Wednesday, March 31, 2010

springish schizophrenia

The ancient Hebrews stoned false prophets, but happily for me, stoning has been out of fashion in Ontario for a few millennia or more. My March 6 prophecy of a gigantic dump of snow at the end of the month proved false. Unless you consider an inch of wet, sloppy white stuff last Saturday a gigantic dump.

In my defense, spring weather in Upsala is like a schizophrenic psychopath. Mother Nature's spring personality flip-flops so wildly that even Carl Jung would be hard pressed to make an accurate analysis. I guess my earlier success as a weather prophet went to my head. Besides, I don't recall ever having a snowless Easter.

This year, not only will Easter be snowless, but the two weeks prior were mostly snowless as well. MNR is gearing up for a busy wildfire season. Firefighters in the Maritimes have been fighting wildfires for a couple weeks already, but thanks to Mother Nature's reluctance to take her meds, we've had generous amounts of rain and wet flurries mixed with the unseasonably warm weather, which helps keep the trucks in the hall. I thought I detected a hint of smoke in the breeze yesterday evening, but it might have been just my edgy, under-adrenalized firefighter mind playing tricks on me. It's been a very slow winter.

Wildfire is one area that we can expect to get help . . . and we aren't shy about asking for water bombers and crews upon occasion. It takes them up to an hour to get here, which isn't bad considering the distance and logistics involved. It's still a nail-biting eternity when you're out-gunned by a fast-moving bush fire.

Wildfire season is usually worst before "green up," which is when the dead, dry grass and leaves from last year give way to new growth. If Spring doesn't see her psychiatrist soon, we could have the whole gamut of snow, rain, and wildfire-dry before green up arrives.

Speaking of meds, they've invented a pill with an antenna that sends a signal to help patients keep to their pill taking schedule. It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but if they could track down Mother Nature . . .


I've been educating you on our fair hamlet of Upsala over the last six posts, whether you realize it or not. Here is a synopsis:

  1. Upsala Fire Dept covers 100 km of the TransCanada Highway (which ruins our response time track record).
  2. Spring came a month early this year, but I'm still not convinced it isn't just a visit. More snow may be around the corner.
  3. Upsala is about 5 hours from the longitudinal centre of Canada, and an hour and a half from Lake Superior.
  4. Upsala Fire Dept has its own Facebook group that you can join (some of you already have).
  5. We have a 900 gallon pumper, a Crane Carrier tanker, and a Grumman stepvan rescue vehicle. Not bad for a village of 180 people.
  6. Help is far away.
  7. There is (almost) always still snow on the ground on Easter


Happy 50th birthday to the photocopier. There were consultants in those days that predicted the machine would have "no future in the office-copying market." If there had been any ancient Hebrews around in 1960, the stones would have flown for sure.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

super pet

Upsala, we agreed, is at the far-flung peripheral edge of the universe. It stands to reason then, that the fire chief's job includes peripheral duties not normally associated with dignified chiefliness. Like this weekend when I became Chief Dog Sitter. Let me explain.

When people crash in the 100 km stretch between Raith and English River, an ambulance, a cruiser, and a couple fire apparatus respond from Upsala. It's a basic response, similar in many ways to that of emergency responders in more central locations of the universe. When we get there, we fix the mess, the same as our universally caring brothers and sisters around the world. We stabilize and patch up and extricate and control. Sometimes we retrieve important papers or valued possessions. We even put water on fire occasionally. This is mainline stuff. All emergency responders do it.

But sometimes the unlucky travellers have equally unlucky pets with them, and this is where Upsala Fire Department's marginality comes into play. Here's how it goes:

Unlucky Traveller (who is now strapped to a backboard): What's going to happen to poor Fido?

Paramedic: Sorry, we have a policy about pets . . . how about you Mr. Police?

Policeman: Nope, no can do.

Unlucky Traveller: But Fido . . . we can't just leave him here in the bush . . . [everyone looks at the fire chief].

Fire Chief (that's me): Um, well . . . (looks around at the empty wilderness) . . . we don't exactly have a policy . . . (gazes into Fido's sad eyes and melts) . . . sure, we can look after him for a bit.

Once it went like this:

Paramedic: Ma'am, we need to get you out of this car . . .

Irate Injured Person: What about Fifi?

Paramedic: We can't take your cat in the ambulance . . . could you sit still so we can fasten this cervical collar?

Irate Injured Person: Who is going to take care of Fifi?

Paramedic: Ma'am, we can't take the cat. You need medical attention . . .


Paramedic (over his shoulder to the snickering firefighters) Can someone take the lady's [stupid] cat?

So Fido or Fifi come to the fire hall and hang out with me until the unlucky owner can shanghai a friend or relative into travelling to our edge of the universe to retrieve the pet.

In places that are closer to the centre of the universe, specialized agencies exist to take care of these things . . . like the pound or the Humane Society. If I called either place, they'd say, "You're in Upsala? Sorry, we don't do intergalactic responses."


Pets are amazingly resilient in vehicle crashes. While the bruised, battered and broken owners are loaded into ambulances, the furry companions are freaked but usually unscathed. And they rarely have the benefit of even a seatbelt.

Like the lady who rocketed off an embankment, left her front wheels on a boulder, and end-over-ended into the ditch. While we were loading her, she asked about her dog. I surveyed the upside down wreck and suspected that he was underneath, smashed flat. But we're firefighters . . . we have to try, so we fanned out through the bush calling and looking. A few minutes later, here comes Fido, trotting down the highway without a care in the world.

After I've finished my fling on archeological research, perhaps I should do a comparative study on the effects of G Forces on animals vs humans. Or maybe not. It's hard enough to recruit volunteer firefighters . . .

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

weather or not in history

Upsala was officially snowless as of Monday, but remnants of unofficial snow still hide in the shade and on the north side of the hills. If the March lion hadn't blown in a whirl of -20 degree weather this morning, I might have converted to Global Warmingism. But the lion prevailed, and now we're in deep freeze again.

While the rest of us mourned, Phillip and his buddies celebrated on skates. The lake ice had melted to the point that I fretted yesterday about my 84 year old father's ice fishing excursions. Today, the pools of water refroze, and the deteriorating ice underneath firmed up enough for the boys to resurrect their skates and have one last hockey fling.

Rumours of March snow in Atlanta and Kansas City make me wonder if climate change is actually climate shift. Who knows . . . my grandkids might grow grapefruit trees while Dixie breaks into the igloo business. Cool.

Here is a piece of Upsala trivia for those universally interested in our marginal village: the snow usually melts away by mid April and the ice goes out in the first week of May. The snow disappeared in mid March this year, and we could be canoeing in April. My Upsala hydrants (which were in creeks) are already gone. But you never know with those weather gremlins. They can conjure up snowstorms right to the end of May.

Speaking of water, a lot has flowed under the Upsala Fire Department bridge since 1987, our official birth year. Contrary to Central Universe beliefs, exciting things do occasionally happen here at the far-flung peripheral edge. Hazmats, fires, derailments, vehicle rescues . . . if a dedicated photographer rode the trucks, we would have a bulging file of amazing pictures. But we don't, so we rely on belated attempts to capture events long after the exciting part is over (if we remember to take pictures at all). I made a slideshow out of a handful of these photos, and threw in a few training shots as well, because everyone loves a raging fire. Click here to see 20+ years of history in 4 minutes.

Unrelated to weather or Upsala or firefighting, the Indian military has weaponized the hottest chili pepper in the world. Not a good time to be a terrorist.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Risky Business

The firefighter's motto is, "Risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save a little, and risk nothing to save nothing."

(That axiom has almost nothing to do with anything I'm going to say, but it sounds like a good way to start a blog post.)

Posting my own recipes makes me a tad nervous. There is always the possibility that a real chef (like Graham from Atikokan) will show up and expose me as a charlatan. You see, I'm not a real chef. In fact, I wonder sometimes if I'm a real anything. You can read about this identity crisis in one of my earlier posts.

In spite of my trepidation, it's worth the chance just to get my ideas out there. You never know, maybe Betty Crocker will read my blog someday and immortalize me in her next cookbook (is Betty Crocker even a real person?). Anyway, the recipe.

Not So Quick, But Still Easy Chicken and Soba (hey, I have to name it something)

  1. flip through the 'What's Cooking' magazine to find something easy to make for supper
  2. Find a dish that boasts being 'delicious' and 'fabulous' and (the clincher) 'super easy'
  3. Realize that you don't have any chicken broth, asparagus, brick cream cheese, or linguine, which are about 99% of the ingredients
  4. Decide that a three hour round-trip to Thunder Bay (the nearest supermarket) would eliminate the all-important 'super easy' part
  5. Decide to innovate instead (you can skip these first five steps if you are an organized person and have all the right ingredients)
  6. Thaw some frozen chicken thighs (I used seven)
  7. Roll them in a coating of flour, mixed with onion powder, garlic powder, basil, and enough curry powder to make the flour pale yellow
  8. Fry them in oil at moderate heat until they are brown on all sides (you may have to turn the heat down and cover them partway through to make sure they are fully cooked)
  9. Put the thighs on a cookie sheet and into a warm oven (about 250) because the rest of the dish isn't ready, you don't want them to get cold, and you're paranoid about raw chicken
  10. Pour most of the oil out of the skillet
  11. Add about a cup and a half of milk to the skillet and whisk in about a tablespoon of the leftover coating while the milk is still cold
  12. Add some more spices to taste. I like a light curry flavour for this dish.
  13. Slowly heat the milk until it boils and starts to thicken
  14. Add some broccoli and mushrooms
  15. Add a couple tablespoons of soft cream cheese that you found in the back of the fridge
  16. Hope your spouse didn't have special plans for that cream cheese
  17. (note: you can omit step 14 if you don't have a spouse, or if your spouse never has plans for things hidden in the back of the fridge)
  18. Stir in the cream cheese until it is all melted. If the sauce isn't thick enough, add more cream cheese
  19. Don't listen to those stuck-in-a-box folks that say curry and cream cheese don't go together
  20. Whisk the sauce, and turn the heat to very low
  21. About ten steps ago you should have started cooking some noodles. I used soba (because I like soba and didn't have three hours to go buy linguine)
  22. Place the cooked noodles (enough for four people) on a nice, white porcelain platter
  23. Place the chicken thighs around the outside edge of the platter (symbolizing places like Baker Lake and Upsala that are on the peripheral edge of the universe)
  24. Really, really wish you had some asparagus
  25. Slice some red peppers into strips and arrange them nicely around the edge, in between the chicken
  26. Pour the broccoli and mushroom sauce over the soba (it's okay if you get a little on the chicken)
  27. Serve it to your now-ravenously hungry family (who won't care that you aren't a real chef as long as the chicken isn't raw inside)

For the record, it took about an hour to make. Graham could probably do it in 30 minutes.

You can find the real, honest-to-goodness recipe (probably invented by an honest-to-goodness chef) at Kraft Canada website. No, it doesn't look anything like my concoction. I told you I lacked 99% of the ingredients.

Speaking of risk takers, Obama and Harper are both gamblers, and I have a CBC article to prove it.

Speaking of Obama, I won't comment on his newly passed health care bill. Knowing the passionately diverse American opinions on the subject, I think the risk would outweigh the benefit. If you want to read my earlier opinions about the subject, click here and here, or type 'health care' into the search box (if you really want to know what I think). Whatever your view on the subject, I hope you can forgive me for mine.

How do you like that. I got side tracked by recipes and health care instead of educating the universe about Upsala. There's always next time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The middle of nowhere

In my last entry, we agreed that Upsala wasn't the centre of the universe. I thought with a little research I could prove that it was the centre of somewhere . . . but alas, it was all in vain.

Rugby, North Dakota is the geographic centre of North America. It's only eleven hours west of here . . . even if you drew a really big bull's eye on the map, I don't think Upsala could squeeze in.

Next, I tried for geographic centre of Canada, but I knew that was doomed from the get-go. Northern Canada extends nearly to Santa's backyard . . . so the geographic centre of Canada is Baker Lake, Nunavut. As much of an honor as it would be to live in the centre of Canada, I'm glad I don't live there.

The longitudinal centre of Canada is just east of Winnipeg, and only about five hours west of here. You can either take my word for it, or you can read about it here. That brings us closer, but not close enough. Oh well, at least I tried.

To make sense out of all this geographic gibberish, I included a map with the key central spots marked with black dots.

Rugby is the dot just above the R in America. Winnipeg is on the H in North. Baker Lake is north of Hudson Bay. Upsala is between Winnipeg an Lake Superior. We might not be the centre of the universe, but we're definitely in the middle of nowhere.

My claim that Upsala lies on the far-flung peripheral edge of the universe might be challenged by folks in Baker Lake, and other places in the Arctic, but here's how I look at it: the universe is pretty big, so we can assume that the far-flung peripheral edge is quite long . . . which makes plenty of room for all of us marginals.

On a more firefighterish topic, Phillip and I tried our hand at videography yesterday.

The crosslay strap and video are the result of a couple days work, and several weeks of thought, which sprang from an article that hit the news in January. If you check out my January 28 post, you can read the article and see some better quality video.

The far-flung peripheral edge is as much a figurative term as it is geographical. When it's 3:00 AM and the temperature is -35 and you've been fighting the fire since 4:00 PM and you feel like a knight in armour because your turnout is caked in ice and you know no one is coming to help you . . . you feel very, very far from everywhere.

There. A few more trivial tidbits about our peripheral village. Over the next few posts, I will try to educate the rest of the universe (or at least the part that reads this blog) even further . . . stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Far-Flung Peripheral Edge

Upsala is not the centre of the universe.

You know that already, but (believe it or not) very few of the other six billion people in the world know it. That's because few people know that Upsala exists. A lot of people know that New York and Tokyo and Paris are not the centre of the universe. In fact, most people know that (except the New Yorkers, Tokyoans and Parisians, who are understandably deluded). But very few know that Upsala isn't. Very few indeed.

If you Google Upsala, you'll get a couple million hits, most of them about Uppsala, Sweden, or Upsala, Minnesota (whoever heard of Upsala, Minnesota?). There are a few entries on Upsala, Ontario too, but that doesn't help our not being the centre of the universe. After all, who Googles Upsala?

Being the action oriented, get 'er done fire chief that I am, I decided that firm action was needed to bring Upsala a tiny smidgen closer to the centre, and farther from its current location at the far-flung outer peripheral edge of the universe. I made a Facebook group for Upsala Fire Department. You can view it here. You can even join if you want. People living at the far-flung outer peripheral edge of the universe can't afford to be exclusive.

Surprisingly enough, there are a few folks out there that do know something about Upsala. Take this web site. I don't recall advertising that we have a 900 gallon pumper, a converted Crane Carrier street washer for a tanker, and a Grumman stepvan retrofitted by Holland Enterprises. Somehow these trivial details fell into the hands of someone that cared enough to post them on a website. Maybe we aren't as close to the edge as I thought.

Firefighting in Canada knows about Upsala, and I can forgive them if they don't think Upsala is the centre of the universe. Their editor, Laura King, said some very nice things about my blog (she also publishes my universally far-flung and peripheral views four times a year).

According to the Cosmological Principle (which you don't want to read), there is no centre of the universe. Wikipededia lists a number of places that consider themselves to be the very centre, but those are only idle claims. If Upsala can't be right in the very bull's eye middle, then I'll go with the Cosmological Principle (even though I didn't read it).

Incidentally, my friend Graham from Atikokan might be better qualified to discuss this stuff than me. He might even understand the Cosmological Principle. Anyone that can shoot flies off the ceiling with rubber bands, and make laser guns out of old CD players ought to know something about the universe.

Politicians think that they are the centre of the universe, as depicted in this cartoon. They're even more deluded than the New Yorkers. You can read my peripheral views on politicians here.

So there you have it. That was my rambling way to say, it's time the world knew more about Upsala. Stayed tuned, there's more.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Social Gracelessness

It might have been my odd personality, or my quirky looks, or my deplorable social skills, or maybe a combination of all three . . . but I never was one of those popular guys in school.

I'm not quick on the draw in conversations, which may have been a contributing factor as well. It takes me a while to process information and formulate an intelligent answer, especially when I'm caught off guard. Like yesterday when I met someone that I hadn't seen for about thirty years. When I finally realized who she was, I stammered something like, "Wow, you look older . . . I mean, more mature . . . or something [I'm such a lame brain] . . . what I meant to say was, you're all grown up now [oh, never mind].

Or like the car vs moose collision we attended recently. The driver wasn't hurt, but needed a tow to Thunder Bay. Being the Dudley Do-right firefighter kind of guy that I am, I told her there was a tow truck in Upsala, but it was going to cost an arm and a leg, and too bad her auto club wouldn't cover it, and the tow operator would just impound her car until she paid the bill, and I really hoped her insurance would take care of this [why does she look all panic stricken and deer-in-the-headlights?] . . . and, um, how would she like to discuss this with the suave young police officer who just arrived at the scene?

The suave cop said, "You need your car towed to Thunder Bay, ma'am? Certainly! I'll look after getting a tow truck, and yes, you can ride in with him to town. Payment? Oh, you can work out the details later. No need to thank me, it's my job." The information he offered was factually identical to what I had said, but somehow it seemed to go over better. I must have slept through that part of the Public Relations 101 course . . .

This social ineptitude affects every part of my life. Erinn and I enjoyed a peaceful walk yesterday in the beautiful, unseasonably warm March weather. She noted how the snow was almost gone and the pussy willows were coming out. I reassured her that this was way too early for spring, and that we were going to get nailed with more snow storms, and March comes in like a lamb but goes out like a lion, and don't get too comfortable because winter can last right up to the end of May . . . [why is she scowling daggers at me?]. . . and wow, isn't the sunshine just lovely?

[Side note: You can't afford to be slow on the draw at an emergency scene. Especially when the house is fully involved and the siding on the neighbour's house has begun to melt, and you have 10 minutes worth of water on your two trucks, and the nearest creek is five miles away, and only three firefighters showed up for the call . . . My policy is that if an intelligent solution doesn't reveal itself by the time the size up is complete, just do something, and the correct course of action will become apparent soon enough.]

Sometimes it's expedient to be a social klutz. The other day a phone company telemarketer called. I was expecting the call . . . the number had appeared on our caller ID a dozen or so times over the previous few days. I knew what the call was about too. I had cancelled my long distance plan (which I never used), saving myself $5.95/month, along with a networking charge that cost $4.95/month . . and I had paid these charges for a long, long time before I realized I could just get a calling card, which would give me a better price per minute without the extra fees (I told you I was slow on the draw). So we all ignored the telemarketer, who undauntedly kept trying until finally I picked up the phone one evening.

Telemarketer: Good evening Mr. Beebe, I'm calling to let you know that you are a valued customer . . .
Me: You knew that I never make long distance calls.
Telemarketer: Yes, but we have a better deal . . .
Me: You knew that useless plan I cancelled was costing me over $10 a month.
Telemarketer: . . . for only $5.00 a month (plus a small networking fee) . . .
Me: You knew that you had a "better deal" all along.
Telemarketer: . . . you can bundle with . . .
Me: Why didn't someone offer me this awesome plan when I WAS STILL YOUR CUSTOMER!!?

Sigh. Social ineptitude may have its drawbacks, but it does come in handy occasionally.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

FINALLY a firefighting post . . .

"Read letters from irate government officials." That's part of my job description. This particular letter was written in the severe, polite jargon of the well-chained bureaucrat. Yes, I said well chained. Bureaucrats are humans like the rest of us, and they get mad like the rest of us, but they aren't allowed to tell people off like the rest of us. Their training forbids them to say what they really think . . . like, "You boneheads! Get your act together, or there will be hell to pay." They aren't allowed to say that, so they slide veiled threats across the page, mixed with menacing innuendos about the severe consequences of non-compliance.

I don't do veiled threats, so I picked up the phone and called my friendly neighbourhood bureaucrat to see what this was all about. Turns out, the letter wasn't aimed at me particularly, but at chiefs that are behind on their training and reporting . . . two deficiencies that can trigger a bureaucratic apoplectic fit, if anything can.

This is the tip of a Titanic sized iceberg, and it isn't showing any signs of thawing. I don't blame these bureaucrats for their apoplexy. They are trying to melt a glacier with a blow dryer.They've been given a few fistfuls of small change for a budget, and are expected to support 50+ fire departments . . . many of which are at the end of their rope. People are moving away, volunteers have worked for years without pay, and everyone is approaching burnout.

At the heart of the issue is training. Everyone needs more of it, and when you get a guy that has it, you want to chain him to the pumper. Even bigger, composite departments like Orangeville, Ontario, face training dilemmas. In this case, it's with two-hatters, who are career firefighters that work as volunteers in their off time (which is against union rules, and can cost them their jobs). The two-hatter issue is more than I want to tackle in this post, but I can safely say that if Upsala were close enough to civilization to have career guys living here, I'd try to chain them to my pumper.

Wow. Two untouchable issues in one post. I'd better shut up and go to bed before I really do get in trouble.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Artistic talent fascinates me. Especially whimsical, quirky, artistic talent. My mother-in-law emailed me some pictures of chalk art today, drawn on plain, boring old sidewalks, just like the ones you and I walk on. As far as I know, there is no trick photography involved, but the artist uses perspective to trick your mind.

The guy standing at the top of the "tower" is actually standing on the sidewalk. The tower and the hole are drawn with chalk.

The fellow holding the "w" is near the camera, and the lady that looks like she's laying on top of the "w" is actually laying on the sidewalk farther down by the tree. You can see more of Julian Beever's stuff here. All I can say is it must be heartbreaking when a thundercloud rolls up.

Another guy that caught my attention was Liu Bolin, a political activist from China. He paints his body to blend in with his surroundings, and is known as "The Invisible Man." Again, just boring old paint like you and I might use, but applied by a strangely talented mind.

My October 13 post talks about out-of-the-box thinking, and gives links to more of Liu Bolin's artwork.

If it weren't for out-of-the-box thinkers, we'd still be using carrier pigeons to deliver messages. 124 years ago today, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first message ever over a telephone line. It seems simple enough now, but only a crackpot could be the first one to figure out how to send a voice through a wire.

Bell is a household word (I'm glad he wasn't named Zdunczyk), and every school kid knows he invented the telephone, but you might not have known about his photophone, which transmitted sound on a beam of light. Wireless communications using a beam of light . . . that takes some serious eccentricity to conjure up. We take fibre optics for granted, but Alexander Nutcracker Bell was the forerunner.

Although firefighters aren't famous innovators, significant advances have been made in the past hundred years that make our job easier and safer. I'm not Edison or Bell, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming up harebrained ideas. You may have read some of them in my October article for Fire and EMS Quarterly. If not, click here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our Lopsided World

Scientists have just proven that an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. That is, if you believe that a 65 million year-old event can be proven with any precision. Once I've perfected my weather forecasting skills, I might take a stab at investigative archaeology, and prove conclusively that global cooling killed the mighty lizards . . . although the asteroid theory at least explains why the world is so lopsided.

Take President Ahmadinejad of Iran for example, who says the the attack on the World Trade Centre was a big lie. I guess he might have a point. Thousands of eye witnesses, news footage of crumbling towers, and a year of clean up - not to mention hundreds of murdered emergency workers - are hardly enough evidence to draw any solid conclusions.

Go figure. While scientists are polishing their arguments about a 65 million year old asteroid, we have a nut case that can't wrap his mind around an event that occurred less than a decade ago. Talk about a lopsided world.

While we're on a lopsided theme, I sort of watched the Oscar extravaganza on Sunday night. Sort of. I couldn't bear to give it my full attention when there were important things like Facebook and blog research to do, so I peeked over the top of my laptop screen and offered an occasional comment, proving once and for all that I’m not a complete ignoramus when it comes to famous people.

I have an irrational tendency to root for the underdog, so when Hurt Locker Director Kathryn Bigelow won for best director, I stopped for a moment to listen to her speech. Her warm, fuzzy words about firefighters put a small dent in my cynicism about the rich and powerful, and I dug up this rambling article from last June, which talks about the impression she wanted to make with Hurt Locker.

I might have to go out and see it now.

Am I the only crackpot that thinks it’s lopsided to have the glitz and power of Hollywood on one side, and world chaos on the other? It isn’t Hollywood’s fault that religious fruitcakes are murdering each other en masse in Nigeria, or that destructive earthquakes have hit Turkey, Chile, and Haiti, or that a devastating civil war ravages Iraq. I could go into a monologue about how healthy, thriving democracies (that spend gazillions of dollars on parties) could offer answers to the desperate places of earth, but most of those desperate places don’t really want democratic answers.

In direct contradiction to the previous statement, kudos to the Iraqis, and this time my tongue is not even in my cheek. It takes guts to vote when you know there are fruitcakes waiting to blow you into paradise for casting a ballot.

I’m hanging on to my claim that this is a firefighting blog by a very thin thread, but hey, I did mention firefighters once. In my own defense, it’s hard to stay focused when there are movie stars and terrorists to make fun of. Maybe I should scrap the investigative archaeology idea and write for the National Inquirer instead . . .

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Upside Down

Bureaucrats abound, the Olympics come to an end, and lunatics bomb voters in Iraq. The world continues to turn in a crazy, lopsided rotation.

If I was virtuous, I wouldn't complain so much about bureaucrats (especially since I technically belong to this genre of humanity). I also wouldn't brag about Canada winning the majority of Olympic gold, and I wouldn't despise terrorism so much (maybe I would still despise terrorism). But I'm not virtuous and it's fun to complain and brag. And I will always despise terrorism, especially the catawompus, topsy-turvy, irrational brand that is scared spitless of democracy. You can read my October 28 opinion on terrorism's intimidation by democracy here.

Not that Canada is totally angelic in its world affairs. War ruins more than just lives and landscape. It pushes people over the brink of behavioural cliffs that they would have steered far away from in a non-combat situation. I have a deep mistrust of media and bureaucrats, and especially media that is spoon fed by bureaucrats, but if this article has any truth in it, we've got problems.

On to brighter, happier topics. I recently hooked up with the alumni of a small school I attended from 1972-1974 (for the record, I was in grades 5 and 6). It's been a hilariously fun experience, except that I spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook now, when I should be venting my rage on bureaucrats, or preparing for a course I'm teaching on aircraft rescue, or job hunting, or spending quality time with my family, or just plain, old-fashioned working. This particular school seems to have generated a high percentage of crazy people . . . and for once I feel like I fit in just a little.

March has come in like the fuzziest, warmest, lambliest lamb you could possibly image for this climate. The snow is melting daily, the sun is shining, and at this rate the ground will be bare by Easter. But it won't keep on at this rate. Even an incurable, pie-in-the-sky optimist like me can't believe that winter is over, but I'm feeling optimistic enough to make a forecast for the month of March. And, seeing that my skillful blend of wishful thinking and optimism trumped the Farmer's Almanac at the beginning of winter, I am emboldened to make another prediction.

Beebewitz Forecasting Ltd says that the weather will stay warm for two more weeks, long enough to fool us into thinking spring really is here, then it will turn ugly in the last week of March and dump a bunch of snow on us, making up for the lack of white stuff in January and February. If you are saying that I'm capitalizing on the old "March comes in like a lamb, then goes out like a lion" maxim, . . . you're right.

As if the world wasn't upside down enough, Sidney Crosby was booed in his home arena (which happens to be in Pittsburgh) for scoring the winning Olympic goal for Canada. You can read Pittgirl's opinion on it here. Scroll down to comment #24 for my two-cents on the issue.

Nothing on firefighting today. The weather is just too nice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

our weird world

Imagine a convoluted sport where the bronze medal is valued higher than the silver. Olympic hockey is such a sport.

Think about it. The hockey bronze medalists have just won the second-most important game of the tournament, and are very, very happy they didn't end up with nothing. I'm sure Finland consumed gallons of champagne on Bronze Medal Victory Night. On the other hand, the silver medalists have just lost the most important game of the tournament, and are very, very sad. They likely consume an inordinate quantity of alcohol after the game too. But it's a different kind, and for different reasons. The pain of losing gold eclipses the elation of winning silver in Olympic hockey.

Being the wussy, milksop softy that I am, it hurt to watch the silver medalists after the game on Sunday. It might be partly because I was born American, but I don't think so. I just can't bear sad people. If Canada had lost, it wouldn't have been a big deal . . . unless you think that four years of national mourning, and an Olympic team tarred and feathered and exiled to Siberia is a big deal.

Okay, if we had lost we would have borne it with True North Strong and Free Canadian dignity, but Canada really does value their hockey gold.

For my American friends that care about hockey (and there must be a few out there somewhere), I totally understand that knowing it was a very close, very well matched game that could have gone either way is no consolation. But hey, you'll whip us in basketball during the summer Olympics.

Speaking of convoluted things, it seems a little out of place to celebrate Olympic gold records while Chile is still reeling from an 8.8 earthquake, but such is the weirdness of our existence. If obliterating Olympic celebrations could fix the devastation of Haiti and Chile and the rest of this violent world we live in, I'm sure no one would complain much about giving them up. Life goes on, and it is no use to live in caves and beat ourselves with chains just because another nation is in distress . . . but if you have the means to help, then do it. Here is a site that can help you help if you are so inclined.

While we're on the topic of crazy, complex, convolution, a British firefighter has been charged with manslaughter for his actions in the line of duty. That in itself isn't totally unheard of, but the circumstances are about as convoluted as Alice's nonsensical Wonderland. The siren from his responding apparatus allegedly caused a herd of cattle to stampede and trample a farmer to death.

When the Mad Hatter leaps off the storybook page and intrudes into real life (disguised as a lawyer), my reaction is to want to strangle someone. Fortunately, reason prevails and I opt for a milder outlet to vent my rage. I write furiously. This is the third time in a month that I've read about lawyers targeting the fire service. I feel an article coming on, but you'll have to wait until June.

To curb your keen disappointment in not being able to instantly satisfy your insatiable urge to read a hot-off-the-press piece of my brilliant word smithery, I am happy to inform you that bureaucrats have the same affect on me as Mad Hatter Lawyers. If you haven't read my treatise on the Bureaucrat, click here.

To be fair, the bureaucrats themselves are usually nice people, and sometimes even good people. It's the bureaucracy that drives me Alice-in-Wonderland stark raving mad. I react by ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth and name calling and laying on the floor pitching a hissy fit and asserting that every bureaucrat is the enemy of humankind or at least the fire service . . . then I wake up with a jolt and realize I was only dreaming of doing those noble things.

Even in my semi-suicidal state, I know that bureaucracy is the blue whale of human institutions, enormous, immovable, and unperturbed. And me? I'm a microscopic plankton who has embarked on a whale of a mission to put this gargantuan creature in its place. It makes Alice's lunatic adventure look like Einstein's logic. So why do I bother? When I find a rational answer to that question, I'll let you know.

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