2017 A To Z Challenge – B

Challenge2017

When I sieved out the following list of B-word prompts, I was struck by how many of them could apply to me.  Rather than choosing only one, here are some random thoughts about a few of them.

Bibliophile
blood
baggage
belief
bold
books
beach
barn
blog

Letter B

My home town is halfway up the East coast of Lake Huron, in Ontario. It has 3 miles of lovely warm, soft, white sand beach.  It has become a vacation haven, and tourism is a large part of its financial wellbeing.

The town to the south gets only 1 mile of shoreline. The tiny tourist village to the north sits in the center of 10 miles of sandy shore.  Access to the water is good, and the swimming is wonderful but, in both cases, the sand barely reaches above the water level, and their beaches are flat, hard and damp.

My mother constantly read to me as a child, and I learned to read quite young. I became a bibliophile, a lover of books.  I am also a logophile, a lover of words, but all the wonderful words are in the wonderful books, so we’ll discuss that later.

Ray Bradbury said, “Libraries raised me.” My tiny little town had a tiny little library, about the size of a medium house.  It was only open two days a week.  The volunteer librarian was a former teacher.  It was here that I learned early, the value of linguistic precision.

The fine for late books was 2 cents, biweekly.  The intent was for 2 cents, per book, for each of the 2 weekly open days.  I stood beside a man who went and got a dictionary to show the librarian that ‘biweekly’ also meant ‘every two weeks.’  He would pay 2 cents, but not the 8 cents that she demanded.

A local man became a mining engineer. He located an ore field in Northern Ontario, staked a claim, and sold the rights to a mining firm which would extract the minerals.  With the initial payout and ongoing royalties, he retired early, as the town’s richest resident.

He and his wife were great readers, but they never had children. When his wife died, and he was facing his own mortality, he donated a large portion of his fortune to the municipality, to be used to build a library in memorial to his wife.  We got a fairly large (for a small town) new library, right beside the Town Hall.  His bequest bought lots more books, and an annuity paid for hired staff.

When I moved 100 miles to Kitchener for employment, it was easy to pack my luggage. I had very little.  I also had to pack my baggage – my propensity for procrastination, my learning disorders, my neurological syndrome which causes poor physical control and lousy short-term memory, as well as my autistic-type inability to read social cues, and make and hold friends.

I am more methodical, determined, and tenacious; I would never be described as bold. Having survived an interesting, if not terribly thrilling life, now in the twilight of my years, I can put these thoughts and remembrances down, and publish them in my blog.   😀

 

A To Z Challenge – Z

april-challenge

Well, we have zigged, and zagged our way to the bottom of the alphabet.  It all comes down to Ground Zero, at zero hour, in zero gravity, with zero thought, to write the final composition for the letter

Letter Z

a letter that the Dutch explorers, traders and colonists already present, especially around the area that would become New York City, taught the newly arriving English settlers of America to pronounce as ‘zee’, a mere 400 years ago.  Think ‘Zuider Zee.’  The rest of the English-speaking world uses the Froggy French pronunciation, ‘zed’, imposed by the Norman invaders of England, almost a millennium ago.

For all you hockey nuts (and you have to be nuts to regard hockey as anything more than mildly interesting time-wasting), I thought that I would write about Zamboni.  That’s the ice-resurfacing machine that drives around the skating surface between periods.

Resurfice Machine

Then I thought better of it, and decided to give you a little more local history/geography/commerce. About 15 miles north of where I live, up in Pennsylvania-Dutch, Mennonite territory, is the large town/small city (10,000) of Elmira, Ontario.

Twenty-five years ago, the Schlupp family (doesn’t that name sound Mennonite?) reverse-engineered the Zamboni, and began producing Olympia machines at a company called Resurfice.  There are various sizes, and gasoline and electric models.  They will do what the Zamboni will do, at a better price – and they are Canadian-made.

They’ve had to fight the ‘Kleenex viewpoint’, which says that every facial tissue is ‘Kleenex’, even when it’s Puffs, or Royale, but their sales are steady, and increasing, even in the US.  Despite the Zamboni brand-name recognition, and allowing for some bragging, Resurfice sells 50% to 70% of machines in North America.

The ‘Kleenex viewpoint’ is visible in an online court brief, apparently posted by a relative of an idiot complainant trying to sue poor Resurfice.

Hanke was the operator of an zamboni
→ Overfilled the gas tank of the machine, releasing vapourized gas which was ignited by an overhead
heather
→ The ensuing explosion and fire caused Hanke to be badly burned
→ Hanke sued the
zamboni maker for negligence (design defect), arguing that the gas and water tanks were similar in appearance and close together on the machine, making it easy to confuse the two.

English rules of construction insist on the word ‘a’ before another word beginning with a consonant.  It should be ‘a Zamboni,’ with a capital Z – except, it wasn’t a ‘Zamboni’, it was a Resurfice Olympia.  The genius operator pumped water into the gasoline tank in an area with open flame.  His genius brother (cousin?) writes, in a court brief, of an ‘overhead heather’, and repeats the incorrect, uncapitalized ‘zamboni’ again.

If I have poked fun at places like Newfoundland, or Alabama, I humbly apologise, and acknowledge the existence of local possessors of ‘a glorious lack of sophistication.’

AtoZ Survivor

I thank all of you who have followed me through the alphabet. I’m trying to decide if it’s worthwhile or possible to do it again this/next year.  This free-style, pick-and-choose method didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.  Perhaps next time I could do a themed version, possibly A to Z wild life, from Ants to Zebras. Wild life could include C for College dorm parties.  Or A to Z in musical groups, from AC/DC to ZZ Top.  In the meantime, I’m going to take a copy of that ‘Survivor’ image, and go have (another) nap.  I suggest you all do the same.  We’ve all earned some ZZZZZZs.   😀

(ARCH)ON The Road Again

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WARNING, Long involved DMV bureaucratic rant.
Proceed at your own boredom.

After almost 30 years, my ARCHON vanity plates, first acquired here, are back on the road.  The wife and I bought our last car.  It’s actually a rice-burning, Kia Sorento SUV, which sits high enough that the semi-disabled wife and daughter don’t have to fight to get down into, and up out of.  Properly maintained, it should last 10/15 years, perhaps longer than us.  In any case, the next one’s up to son Shimoniac to buy.

This is the first NEW car we’ve owned in almost 50 years of marriage. We purchased two that were less than a year old, taking advantage of the 30% depreciation in value, but were still new enough to be reliable.

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For years, we’ve had the wife’s 3 TEASE plates on our cars, because they were registered in her name, and we’d been told by the DMV that that was necessary. It was all a Lie.

I’ve used the term, ‘DMV’ mostly for my American readers. Here in Ontario, we have the oxymoronically named “Service Ontario.”  That’s where you have to go, for aggravation, incompetence, poverty, hunting and fishing licenses, drivers’ licenses, licence plates, birth certificates, and certified ID cards for people like the daughter, LadyRyl, who can’t drive.

After the heart-stopping negotiation of financing this beast, yea, verily, unto the second and third generations, the first problem came when we had the salesman (try to) put my old plates on my new car.

I gave him my old plates, along with the plate ownership form, and the transfer form. The last sticker was applied in 1987.  When we went back the next day to pick the car up, he handed me back my plates (but not the two forms), and said that the licence bureau wouldn’t let him use my plates because they were registered in the wrong name. We had to take generic plates, and arrange to apply the ARCHON plates ourselves.

A couple of weeks later, we were ready to try. The first thing that the user-(un)friendly Service Ontario did, was ensure that the relatively handy, downtown branch, only 4.2 Km away, DIDN’T PROVIDE AUTO-LICENCE SERVICE.  Instead, we got to drive 9.7 Km to a branch on the other side of town.  We chose a quiet Wednesday afternoon, when the lineup was only 45 minutes long.

The first time we went, we exchanged the generic plates for the old ARCHON plates.  Having a brand-new car, the wife wondered, for a niggling fee of $93.20, if I’d like a brand-new set of plates.  It seems a good idea, except….new plates are no longer paint, baked onto steel.  They are now printed plastic, laminated on, and there have been many cases of them delaminating, costing drivers $55 to replace faulty Chinese manufacturing.  We’ll see how these ones last.

Six weeks later, my new set arrived by mail, and off we set once more, to surrender the old set, and validate the new ones. The clerk picked up each set, and found she had to struggle with the old ones.  They weighed twice what the new ones do.  She’d never seen a set that old.  She wondered why we’d gone from generic to vanity, and then to a new set.

The female branch manager was sitting at the next service wicket, and overheard our conversation. Every time I described what happened, or what I was told, she shook her head.  I explained how I was not allowed to put my plates on a car registered to the wife.  ‘No, you can do that.’ (With the proper, paid-for form)

I bitched that I wasn’t allowed to transfer the ownership of the plates to the wife, without surrendering them to the Provincial Government. ‘No, you don’t have to surrender them.  You can transfer them to your wife.’  (With the proper, paid-for form)  My clerk looked up, surprised.  “They’re registered in your wife’s name now.”  Wait, what??!  After telling me that they couldn’t do it, they changed the plate registration – but didn’t tell me they had??  And we paid to buy the wife her own set, and mine languished for decades??!  So that explains the dealer’s problem. I can’t put her plates on my car.  ‘No, no, I told you that they should have done that.  (With the proper, paid-for forms)

So we transferred plate ownership back to me – for $20. Then the clerk wanted to know where the plate ownership and vehicle transfer forms were.  “I gave them to the dealer, and I never got them back.  I assume that the clerk at the office that they use, kept them.”  Manager is shaking her head again.  ‘They should have been returned.  We’ll have to generate new ones.’

The clerk then charged me $20 to use information that’s already on their computer, to print out an ownership form, and another $20 for the same computer information to print a transfer form, for their own paper files.  The plate licence expires on my birthday, late in September.  Should we renew for just one year – or two??  The manager piped up, ‘The yearly fee is increasing from $100/year, to $120/year, starting September 1.  Why don’t you pre-pay for three years and save?’

I begin to understand why Canada has such restrictions on gun ownership. Do any of you have bureaucratic duel stories (shorter than this) that you want to share??   😯

Silence, Blessed Silence

Cabin

Our ancestors enjoyed silence.  At least I hope they enjoyed it, because every invention they produced – every mechanical and electrical advance they made – has led to the constant thrum of noise that we in the developed world are immersed in.

Our forebears worked their asses off 16 hours a day.  When they finally huddled in their huts and cottages and cabins at the end of a long day, these hovels were not the insulated and breeze-resistant wonders we live in today.

It wasn’t so quiet that they could hear the grass grow.  There would have been the sounds of birds and animals and insects – all hopefully outside.  Then, along came technology, and constant, growing noise.  We have become inured to it, and most of us never even notice it.  It’s just part of our lives.

I had one of ‘those moments’ the other day.  Like the digital clocks and power indicator LEDs spewing light around my house, I became aware of how many things were constantly pumping noise into my ears.  I have four analog clocks spread around my house.  They’re all electric, running on batteries, but they all tick, tick, Tick, Tick!

The son doesn’t want the cats or dog messing with stuff in his room, so he keeps the door closed 24/7.  It could get a little funky in there, so he has set the thermostat so that the circulating fan on the furnace runs on low, constantly.  In the summer when the air conditioning, or in the winter when the burner kicks in, the fan ramps up to high.

In the winter, the air in the house gets so dry that I raise half-inch blue sparks, reaching for doorknobs or light switches, so we have a humidifier pumping moisture (and noise) into the atmosphere.  The mechanical timer on the water softener clatters away to itself in the basement, and the softener itself howls for about two hours, twice a week.  Beside it is the chest freezer, beside that is the ‘beer fridge’, plus the big one in the kitchen, none on constantly, but regularly.  Even the water heater burbles away to itself when hot water is used.

In an attempt to conserve electricity, Ontario has banned incandescent light bulbs.  The new CFL, compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheaper on power, but each has a starter built into the base.  These emit a faint 60-cycle hum when turned on.  I sit beside a tri-light bulb when I do my crosswords.  The greater the light output, the more pronounced the hum.  Two or three of those in a room, and the cats have their paws over their ears.

The tower for my PC sits below my desk, down in cat-hair country, so we decided to add a second exhaust fan, just to be safe(r).  The son’s PC is not always on, and only has one fan.  The wife’s laptop has one exhaust fan, but she plays a lot of games.  No Grand Theft Auto – more Canasta and Monopoly – but it was overheating, so now its single fan sits above a cooling pad with two more fans running.

Laptop

The wife has tinnitus – overactive nerves that make her ears ‘hear’ squeals and whines that aren’t there.  To cover up the fakes, so that she won’t go crazy, she often has the stereo on low, or a play list running on the laptop.

There’s the exhaust fan above the stove, when we’re cooking – the washroom exhaust fan – the washer and/or dryer – the dishwasher – the microwave – the stove-oven exhaust fan – the toaster-oven fan – the traffic noise from the four-lane Regional road, 100 feet from my back door – the four-year-old boy who lives in the other half of our semi-detached house, with his collection of bowling balls that he rolls down the stairs, and his seven-year-old sister who walks like a rhino.

I’m going mad – MAD I tell you!  (What?  Too late??)  It’s a wonder that the kids playing road hockey outside don’t tell us to keep it down.  I moved from a quiet small town to the big city (500,000) for jobs and amenities.  I shouldn’t complain, but I’m a Grumpy Old [retired] Dude, what else do I have to do?  If any of you want to comment about the levels of noise you have to put up with, YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP!  I CAN’T HEAR YOU!   😉

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Birthday Cake

As threatened promised last week, this is my birthday-blog roast-post. What have you got to say about it?

71 years ago today, I burst upon the scene in a small Ontario town, and I haven’t stopped talking since. Today, I promise to keep it down to just my Elvis impression – Thenk yoo! Thenk yoo vurry much! This is your day to make any and all comments, suggestions, and (humorous) insults.

Do I feel lucky, punk?? Well, do I? Go ahead – make my day!

I hope I enjoy this as much as you.

Lay on MacDuff,
and cursed be he
who first cries,
Enough!

Welcome, and thank you to all my visitors!

 

ARCHON

Storm-Stayed

airport blower

 

 

 

 

 

On my Digging In – Digging Out post about heavy snowfalls, I got a comment from a fellow writer who used to truck produce from the ferry dock, to the other side of Newfoundland, a large island-province off Canada’s east coast.  It is affectionately known to its residents as ‘The Rock.’

He told of a time when he and several other truckers were stranded for three days at a truck stop, when 125 inches (That’s 10+ feet!) of snow fell, accompanied by high winds.  I admitted that Ontario’s weather problems were often puny, compared to Newfoundland’s.

My familiarity with all things “Newfie” has been gained both online, and by association with many ex-pats, now working up here, but he apparently felt it was from personal experience.  The following is an explanatory email.

If, by your comment, “Ha, you’ve been, I see.” you mean to The Rock, the answer is no.  My financial, and the wife’s medical, restrictions make that nearly impossible.  However, there are almost as many Newfies up here, as there are left down there.  I worked for four years in the Hespeler section of Cambridge, ON, where the population is about half Portuguese, and half Newfie.  Drive down the street and yell, “Hey Joe (Joao), and all construction stops. Every second Newfie is named Sean or Shawn, and that includes the women.

At my auto-parts plant, there were 2 dozen Newfies for 200 employees, including four from Bell Island.  Add my online friends…. and I’d like to add you as one.  Would you wish to admit where you’re currently parked, so that I can overwork my map program?

At the risk of clogging your email, I have a snowing/driving story I wish to share.  In my Location, Location, Location post, I wrote of Kitchener being just far enough from three Great Lakes to miss ‘a lot’ of snow.  Also, it’s mildly hilly, cutting the wind and preventing a lot of drifting.  Just to our west, it soon becomes flatter, and drifting can be serious.  If the Ontario Provincial Police shut down Southern Ontario’s main artery, Highway 401, it’s almost always just past Kitchener.

A brother-in-law drove for years for Koch Transport.  His run was from Kitchener, 70 Km to St Mary’s, and back each day.  He (and wife) were taking two weeks holidays, and going to Hawaii, flying out on a Saturday morning.  On the Friday, he made his run, and got back to Stratford, where he found police blocking the road to Kitchener.  They waved him into a strip mall with two other big-rigs, and a half-dozen cars.

He left it running, and climbed down to talk to the others.  One of the car drivers asked what he was going to do.  He replied, “I’m going to wait until there’s an accident, and the cops leave, and then I’m going to move that barricade and make a run for it.  I’ve got to get home.  I have a flight out tomorrow.”  The guy replied, “I’m going on a trip tomorrow too.  Can we follow you guys?”

And so, they convoyed out, with the semis breaking trail, and the cars following.  With the trucks leading, the driving really wasn’t all that bad, and they all soon got back home safely.  The next morning, as he was boarding the plane to Hawaii, he ran into Mr. Sedan-Driver again, on the same flight.

 

Archon

 

 

My First Time

 

No, no, you nosy deviants!  That happened when I was 17.  What I’m talking about is knives – and magazines about knives.

While never needing or wanting to actually use them, I’ve always had a fascination for all types of weapons – how they’re built, how they’re used.  Early in 1991 I’d been noticing a particular magazine among others on the sales rack, Knives Illustrated.  Finally, in the summer, it was my first time to purchase a copy.

Chugach Dragon

It carried a story about a $20,000 sword, inlaid with gold, and adorned with jewels.  I had discovered Art Knives.  I was hooked!  Soon, I was sending away money to ensure a year’s worth of these printed treasures.  This was my first time that I’d ever subscribed to a magazine.

For the first several years, they had a contest where you could send in a postcard to be put into a draw to win a hand-made, donated knife, from a maker looking for some cheap promotion.  Every issue, I faithfully sent in a card, even if the featured knife was not to my taste or use.

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Suddenly, in my third year of trying, back before the Internet, I received a real letter.  I had been chosen to receive a little three-finger skinning knife, made by a cutler in Orlando.  All I had to do was send a letter to the magazine, lauding them and proving the contest was real, and a letter of thanks to the maker.  Done and quickly done.  Soon a package arrived, and it was my first time to own a handmade knife.

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The letter from the magazine said that it was worth $35, a ridiculous claim.  The handmade leather sheath alone is worth that much.  Somebody slipped a zero; the package is worth $350.  Note the grooves milled into the top and bottom, to control the blade, and prevent slipping.

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I told the maker that, if I ever got near Orlando, I’d stop in and personally thank him – and forgot about it.  A couple of years later, my brother had bought a trailer in a park in central Florida, and needed to go down to get it opened up and ready to rent for the winter season.  Would I like to accompany him on a whirlwind, 9-day trip.  Oh boy, my first time going to Florida!

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The brother’s trailer park was close to Orlando.  I tried to call the maker, but later found that the phone was in his wife’s name.  After about 4 days, when the brother could spare both me and the van at the same time, I drove over to his address, fuelled by hope.

I was fortunate.  He was at home, and gave me a couple of hours of his morning.  I got to see his neighbor’s lovingly restored 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza; he gave me a tour of his workshop, showing me all his tools, and different styles of knives he built.  While the Internet might have existed, this was before I even had dial-up connection, much less high-speed.  I couldn’t just research him.

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Since he couldn’t research Ontario, he didn’t know that most residential, and all farming is below the Great Lakes, with mining to the north.  He had a map with pins stuck in it, of all the people who’d received one of his knives.  He had my pin in the muskeg, somewhere off Hudson Bay.  I moved it.

His wife was some kind of medium-sized wheel at the University.  Several years later, she accepted a more prestigious position at the University of Connecticut, and he quietly loaded all his tools and moved north.  His production may have gone down a bit, because of the need to shovel snow.

This knife is well designed and built, though there’s not much of it.  I’m not a hunter/skinner, so I have no actual use for it.  It languishes away in a drawer, with several other of my acquisitions.  I keep it because it was a first, accompanying several other firsts.  Perhaps one day my heirs can get a little money for it.