Archive for May, 2007

Is Ronald McDonald Dead?

Is the much loved charitable burger touting clown no longer with us?

McDonald, probably about 65, was first introduced as the mascot of the McDonalds franchise in 1963. In recent years he is is rumoured to have become a total recluse.

Unfortunately McDonald has always refused direct interviews, preferring to defer to his corporate spokesmen.

Pundits are concerned that McDonald may be gravely ill or even dead, noting that he had always looked a bit pale and that the elephantiasis that affects his lower limbs may also affect his health. Close examination of recent footage reveals that most of his recent public appearances have been handled by unconvincing stand-ins

In 1973, the cover-up of the original Hamburglars hospitalisation for extreme obesity (a temporary change to vertical stripes failed to disguise his ballooning figure) and his subsequent fatal heart attack resulted in the impeachment of Mayor McCheese.

There have been previous unconfirmed reports of McDonalds demise. It’s time for McDonalds to come clean.

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Books three

Not sure I want to play this game but I’ve been Tagged by Walnut, for…

The Little-Known Favorites Meme. Rules: List and describe three of your favorite books that other people might not be familiar with. Then tag five people. See, easy!

Here they are:

Unknown title by Unknown Author

When I was a teenager I discovered some boys adventure books my Dad had as a kid. The one I remember best was about a British flying ship – literally an “armed merchant ship” of the 30’s and 40’s made of a miraculously light metal and able to be ballasted with an equally miraculous lighter-than-air gas. Its’ arch enemy was a copy of itself made from stolen plans by a middle-European power (of course). A marvelous, rollicking yarn. But I can’t remember the title or the author. How little-known can you get? Even I don’t know.

Earth by David Brin
Almost everything Brin does is pretty good, even if Kevin Costner screwed “the Postman” big time. Twenty years ago I had the opportunity to see Niven, Brin, Pohl and McCaffrey live in a panel discussion, and he impressed me mightily. Earth combines Nivenesque science fiction with cyberpunk – and makes Gibson look a little silly. An extraordinarily prophetic book in some ways.

The People: Pilgrimage by Zenna Henderson and The Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Yes, I know, there are 2 books here, but I can’t choose. I read these as a teen in Ace pulp paperback, probably in one of those “back to back” editions, (so maybe they qualify as one book).

The People: Pilgrimage (no longer in print, but collected with The People: No Different Flesh as “Ingathering”, now) tells the poignant story of groups of scattered refugees from another world – with special abilities – and a high moral ethic. It moved me at the time; I’m afraid to revisit it. You can’t go back.

The Bloody Sun (1964) is an early Darkover novel. Maybe I liked it because it made me feel like perhaps having red hair wasn’t such a bad thing. Well, the story was pretty good too…

The chain stops here. I’m not taggin’ nobody.

Nozzle wars

Can you guess what I liked most about staying in one place for more than one night while we were in Canada?

Not changing bathrooms.

I like my hot showers. But I don’t like spending half my time and wasting a considerable amount of water trying to discover how the plumbing works.

In no two places in Canada did the shower fixtures work in the same way, and all too often they seemed to have been designed by an aesthetically gifted sadist with a Buck Rogers fixation.

Where I come from, it’s generally simple. One pair of hot and cold knobs for the shower and one separate set for the bath. Hot on your left, cold on your right. And mostly a rubber plug for your sink or bath.

But in Canada? Welcome to the bridge of the Starship Faucet (TNG version, with flowing lines). No separate knobs exist – only a bewildering variety of often phallic controls, which tilt, rotate or are pulled or pushed. You never know which applies unless you try tugging in every direction to see how it moves. There’s only one “control” system for both hot and cold water for both bath, shower, and plug.

I wasted a lot of water gushing from the bath faucet while trying to figure out how to divert it to the shower. I spent hours shivering while attempting to understand how the temperature controls worked. I think I damaged at least one plug system in the process.

But I usually figured it out, … except once at Ms Canada’s brothers’ house, where, naked and shivering, I finally cried “Uncle” and had to ask him how the hell it worked, (in this case you had to push down on a slightly raised rim on the bath nozzle).

There’s no place like home. Even with our Level 3 water restrictions.

Slide night

It’s Canada Trip slide night. Some random images follow….


On the road, distant scenery doesn’t get much better than this.


But in Sioux Falls while our train was being serviced, this particular scenery forced we passengers to move upwind as far as possible.
And finally (for now), this is the last covered bridge (covered to stop it being closed by snowfalls) in Ontario, known as the “Kissing Bridge”.  Yes I know.  All together now…  “Awwwwww….. “

Pies, fries and pig tails.

The folks at the gym will be seeing me more often in the next few months because of a slight cultural misunderstanding.

Here in Australia, it’s considered polite to finish your meal with an empty plate. But, I’m told, (too late) that in north America (including Canada) it’s polite to leave the plate unfinished. If you clean the plate they assume you’re still hungry and will offer you still more food. And sadly, the portions in Canada are humungous. Your correspondent would be likewise if he lived there for any length of time.

But the food was good. The fruit pies are to die for. (I highly recommend the “Stone Crock Bakery” in St Jacobs, Ontario). Then there are pig tails (see picture, no they’re not curly) from Kennedys’ Country Tavern in St Agatha. Or for the ultimate guilty nosh, ask for the Sweet potato frites in the CN Tower restaurant.

Excuse me, I must go run a couple of miles.


Yummm good sausage, sauerkraut and mustard… but the price puts the lie to the 25 year claim….

Crispy frites and a view too. Heaven on a 1000ft stick.

Animal crackers

Whenever two or more tourists gather in Canada, they shall ask “Did you see a bear?” Bear sightings are the tourist holy grail, and a good bear-scare story out-grails everyone else.

Cutting to the chase… yes, we did see a bear in Canada. In fact, we saw four black bears, but it wasn’t a Sir Percival moment.

We were driving along the road from Pinchers Creek to Waterton National Park in southern Alberta, about 150m behind a big oil tanker double-rig. Suddenly we saw four bears bounding across the snow toward the road from the left – just ahead of the tanker. the tanker slammed on the brakes and hit his air horns. It didn’t stop the bears. Two of them dashed across the road in front of the hooting tanker as he slowed to a shuddering stop. The other two followed in seconds. The two adult bears and half-grown cubs lolloped into the bushes and disappeared before we could get the camera out and focussed.

We didn’t see any more bears, either in the distance or close up. In fact, we took the guide books’ advice and made lots of noise when hiking to avoid a close encounter.

Of course, there were plenty of mountain sheep, deer, elk, a solitary moose (at distance from the train window), beavers (mostly seen from the train swimming in their dams at dusk ) and we spotted a muskrat gathering nest material in the River Nith* at New Hamburg. Plus I snuck up within 5 ft of a very preoccupied groundhog before it noticed me. And there were the usual variety of variously hued squirrels.

*supposedly there’s a water monster in the Nith. I wonder if they call it “Nithy”.

Canuck notes #2: road fright

Now here’s the thing.

In Australia, speeding on the roads is something you do only if you are:

a) so bloody rich and influential you can talk or buy your way out of a ticket; or

b) stupid.

Reason being, we have automated speed cameras all over the place as well as red light cameras and random police radars. Just 3km/hr over the limit and you are toast, my friend.

Of course on our Canada trip, being good Australian drivers, Ms Canada (a 30 year expat) and I set our cruise control to 100km/hr and sat back smug in the conviction that we were immune to the dreaded speeding ticket. But, as it turns out, not immune to the ire of the average Canadian driver, who considers a speed limit a suggestion rather than an edict.

In 2500km of driving we spotted only two police cars and one speed radar (between Banff and Lake Louise). We spent most of our driving time as the target of dirty looks as the native Canadians passed us with a minimum delta-V of 20km/hr.

We also spent a few days with Ms Canadas’ sister and brother-in-law who is 75 and pretty much blind in one eye. He considers 140km/hr the appropriate speed in a 100km/hr zone, and being overtaken as a personal affront. When confronted with an 80km/hr speed limit, he grudgingly slows to 120. He is a conservative Canadian driver.

I wonder if he will ever discover the deep indentations in his arm-rests made by my clutching fingers.