Monday, November 30, 2009


Winter has arrived.

What. You think 'winter has arrived' is a boring and unimaginative way to start a blog entry? Okay, let me try again:

The Winter Weather Gremlins bestirred themselves from hibernation and swept across the boreal forest in their blustering, swirling, west-wind chariots, blanketing the landscape with fluffy white powder and plunging thermometers into negative double digits . . .

Okay, let's just say it finally snowed. Big deal. I am glad it held off until the first of December, probably the latest first-snow in memory (it actually wasn't the first, but all the other dribs and drabs we got in October and November melted, so they don't count). If winter had come in mid-October (like it occasionally does) I would have written a sob story along the lines of "it's-too-early-for-winter-I-wanna-move-to-Hawaii." If it had arrived in the first week of November, I probably wouldn't have written anything, because winter is supposed to come in the first week of November. But it came on December first, and for once even the die hard snow-haters amongst us can't complain too much. If we can't handle snow in December, it really is time to move to Hawaii.

Besides, Christmas decorating seems a little weird when you look out the window and see only brown, frozen grass in the front yard. A little snow makes Christmas trees and carols more Christmasy for some reason.

Incidentally, Moscow is also getting a warm start to winter.

The gremlins might actually have listened when I said they could do their worst after we finished our training in Kenora. I should have remembered that I had a meeting in Thunder Bay on Tuesday. I asked for two day extention on the nice weather, but the wheels of nature were already in motion. I wasn't nuts about the hour and a half drive home at midnight in a snowstorm, but hey, this is Northwestern Ontario, not Hawaii.

By the way, I want to express my sincere thanks to Environment Canada for miscalling the weather report last weekend. Instead of periods of snow we got two days of nice clear weather, with temperatures hovering at or above the freezing point. I'm doubly thankful because I was correct in predicting that my white helmet would attract water. Actually, my whole bunker suit got soaked. Imagine an instructor and two students rammed into a sardine can of an attic doing hydraulic ventilation. Here's how it went:

me: When I open this window, you shoot a straight stream through it, then widen the stream to fill the opening. (this draws the smoke out of the room)

student: [thinks to himself] Which way do you twist the nozzle to get a straight stream . . . all the way left or all the way right . . . I think it's left . . . [opens nozzle on full wide fog].

me [dripping wet]; Um, the water is supposed to go through the window, not ricochet off the frame . . .

Thank goodness for miscalled weather reports and Gortex.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the salt of the earth

Words. They bewitch you or bore you depending on the skill of the wordsmith. Last Sunday, the Kenora fire chief referred to one of his faithful volunteers as "the salt of the earth." If he had said, "Leo is a really helpful guy," I would have agreed, and promptly forgotten the comment. But the "salt of the earth" is still stuck in my brain, to the point that I did some research on the subject.

It has it's origins in the Bible where Jesus refers to his followers as the salt of the earth. has this to say about the modern meaning of the expression:

"Such people are unpretentious, uncomplicated, devoted, loyal, earnest, and honest. They are hard-working folks, who add value to the lives of others."

The great thing about metaphors is that they are easily stolen, and I've unabashedly pilfered this one to describe the volunteer firefighter in general. I just spent two weekends with a group of people that are about as salty as they come. They have to be, or they would never have given up two weekends to crawl around blindfolded in hot, dirty turnout gear, or sit in a classroom and listen to someone blather on about self contained breathing apparatus, or stare down a raging diesel fuel fire through the thin protection of a fog stream.

Now they've gone home to salt down their home communities. If you live in Kenora, or Ignace or Pickle Lake or Upsala, you likely see them every day without realizing it. They are invisible until their pagers go off, or they assemble at the hall for training. Their existence brings value to their communities. Definitely the salt of the earth.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

keep it in perspective

H1N1 frenzy struck Upsala yesterday when the nursing station offered a one-day-only vaccination blitz. The event appeared to be a smashing (or stabbing) success. I popped over briefly to get the regular, mundane, non-swine seasonal flu vaccine (I got the H1N1 shot about a month ago), and had to squeeze through dozens of people milling about, laughing, chatting, telling jokes . . . a regular boondocks shindig, and an impressive turnout for little old Upsala.

Getting any turnout in this reclusive village can be quite a feat. I was invited to do a holiday fire safety presentation at the Community Hall as part of an afternoon social hosted by the Norwest Community Health Clinic. We bombarded the village in advance with the usual flyers and posters, then strafed it with a last-minute mass mailing a few days before the event (if you call 110 flyers a mass mailing). The idea behind these educational events is to reach as many of our 207 residents as possible, so when only three showed up it was disheartening. On the bright side, we didn't run out of cookies or coffee.

Before you leap to the conclusion that I live in a village of total losers (or worse yet, that people stayed away because I'm a total loser), I hasten to add the importance of perspective. Those three people represented three of the four major age groups. A child, a teenager, and a senior. Giving further consideration to the statistical import of these numbers, think of it this way: 3 out of 200 is statistically equivalent to 1500 people turning out in Thunder Bay, which has a population of roughly 100,000 (don't say it - I know I've used that argument before. I'm grasping at straws in an attempt to patch my damaged ego, so give me a break, okay).

Besides, I'm not the only one that has trouble getting the masses to come out and be educated. Only one person showed up for an Alzheimers Awareness workshop a few months ago. Perhaps everyone else forgot to attend.

Everything is a learning experience, and I'm busy plotting a strategy for better results next time. Here's a brainwave. Never mind trying to lure people with food and coffee and movies and entertainment. Just offer to jab a needle in their arms, and the villagers will show up in droves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the response

Two months and a day since our last call, and a tractor trailer drove off the road last night deep into the rhubarb. Actually, it was very early this morning. And we got called.

If you've ever experienced ejection from bed at 3:30 AM by a rattling, beeping, electronic voice box croaking out orders to wake up this instant, sleep walk to your truck, and respond to a crash, or a fire, or a cat in a tree (we don't do cats), then you understand part of the essence of volunteer firefighting. Our wives understand. They wake up to the same tones, lie awake for a half an hour after, and finally fall asleep just in time to wake up again when we come home. Yes, they understand.

Some wives are volunteer firefighters, and if their husbands are volunteer firefighters too they have a feud everytime the pager goes off to see who gets to go and who has to stay home with the kids.

"It's my turn to go out and get soaking wet and filthy and exhausted and frozen and sleep deprived!"

"No, it's my turn! I stayed home with the brats last time!"

Fortunately, Erinn is no longer a firefighter and my kids aren't brats. But I digress.

Back to the hero of our story, the rhubarbed trucker. He went in so deep that our talented (albeit unemployed) bushwacker firefighters had to bushwack a path to the cab so we could help the paramedics get the driver and passenger onto boards and into the ambulance. Here are a couple of photos, some taken right after the rescue and some a few hours later after the sun rose.

Not the worst mess we've dealt with, but time consuming nonetheless. The two occupants were in pretty rough shape (you would be too after a ride like that) but as far as I know they are both expected to make a full recovery.

For all of you that are thinking, "that's what he gets for talking about having the whole month of October without a call I say, 'back off!' Back off I say, because it's been a full 24 days since I said that, which is much to long for there to be any bad luck connected with the comment. If you haven't read my column about firefighter superstitions, click here.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for all of my friends on the US side of the border. We Canadians had ours in October. You've probably seen the clip of Obama pardoning his Thanksgiving turkey, but if not, click here. Anyway, happy Thanksgiving all ye thankful Yankees!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

winter weather gremlins

The weather continues. So much for the long, bitterly cold winter we were supposed to get (shhh . . . don't tell the weather gremlins or Farmers' Almanac I said that). This has got to be one of the longest, mildest, sunniest, snowless-iest Novembers in the history of Upsala. The ground is as bare as Yul Brynner's head, and there is still no major snow in sight.

Oops. I just looked at the Upsala weather report which calls for periods of snow this Saturday (blast those weather gremlins . . . they must be reading over my shoulder). Not that Environment Canada's seven day forecast is anything close to being accurate. 'Periods of snow' could mean anything from cloudy with a flake or two, to rainy with a spatter of wet snow mixed in, to clear and sunny and 'oops, I guess we got that one wrong,' to 'forty-below-and-I-really-hate-winter' weather.

In all sincerity, I hope they got it wrong. Normally, even I'm not wimpy enough to complain about snowstorms in November-nearly-December . . . normally. But this Saturday and Sunday I'm back in Kenora for more firefighter training. We have mostly fun stuff left to do, like car fires, pit fires and interior attack fires, but all fires involve dragging hoses and spraying water and getting wet, and then getting wetter. Even if you're an instructor. Especially if you're an instructor. In normal November weather, your turnout gear gets so crusted in ice that you look like a Hokkaido ice sculpture by the end of the first evolution (you can see more of that amazing artwork here).

Have any of you fire chiefs out there in cyberspace ever noticed that white helmets attract water? Mine does. It's a regular water magnet. I'm standing there innocently mentoring my faithful firefighters while they run their paces with the inch and a half hoselines, when suddenly, with expert clumsiness, they momentarily lose control of the nozzle and give me a brief shower. The innocent 'sorry Chief, did we get you wet?' look gives it all away. Students from other departments aren't quite so bad, but I believe it is a universally held truth that yellow helmets must occasionally and accidentally shower white ones.

When the sun is blazing, and you really would rather go for a swim than a sweaty sauna in your turnout gear, a shot of water is welcome. But when the spray freezes Jack-London-to-build-a-fire-instantaneously, turning you into a walking icicle, the humor is quickly lost.

All that to say, I hope the nice weather holds until Monday. After that, winter weather gremlins do your worst. We're ready for you.

On a sort of related topic, you can read Pittgirl's humorous take on a Pittsburgh winter here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Just a quick note to let you know that I am alive and wishing I were blogging. I'm in Kenora hanging out with a group of cream-of-the-crop volunteer firefighters for the weekend. No, it's not a party weekend, but a work weekend. You can get a feel for what we're doing by reading my May 30, October 5, and October 10 entries.

The weekend so far has been more of the same stunning Indian Summer weather that we've had on and off for the past month. Perfect conditions for tormenting firefighters . . . we can push them to the breaking point without worrying about killing them with heat stroke. Hopefully November won't wake up before next weekend and realize what it's been missing - we have to finish the training, and it won't be much fun if it's blizzarding or -40.

Sorry, that's all I have for you today. It's 11:45 and tomorrow is coming faster than I care to think about. I will post again in a couple days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

nerves and endurance

The evil ambulance dudes (who have their hideout right across the road from the fire hall) played with my nerves today under the innocent masquerade of diligently ensuring their equipment was maintained.

They know that we firefighters haven't had a call in six weeks. They know that we respond to many of the same calls that they do. They know that we suffer from adrenalin withdrawal during long periods of inactivity. And they know that in our over-devoted, under-utilized state, we firefighters will be a bag of jitters vibrating to the edge of our seats every time the ambulance rolls to any call, because we know we might get paged a few minutes later.

So what do they do? They hire a technician to "fix" their siren. Not that it was broken. It couldn't have been. It went off at least five times, in all of its multitudinous and irritating sequences.

Here's how I figure the conversation went:

Siren Tech: Well, Mr. Ambulance dude, I think your siren is fine.
Evil Ambulance Dude: Great, but hadn't you better test it? I mean, just to be sure . . . [snicker, snicker]
Siren Tech: Yes, of course.

Wail, screech, yelp, HF, T3, chatter-chatter

Meanwhile, across the road at the fire hall . . .
Over-devoted, Under-utilized Fire Chief: (thinks to himself because there is no one to talk to) The ambulance must be headed out on a call. I'd better lay aside my boring paperwork and prepare myself for the rescue of the century. [siren stops]. Aw man, it was just a test.

Back at the ambulance base . . .
Evil Ambulance Dude: I think I detected a slight hesitation. You'd better recheck that wiring.
Siren Tech: Yes, of course.

Half an hour later . . .

Siren Tech: Well, Mr. Ambulance dude, your siren is still fine.
Evil Ambulance Dude: Great, but hadn't you better test it again? I mean, just to be sure . . . something might have come loose when you checked that wiring . . .[snicker, snicker]
Siren Tech: Yes, of course.

Wail, screech, yelp, HF, T3, chatter-chatter

You get the idea (click here if you don't). After the fifth time I'm ready to pay a friendly visit across the road with a pair of wire cutters and a hooligan bar. The ultimate solution for ISS (Irritating Siren Syndrome) and the instigators behind the ruckus.
(Lest you think Upsala is like other places where friction exists between the fire and ambulance services, rest assured we are not. In reality, we get along fine with the ambulance dudes across the road 99.9% of the time, but I have to write about something.)
On a different topic, I have good news for all of my friends that enjoy a drink now and then. New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust is going to drill for a cache of vintage whiskey that was abandoned 100 years ago by Sir Ernest Shackleton. (If you aren't familiar with this guy, at least check out the section about the loss of the ship Endurance, and Shackleton's subsequent voyage in a tiny lifeboat across the stormy Antarctic seas to get help.)
Speaking of whiskey, you can read about my dysfunctional relationship with alcohol in my May 23 post.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

photography and face painting

I like to pretend I'm good at stuff. Cooking, drawing, fire chiefing, instructing, blogging, it doesn't matter. I do them partly for fun, partly because I'm a wanna-be, and some of them because I have to make a living somehow.

The other night at our annual dress up party I played paparazzi with a fancy borrowed Fujipix camera. If a photographer's worth is measured by the number of shots he takes, I aced it. . . but if quality rules, well . . . let's say I won't be chasing celebrities anytime soon.

When you come up short, the thing to do is figure out how to improve, right? My brother Paul (who is a real knife maker and real photographer, and a lot of other real things) can take awesome shots blindfolded at night, so I think to myself, "Self, why don't you ask Paul how you can improve your photographicology?"

Great idea. Except that the conversation went kind of like this:

me: "Why are my photos all grainy?"
Paul: "You need to [several Greek words in a row] the shutter and [a number of chinese phrases] the aperture and make sure the [a sprinkling of archaic Hebrew] is correct and . . . ."
me: "So what you're saying is that unless I take a seven year university course in photography, I'd better just stick with the automatic settings."
Paul: "No really, it's easy. You just push this [gizmo thingy] and hold that [microscopic button] while clicking the [setting that sounds like an Egyptian god's name] . . .
me: "Yeah, I'll just go with the automatic settings."

Here are some photos that I took of body painting that my very talented wife did on the kids:

Fortunately some folks out there are good at technology, like the guys or gals that invented a contraption being tried in the Sault Ste Marie area. It's a moose detector. That's right, it senses when an animal is near the road, and a flashing beacon alerts motorists to the danger. You can read about it here. Technology is great, but at $300,000 a pop, the moose will have to watch their step on our hundred kilometres of highway for a while to come.

I brag about a lot of things, but one thing I never brag about is being smart. Especially after taking this test.

Indian Summer is back again after a brief relapse into winter yesterday. If this weather keeps up, maybe my prediction about having a balmy winter may come true. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When your daughter gets an invitation to go visiting and the inviters ask, "have you had lunch yet?" and your daughter says 'yes' even though she hasn't because everyone slept in and dad made breakfast at noon, you know your Saturday is getting off to a good start. That's my kind of Saturday.

I have another stew recipe, or rather a modified version of an old recipe. You can see the original, along with some good smoke alarm advice, on my April 28 posting. Here's the modified version:

Tim's Stew (sorry, the name hasn't gotten any more creative)

  • Decide that you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking because it's one of those kinds of Saturdays, and think stew is just the thing.

  • Take some stew beef, about a pound.

  • Fry it in oil, in a cast iron pan at medium heat until it's nice and brown. (see old recipe for browning instructions).
  • Pour water in the pan, enough to cover the meat. It will bubble and foam. Scrape up all that nice brown stuff that is stuck to the pan. It should turn the water nice and brown.
  • Pour the whole shoot'n match into a pot, and put the pot on low heat.

  • Add some garlic some salt, some soy sauce and a little Hoisin sauce. (optional)

  • Get the tomato sauce out of the fridge, open it, look at it and think that's really weird tomato sauce, realize it's salsa and put it back in the fridge.

  • Get the real tomato sauce out and put in a couple tbsp.

  • Add a few squirts of Dijon mustard, and a dozen or so drops of tabasco

  • Shake in enough basil to cover the whole surface of the stew, and then add a small amount of oregano.

  • Find some fresh rosemary leaves that your wife bought for an awesome chicken dish that she saw on the Martha Stewart show. (side note: you can get the recipe here, and Erinn says you can cut the butter in half and use regular bread crumbs for the stuffing. An awesome recipe.)

  • Chop a some of the rosemary leaves into the stew (I used scissors).

  • Add some curry powder, maybe a tsp to start

  • Add more water, enough to fill the pot 2/3 full.

  • Add some salt and pepper.

  • Cover, turn the heat very low heat and forget about it for a couple hours.

  • After a couple hours, add as many diced potatoes and carrots as you think you'd like to eat.

  • Add more of the above spices. Potatoes and carrots dilute the flavour.

  • Freak out because you think you added too much rosemary, and worry that everyone will hate the stew. Stay calm and add some more salt, pepper, and garlic.

  • Add some chopped mushrooms and red bell peppers near the end unless your kids object (mine do).

  • Thicken (see old recipe or figure it out yourself).

This stew goes real well with Erinn's homemade biscuits. If you aren't into making biscuits, my world famous breadsticks are a good second choice. You can get the recipe on my September 30 posting.

A good choice for dessert is Erinn's pumpkin cake (don't try substituting breadsticks for pumpkin cake). You'll have to find your own recipe . . . just go to Google and type "pumpkin cake."

The stew was great by the way, and got good reviews from all members of the family. Except that Vanessa said, "Dad, how come mine has pine needles in it?" (Note: make sure you chop all the rosemary leaves well).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

101 postings, creativity, and boneheaded geniuses

I hit a milestone in my last posting and didn't even realize it. November 11 was my 100th blog entry. I knew it was coming up soon, but I kind of thought that my computer screen would flash and vibrate, and a thundering voice would say, "Congratulations, you've posted one hundred times," or something similar, but no, the momentous event went unnoticed. You, my esteemed readers didn't even clue in, I'll wager. Not that I expected anyone but to count, but some kind of celebration would have been nice. . . a digital surprise party, a virtual cake, a photo of my laptop on the cover of People magazine. . . okay, give it up Beebewitz, it's only a hundred entries for crying out loud.

An interesting piece of trivia: I've been blogging since mid-April, roughly 7 months. That works out to 14.2857 postings per month. The significance of that is . . . um, I don't know what the significance of that is.

I read this article the other day about how schools unwittingly stifle creativity by the "exile of the arts, "arid approaches, and "an obsessive culture of standardized testing," among other things. For once in my life, I'm going to agree with someone. Here's why.

By necessity, most schools take a cookie-cutter approach . . . everyone must act a certain way, look a certain way, learn a certain way . . . a genuine Henry Ford-style educational assembly line. The result is an assembly line mind set: let's get this done and get out of here. By default, a large number of kids (especially the creative ones) are bored out of their mischievious, rascally craniums. I'm about as expert in child psycology as I am in meteorology, but even my dough-brained, bushwhacker mind wonders if a lot of behavioural problems stem from kids' minds being cramped by conventional learning.

Another piece of interesting (albeit unproven) fire service trivia. Did you know that ADHD might be three times more common among firefighters than among the general populace? No wonder I had such a hard time with Bloom's Taxonomy and Maslow's Hierarchy and all that other university level instructor text book gibberish. You can read an abridged version of my thoughts on Bloom and his peers in my profile, or the original blog entry that it came from here. If you are really ambitious (and not ADHD) you can read this article about ADHD in the fire service.

Speaking of creativity, the Google geniuses have invented Google Wave, and the geeks of earth are lining up in droves to subscribe to it. I look at Google Wave the same as the majority of Canada looks at H1N1 - what's all the hype about, and will I die if I catch it?

Here's the problem with Google Wave: I don't understand it, and I'm too lazy to figure it out. It looks like you'd be able to read my thoughts as I'm writing them . . . but I don't want you to read my thoughts as I'm writing them, because they look like this:

100 postings ---- where's the @#%&* party?!! --- school is boring --- bratty kids are smart -- be different! --- half my crew is adhd --- maslow who? --- google geniuses and the google wave -- boneheads that imagine i want people to read my thoughts while i'm thinking them --- why don't people want the h1n1 vaccine? ---- AM I ADHD?

You get my drift.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Rememberance Day (Veteran's Day for you folks on the US side of the border) has taken on a different meaning for me recently. My father is a World War II veteran who was wounded in action and spent the final 11 months of the war in a prisoner of war camp. I believe he would like to forget that segment of his life, and I don't blame him. Most of the world is thankful that Hitler was shut down, but that doesn't obliterate the horrible suffering that he inflicted.

Today my thoughts are about the current conflict, both in Afghanistan and Iraq because I am both Canadian and American. I have mixed feelings because war cannot be simplified into the "good guys" and "bad guys," or even into right or wrong. War is a much more complex evil than that.

The foremost feeling is empathy for the folks that are in harm's way fighting. A firefighter who attended a course I taught was killed by a roadside bomb a few years ago. The brother of one of my captains leaves for Afghanistan in a few weeks. I listened to a Canadian soldier talk on the radio about the need to win this war and bring peace to that country. These folks sincerely want to eradicate the lunatics that thrive by destroying their own people. An oft forgotten fact is that the lunatics want to destroy us as well, which is why the war started in the first place. Let's remember our people over there. That's the good.

On the heels of that is empathy for the civilians that suffer the insanity of war. Kids and moms and dads and grandparents . . . innocent folks that just want to live a peaceful life, and who have as much interest in Jihad as going to the moon. They are unwillingly caught up in unthinkable circumstances. That's the bad.

The next feeling is frustration. The "bad guys" want freedom from Western occupation and influence, and freedom is a wonderful thing to want . . . but their idea of freedom is the unihibited ability to oppress anyone within reach, beginning with their own people. Even those supposedly on "our side" don't seem to get the concept of human rights, and maybe they never will. If the average Afghan or Iraqi citizen could be convinced that self-government and liberty are both possible and beneficial, rather than an invasion of corrupt westernized ideology, they would shut the "bad guys" down. But that message doesn't seem to get through. That's the frustrating paradox.

On the bright side, I think the jihadists read my October 28 blog entry. At least some of them did. Check out this article. It's a long read, but surprising to see that not all of them condone the murder of women and children. I would say something boastful about having such wide reaching and influencial opinions, but they've been working on this code for a couple years . . . so I probably can't claim a connection. And it's too early to brag anyway. When they stop intentionally bombing markets full of women and children, maybe I'll start to believe.

On the lighter side, I added a couple more cartoons to my other blog. You can check them out here. Relax, I don't entertain any fantasies of quitting my job to become the next Charles Schultz.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Indian Summer and the Berlin Wall

You may recall that I prophesied a long Indian Summer in my September 30 and October 18 postings. I think the current stretch of nice weather has lasted long enough that I can pat myself on the back and say I was right. If that sounds vainglorious, too bad. I don't get to be right very many times, and I'm going to revel in this one.

The Farmers' Almanac called for stormy weather this week in "Ontario," although I'm not sure they know what Ontario is. Not many people do. If you tell someone from Maine (Farmers' Almanac land) that you're from Ontario, they'll say, "Oh, you live near Niagara Falls," and (if you're from Upsala) you'll say, "Yep, it's only about a 22 hour drive from my house." It doesn't make that much difference unless you are trying to lump us together in the same weather forecast. Regardless of who lives where, and in spite of the Farmers' Almanac, Upsala is getting another week of nice, sunny Indian Summer weather. (Niagara Falls is too, by the way).

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. No, it has nothing to do with firefighting or Northwestern Ontario, but a significant event nonetheless. Here is a site that talks about it. Also, an interview with Gorbachev, who was another key player in that drama.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but the love of control is the root of all misery. Humans have a natural inclination toward totalitarianism. It starts with peer pressure on the playground ("if you want to be part of this club, you can't wear those dorky shoes"), and ends with ridiculous extremes like the Berlin Wall ("our communist Utopia is so wonderful that we will shoot you if you try to leave.")

Ridiculous regimes didn't end in 1989 with the Cold War. I've been following a blog by Yoani Sanchez, a clandestine Cuban blogger that is regularly persecuted for speaking her mind in a land that hates non-conformist opinions. Her most recent entry left me stunned that there are still such totalitarian dinosaurs hanging on in the western hemisphere.

It really doesn't matter what label you use - Communism, Fascism, Religion - total control is the enemy of healthy development.

Come to think of it, there is a connection between the Berlin Wall and Northwestern Ontario. People move to places like Upsala because they want to live free-style, with a minimum of governmental rules to cramp their activities. But people don't always know what's good for them. Even a freedom lover like me believes in the benefit of a few governmental rules . . . . so I tell people to maintain their smoke alarms and build safe buildings . . . and suddenly I'm the evil despot. There's got to be a balance somewhere.

The weather is one thing that humans haven't figured out how to control, thank goodness. I don't like blizzards and -40 degree weather, but imagine the potential chaos of Castro or Harper or Obama trying to manage the balance of nature. They can't even balance the budget on most days.

Friday, November 6, 2009

medicinal prevention

'Tis the season . . . the flu season that is. It doesn't seem to matter whether the origins are pigs, chickens or elephants, once we humans start playing 'pass the bug,' it seems inevitable that everyone has to have a turn. Firefighters aren't exempt, and my already slim roster is slimmer right now. We might as well get it over with early in the season.

In case you were wondering, 'elephant flu' does exist, at least in the mind of the US Democrat (lest you think I'm partisan, 'donkey flu' exists as well).

Speaking of elephants, these folks got a too-close-for-comfort look at one the other day. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the dispatch centre when that call came in.

Flu and fire. Both have an uncanny tendency to strike unexpectedly . . . and both are preventable . . . in spite of the general feeling that both are acts of God. I've offered lots flu prevention links over the past week or so, and I'm going to impose one more. My computer won't play the video clips (it might be suffering from digital swine flu), so you'll have to let me know if they were any good.

Speaking of prevention, I avoided contracting whatever it was that afflicted my family last week. It was either my aggressively defensive strategy, a natural resistance to the bug, or just plain luck. Whichever option you pick, I'm not letting down my guard. There's no shortage of bugs out there.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

various and sundries

For you dyed-in-the-wool firefighters that have been reading and wondering, "When is this guy going to talk about firefighting," my apologies. The fact is, we broke a record in October. We went the whole, complete 31 days without a single call out. Usually someone smucks a moose or falls asleep behind the wheel, or gets careless trying to pass . . . and ends up in the ditch needing an ambulance and a fire truck a couple times a month, sometimes more, but not this October.

Blogging is supposed to be a moment-by-moment kind of thing. I don't usually tell you about the cool experience that happened seventeen and a half years ago. People want to hear what happened today (or yesterday, at the latest), so when you get a whole month without lights and sirens, and your family is waging a life-and-death battle with the Spanish Swine Flu or the Chinese Chicken Flu or the Cambodian Cow Flu, or whatever flu it was, that's what I'm going to tell you about.

Speaking of H1N1, there are a lot of opinions out there, and even more hype. I allowed a nurse stick me with a needle last Thursday, mostly because it was an opportune moment, and I would have felt really dumb if I caught the flu later and hadn't got the shot. Now I read that some learned folks aren't even sure the vaccine works. This article looks at the H1N1 issue from one researcher's perspective. If I had read it before getting the shot . . . I still would have rolled up my sleeve.

Speaking of the flu (again), check out this short video clip on proper coughing techniques. Okay, it sounds dumb, but if the whole world had just followed this advice, swine flu would have never escaped the pig farm.

If you are interested in my amatuerish attempts at sketching, you can see a couple more cartoons on my other blog.

It's official, Phillip is as tall as me. He's been sure of it for a while now, but I've stalled the actual measurement ceremony in hopes of keeping the psychological advantage as long as possible. It just isn't fair. If he can look me in the eye at fourteen, I'll be looking up to him by the time he's sixteen. Not cool.

The girl that was run over by her nut-case dad has died. No comment, except he'd better get charged with murder.

Lastly, Halloween was somewhat of a dud this year. It might have had to do with the weather - it snowed most of the day, so the kids maybe weren't as keen about getting out. If they're intimidated by a little snow, they should at least be thankful they don't have to worry about being a polar bear's treat . . . check out this story about Halloweeners in Churchill.

the battle

The flu first showed its ugly face in our house a week ago today, and the battle is winding down. Erinn and the kids look like shell-shocked, foxholed war vets - happy the worst is over, but wary of more last-ditch enemy attacks of fever, headaches and coughing. I escaped the barrage unscathed so far, but I'm still on the lookout for swine flu snipers that are undoubtedly still hidden throughout the house on cups, plates, counter tops, light switches and doorknobs. Aggressively defensive maneuvers are still the order of the day. If you've forgotten what I mean by that, click here and skip down the page for a list of things you can do to help prevent the flu, swine or otherwise. I would add Cold fx to the list, or one of its generic competitors (which is what we are using).

Yesterday morning there were battle signs everywhere . . . half-used tissue boxes, laundry in various stages of being washed, homework scattered from one end of the house to the other . . . a regular UN war zone. When mom is sick and dad has to be in charge of cooking, laundry, nursemaiding, and surrogate tutoring - as well as work his day job - the ship doesn't stay as ship-shape as it normally would. Today, I think we move into reconstruction mode. Erinn is still under siege, but can see light at the end of the tunnel and will want to assume some modified command duties again. And I might add, life will be better again.

Now that I'm an expert on H1N1, (hey, I've spent a week dodging germs, allow me this fantasy) I have some advice for the world:
  1. Get the vaccine. (I know there is a lot of controversy about this, with doctors on both sides. Make your own decision, but at least consider the vaccine).
  2. If you get sick, stay home until you're better. When you send your coughing, sneezing kids to school, or tough it out yourself at work, you are aiding and abetting the enemy (considered treasonous in most countries). You may be a trooper, but consider the string of casualties you'll leave in your wake . . . some of whom could even die from the infection you spread.
  3. Don't take out your frustration on the poor pigs. They really didn't mean any harm.
The maniac dad who thought he would do his deity a favour by running over his daughter has been caught. I have to give him credit - he did realize that trying to murder your own kid is a no-no in civilized countries.

Here's my soapbox again. The North American standard of living is the envy of the world. People of many countries are attracted to this land of opportunity, which is natural and appropriate . . . but they need to remember, they left the old country for a a better life. When they try to live the old life in the new country, they are delusional. Why can't they see that their intolerance and cultural bondage is what wrecked the old country . . . and that freedom is the driving force behind our prosperity? If you want the old ways, stay in the old country.

Some would argue that we've wrecked their countries. Here's my opinion (and it is my blog, and my soapbox): an ideology of intolerance and cultural bondage wrecked many of these countries long before the current war. In fact it started the current war.
Whew. This philosophical rambling (along with waging war against swine flu) really takes it out of you.

On a lighter note, the motorized La-Z-boy lounge chair that was confiscated under a drunk driving charge, is now up for auction on Ebay. The current bid (as of 1:30 today) is $39,310. The auction ends on November 3rd. If you've always wanted one, and have $40,000 to spare, go for it.

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