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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Chicken In Every Pot

I had to laugh this morning when I caught sight of a campaign poster in the hallway for one of the guys running for president of the MSU (McMaster Student Union). On it he makes several silly promises, the funniest of which is . . .

Lower textbook prices

I'd love to chat with him to determine exactly how he's going to use his almighty power to sway multi-national companies to reduce their steep prices. He might as well campaign to reduce service charges at the national banks. (Let me pause to be clear on this: bookstores do NOT set textbook prices very expensive. They are expensively set by the textbook publishers. Honestly, textbooks are not expensive because the University or College bookstore is ripping you off -- trust me, the bookstore barely makes a nickel off of each textbook sold. The margins are low and the costs of shipping and handling are expensive. It's why the University bookstore I work at enjoys selling used textbooks to students. The prices are 25% lower, you don't need to GST on them, saving another several points, they cost less for the bookstore to buy, and it usually means putting $$$ into the hands of those who need it the most -- students.)

I'm curious as to what other outrageous claims this yahoo might make such as:

- If you elect me I'm going to abolish gravity
- A vote for me is a vote for Saturdays without rain
- Elect me, and I'll ensure every week has TWO Fridays

Monday, January 29, 2007

Meme - Gotta Have My Sauce

Welcome to another installment of, "Come ON -- tell me the WHOLE story!" AKA "I love to talk about myself", or "Me-Me Monday" for short. The object of the game is to refer to your 101 Things About Me list, pick one of your "things" and tell the whole sordid tale.


66. I've gotta have my sauce.

Every since I was a young lad, I've always had a thing for ketchup. Consider these startling facts from my youth:

a) My mother used to buy ketchup by the case.
b) Whenever we went to weddings or dinner out, my mother used to keep a small container of ketchup in her purse because I had to have it whenever I ate.
c) I used to put so much ketchup on my eggs that my uncle used to say you could put a plate of ketchup down in front of me and I'd eat the whole thing without realizing there were no eggs on the plate.
d) I once put ketchup in my soup (but I never did that again, because it wasn't very good) I sometimes think it's because the soup wasn't good to begin with and not the ketchup's fault.
e) I almost orgasmed last year when I was visiting Pittsburgh and I realized that it was the home of Heinz ketchup.
f) On the night that I proposed to Francine, she'd made a wonderful dinner, including a home-made meatball recipe that used ketchup and beer (is it any wonder I fell in love with this woman?)

I've also always been a fan of merging ketchup with other things, like gravy, egg yoke and things like that. Yummmm. But as I got older, I was able to modify my obsession from ketchup to a general obsession with sauces in general. I like to think that I'm pretty liberal in the adaptation of new sauces into my life. I mean, now, sometimes entire days pass where I haven't used ketchup. (Just some other fun sauce)

For example, when I was in University, a friend of mine from the U.S. introduced me to the act of dipping french fries in mayonnaise. I loved it. Of course, that led to a dilemma whenever I had french fries, because I couldn't decide what to have them with: ketchup or mayo.

The dilemma is now over, of course, since having recently read about fry sauce. Thanks to the good people of Utah (which is apparently home to this marvelous creation) for inventing it.

Fry sauce is basically a mixture of two parts mayo and one part ketchup. Now I have tried that mixture myself, and have to admit that it's a sauce marriage made in heaven.

Of course, I haven't yet tried the real thing, because when I search out more information about fry sauce, I can see that different restaurants from Utah apparently include different ingredients in the mix. (Such as on Arctic Circle's website)

So while I will continue to experiment with my own mixture of this magical recipe, I'm considering seeing if I can do a mail order of the sauce from a Utah area restaurant.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

HNT - Prelude To A New Terror

I was sitting around and remembering around this same time last year was the time that my epic HNT battle with Darth Tater began. I was very lucky to have survived it and still have dreadful nightmares about it.

Frankly, I didn't want to think about it, but I have no choice, since this past Christmas, Francine bought me yet another Mr. Potato-head themed toy.

This time, it was a giant Darth Tater that came with a smaller Darth Tater, a SpudTrooper and Artoo-Potatoo. So now there are five of them, sitting there in the corner of the basement, potentially plotting their revenge.

And I can't get the thought out of my mind. I wonder at all the freaky and bizarre plans they have, and wonder when they'll carry out their revenge on me.

Only time will tell, I suppose. Perhaps it will all start next week in an HNT series that I'm calling: Terror in Toyland.


Stay tuned . . .


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

But You Can't Silence Them

You can screw them out of their jobs at a Toronto radio station, but you can't silence the hilarity of Humble & Fred. That's right. They're back. This time in podcast form. And they're better than ever.

Some time ago, I blogged about how pissed I was when Mix 99.9 (or whatever the hell they call themselves now with their most recent redesign) fired one of the best morning show crews they had. I continue to get a lot of hits to this site when people are searching out Humble and Fred, Humble Howard Glassman, Fred Patterson, Judy Croon, Bingo Bob and Mix 999. I'd thus like to perform a public service announcement here to let people looking for them find a link to some recent podcasts that Humble and Fred (and Bingo Bob and Dan Duran and Mike Boon and funny guy musician Scary Pete) have recently put together.

I, of course, listened to this podcast while driving to work in the morning, delighted to hear these friendly voices (harking back to the memories of the original Toronto radio station these guys were on, the station which inspired the Rush song "The Spirit of Radio" in which they sing about the wonder of the connection a listener can make with a radio station and that "friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive" who "plays that song that's so elusive and the magic music makes your morning move.") As I drove along, it was a good feeling, almost like it used to be, like they were never screwed out of their morning radio jobs at all.

But in one simple way, it was better -- much better than ever before.

Because the best thing about this new podcast is you get Humble and Fred and the witty banter and hilarity. And you don't get that same old same old crappy top 40 continually repeated over and over which 90% of the radio stations out there shovel out. Instead, you get a few finely selected bits of music that fits wonderfully in the context of their show.

If you ever listened to these funny gentlemen during their radio career, you simply MUST download and listen to their podcasts. If you've never listened to them chances are you're still going to have fun if you enjoy their "nothing too fancy" approach, the fact that there's a mix of genuine low brow fart and giggle humour to go along with some poignant moments.

It's a free download after all. What have you got to lose? Check them out. (As of the writing of this there are 2 -- but I can't wait to hear more from them). In the meantime, at least I'm not in Toronto, but in Hamilton and have Chris and Jody in the morning on Y108 -- good times there and an actual real mix of great rock music that isn't always repeated.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

And It Came

I always admire the advertising and promotional efforts of local businesses, particularly through the use of road-side signs. Since they're independently owned, they tend to have more freedom of expression and often produce worthwhile messages.

Take, McMaster Sports, a small chain of sporting good stores with a location directly across Main Street from McMaster University.

Near Christmas time, when the high temperatures and lack of winter weather or snow felt like Global Warming was going to cancel winter altogether, their road-side sign read:

BUY THEM AND THE SNOW WILL COME

(They were referring to ski's, of course. And I love the allusion to the "build it and they will come statement from "Field of Dreams" -- ten bonus points to anyone who can answer in the comments with the book by the Canadian speculative fiction author that this Kevin Costner movie was based on)

Then, shortly after snow FINALLY arrived in Hamilton, I noticed that they updated the sign to read:

THANKS TO THAT GUY WHO BOUGHT THE SKI'S

Gotta love that.

I used to have similar fun with the road-facing display on Slater street in Ottawa when I worked at Prospero Books on Bank Street. I used a cardboard cutout of Oprah in the window, wrote short snappy dialogue bubbles between her and another cardboard cutout, often talking about recent books or news items. And I was specifically writing it for those people whom I knew sat there at a red light on a bus (the Ottawa transitway went past the store, so basically most buses heading to or coming from downtown's central Rideau Centre went by our store). I think I did this for several months and have no idea if anyone passing by noticed or if they enjoyed it.

I remember the last one I put up (when I was transferring from Ottawa to Hamilton to open up the Chapters in Ancaster -- waaaay back in 1997) had the two characters exchange the following dialogue:

Oprah: That guy who writes these messages is leaving the store this week.
Other Guy: I wonder how long it'll be before someone changes this window.

Of course, I never did find out how long my window display stayed up before anyone else on staff there noticed and changed it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Zander Burger

Harvey's has this series of radio and television ads in which they're touting the fact that you can customize your burger YOUR WAY with whatever toppings you want. Since Alexander has recently tried out burgers. He's been a huge fan of their chicken fingers, but for the past week or so he's been wanting to take a bite of my burger.



Now, since I often load the burger up with hot sauce and hot peppers, we thought it was time to order him his own burger. We did so when we went to Harvey's for lunch this past Saturday. We ordered it with a bit of ketchup, a bit of mustard and a pickle. We call it THE ZANDER BURGER (he's been saying his own name lately as either "Alex" or "Zander" -- too cute to resist calling him the latter)

Since the Harvey's kid burger isn't any smaller than their regular burger, I usually get to eat about half of it, which doesn't bother me at all. And though I'm a huge topping and sauce fan, the simple recipe for The Zander Burger isn't all that bad.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Da Count - Chad

The other night when Alexander and I were putting out the garbage and then spreading salt on the slick and icy spots on our driveway my neighbour Chad came over with a smile on his face and a couple of Rolling Rock beers in his hand (I used the Rolling Rock symbol to the left because it is his favourite beer, something he always has on hand because he picks it up from the beer's originating state of PA every time he's across the border)

That's just the kind of outgoing and friendly neighbour that Chad is.

Back in the late 90's when we first moved into our new home, my parents were visiting and my Dad and I were sitting in lawn chairs in the garage having a beer (since it was a newly build home our back yard was dirt and mud and we didn't have a back deck yet, so this was the only place where my father could enjoy a cigarette). Chad wandered over with a beer in his hand and I introduced him to my Dad. Although we'd said hi before (he'd moved in next door into his newly built home at roughly the same time as us), we hadn't done more than exchange polite greetings. It was great to later learn that something Chad had always wanted was to be able to have a neighbour to enjoy a beer with. (We've certainly done a lot of that over the years).

We ended up spending time chatting in the front yard, and when we built decks later on, enjoying sitting either by ourselves, with our wives or with other friends on each other's back decks and enjoying -- you guessed it -- a beer or two and some laughs.

But it wasn't until quite a while later that we got to know each other better when putting up a fence between our two yards. I got in late from my job in Toronto, and he was near preparing to head off for a graveyard shift. But with about 4 hours of time in the evening, we got together in the twilight and dark to work on this fence together over the period of several days. Ironic that putting up a fence between our two yards would be, in my mind, the defining point of a strong neighbourly friendship.

In the many years we've been neighbours and buddies, Chad and his family have been like family to us. We carry many cross-family/cross-home traditions like the winter-month weekend games nights at each other's houses, the annual Rib-Fest celebration with friends, and, of course, the tradition of holding a "Hot Luck" party every Friday the 13th. (This is a celebration of hot and spicy food that we started years ago which is an excuse to invite a bunch of people over to share in some great food, drinks and plenty of laughs).

(In the group shot shown here, Chad is the one on the far right wearing the Jester hat. This shot was taken during a "Hat Luck" party we had which happened to fall during the great North American Blackout of August 2003.)

But apart from the fun times and silly adventures, Chad has always been a dependable neighbour, the best kind of neighbour you could ask for. He's always there with a roll of duct tape, an extension ladder, a power tool or whatever other kind of thing you might need to borrow when working in the yard, putting up Christmas lights, etc. And of course, he's often there with a couple of beers, some fun stories and chit chat. Chad's family, as I said, is like family too. His wife Trish is great, the four of us get along marvelously. And they have two wonderful kids that Alexander just adores. Chad and Trish are the kind of neighbours you wish you could take with you if you ever move.

I'm greatly appreciative for this friendship and thought I'd pause to acknowledge it. And what better way to do that than using Lecram's wonderful Da Count meme?

So, to paraphrase the words of Ned Flanders I end this post by saying: "Chad, an affordable new housing development made us neighbors, but you made us friends."

dacount

Thursday, January 18, 2007

HNT - Fragility

Last week HNT was suspended as many reflected on the loss of a friend (I was tempted to say virtual friend, because so many friends who meet through blogs and other internet connections might never meet in real life -- but the way that they touch each other's lives and share themselves is anything but virtual). Betchacantguesswho was a real friend to so many people in the blogosphere and her loss affected many -- yes, many who never met her in real life but whose hearts she certainly touched.

Last week many bloggers reflected on the fragility of human life. While reading the many wonderful tributes to this special woman I paused to think about all those wonderful people around the world whom I consider friend, somethings people who I "met" by clicking through the blog of a friend of a friend.

The internet, and blogging is quite wonderful that way. In this virtual world, we connect and share pieces of ourselves, and somehow, we make connections and friends. It's an incredibly powerful feeling. Through blogs we share our ups, downs, and often personal things that are sometimes even difficult to share on a face to face basis.

That's why this week I've decided to expose a fragility, share a wound. Maybe not as eloquently as I've seen so many HNT participants do. But an exposure nonetheless. And that's what HNT is all about, a celebration of exposure.


This past weekend while Alexander and I were taking down the Christmas trees (yes, I said trees -- there's one in the living room that Francine decorates with a sharp eye and the one Alexander and I decorate with Spider-Man and other fun ornaments), I sliced my hand open -- it was a thin, very fine and clean cut, likely made my something sharp and metallic, almost looking like it was made by a blade. I'm not sure exactly on what I cut myself, or how or even when. I just noticed I was bleeding, and it didn't hurt until much later.

I was just glad that it was me and not my son who was cut during the Christmas decoration cleanup efforts. Throughout the week I've looked at the wound, stared at it, reflected how our bodies hurt, how our bodies heal. And as I stared at this cut on my hand that I know will heal and I will forget, I wonder at the scars on all the hearts out there that will eventually move on, but will never completely heal from the loss of a friend.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Worst Laid Plans

Fran and Alex and I haven't seen my Mom (she lives about a 6 hour drive away from us) in several months, what with all the stuff that's going on in Hamilton with Fran's Mom being so ill. Since my Baba (my Mom's Mom) had a small stroke before Christmas they didn't end up coming to Hamilton then.

My Mom's birthday was yesterday. Fran and I had been planning on a quick weekend trip to visit this coming weekend to celebrate her birthday with her. But the project I'm working on at work has taken some turns and shifts in the last couple of weeks, and I won't be able to take this Friday off. We were planning on giving her her birthday cards and gift in person, but due to the imminent cancellation of our trip, we mailed them off (too late to arrive on her birthday of course)

So we submitted a "Happy Birthday" ad to the Sudbury Star (with the picture above which was taken in the fall at her house) in the hopes of running it for her birthday. Issues related to layout (and weather conditions that prevented staff from getting to the "inbox" on time) prevented the ad from making the deadline to get into yesterday's paper. No worries, there was the flower delivery we had planned to arrive the morning of her birthday, which would still be a nice surprise.

Fate had other plans, of course. A nasty four car accident near High Falls completely blocked Highway 144 from about noon until 8 PM at night yesterday. Highway 144 is the only way to get to Levack from Sudbury. Thus the florist couldn't deliver the flowers.

Yet despite the 3 failed plans to surprise her that never came to pass, my Mom was in good spirits when I was talking with her on the phone last night.

Aren't mothers wonderfully beautiful people? Although I say "I love you" every time I talk to her, I simply don't tell my Mom enough how much I adore her.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Freezing Rain Keeps Falling On My Head

We finally started to get winter-like conditions the past 24-48 hours. In fact, the freezing rain was so bad yesterday morning that they canceled all classes at McMaster University and closed the University. Of course, I didn't find that out until after I'd arrived. It worked out well, anyway, since my boss and I had the whole place to ourselves and were able to spend a few hours working out some issues related to an upcoming data migration that we're doing.

And you won't find me complaining about the weather. No sir. It is winter after all, and we do live in Canada. If you can't stand the snow, then stay out of nature's kitchen.


I know that freezing rain is also destructive, taking down power lines (Ancaster was without power until 2 PM yesterday), taking down trees (a huge section of a tree across the street came crashing down onto the street yesterday evening), and causing drivers to lose control of their vehicles. But there's also something magical and beautiful about it. Like the beautiful shimmering tree limbs caked in a thin translucent layer of ice. Like looking out Alexander's window at the reindeer and Santa sleigh that finally get a backdrop they deserve, wonderfully covered in the same ice, and offering a wonderful shimmer.

Yesterday I taught Alexander one of the wonderful joys of childhood in winter. Pausing to tap at and run your series along a series of icicles and listening to the way they sound like a soft musical instrument as they snap off.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Big Boy Bed

Yesterday we converted Alexander's crib into a youth bed. What this means is you basically take off the front section and sliding gate hardware, readjust the crossbar at the bottom front, and it becomes very much like a day bed. (And what the heck IS a day bed anyways? And why don't we call regular beds night beds? I've slept in a day bed at night. Does that mean I'm going to get arrested or in trouble with Miss Manners for not following proper etiquette? But who sleeps in a day bed besides night shift workers and hung over students? For everyone else, don't we now call that a work cubicle?)

The crib we bought was convertible into this youth bed, and then, with the purchase of a couple of side rails, it will convert into a full bed. Pretty exciting.

Alexander was excited and started trying to pry the front rail off the crib on Wednesday when we told him that on the coming weekend we would convert his crib into a "big boy bed" for him. He pried at those rails every night, obviously delighted at the idea.

Yesterday was the big day. We set off, me with my tool box, Alexander with his own, to convert the crib. (Of course, during the project, he got a little side-tracked and decided it was time to completely remove every single book from his bookshelf -- I mean, since I was taking the crib apart, he might as well take apart the book case)

He was delighted at the crib conversion, and then, at bed-time he amazed me. (Fran and I still weren't 100% sure how he'd actually be at bedtime, worried that he might want the front rail back on) After a couple of bedtime stories (still done sitting in the rocking chair in his room -- he hasn't yet learned the thrill of bedtime stories in bed), he walked over to start play on his CD player (Baby Einstein Lullaby CD) then crawled into his bed. He was asleep and snoring quite loudly within minutes.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Indigo Master Data Team

Da Count

I was looking through some photos on my hard-drive the other day and came across this one. It was taking during a Master Data team meeting during on of my last days at Indigo this past summer. The team had just presented me with two beautiful gifts, and we were gathering to take a picture using the timer on Samson's camera.

During the taking of the picture something happened or somebody said something that caused us all to crack up. I can't remember what it was, but it might have had something to do with Jovani who was working from home that day and on the speaker phone in the middle of the desk.

It's one of the reasons why I love this picture so much. There's just something magical about the smiles and laughter caught in this picture. It properly captures the good times and good people that I worked with (including those who weren't even in the picture that day)

I love my new job, love where I work, and I work with a phenomenal group of people at McMaster. But I still really miss my old colleagues and the good times we had. They're still like family to me.


dacount

Thursday, January 11, 2007

HNT - Suspended This Week

HNT was suspended this week due to some devastating news.

Betchacantguesswho (AKA Betcha and pictured on the left) a fellow blogger and avid HNT participant who recently celebrated her first anniversary as a blogger as well as the first anniversary of marriage to her husband, was killed in an automobile accident last Thursday.

Details are sketchy, and we're all still hoping it's just a bad rumour. There's a bit of information on Osbasso's blog, which also pays a wonderful tribute to a unique and fun-loving lady.

I know that she made me smile plenty of times -- usually on Thursdays when our paths sometimes crossed, and she has touched a good many people in the blogosphere.

Here's sending prayers and warm wishes to her loved ones and family.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Canadian Werewolf on the Back Burner

I'm so proud of myself. It's not that I made a New Year's resolution or anything, but I have remained relatively committed to my writing time recently. The past three mornings I've set my alarm for 5:00 AM to allow myself an hour to work on writing before I start getting ready for work.

But I haven't been actually writing. I've been doing things that support my writing, such as market research and packaging off submissions to different markets. Much of 2006 was consumed with writing my online serial thriller "I, Death", working on North of Infinity II (final editing bits), selecting material for North of Infinity III, trying to plug away at my novel in progress A Canadian Werewolf in New York, and focusing on the submission of my novel Morning Son.

Which left very little time to work on my short fiction. Sure, I did some short story work in bits and pieces, and did send a few items off as submissions. But my short work was mostly neglected in 2006, so I wanted to start 2007 off on the right foot.

So far, in the past three days I've been able to send three short stories off to new markets. I think I'll be comfortable once I've got at least half a dozen stories in circulation. But the most interesting thing is that since I've been spending time these past few days focusing on submitting stories and market research, I've had ACWWINY brewing on that back burner and several ideas thoughts about the story and some of the characters have been gestating. I'm building a bit of internal momentum on that while working on other writing pieces, which I absolutely love. It means, when I actually sit down to write ACWWINY I'll have already done a lot of homework on it without realizing it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

One Book One City - Hamilton

When I was at the library yesterday with Alexander I'd noticed that they announced the newest title in the "One Book One City" project for 2007. The book this year is Deborah Ellis' "Looking for X"

Members of the community are invited to read the book, reflect on the theme and share their perspectives on the subject of poverty. The Hamilton Public Library is making more than 200 copies available for this.

The project will culminate in May 2007 with a month of themed events entitled "Arts Speak Out Against Poverty"

I'm going to try to do my part. I'm thinking of buying a couple of copies, registering them on BookCrossing, and leaving them in a few different locations in Hamilton. Hopefully, helping to share the book with as many readers as possible. Maybe even someone who isn't aware of the "One Book, One City" thing that started in Hamilton in 2004 and help them re-discover the joy of reading and the events surrounding this novel in the spring.

It's funny that this should be the book chosen, because one of the women that I work with was raving about how wonderful this book is just a few weeks ago. We actually carry it because it's on an English course here at McMaster University. And because we also carry used textbooks, we have tons of new copies as well as used copies available for students to be able to pick up for a much more affordable price.

I'm certainly looking forward to reading this book, then passing along my copy (and potentially one or two more copies bought specifically for sharing) to more readers. As Ken Robertson, Chief Librarian at the Hamilton Public Library says: "Together, we can make a difference, one reader at a time."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Operation Fix Moosie

Alexander really enjoys playing with the "greeter" we have that he calls Moosie. (Anything resembling a moose, of course, gets called Moosie, including my Moosehead lager). However, when he was playing rough with Moosie recently, he ended up breaking his lower leg and foot. I know the feeling as he often plays rough with me -- in my case it's usually a foot or elbow in my face followed by a cute little: "Sooorrryyyy!"


This called for a serious operation.

I was delighted that we were able to use some of the tools from the toy toolbox he got from Santa for Christmas to help fix Moosie (the clamp in the toy tool box actually worked quite nicely) -- putting his toolbox to practical use was very exciting for both of us.


It took about 25 minutes for the first break to dry and settle, then another half an hour for the foot to be glued back on, and as of this morning, Moosie is comfortable and has resumed his position as greeter in our front hallway.

Friday, January 05, 2007

BookCrossing

I was reminded in a recent podcast of The Writing Show about the wonderful act of BookCrossing (the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who do likewise), and the wonderful website BookCrossing.com.

I became a member a few years ago (ParnassusHome), released a small handful of books, actually had minor success with some of my releases being "caught" somewhere in the world. But it has been a while since I've released any new books into the wild.

Well, I'm re-inspired to release some more books. In fact, I have one that I caught from a friend at least a year ago that I've been wanting to read and haven't -- so rather than keep it on my shelf, I think I'll release it within the next week or so. I've also put aside several copies of books that I ended up buying in duplicate over the years (having kept them in multiple boxes in the basement you lose track of the copies you own quite easily) or where I bought the paperback and loved it so much that I sought out a hardcover of the same one.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to do some bookcrossing I go . . .

Thursday, January 04, 2007

HNT - On Moosie, On Boo!

Yeah, I know, Christmas is over. But, much like Halloween, we have trouble taking down the decorations. I think we'll wait until after Ukrainian Christmas to do that (my Baba would be so proud of us)

I thought it was cute that Alexander kept Boo (his ghost puppet from Halloween) around, sleeping with him every night, and this past Christmas he enjoyed taking him for rides in the wooden Santa sleigh that is normally reserved for the little stuffed moose. I wonder if both of them will still be riding around when Easter comes along, maybe asking the Easter Bunny to pull their sleigh . . .

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

An All You Can Contract Buffett of Illness

This past Christmas season I celebrated two unique new experiences. The first was that it was the first Christmas season in 14 years where I actually had time off at Christmas. Working in retail, you don't usually get Christmas off, but since McMaster University is shut down for the week between Christmas and New Years, the bookstore is closed. Woo Hoo. As Balki Bartokomous used to say on the old Perfect Strangers TV show: "Cousin, I stepped in something good this time."

Of course it didn't help that I got whooping cough a few days before Christmas shut-down. We ended up putting off our Christmas dinner celebration with family because Alexander and I were contagious. I did start feeling better on Boxing Day, but then the day after that, Francine got a really bad flu bug, and the day after, I got it. Man, but it was nasty. There's an old Robin Williams joke that goes something like: "Two exits! No waiting!" That's all the detail I'm going to go into. Our turkey, of course, is still sitting in the freezer downstairs uncooked. Maybe we'll celebrate Ukrainian Christmas instead.

Which leads to the second new experience. I actually lost over 10 pounds during the Christmas vacation. That's completely unheard of.

I'm so glad to be back at work so I can feel better.