Friday, December 7, 2018

Humans, Economics and Grover, Oh My! 
Recommended Reading Selections 

If you are looking for some holiday reading, I have recently finished several books that I found intriguing, mind-boggling and definitely entertaining. I have added my own brief comments on each book.

Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari: A study of how we got here and where we might be going. Unlike some books on our evolution, Harari has written this book in easy to understand language and provided well illustrated examples. When you are finished reading, the bibliography provides a litany of other choices if you would like to further delve into this subject.

Command and Control – Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser: This author gives a complete and compelling history of nuclear weapons. Written in a novel format and with potentially difficult terms and nuclear topics very well researched and presented, you will be left astonished that we are actually still here.

Freakonomics – A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: If you want to look at different aspects of the world’s economics, this book will take you on a provocative journey with curious new ways to look at everyday life. One surprising fact that is well demonstrated: For a child, a swimming pool is exponentially more dangerous than a gun. A truly fun read!

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American Meal by Eric Schlosser: This book should be required reading for everyone. Examining far more than the influence of fast food on our society, you will certainly be appalled at how the agricultural system actually operates and be horrified at how so called ‘food’ gets into those paper wrappers and cardboard boxes. Please note this book has graphic parts, but these are necessary to show the true horrors that will definitely affect your psyche and, hopefully, encourage you to change for the better.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede: Since the other books on my recommended list will leave you with disturbing thoughts, this book will restore your faith in your fellow humans. This is the story of how the beautiful people of Gander came together to care for and give comfort to the thousands of people who landed in their town when the airspace was closed on 9/11 and planes were forced to land at the nearest airport. One touching example, is how astonished a New York police officer felt when he was brought to a home, handed a towel, shown how to work the TV remote and told to stay as long as he wanted and to just leave the door unlocked when he left. His surprise at being left alone in a complete stranger’s home showed him there was still kindness and trust in a world that had seemed to go mad in the manner of a couple of hours.

Finally, if you have a child you can read to, you may want to choose a family favourite of ours: The Monster at the End of This Book by Grover from Sesame Street. However, in order to make it authentic, you must do your best Grover imitation and read with an animated voice that will have your child giggling with delight.

Pauline Milner

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Take a look inside FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. My article on the wrap up of the 2018 festival is posted here: Festival. My article on a wrap up of the 2018 festival is posted here: Women's Post Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Dear Santa.

Hey! It's me, Casey Alonzo here in Willow Grove, New Brunswick.

My Mommy is writing this letter for me because I do not have opposable thumbs and when I try to type I feel like Christopher Columbus (hunt for it, find it, land on it).

I have been extra, extra, extra, good this past year. Okay, maybe remove one of the 'extras' because there was that one time that I chewed up the....well, you'll see when you come.

Apparently there is a rule that says I can only ask for three things from you. Would you please leave a copy of that rule book when you visit, because I am a bit skeptical about the number.

I would like to have a package of toilet paper (16 double rolls, please). I am not fussy about the brand because I am just going to shred it anyway.

If you could leave a lifetime supply of my favourite food group - bacon - that would be awesome. I love the other three food groups too - pork chops, steak and treats - but bacon is simply the best!

Mommy and Daddy throw my ball for me all the time, but they get tired. If you could find me a ball launcher, that would be wonderful! You see, you just plug it in, fill it up with balls and I am good to go for hours! It is also good for my cardiovascular system, you know, since I eat so much bacon!

Now, there is just one other thing that I would like and since it is for after Christmas, it counts toward next year, right? Right?! I would love to have a pet. Now, when I say 'pet', I do not mean a kitten, cat, or any member of the feline family. They are just attitudes with fur. Also, fish are off the list too. They are tasty, but I am not a fan of sushi.

I think the perfect pet for me would be either a pig or a skunk. Pigs are just cool and skunks would keep the unwantables away, namely the cats that keep walking through the yard just to annoy me.

Please remember all of my friends, especially those in Puerto Rico who have had a tough year. Fun fact! Did you know that I was born in Puerto Rico?

I am going to bed early on Christmas Eve, so you can come any time after 8 PM. Since we do not have a chimney, the alarm code is 1234. I will leave you a piece of cheesecake and some bacon for the reindeer.

Safe travels, Santa! I am so excited that you will soon be here.


Casey Alonzo

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dear Wayfair Peoples:

I was excited to visit your website this morning, but now I feel I have been duped by false advertising.

Your commercial on TV says, "Wayfair, we have just what you need."

Well, you see, I need bacon. To me, bacon is a food group.

When my Mommy was away from her laptop, I went into her wallet and got her credit card. This is no small achievement, considering I have four feet and no opposable thumbs! Then, straight to the Wayfair site.

Imagine my disappointment when I searched for "bacon". I found a bacon jar candle, bacon ornament and even a bacon decorated pet bed. Those are all fine things, but they do not fill my tummy, you know what I'm sayin'?

I also found a bacon and eggs cheese server. Since cheese does not come from pigs or chickens......???????

So, Wayfair, you do not have "just what I need" because I need bacon.

I am going to watch some Scooby Doo videos now.

Would you please let me know when I can order some bacon from your site?

Thanks, Wayfair Peoples.

Casey Alonzo Milner
Willow Grove, New Brunswick


Friday, October 27, 2017

Forget Clowns
Nail Clippers Are Casey's Phobia

One of the tasks that comes with being a responsible puppy parent is nail clipping. You would think this would be a relatively easy and stress free chore. Distract your furry friend with a crispy piece of bacon while you nonchalantly cut their nails.

However, when it comes to our little guy, nothing will hold the little worm still while getting a much needed pedicure. Since he came to us at three months old, we have tried just about everything and nothing works. You would think he could sit still for just a few minutes. Nope. Nada. Nyet. As soon as he sees the nail clippers coming his way he makes a run for it.

When it comes to pedicure time, Casey thinks he is a freakin' Kardashian and has to get top of the line treatment at the vet with a hefty price tag attached. They give him sedation and off to dreamland he goes while his nails are cut and filed.

Of course, Casey is not stupid. At said vet, he gets to visit with Daniel the bird, drink water out of the perpetual fountain, check out the resident cats and get showered with attention. When he wakes up, he gets treats and everyone makes a fuss over him.

We know the vet is one of Casey's favourite places because even though he is sound asleep at 7:30 AM, he promptly wakes up and runs to the door when asked, "Do you want to go to the vet?" He actually does not even mind if a trip to the vet means a needle in his butt and a cold light stuck in his ear.

Since there seems to be no way that Casey will subject himself to a home pedicure, every six weeks or so, we will schlep him to the vet, debit card in hand, so he can get his manicure and be treated like a prince.

Pauline Milner

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Got Snow?  Prepare Your Car and Follow These Recommendations and You Can Give Winter A Raspberry!

Even those that love winter would rather race down a hill in a toboggan rather than careen off the road and into the ditch when the snow starts piling up. If you take the time to ready your vehicle for the upcoming snow season, you will not cringe when you hear the snow plow go by while you lay cuddled under the warm blankets.

Keep your vehicle regularly maintained and not only will you be safer behind the wheel, you will be doing the environment a favour as well.  

These recommendations will insure you are ready for winter and will save you money.  Finish them as soon as possible and you can enjoy the winter wonderland while others scramble through the snow to get what they need for their emergency kit and wait in line to get their tires changed.

Slow Down!  If you drive 100 km/hr (60 miles/hr) instead of 115 km/hr (70 miles/hr), you will lower your fuel consumption by as much as 12%.  If you do a lot of city driving and you know you will have a long wait, such as at a train crossing, turn off your engine.  Idling for more than a couple of minutes burns unnecessary fuel.

Keep your windows up.  When you drive with the windows rolled down, you create an aerodynamic drag that will increase your fuel consumption by at least 10%.  HINT!  Driving with your windows down and air conditioning on can burn as much as 15% more fuel.

You can use up to 4% more fuel if your tire pressures are uneven.  Make it a habit to make sure your tire pressures are equal on a regular basis.  HINT!  Check it whenever you change your oil or every 5000 KMs (3000 miles).
Do not neglect the regular vehicle maintenance schedule in your owner's manual.  You will lose upwards of 4% in fuel economy if you ignore those regular checkups.

Fill your gas tank on cooler mornings.  Fuel pumps are calculated by volume.  Gas is denser when it is cold.  It is worth putting on that pair of gloves to get the most gas for your money.  HINT: During the cold winter months, do not let your gas gauge go below one half of a tank.  You will be thankful for the fuel if you become stranded in a storm.

Installing an electric block heater will make your vehicle start easier as the engine will already be warm.  Inside, the temperature will rise quickly giving you a more comfortable ride.

Book an appointment with your mechanic.  Ask if they have a winter preparation package as most service stations do.  On this visit is, make sure all of your vehicle's components are in good condition.  Also, you should insure all fluids are topped off and the washer fluid container is full.  HINT: Never fill your windshield washer container with water.  It will freeze when the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

 Always keep a vehicle maintenance record.  This can be as simple as having a pad of paper in the glove box to document service calls.

When your vehicle's underside gets coated in salt, on a nice day, put a sprinkler on the hardest spray setting and turn it on under the vehicle, moving it around to cover the entire area. You will prevent salt from corroding things like your exhaust pipe.

Plan your route so you do not have to backtrack to stores when you have a bunch of errands to run.  You will save time and fuel.  HINT:  Whenever you take a shorter route, putting fewer kilometres on your odometer is an added bonus.

If you get stranded, check to be sure your exhaust pipe is clear so you can turn on your vehicle for about 10 minutes every half hour to keep warm.  HINT: Stay with your car whenever possible.  Only leave if you know where you are and that you can make it to safety. A cold car is much better shelter than a freezing snow bank.

Never leave home without your cell phone and make sure it is fully charged.  HINT: A car charger is a great investment.

Make it a habit to let someone know your planned route and your estimated arrival time when travelling longer distances or if poor weather is forecast.  If you have an issue, anyone looking for you will know where to start.  Always check for weather updates just prior to your departure and be prepared to delay your trip. Anything less than a last opportunity to pick up a 10 million dollar check is not worth your safety and, even then, well, could you not just live with your current bank balance and eat baloney for a while?

 Encountering the 'Bridge Freezes Before Road' sign should make you wake up and pay attention.  Cold air gathering under a bridge or overpass will cool the temperature of the road faster which may cause black ice to form.  Decrease your speed and proceed with caution.  HINT: If you hit black ice, try to steer the vehicle straight and let the antilock brakes do their job.  You will feel the brake pedal pulsating under your foot.  Resist the urge to pump the brake, just continue to apply steady pressure until you can regain control of the vehicle.

Make sure you know the jargon terms relating to the weather and what they mean.  Freezing Rain: Rain freezes as it hits the road creating a coat of ice on roadways.  Sleet:  Rain becomes ice pellets which land on the road making it slippery.  Wind Chill:  What the temperature 'feels like' outside rather than what the thermometer reads.   Winter Weather Advisory: Poor weather is expected and you should take precautions.  Winter Storm Watch:  A winter storm is likely in your area.  You should be ready.  Winter Storm Warning: A winter storm is imminent.  Be sure your emergency supplies are well stocked.  Blizzard Warning:  High winds are expected to produce blowing snow that will considerably reduce visibility.  You should not be driving.  Frost/Freeze Warning: Temperatures that are below freezing are expected.  Flash Freeze:  Temperatures above zero degrees Celsius are expected to drop rapidly to below zero degrees Celsius.  Any water on the road will freeze, sometimes in a matter of minutes.  Driving is not advisable.

If you do not have a road side assistance program, you may want to consider purchasing a membership with AAA (American Automobile Association) or a similar membership in your area.  Decent coverage is available for just over $100 a year.  They offer many beneficial services that include towing, changing a flat tire, paying for a locksmith when you lock your keys in your vehicle and travel insurance. You will also enjoy perks at a selection of businesses that may include free upgrades to hotel rooms, discounts at restaurant chains or value added services when you present your membership card.

When you wake up to snow covering your vehicle, take the time to clear it off completely.  Snow left on your car can blow off, possibly blinding the driver behind you and you can get a fine from the police.  Also, make sure all of you exterior mirrors are clear of ice and snow and give your headlights and taillights a wipe with a damp cloth before heading out.

Insure your head is positioned correctly when you are in the driver's seat.  A head rest should reach, at least, as high as the top of your ears.  This will give you maximum protection from whiplash in the case of a rear end collision. 

Have your car washed and a coat of wax applied before the temperature drops below 12 degrees Celsius (53 Fahrenheit).  Waxing will help protect against salt damage and snow will fall off easier.

 Purchase a set of water resistant vinyl or rubber car mats.  They will protect the carpeted mats that came with your vehicle and make clean up a breeze. After all, do you not have better things to do on a Saturday morning than shampooing your car mats in the garage?

 Invest in a set of good winter tires.  Even if you have what are characterized as 'all season' tires, they will never give you the performance a winter tire can provide so do not be fooled by overzealous sales pitches .  Also, there is a trend toward making the use of winter tires law.  HINT: Put your winter tires on by October 1st and avoid the long wait that will happen after the first snow fall.

Having a multi tool in your vehicle that can break a window and cut a seatbelt could prove to be a lifesaver.  You can purchase a dual model for about $15 (US dollars).

Keep some lock de-icer at home and at your place of work.  Locks can freeze in cold weather.  De-icer works, but only if it is not in your glove box when you need it.  No de-icer?  A hair dryer will do the job as long as you have some place to plug it in.  HINT:  Never try to force you key when trying to unlock a frozen door.  They break a lot easier than you would think.

Use a cover if you have to park on the street to protect your vehicle from excessive salt.  Even if you park in a driveway, a vehicle cover will keep the snow off thus saving you cleaning time and preserving your paint job.   HINT:  If you purchase a bright colour and become stranded, put the cover on the car so you can readily be seen.  The cover will act as an insulator too, helping to keep the heat in the vehicle and guarding against drafts.

If you find yourself stuck in snow without a shovel, a hubcap is a good substitution.

Leave emergency contact information in your glove compartment.  In the unfortunate case of an accident, police will check there for any available information they can use to reach a relative or friend.  Please do not leave the contact information of someone you frequently travel with. Also, put a contact on your cell phone under the heading 'ICO' (In case of emergency).

If you are stranded in your vehicle on the side of the road,  put a flare about 15 feet (4 1/2 Meters) behind your car.  Many drivers have the bad habit of drifting into the shoulder.  A flare is guaranteed to get their attention and is also a good tool to alert other drivers that you require assistance. 

Booster cables are only good to have if you know how to use them.  Clamp one red booster cable to the booster vehicle's positive post.  Clamp one red booster cable to the stalled vehicle's positive post.  Clamp the black booster cable to the booster vehicle's negative post.  Clamp the black booster cable to any bare metal surface under the hood of the stalled vehicle.  Start the booster vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes.  After a few minutes, start the stalled vehicle and let it idle for a few minutes.  Disconnect the black booster cable from the formerly stalled vehicle.  Disconnect the black booster from the booster car.  Disconnect the red booster cable from the booster car.  Disconnect the red booster cable from the formerly stalled vehicle.  Drive, or at least run, the once stalled car for approximately one half hour in order for the battery to get sufficiently recharged. PLEASE NOTE:  Occasionally you will see blue and black booster cables.  Black is always the negative cable, any other colour used is a positive cable.

Learn how to change your vehicle's windshield wipers and keep a spare pair in your vehicle.  If a wiper breaks during travel and you do not have a spare to install, or if you do not know how to install the blade, you are stuck where you are until help arrives.

When the supplies on this list are kept in every vehicle you use, you will be capable to handle most emergencies.  Emergency supplies include (but are not limited to) the following:  Properly inflated spare tire that has been checked for leaks, wrench and jack that are specific to the vehicle, collapsible shovel, battery booster cables,  bag of non clumping kitty litter (to be used for traction), general tool kit, flashlight with extra batteries (put the batteries backwards in the flashlight to guard against it being accidently turned on), battery powered lantern to use when reading (again, reverse the batteries), reflective 'help' sign you can put in your back window, compass, first aid kit, feminine products,  jug of windshield cleaner (properly mixed), ice scraper, snow brush (one with a handle that can be extended to reach over the roof of your vehicle is a good choice), non-perishable high energy foods (dried fruit, cashews or other nuts, protein bars, cookies),  4 litres of water for every available seat, flares, extra warm clothing (mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and a good pair of snow boots), transistor radio, ABC fire extinguisher, plastic bags (for sanitary purposes), three day supply of all prescription medications for everyone in your home, a few magazines and books (boredom will quickly set in if you are stranded),  a small amount of cash (well hidden) and a disposable cell phone (check occasionally to see if it needs charging). This may seem like an excessive exercise but ask anyone who has been stranded without proper preparations which emergency item they wish had been available to them and you can guarantee it is on the above list. If you take care when packing, minimal space will be needed. Utilize the spaces around the spare tire and fill the snow boots with supplies. In addition to keeping you hydrated, the water will provide extra weight useful for traction purposes.

All of the preceding recommendations are important.  It would prove difficult to prioritize one over another as they all serve valuable purposes.

If you do have to choose only some, due to budget or other constraints, adopt the elements that deal with safety first.

When you make safe driving a priority, you help make sure others, including yourself, always reach their destinations.

If you are going to be a statistic, you should endeavour to be a positive one.

Pauline Milner

It Is That Time Again!  20 Things You Need to do to Get Ready For Winter!

 It is time to get an early start on winterizing your home.  These 20 suggestions will save you money and make sure you are ready for the coldest months of the year.

1.  Check for air leaks around windows.  On a windy day, move your damp hand around the edges of your windows.  Any drafts will feel cool on your hand.  If you detect any air leaks, you should seal the window.  You can purchase a window insulation kit that will cover 5 windows for around thirty dollars.

2.  You should also use your damp hand to detect drafts under doors.  If you have an air leak, a draft stopper is the quickest solution.  You can purchase one for anywhere from ten dollars and up, or, you can easily make your own draft stopper.  Use anything from around the house that can be made into a tube.  A towel or a leg from an old pair of jeans are great choices.  Sew the item into a tube and fill it with rice or kitty litter, both will provide good insulation.  If there are drafts around the doors, you can buy weather stripping for about four dollars per seventeen feet.  Note!  Be sure to check your patio doors too!

3.  Have your furnace serviced and change the filters. If your furnace is not working efficiently, it can increase your heating bill by as much as 38%.  A service call will cost between ninety and one hundred and twenty dollars.

4.  Set your ceiling fans to turn clockwise.  The fan will push the hot air back down into the room.  If your ceilings are higher than eight feet, you may want to consider adding ceiling fans at a cost of about seventy five dollars each. 

5.  After using your oven, leave the door open while the oven cools.  The residual heat will go into your kitchen.  Only do this if there are no small children in the area.

6.  Put caulking around your pipes under the sink where they go into the wall.  Caulking guns cost around twelve dollars.  You can use painter's caulking tubes that adhere to wood, plaster, drywall and masonry.  One tube of caulking goes for around three dollars.  Note!  This also acts as an excellent fire stop!

7.  Invest in a programmable thermostat.  You can buy one for fifty dollars and it will quickly pay for itself.  Program it to lower the temperature during the hours when no one is home and when everyone is sleeping.

8.  Insulating any visible pipes can save you 6% to 10% on your energy bill.  Use pre-slit pipe foam at a cost of six dollars per three feet.  Cut the pipe to size and fasten it with duct tape, available for four dollars or less a roll.

9.  Check the insulation in your attic.  It should be at least 12 inches thick and no floor joists should be visible.  If you need to add insulation, you can expect to pay about ten dollars per bag.  Note!  In the winter, if the snow melts off your roof, you are losing heat through your attic.  Keep adding insulation until the snow stays.

10.  Have your chimney cleaned.  Build up on the inside of your chimney is a fire hazard.  Also, make sure there is a cap on your chimney, available for sixty dollars, to prevent debris, birds and squirrels from entering.  The average cost of a cleaning is one hundred and sixty dollars, but costs vary widely by area.  Note!  Keep your chimney draft closed when not in use so heat does not escape.

11.  Install light curtains, or leave uncovered, south facing windows in order to take full advantage of the sunlight hours.
12.  Some shrubs and trees need to be protected with burlap.  If there is a farmer nearby, you can ask if they have any empty feed sacks you can have.  Feed sacks are often made of burlap.  Also, if you are near a seafood restaurant, oysters are shipped in burlap bags that they would probably give you for free.

13.  Do not clean out the expired flowers from the beds.  If left alone for the fall and winter, many of them will re-seed including some annuals.  This will lower your flower purchasing budget for the spring.

14.  Insure your outside faucet is drained of water and that it is angled downward.  If water is left in the pipe to freeze, the pipe will expand and burst.  Also, drain your garden hose.

15.  Remove any debris from the gutters in your eaves trough.  The debris adds weight to the ice and can cause the gutters to crack.

16.  Drain the gas from your mower or let it run until it is empty.  Do the same with any other of your gas powered outdoor tools.  It is not safe to store gasoline in a shed or garage.

17.  Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of your shed for easy access.

18.  Now is the time to test the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.  It is also a good time to review the fire escape plan with your family.  If you have a monitored alarm system, you can perform a full system test to make sure all of the door contacts, panic buttons, etc. are relaying properly back to the monitoring station. 

19.  Put together a winter survival kit to use in the case of a storm or power outage.  Be prepared to leave your home in the case of any emergency and take your winter survival kit with you.  Items to include are: flashlights and battery powered lanterns with extra batteries (put the batteries in the flashlight and lantern in backwards to guard against them being turned on accidently), transistor radio, candles, matches, fire extinguisher, general household tools (hammer, multi=head screwdriver, multi-tool), non-perishable foods such as canned goods, snacks, peanut butter, juice boxes, five litres of water per person, can opener, paper plates, plastic cutlery (in a power outage you cannot do dishes and you do not want rotting food on plates sitting around), garbage bags, plastic bags (for sanitation purposes, if needed), four day supply of prescription medications, first aid kit, feminine items, cash (bank machines and debit machines will not work in a power outage), copies of important identification for all family members, four day supply of pet food per pet, disposable kitty litter box (if you have a cat), toothbrushes and toothpaste, change of clothing for each family member and a disposable charged cell phone (you will have to check it occasionally to see if it needs to be charged).  Keep these items in duffel bags where you will have easy access to them in an emergency. 

20.  Assemble a winter storm kit for each vehicle in your home.  Items to include are: Flashlight and extra batteries (put the batteries in the flashlight backwards to guard against it being turned on accidently), transistor radio, blankets, first aid kit, bag of kitty litter (for traction), collapsible shovel, windshield scraper and brush, booster cables, emergency flares, help sign, bottled water, a supply of non-perishable food items, box of tissues, plastic bags, hand warmers, extra hats, mittens, and scarves, pair of winter boots, a small amount of cash, extra prescription medications, a back pack that will fit essential items in case you have to leave your vehicle and walk for help and some reading material, in case you are stuck for a long period of time.  Note!  In the winter months, never allow your vehicle to go below half a tank of gas.  If you are stranded, you will be thankful to have ample fuel!

If you can execute all of these suggestions, you will be well equipped to face the oncoming winter.  Even if you only complete some of the recommendations, you will be able to save on your energy bill and who doesn't like to save money?!

Pauline Milner

Humans, Economics and Grover, Oh My!  Recommended Reading Selections  If you are looking for some holiday reading, I have recently f...