Being Measured and Falling Short

There are so many pleasures that come with entertaining in your home.  Memorable times abound with family and friends in the privacy of your own four walls and around a kitchen or dining table.  

One thing I have always enjoyed is setting the table for dinner when entertaining.  Somewhere along the way I became interested in napkin folding.  Indeed, I have come to think about napkin folding among my few talents.  I was going to add it to my resume at one point but then thought better of it.  Over the years I took napkin folding to heart.  I have two books on the subject.  I used to think of it in a small way as an artistic addition to the table.  I used to think of it that way.


Thinking of writing this blog has been in the works a long time.  I came upon a piece almost five months ago that poured cold water all over my idea of folded napkins and it’s taken me this long to write about it.  An article in the Globe and Mail this spring focused on the book The Butler Speaks: A Guide to Stylish Entertaining, Etiquette and the Art of Good Housekeeping.  The book was written by one Charles the Butler.  

And when it came to folded napkins, he writes: “Overly intricate folds may be seen as a sign of lack of sophistication, and even as unhygienic: a professional butler will do everything in his power to avoid touching your napkin.”

I noticed today that there was a chance to ask Charles the Butler questions after the article was published.  I was hoping someone would challenge him on his severe view of folded napkins.  But no, no one asked about napkin folding.  

Here I sit, now, unsophisticated, perhaps even unhygienic looking through my books to find a fold for our upcoming dinner party.  I have decided on one fold I will use today.  It consists of folding that newspaper article in half and feeding the page through our paper shredder.

In the world of entertaining, have you ever done something you thought was really quite eye-catching or fashionable to be told or to read that someone thinks you have fallen short of their etiquette measurement?


Insect Repellent with a Sting

I used to be more trusting of the way things worked.  If a product was available for sale, then surely it met standards and was safe.  Then I got older and wiser and learned of stories where the system didn’t catch things.  I worked at an agency whose work was health technology assessment where I learned to be circumspect about drugs and devices even though they were approved for sale in Canada.  While it’s easy enough to think someone must be looking after it all, it’s also true that more information comes out after a product comes to market about its true benefits in the real world and unfortunately some times about harms that weren’t first identified.  Now I do some research before purchase and use.  Except for the other day and the purchase of an insect repellent.  And it’s laughable, really.

I was thinking that all this DEET can’t be good for you and thought I’d try for a less toxic insect repellent.  I found something called Repel ” Natural Insect Repellent”, DEET-Free.  I was in the USA and didn’t have access to the internet so I read the label-it contained Geraniol “a natural active ingredient, effective against mosquitoes for up to 2 hours”.  Geraniol sounds like geranium and perhaps that the source, I thought.  

When back home I looked up research on the product I found that it is supposed to have some repellent effect. However there’s another feature of the repellent.  It attracts bees.  Really? Now that’s not on the label.   It’s humorous, don’t you think that you might not be swatting mosquitoes but you may rival the local roses for the attention of local bees.

I was thinking this might be a good repellent to use in the garden if it kept garden pests away and attracted bees.


If you see someone who is not bothered by mosquitoes but is running from bees, it’ll be me.

Have you ever come across products where you wonder how it came to market when its benefits are sometimes at cross purposes?

Garth’s Garage “Always Open”

Our friend Garth lives in central Saskatchewan, Canada. He does not have a blog site and I asked him if he would like to post a story about one of his passions-his garage and shop. And here it is:

About 2 years ago, my wife and I decided to build a new house. We had lived in our summer cottage since selling our house in town and although it was a nice cottage, as a full-time house it left a few things to be desired. I jumped at the opportunity because this meant a chance to build a new garage and design a new shop. I am an amateur auto restorer and I spend a lot of time in my shop. So, with the house and the garage finished it was time to set up my new shop. I make a lot of dust and dirt in my shop and my wife likes “her side” to be clean so:


The answer of course is my shop with all of my tools and my current project, a 1968 Camaro in residence.


It has many of the amenities of a good shop, ample space (16 feet by 30 feet), a furnace, a ventilation fan and lots of fluorescent lights. It also has a bench which I built out of two old but solid kitchen tables. I added drawers and shelves so everything has a place.


It also has a picture of a very nice toy. And a custom clock that my daughter, son-in-law and grandson gave me for Christmas.


The caption at the bottom of the picture reads “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys”. No doubt this is true and my wife is very tolerant of my “holes in the shop that I pour money into”.


This is a picture of the current “hole”, a 1968 Camaro in need of much work. I enjoy the work very much and it has made sure that I am never bored in my retirement. Are you retired? What is your hobby?

Paying for Parking

This radio program (attached below) about parking will make you think the next time you are looking for a spot to park your car.  It’s quite the eye opener. 

I have had some experience related to parking spaces.  At a previous job, I thought that it made sense to try to change a hierarchal method of allocating parking spaces.  Up to that point free parking was provided to those who worked in certain positions or had been there a long time while others had to fend for themselves.  Why not change to a system where the cost of parking would be spread equally across all those who used parking.  Factor in the “free” spaces and make it equitable. As leader of the group I made the pitch for change.  It made a lot of sense and it was fair to all.  I thought. We held a confidential vote.  When the smoke cleared nothing changed and I decided to never try to touch parking space allotment again.  People who make decisions and carry out allocation of office spaces and parking spots deserve being put forward for awards of bravery.

Paying for Parking

Do you have stories of parking and parking spaces?

Checking Out a Human Book

My friend and I made a trip to the Ottawa Public Library recently.  We wanted to take part in the Human Library Project.  This is from the Human Library website: “The Human Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding. The main characteristics of the project are to be found in its simplicity and positive approach.”

This year the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio worked with the Human Library.Org to host Human Library Days in 15 cities across Canada.  My friend and I  drove a fair distance to check out specific “books” based on our interest.   You can’t reserve a book before you get there and you can only check out one book at a time and then you must go back to registration to see if there are other times available with other books.  The system is designed on a first come, first served basis and to allow more people a chance to check out a book.  There are some “rules” for the discussion with your book as well.  

My Human Book was Theresa Dupuis. She gave me permission to write about our discussion.  She was listed under: blind octogenarian.  Here’s a bit of the discussion with her beforehand.

The time we had together (20 minutes) flew by.  I asked her where she got her zest for life.  She talked about the difficult things that have happened in her lifetime (including losing her sight) and her determination to move on.  She didn’t gloss over the hurt or sense of loss but she talked about the need to work with the cards you are dealt.  Theresa talked about her family and her upbringing as one likely source of her resolve.  She was a delight.  

Theresa brought some of the technology she uses in everyday life.  A book reader (she belongs to a book club) and a talking calculator.  She brought the trophy she received as Skier of the Year, this after she lost her sight.  And finally a sculpture of a mother and child that she proudly had on display.  

I asked Theresa how she learned of the various supports and assistances that are available to people who are sight impaired.  She said she did the research on her own.  Theresa used to work for a Member of Parliament in the Government of Canada and was well versed in how to find out how things worked.  She brought those skills to bear in dealing with her blindness.  

Looking back, I think she was filed under the wrong category.  Theresa should have been listed under “vibrant woman who lives without the sense of sight”.   I learned a great deal in the short time we had together.   I usually never check out a book more than once.  My view is there are so many books in the world, why spend time reading any one of them more than once.  When it comes to Human Books though, it’s time for me to change my tune.

From time to time we meet people who have a very special zest for life.   You watch them and wonder what it is that makes them tick.  Have you met someone like that? What was it that drew you to them?

Doors Open Ottawa 2012-Part II

Ottawa Carleton (OC) Transpo-The  Maintenance Garage-Part II

Who cares?

While I spend little time thinking about or noticing automobiles or knowing statistics about vehicles, (I mix up the various symbols on the back of cars-thinking a Mazda logo is a Mercedes and so on.) bus statistics are pretty interesting.  During our recent visit to the OC Transpo site as part of Doors Open Ottawa , we boarded a modern articulated (bend in the middle) bus  and traveled around and through the “state of the art” maintenance garage and the bus wash.  The bus wash is just like an automated car wash-only much bigger.  The garage looked pretty impressive.  They are proud of it, for sure.

If someone does care:

  • Ottawa has a population of 900,000. 
  • The budget for OC Transpo is approximately $4M annually
  • OC Transpo is now running a number of hybrid buses
  • If all the OC Transpo buses were put end to end, they would stretch for 8 km.
  • An articulated bus (bend in the middle) costs approximately $750,000 to purchase
  • That same bus (as above) weighs 19,000 kg.
  • Each bus puts on approximately 60,000 km/year
  • Gas tank-450 L
  • Fueling up at the garage-when the nozzle is put into the gas tank, the flow rate is somewhere close 450L/min.  You could fill up your car in seconds.  At that rate  I could spend more time memorizing car logos then.
And a final vintage bus picture to end the true story.

Doors Open Ottawa 2012-Part 1

Ottawa hosts “Doors Open Ottawa” every year as part of the Doors Open Ontario event.  We’ve gone to Doors Open Ottawa every time we could since moving here.  It can be very interesting to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes or to see places where you normally cannot gain access.

There are over 100 buildings/sites to choose from in Ottawa.  At best you might get to 4-6 per day sites if you started very first thing and stayed with it to closing time and the line ups weren’t too great.  I think that would be a bit much.  We usually make it to 2 or 3 locations at most in one day.

We spent a good length of time at one of the new locations this year:

Ottawa Carleton (OC) Transpo, Vintage Buses and the  Maintenance Garage-Part I

From the brochure:  “OC Transpo opened this maintenance garage, the first of its kind in over 30 years, in September 2010. This is one of the most modern bus garages in North America, measuring 480 ft. by 430 ft. It is the first transit garage in North America that is LEED Silver Rated Certified (Environmental) and equipped with latest technology in wireless controlled hydraulic hoist. On display: OC Transpo’s bus evolution – the oldest in our fleet to the newest articulated bus and the double-decker bus.”

OC Transpo Maintenance Garage

Buses From Days Gone By

Walking around the vintage buses made me want to go back in time and ride them in the day. How were the people dressed?  And what did they do on the bus?  No iPods or cellphones or e-readers.  They were likely reading newspapers and Harlequin romances and smoking cigarettes.  Where were you (if you were anywhere) in 1950 and/or 1958?

Model 337 (1950) and model 5931 (1958)

Caine’s Arcade

There was a heartwarming story in the paper recently about Caine Monroy, a 9 year old who lives in East Los Angeles.  He is the subject of a short film that has become a recent Internet viral sensation.  The film is Caine’s Arcade.  

Over and over again we see the impact of Internet and social media exposure (good and bad).  This one is good (we trust).  Take a look at the sidebar and note how much money has been donated towards Caine’s college education and towards a trust fund to foster creativity and enterpreneurship in young children.  

Among many creative children (I think of a nephew of ours in particular) who have built many things from scratch, it is the luck of the draw in this day and age to have an independent film maker show up and shine a light on one special young boy.  

What do you think of social media and its ability to instantly shine a light on everything from heartwarming human interest stories, to singing babies, to a father shooting his daughter’s laptop for what he saw as her ungratefulness and on and on.  Are we better off for it?


2011 Blog Stats

Happy New Year one and all!  Time to pull out the pants with the elasticized waist bands and to consider the purchase of an elliptical trainer or a long-term gym membership.  

WordPress sent me an “annual report” for the past year…well it’s actually 3/4 of a year since the first blog was March 31st.  The report follows.  Thank you for reading the blog.  I really appreciate comments on the blog-some come via the comment section and some come direct to me as email.  It seems this year people were particularly interested in the retirement blogs and the matching of scotch and chocolate.  I won’t be able to repeat the retirement from an almost 40 year career in 2012 while another go at the scotch and chocolate thing is much more likely. 

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’m Left-Handed, Not Sinister

It’s time to speak out on behalf of left-handed or mixed-handed people.  Mixed-handed is the label for people who are not solely left or right-handed. I think there’s a world-wide conspiracy of some sort.  We get a bum rap-those of us who aren’t right-handed.  

Scissors aren’t made for left-handers, nor are powers tools and machinery.  Lecture halls restrict us to sitting at the end of the aisles where they situate the left-handed desks.  What if we wanted to sit in the middle of the aisle?  When writing, our hand is tinged with ink as we drag our left hand through the ink writing left to right on the page.  We apparently have more accidents since the world is made for right-handed people.

An article in the Globe and Mail newspaper today  “The health risks of sinister people” by Shirley S. Wang, a member of the Wall Street Journal Staff wasn’t exactly a fun read if you are left-handed.  She reports some researchers have found that left-handers’ brains are wired differently that may result in difficulty with language as well as ADHD symptoms.  Stress during pregnancy seems to increase the risk of having a left or mixed-handed child which in turn, they say, may be a risk factor for possible psychiatric or developmental conditions.

I’ve about had it with this type of research.  I am left-handed. I don’t think I am sinister. (Actually I am more accurately mixed-handed.)  The definition of sinister spans being left-handed or threatening, bad, evil and disastrous. There is a need for someone to do the research on the advantages of being left-handed. 

  • Sports:  Most people involved in sports are right-handed. By being left-handed, players can pose an advantage because their competitors aren’t as used to playing left-handed players.  There’s plenty of left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball.
  • Higher IQ: A 2000 study by Dr. Alan Searleman of St. Lawrence University in New York found that more left-handed people had an IQ averaging over 140 than right-handed people.  Albert Einstein was left-handed.  
  • Creativity: Due to what may be different wiring in the brain, left-handers may be better at divergent thinking or starting from existing knowledge to develop new concepts, which is considered and element of creativity.

When we read or hear of research, it’s important to look carefully into the report and the findings.  Who are the researchers?  What are there qualifications?  What is the strength of the evidence?  Who is funding the research?

I’ll bet if we looked into the research on left-handers, the researchers are all right-handed.  And their research is well-funded by the makers of right-handed scissors, right-handed desks and right-handed power tools.