorated with swastikas."

Doesn't that sound like a charming home? And finally:

"Both parents, according to court documents, have unspecified psychological and physical problems, have denied being neo-Nazis."

I’m not sure about that last line. If you give your kids names like Adolf Hitler and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, then I think your psychological problems are pretty specific. And they deny being neo-Nazis???!!! I guess they want to be thought of as classic old-time Nazis.

Can't you just picture Heath, Deboarah, Adolf Hitler, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, and Honszlynn Hinler all sitting around the piano in the parlor after Sunday dinner singing

...gimme that ol' time fascism
it's good enough for me...

... it was good enough for Hitler
 it’s good enough for me...

The news article also stated that the Campbells had previously gained notoriety when a store refused to decorate a birthday cake with the name Adolf Hitler on it.

Let’s just hope that if these people ever get their hands on those high-tech-produce-anything printers, they’ll just be content with creating a Hitler birthday cake and not a Hitler birthday.

And let's pray that we don't see a future where printer-produced Nazis occupy Minikin.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shoveling The Postulation

Forgive me, but it seems that I’ve incorrectly used the phrase “begging the question” in the past. For example, if I listened to what passes for music these days, I would have said that it begs the question, “why do we have ears?”

However, a little investigation reveals that I’ve been using the wrong phraseology. I should have been saying “raises the question".

From a Wikipedia article on begging the question:

Begging or assuming the point at issue consists (to take the expression in its widest sense) [of] failing to demonstrate the required proposition. But there are several other ways in which this may happen; for example, if the argument has not taken syllogistic form at all, he may argue from premises which are less known or equally unknown, or he may establish the antecedent by means of its consequents; for demonstration proceeds from what is more certain and is prior. Now begging the question is none of these. [...] If, however, the relation of B to C is such that they are identical, or that they are clearly convertible, or that one applies to the other, then he is begging the point at issue.... [B]egging the question is proving what is not self-evident by means of itself...either because predicates which are identical belong to the same subject, or because the same predicate belongs to subjects which are identical.

Which raises the question, “HUH?”

Dictionary.com defines the idiom as to assume the truth of the very point raised in a question.

That may be true, but, the examples used by many to to illustrate what begging the question is are statements, such as; “He is ugly because he’s unattractive” or  “Lying is wrong, because we ought always to tell the truth”.  Those in the supposed know will claim that those statements beg the question. Period.

Someone from another web site had this to say on the subject:

The phrase BEG THE QUESTION dates back to Aristotle and means to make the logical mistake of assuming the very thing that is to be proved (or in Latin ‘petitio principii,’ to beg the main point, assume without proof). Since 1990, however, it has sometimes been used to mean avoiding a straight answer. And an even more recent usage is ‘to raise the question.’ Since its meaning is now ambiguous it’s probably best to avoid it altogether and if one means ‘raise the question,’ just say so.

I think we should heed the advice in the quote above and just avoid the phrase altogether. Apparently, no one can figure out what it really means. It sounds as if Aristotle or whoever, just chose an arbitrary verb to describe a grammatical action. We could easily say that a sentence like, “Snow is cold because it is frozen precipitation” shovels the postulation.

So the next time you find yourself in a conversation and someone expresses some gobbledygook like,“Circular reasoning is different from the informal logical fallacy “begging the question", as it is fallacious due to a flawed logical structure and not the individual falsity of an unstated hidden co-premise as begging the question is” just look at them with pity and exclaim in the most patronizing tone you can muster, “That shovels the postulation. In fact, it shovels more than just postulation". You’ll undoubtedly make quite an impression.

On another grammatical note, one morning earlier this month, I was on the web site Dictionary.com where I saw the word of the day was keif  meaning drowsiness or dreamlike intoxication.

However, the pronunciation guide on the site had spelled it phonetically as keyf. Now I had correctly assumed it was pronounced to rhyme with leaf, or beef, or Donovan's Reef. But ey could sound like a long a, as in whey, or hey, or Susan Dey.

For some reason, I needed to know right away at 7AM how this word was pronounced. So I powered on my computer speakers and turned the thumbwheel down to adjust the volume to its lowest setting. At least I thought I had turned it that way. Apparently I had cranked the volume to the max. I leaned in close to place my delicate ear next to the speaker. I clicked on the sound symbol to hear the pronunciation from the demure female voice of Dictionary.com. An ear-splitting stentor blasted at me,


I was expecting my wife to storm into the room and whack me over the head with the keyboard. Actually, she’s very sweet. She just calmly walked over to where I was sitting and disconnected the speakers from the computer. She then grabbed the car keys, proceeded outside to the driveway, and ran over the speakers with our SUV. Not that it mattered much. I think they were pretty well blown at that point. My ears, that is.

Now I can "listen" to today's "music" in ignorant bliss. Which shovels the postulation...  well, never mind.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Goodbye Antler River – Hello Minikin Ontario

Greetings dear reader. I hope you weren’t literally holding your breath in anticipation of my next blog entry. But perhaps with bated breath you now see that a new post has finally arrived.

Note that I didn’t write “baited breath”. I’m sure that everyone who reads my blog has breath that smells mighty alluring, but the correct phrase is bated breath. I think.

Sally, having swallowed cheese,
Directs down holes the scented breeze,
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.

-  Cruel Clever Cat by Geoffrey Taylor

By the way, this is the first post from our new headquarters in Minikin Ontario.

“Never heard of the damn place”, you say. Well, you’re not alone. This place is small —  it’s tiny, minuscule, microscopic, Lilliputian; I dare say it’s almost non-existent.

It's too small to be called a town or even a village. Hamlet sounds right. That word evokes an image of a small place just big enough to house a few hamsters.

Minikin is so small that the sign welcoming you here says “Thank you. Come again!” on its other side.

Minikin is so small that the largest industry is Johnny and Suzie’s lemonade stand. The main source for news and information here is… well, you’re reading it.

And it’s not easy to find. To paraphrase my brother’s directions for getting here: You head north off the main highway onto Concession 3B until you reach East Horse Manure Road. Head west on East Horse Manure Road until you reach the second cornfield. Turn right midway down the cornfield and go about nine rows down. Turn left and ramble through a couple of acres until you get to a farmhouse. Walk up to the farmhouse, knock on the door, and ask the occupant, “Where the hell is Minikin?”

My brother likes to exaggerate. You only have to go down about six corn rows.

Speaking of horse manure, there was an article in today's Antler River Free Press about the theft of a manure hose. This is a special hose that is used to spread liquid manure. It is reported that the stolen hose was "valued" at between $15,000 and $20,000!!! Now that's one expensive fluid crap conduit!

The best part of the Free Press article is this last line, "The was coupled together in 200-metre sections. The first was black and the rest were orange." 

Do not you just love when you see writing like that that's real good? The proofreaders and editors is doing good job. 

I'm not sure what difference it makes what color the hose was. Perhaps for identification? My guess is that the police would be better off using their noses rather than their eyes when trying to locate the pilfered putrid poop pumper.

But let's get back to Minikin. One nice thing about this hamlet is that it is located on the shores of Lake Huron. Although my wife and I don’t have a lake view, we do often have a nice panorama of our neighbor swilling beer while sitting in a lawn chair next to a pickup truck in his driveway. However if you press the right side of your face hard against our side window and look to the far left, you can get a small glimpse of some water.

And we have a beach! Personally, I'm a cold weather kind of guy. However, not every month can be a snow shoveling one, so I do have to spend some time each year sweating it out in the midday sun. Lured with the bate bait  enticement of the cool water, I do take frequent swims in the world's largest freshwater lake

I actually went for a dip in the lake this November. And that water was COLD — colder than a snow-shoveler's implement. Due to that feat of lunacy, I've quickly gained a reputation as the wild man of Minikin. Even a hamlet has to have at least one wild man.

Even so, I'm not crazy enough to steal a manure hose.  

Monday, February 28, 2011

Peddling My Wears

The Boat, Fishing, and Leisure show recently wrapped up in our fair city of Antler River. I just love these shows filled with various exhibitors who are trying to get you to buy their products. Of course, they charge admission. I mean, it's only right that we should pay to watch someone peddle their own wares. It's like how people pay good money to wear an article of clothing that is boldly emblazoned with a corporate logo.

Business people aren't stupid. They know that the public will do the advertising for them. The boat show charges $10 a head. Even those who have little or no income are expected to hand over some jack. Seniors and children can fork out $8 and $5 respectively. Children under 6 are not charged admission since they cannot grasp the concept of free enterprise. They think the world and everyone in it should cater to them. They're all in for a rude awakening once they've lived a year past their fifth birthday.

An interesting item that was pitched at this year's show was the Firebuoy. This is a floating lightweight aluminum fire pit! You can have a barbecue or campfire right on the water! I don't know about you, but every single time I'm boating, or canoeing, or swimming, or even sitting in a hot tub, I think. "Gee-whiz. Why can't I have a barbecue or a campfire right here, right now?"

Everybody sing: "Smoke on the water... "

Incidentally, do they pronounce it Fire-boo-ee or Fire-boy? Personally, I like the pronunciation that rhymes with gooey. When someone pronounces it "boo-ee", then I'm certain as to what they're referring to. But if someone says there's a buoy out in the water (and pronounces it "boy"), then I'm likely to start running around looking for a life-boo-ee to throw to the boy who might not be very boo-ee-ant.

But back to the subject of advertising. I can see that publicity, promotion, and plugging is what my blog needs. I must get out there and beat the drum for my interests.

The Oscars were televised last night. If I'd had the foresight, business acumen, moxie, and moolah, then I might have flown out there and tried to convince one of the attendees to stroll down the red carpet with an official item of Snow Shoveling In Canada Evening Wear ®.

As well — being the author of such a noteworthy blog — I could probably have obtained a press pass and interviewed a few of the celebrities. I've heard some of those interviews. The hard-hitting attack style of questioning demonstrated by Mike Wallace is not required. You just need a microphone and the right amount of smarm.

Maybe next year. Oh buoy, I can hardly wait!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ah-Choo! Gemütlichkeit!

Winter is a great season to get together for a dinner, a party, a soirée, or some other social diversion. There are Super Bowl parties, Valentine’s parties, Oscar parties, and St. Patrick’s Day parties. But there’s no need for an excuse. A nice warm fete with friends, food, drink and perhaps some agreeable music seems to always be in order during this frosty interlude.

There is a German word for those fuzzy snuggly moments that one experiences in these distinct winter social gatherings: Gemütlichkeit.

A Wikipedia article describes the word as meaning more than just comfy and cozy. It states, in part, “... rather than merely describing a place that is compact, well-heated and nicely furnished (a cozy room, a cozy flat), Gemütlichkeit connotes the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time”.

One drawback however, to this social warmth is the danger of contracting the dread acute viral rhinopharyngitis. This affliction seems more frequent this time of year, but it is not because of any exposure to the frigid elements. Rather, it’s due to contact with infected people who think nothing of sneezing or coughing in your face during one of the aforementioned shindigs. 

But we can be pro-active and take steps to reduce susceptibility to this illness:

• Drink fluids (especially orange juice)
• Get plenty of exercise (squeezing oranges to get some juice is highly recommended)
• Wash hands frequently (with orange juice, if possible)
• Use saline sprays (or orange juice) to irrigate nasal passages

Remember these tips the next time you have a get-together, like your upcoming annual World Figure Skating Championship party.

This year’s event will take place in Tokyo at Yogi’s Gym, and the competition will be fierce. These competitors are incredible athletes; displaying agility, strength, poise, skill, and impressive butt muscles. Just try to imagine the pressures that these skaters face.

Picture this: here you are, after years of dedication and practice, ready to compete in the most important event in your life. Not only do you have to perform at a top-notch level, but you have to look your absolute best as well. Hairstylists, make-up artists, and fashion designers are consulted in order to make you look as if you stepped off of the front page of Glamour.

You gracefully glide onto the ice to appreciative applause. Some schmaltzy version of "Lara's theme" blares through the loudspeakers as your routine begins. You look magnificent. Then you get ready to perform your first spinning leap (perhaps a triple sow cow, a quadruple axle, or a quintuple klutz). The crowd is hushed in breathless anticipation. You leap ten feet into the air, looking like Baryshnikov or Bessmertnova on blades; spinning like a dervish. You land — and fall; ignominiously sliding on your ass for the entire length of the ice in front of the thousands present and millions of viewers worldwide.

I can think of no other sporting event where there is such incongruity between what you want to portray and what you end up looking like. The only scenario that could possibly come close would be in an equestrian dressage event attended by royalty and the upper crust. If one of the participants were to land face first into a sloppy mixture of mud and manure, then that might equal the mortification of the skater’s gluteal glissade.

It would be nice if no one fell this year, but I believe the average number of keester-to-ice landings during these championships is about 197; so it is likely there will be many sore cabooses during that week.

Ah-Choo! And sore noses. Ah-Choo! Gesundheit. Ah-Choo! Goodnight and gemütlichkeit.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Second Annual SSIC Poetry Contest

It's back by popular demand! We at Snow Shoveling in Canada are proud to announce the winners of the Second Annual SSIC Poetry Contest.

Entries this year were judged on creativity, rhythm, intonation, and the amount of palm grease supplied to the judges.

First we'd like to reprint a couple of limericks that were entered. These are usually not considered pure "poetry" by most balladry buffs, but we thought these were the best submissions of that ilk.


When shoveling in snow cold and brisk
Beware of the dangers and risk.
Remember this please:
"Keep back straight, bend the knees"
Or you'll find that you've slipped a disc.


There once was a man from Ontario
Who wanted to be a Lothario,
But his problems were such
That he couldn't rise much
With regards to his ol' ding-dong-derry-o.

That's enough of those.

We don't want you champing at the bit any longer for the good stuff, so here are this year's winners:



Late last night while fast asleep,
a strange dream dreamt this dreamer —
A tiny basal primate was I,
from toe to head to femur.

Living 'neath a canopy
with vines that hang like streamers,
then slumber broke and I awoke —
a man, and not a lemur.

SECOND PRIZE (we've decided not to make a joke about a poet lariat here):


After hitting the trail
where I rode hill and dale,
I retire to the tub
to get a good scrub.

What method’s a must
to wash off this dust?
The cleansing solution
is in this ablution.



Frankenstein, Frankenstein
Created a monster six-foot-nine,
Of tremendous strength and abnormal brain;
Doctor and creature — both insane.

HONORABLE(?) MENTION (from the same "poet" who submitted the above entry):


If you should go swimming in the Black Lagoon,
Make sure you are armed with a good harpoon.
Or you may find that you'll need a surgeon
If you bump into this half-man, half-sturgeon.

There you have it. The best of the submissions. Ugh. If we don't receive anything better next year, then this may very well be the last annual SSIC poetry contest.

Whatever happened to great poetry? You know, the kind written by all those Lords; like Lord Byron, Lord Tennyson, and Lord Athol Layton.

The Wrestling Interviewer by Lord Athol Layton

In the wrestling ring I can be quite a brute.
When I interview I'm genteel and astute.

Between those ropes I can maim and I can bruise
But when I talk I can charm and I can schmooze.

So best keep in mind if I should chat with you;
Do not misbehave or that choice you may rue.

Act orderly or l will have to make you stop
With my signature patented judo chop.

Well alright; maybe Lord Layton wasn't the best of your lordly poets. But I'll bet no one ever addressed him by any of his names other than "Lord" or "Mr. Layton"!

I remember one of my favorite poems was by Lord Tennyson. I think it was an ode to a bank robber. I believe it was called The Illegal. Let's see if I can recall how it goes:

He grasps the bag with crooked hands;
Close to the cash that he demands,
Wronged by the lawful world he stands.

The silent bank alarm now calls;
A SWAT team waits outside the walls,
And like all criminals he falls.

Or something like that

In closing, I'd like to quote the poet Percy Shelley (who was not a Lord but a Bysshe) who said, "Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds."

Keep in mind that happiest and best are used in the very loosest sense with regards to the poetry presented here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Canadian Snow Shoveler in Cancún's Airport

My wife and I just recently returned from a vacation in Mexico, only to be greeted by a major blizzard that swept across the eastern portion of the U.S. and into Southern Ontario. The news on the radio said that we missed the brunt of the storm and received only 10 centimeters of the expected 30.

Well, if you grabbed a ruler and measured in some arbitrary spot on the driveway, you might come up with a measurement of 10 centimeters. The drifts were more like half a meter; and HEAVY. Holy mackerel, that stuff felt as if I were shoveling lead pellets.

One of my favorite parts of a vacation is that tradition known as "the packing of the luggage". My wife — like all wives — gets to use the largest suitcase. It's amazing how much stuff she can cram into that thing, and yet she somehow manages to keep it under the allowable weight limit by just a few micrograms. I swear all women must take a course — Suitcase Cramming 101. Her carry-on bag alone contains enough goods to fill a small department store. If she were to pack my needs for a vacation, she'd be able to fit it all into a clutch purse.

The first delightful moment of our trip took place upon our arrival at Toronto's Pearson International Airport at 3am. We were advised that our flight would be delayed by twelve hours. This brought much glee to our hearts since we could think of no better way to start our vacation than by spending the day in Toronto in -20C weather. And our airline was great about what they perceived to be an inconvenience to us. They booked rooms for all of the out-of-town passengers at a nearby hotel and gave us a voucher for one meal (and that was only right; for who needs more than one meal over a twelve hour period?)

A bit of a problem arose however when the woman at the airline check-in wrote on the hotel vouchers that we were to stay at the Quality Holiday Best Westin, or something like that. A mob of us scrambled down to where the hotel shuttles were and harassed every driver until we found one that was willing to take us all to a Best Western. After a nice eight minute sleep and one meal, we were quite refreshed and raring to get back to the airport.

Airport security is, of course, a highlight of any travel destination. Scanners, pat-downs, metal detectors, the third degree — it's all good. After sufficient probing, prodding, pestering and poking we were allowed to board our plane.

The flight was great fun also, what with all the commotion in the cramped aisle next to my seat — people brushing their butts against my shoulder while I'm trying to do a crossword or eat my gourmet airline food.

Once that four hours of pure joy ended, it was on to phase two of the pleasurable airport experience — immigration. One thing I didn't expect though was to have our luggage scanned by Mexican security as we were coming off the aircraft. But, when you think of it, this makes perfect sense. One of the passengers could be a MacGyver-like character who could have fashioned some sort of weapon out of items gleaned from the plane: plastic cutlery, magazines, left-over cole slaw and a couple of barf bags. However, I can't think of a reason why anyone would want to bring a weapon to an all-inclusive resort on the Mayan Riviera, unless it was used to ward off some of those pushy timeshare sales people.

We then spent a week in the sun at our resort, but the winds were so heavy that pelicans were being blown all over the palm-tree-lined Mexican sky. Otherwise the stay was uneventful, unless you count the incident where our beach towels were stolen. Of course it was my pleasure to pay $30 per towel for this person's much needed yen for thievery. And if I may, I'd like to now publicly thank him or her for their thoughtful act (you know who you are, you unscrupulous sleazeball).

The mirth continued on our return to Cancún airport for our journey home. Security singled us out to have our carry-on luggage rummaged through. This was understandable as my wife and I look like your typically boring, mid-fifties, middle-class, terrorist touristas. The agent showed us his badge before mistreating our belongings. This was done lest we took him for an airport washroom attendant with a fetish for fondling baggage.

We agreed to have him take a look but he wanted us to open the bags. I believe this is the same policy that is used if you happen to find yourself being strip searched and having the exit area of your anatomy examined — it's up to you to open your cheeks.

The flight home was the usual delight, but it was Canadian customs that really brightened my day. We had no problem with the stern young man who gave us a card verifying that we were OK to go-ahead. But for some reason we had to show this card at several checkpoints beyond him. Perhaps all these people were doing the exact same job, but each person we subsequently encountered had more job experience than the last. The first guy was probably a first day or first week trainee.

Anyway, we made it home safe and sound after a relaxing two hour drive down the peaceful Highway 401. But you know, in retrospect, air travel to foreign countries is a mite tiresome. Perhaps next year our winter getaway will be a land journey to Moose Factory.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Southern Ontario Is A Gigantic Elephant!

I can just imagine the reaction of anyone who might stumble across this blog: "What in tarnation do these damn posts have to do with snow shoveling — and what the hail does it have to do with Canada?!!!"

I must admit, I have strayed off the titular subject matter just a tad since I started this blog. But rest assured you snow shoveling fans, that it has snowed a great deal here in this part of Canada so far this year, and I've done my fair share of shoveling.

Although Antler River lies almost midway between Windsor (which is across the river from Detroit) and Toronto, we get much more snow than any of those cities. That's because we lie in a region known as the snow belt. You can see where Antler River is located on the map below.

Southern Ontario doing a great impression of an elephant

I have the map oriented in such a way that north is pointing east. This is to show you that Southern Ontario is an elephant! Windsor is at the trunk. Toronto and its suburbs (Scarborough, North York, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, etc.) are located on one of the back legs. Antler River is located at about the base of the neck, or where you would imagine the elephant's ear might hang down to.
Personally, I think our geographic elephant is far superior to Italy's geographic boot. And although Italy is known for manufacturing fine footwear, I don't know of anyone who would want to purchase or wear a boot that looks like that.

But back to the subject of winter precipitation. The snow belt that we lie in is due to lake effect snow (or squalls) blowing in off Lake Huron. The squalls are usually heaviest in December when the lake waters are still relatively warm. We've really had some doozies this year.

Although Antler River receives a lot of snow, we don't hold a frosted candle to Owen Sound in that department. That city is the snowiest in all of Ontario. You can see that Owen Sound is located... ahem.... its position is at the... uhh... well... let's just say that it sits at an undesirable part of the elephant's anatomy. It gets lake effect snow from both Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

From the musical Owen Sound!  —

The snow is as high as an elephant's rump,
For this town sits where you might expect a good dump...

An elephant doing a great impression of Southern Ontario

Still, the fact remains that Antler River does get a lot of snow. My wife and I — on a trip to Mexico a few years back — ran into another couple from Canada, and I commented to the husband that it was nice to get away from the snow for awhile.

"Where are you from?" he grumbled.
"Antler River", I gleefully responded.
His short retort was a scornful snort, "Hmpfh, Antler River."
"Why, good sir? Where are you from?" I amiably inquired.
He was snide, and replied with ironic pride that he was from Winnipeg.
Urbane and sane, I refrained disdain and explained, "Antler River gets much more snow than Winnipeg, my good fellow."

And we do. Almost twice as much. But unlike chilly "Winterpeg", the snow here melts frequently, and so it appears as if we have less.

Yet we have more. But not right now. It melted again today. Still we get more. But they might have more right now. But we will get more. And so will they. Theirs will stay. Ours won't.

But we do get more. Believe me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Introducing the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl

Christmas dinner was more than two weeks ago, but we still have some leftovers in the refrigerator. As I mentioned in a previous post, I "volunteered" to do the cooking this year.

I did have a little trouble however with the gravy. For the life of me, I couldn't get it to thicken up. At first, it had the consistency of very thin water. After adding what seemed like a cornfield of cornstarch, it thickened up to the viscosity of consommé. Undaunted, I added more and more cornstarch until it had at least a modicum of resemblance to gravy. I didn't realize that it would continue thickening on its own from pan to gravy boat to dinner table.

By the way, would you find a gravy boat in the galley of a navy boat? Just curious.

Anyway, after I finally sat down to dinner, I asked my niece to pass the gravy. "It's kinda thick", she said. After attempting to pour it on my mashed potatoes, I then asked her to pass me the ice cream scooper. I'm saving the leftover gravy until the spring. Then I'll use it to patch up any potholes in our driveway.

Dinner is just one of the highlights of the holiday season. For me, the college bowl games are always a treat at this time of year. Unfortunately, I live in Canada where ice hockey reigns supreme. Many Canadians are probably not aware that other sports even exist.

Popular beliefs notwithstanding, not all Canadians are fans of ice hockey. For example, on my list of favorite sports you'll find it somewhere below seniors snooker and celebrity curling, and just ahead of celebrity seniors hurling.

Hockey's World Junior Championship tournament takes place during the holidays, and so fans of the game get what they want. What they don't want is for Canada to lose. That happened this year as the Russians took the crown. There were so many long faces around afterward that I felt as if I was smack dab in the middle of a Modigliani exhibit. I was half expecting Stephen Harper to declare a day of mourning after the loss.

"The Canadian Hockey Fan" by Modigliani

One consequence of all the televised hockey was that a great many of the bowl games were not shown here. I missed the Gator Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl. I even missed the Beef O'Brady's Bowl!

Can you imagine how honored the teams must have felt to play in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl? The trend these days is to name the bowl games after the company sponsoring it. There are even some games named after dot-com companies — like the Insight.com and the GoDaddy.com bowls. There are so many college bowl games that I'm considering starting a new one next year called the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl. Of course, that game will be played in the snow.

So next year, I might just park myself in front of the TV, grab a boat of gravy, pour it on my bowl of Beef O'Brady's, and watch the Canshovel.Blogspot.com Bowl. If it's televised.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'll Take My Fruit In A Bowl Of Smoking Bishop

Another Holiday Season has come and gone. New Year's Day I had a severe case of the fuzzies and woozies brought about by the previous night's revelry where — as Bob Cratchit would say — "I was making rather merry". However, the mind-altering liquids that I was quaffing had a little more smoke than the smoking bishop enjoyed by Cratchit and Scrooge.

Fruit is well represented in a bowl of smoking bishop — oranges, grapefruit, and fermented grapes.

Winter pretty well marks the end of the fruit eating season for me. Not that I eat much fruit anyway. I've always felt that they — along with vegetables — are the most overrated of your basic food groups. Let's face it; they're either too ripe, not ripe enough, have too many seeds and pits, are too sour, are too sweet, are too bland, or they're just plain yucky (like papaya).

I'd like to eat more fruits and vegetables and cut down on my intake of meat, I really would. I once even made a miserable attempt at becoming a vegan. I subsisted mainly on bread and water. But after a week or so, I felt that I was getting a little fuzzier and woozier every day. My wife (upon realizing that this was not the result of a New Year's Eve-like aftermath) insisted that I return to the world of carnivores.

I am aware that fruits and vegetable are essential to good health, so I do try to incorporate them into my digestive routine. A couple of times a week I'll partake in a glass of vegetable cocktail and maybe a dill pickle to go along with a grilled cheese sandwich. The cocktail takes care of several veggies. Could the dill that's used to flavor the pickle be considered a vegetable? How about the vinegar? I'm sure it's made from some fruit or vegetable (or by-product thereof) that's been fermented.

Apple cider is one way that I get all my monthly fruit requirements. I'll savor a glass now and then while it's in season. But, like apples, good cider becomes harder to find as winter progresses. Don't get me wrong; I'm no great fan of apples either.

I remember a day trip a few years back when my wife and I happened upon an apple orchard that had a roadside store. They had an impressive variety of apples and apple products. My intention was to buy some apple butter and be done with my pomaceous fruit needs for the year. The proprietor of the place had an enthusiasm for apples that would have made Johnny Appleseed proud. He could discern the subtle differences in each variety like a wine connoisseur. However, unlike the verbose wine aficionados, this guy used the same adjectives to describe each variety and just scrambled his descriptive order.

McIntosh:  Sweet, yet crunchy and tart.
Empire:  Tart, yet sweet and crunchy.
Idared:  Crunchy, yet tart and sweet.
Spartan:  Scrunchy, yet art and tweet.

Personally, I would never describe an apple as art, nor would I think it anything worth tweeting about. I think our apple expert was a little put off when we hightailed it out of there with our only purchase — the apple butter.

Another reason I dislike fruit is the fact that some of them have a very, very, very short shelf life. Bananas are the most blatant representative of this fact. I swear that I have on occasion bought five extremely green bananas, and by the next day they were lying there looking like an old brown baseball glove.

In order to really enjoy bananas, they must be eaten at a very precise moment. You must stare at them from the moment they are bought. Sometime overnight you will notice that they have become ready for consumption. You'd better like bananas however, because if you don't eat the whole bunch, the rest become ingredients for banana bread. I'm sick of banana bread.

I do admit that I like cherries and watermelon, but these are only enjoyed in the spring and summer. Until then, I have a container of prunes in the fridge. That's enough fruit to last me for me for the next four or five months.