Monday, February 28, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass 6

"Not possibla!”  The words were out of the chicklet’s mouth before I could open mine and, for once, I had to agree.   There were 6-foot waves and a wind so stiff that the sea spray coated us within minutes despite being fifty yards back from the water’s edge.  Sailing thus thwarted for the last time, we all headed for the swimming pool network to work on our livers, er ... tans.  And of course there were prizes to be handed out - mostly old pins from our ski team days depicting town, county, province, and country.  (This led to so many questions from the recipients that we held a history/geography quiz after dinner.)  Susan’s extensive walking tour of two other hotel complexes before dinner was much appreciated by all.  And, as the night wore on, Jose the Bandit and The Panda Bear At The Bar made their presence known as we played Name That Tune in the piano bar at the top of our lungs.  A couple more dirty martinis and a discussion of Withholding, and we all were ready to pack our bags and hit the sack.  As with a week spent anywhere, the little cracks in the veneer begin to surface towards the end of your stay, but all in all it’s been a fun-filled (if not relaxing) week of sun and sand.  We’ll be back, Amigo.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass 5

Or it could be that there's no financial incentive for the Catamaran Boss to promote - or even allow - sailboat use.  The motorized ocean-going paraphernalia at the same shack on the same beach are not included in "all inclusive" you see, and they don't seem to be subject to the not possibla policy (they're allowed out whenever someone pays up).  At any rate, I may have to offer some financial incentive today myself to grease the wheels - it being our last day here.  (As you can no doubt discern by now, by the time the sail slugs showed up yesterday and Cat Boss cancelled "not possibla" it was too close to wedding time to go sailing.)  And what a wedding it was!  Absolutely the stuff of wedding dreams and bridal magazines (I surmise, anyway).  Late afternoon sun, great looking tanned B&G and guests, Mariachi band, a service just the right length, champagne and poopoos (appy's), white satin and aqua chiffon everywhere, oh I could go on and on!  Suffice it to say, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson tied the knot in style and will cherish memories of this day forever.  Yours truly even demo'd The Balfour Shuffle (albeit to mixed reviews). The only line I had to draw was at the suggestion that I re-demo the same at a post-reception discotheque.  It could have caused a dance craze a la Macarena and I just couldn't be responsible for that kind of mayhem in such a lovely country.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass 4

"Not possibla."  Yes, we registered for a catamaran at 10am, yes, we came back at 11am, and yes, I camped out on the beach all afternoon in sailing attire - waiting for the Catamaran Boss to pronounce the waters safe for sailing.  Now I'm no cat boss, but yesterday was the mildest wind-wise that we've had since we arrived and I know I saw the same hotel Hobies sailing earlier in the week in much rougher seas.  Of course, the Cat Boss doesn't speak English so the blonde chicklet taking the bookings explaineth that "the currents are too strong right now, come back in one hour" or two or three or four or ... and thus were we thwarted again and again.  I actually think the reason there was no sailboat use yesterday was that the 3 or 4 sail slugs who rig, de-rig and size the PFD's while giving cursory instructions before launching these craft were otherwise engaged (probably downtown making some real coin selling dope).  Why else, when they've been there everyday, would they not show up today?  We'll try again this morning but inevitably we'll get the boat this afternoon at the same time the wedding starts - not possibla!  Oh yes, the wedding, wow!  On the beach at four this afternoon.  Very cool.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass 3

Well, that was a Rehearsal Dinner party.  There was no rehearsal, of course, but we had a formal rehearsal dinner anyway, yours truly assuming that it was dinner (and speeches) that we were therefore rehearsing.  All 56 of us in one room - lots of hugging, tears, etc.  At any rate, the speech of the night (er, the rehearsal of the speech to come on Saturday night) belonged to the groom.  For a guy who told me he had 3 lines written, it was one of the most heartfelt ten minute soliloquies I've ever heard.  He just may get one of the many prizes Canada Dave hands out each morning.  We then retired to the Snake Bar for (more) drinks, where I got to know P, a hedge fund/private equity relationship manager for a large U.S. bank.  Very interesting guy.  His advice: buy the content generators, not the networks - and certainly not the big pipesters.  I guess that's what I am then - a content generator.  Plus, I am very content to generate even as I degenerate, but I digress (again).  Then "We Be Jammin' Man" Garry and I had a long visit in the Aquarium Bar where we had all gravitated, hoping to find some dance music so the multitude could learn The Balfour Shuffle.  (Alas, no music could be found there so no shuffling ensued.)  Over (more) drinks I learned the histoire of St. Kitts and Nevis.  Sounds like a place I need to visit soon.  Time to fire up the catamaran now.  More from your lowly correspondent tamale.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass 2

Well, Batman, that was a party!  You're correct, Robin, that's what we used to call a shindig.  As previously noted, the main party of partiers arrived last afternoon/evening and after sun and suds settled into some more.  An intriguing bunch they are too.  The mother and father of the groom (who was dressed a la Enrique Iglesias for the occasion, the groom that is) arrived and nicer folks ya'll couldn't meet.  Joel and I are going to buy matching Easton baseball bats to keep in our respective pick-ups to deal with those punk "tuner" types with the boom-box speakers blasting at every red light.  We're mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore.  Who else was there?  The skater dude whose tattooedness digitizes and analyzes DOD data, the very striking Kathleen Karaoke whose husband told me she has performed at least a hundred songs thusly and yet remains undiscovered by Grammy, Betsy the internet-ordained minister who will officiate on Saturday with her baby Ryder (so-named because Papa Harleys) rapping the crap about big butts, the very entertaining and obviously bright Dewar's Don from The Soo who can't seem to stay awake past 7pm, the three pregnant ladies looking radiant but nervous about having their first, and We Be Jammin' Man Garry (and Mary) of St. Kitts hotel hospitality fame, to name a few.  But what happens today, Batman?  If you live long enough you'll see, Robin, if you die you won't need to care.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mexico Through A Cerveza Glass

The first of several tales from the Land of Montezuma.  Flight was crappy (could have had something to do with the East Indian family wedged between our row and the rear bathroom with the two screaming kids and their removal of all footwear including socks right after takeoff ... why oh why are we flying coach?  I said I never would fly coach again but here I am - and in need of foot/shoe-spray no less!).  The best part of getting here was landing in Houston and learning that Alexander Carl had been born to Ian and Dee while we were airborne.  Welcome, Alex, and congrats I&D!  And the resort is fantastic.  Five linked hotels with spacious grounds, lots to do, great bars, restaurants, pools and beach.  Definitely a cut above the Bahia Principe group.  Of course, arriving at night at a resort of this size and complexity led immediately to M&D getting totally lost on the jungle paths.  Our first morning on the beach led to sunburns despite 45-weight lotion, later progressing to third degree burns despite 60-weight in the afternoon.  Why, you say, didn't we quit after the initial singe?  Have you ever met my sister?  There's your answer.  And I'm proud to say that the tendency to overdue things the first night is a tradition we couldn't let die, so we're all a bit fuzzy this morning.  Today will be spent out of the sun, however the main complement of wedding attendees arrives today around noon, and apparently there are some hardcore partiers therein so we could be in for another debacle at the swim-up bar.  As you know, you can trust your humble scribe to keep them all under control.  That's it for now - off to the gym!

Monday, February 21, 2011


"The word parabellum is a noun coined by German arms maker Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken and is derived from the Latin saying si vis pacem, para bellum, meaning If you wish for peace, prepare for war."  (Flavius Vegetius, no less.)  The term has also evolved as the name of several cartridges, including the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge adopted by NATO and the 7.65x22mm Parabellum known as the .30 Luger in the USA.  "The term may be used to refer to one of these cartridges, or to a German, Austrian or Swiss pistol chambered for one of those cartridges. The 9x19mm Parabellum is one of the most widely used pistol cartridges.  The phrase a Parabellum usually refers to the Luger P08 pistol.  The term may also apply to the Parabellum MG14 machine gun."  (Thanks Wiki.)  It is also the adopted moniker of one of our favorite commentators on this blog.  Being "old school", I happen to believe that if you want peace you must "prepare for war", although I am also well aware of studies that show that nations are far more likely to go to war if they have the means to do so.  Unfortunately, that's the world we live in - nations must be able to defend themselves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It Is Written

After a nasty fall on the ice last night at -25 Celsius, my wrist/elbow/hip/knee needed medication.  And thank Buddha our hosts had some.  I've always wondered what the translation of the German text around the Jagermeister label was.  According to Wiki: "On the edge of the label on a Jägermeister bottle, there appears the following uncredited verse from the poem Weidmannsheil by the forester, hunter, and ornithologist Oskar von Riesenthal (1830–1898):
Das ist des Jägers Ehrenschild,
daß er beschützt und hegt sein Wild,
weidmännisch jagt, wie sich’s gehört,
den Schöpfer im Geschöpfe ehrt.
A loose translation which preserves the rhyme and meter is:
This is the hunter’s badge of glory,
That he protect and tend his quarry,
Hunt with honour, as is due,
And through the beast to God is true.
According to Mast-Jägermeister AG, the translation is:
It is the hunter’s honour that he
Protects and preserves his game,
Hunts sportsmanlike, honours the
Creator in His creatures."
My own translation would be:  "Don't drink this stuff unless you've had rum first - if then."  Funny, I don't even notice the bruises and aches today acquired so unceremoniously last night.  But my head hurts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A 60's Moment Remembered

While reading Sixty Things to Do When You Turn Sixty, a recent gift from my wife, a chapter on political protest reminded me of the night I was arrested in one back in '69.  I was on my high school student council that year and as I recall all high school councillors in the city had been summoned to an "information session" one evening sponsored by the U of Lethbridge Student Union regarding a topic raging controversial at the time, namely the future location of the U itself.  Basically, U of L students, staff and bureaucracy wanted the new campus to be built west of the river (as did most of the city fathers who were looking to anchor future development over there) but significant countervailing forces, our MLA, speculators, and landowners (all of a certain religious ilk as it turned out) were trying to keep it in the same area as the LCC campus, where the U of L was temporarily housed at the time.  After a fiery presentation and considerable cajoling on the part of the very long-haired and scruffy wild-eyed university revolutionaries present, we who succumbed (virtually all did) were handed appropriate signage and bussed to stage a sit-in on the street in front of MLA Landeryou's house, quickly bringing traffic to a halt thereby of course.  It wasn't long before the police showed up, concurrent with the local media who had (as it turned out) been alerted to the event by the organizers.  (Imagine that, a stage-managed spontaneous radical student protest in southern Alberta of all places - but it was 1969, after all.)  Some negotiating with said peace officers ensued but we nascent radicals were nevertheless rounded up and arrested en masse.  After a stern lecture from the constabulary we were released an hour later and dispersed, our point (and theirs) having been made.  I was a bit embarrassed about being manipulated thusly (albeit for a good cause, as it turned out) - and about my new criminality - and thought I would just forget the whole thing, until later that night when I settled down to watch the 11 pm news with Dad and there I was in living color - obviously with some explaining to do!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Most Interesting Woman In the World 3

She knows what she likes and she knows what she doesn't like - and says so unequivocally.  Her quirky sense of humour only enhances her candor - a rare and beguiling combination.  Always easy on the eyes, she still constantly metamorphasizes, changing her looks on a whim.  She likes her men tall, athletic and from Waterton - the outdoors, firefighter type.  An accomplished skier, dancer, musician, and v-baller of note (and inspiration to her younger sibling, at least as far as the latter), she also knows her way around a catamaran enough to rescue he who shall remain nameless when in distress off Belize.  She could have been (might yet be?) a designer; her tastes leaning toward contemporary minimalism, augmented of course by her own unique verve and impeccable sense of style.  Maya is not just the name of an ancient people to her, it's also the name of her watchchihuahua.  And don't ever challenge her to a Blunston shopping contest (ever!).  She'll take home the most stuff with the least spent in the shortest time.  Which is not to say she isn't a careful consumer - au contraire!  She is the consummate shopper, instinctively knowing a bargain from baloney.  Admittedly severely bitten by the travel bug, she can frequently be found on a beach under the palms with her other amigo, Mojito.  Gentle dental care is her forte, wherein she exhibits an uncanny ability to treat thoroughly, pleasantly and painlessly (traits no doubt inherited).  And organized is she, with "a place for everything and everything in its place".  (Yet as a woman who recognizes her own foibles, she coined the word "spreadshit" to describe this organizational predilection.)  Who is she?  D-D Gorgeous to her mom (Krazy Kate to her dad) she is truly The Most Interesting Woman in the World to us all!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jewel of the West - Mountain Mill

In 1879 "just five years after the arrival of the Mounted Police in the West the Indian Department sent John Keene out from Ontario to establish a mill for sawing logs and grinding grain on Mill Creek, just eight or so miles southwest of the small settlement of Pincher Creek.... It was thought that this would encourage the Indians to build homes and turn to farming.  And so began the first activity west of town."  In 1881 the mill was sold to Senator Peter McLaren who sent William Lees out as manager.  From then on it was a big business factor in the life of the village of Pincher Creek, "and many of our prominent citizens first came west to work there."  [The original blacksmith shop still stands on the site today in 2011.-ed.]  Across Mill Creek to the west "The NE 1/4 of Sec.12-6-2-5 was filed on by Ben Short, stepson of the late Fred Pope [in] 1900.  He failed to prove it up and this left it open for Alex White who proved up on it and lived there until 1920.  [...Alex was quite a horseman...a cowboy at Mountain Mill for many years and then moved to Pincher Creek.]  He sold it sometime later to Thomas Hughes, a retired coal miner, another bachelor [who] lived there until his death in 1950.  This land is now owned by Ken Gamache."  In 1977 it was sold to Dave and Mary Balfour.  The old farmhouse was destroyed in a septic gas explosion in 1979.  (Quotations and basic facts from Prairie Grass to Mountain Pass by The Pincher Creek Historical Society, 1974.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Iron On His Hip

"A great many people have an idea that old-time westerners spent half their time shooting at each other ... a few did carry them openly but they were range men or from across the line.  Ed Dalton was one of those Americans who packed a gun; it was said that he was wanted on the other side, also that the Mounties were looking for a chance to pick him up; this I do know, he was always on his guard.  He rode around the Twin Butte country a lot, but any time he stopped in at a ranch he was mighty careful always to sit with his back to the wall and facing the door.  I was at a picnic one day when Ed rode in with a couple of girl friends and joined us.  We were enjoying his company for he was a most likable fellow and a great favorite with the girls, but a Mountie also rode in and Ed quietly disappeared. The Mountie saw him pulling out but Ed had his gun on his hip so I suppose the Mountie thought it was better not to try to make an arrest right then and there and that night Ed drifted.  I heard later that he had shot it out in Montana and been killed."  Sixty Years in an Old Cow town by A.L. Freebairn.  (Today's title courtesy of Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jewel of the West 1883

"Easterners always seem to associate the West with guns.  Not long ago a traveler from some wholesale house in Toronto was sitting around the hotel chatting with one of our old-timers who likes to pose as a tough old guy.  'Tell me' said the traveling man 'Was there much shooting among the cowboys around here?'  'Sure thing' said the old-timer, 'But we never paid much attention to it; why doggone it, when we wanted to start a graveyard back in '83 because the town had grown big enough to have one, a cow-puncher down on the Stewart ranch shot himself just to oblige us.'  This same traveler happened to be talking to me later and he repeated the story and asked me if it could be true.  'Well' I told him, 'As old Mormon Bill once said about the story of the creation ... there's some truth to it - we're here aren't we?'  The true facts are these: A cowboy from Montana was over hunting for some stray horses, he stopped over at the Stewart Ranch bunkhouse and when he took a notion to clean his gun, accidentally shot himself; so it was true that the first one buried in our graveyard had shot himself."  Sixty Years In An Old Cow Town by A.L. Freebairn.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jewel of the West 1882

"A more lovely spot it would be difficult to pick out, as we stood at the door of his ranch; the view of the Rocky Mountains rising up from the plateau reminded me very much of the view of the Alps from the terrace at Berne.  I think, however, that the comparison is in favour of the view that I am now describing, though the hills are of course not so high.  Beginning with Crow's Nest Hill, which gives its name to the pass, it is a curiously roundheaded hill and rises above the pass on the right hand; from this point, running the eye from right to left, comes a bold pyramidal peak [the Frank Slide had yet to occur], after this one or two finely outlined conical heights, and next the Castle Mountain, looking like a rampart, walls with high round towers rising at each angle; next to this, further to the south, is Victoria Peak, also a fine pyramidal hill, until the view ends in the Chief Mountain, with its squareish head, something like that of Ingleborough, in Yorkshire."  From Home to Home, Autumn Wanderings in the North-West, 1881-1884, by Alexander Staveley Hill (1825-1905).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jewel of the West 1881

"After passing the cutbanks, the place where we again approach the Willow Creek on its passage down to Macleod, we caught sight for the first time of the Rocky Mountains, extending along in a magnificent series of snowy peaks standing out against the pure blue sky, with snow clouds gathered around their summits, and bearing out more fully than I had ever seen before the Homeric phrase of the hill of cloud-collecting Jove.  They form at this place as beautiful a panorama as could be found of scenery of this character."  From Home to Home, Autumn Wanderings in the North-West 1881-1884, by Alexander Staveley Hill.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"He's a Player", Said Haavy

Hmmm.  Player.  Love the word.  It's sort of a '40s or '50s expression that just makes you perk up and think "wow, that's the perfect word to describe that guy"!  The official definitions are, of course, inadequate - to wit: 1) a person taking part in a sport/game; 2) a person that is involved/influential; 3) a person who plays an instrument; 4) a device for playing musical media; and 5) an actor.  None of which quite convey the edginess with which the term can sometimes be invoked to describe a person who is not only "involved" (so I suppose #2 above comes closest for our purposes today) but who exudes ever so slightly just a hint of smidgen of an aura of, shall we say, danger?  A little unpredictability - yes, that's it.  You would trust the guy with your lawnmower, for instance, but not with your Mercedes.  Yeah, that sort of guy, certainly not unlikable (in fact, probably lots of fun if truth be told) but not the sort you'd trust with your sister.  There you go, "he's a player".  Indeed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Reflections On The Big Six-0

"If I'd known I was going to live this long I would've taken better care of myself."  (Attributed to Eubie Blake, the American rag-time musician.)  Never were truer words spoken.  I can't believe I've survived, thrived and arrived at the end of another decade.  Or perhaps one should focus on the beginning of yet another one, my seventh!  The top ten reasons why I've lived so long:
1. My best friend, my wife.
2. Ian.
3. Kate.
4. Lindsay.
5. Family is super.
6. Did I mention being a grandad? 
7. Great friends.
8. Living in Canada helps.
9. Living out here is the best.
10. I've been as lucky as I have been unlucky.
The secret to it all?  See #1 above.  The single most important decision you will ever make is who you marry, in my opinion.  That hasn't changed.  G'day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Luckiest Man In The World

He is a freshwater sailor, has skied all over Europe, enjoys both country and western music, and prefers Van Gogh to all other impressionists.  Eclectic both in his politics and his pursuits, he is an eternal optimist despite reading the doom and gloom of Roubini, Rosenberg and Faber, and is a huge fan of Seinfeld.  He likes his woman brown-eyed, demure, brunette and petite - and exclusively of Croatian-Italian ancestry from Taber.  Equipped with uncanny B.S. detectors, he can see through any religion or wonder treatment in a split-second.  Even-tempered but not beyond the judicious loss of same when it can be effective, he is a law-and-order type to the bone.  And right-wing of Atilla The Hun, he is nevertheless a S.N.A.G. in more ways than you can imagine.  A fertile mind in a ravaged body, he's happy with his lot in life and justly proud of his progeny.  Equally at home at with Shakespeare or Darwin, he still loves to drive his John Deere and F-150 with Big Ray, Willie or Pavarotti blaring, to willfully get dirt under his fingernails, and to play eight-ball on Friday nights with old friends.  Never a teatotaller - yet inclined to temperance during the week - it may be said that he enjoys a libation (or two) occasionally.  And, of course, a lover of the English language is he.  Who is he?  He is the luckiest man in the world to see sixty!

The Most Interesting Man In The World

He is a dentist, a financial planner and a day trader - and a man of incredibly diverse interests and talents. From his early days, Mr. Woggle-bug (so named for the huge glasses he wore as a very young child,) showed glimpses of an intellect that did not wish to be focused, and could not be contained. Although sometimes involved in flights of fancy (who can forget the petrified mammoth tusk scheme?) his more practical side has given him a grounding that has allowed him to flourish (although in all honesty the credit for this goes to his much better half.) This dweller of the pre-dawn hours has accomplished much in his sixty years, though modesty prevents him from trumpeting it. Suffice to say, he has seen far flung locales in summer breezes and winter blizzards, experiencing much that the world has to offer, and still has the uncommonly good sense to be most comfortable out here.

He has overcome much in life: an early bout of polio, and explosion in his home and a nearly catastrophic skiing accident that left him paralyzed for the better part of a year. And yet, he doesn't dwell on these, but remains full of fun and ever eager to experience the next day. He is as much at home at a small country rodeo as he is in a big city museum. He is happy both with nose buried in book and partying late into the morning. But none of these things are the best thing about him - that is reserved for his incredible heart and sense of family. He has inspired three incredible children, and anchored his two siblings as they experience the travails of life.

He is, simply, the Most Interesting Man in the World - despite the fact that he continues to grant that title to others.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Specialist's Feel

One of the reasons we go to medical specialists is to get the benefit of their "feel" for the particular branch of medicine they specialize in, as well as their didactic knowledge thereof.  That's something you just can't get by reading "I Am Joe's Big Toe" in Reader's Digest (is RD even around anymore?) or by getting your medical information online - no matter how good the website is.  It's why your family physician refers you to a board-certified specialist in the first place, because he or she doesn't feel comfortable with the latest cutting edge research in that particular area.  (With so much research going on these days, it's truly impossible for a family physician to keep up on every new development.)  On the other hand, the specialist can't "know you" as well as your family physician probably does - assuming that you've kept up with your regular check-ups, of course.  So the ideal situation is when both physicians, the generalist and the specialist, communicate seamlessly.  Anyway, that's how it's supposed to work.  Now if your "specialist" is a chiropractor, naturopath, homeopath (or some other type of crystal-ball gazer) all bets are off.  Instead of going up a step on the staircase of science, you've fallen off and cracked your head.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Economists

"If all economists were laid end-to-end, they would not reach a conclusion." - George Bernard Shaw

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Joy of Shoveling Snow

Some may think I'm crazy - that I've been out here too long - but I actually enjoy shoveling snow.  The (sometimes very) fresh air, the sunshine, the physical exercise, even the knowledge that my better half may avoid slipping on the ice as she did a couple of years ago when she broke a rib, all of these things add to the exuberance with which I approach this otherwise most plebeian of tasks.  Sure, I could be watching the one-eyed monster, sitting in the pub, reading another book, napping or any of a hundred other activities - but I like shoveling snow.  I didn't like it as a youth, of course.  My father insisted that "the walks" be cleaned of snow at the slightest accumulation, ostensibly because there was a city edict demanding its removal upon pain of being fined, and because he believed there were those in the general populace just yearning to sue any professional who endangered the bipedal public by letting snow melt naturally where it fell.  (Or it could have been, in retrospect, just a way to instill some work ethic at an early age.  If so, it worked.)  Thus I toiled before and after school to remove the white stuff, sometimes so cold that it squeaked underfoot (a function of the grinding together of rock-hard crystals), and at other times so wet and heavy that it strained both man and instrument to move it.  I didn't just dislike shoveling snow back then, I hated it.  The transformation happened, I think, when I was away at university and enjoyed an inadvertent holiday from the task.  At any rate, I shan't lead you, dear reader, too far down the garden path because after the really big storms (3 or 4 times a winter) I do fire up the John Deere for some real fun! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Spirit of Yachting

A favorite BBC show of mine is the half-hour Rolex Spirit of Yachting.  I cut my teeth as a freshwater weekend "prairie" sailor on the St. Mary's Reservoir and Flathead and Waterton Lakes, and most of my salt water sailing over the years has admittedly been restricted to Hobie Cats for an afternoon here or there.  (One notable and enjoyable exception was aboard the "Catatonic" off Pearl Harbor in 1978.)  My biggest open ocean thrill came when I was just out of high school and visiting a friend in Greenwich, Connecticut.  My hosts belonged to a small yacht club and - as I had crumpled my mother's borrowed Volkswagen in a flash rainstorm the day after we arrived, thus marooning my buddy and I there for a month - we spent a fair amount of time rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous at "the club".  One day the opportunity to crew on a classic wooden multi-masted schooner arose, and as my buddy was off to see a Yankees game in NYC, I jumped at the opportunity.  We tacked out into the Atlantic and then went for a long sail, eventually on an even keel we held for hours.  There's not much work to do once you're aimed in the right direction on a behemoth like that but the thrill was unimaginable for me as an 18-year old.  And that open ocean thrill is rekindled every time I watch the Spirit of Yachting.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sarcasm Is For Losers

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of humour".  An old but highly accurate statement in my opinion.  One definition of sarcasm is "the use of irony to mock or convey contempt", thus it illustrates exactly the mindset of the perpetrator of this type of remark (I object to it being called a joke) toward its intended victim.  Although sarcasm gives a glimpse of the perp's true inner feeling (contempt) about the target of the remark it cannot, of course, convey the pain and embarrassment - sometimes public, sometimes not - experienced by the recipient of same.  Sure, sarcasm is witty and makes its originator look bright and superior to some.  And when shared by two or more friends at the expense of an unknowing or unaware third party one could argue that there is no damage done.  Although that may or may not be true, it still gives us an important glimpse into the character of the sarcastic remark's originator.  Sarcasm is an indicator of a major character flaw - the need to make fun of someone for our own edification.  So while we all get caught up in laughing at sarcastic remarks from time to time, remember: the butt of the "joke" could just as easily be you the next time.  For if your friend humours you with sarcastic remarks about others, how does he humour them about you?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Scottish Wedding Plan

"Two Scottish heritage stories in a row - Holy Haggis Batman!"  "Don't worry, Robin, back to the real world on the morrow!"
"Two Scotsmen brothers, Finlay and Farley McCalder, were sitting in Fitzsimmons Public 'ouse discussin' Farley's big weddin' day.  'Aye, it's goin to be gran,' said Farley.  'I've got everythin' organized a'ready, the flowers, the kirk, the cars, the reception, the rings, the vicar - even ma stag night.'  Finlay smiled and nodded approvingly.  'Heavens, I've even got me kilt to be married in,' continued Farley with a look of immense Highland satisfaction.  'A kilt... that's guid. You'll look smart in tha,' exclaimed Finlay, 'and what's the tartan?'  'Och,' replied Farley, 'I imagine she'll be in white.'

Thursday, February 3, 2011

John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard Economist

... U.S. Ambassador to India, and adviser to John F. Kennedy, was born and raised of Scottish settlers in Dunwich on the north shore of Lake Erie.  Better known for his authorship of American Capitalism, The Affluent Society, The Great Crash 1929, and The Liberal Hour, he also wrote a little-known tome entitled The Scotch about growing up in rural Ontario.  His droll Scottish humour makes great reading as evidenced by the following tale of his adolescence:  "It was summer and I was deeply in love.  One day the object of my love, a compact golden-haired girl who lived on Willey's Sideroad a half-mile away, came over to visit my sisters.  They were away and we walked together through the orchard and climbed onto a rail fence which overlooked a small field between our place and Bert McCallum's.  Our cows were pasturing on the second-growth clover in front of us.  The hot summer afternoon lay quiet all around.  With the cows was a white bull named O.A.C. Pride, for the Ontario Agricultural College where my father had bid him in at an auction.  As we perched there the bull served his purpose by serving a heifer which was in season.  Noticing that my companion was watching with evident interest, and with some sense of my own courage, I said: 'I think it would be fun to do that."  She replied: 'Well, it's your cow.' "

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Niall Ferguson on the Egyptian Crisis

Niall Ferguson, the very sage double PhD in History and Economics at Harvard University (and author of The War of the World, among other brilliant works) is one of my favorite soothsayers.  This yesterday from him:  "This revolution in Egypt is more likely to result in something like Iran, than it is to be like the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, according to Niall Ferguson.  Speaking to the German daily Handesblatt, Ferguson says that because the forces for democracy in Egypt are not well organized, Islamic fundamentalism will have a chance at success.  Ferguson also says there is a real threat that what happens in Egypt will spread to other countries, including Saudi Arabia.  The most important lesson from this crisis though, according to Ferguson, is that state capitalism, like that conducted by Egypt and China, is not perfect."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt: Not a Laughing Matter

Real tweets collected Monday about the situation in Egypt:
1. President Hosni Mubarak has announced that he will hand over power to his Vice President, Mosni Hubarak.
2. As the crisis in Egypt deepens, stay tuned to CNN for up-to-the-minute reports about Charlie Sheen.
3. The only Egyptian leader older than Hosni Mubarak is on display at the Cairo Museum.
4. When Hollywood legend Omar Sharif says Mubarak should step down it can only be a matter of time.
5. Egyptian government must be terrible, the nose of the sphinx has been broken FOREVER!
6. Mubarak says he will leave Egypt if he can get on the ballot for Mayor of Chicago.
7. Glenn Beck says the coup in Egypt will be followed by one in U.K.- bring on the men in white coats, please!
8. In a sign he may be preparing to step down Mubarak has just updated his LinkedIn profile.
9. Possible exit strategy: Mubarak dresses up as a mummy and is chased out of Egypt by Brendan Fraser.
10. Israel changed its relationship status with Egypt on Facebook from "married" to "it's complicated".
11. Let Sarah Palin dealing with this crisis, she can probably see Egypt from Alaska.