The Tale Spinner

Vol. XXIII, No. 13

April 1, 2017


  • Mike Yeager wrote about getting coping with growing older
  • We get letters from Geoff Goodship and Warren Ngo
  • Catherine Nesbitt forwards some interesting statements
  • Irene Harvalias sends a story about an Irish painter
  • Jay shares this opinion piece about the dark side of Canada
  • Sites are suggested by Geoff Goodship, Shirley Coutts, and Tom Telfer

Mike Yeager wrote about aging in his blog:


I can remember hiking with my dad. He was probably close to the age I am right now. We would be steadily working our way up the side of some mountain in Oregon, and periodically I would realize I no longer heard him trudging along behind me. Looking back down the trail, there he’d be stopped, pretending to be interested in some unknown specimen of flora.

I knew he had no interest in plants whatsoever. If I said anything like, “Are you resting again?” he would reply, with a voice handicapped by gasps for breath, “You’ll get old some day.” 

Lately I’ve been inundated with mail and phone calls from insurance brokers and HMO representatives trying to convince me that they have the information I need to help me decide what to do about my Medicare Part B, Each one assures me that they have my best interest at heart. I’m turning 65 in a few months and I’d like to get my hands on the person who let all these capitalist scavengers know about it.

The truth is, I have absolutely no idea what to do about Medicare B, but I don’t tell them that. It’s all very confusing, and when I start reading the material sent to me by them or the government, the words quickly turn into blah, blah, blah, blah.

I was at the barber a few years ago having my hair cut. It was going along fine until he lifted up the few thin strands of hair on the top of my head and asked, “What do you want me to do with these stringers?” He must have been from the south, because he pronounced stringers, “strangers,” rhyming with “hangers.” 

There is a time when one is going bald where you can fool yourself into thinking that you have more hair on top of your head than you actually do. This delusion is perpetuated by only looking at yourself in the mirror straight on. From this angle, there appears to be somewhat of a lush growth of hair on top. The truth reveals itself if you use an additional mirror and view your reflection from any other angle. I nurtured this delusion for years.

Recently I told the 14-year-old beautician at Super Cuts to just cut the “strangers” off. She did it immediately and without comment. In an instant my delusion evaporated and I turned into a bald guy. When I got home, Katie, my wife, hardly noticed the change. When I pointed it out, she said I looked fine, and there really wasn’t that much of a difference. My delusion ran deep.

And to think I’ve been less than kind in my thoughts all these years toward men who sported comb-overs. And now I embarrassingly realize that I was guilty of a version of this desperate attempt to remain young and attractive.

I am writing this blog in a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado. The young college students all around me are working on their computers. Most avoid eye contact with me, but every once in a while, one of them catches my eye and smiles. It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was a young college student like them. I know none of them have the same perspective that I do. What’s that saying, “youth is wasted on the young”? In the blink of an eye they will be where I am now. My dad realized it and tried to tell me, but like these young people around me, I didn’t get it at the time.

I really have no interest in going back in time, but I don’t want to go forward either. This coffee shop’s name is The Laughing Pig. They make a hell of a good latte. The attractive young barista instantly created an intricate design on the top of the foam. It was a fern leaf that wrapped around the inner edge of the cup. When she handed it to me, she gave me a warm smile.

I don’t recognize and don’t like most of the music that’s played on their sound system, but they just played an early Leonard Cohen song that I hadn’t heard for a long time. I’m tuning the music out for now and waiting for the next oldie. 

I guess I will continue my practice of being content with where I am right now, even if I am an aging bald guy.

ED. NOTE: Check out Mike's blog at


Geoff Goodship writes about the photo you will see at this site:

That photo is now a little out of date. In an age when everyone has a special stick to take "selfies,” I remember this is the only photo I have ever taken using our camera's self timer. I set the camera on a rock, then hustled to sit beside Freddie. No cell phone or selfie stick needed then. 

The location of the photo was also interesting for us. It’s on the cliff tops just above the site where engineers blew up Ripple Rock. The sea still surges through the narrow gap at a tremendous rate. It’s a wonderful spot to fish for ling cod, for about 15 minutes each tide. Once the tide starts to run it’s impossible to keep your fishing line anywhere near where the fish are. It’s also a favourite spot to watch Orca. They like to lie in wait for whatever fish the tide flushes toward them.

Whenever we go there (it’s a good 90-minute hike each way,) I am reminded that the people who crossed the Bearing Strait nine thousand years or so ago, they or their descendants came past this very spot. They paddled some kind of cedar boats past the rocks that later sank many fishing boats. Just south of the narrow passage there is quiet Menzies Bay, where I know they must have rested.

Warren Ngo writes: My partner lives in Germany, and is fluent both in German and English. She is a professional translator, and on occasion I'm asked to read and comment on her English scripts.  

In doing so a few years ago, she couldn't understand why I suddenly burst out laughing. She was highly amused when I pointed out that a term she had innocently used, “Well Hung,” was a rather gross North American term to describe, shall we say, male manliness.

Catherine Nesbitt sends these facts to get your mind off politics:


A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself.

The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.

A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.

A 2X4 is really 1-1/2" by 3-1/2".

During the chariot scene in "Ben Hur," a small red car can be seen in the distance (and Heston's wearing a watch.)

On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily! (That explains a few mysteries.)

Donald Duck comics were banned from Finland because he doesn't wear pants.

Because metal was scarce, the Oscars given out during World War II were made of wood.

The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, purple, and silver.

The name Wendy was made up for the book Peter Pan. There was never a recorded Wendy before.

The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death. (Who was the sadist who discovered this?)

Bruce Lee was so fast that they actually had to slow film down so you could see his moves. That's the opposite of the norm.

The first CD pressed in the US was Bruce Springsteen' s "Born in the USA."

The original name for butterfly was flutterby.

The first product Motorola started to develop was a record player for automobiles. At that time, the most known player on the market was Victrola, so they called themselves Motorola.

Roses may be red, but violets are indeed violet.

By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you cannot sink into quicksand.

Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

Sherlock Holmes NEVER said, "Elementary, my dear Watson."

An old law in Bellingham, Washington, made it illegal for a woman to take more than three steps backwards while dancing!

The glue on Israeli postage is certified kosher.

The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.

Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

Bats always turn left when leaving a cave.

ED. NOTE: As always, don’t assume that every “fact” you read online is true. If you are moved to look up any of the above statements on Snopes, why not share your find with the rest of us, so that we won’t have to look them up!

Irene Harvalias sends this story about


An Irishman by the name of Murphy, while not a brilliant scholar, was a  gifted portrait artist. Over a short number of years, his fame grew, and soon people from all over Ireland were coming to the town of Doolin in County Clare, to get him to paint their likenesses.

One day, a beautiful young English woman arrived at his house in a stretch limo and asked if he would paint her in the nude.

This being the first time anyone had made such a request, he was a bit perturbed, particularly when the woman told him that money was no object. In fact, she was willing to pay up to £10,000.

Not wanting to get into any marital strife, he asked her to wait while he went into the house to confer with Mary, his wife.

In a few minutes he returned. "T'would be me pleasure to paint yer portrait, missus," he said. "The wife says it's okay. I'll paint you in the nude all right, but I have to at least leave me socks on, so I have a place to wipe me brushes."

Got to love the Irish!

Jay found this opinion piece while browsing on the net:


This was written by Sam Boulos, who lived in Canada for 13 years.

I am glad you asked that question because while Canada presents itself to the World and to prospective immigrants as the perfect place to live, the best country in the World with the best life standards, very little if any is mentioned about the disadvantages. People go with very high expectations, and after a while a lot feel disappointed and/or misinformed.

- I agree with the person who said that Canadians are polite, but politeness is not equal to friendliness. Saying sorry when they step on your toe is one thing, and being approachable is another thing. Canadians are private. Waaay too private. Especially in big cities, people approaching each other and talking to each other in a public place is so freakin’ unusual. For someone to strike up a conversation with you in the bus or subway, they must be abnormal or mentally sick. You would probably feel more scared than entertained when and if it happens. I used to live in an apartment building where people would not even say hi or smile at each other in the elevator, and they weren’t total strangers. They were neighbours!

- The country is too big for its population, which makes everything costly. Shipping, transportation, building roads, telecommunication networks, transmission lines, etc. If Canada were this size of France it would have worked a lot better.

- I  think Canadians are not united or harmonious enough, as I would expect people from the same country to be. People from outside Toronto hate Toronto dearly. Quebeckers don’t like the rest of Canada and don’t feel belonging. They have a special mutual hatred with Albertans though. These two are always bickering and calling each other names, and generally speaking, provinces are always fighting over money, over their share of the federal budget or aid, over conflicting interests. You will find a province that is pro-oil, another is totally anti-oil and wishes to shut down the whole industry, and this pattern repeats. Add to that the language wars between Anglophones and Francophones and you will start to see a darker side. 

- The economy is small. Job creation is weak and jobs are hard to find except for a couple of places that are booming, and those places change over time. When a city or a province is going through a boom phase, lots of people will flock to it from the rest of Canada to find work. At one point, Calgary was one of these centers. The influx of people from other areas was crazy. The housing and infrastructure could not keep up with all the newcomers. Now with the oil prices so low, Calgary is losing population fast. Canadians seem to be in a perpetual state of moving for work. It is very normal to have to move to another city or province to find a job, any job. I am not talking about a big promotion or a fantastic offer. Some people move, hoping to find an entry-level job, or even a job in retail or fast food. Some places are worse than others. Montreal is probably one of the worst job markets on Earth. It is not uncommon in Montreal to be jobless and searching for work for a year or two. I know many people who kept looking for that long.

What adds salt to injury is the infamous lie that new immigrants are told, that they cannot find a job mainly because they lack the ”Canadian Experience.” The poor fellows actually believe it and think there is something wrong with them just because they acquired their skills outside Canada, and then a decade or so later they get to realize that this is just an excuse, a cover up for the slow job market. Been there, done that. In reality though, when there is a strong demand for a certain field, everyone gets hired, and the first person through the door gets a job offer, having the so-called Canadian Experience or not.

- Canadians find their identity in their diversity and multiculturalism, and they are happy and proud about it, but for me it sounds like an oxymoron. It is like saying “what we all have in common is that we are all different.” I think that the country does not have a special flavor or distinct culture. It feels to me more like a shelter where people come from all over the world seeking to escape poverty, conflict, or improve their lives in one way or another, and they just live together and co-exist, but nothing really unites them other than, like I said, diversity. There isn’t really that much sense of nationalism or patriotism, there isn’t really such thing as a national food, unless you consider poutine to be one, or a national costume, unless you expect a hockey jersey to be one.

- The country is not so ambitious. They don’t seek the first place economically, technologically, in the military, in politics, arts, education, or anything, and it isn’t known or famous for anything. Not even for something as small as cheese, like France, chocolate like Belgium, or flowers like the Netherlands. They are perfectly happy with 10 medals or so in the Olympics, while a country like Australia with less population usually reaps more than double that number. They are perfectly happy and proud that the University of Toronto is ranked #32 in the world, but will never seek to be in the top 10, or God forbid, top three. Most of the ambitious and excellent dentists, doctors, lawyers, and engineers end up moving to the States or somewhere else, not only because of the money but because they cannot keep up with the mediocrity.

- The weather is not made for human beings but for polar bears.

P.S.: I think I have to remind some commentators on my answer that the original question was not about evaluating life in Canada in general (the good vs. the bad,) or comparing Canada to other countries. If you ask what is a negative thing about a Mercedes Benz, I would definitely say the price. That does not make Mercedes an inferior car.

ED. NOTE: I found this article confusing. If the author found the country so distasteful, why did he stay for 13 years? What does he mean in his postscript? Is he saying that in spite of all its drawbacks, Canada is a good country - just as a Mercedes is a good car in spite of its price? What is your reaction to this piece? Please let me know.


Geoff Goodship forwards this link to a selfie of himself and Freddie relaxing in a wonderful setting which he is sure contributes to a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude:

Shirley Coutts sends the URL for a series of pictures in which you are challenged to find the bodies of women. Some are easy; others are impossible:

Tom Telfer recommends this site for a video of French singer Patrick Bruel allowing the audience to take over when he starts singing "J'te l'dis quand même" ("I'm still telling you"):

Tom also forwards the URL for a video of a short demo of PodRide, a bicycle-car:

Verda Cook forwards this item about the rescue of a muskrat trapped in a wire fence:

In this TED talk, 11-year-old Jacob Barnett talks about how he discovered he had a natural genius for astrophysics:

This site tells you how to make your own compost:

David Young, an urban farmer, has started gardens on 30 abandoned lots in New Orleans left over from Hurricane Katrina, which help to feed the hungry in that city:

Elisabeth Rosenthal reports form rural Kenya, where cheap Chinese solar panels are providing decentralized small-scale electricity to towns that have little chance of being connected to the grid:


Most of the people going to Parliament are good, hard-working, intelligent people who really want to solve problems. But once they get there, they find that they are forced to play a game that rewards hyper-partisanship and that punishes independent thinking.

The following from The Free Dictionary

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