Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bright lights

Don't ever shoot directly into sunlight.

That's one of the first rules I learned from a long-ago photography master.

But one of my favourite rules is to break the rules.

And see? These are some of my favourite shots this year ... and not a single annoying picture of a gorgeous dog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A betrayal of my sisterhood

Editor's note: This is not a picture of my actual closet. I do NOT own a bathrobe with little chicks all over it. I was just too lazy to pull out my camera, take a picture, upload it ... yada yada yada ... you get the ... er ... picture.

OK, closet ... the second I hit 'Publish Post,' it's you and me for about a half an hour.

Here's the deal.

You are going to have to say goodbye to a couple of your friends.

I know, I know ... saying goodbye is never easy, but this is something that has to be done. Frankly, I'm a clothes whore. We both know it.

And you can handle only so much weight. See? I'm thinking of you in all of this, too ... plus the new clothes I bought at Dynamite on Monday.

They need a new home. See? Doesn't that get you excited?

We also can consider the people who will benefit from our doffing of extra clothes, because I'll be making a trip to a donation location this weekend.

So, it's really up to us how many garbage bags we fill with the clothes I don't wear anymore, clothes that don't fit anymore or clothes that just aren't quite 'with it' anymore.

We may cry. We may have to hug it out later. But we'll get through it together.

After all, there's no reason on this planet why one woman should own 10 pairs of denim jeans or seven pairs of pyjama pants, three red T-shirts, five black boobie blouses.

(No, girls ... there really isn't any reason for one person to own seven pairs of pyjama pants. Trust me.)

Of course, if we leak that information out to the guys, I may be in a world of hurt. We'd better keep that a secret, OK?

And look on the bright side ... there's a new pair of Naughty Monkeys on the way ... our eighth pair!

Shoes! New shoes!

See? It won't be that bad. Now, let's get to it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The very definition of Canadian

Brace yourself ... I'm about to reveal some earth-shattering news.

Not everyone likes sports.

No, no ... it's true. Trust me. I know it's hard to believe. Take a deep breath and we'll continue ...

As these Olympics progress, I see Tweets popping up from people bemoaning the sports-centric world in which they're living right now -- from their Twitter stream to the office water cooler.

The solution is easy, you say. Stop following certain people. Walk away from the conversation. Turn the channel.

Not quite so ... not when your peers accuse you of being un-Canadian.

Yes, the Winter Olympiad are being held in Canada.

Yes, we have a terrific contingent of athletes representing our wonderful nation ... two gold medals so far, even!

And yes, they've worked their asses off to get to this stage, this pinnacle of all things athletic. They rightfully deserved our support.

But would we be any less Canadian if we didn't give a rat's derriere about the Olympics?

Am I less Canadian because I don't much care to watch luge, skeleton, bobsled or downhill skiing, even though I'll cheer for their finish and weep at their medal ceremony when I hear my favourite song, our national anthem?

Maybe it begs of us to define what is Canadian.

We remember Joe of I Am Canadian fame. The beer commerical sent waves of pride ad mare ad mare ... over beer of all things.

More recently, slam poet Shane Koyczan of Penticton, B.C., featured his Canadian rant at the opening ceremonies.

Comissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission, the poem taps into many of the emotions we feel when we see our flag raised ... and it reminds us we're more than the nationalistic fervor brought on by the Olympics.

We are cultures strung together then woven into a tapestry
And the design is what makes us more than the sum totals of our history

Within that framework, we have to realize we are more than a Maple Leaf on a hockey jersey, more than the best damned hockey nation on the planet.

We are a country that cares, rushing to the aid of others who are in need.

We are polite. We are humble. We are even a tad shy on the international stage.

It's easy, I suppose, to identify with our athletic accomplishments. It's obvious. It feels good ... this vicarious success we achieve when our athletes receive a medal.

But it's no less Canadian to not want to participate in the fooforall, especially as we roar to the rooftops this fortnight with our pride at our athletes' achievements.

As we change our approach to beating our collective chest with a louder fist, we have to realize that it is very Canadian to have an opinion different from the mainstream and to voice that opinion.

In light of that, in fact, it strikes me as very un-Canadian to not be accepting of someone who exercises those abilities and dares to stand out among the crowd.

So now I ask of you, what does being Canadian mean to you?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic fever

I fell in love with Calgary more than 20 years ago.

It was shortly after my brother, Shane, returned home from an exchange program in Strathmore. His class had been White Hatted, an honour bestowed upon special guests to the city, and joined the ranks of KISS and the Dalai Lama.

I'm not sure if he ever realized the effect that visit had on me.

The pictures of mountains and the copy of the Calgary Sun depicted a magical place, so beyond anything I'd ever known in Antigonish, N.S.

And this was 1986, two years before Cowtown captured the hearts of the world by hosting the Olympic Winter Games.

Fast forward 24 years, skipping over one Stanley Cup championship, an incredible explosion to the economy and my arrival.

The Olympics are back in Canada, based in Vancouver.

Each time a Canadian wins a medal, the flame at the top of the Calgary Tower will be lit, sending our support across the Rockies and over to Vancouver.

Today, it honours Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alta., who captured silver last night in women's moguls.

Tomorrow, it will be burning bright for Kristina Groves, who claimed bronze in women's 3,000-metre speed skating, and moguls' Alexandre Bilodeau, the first Canadian to win gold on home soil.

Meanwhile, many of us who won't make it to Vancouver -- unlike lucky ducks Alex Ruiz, Jill Belland, Greg Hounslow, Danelle Wettstein and Wendy Peters -- will watch, sometimes breathlessly, and pound away on our keyboards.

Never before have the armchair quarterbacks had such a place to voice their opinion and express their pride in our nation and its athletes. Twitter is bringing a whole new level to the Olympics ... and boy, is it fun.

Of course, I'm now reminded how badly I need to clean off my screen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Olympic dream

We trained alongside Robyn Meagher at the track field.

We knew her dedication and commitment to long-distance running.

It was many years later she realized her dream of running for Canada at the Olympics ... was it 1992 in Barcelona?

I never had such fantastic dreams for my athletics. Maybe I'd set the bar as high as playing softball for Kell's Angels but it never came to fruition.

Instead, I reached for my writing ... turned it into a career of writing about sports.

At which point, I took a new perspective on the Olympics, wondering what it would be like to be there.

Wondering what it would be like to file my stories on the fly, be surrounded by the best of my profession and bask in the glory of the Olympic Games.

Never mind Winter or Summer, I just wanted to be there.

I thought I was close.

When I covered the World Figure Skating Championships for the Calgary Sun in 2006, I thought I was never closer.

A colleague with whom I spent a great deal of time that week said he could see me representing the chain at the Olympics.

'Ya got good stuff, kid,' he said.

My eyes were as wide and as bright as that day so many years ago when a figure skating coach said to my mother 'she could be a great ice dancer with those edges.'

A couple of months later, my dream - my entire world - crashed and burned. I got handed my layoff slip, my walking papers, my 'don't let the door hit your ass' pass.

Beijing came and went without a second thought.

Now here I sit, the Vancouver Winter Games are opening ... my first Olympics not watching every other second at the office, writing columns for my weekly or tri-weekly or cleaning up someone else's copy at a daily.

The tears stream down my face through these ceremonies, bursting with pride as a Canadian, because it was a damn emotional opener.

And as I see my friend Tracy post on Twitter that her last life goal is to work an Olympics, I remember it was mine, too.

I've never been one to wonder 'what if,' because it indicates regret and an inability to learn from one's mistakes and strengthen one's resolve.

But there it is ...

What if.

And it hurts.

God, how it hurts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The trouble with Twitter

Don't get me wrong.

Twitter is a great communication tool. My social circle has expanded in ways I couldn't have imagined five years ago.

I have a new appreciation for its ability to disseminate information, following my participation in a fundraiser.

But with that fundraiser came an onslaught of more than 200 new followers, many of whom I felt obliged to follow. They are Flames fans, Calgary folks, photographers, philanthropists and interested in what I'm saying ... apparently.

Yeah, my profile bug says 'interesting as hell' but come on ... it's not like I really believe that. OK, maybe I do ... a little bit.

There's a problem with all these new folks I'm following, though. The people I really really really want to read are getting lost in the shuffle.

That tells me it's high time I sat my arse down, stopped Tweeting for a good couple of hours and sorted some people into lists.

I hope to do that some time this weekend. And please don't be offended if you don't make it onto one of my lists. If you @ me, I promise I'll respond.

And maybe then, you might make it onto a list.

In the meantime, here a couple of other teeny, tiny little faults about Twitter ... or would that be Tweeny, Twiny little?
  • Folks don't really get rhetorical questions. I've asked questions to which I didn't really want an answer and yet some people think it's an opening to a discussion. Not everything needs to be broken down but it seems I'll have to start saying #rhetoricalquestion to see if they get it.
  • In the same vein, sarcasm can be mistaken for serious tone. One has to take care when being flippant so as not to offend.
  • We're missing a temporary 'hide' button. Now I know y'all love my incessant Tweeting to the #Flames hashtag but I'm sure there may ... may ... be a small percentage of my followers who are disinterested. They could turn me off for a little while without un-following. (Credit for this shared with Alex Ruiz and @gotkube.
  • Creeps are sometimes unavoidable. Flirty Tweets among friends get misinterpreted by some watching. We had a guy requesting pictures and asking if we girls were really going to get together and what it is we really liked about each other. My skin crawled. And I blocked him.
If I could pass along some advice, it would be to read your post twice or thrice before hitting submit and ensure your intent will be understood.

And, please please please, don't be creepy.

That's just wrong.

Monday, February 8, 2010

My chubby buddy

Three years ago, my dog had a problem.

He was 130 lb., almost 20 lb. more than his breed's healthy weight. He was lethargic and losing his hair in patches.

I was worried.

At the same time, I was not in a financial position to rush him off to the vet whenever I could.

As fate would happen, I slid into second base on opening night and busted my hand ... really good. I broke the thumb off at the Bennett's joint, tore the tendons in my hand and required surgery to put everything back together.

My friend, Dana, is a veterinarian technician. She was also my teammate. She not only handled me and my pain, getting me to emergency and back to the hospital for surgery, but she also kidnapped Shep for the weekend.

Knowing I was overnighting at Peter Lougheed, she took Shep into her home and made sure he was well taken care of.

She also seized the opportunity to get him in to see Dr. Bill and get his blood tested. Sure enough, his thyroid was out of whack.

He went on medication and, within days, he had his energy back. Inside of two months, he was back to a healthy weight.

Fast forward three years to Saturday afternoon and his annual blood test.

Shep is a strange dog. He loves going to the vet. He knows his buddy Tundra will be there with Auntie Dana and he loves the attention he gets ... from the girls at reception to Dr. Bill.

He's just that kind of dog you can't help but love.

So we stick around to watch Auntie Dana run the blood test.

It's good news. His thyroid levels are high.

That means his dose of medication is too high, too.

So now we get to scale back on the amount of pills he has to take to keep everything regulated.

It's funny, because that isn't the kind of thing we can have control over. But, at the same time, I'm immensely proud of my boo for getting better.

He's happy - at least I think so - and he's healthy.

And because of the incredible love I've learned from him, I'll always ensure he gets to do the things he loves ... like heading for the hills for a good, long run.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I met a Girl Guide, she made me nervous

It's one thing to steal cookies from the Girl Guides but a flute riff?

Well, that's just ... just ... just weird news to be surfacing almost 30 years later.

According to this Canwest story, Men At Work stole a flute riff from Girl Guides' tune, Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, for their 1980s hit, Down Under.

Refresh your memory. It's pure '80s cheese, particularly the dance scene around 1:45.

The flute riff, said federal court Justice Peter Jacobsen, "replicates in material form a substantial part" of the 1935 camping ditty.

So, somebody's going to get some cash from EMI and Men At Workers Colin Hay and Ron Strykert ... as in more than 60 per cent of the song's royalties.


That's a lot of coin.

In the Herald Sun of Australia, Hay waxed poetic about the song, calling it "my friend, ever since it was born."

A tad creepy. But hey, when you have three, maybe four, songs that fans want to hear over and over and over again, one probably starts to feel like family?

Hay goes on to disagree with Jacobsen's findings, asserting that two bars (O Henry? Snickers?) of Kookaburra inspired the flute series of Down Under, but the riff was nowhere close to the original.

"I believe what has won today is opportunistic greed and what has suffered is creative musical endeavor," Hay writes. "This outcome will have no real impact upon the relationship that I have with our song ... for we are connected forever."

Dude, it's not a baby.

And next time, watch out for those Girl Guides. They're vicious little bitches.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fathers and sons

Oh ESPN, how you love to beat a dead horse?

Encircle the corpse and lay waste to even the flies with your bats. If the horse ever opened his eyes, we might read PCLoadLetter in its pupils.

Ad nauseum, the American sports broadcasting giant mentioned the Brandon Sutter-Brent Sutter relationship tonight during the Carolina Hurricanes-Calgary Flames game.

We, as Flames fans, had no choice but to watch the ESPN feed online.

First intermission, Brandon and Brent interviews about this being the first time in NHL history a son has played a team coached by his father.

Second intermission, same thing.

Now you might think this is a rant.

It is not a rant. (Use your Arnold Schwarzenegger voice to say that, please)

In fact, it reminded me of a story from days of yore.

You see, even media folk have opportunities for hazing the newbies.

There I was, a rookie on the Kamloops Blazers WHL beat. It was maybe my sixth game in the press box at what was then known as Riverside Coliseum.

I have no recollection of the opposition that night.

But Bob Gainey was in the building. Yes, that Bob Gainey ... legendary left winger for the Montreal Canadiens, winner of four Frank Selke trophies, a five-time Stanley Cup champion, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992 and currently executive vice-president and general manager of the Habs.

Back then, he was managing the Dallas Stars.

And his son, Steve, was playing for the Blazers.

Scott Cruickshank, now of Calgary Herald fame, was writing for the Kamloops Daily News. He and I quickly became beat buddies, chatting in the press box and keeping each other up on the play.

This night, he said, 'hey, did you know Bob Gainey's here?'

Still a bit capable of getting a little starstruck, my eyes widened and I said, 'no way!'

'Yup, and he looooooves to talk about his kid. I've done the story before but you might want to catch up with him.'

'Cool. Great idea. Thanks.'

I bet you can see what's coming now.

Yeeeeeah ...

Bob doesn't like to talk about his kid.

In fact, he can be pretty gruff when it comes dealing with such matters.

Scary even.

I excitedly asked Bob if I could ask him about watching the game.

'Stephen is his own man,' he grunted in my general direction. 'Talk to him about the game.'

I slunked off. My tail between my legs.

I got back to press box position, completely forgetting I also gave a brief thought to asking Bob for an autograph, given that my eldest brother has been a lifelong Habs fan.

There was Cruickshank, biting his lip.

'How did it go,' he asked.

'Not well.'

He burst out laughing, slamming his hand against the counter.

I don't remember whether Cruickshank told me he'd gotten caught in the jig, too, or whether he just happened to fall into the Gainey trap.

But I'll never forget that night.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Another one bites the dust

How bizarre.

You know when some news pops into your RSS feed and you think, 'huh? who?' So you read a little bit further and you think, 'oh yeeeeaaaah, that guy ... huh.'

Pauly Fuemana died yesterday.

Huh? Who?

He's a New Zealander who sung under the banner of OMC.


One-hit wonder from the 1990s ... How Bizarre.

Oh, that guy!

The little ditty reached No. 1 in Canada and peaked at No. 4 in the United States.

I'm pretty sure I had it on a CD (remember those?) in my car.

Here, have a listen: