My Few Moderately Inflammable Retirement Peeves


I’m feeling powerfully peever’ish this week.

More peeves? Of course. I get this peever fever (not Bieber fever) once a year or so.

Despite all the wonderful things happening in our world – and there are many – we’ve cornered ourselves into some of the most dark and desperate days of the last generation or two. Headline anxiety is running amok.

Yes indeed. Pandemics and Racism (see last week’s post) and Social Networks and Global Warming and Sociopathic Politicians and Military Muscle have driven us to the brink just when we thought we had civilization all figured out.

We’ve muddled our way into a transition period perhaps not unlike moving into the Industrial Age; a time of huge upheaval for humanity and the planet’s existence, before the golden days return.

I hope.

Before I step back and give my head a needed respite from this multitude of negativity, I have to offload some more pet peeves to set my mind at ease for a little while… Ommmmmmmm

I’m a word and spelling snob. I’m not proud of it but I admit it.

Improper word usage, phrases, and speling erors drive me batty, just as exaggeration (any Trump sentence), hyperbole (any Trump sentence), and obvious non-factual misdirection ie lies (any Trump sentence) make me reach for high blood pressure meds.

Let’s just dive into a few of my language irritants… my “wordle” pet peeves, shall we? … feel free to add to my list if the irritation moves you:

  1. MODERATE – who decides where moderate lies in the spectrum of a little to a lot… I think that eating 4 large slices of cherry cheesecake is being moderate, while you believe that eating 1 tiny square of a Fruit and Nut Bar is excessive. Who’s right? (ME, of course!)
  2. PIANIST – OMG, nope, nope, nope… this sounds much too much like my boy parts… let’s just stick with “piano player”, OK?
  3. RETIREMENT (R) – I know that most of you reading my blog posts are either retired or on the precipice of the blessed event. Congratulations! BUT… “Retired” is an anachronism that speaks to my parent’s generation. We don’t “retire” anymore… we change direction into one or more other regions of who we are, so in my pretend world of make believe I just use the letter “R” to represent this non-sequitor.
  4. (IN)FLAMMABLE – we should all know by now that placing “in” in front of this word doesn’t change its meaning… the words are synonyms. “i.n.” are just throwaway letters… so let’s toss them into the flammable pile, OK?
  5. MOIST – it’s interesting that MOIST is apparently the most despised word in the English language according to a number of surveys. I can only find it funny now that my Canadian Prime Minister used it during the deepest pandemic days, uttering: “If people want to wear a mask, that is OK. It protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them.” Moist conjures up an impression of moldy flotsom in my head, definitely not a pretty vision. And please don’t breath or speak it at me!
  6. SANCTION – yeah, one word with opposing definitions. Dictionary def’s? 1. a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule, or 2. official permission or approval for an action. “Sanction me? So… are you coming back to my place for the night or not?”
  7. FEWER/LESS – I’d die a happy guy if folks just used fewer less‘es. Try using fewer with countable nouns like cookies. Less means “not as much.” We use less with uncountable nouns like milk. Most often, you will not have to be Hercule Poirot to deduce whether a noun is countable or uncountable, so the decision between less and fewer will be an effortfewer …er … effortless… one.
  8. HAVE A GOOD ONE – sorry, a good… what?? A good life? a good marshmallow? a good bowel movement? Don’t leave me hanging, what should I be having that’s good?
  9. THE FACT IS – in my experience, anytime someone prefaces their phrasing with “the fact is” means they have no idea what the facts are and are making this shit up. Leave “the fact is” out of your statement and actually provide me the documented (3 peer-reviewed studies is ideal) facts.
  10. BLOG/PHLEGM/PUS – there’s nothing really wrong with any of these words except they strike my “irritation centre”… the sound of each is unappealing and leave me feeling like I want to slap the person next to me for no reason at all.
  11. PANTIES – The word panties in itself is innocuous, but for some reason, it gives me a weird feeling. An innocent name for female underwear, and yet it sounds pornographic in my head. Worse still is that it sounds like kid-speak, and so combine porno with kids and I feel like a wretched pedophile merely saying the word.
  12. FLACCID – As a male, this word may be descriptive, but it sounds demeaning and “belittling” to my manhood. I know it says something about my insecurities and sensitivity. I’ll try to get over it!
  13. WHATEVER – when spoken, this usually means the end of any potentially meaningful or productive dialogue, but in an insulting fashion. I’m pretty sure the fact is, with his panties in a knot, and knowing that sanctions would be forthcoming, “whatever” was the last, moist word a flaccid Putin said to the world before he unleashed his moderate, yet inflammable forces on Ukraine … Have a good one Vlad!

The Dis-Ease of the Human Heart


Welcome to Man On The Fringe Sunday.

Today, I’ll share another narrative from my good friend, retired Physician Associate, inveterate Montreal Canadiens fan, and recurrent “guest poster” from Oregon, Jim Ferguson.

Jim has a zany sense of humour, but like most of us, also wears a deeply serious, philosophical bent within his complexity. Jim brings a wealth of life experience to draw on for insights.

This time out, Jim will take us down a darker road than is his usual, but in the end, reflecting his perpetual optimism, he’ll attempt to shine some light on positive approaches to this darkness.

With my thanks to him, I’ll let Jim take the reins from here:


As always, I am happy to emerge from the bullpen and “step up to the blog plate” when called upon.

I am sure you have heard the old writers lament about having “writer’s block” and that the cure is to simply start writing and “poof” as if by magic an idea will come to you.

Well… I decided to start writing and as I was getting in a groove, I was multitasking and saw a news headline with the latest on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery here in the US.

I am sure you are aware of this tragedy – a black man was jogging through a white neighborhood in the south and three white men chased him down and killed him in the street without provocation.

Weeks passed before any official investigation was started. Finally, the three white men were convicted of murder.

Ahmaud Arbery

I found myself pondering the prevalence of racism that still exists in this country and decided this was a blog topic worthy of focus.

Having lived in North Carolina for 4 years in the 1980s-early 1990s, I recall vividly seeing both subtle and overt racism. It is ugly no matter how it presents itself.

While the issue of racism in America is complex with so many layers worthy of consideration, I want to take a moment here to make the argument that racism is a disease and to focus on that specifically.

Make no mistake about it – racism is a disease. It is a disease of the human heart! Let us explore this in more depth.

If you look up the definition of disease in the dictionary you get the usual medical definition of a disorder of the body that produces specific signs and/or symptoms allowing the provider to come to a diagnosis and to then implement a treatment plan. No surprise there.

I have been a family medicine provider here in the U.S. for over 30 years and have seen thousands of patients during that time.

The medical model used to evaluate and treat physical and psychological disorders involves eliciting a thorough medical history from the patient (their symptoms) and performing a detailed physical examination (looking for and identifying key signs).

Next a “differential diagnosis” is developed i.e. a shopping list of possible diagnoses based on the above, ordering any pertinent diagnostic studies to refine what we think is going on, and finally (in the perfect world) arriving at THE diagnosis and implementing a treatment plan for the specific disease/disorder in question.

However, if you read further (depending on the dictionary), you will see additional definitions i.e., reference to the quality of causing dis-ease or lack of ease. You may also read that a disease is “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”

So… I offer for your consideration, does not racism meet the definition of a disease based on these descriptions?

Can you imagine anything causing more “dis-ease” to a human being or group of human beings than to be hated, despised, oppressed, abused, threatened, killed, or the threat thereof, simply because of the colour of your skin? Simply because of the amount of the pigment melanin in your skin compared to that of another. I can barely imagine how such treatment must feel.

Growing up white in Canada and living as a white man in the U.S. during much of my adult years, there was inherent privilege for sure – White privilege- we have all heard the term. It exists whether we acknowledge it or not.

Mr. Arbery was not granted the same privilege as a white jogger running through the same neighborhood.

Racism is a disease of the human heart my friends.

Humans are not born racist. Racism is a learned behaviour.

Exhibit A: I have a dear friend from New Hampshire. She is a lover of all humanity no matter what colour, gender, religion, nationality, etc. Her husband, however, hates black people and is not afraid to state it publicly. He is as matter-of-fact telling me of his hatred for black people as the day is long.

Years ago I asked him: “Bucky… why do you hate black people?” to which he replied, “Because my parents hated them.”

I then asked if he had ever met a black person and the reply was “no!”

His hatred of a whole race was learned from his parents and like a foul stench that seems to linger forever, he has carried this hatred in his heart his whole life.

Exhibit B: here is another (of many I could share) example of racism I encountered.

When at university in North Carolina in the 1980s, we lived in a multi-racial apartment complex in Greensboro. The “little old lady” next door loved our children and considered herself a surrogate grandma to our kids. One day as we were talking out in the parking lot, she saw another neighbor and her mother walking nearby and our neighbor made a comment to us about “those “N*%*&*^’s” next door.”

My wife and I expressed our shock at her comments and stated our views on the oneness of the human family and loving all humankind to which she responded defensively, “well you aren’t from here so you simply can’t understand.” Our elderly neighbor was pleasant on the surface but below the surface and behind the backs of our black neighbors she was seething with hatred towards these two women.

Racism can be overt as in Bucky’s case or subtle as in the case of the racist surrogate grandma, but both examples demonstrate a learned behaviour, not an innate trait.

Human beings are not born to hate others. My experience in North Carolina reinforced in me the realization that despite the great advances in civil rights (thank you Dr. MLK, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and the many others who sacrificed themselves for racial equality) racism is still very much part of the fabric of life in the States today.

Hate is a powerfully visible symptom of the disease of racism. It manifests itself in various “signs” both overt and subtle as noted above.

Other factors contribute to racism (or any “-ism” for that matter). Some examples include suspicion of others, ignorance, fear of something unknown or different, developing what is known as a “rigid identity” where a person retreats into their own “moral group” (politics, religion, RACE, nationality, etc.) and everyone else is “the other” worthy of suspicion, disdain, persecution, etc. Lack of empathy towards the oppressed is a symptom of racism as is defensiveness.

I saw this firsthand in North Carolina.

At a meeting of the Institute for the Healing of Racism in Greensboro in the late 1980s, a friend was sharing a story of how a black woman in a gathering made a simple request to have meetings in her area of town so that she could be relieved of all the bus travel required to get to “the white side of town”. One white woman became very defensive at this simple request, and when the black woman tried to have civil consultation on this request, the white woman became even more defensive reverting to the “look at all I have done for you” mentality to silence the black woman.

The signs and symptoms of racism are varied and many.

I will close with a few comments on the treatment of racism.

As you know, when you go to the clinic with an ailment you are instructed on how to manage or cure your ailment. This often includes some form of medication.

What of the “medication” for the healing of racism? What treatment plan exists to cure this dreaded disease?

• The cure is right in front of our eyes! If one hates, then the cure is to love!

• If one is ignorant or is afraid of folks different than oneself, then the cure is to gain knowledge and to engage with those different than ourselves!

• If one has suspicion for a person or group different than us, the answer again is to gain knowledge of those people/groups who are different so we can learn of them and their customs and to engage them in friendship.

The ultimate cure for racism is to accept that we are all children of one Creator and members of one family – the human family.

This concept of the oneness of humanity should be taught in schools in all subjects so the children will grow up to respect and even love all humanity as their own family.

Guy Murchie, a wonderful scientist/philosopher/spiritualist, wrote in his book “The Seven Mysteries of Life” something to the effect that if we trace our pedigree back 52 generations we encompass the whole population that has ever existed in our world (I have done this using a calculator and I get to the ~107 billion total population that ever lived on earth after about 37 generations).

This means that we are all related.

We are all cousins, and it behooves us to treat our human family with dignity and love and if we do this the disease of racism will vanish.

Many barriers exist to the implementation of this cure but just remember… it all begins with each of us focusing on changing one heart – our own! We can then serve as catalysts of change in our own communities as our own hearts change.


Jim Ferguson

Jim and his “better half” Deb

When Will I Find Puberty? Inscrutable Hirsutability



I could be embarrassed. Should I be embarrassed?

Is hair THAT important? Just how superficial am I?

What’s the big deal?

The deal is… I’m not certain I’ve hit puberty yet. There are some clear signs I’m told.

When I listen to my voice on tape… or CD, or mp3, or whatever format is today’s current and oh-so-temporary waste of my $… *where can I play my extensive library of America and Carly Simon 8-tracks huh?*

Where was I? Oh yeah… my voice… my voice sounds like my sister’s lovely higher-pitched vocals… except I don’t want her voice (no offence Sis).

I want a manly, mellifluous, FM DJ’s baritone timbre. I’d even settle for a decent tenor.

Not only that, but looking back on my early high school days I remember pining for the day when I would have hair.. you know… down there

And I did get it – temporarily – in spades eventually, but before that …

Changing in gym class was a torture as I squirrelled away in the back corner while all the hirsute gorilla-boys with curly black wads all over their groins and pits snapped towels at each other… many even adorned already with moustaches and beards…

… I peeked down and viewed my Brazilian “do”… no fair!

I couldn’t complain to anyone… there were no FB chatrooms or support groups for woebegone juveniles who were slow to physically mature.

And even if I did want to complain I’d have had to walk uphill for hours and hours through 4 foot-high snowdrifts just to get to my friend Renato’s house. Those were the times my friend!

I wasn’t totally overlooked by pubertal change I suppose… I did have a pimply chin and nose… lucky me.

So let’s recount here… Girl’s voice, check. No body hair, check. Acne, check.

I was living the life of Danny Zuko – cool dude, cool car, cool chicks – in GREASE… HA! only in my mind! My Greased Lightning manliness was a Two-Wheeled Tricycle.

Just so you know I’m not an inveterate complainer, a few years later I did hit a sweet spot in life where hair was abundantly flourishing everywhere…

So much so that while living in William’s Lake BC in my early 20’s, one of the female doctors in the hospital where I worked even joked that perhaps I was the Missing Link because of the fluffy dark tufts of hair poking above the top of the collar of my scrubs… I was living the Latino dream… so I guess I did find my delayed puberty after all.

I sat in that sweet spot for about 20 years… sadly, my voice never dropped, but I did sport the thick, dark hair and clear skin that gave me that “Saturday Night Fever” style.

Until… *mic drop*… one day in the lab where I worked in Penticton. One of my so-called “lab friends” giggled about the bald spot on the back of my head. I laughed right along because it was just a joke and who doesn’t like a good joke, right?

Later that day – my co-worker’s voice and laughter tracking in my head – I checked in my bathroom 3-way mirror for reassurance, akin to you looking at a new mole carefully to reassure yourself that it isn’t a deadly cancer growth.

WTF!!!! Seriously? The laugh track stopped and the BeeGees began singing I Started A Joke in my head… yes, there was a small hole in the ozone layer in the back of my head. Noooooo.

My Everest-like hairy peak had been summited and I was now tumbling and sliding on the downslope of manhood… I had male pattern baldness … I felt myself cowering back in that gym class corner.

Another cruel ironic appendage to this furry tumble has been the unexpected sprouting of hair on the rims of my ears and from my nostrils… perhaps you can attribute these indignities to my atheistic perspective: either God is truly non-existent (surely no loving God would do this to me)…or… this same God is making me pay the price for dissing his/her/their existence. But that’s another blog post, right?

Life is about perpetual flexibility and accommodation… we hang on and survive through the embarrassments and lean times, and thrive through the buoyant patches. C’est la vie.

I’ve decided that puberty is truly a moot point so long as I stay immature for life!

Na-na na-na boo-boo… stick your head in doo-doo…

Have You Found Your Holy Grail Of Happiness?


Years ago, Steve Martin famously opined on Saturday Night Live his wishes for the world:


If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If I had two wishes that I could wish for this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace.. and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.

You know, if I had three wishes that I could make this holiday season, first, of course, would be for all the children to get together and sing.. the second would be for the $30 million every month to me.. and the third would be for all encompassing power over every living being thing in the entire universe.”

All fine wishes, yes? (And if you agree, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have a seat for you in their Triumvirate Ring). Achieve these three wishes and Steve is a HAPPY dude for life!

Are you happy, someone asks? What do you wish for?

How about the Arabian Nights and the wishes granted to Aladdin by the genie?

“Fetch me something to eat!” was Aladdin’s first modest request… the wishes went uphill algorithmically from there.


We spend a good part of our lives wishing… wishing for health, wishing for wealth, wishing for a nicer car, wishing for a bigger house, wishing for bigger breasts or a longer penis.

Wishes, like goals and dreams, can be wonderful and full of hope and motivating power.

Yes, wishes fill us with hope.

Conversely, wishes can be deceptive and harmful, contradictory even… this morning, as I walked outside, feeling a bitter windchill on my face, I was wishing that spring would come sooner… while simultaneously wishing that time wouldn’t pass so quickly. So, which one is it Larry?

Here’s the big question. Do fulfilled wishes equate to happiness? Wishing is, at its core, about seeking happiness, isn’t it?

Wishes can be practically realistic or nonsensical wistful thinking.

Every wish we make is anchored in the belief that we will be happier if that wish is achieved. Happily Ever After stuff…. *cue Jiminy Cricket and When You Wish Upon A Star

And everywhere I look… I see, hear and read that people are searching for happiness like it’s the Holy Grail.

HAPPINESS = HOLY GRAIL? The futile search…

It comes down to definition, maybe semantics, for me…

When someone asks: are you happy? What do you say?

My answer would likely come out as something like: hmmmm, right now? this minute? or do you mean all of the time? in all aspects of my life?

You see, continuous happiness isn’t a permanent state. How can it be?

I’m not convinced that happiness should be a permanent state. When you’re given a cancer diagnosis, are you in a state of bliss? When you fail your driving test, are you overflowing with joy?

Of course not… you’re hearing the Eagles singing in your head:

There’s a hole in the world tonight.

There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow.

There’s a hole in the world tonight.

Don’t let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

I guess I seek out contentment more than happiness… contentment is a temporary state and tells me if I’m in a good place in one or more areas of my life. Contentment is sipping from the Holy Grail knowing that the cup won’t always be full… can’t always be full.

It’s a bit like splitting hairs… I think wishing is about creating a sunny break of contentment. The sun breaks through and we enjoy and appreciate the warmth of the moment for as long as it lasts.

When I’m living in a moment of equilibrium – good health for myself and my loved ones, stable finances, and healthy, happy interpersonal relationships – I am largely in a state of contentment. Bliss. Nirvana. These are the legs of my personal stool of stability.

Take away any of the legs of this stool and my contentment quotient drops. The sun is hidden by cloud. My Wish List changes from the ephemeral (toys, bells, and whistles) to the basic and essential. I am not content until sunny equilibrium returns.

I’d like to adopt the great and all-powerful Steve Martin’s wish list but might add one more item for contentment…

…yes, unlimited no-calorie chocolate and cheesecake… and of course… for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

What kind of a beast do you take me for?