Friday, December 30, 2011

My 2011 Top Books, Authors, etc. Lists

December is always such a great month to see what the rest of the world thinks are the best of, and sometimes the worst of things. So far, I've gotten book lists from Chapters/Indigo, Amazon and in print, last week, came the Saturday Star's Best Books of 2011 as per the various book reviewers.
So, not to be outdone, here are my lists, in no particular order or sequence within the list.

Top Authors That I've Read For the First Time
1. Suzanne Collins
2. Cory Doctorow
3. Lisa Gardner
4. Sara Gruen
5. Ann Patchett
6. Kathy Reichs
7. J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
8. S.J. Watson
9. Daniel Silva

Authors That I Read For The First Time, But Didn't Like So Much
1. Alan Bradley
2. Lisa Lutz
3. George R.R. Martin

Top New Technology Toys
1. Kobo
2. Intel core i5 processor running Windows 7

Top Road Trips

1. Pittsburgh
2. VIenna and Prague

Top Statue
1. Goethe and Schiller

Books On My Kobo (and one borrowed from Leslie) That I Have Not Yet Read

1. The Stand, Stephen King (the uncut 1000 page version)
2. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss
3. A Carra King, John Brady
4. 18 Novels by Jack London ( 0.99 cents and I read bits when I’ve nothing else to read, as most of these are re-reads)
5. Heirs of Mars: Preludes, Joseph Robert Lewis
6. The Invisible Man, H.G.Wells(another .99 center that I read when nothing else is holding my interest)
7. Neuromancer, William Gibson
8. Shock Wave, John Sandford
9. State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
10. The Other Daughter, Lisa Gardner
11. The Survivors Club, Lisa Gardner
12. The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict, Stephen R. Donaldson
13. The Ape House, Sara Gruen
14. The Mark of the Assassin, Daniel Silva

Books That Beauty and I Are Listening to Together While Driving
1. The Help, Kathryn Stockett
2. We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

Author Whose Work I Loved and Read Religiously Who Passed Away in 2011
1. Robert Parker (it was really 2010, but he had a completed novel, Sixkill that didn't get published until 2011)
2. Lillian Jackson Braun, she really did pass away this year, and, while I stopped reading her books around 2008 because I got tired of them, I did read 25+ novels and all of her short stories (3).

While I am sad to think that some of my favourite writers, like for instance, Lawrence Block and Mary Higgins Clark are getting older and may not have many more great stories inside of them, as you can see, I still have a lot of great literature to get through that is waiting for me on my Kobo. And, with the new authors that I found this year, I probably have plenty more where that came from.

Luckily, Beauty and I are in the process of planning a holiday with nothing on the agenda but relaxing, and reading. That is when I hope to make a significant dent in my unread pile.

If you want to add authors and books that you love and think I must read, just let me know. I will give every suggestion a chance.

Thanks!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Not Only Is It Time To Raise the Age of OAS, But I Think It's Time To Correctly Define The Age of a Senior for OHIP Purposes

Old Age Security (OAS), in Canada, still kicks in at 65, unlike the U.S. (67) and the U.K. (68). And, there is a debate that we need to raise it, or else, we will be increasing government costs by $12 Billion in the next 5 years ( that's a 33% jump from 2010 costs).

I'm not sure that I understand this issue. I turned 65 in January, 2011. In February, I got a deposit from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) of approximately $500 into my bank account for OAS. In March, I got a 'nasty' letter from CRA saying I earn too much money to qualify for OAS and, they're not going to give it to me until or unless I can prove them wrong. My friend the Professor, who also turned 65 this year, got the same sequence of money-letter-no more money correspondence as I did. We laughed about the tone of the letter, but both agreed, we were glad that Canada wasn't wasting its precious OAS money on the likes of us, two working stiffs who didn't need it yet.

The other big change that occurred in my financial relationship with the government now that I'm 65 concerns who pays for my prescription drugs. I caught a cold from the grandkids (too much kissing!) and it turned into bronchitis. The cold was a cold, but, when it didn't get better in a week, I was finally diagnosed with bronchitis. It knocked me for a loop and I am just now feeling well enough to spend the day at my desk instead of watching daytime TV. (I couldn't even motivate myself to read, yikes). It wasn't a total waste of time, however, as I learned that God loves me (Huntley TV Show), that American politicians, read that Republicans, are still mostly crazy, and that Ellen really does have much more rhythm than I do. (I AM SO JEALOUS). I also learned that you can watch the same episode of Flashpoint on Bravo at least 3 times during the same day, and that the number of people who are murdered or caught in the cross fire, on TV in one day is competitive with Syrian Governments efforts to wipe out its citizens.

Back to prescription drugs. I have a health plan, I pay into it monthly, I am still employed, until I turned 65, about 80% of my drug costs (after a deductible) were covered by the plan. I haven't had a prescription filled in years, and can't remember the exact date of when I last required a prescription drug. (My heart belongs to the miracle science, Osteopathy and the miracle medicine Ibuprofen, which works better and has less side effects than my previous backache medicine , Canadian Whiskey). So, to cure my December bronchitis, I take the prescription for 3 different medicines, an antibiotic, a nasal passage opener, and a nasal passage steroid) to my pharmacist. Our pharmacist has not changed since 1981, when he first opened up shop in a strip mall which was within walking distance to our old house. I know him and his wife, and he really knows everything about our clan. I'm sure he knows things about my teenage daughters that to this date, my Bride still hasn't told me. Beauty and her girls share everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. Us boys are like spies in a Le Carré novel, we are definitely left out in the cold. And, while I can't speak for the other 3, I think I like it that way. I need a buffer between what really goes on in life and what a father needs to know. I certainly think that in my early years, my parents needed that buffer.

The cost of the drugs was over $100. Considering it was my first prescription being filled this calendar year, I probably would have paid all of it out of my deductible. Wrong. I paid ZERO. Why, I ask the Pharmacist. He explains, "Welcome to the club". "Now that I'm a senior, OHIP pays my prescriptions." That doesn't make sense.

I think OHIP for seniors should be like OAS. If I'm still working and have enough income to afford a health care plan, let me pay for it. Save the money for those who need it. I told that to Mr. Pharmacist, and he said, "I'm one in a thousand." The prevailing attitude is, I paid in all these years, it's my money. Oh please. When us sixty somethings started paying in, we were forced to retire at 65, and didn't have the medical technology to keep us alive for more than another 10 years after retirement (if we were lucky). Today, we're still working at 65, we probably will for at least another 5 years, and then, with the help of modern science, exercise, lack of cigarette smoke in our world, and a better understanding of diet, we intend to live another 10-15 years after that. So, we will be a much bigger burden on the system than our parents ever where.

Further, there are sooo many of us. Of course we're going to break the system if we aren't willing to sacrifice for the good of our kids and their kids, and so on.
So, in the new year, I intend to call my MPP, Harinder Takhar and tell him that I have an idea how the government can save a few bucks without cutting services to anyone who really needs them. You should do the same, not call Harinder, but, call your MPP.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Breaking News: The Many Proofs that Kim Jong-un is Jewish

I've been listening to the news about the death of Kim Jong-il, "Dear Leader", and I've observed a startling truth. The family is definitely Jewish! How do I know this for a fact, o.k., that's easy. Remember the old joke about how you knew that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He was sure his mother was a virgin, and his mother was sure he was God.
2. He lived at home until the age of 33
3. He went into his father's business.

Now, let's look closely at Kim Jong-un.

1. His family calls him The Brilliant Comrad and Great Successor
2. He's definitely in his father's business
3. According to the family personal chef, he was the favourite son because "he was exactly like his father"
4. His family has declared January 1 as a national holiday to celebrate his birthday (Note: Jesus' followers did the same thing for December 25)
5. Does he live at home? He sure does now.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Inside Scoop on the Harper Family XMAS Photo Shoot


Another controversy Made In Canada. According to The Star, the Harper family kids wore the same outfits on this years XMAS cards as on last years variety. Not so says the National Post, it's actually one of last years pictures being used this year.
Before I begin this tongue in cheek blog, let me first say that I think it's inappropriate to put the Prime Minister's family in the middle of any political story, and, this one is just too stupid to believe that in The Star, not only did it make the paper, but it was front page news this week!
So, here's my take on what really happened with the XMAS Photo Session. First of all, a bit of background. Family is the great equalizer. You might be the Prime Minister during the day, or, like my brother-in-law, a heart surgeon at the most prestigious heart hospital in the U.S., but when you come home, as my brother-in-law so aptly puts it:
"At work, I'm Doctor Professor. Oh thank you Doctor, what do you think Doctor, what should we do Doctor, but then, I come home to the teenagers, and it's no longer Doctor, it's DAAAADDD, nobody asked you, or you're so annoying, you're so old, and so on."
Back to Canada. So, the PM comes home and says, "hey kids, time for the XMAS post card. Please get dressed in something appropriate and lose the green and pink hair, the piercings, the bare midriff, the skin tight exercise outfits, and ask my staff to cover up those tattoos. Look appropriate!"
And, the kids respond. "Dad you are so out of touch."
Luckily Mrs. PM is on top of the issue and says, "kids, remember those outfits that I bought last year for the photo shoot. They're on your beds. Put them on for the photographer and I promise the instant the shoot is done, you can take them off again."
To paraphrase from what the Berenstain Bear kids once said when Papa Bear found the perfect picnic spot (after a dozen or so misadventures):
Yes, Mom did it, did she not, she found the perfect geek clothing shop!
Thank you Canadian Press for sharing with us.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why do all the scandals happen in Mississauga-Erindale?

I have lived in the Mississauga Ward that is now called Mississauga-Erindale since 1981 and over the years, whenever there is a problem MP or MPP or City Councillor, the odds are good that the offender represents my ward. What's up with that?
For those of you who need a refresher course, my ward has consisted of the following notables:
In the late 1990's our provincial MPP was John Snobelen. You all know John, he's the high school drop out who Mike Harris appointed Minister of Education and who was taped saying that in order to shake up the educational establishment, his government intended to create a crisis in Education. They certainly did that. Thanks to Mr. Harris' government, the teachers of Ontario became the villains, my kids kept missing classes due to strikes, and in my opinion, the educational system became a disaster.
Of course, who can forget those wonderful years when Carolyn Parrish was our MP. Not to rehash old sillyness, Carolyn was finally thrown out of the Liberal Party after a series of incidents that began on Feb. 26, 2003 when she commented "on camera" after learning about the U.S. initiative in Iraq, Damn Americans... I hate those bastards. (see CBC News Indepth http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/cdngovernment/parrish-carolyn.html).She did later apologies, but as the above article relates, that was just the tip of her bad mouthing and rebelling against the party iceberg.
Our next "colourful" figure was Omar Alghabra who served as our MP from 2006-2008. And, during the Liberal leadership debate was allegedly linked to a document that was circulated around the convention floor informing everyone of Bob Rae's wife's involvement in a Jewish organization that the document claimed was a terrorist group. I watched the convention as it was unfolding and while I personally cannot confirm or dispute Mr. Alghabra's involvement in the disgraceful document, I do remember that when confronted by a reporter about the contents of the document, Mr. Alghabra did not back away from it's content. I think a lot of this is just smoke as Mr. Alghabra is young and as he once said personally to me in a phone conversation, I had no idea about the pressures he felt from certain ethnic groups. It's too bad that politicians of all stripes can't just come out and say, that's a smear campaign and I want nothing to do with it (ala. the Swift Boat stupidity).
So, just as it looked like life was quieting down, along comes Mr. Dechert, our current MP and the Chinese "sexpionage" (See Toronto Star, Nov. 30, 2011 http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1095046--tory-mp-s-affair-likely-chinese-sexpionage-former-spies-say ) scandal. Why does all political insanity in Canada seem to have a link to Mississauga-Erindale.
Hazel, can you please check out our water supply?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Science Jokes??


We were working on the BOSU ball this morning in exercise class when our teacher showed us the "dead bug" position. In this position, you sit on the BOSU, ball side up, raise your hands and legs in the air, and engage your abs.



While engaged, I remembered my old graduate school joke
about the centimeter and the erg. It goes like this...

If this is 1 cm,

Then, what is this?

It's an Erg, a dyne-centimeter...

Why is that funny, because an erg is the amount of work done by a force of one dyne exerted for a distance of one centimeter, in other words, a dyne-centimeter. Well, maybe it's not that funny after all.

One more, and then I give the floor to a youtube professional.

What's this..

It's a ferrous wheel. Of course, if it was Fe3+, then, it would be a ferric wheel. Hah, Hah, Hah, o.k. maybe that's not so funny either.
Now check out this one on youtube, and don't give up on it too early, it gets even funnier after a few jokes....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Izba and Other Thoughts of Europe


Auntie Myrna was in town from California for the past two weeks. As a born Canadian, she knows of our 2 major dining entities, Swiss Chalet and Tim Horton's. While she's not such a fan of Tim's (note:it doesn't compete with the McDonald's 65 cent cups for seniors in L.A.), she can't get enough of Chalet sauce Chicken (a dark meat lover, as are so many of the Montreal relatives). And, we are very pleased to say, she is now a lover of Izba Restaurant on the Queensway by Royal York. Myrna, my Beauty, and I went there for dinner on Sunday. Wonderful. The meal began with hot Beet Borsch, probably the main reason the Bride and I go there, and Chicken Soup for Auntie Myrna. The Borsch is always out of this world, and so Susy and I have never considering trying anything else. Well, the Chicken Soup is also out of this world. Not the same as the traditional Jewish Chicken Soup, but rather, we labeled it, with a Polish flair.
Next came the main course. Susy and I are traditionalists. When we go to Izba, we eat Pierogies, and Cabbage Rolls. Auntie Myrna tried the Goulash. O.K., so now there are 2 more items to add to the GREAT category.
Having just been to Vienna and Prague in the fall, these were such wonderful memories of that middle European food.
Anyone who feels the need for a Pierogi and some Borsch at any time, call me, I'll join you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fiscally Conservative With a Strong Social Conscience


What a fascinating election. Once again, we witnessed the opposition party selecting a candidate who could not win, no matter what the electorate thought of the incumbent. Only in this case, the electorate didn’t wipe out the party as they did with the Federal Liberals, rather, they just took them down to another defeat. However, to be fair, this is only the first bad choice in leaders the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have selected. In the case of the Federal Liberals, there was Dion followed by another unelectable, Ignatieff. Nevertheless, did you notice that I predicted the election almost exactly correct (except for 3 seats). I called the 17 NDP winners, but only thought the Liberals would obtain 50 seats, not 53. Still, I am pleased with my formula for predicting winners based on changes in popularity from the previous election.

Let me tell you why I say Hudak can’t win in Ontario unless something changes. Ontario is, and probably always will be “fiscally conservative with a strong social conscience”, as restated for the umpteenth time by former Premier Ernie Eves on one of the TV stations on election night. That’s Hudak’s problem, he does not appear to have a strong enough social conscience for the majority of the voters. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, and, that’s where Hudak’s exposed. He is a two time cabinet minister under Premier Mike Harris, my 3rd least favourite leader of all time after Nixon, and Bush ‘W’. And, he is proud of it. He’s proud of the fact that Mike Harris chased our doctors south, and chased our nurses away to find new careers. And, his campaign speeches were loaded with the fact that McGuinty was too soft on the teachers. Yikes, when Harris was premier, we were burdened with teacher strike after teacher strike. And of course, our kids suffered from too little time in the classroom. McGuinty has managed to get along with the teachers and bring back the nurses. Now that’s been pleasant.

If the PC’s want to stick with Hudak as their leader, they must spend this minority session of government rebuilding Tim Hudak’s social conscience and continuing to distance themselves from the Mike Harris wars on teachers and nurses. Looking at the new Ontario map, they already own the rural vote, now, they must try and show the city folk their kinder and gentler side.

Personally, I don’t think they can do it. But, I’ve been wrong before, but, not of course, in terms of predicting the election results on Thursday (that’s two pats on my own back in the same blog).


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ontario Provincial Election Results (Prediction)


The election campaign is winding down and I've been stalling this time with my predicted results because of the last minute surge by the NDP in yet another election. However, I don't think I can stall any longer. As in the Federal Election, my predictions are based on the following mathematical calculations. I analyzed the results of the 2007 Provincial Election, and compared them to the last poll results in that campaign. Then, I looked at the current predictions for the 2011 election. For example, the riding of Nippissing was won by the Liberals over the PC by 1% in 2007. Considering that the Liberals are down by greater than 1% and the PC are up by greater than 1%, I predict that the Liberals will lose that seat to the Conservatives.
Like everyone else, I am predicting a Liberal minority government, but not by much......

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thanksgiving: The Perfect Time for the Brita Vodka vs Grey Goose Test



Everyone will be joining us next Sunday night for Thanksgiving Dinner. And, I was thinking that this might be the perfect time to test out Brother Ace's Theory, which he learned via the internet, that you can buy the cheapest vodka and after filtering it through a Brita type carbon filter, wind up with the equivalent taste of a premium vodka.

Here are the stats on the competiting vodkas:
In the Grey corner, from France, it's Grey Goose. Cost: $~$47 per 750ml at the LCBO in Mississauga
And, in the white corner, from Canada, it's Polar Ice. Cost~$26 per 750ml at the LCBO in Mississauga
By the way, the Ace claims you should filter it three times to achieve perfection.
The test will work as follows:
After filtering, I will place both Vodkas in decanters. When the guests arrive, approximately 25 people, of which there are 20 drinkers, each participant will take a shot from decanter 1 and then decanter 2, and then 1 again or 2 again if they can't decide. At some point, I trust that every participant will have an opinion, and will place a vote. If you want to try this at your Turkey Day celebration, please do so and let me know what your results were.
Now I'm excited.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Search for Friedrich von Schiller, or What I Did On My Vienna Vacation






When The Bay and I arrived at our hotel in the Vienna Old City, the desk clerk, Wolfgang, handed us a map and told us about some of the sights that we could see. Upon casually viewing the map, we couldn’t help but notice that there was the word Schiller and a – pointing directly at a statue, right next to the Opera House, see Exhibit 1. Now, I’m excited.


I say to Wolfgang, is that the statue of Friedrich Von Schiller, my distant cousin, and world famous (at least in our family, Austrian poet), see Exhibit 2.

He looks at the map, and says, yes, I think so. Now, I’m even more excited.

So off we go on our search for the sights, sounds and history of Vienna, and of course, our search for the statue of Cousin Fritz. Winding our way from the hotel to Schiller Street is not exactly a straight line. As a matter of fact, this is Vienna, pre-cars, pre-horse and buggy, and there is no such thing as a straight line. When we finally get to the Opera House, after a slight detour at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, we are a bit turned around, and aren’t sure where the statue is. So, we circle the Opera House. We do come upon a statue, but it ain’t Fritz, unless Fritz was actually a she. See Exhibit 3.


I drag The Bay around the Opera House in a circle, twice, not believing that I could possibly have missed Cousin Fritz, but alas, it looks like I did.


Very dejected, I grudgingly give up the search for Cousin Fritz and continue along the Ringstrasse on the way to the Hobsberg Castle. You remember those royals, they ruled everybody and everything for around 600 years until the world had enough of them at the end of WW I. Lo and Behold, on the way to the Castle, what do we see, it’s Schiller’s dear friend and intellectual sparring partner, Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Exhibit 4). Now I’m really convinced that we missed Cousin Fritz in his bronze monument. After an attempted sit down strike during which I demanded that we turn around and continue our quest for Cuz, The Bay informs me that if I don’t give up this obsession with Cousin Fritz and carry on to the Castle, I might be spending the rest of our stay in Austria camping out next Goethe.


Upon returning to the hotel and the internet, later that evening, I am shocked and embarrassed to learn that Cousin Fritz is no Austrian at all, he was actually born in Württemberg, which is located in southwest Germany. Further, the hunt for the great statue has occurred in the wrong city. The famous statue of Cousin Fritz is actually located in Weimar, Germany (Exhibit 5). Further, to add insult to injury there are replicas of the statue in various cities across the U.S. including San Francisco, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Syracuse and Anting. I've been to the majority of those cities. Who knew!


You learn something new everyday.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Mississauga Ward 5 Candidates Debate

Wow! I just finished watching the Mississauga Ward 5 All Candidates Debates. This is certainly a very impressive list of candidates. To be exact, 22 candidates participated in the debate.
As a long time watcher of candidates debates, I am used to some very strange candidates in the crowd, but I didn't see that tonight. For example, in my Ward, Ward 8, we had a candidate a while back who kept repeating that he read somewhere that the definition of crazy is someone who keeps doing the same thing (like voting for the Conservatives or Liberals) yet expecting a different result. It didn't matter what the question, that was his answer. Needless to say, while he was sweet, he didn't fair very well in the election.
I saw very little of that tonight. What I did see, (ignoring the candidate, and we all know who she is, who concluded her remarks by saying "despite what many of you think, I don't have horns or a tail", blah blah blah), was a group of concerned citizens for the most part, well spoken, articulate, and ready to serve the people of Ward 5.
Congratulations Ward 5, you've got some excellent candidates to choose from. So, if I may butt in, please don't elect the one with the horns and tail whom we all thought we got rid of after she lost in her last election.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Drought in the Horn of Africa

I've been seeing the news about the horrible drought in Africa for weeks now, and kept meaning to make a donation. I finally did it, just now. I am angry with myself for not doing it sooner, but, it is urgent and we should all do what we can. I normally put all of my donations for this type of thing through Ve'ahavta (www.veahavta.org/ ), a wonderful humanitarian organization that does great work in Africa, but with the news that the Canadian Government is matching donations until Sept. 16, I wanted to make sure that my donation was matched. So, I donated through www.worldvision.ca . Please do what you can.
Here is a copy of the World Vision Home Page:



Drought in the Horn of Africa

UPDATE: The Canadian Government is matching donations up to September 16.

The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 10 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are the worst affected. World Vision is responding by providing emergency food and health care, and by meeting other urgent needs for children and families in the Horn of Africa.

Insufficient rains have created drought conditions throughout the Horn of Africa — destroying crops and killing livestock. Malnutrition and disease are on the rise as families travel long distances in search of food. Record high food prices, internal conflicts, and insecurity in the region further exacerbate the situation.

World Vision has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for many years, and will continue to respond in the midst of this crisis. Your gift today will help us provide food, clean water, agricultural support, health care, and other vital assistance to children and families in need.

Your help is needed now. Please donate using the form below or call 1-866-595-5550

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wish for happiness, and a bit of luck


Last weekend, we went to see the Soulpepper Theatre production of The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams' first literary success. It was absolutely wonderful. I'm not sure if I'm getting older and seeing the world very differently, or that Soulpepper created a much more sympathetic character in the mother than I ever remember from past performances. To try and determine the answer, I put the play on hold at the library, and I've just been notified that it's in. On Sunday, I tried to get it for my Kobo, but it doesn't seem to be an ePub book yet.



There are so many moments in the play that I've loved and have stuck with me, but I heard another one last weekend. It's a full moon and The Mother drags The Daughter out onto the porch to make a wish on the rising moon. The Daugher asks, "What should I wish for?", and the Mother says "Wish for happiness and a bit of luck".

WOW. Doesn't that nail it !!! So, if you can get down to Soulpepper, hurry, there are only 3 more performances before the engagement ends. Everything about the production is wonderful.

And, to all of us, let me say, I wish you happiness and a bit of luck.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Of Brownian Motion, External Forces, the Stock Market and Grandchildren

Following the giant downturn in the stock markets across the world on Monday, I heard a commentator on the radio say that maybe this was the bottom. I immediately thought of Professor Craig, a brilliant Chemist at the University of Pittsburgh when I was a graduate student. Professor Craig enjoyed using the Brownian Donkey to describe the effect on Brownian Motion when an external force was applied.



The explanation is as follows: imagine a man with a donkey trying to get the donkey to go in a specific direction. The man pulls the donkey in a specific direction for a short period of time, after which, the donkey has had enough and bucks and kicks and complain and pulls the man in random directions all over the terrain until the donkey gets tired. At this point, the man gets back up, and again pulls the donkey in a specific direction for a short period of time. Eventually, the man and the donkey arrive at their destination. In this scenario, the man is the external force which is applied in only one direction, and which eventually leads to the successful movement of the particles, of the stock market, of a baby growing up, of a teenager becoming an adult, and a myriad of other examples.

So, don’t be fooled by an up day after a down day on the market, the economic climate in the world today is the external force slowly but surely pulling the market in a negative direction.

Likewise, the Grandchildren. They too grow via a Brownian model. One day they aren’t walking very well, the next day, wow, great. But, the next day seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Nevertheless, as I tell my children, that’s life. When you’re young, it’s 2 steps forward and 1 step back (the external force of time and nature). Regretfully, when you’re old, it’s 2 steps back and 1 step forward (the external force of time and nature).

Oh my goodness, after being so busy at work for the past few months and not having time to post to my blog, this is my first post. Doesn’t sound very uplifting to me.

In an effort to redeem myself, here is my Brownian Motion joke of the day, compliments of the web:

I got a call the other day from someone urging me to join the Brownian Movement. When I asked him what folks did in the Brownian Movement, he told me they just got together to mill around.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Colours of the Wind Line Dance

And, I'm obviously on a roll. Here is Wendy demonstrating Colours of the Wind on youtube. Enjoy!

Sex on the Beach (Line Dance) Walkthrough

Last week at dance class, I decided to record our teachers' instructions. I tried to listen back and put them to paper tonight. I had some success, but I am still missing a few steps. So, I turned to youtube to help me out. And, look what I found for Sex on the Beach. It's our dance steps exactly! Although the hand motions are different, I love that lanyard twirl during the side step together step routine. Thank you Dancin' Jim Ray. Now we need to find another tune that works with this dance since my kids all refuse to let us play this music at their weddings. Anyone know another song that will work?


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Schwinglebocker Family Tree

It's been over 2 weeks since I've blogged, too much work getting in the way of the important stuff. But this weekend, while the ladies were out wedding dress/bridesmaid shopping, I was rummaging through some old stuff. Wow, I came across our original family history book. It was created in the mid 1990's while on vacation with Uncle Al, the kiddies pal, and Family. For those of you in the know, this is before Daisy the Dachshund was born, and now we see who she was named after, Daisy Schwinglebocker.
I hope you enjoy this reminiscence through the family tree.
May the Schwingle Be With You!



Sunday, May 1, 2011

Final 2011 Election Prediction















It's Sunday night and the election is tomorrow. I am a bit uncomfortable with some of my predictions. In Quebec, I did not take into account the incredible NDP surge. I am now thinking that the NDP could win another 20 seats from the Bloc in Quebec. I even think that Mr. Duceppe is in trouble in his own riding. Wow!
Second, I think the Conservatives might win a few seats by splitting the NDP / Liberal vote. As an example, I mentioned in my poem that the seat of Avalon in Newfoundland and Labrador was only decided by 3,000 votes in 2008, and, the NDP got very few votes last time. If this time, the shift is away from the Liberals, to the NDP, the Tories might just win the seat by holding the same voter count that lost them the 2008 election.
Nevertheless, it's getting too late to begin developing a new mathematical algorithm, so, I am going to assume that these seats in total will even out, and therefore, I will leave my predictions about the rest of the country alone.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Twas The Day Before Elections








Twas the day before election
And all through the land
The electorate was speaking
About their election plan.

We're tired of corruption
From Grits and Tories too
We think we want Layton
Maybe he knows what to do.

The Star says vote Layton
For he is the man
Who has the wherewithall
to stop Harper's plan.

Now I did some crunching
And I'm nervous as can be
There are many riding in the country
Where a split could be scary.

Take Avalon in Newfoundland
As I see in my notes
The Grits only won it
by three thousand votes

And if this time many Grits
Vote for the NDP
Then Harper wins that seat
with an undemocratic minority

So, what's a voter to do
When he steps into the booth
Vote strategic or preference?
I wish I knew the truth.

Now if there is justice
And hopefully there is
Then Harper won't get a majority
By splitting the NDP/Grits

He won't get a majority
Unless it's what people want to say
But it surely looks like
They want Layton today.

So, it's off to the polls
And let's tell them how we feel
No more lying, no more cheating
No more axes to wield.

Just a cooperative honest government
That's ready to fight
For Canada, for women
For what's socially right.

And as I stood by window
and looked out at the night
I heard Harper bemoaning
And Ignatieff in flight.

They both seemed so petty
That it made me shout
As soon as it's over
LET'S THROW THEM BUMS OUT!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Julia on Global TV

Julia was on Global TV tonight on a segment with Susan Hay entitled "Making a Difference". ENJOY....

Leslie Roberts ends the segment by saying "Special people helping special kids". That's our Julia. Definitely special!

My Predictions: Prime Minister Layton? The Numbers Don’t Add Up.

While it is certainly exciting news from a Canadian Federal Election perspective that there really is something different going on this time. But, what does it mean that the NDP party are now essentially tied with the Liberals for voter support?

To try and find an answer, I reverted back to math, my safe haven. From a statistical point of view, I decided to use the results of 2008 as a starting point (sounds like a reasonable beginning).

So, starting with the most contentious ridings, those won by less than 5% of the electorate, here’s what we see. Winning by less than 5% occurred in 42 ridings across the country. Simon Fraser University has a website that lists all of these ridings and who finished first and second. I took that data and populated an excel spreadsheet. Then, I sliced and diced. I then assumed that any riding where the NDP finished second, I predicted that they would win. And, considering how the party that seems to be suffering the worst from this campaign is the Liberals, outside of Quebec, I next focused on that Party. There were 15 seats where the Liberals lost by less that 5% of the vote. I predicted that these would not change. Lastly, I looked at where the Conservatives finished second and predicted that if the winner was the Liberal, those riding would be won by the Conservatives this time.

Bottom line, The Bloc will lose 1 seat, the Liberals will lose 10, and the Conservatives will gain 5, and the NDP will gain 6.

I decided that maybe I needed to take a different approach. So, this time, I looked at every seat where the NDP finished second. The total was 66 seats. WOW, now that’s exciting. But, I began to scratch deeper. Of the 66 seats where they finished second, 49 of those seats were won by the Conservatives. However, of those 49 seats, the Conservatives won 34 of them by a margin of 20 percentage points. No matter how excited the electorate is with the NDP this time, I don’t think that they can overcome a 20 point margin without a Conservative scandal that actually sticks (as far as I can tell, nothing has stuck yet). But, I do believe that all of these straws that continued to get piled on the Conservative camels' back are making a difference in the swing ridings, even if we're not seeing them in the polls.

So, if the NDP wins 15 seats from the Conservatives, and all of the rest of their second place seats, that’s another 17 seats. That’s an NDP gain of 32 seats. Not enough to topple the Conservatives, but surpassing the Liberal seat count. Further, if we focus a bit more closely on Quebec, we see that there are potentially 4 new seats that the NDP can pick up, all at the expense of the Bloc. For the sake of fun, I am going to predict that the NDP captures all of them.

Now, that you know how I got at my results, here is my prediction based on the Conservatives' not getting stuck in a scandal (and none of the straws eventually breaking the camels back), and, the NDP continuing to ride high in the polls.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stephen Harper Kenyan Birth Certificate

Amongst the many things that make me crazy is the unwillingness of politicians to strike down nonsense. Last month, Donald Trump added his name to the birther crowd .In an interview with ABC television, Trump said he found Obama’s background and childhood mysterious and strange.

" Everybody that even gives a hint of being a birther … even a little bit of a hint, like… maybe, just maybe this much of a chance, they label them as an idiot. Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy," Trump said. (EDITOR NOTE: I've always felt that people who have to tell you that they are really a smart guy, aren't).

Read more: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/124366/20110318/trump-obama.htm#ixzz1KHYxtUpg


I am terribly disheartened by this nonsense and so, I decided I would make sure that our Prime Minister wasn't also born in Kenya. YIKES. He was. See the attached birth certificate that I found on my printer this afternoon. Luckily for Stephen Harper, you don't have to be born in Canada to be the Prime Minister, you only have to be a citizen of the British Empire.

Nevertheless, it took me 15 minutes, MS Word, a piece of brown paper, a blank seal which I use when I give students a certificate for attending a technical training class to create this silly little fake document.

Yes, Donald, Obama has an exotic childhood. He tells us all about it in Dreams From My Father. You're a smart guy. Read the book.

By the way, anybody who would like their own Nonsense Kenya Birth Certificate, post me a comment or let me know on my Facebook page and I will send you the MS Word template. (This offer is valid in the 50 states and Canada, offer not valid for Republican Presidential candidates.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Civil Rights: A Tale of Two Presidents and My High School History Teacher


There was a wonderful article published this past Sunday, April 3, 2011 in The New York Times Magazine, page MM40, by Adam Goodheart. The article titled How Slavery Really Ended in America can be found on line at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/magazine/mag-03CivilWar-t.html . It's fascinating. The gist of the story is that an event early on in the Civil War involving Major General Benjamin F. Butler (a career lawyer who was only 1 month into his service in the military) inevitably led to the Emancipation Proclamation. Likewise, early on in the Lyndon Johnson presidency, there was a similar event that led to the inevitable passage of the 14th amendment.

Most of us know the Lyndon Johnson was an avid Civil Rights advocate, but, as he once told Dr. Martin Luther King, you will need to put me in a position where I have to push for the 14th amendment, in order to make it happen. The killing in Selma, Alabama during a protest rally was just such an event. And, here, is the famous quote from President Johnson's We Shall Overcome speech of March 15, 1965 that so inspired the fight for Civil Rights:

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith
in our democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government -- the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.

Of course we all know that President Lincoln made some memorable speeches himself, but in 1963, as a senior in High School, I wrote a paper in my history class that made the exact point that Johnson made two years later when he explained what had to happen in order to pass the 14th amendment. I researched the various speeches that Lincoln made during his cross country campaign to become president. I showed that in the North, he often referred to slavery and the need for its abolishment, but never, never did he mention abolishment in the south. Regretfully, I was tarnishing a hero, and my teacher was not a big fan of my paper.

The same teacher, the same course, another paper. This time, I wrote a paper on how to get elected president. I had just read the Theodore White book The Making of a President (1960) based on the Kennedy/ Nixon campaign, and when I looked at the chart of votes per candidate by state, I hypothesized that very few states really counted in a presidential election. For example, New York would almost always vote democratic, and Ohio could go either way. So, I used the library to locate the popular vote count by state for past elections and predicted which states could go either way and which states don't need serious campaigning in. Again, my teacher felt that this was inappropriate, he argued that all states are up for grabs and that a proper candidate treats them all equally. Dick Morris, born in 1948 (2 years younger than me), and Karl Rove (born 1950), both knew what I was talking about.

Perhaps if my "Get Clean for Gene" volunteering in the 1968 election had turned out differently, I might have forgotten the scientist career and become a political campaign strategist.

Who knows, certainly not my High School History teacher !

Friday, March 25, 2011

Baby Jacob vs. Big Brother Benjamin vs. Uncle Evan. Mantle vs. Maris vs. The Babe, Step Aside

One of the most exciting times of my early teens was 1961 when Mantle and Maris both jumped off to such a great home run derby that by mid-May, the New York papers were listing comparisons to Babe Ruth’s home run sprint to 60 in 1927. Of course, in mid May, they thought the player who was attacking the record was the Mick. Little did they know.



Well, it turns out, we’ve got one of those barn burners going on in the grandchildren race to catch Uncle Evan. Baby Jacob just came back from his 1 month checkup today, and he’s already neck and neck with Brother Benjamin and Uncle Evan. At this rate, both nephews might reach the coveted target of Uncle Evan, that is, handsome, brilliant, tall, slim, and adored by his sisters.

Oh wait, Ben and Jacob don’t have a sister. Stephanie, pay attention here.

Still, it’s early in the race and we shall see.

We’ll keep you posted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is Canada Headed For a Spring 2011 Election?

For those of you living under a rock, this is the week that Japan got hit with the 4th worst earthquake in recorded history followed by a tragically destructive Tsunami and a potential death toll approaching 20,000. Also, this is the week when the world, including Canada went to war with Moammar Gadhafi. And, this is the week that the Liberals and NDP are most likely going to bring down the government and force a spring election. Bizarre.

Granted, Harper and his parties’ arrogant, thumb your nose at the rules of parliament, law, and anything else they can find to thumb their noses at style of government is unacceptable, at least unacceptable at anytime except now. I don’t think that the electorate in Canada will see this election as anything other than navel gazing.

Politicians have a long history of not understanding the electorate. David Peterson, one of our most popular premiers, who in his last mandate in Ontario won 95 of the possible 130 legislative seats, the second largest majority in the history of Ontario also called an election when the people weren’t interested. Scratching beneath the service rhetoric, the real reason for the election is that Mr. Peterson actually thought he could do better. Well, you can fool all of the people some of the time, but this wasn’t one of those times, and the electorate voted in a very surprised and unprepared NDP Party, good at opposition, not so good at running the government. Although, despite the criticism, I am one person who thought Rae Days were a brilliant solution, and after the 2008 collapse, scratch again, and you will see, widely implemented around the globe.

So, back to the potential fall of the government. It’s a mistake, and one that might finally get the Harper Conservatives the majority that they have been denied since taking power away from the Liberals.

As is so often heard shouted in the chambers of parliament, shame, shame, shame.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Martini Time or How to Host a Perfect Party

Years ago, My Love and I discovered the vodka martini. We started traditional with a cosmopolitan, and through the years, have expanded to many other variations on a theme. And now, for your enjoyment, I am about to reveal the recipes for our Top 5 Favourite Martinis.

But first a few words on entertaining the relatives. In every family, there are one or two people who take on the responsibility of the holiday dinners. In our family, within the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), the hosts were Uncle Louie/Auntie Kaye, and the Beauty and I. With time, the Uncle Louie/Auntie Kaye torch was passed to their daughter, Cousin June.

So, with at least 20 years of family dinner party experience under our belt, we know that if you don’t want verbal fisticuffs to break out, get ‘em mellow and quickly. In other words, while they are taking off their coats, hand them a drink. For many years, that meant Margaritas, on ice (hint: frozen is not for drinkers, it’s for a Caribbean vacation).

Some ten or so years ago, we expanded to Margaritas for the under 30 crowd, and Martinis for the more sophisticated, elder statesmen types. Or, the “alter-kakers” as our peers were described last week on The Good Wife.

That’s pretty much the history of how I became an expert on Martinis, and now, what you’ve all been waiting for, my top 5 recipes.

  1. Cosmopolitan

1 oz. Vodka

½ oz. Triple Sec

½ oz. Lime Cordial

½ oz. Cranberry Juice (we use the frozen stuff from the grocery store)

(hint: put some cranberries in the bottom of each glass, frozen or fresh both work)

  1. Lychee Martini

1 oz. Vodka

1 oz. Lychee Liqueur (in Toronto the brand is Soho)

a dash of Lychee juice from the container that the canned lychees came in

(hint: add a lychee to the bottom of each glass)

  1. French Kiss Martini

This is my creation, and wonderful. It’s a derivative of a martini that we had at The Boca Raton Resort called a Key Lime Martini. We couldn’t get the vanilla liqueur used at the Boca, but we found a brand called French Kiss. So, I improvised as follows:

1 oz. Vodka

1 oz. French Kiss(tm) Liqueur

It was a hit. So much so that it became our favourite Martini for a few months. Then, we ran out of the liqueur and when we tried to replace it, they were out of French Kiss and we settled on a “superior” brand. The problem with the superior brand was that the vanilla flavour overpowers the martini. Stick with French Kiss.

  1. Ice Wine Martini

We were re-gifted a bottle of Vineland Estates Vice, a Vodka Icewine. It’s been sitting in the basement since Christmas. Last week, I cooled it and followed the instructions for drinking (pour into a martin glass with ice). GREAT. GREAT. GREAT. We thought it was great.

Now, I’ve investigated recipes on the web and came up with equal parts vodka and icewine, with a few frozen grapes in the bottle of the glass (nice touch). We haven’t tried that yet. But, if you can get it in the pre-mixed version, it is worth the investment.

  1. Rumtini

This recipe is compliments of Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica. The menu published ingredients, sort of, I took it from there.

1 oz. Rum

½ oz. Blueberry or Blackberry Liquor

2 splashes of Sprit to give it a bit of bubbly action

(hint: add a berry or two to the bottom of the glass)

Anyone with some other recipes, I’m willing to try them out and let you know my opinion.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Look Like Groucho? No Way.

Above are pictures of Groucho and me. The picture of me is taken from a 3 page article that I wrote while still at Peat, Marwick in 1984. That picture shows up on the bottom left side of column 1 above a brief bio of me. My kids call it my Borat years. I think it's my Groucho years. As a matter of fact, I seem to remember that at the Christmas Party that year, every one of my staff wore those fake glasses/ big nose/ and mustache that could be found in any party store. I thought they looked great. You bet your life!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Baby Jacob and What to Sing to a New Born Grandson


I love to sing. Just like my mother in law. We sing to everything on the radio when we’re in the car together. And, just like my mother in law, my range is very very limited. I can sing songs that range from E4-G5, maybe A, but that’s about it. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped me. So, now that we have a new grandson, I decided to see what the rest of the world thinks I should be singing to a newborn.


Here’s what Robin Raven, a Break Studios Contributing Writer lists as the top 10 baby boy songs.

“When it comes to looking for great music to lull your little one to sleep, you will find some great options with this list of the 10 best songs about baby boys. Although you may find that a lot of music for kids are targeted toward little girls, there is a rich song catalog for little boys. Some of the best songs may just be by artists that will take you by surprise.” So, here are his song choices, Pooh Corner (Kenny Loggins), Sweet Baby James (James Taylor), Baby, Baby (Amy Grant), Beautiful Boy (John Lennon), A New Day Has Come (Celine Dion), Godspeed (Dixie Chicks), Danny Song (Kenny Loggins), Reach Out For Me (Olivia Newton-John), Forever (John Stamos), Baby Love (The Supremes).

I’ll deal with these 10 in a later blog, but armed with this knowledge, I felt I was in good shape to renew my singing career with Baby Jacob. Well, tonight was my chance. Everyone was busy with something and my job was to hold and serenade the baby. What pops into my head? Yikes, I find myself singing Lydia the Tattooed Lady. And, of course, Baby Jacob loved it. He did the eye contact thing, he smiled (sort of), he definitely enjoyed himself. And so did I.

Actually, Lydia and I have a history. In 1972, when I first began wooing the Beauty, I also had that song fixated in my head. Lydia was the Beauty’s landlady, a very sweet old lady who lived in a big house while Susy lived in what was probably a servant house when the Smithtown, N.Y. property was owned by a wealthy family, who knows, maybe even Lydia’s family. Susy’s house was a kitchen, a bedroom, and another room which was big enough to be a dining room/ living room.

Continuing with tonight’s story. When Baby Jacob went off to sleep with his Mommy, I decided to look up Lydia’s origins on the net. You’re gonna love this, especially the introduction when Groucho explains that he met her at “The Worlds Fair, 1900, marked down from 1940”. Enjoy….