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Don’t melt the knife

melted_intentions

We have all seen quotes or lists of things that stuck with us and absorbed them to our own extents into our lives.

A few nights ago I was using the oven for dinner, and I had left a steak knife on the top of the stove on a cookie sheet. After I ate my dinner I could smell something that I would describe as ‘not pleasing in the least’ and I quickly got that queasy feeling in the pit of my belly that something was wrong. Very wrong. But because there was no smoke and no fire, it took me a while to locate the source of my angst. Behold the melted knife.

Life is a lot like finding a melted knife. We absorb things slowly and perhaps without really realizing it, like the proverbial frog in the boiling water. Every so often we have an epiphany (painful or not) that makes us sit up and think. Sometimes with something that sticks. Just like the smell of freshly melted plastic.

Here is a little list that I have collected over the years, so not my original thoughts. Each one has collectively made me sit up and think. I look at this list each week and remind myself of the simple yet erudite messages with each one of these nuggets. They are not melted, but I hope you find a one or two that makes you sit up and think.

The only things we really regret in life are the things we did not do.

Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

When in doubt, take the next small step.

Life is too short to waste hating anyone.

Make peace with your past so that it won’t screw up your present.

Never compare your life to others – you have no idea what their journey and their struggles are all about.

If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

Life it too short for long pity parties. Get busy living.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

Be eccentric now.

No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

What other people think of you is none of your business.

If we threw all our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

Don’t melt knives.

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Farewell mad poet – RIP David Bowie

The Archer

The Archer © 1976 John Rowlands.

David Bowie died last week and it hit me more than any celebrity death has to date. Already the world is moving on. Things to do, places to go, stuff to worry about … So, why am I still feeling the loss? It’s not the same feeling that would come with losing a family member or your best friend but is still a pervasive sort of sadness. I can’t claim to be his number one fan. I can’t tell you his entire catalogue. I didn’t listen to very much of his newer work and I certainly didn’t follow his every move on the personal front.

So what the hell?

I think it’s a combination of things. I grew up with Bowie for one. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is probably my second favorite album behind Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Throughout the years growing up and beyond into adulthood, there was always that distinctive, familiar voice. Sometimes singing a new song, more often heard on the radio singing an older one. A musician opining on Bowie’s legacy made the argument that just about any musician or group from the past 4 decades “had Bowie in their wheelhouse” in regards to what music inspired them. I would argue that anybody that listened to music has Bowie in their wheelhouse. His music seemed to touch everyone in some manner. You didn’t have to like it all, but there’s bound to be at least one song of his that you can catch yourself turning up or singing along to.

His music spoke to the freaks and the misfits in life. He made you feel like whatever you were going through was okay. Whoever you were was who you should be. I can’t claim this as original thought – I first heard it articulated on a CBC news panel talking about his life. The point made by the pundit was that in many ways, we all feel like misfits, not quite being “normal” and leading to why his music touched us all. It certainly did with me. I can’t tell you how many times as an angst-ridden teenager I would play some Ziggy and come away feeling much better about my lot in life.

Finally, I think the biggest reason I feel his loss is the bastard appears to be one of those rare, rare individuals who did what he wanted to do without compromising or selling out to anyone. Of course, we’ll never know for sure. Perhaps he was a calculating mad genius, scheming on how to milk us all for as much money as possible and taking direction from whoever could help him do that. But I doubt it. When you look at his career there was no staying in a rut. He took risks and did new things with almost every new album. And if his life’s work doesn’t convince you, just look at his final album and his death. Distinctive voice, different jazz-like style, and songs dealing with his death when no one knew he was sick.

What he did is not “go gently into the good night”.

Brilliant. I can only hope to do the same with my remaining years.

RIP you mad, crazy poet – thanks for salving my soul these many years.

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Dance of the Kidney Stone Fairies

dance

Last Sunday I noticed that I was peeing blood, so I was naturally freaked out. It cleared up a bit during the day, and on Monday I was treated to excreting various colours of the rainbow. I made an appointment with my GP and saw him on Wednesday. He did the ol’ taste test and confirmed that yes, blood was in my urine. He sent a urine sample to a lab, and told me to go get some ultrasounds and x-rays done right away. I booked those tests for Friday afternoon.

When I arrived at the ultrasound/x-ray lab on Friday, I had a cute intern do the initial ultrasounds, and then her supervisor gave me a second set of ultrasounds. Then I had an x-ray technician zap my abdomen a few times. When it was time to leave, and I asked all three women “I know you can’t tell me what you found, but what are the next steps?”

The x-ray technician said “all I saw in there was a lot of poop”. Thanks sweetie.

Then the senior ultrasound technician said that she had already faxed all the results to my GP and he had told her to tell me to go to emergency right away. Oh oh. She also said, “I can’t tell you any details of course, but I can tell you that you have some big stones”. I immediately swelled with pride as I thought she was referring to my testicles, until it dawned on me that she wasn’t in fact paying me a compliment.

I immediately took a taxi to emergency. I first had to get past the triage nurse. As anyone who has gone into emergency will tell you, triage nurses are the tough gatekeepers that either tell you that you have to sit and wait in emergency, or in my case, give you the green light to fast track to the admitting administrator. I made it quickly past the triage nurse, and the admitting admin person took some information from me and gave me a bunch of stickers. I love stickers. At first I thought they were Christmas stickers or old Halloween stickers that they were trying to unload, but then I saw that all the stickers had my name on then. What the hell kind of fun is that?

Then I moved into the next room and met Andrea, who asked me more questions and took some vitals. I noticed that she was left handed and asked her if she was an artist, which made her blush. I knew I had her right where I wanted her, so I figured if I slipped her a $20 that she would give me a clean bill of health and send me home. Fastest $20 I ever lost, let me tell you. Andrea then took me to a room where an RN named Christine came in and hooked a reverse fire hose up to my vein and proceeded to drain all the blood out of my body.

Then I sat in the room for about an hour and a nice male intern named Craig popped in. Craig was wired on caffeine, I could tell. He said “So you have a kidney stone, did you know that?”. I told him that earlier today a nice lady told me that I have big stones, but he just stared at me. He asked me a few more questions and told me that they were trying to get me in, and to hang tight.

Then I waited for another 45 minutes and was visited upon by a man calling himself Lance. Lance is an assistant urologist. The irony of knowing his name and knowing that they were going to be scooping me out with a butter knife was not lost on me. Lance told me all the things they were going to try, including hooking a space probe up to the inside of my weenie and yanking the stones out, and maybe even lasers. Very Star Wars. He also told me that there were not one, but two stones – one in my ureter (6mm) and a bigger 8mm one in my left kidney. He told me that 5mm and under they don’t operate, but that they were going to see if they could get both out, but no promises. He said that the operation was a quick ‘in and out’ that doesn’t usually take more than 10 minutes if all goes well. Lance is good people.

While Lance was talking to me, I was immediately transported back in time to Vietnam, where I took part in what was also supposed to me a short ‘in and out’ extraction mission. The mission turned into a firefight with the North Vietcong. We had engaged a small light infantry unit in a rice paddy on the outskirts of Da Nang. During the engagement I ended up taking a couple of 7.62mm AK-47 rounds in the gut. That firefight was only 10 minutes too. I remember it well. In an out in 10 minutes, my ass.

After Lance left, a shorter man identifying himself as a Doctor popped by and sternly cautioned me that I was not going anywhere, even if they could not operate on me tonight – they might just keep me overnight and do the surgery tomorrow. Then he was gone, just like Charlie slinking back into the evening shadows in Nam.

Back to the present day. I waited again, and shortly thereafter Christine the blood sucker came back and moved me to another room where I got a nice recliner hospital chair where I sat for about 5 hours. I played crib on my phone and watched the Flames win in OT against the Blackhawks on the big screen TV. During this time, three different nurses came and asked more questions and took more vitals. At midnight I was informed that a bed was ready for me.

A cute little blonde woman came with a wheelchair and whisked me to surgery. At the threshold to the surgical unit we came across the Surgical Unit Bridge Troll. She literally stood in front of us with her legs spread and her hands on her hips. She would not let us pass until the cute blonde woman gave her my charts and answered three skill testing questions.

Now I was handed off to Kim, the angelic night nurse. She doted on me and told me to rest until they were ready for me. The call came at 1 AM, and another nurse showed up with a wheelie bed and took me away from Kim. This new nurse took me to surgery where yet another (friendly Filipino) nurse in a gurney asked me more questions and wheeled me to the corridor. This was starting to look more serious. The Doctor  appeared there, hulked over a monitor intensely engrossed in what he was looking at. I reasoned that he was thinking about trying to offload some more stickers on me, but it turns out he wanted to make me bleed. Charlie!! I knew it.

I was wheeled into the operating theatre, where I met a super cute nurse and her angry looking cohort. And the Anaesthesiologist. When I tell you the Anaesthesiologist was the spitting image of Santa in would not be embellishing it all all. And he had Santa’s bubbly personality to match. Santa was going to make me sleep with the elves. Then I went bye bye.

I woke up in another room 2 hours later, and I noticed that Santa and his troop had stolen my underpants. I knew I shouldn’t have let them put me out like that. Damn it! If I had a nickel for every time I fell asleep in the park and woke up with my underpants missing. I was high. The nurse explained to me that the drug they had used on me was the ‘Michael Jackson’ drug, Propofol. Awesome sauce.

I got out of surgery at 3AM and immediately got the go ahead to head down to the cafeteria for a $20 cheeseburger and coffee. I went back to my bed and was informed that I now needed to wear Tena cheesecloth underpants now.

I’m in Depend undergarments before I hit 50. Bogus dude.

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You’ve got to Move it, Move it, Move it!

Falk,_Benjamin_J._(1853-1925)_-_Eugen_Sandow_(1867-1925)_-_1894_-_5

by Benjamin J. Falk – work is in the public domain

As we move into middle age we’re bombarded with untold multitudes of things we’re either supposed to do or not do in order to live a long and healthy life. It’s a veritable sea of options and apparent black holes that we need to consider and/or avoid. Where the hell do you start?

Well, one safe bet is to MOVE. Movement is the key to life. It’s required to do anything and everything. So why do we stop moving as we get older? Because we get tired faster? Because our bodies “aren’t what they used to be”? Because it’s a bother? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should stop. Face it – we’re moving downhill now. It’s only a question of how much you want to slow that slide down and delay the leap to your great reward.

So MOVE.

Pick something that appeals to you and do it for at least 10-12 weeks. See how you feel. See what difference (or not) it makes. Then adjust and augment what you’re doing with more/less/different things.

For years I have been following the exercise programs in “You are Your Own Gym” to what I felt were great results. I never bothered with anything aerobic. I hated walking, keeping a “why walk when you can drive” attitude all these years. And despite my wife long-ago advocating it as a wonderful and healthy exercise to do, it took me reading it “in a book” to suddenly decide to try it. A year and a half ago, I read “Younger Next Year“, a book for geezers looking to age gracefully. It resonated for some reason (I’d argue it’s because my wife laid the groundwork, but she won’t buy it) and I started following its guidelines around walking – doing it 4 times a week for at least 2 miles a stretch. I’ve been pretty diligent at hitting that mark and have been feeling great and getting passing grades from my Physician (“Dr. Jelly Finger” to all of us over 40!)

But about 2 months ago I realized my body weight exercises had suffered. So now I’m doing both. Striving to do 4 walks of 2 plus miles per every week AND 4 different sessions of body weight exercises from “You Are Your Own Gym“. It’s harder than you think and I admit only last week did I finally achieve the elusive “8 in a week” goal that I’d been striving for (hey man… you try raising 3 kids in their pre-teens after you’ve cracked the big 5-0 and tell me how much time you have).

The secret? There isn’t any. Last week is last week. This week I’ve got to to it again.

Just MOVE!

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the cheerful grandfather plays improving sports

“You can really feel it in the testicles”

Here is a quick 8 minute segment I came across on CBC Radio; it was a Quirks and Quarks episode called “Weight-lifting Is Good For The Ageing Brain”.

Strength and resistance training is not just good for the body, but here is some data from a small study that shows how weight lifting is better for your brain than just balance and stretching exercises.

Inspires me a bit even more to keep exercising, and I don’t (yet) qualify for being a geriatric. Let’s just keep the loose-fitting clothes on please ladies and gentlemen – no need for just the thong when you are doing your sets.

CBC – Quirks and Quarks

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Midlife Manifesto

Socialists and fanatics have manifestos… why not cranky old guys? Here’s mine.

MidLife_Manifesto

My path is my path. I may share it with others but I walk it alone.

My best year, month, day, minute, second is now, always now.

I work out to be as strong and healthy as I can.

Family counts for me and and I count for them.

Experience is my guide, not my chains.

I act when I know I should.

My fuel is food that is fresh, natural, and real.

Honor is my foundation – my word is my bond.

I know how to fight. You may be younger, faster and stronger. You may even win. But you’re going to be one hurting son-of-a-bitch if you do.

If I get knocked down, I will get up. Again, and again and again.

Death is approaching. I accept it, but I’m sure as hell going to fight it.

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Kicking Mad

kickingmad

My pulse is racing again as I write this post and re-live what happened to me a few weeks ago.

We all should know by now that distracted driving is a no-no. If you are driving and get distracted and have an accident, it is not an “oopsy daisy” – it is an entirely preventable mess that you got yourself (and probably someone else) into.

I recently was walking and came up to an intersection. I waited until the walk sign flashed, then looked both ways and started to cross. To my left I heard some tires chirping, and here came this asshole turning left and coming right at me. I was about a third of the way across the crosswalk, and I stopped dead in my tracks and looked right at the driver. He did not make eye contact with me as he hurtled by me, so I did the very foolish thing and kicked his car in the back panel as hard as I could. I think I got his attention, because he braked and then made an immediate left into a parking lot, and he and his friend came to pay me a little visit. I stood waiting for him on the other side of the crosswalk. He was obviously livid; I could tell he was looking for a confrontation. However when he got up to me he was a good deal shorter and skinnier than I, so he thought better of a physical confrontation. Very impolite words were exchanged between the two of us, and in the end I turned and walked away.

Not my proudest moment of course, but I wondered what I would have happened to me if he had hit me with his car. he probably would have felt pretty bad about running the red light and hitting a pedo, and he probably would have been charged. But who would have had the shittier end of the stick? I enjoy eating turkey dinner as much as the next person, but I sure as hell don’t want to be eating stuffing and gravy through an IV.

My point is simply about how blasé we are in Western society about distracted driving (and using phones when driving in particular).

If you like research, below is an excellent pub put out by the National Safety Council. It’s a bit dated (2010), but the research is solid, and speaks specifically not just to cell phone use, but also why hands-free is no better.

As the National Safety Council states on their site, an estimated 1 in 4 car crashes involves cell phone use. What an abhorrent waste for something that is so easily avoided. Calls kill.

Below is the NSC research paper on the perils of hands-free driving. Even if you only read the first summary page in the document below, you will be enlightened. Please wake up and smell the coffee.

Resources:

National Safety Council – Understanding the distracted brain (pdf)

National Safety Council on distracted driving.

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Absentee Hunter Gatherers

Cave_Painting

© Copyright Graeme Churchard and licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.


Are you an absentee hunter or gatherer? If you don’t truly “live off the land” and buy your food from the local supermarket, then you are. But don’t worry, we all (or at least 99.999 percent of us) allow others to act as our proxies in the hunting and gathering of our food. And on one hand, it’s not a bad thing. If those proxies didn’t have economies of scale in their favor, we’d still be digging out roots and tubers and shooting squirrels and anything that moved to ensure we had something to eat. There would be very little time for art, quantum physics, and watching Survivor.

On the other hand though, allowing proxies to act on our behalf means our best interests may not be properly addressed. Cue processed foods, salt overload, no fat bullshit and all the myriad things food companies do to try to bolster their bottom line. Even giving food companies the benefit of the doubt that one of their goals may be to provide healthy food to people, that goal is often de-prioritized next to other corporate goals (like shareholder return).

Your proxies can take different shapes and don’t have to be large food companies. For instance, I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from in-laws that like to hunt. As such, since getting married, my family has had access to all sorts of wild game such as deer, elk, and moose. This has allowed for augmenting our diet with extremely healthy food that you know has come right “from the wild” and not endured umpteen layers of processing.

But me being me, I decided that wasn’t good enough. I was still hiding behind proxies who were doing my hunting and gathering for me. I decided I needed to be as close to the source as possible in at least one instance so I could better understand and appreciate where my food comes from.

So I did it. Yesterday, Bambi died and was processed by me. Was it fun? No. Was it challenging, interesting and exhilarating to be plugged into something more primal than figuring out whether you should get a latte or a cappuccino? Damn right it was. And I think it makes a difference in how I view my food. I felt remorse and sadness in the moment, but it didn’t stop me because my family and I have to eat. It was me or the deer. And yes, you make that choice every time you buy meat in the supermarket. Buy a steak? You confirm the need to kill another cow. So don’t get uppity on me. Unless you’re vegan, don’t bother arguing that this was the wrong thing to do. Any meat eater that does, only demonstrates how far removed he is from the truth about where the meat on his plate comes from.

Will I do it again? Probably. Circle of life man, circle of life.

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Just the Beef

cow and field of fresh grass

copyright iStock/IakovKalinin

I recently took the recommendation of a co-worker and watched the documentary “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

I am immediately suspicious of anything touting itself as an expose on a conspiracy, but I resolved to approach it with an open mind. After all, the recommendation came from one of my favourite co-workers (who just happens to be a dedicated vegan) :-)

When I head the title of the doc, I have to admit that I thought that it was about the flatulence of cows. The film admittedly has some strong points about our lack of awareness of the serious contributors to global warming, backed by a substantial body of research and facts and investigative journalism. However the doc has some fairly obvious flaws as well. Not critical flaws necessarily, but points worth our consideration.

Most notably on the plus side, the filmmakers go to lengths to talk about how damaging animal agriculture is the environment on a number of different levels. The film is predicated on these few top level facts that should give everyone serious pause for consideration (well worth the 30 seconds it will take you to read them). Here are the top level facts:

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
  • Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.
  • Methane has a global warming potential 86 times that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame.

The main drawback I saw with the film was the constant references to the uses of water to bring our bovine friends to maturity, or for example how much water goes into making a block of cheese. Water is a critical resource for all life, but we do live in a closed system, so it’s not like water is falling off the planet when someone eats a pizza :-)

As the title of the film suggests, the film is baked with a flavour of hidden agendas and profit from big agribusiness, and of course government. However if you look past the seasoning and think about the meat of the film, it does make a lot of horse sense. Even if you avoid thinking about the deforestation aspect of farming animals on large scales for human consumption, there are a lot of other unwanted side effects like ocean dead zones and the copious amounts of water that are required to sustain and grow animals for us to munch on.

We all know (or should know) that too much red meat is not good for you, so it begs the question: if too much is not good for you, why would you want to consume it at all? We obviously simply love the taste. If you think about something like smoking, you can probably delay or avoid getting cancer by smoking less as opposed to more, but why would you want to smoke at all if you know that smoking at any level is bad for you? Likewise with eating red meat – if you know that eating too much is bad for you, why tempt fate by eating it at all.

It’s no surprise then that the film leads the viewer to the inevitable conclusion that we are all better off as individuals, as societies and as a planet if we adopt a vegan diet. I enjoy eating animal protein as much as the next guy. However in recent years I have steadily moved away from red meat, and towards healthier alternatives like turkey, chicken and pork. As I adopt less expensive (and very tasty) protein alternatives like beans, the more I am moving towards eating less meat.

Regardless of your personal views, the film is a sobering and sometime humourous production, and is well worth the time to watch and digest it.

Download for $4.95, or see it on NetFlix, iTunes or HULU.

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The Devil’s Tongue

devilstongue
Here’s a little protein salad that I have been modifying and improving for my taste for the past several months that might be to your taste as well. I recently started incorporating Serrano peppers and more recently Chipotle peppers in Adobo Sauce into this dish that together took this salad into the upper reaches of the atmosphere in terms of the salad’s kick. Holy Mama!

The ingredients shown in this image are the perfect combo for making 6 x 2 cup salads that you can prepare ahead, and make a week’s worth of French kissing the devil.

Each salad has:

3/4 cup Black beans
3/4 cup Romano or Kidney beans
1/2 cup of chopped red onion
3 Stoplight peppers (chopped and split evenly between 6 salads)
2 Chipotle peppers with Adobo sauce
1 heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
1 Serrano pepper
1 Jalapeno pepper
3 Red Thai Chili peppers
1/4 cup of dried cranberries

The important part of this salad is to use olive oil as the dressing (instead of eating the salad with nothing at all). Some fresh ground black pepper tops it off.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Makes a great lunch all by itself and will power you through the whole afternoon. Add or substitute your own favorite ingredients to make it your own.

Next stop: Habanero peppers :-)

 

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