The Piano Man

One of the most amazing things about being a step-dad is that you get to watch your kids grow up, learn new things, or develop new talents.

There have been a good number of posts about The-Youngest who loves to play baseball and hockey. I’ve watched him go from being a goalie whose early strategy seemed to be to fall on his face and hope they hit him in the top of his helmet with the puck, to doing great butterfly splits, getting all pro with his glove hand, and learning to play the angles. Oh sure, he still takes more than his fair share of pucks in the face, like it’s a secret tactic of his, but he’s come so far and it’s been so great to see (even at 6 am in the morning.)

But The-Oldest has gone a different route. He’s not a sports guy. He’s a music guy.

Last year in April, he started on the piano and it’s like the two understood each other, like he’d found his soulmate.

He’s gone from plunking away aimlessly to creating freaking sonatas, preludes and piano concertos.

In less than 18 months.

When he wakes up, he races to the piano right after breakfast. When he comes home from school and he goes on the piano. When he finishes supper, he’s on the piano. When he’s asked to go to bed, he says, no, just another few minutes on the piano.

This, my friends, is what it takes to succeed at something. Lots of raw talent followed up by endless hours and hours of practice.

Below are the results. To quote him. “This is my satirical love song. Taking all the pop tropes and having many hidden references. This piece is made for the public. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s everyone’s favorite prelude.”

Please support him on his youtube channel.



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A Prelude to a Prelude – Musical Monday

Well, a new thing. Music Monday.

Being about as musically inclined as a block of concrete, I struggle to understand what The-Oldest is creating.  Like anyone who really doesn’t know much about music, I simply can say, yeah, that sounds great or I love that quiet bit or pass me the donuts, so today, we’re going to start a series on music.

To help me learn and to showcase his awesomeness.

Each week I’ll post something The-Oldest has created, though I would encourage everyone to follow him on that YouTubie thing and get updates directly from him.

First up, his first prelude.

Now, a prelude, according to me is… is a car.

According to him, “It’s a quick piece that, maybe uhm, averages about 2-3 minutes that is, supposed to come before a large piece.” He hasn’t seen a concert where a prelude has been played before the concert, but it used to happen a lot in the old days., (which could be like 1970), “or in operas.”

“For example every single time there is an opera, there is an overture which ack gets you ready for the opera. Like Wagner has preludes (like the wedding march) to every one of his operas. The prelude sets up a mood.”

His prelude sets the mood for an epic piece. “It feels like we’re going somewhere later, like a start to something grand, or like the cutting of a ribbon for a store opening, but going in the store is the cool part.”

He says he changed keys in a rising fashion quite a bit which created a sense of rising tension. He changed it up, though, he added, by suddenly going down in the keys to kill the tension and slow down. Why? Because he wanted to mess with people and try out a new chord.

“The ending is the basic technique of how to make a finale, but it’s a fake one because it’s just the beginning. (the technique is going from a tonic chord to augmented chord). When I reached the very top, I went all the way back down with 6-1 chord combo and finished it with a quick bum-boom.”


For my musical friends, look at the trilling of the middle fingers. OMG, how does he do that? My fingers just cramp up thinking about it. (FYI, the program he’s using is synthesia)

For everyone else, any thoughts?

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Canada Day 2017- When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong

Our lovely view from the Grand Pacific

Ok, so after Nerf Wars, there was still hope that I’d be right, that every vacation needed to be planned, but after an hour or so in the hotel pool, we retired to our room overlooking the Inner Harbour and waited for the fireworks with friends. Things had gone well. Very well. And I greatly feared that I’d have to make an admission.

I was wrong. You could have a good mini-vacation without planning every second of it.

But I held out. We still had the fireworks. Maybe we’d not find a spot to see them. Maybe every single food outlet would be shut down and because we hadn’t booked a reservation, the children would go hungry and be forced to beg for scraps from rich Asians in shiny suits. Maybe, because we had no plan in place, if there was a zombie attack, we’d die while trying to find a good chainsaw.

None of that happened, though.  We had a great dinner with friends in our hotel room overlooking the Inner Harbour. Later, we found a perfect spot for viewing the fireworks, and apart from a couple of asshat punks who kept on shouting m*therf***er this and that while sucking on those stupid vape pipes, we had the most perfect time (and, frankly, what plan would I have made for those idiots other than bringing a good baseball bat?)


Spoons! check it out!

Even the next day, after me getting up early, driving out to visit some friends who were about to head to the Far East (Saskatchewan), we had a fantastic brunch at Spoons (another place I would HIGHLY recommend), played Smash-Up with my best friend (I lost every game), and even had an epic dance-off! (Yes. there’s a video of that, but I’ve been told not to show it if I ever want to wake up again.)

Then even got on an earlier ferry than planned. Plus, though the ferry was booked solid and there looked to be no seats for us to sit down in, we found 4 together.

Like it was planned.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world took this one.

We had the best mini-vacation I’ve ever had in Victoria. Our hotel room had two doors, and a bedroom for each of us. The weather was absolutely perfect. We found parking downtown easily and it was freaking free! We didn’t have any problems with traffic, the food was great where we chose to eat, and no one seemed to hate us for showing up 30 min late.

All with minimal planning.

So, I have to say it.

I was wrong.

The key is to plan just enough. In all honesty, I’ve done the total seat-of-the-pants traveling and it has its challenges, like arriving at 10 pm in Edinburgh and pitching a tent in a flooded soccer field or finding the only room in a town is a serial killer’s murder room (boy, that’s a story, I tell you.)

However, planning every hour simply adds a ton of stress and takes away from the adventure. Part of traveling is not just researching the hell out of an area, then seeing it, no, it’s finding something unexpected, something amazing you hadn’t planned for, something cool to do that you never would have imagined.

The best visit to Victoria ever!

I hate that I missed so many of my friends. I hate that I didn’t get to laugh with them, hear about their lives, tell them my stories, but that’ll all have to happen at another time, or when they come over to visit us.

So, as my parting thought, as I wind up this mini-blog on Victoria, let me tell all my friends out there that it is ok not to plan out everything. You can still have a good time.


A GREAT time.

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Nerf War Tips

Nothing says war like cats and drill-sergeants.

Ok, so you want to play Nerf Wars, do you? I didn’t hear you, DO YOU?!?

First of all, I would suggest rules. Here are some. Or you can read the previous post.

Now let’s take a look at my top 10 tips (plus one from The-Youngest.)

  1. Take accuracy over rapid-fire. Better to hit something than just leave a pile of darts around something.
  2. Ensure your gun works.
  3. Have lots of ammo. Stuff your pockets full. Stuff more down your shirt, your pants, and into your shoes. Running out of ammo means you die.
  4. Have lots of ammo loaded into clips. Big clips. Drum magazines. Stuff these in your belt or pockets.
  5. Cover matters, but this isn’t real war. A tree or trampoline netting works just fine. Your wife, however, should never be used for cover, apparently. NEVER.
  6. Numbers matter. 3 adults with bad guns and no glasses will still put one down 10-year-old with a rapid-fire weapon.
  7. Never let the kids chose your weapons.
  8. Have rules (especially about picking up afterward.)
  9. Wear protective glasses (and a jock because you just know where your children will try to shoot you.)
  10. Have fun and forget about hits and misses, wins and loses, (and whoever hid all the nerf bullets so those using 300 round magazines would not be able to reload.)
  11. (From The-Youngest) Watch, like, 200 videos on Nerf Wars.

And, for those who need to know, here are the top 3 best nerf guns.

  • Sniper time!

    Elite Centurion. (Officially the Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega Series Centurion blaster.) “Joe, did you know these are good for distance? And pretty accurate?”  (Plus, it looks like a sniper rifle.) The downside, low rate of fire. But hey, you can hide up in a tree somewhere and shoot unseen.


  • Fast and Furious. Hyperfire Elite.

    Hyperfire. (Officially the Nerf N-Strike Elite HyperFire blaster.) Snaps out bullets at a horrifically fast rate. Who needs to aim? You just get close and let loose. Downside – Not super accurate but since most battles are fought within 10 feet of each other, this does not matter as much.


Last but not least, darts.

The best nerf darts are, oddly enough, not from Nerf. How weird is that? And to make matters even worse, not all darts work in all the guns. But for a quick recommendation, check it out –Ekind “Waffle” style darts. They are approved by freaking Popular Mechanics!

As I can attest by being hit with a lot of them, these are pretty accurate. (FYI, we got the old darts, the kids hoarded the waffles.)

But above all, have fun.

If you have any suggestions on how to play an epic game of Nerf Wars, let me know!

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Canada Day Epic Nerf War 2017

War is hell

The epic Nerf war of 2017 would be fought in the backyard, a yard full of rocky outcroppings, bushes, trees, chairs and one trampoline.

Rules were set (rules being even better than plans, IMHO.) They were a mix of adult rules and kid rules.

No head shots. (adult rule.)

When you’re hit, you have to stand still until you’re tagged out by a team mate. (kid rule.)

No constant shooting of people who have been tagged out. (adult rule).

No stopping to reload (Kid rule, brilliantly applied to maximize their advantage, as you’ll see below.)

No hitting anyone with weapons (adult rule.)

No one running out into traffic, no one running into the flower beds, no one shooting an ally for fun, no one eating any bullets, no climbing on cars, no digging trenches, no having fits if you lose, no one screaming out things like “Kill them all, kill them!!!!”, and everyone, yes everyone, will pick up the bullets after the war.

A clean battlefield is a happy battlefield.

(ok, let’s face it, when it comes to rules, the parents are always locked and loaded, and ready to go.)

The war should have been fair. 3 adults vs 3 kids. What the adults – especially me – lacked in speed, energy and an ability to scream at the top of our lungs, we made up with cunning, experience and hundreds of hours of playing Call Of Duty.

However, the kids knew this, so they stacked the deck.

Locked and loaded. Hyperfire Elite.

They each had a gun that fired about 300 bullets a second, backed up by drum magazines (at least 2) that force fed a thousand bullets into the barrel.

We had one pistol that had three shots and looked like the Cricket from Men In Black. We had one gun that jammed every two shots. We had a wildly inaccurate rapid-fire rifle that would have been fine had it not had a 6 bullet magazine.

Undaunted, we hid behind rocks, bushes and (in some cases) each other and waited for the onslaught. Blue bullets spitting out of their guns like horizontal hail, screaming like rabid soccer fans, they charged. We moved them down. We won the first game.

In hindsight, I think that was their plan because, after that, they spent the next hour shooting us so many times that I think I still have one bullet lodged in my ear and I looked like I had a bad case of measles from all the direct hits.

However, like the heroic defenders of the Alamo, we fought on, but we were outgunned, outrun, and frankly, outplayed. Seems kids can play Call of Duty as well. The Oldest would march forward like a Terminator with his rapid fire, belt-fed blaster. Fearlessly, he’d advance into a storm of bullets while the younger ones flanked us. We were so focused on hitting the Oldest that we didn’t see the little sneakerlings until it was too late.

The most fun part, though was when the Oldest’s gun jammed and he threw it aside, chasing around his mom while throwing bullets at her, the two of them laughing like crazy.

Panting, an hour later, we called it a day. I want to say we won as much as we lost, but having been mowed down about a hundred times desperately trying to revive The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World after being hit, I can say we likely lost badly.

No prisoners!!!!

No matter. We had a ton of fun. Even The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could be heard shouting battle cries like a Valkyrie filled with berserkergang bloodlust. All I can say is it was lucky we had rules against hitting people with the nerf guns – “You call that shooting, Joe?!?!?! A blind grandmother with Parkinson’s could have hit more than you did! You call yourself a Viking warrior? Get it in gear, buttercup! Arrrrrrrr!!!!!”)

But, panting, sweat dripping from my forehead, as we picked up a zillion little darts, I thought, not for the first time, how lucky I am to have such a great family, such a cool wife, and such great opportunities for fun.

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Canada Day July 1st – Part 1/3

The Youngest Unchained.

Is War Wrong?

I mean, yeah, probably. But a Nerf War? Adults vs kids? That kind of war could be awesome.

That was the idea for the first part of the Canada Day Trip Part Deux. The Youngest had brought over four of his most devastating weapons, his ammo vest and enough nerf bullets that if laid end to end, would encircle the world four times over.

He carried his armaments into the hotel with pride, like an orange-gunned badass from a Tarantino movie. He didn’t aim at anyone. He didn’t have any of his guns loaded. He simply cradled them like a mother cradles a newborn.

So, after me writing in the a.m., all the Asians coming into the café and staring at me like they’d never seen a white man in his underwear sitting down, writing something on a computer, his hair looking like someone had just electrocuted him, we made our way to get some food.

Deprived of my ability to plan every second of the day, I leapt at researching a place. Lots to choose from, though. I mean, hey, this is Victoria. A mecca of good food.

Found a few nearby, but the Shine Café had great reviews, so we went there.

5 Joe stars ***** for the Shine

This place. Wow. I have not had such a good breakfast in a long while. Total Joe five stars. *****.  I tried the Scottish breakfast and despite my heritage, the black pudding made me gag. I haven’t gagged since a string of spaghetti got stuck in my braces and dangled down my throat. To all my ancestors who had to eat black pudding, and couldn’t order an egg McMuffin, I am both impressed and appalled. Haggis suddenly doesn’t seem as bad.

However, everything else, from the eggs to the bacon, to the hash browns were perfectly cooked. The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said her eggs Benny were the best she’d ever had. The Youngest had pancakes the size of his ammo-filled backpack. Even the Oldest said his meal was, “I dunno, ok, I guess.”

So, my first travel recommendation. I’ll make a tab. But try out the Shine if you’re in Victoria. It is an amazing café.

Bellies full, we drove off to the war.

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July 1st Canada Day

Getting up early, are you mad?

You wouldn’t think there’s much joy in getting up early, especially with kids. They’re like little alarm clocks…

Oh, who are we kidding?

Trucks. Jet engines. Kids waking up. Decibal level of noise in that order.

They’re like garbage trucks right outside your window emptying a bin full of glass, chunks of construction metal and concrete.

Now, it’s not something the kids do out of cruelty, no more than a meteor smashes into a planet does it out or cruelty – They are simply natural disasters with limited awareness of the effect they have on the world around them

Hey, it’s 7am, I think I’ll slam every door in the house closed, then play the drums at a concert hall level, then make a sound like I’m falling down the stairs so you can’t, you know, ignore that.

So why get up early when, for the first time in a long time, you could actually sleep in?

Plus, in a hotel room, it’s 10X harder! First of all, it’s hard to sneak around without anyone waking up. You must have the dexterity of a Cirque du Soleil acrobat and the patience of a bomb disposer.

But I wanted to get the blog done and the only time I could do that is in the early AM.

So, I eased out of bed without making squeaks cuz the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World has mommy senses (which can detect her child sneezing from a mile away), unplucked the iphone from the charger, had a quick pee without it sounding like Niagara Falls, slipped into my clothes, found my shoes without asking my wife, “hey, where are my shoes?”

Then, I found my wallet without asking my wife, “hey, where’d I put my wallet?” extracted my hotel key from underneath a pile of coins, avoided tripping over the boys’ shoes that I asked them three hundred times to put under their bed, padded towards the door without sneezing as my allergies kicked in and my nose ran like a stream after a rainstorm, then unlocked the lock, pried the door open and shut it without a huge click as loud as a cannon going off.

All so I can write.

But there’s also another reason I got up so early.

The world is a different place at 6am. Crisp. Fresh. And largely free of people.

Is the word a better place without a lot of people? Well, yes, for sure, but more importantly, it’s a lot more peaceful.

A beautiful hanging basket from

In Victoria, on Canada Day, on this day, it was especially peaceful. The sky was a bright, desert-sky blue. No crowds filled the sidewalks. No cars roared by or honked.

Gulls cried overhead. The odd boat puttered out of the Inner Harbor. The air smelled of the sea, not exhaust fumes and sweaty people who forgotten to put on deodorant. The coffee was freshly made, the baked goods newly delivered and smelling of cinnamon and warm chocolate. I didn’t have to fight anyone to get a seat or wait behind anyone who stared up at the food board and took a freaking year to decide to have a black coffee…

So why wouldn’t you want to experience that?

Why wouldn’t you go for a walk along deserted streets, passing by the hanging flower-baskets dripping after just being watered, stop at a café, sit down and look out at the glistening ocean waves while listening to Bach play on the café speakers and think, my goodness, isn’t the world wonderful, my goodness, wouldn’t the world be better without, you know, morons, anger-filled nutjobs, stressed out parents, activists, honkers, clueless idiots who stop their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle and block the entire aisle…

Without,  you know, people?

Cuz that is what the world is like at 6am. At least in Victoria. Today.

A perfect time to write. Because later, who knows what will happen?


A few sites to check out if you’re going to Victoria  A good site for all things touristy.

Trip Advisor – Personally, my go-to site for tourist stuff.

Visit a City – You can plan days (so if you only have 2 days, they have suggestions)

Free Touristy Things – So you don’t have to spend billions.

Top 10 List – that leads to other top 10 lists.



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