Finding new ways to avoid work

I’m nothing if not inventive in finding ways to avoid settling down to write. Over the holidays I latched onto the idea that “if I rearranged the room, I might feel more like writing”. How’s that for some fine work avoidance thinking? I spent more time fussing over moving furniture than actually posting to the site. I’m impressed with my continuing devotion to the gods of procrastination. And yes, I did move everything around on New Year’s.  I also changed desks so now I have an awesome amount of space to fill up. The other desk was a too small which meant constantly moving shit around and trying to find a spot to prop my notebook or plop my coffee mug.  As a bonus, I  moved the clutter from the window so now there is awesome air flow cycling through. 

I discovered a small problem with the refit. The floor isn’t level so my chair rolls back towards the window when I’m sitting. ARGG.  I either have to de-wheel this chair or purchase some chocks.   

So, what’s coming in the new year? I now have more time to write. The person I was helping through cancer treatment is doing fine now (fingers crossed for the tests later this month) so I suddenly find myself with much more time on my hands. It’s an odd feeling.  I’m working on a series near and dear to my heart – conspiracy theories. No, no, I don’t buy into them, I enjoy destroying brain cells reading them. So I think I’ll post a few of my favourites under Whackadoodle Wed, where I share my favourite bits of nuttery

I have articles for the philately section ready for proofing so that should be much more consistent. As well, I’m going to retool the patents section. It takes forever to write up some of the articles so I’ll be posting smaller,  not so detailed items to fill the gap.  I had to take a bit of a break from photography (time constraints) and am ready to plunge back in. Part two of the Trip around St Clair is ready for proofing as well. Should be up in a couple of weeks.  

Still working on new ideas, but priority is fixing the damned wheels. 

Laid low by a virus and a Christmas village on the go

Wow was that a bad ass virus! We were laid low by one of the great unknown viruses that lurk in the winter months. No idea what it was but after 12 hrs of chills, headaches, vomiting and er .. you know – I’m happy to be upright and feeling human. How bad was it? It was nearly a week before I could stand the smell of coffee let alone drink it.    

I kept sitting the computer, promising “today I’ll get some work done” but ended up staring at the screen and achieving bugger all. Felt like I’d gone on a shopping binge at the Big Box of Lethargy Supermarket. It was  easier to watch old movies on YouTube than write. Here I am  … again, staring at a back log of articles that need to be written.  Some articles will have to wait while I build a little stone wall for our Christmas village display.  What’s that you ask? I’m a master of work avoidance, if nothing else so I’ve decided our little woodcutter’s hut needs an old stone wall around the property.  I might make a few paths for the singers standing around the village centre tree as well. 

I’m using air dry modelling clay and  have started the curved section. I haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to paint it, but I have enough art supplies stuffed into the closet, that I’m sure I’ll find something to use. Right now I’m letting the first section dry to see how it looks. If I like it, I’ll pull out the sculpting tools and go at it tonight.  I’ll take a photo of our village and post it when I get the wall erected.  It’s going to take hours to build – it’s so teeny tiny.   

Booted down a corporate rabbit hole of nonsense

I spent a few days trying to figure out how a simple question sent me swirling down a corporate rabbit hole of nonsense. Last week I sent off a quick question to Heinz, via their website, asking where their baked beans are manufactured.  Recently the little red maple leaf and “Made in Canada” banner disappeared and nowhere on the label is an indicator as to origins. I like to know where my food is coming from so I whipped of a quick query.  Here’s their first answer:

There is nothing more important to us than pleasing you, and every one of our consumers, with high-quality products.

This product is available nationally, and unfortunately, I currently do not have information as to what retail stores in your area might carry this item. I’m sorry to disappoint you, and we understand how important it is to our consumers to know where to locate our products; but please understand that the decision to carry certain products rests on the grocers who make their decisions based on their consumers’ preferences.

In the meantime, we can suggest that you try speaking with the grocery store manager. They may be able to let you know when you can expect to see the product on shelf.

Is it too much to ask that they actually read the question?  I fired off a response asking them to answer the original question, where do they make the beans? Here’s their response: 

Please be advised that our foreign plants follow strict policies and procedures that we have put in place for Canadian manufacturing plants to produce high quality products.

Any production within or outside of Canada, follows careful analysis and is based on sound business reasons. We are consolidating production to make better use of our plants, and keep our business viable and competitive.I apologize, but their exact location is proprietary information in order to ensure our consumers’ safety and security

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you again soon!

Director, Consumer Relations 

So, they are keeping me safe from … what? How is my security and safety compromised by knowing what country cans their beans?  OMG BUYING BAKED BEANS IS A SECURITY ISSUE! WHO’LL THINK OF THE CHILDREN!  What a bullshit answer.

This was the simplest of questions. Where do you make your baked beans?  Instead of being honest, Heinz offered up corporate speak for “fuck you, you don’t have the right to know”.  They learned the wrong lesson from the ketchup PR debacle over the last year.  Instead of being up front, they’re hoping to avoid more controversy by playing hide the button with consumers – quietly move more manufacturing out of Canada and pretend  they’re protecting the safety and security of Canadian consumers by hiding country of origin.  

Nicely played Heinz. I was less than enamoured with you prior to this little bit of nonsense. Now guess what company has been removed from my shopping list.  

How about some more fun with this day in history – Wolfe & Montcalm

How about some more fun with this day in history – Wolfe & Montcalm

I was poking around a few history websites yesterday and discovered it’s the anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  Ah hah! I’ve separated the Canadians from the herd, haven’t I? Any one who attended school in Canada will instantly recognise the significance. This battle was one of the seminal points of the Seven Years War which saw New France surrendered to British control.  This watershed moment in history set the stage for the American Revolution and the formation of Canada over 100 years later. 

Mock newspaper about the Battle of Abraham PlainsI’ve had some fun wondering how modern news outlet would cover the wars. Now my take is decidedly low key. I’ve played around with a News of the World style cover, but can’t quite bring myself to actually post it. It ended up a little bit rude.  Funnier than hell, but incredibly offensive. I’ll work on tempering it for later posts. This turned into an amusing little project so I’ll periodically post them when a historical date tweaks me.  

Want to read more about the Seven Years War?  

Canadian War Museum  – Clash of Empires and The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
The Canadian Encyclopedia has an excellent entry – Seven Years’ War 
The Gov of Canada’s Battlefield Commission has a page on the Battle – Battle of the Plains of Abraham 
Quebec City and area site – Battlefield Park 

Check your local library and ask the librarian to recommend a few books for you.  
Start with Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by Dr. Peter MacLeod, an historian with the Canadian War Museum. 

Attributed to Joseph Highmore – Bonhams, Public Domain,
Antoine Louis François Sergent dit Sergent-Marceau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mildly disappointing reading list for Sept so far

I have this big, big bag of books beside my bed that I dip into when I need a new read.  It’s a mixed bag of 20 or so, history, mystery, sci fi and good old fashioned thrillers. We’re lucky, in this apartment building, tenants are loath to throw away books so a little library was setup. Quite often I can find new releases on one of the shelves, which I scoop because they’ll disappear quickly.  There’s always something to read. 

Anyhow, I pulled  a couple of Dan Brown books in the last week or two to give them a try. I read The Da Vinci Code years ago when it came out. Whoa, I just looked that up and that was more than a few years ago – 2003! A lot of books have wandered through my life since then, some amazing, many mediocre and a handful appallingly bad. It’s never a good sign when you start hoping the main character is polished off in a gruesome accident or the apocalypse occurs so the book finally comes to an end. I remember thinking the Code was a pretty good yarn, fun and a quick read. I don’t mind suspending my belief for awhile and just go along for the ride, and I did enjoy the book. That was the last Dan Brown I read until now. I was turned off the rabid, cult like behaviour of many  fans when I encountered them. Man, I couldn’t even offer a critique without being accused of rather stupid things like “you don’t know REAL history”, “it could be true” and “you don’t know how to read”. Yes, it could be true, in an alternate reality.  Define “real history” and I’ll debate you on it. And I couldn’t even be bothered discussing my ability to read a very easy to follow plot line. I found it all too tedious to deal with and opted out. It turned me off his books. That wasn’t Brown’s fault, but I was soured on the later books.  

Down in our little library sat all of Brown’s books so I thought what the hell, give them a try.  I was right. Fairly good fun, nice yarns, easy reads. Beyond that?  What can I say? I found Origin frustrating.   I muttered at the book if  the over-sized tablet descriptor was used one more time, I was going to chuck the book over the balcony.  The entire story was tired and forced. I truly enjoyed Da Vinci Code because it was memorable. The story stuck in my mind.  Angels and Demons was equally fun.  I’m making  my way through Inferno and it’s ok so far. Not exactly a rip roaring tale, but ok.  I can usually tear through a novel in a day or two but I’ve picked up Inferno and plopped it down again for 2 weeks now. It’s becoming a bit of a chore because  I feel we’ve been down this road already. It’s basically the same tale, similar settings, no real character development and lots of pretty scenery.  When I finish Inferno, I doubt I’ll bother with Symbols.  I’ll leave it in the bag and think about it for a few weeks.  But I can’t help feeling the series has worn out it’s welcome in my little abode. 

I want to change up my reading material and am searching for good sci fi or sci fantasy. There used to be a couple of sci fi / sci fantasy fans in the building, who kept me well supplied. They’ve either stopped dropping books off or they’ve moved. Too bad. I think a trip to the local library is in order to shake off the reading list doldrums. Maybe next week, after I plod through Inferno. Wish me luck.  

A bit of fun with This Day in History – Richard III

A bit of fun with This Day in History – Richard III

I was culling through my usual list of sites this morning and found out on this date, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard has been in the news quite a bit lately, with the discovery of his remains in a church parking lot and reburial. I sat for a few minutes and wondered what the news coverage would be like if our modern 24 hour blood sells extravaganzas provided on the spot coverage.  I nearly short circuited my brain thinking about how Fox would lay on the outrage and decided I couldn’t go down that rabbit hole. Well at least not sober.   From tabloids to the more staid papers – it’s an amusing thought experiment.

Here’s my take on a more conservative approach to his death.

A mock up of a newspaper carrying coverage of Battle of Bosworth Field from a modern perspective

A quick trip to your local library will produce a wealth of excellent books on the subject. I’m pretty sure the librarian would be thrilled to help you select material.  You can also find a treasure trove of online sources that cover the battle and histories of Richard III and Henry VII. Here are a few to get you started:

This Day in History:
Encyclopaedia Britannica  – Battle of Bosworth Field
House of Plantagenet on Wikipedia offers an extensive bibliography for those inclined to dive deep into history
Richard III – BBC History page 
The Richard III Society has an outstanding website
Henry VII – BBC History page
There are a number of Tudor Society sites on the internet –  The Tudor Society  and  The Henry Tudor Society

All the images used are licensed under Creative Commons:

  • York coat of arms By Sodacan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
  • Battle of Bosworth Field Philip James de Loutherbourg [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Richard III By Unknown artist; uploaded to wikipedia by Silverwhistle (Richard III Society website via English Wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Henry VII National Portrait Gallery [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons