Archive for October, 2013

Financial Bonfire

My wife is a paper hoarder.

In our file cabinet we had hard copies of all our tax files going back to the mid 90s.  We had hard copies of every bill from all our suppliers and all the credit card monthly details going back at least 10 years.  Pat makes a hard copy of everything and never throws anything out.

The 4 high file cabinet was so laden I was concerned that it might crack the concrete in the basement.  I had correctly decided when we moved in here that the future weight of the hoarding should not be on a wooden floor truss  so I put it in the basement (in my workshop bathroom).

It finally became apparent that we needed to dispose of some of this huge pile of paper before the cabinet toppled on me when I was using the John and killed me.

So today we scrupulously went through hoard and we came up with a pile of paper easily 4 feet high (1.2 meters)

Now all of these had identification information on us, plus details of our financials and bank accounts and social insurance numbers, so recycling was not an option.  We had to destroy them and it would have taken days to shred it and would have likely worn out the shredder (we are on our second in 7 years because Pat wore out the first)

I had this great idea that we should take the pile down to the beach, find a fire pit and burn it.  Problem is that the beaches around here have restrictions on fires after labour day and it was also very windy.

We finally found one of those round steel fire pits at a quiet beach area.  Then we set forth to burn our records.  It took over an hour of feeding in papers while the flames roared and ashes flew (it was windy)  At one point I recognized that we were duplicating the efforts of the American Embassy staff in Iran in 1979 trying to burn all the records before the students broke in.  We did not have a fire permit and expected at any time some warden to come and catch us.

One old lady walked by with her dog and shrilly commented “Well you should be Recycling those Papers”  I felt that I should tell her that she should have a baggie for her dog poop , but did not.

Finally finished and we both smelled like a campfire.  I think in the future we should shred as we go.

Book, The Husband

I read a lot of books.  I love them.   An escape into an alternate life.

On average I read about 40 books a year.  All in hard copy, none of that electronic mini computer screen version for me.

A few years ago I started to record every book I read in a spreadsheet with the author, title, a brief synopsis …. and a score for how much I enjoyed the book.  The original reason for the spreadsheet was to avoid books that I have read before but the scoring system allows me to select successful authors that I might enjoy.

The scale goes from DNF  which means the book was not worth my time so I “Did Not Finish” followed with scores 1 through 5.  Normally a good book scores a 3 as I am selective when I pick it up.  An acceptable book scores a 2 and a 1 is a book that I cannot understand why I did not DNF.

The joy comes from books that score 4, and in that very rare event a 5.     A 5 is a book that I would reread again just for the pure enjoyment of the experience.

Now my scoring system is my own and I do not need to defend it.  While I like Oprah’s list of great literature, none of her best selections have made it to more than a 4 (and a couple have been DNF).

Granted to make a score of 5 for me involves the responsibility of a man to his family or books that you just  cannot stop reading because of the excitement.

Trustee from the Toolroom by Neville Shute is an example of the first category and Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (which I read non stop on an overnight flight to Paris) is an example of the second.

As I started this post, I again point out that I read a lot of books every year and I believe I am very selective in my scoring.  Actually I have not had a book with a 5 score for a couple of years.

But this weekend I read “The Husband” by Dean Koontz.  Started reading last evening in bed, stayed late reading, woke this morning and finished reading over the morning.  Did not rise at my normal 7am kept reading until the wife came home from church.

The book hit both of the criteria.  A young husband who has a small landscaping business.  He gets a phone call that tells him is wife has been kidnapped and he must come up with $2 million.  Unlike most books where he might be an ex navy seal or an ex spy, he is only a normal guy.  No going to his inventory of weapons or his contact in the CIA.  The book takes place in about 36 hours as he faces ‘What would you do for your Love”

A 5 in my scoring system which is rare enough to require a blog.

Dinner Music

At our home we always select music from our Sonos to accompany the meal.  Now it may be from a classical radio channel or from our inventory of easy listening music.

Unless it is the Grey Cup or the World Series, I do not watch sports during dinner.  ( I know this sounds weird, but my wife is addicted to watching sports.  If I did not put my foot down we would be dining with wine and a good meal to the Blue Jays 20 games back, in the eighth inning already losing 10 – 2.)

Anyway I am the Alpha Male so I command that we listen to music while we dine and I prefer music with a slower pace.  I already chew my food too fast, I do not need a background of Polka or Rock to speed up the jaws.

Tonight I was preparing a pasta meal with Italian Sausage.  Pat was on the computer doing her, almost full time job, for the CWL.  I asked her to select some music for the meal.

She decided that she would have an O meal meaning titles that start with O.  Actually a nice eclectic variety but with some inappropriate selections.

James gave us a huge inventory of Heavy Metal which I keep in the computer.  Normally these are not in the regular play list on Sonos.  I add access to the file when he visits and remove when he is gone (sorry son that you have only heard that before)  Still I keep the heavy metal songs in the music file.

When we updated the computer all the music files became part of the Sonos play list including Christmas songs, Halloween music and Heavy Metal.  I have yet to figure how to put these categories back in the vault until needed.

Anyway, tonight we dined to O My Goth by Razed in Black and Over the Mountain by Ozzy.  There were some other selections that were appropriate but these were the ones I remember.

I am pretty sure that these particular selections  did not help my digestive juices.

Burnt Pizza

I wonder if Hemingway had this problem.

Lets say he prepared a meal for his wife, put it in the oven and then got an inspiration. So he sat at the typewriter and wrote the love scene from A Farewell to Arms.  You know where the gay guy (Rock Hudson) temporarily falls in love with a nurse.  The words are flowing off the typewriter and the timing on the meal in the oven is lost to him.

Similar situation tonight.  I made a great pizza with all the fixings and put it in the oven at 400°F while I went off to write a simple email to the family.  The email became a epic dialogue on an interesting subject.

The wife finally says, what is with  the smoke coming out of the oven!!!!!.

As a result we had a very nicely carbonized pizza tonight.  Extra crispy crust and a nice bouquet on the blackened tips of the pepperoni and peppers.

I think this might be a new trend (assuming you have the teeth to chew through the crust)  This could be an investment idea that just needs a bit of polishing before taken to the Dragon’s Den.

With all the pizza joints out there, you have to find an original twist for a new market …. “BURNT PIZZAS”  New flavour sensation and great for those on a diet since you really do not eat many pieces.

I donate this investment concept out there to the world.  (I have registered the idea so you need to give me 1%)

Another Foggy Evening

This is unusual weather we are enjoying.  Sunshine during the day but fairly mild evenings (min 7°C)  and no wind.  As a result we get fog rolling in by dusk and not clearing until mid morning.  We have been here 5 years and have not experienced this and it is the talk of the town.

I recently joined a Camera Club to try and improve my photography.  The first class emphasized that you should take every opportunity to take photos of unusual scenes.  So last night I took the camera out in the backyard and put it on a tripod to try and photograph the surreal atmosphere.  We had a full moon over heavy fog.  I took dozens of pictures at every camera setting (those are the details I have to learn) to try and capture what I saw.

Not sure if I got it right but I kind of like the picture attached.  This was quite late and I am surprised how much light it picked up on a long exposure.  Standing there I could only make out the tree in the middle.  Still a long way to go before I replace Karsh but I think this might be an addition to my other artistic skills.

Foggy Night 2

A Local Wedding

You people in the big cities will likely not hear about an interesting local wedding that took place in Courtenay this weekend.

An 80 year old couple (both previously married) had a full wedding at their church.  Edith Brown married Gordon Clark and they will live together in Edith’s home here in Courtenay.

Unusual,  but even more so because the bride was walked down the aisle by her sprightly 102 year old mother Helen, who flew in from Red Deer for the event.

The Pastor who officiated at the wedding said “this is the first time I have ever had the nerve to ask the age of the bride’s Mother”

You can just realize the massive family involved in the reception.  5 generations celebrating a wedding.

Edith thanked her mother for flying to be part of the ceremony and Helen said she had only one request.  “Name the first one after me”

What has Happened with Colour in Clothes?

This morning I was up at 6:30 am to head off to the fitness club.  At this time of year it is dark as Hades, but this morning it also had thick, I mean really thick, Fog.

I am talking about Hound of the Baskervilles fog.  I stepped out and listened for the howling.

At this time of year it is not unusual to get fog in the mornings down in the valley but not up here on the ridge.

I pulled Little Red out and started on my drive down our street.  I could see maybe 10 meters so was driving slowly.

At this time of morning there are the usual seniors taking their dogs for walks and the occasional joggers.  I see them all the time in the morning as I drive to the club but this morning they were invisible.  There was one guy that I recognize walking his twin white Westies and crossing the road.  He is dressed totally in Black but fortunately I saw the dogs (not the first time I have noted this)  On rainy mornings I note that people dressed in black assume you can see them the same as during a bright sunny day.   As I crept down the roads I saw numerous walkers and joggers again totally dressed in Black.  Now a few have visibility vests, but what gives?

I pull into the parking spot across the street from the club and get out to check the very few cars that might be coming at that time of the morning.  I look down and realize that I am wearing a black jacket and black pants.

What has happened with colour?  I used to have paisley sweat pants and a yellow jacket (granted that was the 70s)   I had a pale blue linen suit at one time.  Unless you visit Hawaii no one wears bright colours any more.

Fortunately I did not kill anyone on the way, but as I worked out at the club I noticed that virtually all the ladies are in black or deep blue leotards and dark tops.  What has happened to colour?

Another Mac and Cheese Meal

For my legion of followers they may remember my earlier Mac and Cheese blog.  Who could go wrong with pasta and cheese plus other stuff.

I suspect Chandler is having this meal regularly because what would a single guy love more ( you only have to look at the ads for Kraft Dinner)

The last couple of days we have been enjoying Pat’s signature fall stew.  The meat slowly cooked in a sauce with autumn vegetables baked in the oven and combined at the serving.  Wonderful meal.  But what do we do the next day?

As we were relaxing after the meal watching TV, I had an inspiration that I shared with my bride….lets do a Mac and Cheese Casserole.      At the time it was a “what do you think”  comment.  The kind  of  statement you make with a full stomach and no real desire to ever eat again but you have to throw out an idea.

By this morning I had forgotten that plan but Pat remembered with the accusation that I was developing dementia.  Anyway, in defense of my cerebral health, I immediately jumped on the concept and went looking for a recipe in our many cooking magazines (lets face it, Kraft dinner was not going to be the meal)

So I found a basic recipe and went on to modify it significantly.  Elbow pasta with a sauce made from 1/2 head of chopped cauliflower with Gruyere cheese and diced Spanish Chorizo sausage plus many other things.  Do not ask for the recipe because it was made up as it went on.

Baked in the oven.   If I say so myself, a spectacular meal.    Lets face it,  if you add Gruyere cheese and Chorizo, you could make anything taste great.

As per usual, I was rewarded for my culinary masterpiece by being excused to create this blog while Pat does the cleanup.  It is great to be a maestro of the kitchen.

Watching Walking Dead

I only became addicted to this program in the second year.  I would record every show and watch them in my spare time.

Pat declared that she would never watch it as it was gross and could not understand my interest.  So I played my episodes when she was out at meetings or away.

The new season is about to start and AMC is running a marathon of every earlier episode so I recorded the first few shows to try and get the background.

I have been watching them the last few mornings with Pat sitting in the computer room.  After awhile I see her peeking around the corner and eventually standing at the back of the room.  She declares that the program is still gross particularly when there are head shots (as I explain to her the only effective way to kill a zombie)  but she began to ask about certain characters.

Lets face it there are lots of gross scenes.  But the interaction of the characters handling stress is fascinating and there are clearly some nice people.

I did not tell her that most of the nice people she observed get eaten in later episodes, but I think she might catch my addiction.  We shall see.


I was reading the McLeans review of the MBA programs offered in Canada.  It took me back to an early time in my working life.

In 1971 I graduated from Engineering and started work with General Electric.  By the summer of 1972  I was working in the sales group for the Heavy Electrical Machinery office in Scarborough (these were the big turbines, electric motors and other equipment used in major power plants).  I was an inside support for the sales engineers that were supplying the major growth in the Hydro companies at the time.  There were about 6 young engineering guys (and one engineering gal) in the same support position.  We all became close friends and partied together even though only a few of us were married and Pat and I were the only ones with kids.  A very satisfying and happy time in our lives.

In the spring of 1973 one of my compatriots (Joel Liederman) bragged that he had taken the SSAT test to get into the MBA program at York.  At this time no one knew of the MBA except for some stories about Harvard MBAs becoming vice presidents of corporations.  I remember coming home to Pat and saying I cannot fall behind Joel.  Even in an office environment there is a sense of competition.

I had no idea why I would want an MBA but I could not let others get ahead of me so I paid the money and one Saturday took the SSAT.  Turns out I was a pretty bright guy and when the results were published I had the score that would immediately get me into the MBA program which at the time required that you had a degree and at minimum 2 years working in a professional position and a high SSAT.  Joel signed up for courses so I did as well.  Fortunately GE agreed to pay our tuitions because Pat and I had just had Andra and did not have a lot of spare money.  Pat made the commitment to cover for me in the family (putting kids to bed, cleaning up etc)

So in the fall of 1973 I started taking classes 2 -3 nights a week plus Saturday.  2 subjects in the fall, 2 in the spring and 1 in the summer.  I remember these years as little spare time but Pat took up the slack and we got by.

Irony is that Joel quit after a year because of the workload.  (I say workload because intellectually, Engineering is more difficult, but the MBA was about beating you down with reading and projects)

In January 1977 I took a 4 month leave of absence from GE to get this over and went full time to school.  Pat carried our entire financial needs during this period so we did not have a lot of luxury.  But we graduated ( say we because I credit Pat as much as me)  in May and I started back in a new position with GE with a slight increase in pay.

I only bring this story up because I read in McLeans that the program that I took at what is now known as Schulich Business School now costs $115,000.   I just wonder if my company would have agreed to this or, if I at the age of 25 with 2 kids, would we even have ventured on this path.

The MBA did eventually get me an interview with Gulf Canada for which I am eternally grateful, and it makes a nice framed diploma on the wall in my workshop.  Still not sure I would spend $115,000 on it.