Thursday, April 28, 2005


I've been following the Adam @ home comic in the daily newspaper, often thinking about how great it would be to be a work-at-home dad, like Adam. Having been sick this week with a viral infection that the doctor told me was pretty contagious, I've spent the past 4 days working from home.

It's certainly been nice to see my wife and son whenever I needed a break from work, (it certainly beats a phone call) but I actually miss being in the office. Sure, I've been able to call people and conference in to meetings when required, but it's just different. Maybe it's because I'm working harder while at home in order to "prove" that I'm not slacking off. If I was in the office, I could wander around, hang out near the coffee machine, goof off, take a walk and do some shopping and nobody would question it. But "working from home" still has the stigma that the person is actually not getting anything done.

No, that's not it. I think I miss the social aspect of chatting with the people I work with. We do, after all, have a comfortable, friendly work environment.

Never thought I'd catch myself saying this but I'm looking forward to being back in the office soon . . .

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Homeward Bound

A visit to the Doctor's yesterday revealed that the fever, achy feeling, tight painful throat and nasty headache I've had for the past few days are an extremely contagious virus that I picked up. He strongly recommended that I stay home from work for a few days. No worries -- I have an extremely flexible work environment, and a job I can do via a VPN connection to the network. But there is this author event at Random House this evening I was looking forward to attenting.

Giles Blunt was launching his lastest book: Blackfly Season.

I loved his two previous books (Forty Words For Sorrow and The Delicate Storm) in the Detective John Cardinal series that are set in the fictional town of Algonquin Bay (AKA, North Bay, Ontario), and was looking forward to meeting him at the reception.

Stupid virus . . .

Monday, April 25, 2005

And In This Corner, Weighing 18 Lbs

I just finished wrestling with my nine month old son trying to get him into his undershirt and sleeper. Yeesh, you'd think at 6 feet 3 inches, I'd be able to get the feat accomplished without breaking into a sweat. I felt like Spider-Man wrestling with Doctor Octopus.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Child-Proof But Not Idiot-Proof

Francine and I recently deployed child-proofing items all through our house. Last night while trying to plug in the rechargable baby monitor, I struggled for several minutes with the electrical outlet caps before realizing I wasn't going to be able to pry the things off with my bare hands - ("Damn," I muttered, "Don't these things come with instructions?"). In a moment of brilliance, I spied a container that Fran keeps hat pins in. I tried jamming the end of the pin into the tiny crack that I guess you're supposed to slip your finger nail under (yes, poking a metal object into an electrical socket - what I great fatherly example to set), but ended up not getting anywhere with it. Instead, the pin bent backwards and sunk into the area close to the cuticle - about half an inch in. Owch.

After pulling the pin out, stopping the flow of blood, and struggling in the washroom with the child-proof cap on the acetaminophen bottle, I realized that if I wanted to get at the plug I should have done the obvious thing. I should have sat my son in front of the outlet and within a minute he'd have figured out how to pull the outlet cap off and then start chewing on it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Gum Chewing Girl

Every few days on the GO train ride home, there's this lady -- always well dressed, sophisticated looking and offering a polite smile to those around her -- who sometimes sits near me and has this annoying habit of chewing gum in this loud, utterly annoying fashion. The first time I heard her, a few weeks ago, I actually looked around for the kid whom I thought must be making this noise and was suprised to see it was this lady.

Yesterday, while waiting to get off the train at Aldershot, she was standing behind me on the stairs, smacking away in such a way that I'm suprised spittle didn't land on the back of my head. As I stood there, listening to her visciously and loudly attack the piece of gum the way ultra conservatives in Canada are attacking the idea of equal and fair same-sex marriages, I held back the obscure mixture of laughter and disdain and let the following poem I remember reading in a high school yearbook, flow through my head. It went something like this:

"The gum chewing girl and the chud chewing cow
They're so much alike, yet different some how
I try to reminder, yes, I think I know now
It's the thoughtful expression on the face of the cow"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I realized that my last several posts were on the following subject matters: The GO Train, beer and characters from Cheers.

After careful self-reflection, I think I am recognizing something critical. I miss Cheers. Sure, I know the television series has been off the air for well over a decade now, but I at least had Frasier to give me my "Cheers Universe" fix. But with Frasier also being off the air for a year now, I must be regressing.

Maybe it's time to write a "GO-themed" set of lyrics to the tune of "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" (AKA the Cheers theme) and thank Gary Portnoy for writing the original song (Actually, the flip side to the single for "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" was called "Jenny" and was quite a good song - Portnoy is a talented musician who has a couple of albums out)

Making your way into work today
Takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from driving worries
Sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like a better way?

All those days through the smoggy haze
You see the freeway’s jammed real tight
And the highway looks like a parking lot
Of unending red tail lights

Wouldn’t you like a better way?

Some times you want to GO
Just get on the green GO train
And let your worries fall away
You wanna get to your destination
In an environmentally friendly way
You wanna get on the GO
And ride in on the train

Monday, April 18, 2005

An Ode To Heather

At the end of this week, Heather, a GO travel companion for the past several years, will no longer be riding on the morning East-bound train into Toronto with me. She recently found a better job close to Burlington, where she lives, and is putting the daily commute behind her.

As I contemplate staring at her vacant seat across from me (knowing of course that it won’t be vacant for long), I think back to the early days with Heather.

I started taking the GO train in November 1999 when I started my job in Toronto. In the early days, I often sat in random locations, but would typically find myself in the same seat across the aisle from two people I would later come to learn were named Norm and Heather.

Norm and Heather. Like peanut butter and jelly, like cream and sugar, like Abbott and Costello -- to me, they’re more like the Norm and Cliff of the GO Train -- two hearty souls who have “always” been there, and often together, going through the daily motions of the commute and yet offering it a unique light.

Of course, before I knew their names, I gave them nicknames in my head. I still do this on the train with people that I see every day but have no idea who they are. Maybe it’s part of our human need to classify everything or maybe it’s just an illness that I have. In any case, I nicknamed them Moe and Bernice.

It was only after a year or so, when a random commuter had the nerve to sit in Norm’s seat (yes, like the Norm of Cheers fame, he sits in the exact same spot every single day - I’m not making this up), Norm ended up sitting in the seat beside me and after he grumbled about the person taking his seat we engaged in a bit of chit-chat. Heather wasn’t riding with him that day (being the hard-worker and dedicated employee that she is, she would regularly take the earlier and more expensive VIA train in to get an early start). Shortly after that, I ended up sitting in the same seat area with Norm (on the GO train there are seat groupings of four seats together), and was introduced to Heather.

Over the years, there have been a wonderful cast of characters joining us in this four person sitting area (and you better believe that Norm isn’t the only one who is emotionally attached to his seat - Heather often displays that same inclination, and I’ve witnessed other regulars whom I don’t usually “hang” with on the train, displaying that same behaviour. I’m surprised actually, that I haven’t yet seen anyone urinate on a seat just to ensure they properly marked their territory). Some of the characters are Angie, Norm’s daughter, Lou, an ex-daily commuter who now works from home and only goes into the office on Thursdays, Jannette, a co-worker of Heather’s, Krys, a buddy of mine from work, David, the husband of a colleague from Fran’s work who only lasted six months in what he deemed was commuting hell) Yet, despite all the fun and interesting folks I share my morning commute with, Norm and Heather have been the central part of our little posse.

It’s hard to imagine the morning commute without Heather. It’s like seeing a Cheers episode with only Norm and no Cliff. I’ll miss Heather - Heather, the multilingual, kind hearted person. Heather, the hard-working employee, always doing extra work on her laptop. Heather, the observant. Heather, the thoughtful. Heather, with the penchant for baking scrumptious goodies, Heather, with the friendly smile and the light-hearted back and forth teasing that has made the morning commute brighter these past several years.

And soon enough, too soon, I’ll be staring at that empty seat which was Heather’s (which won’t stay empty for long -- like a long-running sitcom with revolving cast members, our Shelley Long will be replaced with a Kirstie Alley, our Coach will be replaced with a Woody) and thinking about the fun mornings with Heather. I can only imagine how much Norm will miss her.

And maybe one day in the future, Norm and I will get off the train at Mimico Station and tip back a beer at the Blue Goose Tavern (a bar we've all admired in passing for years), and offer a toast to Heather.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The First Sweet Tap

I'll always remember tapping my first keg. A nice 20L keg of Rickard's Red.

After a weekend of unsuccessfully tapping the keg, and experimenting with the new Danby kegerator, I finally got it figured out, and as I type this I'm sitting down and enjoying my first pour. Sure it's a little foamy, but I'll get that worked out - for now it's time to sit and enjoy what has been a long time dream - a free-flowing beer line in my own home bar . . . it's much better than staring at this beautiful keg filled with about 60 glasses of beer that I had no access to. Brr, it was pure torture . . .

Speaking of beer, Francine and I were having one of those fun road-trip conversations and one of the questions we asked each other was: "If you could sit down and have a beer with any three people, who would they be and why?"

Fran's list was all interesting, but dead people. Despite my weakness for horror and speculative fiction, I actually kept my list restricted to people who were alive (and thus there was possibly a chance, however remote, that it might actually happen - you never know) I also didn't bother with people whom I already have the pleasure of enjoying a beer with, like my good buddy Steve Gaydos, whenever we're in the same town, or my wife Francine who is always fun to tip a glass with.

My List of People I'd Most Like To Have A Beer With

1) Stan Lee

The man who invented a character whom I've always been able to identify with - the shy, weak, nerdy Peter Parker, who ends up following a creed I like to think I've adapted into my own life (perhaps like an eleventh commandment) "With great power comes great responsbility." - Stan Lee was probably the first writer out there to win me over by creating such a human flawed character who tried desperately to rise victorious above it all. Spider-Man is a character most people know, but Peter Parker is the real strength behind this phenomenal hero. Thanks Stan.

2) Stephen King

What can I say. I've always considered reading one of King's stories or novels on par with sitting around a campfire and listening to an excellent storyteller. So many of King's characters and stories have stuck with me. My first wonderful experience reading his writing was his novella "The Body" which the movie "Stand By Me" was based on. The book this came from "Different Seasons" thus ranks on my list of books I'd like to have with me when stranded on a deserted island. Steve also comes off as a good old boy, down to earth and not at all pretenious. Combine
his down to earth nature with his talent for keeping you on the edge of your seat and you've got an excellent beer buddy right there.

3) Neil Peart

Sure he's the drummer for Rush and I'm sure a lot of people would like to have a beer with him, but I've long been an admirer of his writing. It was his lyrics that attracted me to the music of Rush - and his books "The Masked Rider", "Ghost Rider" and "Travelling Music" are among the best
non-fiction I've ever read - never mind the short horror story he penned with Kevin J. Anderson in the anthology "Shock Rock II" -- Although I'm sure if I had the pleasure of Neil's company sitting at a bar, we'd likely be drinking
The Macallan (Scotch) rather than beer.
So there's my list - I put the list in the order I did based on the age of each of them - after all, if there's even a remote possibility of this shared beer happening, I, of course, should prioritize with the oldest person on the list and work my way down to the youngest.

I find it interesting that the three people on my list are all writers. I wonder what that says about me? (besides the fact that I enjoy the company of other writers, especially those whose work I admire)

Friday, April 08, 2005

You Can Pick Your Friends . . .

. . . and you can pick your nose; but you can't pick your friend's nose.

My son turned 9 months old yesterday. He's not all that good at hygene (matter of fact since he's a boy odds are likely that he'll grow up to be a man which means that hygene won't actually be a big part of his life). In any case, when he has these little bugger nuggets on the edge of his nose, I've taken to reaching out and grabbing them. I mean, I am doing him a favour after all.

In the same way that I sometimes refer to myself as "Daddy" in adult conversion, I'm afraid that one day I'll be chatting with someone, see a bugger nugget on the roof of one of their nostrils and just reach forward to grab it, forever altering our friendship.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pat, Can I Also Buy A Vowel?

Travelling home on the GO train the other evening, I sat near a couple of young ladies playing a "travel" version of Scrabble. In all the excitement and heat of battle, one of them ended up losing a "G" - it flipped through the air, there was the sound of it landing somewhere, and they spent the rest of their journey frantically looking for it, enlisting the help of everyone in that area. They never found it before getting off the train at Burlington. I even kept glancing on the floor nearby as I continued to ride the train, in the thought I might still be able to spot it. No such luck.

I wonder if it will ever show up. And when it does, will the person who finds it be able to buy an "O" so they can at least spell the word of our favourite mass transit system?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Born In A Small Town

So Google just did the coolest thing - they recently launched the ability to view Satellite images view their Google maps.

While I was able to find my home in Hamilton easily, I was even impressed to find a higher level satellite image of my mom's home in Levack, in Northern Ontario. Not as cool as the old aerial photo they had at the Beer Store when I was a kid, but still pretty neatoman in my books, because you can then zoom out and see beautiful Windy Lake and how close we were to so many non-polluted lakes and rivers. Scroll out even further and there's Sudbury, which there are closer Satellite images of. Keep going and you can see where this place is in relation to the centre of the Canadian universe, Toronto.

You can even have it provide directions that are drawn onto the Satellite image. Very cool. I was able to map out the drive that Francine and I take between Hamilton and Levack. And although it's not the exact route we drive, it's still pretty cool - doesn't express the painfully long trip until you zoom in to the detail of heading up Hwy 69........

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Perfect Evening Out

On Saturday, Francine and I enjoyed the last of our seasons tickets to Theatre Aquarius, in what was one of their best shows this year, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. (My favourite this season was the "Stage Write Series" show Test Drive). It's sad to see another season end - we quite enjoyed it, being the first season be bought season tickets for - normally, we did our best to try to arrange going to each show, but usually only ended up seeing 2 of the shows each season. Having paid for the tickets ahead of time, we were a little bit more encouraged to see each show.

Of course, having Fran's Mom able to look after Alexander has been wonderful. After the most recent outting, we (the parents reluctant to leave our son too long anywhere) were brave enough to stay a bit after the show and enjoy a Steamwhistle beer and dessert at the Junction Cafe across the street. (Reminded me it's where I'll be doing a reading from One Hand Screaming upstairs there in October 2005 at the Aquarius Lounge as part of Kairos Literary Society's Lit Live events this year). We had a fun laugh at the show, nice dessert, good beer and excellent conversation, while listening to the wonderful crooning of a jazz singer in this intimate cafe setting. In all, it was a great evening out with my wife, something I always cherish.

Monday, April 04, 2005

All Hail Pictures of The GroundHog King

It's about time I write a little note about the one, the only Toffee (refers to character from a recent Tim Horton's television ad who was given the nickname of the recent donut flavour).

I'm writing this in celebration of Mathew Growden's ascent into power, as the new Director, Online Product Planning for Mathew, the coolest of cool dudes, has always had the unofficial title, in my books of "Purveyor of Neat Things" - a visit with him is not without learning something funky, cool or just plain neat. He is my main source for learning which comic book characters are next going to be translated into Hollywood movies, after all. I figure it's about time I pay him the homage he deserves. Mathew hails from Wiarton, and for some reason that escapes me, nobody has nicknamed him "Willy".

As I continue to drool all over Mathew the way that that little dog Chester in the Looney Tunes cartoon excitedly hopped up and down just wanting to be friends with that big cool bulldog named Spike ("You and me is pals ain't we, Spike? Ya wanna go chase cars? Do ya, Spike? Huh, huh? Do ya?"), I should mention that a recent HP "Picture Book" commercial using the song "Pictures of You" by The Cure reminds me of Mathew. It's just a guy sitting there, bopping to the music and moving these frames around the screen in which his image is constantly being captured in. Neat commerical, kind of like Mathew himself. Of course, if it really was Mathew in the ad, and not some guy named Francois, there'd have to be cats in the background somewhere, wouldn't there?

Not Mathew, but Francois Vogel, Director of the cool HP ads

When The Dog Bites, When The Bee Stings

I'm tired of having to share this planet with so many jackasses. By that I mean people out there who have little or no regard for others: The ones who can't be bothered to move their shopping carts ten feet to the little shopping cart stall, but instead leave it in the middle of a parking spot, either taking up a useable space, or allowing it to roll into someone else's vehicle; People who are in such a hurry to get where they're driving to that they don't clear the snow off the back or side windows of their car (I mean who cares what else is going on out there, so long as they can see straight ahead through a pinhole in their windshield - it's not like they're the type that would bother to check their blind spot when changing lanes after all and it is representative of the tunnel vision selfishness they're displaying)

So, in an attempt to twist a crabby man rant into something fun and amusing, here are a few of my favourite things. Okay, just one of them, but with a couple expansions:

  • Watching a needlessly aggressive rabbid lane changer zip in and out, in and out, in and out , crossing three lanes of traffic back and forth and back again, trying to get ahead, all the while slowly creeping past them while maintaining a constant speed and remaining in a single lane

....but what's even better than that....

  • Seeing that same car stopped on the side of the road with a blown tire

.....or, even better.......

  • Driving past that same car, which has just been pulled over by the OPP

Of course, that's just a dream. The OPP never seem to be around to put a stop to these dickhead drivers (again more of those selfish people who care only for themselves and their own pursuits, with little or no regard for the safety of others), because they're too busy watching for me to drive past when I'm going a measly 10 kilometres over the speed limit. (Okay, whenever I've been pulled over, I had been going a bit faster than that, but at least they're always nice enough to bump the charge down to 10 K over for me). Ah, God Bless the OPP. And by OPP I mean the Ontario Provincial Police and not the Online Papers in Philosophy (although they do some good work too, but on a different level)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
My hairpiece is

When I got out of the shower this morning I noticed that those little forward crouching hairs that seemed to be living an inch or so in front of my receeding hairline were tangled in a fuzzy little ball, almost like they realized their end was near and the were cowering together in a huddle. I had to put them out of their misery and release them from their suffering in a single cruel pluck - my other option, of course, was to sport the little ball in the middle of my forehead and make a new fashion statement, but what with the Van Dyke and new glasses, I figure I've done enough to alter my appearance lately.

Reading Jeff Mahoney's column in the Hamilton Spectator this morning made me chuckle. He quoted an Emo Phillips joke that I remember enjoying.

"I hope to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not
screaming like the passengers in his car."
- Emo Phillips