December 10, 2009

By the seat of my pants

By nature, I am not a risk taker. I am an overly cautious, neurotically prepared worrywart. That said, contrary to my usual character, I occasionally find myself flying by the increasingly large seat of my pants. It's not a conscious decision; somehow I simply forget my usual hypervigilance and wing it.

Take driving. I'm still a novice, or a n00b as the kids call it nowadays. Now that I've got the whole gas pedal versus brake pedal thing down pat, however, I've really relaxed. This is in spite of the fact that the extent of my practicing is a 30-minute drive to or from my parents' house once every couple of weeks. The same route, over and over again. I could do it in my sleep. Sometimes I nearly do. Yes, I've become that relaxed.

I remember my mother trying to get me to relax when I was a stressed-out high-school student. She would ask me what was the worst thing that could happen if I didn't finish cramming for a test, and she even suggested that I might try taking a test without studying at all just to see how I would do. It must have been hard for her to witness my anxiety attacks whenever I felt that the amount of studying I had to do far exceeded the amount of time in which I had to complete it. And yet, there was that one time in university when I quite enjoyed taking an exam for which I had not studied.

I once risked very public embarrassment by failing to prepare. I had a bit part in the play "Rebel Without A Cause" in high school. Even if you've seen the movie a few times, you are still unlikely to remember that the role of the planetarium lecturer ("There was a planetarium lecturer?" you're thinking) was played by a man of about 60. Uh-huh. I had tried out for Natalie Wood's role but instead I won the role originally portrayed by a man born in the late 1800s. At the time I had no idea what a terrible actor I was. Anyhow, I was also assigned the part of understudy to the main female character. I had never heard of an understudy for an amateur high-school production. Much later it dawned on me that the two drama club teachers were simply being kind to me. They both had cougar crushes on my brother, who was also in the drama club, and I suspect that they wanted to curry favour with him by pretending that his little sister hadn't completely sucked during the auditions.

Rachel Stroud. I believe that was the name of the girl who played Natalie Wood's role in our high-school play. Thank goodness she didn't lose her voice or break a bone or find herself otherwise unable to perform, because I never bothered to learn her lines. I have no idea why.

Me, in my planetarium lecturer finery, bottom right.

I'm going to live dangerously now and post this without proofreading it a third time.

November 15, 2009

A lack of interests

All my life I have suffered from a lack of interests (plural). Oh, I had a couple of passions for a while, namely volunteering and fostering animals. However, after I was hired by the organization for which I had volunteered, and after I adopted my foster pets, my passions became my day-to-day reality. That's nothing to complain about, of course, but I have been feeling the need to replace those passions and my lack of interests has made that next to impossible.

Many people have more interests than they can count. Some of those interests are simple, quiet hobbies, while others involve travel and adventure. None of these myriad pastimes appeals to me. I don't want to cook, knit, play chess or partake in physical exercise, grueling or otherwise. I do enjoy a good book, but reading is what I do on the bus to and from work every day; reading in the comfort of my own home just puts me to sleep. I feel as though I've surfed the entire world wide web twice over. I don't have the money for expensive courses or trips, and even if I did I'm not sure that I would have the desire to sign up. So little piques my interest.

So, dear readers, what shall I do with my two-week vacation, which begins tomorrow? Scott will still be working, so I'm on my own. I won't even have the pleasures of sleeping in and relaxing in front of the TV, as we have men arriving early each morning with jackhammers, a radio and tone-deaf singing voices. (We are undergoing the noisy, dusty process of waterproofing and underpinning the basement. Oh joy.) I welcome your suggestions. I'm just so bored of being bored.

October 26, 2009

One year plus a day

No, that's not a jail sentence, it's how long Scott and I have been married. What a joy it was to be able to enjoy the autumn colours this year without fearing that the leaves would fall too soon. Scott and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday by taking the dogs to the conservation centre where we were wed. It was a beautiful day.

After our walk we went out to dinner, then came home to champagne and to wedding cake that we had frozen. Apparently it is traditional to save a bit of wedding cake to eat on one's first anniversary. We got that part of the tradition right. It is also traditional to give paper as a first-anniversary gift. Ironically, Scott and I sent each other e-cards. Hey, it fits with our green wedding.

Thanks to everyone who helped us to commemorate our special day!

October 12, 2009

Street View

When Google Maps' Street View feature was launched in my area a few days ago, my very first thought was "Cool!" My second thought was "Creepy!" Then I saw the poorly-stitched Street View image below and thought, "Ai yi yi..."

Twin Towers in Toronto?

On a completely unrelated note, happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!

September 26, 2009

Have I mentioned that my parents are American?

And that they're Democrats? Perhaps that's why I enjoy posting things like this:

P.S. If anyone can tell me how to stop cutting off the right side of embedded videos, I'd appreciate it. I tried reducing the object and embed width, but to no avail.

September 22, 2009


Is this necessary?

As if I'm not feeling old enough these days, here are the targeted ads with which Facebook has decided to grace my home page:


September 06, 2009

Five things that recently made me laugh.

#1. This ad for a course at a ballet school:

From This Sign Has Sharp Edges

#2. The fact that this dog probably ran away because of its description:

#3. The acronym for this city project update dealing with solid waste:

BMPU -- had to be intentional.

#4. The way these supposed marathon runners are dressed:

Sweatjeans and Bermuda trackshorts?

#5. What appears to be the biggest set of domestic-feline cahones ever:

It's actually my female cat's belly.

August 31, 2009

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Or in my case, away from the knife, onto the skewer. I managed to chop a zucchini, a pepper, an onion and some portabello mushrooms with a great big knife and I didn't even slice a fingernail. (Often the extra crunch in our meals is my own keratin.) Then, as I slid the chopped veggies and fungi onto a pair of bamboo skewers, I stabbed a vein in my hand. For a few minutes I had a teeny, tiny red geyser. So much for that part of dinner being vegetarian.

August 28, 2009

A memory

Out of the blue, I just remembered something that I saw at a subway station one evening several years ago. A man, perhaps in his thirties, was entering the station alone. He had a sheet of paper taped to his back. On the paper was written, in great big letters, "MY NAME IS BARRY AND I LOVE BINGO!"

That is all.

August 15, 2009

Bright-eyed and pony-tailed

My mood and mobility have been hampered by the recent hot, humid weather. At home, if I'm not slouched on a soft sofa, I'm sluggishly dragging myself around. My energy level is low and my ability to concentrate is compromised. Come to think of it, those could be symptoms of depression, but I thought I had that pretty much under control. (Thanks to drugs! Hooray for drugs!) (Er, the legal kind!)

Anyway, since I normally appear to be moping around like these two lugubrious characters...

Eeyore and Marvin the Paranoid Android

...I was puzzled today by an unfamiliar sensation of being very wide-eyed and alert. I don't take uppers, I've had no caffeine and I certainly haven't had any extra sleep. So what gives?

I figured it out when I removed my hair elastic this evening. Due to the heat and humidity, I had decided to wear my hair up. Apparently I had made my pony-tail too tight. What with my eyes pulled wide open you'd think that I would have noticed my stretched face in a mirror at some point. I must have looked like this:

...or this:

...or perhaps this.

Maybe a buzz cut would suit me.

August 03, 2009

We've got stones

A few weekends ago, Scott and I went rock climbing. That is, we went to his friend's rock-selling business and scrambled up huge piles of river rocks to select the perfect stones for our yard. Scott wanted some medium-sized rocks to go along the side of the garage. Weeks earlier we had torn out the paving-stone path that I had very laboriously laid there three years ago. By tearing out the path we had inadvertently left a mucky ditch for the dogs to romp in. With near-record rainfalls this summer, we'd finally had enough of muddy paw prints everywhere. The plan was to fill half of the ditch with rocks and to lay sod in the other half. Scott's hope was that the new rocks would filter away the rainwater that had previously dripped from the roof onto the path and into the garage. (You may have seen our old paving-stone path, as well as evidence of the dogs' love of romping in muck, here.)

Precariously perched on the rock piles, Scott and I picked the patterns that most appealed to us. That was the fun part. We loaded the rocks into a crate in the back of a borrowed pick-up truck and headed home on the highway. At one point Scott braked hard and the crate slid toward the cab at such a rate of speed that I thought it would crash through the rear window and crush us. There were points later on in the project when the thought of being crushed by a crate of rocks sounded inviting, but at the time I was pleased to be alive.

After arriving home safe and sound, I decided that we needed to insert a gardening project into our schedule. I thought that my rapidly reproducing red border lilies would look sharp nestled between the garage and our new rocks, so we spent the next hour digging the flowers out of the garden and planting them beside the garage. I had given no thought to the fact that the bulbs are completely shaded in their new location and will never feel the warmth of direct sun; they may never bloom again.

Next we unloaded the rocks. We painstakingly placed them, one by one, in front of the replanted lilies, being careful to avoid having too many of one size, shape, colour or pattern in the same area. It was a long, slow process, and in the end we had... far fewer rocks than we required. The sun was setting, our stomachs were growling and our muscles were aching. Neither one of us had to speak it to know it: after having chosen and placed each stone so carefully, we would not be hand-selecting the next batch. We would have them loaded into the crate by a backhoe and we would dump them unceremoniously on top of the thoughtfully placed first batch. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, unless you're so bloody exhausted and sore that you really couldn't give a rat's ass about aesthetics anymore.

During a subsequent weekend Scott borrowed a rototiller and tilled the clay-filled mud. Since we have had so much trouble keeping grass alive with the dogs tearing up the ground day after day, he was intent on doing it right this time. I thought that a new stepping-stone pathway from the driveway to the dogs' poop area would be just the thing to preserve the grass. All we needed to do was to lay the new path along the same route as the dogs already travelled. It was a great plan, but not one that we were able to stick to. In laying out the base for the path we forgot entirely about the dogs' usual route and instead dug a meandering trench faintly echoing the curves of the garden wall. We anchored weed barrier with rubber lawn edging and at the end of a long day the yard looked like so:

Eventually we purchased two dozen rolls of half-dead sod -- the only sod we could find mid-season -- and turned our yard into this:

We had rejected the idea of stepping stones, feeling that introducing yet another texture of stone into the yard would be an eyesore. Instead, we opted for smaller versions of the river rocks we had laid along the garage. Our yard then became this:

You may notice Montana, the main culprit in lawn destruction, gleefully trotting along beside the path in the photos above. Since their poop area is gravel, I had never imagined that the dogs would balk at walking on stones. But balk they did. They refused to set paw on the path, and as a result they began doing their business all over our new grass. To say that this displeased me would be an understatement. To say that Scott was fuming mad would also be an understatement. The next week found us taking turns walking the dogs back and forth along the new path. While they eventually got used to the feel of the river rocks and resumed using their poop area rather than the lawn, I am no longer foolishly harbouring the illusion that they will stick to the pathway at all times and cease to run muddy ruts into the lawn. For now, at least, the grass is thriving and the yard looks half decent:

This was a typical Scott-and-Jenni project: poorly thought out, done in numerous steps weeks apart, and involving several spats, streams of sweat and superfluous swearing. I can only imagine how painful a process our upcoming home renovations will be. All's well that end's well, however, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Even if our victories are only temporary.

July 27, 2009

Today the desk isn't hard enough... make banging my head on it satisfactory.

It's been one of those days.

July 24, 2009

It's been a while.

It's been a while since I've posted. Some days when I start to blog I stop myself and think, "Who would want to read about that?" Then there are days like today, when I don't care if anyone wants to read my drivel or not. If I don't get rid of it, it will puddle at my feet. Instead, I choose to share my drivel with you.

It's interesting that "drivel" contains the word "drive," because driving is something else I hadn't done in a while. I finally had an opportunity to drive tonight. Wasn't I pleased with myself when Scott dozed off in the passenger seat. Normally he is stressed out, hyper alert and grouchy when I'm in the driver's seat. I figured that I couldn't be doing too badly if he was comfortable enough to doze while I drove. I smiled fondly and watched him, with his head tipped back, his mouth ajar, snoring softly.

"STOP!" Scott yelled suddenly. Somehow he had emerged from the depths of his slumber just in time to holler at me as we approached an intersection. He feared that I was going to ignore the traffic lights and race ahead recklessly. As if.

Scott soon fell back to sleep, only waking up periodically to point out my mistakes. I took one turn a bit too wide and hit the curb during another, my lane changes were jerky and my deceleration was rapid enough that the dogs slid around in the back of the vehicle. It could have been worse. I know, because I've done worse.

As we approached the driveway at the end of our half-hour ride, Scott instructed me to pull in front first. He had interrupted his nap so many times that he was too irritable to tolerate my clumsy attempts at reversing into place. I complied, turning smoothly into the driveway. As annoyed as Scott appeared, I remained satisfied with my performance. I got out of the car, having left plenty of room to swing open the door. On my side of the vehicle, that is. As for Scott, he practically had to reenact his birth to squeeze out of the car, as I had parked dangerously close to the house. That did not improve his mood any. But like I said, it could have been worse.

July 11, 2009

I wasn't going to do it.

I wasn't going to write a post about Michael Jackson. Sure, I had the Thriller album, and I even composed a letter to him when his hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial, but I wasn't his biggest fan. Still, I had to post the video below.

Click here for more information on the dancing inmates.

July 04, 2009

What is art?

Thanks to Ze Frank for tweeting about this.

P.S. Happy Fourth to my American friends and relatives!

June 20, 2009

Exam stress

Does anyone else who has been out of school for years still suffer from nightmares related to The Exam For Which You Haven't Prepared? I would far rather dream about being chased by evil, fire-breathing, infectious-disease-carrying, smelly zombies every night than have the exam nightmare ever again. It's just too real. Real, that is, in my head. The exam is always for a course I've never taken, on a campus I've never seen, with instructors I've never met. And yet it scares the bejeezus out of me and I wake up in a cold sweat, feeling like I've just failed the most crucial test of my life.

I have certainly experienced exam jitters in my day, and I have shown up for more than one test feeling inadequately prepared, but the outcome has never been so grim as to justify these continuing nightmares. In fact, I usually excelled at school, nerd that I was. The one vivid memory I have of giving up on a test halfway through makes me laugh rather than cringe. It was for a third-year East Asian Studies course at university. I had been too busy cramming for other mid-terms to devote sufficient time to this one. I came across a question regarding the I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes. I was asked to name the other Chinese classics. I remember sitting there, in the second row of desks, thinking, "Book of.... what? I have no idea. Book of... matches. Hee hee. Yeah, Book of Matches." I wrote that down. Next I wrote The Book of Love, the Book of Cookies (the special feature at a local bakery which was being widely advertised on radio in those days), Guinness Book of Records, Book of the Month Club... any goofy thing I could come up with.

Short on knowledge and even shorter on sleep, I began to regard my silly answer as terribly amusing. I tried to suppress my snickering. Naturally, it grew from snickering to chuckling to guffawing, all internal, and then it burst out of me in the form of a very loud snort. Typical. Still shaking with laughter, I packed up my things, handed in my test, and left the room.

Thanks to that experience, I'm a firm believer that sleep deprivation and exam stress can lead to hilarity. Just have a look at these prime examples of the toll taken by exam stress.

June 08, 2009


Won't you follow me? It would behoove me if you would. I updated my Blogger template just for you, after all. Don't you like it, all shiny and new and improved? So boost my self-esteem, won't you? Just click on that little "Follow" button on the right. The one that looks like this:

Make me feel like I have friends. Make me feel worthy. Give me something to live for! Please! Why are you making me grovel? You've left me with no dignity. How cruel! The least you could do is follow my blog. Just click the damn button!

This brief display of desperation, pathos, guilt-tripping and aggression has been brought to you by Eli Lilly, creators of the fine medication that keeps me sane.

June 03, 2009

He made me flowers!

Early in our relationship, Scott used to bring me flowers all the time. It made me feel so special. One spring day, however, he came over and discovered that I had thrown a bouquet of roses out onto the back deck. I had done so in the winter, as the flowers had died and I wanted to scatter them in the backyard to allow them to decompose come spring. I throw like a very weak girl, however, so the flowers only made it a few feet from the back door. It didn't matter how many times I explained my innocent intentions; that was the last bunch of roses Scott would ever buy for me.

You can imagine how touched I was with the birthday gift that Scott gave to me today: he made me flowers.

I sure married a talented guy.

May 23, 2009

Down and dirty

This weekend is a long one for our friends in the U.S., but it was last weekend that Canadians celebrated Victoria Day, a.k.a. "May 2-4," the unofficial start of summer. (Very unofficial, seeing as summer is still several weeks away.) The May 2-4 weekend includes a holiday Monday courtesy of the late, curmudgeonly Queen Victoria. Traditionally Canadians celebrate three days of beer, barbecues and buddies. This year the weather was glorious: sunshine, blue skies, cool breezes. It truly could not have been more beautiful. Scott and I spent all three days in the basement wearing dust masks.

Once upon a time our basement looked like this:

Then, as you may recall, it looked like this:

...and then like this:

It has taken us many months to get our butts in gear, but we finally decided to gut the rest of the basement to prepare for, one day, putting it back together again. Early Saturday morning, one week ago, Scott set out to buy dust masks, unwisely leaving me at home unattended. By the time he returned, I had done this:

...forgetting, of course, that the whole purpose of the dust masks was to prevent the inhalation of drywall dust and mold spores. I also neglected to close the basement door, so every flat surface on our main floor was covered in a thin layer of white dust. Oopsy.

Scott came home, shook his head at me, and created our toolbox for the rest of the project:

What came next was two days of sweating, destruction and bickering, interrupted only by a pleasant evening with friends (Saturday) and then with family (Sunday). By Monday Scott and I had learned to get along, for the most part. Along the way we made some interesting discoveries, such as the window that had been hidden behind the shower:

...and the very old faucet that a previous owner had drywalled around instead of removing, leading to a gaping void between the foundation and the inner wall:

In addition to removing drywall, insulation, tar paper and rotten framing, I also tried my hand at ripping out lathe and plaster in the stairwell. Although the basement door was closed this time, we still ended up with plaster dust coating almost the entire interior of the house. Lovely. At one point I hit myself in the ankle with a framing hammer. This is what the bruise looks like a week later:

Geez, I really need to moisturize. Not to mention lose a few pounds. Anyhoo, in the late afternoon of day two I was exhausted and in dire need of a shower before we were to head to my parents' place. I was about to excuse myself, but I thought better of it when Scott picked up his reciprocating saw. If he was even just half as fatigued as I was, it wouldn't have been smart to leave him alone while he worked with a dangerous power tool. He began to cut the framing away from the copper pipes in the demolished bathroom. Suddenly, you guessed it, PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! he cut through one of the pipes and created a not-so-tranquil fountain. So much for my nice, hot shower. I turned off the water to the entire house and waited while Scott went to the hardware store for some copper and a soldering kit.

If there's anything more dangerous than a very weary man with a reciprocating saw, it's a very weary man with a soldering kit. It's only dumb luck that Scott didn't burn the house down. I stood next to him with a fire extinguisher the entire time he worked at repairing the pipes. The next day, for reasons I still can't understand, he decided to remove all of the copper pipes in the bathroom anyway, including the new piece he had installed. This is what the old bathroom looks like now:

By the end of the long weekend we had filled a 14-yard disposal bin:

...which was surprisingly comfortable after three days of standing on a concrete floor wearing old loafers:

This weekend was supposed to be far more relaxing than last weekend. Unfortunately, I had scheduled an energy audit for 9:00 this morning. (Believe me, had there been any other time slot available I would have taken it. Normally I don't willingly rise before noon on weekends.) The federal and provincial governments are offering grants for renovations that improve the energy efficiency of one's home, as long as one has an energy audit performed both before and after the renovations are completed. The grant program is for a limited time only, hence the urgency of having our audit done.

Part of the audit involves using a blower door to bring the house to negative pressure, which makes it easy to detect air leaks. I was horrified to imagine twisters of pet fur spiralling through the house and lodging themselves in the auditor's fan, so last night and early this morning Scott and I dashed about dusting and sweeping and mopping. Our efforts paid off: there was still plenty of fur but not nearly enough to clog the fan.

At one point the auditor asked to inspect the crawl space beneath our addition, as we are planning to add insulation and he needed to document that there isn't already any insulation present. (There used to be, but the raccoons who used to live there pulled it down to use as bedding and a toilet. I dragged most of it out of there a couple of summers ago.) As the auditor snapped a few shots of the unexpectedly stinky crawl space he said nonchalantly, "Dead raccoon." That would account for the flies. We already knew of one long-dead raccoon whose body was unreachable but also way past the stinky stage of decomp. This raccoon, however, was relatively fresh, and right in our faces. The auditor casually suggested that we might want to dispose of it. Thanks for the tip; will that be extra?

Once the auditor had departed, Scott donned his grubbiest clothes and a pair of thick work gloves and set about removing the corpse. He asked me to find a big plastic bag. After searching the house for a large enough bag (I'll never look at Toys R Us bags in the same way again), I returned to the driveway to find Scott dry-heaving. "I was fine until the maggots," he coughed. He had flipped the raccoon onto its side, which was decidedly not its best angle. (Sorry, no photos.) As I stood holding the plastic bag, wearing nice clothes and no gloves, I began to reflect on how this weekend was rapidly turning out to be lousier than the last one. I have resolved to do no other unpleasant tasks this weekend besides laundry (which will first involve moving the washer and dryer and reconnecting them). Oh, and I also have to clean the litterbox. And pick up dog poop. To hell with it, I should just go back to bed.