Archive for May, 2013

May 30, 2013

Live a life that spirals upwards and outwards

This is either an anonymous quote, or my own reflection, hastily scribbled down on a random scrap of paper!

If, after a year, your life continues to fly upwards and outwards without your control, your life will be a good one.


May 24, 2013

Laugh of the Day: The benefits of television

This is totally me!

I find television very educational.  Every time someone turns on the TV, I go into another room and read a book.
~ Groucho Marx

May 23, 2013

Could you burn your bridges before you even start?

Here is an intriguing quote from Mike Dooley’s book Notes from the Universe:

It does little good to say you want something and then, “just in case,” prepare to do without.
Burn your bridges.

It might seem risky or irresponsible to forgo contingency planning and just go for the goal or objective you desire, as if it were yours already. ¬†But maybe it is yours already, if only you commit to it 100 per cent — no looking back, escape routes be damned. ¬†What if . . . ?

May 22, 2013

Laugh of the day: You do what for fun?

A non-climber’s perspective on the adventure sport of ice climbing, courtesy of Jon Krakauer’s 1988 essay “Valdez Ice”:*

(The essay describes the ice-climbing scene in Valdez, Alaska, and the passage below takes place in the Keystone Canyon, a narrow gorge characterized by over 50 waterfalls, frozen in winter, cascading down its 800-foot walls.)

Ten years ago [in 1978], a Valdez ship’s agent named Bob Pudwill was driving through Keystone Canyon beneath those forbidding cliffs when, he recalls, “I happened to look up and see a tiny figure standing on a ledge halfway up Bridal Veil Falls,” one of the canyon’s largest cascades, which, from November until May, turns into a fifty-story-high latticework of delicate blue icicles. ¬†The figure on the falls, Pudwill explains, was “stamping his feet and slapping his hands together while paying out a line which ran up to a second tiny figure who appeared to be stuck to the ice, spread-eagled who knows how, let alone why. ¬†My only guess was that they must be getting paid.”

For some folks, pursuits that push the body to its absolute limits are like icing on the cake of life.  Eat up!

* “Valdez Ice” by Jon Krakauer appears in Smithsonian¬†(January 1988) and in Krakauer’s book Eiger Dreams: ¬†Ventures Among Men and Mountains (Anchor Books, 1997).

May 20, 2013

Of archers and bibliophiles

Two quotes today, one for parents, the other for book lovers . . . or both for book-loving parents!

First, from poet and artist Khalil Gibran, inspiration those of us with children:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

Be patient and aim well.

Second, from journalist and writer Christopher Morley, comfort for those of us with a stack of books always nearby:

There’s no mistaking a real book when one meets it. ¬†It is like falling in love.

How many times have I fallen in love with pages and pages of unbroken prose?  Far too many to count.

May 18, 2013

You can make a difference

Today’s food for thought, courtesy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Give what you have.  To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.

Happy long weekend!

May 16, 2013

Observed on the street: A skin-tingling sight

I did a major double-take while walking past this telephone pole the other day . . .


“Good God, those bugs are enormous!!” I thought, my stomach lurching. ¬†“What are they?”

Upon closer inspection, I learned just what they were: ¬†plastic. ūüôā ¬†A mischievous neighbour had nailed them to the pole, perhaps hoping to instill a little creepy-crawly skin-shuddering in unsuspecting passers-by. ¬†Worked on me!

May 15, 2013

What is Canada Post thinking?

Years ago, I put a “no flyers/junk mail” sticker on my mailbox because I no longer wanted to receive wasteful ad mail that I often tossed directly into the recycling bin. ¬†It has, thus far, worked wonderfully.

Today, however, I received a letter from Canada Post suggesting that I consider removing that notice from my mailbox. . . .

“Dear occupant,” the letter reads, “Your address is part of Canada Post’s Consumers’ Choice database as a result of having a ‘no flyer’ notice on your mailbox. This means you are currently not receiving unaddressed mail delivered by Canada Post. . . . ¬†[You bet!] ¬†We would like to make it easy for you to receive this important mail that includes information and offers that could benefit you and your family. ¬†[Huh?]”

The letter goes on to inform me that by choosing not to receive unaddressed mail, I am missing out on “important” monetary savings, community connections and product samples. ¬†It then suggests that I opt back in to junk mail delivery by 1) returning an enclosed postage paid card (printed on sustainable paper, no less) and 2) removing the “no flyers” notice from my mailbox. ¬†Both suggestions are printed in boldface text, and the latter item is prefaced with the word “IMPORTANT“. ¬†If I follow these two easy steps, I’ll begin receiving junk mail again in just a few weeks.

Well, I’ll be. ¬†What is Canada Post thinking? ¬†In an era where companies are cutting paper and saving money by turning to e-billing, online advertising and the like, here is Canada Post trying to encourage folks to resume the delivery of excess, wasteful paper products to their homes! ¬†It boggles my mind. ¬†I understand that Canada Post deals in the paper-mail trade, and that the corporation is facing financial difficulties, but launching a campaign intended to get people to embrace junk mail seems both desperate and markedly out of touch with the times.

So, Canada Post, I will be leaving my “no flyers” sticker on my mailbox. ¬†I realize, as you point out, that “most unaddressed mail . . . [is] printed on sustainable papers and can all be recycled.”

The point is, I don’t want to receive these unnecessary materials in the first place.

May 13, 2013

Observed on the street: Did that car just wink at me??

Photo of a lime green Nissan S-Cargo van with eyelashes attached around the headlights.


I thought I saw a coy flutter of those luscious eyelashes as I drove by!

For those of you who want more, check out the side view below.

The vehicle is a Nissan S-Cargo, one of approximately 12,000 produced between 1989 and 1992. ¬†The eyelashes, to the best of my knowledge, did not come standard. ūüėČ


Side view of a lime green Nissan S-Cargo van with eyelashes attached around the headlights.

May 9, 2013

The epitome of an adventurer

I just finished reading the book Epic: Stories of Survival from the World’s Highest Peaks, an anthology of first-class mountain-themed adventure writing edited by Clint Willis. ¬†The last excerpt comes from Alfred Lansing’s 1959 book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, an account of the extraordinary 17-month epic survival effort of Ernest H. Shackleton and his 27 men after their ship was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea in January 1915.

The excerpt describes Shackleton’s last 36-hour trek across the uncharted interior of South Georgia Island, a mountainous, rugged jigsaw of ridges, glaciers and precipitous cliffs falling into the sea. ¬†“In the three-quarters of a century that men had been coming to South Georgia, not one man had ever crossed the island,” writes Lansing, “for the simple reason that it could not be done.”

Yet, driven by no other alternative than death by starvation and exposure, Shackleton and two of his party made the crossing.

What impresses me most about their effort is that they went with absolutely no prior information about the area, except that it was considered impassable. ¬†“On the chart they carried,” writes Lansing, “only the coastline of South Georgia was shown — and a great deal of that was missing. ¬†The interior was blank. ¬†Thus, they could only be guided by what they could see.”

Nevertheless, the men set off, equipped with only three-days’ rations, 50 feet of rope, two compasses, a pair of binoculars and a carpenter’s adze to use as an ice axe. ¬†They were dressed in the same tattered clothing they had been wearing since their shipwreck 17 months earlier, and they were already physically depleted by the rigours of their journey to date.

In this condition, the men trekked to the tops of one ice-covered ridge after another — some as high as 5,000 feet — only to be forced to backtrack in the face of impossibly steep cliff descents. ¬†They hacked their way up icy slopes, never knowing what lay on the other side, never knowing whether there was a passable route anywhere on the island’s 3,500-square-kilometre surface. ¬†They kept going without rest, until, 36 hours later, they lucked upon the opposite coastline, finding their route by little more than trial and error balanced on the point of a compass.

To me, Shackleton and his men are the epitome of true adventurers. ¬†Yes, they lived in a different time, yet compared to modern mountain expeditions, supported as they are by¬†GPS maps, aerial photography, elevation profiles, previous trip reports, satellite communications, base camps, lightweight equipment and the like, Shackleton’s achievement seems all the more remarkable.

Shackleton, you have my admiration and my respect.