Sunday 31 January 2016

Take It Apart

I am really no different than 99% of the people of the planet. I’d like to think that I am unique, but the reality is I am a pretty hum-drum kind of guy. I like things the way they are and I don’t seek out adventure. Thankfully, adventure doesn’t seek me out either.

When I was young, I was inquisitive, wondering just how the world worked and why it worked the way it did. I can see the same traits in Hurricane, Tornado and Tsunami when they are trying to grasp one concept or another. Maybe grandchildren are given to us so that we can once again learn how to wonder and wonder how.

I would take almost anything apart to see what was inside. I thought that there were little actors inside of my TV set with little cows and horses, tiny cars and little houses. I was too young to understand there wasn’t room enough inside that box to keep all of the props and livestock that would have been needed for even one of my favourite shows. My fear of my dad and sense of self preservation kept me from taking the TV apart. I was mesmerized the first time a TV Repairman came to the house with his suitcase full of tools and tubes. He unplugged the set and undid the screws that held the back of the set on. I stood hiding behind my mom’s legs, watching and waiting to see if all of my favourite characters might fall out.
It turned out that inside of a television set didn’t house props and people, but something just as interesting. There were tubes, wires and a huge picture tube in the centre of everything. At the time I had no idea what I was seeing, but I sure did want to reach in and touch the insides. I was told in no uncertain terms that it would be very, very, very dangerous. Did that bother Hansel or Gretel? Did it stop Joe Potts from sticking his tongue on that frozen post in the schoolyard? The word DANGER has a magnetic attraction for kids. I vowed that one day I would mess around in the back of a TV.
 Image result for cut open golf ball elastic
Until then, I had to be satisfied with taking toys apart and broken things that I found in the garbage. Too many of these things I was unable to take apart because dad just didn’t have the right tools for the job. My brother had a nice V shaped scar from trying to get the cover off of a golf ball. It was totally worth it though, golf balls are cool inside. Well they were back in the day, today they are filled with a plastic compound of some sort which is pretty boring but they do carve well. I did eventually get inside of a TV that I found in an unofficial dump someplace. The back came off pretty easy and those tiny vacuum tubes inside weren’t as interesting as I thought. The kids I was with out-voted me and instead of taking it apart, we tossed rocks at it until the picture tube imploded. That was pretty cool, but there wasn’t much left to discover.

I still like taking things apart and it is pretty rare that I will be able to get it back together again. I have a radio downstairs and the volume control is loose and needed to be tightened. I popped off the dials and undid the screws holding the outer casing together. I needed to lift out the circuit board, three more screws and a fourth that turned out to hold an important pivot needed to tune the radio. First, fix what I just broke…done!
 Image result for old portable radio

The volume control had nothing that could be adjusted to fix it, but that didn’t stop me. Now, I have a radio that can’t turn off, but I can turn the volume down so low that I can’t hear it. I wonder if it is dangerous to leave it on all of the time. You know, I think I saw a radio in the second hand store that probably works and it will be months before I feel the need to take it apart.

Friday 29 January 2016

A Waiting Day

This has been a day of waiting…I hate waiting!

I thought that I would take my car to one of those wand wash places and get rid of most of the dirt and grim that has accumulated. It is going to snow in a day or two, but at least it will start with fresh dirt and grime. I have my favourite place of course and for two dollars it generally gives me enough time to spray soap all over the car, rinse it off and if I am really quick, maybe ten or twenty seconds of spray on wax. I really just want to get the worst off.

I figured that at ten in the morning, most clean car nuts would be hard at work earning enough money to get that spring detailing in a couple of months. Not so! All the bays were busy, so I just had to pick one that would be quick to finish. I don’t know what that idiot in the bay was doing to his car, but other cars that had come after me pulled in and then out. I thought about moving to another bay, but how long can this guy wash his car for? Seventeen minutes, and he was at it when I pulled up. It is my fervent desire that someone in a big pickup coated with mud drives in front of this guy for at least seventeen minutes. I was in and out in a couple of minutes. That’s how you do it!

I figured I earned a coffee and since I had a free coffee coming to me from McDonalds, I drove my clean and waxed car over there. I was feeling good and held the door for a lady, what the hell…ladies first. She held the inner door for me. What the hell, old farts first. I walked in and saw that there were two kiosks inside where you could order and pay for your food. The kiosks were like the ones at the airport baggage check ins. These were new to me.

I’m sure the kiosks are a wonderful idea, but you still need staff to prepare and serve the food. This particular McD’s was understaffed and that poor woman was filling a large order. I counted about ten coffees, and a few bags of muffins. The guy ordering and selecting the muffins was a Hutterite guy and a couple of Hutterite women were standing demurely at the side waiting for their coffee. I thought they made all of their own food. I didn’t think they would drink coffee. I sure as hell didn’t think I would have to wait ten minutes in a McDonalds for the Hutterite nation to coffee up!

Oh well, it would be worse, and it was. I stopped at the NOFRILLS store to pick up a pepper for supper tonight and yes, you guessed it, I had to line up. I don’t blame the store, they had all tills open and they are generally pretty good about moving the people in a timely fashion. What I don’t understand is what all of these people were doing shopping in the middle of the day when I wanted to shop.

I left the store finally and checked to see if there was a Hutterite van idling in the lot smelling like coffee or an overly clean piece of shit Toyota dripping water. It was clear sailing to get back home.

Thursday 28 January 2016

It Couldn’t Hurt


So this is writers block. Cool! I guess I am officially a writer.

Strange that to become a writer I have to get to a point where I can’t write. That makes as much sense as most things I suppose. The Kardassians, Donald Trump, how a bank can make 5 billion dollars profit and have their stock drop because it wasn’t six million. How real assholes can be madly successful and saint like people suffer through life. Why we first world people complain about not having enough and those with nothing are thankful for the little they do have.

Life is crazy!

Don’t get me wrong, I intend to stay a pampered first world citizen, but I think I can retain my membership if I develop a tiny conscious. We just got back an investment statement today and because of a downturn in our economy, we lost ten times the average annual income of the Central African Republic. I don’t consider myself rich or even well off, just an average Canadian retired guy that made some very lucky choices in life. I thank God that I don’t live in that African republic.

Well, I guess I should go and get my beauty rest, it couldn’t hurt.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Spaghetti Pie

I saw Martha Stewart make this a few years back and made it a couple of times. Time and poor memory combined to make me forget it until last night. It is a pretty easy recipe if you leave out all of the fru-fru bits. It tastes great with them, but you can get by with bacon bits and regular milk. Last night I forgot to add the Romano cheese and it worked out fine. I think in the past I replaced the Romano cheese with parmesan and it is pretty good. I cut the recipe in half since there is only Louise and I.
It is just as good on day two. Speaking of which, it is close to lunch time…

·   1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
·   Coarse salt
·   1 pound spaghetti
·   6 large eggs, lightly beaten
·   1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
·   12 ounces hot soppressata sausage, cut into 1/4-inch dice
·   1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
·   1/4 cup heavy cream
·   1 teaspoon dried parsley
·   1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.with rack in center. Butter a 10-inch-by-3-inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper; set aside.
1.      Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Cook spaghetti, according to package instructions, until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine eggs, mozzarella, soppressata, pecorino Romano, heavy cream, dried parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Drain spaghetti, and add to the egg-and-cheese mixture; stir to combine. Pour mixture into prepared pan, and cover with aluminum foil.
2.      Bake about 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake until lightly browned and crisp on top, 20 minutes more.
3.      Transfer to a rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, and unmold, removing parchment. Invert, cut into wedges, and serve hot.

Monday 25 January 2016

Another Glorious Day

The other morning I was laying in bed wondering why I was on the edge of the bed. The answer of course is that Louise was on the other edge of the bed and our dog was sprawled across the middle. Well, at least one of us was comfortable.

I sleep on the left hand side of the bed and have done so since Louise and I first moved in together. I don’t know why, but I suspect at the time Louise made an executive decision and we have stuck on the side we started with. Louise may have picked the right side because it was closer to the bathroom or she may have picked the right side so I would be able to get out of bed without disturbing her. The only way to find out for sure would be to go back in time to that first night and since I don’t remember an old man standing in the corner, it just didn’t happen.

The odd time when Louise has been away for a night or two, I have had the opportunity to change positions. I could have slept in the middle or I could have slept on the right side where Louise usually does. Instead, I slept on the edge like I always do. The up side is that Buster moves over to the right-middle of the bed and I get a little extra room. Even when I take one of my afternoon power naps, I am on the left side edge. Strange.

I guess that after all of these years I would find it difficult to sleep any other way. I generally wake up either watching Louise while she sleeps or looking at the window wall to judge if the sun is up yet. It is a pretty safe bet that the sun has more sense than I do, at least in the winter time.

Those first few moments in the morning while I am trapped between sleep and awake, I try to recapture those elusive dreams that are disappearing like fog in the sunshine. Next I think about what I would like to do during the coming hours of wakefulness. Most of what I contemplate never gets done, but it is good to have a plan. I think about projects that need to be done and some that I want to do.

Mostly though, I look at Louise. I will watch her sleep, listen to her breathe and if I am lucky, I get to see her dream. Sometimes she is happy, sometimes she is frightened and sometimes she is angry. I hope that she isn’t angry with me. I have been watching her sleep for a long time now and she is always lovely when she is asleep. She is at peace and probably dreaming some of those weird dreams she dreams.

I dread the day I wake up and there is no one to watch while they are asleep. There would be no one on the other edge of the bed, no one’s breathing to listen to and no one to share the coming hours with. The other morning I felt alone in the bed. I was staring at the wall and watching as the sun filtered through the shade. I couldn’t feel the dog against my back and I didn’t hear anyone breathing. I was afraid to turn over. What if years had passed and I found myself all alone? I’ve never been alone…ever.

I heard a soft snort and knew that everything in my life was just fine for another glorious day.

Sunday 24 January 2016

18 Virgins

Every now and then I start to think about death. Lately it has been coming up a little too much, but it is hard not to think of something when you don’t want to think of it. Kind of like if I told you not to think of the plaid elephant that is sitting at your kitchen table. Most people will automatically picture that plaid elephant, but the odd guy will say “The elephant is mauve, not plaid!” Stay away from that guy.

This morning I was contemplating the concepts of an afterlife. I have pretty much discarded the Christian idea of a celestial paradise where everyone sits on the left hand of God. Jesus is supposedly on the right hand. That seems like it would be a pretty boring, fruitless existence. I know there is a tendency to rest after you have worked hard and dying has to be pretty hard work, but I doubt that anyone would need an eternity to rest. Besides, when would you be able to practice the harp? I understand that every now and then you’d need to get up and stand in a bright light whenever a loved one died or had a near death experience. Getting up would be a bitch if you happened to be in the middle of a winning poker hand. Such is life in Heaven I suppose.

Making even less sense is the Muslim afterlife. Now, I don’t pretend to know much about it other than if I were to die I would spend eternity with 18 virgins in a garden paradise. Would there be ants? Ants would be a deal breaker for me, but a garden paradise could be an ant’s idea of heaven. What would I do with 18 virgins? Do they remain virgins? If so, what is the point of having them around? Better to have someone that was a great cook or knew how to get rid of those pesky ants. Who needs 18 people telling them what to do? Notice I said people and not women, that is me being sensitive. I can’t imagine that it would be paradise for 18 women to be stuck in a garden with an old fart like me, although I am pretty nice. Such is life in Paradise I suppose.

Another belief is that of reincarnation; which is the one that makes the most sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, just more than those others. The idea that we are here on this planet to learn kind of rings true. I especially like the idea of no exams, no grades and no pass fail. However, after I have lived countless lives learning and improving until I am literally a know-it-all, what then. Reunite with God…and….

A beginning with no end I guess.

One thing I do know is that the universe or nature or God doesn’t waste anything. A river floods washing soil from the hillsides and mountains slopes and carries it down stream to deposit it on flood plains which then become extremely fertile, feeding thousands and creating a perfect eco system. If a tree falls in a forest, not only does it make a sound, but as it slowly decomposes it will provide homes for numerous animals and insects and provide a fertile soil for new trees to grow. There is no waste.

I doubt very much if the energy needed to create a living creature with a sense of itself would just disappear. No, it goes somewhere and is used in some way, we just don’t know how. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve 18 virgins or sitting on a cloud and playing a harp.

Friday 22 January 2016

Screw Eyes

I recently bought a new cover for my iPad from a company in China. I tried to buy one here, going to several stores which had an abysmal selection. Oh, that abysmal selection was also over priced in my mind. I came home disappointed and went online to see what I could find. The prices online more or less reflected what I saw in the stores; anywhere from $40 to over $100. I was disheartened as it was going to be a Christmas gift and the old cover was well past its prime.

I went back online after shedding a tear or two and decided to see what I could find from the EBAY sellers from China. The choices were many and the designs varied. The prices varied from under $10 to just around $40 which was a cover with a keyboard. I choose a light brown, leather cover with magnetic on/off. It was far superior to my old cover and cost $12.91 Canadian. Postage was free and the delivery date was 3 – 4 weeks. I could have paid more to get expedited delivery, but I would have had to pay more. I had no trouble waiting 3 -4 weeks.
I have been using it since just after Christmas and I have no complaints. Well, that’s not true. I have been having trouble charging it while the case is on. That isn’t a big deal for me, but I like things to work the way they were meant to if at all possible. I lived with it for a while, but today I decided enough was ENOUGH!

It turns out that the cover wasn’t the problem at all; it was the charging cable that was somehow defective. I still have to discover what the problem is, but it is nice to know that the cover is performing just fine.
 6 x USB Sync Data Charging Charger Cable Cord for Apple iPhone 4 4S 4G 4th IPOD
The cable is one of six that I bought from a company in China. It isn’t from Apple, but I figured that since most electronics are manufactured in the Far East anyways, it should have been good. I am going to have to check and see whether or not the other charge cables are causing trouble. I don’t think they are, but no one wants to be in a powered down situation. I bought the six cables for about $5.00 a couple of years ago so I am not too disappointed that one of them may be malfunctioning.

There are certain things that should be bought locally, and I am more than happy to support local businesses if I can. My problem is that some local businesses aren’t very supportive when it comes to pricing. They should make a healthy profit, but they shouldn’t take advantage of the consumer. I buy tiny screw eyes for crafting and at Lowes or Rona they are sold in a package of ten for about $2.50. I just ordered 200 from China for $2.89 with free shipping. If I were to buy the same amount locally, it would cost me about $50.00. That is too healthy a profit. They could order the screw eyes from China, charge .05 per and make a 400% profit and everyone would be happy.

Oh well, I probably just don’t understand international business and international business doesn’t understand me.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

So Cheap

I did something today that I have very rarely done in the past forty years.

When I was in grade seven and eight, once a week we would go to another school for the afternoon and take Industrial Arts. The boys only of course because the girls were busy taking Home Economics. The girls would learn how to sew, cook and keep a house and we boys would learn how to use tools to manufacture and repair things. There was no crossing the gender barrier, only girls could take Home Ec and only boys I.A. I guess they were trying to raise good little wives and husbands who would contribute to our society. They didn’t factor drugs and rock and roll into their plans for us.

It was something I looked forward to every week, just to get out of our school and into another was pretty cool. The first day of I.A. in grade seven, the instructor gathered us together and held up two tools. He said “Let’s get this over with now. I don’t want to hear any giggles or snickering the next time I talk about these. This is a prick punch and this is a bastard file!” Of course we all giggled and snickered every time we heard the name and I still do to this day. It just occurred to me that I never learned what a prick punch or a bastard file looked like. Too busy giggling I guess.
 Image result for prick punchImage result for bastard file
I remember turning a bowl on a lathe, but something catastrophic must have happened to it because I don’t remember ever bringing it home. The only thing I remember bringing home in two years was a letter holder made from bent steel and painted. The instructor was so anal that it took forever to get him to okay you to move on to the next stage of a project. Not much of what he taught has stuck through the years. I remember a little about wood turning, a smidge about how to bend metal and everything about how to clean paint brushes.

I don’t know why that one thing stuck with me, but it sure did. I can still visualize the room where we would clean the brushes in turpentine, then shake off the excess turpentine (no waste), brush what was left on old newspapers and then wash the brush four times with soap and water. That was for oil based paint of course as latex paints had just recently been developed and would take a few years to filter into Industrial Arts classes.

I have always cleaned my brushes, rollers, paint cans and paint trays just as soon as I finish a painting job. I have the first brush that I bought just after we were married and although it rarely gets used, it is a good back up brush. Rollers are more difficult to clean and I can only make them last a few years, because the nap seems to flatten out after five or so uses. Maybe ten…it all depends on how cheap I am feeling.
 Image result for old paint brush
Today after I finished painting the kitchen pantry I just tossed the roller without even trying to clean it. It was an old roller and I have a few others in various stages of wear. Interestingly enough, the roller and handle mechanism broke while I was painting. It had been with me about forty years. I didn’t toss it out because I may be able to repair it. Maybe…

I wonder what that old, anal I.A. instructor would say if he knew. “Don’t be so cheap! Those things are a buck at the dollar store.”

Monday 18 January 2016

Sentimental Fog

Oh my God! Glenn Frey died today.

There has been far too much death in the last month. I suppose that when people reach a certain age the meat machine just starts to break down in all sorts of ways.

People die, that is just a part of being here and for most of my life it really hasn’t had much impact. I had a friend die in his late twenties, but that was a horrible accident. There were a few political figures that met untimely ends which stand out in my mind. Some of the older guys I worked with passed away over the years and a few my age that somehow became ill and passed. They were not in very good health as a rule and their deaths were no real surprise to me. My parents and Louise’s parents passed away, but that is what parents are supposed to do in the fullness of time. The world turns.

Every day in the news there are stories of accidental death and violent death at the hands of one crazy group or another. It is so common place that I barely even take note anymore. A thousand children can die of starvation in some remote area of the world and I am more emotionally moved by the death of a family pet. Death is all around us, but the society that I live in keeps it hidden from view. I have probably seen only a small handful of dead people during my sixty some odd years on this planet, and they have been made up to look as they did when they were alive. Strange culture!

This past month has not been good for aging film and rock stars. These are the people that wrote the songs that became the soundtrack of my life and those who gave me hours and hours of entertainment. I could say that I will miss them, but the truth of the matter is that they will always be with me. I just have to play one of their songs or watch a favourite movie. These people will never age and will continue to entertain me even though they are no longer here.

The personal losses are a little more problematic. I have photographs and memories, but the images seem to fade over time and the memories are altered with the passage of years. I can still recall my loved ones that have passed, but only through a sentimental fog. Perhaps that is for the best.

Maybe we should ask God for a moratorium on death for a month or so. Just until we can emotionally catch up and come to grips with our lives that have suddenly developed endings.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Really Cold

It has been middling cold for the past few days, but the weatherman has promised a Chinook will blow in early this week. Tomorrow I think he said. By the way, "middling" for me means that the temperature is about -15˚C with a wind chill of no more than -20˚C. It is a temperature that I can live with and as long as I am moving and dressed for the weather, there shouldn't be a problem.

I was thinking today that as long as I was wearing long johns, preferably wind proof pants, thick socks, good boots, at least three upper layers, a parka (windproof of course), scarf, toque and for me a neoprene face mask I should do fine. I suffered a touch of frostbite on my upper right cheek some years back and it seems to be more sensitive to the cold than the other cheek. Maybe the biting wind is what Jesus meant when he suggested turning the other cheek. It occurs to me that dressing for the cold in Canada isn't a simple matter unless you were born here.

There was a news report last night about a class for new immigrants to the country on how to dress to survive winter in Canada. It isn't something that would immediately spring to mind, but it does make sense. If you were coming from a country where the only ice you encounter is in a drink, survival information would come in handy. We had neighbours that exchanged jobs and homes with an Australian couple and although they did know what to expect, there were times when the cold tossed them a curveball or two. I remember looking out the window one day and that couple, their two adult children and their wives were just standing in the alley looking up and down. We had had a thaw/freeze cycle and the entire alley as far as the eye could see was just a sheet of ice and they had never encountered anything like it before.

I worked with a fellow from Fiji and he told me that his first winter in Canada he couldn't put on enough clothing to keep warm. One day when it was -40˚ the phone rang and it was his boss asking him where he was. He told the boss that when he went out in the morning he couldn't breathe, the air had been that cold, so he assumed that no one in their right minds would go out if they didn't have to. The boss told him that he had to if he wished to keep working. He has been here for about twenty years so I think he became acclimated to the weather.

I find that now I don't have to go out in the extreme cold, I just don't. I can and do but if I had the option, I would be living in Hawaii where, when it gets really cold, you just roll down your sleeves and maybe put on a pair of socks.

Friday 15 January 2016

He Is On My Side

I am getting older and with age comes wisdom. Well, I am told wisdom comes to some people. I must have been out when they were making the wisdom deliveries because all that age has brought to me is a body that seems to be degrading on a daily basis. My mind hasn’t been doing too well either. To be fair, my mind was never that strong.
I have tinnitus which is an eternal buzzing in my ears. There is something else in my right ear, but the ear doctors couldn’t quantify it so I guess I just don’t have a problem. It is said that Joan of Arc suffered from tinnitus and those that don’t believe God whispered in her ear will tell you that she had a bad case of tinnitus. I don’t want God to guide me in leading a holy army, but it would be nice if He would guide me when I am buying lotto tickets.
 Image result for cartoon character Jeep
Last night, Louise and I were watching TV when I heard a beep. Sometimes TV sound tracks have odd little noises so I didn’t pay much attention to it. It happened again and again. I kept an eye on Louise to see if she heard the beep, but nothing. Eventually, I asked her if she heard a beep and she said that she hadn’t. I heard another beep and Louise said that she heard it this time too. I got up and stood under the smoke alarm at the back of the hall for a few minutes watching it to see if it was up to anything funny, but no beep. I went downstairs and spent a few minutes under each one of the alarms in the basement, but they seemed to have finished beeping for the night, if it were indeed them at all.
 Image result for chandelier
We were beep free all day today and I had moved on to watching the chandelier in the front hall just in case it decided to spontaneously burst into flames. It shouldn’t, but I have a policy of never trusting something that has a French name for no apparent reason. As far as I can tell, there is no English translation for chandelier which seems odd to me. Surely, some long ago British noble had a version of hanging lights in their foyer. Yes, another French word that is taking over for front hall. We English speakers should be vigilant.

I heard the beep again tonight while watching TV. This time so did Louise. I went and stared at the smoke detectors again, but nothing. While I was in the basement staring at the smoke detector I started to wonder if instead of a battery problem, could be possible that we had an animal problem. Do mice beep? Do squirrels? Rats!!!??? Please God, no rats! Just as I was about to run upstairs screaming like a little girl, the smoke detector beeped.
Image result for rats 

Thank God! I was saved from an infestation of rats by a dead battery. There is a God and it appears that He is on my side.
Image result for god thumbs up