Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Power ... it's everything!

It's the best one hundred bucks I've spent this year. Actually it was $112 and it was on sale. It's one of these new lithium battery booster thingies. It was super cold in Sudbury - minus 42 weather on the weekend -- and the old Nitro would not start.  I was happy to call the roadside guy that I pay for,  to come and boost the battery. It worked fine. I was wondering if I needed a new battery but the tow truck guy said I might be better off getting one of those battery boost jump starters. I decided he was right. So I headed off to Canadian Tire to buy one. There was a young guy stocking the shelves when I was there. I noticed there were two items on sale. One was the old fashioned heavy battery booster pack and the other was this little battery pack, smaller than a box of Kleenex. The kid explained that the old fashioned battery pack actually had a full lead-acid battery inside, whereas the new battery had a small but powerful lithium pack. He said he bought one for himself. I figured he might be driving one of those little four-cylinder foreign cars. He said he drove a big old Chevy Silverado 1500 and he had used the battery pack a half dozen or so times to boost his truck. That sold me. I bought the little pack. Took it home, hooked it up to my six-cylinder frozen Jeep engine and it worked just fine. The vehicle roared to life. So I was at work today when one of my co-workers said he had to go home to boost his wife's car. I jumped up and offered him to try out my new battery pack. He took it home and it worked nicely. He said he was impressed. An hour later he was back at my desk. One of the ladies at work could not start her car in the back parking lot. I gave him the battery booster again and yes, it worked perfectly. He's a hero. I'm a hero. LOL

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Sudbury Saturday morning...

Settling in and unpacking at the new apartment in Sudbury. Starting the new job Monday morning. I dropped by my new office Friday afternoon and they were pleased to see me, but I was just as pleased to see the new team I will be working with.
The apartment is an older building, with a definite retro look. I like it. It has many windows and nice views of the neighborhood and plenty of trees just outside the windows. I can't wait for spring and summer. Lots of stuff to be put away in the next few days and a good time to consider what I want to keep and what I will toss out. Jennifer and the boys dropped by a couple of days ago with coffee and it was just too nice to think that we all live in the same city now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Boxing Day

Box Day has taken on something of a real meaning for me as I am packing up all my stuff. It is the best time to de-clutter. I have to admit I have a hard time with that. I keep stuff because it means something to me. OMG why do I save Christmas cards from years ago? I have saved every Birthday card from Jenn and her boys. Oh well, I will be struggling with this in the next two days. The movers come in Thursday morning.
Had a nice quiet Christmas at home and enjoyed a fabulous Angus strip loin for Christmas dinner, along with a bottle of Ruffino Chianti. I had to re-open one of the boxes to get my salad spinner out so I could make a Caesar Salad.
I called Neil later in the evening and can't believe we yakked for more than 30 minutes. That has to be a record for us. LOL. Jenn and her family is in Cuba but they should be home Thursday night. Already getting geared up for the new job. Will keep you posted. If I don't see you, all the best for the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Going to miss good people ...

Been saying a lot of goodbyes to folks in this my final week at the newspaper here in Timmins. Was pleased today when Diane Armstrong, one of my favourite column writers, dropped by bearing a single-malt gift. We have been working together for years. Diane is a great writer and it is no mistake that her column Over The Hill is so popular. She also has authored a few books. And she has the best sense of humour and knows the punchlines to most of the best jokes. I will indeed miss working with her.

Monday, December 10, 2018


When I began in journalism way too many years ago, one of the first things I did was write obituaries of well-known people who had died in town. I remember tapping out a story at the North Bay Nugget for a Mr. Caswell, who had died in Sundridge. Turns out he was quite the wealthy fellow and well regarded around the North. Later that day, after the paper had gone to press, I could hear heavy shoes thumping down the stairs from the executive offices above the newsroom.  As the rookie reporter, my desk was tucked in the little slanting alcove beneath the staircase.  That’s when the esteemed Mr. Mort Feldman, the publisher, found me and spoke to me. “Nice job,” he said, among other things.
I will never forget that. A visit to the newsroom by Mr. Feldman was a rare event, but to have him speak to me was a treat.
I was thinking of that this week as I wrote another obituary for another well-known fellow. The only thing is that most of the time now, I know the people I write about. That sucks. After 45 years of writing the news, I have been fortunate to befriend so many people. That means I usually get to write their obits when they die. I know where they worked,  who they worked with and who can make comments about the deceased.  It’s one of those times I get to write many nice things about people and the editor doesn’t red pencil any of the adjectives.
The Canadian Press Stylebook, the bible for all Canadian reporters, says obits should be brief, but CP dedicated two and half pages about how to write an obit. 
There are many, many people who don’t get mentioned for all the good things they did when they were alive. They should get something written about them so their friends and family members can appreciate them a bit more. 
Still, it’s not something I look forward to.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Talking ...

I talk too much. I went to the grocery store this afternoon to grab a few things. I never use a cart, just a handbasket for grabbing milk, bread etc. Today I went to pick up some stewing beef. But as I wandered around the store, I kept running into people I hadn't seen in weeks or even months. Of course, we had to stop and chat. So much so that on a couple of occasions, we had to move to the end of the aisle so other people could keep shopping. So a 20-minute trip took nearly 90 minutes. I got the beef --- which in this case was sirloin steak which was on sale, and cheaper than stewing beef. That's a whole other conversation. Enough for today :)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sharing ...

One of the nice things about being in the newspaper business is that it is not too difficult to get copies of photographs from other reporters, no matter what part of the country they’re in. That’s how it was when I contacted reporter/photographer Erin Haluschak at the Comox Valley Record newspaper.  She was more than happy to share this photo of Ronald from the Remembrance Day ceremonies in their town. Ron’s photo was the cover of the local paper and in a special photo feature. Have to say he looked pretty good. Thank you again Ms. Haluschak.  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Good things happen

I have to admit I wasn’t sure at first. It was about a few weeks ago I got a phone call from a fellow I remembered from several years ago. He was a reporter-editor on the mining beat.
Now in Northern Ontario you cannot get away from that. This is the heart of the Canadian Shield and the mines give up every mineral you can imagine from the gold in your jewelry, to the copper, silver and platinum in your electronics to the zinc that keeps your car from rusting too quickly.
Plus it is fun to witness the pouring a new gold bar like this one at the Bell Creek Mine in Timmins. 
So this fellow was kind enough to suggest I might want to consider applying for a job with a well-known mining journal.  I wasn’t sure. I like my work in the daily newsroom. It is challenging and there is always something urgent going on. The other thing about this job is that it is in Sudbury.
The fellow said he liked my mining stories and especially the fact I had experience as a hard rock miner.  I thanked the fellow and said I would work on it.
I think it was that night that I called Jennifer and had a chat. I told her about the offer and she was encouraging. I still wasn’t sure about the job. I think I was just getting too comfortable in the news game. Maybe I was getting too laid back and lazy.  A few days later, I got an e-mail from Sudbury asking where my resume was.  Truth is I had been working on it, but was so busy on news things I had not sent it in.
That night, I spruced up the resume, added a cover letter and dug up couple of old mining stories.
Next day I got a call from the company president. He said he liked my stories. So we had a chat and then we talked about people we both knew from back in the day; I mean wayyyy back in the day.
So he made a nice offer and said he would follow up with a letter.
So here I am now getting ready for the big move in the New Year. I am looking forward to the new gig but of course the best part will be spending more time with my family. You can’t put a price on that.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Invading their privacy ...

Private conversations are just that; private. I say that in reference to the now infamous Uber tape that appeared on YouTube showing a group of six or seven professional hockey players who were on a social outing and jumped into a van for transportation. During the ride, some of the players were talking among themselves and were bad-mouthing the coaching staff for the Ottawa Senators.
The Uber driver had an interior camera that recorded everything. The players were not aware of the camera. Some days later, the five-minute recording, complete with all the trash talk, appeared on YouTube. It caused something of a minor kerfuffle in some media circles. 
I think that’s wrong. Just because somebody said something in private that others might disagree with, it was not a serious matter that had to be reported. This wasn’t national security. This was not revealing anything important. It’s just sports for crying out loud. But still I think it was intrusive for the Uber driver to do what he did.
Thank goodness Uber agreed to have the YouTube recording removed and then apologized to the players.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Small world or what?

We were just having a chat in the newsroom with the city editor and managing editor about the different customs in different cities as Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day. The boss said he had been to so many and began rhyming off the names of different towns, when he said Portage La Prairie. Well, there you go.
Small world eh? I had to chime in about the fact that RCAF Base Portage La Prairie was Dad’s first posting when we all came back to Canada from France. It’s also the town where Debra was born, so I will avoid mentioning the year. I did however recall sitting by the CNR tracks in the north end of town near the Campbell Soup plant to watch the trains coming in – Steam trains they were!  It was a nice place with cold winters. 
Gary, and Ronald and I sure enjoyed some fun times there as kids…. Including the time we begged Mom to let us push the baby carriage over to the next block, where there was a big baseball game going on.  And then we came home. But we forgot the baby.  Hey, it was safe. It was all Air Force families. But when we got back home, mom was wild! Where’s the baby!? So we rushed back to the baseball field and sure enough we found Debra in the carriage right behind the home plate fence. No harm. No foul. LOL

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Hoping for toasty toes...

I haven’t given this much thought to winter in years. I think I am beginning to “feel” it a bit more these days. For starters, I take blood pressure medication which has the effect of making my fingers and toes feel cold. Doc said that was to be expected. So I live with it.
Also, when I was visiting Jennifer last week, I had the opportunity to buy a new winter coat. I call it my fall coat, because when real winter comes, I wear my parka. But my parka is just too warm for mild winter, anything that is minus 20 and warmer. So I put the fall coat on this week and it was warm, so I took out the liner. I like it.
Then I bought a new pair of leather gloves. My old ones were about five years old and had some serious holes that only a surgeon could repair.
But the real change has come with my Sorels. These old boots have been my favourites for roughly 40 years. I remember wearing my first pair of Sorels in the Arctic in December and they were fine. These boots are also perfect with my snowshoes. 
This is my second pair of Sorels. They're the original Made-In-Canada brand. Not the new ones that are made in China. 
They’re almost 20 years old and still in good shape. But I bought new liners this week. Not the usual felt-wool liners. I caved to modernity and bought a pair of those synthetic breathable liners.
They’re rated to minus 45. I don’t know how they figure that stuff out, but I know that from living in Timmins, there will be a few days that I will get to test that. I will keep you posted.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Thankful ...

I hated the drive down on Highway 144 on Friday night. There’s always moose on the highway. But the trip was worth it to spend a couple of days with Jenn and her men in Val Caron for Thanksgiving. It’s always so relaxing there, and I go into total veggie mode with a few drinks, a bite to eat, with lots of conversation, laughter and even a few tears. My grandsons are so grown up now. Tyler is first-year university and Nathan is in his final year of high school. We used to have a tradition on Saturday mornings where we sat around in our jammies and ate chocolate cake. Well, I guess the boys are not interested in that stuff anymore, LOL. That’s okay, it was still nice to spend time with everyone, -- even if the Leafs lost on Saturday night.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The best day ...

I was pleased to get an e-mail last week from a friend informing me that CBC Radio is celebrating its 40 year anniversary in Northern Ontario.  I am happy to say I was a small part of that, having spent a few years as an associate producer and producer of the morning program, Morning North.  Then, many years later, after my stint with CTV, I was invited back to CBC as a contract producer and editor.

But let me get to the heart of the story about one of the best days we ever enjoyed with live radio. It didn’t start out very pleasantly.
It was September 7, 1990. It was the morning after the Ontario Election when a huge upset had taken place. Bob Rae had defeated Liberal premier David Peterson. Now you have to understand that elections are big things in the news business.  Whoever gets elected sets the game for your city, your province or your country for the next few years.
Okay so in the days leading up to our election results broadcast I have to say we were stunned to learn that CBC Toronto had been given approval to cover the province. This was ignoring CBC Thunder Bay, CBC Windsor, CBC Sudbury and CBC Ottawa.  
This meant our morning show would be pre-empted in favour of giving the Toronto crew the broadcast from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.  Of course, the journalists in the smaller stations such as ours were livid. We protested, but without any backing from management, we got nowhere.
Only CBC Ottawa was able to complain loud enough to get back the right to cover its own territory. Not us. We would be allowed roughly five minutes each hour to insert news from our region.
That morning we all arrived for work well before 6 a.m. Of course we were excited at the news of the political upset. But that was soon tempered by the fact we pretty well had to sit on our hands and listen to Toronto. We were told to be ready in case Toronto gave us the right to switch back to our own station. Fat chance that would happen.  There was clearly a line between broadcasters and the bureaucrats.
So there we were;  myself, host Peter Williams, newsroom staffers Bill Catalano and Sherry Drysdale, noon show host and producer Benita Hart and our technician and operator Kenny Kauffeldt.
We sat in the front office with the big window overlooking Mackenzie Street and griped and moaned about not being able to do our own broadcast.
Little did we expect how bad it would be. Just as the 6 a.m. World Report news package ended, CBC Toronto came online with a quick wrap of the election upset the night before. Part of the coverage including breaking away to a live report from London, Ontario the hometown of defeated premier Peterson.   
Imagine our surprise when the poor reporter described he was broadcasting live from a local arena in London where the Liberals had been expected to celebrate Peterson’s victory. The reporter said there was no one else there. Just him. Well Duhhhh! It was so embarassing to listen to this. 
So the hour progressed. At 6:30 we did our own regional news wrap and then a brief insert on the local election results.
I remember clearly as we sat there around 6:45 a.m. griping how bad the Toronto broadcast was. Sherry said something like I wish we could just do our own show. Kenny said, “we can”.
I looked at him with surprise. He looked back at me and said anytime you want to switch back to local just tell me and we can go to a local broadcast.  I thought, well they keep telling us to be “risk takers”. So let’s see how this works.
I quickly looked at the faces around the room and asked, do you think we could pull off a good local show?
The response was immediate. Of course, and then they began jumping in with names, phone numbers and story lines and interviews. It was exciting as hell. I looked at the clock, knowing we had about 20 minutes before going live.
One of the reporters was already on the line to Nickel Belt MPP Floyd Laughren to get Bob Rae’s private phone number.
So things were in motion. We pulled together a bunch of live interviews, including an exclusive with the new Premier BEFORE CBC Toronto got him on live. We had live chats with all the newly elected candidates.  We didn’t look back. It was a great program. For the next two hours we did seat-of-the-pants live radio and it worked.
Just before 9 a.m. our host Peter was wrapping up the show with final comments. Kenny was rolling the music to mark the end of the show. The boss came into the studio with a big smile commenting on how good the show sounded.
“When did Toronto give you the okay to cut away to local?” he asked.
“They didn’t,” I replied.
His face dropped. He was horrified.
I knew my ass was in trouble, but I have to say, it was so worth it. It was the best day.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Advice :)

Dropped in to see the doc on Thursday. He said keep an eye on your blood sugar. Dropped in to Timmies on the way back to work. I got a dark roast coffee with NO SUGAR! I deserved a reward for that I figured, so I got a SMILE cookie too! LOL

Friday, September 14, 2018

Old glass. Nice photos...

So yes I am pleased with a decision to resurrect one of my older Nikon cameras. The cam is six years old and I had to send away to Amazon to get new batteries.  I read a recent article talking about many shooters (journo-talk for photographers) bringing out older film camera lenses that seemed to have pretty nice glass and then using them on the newer digital cams. Well that sure got me thinking because I own a fabulous old Nikon 50MM 1 to 1.4 lens that is so perfect, you’d swear it came from heaven.  This is the same lens sent to the moon on Apollo 11.
 This is the same lens LIFE magazine and National Geographic shooters used all during the 60s and 70s around the world and in Viet Nam. One of the biggest differences is that it is not an auto-focus lens, so everything is manual shooting.

 I tried it out this morning on the flower garden beside my apartment building. I was pleased. Then I went out to a mining executive’s lunch and shot photos.  I also shot backup photos on a newer cam, but the city editor chose the photo shot with the older lens. The detail was amazing! You can count the guy’s whiskers. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Covering the PM

Well I don't often get the chance to cover a PM. Mr. Trudeau came to Timmins this week and I was assigned to get photos and a story. Unfortunately, the media was told there would be no questions, just cover the speech. We were also told we had to get our photos from a riser stage located at the back of the venue. I didn't agree with that, but I didn't complain... as the speech was ending, I mentioned I would like to get up front for some better pictures. One of the interns with the PMO grabbed me and said to follow her. We scooted through the ranks of RCMP officers and other serious looking folks with stern faces. I was able to get very close to get some good shots. The speech was about 20 minutes but the PM spent twice that much time working the crowd, signing autographs and posing for selfies. Things have changed.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Flying north ...

I was advised by a trusted friend to start writing more stuff on this blog because it will help in the event I ever decide to write something more permanent. In more than four decades of reporting news in Northern Ontario, I have enjoyed some memorable times. I was watching Netflix tonight when I noticed part of an episode where folks were flying in a DC-3 airplane or a Dakota as many folks like to call them. My first flight in a DC-3 was in December 1975 with Austin Airways.  Austin had several of these old reliable airplanes for the simply reason they were reliable. On this particular occasion, we were flying from Timmins to Moosonee along with members of the Timmins Fire Department who were bringing toys to that community as part of the annual Toylift Flight, where the firefighters would bring toys to the James Bay coast communities. The sun was shining but the morning was bitterly cold. As we sat in the Timmins terminal waiting for the plane, we were advised it was being brought back into the hangar because it was too cold to start the engines. The temperature was still about minus 40. About an hour later, I think it was around 9 a.m. we were told we could board the plane.
And so we did. Some minutes later, the plane was airborne and we were on our way North. Interestingly, the two cabin crew members handed out sleeping bags and blankets we could wrap around our legs and feet, because it was so cold.
One of things people liked to see when flying out of Timmins was the huge Texas Gulf open pit mine. And so it was that folks all peered out of the right side windows to catch a glimpse of the pit.
That when many of us noticed there was a significant amount of oil leaking out of the starboard engine. It was running down the engine cowling and along the wing. There was really a lot of oil there. So myself and a few others called on the cabin crew members to take a look.
The one fellow leaned over our seats and looked at the oil coming out of the engine. His face did not betray any concern, but he immediately walked to the front of the plane and went into the cockpit where the pilot and co-pilot were.
Moments later, one of the pilots came into the cabin and leaned over the seats to see the engine. The oil was still leaking. The man didn’t say a word. He turned and went right back into the cockpit.
In less than a minute we could all feel the plane turning. Yes, we were heading back to the Timmins airport. That seemed to be reassuring.
Suddenly, the oil leak stopped. It just stopped. We let a cabin crew member know that the oil leak had stopped. He went right to the cockpit. Sure enough, the plane turned and was back on a north bound course, heading to Moosonee.
We all looked at each other and began laughing. I won’t ever forget that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A sparkling day ...

Rarely have I done a news story on the birth of a mine and then, ten years or so later, the death of a mine. I was up North in the James Bay Lowlands today to cover the 10th anniversary of the De Beers Victor mine, the first and only diamond mine in Ontario.
It is a success story in the sense that the company has spent billions of dollars to create the mine and run it -- but it has also earned billions more by recovering 7 million carats in diamonds. But the mine will soon be depleted and by this time next year, it will be shut down.
I was first here in 2008 when the mine officially opened and there was a lot of excitement. Hundreds of new jobs. Hundreds of millions provided to the First Nations. And so it went. For the past ten years the glitter of diamonds has provided wealth and comfort to so many people. I am on holidays this week, but I couldn't pass up the chance to visit the mine again to see how it has developed; now more than a thousand feet deep.

And so things change and all new mines eventually die. But before De Beers leaves this area it must leave the land in good shape. And so there was a tree planting ceremony to symbolize the fact that the company will continue to spend money on a massive land reclamation project. They event provided a tree sapling so I can plant my own tree. 
Each visitor was also given a nice little chunk of Kimberlite ore. That's the type of volanic rock where diamonds are found.

That's a good thing. It means the company will be allowed to keep mining in other parts of Canada. Oh by the way, I chatted with De Beers Canada president and CEO Kim Truter today. He said the process will start again in a couple of years with a new project in Nunavut. I asked how much money would be spent and how long that mine would last.
Truter smiled and with his thick South African accent he said "It's early days my friend, early days."

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Hot summer. Whisky yes. Vodka no.

So yes we have had a hot summer so far this year in Timmins. Hell, there are forest fires all over the North. So I have enjoyed some nice beverages lately. This past week I was making iced tea and adding a bit of vodka. I was told that makes a nice drink. It does. Then a co-worker said vodka is nice with just ice for sipping. He went on and on about Grey Goose vodka and how nice it is. So I tried sipping vodka. Just vodka. With ice. Yuck! No thank you. I will stick to whisky thank you. I had the same conversation in June when Neil came to visit. He loves his Tequila. We had a chat about how there are some excellent versions of Tequila that are good for sipping. I was polite. I listened. Quietly. But truthfully, no way Jose! So i have to sign off. It is Saturday night. Netflix movie time. With whisky!

Friday, August 03, 2018

Amazon package arrived

So yes my package arrived from Amazon. It's my new computer battery and yes it works like a charm. It arrived four days early. The price was less than half the price quoted to me by the manufacturer. I have been assured this battery is just as good as, if not better, than OEM. So I will watch it carefully and if there are any problems, I can always return it for the refund. I don't know if this is a good or bad thing since I means I didn't spend my money locally. I will struggle with that.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Using Amazon

Shopping locally is important for me. It is usually local businesses that support the newspaper company I work for. So I like to give back. I was surprised this week when I was shopping for specific items to learn that a few local businesses did not carry the item I wanted. I am finding a few stores will say, Oh we can order that for you.  But then they will charge a fee for ordering and delivery.  One younger store clerk said, Why don't you try Amazon? He actually looked the item up and found what I wanted. At a much cheaper price than I expected. The nice thing about Amazon (Yes, I have ordered before) is that they give a refund if you don't like the product. No questions asked. So if you don't mind waiting three or four days, Amazon is not a bad way to go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Summer is good. So is beer ...

Okay, so one of the good things happening this very hot summer is beer. I noticed it this past week since Neil left a few cans of beer in my fridge. I am not a big beer drinker; only three or four a week. But I do like different tastes. Neil and I are the same that way.  (I should mention he also bought me a fabulous bottle of Irish whiskey!)I got tired of the old corporate beers years ago. Besides most are owned by American companies now. I don’t go to the Beer Store anymore because it is owned by the Americans too.
Two things have happened recently. One is the hot, hot summer we are having in Ontario. The other is that Ontario finally relented and we can buy beer in many grocery stores here. It makes it easier to pick up a couple of beers when I am out buying stuff for supper. I like to try different brands, mostly lagers and pilsners. I am not a big fan of hoppy ales.  So I like beer, but I am not brand loyal. Beer companies hate guys like me. The other good thing is that I am seeing more and more craft breweries, producing very nice local beers. Jenn calls them weird beer.
On some really hot days, nothing is better than enjoying a cold beer in the evening. Usually one 500 ml can is enough. So yes, beer is good, and so is the summer. Cheers.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Happy Canada Day eh.

Canada Day weekend in Timmins has been one of the best ever! My children – they’re sure not kids anymore – showed up to have some fun in Timmins. And they sure did. Jennifer and Neil made my weekend by being here. And I was pleased to do whatever I could to spoil them. They even managed to hit a few pubs, see some old friends and dance the night away. Although they’re not sure which pub was the last one! Anyway, they’re the two best kids on the planet and I enjoyed every minute being with them.
The weather was looking a bit iffy this afternoon, with thunderstorms in the forecast. Despite that a lot of local folks are off to the Stars and Thunder festival to see Sons of Maxwell, Matthew Good, Our Lady Peace and Bryan Adams. Sounds like it will be a good time.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trump's legacy...

So this is the photo by John Moore of Getty Images that shocked hundreds of thousands of Americans to realize their president was wrong. A two-year-old child crying in fear as a border guard does a pat-down search of the child's mother. For Trump to authorize this kind of action shows that he is so non-presidential. At best, he might be a pimped-up middle manager who surrounds himself with sycophants because he has money, left to him by his daddy. Way to go America.  In the months and years to come, it will be revealed that Trump has serious mental health disorders. Not that there's anything wrong with mental illness.  Except you shouldn't be president.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Frayed cuffs and other things...

Finally. This week I threw out a shirt I bought about five years ago. It wasn’t always like this.  I was getting fed up some years ago with my clothing because no matter where I went to buy, there were always frayed cuffs, frayed collars, buttons falling off, things like that after only a few months.  
So I bought several shirts online from L.L.Bean five years ago. They were a bit more costly. But they sure lasted long. It got to the point that I was getting tired of seeing photos from a few years ago and realizing I was wearing the same shirt! But the shirts just kept looking good, no frayed threads, no lost buttons, nothing like that. Finally this week I was taking one shirt out of the dryer when I noticed the collar had frayed… by just a few millimetres! That’s all it took. Shirt in the garbage. 
Now I have to start planning to buy some new shirts. Problem is the Canadian Dollar is worth only 75-cents in the U.S.
So I will have to look for sales and discount days – something that LLBean is generous with. I am not worried about the Trump tariff thing. He is an idiot.  People say he will change his mind.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Good times

It was such a good week. I don’t say that because of the Ontario election,although I am glad the Liberals got the boot. It was good because Tyler graduated high school, with honours and as an Ontario Scholar. I was so proud of this guy for making his parents so happy. It was just the nicest time to spend with Jenn and her men. It was also so nice to see Don and Denise Alexander as well. I was happy to make the drive down to Sudbury, but I had to rush back to Timmins to cover the election. It was the biggest election upset in years, but I couldn’t stop telling everyone I met that my oldest grandson graduated high school. People looked at me, like, that’s no big deal. Oh yeah. Well. Okay. It’s a big deal to me.

  Scott, Tyler, Jennifer and Nathan. 
 Tyler and Nathan.
Len and Tyler.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Politics is becoming so polarized these days. Here in Ontario we have a provincial election happening in June and a city election happening in October. So here’s the thing. There was a time when people would talk politics among friends, over a beer or even at the dinner table. Things rarely got out of hand. Sometimes they were even funny. I remember once telling my grandmother I had done a news interview with Brian Mulroney. She looked at me, smirked, and said, You’re saying that like it’s a good thing. I had to smile.
But now people tend to go too far, saying all sorts of things about their favourite politicians and then being not-so-respectful of their not-so-favourite politicians. The worst of it is that this  becomes part of the social media game and people begin sniping at each other if they don't agree with their candidate. It’s getting really bad, and sadly I am seeing comments from friends and acquaintances that make me wonder about them.

Friday, May 11, 2018

What a pain the A$$

Passwords are such a pain. I wish technology could come through with some sort of device or method to make all this password stuff go away. Just getting into this blog took three tries because I made a tiny error on one of the few favourite passwords I use. Yes, I confess. I use a few passwords over and over. Even at work, we get reminded every three months to change our main password. So I have worked out a system where I keep the main "word" but I keep adding a few little characters to it, such as & or * or # just to mix things up.  I know of one fellow who changes his by the month, passwordJANUARY, then passwordFEBRUARY, then passwordMARCH and so on.
I know that the iPADs have come up with thumb print and eye scans, but I am told that adds significantly to the price. My smartphone uses a graphic password, where I have to match two images on the screen.I like that, but on a couple of occasions in the freezing cold, it hasn't worked properly and then I have to rely on a backup consisting of words! Arrrrghhh! (Hmmm ... there's a password!)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Heartbreaking ...

I was sitting in the office briefly Saturday morning when Tom the managing editor dropped in. He was obviously pre-occupied but then mentioned out loud that another person had died in the bus crash in Saskatchewan. It was awkward, but we had to talk about it. Heading out on the team bus to a hockey game on a winter night is such a Canadian thing. Whether you live in Nova Scotia or the Yukon, there is not a Canadian family I know of that hasn’t experienced that, whether it’s the team bus or even the fan bus that follows it. What happened is something that so many of us has wondered about; worried about and then maybe offered a quick prayer when everyone got home safely. I know in Timmins there was a change put in place many years ago when the players didn’t have a team bus. They went to an out of town game in a convoy of private cars. Sadly one the cars was in a crash and some young hockey players died. After that, it was decided from that point forward that all teams would travel by bus. Sadly bad things happen, no matter what choices you make. I know that yesterday my immediate thoughts were about Tyler and Nathan and how many times they have travelled to out of town tournaments and hockey games. My heart still breaks for the boys in Saskatchewan.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Messy, yes, but it tastes great.

So I am quite pleased with new Melitta ‘Pour over’ coffee maker. You take your ground coffee and put it into the cone-shaped holder along with a paper filt. Then you pour boiling water into the cone. It then drips quickly down into your coffee mug. I find I am able to make a nicer cup of coffee than in my Keurig machine. Except yesterday during lunch I poured the cone full of boiling water and then accidently bumped the whole contraption with the kettle. Darn! There was coffee and boiling water all over the countertop, the stove top and then then down into the space between the stove and the wall. Arrrgh! What a mess.  But … it still makes an excellent cup of coffee.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Enjoying the Olympic Games

I was mentioning to Claudette the other day that the newer version of mixed-doubles curling might become so popular someday it could out rank regular curling. We have really enjoyed watching the Canadian team of Lawes & Morris perform so well at the winter Olympics. We watched every match.  The competition against the OAR was particularly entertaining. The game really moves along quickly and it is quite entertaining to watch. And this morning we learned that they have won the gold medal. So pleased.

Monday, January 29, 2018

I am feeling better this week. Really. It has been two weeks now since I slipped on the sidewalk out on Cedar Street and fell, landing on my back. I mean, I really took a flip. My left leg shot out on the ice just under the snow and I went down, hard. It knocked the wind out of me and for a couple of seconds I couldn’t breathe. That was scary, so I flipped over onto my front to push myself up. I grunted. And I breathed. I didn’t bother getting checked out because I figured if I could get up okay, I would be okay. If not I would just lay on the ground and call 911. LOL. Besides there is a flu outbreak and I didn’t fancy sitting in the emergency room with all those people coughing and sneezing.
I am better now. The next day I dropped into a sporting goods story and found some shoe spikes. Wow, what a difference. They cost $35, but they really work. They stay on your shoe by a heavy elastic strap. When you go into a store or building, you just flip up the spikes and you don’t damage the floor.  You know I take this seriously when I spend money on something when I could easily purchase a very nice bottle of whiskey for the same price.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Waiting for news...

I think I know how people in Olympic communities feel as they wait to find out whether their city or town has won the right to host the games. Timmins is among four cities invited to submit a bid to build a new smelter or metals refinery to process chromite.  That’s the main mineral located in the Ring of Fire mining area in the James Bay Lowlands. The value of the deposit is estimated in excess of $50-BILLION. Yup, that’s Billions we’re talking about. If Timmins wins the bid for a smelter, well we’re talking many hundreds of millions of dollars in local investment. And jobs. Lots and lots of new jobs. That would be helpful. So lots of folks in town are crossing their fingers. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Yes, I am jealous.

So get used to reading the name Jada Yuan. You may not know of her, but last week she was picked for the best job in the world ... in my opinion. She is an almost-40 freelance writer who has been hired by the New York Times to travel the world for a whole year and report on what she sees. Yuan was selected from more than 13,000 job applicants. She will be travelling to 52 cities around the globe and will write stories on her experiences. Nice work if you can get it. Yes, I am so jealous.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Pencils and stuff.

This goes back to journalism school when we were all taught to carry pencils because in Canada, it gets cold and your pen will freeze. If you have to take notes, a pencil will never freeze. That was sure in evidence last week.  

Things change. All the reporters I see these days have voice recorders built into their smart phones.  I have this feature on my phone, although I am not certain how to use it. What I do use is a very reliable Sony voice recorder that picks up every comment, even in a crowded city council chamber or in a courtroom, if allowed. I also record all the phone calls I get into the newsroom. 
Although I am peeved now that my primary recorder crapped out on me this week. I am using a backup now.  I had the main recorder for about four years, so it’s not so bad. I will have to purchase a new one. Wish I had known about this during Boxing Day sales. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Pay the working poor!

I want to weigh in on the minimum wage debate in Ontario. The Liberal government has implemented this is oh-so-obvious vote-buying bid. But it is still something that should be done. Raising the wages of the working poor is not something that should be debated or argued. It was overdue. I would have preferred to have seen a straight up income tax exemption for anyone on minimum wage. Not a tax exemption for people who can bring in a list of tax deductions, but an exemption if your pay stub shows minimum wage.

I don’t care that some small businesses will feel the pinch. Deal with it. Raise your prices, find efficiencies. Cope with change or get out of business. I have already decided I will not go to Tim Horton’s because of the way they treat their minimum wage employees. I will also accept that I may have to pay a little more to accommodate those businesses that choose to work with the new minimum wage.

Friday, January 05, 2018

I like tea. Real tea.

I went into a new tea shop in Timmins today. It was so cold outside, I welcomed the idea of a fresh cup of tea and a snack. Aline’s Tea Shop is not that new, but it is new to me. I had heard good things from other folks and decided to try it. I really like that we are getting a few more boutique style eateries in downtown Timmins. So I asked the pleasant lady for a cup of tea, telling her I like the plain orange pekoe tea. She had a shelf without about 30 big jars holding all sorts of different flavours of tea. Some of them smelled quite different. Not necessarily bad, but certainly not something I would drink.

So here’s the thing. They were not really blends of tea. They were all sorts of herbs and flavours. But I like the ordinary tea, that comes from the familiar Asian tea leaves. Usually it is known as black tea. Orange Pekoe is a grade of black tea. Everything else is an infusion. Anyway, we found a plain black tea and it tasted very nice. Only after I explained I wanted ordinary black tea like the grandmas in Nova Scotia would drink. I also had a couple of home baked cookies. Very nice. I think I will go back and bring a couple of Red Rose tea bags with me. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Can we make stoner jokes anymore ?

I honestly don’t know what to think about this legalization of marijuana thing. On the one hand it seems innocent enough. People want to enjoy a nice mild mood altering drug; maybe in the same way I enjoy a glass of Scotch every now and then. Whoa, wait a minute. I enjoy Scotch a few times a week! I tell myself I enjoy the taste. And I have proven that a few times to myself by not buying certain brands that taste a bit too wild. I also found two distinct brands to my liking and discovered they were blended – years apart—by the same man.
So what makes this different for the person who might enjoy smoking a joint? Not much I guess, but I fear the problem will go beyond that to the stupid stoner who enjoys his weed only because he can get zonked. That also happens to alcohol drinkers, but I argue that this does not make it right. Alcohol is very strictly controlled. I hope this also happens for cannabis users. So here in Canada we will soon find out whether this is a sorry Liberal decision (redundant use of the word sorry) or whether it is something we can live with.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Happy, happy ...

So far this New Year has been crazy cold, but hey that’s kind of normal in this neck of the woods. I am pleased though that the figure-8 skating rink in Timmins – Sk8te Hollinger -- has such wide public support. Was so impressed yesterday when a bunch of teenagers took over the rink for a few hours of fun. Those kids acted like minus 30 was nothing.
I was out at the park last week and took a couple of nighttime shots, but it was too cold to spend too much time out there. Besides I lost my favourite leather gloves and so my hands get colder more quickly.

New Year’s Eve was pleasant. Claudette and I visited Louise Anne and Fred to enjoy a cheese fondue. I have to admit that in all my 63 years I have never before had a cheese fondue. Wow. It was delicious. Poor Fred had to work day shift at the mine, so he went to bed early. He has to get up at 3:00 a.m. and the drive to the mine is an hour away.

We are TV bingeing again. After watching the Netflix series Scandal, and Suits and The Crown, we begged off TV for a while, unless hockey was on. We have discovered an interesting Netflix series; The Blacklist with James Spader and Megan Boone . Quite entertaining. Check it out.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Quite the year eh?

I think the most dismaying part of the past year has been running into people who say, well Donald Trump is not so bad. Leaves me wondering. There were probably people back in my parents' day who were not worried about Hitler too. When people are complacent or choose to ignore stupidity, then bad things can happen. Oh I am sure I will hear about that comment.
Oh well, that being said, I can say that the past month has been nice in many ways. Claudette and I traveled to Sudbury to spend a couple of days with Jennifer and her family last week. That was relaxing and enjoyable. It was nice to see the boys, to see Scott and to see Denise and Don.  We missed meeting Victoria and her boyfriend who were on their way to Timmins. Likely, we passed by each other on the highway Christmas morning.
While it was great to visit Jenn and Scott, I have to say I still miss their dog Buddy. He was always there to greet me when I arrived in their driveway. More than once this Christmas I glanced out of Jenn's kitchen window expecting to see Buddy running through the snow or patrolling the yard.
Jenn had to work Christmas Day at the hospital, but we were pleased to wait until evening to have our gift exchange. Jennifer's FitBit showed she had done more than 15,000 steps that day! Regardless, I am proud that Jennifer is working to help other cancer patients.
It was nice to see Jenn and family earlier in the month when the boys had a hockey tournament in Timmins. This is the last time Tyler and Nathan will be playing on the same team. Nathan turned 16 in November and Tyler will be 18 in April. But it was nice just the same to see the boys enjoying the game. The team won the gold medal, again, in Timmins. Both boys did well, scoring often. In one game, Tyler scored a hat-trick, getting three goals!

I have been super busy at work as expected. Postmedia has not been the corporate savior many people were hoping for. They closed several newspapers in Southern Ontario in the fall. While we were spared layoffs here in Timmins, they have not hired anyone new to replace people who moved on to other newspapers. The effect is the same. Oh well, we struggle forward.
I think the worst part is that our news work is coming under increased scrutiny from the social media know-it-all keyboard warriors who like to think they know better. When they see a story they "disagree" with they label it fake news. If only they knew how much research goes into fact-checking and other steps to ensure our information is accurate. I have been saving screen captures of their comments to hold them accountable if they try to backpedal. They're just as bad as Donald Trump and his tweets.  2018 will be an election year in Timmins, and I think some of them might try to run for office. God help us. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Fashion? I don't think so.

I bought a nice down-filled parka 10 years ago. It keeps me warm. Here’s the thing; I rarely wear it unless the temperature drops below minus-20. You don’t need a parka unless it gets really cold. I know that. I live in Northern Ontario. I travelled in the Arctic, in winter. About 30 years ago, I had another parka. It was also down-filled, made by Woods. It lasted me 17 winters. It was an excellent winter coat.  So now as I look around I see that parkas have become a fashion thing on the streets of Toronto. Are you kidding me? Toronto? I guess that upsets me. Parkas are not a fashion thing. Or they shouldn’t be. It is just a lousy reason to drive up the price, and I predict the quality will suffer. I hear people are already unhappy because parkas use goose feathers and coyote fur. Give me a break. Hopefully this fad passes soon.  

Apple crisp, revised ...

I think everyone in the Gillis clan knows how to make Aunt Sadie's apple crisp. For me, the recipe is part of my DNA I think. So last week I mentioned to Claudette that apple crisp would be a nice dessert for the weekend. We were standing in the grocery store. I picked up several fresh apples and made sure Claudette had all the other supplies at home. But I really didn't. I forgot to ask if she had any rolled oats. Anyway, the time came to make it. I peeled the apples and set them aside to prepare the "crisp". You know, flour, brown sugar, butter ... That's when I noticed I didn't have the rolled oats. Claudette came up with a couple of package of Quaker instant oats. Good, but not enough. That's when I thought that maybe another breakfast cereal would help. Claudette had Special-K. So we "crunched" up half a cup of Special-K. It worked. OMG, the crisp was so perfect. I think that's part of my future recipe from now on.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Windchill of minus 20!

I was more than pleased Saturday morning when at least 200 Timmins people coped with some cold and snowy weather to attend the Remembrance Day event at the local Cenotaph. Some people are suggesting we should hold the event indoors. And there have been times I would agree with them. A local cop who was directing traffic mentioned that it is only half an hour out the year to put up with a bit of discomfort to honour our veterans. Good comment. I also liked seeing folks carry on the tradition of placing their own poppies at the monument, kind like their personal Act of Remembrance.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A little bit of gold ...

I enjoyed myself this week when the folks at Lake Shore Gold (Tahoe Timmins) poured their millionth ounce of gold. I am always amazed at the idea of gold. Here in Timmins, the entire city revolves around it. If you’re not mining it, you’re selling things to keep the mines in operation whether its fuel, shovels, trucks, timbers or tires. There was a time that the mines spent millions of dollars propping up the local economy. Then it became tens of millions of dollars. Now it’s hundreds of millions of dollars … all for a metal that doesn’t rust, doesn’t tarnish and is non-toxic.
Here’s the best part. People always talk about the Klondike Gold Rush. Well, that was indeed a rush, but it is tiny compared to Timmins. Lake Shore Gold  opened its mining operation in Timmins less than 10 years ago, finding gold on the west side of town,  nearly 100 years after the other big mines opened. The geologists keep saying there is lots of gold in Timmins that hasn’t been discovered yet. All they have to do is find it. By the way, the gold bar weighed in at 55 pounds ... $1.2-million.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Protest is okay ...

So I have been thinking about the NFL players protest of going down on one knee during the playing the U.S. national anthem. I am okay with it.  It is really quite a peaceful, and respectful, form of protest. They’re not setting buildings on fire. They’re not blocking streets. They’re not out looting department stores. They’re taking a knee.

A lot of people seem to forget that people have the right to protest in the U.S. and in our own country They people who are protesting seem to be legitimately upset with the way blacks are being treated in the U.S.   So let’s face it, some of the police services in that country are totally out of hand and out of touch with reality.  Kinda wish Martin Luther King was still around. And if other people are upset with a few football players having a protest, hey get used to it. The land of free. The home of the brave. Get used to it. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ron and Matthew's big adventure :)

I was more than pleased this week to have Ronald and his son Matthew drop in to Timmins on their cross Canada trip from B.C. and Alberta to RCAF Trenton. Matt is being posted from the base at Cold Lake to the base at Trenton as his air force career continues. Ron flew out from Comox and met Matt in Saskatchewan to continue the trip.  Claudette was a great host putting on a nice dinner of ribs and chicken while I made sure the fellows enjoyed a bit of beer and whisky.  It was great to re-live some childhood memories and perhaps more amazing, to wonder how we managed to survive some of those childhood adventures.

Friday, September 08, 2017

My knife ...

Few people these days understand the importance of a pocket knife. While on vacation last week, I ran into one of those pseudo-urgent situations where I had a bottle of refreshment and no bottle opener. And it wasn’t a twist-top bottle. I was flummoxed! I always carry my favourite little slim Swiss Army Knife, but for the life of me I could not find it. Maybe some lucky person will eventually find it. The thing is I always like to have a knife not because I want to cut something, but because they’re so useful for other things. Such as opening a bottle of refreshment. 
As it turned out, we enjoyed our refreshments but had to resort to primitive methods to open the bottles. So as part of our holiday travels, there was a search for a new pocket knife, whenever there was a convenient moment. This included Toronto, Niagara On The Lake, Ottawa and even Kanata. On the final day of our travels, we stopped in North Bay at the mall there to see about other things. As I was walking along, Claudette pointed at one of those engraving shops, where you can buy all sorts of things for engraving. I walked in an inquired about their selection of pocket knives. Bingo! I am now the proud owner of a genuine Swiss Army Pioneer.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A grim memory ...

I was on the road today to cover a story in a remote area of Northern Ontario up on the Abitibi River. I came across this bronze monument in tribute to 10 people who died in a plane crash in 1976 at Abitibi Canyon.  It shocked me back to reality. I remember the crash. It was a Labour Day weekend. I was the first reporter at the scene.  The wreckage was still burning. I had never seen dead bodies at a crash scene before. It was grim.

Monday, August 21, 2017

And so it continues :(

I know I have written this before, but I honestly don’t know how long Trump can go on as president, the way he carries on. He has made a mockery over everything presidential and he doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. I think he mentally ill. Not that there is anything wrong with being mentally ill. But people should just know.  His key people are leaving every week. What do they know that we don’t?  Why do I care. I am not American. Well he has the nuclear launch codes and with that other wacko in North Korea I don’t what to think anymore. Thank God for the New York Times, the Washington Post and other responsible media outlets for keeping us informed.

The beginning of this month was fun. Neil came home for a visit and it was nice. It was also a chance to meet Lee Ann, his girlfriend. Two very cool young people. It was great to spend time with them and nice of Neil to get out to see as many cousins and aunts and uncles as he could.  He also got to spend some time with Jenn and her family, which she said she really enjoyed.

So holidays are coming up soon and I think I will head to southern Ontario. I hate the traffic and the air pollution, but I think a couple of days at the Canadian National Exhibition might be fun. I haven’t been down south for a few years, so it will be a change of scenery.

The summer has been good so far, not too hot. Although there were a few days I longed to jump into a cool northern lake. I did that a few times last summer. I must learn to appreciate the North more. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July stuff

Well what a month July has been. We have had some amazingly hot days, but surprisingly cool nights. Claudette has air conditioning at her place, but on a few occasions it has be cool enough overnight you’d want to put the heat on!
I haven't done it yet this summer, but I am craving a hot, hot day where I will be inspired enough to go swimming in a pristine and cold Northern lake. 

It is very possible that the Stars and Thunder event held in Timmins last month will return in 2018. I had a chat with the key promoter Ron Sakamoto and he said he is ready to return. City council has had only brief discussion of on it, but five of the nine members of council have indicated they’re willing to see it return next year.

Winery tour. That’s one of the things I am looking into. There are lots going on in Southern Ontario, but I am told there is also a whisky tour. Stayed tuned.

Summer has also been nice so far because we now have a grocery store in Timmins that sells locally produced ales and beers from around Ontario. I love this stuff. Sleeman's Original Draught and Honey Brown ales have spoiled me. Also, I don't know if my taste buds have changed or what, but I don't seem to fancy "hoppy" ales anymore.  

Neil is coming to Ontario next week! Yup, he is vacationing here in the Liberal east. Yes, this is where our Liberal premier sold out our publicly owned hydro company and now the Liberals are buying a coal fired hydro plant. Southern Ontario folks voted this person in as premier. I wish we could cut Southern Ontario off from the rest of the province and set it adrift in Lake Ontario. LOL

We have tiny little flies in the North called no-see-ums. We have people in the south called no-smart-ums. 

Observation: As I get older, I get crankier. And I don't seem to care! LOL

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy 4th ...

Well happy 4th of July to all the good Americans out there who manage to carry on despite the foibles of their fearless leader. We must respect our American friends and allies as much as possible no matter how crazy their government. That’s all I am going to say for now. I always enjoyed going to the U.S. and meeting ordinary everyday people.
That being said, I have to say Canada Day in Timmins was a blast. We had the wrap up to the eight day concerts and fireworks and it was one of the best things to ever happen in this town. It was great to see everyone in such an upbeat mood for a whole week. Even the Sons of Maxwell were back home to perform... and they gave a shout-out to Glen MacNeil!
I have to admit that Claudette and I were getting a bit tired of going out and partying every night, but we sure had fun. The weather wasn’t perfect, but after awhile, it didn’t seem to matter. When you’re with people and everyone seems to be having a good time, no one cares about the weather.

So I saw Johnny Reid perform for the first time and now I am a big fan. Keith Urban was okay, but Reid stole the show in my opinion. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Great kickoff to Stars and Thunder

Was more than pleased this weekend to take in the opening of the Stars and Thunder event in Timmins which kicked off with a huge St. Jean Baptiste celebration. The fireworks show provided by Team France was outstanding. Last night we saw Sass Jordan and David Wilcox. Fireworks were by Team Italy. Tonight Tom Cochrane and Red Ryder take the main stage. It’s nice when a small town like Timmins steps up and tries something new. Otherwise we’d all be in our rec rooms watching re-runs of Bonanza or hovering over Facebook trying to think of something clever to say.