Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday Random Round-up

Every Wednesday I'm going to put myself through the torture of writing an entry involving one each of the following random things: odd fact, video, quote, picture, knee slapper/groaner, and a lesson learned.  If anybody else would like to participate (you would have to be crazy), link to your post below.  Who knows... we might all learn something from each other and have some fun along the way.

1.  Odd Fact:

Only one species of bee will pollinate the one species of orchid which produces vanilla beans.

2.  Video: 

3. Quote: 

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
--Carl Sagan 

4.  Picture:  
five day old toes

5.  Knee Slapper/groaner: 

When you're down by the sea and an ell bites your knee; that's a moray.

6.  Lesson Learned:

The eight foot snowbanks on either side of my driveway are good evidence that suggests climate change is indeed real.  Remind me to buy a snow blower when they're on sale in late spring.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Attack of the Forest Tent Caterpillars

The year was nine-teen eighty-eight and the damn things were so plentiful, when you walked down the street it sounded like crisped rice popping and crackling underfoot.

It was gross.

Unless you were a ten year old boy... then it was cool.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eleven shades of Winston

Sometimes I become consumed with life's little negativities, regardless of how impermanent they are.  I've been doing this a lot lately... even more in the real world than I do on my blog.

My beautiful wife reminded me this morning that it's important to take the time to reflect on the positive things that  make us passionate and sometimes focus on good or happy perspectives of the present.  It is with that in mind that I write this list of things that make my heart feel super-happy:

Exploring - The deep woods, urban centres, train yards.... I've always loved poking around to see what's new (or old) - and perhaps gain perspectives of life otherwise not imagined.  This was the driving force behind the very first incarnation of my blog.  (I've never been, but I would imagine I would absolutely love space exploration)

She may not look like much but she's got it where it counts

Photography - This one sort of goes with the exploring.  It's nice to have a picture to show you were there and what it really looked like, but also it helped to expand the exploring by always trying to search out subjects that have never been photographed before.

Star Wars - Yup. Maybe not so much since the prequels were released, but I have to admit I have hugely high expectations now that Disney is running the show.  I'm a little less wary of admitting that I'm a Star Wars fan again.

I don't know the people who live here, but I  feel like I should 
bring them a batch of "Wookiee Cookies" for making my day.

Quality (read: non-parenting) time with my wife - After six years, five dogs, three kids, and a cat she is still my favorite person, and I find her to be the most attractive thing on the planet.  I love her to death and greatly enjoy her company in every regard.

Busking - I've always enjoyed playing instruments, and I've had entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. This allows those two things to be combined and that kicks ass.

Building things - Lego construction, snow forts, shelving units, you name it.  If it involves turning smaller pieces into a more complete whole, I'm there.  The same goes for fixing things and "upgrading" things.

Cooking/baking (non-professional) - I'm almost a Red Seal chef.... I even had my own restaurant for a while.  I really do love food and flavour and can prepare just about any kind of cuisine.  Although I am passionate about the craft of cookery, I quickly learned during the time I did it professionally that cooking for my friends family and myself is a whole different (and more enjoyable) stick of butter than doing it for the public at large and for money.

Biking - I'm not your typical "stick-to-the-bike-paths" biker.  I like to get on the beaten trail... then off the beaten trail... then carry the bike with one arm against my back as I cross a ravine on a slippery log while fending off a grumpy badger chasing me.  I bike everywhere - even in the winter.

Drawing/sculpting - This is another thing on my list that I went to school for.  I'm not the greatest at it, but it's fun, relaxing, and brings a sense of fulfillment for some reason.

My favorite mediums are pastels, pencil, 
crayon, chalk, and broken circuit-board.

Teaching/coaching - A good number of my previous jobs have involved teaching or educating in some capacity.  One of the reasons I'm drawn to this is because it's something I really enjoy doing.  I'm good at it and again, I get a sense of fulfillment from helping somebody out or expanding a person's knowledge.

Well, that was fun.... and a good exercise in reflection.  One of the reasons I'm blogging again is to regain some of my creativity.  What better thing to do than take an inventory of things I'm passionate about and thus inspire said creativity.

What makes you creative?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Red-winged Blackbird

 I'm working on a longer post and it's not done yet....

Enjoy this picture for now.  I can't wait to get my new pocket camera so I can go exploring and picture hunting once more.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Review

If you're like me and enjoyed the sound of gangster rap in the nineties, but are more mature now and don't like the typical message that generally goes with that genre, have I got an artist for you.

I picked up  the album "The Heist" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis a few weeks ago and it's pretty much all I've been listening to since.  I would classify the genre as "adult rap" - and not in the sense that he raps about sex, Hollywood parties, and illicit drugs, but that his lyrics are about real mature issues - songs about beating addiction, LGBTG rights, consumerism, ethics in advertising, and so on...

The following song is what really did it for me:

I was seven years old, when I got my first pair
And I stepped outside
And I was like, "Momma, this air bubble right here, it's gonna make me fly"
I hit back-court and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
I touched the net, "Momma I touched the net," this is the best day of my life
Air Max's was next,
That air bubble, that mesh
The box, the smell, the stuffin', the tread,
In school
I was so cool
I knew that I couldn't crease 'em
My friends couldn't afford 'em
Four stripes on their Adidas
On the court I wasn't the best, but my kicks were like the pros
Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo
Nike Air Flight, but bad was so dope
And then my friend Carlos' brother got murdered for his Fours*, whoa

See he just wanted a jump shot, but they wanted to start a cult though
Didn't wanna get caught, from Genesee Park to Othello
You could clown for those Pro Wings, with the Velcro
Those were not tight
I was trying to fly without leaving the ground,
Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
Wanted to be him,
I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to touch the rim
I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to fit in,
I wanted what he had, America, it begins

I want to fly
Can you take me far away?
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I'll go so high
I'll go so high
My feet won't touch the ground
Stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

We want what we can't have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it
Got to show 'em, so exclusive, this that new shit
A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in
Look at me, look at me, I'm a cool kid
I'm an individual, yeah, but I'm part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts
Are you stupid, don't crease 'em, just leave 'em in that box
Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
That's my air bubble and I'm lost if it pops
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine, off

They started out, with what I wear to school
That first day, like these are what make you cool
And this pair, this would be my parachute
So much more than just a pair of shoes
Nah, this is what I am
What I wore, this is the source of my youth
This dream that they sold to you
For a hundred dollars and some change
Consumption is in the veins
And now I see it's just another pair of shoes

The song is (obviously) about shoes, and I had some of that issue in grade 7 and 8.... you weren't cool if your clothes came from Biway, or if you didn't have a Vuarnet T-shirt in your wardrobe, but that wasn't why this track resounded with me.....

Every stinking lyric here could hold just as true for the industry I work in.  "Your love is only as big as the diamond you buy her...", "Your success is only as great as the gold watch on your wrist" or from my perspective, "If I sell enough of these big diamonds I'll make that fat commission check to buy my love a big diamond just like one of these "- and does she ever deserve it.

It makes me physically ill.  I seriously bought into this attitude for a while... I thought I had to in order to make my sales.  To sell a product - REALLY sell it - you have to believe in it, right?


I reflected and changed my attitude some weeks ago and I'm still top sales in the store.  I'm not using my commission check to buy a diamond anymore, I'm paying off old debts.  It doesn't feel good, but it feels better.  And eventually...

I'll break free from it all.


It's the diamond selling thing again..... I know, it's all I ever blog about.

Annnnnyway, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Good messages, good sound, lots of catchy riffs and samples and feature artists... also heavy use of brass and string instruments.  I fully recommend giving it a listen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Fastest Ever Built

Last night I was left with the three kids while my wife was off teaching high school and college students about the Matrix.  It wasn't long after she left....

...that I was transported back to grade 5.  The pad of construction paper and roll of masking tape came out. I was transformed into an aerodynamic paper-folding engineering genius.  I taught my construction techniques to my two eldest for the first time... Soon the skies were filled with streaks of coloured paper and laughter of children (and their father). 

It's funny... sometimes having kids makes me feel very old.  Last night - at least for an hour - having kids made me feel about 3 decades younger.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another (even shorter) Dog Poem

The silly dog stares at the wall, she's been like this since lunch
Some say there's a mouse in there, but it's really just a hunch.
She has quite a simple mind and is rather quick to cower.
Sunday we got a new orange couch.  She barked at it for hours.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

I've been doing a lot of  thinking lately... about who I am, and who I'd like to be.  What could I be doing better.... what should I be doing less of... etc.  I'm in my mid thirties and I should really get going on all of that.  The title of this post is a Ghandi quote, and one I've been giving much thought to.

Another version of this phrase is: "If you want to change the world, start with yourself."

One of the many things I'm taking from this is that instead of  focusing on fixing a problem head-on (as we do), it is better to start by focusing on how we react to said problem.  We have no control over other people's opinions, beliefs, greed, motivations.... any more than we can control the weather.  We do have control over how we react though.  Our own actions are the only thing we really do have control over.  And, just like our own actions can play a part in future weather patterns (industrialization, pollution, etc...), our reactions to problems should have some factor in what happens next in society.


Just random thought.  

Now I have to go shovel 20 cm of wet snow (now ice, as it's -16° C) that mother nature dropped on us overnight.  Guess what my reaction is to that!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Carmi's Thematic Photographic is up for the week and the subject this time is "letters, numbers, and other characters".  I have chosen pi.

pie chart

 (Above is the chocolate mixed nut praline pie we had after supper - It was a VERY good pie - but this doesn't really count as my thematic photo). 

Seriously though, I do miss working with numbers... real, imaginary, complex, irrational... you know, "fun" numbers. 

Some time in September of 2009 I decided engineering might not be for me and paused my studies.  I'm still not sure what convinced me to trade in that slide-rule for a chef knife...  I think I'll blame Disney Pixar's Ratatouille (it was the "always-on-repeat-movie" of the time). 

At any rate, I still have that old slide rule... I might just finish that degree yet.  Or something else that involves crazy math.  I'm not sure.  The point is, I'm crazy.

"When struggling in the darkness, why not search for light?"

I really need to find a new job.

I'm really feeling that I'm in the upper-echelon of corporate consumerism doing what it I do right now.  If my daughter had a "Bring your Dad to School" day - I think I'd call in sick.  You see kids... I make money by putting your parents into debt for things that society has told them they need to show their love and/or prove their success.

I bought into this paradigm for a while.  I have a diamond ring, a selection of cufflinks and an even more awesome selection of watches - wool suits, silk ties, pocket squares.  It's stupid.  I was happier as a broke cook - going to sleep at 11:00 PM and waking up at 3:45 AM - I just wasn't as comfortable.  That's just it really.  I've traded pride and my moral compass for a more comfort life and it feels ... gross.

A cup of Star Wars hot cocoa should help for the moment....  That, and knowing this is all impermanent.  Just a few more debts to pay off. Then I will start a long journey toward a career where I can actually contribute something of meaning to the human race... to the planet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A long time ago....

Pretty much since birth, my son has been enamored by world of Thomas the Tank Engine.  Everywhere we go he'd have a train in each hand, and could easily name 4 dozen engines (correctly) before he could count or recite the alphabet.  When he plays, he talks with a British accent and borrows lines from the episodes that have been watched hundreds (and hundreds) of times.  But then the other day, a miracle happened...

Earlier in the week, I had changed my Windows wallpaper to C3P0 wearing a Victorian suit....

When my son saw the new desktop his pupils dilated slightly, he commented something about the golden robot, and then it happened.  He said, "Daddy, can we watch Star Wars?"

Yes!! These ARE the droids you're looking for!

We watched A New Hope - the 1977 cut, unedited.  It was... magical.  I was able to relive watching it for the first time.  I was a year older than him when I first saw it.  It was kindergarten and the whole class sat on the orange shag carpet in our school library as we watched Luke Skywalker drink blue milk on Betamax tape.

This is exciting to me - just though I'd share.

N.B. I'm not THAT huge of a Star Wars geek, although.... I have a Star Wars tattoo.... and my wedding cake had Star Wars action figures on it.... and every year for my birthday, I secretly hope it's going to be a Star Wars themed birthday.... (this came true for my 7th and 25th birthdays! - and maybe also my 36th?)

cutting carrots

Why "the carrot"?  Why not "the potato" or "the artichoke"?  I guess it could be either of those, from a certain point of view. 

In very simple terms, it has to do with finding peace, balance, and satisfaction in every task at every moment... living in the moment.  When preparing supper and cutting carrots, one should focus on cutting the carrots and take satisfaction that the carrots are being superbly cut.  Don't think about the Monsanto seed they carrot grew from or the delicious stew that the carrot will go into.  Be present.  Cut the carrot.

This blog is my carrot and the keyboard, my knife.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Make the money, don't let the money make you.

My mind has been at war with itself the past few days.  Well, not really war... but I've been reflecting quite a bit... trying to see things - my life - from a different perspective... under a different light.

I used to be a creative being.  I wrote music, poetry, drew, painted, sculpted - I was an artist.  In my heyday I played 8 different instruments proficiently.  One year I decided I was a film producer.  I filmed about a dozen shorts and wrote four feature length screen plays.  This was the same year I started blogging.  Not just silly memes and feel-good themes, but hard-core every-day blood and sweat blogging.  Real stuff.

Then one day it stopped. 

I want it back.

I was listening to some hip-hop on the way to work this morning and a lyric really stuck with me.  "Make the money, don't let the money make you".  I'm not impressed with who I've become in my career.  I look in the mirror and the real me is so, so distant behind my eyes.  I can barely recognize myself - I certainly don't like who it is I see on the surface.

The good news is, I'm realizing this now... before I get any more gnarled and twisted and corrupted by the system I'm not only participating in, but perpetuating.  This job started as a way to pay the bills.  I'm seeing now that the costs of this job will always be greater than it's potential to reciprocate. 

I need to start living differently.

I need to start living, full stop.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Silly Dog

The silly dog lays on the couch, that yesterday she chewed.
She stinks of fish and barks a lot; oft puts me in a mood.
She still curls up on my lap, though she's 60 pounds.
Despite her flaws, I love this beast, best friend I have found.

Thank you wife, for not getting my text message that day you went to the shelter, thus returning with the demon-spawn puppy I've grown so fond of.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Random Round-up

Every Wednesday I'm going to put myself through the torture of writing an entry involving one each of the following random things: odd fact, video, quote, picture, knee slapper/groaner, and a lesson learned.  If anybody else would like to participate (you would have to be crazy), link to your post below.  Who knows... we might all learn something from each other and have some fun along the way.

1.  Odd Fact: The guy who decided a sideways 8 should be the mathematical sign for infinity (John Wallis) had horrible insomnia.  One night, as he lay awake in bed, he mentally calculated the square root of a 53 digit number.

2.  Video: This video went viral quite some time ago.  I just learned of it's existence today....

...still laughing

3. Quote:  "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who see it coming and jump aside."  -- Hunter S. Thompson

4.  Picture:  Just a random shot of the cookbook shelf near my PC

5.  Knee Slapper/groaner:  A baby seal walked into a club....

6.  Lesson Learned:  If it's 10:00 at night, a copper pipe in the basement develops a leak, and all stores that sell plumbing goods are closed, you can temporarily fix it like this....

This actually did happen tonight.  It's lucky I happened to be doing laundry in the basement and was able to notice this leak before it could do major damage.  (bonus lesson learned:  Mac's convenience store and the gas station 4 blocks from my house do not sell duct tape, PVC tape, or 1/2" copper couplings)

Monday, February 11, 2013


I haven't participated in Carmi's Thematic Photographic in a very long time.  I think it's about time I started doing so again.  This week's theme is Speed.

Sure, my two eldest are passing my youngest back and forth at quite a velocity, but the speed this photo brings to the forefront of my brain is the speed at which kids grow up.  I feel like only a couple months ago each one was a helpless baby.  This is no longer the case... not even for the youngest... not by a long-shot.

As my family grows older, I feel the passage of time is speeding up.  I'm learning that it's important to not rush along with it - speed through the day to just get to the next one only to speed through that as well - but to instead savor every moment of every day - good and bad.

Essentially don't rush through life to get to life.  That would be silly - you'll never get there.

Deep, eh?

The informed consumer

Some people say I over-think my purchasing decisions.  Well.... that may be true.

I think I just need to write this all out in order to get a better sense of what camera I should purchase for my new pocket camera.  With any luck I can get Carmi Levy from written inc to weigh in on this, as I do respect his photographic skill and knowledge of gadgets.  :)

As previously noted, I'm in the market for a new compact digital camera.  I want something that literally will fit in any pocket, so that pretty much eliminates cameras with aperture/shutter control (bummer) and leaves me with some pretty slick looking point and shoots (hooray!). I always have my 20 oz. film SLR's for the more creative photography anyway.

So, I spent last night watching reviews and reading digital camera forums and have whittled it down to the following selections....

1.  Panasonic DMZ-SZ7

The last camera I had was the predecessor to the above camera.  I liked it well enough.... It was nice and slim to fit in a front pant pocket and the user interface was very intuitive.  One definite advantage of going with this camera would be that it would be comfortable in my hand right out of the box.

2. Sony DSC-WX150 

This camera is essentially Sony's answer to the first camera on my list.  It's a higher picture quality Megapixel-wise, however in my opinion the Sony Lens G isn't as good as the the Leica Panasonic boasts.  It would have been nice if this camera had a Carl Zeiss lens like some of Sony's other models.

3. Canon ELPH 110 HS

I've never owned a Canon camera.... my wife has had several and has done well with them.  This is a contender for its focal, aperture, and shutter speed range.  Also it's an ELPH, which I presume is pronounced "elf" - and to a big geek like me, that is a very attractive thing.

I used to carry a camera like it was a part of me.  An extra eye and brain to record images on... quite seriously.  I would like that again, and having the right camera will make that very easy to do.

So, what camera do you shoot with or what was your favorite camera to shoot with?

Some of the time

Monday morning.


Back to work today.  Time to trade in the yoga pants for a suit and tie... my choice of dress watch... maybe cufflinks and a pocket square.  This is so not me.  It's a necessary illusion to 'sell more stuff'.  Sometimes I put on the illusion so strongly that I convince even myself and forget how unimportant and silly it all really is.  Diamonds are only perfectly formed lattice structures of carbon - nothing more.  You can probably do some pretty neat things with them in science - but most people don't.  They obtain the biggest one they can't really afford to make their friends envious and monetize/symbolize a chemical reaction known as the emotion 'love".

My name is Winston and I sell diamond jewellery and diamond jewellery accessories.

Some of the time.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

(re) Capturing

Six years ago, if asked to describe myself one of the first things on my list would have been "photographer".  I always carried my trusty (and boxy) HP camera in my pocket and was never shy to snap a few dozen pictures of anything and everything that caught my eye.

 I don't really know why I stopped - part of what happened is I started to only take pictures of my children and our dogs - there was no more random quirkiness to my images.  Then one of the kids busted my camera.  Then another kid (or maybe the same one) busted my replacement camera.

Anyway, I miss it greatly... and the photos always gave inspiration for something to blog about when nothing could be found elsewhere.

It's with this in mind that I'll be purchasing a new pocket camera with my year-end bonus from work and I'll carry that camera around 24/7.  And this time only three quarters of the pictures taken will be kids and dogs - the rest will wind up here on this blog accompanied by true tales of high adventure.

It should be a good time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Stupid Driver's License

For years my wife has been nagging encouraging me to get my driver's license.  I wasn't interested when I was 16 and successfully held that disinterest for the past two decades.  It seems now, the time has come for several different reasons.  Here then are my stock answer/excuses for why I haven't obtained this stupid piece of paper, followed by why I now think what I was saying is a bunch of bunk.

1.  Driving increases an individuals carbon footprint and is bad for the environment...

There are many things bad for the environment:  Airplanes, corporate industry, fracking, etc....  The Toyota Echo that I'll probably end up driving a few blocks a week isn't what is going to tip the scales.

2.  Driving will inevitably mean I will exercise less and get fat...

On the contrary....  I weigh about 40 pounds more now than when I got married 6 years ago.  One of the reasons for this is that my metabolism has slowed some and I require more exercise.  Simply walking to work just isn't cutting it.  It's -20° C around here these days.... what exercise could I do?  Well, if I had a car, I could go skiing or snowshoeing or tobogganing with the kids.  All sorts of fun stuff that not having a license prevents me from achieving.

3.  I'm afraid to drive.  I know I will over-think the situation and kill somebody...

Nope.  People waaaaay dumber and more careless than myself drive everyday.  Ipso Facto.

4.  This is going to cost money - insurance, gas, vehicle payments, etc...

As a family we make much more money than we ever have.  This year we should make 4 times what we made the year we got married.  This excuse is no longer valid.

5.  I've gone this long without one, and it's not hurting anyone.  Why now?  I'm too old to learn...

This is probably the biggest one.  I haven't been fair to my wife or family.  Having no lisence myself means my wife does all the driving always - for groceries, music lessons, dance class, doctors appointments, school... It's been shitty of me to put that on her.  That sucks and I need to make it right.

As for being too old?  Four years ago I learned complex math and how to ascertain voltage of a capacitor during a time constant in an RLC circuit using eulers number for exponential climb and decay.  Previous to that (two decades ago) I had failed grade ten math.  I apparently learn better now than I did then.

So, if you're like me and have ever used the above excuses to not get your license.... just grow a pair and  damn-well do it.

I am.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

People dissapoint me

Either I'm simply becoming more aware in my old age, or the world truly has started going to hell at an exponential rate these past few years. 

I read an article on Yahoo this morning about Lakes Huron and Michigan being lower than ever recorded since 1918 (when recording started).  This is scary stuff.  I don't believe it's an unavoidable natural occurrence (as the article states).  I could go on about how the article doesn't include peer reviewed sources and makes assumptions throughout.... but that's not what is really upsetting me.  Everybody knows Yahoo is as much (if not more) of a joke news source than Fox.

What really troubles me is this:  The actual real people who read and commented on this article - not the Yahoo writers who are paid to write these necessary illusions....

"The fresh water is our heritage and Michigan real estate goes down in value surrounded by this massive amount of fresh water. something is wrong with the politics of the region.
The surrounding states and Michigan must band together to protect this resource and enhance the value of the region."
"Dirty politics as usual. The tax is supposed to take care of this, but as usual politicians skim off a huge amount to make sure they are re-elected"
"Sounds like the problem was created by government intervention, at our expense, and misappropriation of tax moneys."

"Maybe what we need is a law that prohibits the federal government from using taxpayer funds for purposes that were not included in the legislation that originally levied the tax. "
Are you fucking kidding me?!  The world largest bodies of water are drying up and all you can do is show concern for your pocketbook and blame the government?  How about we look at this and say "wow, we consume too much as a society....heck, I consume too much as an individual!  It's time to seriously lower our carbon footprints (feetprint?) and not suck so badly as stewards of the Earth and hold each other and ourselves accountable for what's happening to our planet."

Blame the government....  dumbasses.

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