Tag Archives: Canada

Patreon Video Greeting and WIP Excerpt

Greetings and Salutations

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDGvk_IYztY]

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Sometime in 2020 the first book in The “No” Conspiracies series, No Fixed Address, will hit the shelves. Here’s your first look at the antagonist, Peter. Take note that this is an UNEDITED excerpt and may end up looking quite different after it goes through my editing team.


I am the only person in Dallas who has ever had this phone number. My dad pulled some strings for me when I moved here and he ensured that it had never before been in use. He also pays the bill. The only time it rings it when he calls me every Wednesday evening at seven PM.

The ring sounds like someone has let loose a compendium of three-year-olds with wooden spoons banging every pot and pan in the house. It is deafening. In the three years I have lived here, I have not been able to figure out how to turn down the volume and I am too lazy to replace the phone with something less obnoxious.

I am awakened from a deep dreamless sleep to the cookware cacophony that is my telephone. With my heart pounding like a bass drum in my chest at one hundred and eighty beats per minute my arm shoots out and knocks over my stack of bedtime reading comic books. Until that moment it was topped with my black hardcover engineering notebook. It makes a nice thwack as it slaps against the wall and slams to the floor.

I glance at the clock. Three PM. Four hours of sleep after writing code for the previous twenty does not feel like enough. I find and answer the phone without so much as clearing my throat.

“Hello?”

“Pete!”

The enthusiastic, high pitched squeal of my boss hits me like a steak knife on a stoneware plate. You have got to be fucking kidding me.

“Peter?”

At least the useless peon is correcting how he addresses me now. I am not a fan of short forms or nicknames. I empty my lungs with a long sigh. I cannot resist getting a quick dig in. The man loves to be called Rich.

“Yes, Richard?”

Incoherent mumbles come through the phone’s plastic receiver. Is he laughing? Heh. I hope he does not think I am being playful. The fact that an asshole as dim as a 4 Watt bulb is working that job never ceases to amaze me. The fact that he is an insufferable brownnoser makes it worse. The fact that I have to report into him makes me want to shove a Costco-sized bundle of sharpened number two pencils up his ass. Yes sir, one hundred and forty-four miniature graphite enemas coming right up. I should write that into the computer game I am working on.

“Pete—Sorry—Peter, are you there? We have a bit of a situation here. We need some WLCs to fill in for an Overnighter.”

WLC stands for Weekend and Leave Coverage; the Overnighters are the group that works the eleven P.M. to seven A.M. shift.

“How is this a situation? Our job is to cover off other people’s shifts. Why does it need to be me? Not interested”

“You’ve been specifically requested.”

“By whom?”

“You know how the hierarchical game is played, Peter. That’s not the direction this type of stuff flows.”

Richard is incapable of pronouncing hierarchical. Every time he tries, it comes out sounding like the name of some science fiction villain. Hire-arch-eee-cal. He uses big ten-dollar words all the time to make him sound managerial and important.

“I am intimately familiar with the office pyramid of accountability. How long are we talking?” Shit, I should not have asked that. Now I am negotiating. Never negotiate with terrorists or idiot supervisors. I look to my floor for my notebook, find it within an arm’s reach, and grab it.

“Well here’s the thing, it’s for the foreseeable future. Between you and me, it’s likely going to be permanent.”

I open my notebook with one hand and catch the pencil as it falls out from between the pages. “I am still not interested, Richard. I am not real keen on busting my ass as a full-timer and not getting any of the other benefits that come along with it.”

I am still not fully awake and my pencil leaves shaky scribbles of numbers on the page already cluttered with the last set of algorithms I am working on for a special assignment.

“You should be excited, Peter! Y’all are coming off weekends and leave.”

My grip on the handset tightens. The fake excitement in his voice makes me want to set my phaser a degree or two past stun and fire off a shot right at his throat. “You said ‘y’all’, Richard. Who is ‘y’all’?”


Thanks for reading!

~ Andrew

Lest We Forget

I normally post on Mondays. I start writing the post on Saturday and then I tweak and revise and post it on Monday morning. This is partly because I like to have that New Post Smell for the MondayBlogs hashtag, but also because my writing schedule lends itself to this type of arrangement. Today, however, I’m both writing and posting on Saturday. Why? Because today is Remembrance Day. Americans call it Veterans Day. Serbia and Belgium call it Armistice Day. 
Belgium, as some of you may know (as all of you should know) was where Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote his famous poem In Flanders Fields
Poem on Display at the Canadian Vimy Ridge Museum
Belgium is also home to the head office of the company I work for and I traveled there a few weeks ago with three of my coworkers. Our plane landed at 7:00 A.M. and we wouldn’t be able to check into our hotel until much later that afternoon so we decided we would drive to France and visit Vimy Ridge. One member of our party was American, and one a Brit that has spent most of his life in Canada and the other fellow and myself Canadian. 
The battle at Vimy Ridge was a watershed moment for the Canadian armed forces and for Canada as a nation. We were barely a country unto ourselves, having taken the title of Dominion of Canada a little more than 50 years earlier, and Vimy marked the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought as a cohesive unit. The battle, which began on April 9, 1917, and ended on April 12, 1917, was won by the allied forces and has come to symbolize the moment that Canada stepped out of adolescence and into adulthood.   
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial was unveiled by King Edward VIII on July 26, 1936, and sits on the highest point of a 250-acre preserved battlefield park. Standing at the foot of this colossal monument you get a real sense of perspective about the battle that occurred there a hundred years ago. If you close your eyes you can almost hear the raged battle cries, the thundering booms of heavy artillery, and the staccato bursts of machine gun fire. 
To say that visiting the monument and touring the nearby museum was an emotional moment would be a gross understatement and oversimplification of what it felt like to be there. I have lived my entire existence at a distance from the atrocities of war. There have always been at least one or two degrees of separation between myself and the places I don’t have the courage to go and the acts I don’t have the emotional strength to carry out. 
Standing there, surrounded by the ghosts of both good and evil, running my hand across the cold Seget limestone and letting my fingers follow the carved lines of the names of the heroic dead brought with it the stark realization that hundreds of millions of people owed their livelihoods, if not their lives, to millions of complete strangers who were as committed as they were brave. 
One of those grateful lives is my own, of course, and one of those committed strangers, a little more than a year after The Battle of Vimy Ridge and a ninety-minute drive to the south, made the ultimate sacrifice. He was my father’s mother’s father, my great-grandfather, and his name was Edwin Byard Hill. He was a private in the 43rd Batallion of the Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment) and was killed in action on August 8, 1918. 
My grandmother was just a little girl when her father left for the war and she spent almost eight decades without him. That fact alone boggles my mind as I have been fortunate enough to have both my parents with me for every minute of my forty-three years here on earth. I had all four of my great-grandparents in my life for at least sixteen of them with the last one passing when I was well into my thirties, so to have lost a parent at such a young age must have filled her heart with more anguish than a child should ever have to bear. 
After our visit to the Vimy memorial, my colleagues agreed to make the pilgrimage to the burial site of my great-grandfather at the Mézières Communal Cemetary Extension in the Somme region of France. To the knowledge of my immediate relatives, I was the first person in the family to visit the war grave. 
Thank you, Great-Grandpa Hill.
Two of my colleagues accompanied me into the cemetery and, after we found my great-grandfather in Extension 4, Plot I, Row B, Grave 16, they let me have as much time alone as I needed. I took a bunch of photographs and stood, and then kneeled, and had a good long chat with him. There were tears, and even as I type this I am welling up with profound sadness for he is just one of millions that gave everything so that others could have something. 
Great-grandpa Hill, everyone who served alongside him, everyone who served before him, and everyone who has served since are owed our gratitude not just on this national day of remembrance, but every single day we wake up, check our phones, create or enjoy art, work, play, eat, live, breathe, and exist under the warmth of the sun and within the almost limitless boundaries of freedom.

To you, we owe our lives, and for this, you have our eternal thanks. May peace reign over your heart and protect your soul. 

~ Andrew


If you’d like to take a look at more of my pictures from my trip I have made the Facebook album public. 

Link List: 

Americans Welcome

Americans, you may want to sit down for this. Are you sitting? No, please. Sit down. This is serious. Ready? Okay, here it goes: Your country is broken.

“We can fix it!”

No, sorry, you cannot. You’re terribly broken. Gangrene is has set in and it’s bad.

“How can this be?”

Good question. I first noticed it back in 1990 when you bombed the living hell out of Iraq (to depose a dictator the U.S. helped put in power). Five years later it was the Oklahoma City bombing – an act of domestic terrorism I could hardly fathom. Four years after that came Columbine. That one really stood out. Then another war with Iraq (this time over weapons of mass destruction which we now know for certain was just a cover up to finish the job daddy couldn’t do a decade ago). Sandy HookThe religious right. Rampant racism, misogyny, class warfare… The list goes on and on (and on and on and on…) Oh, and every single level of government AND your Supreme Court is bought and paid for.

“But…”

The overwhelming response to all of this? Absolutely nothing, unless you count pithy memes on the Internet.

“But lots of people care. We want to change. We CAN change.”

Nope. I don’t think you can. If you were capable of change you would have a Congress that looks a lot different than what it looks like today.

All that red has you blue


“There has to be something that can be done. Come on, doc, throw us a bone here.”

Well…

“Yes, please, tell us!”

If gangrene gets too bad there’s only one thing to do.

“Please, tell us, what is it?”

Amputate.

Meme
There’s some good news, though.
“Well, there’d better be some good news. Has anyone ever told you your bedside manner sucks?”

I’m sorry, That’s very un-Canadian. But onto the good news. Remember 1812? Specifically, the war.

“Yes, we kicked your lily asses.”

Well, there’s some debate on how that ended, and we did torch Washington (which is actually the reason the White House is painted white – to cover up the fact that we burned the fuck out of it) but that’s neither here nor there.

The deal with the War of 1812 was this: North America was being colonized at a phenomenal rate and you guys wanted a bunch of “British” land and decided to come take it. We were all like, screw that, and fought you back. It’s way more complicated, of course. We can’t ignore the genocide of millions of indigenous peoples made in the name of “progress” (hence, the quotes around “British” land). But, the whitewashed history books will sum it up into a battle for the stuff between the 40th and 54th parallels with the resulting borders ending up looking more or less like they do now.

Size matters and we’re way bigger than you are


“So, what’s your point?”

Well, I propose we annex a slice of the northern United States. Literally cut it out and stitch it onto the south end of Canada. Not quite as far down as the 40th parallel, but close enough. Everyone living in those areas would either stick around and live in a country that’s not batshit crazy or get the hell out of Dodge and head South.

“If a bunch of Americans start migrating south, won’t that crowd up everywhere below the 40th parallel?”

Nope, because we’d open up the new border to accept American refugees from the south too! Call it a citizenship swap. Batshit crazy? South of 40. Not Batshit crazy? North of 40. We’re already bringing in a metric tonne of Syrians and have a pretty good track record with this sort of humanitarian peacekeeping shit. Okay, we had a really dark period there from 2006 until very recently, but we’ve fixed that problem and we’re just about good as new.

“Would you take whole states or just cut a swath across the top all nice and straight?”

We’ll take whole states and make a straightish line. We’ll assume control of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming (reluctantly), both Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin (Go Packers!), Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Now THAT’S a nice looking map

In tribute to the native peoples who were slaughtered, we’ll immediately rename two states south of Ontario “Lower East Saskatchewan” and “Lower East Saskatchewan South” – maybe New Hampshire and New York but we can sort that out later. We’ll also talk about renaming some of the others once everyone gets settled.
“What about Alaska and Hawaii?”

OMG, I completely forgot about them! We’ll take those too, but only under the condition that Sarah Palin gets the hell out of Alaska and Barack Obama becomes Premier of Hawaii (Canadian version). Also, Bernie Sanders gets to be Prime Minister after Justin Trudeau.

“This could work.”

Don’t worry, this will be epic. Canada will absolutely OWN potatoes, maple syrup (even more than it does now), wheat (tonnes of fucking wheat, so much wheat), marijuana (even more than it does now), cheese, and whatever the hell Wyoming is good for.

“You know, this idea is actually kind of good.”

I know!

“One question: why do you keep using the word ‘tonne’? Isn’t it ‘ton’?”

Oh, that. It’s metric. You’ll have to start using a system of measurement that’s used in every country except the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar. It’s actually quite easy to…

“Screw that. No deal. [mumbling] And you think we’re batshit crazy? Metric system. Pfft.”

Aw man, this sucks. What am I supposed to do with this flag?

New Canadian flag

~ Andrew

When Make Believe Is All That Remains

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
– Richard Feynman

I’ve mentioned in a previous post the one of the benefits of being a writer is you get to make stuff up. There is a serious problem, however, when wordsmiths of a different kind resort to making stuff up a tad more often than they should. I’m speaking of the scientists, the government, and the media – the ones who synthesize, distill, and report findings; who direct funding for research and make policies; and who relay information to the masses.

When Canada voted against science I was right there standing up and crying foul. Like many others my initial impulses had me all a Twitter (and a G+ and a Facebook). This is an outrage! Will no one come to the defence of science? At the very root of my anger is my belief that objectivity and truth still exist and not enough people are fighting for them.

I turned almost immediately to Gordon Bonnet, who, along with being a science teacher down in the States, also writes a great blog called Skeptophilia. In a matter of hours he turned around a much less knee-jerk response with the message that data, in of itself, cannot have an agenda. The problem is politicians and media outlets do, and I would assert that out of self-preservation (and the fact that they are human) scientists have one as well. However, the scientific agenda is normally kept in check through critique and review by one’s peers. When that process gets handcuffed, well, all bets are off.
“The only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
A friend with whom I like to debate such matters pointed out that “the human soul is corruptible.” Indeed it is, but that’s a sociopolitical discussion for another day. He also pointed me to this Maclean’s article which happens to be a a very level-headed take on things. The author, Julia Belluz, sums it up by suggesting that scientists raising a stink in the form of 60’s style protest aren’t doing themselves any favours, and on this I have to agree. 
Everybody involved appears to be approaching it all wrong. I am left to wonder though, if that’s the wrong way, what the hell is the right one? As the maxim goes, if insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then what happens when you’ve tried every approach you can think of and still nothing changes?

It seems that people on both sides of any argument go though this eclectic transition of approaches. The precise order and length of each one is impossible to determine, but the following popped into my head as a plausible chain of events: 
  • Start with the presentation of pure facts. 
  • If that doesn’t work, involve your peers to provide supporting information and try to open a dialog. 
  • If that doesn’t work, then compare and contrast opposing ideas in the form of debate. 
  • If that doesn’t work, then start removing facts and bring in “expert opinion” and hype. 
  • Finally, if that doesn’t work, resort to pure, unadulterated propaganda and rhetoric. 
  • If all else fails simply resort to sarcasm and ridicule (enter social media).  

This is pretty much where we’re at right now, and quite frankly I think this tailspin makes a complete mockery of it all and just ends up dragging everyone down to the same subhuman level, leaving slander and lies as the only pieces left on the board.

“The great thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
– Neil deGrasse Tyson
Maybe I’m naive to expect more out of professional conveyors of information, but when it’s all reduced down to a contest over who can out crazy who it makes you wonder if the people who make stuff up for a living aren’t the sanest group in the whole lot.
Next election I’m voting for a writer.
~ Andrew

Remembering Legends

Last week Canada lost a legend of music in Stompin’ Tom Connors. Best known in this country for his slap shot hit, “The Hockey Song”, Stompin’ Tom’s music was enjoyed coast to coast by just about every Canadian stereotype you can think of. He died a member of the Order of Canada, with flags flying at half mast at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

Everyone loved Stompin’ Tom. When he met Queen Elizabeth II at a dinner he outright refused to remove his trademark black Stetson and Buckingham palace came to his defence by likening it to a religious headdress so as to not cause a scene. So what was it about Stompin’ Tom that made him so gosh darn lovable?

He smoked 3 or 4 packs of cigarettes a day and drank just as much, but that didn’t matter. He wrote songs that spoke to Canadians of every age and of every background. He sang about things that people could relate to. Based on their titles alone you can get a sense of what his songs were like.

  • “Bud the Spud”
  • “Ketchup Song”
  • “Snowmobile Song”
  • “Tillsonburg”
  • “Moon-Man Newfie”
  • “Fire in the Mine”
  • “Canada Day, Up Canada Way

My personal favourite, “Margo’s Cargo”, is a song written about what can happen when you take a piece of cow shit and turn it into a wall clock:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0dzMeDm8AU?rel=0]

His nickname may have been Stompin’ Tom but I prefer to refer to him as The Canadian Legion’s Dr. Seuss.

They say you’re supposed to write about what you know; that if people can associate with something they are more likely to appreciate it. My friend Jim Tigwell wrote a song that exemplifies this concept really well. Taking ideas from Twitter, Facebook, and his own brain, he wrote a song about all the things you could do with a simple cardboard box. Everyone can relate to the unmitigated joy experienced by playing with a brand new, kick-ass cardboard box. Have a listen – the song starts at 2:29.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNXJDiZhJFY?rel=0]

Andy Warhol’s art defined a genre, if not an entire generation. His most iconic image is that of a simple can of Campbell’s tomato soup. One of the Barenaked Ladies’ most popular songs answers the question “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” with answers of Kraft Dinner, faux fur coats, “K” cars, and Dijon ketchup.

All of this got me thinking: What do I know? I am writing a novel, the topic for which I am certainly familiar, but I wouldn’t say that I “know” any of the concepts any more than anyone else with access to Google. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time with some of it. I am doing more research than I thought I would have to and that’s hampering progress. I think it will great for the finished product, but it’s certainly not doing much for my word count!

This is the time of year where I remember a dear friend and family member who passed away on my birthday in 2009 and one story I do know, and know all too well, is the story of what happened in the days following his death. From March 13th to 17th a unique series of events transpired that, in looking back at it, has me shaking my head and laughing. If you subscribe to any sort of afterlife theory you can imagine Ryan following us all around and laughing his ass off at what was going on. Last December I wrote about it and submitted it to the Orange Karen Anthology – and it was accepted.

Maybe there’s something to be said for writing about things with which we are familiar. Maybe “they” were right after all.

Today we say goodbye to two legends: Canadian music icon Stompin’ Tom Connors; and my brother-in-law Ryan. Two souls forever linked together in a blog post and by the fact that the memorial service for one will be taking place on the day we lost the other.

We remember Stompin’ Tom’s lyrics, his black Stetson, and all the toe tapping, hand clapping enjoyment he brought into our lives. We remember Ryan; who had the heart of a giant, the compassion of a child, the soul of an angel, and laughter so honest and pure you you’d swear it was the best music you’ve ever heard.

We remember them, and all the other people who have shared their lives with us, even if it was just a small part. We thank them for opening up and letting us in and for giving us all something worthwhile to write about.

~ Andrew

Take Off, Eh?

I have quite a few new writer friends on Twitter and Facebook and as we interacted over the past few days it became abundantly clear that, while I was no walking encyclopedia on American culture, that there were quite a few things that my friends south of the border were oblivious to when it came to my home and native land. So, on the day in which the CFL will award the 100th Grey Cup I present to you…

Canadian Stuff! (Eh?)

There are tons of better links for this stuff, but for simplicity I’m pointing to Wikipedia. I’ve skimmed each article at a minimum for authenticity and it’s all more or less right. We’re not handing this in to be marked so we’ll call it good enough.

National Anthem,
Canada’s national anthem is O Canada, from which I pilfered a line for my intro:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

You can hear this anthem played most often at the Winter Olympics (the most gold medals won by any Winter Olympics host country ever) and before just about every sporting event played across the country. It’s also played every morning in schools and before other ceremonies and events.

The Grey Cup
This beauty is being handed out for the 100th time today and is the trophy awarded to the championship team of the Canadian Football League (CFL). Along with the Stanley Cup it is made of silver and has engravings of all the teams and player names to whom it has been awarded. At one time there were American teams in the CFL but this lasted only a few years. It was long enough for the Baltimore Stallions to become the only non-Canadian team to every win the trophy. Interestingly enough, the front page of Wikipedia has the Grey Cup as its featured article today.

Wikipedia Main Page on November 25, 2012
Provinces
Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world as measured by area and is home to the longest shoreline of any country in the world, in addition to accounting for about 20% of the world’s fresh water. We do not have states, we have provinces and territories, all together 13 of them. Many are quite large (you can easily drive for more than 20 hours to get from southern Ontario to northern Ontario) and to say you’ve driven to all of the provinces is certainly quite an accomplishment. 
Canada and Its Provinces & Territories
Terry Fox
Speaking of crossing our country, there was a young man named Terry Fox who lost his leg to cancer and decided that to raise awareness for the disease and raise money that he would run across the country – coast to coast. Just outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario, his run stopped and he succumbed to the disease shortly thereafter. He ran for a total of 143 days and covered 5,373 km (3,339 mi) and the year after his death in 1981 the Terry Fox Run started as an annual event in which children from schools all over the country (and now in 60 other countries) would run in his memory and raise funds to donate to cancer research. 
If you have a few bucks and a few minutes Douglas Coupland wrote an absolutely wonderful coffee table book on Terry Fox. Buy it. Read it yourself then read it to your children. It’s an amazing story that everyone must know.
Terry Fox

Tuques
These are knit or otherwise warm hats to wear on your head, mostly because from November to March many parts of Canada are freaking cold. In what has become an iconic image, Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens donned a tuque during an outdoor NHL game.

Hockey Player Wearing a Tuque During and Outdoor NHL Game

Serviettes & Chesterfields & Verandas
I just like to use these words to screw with my American friends. They are less common now and likely have  British etymology but you can still hear them when you’re out and about (oot and aboot) on the mean (i.e. cold) streets of Canada (for the record these things are napkins, couches, and porches).

Serviette

Poutine
There’s not much to be said about poutine that hasn’t already been said. It’s a traditional Quebec fast food made with french fries and cheese curds and topped with brown gravy. It’s a heart attack on a plate and it’s freaking amazing.

Poutine

Hosers
A “hoser” is a derogatory term coined by the comedy duo of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas during their segment “Great White North” on SCTV. Another common stereotypical catch phrase they used was “Take off, eh?” Bob & Doug Mackenzie were the personas on the show and the two made a full length feature film in 1983 called Strange Brew. They have also recorded several songs, most notably “Take Off” featuring Geddy Lee of RUSH and “The 12 Days of Christmas“.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJE3EgTGg9k?rel=0]

So there you have it, some good old fashioned Canadiana to get you ready for the Grey Cup. For some more really interesting tidbits of information our good man Coupland did a couple coffee table books on the subject: Souviner of Canada and Souvineer of Canada 2.

Oh, and speaking of tidbits, that reminds me of Timbits and our (unofficial) national coffee shop Tim Horton’s. You can find these scattered all across the country in more than locations than any other food services company, more than doubling McDonald’s. A coffee with two sugars and two cream is affectionately referred to as a “Double Double”.

Tim Horton’s in Stratford, Ontario (home of Justin Bieber)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit on my chesterfield eating poutine and drinking a double double, after which I will wipe my face with my serviette, sweep off my veranda (located in Ontario) while wearing a tuque and singing O Canada, before I watch the Grey Cup with a bunch of hosers I met during the Terry Fox Run, eh?