Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Garbage hero?

Yesterday, as I worked away here in my home office, a “green bin” was dropped off in front of our house. For those who are unfamiliar with this medium-sized plastic container, it is supposed to hold one’s “wet” garbage and is something else to be trotted out on garbage day. Inside this container is a smaller one, a mini bin one might call it, which you place in your kitchen for the not always convenient deposit of wet garbage.

Neither Jamie nor I requested this green bin. Yet here it is all the same. When it was delivered, trumpets did not sound a tribute in honour of its arrival to echo off the houses across the street, angels did not burst into heavenly harmony, a rainbow did not spring forth in brilliant colour over the town and the earth did not move. Yet Jamie tells me that this green bin proclaims in written script on its side for all to see, the words, “I’m a hero.”

Huh? A hero? A garbage hero no less?

A quick google for the definition of hero offers this from the Free Online Dictionary. “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”

Now let’s think about that for a second in terms of what is plastered on the side of our brand new green bin. Will Jamie and I risk our lives when we use this thing? I really don’t think so. We may risk our sanity as we try to work out what in the world we’re supposed to dump in it, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll go right on living.

Hero is a word that is, in my not so humble opinion, a word that is vastly overused, even abused. That being said, I hope you won’t mind a thought or two from your faithful scribe, not to mention newly designated trashy substances hero. I am a proud and I think pretty good step Dad. At least Steph isn’t complaining. I’m a happy and fine husband. Jamie seems pleased unless I leave yesterday’s underwear lying around in some random location. I’ve received no customer complaints lately, so I guess that means I run a pretty fair small business and our family of furballs all seem satisfied with me... even Rocky, who can be hard to please at times. Does all this make me a hero? Not from where I’m sitting. It makes me a good person who still screws up from time to time.I can try to improve on the screwing up part, but as long as I’m a good person, I’m pretty well pleased with that.

For sure, I do not wish to be a garbage hero. I will comply with the local ordinance by separating “wet” garbage from the rest, if I can figure out what qualifies. I will do that because I’ve been ordered to do it along with everyone else who lives in the town that I call home. But do I even believe in it? Well, it can’t hurt I suppose. But until industry is forced to stop using every aspect of our environment as a toilet, I seriously doubt that it will improve our quality of life if I toss my banana peels in the green bin.

Hmmm, just by the way, are banana peels officially defined as “WET” garbage?

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Monday, August 25, 2008

A View of the Olympics

As much as I admire those who can do great feats of athleticism, I must share that the 2008 Olympics didn't make a blip on my world. I did see Usain's amazing 100 meter race. I did see Phelp's superhuman achievements, but has anything changed? It seems like the China of the past has faded into the dim recesses of our memories.

We should remember, or consider, that this is all a fa├žade. It is a front for the world to see. Reporters and journalists, broadcasters and news outlets have brought us images of China that have shown us technological advance and historical beauty. The Olympic event itself has shown us athletes of the world at their best. But don't forget, this is a world in which Britney's underwear, or lack thereof, and the opening of The Dark Knight can seem like real news.

I'm not the first to say this but I will. What Were They Thinking?

What were they thinking by bringing attention to a country that has a poor civil rights record?

I wonder, as I've watched the media unfold this event with an idle curiosity, has this country really changed? I'd venture to suggest that the only things that China has changed is that it has learned to hide its dirty laundry.

But will its human rights be brought to those who have been oppressed be restored by bringing world attention to it?

I also could wonder why China invited such scrutiny in the first place. But on reflection, it might well have been about economics and validation. But has anything really changed?

As the world demands more Chinese products, do I believe that workers rights will be enforced? That people will no longer be jailed without trial, even killed without justice being served? I think not. Perhaps Tiananmen Square is in the past, but only driven underground, not gone.

At this moment, the Chinese are drawing a sigh of relief as the reporters and journalists are packing up their mikes and cameras. Sports fans and curiosity seekers are similarly packing their souvenirs, digging out their passports and taking cabs to the airport.

The Outsiders are going home, and China is resuming business... business as usual.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Sunday, August 24, 2008

She Deserves the Dough & the Glory

Have you ever heard a song where Elvis Presley and hockey scrapper Marty McSorley are both mentioned in the lyrics? Kathleeen Edwards, a singer/guitarist/song writer from Ottawa writes and sings with no pretense of super stardom, at least none that shows. But she's managed to welcome Marty, Elvis and a few other notables into one of her songs. Finally she's getting some of the attention that she deserves.

Rather than reading my thoughts about her music, check out a video of the song, I Get The Dough, You Get the Glory.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m69S1dfrak

While you're there, check out a few more of her songs. I freely admit that not a lot of today's artists catch my attention. With too many, for me it's a case of been there and heard better. But Kathleeen has my attention. See if you agree.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dog Lesson for a Good Puppy

Here's a tip for those of you who might be, or might one day be in the process of training a puppy.

During the other morning's walk, one which for some reason Keeta and I found to be filled with dog encounters, we met yet another lady who was walking her puppy.

How did I, a blind guy, know it was a puppy?

That was easy. She told me she was training her puppy to sit. Proving her point, every few steps she would stop and say to the dog, "Sit." Of course I couldn't tell if there were any gestures or maybe slight pressure applied to the puppy's back end to enforce the command, but the voice was patient and consistent.

Still, I did see one way that her technique might be improved and for whatever my viewpoint might be worth I shared it with her.

"It sounds like you're doing a good job there," I said.

"Not so much," she replied.

"He's looking at me as though he doesn't know what I want or who I'm talking to. And he should know."

"Does he recognize his name?" I wondered.

"Oh yeah, he caught onto that right away. When I call him, he comes. That's why I don't know what's going on here."

"You might want to try speaking his name before you issue the command," was my suggestion, issued with the hope that the lady woudn't mistake me for a well intentioned know it all.

"Ruggles, sit," she entoned.

Ruggles complied instantly and I'm pretty sure he was rewarded with a cookie or two. Speaking a puppy's name before each command can serve a couple of purposes.

With a new puppy or any dog who is new to you and perhaps has a new name, the repeating of the name sound helps the dog to learn that the name sound belongs to him or her. Then, after the dog's identity is clear in its mind, the use of the name sound calls to its attention. The dog knows that the next spoken human words will be directed at him or her and will quite likely pay much greater attention to them.

Get into the habit of speaking your dog's name whenever you command them or even just talk to them. Your dog's name sound is music to his ears, unless of course your dog is a female, in which case it is music to her ears. Either way, chances are, you'll see improved results. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Furball?

So here's the story. Larry and I arrive home from vacation, and Steph greets us with, "Have a good vacation? Want a kitten? She's really cute!" Apparently a stray cat had arrived at her friend's place, promptly had kittens, who were looking for a home. Going fast! The calico is already gone, but there is a REALLY cute one that needs a home.

What parent hasn't heard that one. But after all, Petey needs a playmate... doesn't he? We're sure he does. Well, that's the best we could do. It was a weak moment for sure. Call us crazy.

So now we've adopted Maximus a.k.a. Maxi a.k.a. Max. See the M marking on her forehead? She's all of almost 3 pounds of energy (especially playing with her new sproingy toy), and loves to cuddle and purr. She's big on purring. And she's our newest and smallest addition to our household full of furballs.

How has she been accepted into our family so far? Well, after some spitting and hissing from Max, Petey decided to watch her from a careful distance, from inside the open kennel, just to make sure there were no surprise attacks. Rocky walked right up to her boldly for the proper nose-to-nose greeting that he knows is the right way to greet any new being in the house. Maxi wasn't impressed, and startled by the boldness, proceeded to hiss, but very soon got over that.

As for the dogs, that will be a work in progress. We took Maxi out to just introduce the dogs from a bit of a distance. Penny wouldn't look at her - as if to say, "If I don't acknowledge that being's presence, it doesn't and will not exist". Keeta hid behind Larry, and stayed out of view. Well, at least there was no growling or lunging, so I suppose a success of sorts. She'll be living in Steph's bedroom for now - a kitten playground of fun and games.

Now we know certain people in our lives might call us crazy. We know it, and are we're okay with that. But she's really cute, after all.

Maxi with the Best Toy Ever!
Contributed by Jamie Naessens

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thoughts From a Dog Walk

As both Jamie and I have mentioned in a past post or two, my guide dog Keeta and I head out for a walk for an hour or so every morning. As a recently diagnosed diabetic, the exercise is great for me. Keeta loves it too, and to tell the honest truth I really enjoy walking.

Today, I happened upon a couple of other people who got me to thinking about different responses that can either help or hinder the individual who is being guided by a dog. In both cases, the folks who I encountered had the best of intentions, but one strategy succeeded, while the other didn't. Let me elaborate.

As Keeta and I walked along the sidewalk enjoying the weather, I noticed someone approaching. I really didn't give it much thought until, the person was passing in the opposite direction on my left. Just as she passed right next to me, the small dog, apparently held high in her arms chose that very second to inflate eager lungs and bellow forth directly into my ear. With no idea that the lady was even carrying a dog, I was instantly nearly airborn.

"Woof!" Keeta replied, not to be outdone. "Woo woo woof!"

The little guy who had just passed us from it's perch in the lady's arms apparently suddenly saw his position as unsafe. At least I assume that was the case as suddenly the lady shouted, "Ouch! You're hurting me! Bad bad bad little boy! Your wittle cwahzies are sharp and they hurt!"

She then mumbled something else that I won't print here as we run a family blog. And was it my imagination or did I feel Keeta's tail wag against my leg. Just a small wag and only one, but yes, I'm fairly sure that I'm right.

Keeta and I continued along on our walk, when we encountered yet another dog. How do I know? Well, the lady who was walking along nearby said, "I'm walking in the street with my dog." With those few words, I knew all that I needed to know. A few feet to my left was a person and a dog. I could then watch for any sign of Keeta's distraction and move along on my way.

The moral of the stories is a simple yet important one. If you're one of those wonderful people who treats your good dog to a good walk and you should happen to encounter a blind person with a dog, let them know that you and your dog are nearby. More often than not, the guide dog handler will thank you for it.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vacation Furballs

When August rolls around to the thirteenth of the month, it always crosses my mind that Fall is waiting to jump in and take over. I guess that rather automatic thought has rolled through my brain ever since I was a kid who didn't look forward to the beginning of school all that much. Well, the kid has been grown for quite some time now but certain concepts just don't change. So I think I'll distract my thoughts of appraching autumn chill with a look back at our vacation.

Last week, Jamie, the dogs and I spent a wonderful 7 days at a cottage on Eagle Lake, not far from North Bay. It was a bit chilly and a bit too rainy at times, but we still enjoyed ourselves. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we're thinking about making it a 2 week stay next summer. While there, we enjoyed meeting cottage owners Cathy, Morley and Caitlyn. And would it be a Naessens vacation if we didn't meet some new furballs along the way?

This year, the welcoming furballs were a pair of golden retrievers named Dexter and Riley. Dexter is 10, while Riley is a very active and interested 14 years old. Both met us at the car as soon as we arrived. Penny was a bit overwhelmed at first, launching an immediate search for a safe hiding place. But Keeta was ready with a play bow.

That first visit was Dexter's only stop, as his busy life just doesn't give him the time to socialize. But maybe Riley is retired, giving him time to drop by at least once a day. The funny thing is that he timed almost every visit for practically the very moment when we started getting dinner ready. It didn't matter that the dinner hour varied from evening to evening and Riley didn't seem to care whether we barbequed or cooked inside. There was Riley, standing at the screen door, wagging, and imploring for his share. After all, everybody who was anybody offered Riley a bite or two when he came around. They always had, hadn't they?

Well yes they had. In fact, we were the first cottage guests who were specifically asked not to feed Riley. Yes us, the furball pair who would gladly slip him a bite. But Riley's people determined that there would be no more.

Now then, before you judge these nice golden furball owners, let me tell you why they instituted this new anti-canine snacking law. You see, the week before our arrival, other folks stayed in the cottage that we called home during our vacation. Apparently Riley dropped by to visit them on a daily basis and they were happy to offer him a bit of a snack whenever he did. That worked out just fine until the day that Riley dropped by while his new human friends were enjoying some pepperettes.

If you're not familiar with these taste treats, let me tell you about them They're pepperoni sticks, spiced just right. Yes, they are definitely tasty people treats, and if Riley had the words he would tell you that they were a golden furball's favorites as well.

But when good old Riley ventured on home, there was suddenly a certain pungency to the air. As the evening droned on, the air thickened dramatically, making it harder for those around him to breathe with each of his blasts. To make matters worse, poor Riley was not feeling so well. In fact, for a while, his humans thought they were going to have to make a fast trip to the vet.

Eventually though, someone noticed the pepperoni on Riley's breth, and the folks who were his culinary benefactors supplied the details to explain poor Riley's mystery illness.

The good news is that Riley recovered fully and is now back to begging with all of his old enthusiasm intact. The bad news, where Riley is concerned, is that the buffet has now closed. No more begathons for Riley.

Contributed by Larry Naessens

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Open Letter to the CBC

After some time spent trying to find the elusive opening ceremonies of the Olympics, I finally gave up in frustration. One would think there would be something at Canada's own broadcaster of this event - the CBC - but I came up empty. The broadcaster NBC in the U.S.? Nothing again - yes, they did have it, but only after I entered in my zip code and prove that I was a subscriber to some cable provider, and not a cheater (well, I admit - I was cheating) - after 3 tries, you're out. Yes, even YouTube came up empty. Nada, nyet, nothing.

I'd like to say that I believe that CBC would read this 'Open Letter', write to me, and tell me I'm right, and they are reconsidering their position, but I do doubt that CBC Executives frequent Flying Furballs, so I did write to the CBC directly (like they care!) However, I would like to share it with you as well, and if it inspires you to write too, all the better!
Dear CBC,

I find the Olympics' online coverage and video access to be dismal.

For example, I've heard so much about the opening ceremonies, and have been blocked from seeing it from any source. At the time of broadcast, I did not have access to television (imagine that!)

I wonder, what is the benefit to block viewing this event - is it the agreements between broadcasters and advertisers? Does it have something to do with China's restrictions? Whatever it is, it has been frustrating for a casual viewer such as myself, and I see no benefit to any organization, and whatever its political or financial agenda, to block viewing something that has no earthly use after the original broadcast.

Why not bring more viewers in instead of blocking us out? Whatever the reason, I'm sure it could not be explained to the average or casual viewer. We shouldn't have to work to find programming, and it makes no sense. We can access just about everything else on this planet after all - it's the 2000s.

I am just one very disappointed 'almost viewer'.

Here ends my rant, and letter... for now anyway.

Contributed by Jamie Naessens