There was a time when having a tattoo meant you were “hardcore”.  There was a time that employers wouldn’t hire you if you had visible tattoos and piercings.  Even facial hair or colored hair was taboo.  I went through jobs like that until 2007.  People telling you how to dress, what to look like, or what not to look like to just get a minimum wage job.

All of that seems to be shifting.  I know more adults with tattoos than those who don’t have them.  My part of the world has concluded that tattoos are a form of art and expression.  Tattoos aren’t limited to back alleys and prisons.  I go to Comicons and they set up tables in the vendors hall.  Some people get a celebrity’s autograph on their body, then the tattoo artist makes it permanent.  Others decide that a Megaman tattoo on their shoulder is a way of expressing their love of videogames.  

The line of acceptable dress or looks is getting blurred or is nearly erased at retailers because of this.  McDonald’s employees can be a little more free spirited these days.  Mostly because more people have and love tattoos.

I got my first tattoo in March of 2008 for my 32nd birthday.  I wanted a tattoo since I was 19, but could never decide upon a design.  Originally I wanted a Spaceman Spiff (Calvin and Hobbes) because I could relate to the imagination of the young boy. Instead- I pierced my tongue.  It’s still pierced and many people don’t even know it.  As I grew older, the idea of a tattoo fell by the wayside as I became a father.  Then it dawned on me.  Why not get your children’s names tattooed?  It’s a great fatherly thing to do.

It took me about a year to create the design that I liked.  Finally, I decided on the double helix with my children’s names in the ribbons.  I’m pro-science and evolution, so this design made the most sense.  Sure, I have a fondness for Star Wars and Muppets, but those may adorn my body some other day.

I have a single tattoo.  I’d like more.  My wife has three tattoos. She’d like more.  My friends have tattoos.  They want more.  Tattoos are an expression of ourselves at the time they are inked.  They are a history imprinted on our bodies to remind us why we got them.  Maybe the tattoos symbolize to us something deeper.  Or maybe it was a drunken mistake, but that still reminds us of our history- good or bad.

If you have a tattoo or don’t have a tattoo, it doesn’t matter.  Just go out there and enjoy your life.  It’s your body.  It’s your way of expressing yourself.


Over the past few days I have noticed that things are slightly askew.  Pictures, televisions, doors and windows.  Whatever it is that should be square is turned more rhombus.  Perhaps it’s the angle I’m looking at it, maybe it’s just offset.  I’m worried it may be my mind.

There’s a feeling of vertigo that comes with the visual.  As if my head is off balance and I’m ready to fall over.  Just before the tumble, everything snaps back.

And just like that, I’m back to normal.  Whatever my normal is.


Short post today. I need to prepare for my “Rules” exam tomorrow.

Working for a railroad, at least here in Canada, we have rules that we need to follow.  This ensures the safety of the employees and the general public.  We have an entire book filled with everything from Timetables to handbrake charts to understanding signals.  There are subsections in each rule.  When I first hired on at CN, our rules instructor made it very clear that almost every rule in the book is written “in blood”.  Meaning an injury or death caused changes in how we railroad over the past 100+ years.

Railroaders NEED Rules. We can’t live by “code” alone.

Every three years, I need to be recertified as a Rules Qualified Employee.  It’s stressful.  Studying and preparing for a job that I’m already doing is difficult.  After all these years, the way I work is second nature: mostly invoking common sense to stay safe.  But when sitting in a classroom doing the exam, wording the answers correctly is the hard part.  Even harder for me is writing out the answers to the Signals portion.  

Green means Go

Yellow means Slow

Red means NO! NO! NO!

Not even close.  There are variations on how the signals are displayed, Yellow over red.  Green over red over green.  Flashing yellow, double flashing yellow, it goes on and on.  There’s even letter plates on the masts that add to what the instructions are for how to use that signal.  I haven’t seen a signal in almost four years.  Remembering what they all mean is challenging to say the least.

Tomorrow I am going to rewrite my rules and hopefully be stress free afterwards.  But until then: Clear signals all the way.


I have a name.  Like most people- I also have numerous ID numbers as well.  Credit cards, driver’s license, work, rewards clubs, etc…  But I have a name that I was given at birth.

Josef Andrew Havelka

This name was given to me by my mother.  My first and last name were my father’s.  The middle name?  No clue why.  Originally I was to be called Michael after my uncle, but at the hospital when I was born, I wasn’t exactly healthy.  So my mother hurriedly named me after my father just in case.  I was also baptized a couple days later as a Catholic, just in case.  But 40 years later, “just in case” has defined who I am and who the world thinks I am.

Growing up, I was called Josef.  Unless my dad’s Czech friends were nearby.  They called me Pepik Junior.  Mixing Czech and English was how they talked about me.  I became accustomed to hearing the name.  Having never learning Czech, I could still tell what was being said.  My father never wanted us to speak his home language.  He kept that to himself in order to keep things from us as well when he spoke to his friends.  But I learned how to read into annunciation and body language.  I could tell if what was being said was kind, mean, sad, or sympathetic.  Because of this, I have become a good judge of character, often being able to sense people’s comfort levels with one another in social interactions.  I am very aware of how I am perceived as well, often hiding my true emotions.

As I grew up and hit Highschool- my name stayed the same for most of the years.  Friends almost always called me “Josef”.  The occasional shortened version, “Joe”, was thrown in from time to time.  But Joe was my father’s name, so I corrected them to call me “Josef”.  At the start of Grade 11 Chemistry, the teacher called out attendance.  He got to my name and asked what I preferred to be called, “Joe” or “Josef”.  I said it didn’t matter.  He then asked what my parents called me at home.  Without missing a beat, I told him my father calls me “Asshole”.

As I entered adulthood, I tried going with the name “Joe” but I’m not fond of it.  People do call me it, and I respond.  Some people call me “Joey”, “Jo-Jo” or “Broseph”.  In some weird way, I like to hear my name pronounced “Yoosef” by some of my European coworkers.  It reminds me of those days when my father’s friends spoke of me.  It reminds me of the smell of cigarettes, beer, and whiskey.  Along with the sounds of laughter and foreign accents.

All of that being said, the one thing that bothers my wife (far more than it bothers me) is when people spell my name “Jo”.  Her opinion is that it is the feminine shortened version.  I suppose she is correct.  But it’s only been the past few years that this has occurred.  I blame shorthand, lack of spell check, and a lack of respect for this laziness.  

How about everyone just calls me Josef?  With an “f” not a “ph” at the end.

Blood suckers

As I may have mentioned previously, ok numerous times, summer is nearing the end.  Thank goodness.  Spending extra time with my family and friends these past few weeks had me thinking- I’m sure glad those blood suckers will be gone soon.  

I’m talking about mosquitos.

Seeing the opening of Dexter a few years back, reminded me of those days back in my childhood, minus the murder stuff.  

When I was younger and lived in Edmonton, I swear the mosquitos were twice the size they are now.  But I was half the size I am now also, so it’s all relative.  We lived near some pretty marshy land where we went hunting for frogs.  The perfect location for mosquitos to be.  As we got “bitten”, my friends and I used to wait for the mosquitos to get a good amount of blood in them, then squash the buggers.  The splat smear was the best part.  The itching sucked.  No matter how much OFF! my parents sprayed on us, we still got bit.

Living in Edmonton in the early 80’s, I recall a fantastically bad Canadian children’s educational show called “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein“.  It was already in re-runs by the time I began watching it.  But there was a mosquito character that came down onto a foot, told a bad joke, followed by a boing noise.  Added bonus, bad costumes, crappy puppets, silly jokes, plus Vincent Price was the star.  It was filled with hippy psychedelic imagery.  Perfect for the 70’s.  I don’t remember much more than that, but I think I shall search out the show and see it in all of it’s glory once more.

Anyways, back to this summer: I’ve only been “bitten” about three times.  I hardly used repellent, so I think the mosquitos just don’t like the taste of me.  I hope this keeps up for years to come.

BC Ferries 

If you live in the Vancouver area, you have spent hours at the mercy of the BC Ferries Corporation. From lineups to buy tickets to lineups waiting to board (sometimes there’s even a sailing wait or two).

Spending money for the service to get to and from Vancouver Island is expensive.  That being said, in under two hours you get to see more of the beauty that our coastline has to offer.

I like to catch an early morning ferry, usually mid-week if possible.  No waits & no crowds.  It’s been a couple of years since we’ve trekked across the Strait on one of these vessels.

On a nice day, I enjoy walking around the outer decks with the wind at my face.  The scenery is a magnificent spectacle to behold.  As a child, I remembered on windier days aboard the ferry, I would lean into the gusting wind pretending to fight an unknown force.

Almost every trip I end up stopping at the brochure stand to see what I could be missing out on in this Province of ours.  Lots of it is touristy junk, but sometimes there is something I haven’t heard of or seen before.

Many a boat ride has consisted of playing cards as well.  I had an old deck that my mother returned to my son after our visit this week.  Ah yes, crumpled and fold cards with a missing Ace of Clubs card handwritten on a Joker instead.  The creases showing off what the cards are if you can remember each and every fold or tear.  But a hearty game of “Go Fish” always seems appropriate when crossing over on the ferry.

And of course there is the loading and unloading of the vehicles and passengers.  I’ve traveled many different ways on the ferry.  Sometimes by car, sometimes by bus, and other times as a foot passenger.  Each has its own quirks.  

But in the end, we all safely arrive at our destination, happy to see friends and family or happy to be on the last leg of the journey home.  The experience of BC Ferries is one that many in BC have endured or enjoyed.  Sometimes there’s a storm adding excitement to the tide.  On occasion there is a pod of Killer Whales swimming alongside of the boat.  

Look! I made my photo artistic and stuff!

No matter what happens, each trip is both unique and the same as the previous ones.  

Chainsaw Carving

In the tiny town of Gold River, BC there is a chainsaw carving competition happening. It has been going on for the past few years.  

Gold River’s iconic Penis Boot…

They set up in the only parking lot in the only shopping centre in town.  We went there a couple times today to check on the progress.  Maybe four other people were there… Not including the carvers or their families.  Small draw- making it more intimate with the carvers.

This morning the artists were preparing their pieces for the competition.  From 7am-7pm in the hot sun for three days, they will showcase their artistic skills and  talents.  After almost the entire first day, you can see some amazing progress.

I wish I had the talent these folks have to do such amazing art.  How they can take a large piece of yellow cedar and see life inside of it is far beyond me.  Using chainsaws of all sizes, art springs forward from nothing more than a tree stump.  Throughout Gold River, there are many sculptures and benches from previous competitions littered throughout the town (most available for purchase according to the Chamber of Commerce). 

Surprisingly many of these are more affordable than one might originally have thought.  As much as some have caught my eye, I cannot imagine owning one at this point in time.  We have one piece that came with our home, and he fits in perfectly.  

I am still in awe at the talents that people of the world have.  Plus the smell of chainsaws and fresh cut cedar really screams “The Great Outdoors” to me.  Which, btw, is a cinematic classic.

I’m a spelunker now.

We went exploring today.  It was different.  It was adventurous.  It was fun.  

My mother lives on Vancouver Island in BF Nowhere.  It’s a little town called Gold River.  18 kms away is the Upana Caves.  We were given a map in the town and tried our best to follow along.

The Upana Caves are a fairly easy trek.  We took the kids and our German Shepard on this hike.  Total time exploring and hiking was under an hour and a half.  The main challenges were the darkness and the dog.  For me, at 6 foot 8, crawling thru the caves met my muscles and joints with some pain after the fact.

Here are the pictures form our little adventure.  I recommend this to anyone who wants to start spelunking or who have children under the age of 13.

I’m now a fan of this outdoor activity.  I would do this again in a heartbeat.  I’m excited to try this in other countries and see more beautiful formations and natural wonders.  If you’re ever on Vancouver Island, with some time to spare, check out the Upana Caves.  

British Columbia has some amazingly beautiful locations, preserved without vandalism and garbage.  These caves were prestine.  No one carved their names or painted words.  I’m proud to live here, and love the respect given to our wonderful province and the beauty it holds.


There’s always someone who has to sell it and someone to buy it. I’m talking about kitschy stuff.

We travelled to Vancouver Island to visit my mother.  We left early from our home in order to catch the first ferry.  Made it on with 15 minutes to spare.  Score!  BC Ferries sells Kitsch with Canada and BC Ferries plastered all over their products at jacked up prices.  I have zero desire to spend more money than I have to to take the vessel on an hour and forty minute boat ride.  In fact, this trip I chose to stay on the vehicle deck and nap with my dog in the car.  This proved to be both good and bad.  By the end, my allergies were in full force and I was miserable.  Back to blogging about Kitsch.  

We got off the ferry and drove for about forty minutes and hit a little town called “Coombs”.  It’s a BC landmark.  Really.  Known for one thing.  Goats on a roof.

This little shop has expanded the town into more of these unique stores.  All specializing in selling Kitschy Junk.  Stuff that you see and say, “This would be the perfect gift for so-and-so.”  You spend the money leave the store and as soon as you hit the road, you regret the purchase. But now you are committed to giving this crap to your family/friend or coworker.

It’s just stuff.

What do you do when you are given Kitsch?  You say thank you.  If a family member gave it to you, you are forced to keep it and show it off when they stop by.  “I totally love it.  Everyone who sees it says how unique it is.” Loosely translated, “It’s a piece of crap that clashes with the rest of my home, but you seem to think it’s what I wanted.”  Kids giving gifts to parents and grandparents are prime examples.  

Stopping at my mother’s home, I see it everywhere.  Gramma likes dolphins about as much as a preteen girl it seems.

My mother has more stuff scattered throughout her home.  Many are gifts from people she knows.  Bought (or made) from local shops and artists.  She appreciates everything she has been given.

In the right setting, the Kitsch falls under unique and one of a kind.  But more often then not, it shows up in a donation bin or garage sale.  Stop the Kitsch!  Our landfills will thank you.  But hey, here’s the new sticker for my car:

Two weeks…

Crap.  Where is summer going?  We are in the last two weeks of summer vacation for the kids.  Seven weeks have already passed and it feels like we need to squeeze in more activities to end 2016 on a high note.

The start of summer was laid out before us with ideas and plans being made.  Some things we did, others were put by the wayside.  A last minute camping trip made it in last week- much to the joy of my children (and my wife was pleasantly surprised that she liked it as well).  But what to do with these fleeting days before the hustle and bustle of the new year (admit it, you feel like the year begins in September, not January just like I do) takes over our lives?

I’ve complied a list for myself- because I love lists and crossing things off.

  1. Read a book or two.
  2. Hit the beach early in the day.
  3. Take walks with just my wife.
  4. Enjoy some casual last minute meals with friends.
  5. See my family.
  6. Enjoy a nature hike.
  7. Take more photos.
  8. See more of British Columbia.

My list seems doable.  I should be able to accomplish my goals in a fairly stress-free way as well.  Here’s how I plan on meeting my goals:

  1. I love reading, so not watching Netflix before bed is how I will accomplish this.
  2. Just waking up and getting out the door before the crowds hit the beach.  Perhaps calling it a day by lunch will ensure this to happen.
  3. This is a no-brainer.  No excuses here.
  4. “Whatcha doin’?  Let’s meet up.” Done.
  5. I don’t see my mother or sister on a regular basis since they moved away.  Perhaps taking the initiative to do so and putting our differences behind us will help in achieving this more often.
  6. I have the shoes, I just need a little push.
  7. My iPhone is more than just Facebook and Pokemon Go.  I should take more pictures of life to remember the good times.
  8. This Province of ours is amazing.  Forests, mountains, lakes, beaches, people…  Getting up early and hitting the roads will help out.  Some money for gas and a map is all I need.

I also love hearing about places and events going on around us.  If you have anything to share, please let me know.  Or if you want to meet up, shoot me a message.  These are the last few days of sunshine before autumn enters and the busy life kicks in.