Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Most Interesting Man in My World

From age six he wanted to be a doctor.  He was the son of Harry (a brilliant man in his own right) and spending his teenage years in The Great Depression meant thrift and hard work came naturally to him - as did academics, which he truly loved.  He skipped at least two grades, entering the U of Alberta at age 16 and graduating in the middle of WWII.  His ship landed in Italy, but he kept soldiers of both sides alive as a member of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps all the way to Holland and Armistice Day.  His first wife bore him three children, but died of cancer all too soon.  His second wife, an attractive and vivacious widow, fulfilled him in many other important ways.  The two of them travelled extensively, played endless games of bridge, and kept up with a large retinue of friends and relatives across the continent.  Always the perfect gentleman, he was a stickler for manners, a voracious reader, a proud Rotarian, and lifelong friend of academia.  His patients are legion, and their regard for his intelligence, tact and professionalism knows few bounds even to this day.  He was the consummate physician.  When I suggested that my generation lived in the best of times - never having experienced war or want - he disagreed and extolled the virutes of his own nine decades as having been the best period in all of human history.  He loved his life and his times.  George Sigurd Balfour, 1920-2010.  Truly, The Most Interesting Man in My World.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Year's at Nine?

Continuing with our theme of "early to rise", we'll now embrace "early to bed".  (I'm sure all of you young 'uns out there have heard that very sage refrain "early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".  Too bad it hasn't worked for your humble scribe.  But I digress ...)  So what about celebrating the arrival of the New Year this year at 9 pm instead of midnight?  After all it will already be 2011 in Rio, it's just a time zone thingy.  That way, all us oldies could stay up for the Big Moment, sing Auld Lang Syne, wear the hats and hoot the hooters, give all the ladies a polite buss on the cheek - and still get home to bed by 10 pm!  Those younger (or with more stamina) could hit the hot tub, change and continue on to the next NY party and never skip a beat.  Hell of an idea.  No need to choose one party over another (or one outfit over another - wear 'em both!) for all you social butterflies out there.  And just think, you could celebrate new Year's Eve not only with your parents but potentially with your children too.  What a great idea all around!   An idea whose time has come, courtesy of OH2.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early Riser Rebellion

The other day I began to wonder if it is just our family and friends - or does everyone over the age of 55 get up really early in the morning by choice (or some pain somewhere)?  Since then I've run into numerous "middle-aged" folks who rise and shine way before there's any orb in the sky to shine under.  (One guy sets his coffee perk to start at 4 am - and then has to busy himself with morning minutiae while he waits for it to start because his wife forbids him to set it any earlier!)  That got me to thinking; if all the young people in the world love to "sleep in", we oldies could re-take the world while they're dreaming about Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga-gag-me-with-a-stick.  We'll go after punk tuner car stereo suppliers, punk graffiti artists, punk tattoo and body-piercing outfits, punk baggy-pants-that-expose-your-ginch-or-worse design houses, punk purple hair dye formularies, etc.  (Okay, we'll leave the latter alone for all those elderly ladies who like to dye their hair purple and blue.  Reminds me of that classic song; "Blue Hairs Driving In My Lane"  from Live in Front of a Bunch of D-Ckh--Ds by Pinkard and Bowden.)  We'll run our own denial of service attacks.  That's it, we'll shut down vacuous websites advertising all that punk stuff!  Too bad we can't bring back the stuff that really matters - like our youth, for example.  Of course our own parents and grandparents would love to have done away with beatniks, rock-and-roll, long hair, granny glasses, Thrush mufflers, girlie mags, and all of the signs of the impending doom of society back in the 60's ... and they failed (thankfully).

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Demise: Baby or Beamer?

Although proudly right wing of Attila the Hun, I am also "pro-choice" (within strict guidelines) as they say - largely because of the religious wackos in the other camp.  However, this piece by Tom Blackwell in the National Post (Friday, Dec.10th) made me spew, demonstrating as it does an utter disregard for life in pursuit of a more expensive Merlot.  "Like so many other couples these days, the Toronto-area business executive and her husband put off having children for years as they built successful careers. Both parents were in their 40s - and their first son just over a year old - when this spring the woman became pregnant a second time. Seven weeks in, an ultrasound revealed the Burlington, Ont., resident was carrying twins. “It came as a complete shock,” said the mother, who asked not to be named. “We’re both career people. If we were going to have three children two years apart, someone else was going to be raising our kids. ... All of a sudden our lives as we know them and as we like to lead them [italics mine], are not going to happen.”  She soon discovered another option: doctors could “reduce” the pregnancy from twins to a singleton through a little-known procedure that eliminates selected fetuses - and has become increasingly common in the past two decades ...  The Ontario couple is part of what some experts say is a growing demand for reducing twins to one, fueled more by socio-economic imperatives [italics mine] than medical need, and raising vexing new ethical questions."  (The woman did, in fact, have the so-called "reduction".)  I am rarely nauseous and speechless at the same time, but this story was one of those times and I am only able to write about it now, days later.  Many barren couples would kill for a child and these people for no good medical reason, killed one of theirs.  I can scarcely believe that people can be so utterly self-centered and vain.  Yes, children can arrive at awkward points in our lives but the moral thing to do is suck it up and enjoy them, the Beamer can wait.    

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pole Reversal

No, not role reversal - or strip-joint pole reversal - I'm talking here about the earth's magnetic pole reversal.  Apparently, because the earth's core is largely molten iron, there is a magnetic field surrounding (and protecting) the earth.  And the magnetic north and south poles, unlike the axial (rotational) north and south poles, move over time!  The evidence is that they move so much that they actually reverse positions about every 250,000 years or so (no kidding).  Yep, Festus, north becomes south and south becomes north!  Careful measurements of the north magnetic pole from the mid-nineteenth century reveal that it was on the Manitoba/NWT (or what ever they call NWT these days) border back then, it is in the Arctic Ocean now, and by 2040 it will be in Siberia.  This is important because satellites key off the magnetic poles and devices as disparate as ocean drill rig stabilizers and airport runway numbers depend on GPS data that tries to keep up with changing magnetic N.  And, this magnetic migration has been steadily accelerating from less than 5 kilometers per year back then to the present 50 kpy.  Not only that, but scientists figure the last pole reversal was 780,000 years ago - so we're long overdue for the next one.  One problem is that during pole reversal the protective magnetic field around the earth that keeps us safe from cosmic radiation and sunspot debris becomes sieve-like, ie. full of holes (holey?).  And what effects will this have earth's inhabitants?  I'm not sure, because I fell asleep and missed the last fifteen minutes of this otherwise earth-shattering documentary.  Consult your TV Guide for the next scheduled broadcast, and see if you can pick up a used suit of chain-mail to protect yourself from cosmic radiation until then.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Most Interesting Woman In The World 2

Where do I start?  She who studied for junior high exams comfortably ensconced in the big tree in her backyard?  She who out-boxed, out-ran, and out-everythinged every boy she ever met, including her brothers?  Pre-occupied with fun and games, she (by the skin of her teeth as usual) was steered by her very sage father into Medical Lab Science - resulting in Edmonton experiencing the whirlwind that the southern city of her birth already knew.  Upon graduation, travel beckoned and off she went to Europe and ultimately Africa where she worked for the U.N. while dodging hippos in the garden and adders on the tennis court.  The Bushman never had it so good (nor the caretaker she taught to read malaria slides).  She met a dashing American naval officer who asked her to marry him 3 days later (and eventually she did) - the prelude to two beautiful daughters imbued with the same joi de vive as their mother.  A natural affinity for people and technology led her to a medical software concern, where as VP she dispenses her vision and common sense daily to her many minions to the great profit of her employer.  She is loved by more people than she knows, and her name never fails to bring a smile to their faces.  She is The Most Interesting Woman In The World!

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Have We Learned?

As year end approaches, I thought I would review some of  basic tenets of The Brotherhood of The Balf as developed over the past 330 or so almost consecutive posts at this address.  You don't have to believe in every one of them, but you will if you know what's good for you.  And remember, paper money makes less noise when we pass around the collection plate.
1)  All people evolved equally; only luck and hard work differentiate us.
2)  Pizza is the most nearly perfect food on the planet.
4)  Secrets are to be kept ... secret.
5)  Pets don't belong on airplanes.
6)  Conserve water.
7)  Always observe April Fool's Day.
8)  Global Warming is real.
9)  Remember those who died for your freedom.
10) Always keep your microsomal enzyme system (MES) in tip-top shape.
11) Mind your manners if you have them; learn them if you don't.
12) Sailing is good, very good, for the soul.
13) Be selfish enough that you don't end up reliant on the charity of others.
14) Beware of flavoured baguettes.
15) Most mental illness is the result of caveman brains living in complex times, which is why it's so common.
16) Sarcasm is the lowest form of humour.
17) It's better to be groped than scoped by airport security.
18) Change your oil regularly.
19) Make sure you get enough Vitamin B.
20) Stress is a (major) cardiac risk factor, so relax.
21) Quackery can kill you (and so can the wrong sunscreen).
22) Money is flat and meant to be piled up.
23) Violence is bad.
24) Religious fanaticism is the root of all evil.
25) Never visit the sins of the father upon the child.
Words to live by.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Word Repeated Twice?

Ruinous.  As in "ruinous to society".  And harmful too (as in "harmful").  Now I thought I saw a third duplicate adjective in there, so please re-read yesterday's post and help me out, is it "vicious"?  Papa Jeff's comment, too.  TGIT!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's Play Word Association

You say: Ultimate Fighting Championship.  I say: brutal, Neanderthal, primitive, uncivilized, gratuitous, dangerous, antisocial, inane, stupid, base, uncouth, boorishgross, crude, vulgar, objectionable, indecent, revolting, regressive, disgusting, disgraceful, low-brow, offensive, destructive, ruinous, pernicious, loathsome, abhorrent, repulsive, sickening, nauseating, horrible, awful, dreadful, senseless, asinine, silly, pointless, harmful, injurious, noxious, detrimental, putrid, abominable, odious, sickening, vile, foul, repellent, repugnant, nasty, detestable, noisome, harmful, hurtful, malignant, deleterious, malevolent, inimical, nocuous, baneful, poisonous, shameful, ignominious, inglorious, disreputable, outrageous, opprobrious, wicked, ruinous, unacceptable, bad, vicious, evil, nasty, nefarious, malicious, immoral, dissolute, amoral, scurvy, sordid, abject, ignoble, barbarous, savage, condemnable, deplorable, reprehensible, hateful, and venomous.  (Try reading that again to find the adjective repeated twice.  The answer tomorrow.)  And congratulations to Ontario, where UFC was formerly banned but as of yesterday is now legal as "entertainment".  You say: Ontario  I say: ...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Freedom From Religion

I'm not just talking about the nice old deluded Jehovah's Witnesses couple who rang my doorbell last week (or the aggressive young deluded Mormons who know better than to even step on my property or I'll let loose the Hounds of Hell), neither of which are tax-supported.  I'm talking here about religious stuff in public places - places I support with my tax money and that are supposed to be secular - for the use of all citizens of all religious faiths (or no religious faith at all).  I don't want their signs on school property, or their turbans on RCMP.  (Why, when I'm stopped by a (Canadian) Sikh RCMP should I, a (Canadian) Hindu driver, be intimidated before I even roll down the window?  As an aside, are these people Canadians first and foremost, or is being Canadian secondary to their religious cult?)  I also don't want to see veils on anybody (the very meaning of the word "see" is obviated by same), crucifixes or skullcaps on teachers, or any other outward sign of what they believe - and by inference want me to believe - inside a tax-supported structure. When I meet someone new I don't want to know if they are religious or what their religion is, I want to know what they as a human being are like and how they contribute to the public good.  What they do in private is not my concern.  The long and the short of it is that I don't want religion of any sort shoved in my face when I am in a public place.  I want freedom from religion.

Monday, December 6, 2010

China is Strong Until it Breaks

Regular readers of this space will know that I don't trust China.  From it's militarism (they now have a thoroughly modern navy exceeding the size of the U.S.N.) to it's backing of terrorism (as North Korea and Iran's best friend) and its total disregard for human rights, the rule of law, the sanctity of patents, and the world economic order, there's plenty to be worried about when contemplating this emerging dragon.  A new spectre (to me at least) was raised recently by the very sagacious Donald Coxe, one of the economic strategists I read whenever I can, that being looming widespread hunger in China and the consequences thereof.  His belief is that "the main driving force" (as he put it) behind many of China's initiatives both foreign and domestic is the very real possibility of famine in the next few years which would - of course - severely destabilize the ruling dictatorship.  It's already a hard country to run, what with a rising middle class who have not only had a taste of "the good life" we take for granted in the West but also a taste of democracy in their special economic zones and Hong Kong, to which you can now add failed social engineering (China's one child policy has left the country with a dearth of females and thus way too many restless young males), overpopulation and sagging food production.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  I don't trust China, and neither should western governments or investors.  If China breaks, the shards will scatter around the globe.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Convenient "Mallady"

Roughly twenty-five years ago my right knee was bugging me so much that I nearly needed to be rescued twice in one year; once from a long descending summertime hike in Waterton Lakes National Park and once from a relatively short winter hunting expedition out here too.  The upshot was my referral to a knee specialist in the city, who I must say was singularly unimpressive for a variety of reasons - not the least of which was an obviously erroneous diagnosis.  At any rate I figured out the problem myself (I am not without medical training and common sense, though some might dispute the latter) and have learned to live with it.  In the intervening years I have even discovered a beneficial side to my malady, that being I can only spend about one hour, thirty-two minutes and fifteen seconds in a shopping mall before that knee starts to ache excruciatingly.  (I'll not speculate here about whether excruciate and cruciate - as in knee ligament - are etymologically linked, but it would seem so at first blush.)  Shopper's Knee, I call it.  A heretofore unknown "mallady".  Must be the jarring on the concrete I warrant, unless the accumulated body odor of the masses can set it off somehow.  (Hey, a knee jerk reaction to B.O., well it's possible!)  And every year about this time I thank Buddha that Dr. Dipstick didn't fix (or even find) the problem.  Now if I can just convince my wife that Mr. Knee requires at least two weeks to recover before re-entering "the mall that has it all" I'll consider myself truly delivered.   

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mini-Hooters?

This is not my idea (all credit must go to my son-in-law), but I believe it is an idea whose time has come.  As we males inevitably escort our fair ladies through mall after mall this Xmas season, have you ever noticed the plethora of kiosks down the middle of, at the junctions of, and occupying every free corner of these Corridors of Crassly Conspicuous Consumption?  Are any of them male-oriented?  Of course not!  We, The Whipped, are supposed to be satisfied with a bench here, a stool there, and never enough of either.  Have you seen the forlorn look on our faces as we sit Sherpa-like, waiting to be beckoned to shoulder the next burden - er, bargain?  Oh sure, we profess to love "people-watching" - but for three hours?  The obvious solution: The Man Kiosk.  Big screen TVs, darts, pinball machines, food and drink - all purveyed in special-purpose, standardized, mall-ready, mini-pubs where tall tales could be told and friendships cemented with suds and hot wings.  Sort of a mini-Hooters (but of course you couldn't call it that, most guys don't like ... no, I don't think I'll go there).  Time flies when you're having fun, they say, so why not turn mall-time into man-time?  A benefit to both parties really; she gets more time to shop and he gets to ease the pain with a favourite libation and a slice of pizza.  A win-win situation if I ever saw one!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Laptop That Won't Die

No, not lapdog - I said laptop.  It used to be my daughter's, until her roommate dropped it and it started acting erratically.  "Can't have that while at university", the Best Buy guy confirmed.  (He hardly looked at me during the whole sales pitch - the curse of having beautiful daughters!)  So we brought the old lapper home, plunked it on the kitchen table, ignored the cracks in its chassis, nursed it back to functionality, and now use it for non-critical computing.  (I'm not sure what that says about this blog, which has been written almost exclusively on it.)  That having been said, we never really trust it when we aren't home, always shutting it down in case the battery causes a fire or it melts down into some sort of electric puddle while we're out.  I assume laptops should last longer than five years, otherwise Maytag should get into the laptop biz (our clothes dryer has lasted thirty).  Recently this HP acquired a wicked virus of some sort and - despite my valiant efforts to detoxify it - had to be taken to the computing specialist's ICU to be revived from what looked like certain expiration.  Now it appears the old gal has a few more months in her and actually may outlive the average lifespan of a lapdog despite being physically assaulted, shut down daily, and now super-infected.  In fact, if this keeps up we may have to give it a name - the laptop, not the lapdog.  How lame would that be?  Lame in the extreme!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From The Left: Neither a Borrower ...

... nor a lender be (damned)!  Anyone with a letterbox of any sort hanging from their house has more familiarity with letters seeking to pull wads of cash from their pocket than they care to count.  I was recently on the receiving end of such a plea for, of all things, funds to finish a local house of worship.  It seems said congregation had fallen on hard times and, while committed to a substantial capital outlay, found itself unable to pay the hired contractors - who sensibly put down their tools until fully compensated.  And thus I was being asked to help with a godly bailout!  It brought to mind a reply to just such a plea from the English art critic and social theorist John Ruskin.  "I am scornfully amused at your appeal to me, of all people in the world precisely the least likely to give you a farthing!" was his answer, noting that "... of all manner of debtors pious people building churches they can't pay for are the most detestable nonsense to me."  Still not done, Ruskin continued "... and of all the sects and believers in any ruling spirit - Hindoos, Turks, Feather Idolaters, and Mumbo Jumbo, Log and Fire Worshippers - who want churches, your modern English Evangelical sect is the most absurd, and entirely objectionable and unendurable to me!"  To which I can only add "Amen."