Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Our mother left this world over two decades ago, but during her life she profoundly affected the lives of many, many people.  I consider myself extremely blessed to be her son.

She taught me to be colour blind.  Skin colour was never part of a conversation in our house that I ever remember.  Looking back now I realize our closest friends ranged through a rainbow of skin tones and it was completely irrelevant.  Watching her, it was clear to me that a person's character was more important than where they were born or the language they spoke.

She taught me to never stop learning.  Our house was always filled with books of every kind.  Her bookshelf introduced me to the magical words of Farley Mowat, Ogden Nash, Pierre Berton, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov to name only a few. In her forties, she took the initiative to go back to school to pursue a degree - which she completed with honors.  Nothing was ever off-limits and no knowledge was ever bad.

She taught me to love unconditionally.  You know how in many communities there is that one woman that every kid calls "Mom"?  There was that one house you could go to when you were too scared to go anywhere else?  That was my mom.  Our doors were never locked and she always had time for everyone - particularly youth.  That inevitably led her to youth ministry and the hundreds of young adult lives she guided.  She never placed judgement, never criticized, never blamed. She was one of the best listeners I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

She taught me to respect all living things.  I grew up engulfed in the stories and the history of the Inuit, Haida, Salish and Maori cultures. The first children's story I remember was how Kiwi sacrificed his wings to save the forest floor.  I learned about Raven and Whale and how all the animals have a heart and sole. I was taught to care for and protect the world around me.

She taught me faith.  "All will be well" is written on her grave marker.  That may sound ironic but it is one of the most important lessons I ever learned from her.  She moved forward through difficult times on the raw belief that it all works out in the end.  Raw faith.

My experience with her shaped my understanding of the word "Mother".  It means strength, protection, knowledge, and faith. It does not require the act of childbirth or any genetic connection at all.  A Mother is caring and loving and enduring.

I hope you are blessed to have someone in your life you can call Mother.

Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I awoke early and looked up to see
returning from some eastern sea
the Goddess of Love and her escort low
the morning sky a heavenly glow
December morning

Paints and glue and a particular decal
put together for someone special
A paper heart to hang on the tree
loving reminder of you and me
December afternoon

Discussions poetic and pondering
Hark the herald angels sing
Holly boughs, smell of pine
lingering hint of mulled wine
December evening

Sugar plum stories of a man in red
ballerina figurines dance in your head
candy-cane dreams of cinnamon and spice
hopes that tomorrow will bring snow and ice
December bedtime

Thinking of family and friends
joy that never ends
peace, love, and happiness too
Merry Christmas to all of you

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Too Wide A Brush

Not all terrorists are Muslim
I feel for those who lost people in France this month. At this moment, there is nothing we can do to make that situation better, but we can move forward with cautious awareness and avoid irrational backlash. It is understandable that people want justice, but since the Paris attacks, there has been an extreme outcry of rage against "Muslims" including a sentiment of "kill 'em all", burning of mosques, and political wall building tantamount to sanctioned racism.

I have many friends who are Muslim and I can guarantee you they are not terrorists. They are your neighbor, your grocer, your co-worker. People seem to not understand that there are several factions of Islam, just like there are several factions of Christianity and Judaism. Lumping all Muslims into one bucket and labeling them all terrorists is as ludicrous as assuming all Christians share the same values as those nut bags from the Westboro Baptist church. By that logic, you need to consider every Christian to be a homophobic, racist bigot white supremacist. It is irrational thinking in the extreme.

Someone said to me the other day that we feel like we are on the verge of a 3rd world war. I would argue that we are already in it - some people are just late to the party. This war pits logical, compassionate humans worldwide against the specific brand of evil that drives the ISIS engine. This is not a war of countries against countries and it is not about land appropriation. It is a war of ideals and the fight to ensure all earthlings have the right to think freely and express their beliefs without fear of persecution. ISIS is the enemy of all rational thinking humans.

This is not a war against Muslims and those who keep promoting that idea need to stop and educate themselves. As with Christianity or Judaism, there are many interpretations of religious "law". Sunni interpret Sharia differently than Shia and differently again then Sufi and Salafi. This is similar to the radical differences between strict baptists and protestants. Same Bible, different interpretations. ... and then there is Westboro...

Lately there seems to be a disturbing linkage between "Muslim" and "Terrorist" which is miss-leading. Are we forgetting Timothy McVeigh? Paul Jennings Hill? John Salvi? The "Army of God" is just as insane as ISIS, but on the Christian side of the coin. Not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorist are Muslim.

Having said all that, there is still a very bad segment of world population that are ISIS and supporters and they MUST be stopped. For the sake of all other humans on this planet, ISIS must be stopped. I only hope we can effectively target that evil segment of the population without unjustly harming our own neighbors because we painted with too wide a brush.

Be Awesome.  Change The World.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Exercising Demons

Hi.  My name is Tom and I am a writer.
I went cold turkey about 11 months ago on some advice I read about managing your demons.  It was bad advise.

My last post before this was December and I was closing out the year, reflecting and being philosophical. Shortly thereafter I read something somewhere about writers who tend to spend more time writing and ranting rather then "doing" anything actually useful.  After some introspection I decided I would drop writing as an active thing.  No more blog, no more deep posts, no more serious non-fiction.  I was going to focus on "doing" as opposed to "writing" - also known as thinking about doing.  I lasted a whole 11 months before falling off the wagon.

As it turns out, the writing part is actually the catalyst for the doing part and it took me a while to figure that out.  Like I said - bad advice.  I much prefer the advice of Will Wheaton on making life changes and the value of writing (and reading and other stuff).   Sadly, anyone I would turn to for advice - my mentors, coaches, would-be-sponsors - well, they are all writers too so I find no sympathy there. 

I am a story-teller.  It is what I do and denying it is just soul-crushing, it is just wrong.  While I tried to contain my need for literal expression, I was not successful at all and instead, it crept out in other ways.   Last week, a co-worker asked a simple question by email and I replied with a three-page diatribe on the proper use of the acronym for P.O.C.  Yesterday, I wrote a Facebook status update that was so long, it spilled over the edges of my 19" screen.  That one will likely become a more formal blog post at some point.  Another coworker commented that if I added up my business communications for the first half of November, I probably had already written the 50,000 words needed for the NaNoWriMo competition.   It is a sickness I am happy to surrender to.

I held back diligently during the Canadian election in October which was really really hard to do.  I restrained myself from commenting on yet another mass shooting or the one a day killing stat in the US.   I even  stopped myself from bursting with excitement when we finally got high-res photos of Pluto's moon Charon.   I will not apologize for being a science geek.

For what?  Nothing, that's what.  Holding back from expressing myself in written form did nothing to make the world a better place, nor did it help me focus on physically doing any more than I normally would.  In fact, the opposite happened - which in hindsight is obvious.  Writers are visual thinkers - they blurt out thoughts and emotions and chaos all over nice clean pieces of paper, permanently defacing them for the better.  Sometimes they are just words, but sometimes they bring people and ideas together.  Sometimes they stir up emotions and drive people into action.  Many times, they cause controversy and force people to express their own opinions just to counter yours.  Writing is good.  It is valuable.  It has meaning.

I am a writer.  I am a story teller.  I create worlds in my head and cast them out onto printed works for the universe to consume.  I generate controversy and conversation and I bring people together more then I tear them apart.  I am the physical engine at the business end of a pen.  My words inspire, challenge, examine, and thrill.  My thoughts are deeply consumed in the inner-workings of the human experience and I will not be swayed by political pressure to ignore a story screaming to be told.

Be Awesome.  Change The World.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!

End of darkness.
Creative thoughts start here.
Creative thoughts percolating in my brain over night like an unwatched pot on the stove boiling over finally emerge here -  at dawn.

It is New Years Eve,  December 31st 2014.  I look back over the past 364 days and try to compose a picture in my mind of what I have accomplished.  Who have I helped? What have I changed? Is the world a better place because of something I did? Is it? I hope so.  I hope that I have taken enough time out of my day to help others with their problems, to help someone get a better view of reality, or to make someone else's life more livable.

This past year I logged over 50,000 miles (80,500 Km) of air travel and transited through 65 airport stops.  In those travels I have to wonder if I made anyone's day a little better with a smile, or just by having a little more patience with gate staff.  I am sure I did in at least a few cases.  With that much travel you tend to see the same flight crews and gate attendants several times a year.  I often see the same same captain making sure she gets her box of TimBits for the crew before she boards her RJ700 for the leg to Denver at 7AM.  Those american pilots love their Canadian donuts :)

We all come in contact directly or indirectly with dozens of people every day and making just one extraordinary gesture can have a cascading effect.  Pay it forward.  Do something for someone else just to make their day better.  Be awesome just because the world needs more awesome.

I won't make any new year resolutions, they are fleeting and easy to dismiss.  We all need to work daily on self improvement, being better to the planet we live on, and being better neighbours to each other.  The day on the calendar should not make a difference.

Be Awesome. Change the world.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas thoughts

I smell mincemeat tarts being made in the kitchen.  My teeth sink into a delicious home made
Nanaimo Bar. The smell of Douglas Fir sap permeates the living room air.  These are my childhood Christmas memories.  When I close my eyes and drift back, these are the things that fill my mind.

I worry that we as a society have been conditioned to think that Christmas is a retail sales season, that the biggest present wins, that the highest seasonal margin gets all the news.  I find that sad and find myself hoping that I have taught my children that this is a season of giving, sharing, and being together.  After all, the first gifts were not purchased, they were given from the personal treasures of the givers.  They were important and valuable personal sacrifices to show how much the recipient was valued to them.  Simply going to a store and buying something to give away seems far less personally invested to me.

When I think back to past Christmas days, I actually find it hard to remember *things* that I received as gifts, and while they were surely nice presents, the gifts I remember most are the intangibles.

The uncontrollable and wondrous laughter of a 3 year old child on Christmas morning.
Sniffing and grunting noises from a puppy who just dug through loose wrapping to find delicious bone treats.
Digging walnuts from the bottom of a Christmas stocking, that you know had grown in the back yard the summer before.
Mincemeat and Butter Tarts, Nanaimo Bar and Sugar Cookies, Gingerbread and Shortbread, a fat turkey broiling in the oven.

I have a vivid memory that comes to me every year around this time, of my eldest sister and I sitting under the Christmas tree on our living room floor.  I must have been 8 or 9 years of age.  The tree was covered in gold and red and it smelled as if it had been cut the day before.  She had just opened her present from my parents, a 35mm camera that I am sure she was not expecting.  What I remember the most though was the joy in her eyes, the immediate understanding of what it represented in freedom, creative expression, power for self expansion. This was a gift of understanding, of future growth, of belief in potential.  This is when I learned that value and price are two very different things.

In those days Christmas day was a large family event.  After opening our own stockings at home, we would pile into the ugly 1972 station wagon and drive to my grandparents house about an hour away.  My cousins had done the same and by early afternoon there were at least twenty of us kids, aunts, uncles, friends all gathered throughout the house, by the tree and huddled around the fire. Some in the living room, some in the kitchen, others in the huge dining room that now had a table with seating for a small hungry army.  A feast was baking and brewing and broiling in the kitchen there under the masterful guidance of my Grandmother.  For those who were lucky enough to sleep over night, Boxing Day started with Grandpa's silver dollar pancakes - a rare treat.  I don't have to close my eyes very tightly to see them still in my minds eye, smell and hear and feel the joys of Christmas with extended family.  That was long ago and far away.

Today my family has both shrunk and expanded.  Like many people, there are new traditions and new memories to be made.  Still, the best recent memories of past Christmases are not about things, but events, smells, tastes - pictures frozen in my mind.
 - Children decorating sugar cookies, icing and sprinkles covering the kitchen.
 - Hanging decades worth of collected personalized ornaments.
 - Placing that hand made reindeer on it's special spot on the wall.

These are the things I hope that my children will remember and understand about Christmas.  The most valuable gift you can give cannot be bought at any store.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fixing my front load dryer

I have taken my Sears/Kenmore/Frigidaire/Electrolux front load dryer apart a few times to fix it and thought that since so many people enjoyed my post on fixing my Keurig coffee maker (about 33000 page views so far), I would do the same with this project.

Like my B60 Keurig coffee maker, I have a love-hate relationship with this dryer... okay, lately it is more hate, but whatever.  This model, 970-C87192-10 has a specific flaw that I have found annoying in the extreme, but from what I can tell in a few web searches, this may be a common problem and so is the fix.  In this model, there is a small space at the bottom of the drum where it meets the door and often, zippers, buttons and clasps will slip in there and wedge between the door and the drum, eventually twisting off completely and usually this results in destroyed clothing.  R.I.P. favourite Disney hoodie :(

The following describes the process of replacing the drum guide and felt seal in this particular dryer model, but other front load dryers share a similar problem.  Over time, the plastic drum guide and the felt it rides on both wear, which makes the gap larger and more susceptible to this problem, so even once this is fixed, it should probably be replaced every couple of years as preventative maintenance.

Dryer Model: 970-C87192-10

Tools Needed:
  #2 Robertson or #3 Phillips Screwdriver   (they both fit these combo-screws)
  Thin blade (#2) standard screwdriver

Parts Needed:
   131963900  Glide, drum (x2)           ~= $13
   134440200  Seal, felt, upper            ~= $9
   5308027429  Adhesive, high temp  ~= $28
   134134700  Seal, felt, lower            ~= $33

Note that usually the adhesive is included with the lower felt, so check first to avoiding buying it twice.

I am going to throw in a plug for the awesome folks at Reliable Parts in Phillips park: (6120 2nd St SE, Calgary, AB), and "Daryl" in particular for his awesome service.  While I was able to look up all the parts in this manual, the Sears Canada approved service depo wanted to ship the parts from Ontario (5 days away) and I wanted to fix it today.  In hindsight, I should have just called Reliable first.  Anyway - Daryl was awesome and got me set up with the parts I needed for about $73 total.

This should take about an hour, but take your time because the inside edges of the metal are SHARP and I manage to cut myself every time I open this thing up.  Every... single... time.

Before you start dismantling things, unplug the power.  220 Volts at 30 Amps can be nasty on your body so pay attention to safety first and unplug that sucker.

First, if the dryer is stacked on top of the washer, remove the securing screws and lift it slightly off the mounts so you can get to the lower set of screws.

Next, remove the screws of the lower panel and the panel should basically just drop off.  Try to do that gently.  There are two more screws under that panel that hold on the door panel assembly so remove those as well.

Now you need to move to the top-back of the unit and remove the two screws holding in that top panel.  These are on the top edge, not the lower, recessed ones.  With the screw removed, push back the top panel and remove it.  Again be careful of sharp edges or it will soon look like a crime scene.

With the top removed, you can get to the wiring harness and four mounting screws holding on the front panel. Disconnect the wiring harness at the two cable connectors before you do anything else.  Then remove the four top screws to release the door panel.  Using a flat blade standard screwdriver, separate the door panel from the main body with a lever motion.  The door should now hang from the top panel hooks.

Gently lift up and pull the door panel away from the main body and set it on the floor.  That will reveal the open dryer, drum and motor as well as a whole bunch of lint because this dryer is really horrible at containing the lint in the exhaust path.  Vacuum out the whole body and the inside of the door.  This is important for fire hazard reasons anyway, but you will also want to have a nice clean area to work with for the next part of this adventure.

Inside the rim of the dryer drum, you will see a plastic white strip that is probably in really rough shape.

Mine was in pieces with holes and fractures everywhere as well as having a deep wear band in the center - the primary cause of ruined clothes in my life.  This can be removed and discarded.  Replace that with the two "drum glides" using one of the double-hole sets (see picture).  Press these in until they click. 

On the door, you will see the felt seal is in two parts - don't mix these up.  Remove the top section and clean the area of any debris.  Apply a film of the high temperature glue to the replacement top felt piece and wait one minute (60 seconds) for the glue to become tacky, then apply and press it into the same location as the original.  Repeat that process for the lower seal and wait at least 5 minutes before attempting to reassemble.

Reassemble in the reverse order taking care to lift the drum slightly as you push the door assembly into place.
 - hang the door assembly (lift the drum slightly while doing this)
 - press it into place on the body
 - screw in the top of the door
 - reconnect the wiring harness
 - replace the top plate and replace the screws
 - replace the screws at the bottom of the door
 - reattach the bottom plate
 - re-align and attach the bottom plate to the washer, if it is a stacked unit
 - plug the dryer back in
 - turn it on to test

If there is no smoke, or strange noise, you have succeeded,  otherwise call for a professional repair.  Hopefully this helps you save the $600 replacement or $200 service fee and you can get a few more years out of your dryer.

Disclaimer:  This was done for my own purposes and I am sharing for the sake of sharing.  If you chose to use this information you do so at your own risk.