April Fools

That’s what the wife and I are.  April fools.  We’ve been buying a computer tax program and filing on-line now for over five years.  We bought and installed the program over a month ago.  The son calculated and filed his taxes.  He has to pay $24.  Nobody is ready to pay taxes, even if it is only $5.  Everybody hopes for and expects a refund.  The daughter took the program to her house and put it on her computer; it will do up to five returns.  She did her taxes, and has a small refund coming.  The grandson has his first (part-time) job.  He did his taxes and got a thousand back, part of which he gave to his Mom.

Unlike Americans, who have to file by the fifteenth of April, Canadians have until the end of the month.  Good intentions did not get our taxes done until the last minute.  They’re due no later than midnight, Monday, the 30th …today.  We finally finished them late yesterday afternoon.  We file together, but not as a joint file.  We split certain income and expenses.  The program balances taxes owed.  We will have to pay $252.  Canada’s bureaucratic system prevents us from sending the government that amount.  First, I have to give them my $650, upfront.  Then, whenever RevCan gets around to it, they will send her a refund for $400.  Well, somebody gotta pay for that socialized medicine.  I just hoped that it would be more somebody else, and less me.

For twenty years, at the plaza four blocks away, there were a Pizza Hut, and a Taco Bell, side by side.  Two years ago, the Pizza Hut closed down.  A new restaurant just reopened in the same building.  It’s a glorified pancake house, headquartered in B.C., like a Denny’s, or perhaps IHOP.  Last Saturday, the son and I stopped in to the Taco Bell, for a late lunch, about three PM.  I met the daughter of the Polish contessa, or maybe the sister of the Canadian Tire clerk.  As we entered, there were the usual inner/outer double doors.  On each of these doors, at adult eye height, was a notice stating that this particular Taco Bell would be closed as of Saturday, April 28.  Just inside these doors was the access door to the washrooms.  There was another copy of this notice there, and possibly copies on each of the washroom doors, I don’t know for sure.  I didn’t use the facilities

There was only one customer when we entered, a 20ish young woman.  Since the place was almost deserted, the male counter clerk had come out to do some clean-up.  I said, “You’re not even gone, and I miss you already.  Do you get to transfer to another location, when they close this place?”  The female brain-trust perked up.  “Oh, they’re closing this restaurant?  How do you know?”  Well, for the clerk, the answer would be that he works there, and management tells him things like that.  For the son and me, I pointed to the notices on the doors and told her that we read them on the way in.  “Oh, I didn’t look.  I guess I missed them.”  Please tell me that she walked here.  I shudder at the thought of her driving a car.

They say an honest politician is one who, when he’s been bought, stays bought.  My provincial representative has been bought.  She’s a she, and she’s been the rep. for this riding for 22 years.  She’s quite a worker, and very influential.  She’s never openly expressed a desire or intent to be the leader of her party.  Twice though, she’s been made Deputy Premier to a male.  The latest one, when they opened a dictionary to the word bland, his picture fell out.  The ruling party has a minority.  They can get enough friendly votes to get most bills passed.  They just floated the budget and, instead of doing the hard, right things to strengthen Ontario’s economy, they went with political expediency.  The ruling party had to woo the number three party with some money for their favorite projects to assure enough votes to get the budget passed.  The balance is still close though.

This female politico is sixty-five years old.  If she retires now, she will get a gold-plated government pension that most of us could only dream of.  The Provincial Premier has offered her a five-year contract as the CEO of the Provincial Health and Safety Bureau.  She’s been making $118,000 a year as our representative.  This offer lets her start collecting that outrageous pension immediately, and guarantees her another five years at $168,000 a year.  It also reduces the opposition by one vote on the budget vote.  A by-election can’t fill her seat till long after the vote is taken, and it removes a trouble-maker who might have led a campaign against the spendthrift party’s financial plans.

I don’t think the Premier himself is smart enough to have come up with this plan.  Somebody in his circle though, has used our rapidly diminishing money to ensure that they can spend more of our rapidly diminishing money.  If we’re going to go bankrupt anyway, perhaps I could move to Holland or Greece.  Thank God my pensions and benefits plan are guaranteed by the Federal government and the American, Big Three, auto-makers.

Better Living With Beer

Dos Equis

No, this will not be a paean of praise for Demon Rum and his little cousins, but, if I don’t let this post run too long, there will be an explanation, down near the bottom, of how I used alcohol to identify the cause of some of my problems.  I’ve never been much of a drinker.  The number of times I’ve been really lit is small but, I noticed that the percentage of assholeitis was significant, so I stopped.  When I worked, I drank six or seven beers every third week.  It took me almost the first year I was retired, to get through a whole case.  The next year I killed an 18-pack my son, the teetotaler, got from his employer.  I still have half of a bottle of mead I got a year ago Christmas.

I have a few mental and physical things that cause me to not achieve what my IQ level says I might.  First, in a cruel twist of genetic fate, I got my Dad’s torso, and my little Mom’s limbs.  I almost never wear long-sleeves, because they hang down over my hands.  My pants have a 36 waist, and a 29 in. inseam.  Try to locate those.  I can find and wear 30 in. because I wear them over knee-high boots.  I worked for a while with a young woman with the opposite problem.  She was a tall girl, five foot eleven, same as me, but where my legs were 29 in., her inseam was 36.  She had seven inches more leg than I did.

I learned my shortcomings and how to deal with them, almost on an unconscious level.  In high school, when the jocks were body-checking each other on the basketball court, I was over in the gymnastics area, practicing box vaults and high-bar moves.  Couldn’t carry luggage for an Olympian, but I found out that being upside-down, six feet above the floor scared the hell out of most of these guys.

When the weather was good and we went outside, and these future civic leaders were butting heads like mountain goats, on the football field, I was over at the pole vault pit, trying to throw myself over a bamboo stick, fourteen feet in the air.  I was the Senior school champion because there was no-one else my age crazy enough to try it.  I got to go to the Regional meet, where I came in fourth.  I wasn’t even good at things I was good at.

One time the coach wanted all of us to at least try, all of the field events, long jump, high jump, and hop-step-and-jump.  I raced down the track, did a little hop, took a short wee step, planted my short, powerful little frog legs, and gave a mighty jump.  The coach almost fainted.  My jump was longer than the jump of the Regional champion.  Now, if he could just get me to stretch out my hop and step, we might have a winner.  I tried, Lord I tried.  Lengthened the hop by a foot, stretched the step by a foot….I could feel it, even in mid-air.  Came down for the jump all off-balance and out of position, and jumped….four feet shorter than I had before.  The coach wanted me to keep trying, but I could see failure.  I could have practiced for a year, and it wouldn’t have happened.  Back to the pole vault.

When I worked at the auto-parts plant, it was a MAD rotation.  A week of midnight shift, a week of afternoons, and a week of days.  There was a road-house bar in the strip-plaza across the street.  It was a tradition, that some of us went over for a beer, or seven, after work, Thursdays at eleven PM.  There was the hard-drinking core who always went, and then there were others who might or might not show up, any given Thursday.  The union president started his evening with two double screwdrivers and then wanted a beer every ten minutes.

I usually went, but never had more than two bottles.  I had a motorcycle to ride home.  I like the occasional dark beer, Newcastle Brown Ale, Heineken Dark, which I have to go to the States for; they don’t sell it in Ontario.  I went over one Thursday night and found my friend with a big mug of something dark.  The bar had started selling Smithwicks Ale, and they served it in a big twenty-ounce frosted mug.  Mmmh, I’ll have me one of them.  The “sorting information from ambient noise” problem set in immediately.  Eight guys at our table, four to a side, two hundred rowdies watching a hockey playoff game on eight screens, half a dozen waitresses, yelling at customers, or the bartender.  I had to keep saying WHAT, to my buddy, right across the table from me.

I made to leave after one mug, but the conversation was good, if I could make it out, so I ordered another.  Just as it arrived, so did another line-mate who had had to run a couple of errands first.  He wanted to know what my friend and I were drinking.  I told him, and he ordered one, to try it.  When it arrived, he took one sip of it, curled his lip, shoved it in front of me and told me to finish it.  Oh good, now I have sixty ounces of beer to drink, the equivalent of five bottles.  I girded my loins and dug in.  Almost to the bottom of the third mug, something wonderful occurred.  Suddenly everything got clear.  I could make out what my friend was saying.  I understood the rest of the people at the table, and the guys over in the corner, and the bartender.  I knew what the score in the hockey game was.

Part of my neurological syndrome is like continuous, low-grade epilepsy.  The neurons in my brain just over-fire all the time.  Sucking back that amount of beer had sedated me to the point that it ran “normal”.  I don’t want to be like Kid Shilleen, the drunken gunfighter in the movie Cat Ballou, so I do the best I can with what I’ve got, without the booze.


It’s the 24th of April in Southern Ontario.  I live as far south as Detroit, and it Snowed today.  Wha’Happun?  Did we not get Mother Nature a nice enough present for Earth Day?

I took the car to the Chevy Dealer last week, to have them Deal with the no-start problem.  As I suspected, the charge was almost $600.  Then the service manager said the traction control/ABS brakes thing was a separate problem that would take almost another $500 to cure.  The cats may have to go on a diet when we start eating their food.  I don’t know whether any one of these fixes has taken care of the fainting speedometer, and I haven’t been locked out of the car recently.  My key would sometimes fail to turn in the lock, but that was just because it is the most-used, and most-worn.  They charged me six bucks and cut me a new one.  The wife traded her seldom-used one to the son.

I found another automotive idiosyncrasy the other day.  We stopped at the pharmacy, on the way home from the wife’s doctor, with a list of prescriptions.  As usual, she wasn’t feeling too energetic, so I went in alone, leaving the keys in the ignition.  Just as I was coming back out, in hobbled the wife.  She had remembered a question or two she wished to put to the pharmacist.  She told me she had pushed the door-lock button, as she got out.  I asked her for my keys.  Oh, were they still in the lock?  She has her purse, does she have her keys?  Yes! At least we aren’t locked out.  I walked over to the car and opened the driver’s door, and turned to look at her.  She was still fumbling to get out the remote on her key-ring.  Apparently, if you leave the keys in the ignition and push the lock button, all the doors lock, except the driver’s.  So there sat the car, with the driver’s door unlocked, keys in the ignition, and no-one watching it.  The only thing missing was a large sign on the roof reading, Steal Me.

The day after I posted about taking the daughter to pick up her hearing assistors at the better hearing clinic, I read a short piece in the local paper that said that two employees from the clinic in the next city, which we used, and one from a branch in a city down the highway, were arrested and charged with fraud.  It is Alleged that they overbilled for goods and services and charged for services not rendered to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, the Canadian Ministry of Health and the Federal Long-term Assistive Devices Program.  My guess that they were under investigation was correct.  We’ll never get the stolen money back, and now we’ll have to pay more to have them prosecuted, and possibly jailed.

I’m still reading.  They’re still S**tting.  A story in the local paper is headlined, “In pursuit of riches in the asteroid belt.”  It’s about a plan to capture near-Earth asteroids, and mine them for things like platinum, which is really valuable, as well as water for human space-use, and iron, for building structures in space.  It would be relatively easy and inexpensive to do because these hunks of rock are closer than the moon.  They are Not, however, as implied, in the asteroid belt, which is a couple of hundred million miles away.

Quebec, our beloved Francophone province, has a Quebec Office of the French Language, despite the fact that the poutine they speak is almost incomprehensible to people in France.  When they import French-language movies, made in Paris, they have to have subtitles to be understood.  This warehouse of cultural egotism threw a snit-fit last week.  A hospital in Montreal, where 75% speak English, purchased some soiled linen baskets from a supplier in the USA.  The baskets say, ”Soiled linen”.  The petty language police got up on their Frogs-legs to protest mocking their culture and disrespect for Quebec’s linguistic uniqueness.  Dear Quebec; Get over yourselves!  After the Battle of The Plains of Abraham, two hundred years ago, you were offered the options of being a defeated people, or a productive, co-operative part of this great country.  Please choose one and shut up about it.

Over the years, many people have suggested that those receiving social assistance, welfare, unemployment, etc., should be required to perform some sort of service for the community which supports them.  Various provinces and cities have enacted ordinances which prevent this.  For example, the number of hours put in, divided into the amount of money given to an individual, might result in a figure less than the minimum wage law.  We can’t have that.  That might incite someone to actually get a paying job.  Just keep handing the money over with no strings attached.

Some social engineers have come up with a back-door approach which gets around some of these problems.  The Language-Nazi doesn’t have any great objection to a scheme which will reduce the Unnecessary burden on an already strained economy.  I am steamed, however, about what they’ve decided to call it.  When someone is forced to put in work without direct payment, it will be known as Mandatory Volunteerism.  This joins Military Intelligence, and Government Ethics as one of the most linguistically self-contradictory phrases ever invented.

BrainRants would probably tell you that, this is the Army system, just without the stupid name.  “I want three volunteers!  You, you and you!”  My handicapped daughter lives in geared-to-income housing.  She can’t sweep sidewalks or clear drains, but she is the president of the housing complex she lives in, and puts in lots of hours on her computer, making sure that goods and services are obtained, and payments are made.


By The Numbers

A conversation with my son the other day, about production at his job, made me think of some of the significant numbers I experienced at a few of my factory jobs.  I like to think that I “decided” to leave the middle management rat-race, park my brain at the punch-clock, and leave the worrying to someone else.  Reality is that I had the rug pulled out from under me by a company president with no regard for rules or business morals.  This attitude got him killed when he flew his private plane too low, to buzz some friends, and tangled with a poplar tree.

I tried outside sales, but the only companies who hired me were too small to be able to pay a living wage.  I worked in janitorial for a while.  The small company couldn’t pay enough, and, believe it or not, in the larger corporation, there was a lot of political manoeuvring.  The new site manager had a friend who needed a job and suddenly my 40 hour scheduled week was a zero hour scheduled week.  I wasn’t fired, I just had no income.  I got into security for a year or so, but it was worse than the janitorial.  I’m just not good at sucking up.

At a shoe plant, I found that the leather cutting foreman was a man I’d worked with at a skate plant, twenty-five years before.  He needed a cutting press operator, and promised better money and job security.  It lasted a little over a year before the company went belly up.  I almost got locked inside when the receivers put padlocks on the doors.

To cut leather for boots, you pull it up over a cutting platen, swing a twenty-pound cutting head out, place the die for the best use of the leather, swing the twenty-pound head back in and push two buttons.  A hydraulic pump pounds the head down, and then releases, making the cut.  Then you push out, place, pull in, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I didn’t own a motorcycle at that time, but I had read all the safety information.  Make eye contact with oncoming drivers, especially at intersections.  The wife needed the car one day, so I was riding my bicycle to work.  I was going downhill, moving almost as fast as the cars.  I saw a woman approaching the corner from the other side with her left signal on.  I made the eye contact.  She acknowledged my presence….and then turned left right in front of me.  It wasn’t even a near-miss.  I hit her right in front of the front wheel.  She climbed out and said, “I didn’t think you were going that fast.”  The bike was toast, and I high-dived over the hood, and did a right-side shoulder roll.  Other than a tender shoulder, I (thought I) was fine.  We exchanged insurance information and I got my wife to drive me to the plant.

I later figured that I did about four thousand of those push-out, pull-ins with the twenty-pound weight.  I got a ride home, went to bed, and woke up with a locked shoulder, swollen to small watermelon size.  My doctor informed me that I had separated the shoulder and only made it worse with the exercise.  Four thousand is not a happy number.

When I worked at a metal-stamping plant, the first job I had was as a cut-off press operator, chopping 20-foot pieces of small steel channel to length, for drawer slides.  I had to cut them and make sure they were neatly stacked in a bin.  This was perhaps the worst job I ever had.  The entire plant was a cacophony of noise, oil used to lubricate the cuts soaked boots and got into clothing, and the parts had razor-sharp burrs on them.  There wasn’t a night I came home without three or four little nicks and cuts.

I worked a ten-hour shift.  One night I got the same material for three different length orders.  I had got quite adept at setting up my own press quickly.  We were paid a bonus for fast work, but set-up time was paid at a shitty base rate.  Also, if I could get the parts to fall neatly into the bin, I spent more time cutting (and earning) and less time making neat.  By the end of the shift I astounded the foreman by having cut and stacked, just over thirty-one thousand parts.  I thought at the time it was a record I would never beat….until I got a job, years later, at another stamping plant.

This job was perhaps the best one I ever had.  I could sit to do the work, the steel parts were only as big as the end of my thumb, and someone else had to punch them out.  All I had to do was feed them right-side-up through a machine that sanded that slight burr off.  If one went though wrong-side up, I had to dig in a four-foot square tub and remove it.  There was zero error tolerance.  Feeding the parts correctly was important.  I have muscle-control and co-ordination problems, but the parts were small, and I have a good eye.  Again, at the end of a ten-hour shift, we calculated that I had processed Thirty-Eight Thousand of these little widgets.  The department foreman even went so far as to tell the plant manager where I, and several other employees, could hear, that no-one had ever done that many of these parts in a shift.  He said that he had workers who had been with the company for ten and fifteen years, and the best he had ever seen was eighteen thousand.  Then the 2008 recession hit, and I went looking for another job.

When I worked at the auto-part plant, it was common for people to move from job to job, some every year.  They put me on a press, cutting a firewall pad for CJ Jeeps, and I stayed with it for over seven years.  It was a Goldilocks job that no-one else liked, but I must not have been too tall, or too short, or too weak, or too strong.  I loved it.  When you sell parts to the Big Three, you don’t increase your price as labor and material costs rise.  In fact, you are supposed to find production efficiencies, and actually reduce your price each year.

When I started, we made about 350 parts/shift.  When the part finally stopped, we were making about 450 per shift.  Average 400 parts a day, times a five-day week is 2000 parts a week.  Fifty working weeks a year gives a hundred thousand parts a year.  Over seven years production means that I am responsible for almost Three-Quarters of a Million Jeeps on the road.  Man!  I get tired, just thinking about it.

Saturday The Fourteenth

On Saturday, the fourteenth, we got another call from the Money Mill doctors’ clinic.  The wife’s doctor is moving from family practice to Hematology.  She only works as a G. P. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  She is taking the entire month of April as vacation.  They wanted us to come over on Sunday to see a replacement doctor, the cosmetic surgeon again, as it turned out.  I had already made plans to take the daughter and a friend of hers to the Free Thinkers luncheon on Sunday morning.  I expected to be home about 1 PM.  The wife wanted a phone call when we left.

The last time we had to go to the clinic, they had put up signs saying that you could phone in and put your name on the list and get an approximate serve-time.  That way you could sit at home or get a coffee at Tim Hortons and miss the wait at the clinic.  When you do show up, they give you one of those buzzy, light-flashing flying-saucers you get at The Outback.  We called the wife at one, and she called the clinic, only to find that the phone-ahead was cut off at noon, and all the good times were actually taken by ten.  We got there by two, were almost the last served, just before five.  The diagnosis was that her allergies cause constipation, and the Prescription was for another over-the-counter medication.  She says, if it’s important, they’ll insist that she come in during working hours for a scheduled visit, no more of these three-hour, wasted afternoons, which only cause more inhalant allergies.

The daughter managed to get another hearing test and recommendation, from a different hearing clinic.  Their submission was accepted by ODSP.  I drove her to pick up her new Hearing Assistors today.  The only thing left to do for paper-work is have her doctor sign the prescription sheet, so these nice people can get paid.  See above.  The doctor is on holiday.  The earliest appointment she could get was May 2.  They understand, and say they’ll wait.  Her units are far nicer than the ones the wife and I got.  She gets a business-card sized remote control.  She can turn the volume up and down on each. She can turn either, on or off.  She can switch from front mike, to rear, and with the purchase of an $80 box, she can plug into a stereo or TV, and have it broadcast directly to the units.  Our $2900 units won’t do any of that.  Hers were only $2500.  20/20 hindsight.  If only we’d gone here first.

We have an interesting way of celebrating Friday the Thirteenth, fairly locally.  Some of you may have heard of it.  It started way back in 1981.  As a gag, on a Friday the Thirteenth, 25 local bikers got together, and rode about sixty miles south, to a town on Lake Erie, called Port Dover.  They had a great day and each of them told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on.   The next year there were over a hundred, and after that, it just took off.  It’s like the Canadian equivalent of the Sturgis meet.  Bikers now come from all over to attend.

The town of Port Dover is a little over 6000 population.  This year they had between six and eight thousand bikes.  Some of them had passengers, but the total estimated crowd was between fifty and seventy thousand people.  They close off the road into town, and only bikes get to enter.  Huge crowds of folks show up to mingle and watch.  Cars are parked along roads for miles.  Some farmers make more renting a field or two as parking lots, than they do on crops, the rest of the year.  There can be up to three FTTs a year, but they don’t always happen when the weather’s nice.  Even if they occur in Jan. or Feb., some of the boys still make the run.  Some of them run tricycles, some strap on a sidecar and some of them just fire up the Buick.

The residents of Port Dover have been interviewed over the years.  Aren’t you worried about drugs and drunks and violence?  The answer is always no!  Oh sure, with sixty thousand people in town, something always happens, but not usually from the bikers, who are on their best behavior.  It’s a great financial shot in the arm for the town, and the gawkers often return for a bit of tourism.  In the twenty years I rode a motorcycle, I often thought about taking the ride, but I was cheap and had too strong a work ethic.  It would have been fun, but I just couldn’t see losing a day’s pay.  I had hoped to be able to do it after I retired, but a dumb accident pretty much ruled that out.

What does or does not get printed in the papers can be interesting and amusing.  KayJai lives a thousand miles away, but today I read a story of a guy in her city, who dug up and carted off in his pickup, a tree from the landscaping at a new Canada Post building.  I howled at the line, “with Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in pursuit.”  I can just see the poor tree in the back of the truck.  That must have been like the OJ Simpson, low-speed chase.  She says they don’t hear about the Oktoberfest silliness that happens here, when we get eighty to a hundred thousand visitors.  Something to look forward to, fans.

How To Find A Job

Well!  That was an Interesting week.  Now then, where was I?  Ah yes, lost in thought, it being unfamiliar territory.  Took the stupid car to the garage twice.  Rode my bike to pick up the broken car, and blew a chain.  Cost me more for a new chain than the son paid for the bike.  At least it broke at the end of the ride, two blocks from a bike shop.

The compulsive wife insisted that we couldn’t wait till the car failed on its own.   Three of us rely on it, so in it went to replace the Body Control Module.  $625 later, it still didn’t start the next night when the son wanted to leave to pick up a co-worker.  I’ve talked to a dealer’s Repairs Manager.  He has other thoughts about what causes the problem.  He’s sure they can locate and fix it, and I’m sure it will be another $600.

I had to take two of my cats to the vet’s, a male for yearly shots, and the female because she’s an ex-breeder.  She had so many kittens, her teeth are shot.  The vet extracted 14 and a couple had fallen out on their own.  He also did some cosmetic surgery to repair an eyelid, damaged in a fight.  I brought in two cat cages from the garage, set them on the floor and bent over to open them.  The little female came over, all curiosity.  I popped her in, and looked to the living room chair, where the male was sleeping soundly, accent on WAS.  Apparently he remembers his shots from last year.  My best guess is that he was on top of the air vents inside the finished ceiling in the basement.  We had to cancel his appointment that day, but, since we were boarding the female for two days, when my son came home from his midnight shift, the male jumped up on his lap, all unsuspecting, and into the cage he went.  Damn!  I hate being out-thought by a cat.

Enough of my fiscal fiascos, how do you find a job?  Best answer?  Move to India or China!  In Al Capp’s comic strip, L’il Abner, there was an occasional character named Joe Bfytzplk.  In Yiddish, Joe was a shemozzle.  Shit always happened to him.  He walked around with a perpetual little rain-cloud directly over him.  Thank God for retirement. I got to feeling like Joe.  I look back at the list of companies I’ve worked for, and see that most of them no longer exist.  I don’t know whether my city is worse than Ontario or Canada average but, the manufacturing base has just about disappeared.

Five years ago, when my auto-parts plant closed down, I had to quickly learn how to get a job, and found that things have changed.  I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here, you no longer apply to one, or several companies, for a job you’re qualified for.  No longer are companies accepting free-range job seekers.  Now you register with one or more temp agencies.  They’re supposed to match your abilities and the customer’s requirements.  I haven’t seen one example of that.  They get paid by the number of client hours worked.  If you can’t do the job, they send another poor schmuck tomorrow and send you on another fruitless job match the next day.

They sent me on a line-loading job fit for a healthy 18-year-old when I had twenty years experience on various presses.  The company would have taken me as a press operator, but I had to pass the initiation period, hauling steel parts to feed the line.  I stressed an arthritic hip carrying parts up steps, and had to start all over again.  I found that there is a whole floating cloud of people who never actually get a permanent job.  Take a temp position for a couple of months, and then spend a week drunk, or smoked up, or worse.  Get straight, take another assignment, and keep rolling.  The managers and/or H.R. staff soon learn who, out of those who qualify, actually want to be hired.

I got my job at the auto-parts plant on somebody else’s appointment.  A friend from the previous plant had managed to get hired, and suggested that I try also.  Having recently worked as a security guard, I was able to convince the guard at the door to place my resume and letter on the desk of the Human Resources Manager, at night.  Having only recently switched to plant work, after 25 years of clerical, I put on dress trousers and shirt, and a sport jacket and took myself to the company’s office, early one morning.

As a cost-saving measure, they had done away with a receptionist.  When you entered the foyer, there were a couple of chairs, a small table, and a telephone.  You were to call whoever you wished to see, and they would let you in through a locked door.  I dialed the H.R. manager.  I could hear the phone ring somewhere close, but he didn’t answer. I decided to wait a few minutes and try again.  As I waited, suddenly the door opened, and a man looked out.  He looked at me and asked, “John?”  I told him I wasn’t John.  Had I seen a John?  No!  Who was I, and who did I wish to see?  I gave my name and said that I was there to see the H.R. manager about a job.  It turned out that HE was the H.R. manager.  Since John wasn’t there, I could have his appointment.  Twenty minutes later, I had his job too.

See, it’s easy to get a job.  Like the MRI I mentioned a while back, all you have to do is be in the right place, at the right time.  It also helps to be mentally organised, Luck favors the prepared.  The last job I had before I retired, I think I got because I spoke to the Operations Manager respectfully, saying please and thank-you, a lost art among the young these days.


This is going to be another “Jerry Seinfeld” blog, a little of this, a little of that, and a lot of nothing.  I have put out a couple of posts recently where no-one posted a comment.  I felt a little abandoned, till I checked my stats and realized that 25 people had read each of them.  They were (gentle) feeling blogs, not thinking, or feeling-strongly-enough-to-comment blogs.

It gave me an insight into what we bitch about, why, and why not.  Put out a post about world hunger or nuclear disarmament, and the ho-hum scale doesn’t even light up.  Rants had one about, Do you eat the heels of bread loaves?  Sandylikeabeach put up one about, Do you put the toilet paper over or under?  Another blogger asked, Which is better, Coke or Pepsi?, and in each case, the comment thread went so long I thought I was going to have to put up another monitor, to catch the overflow.

Subjects like world hunger and nuclear disarmament are too big and complex for most of us to have an informed opinion about.  Even if we did, we are too small to influence the powers that can make a difference.  However, toilet paper, bread crusts and Pepsi are parts of our very immediate life, and ranting can make a difference.

Savorthefolly felt that a couple of my posts were too blunt, and thought that they should be edited for more subtlety and finesse.  Like Rants, I’ve never been big on subtlety and finesse, and the older and more cynical I become, the less likely I am to believe in the benefits of using them.  My readership here would probably appreciate them, but, the habits of lifetime exposure to the great unwashed tend to ensure Sound and Fury, Signifying…. wake up and think, damn it.

I promised Savor to explain the similarities with mule training.  A doctor from New Hamster decided to retire somewhere warmer.  He fancied himself a bit of a gentleman farmer, so he bought a bit of land in Alabama.  Since this was to be a hobby farm, he didn’t want to use a tractor, but instead wanted to own a mule.  He asked around and found another farmer willing to sell him one, but was told that it wasn’t trained for farm work.  However, the owner knew a good trainer and arranged for the man to pick up the mule the next day, to deliver it to the doctor’s, and begin training.

When the mule and the trainer arrived the next day, one of the first questions the doctor asked was, “How do you train a mule?”  “Love, consideration and respect” was the answer.  The doctor showed him to a suitable area, and went back to the house, promising to return in a few minutes, to watch the proceedings.  When he got back, he found the trainer with a big chunk of 2 X 4, beating the mule between the eyes.  “What are you doing?” he yelled.  “I thought you used love, consideration and respect.”  “I do!” the trainer replied, “but first, you have to get their attention.”  That subtle enough?

Speaking of subtle, if you turn on the lights, the roaches will hide.  I hear that the New York City Board of Education, having had the light of newspaper and internet ridicule shined on their all-you-can-put-up-with, buffet table of No Child Left Uncosseted, has withdrawn their ridiculous list of unacceptable ideas.  I guess they’ve decided to let their little darlings learn to deal with reality like the rest of us.

Sharp left turn!  Follow closely!  Don’t get lost kids!  I went with my son recently to a second-hand bookstore.  I didn’t want anything specific, so, as he searched the stacks for his treasures, I looked at a few things that caught my attention.  I took down an old English hard-cover book and opened it.  A small piece of paper fluttered to the floor.  I bent over to look at it, and gently picked it up and put it in my shirt pocket.

Apparently used as a bookmark, it was an English bus ticket, issued about 1941 or ’42.  It’s older than I am.  It was for a bus company in Shropshire, just east of the Wales border.  When the Nazis started bombing, a lot of industries were moved to the west side to protect them.  This bus company already existed but, with the influx of workers and armed forces to move around, suddenly blossomed.  The fare was one shilling, actually a bit expensive, but supported by a war-time economy.  Hand stamped on the back is a notice that reads, “If not factory worker or armed forces, please do not use the bus between 4 PM and 7 PM.”

What a delicate piece of historical ephemera, so easily ruined, or lost forever.  I have mounted it in a small photo frame to protect it.  The stamped notice on the back cannot be seen but, there are frames with two pieces of thin glass for items like this.  Neither of two local museums are interested in it because of geographical and era restrictions.  I hope, one day, to ship it off to the War Museum in Ottawa.  It’s amazing what you can see, when you keep your eyes, and mind, open.

I Don’t Want To Hurt Your Feelings

There is tact, and then there is over-the-top, bureaucratic-nonsense, political-correctness.  The New York City Board of Education clearly demonstrated the latter recently.  They put out tenders for the printing of new standardized student tests.  In an attempt to ensure that none of their students get their little feelings hurt, there was a list of 50 words/thoughts that could not be included, lest someone be offended.

Here is the complete list of words that they believe should be banned.

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
  • Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
  • Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
  • Bodily functions
  • Cancer (and other diseases)
  • Catastrophes/disasters  (tsunamis and hurricanes)
  • Celebrities
  • Children dealing with serious issues
  • Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
  • Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
  • Crime
  • Death and disease
  • Divorce
  • Evolution
  • Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
  • Gambling involving money
  • Halloween
  • Homelessness
  • Homes with swimming pools
  • Hunting
  • Junk food
  • In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
  • Loss of employment
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
  • Parapsychology
  • Politics
  • Pornography
  • Poverty
  • Rap Music
  • Religion
  • Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and      Ramadan)
  • Rock-and-Roll music
  • Running away
  • Sex
  • Slavery
  • Terrorism
  • Television and video games (excessive use)
  • Traumatic material  (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
  • Vermin (rats and roaches)
  • Violence
  • War and bloodshed
  • Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
  • Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.

Incidentally, I notice that one of the words on the list is pornography. The chancellor has offered no explanation for how schools will avoid including this term on standardized tests considering it is part of the middle school curriculum.

The tests can’t refer to the number of birthday or Christmas presents Mary got, because Jews and Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas and Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays.  I see they didn’t include weather.  Presumably we can still discuss that.  Dinosaurs can’t be mentioned, because that assumes evolution.  Expensive presents and homes with pools would depress the financially downtrodden.  References to homelessness, job loss and poverty would just rub their noses in it.

I’m all for not offending the next guy, but this just seems to take it to the level of absurd.  This is George Orwell’s 1984.  If there isn’t a word to describe it, the concept doesn’t exist.  If either the potential offender, or the possibly offended actually knew what they were talking about, I might accept the concept, but neither does.

I worked with a young Jehovah’s Witness.  Shortly before Mother’s Day the inspector on the line asked him what he was doing for his mother.  “We don’t celebrate mothers.  We celebrate Jesus.  We do what the Bible tells us to do.”  One of the important passages in the Bible, perhaps THE most important, The Ten Commandments, orders us to, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother!  Surely this applies to Jehovah’s Witnesses, as much as to the rest of us.

We can’t make it a nice world, just by wishing it so.  It would be nice if bad guys didn’t have, and use, guns.  Canada is still busy taking guns away from responsible owners.  A .22 calibre varmint rifle has been declared a dangerous weapon, and all of these guns sold in the last twenty years must be turned in to police, with no compensation.  The reason is, that they were designed to look like an AK47, and AK47s, by Government definition, are evil.

Seventeen states passed legislation allowing concealed carry for handguns.  Canadian pundits almost had a bird.  The words Hell, and hand basket, were bandied freely.  Two years later, gun-related crimes in those states are down an average of thirty-seven percent.  When the bad guys don’t know whether or not a potential victim might lethally fight back, they’re not so likely to commit a crime.

I don’t feel that the school system is doing students any favors when they pass them on to the next grade, even though they didn’t achieve the required marks.  They don’t want to make the students feel like failures.  Check the definition.  They are failures!  Better to find out now, than when the boss asks, Do you have that report finished? and you reply, Well, I’ve got some of it done.  Do you want fries with that?  Damn it Hopkins, the customer ordered onion rings.

If an inner-city black youth is not told about the existence of a $17,000,000 mansion, he is still stuck in poverty, and maybe, he thinks there’s nothing better.  If he finds out that other people live better, he has something to aspire to.  These words and ideas will exist whether kids are told about them or not.  I feel that there should be short-term pain for long-term resistance and health.  Like germs, continual, light exposure can produce immunity.  Remember, the ostrich with his head stuck in the sand, can still get it stuck up his….Ask me if I still feel this way in five years.

Trips With Mom and Dad II

I just went on a forest bike-ride and fishing trip with Ted from SightsandBytes.  What a lovely chunk of get-back-to nature, beautiful, bucolic bliss it was.  I could almost smell the grass and trees, and only worried when we saw bear marks.  When I went on trips with my parents, we didn’t go quite as far back in the bush, because forests in Southern Ontario aren’t as big and wild as they are in Newfoundland, but we still managed to commune with nature a bit.

My home-town butts against an Indian Reservation.  To make a little extra pocket-money, in the spring, some of the Indians would go into the bush on their land and pick morels, which they sold to town-folk.  Morels are a type of mushroom with a tall cap which looks like a sponge.  Soaked in salt water overnight to remove any dirt, etc., and fried in butter, they are rich and flavorful, much like French truffles.  The few Indians who picked and sold them, knew their own forest well.  The morels usually come up in the same places each year, so the natives knew where to look.  I don’t think any Indians pick them anymore.  The price used to be the equivalent of a half a day’s salary for a six-quart basket.  Now, IF you can find them for sale, the price is like truffles too.

A couple of times when we went for a drive, Dad would find a spot, and we would wander through the bush trying to get a gourmet meal for the cost of a hike in the woods. Dad also knew folks who had apple trees.  One farm, after normal harvest time, would let us pick our own, for next to nothing – but don’t tell anyone you paid, to pick on Sunday.  A different farm let us take as much as we wanted, for free.  We just had to supply our own containers.

Something else we picked when we went for rides, were beechnuts.  Mom was the one who identified the trees.  This one farmer’s field had a row of them, outside the fence, on public land.  Beechnuts grow as a ball, between golf and tennis ball size.  These dry out and split, and inside are dozens of individual triangular seeds, much like Brazil nuts, only smaller.  Dad hoisted me up, till I could reach the ones on the lowest branches, and then my brother and I climbed the trees to snap off and drop more from higher up.  We snacked on a few au naturel, as we drove, and took the balance home for a light roasting.  Not only a fun and educational pastime, but a treat that made the labor worthwhile.

Like the directions to BrainRants’ place, a lot of the by-ways we drove included the description, “Turn off the paved road.”  We enjoyed hilltop views, pretty little valleys, and picturesque streams.  Some roads were so narrow that, if you met an oncoming car, each had to move over and drive with two wheels on the grass, to get past.  There were some quaint little one-lane iron bridges over the streams.  If two cars approached at the same time, the one to the bridge first proceeded, while the other pulled over and waited its turn.

While I liked the park in the “big city”, there was a town, smaller than mine, which had an even nicer one.  Like everything else, parks cost money.  The bigger the park, the more it costs to build, and usually, the larger the urban area needed to finance it.  The exception to the rule in this case was an artesian well.  People came from miles around to see cold, crystal-clear water spouting from an eight-inch pipe, ten feet into the air.  The charge to enter was only a dollar a car, but over the days, weeks, months and years, the money added up, and went to expand and improve the park.  Back before communicable diseases were a big deal, there was a tin cup on the end of an eight-foot pole.  You could just reach out the pole and fill the cup with God’s own ambrosia.

The park included a grassed area big enough to play a game of pick-up football.  There was a baseball diamond.  They had built the largest checkers game I’ve ever seen, a big concrete pad, with squares marked on it.  Checkers were solid wood, sixteen inches wide and six high, with iron loops in the top, and another eight foot pole, with a hook on the end, to move them.  There were several large oak trees, and from a high branch hung a forty or fifty foot long swing.  Guys loved to push their girls, or share the seat for a ride back and forth, that seemed to take forever.

There was a food-service booth, and it, and the park, escaped the can’t-open-on-Sunday rule by declaring a tourist-area exception.  There were gardens and flowering shrubs all around.  They had even imported volcanic basalt and piled it and some dirt into a conical pile thirty feet high, with a double helix path, almost to the top, to show desert-type low-water plants.

It was a wondrous place.  Even if all you did was enjoy the cool shade and watched the darting dragonflies, it was an idyllic way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  To me, and many others, it was Eden on Earth.  I don’t know whether it was the internet and video games that killed it, but sadly, the park no longer exists.  A brewery bought the property and uses all that clear spring water to make crappy beer.  It is now, the gate to Hell.

What We Say – What We Think

Cognitive dissonance.

No, no!  Don’t reach for the mouse yet.  This isn’t a post about difficult English words.  That will come a little later.  Cognitive dissonance is just a term to describe holding two conflicting opinions in your mind at the same time.  This happens in everyday life, but is most common in politics and religion.  The scientist who carbon-dates fossils goes to Catholic Church on Sunday, and Believes that the Earth was created seven thousand years ago.  It’s a delicate mental balance.  Some people are much better at it than others.  George Orwell, in his book 1984, described the process perfectly.  He also showed how people can be trained to change their opinions, without even noticing that they have been changed.

Having given a Christian example, I also have a couple of Canadian Muslim female examples.  The weekend paper had an article about The Veiled Vogue.  This is a new type of fashion show where the models are veiled, or head-scarfed Muslim women.  The clothing isn’t quite as outré or revealing as normal, but the point of the veil is supposed to be modesty.  It’s pretty hard to claim modesty, when you’re strutting your stuff, on the runway.

Speaking of modesty, I almost had a Muslim-modesty car-crash the other day.  I stopped at a red light, near a high-school.  Students streamed across the crosswalk in front of me.  Almost the last to cross on the green….well, it had gone to orange, but high-school students don’t give a damn, were three 14ish girls.  Two appeared “normal Canadian”.  The third, definitely a Muslim, was identifiable by the scarf concealing all of her head and neck, except the face.  This was two feet above a skirt which didn’t have quite as much fabric.  She buys her yellow panties at Muslims-R-Us.  I know.  If she wanted to look like a little slut, why didn’t she just do it like her two slutty girlfriends?  This outfit speaks two conflicting opinions at the same time.  Who’s she lying to?  Herself, or the rest of us.  Or both?

The Church has always been good at this type of two-faced, or two-brained stance.  One of the most obvious instances was Joan of Arc.  When she was winning battles and saving the country, she was a heroine.  When the war had been won, she was an embarrassment, able to do what the Church and its knights could not do.  Suddenly she was declared a heretic and burned at the stake.  A couple of hundred years later, when the Church needed heroes, especially outstanding women, in an organization too full of men, she was hauled out, dusted off, her “heresy” ignored, and she was raised to the status of saint.  The “unchanging” Church has many of these volte-faces, where conflicting positions rapidly reverse themselves, or where both are held at the same time.

In the Middle Ages, the Holy Catholic Church sold indulgences.  People with enough money could donate to the Church, and be forgiven their past sins.  This soon progressed to prepaying for sins which were anticipated to happen in the future.  Sort of a Cosmic Monopoly, get-out-of-Hell-free card.  The Church eventually realized, but didn’t publicly admit, that the selling of indulgences was immoral, and wrong.

Several hundred years have passed, and the Church’s revenues are going down as more and more people leave the Church, or can’t afford to pay the tithe.  Suddenly, indulgences are back.  This time, instead of giving money directly to the Church, those who wish to pay for play, can donate money and/or time and effort to Church-approved charities and projects.  See how different this way is from the old way?!  I guess immoral and wrong are actually okay – for the right price.

Priests diddle little boys, and little girls.  Family-values political figures hire hookers.  Anti-same-sex-marriage Senators have gay washroom assignations.  Flag-waving patriots are caught selling military secrets.  My head would explode from the stress of trying to go in two opposite directions at the same time.  It’s too bad some or all of these people couldn’t manage to do that.