Friday, October 21, 2016

The Power of One

Thought for the day:  Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower. [Albert Camus]

It was darned near ninety degrees here yesterday. Not exactly autumn-like weather, but wonderfully cool weather is supposed to be arriving within the next couple of days. We're definitely ready for it. We're ready to smell the musky scents of autumn, and to feel a delicious crispness in the morning air... and would cherish the sight of brilliant leaves upon the trees.

Maybe next year?

With the long hot... and very dry... summer we've had... and which doesn't seem to want to go away... the prevalent colors around here so far this fall are green and brown.

BUT... on Wednesday, while making my usual Old Lady Discount Day trek to the grocery store, I spotted something on the side of the road that filled my heart with joy.

Surrounded by a bunch of grim-looking brown-leafed trees stood one defiant tree, gloriously attired in its very best fall finery. This single fiery-leafed tree refused to follow the crowd, and that one tree made me smile. Made me happy. I dare say, it affected everyone else who saw it the same way.

Autumn... the year's last loveliest smile. [William Cullen Bryant]

Seeing the beauty of that one tree was like getting an uplifting smile from Mother Nature.

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all. [Stanley Horowitz]

I think there's a lesson in that one tree. I think each one of us can make a positive difference, too. No matter how discouraging things may seem to be, we each have the power to defy the grim faces around us, and to put on our very best finery... a smile.

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. [Janet Lane]

                                             One tree can start a forest;
                                             One smile can begin a friendship;
                                             One hand can lift a soul;
                                             One word can frame the goal;
                                             One candle can wipe out darkness;
                                             One laugh can conquer gloom;
                                             One hope can raise your spirits;
                                             One touch can show you care;
                                             One life can make the difference;
                                             Be that one today.   [B.J Gallagher]


Be the reason someone smiles today. Making someone smile may not change the world, but it may change that person's world. It may be the only sunshine he sees all day.

                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Only in Canada, Eh?

Thought for the day:  In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations — it's cold, half-French, and difficult to stir. [J.Stuart Keate]

In January about twenty years ago, I accompanied Smarticus on a business trip to the St. Pete area in Florida. The weather was unexpectedly chilly and breezy, so much so that I put on long pants and a jacket before taking a walk. I came across a group of people splashing around in the water and sunbathing on the beach in swimsuits.

Yep. You guessed it. They were from Canada. ♥

Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, and Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States. [John Bartlet Brebner]

It's true. We Americans tend to be grossly uninformed when it comes to our sturdy cold-resistant neighbors to the north, while Canada is the most educated country in the world, (More than 50% have college degrees.) so I wouldn't be surprised if more of them know what's happening in our country than our own citizens do. With our presidential election right around the corner, and scores of Americans vowing to migrate to Canada afterwards, I considered it my civic duty to provide some much-needed information before you guys start packing your bags. You know, just so you know a little bit more about Canada than what you learned from watching the movie Strange Brew. So, are ya ready, hosers?

First off, if you're already a lover of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, or Kraft dinner, as it's known in Canada, you'll fit right in. Why this neon-colored mixture of powdered cheese-like substance is such a hit up there is beyond me, but Canadians consume more of this golden-colored stuff than any other nation in the world... to the tune of like 1.7 million boxes per week. A former Prime Minister even called it his favorite food. Go figure.

As I'm sure you already know, Canada is nuts about hockey. They are also extraordinarily tolerant and polite.

Q: How do you get a Canadian to apologize?
A: Step on his foot. 

Q: How do you get fifty Canadians out of a pool?
A: You say, "Please get out of the pool."

Q: How many Canadians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They don't change light bulbs; they accept them the way they are.

Not my idea of playing on the ocean! [source: Reddit]
Yeah, it gets cold in Canada. Really really cold. The lowest recorded temperature occurred on February 3, 1947, when the mercury dipped to a phenomenal -84.7 degrees F. (-63 C) in Snag,  Yukon.

And believe it or not, in Newfoundland, the Atlantic Ocean sometimes freezes hard enough for residents to play hockey on it!

You may have heard a little something-something about polar bears. Yep, they've got 'em! Churchill, Manitoba, is the Polar Bear Capital of the World. In this small town of less than 1000 residents, which can allegedly be walked from one end to the other in fifteen minutes flat, it isn't unusual to see as many as sixty bears on any given day. As a matter of safety, residents never lock their car doors, so pedestrians have easy access to them as an escape plan when they run into a bear. (Um, not literally. If they literally ran into one of these behemoths, which can reach ten feet and 1400 pounds, I don't think escape would be a viable option.)

[wikipedia- credit: Andrew Enns]
Would you believe more than 50% of the world's natural lakes are located in Canada? British Columbia's Lake Okanagan, as shown in the picture, contains Canada's counterpart to Scotland's Nessie... and his name is Ogopogo. 

With all of those lakes and forests, there's lots of wide open spaces and parks to enjoy. The Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta is larger than the entire country of Switzerland. But even though Canada is the second-largest country in the world, the population is smaller than that of Tokyo's metro area. so there's plenty of elbow room to handle the influx of American cousins.

The Canadian/ U.S. border is the longest international border in the world, and it isn't under military guard. The words written above this Peace Arch at the crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington, says, Brethren dwelling together in unity. Not too surprising for a country that has had no weapons of mass destruction since 1984, and has signed multiple treaties repudiating their possession.

But don't let that fool you. Yes, they are a peace-loving people, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Canada actually declared war on Japan a day before the United States did.


No, you aren't mistaken. That is the Eiffel Tower, and it's still in Paris, where it's always been. But did you know it almost moved to Canada in 1967? When the tower was originally built in 1889 as part of the Paris Expo, the permit only granted rights for the tower to remain there for twenty years, after which time it was either to be dismantled or moved. When the permit expired, the powers that be wisely recognized what an important fixture the tower had become, so the decision was made to keep it in place.

However, Charles DeGaulle made a secret deal with the mayor of Montreal to move the tower to Montreal for its 1967 Expo. The deal went up in smoke when the committee that manages the tower poo-pooed it.


How you'll feel about this next tidbit about Canada depends on how you feel about snakes, garter snakes in particular. The Narcisse Snake Dens, located about 130 km north of Winnipeg, is the garter snake capital of the world. I'm talking tens of thousands of them in a fairly small area. From about mid-April to early May, visitors can watch these snakes in all of their writhing glory, as they crawl all over each other and search for a mate, or whatever else it is that snakes might do. The viewing platforms allow people to watch from afar. But I'm gonna allow you to watch from reeeeeally afar. In this video...

I know they're harmless, but seeing that many of them in one place is creepy. So let's look at something that's more uplifting. The world's first UFO Landing Pad...

[wikipedia- credit: Heterodyne]
And here it is. It was built in St. Paul, Alberta, as one of the country's Centennial Projects in 1967. There are two engraved markers there, one of which essentially declares the place to belong to the international community. The wording on that one is very nice, but the wording on the other plaque is outstanding:

As mankind stands on the threshold of inter galactic travel, let us not forget our failures on earth. 
If we are to become voyageurs of space, we must learn the true meaning of tolerance to others that are different from us.
We must remember that no matter how large the universe, the smallest creature has its place in the order of life. 
If we fail to conquer disease and pestilence on earth, but instead transmit them to other planets, we shall never be welcome.
If we fail to travel earth without destroying the environment, how shall we ever travel the universe safely.
If we cannot develop international goodwill among all men, how shall we ever develop inter galactic goodwill among all beings.
Lastly, if mankind travels this earth or universe armed with kindness, tolerance, hope and good spirits, he will always be welcomed. [ANON]

Quite a statement, eh?

SNOLAB is located in Sudbury, Ontario, and this is a picture of the part of it that's above ground The actual labs, the deepest clean labs in the world, are located in a mine about a mile underground. The extreme depth allows the secret experiments with neutrinos and dark matter (very deep subjects!) to be conducted away from environmental interference.

Okay, check out the object in this picture. What do you think it is? It kinda looks like a funny-shaped hunk of pepperoni, doesn't it?

Well, it's actually a... toe. Yes, a toe. A mummified human toe, dehydrated and preserved in salt, to be exact. It happens to be the key ingredient to making a Sour Toe Cocktail. In Dawson City, Yukon, all you have to do to become a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club is finish a drink (of anything!) with a real human toe like this in the bottom of the glass. The club's motto is You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow — but the lips have gotta touch the toe. And they do mean touch. There's a 500-dollar fine for swallowing the toe. (Believe it or not, some have had to  pay that fine...) Wanta see more? (Of course you do!)

All in all, I'd say the folks north of the border are a lot like us. They like to have fun, and there's lots of beautiful places all over the country for them to have it in. And lots of different flavors of fun that don't involve petrified toes. Like the spiffy bathtub races held on Vancouver Island every year.

 Hey! If you're still ready to get away from U.S. politics, and you'd like to drop some weight in the bargain, you might consider moving to the (c-c-c-cold) northern part of Canada, where there is unusually low gravity. Discovered in the '60s, there are several theories as to why gravity is lower there, but the important thing is that it IS. Talk about an easy peasy way to lose weight, eh? Unfortunately, it won't be enough to help you meet that new year's resolution you made. Only about one tenth of an ounce per every 150 pounds. (sigh)

Bottom line, Canada is a gorgeous country, and Canadians are awesome people. Tolerant, polite, smart, and fun-loving. Matter of fact, as comedian John Wing, Jr. said, A Canadian is merely an unarmed American with health care.  Ya know, in spite of the political chaos here, I'm perfectly happy living where I am, but I'm also happy to have met so many wonderful Canadians in the blogosphere. It was also fun to learn a teensy bit about their country. Who knows? Maybe Smarticus and I can vacation up that-a-way someday. (In the summer!)

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How Dare They?

Thought for the day: My fan club broke up. The guy died.  [Rodney Dangerfield]

It's that time again. Time for the regular monthly session of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which was created by that amazing ninja writer Alex Cavanaugh, and now boasts an ever-growing membership of writers from all over the world. Some are still in the beginning stages, and others are well-established, but one thing we all have in common is the sneaking suspicion that we're frauds and our talent is non-existent. (i.e. We're a tad insecure.) Within the sheltering arms of this group, writers have the freedom to air their shared insecurities, lament their difficulties, and cheer for each writer's successes. It's all about the support, baby. All about the support.

To see what other writers are complaining and cheering about this month, you can find a list of this month's participants and links to their posts right... here.


Okay, so what kinda support am I looking for this month? To tell the truth, I could use a little bit of commiseration and perhaps, an Amen, sister reassurance that some of you have experienced what I'm going through now.

What I'm talking about is representative of a grievous disrespect of Rodney Dangerfield proportions, a blatant and total disregard for my wishes, all neatly wrapped up in a complete lack of gratitude.

No, I'm not talking about other writers... or about the dear people who've read and reviewed my previous work. Nope, I'm talking about my own darned characters!

I mean, how could they??? If it weren't for me, the snotty little ingrates wouldn't even exist, so how is it possible, that after I, their benevolent creator, went to such great lengths to outline their personalities, experiences, and everything else about them in such painstaking detail, they've yanked the reins out of my hands and are running off willy-nilly in the directions they want to go?  I'm the one who's supposed to be in control, right? I'm the one who should be guiding the horse... but it's taken off without me, leaving my bruised ego and stellar preconceptions lying in the dirt. What chutzpah!

Seriously... or as serious as I'm likely to get... in my first book, I felt more in control. This time, it really does feel like the characters are developing the way they want to develop, which is often at odds with what I'd planned for them. Verrrrrry weird. I've heard other writers mention this before, but just between you and me, I didn't think it was even possible... until it happened to me. Son of a gun. How about you? Do you control the direction of your plot, or have your characters staged an insurrection as well? (How dare they?)

Okay, this month's question is When do you know your story is ready? 

Hmmm, interesting. For me, I write and rewrite and rewrite some more. Then I set it aside and try to ignore it for a while, before giving it another read-through with fresh eyes. (Yes, I know it's my same old not-so-fresh eyes, but gimme a break, okay? You know what I mean...) When I can't bear to look at it for one more minute think it's ready, I'll let some other writers read it and give me their opinions. But ya know what? Maybe I don't have to go through all of that stuff anymore. Since my smart-assed characters have decided to take over the show, maybe Ill just wait for them to tell me when we're done.

The ingrates.

I get no respect. The way my luck is running, if I was a politician, I would be honest. [Rodney Dangerfield]

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[NOTE: To my regulars, this is the only post for this week. Be back to our regular schedule next Friday. Seeya then!]