Saturday, November 29, 2003

Not quite another Edison

I talked to a patent agent at work last week about an idea I had. The patent should be filed before Christmas. At that point I will technically be an "Inventor", since that is the terminology the patent office uses. Personally, I think I just had a simple little idea that nobody has had before. Thomas Edison I'm not, but still it's a bit exciting. Also, I was told last week that my company has decided to file on a second idea I had. All this is particularly relevant because they pay a bonus for every idea we have. What were my ideas? I'd love to tell you, but I have to wait until the patent is granted. That will be 2 to 5 years. So keep reading my blog every day in anticipation, and one of these days you'll find out (and probably be incredibly bored).

Friday, November 28, 2003

Steak, and plenty of it!

Tonight I felt my appetite back, and I felt in an extravagant mood, so I took the family to Al's Steak House for a steak. Al's serves a really nice steak. There are places in Ottawa that are more expensive, but Al's is consistently great. We started with some dark rye rolls crusted in herbs, a really crisp salad with the house garlic dressing, and then I had the rib steak with rice. Really great. The kids shared a children's filet mignon. On the way home, Bethany said, "I can't wait until the baby comes", and Joel said "I can't wait until we go back to Al's Steak House". Glad to see they both have their gender priorities sorted out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

On the Mend

I'm starting to feel better. I didn't have much appetite at lunch, and only ate half a sandwich. But tonight I was able to eat a whole serving of chicken pie. Also, I haven't needed any medicine of any sort (except for one antacid) to hold myself together. I was thinking of taking Friday off work and making a short week, but I think I can work through to the weekend. Health is a blessing, and I'm honestly thankful for these little episodes that remind us of this fact. Of course I'm also thankful when my health returns!

Monday, November 24, 2003

Abigail Family Update

Joel has decided he no longer wants to be called Joel. Instead, he would prefer to be called "Nosy Clearchus". This is what happens when you discuss potential names for the coming baby at the same time as you read Xenophon's Anabasis, and the 5 year old hears you. Please note that I would never seriously think about naming one of my children after a Spartan general.

I'm rather under the weather. I wasn't sure whether it was a bug, or the stress (the pending layoffs at work are still pending). A fellow Christian at work dropped off a very encouraging article for me to read (the core of which pointed out that we can't do everything we should so we really need to trust in God more). Also, I talked to Karen about all of it, which was particularly encouraging today. I took the afternoon off work and went to the doctor. He said everything is consistent with me having some viral bug and that I should feel better in a couple of day. So hopefully in a few days I'll be back to normal. In the mean time I've lost about 5 pounds, but as the doctor kindly pointed out, I still have some "reserves".

Thursday, November 20, 2003

More on Dad

Maybe 50 years ago, Uncle Clayton bought a new car. Well, it wasn't really new, but it was newer than his old car. He wanted to show it off to my Dad, so Dad dropped by his house. Uncle Clayton had to use the washroom, and thankfully Dad was prepared. He had brought a pocket full of washers and while Uncle Clayton was "occupied" Dad slipped some of them over the floor post for the accelerator. When they got it out on the highway, Uncle Clayton put the pedal to the metal and zoomed all the way up to 50 mph. Of course, Dad took the opportunity to revile Uncle Clayton's car as gutless.

Of course you have to be careful who you play your practical jokes on. Dad and Uncle Clayton trust each other in the special way that only two men who have shot cigarettes out of each other's mouths can trust each other. "Clayton. You stand on that hill over there and I'll shoot the cigarette out of your mouth with my 30-30 rifle". "Uh, do you think I could have the first turn Jack?" Well, boys will be boys. There was one other incident with rifles that could have been more dangerous if the prison guards had been trigger happy, but that story will have to wait.

Still, for all the times they fired their rifles nobody was ever hurt, which is not a claim Dad can make about downhill skiing. To state the facts briefly, Dad skiied off a cliff and woke up in a snow bank with a very sore neck. Of course, they were too poor to go see a doctor about something like a sore neck. You only go to the doctor when you're really sick. After a few months, the pain went away. About 20 years later, Dad was in a car accident and got x-rays. No whiplash, but the doctor did ask Dad when he had broken his neck. Got to respect a man who doesn't bother seeing a doctor about a little thing like a broken neck.

More on Phone Calls

I don't know if you remember, but back in the 1980's the original wave of telemarketing was for people who wanted to clean your carpets. Unlike today's amateurs, these guys were smooth. They had an answer for every objection, and having not been conditioned by a wave of telemarketers, nobody would ever hang up on them. Didn't matter what objection your had, they had an answer. Well, except for Dad's objection. He'd let them talk themselves out and then inform them, "Sorry, but we have packed earth floors." This wasn't technically true, although packed earth might have been preferable to the ugly shag carpets from the 1970's. These people don't phone anymore, and I'd like to think my Dad played a small part in our victory.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Phone Calls

Last night at supper, I got a phone call from Frasier. You don't know Frasier? That's OK, neither do I. Frasier is with CIBC Wood Gundy, and is phoning people at supper time to offer his services as a financial advisor. Now I don't know about you, but if I was looking for a financial advisor I would go to the richest person I know and ask him who his financial advisor is. I certainly wouldn't retain someone based on the fact that he phoned me at supper time. I suppose they have some charts that say for every 100 people they phone someone will become their customer. But I digress. Anyway, Frasier says to me, "Mr Abigail, how are you today sir?" So I put as much paranoia in my voice as possible and say "Why do you ask?!" After he recovered I told him I wasn't interested. He was still talking as I hung up, so I didn't hear the rest of his pitch. Maybe he's a fantastic financial advisor, but phoning me at supper time is not the way to interest me.

Rogers Cable used to phone me monthly. "Mr Abigail, we've been checking our records and we've found you aren't a cable subscriber! But don't worry sir, we're going to fix this problem. We have a special free installation deal and we can get it installed this week. What day would be most convenient for you?" So I politely say I'm not interested, and wait for the call next month. You may ask, how did Shawn escape the endless cycle? One day, I politely said "No" and they asked me why I didn't want cable TV. I replied "Because I view your coaxial cable as a pipe carrying raw sewage into my house." There was a pause, and the girl said "Well you know we do have packages without those channels." I replied, "It's all the same to me." And that was the last time they phoned.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Gods and Generals

We rented the movie "Gods and Generals" and were pleasantly surprised. Most movies are totally secular, filled with profanity and if religion is ever addressed at all it is usually confined to some grandfatherly character saying "Well it's in God's hands now". However, Gods and Generals is totally different.

It is a 3.5 hour movie dealing with the personal lives of three characters in the American Civil War (or "The War Between the States" or "The War of the North Aggression" depending on what part of the world you come from). The major characters it deals with are General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, General Robert E. Lee and Colonel Joshua Lawerence Chamberlin. These characters are traced through their enlistment and the first 3 major battles of the Civil War - Bull Run, Fredericksville and Chancellorsville.

The battle scenes are sustained and intense, although mostly lacking in gore. The issues of states rights and slavery are dealt with, with a surprising Southern sympathy (while avoiding sympathy for the actual practice of slavery). But what is really interesting is the portrayal of these men as individuals, and particularly Stonewall Jackson's relationship with God. Jackson is presented throughout as a deeply devout Christian. In numerous places he prays, and his speech is filled with references to Scripture whether talking to his fellow generals or talking to his black cook.

Gods and Generals shows Christian men fighting for mistaken ideals. It shows men unable to make a link between states rights and slavery (until a particularly fine dialog with Colonel Chamberlin). It shows noble characters interacting with each other in ways that war films rarely achieve. True, it misses a realistic portrayal of the ugly face of slavery and the gory face of war, but for the thoughtful Christian who wants to explore some of history's most interesting characters, this film is not to be missed.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Cream Puff Practical Jokes

Dad played a couple of great practical jokes with cream puffs. For those not familiar with cream puffs, they are a flaky pastry filled with whipped cream (about 100,000 calories each). Aunt Emily was staying with my parents and they were all watching TV. Dad asked if anyone wanted a cream puff. Mom said no, and Aunt Emily said yes, which was good because there were only two left. Dad went upstairs and brought them down on a plate. Dad presented the plate to Aunt Emily with a very small cream puff closest to her, and a very large one closest to him. Aunt Emily knew my Dad had done this intentionally, so she reached over the small one and took the large one at the back. With triumph she bit in, only to find Dad had eaten all the cream out of the big cream puff.

Another time, Dad came downstairs with a cream puff, sat down next to my sister and with a smile bit into the cream puff. My sister saw the cream bulging out of the cream puff and the temptation was too much for her. Her finger whipped out and she snatched some of the cream... only to find out Dad had eated the whipped cream out of that side of the cream puff and replaced it with shaving cream. Dad's always been a great one for practical jokes, and he's also a keen student of human behaviour!

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Another of Dad's Practical Jokes

Dad used to work in a garage, back in the early 1950's. They had a toilet in the garage, surrounded by a rough press-board enclosure. One day, Dad tightened up the hinge on the toilet seat so it would stay in just about any position you wanted. Then he wired a contact switch at the back of the toilet, connected to the air horn from a transport truck. Then he waited. Eventually, one of the guys had to use the toilet, sat down and connected the contact switch. Dad said that over top of the sound of the horn you could hear the sound of the guy clawing at the press-board, trying to get out and under the assumption that a transport truck was smashing through the garage. Dad's always been a great one for practical jokes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Practical Joke

My children are always asking me to tell them stories about when I was little. I remember a practical joke my Dad played on my Mom. It was Christmas or New Years or Easter - I forget which but it was one of those occasions where you cook a big turkey and have the family over for a meal. Mom was having a crowd, so she cooked a huge turkey. When she took it out of the oven and opened the pan, there was a tiny little shriveled up piece of poultry. Dumbfounded she exclaimed, "It must have shrunk!". Actually, while Mom was out, Dad had popped the turkey out of the oven and took it over to the neighbour, who cooked our turkey in her roast pan. In our roast pan, Dad dropped a Cornish rock hen and popped it back in our oven. Dad's always been a great one for practical jokes.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

How to be a good Daddy 101

1. take children to their favourite museum
2. when daughter feels sick, carry her
3. when daughter needs to vomit, hold out hands
4. take daughter home and buy her some Ginger Ale

Note: soap doesn't remove the smell of vomit. After washing hands, put some shaving cream on them. This will remove/disguise the smell.

How to Homeschool 101

1. find out there is a lunar eclipse
2. pull out old globe, cut out paper moon and use desk lamp to demonstrate the principle
3. show children the real eclipse
4. warn children about the danger of solar eclipses

Friday, November 07, 2003

Don't Teach Me Bad Things Daddy

When Bethany was little, I would sometimes fill my mouth with water and fountain it out into the bathtub. She laughed and laughed. But one day she said to me, "Don't teach me bad things Daddy." Point taken.

Now I find I have taught my son some bad things. I was playing the computer game "Civilization II". Sometimes Joel would sit with me. However, I found him encouraging me to use "the big bomb" (i.e. the nuclear missle) to "destroy their cities Daddy". This is not what I want to teach my children. When the missile hits the city, the sound effects turn to an air-raid siren, which scared me the first time I heard it. I grew up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, and I remember being scared when the air-raid sirens were tested. I have deleted the game from my computer, and I am trying to explain to him why I thought it was bad. Don't teach me bad things Daddy! OK, I won't.


I've heard many people criticizing the Americans for being in Iraq. No, I don't approve of everything the Americans do. However, it's easy to sit back in Canada and criticize. The fact is, most Canadians have forgotten (or never realized in the first place), now much the attacks on Sept 11, 2001 hurt the Americans. America is now dealing with the fact that a hostile force is willing to kill large numbers of civilians, unless the Americans let a small group violent Muslims impose their ideas wherever they want to impose their ideas (including on their fellow Muslims who lack such radical tendencies). Likewise, America is constantly living with the fact that the only reason why these terrorists did not use a nuclear bomb on New York City is that they didn't have one. Am I happy if the Americans seem to act high handed, unilaterally or play a little fast and loose with some civil rights? No. Would I do the same thing in the same circumstances? Absolutely. It's easy to sit in Canada and criticize the Americans, but I think it is a poorly thought out complaint.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Latest Buzz

Well, there is much buzz at work about potential layoffs. I don't know how deep the cuts would be, or when they would be, but I assume the rumours are true. It's hard living with the uncertainty, but I guess it's harder living without a job.