Did Hamlet Shop, Do You Suppose?

He looks confused. I tilt my head, silently inviting him to speak. There is a pause as he works it out.

“We went so you could buy a necklace like Gram’s.”

It’s not really a question, but I answer anyway. “That’s right, but they were too heavy for me.”

Another pause, and I know we haven’t got to the nub of it yet.

“But Gram bought a dress.”

And there we have it: the source of the confusion. From a teenaged boy’s perspective, this perfectly ordinary excursion in the mid-1990s was one of life’s mysteries. We went to buy something for one person, and came home with something completely different for another person. How the heck did that happen?

By shopping.

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What It Is to Scale the Heights

Putting genteel Georgia behind us, we angle across rural northern Florida to the Gulf Coast and hang a right. And then we drive. And drive.

Most of those two days in early January is spent on the who-knew-it-was-so-wide Florida panhandle, an on-the-face-of-it ridiculous allocation of coastline that undoubtedly reflects some fascinating history of which we are, as Canadians, completely ignorant. To support the underdog, on the second day we stop for lunch somewhere in the don’t-sneeze-or-you’ll-miss-it bit of Alabama that borders the Gulf of Mexico. And then we drive. And drive.   Continue reading

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To Boldly Go

“That’ll be three fifty, ma’am.”

I hand over a scruffy five-dollar bill for my bag of milk-chocolate mini bars. “Make it so.”

The convenience-store attendant’s head snaps up. “Did you just say, ‘Make it so’?”   Continue reading

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Goldilocks as Lousy Role Model

It’s pouring. With the temperatures peaking for the day in the mid-teens (Fahrenheit of course), it’s a chilly, gloomy day in the neighbourhood.

Not that I expect any sympathy from anyone north or east of here. It’s been a nasty cold and stubbornly snowy winter in most parts of North America this year. By contrast, my biggest concern has been scheduling my daily walk early enough to reduce my heat-stroke risk. Lolling under blue-sky days, we’ve see rain only three times since arriving in metro Phoenix in mid-January.

Over several winters in Arizona this is exactly what we’ve come to expect, although we don’t always get so much precipitation. But if the weather is delightfully consistent, year after year, the spring wildflowers are frustratingly inconsistent.   Continue reading

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Trusting No One

“Is he turning he has to turn there are barricades why isn’t he signalling why isn’t he slowing down he’s going to crash into the barricades is he turning he has to turn he’s going to hit me I can’t stay here which way should I move is he turning HE HAS TO TURN!”

As the speeding pick-up truck bears down on me, what is going through my mind is a bona fide run-on paragraph, there being no time for even mental punctuation.   Continue reading

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Humble Pie

They don’t have Pepsi™.

Well, maybe that’s a little sweeping. In the spirit of Heinlein’s Fair Witnesses, let me amend that statement to reflect precisely what I saw or, more accurately, did not see.

In four weeks in the major cities of New Zealand and Australia, I did not see one can, bottle (glass or plastic), or soda fountain dispensing Pepsi™. Not in a restaurant. Not in a bar. Not in a full-service grocery or convenience store. Not in a vending machine.

I did not see even one ad for Pepsi™—no billboard, street sign, or TV spot—and I think that says it all.   Continue reading

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The Opposite of Familiarity

This morning I set off on a familiar walk, but with an unfamiliar task: participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count (whose rather loosey goosey rules allow said count to be done anywhere). Two miles in, I had seen the usual suspects (mourning doves, verdin, Anna’s hummingbirds, house finches, grackles, curve-billed thrashers) as well as a few occasional shows (red-tailed hawks, roadrunners). Good fun, if you like that sort of thing, and it turns out that I do.

As I paused at one corner, I thought I saw an American kestrel about a block away. Since I was observing birds for scientific purposes, I diverted from my planned route, trying to get close enough to confirm the identification without flushing the bird. Mission completed, I turned back to my main route, glancing idly at the irrigated field on my left. I almost fell off my walking shoes.   Continue reading

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Critters and ShamWows

Walking on St. Kilda’s Beach, outside Melbourne, I espy—amid the entirely pedestrian, albeit not at all ambulatory, pebbles and bits of shell—a slimy, crabby critter.  Using my camera’s zoom, I keep my distance while documenting the encounter.  Although it’s pretty surely dead, you never know what will jump up and suck your face off.

Critter on St. Kilda's Beach

And then another one, laid out a little differently—pretty surely the same type of critter, more surely dead, and, in any case, less well positioned for jumping up.  More confident, I move a little closer to inspect it: in this layout it is more jellyfish than crab.

Dead critter on St. Kilda's Beach

Yet this gelatinous mass does not seem exactly like the only other jellyfish I have seen on this trip, through the glass of an aquarium in Auckland.

Jellyfish in Auckland aquarium

Where is the delicate, diaphanous build that produced the grace in motion of the aquarium specimens?  Can these be the same type of critter?  I can see I’m going to need some professional confirmation of my tentative identification.   Continue reading

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The Poetry of Insomnia

And now for something mostly different: a mid-week post.  As I reconfigure my other website/blog, I am going back through its posts and linking them better to the topic now at hand:  advice for doing RFP responses (the better to promote my book on said topic) rather than the publishing journey. Where posts cannot be re-purposed, out they go. But there’s one that I can neither re-purpose, nor quite bring myself to let go. So – here’s a mid-week blast from my past: 03 September 2013.

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Flash of yellow breast
Stymies the novice birder:
Mystery bird flits.

What was that bird with the yellow belly outside the Big Guy’s study yesterday?

Fall storms delay play
As final round disappoints;
Watched balls will not fall.

Will Graham De Laet be happy with his third-place finish this week?

And why is haiku so much harder than it looks?   Continue reading

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Unusual

“Is that a tip?”

The speaker is the desk manager at our hotel in Rotorua, a seismically active area of New Zealand. Well, an area where the country’s ubiquitous seismic activity shows in the form of steam vents, geysers, acidic blue pools, and bubbling mud pots, not to mention an occasional eruption that changes the landscape’s topography.

Isabel Gibson's photos of Rotorua

But I digress. Unusual, I know.

I’m there to settle our account before we check out. I look at the bill for two glasses of wine and note the amount on the, umm, tip line that has, apparently baffled this guy. Is it a trick question?

“Yes,” I reply.

There is a short pause. He seems at a loss for what to say next, so I jump in. Unusual, I know.   Continue reading

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