Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is November 11.

At 11am stop everything you are doing. Stop working, stop talking, stop playing, stop reading, stop listening to music, stop everything.

Stop everything and listen to the wind.

Listen to the voices on the wind of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. Listen to the voices in your head that tell you that you know why you're free today. The voices of souls who long ago died on the battlefields of Verdun, of Vimy, Passchendaele, of Cambrai, the Somme, Normandy, Ortona, the marshes of Holland, the hills of Korea, the sands of Afghanistan.

Stop and thank them, in your own little way. Say a prayer for them or their families, or just stand there, and listen to them. They still talk to us. It's when they stop talking to us that we begin the process of forgetting. That's not what this day is about. This day is about remembering, so that it never happens again. The tyranny of the world's past cannot ever come back to threaten our freedom, the idiots of the world must be kept in their places. The sacrifices of those who fell on far off fields of battle have made that possible. Without the 42,041 Canadians who were killed in World War Two, as well as the other allied nations, Hitler would have kept going.

All the way back to the War of 1812, Canadians were dying for what they believe. We weren't a country back then, but we were still Canadian. That pride started there, and has never faultered. By the way, we lost 1,600 in that conflict, including some old relatives of mine. While that war was against our greatest present ally, it was different then. With the Bicentennial of that conflict approaching, it's fitting to get it mentioned, as it will many more times in the near future. I will be making a pilgrimage to the Niagara region to pay my respects, you should as well. And when you do, stop, and listen to the wind. The dead of that war will talk to you too.

A couple of years ago I wrote this post. I put tons of research into it, crossed my i's and dotted my t's, and since then I've had hundreds of hits on it. I guess I got the info right. I urge you to re-read it, because nothing I can say here does it justice. The dead talk there too. In the names of the places they died, and from that, one can get a firm idea of why they are buried in far off lands, or have no known grave, only a name on a granite monument. There are over 112,300 Canadian war dead. There are countless wounded. The numbers who have paid the price are staggering.

In World War One, Canada had a population of around 7 million people. 400,000 volunteered to fight. Think about that for a moment. That's 6% of the population of the country. Of those, 66,000 didn't come home. That's 16.5% of those who went. A huge amount. To date, we've lost 152 in Afghanistan. 152 dead in a country of 33,000,000. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating more casualties, what I'm saying here is the war was so massive, such a scale that nobody now can even comprehend it. Imagine the City of Chatham dying in one blow. That was the Somme. Think about the sheer magnitude of this "War to End All Wars". Think about the fact that it wasn't.

Think about them. I also wrote this, last year. I also go lots of hits from it. I hope some of the people who read it teared up, I know that a year after writing it, I still did. This story, in a different version, was true. Men did this. Remembering started that day...

At the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, the guns fell silent, and remembering began.
Wouldn't it be nice if the guns truly fell silent? Wouldn't it be nice to just here the wind?

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Painting: Ghosts of Vimy Ridge
Depicting the ghosts of the Canadian Corps on Vimy Ridge surrounding the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Oil on canvas, 138 x 270.2 cm. Source Canadian House of Commons Collection, (AN: O-4714). 1931 William Longstaff

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Shilo Ranch

I taught a class to green star cadets the other night about exercise preparation. After following the lesson plan for what seemed like forever I finally found myself going off topic, which of course is infinitely more fun that following the rules. We talked about weekend camps that are more memorable than others, and how they get that way. We discussed what makes a camp that you tell your kids about. It's not easy to decide which ones make the books, but in all my years, one thing is certain, the best camps were the ones that were, at the time, sucking.

Of all the weekend camps I have participated in over the years, I find it hard to remember places we went, training we did, anything that would make something stick out in memory. Nothing that would be worthy of stories down the road. Just run of the mill camps. The ones you remember are the ones that were essentially traumatic, if only to the young ones.

Hence, Shilo Ranch.

Shilo was a weekend camp in 1982 or 83, either way, a long time ago. Now, I was only 14 at the time, so I would love it if some readers (you know who you are) would add to my little account. I know several people who read this were there, and your additions to this little story would do alot to add to it. Use the comment feature at the bottom and go to it!

Shilo wasn't infamous for what happened, but rather what didn't happen - training. It was a wet, cold, foul muddy weekend camp in a field just south of Windsor. I was selected as part of the advance party for the camp - the group that sets up the tents and generally gets the place ready. So off we went Friday morning, trucks loaded with tents, tables, kitchen equipment, and various other stores required for almost one hundred cadets to spend a weekend in the field. Certainly, a large undertaking. The weather was beautiful Friday afternoon and we set to work setting things in place. The remainder of the Corps was to arrive around 6, so we had to have it all built by 5ish. Members of the 21 Service Battalion trucked everything out to us in their MLVW trucks (large 6x6 army trucks - they had the nickname 'mighty large volkswagens'). We spent the afternoon building modular tents and getting the training areas ready.

The rest of the Corps arrived at 6ish, disembarked from busses and got the grand tour. After a couple of hours of quite forgettable camp routine, the rain started.

And it didn't stop.

All Friday night the rain continued. The field where we set up was quickly becoming a mire of mud and ponds of rain so deep you could easily find yourself up to your knees in it if you weren't careful. The temperature dropped from a balmy 60ish during the afternoon to a wet cold 40ish in the evening. Everything became wet. Your clothes, your hair, hands, feet, sleeping bags, food, everything. It quickly became a chore and a goal just to find something, somewhere, out of the water. With 100 people on the ground, it also became impossible.

This is where my memory of the events begins to fade. I was a junior cadet at the time, not quite privy to the goings on of the staff and seniors, never mind the militia guys. So I ask you to fill in the holes.

I do remember a few tidbits. I remember Dave Brooks had a Ford Pinto that was the only vehicle not bogged down. I remember him bombing past an MLVW that was up to it's axles in mud and completely immobile.

I do remember John Pudar jumping up onto a 6' folding table inside the mod tent, and the table collapsing into the mud.

I do remember seeing a fire actually floating.

I do remember the mud.

I now remember that was the worst weekend I ever experienced. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Not for the pain of it all, but for the memories (however sketchy), and the experience of being there. In my new position as assistant training officer, I hope to plan weekend camps that are useful, educational, and fulfilling to the cadets. I certainly don't hope for a write-off like Shilo Ranch, but at the end of it all, I won't remember the successes.

Please help me fill this one out. Joanne, John, Villian, Joe, Veronica, Paul, Phil, Jeff and more, you guys were there, add your thoughts!


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Mongolian Tree Sloths et al

Today my cadets marched in the the Kingsville Migration Festival Parade. For the first time marching in a town parade they did a great job. There was only 22 of them on parade, but most were new cadets and really had no clue what they were doing. Prior to the start we gave them the speech about following the pipes and drums. Just listen to the bass drum, and the rest will fall into place. The CO arranged for us to march immediately behind the pipes, so that part was easy. Within a half hour, we were done, and preparing to meander back to the legion hall for pizza and an afternoon of shooting.

While the relays were ongoing I took advantage of the captive audience to teach some classes and tell some stories. Of course, I then opened the floor for the cadets to respond in kind. We had a good afternoon sitting on the grass on a beautiful day - we won't have many more 70 degree days in October, so we took the opportunity to enjoy it.

The theme of the tales was that the memories you cherish most in this organization. Stories of rained out camping trips or when the equipment shows up completely non-serviceable, or maybe the time when some schmuck caused some weird accident that messed up the rest of the trip; years later these are what you remember. These are the weekends that make you come back. Part of you wants to relive the activity, while the other part wants it erased from recent memory. But of course, you tell the story, thus perpetuating the legend. I especially like telling horror stories to new recruits. One half of their faces cringe in horror, the other half beams with excitement. You can tell when you've left them wanting more. It's my sincere wish to give these kids their own memories, so that one day they sit on the grass telling stories of their own, just like I did today.

So in the spirit of great memories, here's one from my "Best Weekends Ever" Collection. (I haven't actually started a collection yet, consider this the first).

1992 - Gesstwood Church Camp, Gesto, Ontario.

I was the Training Officer for a Corps in Windsor. My job for this particular weekend exercise was simple - plan it and execute it. I had support from my Commanding Officer and other staff, but for the most part the Ops Order and all supplemental planning was my fault. If anything went wrong it would be on my head. Great. Nothing like holding the lives of 40 kids in your hands and being told not to screw anything up. At the time I was a young officer, 3 years in, and full of ideas, however unique. At times, I was also full of alcohol - not a good combination when working with youth. Yeah, I know, stupid. But hey, it was almost 20 years ago, move along.

While on a bender one night I decided to complete my leadership exercises for the weekend. I had the cadets move through a series of team building and leadership exercises culminating with a night exercise that evening. Some were simple - cross this obstacle as a team with the obvious difficulties imposed, or shoot a bearing on certain locations correctly. But I wanted to have some fun with a particular person in my charge for the weekend. Each exercise we had support from our affiliated unit - The Windsor Regiment. They provided vehicle support and a driver who was at our disposal for the duration. This weekend, I got a young cocky corporal who had no time in his life for our organization. He was vocal in his belief that we were all wannabees, and except for being paid, he shouldn't be wasting his time. Several times I asked him to keep his comments to himself, and each time he reminded me that I was 'just' a CIC officer - one not to be taken seriously. He was pissing me off.

The cadets were coming to the last of the stations I had set up. I used the mouthy corporal to my advantage. If he really wanted to see what we were doing there with a bunch of kids, I'd be happy to show him. My instructions to him were simple - go ten feet up the tree and wait. The cadet's job was to get him down, safely, in teams. He wasn't allowed to help them unless he felt his life was in danger. He was my Mongolian Tree Sloth. A creature too stupid to climb down out of the tree he climbed into.

He took a moment to absorb that.

He finally said "Are you serious??"

Yup. I'm serious. Climb that tree, and wait. The cadets would do the rest. Upon arrival to the tree I gave the cadets an overview of the situation. They grinned as they looked up at the corporal. I could see the wheels turning in their evil little minds. I was however, very clear that I was not going to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. I reminded them that if at any time the corporal had to help them, they failed. And the games began.

The first couple of teams struggled to find a way to do the tasking, but managed the task. Then the next team, then the next. With each group, the young corporal began to get the swing of things. By mid-day, he was acting like a Mongolian Tree Sloth - whatever that would be - being a fictitious animal, he pretty much had carte blanche to make it up as he went along. He began groaning, making weird noises, most of which would pass for really stupid groans, and tried to chew on the tree branches. When cadets tried to help him he acted more. He chewed on their berets, reached into their pockets for food, and more. He was really good, and really having fun. He made my day, and that of the cadets.

By the end of the day I had an apology from him and a request to help the Corps out in the future. We took this militia know-it-all with a single track mind and opened his eyes to what a bunch of teenagers are capable of when they need to be. I also reminded him that if he asked around his regiment he would find that the majority of his peers were cadets once. We feed the regiments. He was converted to our little world.

Years later I still tell the story of the Mongolian Tree Sloth. The cadets that were there that weekend so many years ago also tell the tales. A simple funny story about a great day. The sort of memory that makes us keep coming back. We want more of these, and we want the younger generation to create they're own memories.

One day, I will be camping with them again, and someone will send someone up a tree and try this exercise again. I just want to be there when they do. I will grin ear to ear and think back to 1992 and my kids. I will think back to the reason I do this.


Saturday, 2 October 2010

I'm back!

I'm back.

Haven't posted anything here since August 16, because frankly, I haven't wanted to. I have had no desire to be creative, no desire to express any form of thought, no desire to type, no desire to do anything but eat, sleep and work (the work thing is on the fence). Yesterday I spent the better part of 8 hours loafing around the house bored stupid. Several times I looked at things I should have or could have been doing, and then opted to waste more time in useless endeavours. Eventually I fell asleep on the couch with the TV on. Around me, my son came home, my niece went home and apparently my sister was here.

Missed it all.

Stupid. I wasted a day. Well, no more. I need to rejoin the living. This is a good start. Part of the reason I haven't posted is that I've had to endure some fairly shitty days of late, and as much as I've wanted to tell the 3 people who read this all about it, I felt that I should be better off just keeping my trap shut. So I did. I haven't written anything for fear of my temper showing itself in my writing. Nutbags and asshats begin that way. Writing evil diatribes and manifestos, letting the world see their anger through their writing. Ted Kazinski was just one such nutbag, now he's serving life for trying to blow people up. Luckily, with the support of my family and friends, I have felt now need to make anyone go boom. I'm on the path to fixing things. This is therapy writing now.

Therapy action has been going back to the Cadet organization. I started back last month after a five year hiatus. At the time it was retirement, but now that I'm back in, I wonder what the hell I was thinking by ever leaving. For the past five years there's been a hole in my heart where the kids used to be. I missed them more than anything else. I've been involved with them for just shy of 30 years all tolled, and my life was empty without. I got involved here and there from the outside but never was I parading and teaching. It just wasn't in me for the longest time. As time went on I felt the calling. I felt the pain of not being a part of the Corps. Last May I got a call from an old friend asking if I wanted to go back. I was asked to go help fix a nearly defunct unit, and I jumped on it. I have to re-enroll as an officer, I have to go through all the training again, I will lose my rank, and for the next year or so I will be parading as a civilian instructor, but that really doesn't matter. I'm back.

I just came home from spending my Saturday afternoon cleaning the Corps office. A blank slate as it were - we had the chance to clean out the old and bring in the new. Ideas flowed like water from the well, three of us working away, no cadets or parents around, just working on brining back the glory of this 40 year old Corps that almost closed last spring. We get to fix it. The very idea of being part of that is exhilarating. I had memories come back to me that haven't paid their respects to my consciousness in years, like the time I blindfolded cadets four at a time, drove them around county roads for a half hour, then kicked them out and told the to find their way back to camp. Not to worry, each group was armed with a compass and map, and I dropped every group within sight of a visible landmark to the camp. If they had paid attention, they just beelined for home. All but one group made it back fine. Those were good times, even if the CO was pissed at me. The kids loved it. The Mongolian Tree Sloth is another story. I'll save that for another post.

This Corps is lacking in officers. Hurting actually. I was actually recruited as a Lieutenant, but the paperwork problems were not readily foreseen. So we're still short a couple. We have a very competent Lieutenant now, and a Commanding Officer we're borrowing from another Corps. It'll be a while before we're up to full strength. Until then, I will be parading in a suit. I'm the drill instructor. A role I've always loved. The small problem is that civilians aren't supposed to teach drill, but we do what's necessary to accomplish the task. Each week now I've been on the square yelling like a marine, bringing these cadets up to snuff. I haven't done this in years, so my voice is cracking, my demonstrations are rusty, and I have on more than one occasion referred to the Canadian Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial (affectionately known simply as 201). I'm getting there, I review my lessons, and march around my house like a dipweed, but I'm getting the cadets back to parade ready. I'm proud of what they've accomplished in a few short weeks, even though each week has involved me tossing out everything they know and starting over. You see, the previous CO never opened good old 201. He wrote his own book!

We've got weekend exercises planned soon, and parades coming up for the Kingsville Migration Festival and Remembrance Day. We're also planning shooting weekends and fundraising events. We want to give these cadets what they deserve - opportunity. We want to bring back the pride in their Corps. We want them to be proud to wear the uniform and the badge of the Essex and Kent Scottish. Last week we let them put on their kilts for the first time in months, and they were damn proud to do it. They want more and it's our job to give it to them. We want the Corps to grow, and in a small town like Kingsville that's not easy. A tough task for an established Corps, nevermind one that's in the process of being rebuilt. But I like the challenge.

On an ironic note, the weekend camp in mid-November is at the same place that saw me blindfolding cadets and twenty year Mongolian Tree Sloth sightings. I can't wait to go back.

When something grabs your heart and doesn't let go, you shouldn't let it go. You should hold on to it and nurture it. That's how it is with this organization. I never should have let it go. I'm happy to be given the chance to give it a second go. I'm motivated now, more than I ever was. I feel a purpose beyond just working and keeping house. (family excluded - they're always my purpose), but a person needs passion. Mine is seeing young cadets grow and achieve. Seeing them move up in ranks, win awards, and lead their peers, and know that I've been a part of that effort. I makes me proud.

On Annual Inspection in the Spring I will stand off to the side and watch my cadets come forward to accept what they've earned, and I will beam with pride. Once again, they'll be my kids again. Once again, I'll have purpose.

The old me is back!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Thinking in plaid

I went off to play silly bugger this weekend. I attended the First Annual Military Muster at Heritage Village. I won't go into all the details, frankly almost everyone who reads this was there. If i didn't talk to you, I at least saw you. From my vantage point in the vendor's area I watched thousands of people wander by all day taking in the sights and sounds of a wonderful and long overdue event. I was playing the role of recruiting officer this weekend, trying to snag unsuspecting teenagers into the cadet movement. A role I've played many times over the years. I enjoy talking to the parents more than the kids, it's usually them asking the questions anyway. I had a half dozen cadets with me, all of whom probably enjoyed the free admission and lunch more than the chance to bring up their numbers. In any case, putting on the kilt again this weekend gave me the itch, again. For years I've wanted to invest in highland garb and play the part. Recently I've even become a member of the Scottish Club. It seems that as I get older my heritage is more important to me; maybe as a way to honour my father, or maybe because I'm just proud, but I want my own kilt now. Not a borrowed one.

As I sit here pondering such a silly thing the first question that comes to mind is where would I ever wear it? Would it be practical? Should I go regi... oh, wait, never mind. It doesn't matter, it'd get use. Lots of it, just not in January. There are many events around here that could warrant it's use, everything from Highland Games to this weekend's muster. I'd find a use. I got married in one once... I could do it aga... oops.

Just a thought running around in my head, a thought of heritage, history, culture, everything my father brought us up with, the sound of the pipes, the swing of the kilt, the jokes of the un-initiated. It's all part of the game.

So I'll begin trolling the net for deals. My missing other me is out there somewhere.

Beannachd leat

Sunday, 8 August 2010

This is not the summer you are looking for...

So I'm watching my friend's facebook posts and looking at their vacation pics, and I realized something - This summer was dull. With a capital D dull. I didn't go anywhere, I didn't do anything, I accomplished none of my major goals (except the door), and now, first week of August, I regret it. I want something, I just don't know what.

I want to be in a tent somewhere, with a canoe by my side. I want to hike a trail in the mountains, I want to see a castle in Scotland, I want to ride a coaster. Hell, I'll settle for an ice cream in Cottam at this point. Anything. I'm stupid bored.

My summer has consisted of babysitting 5 cats - 3 of which are 12 week old kittens, born here in the spring to a mother we took in as an emaciated stray, close to death. WHO KNEW SHE WAS PREGNANT? So now, the kittens, as cute as they are, are very destructive. I spend most of my day picking up after them, sweeping, flea control, emptying the cat box, and constantly feeding the little lovelies. They're cute, but they've taken over. The old saying that dogs have owners and cats have staff is absolutely true here. I'm a zookeeper in the feline enclosure.

My summer has also been spent fixing things. The new back door finally went up, so we've done away with the redneck door lock. We can open, close AND LOCK our back door at will. Silly thing, but it made me feel better. Then the hot water tank died. Woo hoo. Normally it would have been a simple phone call to have that replaced, but not here. Here, we had to empty the room of it's constituent junk (cats included), then haul out the old tank, clean and dry the damage under the old tank - the floor had a crack so big that we had 2 trees growing up through the basement floor. After a ton of concrete and a 24" patio slab, they were ready to drop the new tank in.

We tried gardening this summer too. It's growing well, we've got a plethora of cucumbers, and some very small but tasty strawberries. The watermelon are going slowly, but they're growing. We should have them by September. Several other crops are creeping along. Not bad for our first attempt. Next year will be better.

This summer has seen my children have more vacations than Kim and I. Bug has been to camp three times, and my son is presently on route back to Canada after another week in his grandfather's truck. This time they went to West Virginia and Quebec, with all parts in between. He'll come home tonight, play with kittens, and pick up his guitar.

This summer I found out that getting back into the military will be really tough. I found out that my last clearance was a "5F" - or put into civilian terms, unfit for further military service. Looking at my records I'm sure it's because the paperwork was a real mess on my release four years ago, but I'll have to prove that. Anyway, I'm looking at six months before the army makes a decision on whether or not to let me back in. In the meantime, I'm working with the Corps as a civilian instructor. Better than nothing.

Just to add to the hell of the army paperwork, while sitting on my porch yesterday enjoying sunshine and a good book, walked up two Windsor police officers. Two months ago, while REALLY pissed off, I kicked the front end of a meter maid's car as they ticketed me for double parking in front of my house. The 4-ways were on, but they said I'd been there too long. I tried to talk my way out of the $30 ticket but they would have none of it. I booted the front of their car. Yup, shouldn't have done that. Now, two months later I'm being charged with a misdemeanor - damaging the car. Yup, it took two months for them to realize "hey, someone kicked our car 2 months ago, we should charge them!" The police claim that since that day, the door won't open properly. Funny, I kicked the FRONT end. I think they damaged the car somewhere and I'll be the fall guy. This will look great when I go before the admissions board for the military.

All the while, the evil kittens just stared out the window.

I've taken a total of two vacation days this summer. Two. Not even good ones. I'm covering for other people's vacations, simply because Kim is still relatively new in her job and hasn't got enough time banked yet for a real vacation. So I've been taking a day at a time. So instead of going to some far off land, I've managed to scam a few three day weekends. Time well spent cleaning up after kittens and getting in trouble with the evil meter maid department.

The kittens are staring at me. Probably 'cause I haven't fed them in a half hour or so.

I intended to get into shape this summer, that failed too. I've gone running a few times, even visited a gym and considered handing them a pay cheque or two, but alas, nothing. I'm still a skinny, out of shape 40-something couch potato. There's still some summer left. I've got time. I was running with my son, maybe when he comes home tonight he'd be willing to go for a jaunt.

The last kick in the teeth this summer is my bike. It was again, stolen. Again, while locked up somewhere else. Again, I'm walking. I have a special relationship with my bike(s), I love the peace and freedom of just going for a ride somewhere, the whole wind in your hair thing, the energy it feeds me, but now, nope. No bike. I had to pay for other things this summer, hot water tank, door, other household repairs, and oh yeah, kittens. Did I mention I have a house full of kittens? So no bike this year. Sigh.

There's still some summer left, there's still time to salvage this. Next week is the Military Muster at Heritage Village. A huge event that I'm volunteering at. I'm considering the offer from the organizer to dress in WWII battledress and act the part, but I'm on the fence with that. 100% wool in 90 degree heat. Not good. Either way, it will be fun, and everyone should come out and honour our vets. There will be over 60 restored vehicles, live bands, demonstrations, fly pasts, helicopter rides, and 40s era swing party, veteran's parade, mock battles, period encampments from Romans to Vietnam era, and vendors. Lots of stuff to see if you've got the historian's itch. And regardless, just supporting our veterans and current forces is all that really matters. All proceeds from the weekend are going to the Canadian Transportation Museum at Heritage Village. I'm camping there the weekend, not exactly the camping I had in mind, but I'll take it. The canoe will have to wait.

So this post hasn't been exactly rosy. I'm seeing people coming and going to cottages and theme parks, visiting family in far off lands, or having people show up on the doorstep from far off lands (thanks Shelley, for bringing Ingrid down!) I don't want to begrudge anyone for having a great summer, you all deserve it. and eventually, so will I.

Once I'm finished my job as a cat nanny.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Happy Canada Day

Happy birthday Canada, you're 143 today. We'll all have some cake and ice cream to celebrate, all 34 million of us. One big-ass cake. We'll take the day off work and reflect what it means to live in the best country on earth, we'll ponder our place on the world stage, as other countries rally to send greetings and blessings to us all. We'll even get to choose whether or not to do any chores, maybe today we'll all get breakfast in bed served to us by the Brits, or the French. The Americans will have their hands full getting ready for tonight's backyard BBQs, getting the grills ready for us, cutting the grass, etc. etc. We'll send the germans to the beer store and the Australians to the liquor store - they have the best wine in my opinion, don't send the Chileans, I don't like theirs.

We'll light the bonfires tonight and celebrate our day with all our friends. We'll roast hot dogs and marshmellows for the kids, have a few beers and relax. It's our birthday. We may even get presents. I know I asked for a raise, that would be nice. Some other friends of mine asked for tax cuts, one asked for a job. Dalton McGuinty, that lovable, ever so affable little dictator of Ontario, has given all the residents of his little province the HST. So kind. We really should all thank him now, but it may be better to wait 'til the election is called.

We'll toast each other tonight, to our health. To our health care system. To hoping we don't have to take advantage of it, although after tonight, some may be in the ER, but not to worry, they won't get a bill, just a long wait. The lasting affects of another gift from a government long ago, universal health care.

We'll probably get a little rowdy tonight as well, and some of us may spill into the streets looking for trouble. The police will undoubtedly be called to quell the riots, and all 6 hooligans will be thrown into the cooler for the night, their broken hockey sticks and rocks taken away. One may even have a gun, but it will more than likely not have any bullets, they're illegal here.

The immigrant population can partake too, those who have come to Canada over the years have done so for a reason, all different, all unique. But there are those who have come to this country to settle because they've heard about our wicked birthday parties and just want to get in on it all. Then, there are those who will see the excitement and long for their homelands, in some cases, knowing they never can return. So they become reluctant Canadians, but they will join in non the less, and make the best of it.

There are those who will attend the party tonight that we didn't invite; the nosey neighbours who always lean over the fence to see what you're up to. We laugh about them, and joke about what we'd do if they did jump over, but when it actually happens, we do nothing. We hand them a beer anyway. Better to keep your enemies closer I suppose, it's just the Canadian way. Eventually we'll send them little hints to hit the road, but they won't get it. The only time they'll actually leave is if they catch wind of another party somewhere. Shouldn't be a problem tonight, there will be lots of parties for them to hop around to.

Our police will be patrolling the streets tonight keeping us safe, our firefighters and hospital workers will be on call in case we need them, politicians will make speeches about how great of a country they have made for us to live in (kinda like you cutting your own grass and the nosey neighbour tells you how good of a job he did in not stealing your lawnmower).

Somewhere in all of this, Canadians of all makes and models will come together to wish each other Happy Birthday. It may not be the most coherent or audible cheer, but it will be there, felt in the hearts of those who chant it out. And there will be those who will break into song for each other - singing Happy Birthday over and over again. Some may even resort to the Beatles' edition. Others countries may sing for us, like Afghanistan, who as we all know, have a large population of Canadian loving folk, at least those who've been told they do. At least the ones the Taliban haven't targeted.

Our flag is universally recognized as a symbol of a peaceful country. A nation of fun-loving people who are ever so quick to help out someone in need. A nation of caring low key people who are humble enough to avoid making waves in the world's swimming pool. Happy enough to enjoy a day truly meant for us. Other nations are jealous of our accomplishments, our food, our tremendous cultural offerings (The giant inflatable mountie is everywhere!), and our hospitality.

Come on over! Our border guards will cheerfully hand out maps to the best parties, and offer all kinds of advice on what areas to avoid. And you thought the delays at the border were caused by unnecessary inspections? Of course not, we don't care what you bring in, but we will take the time to help you get your cargo where it needs to go.

I love this country, and I'm proud to call myself Canadian. I'm proud to wear the maple leaf, I'm proud to have worn the uniform. I will shout from the rooftops about my heritage, and I will have no fear of reprecutions.

I am Keith, and I am Canadian.

Enjoy your day everyone. And to my American readers, Happy Fourth of July. We'll be there to help with your BBQ this weekend, but keep in mind there's not really enough of us to help, so you'll need some other countries to lend a hand.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Morning Ranting

The HST comes into effect next week. Add that to the list of laws added by Ontario's rulers in the past year or two, included outlawing cell phones in cars, smoking in cars, tough rules for teenage drivers, policing what kind of dogs people can own, pesticide bans, removing pop from schools, ordering bars to post sign so pregnant women now finally are told alcohol is dangerous to their babies (it's about time someone told them), overriding municipal bylaws when they deem fit, and much more.

Now I'm not necessarily against some of McGuinty's laws, I just think it's time he stopped for a while and let people decide for themselves. It's time he goes away, stop imposing more rules and regulations to the point that we don't know anymore what's legal or not. At some point I'm going to get a ticket for doing something I thought I could do - Sorry officer, I didn't realize it was against the law to walk up the left side staircase - there was no sign posted that that was the down side! Here's my $55.

Most of this is tax grab. Most of this is making so many laws that the provinces coffers are being filled up with money from unwarranted fines. The HST is in that category as far as I'm concerned, it's another grab at our ever-diminishing bank accounts. McGuinty says it will create jobs. He's right in one sense, because once I'm broke from the extra 8% tax burden, I will have to bust my ass to ring up freelance work just to pay my fucking utility bill or put gas in the car. So there Dalton, your theory worked - I have to start my own business just to raise enough money to feed my family.

It's the same with the graduated licensing system in this province. You have to right several tests now to get your licence, that's not really that inciteful, but the fact that you are destined to fail the first of each and have to pay to retest is an atrocity. I'm firm in my belief that the province has mandated the testing offices to fail everyone on the first go in order to raise more money. Who are they fooling? Taxpayers are not blind or stupid. Well, OK, some are blind and many are stupid, but we need them for entertainment purposes. Why doesn't the province just raise the cost of getting a licence? We're paying through the nose anyway?

With the rising costs of driving now, more people are going to be inclined to take alternate forms of transportation. I'm all for that. I love my bike (or did, til it was stolen for the third time), but how long is it going to be before Dalton decides there's too many bicycles on the road that are not paying their way, and taxes the hell out of them too? Can you imagine - park your bike somewhere and have to pay a meter? Give him time, Dalton will sort out the details. Or how about a 100% tax on bike helmets, and then a $100 fine for not wearing one?

In Windsor we're getting the new Parkway shoved down our throats. The province has anted up buckets of money to pay for it. Our money. Yes, we need the solution, but Dalton and his cronnies have decided to bypass any sort of municipal input and are installing a roadway that Boston is spending billions of dollars to REMOVE. (The Big Dig - Google it). The input of the city was dismissed in favour of our loveable dictator's dream. A concrete garden chock full of diesel belching trucks. All paid for with money from the HST, higher fines, and other hidden tax grabs. The theory here is that they're paying for it - they get what they want.

Anyway, my rant is over, I'm late for work. Here's a morning smile...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Earthquake Zone

I called National Defence Headquarters today, inquiring about my service records. As I left the employ of the Department of National Defence four years ago, my records were transferred there for archiving. So I have to retrieve them before I proceed with my evil plans to return to uniform.

So I made the call and settled in for a long summer's hold please. It is after all, the government. I got an answering machine the first try, so I left my number and went back to work. Surprisingly enough, within the hour they called me back. Miracles never cease. I cheerfully greeted the girl on the other end and began to explain what I needed when I was rudely interupted by this...

"Oh my God! Hold please".

Then the phone clicked. I turned to my coworker and in bewilderment told her what I'd just heard, which was met by a crinkled brow and quizzical look from Rox. Simply out of shear morbid curiosity I held the line. Let's think about this for a moment; I'm calling National Defence Headquarters - the home of the Canadian Forces administration and logistics services, among other things. Also, this coming weekend, Canada is hosting the G20 and G8 conferences in Toronto and Huntsville respectively. And unless you're living under a rock, you know just how much security has been put into place for those events. My attendant greeted me with "Oh my God".

For about 5 minutes I held the line, wondering what was happening. When she finally came back, she was incredibly pleasant and apologetical, while informing me that I'd have to call back later, as they were in the middle of an earthquake, and they were evacuating. You see, NDHQ is in Ottawa, which is just south of the 5.5 magnitude earthquake today, at 1:41 pm.

Just as I was calling.

The quake didn't cause any major damage, but it was registered as far away as Boston. We felt it in our office, and one of the girl's husband called asking if we felt it. I didn't. But several others did.

This was my first earthquake, and I didn't even feel it. Not that I really wanted to, but the experience was lost on me. The only hint of the event was being put on hold quite rudely. For a call that started so upbeat and friendly, it certainly took a downturn. Tomorrow I'll try again, and unless they're still having aftershocks, I shouldn't anticipate any problems, except of course that tomorrow the phone will be answered by Master Corporal Shitforbrains, who's been relegated to a desk job due to his offensive leadership tactics and horrible mannerisms. Such is the army.


Monday, 14 June 2010

Long summer days

It's started, the long days of summer. Notice I left out lazy - that word has been stripped from my vocabulary. This past weekend we did the county roadtrip, for the first time since dad died almost a year ago. We've headed out before, but this time there was no agenda, no destination - just out. It was our intention to find our way to Leamington at the very least, and then meander back towards home. So off we went, around 8am, hit the Timmy's drive through for breakfast and then away.

This trip is nothing new for me, I do it every day going to work, but it's completely different with the family on board. We went through Kingsville, and then down the lake road to Leamington. We stopped at a few yard sales along the way, Kim bought a really nice reproduction tea wagon at some rich guy's house - always go to gated communities for yard sales - they've got the best junk! Next we headed into Leamington proper. There was a small part of me that wanted to see tornado damage, but the larger moral part of me just wanted to leave these people to picking up their lives. As you get closer to the harbour you can't help but to stare - the damage is astounding. The police were doing their part to keep gockers (sp?) out, they were checking ID at roadblocks, so we carried on. Down the road towards the point, we stopped at the lake and let the kids stretch, then back again. On a whim I pulled into the go-cart track, and we took the kids around a few laps. It's nice to be spontanious like that every now and then.

Back to Kingsville for lunch, then to the candy store. There's a place in Kingsville called Sugar, right on Main Street. Three words - you must go. This store has all the retro candy we grew up with, and the best 'fun' stuff around. Everything from insult greeting cards to stuffed animals in the shape of bacteria and viruses. I want to buy a brain cell this week. (Go ahead - I opened the door). I was particularly attracted to the five pound Hershey bar. I didn't ask the price.

We moved off down County Road 50 along Lake Erie, again, more storm damage. People were still cutting down the last of their destroyed trees. That is a very scenic route, and quite relaxing to drive. We came out around Harrow near the new wind farm. Kim was taken back to the turbines - they creep up on you, and their size is certainly impressive. She took a pile of pictures, and again, we moved on.

We headed back to Windsor with the used book sale for Terry Fox in mind. They held that at an empty store at Windsor Crossing - an entire store of cheap books! It was heaven for about an hour. I got a very heavy bag of books for around $20. Nice.

Just as we pulled into Windsor though, the rain started. Nice timing. We were home by 3:30, just in time for our extra child (Bug's friend who stays with us quite often on Saturday nights).

We emptied the car, set up the tea cart, and fell on the couch. A tremendous day. You don't really need to go to some theme park to have fun, although it helps! We needed that day - we needed to be spontaneous and light-hearted. I needed to beat my kids on the go-kart course, we needed ice cream and gum balls, we needed to laugh. I pulled us together as a family and probably did more for our collective phsychie than any other planned event.

Take you family and go. Go somewhere where there is no game plan, no map, just a car and a road.

Just go. It's worth it.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Blog Redux

This is one of my favourite posts, and I felt the need to repost it after rereading it today. It's still applicable.


A small list of things that bother me, feel free to disagree.

1. REEEAAAALLLLYYYY old people driving 30 in a 60 with their brakes on in the fast lane. Even the buses were honking at her.

2. Things that break too soon, like modern electronics. Why is shit only built to last a couple of years before the self-destruct mechanism goes off? Why do manufacturers think we're going to run out and buy another one of their shitty devices after the one broke the day after the warranty runs out? We're going to buy a different brand, think about it.

3. People who make too much noise late at night, like the idiot down the road running his dirt bike down the alley at top speed at 10pm. I'd like to throw a net across the next time he flies down. This is also the guy who plays with an extremely loud remote-control car on the street. I'd like to accidently back over it.

4. Strikers. Nuf' said.

5. News broadcasts that reiterate what was just said with a text version across the bottom, AS THE PERSON IS TALKING. If you can't hear it, turn on your sub-titles. Broadcasters shouldn't presume that we want to have to read what's being said as it happens. Cut it out CNN.

6. Spam on my cell phone. Hey jackasses - I have to pay for your call. Shut the fuck up. That also goes with texting me about my personal credit history. Let's think about this - you're making it worse!

7. Texting and twitter. People don't really care what you're doing every minute of every day. We have our own lives to think about. Cut it out. As far as texting goes, pick up the damn phone if you want to communicate with me somehow.

8. Cable TV. $60/month to see informercials about shit I heard about on my cell phone. I wasn't interested then, I'm not now. Then rebroadcasts of the shit the networks picked up cheap, like stupid reality shows that cost nothing to produce and take an exacting toll on our brain cells. If I wanted to see and hear people doing normal everyday shit in a house, I'd put webcams throughout my own. Or better yet, get a twitter account.

9. Reality TV. See #8

10. PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. These people are just plain weird and need to be shipped off somewhere. How about somewhere with lots of animals for them to play with, like Borneo. I'm sure they will have a great time playing with man-eating snakes and carnivorous rodents. When they tried to have fish renamed sea kittens in an effort to halt fishing they drew the line. They thought the cuteness factor would do it. Do they really think that me eating a nice cedar smoked sea kitten is going to make me enjoy it any less? Mmmmm, sea kittens... Mmmmmm.

11. Pants hanging off people's asses. It's not sexy. Get over it, your fucking pants are falling down. Either eat a donut or buy a smaller pair.

12. Low rise pants. We don't care to see your C-section scar. As per 11, get a pair that fits.

13. Remakes of things that shouldn't have been made the first time. I hear there's a live action version of the Smurfs coming to a theatre near you. Hopefully not me. Stop it. Get an original idea for Christ's sakes. Bad remakes and bad movie ideas are melting our population's collective brains. People who waste their money on this crap are only contributing to the producers of such shit wanting to make more. Michael Bay is a horrible director. Face it, Transformers 2 sucks, as does most of his movies. Somebody ship him off to Borneo. Maybe there he can get inspired to write an original movie about PETA members being eaten by hordes of angry man-eating parrots, with the cannibalistic residents picking their teeth with the leftover bones. Maybe Michael Bay can be eaten.

14. Sarah Palin. Just shut up and go away.

15. Remixing classic music. Rap artists remix old classic music with new lyrics and sell it to the masses claiming originality. Stop it. Anyone doing this should immediately be sued and shipped to Borneo. Vanilla Ice (remember that freak?) started it, he had no talent at all and proved it when he ripped off Bowie and Queen. Borneo. Nuf' said.

16. Kim Jong Il and Osama bin Laden. Please die.

17. People who keep their jobs with absolutely no effort and no brains. How do you people keep bringing home paychecks? Why is it that with so many people on the unemployment lines you can't see that you really need to make an effort to keep your jobs? This isn't an employees market, it's an employers market. Bosses should fire shitheads who spend all day goofing off and providing absolutely no contribution to the economy. You're taking up valuable space. Go away, get a double wide somewhere in Mississipi with a bath tub and a car motor on your front lawn and leave the jobs for those who will appreciate them.

18. Special interest groups. PETA, NRA, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Greenpeace, Pro-Nuclear, Anti-Coal, Pro-Man Eating Parrots, I don't care who you are. You shove your message down our throats with a militant zest. We can't escape. If we don't agree with you, we must be against you. Well, yeah! Of course! Shitheads. Hand out your pamphlets and let us make the choice, don't read it to us and threaten us if we disagree. Just shut up.

19. Vandals and Thieves. People who slash tires, knock over grave stones, bust windows, spray graffiti, steal bikes and lawnmowers, stop it. You're a bunch of bored kids looking for a thrill. Here's a thrill - Borneo. Please give me my 6 bikes and lawnmower back.

20. Arrogant narcicistic morons. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror and become a member of society. You're really not that great, if you were, we'd praise and admire you. Ghandi was great, Trudeau was great, Mandella is great, you're not. Look past your own face for once.

OK, so if you qualify as anyone on this list, or practice anything on this list, stop it. You piss people off. Or maybe just me, but hey, it's my blog, so get over it.

I've played nice nice lately with posts, but this was overdue.

I feel better now.


Wednesday, 9 June 2010


So I have to get back into shape if I'm going to do this. Peak physical condition is not necessary, the PT testing is actually quite a joke, however, I have no intention of struggling through it. I have vowed to use this opportunity as the motivation I need to do something I should not have waited so long to do - get off my lazy ass.

I drive a desk for a living, and as such the only exercise I get is moving pens around, answering the phone, and running outside to grab a smoke (admittedly ironic!) So here I go. I've been out on my bike a few times now, between rain drops of course, and yes, it hurts like hell. Last week I went for about 2 hours, and my legs are still reminding me how utterly stupid that was. My goal is to change that. A friend of mine has started jogging, and I asked him if he wanted a partner. He's kind of in the same boat as me, out of shape and taking it slow at first, so going together is a no brainer, however, he doesn't start until 11pm. I don't really know how I feel about that. Another friend has decided the same thing - he's intent on using this effort to quit smoking. I guess a similar goal should be in order. Either way, I have support and won't have to do this alone. By my own admission I have absolutely no self-discipline. It's too easy to come home and jump on the computer or hit the couch. It's too easy NOT to exercise. I need motivation to do this and I may have found it in my friends. Ironically, not in the reason I'm starting this in the first place.

So I have the summer to do it. I have the summer to quit smoking, start running, biking, flying, climbing, whatever. I have the summer to revert 20 years. This ought to be fun! I will set myself goals and fail to achieve them on a daily basis. I will buy myself some new exercise clothes, that of course will be used to anything but (nice comfy track pants to play PS2 in?) Kim will kick me in the ass now and then for not getting to it, and I will start drinking the protein drinks again (I'm horribly under weight - another bridge to climb).

I will do this, even if everything here says otherwise. This post is my motivation. If I can look back on this and laugh when I consider just how wrong I was, then my goal will be met. If I can get my new uniform issued at least one size larger than my old one, my goal will be met.

I can do this.
I have to.