All The Bits And Pieces

Because it’s almost November, it’s time again for Christmas catalogues to start inundating my mailbox, and of course, my favourite is Bits And Pieces. I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, but every year like clockwork, their random catalogue full of bizarre ‘gifts’ arrives. I’ve done regular features over the years on the strange things that the people at Bits And Pieces believe none of us can live without, like beard baubles, night vision goggles, weener cleaner soap, and screaming flying monkeys, and every year those strange things get topped by even stranger sh*t. So in honour of the advent of the Christmas season as heralded by catalogues, here are the top 5 ‘intriguing gifts for the holidays’ you can buy someone this year:

1) Talk Back Sloth

This ‘hilariously fun gift’ apparently records a message then repeats it back in a cute high-pitched sloth voice. Have these people never MET a sloth? Considering how long it takes a sloth to even move a paw, how long will you have to wait for a sloth to repeat back a complex message? Even “Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, Keeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnn. Hooooooooooooowwwwwwww aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrreeeee yyyyyyyyyyooooooooouuuuuuu?” is going to take up more time than I’ll ever get back.

2) Spider Surprise Money Box

This particular gift is listed under ‘Fun And Games For Kids’ and is described as ‘the perfect place to hide your money or small valuables’. Do you hate your kids? Then surprise them with a terrifyingly large spider when they try to steal from you. Yikes!

3) Motion Activated Toilet Bowl Light

This gadget turns your toilet into a nightlight for $19.99. Or you could just turn on the bathroom light for free. At any rate, the description states that it turns on ‘when it detects movement’, which I’m assuming is a subtle reference to ‘bowel movement’. I DO love the colour coordination though—there are 8 LED colours that you can program, so like yellow for pee, green for ‘I ate asparagus for dinner’, and red for ‘Oh my god, did a rat crawl up your ass and die??!!’

4) Little Digger

WHY ARE HIS PANTS DOWN?

5) Antler Toss Game

This is very reminiscent of Basket Head, another Bits And Pieces game for the office. What kind of workplace do you have where it’s considered appropriate to throw things at your colleagues? Yet the folks at Bits And Pieces encourage harassment and bullying complaints every year with these games designed to ‘shoot hoops at your co-worker’s head’ or force you to engage in reindeer sex games that involve bondage. And the guy that models both of these items? I just feel bad for him, like they trot him out once a year to put some sh*t on his head and act like he’s having fun, but he never really looks like he’s enjoying himself. In fact, the only time he’s ever looked remotely happy is when he’s wearing the umbrella hat because at least then he’s not getting spat on.

Once again, there’s literally nothing here that I would order, except for the T-shirt that says “Admit it…life would be so boring without me.” Am I right?

In other news, my friend da-AL from Happiness Between Tails has turned my guest post about the importance of getting pronouns right into a podcast and you can access it here: https://happinessbetweentails.com/2022/10/27/pronouns-suzanne-craig-whytock-podcast-henna-artist-alka-joshi/

Stereotypical

I was looking for something to write about this week, but was coming up short in the funny department, not for any particular reason, but simply because the funniest thing that happened to me happened at work but it was one of those things that might be really embarrassing for the business and I don’t know who reads this. So I went back through my phone looking for inspiration and found this:

Me: What robot were you talking about when you sent me this?
Ken: (looks at text): I don’t know.
Me: How can you not know? Are you fandangling with robots every day?
Ken: I don’t know what that word means, and I think you made it up.
Me: Of course I made it up, KEN. But that doesn’t change the fact that some robot was giving you a hard time.
Ken: That’s what they do.
Me: That’s a stereotype.

And of course, I was then reminded (and please forgive the terrible and obvious segue that will allow me to get to the thing I really wanted to write about while at the same time having at least SOME sort of introduction) of a commercial that keeps coming up on my Youtube recommendations. It’s an ad for Ikea Kitchens and was very popular several years ago, which you may remember. In the commercial, a large Italian family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is running around to the strains of “Mezza Voce”, trying to prepare the meal. Suddenly, a tiny grandmother dressed all in black appears, and tastes the spaghetti sauce. The music abruptly stops, as she yells “Tutti Fuore!” which means “Everyone Out!”, and the whole family scatters in fear as the music swells up and resumes. I guess they were making sh*tty spaghetti sauce or something, and she’s going to fix it with her magical Italian grandma powers. I don’t know a lot about Italian culture, but their grandmas seem pretty scary, according to Ikea, which seems to be doing a lot of heavy stereotyping in the commercial. And then I wondered how Ikea would portray other cultures in the kitchen, like, say, my own cultural backgrounds of English and Scottish…

A large Scottish family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is having a wee dram, and sword-dancing to the strains of bagpipe music. Suddenly, a stocky grandmother dressed in the clan tartan appears. She peers into the oven. The bagpipes stop abruptly—well, they kind of just die off, like the last gasps of a large farm animal—as she announces, “The haggis is no done yet!” and slams shuts the oven door. Everyone sighs and there are mutters of “Thank God”, and “Pour me another dram, Jimmy.” Someone hands the grandma a tumbler of Scotch. She tosses it back, and the bagpipes resume, like a large farm animal which has been suddenly been revived.

A large English family has gotten together for dinner. Everyone is enjoying a nice cup of tea whilst singing “God Save the King” acapella. Suddenly, a bespectacled grandmother appears, wearing a cardigan and slippers. She peers into the oven. Everyone keeps singing until the song is finished, because you never leave a monarch hanging. Then they look expectantly at the grandmother, who says, “Dear me, the roast isn’t quite gray enough yet. And I believe those potatoes need to boil for at least another half an hour.” The family nods in agreement and there are calls of “Very well, then,” and “Cheerio”. Someone mutters, “Couldn’t we just order an Indian take-away?The grandmother looks stern and pours herself a small glass of sherry, as the group begins to sing “Jerusalem.”

Ikea: Swedish for common sense. And stereotypes. And robots. By the way, Ken finally remembered that the robot he was struggling with turned out to be the neighbour’s robotic cat litter box–it got stuck and he had to reset it while listening to it yell, “I’m from the future! Save me from these disgusting but adorable creatures that keep sh*tting in my mouth or I’ll bring my army of cyborgs down upon your head!”

Radioactive

See, antiques ARE fun.

One of the great things about working at the antique market is that I’ve discovered so many fun and fascinating gadgets. A few weeks ago, I was helping a customer look through a bulk jewellery tray and he asked, “Do you mind if I use my diamond tester on these rings?” And I was like, “A DIAMOND TESTER? I must see this!” So he pulled out this little device and touched the tip to one of the stones in a ring, and…nothing. But three rings later, a tiny alarm sounded. “I’ll take this one,” he smiled. I immediately went home and ordered not only my own diamond tester, but also a tester that distinguishes between natural diamonds and moissanite, which are lab-grown diamonds. The testers came the next day, and I gleefully went around the house testing all of our jewellery and discovered that a pair of earrings I’d never worn and just tossed in a drawer actually had diamond chips in them. I still won’t wear them because they’re not my style being all fancy and dangly (and no, that’s not my cool nickname) but it’s still good to find out. Then I took the testers to work but I didn’t find anything surprising because almost all the jewellery dealers have their own testers. Still, you never know your luck, like that customer.

Then a couple of weeks later, another customer was walking around with a tiny blacklight. “What’s that for?” I asked.

“Oh, I collect uranium glass. If you point a UV light at it, it fluoresces.” He showed me, by pointing it at a small green plate, which immediately turned neon. So guess what I immediately did? That’s right—ordered my own little blacklight from Amazon. And then I went through the house pointing it at stuff to see if any of my glassware glowed in the dark. And I was amazed to discover that my house is full of glassware made with uranium, like, for example, this innocuous little vase and the lamp next to it.

Before
After

Apparently, I’m a hive of radioactivity, which might account for what I saw on LinkedIn this morning:

LinkedIn doesn’t have many uses, but it DOES tell you who’s been looking at your profile, and why the hell is some American Senator trying to suss out who the mysterious mydangblog could be?! I mean it says my actual name on my profile, and pictures of my books with my own damn name on it are right here on this website. Do they think I’m secretly running a nuclear power plant in small town Ontario?

U.S. Republican Senator 1: Forget Russia—we should be more worried about the Canadians. We’ve detected a substantial amount of uranium close to the border.
U.S. Republican Senator 2: Not surprising. They’re a bunch of commie pinkos up there.
U.S. Republican Senator 1: Call Ted Cruz. He used to be Canadian. Maybe he can reason with them.
U.S. Republican Senator 2: There’s no reasoning with those frosty bastards.

Aide: This just in, breaking news from Fox! The Canadian uranium stockpile is being kept in a house owned by someone named ‘mydangblog’ but who prefers to be called…(checks notes)…Player One!
U.S. Republican Senator 1: Ooh. That IS a cool nickname.

I guess if the U.S Army shows up at my door, I’d better hide all the antique glass.

In other news, it’s become so prevalent on Facebook Marketplace to advertise things as free and then list exorbitant prices in the description that if you actually HAVE something for free, you need to be extremely adamant about it, thusly:

And just to make it REALLY clear, this is what the item’s description says, in case there was any doubt:

I so badly wanted to be a frosty bastard and message the person: “How much is this?” But, truth be told, I don’t even know what the f*ck it is, and if it’s what’s in the picture, I don’t want his glowing wood clones–I can glow just fine on my own.

Creative Wednesday Blog Tour: The Necromancer’s Daughter by D. Wallace Peach

I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy fiction, starting with The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, which I read when I was very young. I made my way through Lord Of The Rings, the entire Wheel of Time series, and still have a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane (the first book in the Thomas Covenant Chronicles) on the bookshelf in my bedroom. So imagine my delight when I realized that I actually know an incredible fantasy writer, D. Wallace Peach. I read her most recent novel, The Ferryman and the Seawitch and it was excellent, so when she put out a call on her blog Myths of the Mirror for bloggers to host her new book The Necromancer’s Daughter on a blog tour, I didn’t hesitate.

First, a synopsis of the book:

A healer and dabbler in the dark arts of life and death, Barus is as gnarled as an ancient tree. Forgotten in the chaos of the dying queen’s chamber, he spirits away her stillborn infant, and in a hovel at the meadow’s edge, he breathes life into the wisp of a child. He names her Aster for the lea’s white flowers. Raised as his daughter, she learns to heal death.

Then the day arrives when the widowed king, his own life nearing its end, defies the Red Order’s warning. He summons the necromancer’s daughter, his only heir, and for his boldness, he falls to an assassin’s blade.

While Barus hides from the Order’s soldiers, Aster leads their masters beyond the wall into the Forest of Silvern Cats, a land of dragons and barbarian tribes. She seeks her mother’s people, the powerful rulers of Blackrock, uncertain whether she will find sanctuary or face a gallows’ noose.

Unprepared for a world rife with danger, a world divided by those who practice magic and those who hunt them, she must choose whether to trust the one man offering her aid, the one man most likely to betray her—her enemy’s son.

A healer with the talent to unravel death, a child reborn, a father lusting for vengeance, and a son torn between justice, faith, and love. Caught in a chase spanning kingdoms, each must decide the nature of good and evil, the lengths they will go to survive, and what they are willing to lose.

As you can tell, this novel is packed with all the things that readers love about fantasy fiction: magic, intrigue, love and danger, strong characters, dragons, and even barbarians, just to name a few. I asked Diana about why she includes “barbarians” in a lot of her stories and she told me this:

“The term ‘barbarian’ isn’t mine but originates with the ‘civilized’ people of my fantasy world. You know, the ones engaged in power struggles and wars, the ones coming up with nonsensical rules, the ones hanging healers and claiming they know the will of the goddess.

I love having a sensible group of people who counters all the moral pomposity with obvious and simple wisdom. My barbarians accept others at face value. Well, most of the time. Nobody’s perfect. In this book, they’re members of the warrior tribes of the Forest of Silvern Cats. And more specifically, they’re represented by a character named Teko.”

My Review

I was hooked from the very first word as I entered the world of Barus and his mentor Olma. Diana is one of those writers whose descriptions are so vivid and sensory that you can imagine yourself sitting in the corner of their ramshackle cottage watching them, smelling the fire, and hearing the call of a distant voice in the dark, or walking beside Barus into the City of White Halls by the Sea for the first time and being awestruck by its beauty. The story is expansive, yet character development is never sacrificed in favour of plot, with even minor characters coming to life on the page. To me, this story ranks right up there with the best fantasy fiction I’ve ever read.

Here’s a little bit more about author D. Wallace Peach and where to buy this wonderful book:

A long-time reader, best-selling author D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

In addition to fantasy books, Peach’s publishing career includes participation in various anthologies featuring short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. She’s an avid supporter of the arts in her local community, organizing and publishing annual anthologies of Oregon prose, poetry, and photography.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Where To Purchase The Necromancer’s Daughter:

Global Amazon Links:

US: https://www.amazon.com/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach/dp/B0B9FY6YZJ

IN: https://www.amazon.in/Necromancers-Daughter-D-Wallace-Peach-ebook/dp/B0B92G7QZX

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Diana’s Sites:

Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8

Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com

Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dwallacepeach

Out The Window

The other night I was watching a new show, because, amazingly, there was no Drag Race franchise available and I’d finally finished rewatching all one thousand seasons of Seinfeld. It was a kind of cute show called Locke And Key, about a family that moves to their dead dad’s ancestral home, which turns out to be haunted and full of weird fancy keys that do assorted different things, like letting you go out one door and enter any other place you want. Although the characters were fairly archetypical and predictable, I was pretty far into the show, but after a few episodes, it started to get really dumb and illogical. Finally, during one episode, there was a showdown where (spoiler alert), the teenaged boy who killed the dad escapes from jail and comes to the family home, manages to hold the entire family at gunpoint even though there are three of them and two are bigger than him, then ties them all up. Except for the oldest son, who comes home unexpectedly, attacks the gun-wielding villain, disarming him, and punching him several times in the face. But then the villain suddenly, even though he should be comatose, manages to find a key in the son’s pocket, and how he managed to do that is a f*cking mystery, but he pulls it out, seems to instinctively KNOW that it sets sh*t on fire, and then in the pyromaniacal confusion, finds the gun which has skittered away, and has now captured the son as well. At which point, I threw the remote in disgust and changed the channel. Now, I’ve had my own novels criticized for “rushing the ending” but seriously, how drawn out does an ending have to be? I mean, git ‘er done, am I right? I’m really tired of these shows that always have to prolong the agony, and that’s why I love my new show pick, Ozark, where the villain says he’s going to do something bad, and then he literally throws a guy out an 80th story window. And I was relaying all of this at dinner on Thursday night:

Me: And then he just threw the guy out the window. Like, done.
Kate: Now that’s what I call a defenestration.
Me: Lol, he wasn’t a tree, KATE.
Kate: What?
Me: Defenestration is when you strip the leaves off something, like what Agent Orange did to the trees in Viet Nam.
Kate (laughs): No, it’s not! It’s when you throw someone out a window. You’re thinking of defoliation.
Me: (looks up definition on phone): Nah…?
Kate: Have you seriously been using defenestration this whole time as a way to explain to people that the trees have lost their leaves in the fall?
Me: Perhaps.
Kate (shakes head): Okay, English teacher.

But seriously. How the hell is there one specific word for throwing someone out the window (in fact, vocabulary.com refers to the word defenestration as “frighteningly specific”)? Like, how many people were getting regularly thrown out of windows that Samuel Johnson, inventor of the dictionary, decided we needed one word to describe that very precise type of murder? Strangulation is a type of murder, but it’s still an umbrella term for all kinds of things, like strangulation with a rope or a garotte or your hands or a defenestrated tree branch—I mean defoliated, sorry. And stabbing? Another umbrella term. You can stab someone with a knife, a fork, a sharp spoon, an ice pick, an actual umbrella, and even a defoliated tree branch, but you don’t see anyone inventing singular words for that, like—well, okay, there’s knifing, but it’s not one special kind of knife. And based on my research, you could even be stabbed by a swordfish, which I discovered when I googled “ways to die” and came across a website called Final Choices, which claims to be an “end of life planning” website but where I found an article called “Death is inevitable. How you die can be very random. Here’s a light-hearted look at strange ways to die”. And these included:

Being killed by an explosive while trying to steal a condom dispenser
An undertaker being crushed by his own coffins

Being swung by your ankles by a clown and hitting your head
Eaten by a drove of pigs

Lethal sherry enema

None of these are, in fact, light-hearted and I question the sense of humour of the website owners. Thankfully, nowhere in the list was “being overcome by chorine gas because you put too much in the hot tub”.  But apparently, approximately 24 people a year are killed by champagne corks, so where’s the word for THAT, SAMUEL?! Honestly, this website is terrifying, and proof that there are worse and more random ways to die than being defenestrated.

Anyway, Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all of you. Stay away from windows.

Medical (Ghostly) Mishaps

I knew I was in trouble the day I could no longer do a cartwheel. I was on the front lawn with Kate, about 10 years ago, on a beautiful summer day, and I decided to try and impress her by showing off my cartwheel skills. The next thing I knew, I was curled up in a ball in the grass, wondering what the hell had happened. And it’s been all downhill from there if this past week has been any indication:

1) The shoulder procedure that never happened

I have calcific tendonitis in my shoulder, and I’ve been waiting six months for a procedure using ultrasound and a very long needle to smash up the calcium. I finally got to the hospital and the surgeon (you may remember him from a previous post, the guy who had an issue with tattoos) took one look at the ultrasound and said, “There’s too much calcium. I can’t do it. I’m going to give you a cortisone shot instead.” I would have lost my sh*t and reminded him that I had an ultrasound in June that showed EXACTLY how much calcium—

(Okay, my house is definitely haunted. I’m sitting here writing after finally getting the dog settled and convincing him that there’s nothing upstairs when I just heard someone whistle. If I go into the other room and find Atlas staring and crying at the basement door again, I will run out of here screaming. And of course, Ken isn’t here—he’s following a miniature train around town collecting food for the Thanksgiving food drive. And now the dog is making woofing sounds under his breath from the other room and I don’t have a baseball bat or a hammer in my office, just a collection of oars and two tennis rackets, and yes, I know that’s a weird collection to have and probably ineffectual to attack a ghost with anyway.)

–I had in my shoulder and he might have let me know it was too much before I had to TAKE A DAY OFF WORK but I didn’t say anything because yet again, he had a giant needle stuck in my shoulder. Of course, the cortisone has already worn off, so I’m back to square one.

2) CAT scan for kidney stones

As far as I’m concerned, it should be common medical practice that there is a cat in the room when you have a CAT scan because a) it’s named after a cat and b) when they tell you mere moments before you go into the room that your scan will be done using intravenous dye, someone needs to give you a cat to hold so that you don’t freak out—

(Speaking of freaking out, the house is suddenly VERY quiet except for the clattering of my laptop keys and an intermittent thumping noise that seems to be coming from the basement…)

–especially when the information pamphlet they give you states that “very few people have ever died from this procedure and if you do have any issues, you are in a hospital and we are very equipped to handle medical emergencies.” And that is NOT as reassuring as they think it sounds.

I have scanned you and you look fine.

3) Emergency Ophthalmologist

On Monday morning I woke up and thought that I was having a migraine aura because I kept seeing flashing lights out of the corner of my eye. But then that stopped and then it seemed like I was looking through gauze so I called my optometrist. He thought it might be a retinal tear so he sent me to an emergency ophthalmologist. My appointment was for 3:10. The office was huge and full of people who kept arriving and being taken into exam rooms immediately while I just sat there. At 4:10, I asked the receptionist what was going on–

(and what’s going on here is that the dog just ran into the living room, jumped up on the couch and is now staring into the kitchen)

–and she said, “You’re an emergency case so you have to wait until all the other scheduled patients are seen.” Which is the most ludicrous statement I think I’ve ever heard and I don’t think she understands what ‘emergency’ means in this context. At 5 o’clock, one of the doctors turned the lights out in his exam room and ran past me, high-fiving HIMSELF and exclaiming, “It’s over! I’m outta here!” I finally saw someone close to 5:30 who diagnosed me with a posterior vitreous detachment–

(the dog is now in the kitchen growling at something and I am holding the smallest of the oars and typing with one hand)

–which isn’t as serious as a retinal detachment but still means that it seems like I’m looking through Vaseline in my left eye a lot of the time which is really annoying. The funniest thing about it is that my boss at work was horrified when I told him and asked, “So your eye could just FALL OUT?!” and I had to explain that it was a detachment INSIDE the eye, not the things that attach your eyeball to your skull or whatnot.

What are you staring at?!

And I don’t know whether I should just stay in here typing where it’s safe, or take my oar and go into the kitchen. Then again, after this week, how much more damage can a ghost do?..

Also, this is part of my insides. Apparently, I’m a Tesla.