Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Christmas Nog Recipe

I have no doubt this is wholly unoriginal, but I am not copying this recipe from anywhere. (Unlike the image I've included. So, in my mind, I made it up.

Here's how to make your Christmas-y cocktail hit harder but still taste awesome. You'll be telling your family what you really think of them in no time!

In a highball glass:
1 oz white rum
1.5 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
Finish with a one to two ratio of 1% white milk and reduced fat egg nog.

There are many obvious variations on this cocktail. For example, you could use spiced rum or another rum of your choice; you could opt for another type of Bailey's; you could change up the fat content in the milk or the nog. I chose the milk and nog because I don't want to feel like I've had a Big Mac with every drink. Not that I would stick to this for more than one or two, mind you.

Anyways, that's it. Enjoy!

P.S. This drink has to be known as something already. If you know, let me know!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

US Health Care -- Some Canuck Answers

Caveat: This post is probably pretty presumptuous, but since I am pretty sure nobody reads my blog, I will continue.

I've been following the healthcare debate in the US pretty closely. Perhaps more closely than is worth the bother, but I have to hand it to Americans, they make politics fun. We can get pretty engaged up here with hating Stephen Harper, but in a parliamentary system, I can't vote for or against the Prime Minister. I have to vote for my member of parliament (MP) and then the party with the most members gets to form the majority and rule the country. The downside of this approach is I would never vote for Harper, but I would vote for Peter MacKay -- the member from my riding/district. So, I either have to make a protest vote and potentially help kick a guy I like out of office, or I have to help Harper hold his position. Tough call -- and probably a big reason why Canada has had minority ruling parties since the "right" merged. Yeah, calling the Conservative Party the right while the Liberal party -- that gutted social programs in the 90s to balance the budget -- gets to be the left is a another post altogether. And since I've lost you all already, I am going to skip right back into the original purpose of this post.

So they may actually pass a healthcare bill in the Senate. Congrats. And it looks like there may be some decent stuff in there for average folks. Although, from a Canadian perspective, this is truly relative. I still think you guys have it bad. Thing is, some of us have it pretty bad too. But anecdotal evidence can be used by all sides to prove all points of view. It's a fact.

I want to tell you what it's like to be an average working Canadian with access to universal health care and a union health plan. I am a school teacher in Nova Scotia, so I feel like I am solidly on the low side of the middle class and a pretty typical guy.

First, taxes. If I make about 45K in a year, I can expect to lose about 8K of it in taxes right off the paycheck. This is not all health care, it's many other things that Americans enjoy as well, but I am not an accountant and I will be rounding a lot here. I do need to hold some details back.

Now, if I proceed to take up woodworking and slice my hand off -- which I almost certainly would -- I can be rushed in a "free" (all uses of free should be considered to be in air quotes for the remainder of this post) ambulance and then some doctor will attempt to save my hand. I will not get a bill for this, but since the best doctors want to become multimillionaires and head to the US, my hand might not be that great after I receive this care, but it should be better than a hook.

I live in a small town. The county I live in has about 40 thousand people. Yeah, laugh it up. By comparison to many US centers, it's a peaceful hamlet. In terms of health care, this means it's not always easy to get a primary care physician (PCP). I should know; I don't have one. So, when I want a prescription filled, I need to go to the walk-in clinic and get in line. This actually can be more convenient than a PCP because I can often see a doctor in 25 minutes -- for free, natch. But forget getting decent care for some long-term, chronic issue. "Hey, doc, I have chest pains." "Well, this is the first time I've seen you so what do you expect me to do about it?" My wife actually had that conversation with a clinic doctor.

Most of us go to the doctor and get a prescription. This is where my extended health care benefits kick in. I have excellent supplementary care as a member of the teachers' union. Almost every workplace can afford to offer something decent because all the critical care stuff is covered by our evil, socialist government. So whether you make $9/hour in a call center or $75K as a principal of a high school, you can get that prescription filled for maybe five bucks. I only have two prescriptions -- neither of which is for cancer, so my medical costs are negligible (outside of what I already paying through my taxes, ya know -- communist etc.)

I mention cancer because there are drugs that slip through the cracks. Let's say you are on government disability and you have cancer. You get a chemo injection prescription that costs $2K . But you are not on old age pension. Let's say you are 58 years old and you make about $1200 month. Guess what? You may be unable to take that injection -- even in communist Canada. Yeah, in this anecdote -- which I have personally witnessed, you may be screwed, komrad.

But let's say you are like me and you have a half-decent job and the union health plan. You can basically get anything (AIDs, cancer, canceraids) and you will be covered. Long term disability, government handouts, massage therapy (no referral), psychotherapy, and all the delicious drugs you can gulp down. As I write this, I realize there are probably thousands of anecdotes that will refute my version of reality. I welcome them. (Aww, who am I kidding? This will never be read by thousands.)

My main point is to outline the experience of a Canadian in a small province with access to universal health care. It is not as glamorous Michael Moore would have you believe -- nor is it communism or Nazism or whatever else Tom Tancredo would have you believe.

I may follow up on this if I get any feedback. In the meantime, I will leave you with this: at CPAC, Glenn Beck said he didn't think access health care was a right. Well, maybe it isn't a right, but it has to be more available to people than a Mercedes E class. As for that avuncular poster boy for the John Galt wannabes, Ron Paul, he said nobody falls through the cracks in the US because of emergency services. Patch 'em up and bill 'em is not a workable policy, Mr. Paul. As an OB/GYN who used to practice his love with the women of America, you know better. But you get a pass because you claim you wouldn't have bailed out AIG either.

IF the health care bill passes and gets some much needed improvements to it over time, I guarantee most of the tea baggers will quietly realize that they were protesting their own well-being all along. Of course, they will forget who dragged them into it and vote for the Beck - Palin ticket in 2012 anyways.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Warding off SADness

So, it's that time of year. For some, it's an exciting new school year. For some (many of them teachers) it's time to be dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the classroom. For others, it's just cooler evenings that start earlier and the time when power bills begin to creep ever higher.

As a teacher, I both welcome and dread the end of summer. I welcome it because it's time to get back into action. I dread it because I always mark the passing of summer by making a mental list of all the things I meant to do and didn't. This year is no different.

So, how do I ward off the creeping Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that accompanies the passing of August? Well, I haven't actually been diagnosed with SAD, but my main coping strategy is to embrace the cooler evenings and the familiar smells of my neighbours burning wood for the first time in months.

I'm told the sense of smell has the strongest memories and, in my personal experience, it's true. As I type this, I can smell someone's wood fire burning and it's cold enough that I'm pulling on sweatpants and socks. In times like this, I am thrust back into my university days where I would tuck in for a late afternoon nap in Harrington Hall. It was late September/early October and I could smell someone's wood fire somewhere off campus and play a little Kate Bush to relax. Specifically, the smell of the wood fire mixed with the cool encroaching fall weather and this song produces a peculiar alchemy that makes me eager to pull on a warm sweater and embrace the changing seasons. Heck, if nothing else, Hallowe'en is just around the corner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marking Steyn

Surprisingly, perhaps, my first ever exposure to Mark Steyn's writing and ideologies came from an article published in MacLean's magazine. Having received my first issue since and because the Canadian edition of Time was cancelled, I had to read this article about three times before it sunk in that MacLean's actually published this stuff. I thought maybe a few pages of the National Review slipped into my magazine.

I am all for reading arguments on all sides of the issues, but it was a disappointing introduction to a writer who may have a few worthwhile ideas. I can't help but laugh at the idea that TARP money is being forced on bankers. Maybe one bank somewhere, dug up and exemplified in the piece, but AIG and the rest were only too eager to lap the bail out all up from both administrations -- and then snarl like junkyard dogs at the idea that homeowners might get a piece.

The writing may indeed be on the wall. I suspect the writing has been on the wall since the 70s. Is Steyn really in the camp that blames the "hopeychanger-in-chief" for the many crises we face? If he is, he is just as hopeless as the law students who launched a ridiculous human rights action against MacLean's for publishing an excerpt from his book.

In any case, I will continue to read Steyn's contributions to MacLeans -- even if he has cast his lot with Rush Limbaugh. Can't blame a man for wanting to sell books.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blue Jays - Separated At Birth?

Well, obviously not at birth, but did Scott Richmond's mother ever have occasion to meet Jim Nabors?

In any case, may Pvt. Pyle continue to pitch like he did last night against the Twins.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Annoying Advertising Trends

Time to shoot some fish in a barrel.

There are two trends in advertising I noted lately that seem to be getting overused - even by advertising standards. The worst is these ads are annoying despite having the appearance of high dollar campaigns. Both are the illegitimate spawn of more entertaining executions and both suffer from the stench of lacking verisimilitude.

Of course, there is no horse in the advertising stable that hasn't been beaten to death long ago, but without further ado, I feel the creative departments of advertising firms need to let these two styles rest for a while.

The first is the fake guerrilla ad. This type of ad, often shot shakily, to give you the impression, "Hey, in all the excitement, we're just barely getting this footage!" I assume this particular beast is the spawn of the YouTube zeitgeist. A perfect example is the new Axe shampoo campaign:

If you're not real perceptive, you get the impression the Lever company unleashed a pig and a few shapely harridans on a mall to prove, in no uncertain terms, girls prefer clean hair. Well, thanks for that. Guess what? Guys prefer clean to dirty and smelly, too. I'm actually surprised the percentage isn't higher. The girls who like greasy, dandruff-ridden hair must be the daughters of that one dentist who refuses to recommend sugarless gum.

The other type of commercial is for more ubiquitous and, therefore, more annoying. The example I am including is from IBM, but you can see dozens of similar ads during any night of prime time television. It's the fast cut of multiple stereotypes speaking portions of the company slogan. I assume this is popular because the edits keep the viewer's interest while also allowing the company to cast as big a net as possible: both the little brown boy and one of NYC's finest want a better world - brought to you by IBM. Me, I'm on the floor in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

All I need to really want to open a vein is a little Brit boy whispering "Zoom Zoom" -- but kids whispering seems to have fallen out of favour lately. Unfortunately, the above templates are here for a while. Thank technology I DVR most everything and zip right through this crap -- although I also stop for Vince from Sham-Wow. No pretense; the man just wants to save us some money on paper towel. See, now that's compelling.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Support the Troops!

There is nothing so simple, and so loaded, as the admonishment to support the brave men and women of our Canadian forces. While not as vocal as in the USA, we have a large contingent of patriots in this country for whom, it would seem, opposing the war in Afghanistan is tantamount to wishing harm on our citizen soldiers.

It’s everywhere: camo-themed yellow ribbon magnetic stickers on cars, the more traditional yellow ribbon around a tree, red t-shirts, and of course, Don Cherry. The spiritual leader of nationalist pride in its simplest terms, Cherry visits the troops, uses his Coaches Corner time to berate Alexander Ovechkin for being too fun and then, his voice heavy with emotion, pays tribute to the latest in an ever-growing list of casualties of the war for Afghan freedom. Do I doubt his sincerity? Not in the slightest. Do I resent and reject the apparent motivation in a catchy slogan like, “If you don’t stand behind the troops, feel free to stand in front of them”? Hell, yeah.

When I hear about four more soldiers slain in a cowardly IED attack, I get emotional. I shed tears of sadness, but that sadness almost immediately calcifies into more anger. I support the troops in the best way I know: I oppose the war in Afghanistan.

It’s been a while, but try to remember how we got there in the first place. On September 11, 2001, hijackers from a loose-knit organization called Al-Qaeda launch a relatively low-tech, but highly effective, attack on the US. I remember it well as I’m sure you do. The entire free world was ready to stand behind the US that day and in the months that followed. Canada was especially eager to come to their aid in whatever way we could -- perhaps due to the fact that we were erroneously fingered as the easily penetrated port through which the hijackers entered. Military intelligence determined in the days that followed that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan played host to the man most responsible: Osama Bin Laden. Despite the act that not a single hijacker was from Afghanistan, off we went to topple the Taliban and capture Bin Laden. Reasonable and justified, I believe, although the as facts have emerged in the following years, that belief has been shaken.

How distant those thoughts and feelings are now. What are we doing in Afghanistan now? Fighting a war to stabilize a country that has resisted stability for its entire history? Rooting out insurgents while simultaneously creating more with inevitable collateral damage? Nation building?

Think of all the places in the world that are a morass of corruption and violence. It’s enough to make one wonder if man in his natural state is capable of order and reason. After we fail in Afghanistan, let’s try fixing the Congo or Zimbabwe – at least they offer some intriguing possibilities as trade partners. Just make a list and we will get to them all eventually.

The men and women who choose a career in the military know they may be called on to place themselves in harm’s way. Some do so with gusto, bravado, and excellence. Some desperately seek an assignment at home. They all should expect to be deployed responsibly and with the tools they need to hope to succeed. Asking them to spend eight years writing a new future for the people of Afghanistan is wrong.

Every time another soldier dies or even gets badly wounded in Afghanistan, I feel sad for the loss to our country and his family. I also think, this mission is long over. Bring them home. It’s not right to sacrifice any more for this cause. Are they ensuring our freedom and keeping us safe by fighting over there? I don’t know if I can believe that. Anyways, I’ll feel just as safe having them back here. Am I willing to stand in front of the troops? No, but I am fully behind them pulling out of Afghanistan ASAP. It’s long overdue.