Anything I write that has to do with writing will be in From Pico's Pen, my author's blog. Everything that doesn't fit any of the sites I write on will be here. This is my practice. I could have kept it private and farmed out the good stuff but I found my readers like too much of it to do that. It isn't a diary because there are things I keep to myself but you can learn a great deal about me from the randomness you will find here.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

An Unexpected Threat

Courtesy Pixabay

My younger brother William started playing basketball pick up games with a couple of friends after his day of work. Living in another town I wasn't able to join in unless I happened to be visiting. While he wasn't completely lacking in athletic ability basketball was not his game. Their regular opponents beat them almost all the time. He let them know that when the stars aligned and big brother could be there the outcome would be different.

Of course the opportunity eventually came and he did his darndest to convince me to join in. I love the sport so it didn't take a lot of arm twisting. We had about a week from that point to prepare.

Shooting hoops in the yard he confessed to me that in their games he had never actually scored a basket. I told him I couldn't make a star out of him in a week, probably not even teach him one good move. His shot though really didn't look bad, so I showed him a spot on the court  and told him to practice shooting from that spot and no where else.

He dutifully worked on the shot while I explained his importance. If his nemesis team played team ball as well as he said, they would try defending against me straight up until I proved everything he warned them about. Theoretically that wouldn't take too long. After that they would try to double team me. Double teaming me would leave someone wide open right on the spot he was practicing shooting.

“What if I miss?”

“I don't care if you miss. If you don't shoot it, when I pass to you on that spot I'm going to come over and smack you one.”

He started laughing. He got the point though. If he got the ball there, I expected him to go for it without any hesitation.

On the big day my shot was a little rusty but it didn't take long for the opposition to understand that their friend guarding me was in way over his head. Next pass comes into me and Williams man drops down for the double team. Why guard my brother when he has never scored before. I kicked it back out to William, who swished the bucket. The look on their collective faces was priceless. They tried again a little later and William proved the first one wasn't a fluke. We won handily.

We might have won with my “star” power but creating a complimentary threat made sure that they had no answer. They couldn't double team me without leaving someone else with an easy bucket. Teamwork can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, 28 December 2015

First Real Winter Storm of the Season



A few days ago the weather was unseasonably warm and sunny. Taking care of a few outdoor chores at work was a pleasure. Yesterday winter came with a vengeance and today the temperature plunged. Hard to believe the weather was so balmy so recently. Outdoor chores were not for the faint of heart today.

On the bright side the forecast was pretty nearly on the mark. Something I'm not sure happens very often. When the storm started most people stayed off the roads. Business fell off at work. The boys and I have the most remote home compared to the rest of our co-workers, so we were asked if we wanted to go home early. I thought it was the better part of wisdom. I maybe wouldn't have been quite so quick to agree had I known the snowplough had cleaned out the roads in our neck of the woods. The roads were bad but I didn't find them particularly challenging.

This morning was less fun. The snow had melted and then froze on my windshield. Took a lot of effort to clear enough so that we could drive to work. It only got colder as the day progressed. Business started slow but as soon as the sun came out we got swamped. Lots of people traveling because of the holiday and they all got hungry at about the same time and place.

Tomorrow is supposed to be just as cold. I'm not looking forward to it.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Basketball Player: Unorthodox, Short Winded, Canadian

Courtesy Pixabay


Three strikes, you're out! I thought it would be kind of fun to write an analysis of myself as a basketball player during my college days. In some ways the title says it all. I think I had a pretty good idea of my strengths and weaknesses. Maybe some of my former teammates will read this and disagree but this might make a fun discussion.

Offense

My offensive game through almost the entirety of my college stay was back to the basket in the low post. Against smaller opponents, I used a spin around jump shot to great effect. I could spin either direction. Similar size players with good leaping ability could block that though. Against someone like my teammate Donald Campbell that move was almost useless. There were other moves I could fall back on. I could pivot and face an opponent and let fly with a hesitation set shot that was all wrist. It was hard to block because it was very difficult to know when I would let go of it. I was accurate within fifteen feet of the basket. Complimenting that was a fake that would allow me to go under my opponents arm. I could score off that provided one of the opposing team players didn't help my man out. Last off I had a reliable/unreliable hook shot. When that was on the mark I was an offensive one on one match for anyone. Unfortunately it did at times desert me.

Outside of the post I did have an effective outside shot clear out to the three point line. I was taught all through high school that as a big man I did not have the green light to shoot those. That carried over to my college thinking. The only three pointers I ever took were in the waning minutes of games in which we were playing catch up. The concept of a three point shooting big man hadn't come of age yet, but I am glad Alan Dance the coach let me prove I could do it my sophomore year.

Last move of note was my favorite one on one playground move. I liked to get the ball on a short wing on the left side and roll into the key with a right-handed hook shot. Used it to impressive effect in pick up matches but it rarely came up in a real game. I didn't play that position. Only came up once on some kind of defensive mix up. Somehow I ended up in that spot with Donald's younger brother Earl guarding me. He was not my usual man and I rolled it in on him beautifully.

Defense

My weaknesses as a player were a great deal more evident on the defensive end of the court. I had some lateral movement problems, which I did my darnedest to conceal. Any player who could handle the ball well could get past me. I only stayed with people second guessing what they were trying to do. A player didn't have to catch me going the wrong way, they just had to catch me not moving the right direction fast enough.

I did somethings very well though. I'm Canadian and I know how to zone defense even in man to man coverage. In “B” division ball nobody scored a reverse layup driving baseline, while I was on the court. I was also quite adept at screwing up offensive timing by getting in the way.

My biggest weakness can summed up with one word: Asthma. Americans like to turn their basketball games into track meets and with that kind of tempo in Los Angeles air you may as well park me on the bench. I can run and plenty fast. I just can't keep doing it. This was also my biggest college secret. I knew I was asthmatic, but it was not officially diagnosed at the time. Had that shown on my application I suspect I would not have been accepted at all. I should have been found out in jogging and conditioning class. My results clearly pointed in that direction. Mr. Petty even commented on my weird graphs but never put it together. Years later I discussed this with my family doctor and she confirmed that my results should have given me away.

In “A” division ball most of my shortcomings were well concealed by my team mates. Who wants to break past me so that Donald or Paulbo could ram the ball down their throats when they got to the basket. They were far better rebounders than me so my real concentration was to just make sure my man wasn't the guy who got the ball. Because we had a short bench, we slowed the game down to a tempo I could handle. I had a very good year that season. A lot of players had sub par outings against me and probably didn't know why.

I'm not as weak a defender as some people might have thought. I'll illustrate this by highlighting one outing. We had a game against the faculty. My opponent for the night was Mr. Jim Petty, head of the physical education department. I heard he had played pro ball at one time, but I was never able to confirm that. He was crafty and averaged twenty points a night. He had his absolute worst game of the season against me and it's because I don't play defense like an American. He did not physically over match me. His game relied on losing his man. If you took your eyes off this guy for a split second he was gone and while you were busy looking for him he'd be on the other side of the basket scoring a layup. I'm Canadian and zone defense in those days got drilled into our brains, not only that we were taught if you lose your man don't look for him go straight to the basket. If you don't meet him there you probably have nothing to worry about. I don't think even he understood why he couldn't lose me long enough to get those easy buckets. After all I wasn't considered fast enough to cover him that well - I gloat to this day.

Courtesy Pixabay

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Being the Hero or the Goat

Courtesy Pixabay


The clock was running down. My team had the ball and a two point deficit. Perry our point guard dribbled the ball on the perimeter looking for a potential three or someone else who could shoot it. I dropped back to three point country myself figuring we were playing for the win. Perry continued to stall, letting the clock wind way down. A that point, I thought he was going to shoot it himself, so I took a step toward the basket thinking to tip to tie in case he missed. That's when he passed me the ball. I pulled my foot back behind the three point line and let fly slightly off balance as time expired. It bounced of the rim and out. We shook hands with the winning team. Everybody went to the showers except me. I took a ball and fired in a few perfect shots from that spot, when everyone was gone. That loss hurt. If I hadn't second guessed the play, we would have gone home winners.

That wasn't the first pivotal play I've blown. I don't even think it was the only one that season. It's just the one I remember the best. I felt bad about missing the shot but I don't feel bad about taking it. Had I not taken it, we would have lost anyway. Feel it, learn from it and move on.

I'm no stranger to different outcomes. My favorite happened that very same season. The game was close but our front court had major foul trouble except for me. Both Donald our regular centre and Paul our power forward had fouled out. That left me filling in at centre. Our opponents relied more on speed than size so in the half court game I still physically over matched their centre. Worse for them, my hook shot was on the mark. I put several of those in including one to tie the game up within the dying minute of the game. They had one good chance to put in a game winner after that and I knew exactly what they were going to do.

Their point guard was unbelievably quick. He managed to put the same move on Perry over and over and get to the basket. Perry was no slouch mind you. He was an all star and I wasn't. I did have the chance to study this move in some detail and now being slid over to the centre of the defense I was in a position to set a trap.

They brought the ball up the court and set up their half court offense exactly as they had done all game long. I abandoned my man and drifted to the middle of the key crouching down so that their point wouldn't notice me out of position. He put the fake on Perry and broke around toward the basket. He beat Perry, but when he came around the corner, he shouldered right into the middle of my stationary chest, knocking me on my rear end. Offensive charging was called, while he looked at me wondering where the heck I had come from.

In that league a foul in the last minute of the game like that would automatically mean two free throws and possession to the other team. I iced both shots from the line and Perry and Wes killed the 
clock for the win. That more than made up for the one I didn't win.

Courtesy Pixabay

Friday, 25 December 2015

One of a Kind

Photo courtesy Pixabay


I worked for a small landscape maintenance company in the Toronto area years ago. The intention was to become one of the core employees and work with them year round instead of being seasonal help. For that reason I was an early hire that year. The partners were two brothers. The one was serious all the time and the other could find the humour in anything.

Some of the people we hired that spring were – unique. One in particular will live on in my memory forever. I remember when he came in for his interview. In walks a small mountain man. Long wavy mane of unkempt dark hair with a matching beard. Closest thing I'd ever seen in real life to Cousin Itt from the Addam's Family. Not very much face apparent in between all that hair.

After he leaves, partner number two come out of the office, “See that guy I just hired? Guess what his name is?”

We responded with arched eyebrows not sure we should ask.

“Harry!” and he laughed himself almost to tears.

Harry turned out to be one of the best workers they hired that spring. He was flying as straight as his individualism allowed. He'd given up drugs and alcohol years before and unlike some of the other guys, didn't have to report to his parole officer after work. We ribbed him mercilessly about his appearance and lifestyle, which he took well and gave as good as he got. You can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy definitely applied in his case. I liked him.

One of his moments that summer stands out from all the rest. We were cutting the lawn, cleaning up and doing trimming around a good size office complex with large reflective glass windows. The people inside could see out but we couldn't see in. Well Harry had an urge and since there were no bathrooms handy he “concealed” himself amoung some shrubbery and took a leak. We got a complaint from some secretarial pool over that. We were in tears, every time it was mentioned, for weeks.

We all found him so uniquely weird and likeable at the same time. We were in for a surprise though. Harry rushed home after work one day as we finished up putting all the tools away. A passerby ran over just after Harry left and asked us, “Hey was that Harry Jones (last name changed)?”

“Yeah. You know him?”

“Naw. I know his brother Dave. Looks just like him.”

We all just gaped at each other speechless. There couldn't be more than one.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

First Flight In Thirty Years – Lessons Learned



Last week my mother was admitted to hospital and since she is a frail 89 years old, things didn't look very positive. My sister contacted me and said that mom wanted to see me and one of my brothers if it were her time. I'm too broke to afford airfare so my family pitched in and set up a whirlwind visit for me. I am deeply grateful to all those who made that happen.

This all happened on one of my days off which was good, but it doesn't mean I wasn't busy. That morning I tore the roof off my mini woodshop and using materials I've scavenged, put a proper roof on it. Just after finishing was when my sister called.

I had time to shave, wash my hair, change clothes, pack a quick bag and eat. By that time all the flight info came through and Francine got to bring me to the airport in Moncton.

1) That brings me to my first lesson on flying: Don't wear steel-toed work boots. I had planned to switch to me work shoes before leaving the van, but I forgot. Yes, I set off the metal detector and after removing everything else remotely metal, set it off again. Temporarily baffled I looked down to think and noticed my work boots on my feet. I padded through the detector with no problems after that.
2) Lesson two became evident well into the flight. Go to the bathroom before you get on the plane and if at all possible hold it till you get off. That bathroom was so physically small I was almost unable to use it with the door closed. I accidentally kicked the door several times trying to find a comfortable position. My knees were okay, but there really wasn't a place for my size thirteen feet. Yes, I bounced my head off all the low places on the ceiling between my seat and the washroom.
3) If there is any chance that you will need to fly somewhere any time in your life, don't watch Air Crash Investigation episodes on Youtube. I experienced the worst air turbulence ever on the way home. If someone said we suddenly lost several hundred feet of elevation on our way out of Toronto, I would have believed them. Shortly after that the pilot warned us that it would be rough all the way to Ottawa. It got better after that. I'm sure God was laughing his head off. In Ottawa, I worried when I saw how small the next plane was, that would take me back to Moncton.
4) I'd make a terrible airline pilot. The weather cleared before getting to Moncton and the view for me was spectacular. We got enough fuel? Never mind the flight plan. There something way over there in the distance and I want to have a closer look.

I appreciate my niece Stacy for picking me up at the airport, navigating through Toronto and entertaining me at the same time. I'm not used to that many people or cars. After all my current hometown has a hand-painted welcome sign that says population 20.

My sister Minnie who took the time to set this all up, giving me the opportunity to spend some time with both my parents and then driving me to my brother's place.

Hank and Katie for providing me with a bed, breakfast, a ride back to the airport and good conversation along the way. The coffee and donut were nice too.

A big thank you to everyone else involved that I wasn't told about. Swinging all that on such short noticed was a feat beyond me and my means. It was so nice to be able to spend some time with mom and dad.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Cloying




This is officially my most unfavorite word and I'm seeing it everywhere. Some people dislike the word moist. I happen to hate the word cloying. Who decided this word has to be in every new piece of fiction I read?

What I think happened is that some bright light at a NaNoWriMo group event decided everyone should use the word cloying in a sentence while working on their manuscript. If you've ever been to one of these write-ins, you'll understand what I mean. After accomplishing the task, everybody forgot to edit it out of their finished manuscripts. For some reason publishing house editors must have been reluctant to interfere with creativity and now this stupid word has been foisted on the whole world.

There has been some interest in having me as a NaNoWriMo group leader in Sackville. If I had the time, I might even consider it, however, I would never challenge my group to use that word. I'd choose something like egregious. Now that's a word I like. I can even use it in a sentence: Please stop the egregious overuse of the word cloying in descriptive writing. (Better yet, don't use it at all).

Free Government Housing in Canada is a MYTH!



Rant time! I keep seeing posts on Facebook saying that people are upset that a minimum wage hike to fifteen dollars per hour is disqualifying them from free housing. I know the source is American, but this is being enthusiastically shared by my Canadian friends. I don't know how the system works in the USA but I have been in the Canadian system and this is not how things work.

This rant is for everybody who has never had to live in the Canadian government housing system. Government housing is subsidized it is NOT free for those living in it. It costs 30% of whatever your gross income is, be that welfare, employment insurance or wages. Since the program was created the costs of food and transportation have skyrocketed. When the program was created 30% was comfortable, now it is far from it. I don't know how many provinces do this but in New Brunswick they add a charge for heating so we effectively were paying 35%.

Our experience shows that the “free housing” experience gets worse than that. You don't get any discount for getting sick and missing work for a few days. I worked my butt off in the call centre I was working in and earned a couple of nice big bonuses. When my rent was calculated, the housing system based their calculations on my wages with bonuses. That might sound fair, but I got those bonuses only the first month of the year. Their math pretended I got that every month. By their calculations they didn't take 30% of my bonuses, they took all of it and then more. My new rent was 50% of my income. I appealed the decision and was denied. I went to our political representative and was told that it was more important for us to pay our government subsidized housing rent than it was to eat. Otherwise, we'd end up living on the street (this is not an exaggerated paraphrase). We borrowed money to put electricity in our hunt camp did some other upgrades and moved back to the place where we'd been forced to leave two years earlier.

Social services in Canada has consistently advised every time we pointed out that we didn't have a humanly possible to follow budget, to ask for money from family/friends or borrow it from any credit cards we might have.

While living in government housing, I got to talk to other young families. They are all stuck in the same hopeless battle. If they aren't getting help from somewhere, they cheat the system by working under the table. The system is badly in need of an overhaul. I'm all for punishing cheaters, but you have to give the people who aren't cheating a chance. Please only punish the egregious cheaters not the poor single mom earning an extra thirty bucks babysitting each week so that her kids can have enough to eat.

If my readers don't get anything else out of this, stop believing this free housing fairy tale. It doesn't exist in Canada the way you think it does.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Grill Glove Love


Generally speaking, I'm one of the easiest to get along with people you'll ever meet. I do, however, have a sense of humour and that means that just sometimes, I can be a pain in the posterior. This was one of those moments.

I sometimes work in the kitchen at my place of employment. Favourite post is working on the grill. Most of the other work stations are less than perfect for my tall skinny frame. I can work them but my lower back will start protesting.

Grill gloves are plastic disposable hand gear with some heat resistance for handling raw meat. After handling the raw meat, they're peeled off and thrown away. This is to avoid contamination of the finished product. If you take them off just right, you can trap a significant amount of air in the glove especially the fingers and then pop them. I've gotten rather good at it.

One of my co-workers finds the pop sound annoying and I find his reaction amusing. I was having fun popping the gloves when I was finished with them. Anyone who's ever gotten into popping bubble wrap, can understand my mind set. Hey, it's therapeutic. Don't knock it.

I managed to get three pops out of one glove, three separate fingers, a personal best. This was when my co-worker's requests for me to stop went from polite to more hostile demands.

“Pop! Pop! Pop!”

“Arrgh! Just stop already!”

I gave it a rest for a little while. Didn't want to rile him up too much or too fast. I waited for him to forget about it before doing it again.

“Pop!”

“Hey! What did I say to you? Don't do that anymore!”

“It was just thumb. Relax.”

“Just stop. Okay!”

I knew I was starting to push his buttons but I had a great way to finish this and I had to have one more go.

“Pop!”

He turns glaring at me, but before he can say another word, I say, “That was the middle finger.”

The rest of us laughed our heads off over that.

Beating the Facebook Algorithims


Little irritated with the folks from Facebook. I appreciate that they're a business and they can do whatever they want but I have an account in the hopes that it will be useful to me.

I have an artist friend that I tried to connect with several weeks ago. Because I sent him a friend request and he confirmed it immediately, I thought we were successful. I was puzzled in that none of his posts were showing up on my feed yet my son was seeing new posts from him daily. This a common occurance with some of my Facebook connections and I find it more than a little annoying. Usually going to my friend's wall and liking a few items just to give the system a kick will rectify the problem at least temporarily. My kids go a step further by tagging their friends in comments regularly. I find that inconvenient but I couldn't even do that in this case because Facebook somehow unfriended us. We'll try to rectify this when I get home this evening. I know that this instance is not an isolated one and I don't think it's a glitch. I promote my writing on Facebook and at times it seems to be getting more and more of a challenge. I know that they prefer I spend money to promote stuff on their site but I haven't got much in the way of funds.

I have two purposes for being on Facebook. Number one is to try to keep up with family and friends. The other of course is to promote my business efforts including my writing. This isn't the first nor the more upsetting incident. The worst was easily loosing track of a good friend and finding out they tragically passed away and I didn't find out until several months after the fact.

In the face of their mysterious algorithims, I have a plan. I will be going through my friend list as I have time and try to kick the system back in gear. I will also begin tagging people regularly. I will try to do it without sounding weird, annoying or inappropriate. It's a daunting challenge

Monday, 21 September 2015

New Hardware




While doing the weekly shopping Francine and Mieke stumbled on an inexpensive tablet keyboard compatible with mine. They knew I wanted one because writing articles with my thumbs is a pain in the posterior. So in the name of helping me become more productive they brought one home.

I'm giving it a test run as I write this.  It is functioning like a very small laptop. I like it but it will take some getting used to.  The keys have to be depressed quite far to register but they are small and close together. I'm grateful for inheriting my mother's hands. Dad would likely hit four keys at a time.

Brandon upgraded his laptop on the same day. That means his previous laptop got passed to Mieke and her's got transferred to me. I get to learn Windows 8.1 and work with a completely new set up. Once I get used to it all. I should be more productive. Granted I'm going to have to steer clear of the online games. There are a few that I have not played in quite sometime because my previous equipment wasn't up to the task.

Writing this wasn't too painful, so I'm looking forward to the coming writing week.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Church Shooting



I rarely comment on current events especially divisive or emotional charged ones. Right now I am really bothered by an event that occurred in South Carolina. It's been all over the news. A young white man went to a church prayer meeting. The members of this church are black. After being there for about an hour he went on a shooting rampage that left nine church members dead. I do not have words - evil and satanic come to mind but don't begin to describe how I feel.

I'm as physically white as a person can possibly be. Blond hair blue eyes, I wouldn't be surprised if you went back twenty generations in my family tree and still didn't find someone with an olive complexion. I only knew one black kid growing up and he was in a different grade at school. I believe he was descended from slaves who escaped to Canada through the underground railway but I didn't really know him very well.

My first real encounter with black Americans was on a family camping trip. We were camping in upstate New York and wanted to attend a church service. I was probably about eleven years old at the time. My dad found a likely candidate in either the yellow pages or some campground flier. We got all dressed up in our best and drove to this if I remember correctly Baptist church. When we got there everyone was black except us and a couple other guests. We assumed that we wouldn't be welcome and prepared to quietly leave. They made sure we knew that this was not true and insisted on having us share in their worship service. So we attended with them. It turned out to be an unforgettable cultural lesson and I mean that positively. I think that this event has influenced my view of other races more than anything else I've been exposed to since that time.

Without a doubt this is why this church shooting bothers me so much. These were good people. People who extended the hand of fellowship to someone who was obviously different. People who prayed together and wanted peace. How much damage has been done to what little trust there is between the races? I pray that for all our sakes that this damage can be healed. I pray for the victims and their families. We all bleed the same and we all hurt the same when we lose loved ones especially in something as senseless as this.

A world without racism would be a much better place.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Bottle of Wine?



This is one of those mistaken lyrics type situations except it wasn't a song.

I work in a fast food restaurant currently and while performing my duties just outside the drive through station I overheard something along the lines of the following:

"Hi! Welcome to *****. What would you like to order today?"

"I would like the double burger meal."

"Certainly. What size fries would you like?"

"Just the regular size."

"Would you like a bottle of wine with that?"

I'll admit I wasn't paying close attention but that is what I thought I heard. I listened closer and thought I heard several more references to a bottle of wine. I know that isn't what she was saying but I can't figure out what it was she was actually saying instead.

Since we don't have a liquor license and this was the drive through, I found this quite amusing. It's just so wrong. I had to mention this to my coworker Jassi, who laughed her head off over it. One of the managers decided I was just fixated on the need for an alcoholic drink.

When I returned home, I had to share this gem with the boys who work at the same restaurant. Brandon laughed when he heard who was on the drive through. Turns out awhile back, he thought he heard her say the same thing. Brandon doesn't like wine so this mishear isn't just me or my semi-deaf ears.

More Humour From Pico (titles and photo are clickable links to these pages)


Lost in the Translation

Being married to someone with a different first language has led to some amusing moments. Here are my best of the best.






More Conversations With Customer Service

This is a second collection of humour from my time as a call centre agent. I think you can find humour just about anywhere. There is a sidebar link to the first collection when you are visiting this page.





Captain Underwear

This was an epic long distance cycling wardrobe fail on my part. I felt foolish at the time but it is a great story.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Ice Is Broken



Public speaking training was an important part of attending Ambassador College. One of the most valuable skills I learned there. Tracy the young lady from the previous story who despised me happened to get assigned to the same beginners speech lab as me.

One of our first assignments was to record our voice reading something to the rest of the group. The idea was to give us something to evaluate and work with. I stumbled out of the gate but ended up making one of the best friends I made at college.

Without going into any embarrassing details, the selections I chose didn't do a good job of yielding a sample of my speaking voice. The class found the whole thing extremely funny – tears rolling down faces funny. I passed the assignment but didn't really accomplish anything for my public speaking. After class Tracy and I walked down to the student centre together. She was still very amused and told me that I wasn't at all the stuffed shirt so and so she had thought I was. Maybe looking foolish is one of my most endearing qualities.

After that we went to a lot of activities together and had a lot of fun. We dated a few times although that needs a little clarification. At Ambassador College we students were pretty much required to date but as freshman we were forbidden to get romantically involved. If you attended there during those years you'd understand. If you didn't please don't ask me to explain that. Tracy and I were always just good friends. We were never romantically involved.

All students also attended something called Spokesman's Club. Clubs were limited in size so there had to be quite a few of them and each had a mix of lower and upperclassmen. The clubs for men would have a ladies night and the ladies would have men night. We were expected to have dates for that event. For my first ladies night, I brought along Tracy. For a not very confident young man this could be quite intimidating. Especially table topics which all the club members were expected to participate in.

A topicsmaster is given the floor and asks a series of questions for members to discuss. During ladies night the first thing you would do when responding to a question would be to introduce your date. I heard a safe subject to comment on and raised my hand. When selected I rose nervously to my feet. I'm Canadian I don't look nervous ever but that didn't mean my mind was fully functional. I paused to think during Tracy's introduction the think glancing down. It looked like I glanced down to check her name tag. That is not what I was doing. There were a few snickers and Tracy of course found it hysterically funny not doubting that I just might have done that on purpose. She gave me a playful smack over the head for it later.

Before club was over it was announced that our club had managed to volunteer a group to answer literature request phone calls. Out of respect for the ladies present, they were invited to join us if they wanted to. Tracy was of course all excited about that and that episode is a whole other story.

Related Stories



First impressions aren't always correct. Sometimes they're even way off base. By the time our initial encounter was over Tracy absolutely hated my guts. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Despised In Her Eyes



Back in 1981 I got to travel with my family to Observe the Feast of Tabernacles in the Ozarks, Missouri. This was my last feast before college and I coincidentally met quite a few future classmates and made a lot of friends. I'm still in touch with a few of them through Facebook. Things did not however roll along smoothly.

If I remember correctly, it was called youth day. Church services were in the morning and in the afternoon there was a youth volleyball tournament. Prior to the games though there would be a bible bowl trivia competition between church congregations. Teams of four would face off against each other. Because of time constraints there would be only one round.

My siblings and I were gungho to participate in everything and signed up for both. We found enough other similarly inclined bodies to form a volleyball team named The Golden Boys but that is a whole other story. Since there were four of us we didn't need anyone else to form a bible bowl team. In this case we named ourselves the St. Catharines, Canada team because that was our actual church area. We were matched up with Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Of the four of us, only I had any experience in this kind of competition but we did have something in our favour. My parents as a family tradition read from the bible to us every single day for our entire lives up to that point. When it came to basic bible trivia, we rocked. From what I saw throughout the whole competition Tulsa probably would have beaten any other team there but against they didn't have a chance.

I got to hear Tulsa's view of this victory from their perspective. Tracy Williams was on that team and a year later we were college classmates and were in several classes together. She said her pastor who was administering the competition kept going over to them while we were answering questions rubbing their faces in it. “Maybe you kids should study your bibles more. You should be more like these Canadians.”

It gets worse. My parents and I had a miscommunication before the activities. I thought we would eat lunch at our campsite so I didn't bring my casual clothes with, never mind my gym clothes. I went through the whole afternoon wearing a suit. What normal teenager wears a suit to anything besides a church service? Is it any wonder that Tracy hated my guts?

This the first instalment of a series of stories. I will link them all together. They are written because I'm mentally working through something. I really don't care if anyone reads them all and don't expect to do anything with them when I'm done.

Related Stories



The Ice Is Broken

My true personality comes through and I go from being despised to being a friend. In fact I would rank her as one of the best friends I had the whole time I spent at Ambassador College.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Lumber Launcher


It was election time in Quebec and for whatever reason the local liberal party candidate came to tour our rocking chair factory. Fifty person entourage filling the aisles between all those potentially dangerous machines.  My job at the time was operating the manual shaper, the most tempermental of them all. The job that day was heavy chair armrests. This particular job was very difficult. During development I launched several of those arms across the shop. One those actually warped the machine's shaft. I always wore a protective apron made from the same material they use to make flak jackets. I was on vacation though and a rookie was filling in for me.

Within the hour before the arrival of the group, our rookie accidentally launched  one of those armrests across an aisle. Just missed the mortising machine operator. After the group, left another armrest went flying the other direction and hit the bandsaw operator in the back of the neck. Fortunately he was not seriously injured. After the fact my supervisor found the whole scenario hysterically funny as he explained to me why they saved the rest of that order for my return.

If you liked this short story. Have a look at these articles.


Lost In the Translation

My wife and I grew up speaking different languages. This has led to a number of funny stories. In this article I recount the best of the best.





Memories of an Old Cabinetmaker

I've worked with quite a variety of people in my time. This old Croatian man and his son were an interesting pair to work for especially the father. He had some rather unique moments for me to remember.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Zombie Thumb



Image from Pixabay

Turning the sign board at work the other day didn't go so well for me. A screw had fallen out of the frame and I wasn't being careful enough. Pinched my thumb in there but good. Going to loose the thumbnail. Hurt a great deal at the time and cost me a little bit of blood. Very minor but ugly injury.

In New Brunswick it is wise to always fill out an on the job accident report, because the government medical system won't pay for the costs if it goes bad and it wasn't reported properly. We taped it up, put a finger cot on it and went back to work. If I thought it was ugly when I did it, it looked a whole lot worse when Francine and I unwrapped it that evening to clean and redress it. The thumbnail and the surrounding skin turned several shades of purple. The rest of my protected thumb was sealed up in its own juices and the skin absorbed a lot of moisture. It looked very dead.

I of course showed it to my youngest son Wesley who doesn't have a sympathetic bone in his body for his old dad. I told him I had a zombie thumb and asked him if he thought it would heal or it would slowly take over my whole body turning me into a zombie. He just laughed and laughed.

I decided against posting a picture of it. I don't write horror.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Epic Water Shot



I was waiting for inspiration this morning and Jassi my co-worker gave it to me. I asked her what kind of sauce was in one of the squeeze bottles. She took it from my hand, accidentally gave it a squeeze and shot herself right in the face with a blob. I laughed so hard.

That reminds me of a few great moments like that on the job. My all time favourite has to the sprinkler system test accident. Co-worker Matt was my unfortunate victim.

As a lead hand working on the college landscaping department, one of my responsibilities was to make sure the automatic sprinkler systems were functioning correctly. I'd briefly turn on each system from the control box and checked them out.

This particular day my job was complicated by some recent construction work. They dug a hole next to the controller and accidentally cut all wires. They were nice and spliced them all back together – in a scrambled sort of way. It took us awhile to figure out which system was associated with which dial position. I turned on my test and walked over for a look and the system wasn't on. Then I had a horrible thought. Matt was cutting the front lawn at the time. I ran to have a look and sure enough I got him. Oddly though he was making effort to stay dry. I ran back the controller to shut the water off and then back to Matt to try and apologize without laughing too much.

Turns out the pop up sprinkler head came up right under the push mower Matt was operating. The mower sheared it off. When Matt pushed past the broken water line it squirted him right in the crotch. I could not have planned that. To hide the embarrassing wet spot he walked around until he was all wet, not just that spot on his pants.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Article Writing Success

First tablet article was a complete success. I'm very pleased with the  situation and myself. Figured out everything necessary to accomplish this with equipment that I have.

Challenge number one was to satisfy my cheapskate self. There is Microsoft Office is available on my tablet but it is only a ninety day trial. I use Open Office for free on my laptop. I did a search on Google for an android version of that software. It doesn't work perfectly but it gets the job done.

Figuring the basic features out was a bigger challenge. I wrote my first tablet blog post without knowing how to get it posted. Even with help from the younger generation transfering the text over to blogger was a puzzle. I stumbled on how to highlight the text and from there I was able to copy and paste it over. Along the way found out how to move the cursor around. Editing text has as a result become a great deal easier.

One thing I'd really like would be able to somehow use predictive text within this wordprocessing software. I will search online for that when it crosses my mind and I have Internet access.

Until I càn afford an external keyboard, I get practice writing with my thumbs. I've a shown significant improvement but I'm not very efficient. I am pleased though that writing with this is possible to the point of being practical.

I'm sure my learning how to take a selfie with this thing is a horrifying development for my readers in itself.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Writing Practice On the Road

Learning to make better use of the technology in my hands. Making an awful lot of mistakes along the way. Typing with my thumbs on a tablet is a new skill for me.

The objective is to be able to write articles and other things on here while travelling. A kind of mini writing office I could even use on a bicycle trip. It may take a few days for me produce something worth posting to one of my blogs.

One of my discoveries is that the bold/italic/underline part of this program doesn't work right. Better to just stay away from it for now. The only other issues I've had are my lack of skill. The space bar is really c!ose to the button to minimize the screen. I've already lost count on how many times I've made that mistake.

I started this in the crew room at work, accidentally erased my work once and now I'm in a waiting room giving Francine the silent writer treatment. I'll probably finish at work again.

The biggest question now is can I post this along with a selfie from work on the free wifi there. For my not so technically savvy self, that is the challenge.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Weird Day


Yesterday and overnight we were buried by yet another blizzard. That is why I'm not at work and neither are any of the boys. The Internet is working more miss than hit. I've been trying to upload the above picture for a new customer service story collection on Hubpages. I'm giving it another shot as I write this. I'm surprised it loaded up here. Francine and I staged this one. She is supposed to be looking shocked at where a customer service representative just transferred her.

My great accomplishment of the day is repairing, at least temporarily, my broken snowshoe. I spliced in some tin from a tuna style chicken can. I'm sure it will fatigue and break after awhile but for now it's usable. Important right now because we have so much snow that our hydro poles look significantly shorter.

More writing to do before the day is out whether I can use the Internet or not. Hopefully we can saw the magic words that will inspire our provider to solve the problem.

Hooray the picture is on Hubpages now. Four more pictures to go before it is ready to be published. Not sure that will happen today but fear not progress is being made.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Advertising Going Forward


Since yesterday I've had a chance to clear my head concerning my advertiser disappointment. It is a setback but not really a disaster. To date that was nothing more than potential because I hadn't gotten any sales through them yet anyway. I'm still learning and the lessons learned will make my efforts better in the future.

I will likely sign up to be an Amazon affiliate again in the future. I learned how to work with their ads and their system. Future efforts will take a lot less effort than the first time around. There are some prerequisites on my end though. First we have to get our Internet provider to give us a stable connection. This winter has been horrible and right now there is obviously something wrong with it again. I can barely do anything online. I am hoping that I won't have too much difficulty posting this and posting links on social media. I'm not sure how long it will take for them to make repairs. I'm not optimistic from past history. Once that's fixed I still have to have a block of time where I can reset everything up within a couple of days. I want my full 180 day second shot.

One thing that disappoints me with Amazon is that I can only serve Canadian readers. That is slightly less than twenty percent of my readership. More than half my readers are in the USA. I get a significant amount of traffic from the UK as well. It'd be nice to have something that is useful to those readers. Besides that I get traffic from all over the world and sometimes they do respond to ads. I've earned a few pennies from readers as far away as Japan and Argentina. I wish Amazon would set things up so that I could earn from everyone's legitimate interest.

If my traffic remains stable I should continue to make five bucks per month through another advertiser. I will do a little optimizing to see if those will perform better. Apparently I haven't got them in ideal spots. Not too worried about it at this point. That's five bucks per month I wasn't earning last month. Continued growth would mean an increase there as well.

My big hope is to find an affiliate program for bike parts that would enhance Pico's Cycling first and foremost. I struck out with Bike Nashbar in the USA which really disappointed me. They would be almost ideal. I also struck out with Black Dog Bikes in the UK. Well maybe I struck out or maybe they just ignored me. They didn't respond to my effort to sign up. At any rate the quest continues.

The picture above reminds me of warmer weather. Moncton announced in the paper recently that the snow accumulation this winter is a record 147 cm. The old record was 109 cm in 2011. More than 400 cm have fallen which is double the normal winter snowfall.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Frustrating Setback


Chose the picture because of the evil grimace. Had an advertiser pull out on me and it hasn't left me very happy. Not all is lost but it hasn't put me in much of a writing mood. I can re-sign up with them later but I have to remove and or redo all the existing ads already on all my sites - as if I haven't got enough to do. What probably got my goat the most was the condescending email they sent me, inviting me to re-sign up when I start getting consistent site traffic. Well, I am getting consistent traffic and consistent growth in that traffic.

I first took out some of my frustration on wood with my splitting axe. After that I cranked up an old offline medieval warfare game, we have on our computers. I beat up on the toughest computer character I've had to deal with to date. The game is called Stronghold Crusader. I honestly thought Richard the Lion Hearted was supposed to be the toughest but I took care of him some time ago. His castle isn't that tough to breach. The Wolf on the other hand knows how to build a defensive castle. He's the only character that has been able to hold off my initial assault. He really didn't have anything left though, when I stripped my castle of defenders and brought in a second wave. It was a blood bath, but I do feel better. Maybe next time I'll try to defeat him with a little more finesse. The only enemy I haven't fought yet is Saladin and Wesley's beaten him before. He has his strengths but I don't think I'll have any trouble.

Tomorrow I get up and go back to work at my writing and everything else I'm doing.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

March Is Out of the Gate


The plan is to make this month a big writing month. February was another record setting month for readership especially on Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road. A record 1541 page views over there. I only really  promoted the site on social media for the first half of the month or we might have topped 2000. The lead article destroyed the previous single article record. Our old record was 107 views on an article promoted something like three different times. This article hit 329 with only one media push. We'll see whether this will be sustained in March.

Internet right now is a sore spot. Ever since the last blizzard came through our connection has been extremely unstable. It might be fine for a minute and then gone the next. I don't think we are going to be able to avoid a service call to the provider. This really throws a monkey wrench into me writing. Sometimes I can post and sometimes I can't. It really hurt my output on this site. Several times I posted a book review or something else and then when I came here I lost connection for the rest of my available writing time. This is extremely frustrating. I'm amazed I was able to get the cycling webzine all loaded with photos in time for publishing.

I joined a website called Chatabout where I earn points which can be turned into cash. Not sure how much time I will spend there. It did have a side benefit though. A long time online writing friend noticed my arrival and told me about two sites which would pay me for short articles. I'm hoping to check that out today. Apparently all their current content writers are female and adding me as male perspective has the interest of the site owners. The pay isn't spectacular but it is better than what Bubblews gives me right now.

As always I have a lot of my plate, but I look forward to a great month.



Thursday, 26 February 2015

No Lack of Ideas


My readers may have noticed a big drop off in my production over the past week or two. I can assure you that it has nothing to do with a lack of material. February has socked us repeatedly with blizzards and lesser snowstorms. As a result our Internet service has been spotty at best. My last couple book reviews have posted and by the time I was finished doing the basic promotional posts on social media our Internet croaked for the rest of the time I wasn't at work.

Not going to complain about our provider. They can't fix something when the roads are closed because of the weather. I've gotten the impression that they are doing their best. The spotty connection has been better than what I was expecting.

I did manage to get the March issue of Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road uploaded and published this week. That's a minor miracles because it has been very difficult to load photos of late. We've topped 1500 page views for the month.

Spring is coming. This weather will only last for so long. With the improved weather I'm looking forward to getting more done.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Bummed Out a Bit


Decided to use a happier shot of your's truly.

Combination of being too tired and facing too many negatives at one time.

Lost two shifts of work during the latest blizzard, which we can ill afford. Both Brandon and Andrew each lost a shift as well. Andrew and I each would have lost another shift each but I managed to batter my way through the drifts to town. Locals have decided, I must be one of them - I'm crazy.

My shift on my return was probably my least enjoyable so far. Granted I was over tired. The way the shift fell meant either my sleep would get screwed up or Francine's would get screwed up. Grumpy wife means grumpy me too so better I get to be the grumpy one by myself.

There has been one plus with our over abundance of snow. The drift blocking me from entering my wood shop does allow me to shovel the roof off without having to borrow a ladder from the neighbour. On the other hand getting firewood out of the bush has been a chore. Even with the snowshoes I'm getting a lot of snow in my boots.

I have been researching crowd sourcing to possible get my wood turning business off the ground this year. The one site made it all into rocket science. If I had that much time and money on my hands I certainly wouldn't need to pursue this. I found more encouraging information later in the day. I do feel more chipper than I did this morning.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Another Day Another Blizzard


Well I'm missing my shift today and if the wind doesn't die down Andrew won't make it for his overnight either. I called around noon to see if they were open. When I found out they were I advised them that I would walk down to the road by where we part the van. If it was clear, I'd try to make it in. It wasn't. I don't think I could get down that even with four wheel drive.

I figured it was hopeless before I was a hundred yards from the camp. Francine was on family taxi driver duty and by the time I broke another hundred feet of trail she was within earshot. I yelled for her just to go back. I felt guilty for even having her out in that. Before she got close enough to me to communicate the wind had already blown her off her feet twice. I forged ahead on my snowshoes knowing all I'd accomplish was to confirm we were hopelessly snowed in. By the time I got back the trail I'd stomped out had been erased.

The photo is a shot out the kitchen window. That drift in front of the shop door comes up to my shoulder. I haven't been able to get in there to do any work in awhile. On the bright side that drift will make it easy to reach to shovel the roof off when the storm ends. The bike shelter which is also in the picture is accessible although I'm not sure it would be possible to ride in this even on a Fatbike. If you look closely you can kind of make out the forest which starts right behind all that.

I did make a short video during a lull out in the storm. I'll add it if we can get it loaded up. The Internet isn't very strong right now. Hopefully this will post. While viewing that keep in mind it got a whole lot worse after I came in.





Friday, 13 February 2015

I Miss My Beard


It started out as the low maintenance look. Moustache and goatee were the only places my beard grew thick enough for daily shaving. It suited me and it was easy to take care of. I thought it looked good if I kept it properly trimmed.

My current employment requires me to be clean shaven. Ugh. The lack of facial hair accentuates the lines in my face and makes my expression look more severe. I don't look older. Heck my beard was mostly grey already but it did look more distinguished.

To add insult to injury my work uniform includes a baseball cap. Of all the hats in existence, I look terrible in a baseball cap. I look much better in a cowboy hat or a longshoreman cap. Oh well, I'm hidden back in the kitchen usually hovering over the grill or fryer. Only my co-workers have to see me.

The job is appreciated and the employer has been good to us. If I move on to other work, the facial hair will make a come back about as quickly as it will grow.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail


Went to chop a dead tree for firewood out of the back of our lot today and found rabbit tracks all over the place. The above picture is showing what is obviously a rabbit trail - almost a rabbit super highway.

I honestly thought the late fall hunters had thinned them out more than that. Several of them had boasted of harvesting them by the dozen. These are all snowshoe hares and they turned white before any snow came. They were sitting ducks for a short period of time. The timing of their coat change is caused by the amount of daylight. When the days get short enough, they turn white. If there was a rabbit in the above picture you probably wouldn't be able to see it anyway.

Our cat Mister hunts the rabbits. That surprises me as well. I've never had a cat that would take on prey that big before. That doesn't stop Mister. He's dined on several of them, much to the chagrin of my wife Francine.

One thing that disappoints me is that the hunters were only interested in them for food. Rabbit fur might not be worth anything to sell in this part of the world. They just skinned them on site and left the fur on the ground like garbage. I'm seriously considering making racks to stretch and dry the skins. If nothing else we could end up making some very warm furry mittens. Just seems like a waste to me.

Just another moment living on the edge of civilization.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Auto Response



At work yesterday someone thought to slap one of the headsets on me. Great idea. It allowed me to hear the drive thru orders and get them prepared faster than I normally would have been able. I didn't have to wait for the order to be confirmed to know what the customer wanted and whether it was a complete order. I could tell just from what they said. Normally I have to wait for the information to flash up on the kitchen monitors. 

There is a problem with all this though. I used to work for years in a call centre. When the drive thru customer hits the button for the intercom, I get a beep that is exactly the same tone that used to tell me a call was coming through for me to handle. Good thing I have to press a button by my ear for anyone to hear me because I instantly start rolling out my call centre greeting. I had to bite my tongue every time a customer beeped. Old habits are so hard to break.

They didn't forget to tell me how to talk back to anyone. That could have gotten real entertaining because the wrong button would have had me speaking on the intercom outside to the whole world. They gave me the complete run down before confiscating that piece of equipment.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Hmm... Amazon links on Facebook



Not sure how I feel about this.

This morning I posted another book review on my book review website. I immediately submitted the post information through Facebook and other social media sites to let my readers know it is available for reading. I think I've gotten pretty efficient at getting the word out there.

I went back to Facebook a little later to check to see if I got any responses from people. I like to acknowledge when people address me as a writer. When I got there I noticed Facebook advertising the book I just put a review up for in the right hand column. Seems that they are pretty quick to pick up on what I'm doing.

I do have a small plea here. If my reviews inspire you to buy the book through Amazon. Please use my link instead of theirs. Once you've accessed the link you can go to other formats and get the best price for you. Facebook can't get you better prices than I can.  They need the money far less than I do.

Thanks to all my readers who take the time to look at my writing. It is appreciated whether you buy something or not.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Running and Running



Running like a chicken with my head chopped off it seems. There was no time to post or promote anything last night after the Sabbath. I had work in the evening and it was fairly late by the time I found my way back home to my bed.

My blogging efforts and the Cycling magazine are doing very well this month. I wasn't expecting it to do this well but no complaints from me. I was thinking we might have a challenge to beat last months page view count. At this point we may just blow it away.

I was tickled to get a response from one of the author's I reviewed on my book review site. It was not one of my author friends so it did come as a surprise. He appreciated the review and the criticisms. Always nice to get a bit of validation back for my efforts. I have four book reviews to write. I am looking to grab another book to read because I get a lot of odd breaks waiting for the boys or something else and as a result I'm doing quite a lot of reading. Hate to waste that bit of time.

I have to get this posted and then run out the door for work. After today though the rest of the week shouldn't be quite so hectic - I hope.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Done For the Day


Don't know why but I feel pretty blah. Migraines run in my family but I'm not cursed with those. I do have a headache though.

Not sure what gives. Didn't have a bad day at work even though I forgot my work shoes. Ended up working in my boots. Warm feet shouldn't make my head hurt though.

Using an electric shaver while my wife drives down country roads wasn't a good idea though. The batteries were full or it would have been a failure. Running the thing all over my face for awhile gave pretty random results. I looked worse than when I started. The job was done before getting work though so we are all good.

Anyway I want to start my Sabbath's rest early. I'm beat.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Advertising Baby Steps















This is something that I wanted to accomplish since I found out I was able to create Amazon affiliate stores focused on specific items. I created the stores with great enthusiasm and then didn't like any of the display options.

Just adding each store to the website table of contents looked virtually invisible to me. I put a lot of effort into finding advertising for products that I though my readership would appreciate. It doesn't do anyone any good if it can't be easily noticed though.

Creating my own graphics is not completely beyond me but I did appreciate Brandon's assistance and the opinions of the rest of the family. Both ads created today are displayed in this post. I'm open to opinions and comments. Feedback will help me tailor the site so that it is not only interesting but useful.

All my Amazon affiliate advertisements are tied together in my account. I get six percent of all sales when I make four or more sales in a month. If I get less it is only four percent. At this point, I haven't sold a thing but then again my stores were pretty much invisible.

I hope to add a third store to one of my other sites but because I want to pick and choose products useful to a writer, it's a little more complicated to put together. Not sure what else I can do with all this. I'm just pleased to have been able to put this much together. Hopefully it will help pay back some of the time that I've put into this.

Incidentally the ads show on http://picoscycling.blogspot.ca and http://picosbookreviews.blogspot.ca.