Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Firefighter Scorch and Burn Chili: Faint of heart? Back away slowly Part 2

In one of yesterday’s brilliant posts I mentioned I served chili hot enough to scorch a forehead after Friday night’s poker game.

Try this recipe, and get back to me if you survive:

While cooking up 1.5 pounds of ground beef and 1.5 lb. of ground pork, place the following ingredients into a deep pot or slow cooker:

(I prefer to use a slow cooker in my workshop so that it smells like my favourite old diner).

1 diced green pepper, 2 sliced jalapeno peppers, 3 dried and crushed hot chili peppers, 2 diced red onions, 1 can corn niblets, 1 can bean medley, 2 cans of red kidney beans, 1 can mushrooms pieces, 1 can diced tomatoes (drain all cans), 1 large can spaghetti sauce, 1 cup chicken or beef broth, 1 heaping tablespoon cumin, 2 heaping tablespoons chili powder, Tabasco sauce to taste.

Add cooked meat (and more broth to get consistency you like as it cooks).

Stir. Wait a few hours. Serve with fresh rolls. Be ready for a high five.


Why does chili taste better on the second, third, fourth and fifth day?


My Point of View: Canadian economic slump like a bad tooth ache, only worse Part 1

If the global recession was a toothache, it would be unlike any toothache most people alive have ever had.

And for Canadians (count me in), the pain will go on and on and on and...

Consider the following:

“Canada will fare better but may take longer to emerge from the longest and deepest global recession since the Second World War.” [The Canadian Press, March 26]

So, wake up Canada, your toothache (conceivably) won’t hurt as bad as many of your global friends but will last longer. Youch.

(And...) "This is the deepest and longest world recession in the postwar era," said Nigel Gault, a chief economist in the U.S. "The global depth and reach of this downturn makes it much more difficult for any individual country (e.g. Canada) to pull out because there's such a drag coming from the rest of the world."

So, an individual or country may try to brush regularly, floss before going to bed and reduce the intake of sweets but will find "we're all in this together."

(When have we ever had such global unity?)

Can we individually and collectively agree to reduce our intake of all things material?

Our teeth will last longer.


Who is in charge of global reductions of sweets?

Which countries or organizations should be leading the way toward a healthier lifestyle?


Monday, March 30, 2009

Firefighter Scorch and Burn Chili: Faint of heart? Back away slowly Part 1

Last Friday night’s poker game in the workshop was a big success for two reasons.

Everyone was up or down just a few rolls of pennies by the end of the evening and agreed we couldn’t have more fun for the money if we tried.

I mean, dinner out followed by a movie and popcorn costs a bundle these days. (Unless you leave your spouse at home and sneak your own candy and pop into the theater. But I'd never do that. Pat would want to come too).

As well, just before midnight we put the cards away and set the table for my all-new Firefighter Scorch and Burn Chili - and it was a hit.

Here are a few comments:

“Wow. Great. Whooee. What’s in this?”

“Now, that’s chili! I want the recipe.”

“You’re in the big leagues now, Gordie.”

Yup, my friends were blown away. One almost blew up.

“You OK, Dave?” I asked, as beads of sweat dropped off his nose.

He just nodded, took another napkin and repeatedly wiped his brow. But he kept eating and almost cleaned the pattern off his dish.

I’d never seen him sweat so much, not even during or after a hockey game. His forehead was so red I thought he'd catch on fire.

Even though I was feeling the heat I took the high five offered by another fellow who also makes ‘knock ‘em down’ chili.

Recipe, off the top of what’s left of my head, will follow tomorrow.


I should know this for future poker nights.

At what temperature does human hair spontaneously burst into flame?


Link and Learn: Walnut bowls - good; sawdust - beware

I asked a reasonable question and received a reasonable answer:

“Are there types of sawdust I should not add to my garden, e.g., red cedar, black walnut?”

twinkelydots said... “I believe black walnut inhibits the growth of some plants. You may want to google & see what you find.”

Gaston Studio said... “I thought sawdust was good for the soil, but what do I know! I'd agree with twinkelydots and google anything and everything.”

So, I googled ‘black walnut sawdust’ and discovered it is a hot topic.

Link to woodweb.com for a lively discussion about sawdust, gardens and mulch, mulch more.

Conclusion: I live and learn. I’ll use black walnut sawdust as mulch but not on my garden. Red cedar will go into the garden in small amounts.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Link and learn: Solar oven from cardboard and tin foil

While raking the surface of my small garden plot the other day I realized two things.

First, I’d added a lot of sawdust from the workshop to the mix in the last few months and I’m not sure if sawdust, soil and my future cherry tomatoes will go together well.

["Experiment with squirrel meat?": photo and article link]

(I’m not much of a gardener, am I? My oldest sister inherited my father’s green thumb; I picked up his scavenger gene, however, and will soon be turning red cedar and black walnut bowls from wood found nearby).

While turning over sod I also noticed that squirrels were everywhere, sitting on fence tops, racing across tree branches and hydro wires, clambering up the fence next to my garden, waiting for me to leave so they could continue to dig new holes in my patch.

I thought, should I trap one? Make squirrel stew? In the solar cooker?

No, I’m not ready yet to experiment with squirrel meat. However, some of my leftover chili (made from my soon-to-be world-famous Firefighter Scourch and Burn recipe) would be nice.

And soon my first solar cooker will be ready for action.

A reader who noticed I’d added ‘solar oven’ to my 2009 ‘green list’ [see right hand margin for full list] supplied a link to his very helpful, hands-on website, www.greenterrafirma.com, and there I found instructions for a cardboard oven.

[Photo from greenterrafirma]

The site’s creator, Bruce Knight, also lists several other worthwhile DIY projects.

Link and learn at your leisure. You could be heating up leftovers, or squirrel stew, within the week.


Are there types of sawdust I should not add to my garden?

E.g., red cedar, black walnut?


Saturday, March 28, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: I have a one track mind made of wood Part 2

With the best of intentions and restraint I brought home one piece of rare wood recently.

I felt I could make bowls out of an old cedar telephone pole that had been chopped and dropped onto a nearby curb.

And because my wood lathe hasn’t arrived (ETA late April) I also felt I shouldn’t get greedy, or ahead of myself, so took only one prime piece.

However, a day later, I mentioned my treasure to friend Don over coffee at the Red Roaster and his eyes lit up.

He asked, “Where is the cedar pole? We can take my truck.”

“Not far,” I said.

Within five minutes, refills in hand, we were on our way.

As we approached the site we noticed a man throwing sections of cedar pole into the back of his own truck.

“Go farther west, Don. The best pieces are in the next block,” I said.

Though the pile had been picked over, one beautiful section remained at the same spot I had retrieved mine - and into the back it went.

A few minutes later, in my driveway, Don looked it over closely, wondered how he would cut it, how he would actually use it, worried what his wife would say about another addition to his growing collection of odds and ends in the garage and slowly scratched his head.

“Well, if you don’t want it, I’ll take it,” I said. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot of good bowls in this piece.”

(Stink. I forgot to add, “And for five bucks I’ll take it off your hands.”)

Moments later, we carried it into my backyard.

Good intentions? Restraint? Out the window.


Hey, I tried.

And trust me, the cedar won’t become fire wood. Any other projects I could pursue besides bowls?

[One good idea already suggested by Jane at Gaston Studios - small cedar shakes for my birdhouses.]


Friday, March 27, 2009

Zoom w a View: Making bowls could take me into December

How could I say NO to a face like this?

Red cedar (possibly from B.C.).

The hardest job will be cutting through 14 inches with my handsaw.

Old insulators were a bonus, all together on one section of discarded telephone pole.


Nabbing insulators is in my genes. Wooden bowls? I'll know by Christmas.


Live Small and Prosper: Bits and pieces about solar and cob ovens Part 3

Finally, something about cob ovens.

I’ve had solar ovens on the brain for a few days (hard to tell, right?) and after one related post the following email arrived:

“Hi-Ya Gord! Been a long time, I know...too long. I've been enjoying your thoughts on solar ovens. I've always wanted a cob oven myself.”

“Oh and, I loved your cartoon of the Fat Economy...so true!”

Signed, Myshell

[Yes, I post the odd cartoon... ‘odd’ being the operative word].

At first, I thought a cob oven was an oven in which you cooked corn or burned dry cobs as fuel. (A friend of mine heats his cottage with a corn stove).

Myshell was referring to something entirely different, i.e., an earthen oven made from cob (a mixture of sand, clay and straw), in which a person can bake pizza, bread, cookies, and much more.

After viewing many photos and reading about the building process I can safely say they are a ton of work (or more) to build, require a healthy wood supply to operate, but last a long, long time.

View a team building effort here.

View several other informative links here.

View Myshell’s first connection with cob ovens here.


I think cob ovens do serve a very useful purpose. The wood supply, however would be a challenge to maintain for many urbanites.

Thoughts? Opinions?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: I have a one track mind made of wood Part 1

I didn’t want to leave the comfort of home, my coffee time in front of the computer (brilliant ideas were flowing and multiplying like rabbits - I’m sure you’ve been there), but once my wife had batted her eyes at me after asking for a ride across town I couldn’t refuse.

Two blocks from home I was so glad I helped out.

I drove by several city workers in the process of cutting up old telephone poles and dropping 3 - 4 foot pieces at the curb.

["Red cedar. Minimal creosote residue": photo GAH]

Looks like red cedar, I thought. Perfect for wooden bowls. Another project for my workshop and lathe. Reduce, recycle, reuse. Yeh man.

I made record time across town, gave my wife quick instructions re how to safely exit the car at 30 kmp (drop, roll, tuck in your head, I’ll worry about the door), sped back to Old South and parked next to a freshly cut pole.

Red cedar. Minimal creosote residue. Trim one inch off with my bandsaw and I should have some of the nicest wooden bowls ever. And four insulators.

My wife will be so impressed. Hopefully, enough to forget about the old drop and roll.


Ever wonder how our marriage has lasted 38 years? Me too!

Any 'reuse' ideas?


Live Small and Prosper: Bits and pieces about solar and cob ovens Part 2

I’m pretty sure I can build a solar oven using materials from around the house, i.e., two old windows, leftover cedar siding and a bulky wool sweater (for insulation).

Will it get hot enough to heat up my leftovers? I’ll have a test run in about two weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll consider what another reader has said.

“On building your solar oven: The base of ours is painted matt black inside & out. The door is plexy glass with a rubber gasket going around the opening of the door.

There's a tray that hangs on a hinge where we put the food. I have 2 covered casseroles dishes that I use. One is metal the other is pottery. Both work great.

There's also an adjustable stick thingee coming out of the back to adjust the angle for full sun coverage."

"We've used a solar oven for years. Bought it at a solar festival and now we sell them in our store. I've had pies, a turkey, bread and many casseroles from solar ovens. 

Living in the high desert where we get an average of 300 sunny days a years helps.

"Treat it like a crock pot. The food will cook slowly. You have to remember to turn it every so often. 

A friend does frozen pot pies in his. 

Mine is a Global Sun Oven."

[Global Oven at work: photo and company link]

Signed, twinkelydots

Interesting ideas and information, for sure. Thank you.

Though I’m a long way from the desert I’ll add a small pie to my menu.


Part 3 relates to cob ovens. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Bits and pieces about solar and cob ovens Part 1

Now that birdhouses and carpenter’s totes are finished for the season I have time to think about building a solar oven for the first time. (What I don’t know about the process would fill a book).

Readers mentioned the following:

Theresa from Alberta said... “I cobbled together one last summer in a hurry but could only get it up to about 300 degrees, for part of the day. I hope you have better luck!”

If I can hit 300 degrees that should certainly be hot enough to achieve two of my goals i.e. heat up leftovers and conserve a bit of hydro.

Jessica said... “How about a nice bird ;) I reckon a bushel of sparrows would make good eatin'! Squirrels too are the latest trendy dish in England.”

And Gaston Studio said... “Hey, pidgeon is really good. They have a special way of doing it in Cairo...”

Wow. I think I’d have to hit 350 degrees or more to cook meat.

[Squirrel meat for sale: photo and info link]

Now, even though I can catch squirrels (13 last summer in my humane and easy-release trap), no matter how trendy the squirrel dish is in England, I’ll continue to bike them to a nearby park to play with their buddies - not bake them.

And pigeon pie? I’ve heard of ‘four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’ but not pigeons.


I think I’ve lived a sheltered life! Certainly lots to think about. Any more comments?

Stay tuned for Part 2


My Point of View: Could I be the next Ann Landers?

Occasionally I share advice, along the lines of the world famous Ann Landers.

My youngest sister informed me recently that newspaper corp Sun Media is looking for an advice columnist and soliciting solutions for readers’ problems, and... (wait for it) she thinks I’d be a natural.

(A ‘natural’ what? She didn’t say).

Their latest question from a reader follows:

From ‘Promiscuous past’:

“I cheated on every girlfriend I've ever gone out with until I met my wife five years ago. Since we wed, she's been the only one for me and I've told her so on numerous occasions. But whenever we fight, she brings the issue up that I haven't had a good track record. The last time we battled I told that I may just find someone new. What do I do to let her know I only said those words in anger?”

Part of my response follows:

Dear Promiscuous,

It sounds like you’ve learned a few things during five years of married life but still need some fine tuning.

You’ve learned you can be faithful to one woman and think she is the only one for you.

You’ve learned that your past follows you around like a bad smell. That’s likely because it really does stink (I bet there are a few women right now who would like to see you fall hard on your head or a more sensitive part of your body, then into the nearest river).

[Read more at this link]

Signed, Stan Sanders


Would you buy a used car from this guy?

Perhaps you’re the next Ann Landers. Give it a try (for a one-year contract).


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Plans for Gord’s Solar Oven... and gumbo!

Birdhouses are done for 2009. (Except for delivery to the shops).

Time now to build a solar oven aka Gord’s Gumbo Cooker.

Sure, it’s only a plan and I don’t know how to make gumbo, but the workshop will be a busy place for a few days.

I’ll keep you posted.


What is gumbo anyway? It sure sounds good.


Zoom w a View: Birdhouses stand between me and my solar oven

I’m anxious to build my first solar oven and cut my bulky wool sweater into small pieces for insulation.

For extra insulation I’ll likely take a trip to Value Village to buy one or two other wool sweaters.

But, I’m ahead of myself.

First I need to make room in my workshop because several unfinished birdhouses stand in the way of my next project.

Two need to be nailed together and several need a coat of stain or linseed oil.

So, birds get served first, so they have a nice home for the summer.

Then I can build a solar oven to help me heat up leftovers.

Maybe I’ll even get all fancy-shmancy and cook up a bit of Harrison Hash.


Do you have a gumbo recipe suitable for slow cooker or solar oven? The birdhouses are done and I’m really hungry!


Monday, March 23, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: There might be such thing as a free lunch

The way I look at things, if I can build a solar oven using materials left over from the house reno rather than buy one ready-made [link to ‘Sport’ Solar Oven], then a free lunch is definitely within my reach.

I’ll insulate the oven with wool from one or two of my old sweaters. There’s that bulky one I seldom wear.

["Just dreamin'. I haven't built it yet.": photo link]

And hinges? I’ve got spare hinges downstairs in the basement tool cupboard.

Cookware? I could use one of our old casserole dishes.

Food? I guess I’ll have to buy food until my garden comes to the rescue... unless I swipe some from the kitchen while grandson Ollie distracts my wife.

OK, even though we’ll always have to buy groceries, I’ll feel lunch is free if I use solar power alone.

For a review of different types of solar cookers click here.


BTW. Does anyone know at what temperature bulky wool sweaters spontaneously burst into flames? Not that I’m worried. I haven't built it yet.


The Simple Life: A solar oven from leftovers, for leftovers

Our back deck gets so hot in the summer I can fry eggs.

Not that I ever have tried to myself, but my youngest son did. Two eggs, sunny side up, using cardboard covered with tin foil.

Recently, after supplying old windows to a local reader for her cold frame project, she sent me a photo of her own version of a solar oven.

She said:

“My first attempt at cooking rice in the solar oven - I left it for 7 hours in (March) sunshine and the cavity between the tyre and the glass reached 80 degrees F which wasn't that hot...  The water inside the jar was hot though and the rice smelt like cooking rice does, so I'm not totally discouraged. I'll keep you posted ;)”

I thought it seemed pretty ingenious.

And after looking at another solar oven at a link she provided I decided to build my own.

How hard could it be to heat up a few leftovers on my back deck while I'm sipping a cold home brew?

I have leftover windows and cedar too from the never-ending reno. All I need is some type of insulating material. I’ll figure it out this week or next, once the last of my birdhouses is nailed together.

I”ll keep you posted too:)


Do you, or would you, use a solar oven once in awhile?


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dear Ann Landers: Married 38 years, I find tax time taxing

Dear Ann,

It’s that time of year again - spring is in the air, people are raking their lawns, neatly organizing garden tools in their shed and trying to find tax forms under a pile of papers on their desks.

At my house, it’s also the time my wife starts reminding me - for the 37th year in a row - that I should try to get my taxes done earlier than I did in 1971.

OK, I admit it, I left filling out the tax forms until after our first anniversary in August, but how does she remember stuff like that?

It’s not even April yet and she’s already dropped the words ‘tax forms', 'T-4 slips', and 'April 30 deadline’ into three totally unrelated conversations and left two Post-It notes on the TV remote.

I could scream. What should I do?

Signed, Over-taxed in Old South.


Dear Over-taxed,

So, what are you waiting for? Do your taxes. And thanks for the tip about Post-Its on the remote. My own hubby will never see it coming.



The Simple Life: Dad, there is life after becoming a fence post

I’m trying not to turn into my father, a man who paid his property taxes for a few years by collecting the empties scattered around our old hometown - and beyond.

He once opened his wallet and thumbed through a thick wad of twenties.

“I ride my bike a lot when I pick up bottles. It’s good exercise,” he said.

Sure, I pick up any empties I find while walking home from the Red Roaster a few mornings per week, and put them neatly with my own on the front porch, but actively collect - no way.

Not beer bottles at any rate.

Wood, that’s a different story.

While Pat and I played with Ollie yesterday on climbing apparatus at a nearby playground, I spotted - from my vantage point on the upper deck of a pirate ship - a pile of scrap lumber thrown into one corner of a fenced-off dog park.

Aarrr, me maties, I thought.

Part of the scrap was made up of cut-offs from cedar fence posts, and because they were round, seemed perfect for my first attempts at bowl turning on my new lathe, arriving soon from Busy Bee Tools.

From tapping nails into new birdhouses to turning cedar bowls, my workshop will be busy this spring and summer.

My Dad, scrounger extraordinaire, would approve.


Will cedar turn, or is it too soft? Should I wear my hockey helmet during my first attempt? Buy goggles too?


Friday, March 20, 2009

Deforest City Blues: We need mandatory bus tours to the landfill site

London’s pile of garbage, though not as tall as New York City’s (on a clear day you can smell for miles), will one day be taller than the lovely grass-covered mounds of earth that surround it - and completely visible to the naked eye.

It will then become a great educational tool.

“Where’s that smell coming from, Daddy?”

“From over there, Billy. See that mountain of trash surrounded by seagulls?”

Because we each produce 900 pounds of trash per year (over 50 pounds higher than the Ontario average) we should:

["Singin' the Garbage Can Blues": photo link]

reduce overall consumption asap

pay a small fee for each bag of trash

direct the above fee to reuse-recycling depots

take a tour of our landfill site

hear monthly ‘recycling’ updates on the evening news

E.g., “This just in. Oil up. Gold down. Recycling up by 1 per cent. Garbage down by 2 pounds. Now over to Jay for weather.”

Until we see it, smell it, hear more about it and pay more to dispose of it, Deforest City will keep singin’ the garbage can blues.


$1.00 per bag sound about right to you?


My Point of View: Sean Avery deserves a second chance

I seldom write about hockey, sports figures, things of that ilk.

Especially ilk. (Just sounds so ilky).

Unless I’m asked to retell the story of my hastily conceived and brilliantly played spinnerama goal during last year’s hockey wars. [See spinnerama; comes with its own diagram. I’ll wait.]

And unless a hockey story comes along that makes me think - like ‘Sean Avery’s Second Chance.’

Does Sean - motor mouth, immature brain, unsound judgement - deserve a second chance?

In my opinion, yes.

I’ve been given more than my fair share of second, third and last chances in my lifetime (and I’m still not finished making mistakes, I bet).

He should get at least a second chance too, along with clear information about future expectations. (That sort of thing helps a lot).

Coach Tortorella said of Avery, "If he just keeps that concentration and continues to just worry about playing and not the other stuff, he can do the things he has been doing for the hockey club. He has been outstanding in trying to keep that concentration, but it has to be all of the time. We don't want any cracks."

So, no more cracks and Sean could have a banner year, based on hard work and good use of his hockey skills.


How many second chances have you been given?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Point of View: I like certain sentiments and spring sediments

Even in hard economic times Canadians stand up for their surroundings.

“With the economic recession, it's expected that concern for the environment versus the economy would drop off. Canadians are saying, ‘No, it's still important, the government should still be focusing on the environment even though it has to stabilize the economy," said Sean Simpson, research manager at Ipsos Reid.

I like that sentiment.

And for the last two days, because the sun was shining in the backyard, I worked away (longer than expected) at tidying lumber into neat piles, building bird houses and tamping soil into many holes a determined skunk had made in the small lawn.

The smell of warm soil must give me (and the skunk) extra energy.

[See spring prose below]


My calendar says the first day of spring is tomorrow. What happened to the 21st?


It Strikes Me Funny: Yup, I believe in a smaller economy

Many of the jobs people hold today would no doubt change if we pursued a smaller economy.

But higher unemployment - I don’t think so.

I said the following in my most recent column:

“Surely many of us also believe that if we’re rational, reasonable, and logical (not absurd), save money, and live within our means we’ll develop the economy we can sustain and afford.

After all, economies that believes in production without limits and inflated, indebted lifestyles will ultimately hit the wall of resource depletion and debt, and leave future generations with a big mess.

And there won’t be a mirdle strong enough to make that mess look pretty.”

A reader, who didn’t see the obvious humour in my reference to mirdles, asked:

“So you believe in fewer jobs and higher unemployment then?” BD

No. Different jobs. Necessary jobs. Sustainable jobs.


We may be heading toward smaller lifestyles and pay cheques. How will we survive?

Toast up Gord’s Super Sandwich and think about it.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zoom w a View: I can smell the land returning to life

Several days of warm temperatures
wake the land,
the healthy smell of moist soil
fills the air
and my desire
to stand in black rubber boots
beside a worn fence post
rise to the surface.

You’ll see me soon
beside a country road,
looking toward a new breeze.


See colour photo of the same scene in the post below. GH


The Simple Life: I like how many people back the underdog

“Even in the worst of economic times, as job losses mount and gloomy headlines dominate, Canadians have not abandoned their concern for the environment, which was their top policy priority before the financial crisis took hold last autumn.” [recent Ipsos Reid poll]

Call them delusional if you wish, with their heads in the clouds, but I like how many people, though generally concerned about the state of the economy (the recovery hasn’t started quite yet, has it?), still think that their natural surroundings have to be in healthy shape if they’re to have any future at all.

Put me in that group. Backing the underdog has always held some type of appeal.

["Natural surroundings have to be in healthy shape": photo GAH]

“Just under half of Canadians say serious action on climate change must wait until after the recession, while 57 per cent say Canada should take action on climate change right now, even if it means higher deficits.” [Ipsos Reid]

Though I’m not wild about deficits, I’m pretty sure a healthy environment will pay dividends in the long-term. An economy that supports excessive lifestyles - not so much.

Perhaps in 5 - 10 more years we’ll have the size of economy (and subsequent lifestyle) we can healthily sustain and afford.


Downsizing, or working toward the simple life are not negative pursuits, are they?


Monday, March 16, 2009

My Point of View: Detroit Red Wings, Rush Limbaugh, and Economy vs The Underdogs

A few David and Goliath scenarios are stirring my imagination.

For this Canadian hockey fan, a hard hitting, high scoring Canadiens vs Wings showdown in the Stanley Cup playoffs can’t come quickly enough. (Battering NHL body checks are more exciting than battered NASCAR body panels any day).

Yes, the Wings (with 21 more points than my Canadiens), look like they could smoke Montreal right now, but I have a strong imagination.

Farther south, another sort of playoff is taking shape, and could spill more blood than the NHL final.

David Frum is throwing high hard ones at the ample, aggressive and bombastic form of the Republican Goliath, Rush Limbaugh.

Frum recently said, “With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence -- exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we're co-operating!"

I’m backing the Canadian in this potential brouhaha too.

Finally, this from The Globe and Mail:

A new poll conducted for the Dominion Institute by Ipsos Reid shows Canadians are split on whether the need to stimulate the economy trumps environmental concerns.

Hmmm. How would I vote? Should I back another underdog?

Let’s use our imagination, shall we?


Any other David and Goliath scenarios catch your fancy?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Simple Life: Gordie Howe’s formula for success

Gordie Howe’s wife, Colleen, who passed away recently, will be remembered in many significant ways by her family and friends.

[link to Associated Press article]

Gordie knew how lucky he was. He included Colleen, and rightly so, in his formula for success:

"Believe in yourself. Love what you do. Follow your dreams. Overcome challenges. Believe in God. Marry the right girl." [from a 1999 interview]

Though we surely measure success in hundreds of ways, if I was asked for a formula, my wife of 38 years would figure prominently in it too.


I appreciated reading about that simple formula. Priorities in life don’t need to be complex.

Do you have a simple formula?


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Irrational fear about the economy is not a danger Pt 3


Sorry, I’m ahead of myself.

Bank of Canada deputy governor Duguay warned me recently not to get spooked by irrational fear over the economy.

I assure you (and him) I’m more fearful of e.g. diving into the Thames River, something I’ll never do until it’s fit for swimming (let’s not hold our breath on that one).

I’m also fearful Canadians will buy into his recipe for success, which is upside down to my own.

Duguay says, “We are going through a recession and because of fear, consumers are spending less, companies are spending less and that is antithetical to stabilizing the situation."

["Bank governor has upside-down opinions"]

His recipe sounds like business as usual. Participate fully in a market-first, capitalistic, consumer-driven, unsustainable economy, one in which per capita debt is the highest in our history.

If North Americans bail out industries and banks and return to same old - same old, then there is cause for irrational fear after all. [link to full newspaper article]


The time to shift from market-first to sustainability-first is now.

Reference: The Little Green Handbook [Read This, right margin]


The Simple Life: Bryan Adams could sing about my super sandwich

Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams (coming to London JLC tonight) is durable (now promoting his eleventh CD) and likes to keep things simple.

When asked where he finds inspiration he says, “It really could be something as simple as a good sandwich.”

However, though he occasionally sings to Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson, I’ve never heard him sing about a sandwich. Likely because he hasn’t ever tried my world-renowned recipe.

Gord’s Super Sandwich

Toast two thick slices of whole-wheat bread and add peanut-butter to the first slice, mayo to the other (it’s okay to reverse the order if you’re left-handed).

Add a generous layer each of the following wholesome ingredients:

Bacon, slices of tomato, dill pickle, old cheddar cheese and Spanish onion

[Spanish onions, not cooking onions. Don't mess with success]

Some people have said, “Hey, Gord. Why don’t you add mushrooms or slices of orange?”

I always say, “Sorry, I’m too busy enjoying Gord’s Super Sandwich. Back away slowly.”


There you go, Bryan. A sandwich to sing about on your next visit.


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Simple Life: I feel Schwarzenegger’s pain, and it’s a big one

California’s Governor, a mountain of muscle if I ever saw one, needs my help and I’m enlisting - all 5 feet 6 inches of me.

Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency recently because his state - one of North America’s largest fruit and vegetable gardens - is running out of water.

[Link to detailed post and photo]

Urban water agencies are urged to reduce water use by 20 per cent and mandatory conservation could follow.

Why am I enlisting my help?

If I plant a Victory garden this summer as planned (see right margin - Green Ideas 2009) I can reduce my dependence on lettuce, tomatoes, corn, strawberries etc. that are grown in the vast, heavily-irrigated and -fertilized gardens of California.

If I put local produce on my plate then mandatory conservation can be delayed.


Is mandatory conservation around the corner for more North Americans?


Live Small and Prosper: Irrational fear about economy is not a danger Pt 2

I’m definitely not filled with ‘irrational fear’ about our economic crisis no matter how often Bank of Canada deputy governor Pierre Duguay throws the words around. [speedy link to part 1]

I’ll tell you what my definition of irrational fear is:

Getting caught wearing a mirdle in my hockey team’s dressing room.

Diving into the Thames River down stream from Greenway Pollution plant and coming face to face with a hungry white shark (that’s actually a two-for-one).

Playing defense against another Duguay (Rick), a fellow on my hockey team (and banker in real life). He would turn be inside out on every shift (and hand me nine cents change) if I had to play against him.

Though Pierre Duguay says Canada will be hit with a string of alarming economic news during the next few months, I say again, no irrational fear.

A healthy concern, sure. A rational, reasonable, logical outlook, I think so.

After all, any economy that believes in production without limits and inflated lifestyles will hit the wall of resource depletion and debt eventually, and leave future generations with a big mess.

And there isn’t a mirdle strong enough to make the mess pleasing to the eye.


Why does deputy governor Duguay look so worried? Or tense?

Stay tuned.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Irrational fear about the economy is not a danger Pt 1

I’m a rational, reasonable, logical man. Hardly ever absurd.

So, when a Bank of Canada deputy governor warned Canadians recently not to be spooked by “irrational fear” over the economy [full news article], I wondered, are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?

I checked my handy-dandy Concise Oxford Dictionary.

“Irrational - adj. unreasonable, illogical, absurd: not endowed with reason.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.

That doesn’t sound like me at all, especially as I think about the state of the Canadian or global economy.

I felt even better after comparing deputy governor Pierre Duguay’s photo with the most recent one of me.

Honestly. Who looks the more fearful? The banker or the biker?


Are you filled with irrational fear? Why or why not?

More to follow.

It Strikes Me Funny: Hey, Mirdle. Are men under pressure to perform?

Across the world men are suffering under a crushing load.

“Men are under a lot of pressure right now to perform financially, socially and romantically,” says Gavin Jones, head of the Australian company Equmen, which launched a product that may help men suck it up - and in. [full story]

To feel and look better some metrosexuals are turning to a man girdle, or mirdle.

[“Gary McMonies gives it a go”]

Gary’s comments and photo link are here.

I have comments too.

Holy crap, Batman.

It ain’t for me.

I’d join the YMCA first.

It’s hurting my eyes.


Do you have comments? (Don’t send photos).


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Link and Learn: Getting rich by eating our planet too quickly

I’ve said it a variety of ways and it’s true, we’ll only prosper by living small.

Jessica emailed a link to an opinion piece by Thomas Friedman at the New York Times.

A small part follows:

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.


Smaller bites, please. Agree? Disagree?


Postcards from Under the Sea: Stingrays migrate in waves

Is this Steppenwolf's 'Magic Carpet Ride?'

Gliding silently beneath the waves, the stingrays turned vast areas of blue water to gold off the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula .

Sandra Critelli, an amateur photographer, stumbled  across the phenomenon while looking for whale sharks.


I’ve never seen anything quite like it. You?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Only four people still without cellphones

And I know who the other three are.

In an earlier post I said that ‘I’d be one of the last men standing without a cellphone (or a watch. Or a GPS unit in my car).’

Though “six in 10 people around the world have cellphone subscriptions...” (UN report) four of us still don’t. I wondered aloud, who are the other three?

[“Dang gummit. How does this thing work?”: photo link]

Comments follow:

Butch McLarty said... Never had a cellphone, never had a vibrating beeper. No GPS in the pickup either.

So, there’s one.

Jessica said... We have a cellphone in the car, for emergencies (we bought it three years ago when my husband had a flat tyre in a snowstorm and I thought he'd been flattened on the 401 because he was so late home). I think we've used it three times, so we do own one, but I wouldn't say we used it. No GPS either and never will have one. I'd rather have a map any day.

If she can’t find it in the car, she qualifies.

Amber said... I'm cellphone free, always have been and plan to stay that way!

That makes three. The UN report was spot on.


No cellphone? It’s bliss, isn’t it?


Tell It Like It Is: Local housing has fallen off a cliff

“Only 30 new homes were started in the London - St. Thomas area last month, a throwback to levels not seen since the early 1990s recession.” [Link to today’s London Free Press]

Has part of our economy fallen off a cliff? Last February there were 171 houses started.

Tom Kerkoff, president of the London Home Builders’ Association, tried to put on a brave face.

Housing starts had been strong during the last four or five years, so a slowdown isn’t surprising, said Tom Kerkhoff. But just how slow things have become in the industry was unexpected. 

Kerkhoff said he was dismayed by February’s numbers, especially since there are several new incentives to entice potential, first-time homebuyers into buying that first home.

“A lot of people just aren’t sure what to do,” he said.

["I want to be able to walk to a coffee shop and grocery store.": photo GAH]

And then again, maybe some people do know exactly what to do.

Maybe they’re looking for a small home closer to work and a grocery store so they can walk on occasion, not be so car dependent, save money on gas, not live in a ‘burb with a funny name (like Blackberry Farms, where there used to be a farm and some blackberries and trees - but not anymore), miles from anywhere.

Then there’s that whole cliff thingy hanging over (or is it under?) our heads.


Would you buy a new house in Blackberry Farms, miles from anywhere, in this economic climate?


Monday, March 9, 2009

Live Small and Prosper: Never been a better time to buy that home??

“Jim Rawson (regional manager of Invis mortgage brokerage firm, Toronto) says it’s a great time to buy a house.” [link to The Canadian Press]

Of course, anyone else trying to encourage folks to sign up for a mortgage would say the same thing.

They might even pick the same headline for the article: Fear trumps low interest rates for Canadian consumers.

Because, as “prices for most consumer goods, cars and houses decline - in some cases plunge - and the cost of borrowing falls, Canadians have been hesitant to buy.”

In my opinion, however, it may not be because of fear.

Perhaps many couples are looking for a small (e.g. 900 sq. ft.), energy efficient home and can’t find it, and are not willing to part with hard earned cash for a big house that requires more furnishings than they need or can afford.

Perhaps many others would like to buy a bigger home and turn it into a duplex, become a landlord, make a bit of extra money, but don’t like homes that are stuck out on the edge of towns, far from amenities, that force you to be car-dependent.

Perhaps many prospective home buyers have simply smartened up (thanks to the recession), low rates or not, and are waiting for developers to do the same.

If I sold my house (1,050 sq. ft.) for another, it would only go smaller.


Are you waiting for the right house to come along? Afraid to spend?


Friday, March 6, 2009

My Point of View: The downside of cellphones on sale

Just about everybody has one now.

We love to communicate. Say a few words and move on to the next new thing.

[Cellphone trash: photo link]

Will I be the last man standing without a cellphone?

There's only four of us left.


Please see post below


My Point of View: I am one of four people without a cellphone

I knew it would come to this.

That I’d be one of the last men standing without a cellphone. Or a watch. Or a GPS unit in my car. And I’d be standing in used jeans. (I could add 1,000s of other bits and pieces to the list but I can’t find a pen).

According to a recently published UN report, “six in 10 people around the world have cellphone subscriptions...”

That’s leaves only four of us left. All stubborn old geezers too, I bet.

I found it astonishing that “by the end of last year, there were an estimated 4.1 subscriptions globally, compared with about one billion in 2002.”

But then, people are probably tired of dealing with fixed- or land-lines. For example, when has dealing with Ma Bell ever been a pile of fun? And, so I’ve heard, some cellphones are really cute and can do other stuff, like take a picture, vibrate in your pocket while you’re at a movie (I have to think, at my age, that would freak me out) or be there for you when you’re sitting by yourself, or not, at a coffee shop and you want to tell other people what you’re doing.

“I’m at a coffee shop. Drinking coffee. Staring out the window. You?”

If that sounds exciting, pretty soon there will just be the three of us. Then two. Then...


Are you one of the other three guys?


The Simple Life: Plastic, plastic everywhere and it will never die

Plastic has a long life. Once it’s tossed it lives forever. Simple.

And toss it we do.

[Plastic island: photo link to myblagh.com]

Maybe we should just buy less of it and give the Pacific (and every other major body of water) a break from toxic crap.

Conservation, or a simple life, may be the key to the survival of many species, including our own - i.e. overgrown human beans.


We wouldn't have to do without, would we - just with tonnes less?

[see post below for details about upcoming program re plastic]


Link Up: Will we always be in love with plastic?

Based on online info and the trailer (2 min. 18 sec.), Forever Plastic, a program recommended by Amber, a reader from Ottawa, doesn’t look as thrilling as this season’s 24 (starring Jack Bauer, the man who never dies and whose cellphone works underwater during a typhoon), but it does stand a better chance of saving more lives than Jack ever will.

Tune in Friday evening, March 6, 2009 on CBC Newsworld [check local listings for start time].

Click here to see the trailer for Forever Plastic yourself or watch the entire film online.

[Stolen from CBC site. Shh.]

I found their written material interesting.

“Durable, high-tech, sexy and see through...we just can't seem to resist its glossy appeal. It seems so modern, it's hard to believe it's been around for 100 years!”

Why, that’s longer than my last pair of polyester pants lasted. That’s saying something.

“The early days of plastics were explosive: the first synthetic billiard balls blew up on impact!”

Yup. Snooker was a dangerous game in the ‘60s.

“Over the years plastics have quietly permeated all parts of our lives. But what do we do with something that doesn't go away when we throw it way? Our oceans and dumps are filling up with the stuff, and yet inventive ideas for single use plastics just keep rolling out.”

“Leyenda Lee of Interplast Packaging argues that her plastic egg cartons are environmentally friendly, but are they?”

Are they? I wanna know.


Do I sound like I work for CBC? I don’t... but if they want to send me money...


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Zoom w a View: Mass Migration of Stingrays

Don’t ask me what, but while painting kitchen cupboards for Mr. and Mrs. K. something I said or did reminded them of watery photos they had on file. (I was flying around so quickly? Not.)

“Looking like giant leaves floating in the sea, thousands of Golden Rays are seen here gathering off the coast of Mexico. The spectacular scene was captured as the magnificent creatures made one of their biannual mass migrations to more agreeable waters.”


I say, “Observe and conserve.”

And not, “Eat for meat.” [See post below]