humor life

Reason for the Season

My son was watching some iteration of a Mickey Mouse holiday special this morning and deciphering the message of the episode declared:

“Mom, it’s just like the book we read. Christmas is not about candy canes!”

“That’s right! What is it about?”

Without missing a beat he confidently declared, “Christmas is about presents!”

life religion

What Religion?

Yesterday in class I had a twelfth-grade student ask me if I was a christian? Taken aback by this loaded topic, I took a moment to reply.

I stammered — “No, I’m not a christian.”

“Then what religion are you?” he persisted.

I found myself recalling this quotation by Douglas Adams:

“I really do not believe that there is a god — in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.”

As regular readers know, I too have thought a great deal about it, and it’s an opinion I hold seriously, nevertheless instead of proudly declaring my radical atheism I quietly hedged, “I’m less religious,” (whatever that is suppose to mean).

Although I’m still surprised that he would actually ask such a personal question, I think I understand where it came from. The student interogator presented a distinctly muslim appearance and we had just watched a documentary about the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. The film, called Israel – Birth of a Nation, though balanced, covers the most heated conflict of the twentieth century and there is a heuristic convenience in knowing which religion those around you subscribe. I suspect he wanted to pre-determine my perspective on the conflict but my non-religious status defused any oncoming discussion in utero.

And that was it.

He dropped it and asked some other students what their beliefs were but as other students watched me, each doing their own mental analysis of the scene, I pondered why I couldn’t be the proud atheist role model I wanted to be? 1 It’s unusual to talk about ones beliefs in a public school setting but since it came up, I wanted students to know that the perfectly happy, healthy, well-adjusted non-believing teacher in front of them practices what he preaches with regard to the importance of critical thinking.

  1. I wonder if the recent stabbing of a teacher in France just five days ago by an Islamic terrorist had me feeling reticent. I feel silly admitting my thought process but the chilling effect of such ideological murders is real.[]

Lucky Chocolate

After picking up the kids from school on our bikes today, we stopped by the dollar store for some “mint breaths”1. It’s still surprises me how much of an adventure going to the dollar store is for our four and five-year-old.

Anyway, I stopped by the bakery and picked up some hamburger buns for supper and as I headed home I found a full sized chocolate bar lying on the sidewalk! I thought twice about it but a full sized unopened chocolate bar… who would resist?

I hadn’t actually ever heard of an Island Bar before, but it was basically just like a Mounds bar, shredded coconut covered in chocolate and divided into three pieces.

Not surprisingly, it turned out to be a big hit with everyone. Andrea just didn’t want me to go into specifics with the kids how I found it on the street.

  1. “Mint breaths“ are what our kids used to call Ice Breakers Mints — and the name stuck[]
family life


We went tent camping last weekend. Our friends Duane, Chelsea, and family were sleeping in their new (to them) trailer and our other friend Wren and her daughters slept in their car. Cold weather and a new air mattress that needed to be refilled once every two to three hours meant that our sleep was pretty disrupted. That morning Ian woke up crying… or more like whining. At the same time, Wren’s daughter Kate opened her car door which made a screeching noise exactly like the sound Ian was making. He stopped abruptly, yelled out angrily, “Stop copying me!” and looked around to see who was mocking him. I told him that was just the car door closing and Kate yelled out, “Sorry Ian.” Luckily he took it in stride and laughed along with all of us.

Later that morning we were talking about how we slept. Duane said, pointing to his trailer, you’ve got to get one of these, they’re great. I said sarcastically “Oh, were you not freezing cold all night?” referring to our own sleep in the tent. He said, “Actually, at one point it was almost too hot”.

I guess we still had fun because we’ve decided to do it again in a couple weeks.


Pickleball Wars: The Bouncing Menace

Yesterday at pickleball a women told me about one of the other players calling out a teenager who was kicking his soccer ball into one of the pickleball nets. The player asked the kid to stop but he refused and continued booting his ball into the net. She said things didn’t escalate but couldn’t believe how rude the kid was while being confronted about damaging the nets. The woman asked me what I would have done and in the moment I said, I would have told the kid off. I’m not sure why the story hit me the way it did or why exactly I felt the need to establish the fact that I would have taken such a hard line about someone damaging the facility’s equipment but I’m sure it was part of what set me up for what happened next.

So today at pickleball, I got into a row with a different teenager. Two teenagers, actually, but one more than the other. The kid rubbed me the wrong way with our first interaction. He strolled listlessly through our court and in front of me as I was about to serve. We all shared a “what’s up with this guy” look. The teenager went on to meet with a buddy beside our court and each commenced bouncing a tennis ball off the wall. After a missed bounce came near our court my partner politely asked if they would take the bouncing balls someplace else. They pretended to agree but then immediately continued bouncing balls off the walls next to our court. After a short spell my partner once again asked them if they would mind going someplace else because their bouncing balls were distracting and coming into our play area. They said that they were waiting for their turn to play volleyball on this court. My partner asked if they would mind going to an empty court in the meantime? One of the boys acquiesced to go, but I guess the other one talked him into staying because in that very moment they resumed bouncing their tennis balls. I clenched my teeth.

More time passed and the fact that they agreed to leave but then just stayed was hitting a nerve. I went over and explained to him why we wanted them to move and asked him to please go. He told me no. I started to repeat the word please a few times, each time adding more emphasis and feeling a little more agitated and then quite loudly asked him to go to the empty court. He wouldn’t have any of it. At this point I was feeling heated and I told him to take a hike. I guess the point got through because they finally moved on. They still didn’t head over to the empty court but at least they were no longer throwing balls against the wall next to our court.

When I finished my match Andrea asked me if I told somebody to, “take a hike”? She seemed amused and later commented how she thought it was so out of character for me to have an interaction like that even when she agreed, the kid deserved it.

A worker at the facility came over and asked us if we had told someone to leave our court. Even knowing that those kids had no right to be bothering us I wondered if I was somehow going to be in trouble. The other player said yes we did and the employee said no problem but next time just come get him and he’ll get them to move.

life travel

California Dreamin’

The plane touched down at about 1:20pm Palm Springs time. My father-in-law greeted me and secretly delivered me to his place in Palm Desert. I snuck into the living room and watched the faces of my kids processing the fact that I was there. Their surprise and delight was music to my soul. Andrea heard us talking and came out of her room saying, “What is going on? What on Earth!” Apparently she had been having a hard time thinking she was ready to come home. That’s all changed now. It’s been a fantastic four day weekend.

life travel

Weekend at Barnie’s

Last Thursday I travelled up to Barnett House, the ATA headquarters in Edmonton, for a political engagement meeting. The ATA was updating its members on an awareness campaign for public education issues in Alberta before the next provincial election.

The meeting was pretty interesting. It was eye-opening to hear how many school divisions are hoarding millions of budgeted dollars instead of spending it. I couldn’t help notice that a lot of the biggest offenders are from the separate (Catholic) school divisions. I also liked hearing from pollster Janet Brown about how the UCP are not polling well since their new leader was chosen — though most of what she said was in this article by the CBC and I had already read it.

At the end of the day, I found out that my plane was delayed and that I probably wouldn’t be able to catch my connecting flight from Calgary to Lethbridge. It turns out — very long story short, WestJet had some major computer schedule issues and after a not great two hour sleep in a hotel on Friday night I ended up driving a rental car from Edmonton to Calgary so I could catch that connecting flight on Saturday instead of waiting an extra, extra 24 hours.

Because I was driving, I now had some time to kill in Calgary. I called my sister up to see if we could meet while I waited for my flight. As luck would have it, (or as it turns out bad luck) she was bringing her oldest, Ryker, to Olds for a volleyball game. Ryker plays for the college in Lloydminster. We met up and because Ryker’s game wasn’t going to start until much later and he just wanted to hang with his team, we decided to drive to the airport in Calgary to spend some time together there.

The roads were pretty bad when we set out but we hoped with the direction of the wind, it might not be so bad when we were headed south on the highway. It was really bad, even heading south. I had my AirPods in and was chatting with Jackie while watching her taillights disappearing into the white out blizzard conditions. Suddenly she told me there were vehicles all over the highway and that I needed to stop. She told me she couldn’t stop and was going to have to pull into the ditch. She did so and never had any real issues but with the extra time to slow I was able to navigate through the gauntlet of five or six crashed vehicles both on and off the highway.

It was just last week that a cousin of mine actually died in a collision on a snowy highway and so it made this situation all the more tense.

Suddenly I saw a car in my rearview mirror approaching rapidly. I tried to speed up to get out of the way but he was coming way too fast and I told my sister I was about to get hit. I braced for impact and was surprised at just how hard the force compressed my body against the seat. I stopped the car in the ditch and after a moment got out to inspect the damage. I took this footage:

Cars continued to smash for a few minutes. A couple of semi trailers pulled off the road and crashed into the nearby barbed wire fence.

The car was still drivable and the RCMP showed up fairly quickly. They shut down the highway and since we weren’t hurt and the conditions were so cold, the officer asked if we would take some of the people that had crashed their vehicles with us. I ended up taking the very same guy that rear ended me. That was fine but also I felt annoyed that he couldn’t have avoided me and now I had to sit beside him for the drive when what I really wanted to do was call my wife and complain about how I think he had room to drive by me.

As a result of the accident I had neck spasms and a headache, so I went into the hospital to get things checked out. The doctor said it looks most likely that I have, “what they used to call whiplash,” and he added that I might have a concussion as well. His advice was to take some ibuprofen and Tylenol and if I start acting loopy come back to the hospital.

So I took the day off work — I’ve also got a cough and cold going so I wasn’t feeling that well anyway.

The lesson of the weekend is that I won’t be flying WestJet for a quick day trip to Edmonton again, and if I find myself in a huge pileup on icy roads, get as far off the road as fast and far as possible.

Update: It’s been three weeks a month two months and I’m still getting headaches every day. Andrea thinks it’s time to head back to the doctor. I’m doubtful that the doctor can do much for me, and I’m still hopeful they will just go away.

Update: I got a letter from the RCMP which indicated 42 vehicles were involved in the pile-up. That’s about twice what I estimated.


Bike Crash

I hurt my back when I crashed my bike the first week in October. It’s still bugging me.

My friend Duane and I used to go quite a bit, but this year we’ve only been out a few times. As such, it turns out my desire to race fast was more than I was ready for this season. I was headed down a steep hill near the beginning of our run in the coulees. I underestimated the friction needed to make a turn, and though I shouldn’t have, I felt a slight surprise as the wheels slipped out from under me. The next thing I knew, my face planted itself into the dirt and I came to an abrupt stop.

I dusted myself off as a woman and her dog came wandering around the corner1. Duane arrived momentarily asking if I was ok. I insisted that I was fine, nevertheless I had hit the ground pretty hard and my back has been bothering me ever since — not to mention I had some minor scrapes across my face, shoulder, forearm, hip, and shin.

I guess the lesson is simple: don’t let your enthusiasm rise above the limits of the course or the bike. Especially a bike with tread worn tires.

  1. In retrospect it could have been a bad collision with her and/or her dog if I made the turn so (maybe?) it was for the best[]
life swimming

Swimming Again

Over the summer I’ve gotten back into swimming. What’s been motivating me most is that I’m actually getting pretty fast again1.

I’m not as fast as when I was swimming for the Pronghorns but I’m feeling good about my progress. My best time this year is a kilometre in 16 minutes and 30 seconds (average speed of 24.75s per length). I’ve been using my Apple Watch to keep track of lengths and while I love that it tracks splits and distance, it seems to need a flip turn in order to register each complete 25m length.

I’m already below my goal of each 50m in 50 seconds but my ultimate goal is a kilometre in 16 minutes flat.

Update: I’ve got my time down to 16:20

  1. Or at least what I consider pretty fast for a 43 year old who was never particularly good at distance swimming.[]


A few years ago my wife and I bought a couple of self supporting hammock beds from Costco. It’s been a couple of years since I had them out and the kids were playing outside so I figured I would get one out and rest while I watched over them.

Pulling the hammock onto the support takes a bit of muscle and so this time I figured I would just leave the support not quite fully extended before I attached the hammock. Both kids watched while I slipped my hand under the canvas and snapped the frame into position. It needed quite a bit of pressure pushing against the resistance of the hammock but when I finally got it, it pushed passed the resistance into place.


I instantly realized I had caught my left ring finger at the last knuckle in a SERIOUS pinch. The resistance was too strong to pull it back out! “OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!” I yelled out keeping it kid friendly. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to pull the frame back out of place. “OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!”

I continued with the kids looking on in fear. Holy cow, I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was still pinching HARD. I thought am I going to have to send the kids in to wake Andrea from her nap to come out and help me? Was I going to lose my finger? I pulled again.

Nothing. “OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!”

I tried again — nothing.

I took a deep breath and thought to myself, I have to get it this time. I pulled hard and at the same time pulled hard on my finger to try and get it out.

“OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!” Unbelievably, I remained stuck.

And I continued trying — still nothing. The pain was intense.

Ok, one more time and this time I had to get it. I pulled on the bar and at the same time really pulled on my finger to slide it out scraping skin as it finally moved. Slowly, painfully… almost there, “PULL, PULL, PULL!” I said to myself. There was a giant squish mark on my finger, but thankfully no blood. I was finally free.

Both kids ran up to me and shouted, “Daddy, Daddy, are you ok?” and each gave me a hug.

We all walked into the house and a few minutes after putting it on ice I got this photo of my finger.

pinched finger

It’s been a couple days and the surface is still a little numb but, as scary as the whole ordeal was, I don’t think there will be any lasting damage.