Monday 4 February 2013

Mother Goose - The Sequel

Canada Goose

Firstly, for the uninformed, the CANADA GOOSE is NOT an indigenous form of sexual grabbing in the land of the Mounted Police. No, the Canada Goose is a bird - a very large one. It is, however, not unique to Canada although I'm sure many nations wish that were the case.

There was a time when Canada geese spent the summer in Canada but come winter, they would migrate south to warm climates just like many other Canadians. Then however, I believe they learned how to work the system, also like other Canadians. They return once per year for a minimum stay to secure free medical treatment of broken wings, acute sunburn, annual checkups etc. Obviously no birth control pills. I understand that various provincial and federal governments are working independently (of course) on closing this flagrant rip-off of public funds. So far they appear to be failing. They are up against formidable competition – superior bird-brains.

Typically the white bibbed birds fly in a distinctive "V" formation in the sky. I used to think that this behaviour proved the intelligence of the bird - very strategic. Now however, I realise that Canada Geese should be flying in "C" formation. They are not after all Venezuelan Geese. Besides, if they were so smart they would just stay south where it remains warm thus obviating the weary flights. Then the Medicare would not be needed. Now it appears that most of them stay all winter as well.

It seems that there is a population explosion every year. Given their current numbers I suspect that all they ever do is … well … goose each other. There are MILLIONS of them. They put the rabbit to shame.  A goose has up to a dozen or more offspring. I have never actually seen two of them performing the act. It makes me wonder then – why is their population so immense?

My own theory is that the "act" takes place on water right before our eyes while they appear to be just floating. It certainly gives a new meaning to synchronised swimming! That would mean that the males are very skilled and very well endowed. At any given time several are constantly "honking" - a distinctive, horrible sound. I can't distinguish the male honk from the female one. Could it be that this is climactic delight - you know, the big “O”? Are they declaring that the lake moved?  I believe that when they are honking on land, what they are really saying is "How about a quick swim - a little dip in the pond if you know what I mean - nudge, nudge, wink, wink, honk, honk?

Many consider them to be magnificent at least in the sky - “C”, “V” or whatever. In fact, all aspects of their flight are fascinating - especially the take-off and landing and there are several documentaries on the subject. The distances they cover are truly amazing. In my opinion the magnificence ends there.

Like most birds and some humans, it appears that they never received toilet training. The characteristic green droppings are everywhere. I once spent just over 2 1/2 years in London England in the early 1970’s, and there were even large numbers of them in Hyde Park at that time. I was taken back when I detected a tone of annoyance in the normal English politeness, as I brought up the subject of my fellow flying Canadians in the famous park. Quite simply, they made a horrible mess. It was as though I was being blamed. I wondered if they thought that I might recklessly squat and attend to business on the grass myself. Bloody Colonials!

Geese are attracted to golf courses – lots of grass. Golfers hate them. Spectators hate them. Greenkeepers hate them. No doubt the feeling is mutual. Although I am sure it is good for the grass, green goose poop is not good for the golf shoes. Greens have become a little too green. Golfers have developed their own "goose step" as though the green were a mine field. Removing such obstructions before a putt is not a pleasant task.

Do geese live forever? I never see any dead ones - dead seagulls and other birds, but no dead geese. I suppose this is a good thing - I would not want to have one drop out of the sky and onto my head. They bring down airplanes. A long life expectancy would explain the numbers. One of the coldest winters I recall was 1993-1994. The geese were still here. How do they eat under such conditions? The grass is under several inches of snow and ice. The ponds and most rivers are frozen. Once again we see their intellect.

These Mother Geese have learned that in winter Canadians see them as homeless fellow citizens. We feed them. I suspect the birds also know about “landed immigrant status.” In their case however they can just land anywhere without the need for airports or immigration. Mark my words: it is only a matter of time before publicly funded goose housing projects are under construction. They will get the vote at this rate.

I have a suggestion. The next time there is an emergency call for food in some part of the world, try this. There was a Canadian with a lightweight aircraft who trained his geese to follow him. Unfortunately he has passed. But perhaps someone else could copy the idea and lead the damn things straight to the stricken area. Call it “Smart-Aid” - they will actually fly themselves to those in need and their plates. Heck, the recipients could collect the goose down and sell it back to us for winter clothing thus helping both economies. We get most of our goods from abroad now anyway. I do believe my own bird brain is on to something here.

There you have it - a full circle. My mother used to read Mother Goose tales to us. Now I am writing my own. The only thing missing is the "And they lived happily ever after.” That does seem to apply to Canadian Geese – not so much to the rest of us.

The Brewster

Friday 1 February 2013

Secrets – Don't Tell Anyone BUT …

What is it in human nature that seems to cause so many of us to treat a “secret” like some kind of trading chip  - an international currency which will be accepted anywhere and can be instantly traded for more of the same?  

Whenever someone begins a conversation with the likes of “Can you keep a secret?” I have some immediate thoughts - negative thoughts. "Yes, I can keep a secret but obviously you can’t, so I will never divulge any to you." There is also the classic “I’m not supposed to tell anyone but …” and I think "So why are you?" In each case a trust is being broken if they tell me. The loose jaws really come out of the woodwork in a corporate environment, especially when the boss passes on something in confidence.

I loathe this. Is it just me or does anyone out there agree? I think along the following lines:
When someone trusts me well enough to tell me something about themselves or about some thought or concern they have, it is a compliment. This person sees me as a true friend. If they ask me to keep it to myself I do. To do otherwise is to betray the confidence placed in me. I admit that sometimes it is difficult, but for me it is a matter of pride. Unfortunately, most other people do not seem to agree. 

I have a friend who once passed on something that he was not meant to and I called him on it. He laughed and justified his actions by saying that if the source really wanted to keep it a secret, then they wouldn't or shouldn't have told him in the first place. Maybe he was right.

I suppose the only true secret is the one that never leaves the cranium. If you pass on a confidence - note the word I am using -  to a trusted friend - great!  That is one of the benefits of true friends. They are hard to find. Afterwards you have the choice of telling someone else but they do not. If a group of people all agree that something which is about to be spoken or has been spoken is to be kept strictly among the members of the group then that qualifies as a secret as well. No member however should decide independently to tell someone outside the group. 

When someone at the office seems to know just about everything before anyone else hears it they like to call it “networking.” Developing the biggest network often becomes a game practiced by both sexes. What they do not seem to realize is that some people (me for sure) conclude that the inventory of confidential information they have in their brains might have been ill gotten. People won’t continue to “network” confidential things if they receive nothing in return and It is very likely that the collector gave up something for the information in question. 

With the internet and Social Networking today it is easy to collect and dispense as much public information as desired and to be the first. Many well-known TV and Radio personalities make a career of it. But to me secrets conveyed directly to me are and will remain sacred.

Naturally all of this is just between us.

The Brewster

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Monsters - of the Hose Variety I Have Known

I've been Hosed

I enjoy mechanical challenges and trying to solve them. I still dream about the million dollar invention. Here is one which I have not yet resolved. There are gadgets which claim to solve this problem but from my observations, none have been successful. 

Before proceeding, you should know that I have a Ph.D. in Hose-Coiling through a Plant Watering Scholarship from a well-known American university. My peers call me "Dr. Hoser" but The Brewster is preferred.

Try as I might, it is impossible to coil a long garden hose without producing knots which I would be unable to tie if my life depended on it. I gave up on cheap plastic hoses long ago. When it is cold outside they might as well be made of metal. Nothing like a good, expensive, pliable, rubber! Perhaps the Durex company should get into garden hoses.

One of my longest hoses is kept in the garage. When I am putting it away I am more meticulous than when I fold my clothes.

First, I lay out its full length in my driveway so that it drains. For those of you without a doctorate it is critical that the driveway slants away from the garage. This was actually a major element in my thesis. Next I stand on the high end and I pull the entire thing towards me by one arm's length to form a small loop on the ground. It can’t be too wide - just enough to eventually hang on that useless winding gizmo I bought - more on that later.

Hoses have a mind of their own. Funny, people say that about me. With each pull, I have to twist the coil with my wrist so that it will lie flat. It always flops one way or the other during this critical stage resembling some landed large-mouthed bass. The next few feet of hose will then twist clockwise or counter-clockwise in a corkscrew manner. The direction of twist is never the same and I don’t know why. The tension in the remainder of the hose is then almost as high as the tension in me.

I have this repeat vision that some day my lady will come out to the driveway only to find me strangled by the sudden unleashing of all of that power – like a tow truck cable snapping. The coiled part suddenly unwinds and loops around my neck choking me instantly. What a way to go. Imagine the headlines - “Man dies from hose- cause of death old rubber”. At other times I rest one foot on it like a great African safari hunter. I digress. After this careful process is finished and I have a relatively neat and now defeated hose at my feet, I hang it on that contraption on the wall mentioned earlier.

This also requires great care. I have often had the last loop fling itself off in one final death struggle like Glenn Close rising from the tub at the end of Fatal Attraction. It can be devastating if the metal nozzle is still attached and within proximity of a car. Bye, Bye paint job.

OK - now it is hung. The real mystery is why, after all of this, it gets so tangled the next time I use it. I also addressed this in my thesis which I believe guaranteed my pass.

I lay it down about 10 feet from the faucet with the female end on top (I always liked that anyway.)  That is the end that goes on to the faucet. Use your imagination if you are not familiar with these mechanical "male" and "female" references. Then I uncoil enough to walk the female part to the tap on the wall connecting it as tightly as I can. So far, so good. Next I do what I think is very clever. My Professor agreed. I flip the coil over so that the male end is on top. Again - not a bad choice.

In theory, I should now be able to pull the damn thing out to its full length with no problem. I take off running. BAM! I get stopped in my tracks and jerked backwards almost wrenching off my arm. I can’t look back during this dash because I might hit a tree. I did once so maybe that is why I write this stuff. I cautiously backtrack fearing strangulation again and there it is - a mangled, tangled mess of hose. In order to untangle it, by some unwritten law of nature it always requires retrieval of the far end to feed back through the tangle. 

PLEASE. Someone tell me I’m not alone. Can’t anyone invent a hose that does not tangle? I have bought them with this claim but to no avail. I see new ones every year. Personally I would rather receive Emails offering to keep my hose straight than the ones I already receive claiming to lengthen it.

Now about that hose coiler - you know the kind? You attach the water supply to one side of it and the hose to the other side. In theory you can crank it in or out without shutting off the water. Great idea! Try as I did however, I could never get the hose clamp tight enough on the supply end to prevent it from pushing itself off the connection under pressure and flooding my garage, usually without my knowledge. (OK. I am omitting the part about me not shutting off the tap.) 

I think local utility companies designed these. It increases water bills. That elegant “coiler shutteroffer thing” which was someone’s personal invention is now just a passive hose hanger on the wall albeit a very impressive one. It is like buying a mannequin to hang a tie. I hope you went broke whoever you are.

Surely firefighters have mastered a solution to this? Now there is a thought. Why don’t firefighters go into the hose coiling consulting business? They could make a fortune. On the other hand, maybe all I have to do is buy a used fire truck to park in my driveway which would take all of my hoses. Surely I would get a break on the house insurance? I can just hear the reaction of my wife and my neighbours!  

That's a wrap.

The Brewster

Monday 21 January 2013

MYTH: Prison and Corporal Punishment Don't Deter Crime

Punishment Does Deter Crime

If I had 10 bucks for each time I heard that punishment - spanking; shame; corporal; prison; and yes capital - do not work because they do not deter errant behaviour I would be much richer.

I believe this is bunk. There are usually statistics and "studies" cited to substantiate this old argument but we all know that we can find statistics to back any statement. So I won't but I will leave it up to you to find your own if you agree with the following. Personally I don't need statistics - life experience is good enough.

I also believe that the points I am about to make are fundamental everywhere - here in Canada where we don't really have a prison mentality and in other countries where they do.

Every year a group of guys I know who are already south of the 50th parallel of life get together for a round of golf late in the summer. We all attended the same public school - now demolished - or one of 2 or 3 high schools in our region. Some of our homes were a mile or two apart but we now consider ourselves former neighbours. One of the youngest built the golf course. We were not all friends back then because 2+ years of age difference when you are in primary school seem huge at the time but at this age we are now just one generation.

After commiserating over the game with a couple of beers, talk often gets around to the good old days. A favourite is what ever happened to ...? Those years - the '50s and '60s - had real life Fonzie's and tough guys who would bully or fight and yes, commit crimes. Some of them did die in violent circumstances or have spent time in the slammer.

We all lived with the threat of getting the strap at school or at home or both; sometimes being handled forcefully by teachers; going without our supper; or being sent to our rooms.  We all agree that those things did not deter those same guys from repeat behaviour. In fact getting the strap for some was cool.

So the main point of all of this is that in many cases - hard core criminals; murderers; rapists; burglars; fraud artists etc. - jail time will probably not work. They will often repeat their crimes.  However they represent only a very small group compared to the population at large - the REST of us.

The threat of punishment back then and even now did and still does deter that larger group. It certainly did me and from our discussions my colleagues are largely free from criminal records and do not want to spend the rest of their lives as Big Bubba's shower mate. We don't want to lose our right to drive or have to pay ridiculous insurance premiums. Our relatively normal lives mean too much to us.

Unfortunately over the decades many of those disincentives have been taken away by some people with good intentions. Look what has happened through those same decades.

We used to walk to and from school with no fear. We played outside at night. Our parents were comfortable with that. If you ticked off one of those tough guys you might get bruised but they did not pull out a gun and kill you. There were some gangs like those in West Side Story where real knife fights occurred but guns were seldom used. However none of us felt the absolute need to be in a gang just to survive.

Today all of those things do happen. Young kids do carry weapons and don't think twice about using them. Parents sue teachers for any physical contact and kids sue their parents for the same thing or even less. Some young girls go to school looking like five dollar hookers and guys dress just as badly. Sadly, today the parents blame the schools for not keeping their kids safe.

Surely there is a co-relationship here. As punishment disappeared, kids' behaviours degraded and then they carried those standards into parenthood as the norm.

To those who are against any form of physical punishment I believe that I and all of those golfing colleagues are proof that things were not so bad. In fact it DID work on all of us. I don't recall any teacher being charged for abuse of kids and if they were guilty of same, then if anything the courts back then were much tougher on them. The same applied to abusive parents.

So go for it web crawlers. Let's see some statistics for two things:

1. Increases in types of crime over the last 50 years or AND ...
2. The percentage that these offenders represent of the total population

I am convinced that even with today's more lenient courts, the disincentive for the larger group still works. So yes - build more prisons. When I am really angry the threat will keep me from lashing out. When I am in need of a lot of cash, I won't be taking my chances with bank robbery or burglary.

Surely that goes for most of you also. If not let us hear your counter argument.

The Brewster

Sunday 20 January 2013

Prostate Exams: The Fickle Finger of Fate - Bottoms Up Gents

When I was in my fifties I thought I was still young. Now I am somewhat north of that and my thoughts have changed. We all go through routine medical procedures as we age. Often follow-up visits to other specialists are recommended just “to be sure nothing else is going on”. When I hear that I fear something else is going on. I am right. I am getting old.

As a man I am at the age when that infamous annual finger-poke is recommended by my personal physician to check for prostate problems. While I am on the topic let me clarify something. The word is prostate, not prostrate. The latter is the position you are asked to assume in order to receive the former.

The procedure is normally performed during a routine physical. For those prurient females or for guys who are about to experience this most intimate of doctor / male patient relationships for the first time, I will tell you what to expect. To any female readers I recognize that women suffer a digital examination in a different and even more intimate orifice than we do, often from a male doctor.  There are no stirrups ladies – but there is plenty of intimacy.

Basically, you drop your drawers and lie prostrate on your side on “the table”. “The table” is covered by a microscopically thin roll of paper. This paper is to protect you from all of the creepy crawlies deposited by previous patients. Think about this! The examiner sees fit to wear latex gloves impervious to most bacteria while examining you on the table. You however are placed on a piece of tissue through which, in microscopic terms, you could drive a truck full of bacteria. Perhaps I am being too anal. Perhaps it is appropriate!

Some doctors prefer you to turn away from them – then you can’t see the smile on their face. Others ask you to turn towards them in which case you pretty much have your face in an area of their anatomy which I will leave to your imagination. That’s one of two moments I wish he were a she. The doctor, as mentioned, wears a latex glove - or is it two? I never really noticed. If not, there must be a lot of single gloves being discarded. Maybe the right-handers and the left-handers do an exchange - good for ecology.

He applies a suitable lubricant to you and the glove - WD40, 10W30 or some such thing. The examination only requires one finger. The other hand is busy holding things apart to give the proper - access. Use your imagination. With more portly men I suspect he probably needs the second hand just to extricate the first one. You are warned that there might be a feeling of “pressure” or of wanting to have a bowel movement. This is accurate!

The whole thing only takes a few seconds just like a male’s role in the more common act of intimacy. If it takes him longer I suggest you turn around to see just what the other hand IS doing! That’s about it. You are told you can put your clothes back on. I usually take this option.

There is instant verbal feedback – usually while you dress. If you are asked to join him in his office, start worrying. In my case I was told that I had “quite a large one”. This is the second time I wished he were female. Then those words might have been music to my ears. Just the same he said things felt normal. Maybe to you Doc. Nothing about the entire process felt normal to me.

Often a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test is recommended along with the regular blood tests performed by a lab. The PSA level can lead to an early discovery of prostate cancer. It costs an extra $35.00 at time of writing - not covered by our provincial medical plan. Funny how politicians are such masters at covering their own butts but they won’t cover mine.

Mine had been high three times in a row (my PSA count, not my GP). He referred me to an urologist. This is a specialist in butt-poking, rising PSAs, and other male parts that won’t rise. The good news was that this Master of The Poke also told me things felt normal but he wanted to see me twice a year. Is he weird or do I just have a nice butt? The bad news was that he suggested another follow-up procedure - in the hospital. It was to be - this is where it got scary - a prostate biopsy just “to be sure ... etc.!” No question about it - biopsy is a scary word.

This latest procedure was arranged. He explained why and attempted to reassure me. The PSA count is often misleading. Also, if there were a small growth in the prostate, the digital exam could miss it. This was very reassuring. The procedure would be quite painless. An “instrument” would be “inserted” (guess where) which would take several samples from the prostate. How? It would just shoot a little probe through the rectum (as in MY rectum) and into the prostate itself. Painless you say? Then he proceeded to further reassure me by saying that even the sampler could miss a small growth if it happened to probe on either side of it.

I left in a euphoric state of reassurance. As luck would have it the famous blackout of September 5, 2003 happened the evening before my biopsy. The hospital would not let him operate in the dark – good call - although something from the reassurances above told me that was exactly what he was doing. A few weeks later it was done and a couple of weeks after that I went to see him for the results. NEGATIVE. The bad news? As I said above, he wants to give me the poke twice a year now. Hopefully my GP will no longer feel the need.

Shortly thereafter, it was broadcast that several hospitals had reported that improper sterilization “procedures” were used in many recent prostate biopsy examinations with a risk of HIV & Hepatitis infection to the patients. Patients at risk would be contacted. Great - I am still waiting for the call. Feeling reassured.

Think you know everything about my butt now? Too much detail? Too bad. This could be you. I also happen to suffer from the occasional swollen hemorrhoid. Perhaps from all of this butt-poking? It ain’t from the sun shining therein.

As an aside, my GP has also scheduled me for a Barium Enema! That’s also fun and a topic for an entirely separate story – separate preparation; separate specialist; separate procedure; separate follow-up. Separate reassurance. Same butt!

And finally since all of this found nothing alarming he referred me to the big Kahuna of all specialists – the Proctologist! You think I was having fun before? This guy sticks a camera up your bum and watches it on TV. In this case he is looking for colon cancer. It seems to me there is potential for a new reality show here. I always wanted to be on the big screen but this is not what I had in mind.

All of this was to make me feel more confident that I was in good health. Let’s recap. The finger poke is not reliable. The PSA is not reliable. The biopsy is not reliable. Hospital hygiene is not reliable. The colonoscopy is quite reliable, but for a different type of cancer. The bills for all of this? You can bet that THEY are reliable. Thank you Medicare.

I was left with more than a couple of questions. How does a vet do the same exam on an elephant? I shudder to think. How can modern hospitals fail to properly clean something which has been inserted in a person’s ass? When I hear the expression “up yours” in the future will it trigger some of these memories?  Why would a Proctologist really want to be a Proctologist anyway? Can a doctor do their own “digital examination?” Would all of this have been more tolerable if women had been administering these procedures rather than men? I suspect I would have been even more embarrassed but for good reasons!

I thought by now I had been poked and prodded so often by so many that I would take it all in stride. Not so. Last week in the grocery store I stopped at the meat counter to ask the butcher to select some beef tenderloin. When he came over to the counter in the white lab coat and put the latex gloves on I instinctively turned around, bent over, and was loosening my belt before I realized it. When I came to my senses and turned back he was running for the nearest exit. I understand he has never been heard from since. That is only hearsay however - I’ve been banned from the store.

The truth is - all kidding aside - if any one of these procedures does turn up a problem that is a threat to my life or yours - it is worth it.

That’s a wrap – a bum wrap.

The Brewster