Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Weekend With Benny

This weekend the sudden onset of colder weather brought a dusting of snow. I felt a pull to spend time outdoors, which is easy to do when Benny, the Jack Russell Terror visits. His extreme vigor settles down to mere boundless energy after he has participated in the day's activities - a nice long walk, time spent chasing my not-so-tolerant felines and tearing through the back yard with his girlfriend, Raven.

When Benny arrives for the weekend, his tail wags so hard, you'd think he could propel himself upwards and fly. I'd like to think that his excitement is directed at me - after all it's been at least a week since we've last seen one another. But I know better. Once he's set free, Benny flings himself out of the car and rushes right past me, and over to my neighbour's house. Behind that front door, waits Raven, a little mostly-black Schnoodle (part schnauzer, part poodle), and object of Benny's affection.

Together, the tiny terrors have learned the worst habits from one another.
Raven has introduced Benny to new cuisine opportunities. While he was perfectly happy to ignore such mundane items as bird seed and his own frozen poopsicles, his canine partner-in-crime has shown him the joy of "waste not, want not". Benny, on the other paw, has taught her the art of escaping. No matter how well we cover the gaps between fence and ground, this furry Houdini can worm his way through almost anything. When the two of them are on opposite sides of the fence, Benny will encourage Raven to help him dig under it, and then he'll pull at the base of the chain link with his teeth, bracing his back legs for his one-sided tug-of-war, allowing her to burrow through from the other side. We've since allowed a space for them to go back and forth between the two yards.

As much as he loves her, there are times when Benny is not unhappy to see Raven go home. Those times usually follow a long session of her chomping on his rawhide bone, or settling into a lap which he has already claimed as his own. Once the two of them are apart, Benny is usually ready to take on one of his usual hobbies - bringing us chew toys so that we can wrestle them from his growling vice grip-like jaw, or if in a particularly charming mood, he plays Chase the Cats.

My felines are a work in progress when it comes to Benny. There are times when they can be nose to nose, without incident. There are other occasions when their mere presence triggers Benny's chasing instinct, which is quickly followed by disapproving hisses, spits and growls. I've gently suggested that Frank stop making those noises, for fear the cats will learn from his primitive behaviour, but alas, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Benny is doing a great job of keeping us all pretty active on weekends, since his twice-a-day walks get us out moving, no matter the weather. The small lake in the park across the street has been slightly frozen over throughout the weekend. It's just thick enough to hold the weight of a duck or a small breed of dog, if you don't give into the overwhelming temptation of allowing him to scamper toward where it thins. Benny knows what to do with water (bite the waves, of course), but he was quite uncertain about this new, cold and slippery, solid surface. His first few steps were tentative, before he busied himself by biting at the leaves and twigs buried just below the surface. I suspect that before too long, he'll be flinging himself across its icy cover for a long glide, which is pretty much how it happens when he chases my cats across the linoleum floor.

Occasionally we need to do the unthinkable, and go out for a short while without Benny. The commotion begins when he immediately senses that we're thinking about suggesting that we might want to talk about considering going out without him. Panic ensues. Pathetic cries begin to escape through his nasal passages. He senses doom. Life, as he knows it will be over. He is a dying dog. The cries turn to gut-wrenching screeches. Then forlorn howls. This is all before we have even put on our jackets. The struggle to keep him inside the house while not closing the door on our own hands or feet is near-impossible. If, by the fifth or sixth attempt we have successfully escaped, multi-syllabic squeaks will seep through from inside. If we hesitate before driving off, a quick flash of white tells us that he has taken a running dash at the front door, and leapt up to try and catch a glimpse of us through the frosty window, three feet above the ground.

I suspect he recovers quickly though. Upon our return, he's as calm as a Zen garden, having settled in nicely for a rejuvenating nap. By then he's ready to start the day's events all over again.

Once the day winds down, and all creatures are in their respective homes, Benny is near-lethargic, which for a Jack Russell Terror means that his energy level has dwindled down to that of an average tornado. With a gentle wag of his tail, he'll allow us to settle him in for the night. Like a toddler, he needs to take a toy to bed with him. He'll lie down on his blanket and give our hands a goodnight lick. Once asleep, I'm sure he dreams about Raven, ice gliding and the day when he'll get along well with the cats.

That last one might have been my own dream.

You can read more about Benny and his daily adventures with Frank over at Remaindered Random Musings.

Here are some photos taken from this past weekend. Click on any of them to see a larger image.

Raven comes calling for Benny. She often just appears at the back door, stands on her hind legs and jumps for joy. Here you can see that she's been feasting on bird seed (click photo to enlarge) from the snowy ground below the feeder. One of my nicknames for her is "Velcro."

Skittles is bored with being Benny's plaything.

Benny explores his new slippery world

Earlier last week, Frank went fishing near his place and caught some trout. He's been experimenting with a hot smoker, and this weekend, he brought it over to my place along with the fish. These fillets were just about ready to go into the smoker. Several hours later, they turned out yummy!

The best of both seasons come together. Colourful reds, golds and greens soak up the late-day sun and contrast against the icy water and snow-dusted grass.

I don't know what caused it to grow this way, but this bent tree bows gracefully to every season.

A dead thistle stands tall, watching over the lake.

A branch sits on top of thin ice and creates a shimmery reflection.

An evening walk around the lake to see the icy water glistening in the setting sun

Later, the full moon peeks out from behind a pine tree.

Night has fallen and a street lamp shimmers across the icy lake creating a silhouette of a curious duck.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Winter Wings

Outside the window, my world has been transformed.

Winter is my least favourite season, and November my least preferred month. Typically it's dreary, barren and cold. The bright leaves of October have usually disappeared and the beauty of a first snowfall has yet to revive the stark, bare branches and long-dead grass.

This year is different.

Two days ago the park pathways shared the colours of a lingering autumn as the sun lit up the leaves - some still clinging to branches but most blanketing the still-green grass. There had been a steady rain overnight and early morning, and they glistened with vivid hues in the late-day sun. The birds and squirrels were busy - anticipating colder days ahead.

Yesterday rained all day long. It was a steady, bone-chilling, windy sort of downpour, and overnight it turned to freezing rain. This morning, most everything was covered with a layer of crusty ice. Since the temperatures have been dropping steadily, the sleet has since turned to snow.

Oh there's hardly any serious accumulation - less than a centimetre on the ground, but it's enough to get kids out scraping up snowballs. And it's enough to convince the neighbourhood creatures that they'd better start stocking up for the cold season ahead.

On the weekend, we bought a bird feeder and loaded it up with a combination of seeds. Within the hour, we were rewarded with several species of birds, greedily pecking at each of the four stations that the feeder provides. They continue to flitter about rapidly, challenging me to snap a clear, crisp shot. So far they're winning.

This year, I'm looking forward to the impending winter. Check with me again come February or March, and I might feel otherwise, but I suspect this season is going to be better than in past years. I feel as if I have a new set of eyes with which to see the surrounding changes. Despite the limited distance between the camera's lens and its subject, there lies a brand new frontier to discover.

I intend to be outside doing just that.

I'll save winter photos for a more notable snowfall. Below are some images that were taken this past week.

The muted shades of autumn provided a beautiful backdrop for the bare trees. It reminded me of a water colour painting.

A cardinal watches me closely from a high branch.

As the trees shed their leaves, the green grass came alive with colour. Here a golden oak leaf glows in the last rays of the warming sun.

The setting sun envelopes and warms this duck. Doesn't she have a coy expression?

A few hours after the rain, droplets of water still clung to the sheltered trees.

Pink and rusty-red appear in the same plant. Nature takes more chances than fashion designers do.

This lovely little mockingbird flew directly into my line of vision and landed on a nearby branch. He appeared unafraid of me and very curious, allowing me to take several shots before he flew off again. My spirits took wing alongside him.

Feed me, I'm yours!

Tired of waiting their turn at the feeder, this civilized trio opted to eat a formal dinner at the table.

Skittles takes a break from standing guard over the constant flutter of birds.

The near-full hazy moon as seen through a tree by my house.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And the Winners are..

The image for which these captions were written can be found in the previous post.


Crabby McSlacker of Cranky Fitness ran away with the votes. Sideways of course - in true crab style. Her brilliant winning caption was:

"Abracadabra--Just Love That Viagra!"

Tied for 2nd place was my neighbour Al who was keeping up (cough) with the Viagra theme. His clever second place caption was:

"Viagra works great! See....no hands!!"

Stace, my trivia bud in Australia floated by from her blog Funny Old World, to tie for second place with the amusing:

"Dammit, every time I levitate some old guy gets in the way!"

All other captions appear below along with their clever authors.

Beach blanket bingo, without the beach blanket.
~ Carmi
who is a new name to my blog.. so welcome!. He has a very interesting photo-journalism blog called Written Inc.

Now Margie, I don't know how we got here either, and I have NO idea how this woman came to be floating here either. I gotta think it has something to do with aliens, since I am wearing a tux on a beach somewhere... But to heck with the much. Quick! Take a picture of me like... this... and we can say I levitating her! Hee hee hee... they will NEVER get over this one down at the diner.
~Me/Wayne who has some wonderful photography that I plan to explore over at his two blogs. I hope you'll stop by again.

Don't piss me off, bitch, or you really WILL be sleeping with the fishes!

~The Bag Lady who has recently joined the blogosphere with her new ranch story site Bag Lady's Blather.

Women are so gullible, they easily fall for men young or old, Men have this kind of magic, that's why there is love and pain...

who has several blogs listed on his profile. Thanks for stopping by and playing.

Pray I don't die before I let you down.

Shit, I can't remember what I'm supposed to do next -- just keep smiling, I guess...
~The Bag Lady

HeHeHe, look where my hands are gonna be! HeHeHe.

~Reb who happens to be The Bag Lady's sister and runs her own blog called Sibu Pegasus Power. No sibling rivalry between them. Not much anyway.

Yes, dear, we'll do something about that backache, too.


Abbraca..no, wait...Kalama...uh" The Senile Illusionist...

~The Bag Lady

What do you mean the tide's coming in?


~The Bag Lady

Oh For God's Sake, Get on with it, already, you old fart! I'm getting a crick in my neck.

~The Bag Lady

Sick and tired of your old personality? Get another!!! No room for storage? Now comes in Anti- Gravity variety! Brought to you by the Perpendicular Society of Pianists.

~Andrew who signed in anonymously but whom I suspect is another trivia bud. Care to confirm?

You know, there ARE easier ways to get the attention of those canasta-playing widows over by the pier.

This is what happens when Baywatch lifeguards become old and senile.


The magic of her hands explains his smile.

~Frank Baron who talked me into starting this blog - so just blame him over at Remaindered Random Musings.

Oh, I wish this old geezer would just hurry up, my neck is getting sore!


Now what?
who has an always-interesting website called Back in the Day.

Do I look Photoshopped to you?


Look! No hands!

~Pavel who has a fun and versatile blog called Probably Pavel.

Thank you to all who participated, either by sending in such clever captions or by voting, or both.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Step Into the Booth

Thanks to all for sending in such great captions for this image. They are all posted below.

Please take the time to vote for your favourite one. I'll continue to keep the comments in moderation mode.

When all votes are in, I'll count them and announce the winner(s).

Feel free to vote even if you didn't send in a caption, but please only one vote, and not for your own caption.

Voting deadline is Tuesday at midnight, EST.


Beach blanket bingo, without the beach blanket.

Now Margie, I don't know how we got here either, and I have NO idea how this woman came to be floating here either. I gotta think it has something to do with aliens, since I am wearing a tux on a beach somewhere... But to heck with the much. Quick! Take a picture of me like... this... and we can say I levitating her! Hee hee hee... they will NEVER get over this one down at the diner.

Don't piss me off, bitch, or you really WILL be sleeping with the fishes!

Women are so gullible, they easily fall for men young or old, Men have this kind of magic, that's why there is love and pain...

Pray I don't die before I let you down.

Shit, I can't remember what I'm supposed to do next -- just keep smiling, I guess...

Viagra works great! See....no hands!!

HeHeHe, look where my hands are gonna be! HeHeHe.

Yes, dear, we'll do something about that backache, too.

Abbraca..no, wait...Kalama...uh" The Senile Illusionist...

What do you mean the tide's coming in?


Oh For God's Sake, Get on with it, already, you old fart! I'm getting a crick in my neck.

Sick and tired of your old personality? Get another!!! No room for storage? Now comes in Anti- Gravity variety! Brought to you by the Perpendicular Society of Pianists.

You know, there ARE easier ways to get the attention of those canasta-playing widows over by the pier.

This is what happens when Baywatch lifeguards become old and senile.

The magic of her hands explains his smile.

Oh, I wish this old geezer would just hurry up, my neck is getting sore!

Abracadabra--Just Love That Viagra!

Dammit, every time I levitate some old guy gets in the way!

Now what?

Do I look Photoshopped to you?

Look! No hands!

Please vote for the one caption that you like best (other than your own) by pasting it into "share your thoughts"(comments).

Thanks for playing!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Time is Running Out

There are just a few hours left to write a caption for the contest outlined in the previous post.

If you haven't sent one in yet, or even if you have, and would like to send more, you have until Midnight, EST on Sunday to do so.

Take a look at the image in the post below, and send in your captions by clicking on the "share your thoughts" (comments) link.

You can send as many as you like.

When all of the captions are in, they'll be posted so that you can vote for your favourite one.

Hurry.. time is running out!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Funny Captions Contest

A new game!

The rules are simple. Come up with a caption, or several for the photo below.

Please use the "share your thoughts" (comments) section to send in your amusing caption(s) for the above image.

You are encouraged to send in as many as you like - as often as you like.

The deadline is Sunday, November 18 at midnight, EST.

Moderation will be on, so nobody will see any of the answers until they're posted after the deadline. I'll only display any non-caption comments.

Once all captions are in, I'll compile them and display them in a new post without authors' names so that you can vote for your favourite caption.

Good luck. Have fun!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Scent of a Novel

I've recently begun reading a book called "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield. I'm only a couple of chapters into it, but so far, the story has triggered a cherished childhood memory.

The setting is that of a second hand book store - a family business run by a biographer and her father. The character tells of her passion for books, leaving her readers with the understanding that reading is almost as necessary to her emotional survival as breathing is to her physical existence. She describes "the smell of old books, so sharp, so dry you can taste it."

When I was a kid, my Dad owned a variety shop for about twelve years. It was on a popular corner in Montreal and he drew in regular crowds from the busy bus stops and transfer point outside, as well as from neighbouring homes. He had a near-steady flow of loyal customers who made a point of dropping by whether they needed to purchase something or not. Often they just wandered in to chat and have a laugh, as my father shared his latest joke.

My parents' devotion to their customers was strong, and they occasionally attended their weddings, celebrated births and birthdays and mourned their deaths. That loyalty was mutual. When my father passed away more than a decade after selling his store, our family was deeply touched by the number of past customers that came to his funeral.

It was a true "Mom and Pop" shop, and my parents worked long hours, seven days a week. Dad opened the store before 7 a.m. so that workday commuters could run in to buy their newspaper and chat with him before continuing their journey when the next bus arrived. Mom took his place in the afternoon when he would come home for lunch and a nap. He locked up for the night at 11 p.m. to come home, eat and settle in to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. In later years, my sister and I would each find ourselves helping out by working behind the cash and stocking shelves. Early on, Dad also hired Pat to work the cash during his off hours and rare days off. She too, became a close family friend, and my sister kept in touch with her until she recently passed away.

During the school year, if Mom was at the store in the afternoon, as she often was, I'd head over there directly after school instead of going home. First I'd have to do my homework in the tiny storeroom at the back, and possibly indulge in take-out barbecue chicken or a burger from one of the nearby restaurants. Then the store shelves were mine to explore and enjoy.

Looking around, there was much to see and do. The shelves were stocked with colourful stuffed animals, bubbles and Slinkys. Puffy pink and red Valentine's and glittery Christmas greetings would attract the eye, as displays changed for each upcoming holiday. Sometimes I'd grab a bag of Humpty Dumpty barbecue chips for a snack, and wash it down with an icy cold Nesbitt's* orange soda. The soft drink companies often held contests in which you were required to check under the caps for winnings. My sister and I would pull out the tray which collected the colourful, sticky caps, and go through them in search of prizes of "free bottles" or of treasures worth "10¢!!!" hidden behind the cork backings.

I loved being there when the daily orders would come in. Opened boxes would reveal the wonderful scents of chocolate, gum and other sweets required to replenish the two displays of candy bars and penny candy. Twice a week, comic and magazine orders would come in, and Dad would give me the task of removing the older copies from the stands and replacing them with the new editions. I'd often get lost between the covers of their shiny, new pages. I'd read anything. In younger years my tastes ranged from Casper and Richie Rich to Millie the Model, Archie and romance comics and Children's Digest. Later, I turned my attention to teen magazines like Seventeen and Tiger Beat, satire such as Mad and Cracked, and eventually Cosmopolitan and other fashion publications. I even bought the first editions of Playgirl and Viva, partly because the banners across the top right corners said they'd be valuable someday, but mostly because the guys inside were cute - and naked.

And then there were the pocket books.
Our store had a large wall-rack which was loaded with the latest novels, from ceiling to floor. They were replenished semi-frequently and it never mattered if I didn't get around to reading one, or several titles that I had mentally set aside, because the book companies never wanted the unsold books back in their possession. They only needed the covers for their inventory, and to ensure that unsold, credited merchandise would not be offered for sale. Of course this meant that our home was loaded up with boxes upon boxes of books, hand-selected from the store's rejects. To this day, those books often come to mind when I open a new paperback novel.

Though not nearly as intense as the scent from old, hard-covered books mentioned in the above author's quote, there is still a certain smell to the ink in pocket books. When I open a new or used book for the first time, the scent that wafts up to my nose brings me back to the days of my father's store, and all its treasures that laid within. I can almost feel how my right hand rested upon a shiny back cover as my left hand touched the dry, rough paper of the title page beneath it.

I'm guessing I'll continue to enjoy The Thirteenth Tale. Both its scent and its verbal imagery have already succeeded in bringing me to a place and time when days were carefree, and my imagination soared. And that's exactly what a good story is meant to do.

Here's my Dad, where he stood proudly for many years, doing what he loved best - schmoozing with his customers, telling jokes, listening to life stories and making life-long friends. A bit of online sleuthing tells me that this photo was taken in April of 1970, which corresponds with the date of the TV Guide seen in the bottom right-hand corner.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Pittance of Time

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and other countries. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, please remember our heroes.

The background of this song and video can be found here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In a Fog

My son walks around in a teenage fog.

Like most boys his age, he focuses on girls, music, MSN, television and clothes - not necessarily in that order.
Inside of my own head, I see him looking something like this.

It doesn't seem all that long ago that he was preoccupied with Sesame Street, Lego, riding his bike and bedtime stories, but those days are long gone, along with the pudgy little hand that used to hold mine when we crossed the street.

I started flipping through his baby book earlier today and found the unread letters that I used to write to him and his brother on each of their first few birthdays. They're unread by my boys because I had decided at the time, that they would be a gift to my sons when they get married.

Here are just a few excerpts from some letters to Alex:

Second Birthday:

• You take great pleasure in screaming at the top of your lungs just so you can then cover up your own mouth with your hand, and say "Don't do dat!"

Third Birthday:

• One time you watched as Jeffrey was having a hard time putting on his shirt. It kept tangling and bunching up around his neck. Finally he threw it down in frustration saying "dumb shirt!" You picked it up for him, put your hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes, and offered "It's not a dumb shirt. It just wants to hug you."

Fourth Birthday:

• You spent some time learning about rhyming words this year, and seemingly had it all figured out. One day, while rhyming was still fresh in your head, you went up to Jeffrey's grade one teacher, Mrs. Pattenden, and informed her that 'car crash' rhymed with 'teacher'. She smiled and told you that 'car crash' does not rhyme with 'teacher', and suggested you try again. So you did. "Accident and Pattenden." Couldn't really argue with you there.

Fifth Birthday:

• One day you stood in the front hallway opening the front door widely, banging it into the opened bathroom door. You were told to stop doing this, with the explanation that you'd make a dent in one of the doors. You shrugged, continued smashing them together and commented that if you made a dent in the door, all we had to do was call the dentist.

• You have a peculiar habit of taking your shoes and socks off the moment you come into the house. When asked why, a simple answer followed. "To do my fluffies." which was simply removing the sock-fluff that has accumulated between your toes.

Sixth Birthday:

• You learned a few lessons about finances this year, when much of what you wanted to buy on different occasions was met with a chorus of "Sorry Alex, that's just too expensive." Sometime later, at the school book fair you found a colourful little car that you wanted. Its parts were actually made out of usable crayon pieces. You were fully aware that it was a car, but I wasn't sure if you knew it was also a set of crayons. I asked you if you knew what it was and you said "Sure, it's a car." I agreed, and then asked if you knew what else it was. Your shoulders sagged and your head dropped as you groaned "Ohhh,.... expensive?"

• This holiday season, you took to singing and renaming The Dreidel Song. "Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay - Hey! Why don't they just call it a claydel?"

• At swimming lessons, you were reluctant to put your face in the water, but this didn't keep you from handing out advice to one of your pals who didn't want to open his eyes under water. "Just keep them closed and when you hear BUMP, that's when you stop."

• You had an ongoing habit of biting your brother when frustrated, and after much discussion, there was yet another bite. You lost your chance at watching TV for the day because of this. You thought that over for a bit, and said "I wish I had a 'rewind button' so that I could undo biting Jeffrey." I suggested that you could use your 'pause button' to stop and think about things before doing them. You dismissed the conversation with a sigh, stating "I should just have a 'fast-forward' button to get past this day."

I could go on, but if Alex reads them all here, he'll have nothing interesting to do on his wedding night...

Somewhere along the way, Alex traded in his Lego for a guitar and found a new focus - that of a serious musician. He's still a goof in most every aspect of his life, but he takes his guitar very seriously. I have tremendous admiration and pride for the way he spends hours working on, and learning new pieces. I have little doubt that he will find his life's path somewhere in music.

At seventeen, he still doesn't see around most corners with clarity, he thinks he knows everything, and he throws outspoken viewpoints at you just for shock value. But he's still funny, cute, talented and lovable, and he'll always be my baby.

Alex - without the fog.

Alex isn't the only one who walks around in a fog. One morning a couple of weeks back, I could scarcely see the houses across the street. I decided to wander around the park and take a few shots.
Click on the photos if you'd like to see them enlarged.

This is the view that greeted me as I entered the park at the bottom of my street. The fog that had settled in, allowed the leaves in the foreground to appear illuminated.

Just off to my left, this path fades into the haze.

In the lake, a single red leaf floats upon still water, which mirrors its image.

Around the bend, at my favourite section of the lake, the fog envelops the trees, casting a misty reflection.

Another day, this same area is alive with colour.

The same grouping of trees, taken from behind.

After a rain, water droplets collect on some leaves.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Wooden Chew Know It?

The perspective photo in the previous post was indeed that of a container of tooth picks. Thanks to all for playing along.

Crabby's guess of an excessive coffee-drinker's toothbrush was not only amusing, but along the right line.

Reb got it first. Way to go Reb, and you're right, it might make a good jigsaw puzzle.

Bag Lady had it in the bag too. Twice in fact! ;)

Photowannabe had an interesting perspective, which I assume comes from burying her nose deep into the macro setting of her own camera. It's not a door mat, but I'm glad you felt welcome to play along. If you click on her link in the comments of the last post, you'll see some wonderful photography on her blog.

Gawilli, you can stop thinking about it because your guess was correct. Thanks for joining in.

Maggie had it right on too. Thanks for stopping by!

DJ Samba may not have had it right, but he gets honourable mention for the most creative answer.

So again, this one was just too easy. I'll work on it for next time.

Till then, thank you to all who joined in.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Perspective is Everything: II

The photo below is of an everyday object found around many homes. It's taken from an unusual perspective - very close up.

If you think you know what it is, and would like to take a guess, leave your comments in the "share your thoughts" section at the end of this post.

I'm going to turn on the moderation setting for a few days so you won't see previous responses. I'll post any comments that are not guesses as I receive them, and all comments in a few days.

Have fun and good luck!

What do you think this close-up image is?