Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Hey, I have an idea..."

"Hey... I have an idea...". In the anals of human history and certainly within my experience, these words are almost always the harbinger of a bad scenario. So it was last Sunday, as my better half and I actually had a day off to spend together. We began by an early departure from the house, to try a new breakfast locale in Orleans. The Café Tournesol on St.Joseph, certainly lived up to the positive reviews we had heard.

The fare is very good ansd reasonably priced, the service first rate. I could not finish my particular breakfast platter, which included two eggs easy-over, ham, bacon and sausages, a ball of home fried spuds, toast, cretons, a fruit cup and a wild blueberry pancake with genuine maple syrup. Their coffee was excellent as well and they were very good about keeping your cup filled, if you wanted more. We were advised that they would soon be obtaining a liquor license and would be serving dinner as well, shortly. We will definitely be going back.

Following our breakfast treat, we headed home to pick up the camera and headed out South towards Morrisburg. There was a Flea Market not far from there that my lady wanted to check out and the road down there is one of my favorites through the countryside. So off we went, the weather being overcast with the occasional mist of rain, but nothing steady. We took the back roads from our place and were treated to some wonderful fall scenes as the trees in many outlying areas are in full colour.

We finally arrived at our destination, a nondescript little building with some local farm folks selling fruits and veggies outside. There was no entry fee charged and we ambled inside to have a look around. These were real farm folk, I have to point out. The difference between them and city folk was plain. Most of these folks knew one another by their first name and obviously had for some time. I could remember a period of my life that was like that and I found myself yearning for that sense of comfortable familiarity. I actually felt a twinge of jealousy...

We were surrounded by what my better half fondly referred to as 'kitsch'. (Kitsch: A term applied to art or artefacts characterized by vulgarity, sentimentality, and pretentious bad taste. In German the word means ‘vulgar trash’ (from the verb ‘verkitschen'—to cheapen or sentimentalize) and was ‘originally applied to ephemeral and trashy works, especially sentimental novels and novelettes, and their graphic equivalents, and to poetry of like character’ (Oxford Companion to German Literature, 1976).

And rightly so, I'd have to say. But even so, I found myself transported back into time as I recognized many small items from my childhood era. From bottle caps to Dinky toys, to honey containers when you bought it by the five pound pail. Lunchboxes, trading cards, Coca-Cola adverts and serving trays... The list was endless. The building was deceptively large and we found ourselves branching out in one direction after another. And all this before we even realized there was yet a downstairs section... I think it would be fair to say that we were overwhelmed by the mountains of "stuff" that we found there. It was pretty amazing...

Finally, our heads reeling from the visual assault of so much 'kitschiness', we stumbled outside and made our way to the tables that held some delicious-looking apples. There I saw something that I would have bought on the spot, had they had one for sale. It was the most clever device, designed to peel, core and slice an entire apple at one go, simply by spiking the apple on it and turning a handle. It was a totally ingenious device which performed flawlessly... I was impressed. It also allowed the vendors there to produce samples for prospective customers, so they could taste what they were about to buy. Such a great idea!! We finally bought a small basket of MacIntosh apples, which were delicious!

Leaving the flea market, we continued on South along the 31, to Morrisburg itself. I suppose if I had the money, I would love to buy a house along the St.Lawrence right there. Of course, I'd also have to get a well-equipped boat as well... I mean, you can't live on the water and not have a boat. It's simply not done! You'd never be part of the riverine community. We disembarked at a little park by the water's edge for a short walkabout. I have never been able to be near water and not give in to the compulsion to look into it. Water is fascinating to me. There is always something to see, if you have a little patience and know what to look for. You can always count on seeing baitfish at the very least and who knows what else.

Even before we had reached the water's adge, we could see small fish breaking the surface. As we peered over the edge, sure enough, amongst the rocks on the bottom and the waving vegetation, there were small spotted and smallmouth bass fingerlings, darting about. As my eyes got used to the gloom underwater, I could see better. I spotted a rather large crawfish who except for his one remaining claw, sat motionless, blending in perfectly with the rocks in which it hid. I thought to myself how any larger bass would love to find this tasty morsel and wondered if that was how it had lost it's other claw...Or perhaps it had managed to survive an encounter with any of the dozens of seagulls, which wheeled tirelessly in the sky above us.

Having satisfied our curiosity, we clambered back into the van and headed out East along Hwy.2, which runs along the seaway. We took a nice slow drive through the mist, to Cornwall. The fall foliage takes on a different quality when seen through a light rain. The colours are more vibrant, though subdued through the mist. The landscape appears softer, dreamlike. We coasted along until we came upon a series of parks along the St.Lawrence, among them, the Crysler Farm Battlefield Memorial. We pulled off Hwy.2 to do some exploring. The grounds were littered with Canada geese (branta canadensis), which invade the province around this time of year. They occupy every open farmer's field, as well as many greenbelts throughout Ontario, as they gobble up anything in sight. They are very intent on building their reserves, in preparation for their long flight South to their wintering grounds. They leave the Eastern shores of the Hudson and James Bays, cross central New York and Eastern Pennsylvania and continue South to the Delmara peninsula, in the Chesapeake Bay area.

We climbed the long sloping hill which leads to the monument up top. The view from there is quite lovely and one can see just how close New York State is across the narrow stretch of water. We snapped a couple of photos and then carried on. On the way out, we stopped by a small pond which also holds a rather powerful little fountain. The pond was populated by domestic geese, wild ducks and some very impressive orange koi. These suckers had to be a good foot-and-a-half in length! A couple of pictures later and we were back on the road, heading once more towards Cornwall. Arriving in Cornwall, we stopped briefly for a Timmie's and a snack, before continuing on the 138 North. We drove leisurely, taking in the scenery and bantering about whatever came to mind. Eventually we hooked up with the 417 and headed back into town.

Arriving home, it was still quite early in the afternoon. I got a sudden idea. We had been discussing the need for us to get more physically active. We had both agreed that it would be a good thing.

"Hey, I have an idea...", I stated.

She looked at me, unsure.

"What would that be?" she asked.

"I figure you and me should go for a walk", I said.

"Okay... and where do you want to walk to?" she asked.

"How about we walk from here to downtown?" I suggested.

"Are you serious???"

"Well...okay. How 'bout we drive down to the first parking area along the Rockcliffe Parkway and then walk into town from there? The weather's nice and I don't think it will rain on us...".

"Okay", she smiled. "You're on, mister!"

We both went inside to change into some comfortable walking attire. At this point, I felt quite sure that it would be a piece of cake. Had I not endured so many marches over the years? So many physical requalifications for the military fitness standard? And what about all the construction work and renovations? Surely I could not be so out of shape, as to consider this simple walk a challenge to my capabilities?!?! So off we went. I was so cocky as to bring along a backpack, with two drinking bottles in it and a sweatshirt, should it turn cooler on us. We drove down to the Parkway, locked the van up and set out for downtown. It was 1425hrs.

The weather was perfect, really. Cool with a slight breeze, overcast so the sun was not a debilitating factor. I felt grand as we stepped out at a brisk pace. Our first water break was at the small bridge after the second parking area. We stopped for a couple of minutes while we hydrated and stretched. My spouse was giving me bad looks on account of me carrying the backpack with a bum shoulder. She took it over and we carried on with me being unfettered by the extra weight. I felt great and remarked that we were making good time, as we reached it in all of 25 minutes. I had visions of reaching the Market in less than 2 hours for sure. Clearly, I had a warped recollection of how long the Parkway was, due no doubt to my countless leisurely cruises on Baby. We enjoyed the walk immensely, I have to say. But my God... It went on and on forever.

We pressed on as I recognized the first of two long S-turns, leading to the Rockcliffe Airport and the Aviation Museum. My legs were fine by this point, but I could feel the beginning of a familiar burning feeling on the balls of my feet. Ouch!! This seemed like the precursor to blisters, if I remembered right. Just before we reached the airport, we shifted from the roadside to the jogger/cycle path which ran along the perimeter of the airfield. The ground was smooth and level, making walking easier. As we neared the Lookoff, we struck a bargain between the two of us. We would stop at the Rockcliffe Boathouse there for supper, as we both had heard that their fish and chips were very good.
As we drew nearer, we observed a signpost stating that The Boathouse Restaurant was indeed open. I began to imagine the feeling of sitting down in a comfortable seat, a view of the river and some mouth-watering fish and chips!! Yummm!! I was getting pretty stoked. Rounding the corner, we began the long descent towards the waterline below. The path showed remnants of maybe having been paved at some point in it's history, but precious little was left now. Even most of the gravel was gone, leaving large gaping holes in the bare, muddy earth. I made a mental note never to attempt this road on the bike. Two thirds of the way down, we were met by a sign advising drivers to slow for the 180 degree turn. They weren't lying!!

Finally we reached the bottom of the hill and advanced towards the floating restaurant... only to find the gangway barred by a chain and a sign which advised us cheerily that no, they were not open. I'm not going to repeat the words that came to mind at the time. The walk back up the hill at this stage was a killer. Talk about feeling the burn!! A good workout, really. We stopped at the Lookoff to regain our composure and our breath, while we enjoyed the view. We were not done yet, however.

"Okay... So we don't get to have any fish and chips", she quipped. "But if that little dairy bar in the Rockcliffe Park is open, we can stop there for a snack before heading back...". We made our way to the Pavillion, then down the stone steps towards the rear, where the Dairy Bar is located. True to our luck, it was of course closed. Fate was conspiring against us. I had initially said that we were going to walk all the way into town and the Gods, whomever they might be, were not about to let me go back on my word, apparently. My spouse stated: "There's no way I can make it back to the van, without having some food first!" I agreed wholeheartedly with her. We needed some fuel, pronto! So we began the last 3.4 kilometer trek from Rockcliffe Park to Timothy's here on Clarence Street. I wasn't so much exhausted when we finally reached the comfort of their overstuffed chairs, as I was in pain. My feet were really giving me a hard time of it, although I did not feel a blister forming as yet.
We collapsed and ordered food and drink. It was 1720. It had taken us the better part of 3 hours to make the trek. As we sat relaxing, I picked up my cell and phoned 'the kids' back at our place. My stepson-in-law answered the phone. I informed him where we were and asked if his wife (my step-daughter), would do us a large favor. After a brief discussion and being briefed on what all had transpired, she readily agreed to come and pick us up, to return us to where the van was parked. We heard varying versions of how we were insane and how they would never attempt such a trek. We had to smile. Maybe it's just because we are old school that the thought of doing something like that came to mind. Besides, we really did enjoy ourselves overall and it gave us a chance to challenge ourselves a little bit.

Driving back to the van, we kept tabs on the trip meter. The total distance we had covered was 12.2 kilometers. Okay, not a marathon but a good distance nonetheless. I recalled to my spouse as we drove home how at the very end of my Basic Training course at St.Jean, how our platoon ran for 13 kilometers, on snowshoes, in full winter combat dress, with our 80lb. rucksack and toting an FN-C1. We were all probably in the very best shape of our lives at the time. I felt good about what we had done and was impressed by my spouse, who had come through the trek with ease. Maybe this is the start of a new habit...?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Second round of physio...

Once more today, I went through my physio session, before coming into work. I don't know that it's such a great idea, as I'm pretty much sore for the rest of the day. My better half dropped me off outside the Orleans Centre for Physiotherapy at about 0730 this morning. Having some time to kill and not knowing how far I would have to go for a bus afterwards, I struck out towards Place d'Orleans, just to see.

It took me all of 10 minutes to make it to Timmie's, where I bought a medium, double-double for the walk back. I was pretty confident that I could make it to the bus terminal to catch the 95, in just under 15 minutes. A crucial time assessment, if I was going to make it in to work by 1000hrs. I returned to the physio clinic at a slower pace arriving just in time for my 0800 appointment.

I began today's session by admitting to my trainer that I was a retard. He looked at me, amused and asked: why? So I told him about how I had 'overdid it slightly' on Tuesday and was now paying for it.

A female assistant confided to me that: "All our male patients do that at first...but to their credit, they learn", she quipped. Apparently we all want to get better 'yesterday' and so we tend to go overboard. 'Rehabilitation excitement' my trainer calls it... Go figure! Damn this male ego crap, anyway!

So I began with the pulleys again. These are two handles joined by a rope which travels through a small pulley mounted overhead. As I push down with my good arm, my injured one is lifted upwards until it is level or slightly beyond the height of my shoulder. Easy as can be, right? Lift until you feel tension, hold for 5 seconds, release. Repeat for 15 minutes. It has already improved my range of motion over what it was and I don't think this one particular exercise is what causes my arm and shoulder to ache so afterwards.

Next exercise... into the examining room, where I strip off my t-shirt. The assistant enters and places an electrical trigger unit in two places on my shoulder. She lays a long piece of rubberized material on the bed in front of me, sets the electrical charge until I can really feel it stimulating my muscle group and leaves the room to set the timer outside. I wrap the rubber band around my left fist, holding the long ends against my right hip with my good hand. The electrical stimulation charge lasts about 30 seconds. When I feel it, I slowly and gently exert outward pressure with my left forearm, trying to push it away from my body. When the current stops pulsing, I relax my left arm. The relaxation period is also 30 seconds. Again, this session lasts for 15 minutes. I check my watch... it's now 0945 as I complete the second exercise. Clearly I have started a little late this morning.

I am starting to wonder about any heat or massage treatment today. It looks as though there may not be time. The assistant stops by with a length of doweling. Rats! I hate this one. I hold the dowel with both hands, the dowel running horizontal to the ground, my forearms at a 90 degree angle to my body. I push the dowel with my right hand, so that my left arm and shoulder is rotated away from my body. Oowwww!!! Push, hold for 5 seconds, curse, relax the tension. I am to carry this out for 15 minutes as well, but I know that I cannot.

I put my t-shirt back on at 0856hrs, knowing that I must leave in the next few minutes to make my bus. At this point my trainer enters and instructs me to lie on my back on the table. He then reaches under my left shoulder, to the point where the base of my neck joins my shoulder. He grabs hold of the muscle there and clamps down on it! Holy Crap!! Painful...??? Lemme tell ya about it... He's instructing me to breathe and try to relax. Well, that's easy for him to say. The pain is excruciating... Still, I do my best to comply. After a couple of minutes of this steady pressure, I actually begin to feel the muscle loosen up. I breathe a bit easier. He maintains his pressure on it, until it has completely relaxed.

This is the first time since the accident, that this muscle has been in a relaxed state. It's been over 2 months now. My arm still hurts, but by comparison, I feel much better. I may even be able to get some decent sleep. So I thank my trainer, grab a set of exercises he has worked out for me and bolt to make my way to Place d'Orleans. It's a little after 0900. I pick up the pace, arriving at Place by 0916hrs. There is a 95 waiting there for me. I could not have written this chain of events any better. We arrive at Rideau Centre at 0946. By the time I trek through the centre and reach the back side of The Bay, it's 0950.

I cover the remaining distance to Clarence in 4 minutes and have just enough time to pick up a coffee and muffin from Timothy's. I arrive on the 3rd deck and log in at my workstation, at precisely 0959 and some seconds... A little close for my liking. Fortunately I'll be on earlier for the next two weeks and as such will be able to schedule my physio appointments for the evenings...

Slowly but surely... and at a pace I can handle, thank you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Education... (Take 2)

"Education is the progressive realization of our ignorance" - Albert Einstein.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Physio 101...

So today was my first day of physio. Being somewhat of a retard, I pushed myself and am now feeling the consequences. Ooowwww... The exercises themselves were not overly strenuous, but I suppose I just had to push the envelope on my first time out, that's all. My therapist Clint, advised me to: "stay within the 4 to 5 out of a possible 10 pain factor range", while doing my exercises. He didn't want to put me out of commission. I still have exercises to do at home between my visits to the centre and my next appointment is for this coming Thursday. The majority of my first appointment today was taken up with evaluation as we played 20 questions.

My therapist is a young fella, who also happens to be a fellow motorcycle enthusiast. His folks also ride. We had a bit to talk about this morning. Part of his evaluation concerned my neck and shoulder muscles on the afflicted side, which at the present are tighter than a longbow's string. He foresees using some heat and maybe some electrotherapy on them, to aid in loosening them up for me. That in itself would be nothing short of a Godsend. With my left arm straight, I can raise it with the pulley to a point above my shoulder. Plenty high enough for riding. Needless to say, I want to get it much higher still. Now I have to work on a couple of more things… Like being able to spread my left arm out towards the side. As I discovered today, the muscles responsible for that range of movement are currently not available. Besides being displaced during the operation procedure, they have also atrophied over the last 2 months, to the point of being non-existent. Clearly this is going to take a little while before I'm back in shape to ride safely.

I found out at the end of my first session that he wanted to apply some heat and perhaps massage to my shoulder area. Unfortunately, I was running late and had to return home yet, before my lady could drive me into work. So no niceties for me on this, my first visit. As it was, I actually logged into work late by a minute and a few seconds. Next time I will take full advantage of such amenities, believe me. I'll make time for it!!!

So I'm sore but at least I'm hopeful. I have begun yet another chapter in this my recovery. I am confident that I will be able to recover sufficiently to not only ride again, but to do just about everything I could before. I believe Dr. Pollock's prognosis about my arm never being the same again. You can't argue with that fact. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that I will be really limited in what I can and cannot do. That is something that I believe depends solely on me and my motivation factor to get better.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First frost...

So it's official... This morning, 19 September, I saw my first appearance of frost on the roofs in our neighborhood. I suppose this is an irrefutable sign that fall is indeed upon us and worse yet, a hint of the other stuff which is to follow.

Already I find myself looking through the pictures I have on my computer here at work, of our last trip down to Punta Cana. Those tantalizing shots on the beach... those endless vistas of sand and sea. I can almost feel the warm, gentle breezes caressing my skin, as I walk for mile after mile along that sun-drenched coastline. The smell of cocoa-butter sunscreen comes wafting across the air, mingling with the salt of the crashing surf...

I came to a sort of epiphany down there, as I strolled along unhurriedly. This, I reasoned, must be what man is intended to do with his days. Our internal barometer is never wrong and mine was telling me, insisting, that this was what it really would like to do forever. Doctors always tell us to listen to our body when it speaks to us. I knew mine had to be right...

According to my wife, my body (or a certain area of it...) only speaks to her during the night, when the rest of me is fast asleep. But I digress... Whiling away my days on a beach, with not a care in the world, seemed like the most natural and stress-free existence imaginable. I live for the day when I once more feel my feet on that wonderful sand...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

If you think I exaggerate...

Some time back, I posted a short rant on 'higher education'. In it, I made what some thought was the cavalier observation, that many of our young folk either in university or having graduated from one, were still basically illiterate in the English language. Inferring of course that they still didn't know how to spell or structure a basic sentence.


True, some forms of observational humour are based simply on exaggeration. But in this particular case, I was not attempting to be funny. I was genuinely aghast that we were/are turning out 'university grads' who couldn't even spell. This of course lends little credence to any other 'acheivements' they might haver been awarded. Lest anyone think that I was going overboard or making this stuff up as I went along, witness this missive, received only this morning:


I am writing in interest of the CCG program. I am currently in university and over the past six months I have been gaining an disire to become a Coast Guard. The position I would like to fullfil is to be a search and rescure guard than will repel of helicopters and skydive. I know there is much more to the job but I want to be one of the guys that does the extreme stuff. I have the greatest disire to help others and I believe that with disire, determination, and the comitment to never give up, I could be a potential prospect for a career with the CCG.

Thank you,"

This young gent is in fact English by the way, should any of you be wondering. In any branch of the military or SOAs (Special Operating Agencies), the very first ability a person must have, is the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively. By default, this would pre-suppose knowing the language. It goes without saying that this individual's chances of being employed in any responsible position, let alone one so critical, could best be described as the same as a snowball's odds of survival in Hell.

I find myself wondering how much he and/or his parents have spent over the years, in order for him to reach this lofty level of miseducation? Someone, somewhere... should be asking for a refund.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Curiosity killed the cat...

Curiosity is perhaps one of the greatest traits we have, as humans. It is what propels us to learn, to explore, to discover. We expand our horizons and the borders of our perceived universe. But can something so positive ever be considered bad?

There is an old saying that "curiosity killed the cat". It is a proverb used to warn against being too inquisitive lest one comes to harm. As I was perusing through Facebook last night, I came across a message stating that one of my long-lost Navy friends had recently added me to his list of friends. This led to a perusal of both Coast's Canadian Navy pages, where I left some messages, hoping to touch base with even more of my old cohorts.

I suddenly had a mental image of an old friend of mine. I could see him clearly, standing in the the main flats onboard HMCS Fraser, right outside of Sick Bay. It was Bill Hagey. He was a PO1 Medical Assistant (M.A.) and everyone knew him as 'Doc' onboard ship. Bill outranked me by miles (I was only an OS/AB when I began my career at sea on Fraser...), yet he was always friendly and considerate with us younger lads. He was quite the runner to be sure and he liked his drink in foreign ports.

I recall one instance after returning from a run ashore, when I was passing by sick bay on my way forward to my bunk in 1 Mess. The door was open and there stood "Wild Bill", three sheets to the wind, singing away, bobbing and weaving as he sewed up the gash on his equally-drunk running mate. I sat there smiling, remembering when, as I did a Google search under his name. How good it would be to touch base with him, I thought. To see how he was doing, what he was up to... I found myself routed to the website for the Canadian Forces Health Services Group.

There, under the section for 2002 Bulletins, I read:

- CFMG regrets to announce the loss of PO1(ret'd) Bill Hagey, who passed away Jul 22, 2002. PO1 (ret'd) Hagey was a Physician Assistant who dedicated over 30 years to the CF Medical Service.

The smile faded from my face. I felt a wave of sadness and melancholy wash over me. Poor Bill... I have had friends in the military die before. I have attended enough military funerals. But they were normally as a result of a sudden event, or some malevolent disease. This was different. And I had never known. Here Bill has been gone these last 6 years and I had never had a chance to pay my respects, or express my sympathies to his kinfolk.

All of those who formed my world back then, we are all getting older. Time marches on... I had never been looking for any reminders of my own mortality, but there it was. It was a sad and sobering way to cap off a Thursday evening. I was almost afraid to look up anyone else from my past, lest I discover that they too, had shuffled off this mortal coil.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On tolerance....

We have often been told over many decades, by some of our less than stalwart pevious leaders, that our Canadian society should be one of tolerance. I not only dislike the sound of that word, I resent what it entails for us as a society.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (May 29, 1874 – June 14, 1936) was an influential English writer of the early 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy and detective fiction. He was referred to as the 'Prince of Paradox'.

G.K.Chesterton was once quoted as stating: "Tolerance is the virtue of a man with no principles".
I believe this to be absolutely true. In our blind, headlong race to be recognized as the most 'politically-correct' nation on the face of the Earth, we have become conditioned to allow, accept and tolerate just about anything, to the exclusion of our own values, our own principles, our own culture and our own beliefs.

Does anyone remember the assinine: "Don't mention Christmas, it might offend someone...", phase we just went through??? Or hey, how about harkening back to the outlawing of the English language in the province of Quebec? For anyone who is even remotely familiar with history, Germany did the same thing in 1939, except their target was their country's Jewish population.

If someone is offended by 'Christmas' (and I'm pretty much an atheist...), I'd say it was time for them to get back on the fucking boat p.d.q. and find themselves another country that might put up with that type of lunacy! Because trust me, that will not happen here again!!

For those of us who reside outside of Quebec, if a certain brand of religion would mistreat a section of your population, would you allow for it to be practised? If a certain religion calls for the destruction of all others, or the eradication of your society, is it prudent to allow it's followers to take up residence in your country? If such was the case, and your immigration officials were not using religious profiling to decide who would be allowed to immigrate to your mainly christian, North-American mentality country, I'd say that you had a pretty large problem...

This would lead to religious fanatics and zealots setting down roots in your country, while being absolutely free to practise their brand of hate-mongering. Oh wait... That would be the Arars of Ottawa!! How silly of me...

We'll not discuss Quebec's immigration track record, as they have their own political agenda (50%+1), which drives them to accept anyone, so long as their native tongue is French. They also have possibly the largest enclave of Algerians in North America, most of whom call Montreal home... Many are on the lam from their own country, with several wanted in other countries as well.

This is the fare which is being allowed into our country? Any country that would compromise it's safety and freedom, simply to avoid being seen as 'unkind', deserves neither freedom nor security. We are playing into the hands of our enemies. A brutal and determined enemy, who suffers none of the false social graces that we seem to be afflicted by. If we are not up to the task of taking this country, rest assured that they are...

If any of you needs a reminder as to what type of individuals we are dealing with here, go view the beheading video of Nicholas Berg. Then stand there and tell me how melodramatic I'm being. No, don't even try to begin telling me that "this was an isolated instance". Are you retarded??? Have you any idea how many such tapes were made, of how many victims? Clearly, no. You don't...

It gives me hope that our present administration, is not inclined to buy into this particular brand of bullshit. Nor is it willing to follow the misguided notion that we are by any stretch of the imagination, simply a nation of rent-a-cop 'Peacekeepers'. Now if we can only get them to overhaul the entire CIC program...

Only a fool would attempt to keep the peace, where there is yet no peace to be kept. For many more years than our current generation can recall, we have also been a nation of peace makers. No doubt our gum-snapping youngsters are having a good look around nowadays, as the hearses bring back the bodies of our war dead. I hope they are properly horrified when the realization dawns on them that all of this, all they know and take so for granted, has a very hefty price tag indeed. None of this is free and it never has been. It's just been a good long while since this country has been asked to ante up and pay it's dues as a citizen of the Free World.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On riding and gravel...

Gravel... To most riders out there, the sight of this material anywhere along a curve or corner, will cause the audible, instantaneous and hermetic sealing of one's sphincter. Almost as fast as upon hearing the sound of dropping soap, in a federal penitentiary shower stall...

Let's face it, gravel is not our friend! The same can be said for sand, dirt, wet leaves and manure. Anything that will compromise the solid contact between tire tread and asphalt. Still, for as much as we loathe gravel we should all be able to ride on it, while maintaining a certain sense of comfort and confidence. Okay, to some folks, this might sound like a contradiction in terms. To those who will never ride outside the confines of their town or city, you might be able to get away with this. Just like those riders who believe that you can't ride at night and will do anything to make it home before sunset. No, you can't ride the same way that you do during daylight hours, but it can be every bit as enjoyable, if not more so. I will go on record as saying that I have had some of my most enjoyable rides at night.

When travelling far from our home turf (the very reason for owning a bike, in my humble opinion...), we will absolutely find ourselves in situations where we will have a choice to make. You hit a detour and all of a sudden it's either ride 5 or 10 miles down this country dirt and gravel road, or double back some 200 miles and find an alternate route to get where you're going. The American Mid-West is primo territory for this type of scenario.

Every now and then, I will find a gravel road and I will voluntarily take it. Our bikes are totally capable of doing this in all safety. Again, it's a matter of remembering that we can't ride the same way we would on asphalt. Once you get over your initial trepidation, there are simply a couple of things to remember and abide by:

a) Watch your speed! Keep the speed down and maintain a light touch on the controls. If you're pingin' gravel off your paint and chrome, odds are you're going a bit fast for the conditions. Slow it down... Anticipate any stopping or course alterations way ahead of time. Use the throttle and your brakes sparingly. Where possible, avoid using the front brake.

b) Relax and remember to breathe. A relaxed, neutral position in the saddle will keep your centre of gravity low and will aid in the smoothness of your other actions. Keep your feet on the pegs/boards. Learn to enjoy this part of the ride, just as you would any other.

You'll be surprised by how quickly you become accustomed to the feel of the ride and how much control you actually have. This will add to your skills and experience as a rider and will make you a more confident one to boot. Gravel on the roadside and in corners will always be a menace, but there is no reason why you cannot become comfortable riding on it, on your own terms. By doing so you will increase your confidence and become a more well-rounded rider.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

About lighthouses...

Every now and then we get either phone calls or e-mails from people who want to know about lighthouses. People want to find out about working in them, or they want historical information on them and/or the people who tended them.

Lighthouses, real functioning ones, are considered Aids to Navigation. They are the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard, until such a time as they are decommissioned. The Aids to Navigation Program carries out the following activities:

- designs, installs, maintains, monitors and reviews marine aids to navigation (e.g. fixed aids, lighthouses, beacons, buoys and radionavigation systems, such as the Loran-C and the Differential Global Positioning System)

- provides expertise on the design and operation of private aids to navigation

- provides navigation safety information through the Notice to Mariners (NOTMAR), which gives on-line access to a list of lights, buoys and fog signals as well as their position and coordinates.


They also have a specific emergency telephone number for every region within Canada, for reporting the outage, failure or off-position of any aids to navigation.


"My great, great grandfather used to work at such-and-such a lighthouse. Do you have any records of this?"

- Absolutely not, sorry. Once any federal employee has ceased working in their employment for a year or more, all their employment records are shipped off to the national Library and Archives Canada. The same applies for any Canadians who have served in the military. Their military records are located in the same spot.


"There's a lighthouse that has been abandoned for several years now. It's falling into disrepair and looks a very sorry sight. I think the Coast Guard should do something to maintain these culturally important icons of Canada's sea-going and coastal heritage!"

- Noble sentiments, to be sure. However, once a lighthouse has been decommissioned and is no longer active, it no longer belongs to, nor is the responsibility of the Canadian Coast Guard. End of story! Lighthouses, as well as the land they occupy, are disposed of in the very same manner as any other federal surplus items. Through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) - Crown Assets. It may be turned over to the province, sometimes the municipality or private developers. Across Canada, there are a plethora of private organizations, which fancy themselves as Lighthouse Societies. These are manned by people who are drawn to the romance of the lighthouse and it's close ties with the sea.

Some of these groups are bona fide lighthouse preservation societies, who make it their mission to restore and preserve our lighthouses, in cooperation with municipal, provincial and federal authorities. Besides being concerned with the physical preservation of these structures, they can also provide a wealth of historical information on the lighthouse itself and the people who kept the lights burning. The following links will provide examples of such societies across Canada:




Many people will contact us looking for such historical information. Each province and territory keeps tabs on their own historical footnotes. By contacting your Provincial Enquiry Centre, they will be able to direct you to where you might find such information within your own province. Then again, by using any search engine on the internet nowadays, you can locate you own local lighthouse preservation societies.

Over the last few decades, lighthouses have become more and more automated. There are few remaining lighthouses which are actually manned by people. There is a waiting list of people who wish to take up this type of career and it goes without saying that it is not a career for just anyone. Lighthouse keepers are hired through Fisheries and Oceans Canada, just as those who want to serve onboard DFO/Coast Guard vessels.

Lighthouses have always been our link between land and sea. They evoke strong emotions in many people and I for one share this belief that our maritime history should be maintained and cared for, to the best of our abilities. I also know however, that this is not the responsibility of the federal government. Once again however, it's a matter of knowing whom to address our concerns to and realizing that the federal government is not always responsible for everything.

I still find it amazing that people who can sit down and use their computers to write us e-mails, have no ability to use these very same computers to find the information they are looking for. Many times they begin their search directly on the various websites for Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Canadian Coast Guard, rather than use any of the many search engines available. For all of you out there, here is a very good hint:

"If you can't find the information you are looking for on a DFO or Coast Guard website, it's probably because it has nothing to do with either one of these federal entities!!"

Monday, September 8, 2008

An unexpected nicety...

So this morning, I'm coming into work on the 94 Tunney's Pasture. I'm working the 0800-1600 shift so it was just 0634 when I stepped onboard it, less than a hundred feet from my front door. It's foggy out this morning, in a way that you rarely see inland. The fog softens the contours of just about everything there is to see and as we exit Blackburn Hamlet, it seems to intensify over the fields to our right.

Turning onto Blair Road, we begin heading towards the 174 and Blair Station. It's just bordering on 0700hrs. We slowly pass by the Pineview Municipal Golf Course, just as the sun's rays are piercing through the fog, backlighting it. The golf course with it's gently rolling, fog shrouded hillocks, trees and shrubs, presents a truly wonderful sight. Such a charming and unexpected view, for this early hour of the day. In my mind's eye, I could swear I saw deer silhouetted against the fog, in amongst the trees...

As I sit there taking in the view, sipping on the cofee from my travel mug, it occurs to me that not all my time spent on the Loser Cruiser, sucks the proverbial big one. I guess it all depends on your state of mind and being open to seeing the beauty in that which surrounds us. I know that I arrived at work in a better frame of mind, because of this experience, whether it was a Monday morning or not.

On pain...

"The biological purpose of pain, is to prevent the recurrence of stupidity..." - Unknown.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Yeah...I wanna be a pilot...

Every so often (at least once a week...) we receive e-mails from individuals who are interested in working as pilots with the Canadian Coast Guard. Probably less than half of these requests, are from individuals who have taken their pilot training and have amassed a minor amount of hours in the air. The bulk of these requests come from individuals who mistakenly believe that by signing up with the Canadian Coast Guard, they will actually receive their pilot training.

First of all, pilots employed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Canadian Coast Guard are on loan from Transport Canada. The same goes for the accompanying ground support crews (aeroengine/aeroframe techs). The Coast Guard does not train pilots. And just to avoid any confusion here, neither does Transport Canada!

Becoming a pilot is a long, tedious and expensive process. The only branch of the government which actually trains pilots, is our military. The Department of National Defence. You need smarts to be a pilot and/or to be accepted into the Air Force as an officer trainee. They don't just take any yokel who has a hankering to be "the guy in The Guardian".

So for anyone out there who wants to be a pilot with the Coast Guard, either fixed wing or rotary wing aircraft, find yourself a flying school and start shelling out them dollars. Then when you're all trained up, and if you're good enough, you can apply to work with the best in the business, so you can volunteer to put your life on the line, in order to save someone else's...