Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Big Game

If you live in Canada, no doubt you’ve heard there is a football game today. The Canadian Football League (CFL) is having their season ending game to see who wins the Grey Cup.

This year the fans are flocking to Vancouver for the 99th Annual Grey Cup.

Host cities have huge parties to celebrate the league and the two teams that made it to the end. Festivities began on Thursday with concerts, parties, parades and a whole lot of other fun fan events. Fans from across the country head out for both the game and the parties to cheer for their favourite teams and just to have a lot of fun with like minded people.

This year’s game features the Vancouver’s B.C. Lions and our very own Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Bomber fans are planning parties and several hundred have made arrangements to be in Vancouver for the game and festivities in the days leading up to the big showdown.

Football fans tend to be a fanatic lot. Especially here in Winnipeg. In the summer they’ll sit in blistering heat or pouring rain to watch the team play and IF the team makes it to the playoffs, they’ll sit in freezing cold weather! Some years, they’ve sat there in falling snow just to see the home team play. This past Sunday, the Bombers game was played in -10C to -14C weather.

Let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of sports where the teams can play in such extremes and still have thousands of fans brave the elements in shorts and T-shirts or snowmobile suits and sleeping bags.

I’ll be honest here, I am not a football fan. I’ve never actually watched a full game although I have caught bits and pieces of games over the years on TV. Many years ago, a friend tried to explain the game to me but he might as well have been speaking a foreign language.

I just don’t get it. Guys in skin tight pants and bulky upper body armour racing up and down a field chasing an oval shaped ball. They kick it, throw it and tackle other players to get it to their end of the field to score more points.
The uniforms are absurd looking but the tackle part really gets me. I’ve never been a fan of any sport where any violence is involved. Okay, I know that all that extra armour like padding and the helmets help prevent some injuries but it just looks ridiculous to me.

Then there are the cheerleaders. Lovely young ladies in skimpy outfits that lead the fans in cheers during the countless breaks in the games. For some fans, watching the cheerleaders do their thing is almost as exciting as the game itself. Mascots, Buzz and Boomer have been entertaining the fans and helping to cheer on the team for over 25 years. Depending on how the favourite team is doing, sometimes the girls and the mascots are better than the game.
Halftime is almost as important as the game in some circles. When it comes to playoff time, the entertainment at half time can draw in even more fans.

I know there are four quarters and something about downs and passes. The Canadian game is also different than the way it is played in the USA which just helps to muddle the game play even more. No matter where it is played, it just confuses the heck out of me.

One of the things about televised games – especially US ones - that really annoys me is that networks tend to allow about three hours for a game. Now you’d think that would make some sort of sense when you consider the four 20 minute quarters plus a half time break. But, what they don’t seem to fully factor in is all the start and stop time. The game is constantly starting and stopping – every few seconds it seems. Therefore, a scheduled three hour broadcast can take four or more hours sometimes.

Granted, that extra time really shouldn’t bother me and for the most part it doesn’t. Except when a longer game delays the beginning of the shows following the football game. US networks tend to air a lot of football – particularly on a Sunday. Primetime Sunday night is often delayed for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. PVR’s and DVR’s don’t know the game is running overtime. So, if you aren’t around to watch your shows live, you either set it to record an extra hour which wastes a lot of space or you miss part of what you wanted to see.

It’s been 21 years since the Blue and Gold won a Grey Cup so the fans are really chomping at the bit for their beloved Bombers to win today. For the sake of the fans, I hope the Bombers do bring the Cup back to Winnipeg. It’s been a long road to get to this point.

Will I be watching?

Well, let’s see here. You’ve got: men in skin tight pants and tons of padding; cheerleaders in skimpy outfits; a representative or two from each team dressed in a mascot costume; musicians in half time; gratuitous violence in effort to score points; thousands of screaming diehard fans dressed in the their teams home colours. Thousands in the Vancouver stadium watching live while tens of thousands will be gathered in living rooms and public viewing venues across the country. There will be tail gate parties before and numerous snacking and “beverage” drinking during and even after the game.

To some people that description may sound like the perfect way to spend a day, but sorry Winnipeg fans - this gal will not be watching. I’ll wait and catch the ad nauseam rehashing in the news on Monday.

Oh, one more thing ... Go Bombers!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Attention Shoppers!

So, have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Five weeks from today is Christmas. Yup, it is THAT soon! Malls and stores are getting crowded.

People tend to get cranky while holiday shopping. It’s hard to manoeuvre in crowds. Line-ups are long. Stock can run out early. Customers aren’t happy and neither are the staff that has to deal with it all. Civility often gets left out in the cold.

Personally, I avoid malls like the plague around the holiday season. I don’t even like going to any stores when there is a crowd. Most of my gifts are homemade baking and I buy my supplies a couple months in advance. I pick up other gifts throughout the year and finish it off at the Christmas Craft Sale at the Winnipeg Convention Centre in mid to late November, so my holiday shopping is done.

Last year, however, I had a crowded store experience that I’d like to tell you about. A new Zeller’s (similar to Target) had opened in downtown Winnipeg in early December. I avoided going the first couple of days, as I knew the place would be insane. I only decided to go when I did, because there was some items on sale in the produce section that I needed. The store was quite busy when I got there but I spent some time wandering around, checking out various items before picking up my produce and heading for the checkout about 12:10.

There were at least 6 checkouts open but there were also at least 20 people in each line! As we waited, we heard that the reason for the delay, was that the new cash registers weren’t scanning grocery items properly so things had to be entered via a code entered from a print list. The cashiers were working as fast as they could but it sure didn’t stop people from complaining!

I heard many people griping about waiting in line on their lunch hour and being late to get back to work. They didn’t see why they should have to wait when they were on the clock. The woman behind me grumbled loudly several times about how angry her boss would be when she was late.

I suppose I could have let her in front of me – and I probably would have had she explained and asked politely, but I wasn’t feeling well. I was just starting to get past a really nasty cold. I was exhausted and wanted to go home, but I needed the fresh produce. Almost every person in front of me, also had grocery items in their baskets so letting the whiny one in front of me wouldn’t have saved her more than a couple of minutes. It took almost 40 minutes to get through the checkout.

When I got to the cashier I greeted her with a smile and said I was sorry that so many people were being rude when the staff were doing the best they could with the equipment they had. She smiled and thanked me for understanding.

Later, I shared a bit of a rant with some of my friends.

Attention Shoppers - If you work and want to shop on your lunch hour that is fine BUT if you go to a new store during the first week of the opening or shop during the holiday rush then you get to stand in line with everyone else and risk getting back to work late. You knew the place would be a zoo but you came anyway. So stop complaining and suck it up or all you will be getting is coal in your stocking!!

None of us WANT to stand in line for 20-40 minutes but we live in a society that loves to get a deal. Getting a deal can often result in line-ups - if you can't afford the extra time on your breaks then shop somewhere else or at a different time of day. The world DOES NOT revolve around your schedule! Stop bitching/whining about how long you've been there and how angry your boss is going to be when you are late. Unless you are using a cane or a walker you aren't getting in front of me!

Downtown workers "expecting" to be allowed to go ahead of seniors or other shoppers just because they were on the clock! Get real people! You can wait like everyone else!

Oh, and don't take it out on the cashiers either! They are doing the best they can as fast as they can! It isn't there fault the items aren't scanning properly! A kind word or a simple thank you can go a long way to make the day a little easier for the staff and the other shoppers.

The amount and tone of grumbling I heard was just uncalled for. Why can't people be thankful that we live in a society with so much opportunity and choice to get the things they want or need? It is so sad that people can't be more appreciative of things - even to stand in a line-up to pay for something on sale!

A friend added this: ”If people are rushed because of their own schedule or lack of organization, they shouldn't take it out on the sales staff who are likely working their butts off already with the holiday season - or on the other customers. If someone is trying to shop on her lunch hour, and is somehow surprised to find a line-up at this time of year, she should realize how fortunate she is to have the good health and finances to be doing so....this is supposed to be a season of peace and goodwill and it's too over-populated with pushy, demanding, materialistic people expecting the world to revolve around themselves.” EXACTLY!

So here is the deal folks. It’s only five weeks till Christmas. Stores are getting crowded and lines are getting long. You don’t know what kind of day the staff have had and they don’t know what your day has been like. Patience, civility, a smile and a thank you can go a long way. Be thankful that you have the opportunity to make the shopping choices you do. So many people in this world don’t have even a fraction of what you have.

Okay, rant is over. I sincerely hope holiday shopping is an enjoyable experience for you and the staff.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Getting Ready For Winter

October was a weird month. It started out warmer than normal and only a few days were below normal. We had two thunderstorms. The first one had only a couple of mild thunder boomers and several streaks of lightening with only a bit of rain. The second one was a bit more intense and lasted a good half hour. Lots of lightening and precipitation that was somewhere between rain, hail and ice pellets. October thunder storms aren’t unheard of in these parts, they just aren’t the norm. Usually an October storm brings snow. Sometimes that snow stays all winter.

For the most part, the trees are bare and the leaves have been raked. Most people have finished up the last of the yard work and have their winter cleanup gear ready to go. The Halloween decorations are down and many have already started to put up outdoor Christmas lights and displays.

I’ve spent a good part of the last month or so getting ready for that inevitable arrival of snow and the, oh so fun, challenges of navigating city streets and sidewalks.

In mid October, a gal pal and I headed to Costco to pick up many of my pantry and non perishable supplies. I’ve been to Morden’s to pick up my chocolate for the Christmas baking. I’ve been to a couple other stores to do more of my winter “squirreling” so that my cupboards will be full for the coming months. The summer clothes have been moved to the back of the closet and the winter coats have replaced the lighter weight coats in the closet by the door. I bought new boots at the start of last winter and I bought a new winter coat this year. (There is a story in that coat but I’ll save it for when winter really gets going.)

It’s not that I want to do all that prep work for the changing seasons. Maybe I’ve taken it to a bit of an extreme, but for those of us with mobility issues or that don’t own a vehicle, it is just easier to get as much of the bulky, heavy or awkward stuff done before the snow flies.

On October 11, the Winnipeg Free Press published an article that had weather forecasters predicting an early and cold winter for us. Supposedly temps will be about 2 degrees cooler than normal with the coldest being in December and January. Most of our snow should be in January and February.

Um, pardon me but how exactly is that different than any other winter in Manitoba? Most years, it is cold by December and even colder in the early new year. Of course, we are going to get some snow accumulations in those months! Okay, that can vary but even I could have predicted that forecast!

On the plus side, they goofed about snow in October here. They predicted that we would have an accumulation of snow BEFORE Halloween! Well, thankfully they were wrong on that count – and hopefully they will be wrong on how cold it will be also.
As advanced as weather forecasting has become, it is still an educated guess. Accuracy can go out the window in a heartbeat. Frankly, I think they could just write the various predictions on a paper and throw them all in a hat. Might be just as accurate!

On October 29, much of the north-eastern US got hit by an early and very nasty winter storm. The leaves were still green on some trees and the weight of the snow, caused limbs to break and trees to fall on buildings, vehicles and power lines. Tens of thousands were without power for several days. In some areas, Halloween trick-or-treating was even postponed for several days so that crews could clean streets and remove fallen trees.

We, here in Winnipeg can understand how hard it is to cope with those early and unexpected dumping of white stuff. We’ve learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to weather. Driver’s carry winter survival kits in their vehicles along with shovels, scrapers and any number of other items they may need along the way. We’ve learned to take winter with a grain – make that a bag of salt to melt the ice. Many a relationship has been started over talk of the weather. And yes, it is a dry cold!

We are almost half way through November now and at least here in Winnipeg, we really haven’t seen much snow yet. Okay, there was that one morning in mid October that there was a light skiff of white stuff on the ground but it melted in a couple of hours so that doesn’t really count. Oh yeah, we had an inch of snow late last Sunday into Monday (November 6/7) but quite a bit of that has melted. The only real snow on the ground here in the city is the stuff on the north side of buildings or grassy areas that don’t get much direct sunlight. Only a few flakes here and there otherwise.

As far as I’m concerned, the cold snowy winter weather could hold off indefinitely but apparently Mother Nature isn’t interested in my winter wishes. Oh well, I guess I’m more or less ready – just don’t ask me to like it.

Back in the early 1970’s, a man by the name of Alden Diehl was working as the GM of CKY-TV and CITI-FM here. He penned a winter anthem for Winnipeg that was nominated for a JUNO. Almost forty years later, it still stands the test of time for anyone who has lived through a Manitoba winter. No matter what the winter weather may bring, at some point this winter we will be living this song!


Sunday, November 6, 2011

An Extra Hour

Overnight, we added an extra hour as we rolled back the clocks. Well, actually we just regained the hour we lost when we turned the clocks forward last spring.

Every year we play this gain an hour/lose an hour game so it isn’t like we actually “create” an extra hour. As much as we’d often love to add a few hours to the clock we can’t.

The actual change takes place at 2AM local time so most of us are likely asleep when it happens. For those who work late shift or overnights, they generally do an hour shorter shift in the spring and an hour longer in the fall. Some 24 hour businesses actually change the whole shift schedule so that no one loses or gains an hour.

In the spring we complain about losing that hour. We either lose sleep or lose time with friends and family or work.

An hour may not seem like a lot of time but our bodies can take days to adjust to this change regardless if it is a loss or gain of an hour. It’s worse in the spring as we have to get up an hour earlier. Even if you are a morning person, that hour earlier can be rough the first few days. If you don’t gradually adjust your schedule in the days leading up to that loss, the mind and body can take a lot of extra coaxing to wake up and function.

Fall is a different story though. Granted, we don’t like that the sun sets so much earlier and the days are getting shorter but we contemplate how to spend that extra hour. Should we sleep? Should we spend that time with family and friends? A party? Maybe we should catch up on some work.

I think most of us would probably opt for the sleep.

Sleep would certainly be my choice. If only it were that easy.

I’ve always been a light sleeper but the last few years that lightness has just gotten even lighter.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember the last time I had a decent night’s sleep. You see, I am at that oh so charming age when so many of us women are fighting hot flashes, insomnia and calls from Mother Nature. The Night Shift can be rough!

I try to keep a regular schedule of being in bed around 10 and up around 7 or so but my sleep is severely disjointed – to the point that I am lucky if I get about 5 or 6 hours if you added it all up. I rarely sleep more than 2-3 hours at a stretch. That means I don’t get very much REM or deep sleep – the kind needed to wake up rested and refreshed.

So much for a good night’s sleep.

There are times that I truly envy bears. Every fall they slow their hearts down and slip into a deep sleep that lasts through winter. They don’t have to deal with the snow, the icy streets and sidewalks or traverse snow banks to find a bus stop or cross an intersection. No household chores or running errands. They even lose weight while they sleep! How great would that be? Okay, there is that part about wearing the fur coat in summer which would get way too hot, but if a geneticist can figure out how to tweak humans genes to let them hibernate than they can figure out how to deal with the fur coat thing. (Stuart McLean shared his own musings on Hibernation a few years ago on The Vinyl Cafe.)

Unfortunately, hibernating isn’t an option for us humans, so we deal with the sleep deprivation as best we can.

I’ve tried several things to improve my sleep. I rarely nap during the day as that tends to make my night sleep even worse. The exceptions to that rule are if I am sick or even more exhausted than usual. Fluid intake is very limited after supper – less than four ounces. I don’t drink coffee or tea – and rarely drink alcohol. Chocolate is my only caffeine. Don’t even THINK about asking me to give that up or you will really have a bear on your hands!

The computer and the TV are generally off about thirty minutes before I crawl into bed. My bedroom is dark and cool. I do some deep breathing and stretching. Due to medications I use for my eyes and other family health history, I can’t take any sedatives. I did try a very mild med a few years ago, but even that left me feeling very groggy when I woke up in the morning. It didn’t do much to improve my quality of actual sleep either. I’ve just started trying Melatonin but it is too soon to tell if that will make a difference. As much as I’d like it to help, I almost hope it doesn’t as it isn’t covered by our medical system so I’d have to pay out of pocket for it. Not easy on a very fixed income.

So, for the foreseeable future, I just have to deal with whatever sleep I am able to get. Some nights are better than others and hopefully you will forgive me if I act like a crabby bear at times.

I hope you enjoyed your extra hour and made good use of the time – ‘cause you won’t get another one till next fall!