Saturday, April 20, 2013

New Posters!

A Couple of new Conservative De-Motivational Posters:

 Harper denounces cyberbullying and a few days later approves the first Justin Trudeau attack ad mocking his hair and hijinks for charity.

 Duffy pays back his $90,000 Senate housing allowance

Harper's 9th backbench MP complains about being told to shut up.

And one for RBC's use of the Temporary Foreign Worker program.

Short Tempered Cook - Calgary Sun Column, April 4, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

Entertaining my son’s friends is getting complicated.

All of them are around eleven years old, and they are becoming quite the sophisticated men of the world.

In the past, when we had kids over to play, they were quite happy to have a couple of juice boxes and a cookie between wrestling bouts in the basement. If we had them over the lunch hour, we’d rustle up a banana and some chips.

When I was a kid, my mother used to dole out the peanut butter or baloney sandwiches to the assembled neighbourhood kids, and we ate them without question. If we were lucky, we got a couple of cheezies on the side.

Not so anymore.

Two of my son’s friends were recently over on a play date. They emerged from the basement hungry.

“What would you like?” I asked.

“Pancakes!” came the answer. Apparently my son had been extolling the many delights of my pancakes made for the weekend brunch around our house.

Reluctantly I agreed.

“Wait a minute,” one of the min-gourmets asked. “Are they gluten-free pancakes?”

I admitted I had no idea, even after looking at the box. I assumed that gluten, whatever it is, is what makes pancakes taste good.

“Are you allergic?” I asked.

“No, but my mom says I might be sensitive.”

No arguing with that assessment. So pancakes were out.

“Grilled cheese or hot dogs?” Those are my go-to kids’ food.

“Is the cheese Emmental or Gouda?”

I looked in the fridge. “It’s orange,” I reported. “Possibly cheddar.”

“I’ll have mine on ancient grains bread,” one of them piped up.

“I’ll have mine on rye, unless you have sourdough” said the other.

I’m going to have to start eating where they do. The food sounds a lot better.

“We only have white bread, and some old hot dog buns,” I said. Actually, the spots on the old hot dog buns made them look pretty ancient. For some reason our bread cupboard is right above the heating duct in the floor, which makes it go furry faster than you can say “penicillin”.

Ultimately, they decided on one grilled cheese on white and one hot dog on a bun I advertised as “organic” after I scraped off the worst spots. It meant making two different lunches for our under aged guests, but I’m nothing if not hospitable. Plus, if we discussed it much longer we’d be running into the dinner hour.

Don’t get me started on their condiment selections. When I was a kid there were two condiments: ketchup and mustard. Your choices were with or without. At family summer barbeques you might get some relish, but there wasn’t the whole aisle of exotic toppings and condiment variations we have now to choose from.

After a browse through our condiment cupboard they were soon settled with their mango chutney, chipotle barbeque sauce and horseradish dijonnaise.

I had a final treat in store for them. “And for dessert we still have a lot of Easter chocolate,” I announced.

“Is it 70% cacao?”

To heck with them. I’ll eat it myself. 

Waterlogged - Calgary Sun Column, March 28, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

On a recent family expedition my son announced he was thirsty. Not unexpected considering he had just polished off a whole bag of candy at the movie we had just left.

“Can you buy me some water?” he asked as we passed the theatre concession stand on the way out.

He had found one of my few sore points – I hate buying water. I especially hate buying water in a movie theatre. They charge desert island prices for any liquid, and to pay four bucks for a bottle of water offends me when I have a tap full of it at home.

In fact, I hate buying water almost as much as I hate carrying it around with me. In the past decade or so, the plastic bottle of water has become the official accessory for life on the go. Politicians can’t say six words on camera without reaching for a swig of what I assume is water. The rest of us hump around canteens and bottles of the stuff on a daily basis like we’re off on an expedition to cross the Sahara Desert.

Personally, I probably only take in a cup or two of liquids a day – mostly what I don’t spit out after brushing my teeth. My grandmother was the same. She used to advise us to not drink water. “It’ll rust your pipes,” she’d say reaching for the sherry.

That baloney about drinking eight or nine big glasses of water a day? I tried it for a week. Instead of my camel-like usual three or so bathroom breaks a day, I was leaving my desk every fifteen minutes. Health benefits? Zero. Productivity? Also zero.

I can understand how athletes need to keep hydrated, but I don’t think I’ve broken a good sweat since about 1997. Most of us aren’t doing anything more strenuous than picking the kids up from karate lessons or checking your monthly bill to see if your cell provider is overcharging you.

I’ve personally always thought bottled water was a bit of a crock, unless there is some sort of emergency like a zombie apocalypse or there’s only light beer left in the fridge.

About a quarter of all the bottled water sold in the US actually comes from city water supplies. That’s right - it comes from the same place the rest of us get our water when we turn on the tap. Of course it gets “triple filtered”, “ionized” and given a label with a frosty glacier, but it starts its life as plain old city water.

As people catch on that water is just water, companies start adding things to it, like vitamins, ginger extract and fizz. We already have a name for that – ginger ale.

My friends look at me like I’m a rube when I turn down their designer water imported from some developing country in favour of a glass straight from the tap. I have also been known to drink it out of the garden hose on a hot summer day.

My son – who won’t touch the stuff at home – only wants water when he senses a sip will cost his old man at least three bucks and five minutes in a line to buy it.

As I hustle him past the counter, I tell him that we’re going to test that medical wisdom that the human body can survive up to three days without water and see if he can make it home without fatal dehydration. If he’s really lucky, in the warmer weather I’ll treat him to a drink straight out of the garden hose. 

No extra charge

Got Junk? - Calgary Sun Column - March 15, 2013

By Stephen Lautens

March 15, 2013

It seems like you spend the first half of your life accumulating stuff and the second half trying to give it away.

By the standards of our consumer society, I’m practically a monk. I don’t particularly enjoy shopping. If I need something, I’ll buy it, but there’s no rush that comes with the experience. Maybe I’m just not shopping in the right stores.

My car dealership is pretty sure I need to be sold a new car, since it’s been a couple of years since they sold me the last one. The same for the real estate agent who sold us our house six years ago. Surely it’s time to uproot the family and move somewhere newer and more expensive.

Some see buying things as practically an Olympic sport with the gold medal to the person who comes home with the most stuff.

Others they feel that there is something missing from their lives and they will be happy if they can only find and buy it – preferably on sale.

As for me, nothing makes me happier than getting things out of the house.

With luck, a household has one saver and one tosser-outer. That brings balance to the consumer Force. As hard as one tries to fill the house, the other gets rid of it. My grandmother threw out stuff with wild abandon. My father – as sentimental as he was – could always been found wandering the house with a garbage bag in hand.

Fortunately my wife and I have the same feelings about both buying and getting rid of stuff.

Still, stuff accumulates, like the perfectly functional TV that has been on the basement floor for the last year and a half. It was the last generation TV before the flat panels came out. It weighs a ton and there it sits because I can’t find anyone who will take it, and I won’t drag it to the curb because it still works. Even charities are getting picky about what they’ll take, they’re so awash in people’s castoffs.

When we did a basement reno a number of years back, we had to clear out everything to the bare walls. There wasn’t room for the overflow anywhere else in the house, so we rented a storage locker on a “temporary” basis.

Two years after the reno was completed, pretty much everything was still in storage. We hadn’t missed any of it. Not only that, the idea of bringing it back into the house filled us with dread.

So there it sat in one of those “you-lock-it” places unthought-of month after month.

Until we received a phone call from the storage company. Someone had broken into our locker and stolen most of the contents. They were quick to point out their “no liability” clause and then gave us the name of the police officer who had taken the details of the theft.

Secretly, I was happy. The problem had been solved for me. The stuff was gone and I didn’t have to keep paying a hundred bucks a month to store it.

Then tragedy struck. The police called to say they had located our things. It was in a stolen van they found abandoned on a country road. When they gave me a list of what was inside it was pretty clear that they hadn’t taken anything with them.

That’s when it struck me – I had been paying good money to store stuff that wasn’t even worth stealing.

I’m surprised I didn’t get a bill from the thieves for the cost of moving my stuff out of storage.