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The Millennium Prize (part four) ©

Det. Cosgrove was sitting in a smaller meeting room with Con. Doyenne, when the forensic pathologist made an appearance. His preliminary diagnosis was that Banks’ died primarily from a poison administered in beer, almost definitely a plant based derivative. His likely candidate was moonseed. There was a slightly unpleasant smell to it, perhaps mitigated by its scent of honey, found on the spoon next to the bottles. Given the tight time frame of the events, he couldn’t at this point narrow time of death beyond a window wide enough for multiple second party scenarios. There didn’t appear to be any prints on the beer bottles or the glasses aside from the victim’s. The detective showed the doctor the small piece of, presumably, beer label, and pointed out the slightly embellished metallic scent. A quick inspection by the pathologist provided an opinion that there could be a higher content of lead or cadmium, commonly found in such labels, than usual.    

While her boss was mulling this over, Con. Doyenne fleshed out her main report from her search upstairs.

The lodge abode of treasure hunt winner Stanley embraced contradiction. On the one hand, a thick lined pad filled with notes and speculations about Y2K fallout, on the other, a pair of gaudy, celebrity jackets, each worth at least five figures, hanging in the closet. On his desk was a Hamleton ATAS club ten year anniversary pin. In Ms. Quinn’s room the constable found a guide concerning auctions and collectibles shows coming up in 2000. Circled, with maroon ink, were ones featuring vintage watches. Sanders’ room included a display case with bottles of Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Bowmore brand whiskies, plus two six-packs of lager beer, a dark one and a fruit infused one, both apparently unopened. On Currie’s desk there were half a dozen eight by ten colour prints of antique furniture, specifically clocks. In a briefcase were photocopies of other prints akin to Poe or Lovecraft, similar to those of Banks. Next to the briefcase was a large bowl of pretzels. Aside from expensively finished miniatures of classic cars, parked on desks and tables in Blackburn’s room, the noteworthy item was his club ten year anniversary pin. The unretrieved clue sheets were found in the accommodations of Ms. Heath and Broughton, along with lists of five expensive wines, hers whites, his reds.                

Det. Cosgrove sat, musing, “The murderer coordinated extracting those documents, and putting Banks out of commission, so quickly and quietly”

Feeling an opening, Con. Doyenne said, “Whoever it was, how could he or she be able to open the case, sir? As we know, the director put the one and only key in the lodge safe, at the request of Mr. Banks. He closed and locked the portfolio. Director Ryder, just before leaving the room with the victim’s key, stated he happened to glance as Mr. Banks was closing it, and he swears there were several documents in each pocket.”    

“Let’s have another look at that portfolio case.” The detective picked up the key from the lodge safekeeping, and led his assistant briskly upstairs. 

Before opening the case, they made a thorough search of the room, but found nothing helpful, certainly no other keys. Det. Cosgrove examined the portfolio case. Clearly it required the right key. He looked assiduously at the aperture, and found a microscopic scratch. But it was problematic that this was meaningful, since a clarification would not be coming from Banks. He used the key to open the portfolio case. An extremely high quality, gilt lining, with leather lined pockets was revealed. Letters of Intent, and projections concerning possible Y2K scenarios, were in one embossed pocket. The other slot stood out like a mini, abandoned closet. As Con. Doyenne concluded her search elsewhere, the detective sat in an easy chair and surveyed the scene.

Another issue. Banks apparently died after drinking beer spiked with poison, its sour taste muffled with honey. Why would Banks even drink something that didn’t taste right in the first place? Wouldn’t he be suspicious?

Could any of them be ruled out? One parameter was opportunity. As things stood, no one was eliminated yet.

Det. Cosgrove asked the lodge director to see him. “Would any member be able to gain access to what you secured in your safe, by a request on behalf of another?”

Corban Ryder looked back with a mix of horror and concern. “I don’t know if this is supposed to be some kind of a test, detective, but no, only the member can request direct access to his or her valuables. Unless the person is assigned power of attorney. And even then…”, he trailed off, seemingly uncomfortable with such a possibility. He shook it off, and resumed, “Before you ask, detective, let me assure you I speak for my employees in following responsible procedure.”

“Thank you, we’ll take it on your word for now. Please send Mr. Blackburn back here.”

Blackburn returned looking a little frustrated. “How can I help you now, detective?”

“Mr. Blackburn, I need contact information for Mr. Banks, particularly his personal  assistant or associate back in town. A couple of issues to follow-up.”

Det. Cosgrove spent almost twenty minutes on the phone, mostly with Banks’ assistant. The detective seemed satisfied as he hung up the phone. He looked at the constable. ‘”Let’s go back upstairs and have another look in a couple of the rooms.”

“Then I want to see all of them in the conference room.”

An atmosphere combining expectation and discomfort hung over the surviving members of the Hamleton ATAS club assembled around the conference table. None, however, seemed to want to betray their feelings, so a glance would have found a sea of stoicism, at least superficially. Det. Cosgrove, flanked by Con. Doyenne and Alina Munroe, clutching her ever-present notepad, slowly gazed around the room. As the detective spoke, his deliberate delivery pierced the air.

“We have a particularly challenging situation here, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not going to waste time, there are logistical considerations. Given the time frame and proximity of the crime, you all appear to have had opportunity to do in Mr. Banks. Let me be clear, I’m convinced this is a murder, and at least one of you is involved in it.”

“As far as motive is concerned, we’re looking at shades of black. Groups of investors like yourselves naturally have reason to worry about what could actually happen around the world January first. In that sense, anyone in the developed world has a stake.  However, when we consider your exposure individually, it seems likely that your perceived level of exposure coincides with the amount of your interaction with Mr. Banks. Some of you reacted to Banks’ intentions as more of a threat. Nevertheless, each of you has reason to feel at least some degree of peril. Potential motives.”

“A corollary issue is the significance of the stolen papers from the victim’s portfolio case, and what happened to those papers. It seems certain that these were more important than the letters of intent which were not taken. We can assume they directly tie-in to motive.”

“We now come to the third ingredient of the murder triumvirate, means or method. It’s in this analysis things will become clearer as to who is guilty.”

“In short, underlying this investigation are the questions of, how exactly were the murder and thefts perpetrated, and where are the containers of the poison and the stolen papers now? ”

Det. Cosgrove waited for reactions. He settled for a rapt audience.

He resumed. “What we have ascertained includes the following.”

“At least two of you were seen confronting the victim at the cocktail party, namely, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Stanley.  But, of course, one or more of you might have done the same less obviously, there or elsewhere. Some of you have admitted this. I have discovered, for instance, that at least Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Stanley are long time members, presumably somewhat proudly so in view of having brought your ten year pins here. How much is the stability and integrity of the club at stake, as far as you gentlemen are concerned? Whatever everyone’s responses during our interviews, the fact is I can’t rule any of you out in terms of access to the victim around the time of the murder. If this was accomplished as seamlessly as it appears, the chance to have done so unseen is real.”

“Now, what is the most likely composition of the missing papers? Something to do with the missing prints? I think not. Considering the juxtaposition to the letters of intent, which by definition are intentions, not done deals, it’s very probable the missing documents represent decisions actually taken – namely, sell orders he intended to put through tomorrow!”

“Speaking of the three prints found in the rooms of Ms. Quinn, Mr. Currie, and Mr. Stanley, I suspect this was primarily intended to muddy the waters, little more. By the way, I assume you all appreciate, and have no objection, to the fact that the constable and I conducted thorough searches of your rooms.”

“I also believe the bottles of beer and glasses on the bar next to the body served as a diversion, that is, not the real source of the poisoning.”

Det. Cosgrove was a little annoyed to see that the dynamic of his control was being breeched. Broughton periodically glancing at his portable computer. Ms. Heath secretly flipping coins. Blackburn mentally working on, perhaps, his next agenda. Currie fantasizing, probably, about a world of antique stores selling netherworld mementoes. The detective stared, shrugged, and continued.

“What we have ascertained about the murder is that the victim ingested a small amount of alcohol, specifically beer of an unknown variety, laced with a plant based poison and honey. Only the spoon on the scene of the crime indicates this. It’s not even certain, at this time, the poison on the spoon is the same as what did in the victim. The two open bottles hold no scent or taste of poison. Since I maintain it’s not on the bar, where is the bottle with the poison? With respect to the physical scene, the lack of mess or damage implies that the final drink of Mr. Banks was held in otherwise cordial circumstances, meaning in all likelihood with a well-known acquaintance from whom immediate threat was not apparent. Somehow he was persuaded to let down his guard, at least concerning his taste buds. He allowed himself to drink a potion posing as a flavoured beer.”

“It’s also apparent that the murder occurred smoothly and efficiently for the murderer, to the extent of being undetected long enough to give Banks the fatal drink, set up the death scene, meanwhile opening the case and escaping with the missing documents. Plus, of course, the poisoned bottle.” Det. Cosgrove deliberately stopped to look around at the members as he said, “Save for overlooking a portion of a label, found on the floor in the washroom.”

The detective slowly drank a glass of water. An air of nervous expectation re-emerged as the distracted members quietly refocused.

He continued, “Expertise was required in accomplishing the two actions in Banks’ room. Opening the case without a key and without damaging it for one. Successfully administering the poison, then hiding it quickly and securely enough.”                           

“Anyone have any thoughts?”

(end of part four)

The Millennium Prize (part one) ©

There are few time-based mega moments in recent world history, especially those universally monitored. The bridge between the first and second millenniums was about as big as it gets.

However, it also meant wide-ranging degrees of trepidation. With versions of personal and work computers now woven into people’s lives, how well would these systems around the planet, with data coding based on the first two digits for a year defaulting to ‘19’, cope with the tidal wave of transfer to ‘20’? Planning and dry run scenarios increasingly consumed governments and institutions in the days leading up.

The popular acronym for the time of transition was Y2K. Everyone had a stake, most notably those with voluminous or sensitive data, including personal records ranging from health histories to investments, especially intangible assets. The breadth of a  negative cascade could affect the values of almost everything, including the tangible.       

As it is always want to do, the time clock kept ticking.

In the last week of 1999, the limbo between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day would still see the annual celebration of the Hamleton ATAS club.  

Membership, inclusion based on the ownership of an impressive, which is to say valuable, collection of ‘alternative’ or ‘atypical’ assets, a.k.a. ATAS, was currently sitting at ten for the local chapter. Such holdings cover categories other than stocks or bonds or guaranteed deposits per se. Almost de rigueur with groups of almost any size, whenever there was a non-compulsory gathering, it would not be fully attended. This year, eight members of the loose-knit club committed to the two-day affair.

At the previous spring meeting, led by secretary Connor Blackburn, a 56 year-old real estate agent, the club approved the location for the year-end summit. It was set for December 29th and 30th at the Cotaluna Lodge, on Lake Simcoe, near Barrie, Ontario.

Wednesday, the 29th, was a typically cool, overcast early winter day in the Canadian province. 

As Blackburn arrived at the Lodge, he was welcomed by its director, Corban Ryder.   

Ryder, an energetic 37 year old of predictably gracious demeanor, met the luxury car on arrival, greeting with “Good to see you again, Mr. Blackburn!” 

“Good to see you as well, Mr. Ryder. Cecily and I had a wonderful time here last year.”

“Please pass on my best always to her. You had a safe trip I trust.”

Simultaneous with an inviting wave toward the entrance, the director gestured to Kirby, one of the two full-time, guest service staff, to bring in the arrival’s suitcases. “Let’s get you registered, and check over the conference room as soon as you like.”

“Thank you, Corban. We’re looking forward to a stimulating experience here.” Blackburn paused before the entrance, soaked in a view of the woods leading to the lake. “This could be a nice place to ride out Y2K, if there’s really a need to. The scenery, a variety of plant life to intrigue a botanist, the peacefulness.” The director smiled indulgently.

As they were finishing the registration process, Ryder offered him a restricted master key for the main rooms they were using, but Blackburn chuckled that was O.K. because a couple of members could concoct skeletons. With thanks, a key to his own room in hand, he went upstairs to reconnoitre and get prepared for welcoming his colleagues.  

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe, Cotaluna Lodge was a refurbished take on a rustic escape, twenty bedrooms on the upper floor, with a main floor conference room overlooking the lake. The light-filled room was complete with leather backed chairs and a large mahogany table. Wood grains enhanced with gold veneer predominated. Ping pong and billiards tables stood in a wing off one end, a pair of desktop computers at private stations on the other. In the spirit of the surroundings, numerous sized plant holders exhibited diverse species, mostly gathered in an adjacent sun room. Martina, the other full-time service staffer, ministered to the varieties of lilies, azaleas, and daffodils, along with the more exotic nightshade and wolf’s bane. There were, in addition, smaller conference rooms on the floor, as the lodge was a popular getaway place for meetings.

Of the other twelve rooms available at the lodge, six were booked at this time, with those guests mingling separately. But the lodge was expected to be filled for Friday night, especially given the once-in-a-lifetime New Year’s Eve to the millennium.

Within the next hour the other seven members arrived.   


Four o’clock witnessed the first official gathering, wine flowing and the cheeses enticing. Blackburn sought their attention, declaring, “Fellow members of ATAS, let us toast another successful year with our investments – and look forward, hopefully, to a smooth transition to the year 2000!”

‘Hear, hear’ made the rounds, with a couple takes on ‘Let’s damn well hope so!’

As members broke into conversational groups, Tyrone Stanley, book specialist and oldest member present, pulled aside Mitchell Banks, a music conductor in his late 40s, who was providing a prized wine for the treasure hunt at the end of Thursday’s meeting.  “Hey, Mitch, how about giving a hint of what tasty delight awaits someone’s cellar, or maybe table, tomorrow?” Stanley’s eyes seemed to be transfixed with anticipation.

Banks tried to exude non-committal. “Maybe you’d like to offer me one of your Les Paul custom guitars, as a way to get a head start.”   

Stanley demurred. “Since mine are worth at least ten thousand each, I think not. Tell you what, let’s try another tune”. He looked around, lowered his voice. “Perhaps I can talk with you privately for a couple of minutes.”

Nearer a lake-side window, Katy Heath, owner of an impressive collection of Canadian and U.S. coins, passed a glass to Melanie Quinn, a hypnotherapist, possessor of what she self-amusedly called a ‘timeless’ collection of watches.  Although Katy was a few years older, having recently turned 42, her more dedicated skin regimen made them appear the same age. Melanie casually looked past her, then commented, almost to herself, “Actually, I’ve here before. Two or three years ago, once in spring and once in fall. Beautifully quiet walks in the woods. Quite a variety of plant life, some marvellous birds. Relaxing weekends by myself…beer in hand…the outside bar, featuring their own brand, by the way, ‘Pine Needle’.” She looked at Katy. “Don’t you think beer tastes better in the fall?”

Ms. Heath felt her habitual tenseness ease. “That’s a funny question, I don’t know. I’m more of a wine person, and that tastes good all year.” She paused. When Ms. Quinn tipped her head back, she followed suit. “Some of my flights coming back from out west descend over this area, probably at about 15,000 feet. Anyway, I’m glad I made it here. It’s certainly down to earth.” She smiled at her own attempt at irony.

David Broughton, a software developer, somewhat brash about being youngest member of the club, approached the women. He popped in with “Hey, ladies. Nice location, especially if you like to listen to loons at night. Sadly, sometimes I do. You see their computers here, practically outdated. Glad I brought my laptop.”

Ms. Heath sighed as she gave him a once-over. “I trust you also brought one or two of those so impressive sports’ hero cards, so the jock types around can drool over them.” At Broughton’s defensive look, she added, “But, of course, I’m sure you’ll have them protected in those cozy display cases.” Broughton frowned and shook his head.

As this conversation drifted off, they looked around the room to gauge the general mood. Stanley was now in a seemingly heated exchange with Banks. Standing almost between them, like a tennis net, was antique dealer Torin Currie, the second oldest member attending. All three ware intently viewing a notebook, Banks particularly anxious. Cameron Sanders, a 42 year old craft beer maker and collector of rare whiskies, apparently had been part of the group and was walking away, head held high. The other members paid attention, but stayed on the sidelines.

As the cocktail hour wound down, members were gradually strolling into the dining room for dinner, splitting off to their two tables, set in a cozy alcove. Ms. Quinn engaged in a sotto voce conversation with Sanders, until Blackburn joined them with typical boisterousness. At the other table Ms. Heath and Broughton renewed their verbal thrust and parry, which broke into laughter at the intercession of Currie.

Both lodge director Ryder and Alina Munroe, his multi-tasking assistant, helped the ATAS members ensure a sumptuous four-course meal was enjoyed by all. Alina was just younger than her boss, also in good physical condition, in her case enhanced by excursions as a survivalist. Her appealing looks probably didn’t hurt her getting opportunities to engage in conversations with some of the male participants.

In the spirit of his treasure hunt offering, coming one day before the end of 1999 and the foggy bank of Y2K, Mitchell Banks dubbed it ‘The Wine 20K’ event, in tribute to his contribution: a bottle of 1978 Dom Pérignon Rosé, most recently appraised at almost $20 thousand CDN. Banks made an elaborate, dramatic toast, with a few grains of resignation, to open the dinner.  “Nicely put,’” declared Blackburn, “and thanks for the opportunity to win the most valuable treasure we’ve ever had to hunt.” ‘Just make sure the rest is safe’, Stanley muttered under his breath, then looking around the room, said, “I believe we all truly appreciate this, Mitchell.” Some applause ensued. With a nod to this elevated attention, Banks said, “Thank you all, I hope you find it a tough, but not unfair, challenge when you get the clue.”

He stepped down from the lectern and paused, as he saw the others were watching him. He gulped hard. “I know most of you are not worried like me. I’m apprehensive about the day after tomorrow. Y2K could be bad! A harsh, new reality. And what am I looking at? Higher storage costs, higher insurance, maybe the markets tanking… a lot to worry about.”

Response was mute. Currie spoke up, “I know my hardwood antiques will still have a market next year. Folks, our portfolios are strong and diversified, we’ll be O.K. Mitch, all of us, let’s not rock the boat, dreaming up worst case scenarios!”

Blackburn, his big arms draped around Stanley and Sanders, ventured his glass half-full perspective. “Look, many large institutions around the world, and certainly here, have run tests and simulations, and believe they’re well prepared with contingency plans. Right, guys?” Stanley and Sanders summoned their best supportive grins. Meanwhile, Ms. Quinn stared at her watch, a Cartier from her collection. Broughton and Currie looked at the trio reflectively. Ms. Heath spoke up, “After all, commerce is still going on as planned. Many of my colleagues are still working overnight on Friday and on Saturday.” To eyebrows raised at her, she added, “Not me, I almost always have New Year’s Day off.”

Fortuitously timed to dilute some of the edge, Sanders had arranged for numerous sample cases of his company’s products to be delivered to the lodge, to be served as long as into New Year’s Eve as supplies lasted. In fact, these included not only a few cartons of praised lagers and pale ales, but also one or two small-run test beers, featuring exotic fruit or flora additives. At the suggestion of Ms. Quinn, he had offered to gift the leftover stock to the lodge, and director Ryder was surprised and appreciative. Meanwhile, Banks provided a quality red/white wine package for Ryder and his staff, however, got the club to pay for it.

Increased consumption of alcohol coincided with increased camaraderie.

Always an inevitable, yet somehow spontaneous, event, the volunteer talent show featured a few twists. Katy Heath, caching her often testy manner, demonstrated that her knowledge of coins coincided with adeptness, including them in magic illusions along with a couple of card tricks, one of which involved finding a missing card in a locked box. There was a moment of levity – except for one obvious member – when she feigned that one of Broughton’s valuable baseball cards was also in the box, its corners apparently nicked.  Then there was Tyrone Stanley’s ability to give the Latin version of any variety of fauna or flora the others could call out.  He was chided for indulging in too much explicit detail, especially about potentially toxic plants, which a few found unsettling. In a much different vein, Connor Blackburn showed how well he knew and could handle beer, being able to identify diverse ingredients with his eyes and nose covered, and without any regurgitating. His capacity to remain sensate while wrapping up the evening festivities was impressive.

Thursday morning highlighted an outside speaker dispensing tips about making tax minimizing strategies routine, such as in deducting expenses for professional development, and an update about capital gains. Torin Currie observed, as though a mantra, “Tax planning for investments is time well invested”.

When asked for his opinion about the threat of Y2K, the speaker begged off, except for an oblique remark about it hopefully turning out to be ‘just another number’.  

The afternoon session continued the serious tone. First, each member spoke about conditions affecting their asset classes, trying not to get sucked into Y2K tangents. Then, a round table discussion, focused more on trends, good and bad, again trying to avoid tangents. When someone broached that it was now less than thirty-six hours to the end of 1999, conversation circled to the elephant in the room.

As the most pessimistic of those present, Banks ventured, “The near future looks like a dust storm. I don’t want to be caught in it”. To no one in particular, “Do you?”

“Ah”, intoned Currie as if doing an ethereal voice-over, “let us appreciate, the owls are not what they seem”.  

“Is that some obscure cultural reference?” chirped Ms. Heath. Currie mouthed, ‘think early 90s cult classic TV’. Broughton and Ms. Quinn stared at him, then at each other, but neither spoke.

Blackburn chirped in. “In this case the owls fly on circuits.” Twirling his Mont Blanc pen, he continued, “We’ve compared notes about properties based on markets we understand. As Mitch has alluded to…well, rather directly…seems to me, now we should assess how vulnerable our collections are to system vulnerabilities. For example, what about major power failures affecting air-controlled environments we absolutely need? Like I do for my older roadsters and coupes. A show of hands, who here besides me keeps spare generators at their homes and storage facilities?”

Acknowledgements came from a few.

“As long as it’s not a big deal I’ll be O.K.”, suggested Broughton, “but I’m still leaning toward optimistic. Yeah, my stuff isn’t that hard to take care of.”

“Same with mine.” piped in Ms. Heath. “Better than a coin toss.”

“So, some of you really are not concerned?” pursued Banks. “Good for you,” he ventured, with sarcasm. “Am I going to benefit from tighter supplies because some wine supplier inventories may go bad? Or is going to hurt me because of the market disruption, plus the extra expenses to protect my inventory? Or even something else.”

“Well”, suggested Ms. Quinn, “at least one very expensive bottle less after today.”

“That assumes one of you finds it in time”, he retorted, not warmly.

After further pendulum shifts between anxiety and optimism, there was general agreement that at least all should agree to keep in touch over the next couple of days, especially if anything dire might be happening with their beloved holdings.

His watch showing three o’clock imminent, Blackburn spoke up to get the others’ attention. “O.K., ladies and gentlemen! It’s time to search for this year’s hidden prize. Our contributor, Mitchell Banks, will describe what we’re looking for, and give us what he assures is a legitimate clue as to where we might find it. Keep in mind, we have the whole eastern section of the first floor set aside for us. That means the conference room and its connections, plus the other four rooms, to the marked off entry to the lobby. So there’s time to check out the whole area. If you’re quick enough. Remember though, successful or not, we’re all to be back here by 4:45. If no one finds the bottle, Mr. Banks will tell us, proudly I’m sure, where it is, and he keeps it. We hope to wrap things up a little after 5:00. Any questions? O.K., Mitch, the stage is yours.”

Merci, monsieur Blackburn.” Banks raised a full scale size photo of a bottle, but of a later vintage of Dom Pérignon. “The one you’ll be looking for is quite similar to this one. But if you want to see exactly what the real one looks like…”, he looked around, challenging, “you know what you have to do.”

Indulgent looks was the response.

“As far as the clue is concerned, here it is…

(End of part one)

Innovative Ways to Recognize CANADA DAY in 2019

Another CANADA DAY is on the horizon, this coming Monday.

What can Canadians do to celebrate, this first day of the second half of the calendar year?

  • Consume red and white beverages all day
  • Bar-b-que everything with maple syrup
  • Find an American history book, and write in a ‘u’ to the spelling of words like honor and color
  • Play mini-putt golf with fresh strawberry balls
  • Watch at least two hours of authentic Canadian TV programming
  • Take a trip across the country via Google Earth
  • Wrap a Canadian flag around your mailbox, since there’s no delivery this day anyway
  • Spend some time during the day in each of the Canadian time zones
  • Convince young children there’s more daylight because fireworks need extra time to burst in red and white
  • Invite friends over to debate which revised version of the national anthem should be sung

Be sure, of course, that any activity engaged in happens politely.

A Glossary of Modern Urban Potholes

A combination of highly unfavourable freeze/thaw conditions and less focus on roadway maintenance has resulted in the worst springtime driving conditions in Canada’s capital city in recent memory (i.e. 35 plus years).

It should be noted that this has not only been impacting vehicles with four, or more, tires.  For those of us who like to bicycle, moped, or in some cases even just walk, the circumstances range from unpleasant to daunting in too many places.

The variety of cuts and holes in paved areas has become so voluminous that a category of names is being established for them.  Here are ‘popular’ ones in our region:

  • Aqua crater, a hole with depth up to 10 cm which frequently fills with water and so can provide a hidden dip in proceeding
  • Old rail, as in an imbedded metal sensor showing through crumbling surfaces at intersections
  • Road tube remnant, namely indentation formed by tube counter smashed from volume impacts
  • Cut groove web, as in where pavement at vehicle intersection stops is worn down
  • Reptile cut, with a spine look, which incorporates a hodgepodge of revealed sensors or tubes
  • Cave in, where a soft surface hides vulnerable, undercut asphalt
  • Line of insanity, which is displayed as several metres or more of continuous breakage
  • Danger dodge, which means little reaction time to unexpected locations encountered with little warning
  • Gauntlet, as in having to navigate through a range of cracks both to the left and to the right
  • Trap, as in little reaction time to craters where there is only low to zero margin of error in avoiding
  • Manhole, occurring around manholes, as cracks around them starting to create a widening circle of crumble
  • Depression, as with reaching an appreciable, unavoidable drop
  • Patch-on-patch, as evidenced frequently subsequent to road maintenance patching efforts which become a quilt of unevenness
  • Rivulet crack, as a long, thin stream acting as discomforting accompaniment
  • Bumping up, referring to fill-ins which rise above the roadway, creating turbulence felt physically

It may be that one has to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, but pavement cracks are harder to swallow.


Being in ‘Ahh’ Voice

An article in the April issue of Psychology Today focuses on an issue familiar with those of us in Toastmasters, but to some extent with a somewhat different, even favourable, position.

One goal in Toastmasters continuously is to reduce, ideally weed out, filler words and sounds; the point of view expressed in Psychology Today is that the person or circumstances dictate some flexibility in applying such a strategy. (more…)

TOP 10 Double-Edged Benefits of Spring

After a very tough winter, slowing ebbing away this week officially but not in evidence, let’s remember that some expressions shift to another side of their connotations…

  • ‘White out conditions’ refer mainly to the need to correct typos
  • ‘Bundling up’ means trying to combine services for a cheaper rate
  • ‘Skating on thin ice’ focuses on one’s status in the workplace or relationships
  • A ‘Blanket of snow’ reverts to its rightful place as a soft assessment of political bafflegab
  • ‘Breaking the ice’ relates to reducing the size of ice cubes for drinks
  • The ‘tip of the iceberg’ alludes to the gradual rise of problems not previously evident in a project
  • Dealing with a ‘cold snap’ means handling a number of people feeling weakened by a virus
  • ‘Putting something on ice’ becomes a desirable option for diluting the effects of heat
  • Being ‘left out in the cold’ becomes more hurtful, because it’s not dependent on temperature
  • Feeling ‘snowed under’ identifies the emergence of projects put on hiatus during the winter




Maybe an ETF

As a category of options for individual investors, ETFs have become increasingly popular since the dawning of the new millennium.

An ETF, or Exchange Traded Fund, offers opportunity to be exposed to a vast array of segments of the marketplace, including uncommon and emerging.  Part of their flashy appeal comes from availability at relatively minimal cost, i.e. management fees.

There is greater transparency than with traditional mutual funds, concerning both fees and underlying holdings. (more…)


TOP 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

via TOP 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

TOP 10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

The last year of the second decade of the new millennium is upon us; goals both new and refined remain to be clarified & charged up…

  • Lose weight by carrying fewer heavy memories and hefty resolutions
  • Cut and paste pictures of yourself on scenes of faraway places to reduce the size and expense of your bucket list
  • Resolve not to worry about stock market volatility by focusing instead on using more coupons
  • Promise yourself that the next time a fork in the road appears, you’ll take the tines necessary to consider what lies ahead
  • Establish a time capsule business for multi-generational inheritances
  • Discover a new species and become its trusted advisor in multilateral negotiations
  • Memorize the first and last lines of classic books so you sound like you are well read
  • Develop a new social networking site which functions to pass judgement on other social networking sites
  • Start up a Fisherman’s almanac with multiple choice weather predictions allowing the reader to act like a paid forecaster
  • Take a study at home course on how to interact more proactively with others

Objectives like these should set the stage for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Toast Time

A mini presentation that the vast majority of us likely have to make at one time or another is the Toast.

Whether it’s at a family gathering, or at a send-off for a friend or co-worker, this mini-speech is one where we want to make the best impression possible: on the person or group being saluted with the Toast, and on attendees who depend on us to elevate the occasion with our words and gusto. (more…)