Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year’s Eve (2013)

It is late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, also known in other parts of the world as Old Year’s Day, Veille du Jour de l’An or St. Sylvester’s Day, the last day of the year, December 31st.  I imagine there are a respectable number of people about to begin the celebration of New Year’s Eve.  I am guessing there are men and women preparing their costume for the evening particularly if they’re planning to attend a formal occasion though they may only be donning some (possibly new) comfortable clothing for a more casual rally.  Very likely there are people who are in the frenetic throes of final preparation of food and drink for themselves and guests.  Certain couples will have made plans for a private and perhaps elegant celebration whether on home turf or in a romantic resort.  Perhaps even complete families have something special in mind to mark the occasion.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Doing Nothing

While it would be a sizeable stretch to label me a man of action, if one ignores the James Bond theme I easily qualify as someone who prefers activity to serenity.  Nonetheless there are times when sitting still and doing nothing can be really quite pleasant.  For example, after a long and exhausting bike ride I especially enjoy reclining in the sun on a chaise longue; or, if the weather is cooler, taking a nap.  Reading a book almost anytime is always profitable (though my preference is either at the end of the day in a comfortable chair with a martini or on a beach where I may be moderately distracted by the Ocean and sea grasses).  A steam bath or sauna, particularly if punctuated by a revitalizing swim, is equally agreeable. I won’t object to watching a stimulating movie or attending a theatrical performance.  I have even been persuaded without regret to take a guided tour when visiting a new place.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Tourists as a class of people are subject to much disdain. The vilification is popular not only in cartoons (where the sloppy casual appearance of over-weight and brightly dressed tourists are regularly ridiculed). Tourists generally enjoy a poor reputation for public performance.  The real proof of the snootiness is the mere fact that you have probably never entertained a tourist in your home. Tourists inspire a degree of derision which invites aloofness. Even when the shopkeeper or innkeeper makes his or her living from the business, entertainment or accommodation of tourists it is a thinly veiled secret that they disparage the sight of tourists.  Small wonder therefore that as a tourist on foreign soil you are liable to face a predictable lonely existence and there is no amount of expenditure which will garner the same hominess of friendly acquaintance as in the place where you live.  At best a tourist can count on token deferral and polite condescension.

Picture our delight therefore at having spent a thoroughly agreeable afternoon today on Hilton Head Island with two people whom we hardly know, two fellow tourists.  In spite of being thousands of kilometers from home we four enacted an afternoon ceremony worthy of the most refined social foregathering.  Initially it may be tempting to compensate the exuberance of the congregation by dismissing it as a chance encounter of people who hail from the same provenance.  Certainly it was pure coincidence that we first met a year ago on the beach near Coligny Plaza, they walking their handsome French bulldog Max, I recovering still from the loss of my own Frenchie.  But nothing came of that encounter until by pure chance the same collision of people and dog reoccurred exactly one year later!  Well!  I mean to say!  If ever there were messages in the stars!

As a result it was but a small revelation to receive a generous invitation from our new acquaintances to rally with them for a drink at their place in Sea Pines at 1:00 p.m. today, Saturday afternoon.  Our hosts, J and A, are a married couple – at least that is what we presumed; and he runs a sole proprietorship.  Other than that we knew nothing of them and likely they knew even less about us until today.  Yet the short-lived alliance had all the hallmarks of workability and at the very least respectability and promise.  Accordingly it was without indecision that we gleefully accepted our unique invitation and began looking forward to it, wondering from time to time what was to come of it.

This afternoon as we drove into the laneway which led to our hosts’ habitation, we encountered the Laird of the Manor dutifully walking his faithful French bulldog Max.  The sight of them instantly raised our spirits as we are perpetually in need of a dog fix. I parked the car in the drive and was immediately greeted at the door by Her Ladyship, an eye-catching Nordic looking woman.  We all retired into the home and went about a summary tour of the place, exchanging comparative observations about the various rental opportunities on the Island.  Naturally Max monopolized a considerable amount of our time (a predisposition which by the way continued unabated during the subsequent three hours of our gathering).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Routine Paradise

As inclined as one may be to characterize a holiday as “getting away from it all”, it would appear that deep-seated convention trumps novelty. Possibly because I lack innovation (or worse, inspiration) it apparently requires no more than seventy-two hours for me to establish a patent and less than glamorous routine in any environment. The only difference this morning, for example, was that with the benefit of two days’ reiteration the agenda was accelerated.  As usual we busied ourselves early this morning (between 2:30 am – 4:30 am) with our computers.  It is pointless to toss in one’s bed if the mind is revolving.  Better to get up and distract one’s self with industry. Given the holiday nature of these days and not being preoccupied with my law office I find I am spending time on web sites which normally would exhaust me either by their uselessness or their dreariness, things like Facebook and LinkedIn, both of which I unreservedly lump in the same heap as Twitter – vacuous natter.  But my insistence to master the fundamentals of modern technology drives me nonetheless to address it.  I am also consuming a great deal of my time amending profiles on a number of other material web sites since I lately changed a common email address (to correct at long last a stupid spelling mistake made by Bell years ago).  The repercussions of such trivial modification are incredible!  This is especially true now that so many sites are connected to one another and because we have no less than five computing devices with us on this trip alone (four fewer than we have when on home turf if you can believe it).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Day at the Beach

Our winter vacation this year began exactly one week ago today, Wednesday, December 18th one hour after the MRPC Board of Directors meeting.  It was a leisurely three-day drive from the Canada to Hilton Head Island buoyed by the usual holiday exhilaration and latterly compensated by the longed-for sight of magnolia and palm trees.  While there was nothing particularly punishing about the trip other than having to stay focussed on the road for six hours a day it nonetheless took its toll.  Even as late as last night for example we were in bed shortly after eight o’clock and it wasn’t until about six-thirty this morning that we surfaced to face the new day.

It's Christmas!

My sister Lindy and I have never relinquished the child-like exhilaration of Christmas morning.  Admittedly the hysterics we contrived as children to the lead-up to Christmas have waned over the years and the memories of them are now more than a bit hazy, but we still recall the signal initiation to Christmas morning: “It’s Christmas!”

Monday, December 23, 2013

You only turn 65 once!

Having survived the Winter Solstice, and having this morning awoken with anticipation to our first full day in the condo on the beach, I commence settling into the not unwelcome routine of vacation.  This year is especially noteworthy for me not only because I carry on rejoicing in the generosity of the past month but also because I mark a point of departure.  Apart from recent commercial attainments (long-awaited conditions precedent to moving forward), it is equally important to me that I have attained the age of 65 years, a milestone which I view as a landmark in my life.  Why it should be so I am not entirely certain, but nonetheless the event marks for me no less than a time for contemplation and personal rejuvenation.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Home for Christmas

One must adjudge that for Canadians in general Christmas is the Big Scene on the year’s tabular array. Unlike Americans who apparently distract themselves beyond recognition for the Thanksgiving Holiday (think of the winsomeness of Pilgrims and wild turkeys), Canadians prefer instead to immerse themselves in the nostalgia of skating on a frozen pond and everything rustic that is manifested by a Cornelius Krieghoff painting reminiscent of "the hardships and daily life of people living on the edge of new frontiers" (Charles C. Hill, Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery). This selected ambiance of holly berries, freshly-cut spruce boughs, a blazing hearth and frosted window panes is second nature to hearty, healthful Canadians. The Christmas season combines and heightens the elemental dimensions of traditional Canadian life in addition to heralding the midwinter solstice and the wretchedness that is winter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Christmastime Story

This is a true story, one which I heard on CBC radio many years ago around Christmastime. One of the radio listeners - a woman - called CBC to relate the events which had recently transpired.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Father Christmas

For someone like my father (a man who traditionally has the appearance of being socially distressed except when things are strictly on his own terms), Christmas (or indeed any other merrymaking) is at first blush an inconvenience. This at least is the situation if he harbours (or my mother seeks to enforce) the remotest idea that his participation in the event is either required or expected. It’s the presumption of charity that kills him. To succumb to the social convention which attends such ceremony is for him a grave irritation, though I suspect it would be closer to the truth to label it an awkwardness or disenchantment. Whatever the limitation, there is no question that the nuisance value is high.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Men and boys and the price of their toys!

It would be unimaginable to address the battalion of options available for discourse upon the facetious subject of "men and boys and the price of their toys". Beginning with childhood and continuing to adulthood, there is among males the well-known passage from dinky toys to train sets, from bicycles to all-terrain vehicles, from motorcycles to automobiles, from boats to planes and many other combinations of mechanical diversions in between. What however is a less publicized absorption is the delight which men derive from watches and clocks.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Value of Money

To countenance the expenditure of money naturally calls for some justification especially when the recommendation is conjoined with extravagance. Even the profligate spender harbours the shadow of concern for primary economic theory (though of course he seldom dilutes the strength of his initial devotion). By contrast the close-fisted penny-pincher buoys his preferred fiscal modesty with psychology, likening materialism to Philistinism. Between these two extremes of pecuniary dissolution and worldly deprivation resides the body of people who from time to time have what I believe to be a quite understandable need or desire to reward themselves. Nonetheless with all this talk of late about the incredible amount of debt being serviced by Canadians the idea of spending even funny money may be considered foolhardy. I think however that this is a proposition which needs to be re-examined in a context broader than mere economic principles or the loaded comparison of intemperance and frugality. It is my thesis that spending some money on yourself can be a very good thing indeed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Withering Heights

When at last one has ploddingly attained the dizzying pinnacle of one’s career there is recognizably only one way to go - down! Eventually even the most accomplished of us is overwhelmed by the perpetual furtherance of knowledge and advancements of technology. It becomes both undesirable and impossible to keep up with the unrelenting pace of change. We begin to lose our footing, freshness and vigor, and the prospect of vanishing and disappearing altogether becomes all too real.

The Dutch Uncle

Some truths are by nature unmerciful and therefore hard to withstand though their communication to the object of the factuality is as often both necessary and preferable. The same however does not hold so readily for the truths of the Dutch uncle.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Entrepreneur

The expression "entrepreneur" normally applies to rather common and generally unimpressive undertakings. Historically for example it pertained to self-employed people such as water-carriers, brewers, hat makers, chimney sweeps and so forth. Today it broadly includes almost anyone who "undertakes some responsibility and pursues a goal with self-motivation" and certainly does not necessarily reflect a merchant but also includes service providers and professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. Some however take a narrow view of the word and restrict its application to those who have special characteristics above being new and small; that is, they create something new or different; they change or transmute values.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Clothes Maketh the Man

Being adjudged by one’s appearance is nothing new.  Nor is it something which most people would hasten to contradict, as shallow and distasteful as the observation may initially appear.  Mark Twain supportively opined:  “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Taking Stock

It was just after 4:00 a.m. this morning when I got out of bed. I wanted to get a jump on the day. The first matter on the agenda (after pointedly having wound all four mechanical clocks in the house) was to drive my new car to Stittsville. There I would put it through the touch-less car wash for which I have a season’s pass entitling me to 90 days of washes, once a day. Of equal if not more importance than the exterior maintenance of the vehicle was the driving of the machine to “teach”it my personal driving habits. Two days ago the mechanic completely erased the car’s computer transmission memory. While he didn’t say the tactic was hocus-pocus, neither was he adamant that it would correct the winding-down sound which to date has annoyingly punctuated each gear shift. After listening intently to the sound of the engine during my early morning jaunt today, it is fair to say that although the “condition” has not entirely evaporated, it is certainly within the realm of acceptable tolerance (which admittedly has been lately heightened by my constant preoccupation). I am additionally motivated in this result because there are so many other features of this particular automobile which I relish. Having bought another new car exactly like it no less than ten months ago, I can say with some authority that that this number is a fine specimen of the brand. Not surprisingly no two vehicles perform identically, and I know from experience that when one finally gets a good one, it is wise to attach to it. My recent obsession with this car is due in no small measure to having suffered the cost of trading the first new one three months ago because of recurring transmission problems, only to discover that the replacement vehicle was plagued by yet another distortion. It appears that we are now are the end of that line of trouble. Like any new love affair, new cars come with high expectations, and one forgets that they, like lovers, ultimately have their problems. One must adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the candidate.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nobody's Listening and Nobody Cares

As predisposed as each of us may unsurprisingly be to view our own personal dilemmas in life as worthy of notice by others, the unvarnished truth is that when it comes to public empathy, nobody’s listening and nobody cares. While this may be taken as an unfeeling comment upon the popularly retailed big-heartedness of society, it is more likely than not a cold reality.  To think otherwise is an illusion. Nonetheless I expect your instinctive reaction upon hearing such blunt remark is to come streaming to the campaign for all that is philanthropic in mankind.  You may however be bound to leave such high-minded benevolence at the door of paid social workers rather than upon the pouting lips of well-wishers.  How often have you passed with averted eyes the overwrought features of a co-worker?  When did you take seriously the tormented outburst of a friend that he cannot go on any longer? When last did you contemplate what it means that charity begins at home?  And even if you did for a moment flirt with these perplexities, what in the end were you truly going to do?  Isn’t it all so much easier to let such puzzlements trickle down the street like so much slop in the gutter?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Uniforms, Military & Binary Thinking

There is something to be said for having no choice in the matter. The easy targets (pardon the pun) are uniforms and the military. Rows and rows of unvarying and consistent soldiers paraded with clock-work precision having only to listen to orders and take commands, and certainly never having to worry about what to wear. Rejection of such uniformity and militaristic deportment would weaken the system. You’re either in or out; for or against. The choices are mutually exclusive. There is no room for namby-pamby conduct.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Ugly Americans!

Bashing the Americans is not uncommon.  The modern Roman Empire has historically been the repeated object of criticism. Now however the preferred attack is upon the Chinese, the world’s rising Agamemnon.  It is unavoidable to make a comparison of the two cultures.  The exploitation of resources and energy is shared ground, involving the control of foreign assets and commodities.  But the Chinese have infamously exceeded the boundaries of acceptability in some instances.  The Chinese are for example very big in Africa where it appears they are handily taking advantage of what are largely uneducated and impoverished people.  Africa, pay-offs and corruption seemingly go hand-in-hand, much as the Chinese citizens are now discovering about their own billionaire politicians. As one example of their treachery in South Africa, the Chinese are routinely killing elephants for their ivory. It is speculated that by 2015 the elephant population will be effectively eliminated.  The Chinese are capitalizing upon the need of the desperately poor people in Africa to risk their lives to provide this ``treasure`` to the rapacious Chinese.  The authorities police the poaching, but they have an unbelievably difficult job of it and they too – like the poachers - risk being shot on sight.  Similarly why do the Chinese scandalously thrive upon weird medicinal remedies and exotic foods that involve the death or mutilation of harmless creatures? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Leave-taking from Hilton Head Island

It is serendipitous that very early this morning (on the penultimate day of our departure from this exquisite Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) I completed with considerable gusto my reading of “Essays in Idleness” by the Tsurezuregusa of Kenko (known I believe to his family and friends as Yoshida Kenko).  Mr. Kenko’s perspective, while strictly that of a hermit (or, if one prefers a more decorous denomination, that of a Buddhist monk), was nonetheless choc-a-bloc with commonplace philosophy rendered in the manner of a parable.  I say the reading of the book and the awakening of this day are chance intersections because as we forlornly make our arrangements to leave the Island one cannot but contemplate the subject thoughtfully if not indeed longingly.  Add to this the fact that our first act of industry this morning was to visit the property manager and to re-book our stay for the same time next year and pay our deposit.  So you see, as one high spot ends, another begins.  I am quite certain that Mr. Kenko would have a great deal to say upon the subject illustrative as it is of all else that transpires in life.