Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Awl right now


I'm glad the snow is finally going away. I'm tired of it.

I have the urge to carve some wood, a root or a burl, but I have neither right now and they're not really the sorts of things that hardware stores stock a lot of.

Another thing I've found is that hardware stores don't really stock awls either. We went to three before we found one. Maybe no one uses them anymore.

I hate asking for help in hardware stores. I prefer to find everything myself because I get treated by staff as if because I'm young and female I left my brain by the door on the way in.

They fall into two major categories. There are the incredulous guys who second guess your decisions because you are female and therefore you know nothing about tools, wood, mechanics or whatever you are looking for. They are the guys who ask you things like "Are you sure you need an awl?" Yes, I'm sure I need an awl. If I didn't need an awl, I wouldn't have asked for one, and if I wasn't sure what kind of tool I needed, I would have described what I was trying to do and asked for advice.

Then there are the somewhat nicer, but just as irritating paternal types, who feel they have to explain to you how to use the tool you just asked them to help you locate.

Inevitably the problem for them is that you have asked for something that they can not locate, so therefore you are asking for the wrong thing. The problem is never that they do not have a good enough knowledge of the stock in their department to be able to locate something specific.

I found an awl at Home Depot finally, after asking two staff members who couldn't find one themselves and questioned whether I needed it. The awls were hiding near the rubber hammers, nowhere near where the staff chose to look.

I want to go canoeing too, but mine's covered in snow.


I feel the need to qualify this post by stating that the staff in the local Rona are pretty awesome and good at cactus husbandry and that Abby at the front desk would most certainly know where the awls were if they stocked them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My family crosses a snowbank

"It's like the Kyber Pass. We need goats or elephants."

"I was thinking more like northern Afghanistan, with Kalashnikovs and pieces of dead bodies sticking out of the snowbanks."

"Okay, snow fantasy of your choice."

"Pretty slippery!"

"Watch your step!"

"Did you see me lose my footing? I almost didn't make it through there. I could have broken my leg and then you'd have to throw me off a cliff."

"No, we'd rescue you. We'd have a bottle of brandy and some St. Bernards."

"And I'd be laying there with my mangled leg telling you to just leave me to die. No, just throw me off a cliff so that the vultures won't get me while I'm still alive. It's not worth it."

"No, you'd be saying that because you'd had too much brandy and you had to vomit."

"Still, it was a close call."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

How to celebrate Maxmas


So this is how it goes. Santa comes, we wake up and open presents, stockings first and then after everything is open and has been presented to everyone else and photographed, there is a half hour of silence in which everyone sets to scratching lottery tickets.

When I was little I remember just having to scratch everything and see if the numbers matched. It was easy and it only took a couple minutes. Nowadays they make you work for your winnings or nonwinnings. No doubt they pay someone way too much to put together complicated puzzles that require excessive concentration and precision scratching in order to arrive at the realization that you are very close to winning something decent but not quite there.

Anyways, I win at lottery ticket scratching today. $32 on two tickets! I'm just chock full of awesome.

Then, because there's nothing to do on December 25, everyone runs out to watch a movie. Today someone decided that it would be a good idea to see Marley and Me a story about a dog that looked and acted almost exactly like our dead dog, in which THIS IS A SPOILER! the dog dies YOU PRETTY MUCH KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NOT VERY LONG INTO THE MOVIE ANYWAYS! when we have unresolved issues related to euthanizing the cat earlier this year, and the fact that the other two could go at any minute. We all cried a lot. A lot of people in the theatre did.

Then home for dinner. My mom's holiday specialty is turkey that reminds me of the National Lampoon Christmas.

Then afterward the cribbage tournament continues, and my seven game winning streak is finally over. Meh.

This year was a little different with the addition of Christmas crackers. Everyone had three each and silliness ensued when people got their stupid little prizes. A pencil, yay! A cell phone charm, yay! A golf abacus... um... yay! A spring on a keychain ring? WTF?


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I don't do fahrenheit.

Today was new furnace day. The old furnace was thirty-five years old, in addition to being really noisy and polluting a lot. The new one is smaller, quieter, more efficient and sticks out in the room more so that I'll probably bang into it in the middle of the night.

It took what felt like forever to install because they had to cut a hole through the wall to the outside and they hit a knot in the wood that their tools would not drill through.

More likely it felt like forever because the heat was off and the doors were open for several hours and the temperature was sub zero. During the crucial minutes while the house still had some heat in it I had been conscripted into doing yardwork outside, so by the time I re-entered the now freezing house I'd already caught a chill.

Eventually I retreated into the workshop where there's a wood stove and fell asleep on a chair. I was out there for quite a while because no one bothered to tell me that the furnace was installed and working.

In fact, it works great, except that the thermostat is in fahrenheit. How am I supposed to know what the temperature is?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Maxmas

They said that the snow would be really bad today and that people should refrain from going outside, but when you have brand new snow tires and 300 lbs of kitty litter in your trunk driving in the snow isn't all that bad. The only thing you have to do is keep a healthy distance from all the people on the road who are driving in all season radials or engaging in other stupidity.

At a gas station I watched a guy back into a curb before he got out to clean off a small patch of the rear window, which until that point had been completely covered in snow. Once he had cleared off the minimum amount to be able to back in beside the pump, about a tenth of the total area of the window, he stopped and got back in the car. Who knows how long he drove before and after that without the use of his rear view mirror.

As luck would have it, my cousins were just in front of us in a very short line to see Santa at the mall. Garrett wanted to know why Mary and Joseph named their baby a swear word. Her mom tried to explain that it's only swearing in certain contexts and that it didn't have that meaning back then but she would have none of it. "They should have named him Max," she said.

Maxmas has a special ring to it, doesn't it? Henceforth Christmas will be called Maxmas in our house. It's a better name for what we celebrate anyways, because there's no Christ in Maxmas.

The Santa at Coquitlam Centre is a real beard Santa and he's been there for several years now. I see him every year. I don't care how old I am, sitting on Santa's lap makes me beam from ear to ear. He recognizes us so he was pretty chatty today.

Other than Santa, malls are not my favourite place to be, especially around this time of year. It's not just the artificial lighting, crowds, noise and recycled air. They're full of unhappy people burdened with a sense of obligation to spend and I hate counting myself among them. I don't think malls are really particularly good places to shop for gifts either. They're filled with a lot of bland, uninspiring choices, and the majority of the stores are for things I don't like buying for people, like clothes and glasses. In my experience, when you buy these things, whether or not people will actually like your choices is a complete crapshoot.

I had a bit of last minute shopping to do, but afterward I was glad to be home. This hasn't been the best holiday so far, but it certainly hasn't been the worst either. Sometimes it's tough to cling to the middle ground.

Friday, December 19, 2008



At 2 am this morning all of a sudden someone got into the shower. I thought that maybe it was my sister but she had gone to bed. Through my amazing deduction skills, I figured out that it was my father showering.

It defied all logic so I was confused. There was no reasonable explanation as to why my father was by then brushing his teeth and probably squinting at himself in the mirror.

I'm used to a certain amount of weirdness and clandestine behaviour around Christmas time each year because people are secretly coordinating and planning things, stashing, wrapping behind closed doors, coming home late after work, making mysterious trips and sneaking around when they think you don't notice them. That's probably why I didn't bother to ask dad why he was turning on the furnace, starting the car to warm it up, completely dressed and trying to get my mom out of bed.

He asked me if I'd emailed him something and I said I hadn't, but that I could do it right away before I forgot. I turned on my computer. Because it's such a dinosaur, I decided to go brush my teeth while it warmed up.

When I got out of the bathroom, all the lights in the house were out, which only served to confuse me more. "I misread my clock," he said in the darkness.

That's the problem with winter. 2am looks exactly the same as 7am. Dark.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



Some days I don't really need to eat anything, but today was not one of those days. I've been cursed with a hollow leg today and have eaten my weight in food.

It must be the weather. It's too cold and it has been for a few days now. I decided I would walk to the bank and then run some other errands, but after depositing a cheque I hobbled home chilled to thaw out.

These days I seem to be completely incapable of keeping myself warm without swathing myself in a yurt.

It wasn't always this way. In elementary school my parents used to leave for work early so I would get to school at 7:15 am, long before most of the staff had arrived, and the only thing that was open with adult supervision was the Breakfast Program. Since we lived in a low-income neighbourhood, a good 20% or more of the school used to go there to eat because their parents couldn't or wouldn't feed them at home.

We weren't particularly hungry. We'd always arrive with stomachs full of breakfast from home, but we couldn't very well pass up the food that was there. It was offered, it was novel, and our consciences were clear because mom used to write a cheque to the program every month to be sure that we weren't taking food away from the welfare kids.

Besides, mom never let me have sugar sprinkled on my toast like Mrs. Garrison did. Or Nutella. These things were unheard of in our house. And she was generous with them too.

When she was down to the bottom of the Nutella jar, she used to offer it up to some students to scrape clean, and because I used to help clean up, I was always a star candidate. The jars never arrived empty. They usually had a good inch of Nutella stuck in the bottom, which meant more than enough to share.

All of this coupled with the fact that I was a pretty sedentary kid mean that I acquired a good layer of blubber that used to keep me warm. Used to. Now that it's cold, I kind of want that blubber back. Maybe that's why I'm so hungry.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The energy audit


More cool ice!

We had an energy audit today in which surprisingly enough, our house scored higher than average for its age and type. That's mainly because we've done a lot to improve it already, like replacing all the basement windows and insulation and insulating the attic. When we first moved in it was terrible. Sections of walls didn't have any insulation at all and the draughts were so bad it was almost windy inside.

Apparently, if we do all the retrofits that were recommended, our carbon emissions will decrease by 3.1 tonnes per year. Yay us! Most of it was stuff that will be done to the house eventually so really all the inspector did today was put a number on it that will help with getting a government rebate for our new furnace.

Sally was pretty upset. She was hungry but when she went into the kitchen the inspector was sitting at the table with his laptop and he said "Hi kitty," in a very friendly and non-threatening way which is scary so she had to mope around, looking awkward, and took to howling in the back bedroom near the end of his visit.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Kanaka Creek


While a huge part of the Lower Mainland got covered in snow, we got a powdered sugar dusting of the stuff. What we did get though was wind. The weather report tells me that they were expecting that with windchill the temperature out here would drop to -15 C though I have no way of knowing if it actually got that cold. In all likelihood it didn't drop below -3.

Still, that's pretty cold for here and usually when it's like that I'd just as soon not go outside. Of course that means that Abby and I went on a hike.


We'd had this date set for quite some time. Our plans to climb Alouette Mountain hit a bit of a snag when I realized that there probably isn't enough daylight in the day in the middle of December to finish the hike without freezing to death. Not to mention, there's probably snow there, and we know from experience that we just don't like snow on our trails.


There are many things about Maple Ridge that suck, but Kanaka Creek is not one of them. It's a pretty spot full of scenic, non-strenuous trails and picnic areas that's really popular with dog walkers. I'm always amazed at the number of birds and other interesting things I see when I'm there. I always end up seeing some thing new. Today it was a woodpecker and some cool looking white rosehip berries that I've never seen before. I don't have pictures of them because my fingers were frozen.


We also found some really cool looking ice on the ground. I'm not sure how it got that way. Physics!

Because it was cold, there weren't very many people around, which was great for geocaching because I didn't need to use my super ninja stealth skills. I found four today, which is pretty good for me because I suck at it.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicken number five

IMG_7897_1This chicken was my carry-on baggage when I went through the Calgary airport a few years ago. I wanted to see if they would let me take it on, and it turns out that they do allow such things on planes, though only in the overhead compartments. I got a lot of odd looks while I was going through security and they made me run it through the metal detector three times to make sure it wasn't a bomb.

Its name is Chicken Number 5 in memory of the best grad prank ever in which five live chickens mysteriously appeared in the cafeteria. Each had a ribbon with a number. The staff caught chickens one, two, three, four and six, and then spent hours looking for the nonexistent chicken number five.

Its nickname is Chick Vennera because one time in school Abby had to read The Pearl and as an assignment she had to pick actors to play the characters in a movie. I decided to help her with it and we spent a lot of time cruising IMDb looking up Spanish and Latino actors and then googling the results. Quite accidentally we made a typo in Chick Vennera's name that resulted in unexpected pornography, and then screaming, closing the browser and hysterical laughter. Nothing to do with him at all, but the name reminds me of that assignment.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The cheapest item is the one you put back on the shelf.

Grandma was in a reasonably good mood today, which made spending three hours in the mall with her relatively painless.

All the muscles in her back have atrophied so she has a lot of difficulty sitting up straight. Over time she begins to lean to her right and hang out of her chair at an odd, uncomfortable looking angle that causes random strangers to shoot you dirty looks because somehow it is your fault.

It is hard to say whether our efforts to shift her upright help or not. Though well-meaning, it seems to just make her more uncomfortable and sore. So she spent most of the time pitched over like she was drunk, and it just so happened that this and her driving style ran her head into collisions with the purses of innocent women who happened to be in the way.

As far as a shopping trip went though, it was reasonably successful. Grandma never approaches these things with any ideas as to what exactly she wants to get, so mostly you have to suggest things. There is a certain art to making the right suggestions that I think we did well today.

At one point in time she decided she wanted some perfume and glommed on to a box of Shania Twain fragrances. "Do you think this would be cheaper?" she asked, and I suggested that we go find out what it smelled like first. "But is it cheaper?" We found her a tester and decided that we didn't really like the smell. Regardless, it took a while before we could convince her that it would be cheaper still just to put it back on the shelf.

So sorry, Shania.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If I don't return...

Tomorrow my aunt and I are taking my grandmother shopping. Against my better judgement I'm going to be optimistic about this, not because I have any reason to be but because because.

My grandmother is a chronically unpleasant woman who hates being confined to a hospital, but who hates being outside of it as well. Outside of it she is disoriented, miserable and uncomfortable and makes you feel horrible for torturing her by forcing her to go to the restaurant or store she begged you to take her to.

This is the woman who enjoys taunting the alzheimers patient next door to her, uses racial slurs in front of my non-Caucasian friends who volunteer at the hospital, hands you gifts with the words "I don't know what the hell this is!" and screws up her face in disgust when you bring her fresh fruit.

I don't know why I love her but I do.

My mom and sister took her for the annual shopping trip last year so it's my turn and besides, my aunt needs the moral support.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Today just wasn't very interesting, sorry.

laminaria blocking

For anyone who is remotely interested I finally finished the thing I was knitting earlier and you can see it blocking above. Laminaria in Louet Riverstone Chunky. It was a nice, easy little project that filled up the inevitable couple braindead days I have right at the end of the semester when I've finally handed in everything, as well as the couple of groggy days after I got my wisdom teeth out.

I think I may have overblocked it because the poor thing is kind of stiff, like I sprayed it with starch or something. I'm a little tempted to throw it into the dryer to soften it up, even though that can't be a good idea at all. It's prettier than it is cuddly, but maybe that will change.

Alright, enough about the knitting, eh?

The stitches in the roof of my mouth are gradually falling out but they're taking their sweet time doing it and brushing up against my tongue, which irritates me.

But what doesn't irritate me is that tomorrow I will be downtown, and that means that maybe I will have something interesting to talk about.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christmas in the park

IMG_7857_1Today I was witness to one of the least inspiring Christmas parades I think I've seen in real life. You see these things in movies all the time. A Santa sits in a sleigh and says "Ho ho," half-heartedly as if he's bored or has so many other better things to be doing rather than entertaining children. You're only really supposed to see that lack of enthusiasm in Christmas specials. It shouldn't actually happen. Though, to be fair, it was raining and the poor guy didn't have any shelter.

As he passed by the people began to leave in waves that turned the ground slick and mucky. I was heading out for gelato so of course I was going the opposite direction, through the crowd.

The gelato shop has one of those fibreglass boys that sits inside the ice cream cone eating the gelato. For some reason those things inspire the most morbid of thoughts in me. I think as I walk by them that maybe those greedy little ice-cream-eating children wouldn't look so smug and greedy if all the ice cream suddenly melted and they were drowning in it. Too much of a good thing.

Gelato happens to be the perfect cure for a sore mouth brought on by chewing on your dinner. It is also a good source of comic relief as it turns out people like to laugh at the fact that I shiver uncontrollably while eating it out in the rain.

As far as I know, the only real difference between the old Rogers Video and the new Rogers Plus other than the rebranding is that the lineups are longer and the service is slower. While we waited in line, we braced ourselves for the upcoming encounter. They'd want our card, then they'd begin checking out the movie, removing the security thing from the box, then they'd remind us that previously viewed dvds are on sale, had we heard about the special they have on right now? you can get a free chocolate bar if you buy two bottles of Coke, or you can get a free bag of Clodhoppers, if you want, then they'd remind you that if you're in the market for a new phone or are planning on switching providers they're there and they can set you up, then they'll tell you the name of the movie you're taking out, tell you when it's due back, ask you for money, tell you how many points you have and how many more you need before you get your free rental or dvd, ask you if you want a bag and then send you out the door.

We were bang on.

Tonight's movie was Death at a Funeral which I thought was hilarious because it's morbid and British and Brits are funny.

Friday, December 05, 2008

You didn't want to see a picture of my breakfast anyways.

I woke up this morning to a man's voice calling my name. I didn't recognize the voice at all and it turned out that there wasn't anyone calling for me. Either I was waking up from a dream that I don't really remember or it was the narcotics talking.

I spent most of today doing pretty much what I did last evening, only I was a little more groggy. Knitting, reading Charles Dickens and puttering about feeling groggy.

I kind of feel like a chipmunk right now. When I look in the mirror I don't look too terrible, but that doesn't stop me from thinking that my cheeks are puffed out halfway across the room. Definitely more swollen than yesterday.

The cat and I watched a documentary on Leni Riefenstahl, whose work I find pretty inspiring, fascist overtones and body fetishization aside. She had an incredible attention to detail and the ability to edit things together until they were just right, as well as the creativity to make up new techniques that are used in the film industry today.

When I started this post early this morning I had originally planned to write about what I ate for breakfast. I took pictures while I was cooking, specifically for this purpose. Then I remembered that I was making scrambled eggs and that that is not the least bit unusual or noteworthy.

Oh well.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Five teeth later.

IMG_7851_1All in all it's been a good day.

I got my wisdom teeth out, plus another one for good measure. That was the little piece of corn thing that suddenly started showing up in my x-rays about 3 years ago. A little baby tooth that has since grown roots and become impacted up underneath my nose without breaking through the gums. I told them they could cut that out too, and that one required going in through the front of my gums and through the roof of my mouth simultaneously.

So needless to say I'm quite chipper. No, seriously. It's been 12 hours and the freezing has only worn off on the side where the teeth weren't impacted. My left side: cheek, jaw, gums, tongue, lips, nose, are all still pretty frozen. My left nostril was frozen shut for a while but I'm fine.

They sent me home with a care package of extra gauze, a syringe I'm supposed to use, ice packs and some organic ginger ale that is pretty awesome stuff. It's spicy because it actually tastes like ginger.

The only thing that bugs me at this point is that it all feels mildly itchy and swollen, I can't chew and I have developed an aptitude for slopping everything I try to eat down the front of me.

My mom's been fussy. She went out and got a bunch of jello and juice for me, and made soup for dinner. The crockpot is full of different soup for tomorrow.

Aside from that I've had a relatively unstrenuous time knitting this thing (almost done!), winding a ball of Schaefer Anne by hand and ploughing through some more Dickens.

I've also been cruising Etsy and getting lots of cool ideas, not because I see things I want to rip off, but because I can't find what I wanted to ogle and consider purchasing.

I decided that I was in the mood to do some woodwork, like carving something with a lathe or chisels or something, but mom vetoed the idea. I walked away giggling. She asked me how much codeine I had consumed and I hadn't had any by that point. I'm just naturally giggly.

The form that I got at the surgeon's told me that I'm not supposed to drive, operate aircraft or sign legal contracts right now. It most certainly did not forbid me to use pointy things that could possibly remove my fingers. But meh, I'm a sucker for a rational argument.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Your questions answered, once again.

IMG_7853_1Google Analytics tells me that people arrive here all the time with questions, deep questions that need answering. Lucky for some of you random searchers who have landed on this site, I have some answers.

There was no alligator in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as far as I know, so I'm at a loss as to what to name this invisible alligator.

A filing cabinet is kind of big and clunky to be taking traveling with you, isn't it? I'd suggest getting a blackberry or a laptop instead, or if you're really into analog maybe a briefcase or a moleskine. They're easier to carry.

I don't personally know Leonard Cohen. I just think he's cool.

Unfortunately I can not supply you with free copies of Ukranian magazines.

Are you older than I think? How old did you think I thought you were?

The kitchen table in my apartment was a huge 50s arborite and chrome monster that was so kitschy and dated that I love it and refused to let it go when I moved. It's currently disassembled in the garage, and you can not have it.

No, I don't think Abby uses the vacuum cleaner much. Sometimes, but not much.

What is this alligator fungus you speak of? It sounds interesting!

Yes, I do have the recipe for the UBC Rise and Shine Muffins and they're nostalgically delicious. I may just share my version, but not today because I'm nasty and because their deliciousness deserves its own dedicated post. Maybe tomorrow?

If you ever find that picture of a beetle that looks like a stegosaurus you've got to show me. It sounds really cool.

My first job was as a janitor. I don't care what you say. Swilling out urinals will never be sexy, especially when a high proportion of guys seem to both miss the bowl and shed pubic hairs. Please take your "sexy cleaner" searches elsewhere. Thanks.

"Canadian forces polar fleece" must be more extreme and government-funded than regular polar fleece, eh?

Okay, here's how you get oxen to pull a cart:
1) Buy the oxen.
2) Press the button that says "Gruelling."
3) Ford the river.
4) Don't get dysentery.

I don't know how to stop a smoke alarm from tarping. Maybe you should try denying it access to a tarp.

Penicillin will kill me. It probably won't kill your cat if it's in a small, cat-appropriate dose, but you shouldn't be asking me about that. Talk to a vet.

I wasn't aware of a school policy against "holy jeans." But if your pants are too sacred, maybe you should try getting a priest to unbless them.

Yes, posse is an irregular verb.
Present: possum, potes, potest, possumus, potestis, possunt.
Imperfect: poteram, poteras, poterat, poteramus, poteratis, poterant
Future: potero, poteris, poterit, poterimus, poteritis, poterunt
Perfect: potui, potuisti, potuit, potuimus, potuistis, potuerunt
Pluperfect: potueram, potueras, potuerat, potueramus, potueratis, potuerant
Future Perfect: potuero, potueris, potuerit, potuerimus, potueritis, potuerint
Latin! I still have it!