My Week 154: Driverless Cars, The “Good” Tea Towel

Last week, I was crossing the street at Yonge and College, trying simultaneously to avoid the taxi that wanted to run over my toes and the screaming man in the pink mini-kilt with the pigtails, when I heard a loud voice behind me say, “You know, I feel really sorry for kids these days.”

“Why’s that?” his companion replied.

I looked behind me. They were two guys in their mid-30s, wearing business suits. I braced myself for the usual bullsh*t about how today’s youth have a) no work ethic b) no social skills c) are entitled b) don’t respect their elders and so on, and got ready to roll my eyes hard enough to make that taxi back off. But I had totally misjudged the savvy pundit, who continued with “It’s a shame that, with the invention of driverless cars, most young kids today will never know the real pleasure of driving.” He continued on, reminiscing about his first car and the thrill of getting his licence until we had parted ways, me into the Tim Horton’s across the corner, he into parts unknown (but probably a very tall office tower).

I thought about it for a minute, and I was like, “Yeah, he’s so right.” Kids who are born today will never know the joy of being the ‘captain of their own ships’, in the same way that they will never know a world without the internet, or without the threat of global environmental disaster hanging over their heads in the same way that nuclear disaster hung over mine (although thanks to the assholes who are currently in charge of both the US and North Korea, kids today have to worry about THAT too. Well done.) But then I thought about it some more and started to wonder if driverless cars weren’t such a bad thing after all, and that kids really wouldn’t be missing that much. I mean, face facts—driving is a pretty dangerous business. Hurtling along at over 100 kilometres an hour (60 miles an hour for my US readers) inside a thin metal box within a few feet of other people in the same situation, it’s sometimes unbelievable that any of us survive it at all. Airplanes, which are basically flying cars, aren’t allowed to be within 3 miles of each other horizontally, and 1000 feet vertically, but I’ve got some d-bag riding my bumper on the 401 despite the signs telling you to keep at least 2 chevrons between you and the next car. When you actually think about it, driving is scary AF, and the fact that we actively encourage our children to learn how to do it and get their licences is pretty bad parenting, like “Hey Jimmy, it’s that wonderful time for you to learn how to battle the forces of humanity, nature, and fate. Hope you remember how to parallel park!”

Personally, I can’t believe the driverless car wasn’t invented sooner. I mean, cars are a necessity in Canada, where there’s a LOT of land and you have to travel pretty far to find people and jobs, and such, but where there just aren’t enough roads, so we spend A LOT of time trying to calculate the fastest route to go anywhere, and watching Google maps closely for that red line that tells you that you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve written plenty about the ludicrous nature of driving back and forth to Toronto, and I could totally appreciate being able to read or surf the internet while I was stuck on the four lane parking lot known as the 401,or more affectionately, the “stupid f*cking 401”. But what I really want to know is this: will driverless cars obey the rules of the road, or will you be able to override them so that you can drive as stupidly as you do when you’re actually behind the wheel yourself? Because there’s always going to be that one guy who drives on the shoulder to pass, or cuts you off, or tailgates you, and if he can still do it while he’s watching a Youtube video, then what’s the point?

The only real requirement I have for a driverless car, aside from obeying the rules of the road, is something I like to call “Roadkill Alert”. The car should be able to sense whether there’s an animal about to cross the road in front of you and stop you, or shoot out a firecracker or something as warning. Last year, T left the house about 10 pm to drive back to his university residence. Less than five minutes later, he called the house. I answered the phone to hear him say, “I just got hit by a deer.” His voice was shaking. Ken had just taken Titus out for a walk, so I stood on the porch and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Ken! Come home! T’s had an accident!” From a few blocks over, I heard him yell, “I’m coming!” and he was back at the house in under 30 seconds. T was only a couple of kilometres away, but it felt like forever until we got there. When we arrived, there were two pickups trucks who had stopped to help, and the police were already there. I grabbed T and hugged him—thank god he wasn’t hurt—but there was a deer shaped dent in his buckled hood, and the deer itself was lying at the side of the road. It was a buck with huge horns, and all I could think was 6 inches higher and it would have gone through the windshield. I won’t go into details, but the police took care of the situation, and the local guys offered to take it away. The car was a write-off, but whatever—it’s only a thing.

Bottom line, the deer came hurtling out of the dark and T couldn’t avoid it. So yeah—make sure those driverless cars have long-range sensors on them. And I don’t want to hear any of that sh*t about “When I was a kid, we drove into deer all the time and LIKED it. These kids today are just sheltered wussies.” Personally, I’m waiting for someone to finally invent the Star Trek transporter. Then we can say, “These poor kids today will never know the real pleasure of travelling at warp speed…”

The Good Tea Towel

I have a problem. It’s not a big problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless for someone like me who’s just a little OCD. Here’s the back story: Because the new owner of my previous condo was a total dick and illegally evicted me, I had to find a new place to live. Toronto is hideously expensive, and the only place I could find close to work in the timeframe I had was a 2 bedroom place. The rent on this 800 square foot box in the sky is $2400 a month, so the only way I could afford it was to get a roommate. I did, and she was lovely, but there was one problem. She kept using the good tea towel, you know, the one that’s for show. It was white and black, in a ‘Paris’ motif, and it hung from a hook in a spot that was obviously chosen for its display properties. There was another tea towel, a plainer one, that was close to the stove and sink, and simply screamed out, “Use ME!” Yet my roommate kept using the good tea towel, until it was no longer ‘good’. I would come back after a weekend at home to find it hanging all crumply and stained. I would wash it and then replace it, and put the other tea towel in a more convenient spot, but my roommate had a penchant for using the good tea towel and I didn’t know what to do. Why didn’t you just tell her, you ask? Because that would be the most ridiculous conversation in the world, like “Can you not use this tea towel? It’s for show.” How do you say that without coming off like some weird kitchen textiles fanatic? And while this may seem like a first-world problem, imagine if I had two goats. The first goat was really stylish and it was the one that I kept to impress people about my taste in goats, and thereby advertise my savvy in the goat business. The other, less attractive goat was the one I used for milk and whatnot. Imagine now, if someone slaughtered my display goat. Am I now supposed to use the milk and meat goat to make my kitchen look pretty?

And why is this a problem NOW, you ask? Because my previous roommate has gone back to school, and I have a new roommate, who also seems very nice. But I just bought new display tea towels, and I still don’t know how to have that conversation with a stranger. At home, it’s no issue:

Me: See that new tea towel I just bought? It’s for show. Don’t use it.
Ken: OK.
Titus: If it doesn’t involve food, I’m pretty laissez-faire. You know me…

After 27 years of marriage, Ken understands that a) I’m weird and that b) the tea towels we actually use can just be put in the cupboard or drawer or whatever, and he can complain all he wants about the possibility of it getting “moldy”, but we both know that won’t happen, Ken. Yet I don’t know this new girl very well, and the last thing I want is for her to tell her friends, “I can use anything in the kitchen that I want, except for this one particular tea towel. Also there are five cutting boards—one for vegetables, one for meat, one for cheese…you know what? F*ck this—I’m moving out.”

Sigh. Kids today will never know the pleasure of a fancy, just for show, tea towel.

 

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My Week 153: Google GaGa, Titus and the Frog

Google Gaga

So this week, Ken and I went to a Google conference. Well, I went to the Google conference, and Ken went to several wineries, craft breweries, and visited a local historic home, which was totally unfair because HE’S the one who loves technology, and I’M the one who loves wine. But it was important for work that I learn about the Googleverse since, one day, Google will own everything, including your soul.

The Arrival:

I arrived to be greeted by overenthusiastic Google people who directed me to a table where I could “decorate” my name tag with stickers and sparkles and bedazzle-y sh*t. I wrote my actual name in purple marker as a concession to being fancy, and was proud at having resisted the temptation to put “Bob” in large capital letters, like they do for me at Starbucks. I am NOT a sticker person, being grown up and whatnot, and also I was grumpy because a) I had to be around people I didn’t know early in the morning and b) Ken snored all night and I was really, really tired from constantly having to wake up and punch him. Also, the only swag was a small cardboard box. At the last conference I went to, the first thing they did was give you a tote bag with all kinds of stuff in it, including a water bottle, pen, keychain, hand sanitizer and such. All I got was a cardboard box and nothing to carry it in.
Rating: 5/10 for having stickers and no swag

The Keynote:

There was a picture of the keynote speaker on the huge screen in front of the stage. In the picture, he was wearing a really nice purple, pink, and blue plaid shirt. When he stepped out onto the stage, he was wearing the same shirt. Later in the presentation, he showed a video of himself from last year and remarked, “Gosh, that’s embarrassing—I’m wearing the same shirt today that I wore in the video.” The next morning, he introduced the second keynote speaker, and he was still wearing THE SHIRT. His speech was very entertaining and funny, but I was completely distracted by questions I desperately wanted to ask, like “Do you not own any other shirts? Or do you just have more than one of that style? Does Google MAKE you wear that shirt? Or do you just really like that particular shirt, and if so, do you wash it every night, and if so, how do you keep it looking so fresh and unfaded?” And all the time, I kept thinking about how Ken was sampling wine that he didn’t even like, while I was obsessed with someone else’s wardrobe.
Rating 8/10 for the presentation…6/10 for the shirt (only because it was a nice shirt, despite its ubiquity)

Session 1:

As an accompaniment to us sitting and waiting for the first session to start (because ironically, the wifi was down—at a TECH CONFERENCE), the presenter was playing loud music. The first song was “Rehab” by the late Amy Winehouse, and next up was “If You Wanna Be My Lover” by the Spice Girls. It was confounding, particularly at 9 o’clock in the morning. Then she started by having us follow along with a “calming breathing exercise”. Instead, I scrolled through Twitter on the grounds that if I actually focus on my breathing, I get superanxious that I’m not breathing properly, and then the breathing gets louder and louder in my head, and then I can’t get enough air…trust me, Twitter was more relaxing. The rest of the presentation, which was supposed to be on the relationship between technology and emotional intelligence, consisted of a slide deck with links to websites and apps, like “If you want some neat meditation mantras, you can go to this cool site” or “Here’s an app that puts an inspiring saying on your laptop screen when you log on….”
Rating 4/10 for bad musical decisions and forcing me to think about breathing

Sessions 2 and 3:

Both of these were pretty good. One was for Google Draw, where I learned how to search for transparent images (I didn’t know you could do that), and the other was for using different programs to make videos, both of which will come in handy at work. I also learned that if you hit ‘Control-Shift-T’ on someone’s computer, it will open all the tabs that they have minimized. So if you suspect that one of your co-workers is secretly looking at porn but shuts it down whenever you walk by, now you can just stroll over, hit those keys, and yell, “Bom chicka wow wow” when ‘Big Bouncy Boobies’ magically reappears. I have the most notes for these two presentations.
Rating: 8/10 and 9/10 respectively for being practical

Session 4:

You remember how I said the only swag was a small cardboard box? This session was about the box, which, when you put your phone into it, becomes a 3D viewer. I was with one of my colleagues and we spent the whole session riding rollercoasters, swimming with sharks, and flying around space. So I should probably go back and re-evaluate The Arrival since the swag was actually pretty sweet, but at this point, I was even more annoyed by the people whose name badges I couldn’t read because they went so overboard on the stickers, like “What the hell, Martin? You’re a grown-ass man—do you really need to dot your damn ‘i’ with a sparkly daffodil?”
Rating: 10/10 for living vicariously

Day 2:

The keynote speaker was Australian, so that was good for no other reason than he sounded like comedian Jim Jeffries. Actually his presentation was excellent, on top of the Australian-ness.
Rating: 9/10 plus one bonus point for Australia

Sessions 5 and 6:

The morning started off well. The first session was about English Language Learners, and it was good, except the presenter was only about 30 and she kept referring to things then giggling and saying, “I guess I really dated myself there” or “Gosh, now you know how OLD I am!” Frankly, there’s little more annoying than really young people talking about how old they are, when most of the room has at least twenty years on them. Also, she played us the video of the Micromachine Man and said she had to be careful, because she was really passionate about her subject and didn’t want to talk too fast like she “normally does”. Which would have been fine, except her normal speaking voice was paced more like comedian Emo Philips than Robin Williams. The other session was on making animated videos using Google Slides, and I was super proud of the 2 second short I made called “Titus Waits For Cookies” which was basically a cartoon dog sliding back and forth in front of a cartoon oven. “It’s simple, but highly accurate,” I told the instructor, who was like, “Well, that’s just super!” and I choose to believe that she was being sincere and not highly patronizing.
Rating: 8/10 for pacing and dubious complimenting

Then the day fell apart, as the next session was boring AF. I would have left, but I’m very self-conscious and that would have involved making people look at me. Also, the presenter was very nice, and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. So instead, I did some emails, posted some stuff on Facebook, and got into a Twitter debate with some super-racist Trump-humper, as one does. My parting shot was “The lady doth protest too much methinks” and he didn’t respond, so I WIN, because that’s one of the rules of Twitter Fight Club.

I DID walk out of the last session, which was on something called “Classcraft” and I thought it would be a cool teacher-y version of Minecraft, but no—it was a not-very-cool version of World of Warcraft. The imagery was violent and the whole game seemed like a very bad behaviour management system where you could take ‘Health Points’ away from children for infractions like “not having a pencil” or “being negative in class” until they died. In the game. I felt it necessary to clarify that, because a lot of people in the room seemed OK with it being either way. In fact, the presenter asked the room what a student might GAIN Health Points for, and one bright star said, “For sitting quietly and not talking?” Oh, hell no. As a former classroom teacher for over 25 years, I can tell you that when the whole room is quiet, that’s usually a sign that they’re plotting something. Believe me, it’s much better when they talk. Mostly because this isn’t the 1920s, and if you don’t want your kids to talk, you shouldn’t be teaching. I left the session because I was afraid I was going to say something rude like “I have a better idea—why don’t you just zap them with a cattle prod when they aren’t paying attention?”
Rating 0/10 for a bizarre punishment model

Overall though, it was a great learning experience and Ken DID buy me several bottles of very nice wine. But I got to thinking—what are some other things that Google should invent?

1) Google Cat: When you install this app, a pair of eyes appears on your screen and stares at you until you throw a stuffed mouse at it. It will also randomly hiss, or press keys on your keyboard while you’re working, just like a real life cat is walking on it. There’s also Google Dog where, any time you eat in front of the screen, simulated drool obscures it.

2) Google Benedict: This program overlays the faces of any men on the screen with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face. Enough said.

3) Google Zap: Anytime anyone posts anything stupid, like “Vaccines cause autism” or “There’s no such thing as global warming” or “Donald Trump is a great president”, an electrical current will run through the keyboard, electrifying it and shocking the user. I got this idea from the last session I attended, because as much as I like it when children talk, there are a lot of adults who should just shut up.

4) Google Finger: This is an add-on for the driverless Google car. It can automatically sense when another driver cuts it off and a giant LED hand flipping the bird appears in all the windows.

5) Google Smell: It’s a really fancy and expensive air freshener. You can program it with any smell you want, like you could make your whole house smell like steak and drive your dog crazy, or make your bathroom always smell like roses, or program ‘new baby smell’ so that when your teenager hasn’t showered for three days, or keeps wearing the same damn shirt, you can close your eyes and pretend…

Titus and The Frog

Me: What the hell is wrong with you?
Titus: What?
Me: Every time we go outside, you head straight for the pond and stand staring at it.
Titus: There’s something in it. I’m not sure what it is.
Me: You mean the fish?
Titus: No—I know what fish are. We’ve had a couple in the house. One of them fought in ‘Nam—
Me: NO, he did NOT. And the other one NEVER attended a salon with Dorothy Parker. Fish are notorious liars. Wait—are you talking about the frog?
Titus: Frog? You mean that thing there? Yes! It’s driving me crazy!
Me: Why? It’s not doing anything—it’s just minding its own business.
Titus: (whispers) Yet it taunts me so…
Me: It’s not “taunting you”. It’s just doing what frogs do. Leave it alone.
Titus: But it’s so green!
Me: How the hell would you know? I thought you were colour blind.
Titus: And I thought we weren’t allowed to say that anymore.
Me: You can say it if you actually ARE colour blind. Otherwise, you have to respect all colours.
Titus: So what you’re telling me is, if it’s not hurting me, I should stop worrying about it?
Me: Exactly. Besides, one day, you might fall in the pond and that frog could save your life.
Titus: Hmm. Wait—is this one of your clever analogies? Because I think I outweigh that frog by about 90 pounds.
Me:  It IS clever, and it wouldn’t be a problem if you didn’t eat so many damn cookies.
Titus: Cookies? Can I HAVE a cookie?
Me: Are you going to leave the frog alone?
Titus: Sure. I think we can live together in peace and harmony.
Me: Is that one of YOUR clever analogies?
Titus: Hey man—I’m just a dog looking for a cookie.
Me: Maybe Google has an app for that.

 

My Week 152: Trip Part Two, Bats in the Belfry, The Irony of the KKK

Wales and Scotland—the journey continues

So last week I ended with a promise that I would tell you about a couple of my favourite places from our recent trip to Wales and Scotland. There are three notable spots that I’d like to mention:

1) Stonehenge

Stonehenge isn’t in Wales or Scotland, but our boat docked in Southampton and we had to drive to Swansea. Luckily, Stonehenge was on the way. I’d always wanted to see it for myself, and despite the fact that there’s a huge fence around it and you can’t get that close, and there’s a super-touristy gift shop, it was pretty impressive. There’s a lot of speculation about why and how it was built. Historians now believe it was for ancient pagan religious ceremonies and such, and that they brought stones from as far away as North Wales. Personally, I think it was a guy who was bored and built it for fun, just because he could. Ken does that all the time—for example, he built himself a 16 by 20 workshop just because he wanted to, and he put in dormer style windows in the top. When I asked him why he needed fancy windows for a building where he would be hammering and nailing sh*t, he replied that he’d always wanted to try building something in the “Cape Cod” style. Now of course, it has corbels and architectural detailing, as well as a gazebo to one side that he created using metal that he brought all the way from Woodstock, and which sits overtop of the graves of our last two dogs. In 2000 years, historians will speculate about the purpose and design of “Fix-it Shop”, and wonder whether it was used for animal sacrifices. “It must have been a major centre for many worshippers,” they will say. “Look at the extraordinary number of hammers and screwdrivers—too many for just one man.”

2) Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a village in Wales that was built by one guy, just because he could (see above). It’s the ultimate homage to salvage and it’s absolutely beautiful. The story goes like this: Sir Clough William-Ellis bought 22 acres of land in Wales, and decided to recreate an Italianate village there by going to auctions and buying buildings, statues, and architectural pieces from other British nobles who couldn’t afford the upkeep on their property any more. It became kind of a magnet for pop stars, artists, and writers in the middle part of the 20th century when Sir Clough was still around. Now, it’s a tourist site where you can actually stay in the buildings which have been converted into guest accommodations, wander the property, and buy things at the gift shop. The best part about the place though is that it was used as the set for a bizarre 1960s series called The Prisoner. We watched a few clips of the show, and it was very cool to say, “I stood in that exact same spot!” or “That’s where the giant-ass chess board is now!” Ken and I only have an acre of property, but we do have four outbuildings, so we’re on our way to becoming a mini-Portmeirion. I’m currently in the market for a small grotto, so if you hear of any lord who’s fallen on hard times and has one to sell for cheap, let me know.

3) My own property in Scotland

As you may remember, I am now a Lady, having been presented with the title to 10 square feet of land in a nature reserve in Scotland after complaining that everyone else in the family was nobility except me. T thought it sounded kind of sketchy, but it’s actually true (well, the landownership part if not the “peer of the realm” part), and on our second last day, Ken, T, and I decided to drive up to the Duror area to visit our property. We didn’t know what to expect. We had directions from someone named Stewart, and we were told we were too late to book an actual tour, but we were welcome to come and visit the property. When we got there (down a single-track road, because that’s how you know you’re in the UK), we came out into a parking area with a small, log-style cabin. But there were other cars around, so we knocked on the door. A woman called for us to come in, and then next thing you know, we’d logged into the wifi, downloaded their GPS app, were handed personalized maps of the reserve. It was a lot more high-tech than I imagined it would be. We followed the GPS compass through the dead forest—“dead” because we were told that it had originally been a corporate logging area, and that the North American spruce trees had been planted too close together, causing them to crowd each other out so that none of them could grow properly. The 5 year plan is to take all of them down and plant native Scottish species, but currently, it’s dark and forbidding:

T: Those are like trees that had some terrible disease and died. Who would want to own THAT? It’s like a tree graveyard.
Me: Can you imagine the poor sucker who paid good money to own 10 square feet in THERE?
T and Me: I know, right?! HAHA.
Ken: Um, the GPS says to turn left in 10 metres.
Me: But that would be into the dead forest…

Sure enough, both T’s and my land were in the part of the reserve that’s going to be “rejuvenated” over the next 5 years. But we were pretty happy to discover that our property was on the far edge of the dead forest, where there was a little sunshine and some moss growing:

T: I have a mushroom on my land!
Me: You’re so lucky–I wish I had a mushroom! But I have all this lovely moss. Ooh, there’s a bird in my dead tree!

In truth, the whole place was beautiful, despite the dead trees. There are fields, and rivers, and all kinds of lovely forest creatures. And because it’s been parcelled out, it can never be developed or destroyed, so it was well worth the 85 bucks we each paid for it. T and I each buried toonies (Canadian two dollar coins) in our land so that future civilizations would know that Canadians were capable of crossing the great water. And in five years, when the whole thing has been rejuvenated, I’m coming back and building a tiny castle to oversee my estate. Just because I can.

Friday: Bats in the Belfry

When Ken, T, and I were in Wales, we visited this manor house/castle and went for a tour. The tour guide told us that the one place we couldn’t go was into the attic, because there were bats up there. Essentially, the bats sh*t all over everything, including the top side of the elaborate ceiling on the third floor with glass inserts, and you could see the bat guana, but the National Trust people couldn’t clean it until the bats “migrated for the winter” because—wait for it—“bats are a protected species”. In what possible world is a creature that’s half mouse, half insane miniature dinosaur protected from being removed from any premises without its consent? Well, the “possible world” is the UK, where bats are seen as lovely denizens of the night, rather than bitey little assholes. The tour guide even had a dead bat in a box that she insisted on showing us. His name apparently was Cecil, and I was like, “Is naming a dead bat corpse a Welsh thing?” One English guy on the tour was really up in arms, and told me that if you wanted to convert a barn into a residence but there were bats, you had to call in a special agency, who, for the cost of around 10, 000 pounds, would do a study and tell you whether or not you had to make special provisions to ensure the bats would be safe. I was like, “I’m from Canada. We just exterminate them,” and he was like, “I wish! Bloody bats!” He seemed a little over-invested, so maybe he’d been dinged with a large bat-bill from the bat conservation people. Personally, I feel bad that sometimes it’s necessary to “get rid” of the bats, but hey—I don’t go hanging around in their caves, pooping on THEIR floors, so they can just stay out of my space or pay the price. My only previous experience with bats was a couple of times one has gotten in the house, and Ken has been able to shoo it out the open door, so I’ve been a lot more sympathetic to the little creatures of the night. But then on Friday, Ken was away, and T and I were alone in the house. About midnight, I heard scrambling in the same cupboard as a few weeks ago, and I ran upstairs to T in a panic:

Me: There’s something in the chimney again!
T: It’s probably a bird. Let’s go see!
Me: Don’t you dare open the cupboard door!

We raced each other downstairs, but then when he heard the noise, he saw sense and we decided that the best plan of action was to close the door to the back room and wait for Ken to come home. The next day, Ken came back from the computer camp he was running, and after a while, I mentioned to him that there was something in the chimney again. “I’ll go look,” he said, and I hid behind the door, as one does. “Holy sh*t! It’s a bat. It’s just hanging on the inside of the cupboard door,” he said.

“Is it moving?”

“No. I think it’s asleep. Come and look.”

So I did, and there it was in all its creepy glory. “Take a picture of it,” I said.

Ken took one picture, then he tried to zoom in for another, at which point the bat stared straight at him, bared its teeth (zoom in on the picture to see how terrifying it truly is) and hissed. I didn’t know regular bats actually HAD teeth—I thought that was just vampire bats, but now I was living in f*cking Transylvania and this bat looked just like Gary Oldman only without the weird white wig.

Me: Shut the door! Get out!
Ken: I can’t shut the cupboard door—I might hurt his wing!
Me: His WING??!! Fine—don’t come crying to me when he bites your neck and turns you into the undead!

So we shut the door to the room, opened the patio doors, and hoped that the bat would be sensible and leave. Later, when I made Ken go back and look, there was no sign of the bat. So now I don’t know if it’s a) still in the chimney b) hiding in the room somewhere c) plotting its revenge.

The Irony of the KKK—a throwback.

With recent events in the news, I thought I might re-share some of my thoughts from previous posts regarding the stupidity of racists in general, the KKK, and its offshoot, the KKK lite, who are people that can’t afford bed sheets but don’t like anyone who’s not white…

…Isn’t it the biggest irony of all that David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has a Jewish first name? All those crazy anti-Semites out there, and most of them are named after Hebrew people. I wonder if they realize that. Although from the idiocy I’ve seen and read coming from the so-called “alt-right”, I highly doubt it…

Imaginary KKK rally

David Duke: All right, white virgins—time to put on your silly hoods. Aaron, Adam, Ben—you guys are in charge of leading the chanting. Dan, Ethan, and Gabe—you can set the cross on fire.
All: Yeehaw! That’ll show those foreigners with their weird-ass names and strange, cultish behaviour.
David Duke: Look at me! Whee! I’m a wizard!

…the KKK confuses me. Are they supposed to be Christian? Cuz their leader is a male witch, and that sounds really magic-y to me. Plus, why do they burn crosses? These guys are just FULL of irony. Or stupidity. It’s hard to differentiate with the KKK…

Imaginary conversation with the KKK.

Me: Why are you dressed like a cheap-ass ghost? You know Hallowe’en isn’t until October, right?
KKK guy: I’m not a ghost. I’m a wizard. A grand wizard.
Me: Whoa there, Hogwarts. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. You haven’t done any magic yet. Can you turn lead into gold? Where’s your wand? Is it hiding under your Ikea bed sheet?
KKK guy: Ergh. Immigrants are taking all the good jobs.
Me: What job? You can’t even do a card trick. You’re a sh*tty wizard–an immigrant could do YOUR job better.
KKK guy: Please don’t punch me. Also, the bagpipe music is frightening me.
Me: As it should, you dumb f*ck.

Oh, and by the way, there’s no such thing as either “White Nationalists” or the “Alt-Left”. They are either “Nazis”, or “normal people who care about other human beings”, respectively. All we can hope for is that the former angrily inbreed themselves into extinction, and the latter keep happily standing up for humanity.

My Weeks 150/151: Travelling Dangerously on the Queen Mary 2 and Throughout the U.K.

I’m on a boat!

Well, I WAS on a boat. Then in a car, then on a plane, and now I’m back. I hope you didn’t miss me too much—it’s the first time in years that I haven’t made my weekly journey into the absurd. Even when I had surgery last year, I wrote something ahead of time, and had Ken post it for me. This past week though, anyone who could have figured out my computer and hit “upload” was actually with me. Plus, I didn’t have anything new to tell you until I got back. Which is now. So fasten your seatbelts and secure the overhead bins—things are going to get slightly humorous.

So, as you know, I like to live life on the edge. And while maybe it’s usually the edge of sanity, or reason, the fact is that I’m pretty much a daredevil when it comes to travel, which I will get to in a minute. As you may or may not know, I’ve been away the last two weeks, having taken the Queen Mary 2 over to the United Kingdom with my whole family, parents, siblings, and children included. Then we all split up and went our separate ways, with me, Ken, and T going first to Wales and then to Scotland. It was an excellent trip—let me break it down for you. First, the boat (which my dad keeps telling me is a “ship” not a “boat”, so if you’re extremely old and extremely rich, the Queen Mary is definitely the “ship” for you. Unfortunately, I am NEITHER, so it was an interesting experience to be on that particular BOAT, DAD, haha.)

Part One:

Things I liked about the Queen Mary 2:
a) Like most cruise ships, it was decorated like an upscale brothel, which made me feel very risqué.
b) The beds were comfortable and you could stay in them all day if you wanted to.
c) You could get breakfast brought to your cabin instead of having to get dressed, and it didn’t cost anything extra.
d) The food was OK. There was always bacon, and I mean real bacon, not those weird-ass slabs of pan-fried ham that the Brits think is bacon. Silly Brits.
e) There were two guys who played the piano and told jokes, and they were so funny that I saw them twice.

Things I didn’t like about the Queen Mary 2:
a) You could stay in your bed all day because there was literally nothing much else to do that was interesting or didn’t cost you a lot of extra money. The lectures were either on war, politics, or Broadway musicals, and the other “seminars” were sponsored by the Spa, as in ‘Come to our session on Botox and hear an expert talk about why it’s so great and then you can get a discount on a costly Botox treatment’, or by the Art Gallery, as in ‘Come to our session on this unknown artist and then you can buy his extremely expensive painting of emoji-faced lollipops for a significant discount’. The other activities all had costs associated with them, like the red wine tasting entitled, “Syrah, Shiraz? What’s the difference? Find out for a nominal fee of $120”. 120 bucks for a flight of 6 small glasses of wine? For that price, I can wait until I get home, buy 10 full bottles and find out for myself, so Que Syrah Shiraz to you. There were also art classes for a fee, and a variety of other things you could do that all cost extra. Why is that a problem? Because whenever there was any activity for free, it was a MOB SCENE. For example, there was a free rum tasting at the duty-free liquor shop one day, and people were rioting like it was the only Red Cross water truck in the middle of the desert. And yes, obviously I was there because it was FREE RUM. Just as I was about to get my tiny plastic cup, a guy beside me whined that he’d been waiting for twenty minutes and still hadn’t gotten any. I was like, “Here’s the line-up, mate. Try standing in it.” Because I’m CANADIAN, and we are extremely OCD about line-up protocols, which a lot of other countries aren’t and it makes me crazy. I firmly believe that the inherent understanding of how to line up in an orderly fashion is what makes a culture civilized, and the Fall of the Roman Empire can be directly traced back to their inability to queue properly.
b) The ship’s House Band was a group known as “Purple Haze.” Mostly because they covered the whole ship with a fog of Motown and cover songs. They weren’t actually bad if you like a reggae version of Justin Beiber’s ‘Love Yourself’—they were just EVERYWHERE. In the lounge after breakfast—Purple Haze. Poolside at lunch—Purple Haze. In the ballroom during afternoon tea—Purple Haze. In the very sad little disco that no one ever went to because most of the passengers went to bed at 10 pm—Purple Haze. I swear if the ship was ever sinking, it would be to the “fine musical stylings of Purple Haze”.

Overall, the good outweighed the bad. It was a very relaxing crossing, and the best part was that our whole family was together for the journey. And seeing T in a tuxedo at dinner was pretty cool.

Part Two:

I am a total f*cking badass when I’m travelling and here’s why:

1) Despite the fact that I’m severely allergic to shellfish, I wandered the beaches of Wales and collected seashells. This doesn’t sound dangerous, but the last time I did that in British Columbia, I picked up some shells then accidentally chewed on my cuticle (not so much an accident as part of an OCD thing), and then my lips swelled up. So now, if I want to collect seashells, I’m literally TAKING MY LIFE IN MY OWN HANDS, and have to consciously avoid putting my fingers in my mouth until I can wash with soap and water, or else risk having to use my epipen. I live my life on the edge, folks.

2) I am deathly afraid of heights, but I still climbed up ruined castle towers and stood on ramparts that were 100 feet in the air. Did I have a full-blown panic attack at Harlech Castle when I realized that I was on the top of a stone wall with no guardrails and at any moment some unruly British child could run past me, causing me to lose my balance and fall to my death? I may or may not have. (I did). But I still crawled back to the stairs like the daredevil I am instead of crying like a big baby.

3) I defied the tide and clambered over jagged rocks to make my way to a private little alcove half a kilometre from the main beach at our bed and breakfast in Wales (which is called Kilsaran House and it was amazing). I had no choice really—T and Ken announced they were doing it, and I had to go along or be left behind to worry about them dying. I figured if I was with them, I could scout out the worst case scenarios before one of them fell off a tippy rock or poked a jellyfish with their fingers. I spent the whole time with one eye on the ocean and one eye on the rocks that threatened to break my ankles. But we made it there, and I was glad I went with them, because who else besides me was going to shout “I forbid you to climb that cliff!” or “That crab might not be dead so don’t pick it up!”

4) I made an old man give me a chair, all by my bad-ass self. In fairness, I HAD the chair, and he tried to take it away, but I was like “Out of my cold, dead hands, elderly English dude!” I should probably provide a little context—on the “ship” (there you go, Dad), they had trivia competitions 4 times a day, and because it was one of the few activities onboard that was actually free, EVERYBODY went. Except it was held in a small pub with limited seating, so people got pretty testy about the chairs, especially since you could play in teams of 6 and the tables and chairs were arranged in groupings of 4. So this particular time, I asked a guy if he was using one of his chairs, and he said no. I was in the process of moving it when this big old man came over and pulled it out of my hands. Seriously. He was like, “Oh, I have this chair,” and I was like, “Um, I asked for it first, but whatever” and I let go. Because I’m Canadian, and a chair isn’t worth being a dick over. But my sacrificial, and slightly sarcastic attitude made him feel  bad, so he gave it back to me. Score one for the good guys.

5) Driving in the UK is enough to earn anyone the moniker of ‘madcap heroine’. Of course, I wasn’t actually driving—I was the navigator, having never learned to drive a stick shift. I mean, why have a dog and bark, am I right? But the Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (yes it is, don’t argue), and the bulk of my job was yelling at Ken “Stay to the left!” Also, the “roads” in the UK, especially in Wales aren’t really roads at all, at least not by Canadian standards. What they call a major roadway in Wales is what we call a “tractor path” here. For example, the so-called road to our first bed and breakfast went through a gravel parking lot and out the other side, then became a one-lane walking path with little spots to pull over in case someone was coming in the other direction. The directions we were given said “go past Hunter’s Fleece Cottage, then follow the track downhill for 100 yards” where there was an almost sheer vertical drop. Getting back up was a treat, with Ken gunning it in third gear and hoping to hell that no one was coming the other way. The best part was when the GPS would announce, “Take the next left onto A725” and it would SOUND like a real road, but it would be one lane, pinned in on both sides by rock walls, and suddenly there would be sheep.

I was a kick-ass navigator until the day that Ken decided to defy the GPS and plot his own route:

Ken: I took a screenshot of the way I want to go. Where do I turn next?
Me: How do I turn the Ipad on?
Ken: Push that button. Where do I turn?! I need to know now!
Me: Where’s the ‘You are here’ arrow? How do I know where to turn if I don’t know where I am?
Ken: We started from New Steddon Road. Where do I go next?
Me: The map goes sideways if I try to figure out which way is North.
Ken: I don’t need North! I just need to know where to turn! God, I forgot how bad you are with maps!
Me: I’m not bad with maps! You can’t just give someone a screen shot of some streets, not tell them where they’re starting from, and expect them to calculate your route! I’m not a GPS, you know.
Ken: Fine, just program the GPS then.
Me: OK. Where are we going again?
Ken: Sigh.
T: What’s going on?
Me: Just go back to sleep. I’ve got this covered.

Two other minor proofs of my bad-assedness: I walked through the haunted corridor of a castle. It wasn’t—I have plenty of experiences with ghosts (see My Week 69: Ghost Stories) and there wasn’t one there, despite the place being featured on some reality show where a woman swore there was electromagnetic energy and an angry ghost who wanted to strangle people. Also, I ate haggis. If you’re Scottish, you have to. I just love being descended from a culture whose national dish is so disgusting that you have to force yourself to eat it, but you’re so stoic that you do it anyway. My Scottish cousin Lynn put it this way: “I keep trying it because I want to like it, but it’s so gross”. So there you go. I’m a devil-may-care, throw caution to the winds kind of gal who’s happy to be home where I can use a hair dryer in my own bathroom and eat the best national dish of all–poutine.

Next week, I’ll tell you about some of my favourite places from the trip, but for right now, I’m still kind of jet-lagged. Plus, my head thinks it’s 5 o’clock instead of noon, so time for a nice glass of wine–maybe a Syrah…

My Week 149: Getting Ready to Vacation, Hammacher Schlemmer Revisited

Can I just stay home?

Is “vacate” the verb form of “vacation”? Because that’s what I’m in the midst of right now—getting ready to vacate for a vacation. I’m not good at the whole down-time thing, but I have to say I’m getting a little excited. Ken, T, and I are going on the Queen Mary over to the UK with our whole family, including Mom and Dad, and my brother (the one with the Ph.D) and his family. The worst part of the whole experience, aside from worrying about EVERY worst case scenario possible, is the packing. I’ve been struggling for days with what exactly to bring, and how I will fit it all in one suitcase for two weeks. The Queen Mary is a super-fancy boat, and then once we dock, we`re going to be hiking around Wales, so it’s one extreme to another. I basically just took everything I had, and rolled it all up into tight balls, so now I have room for shoes. I have a LOT of shoes. Mostly flipflops, so they don`t take up much space. But Ken and T are in a jam because they have to take “formal wear”. I can roll a dress into a tight sausage, but a suit isn’t that easy:

Me: Are you going to put your stuff into a garment bag?
Ken: I suppose…
Me: Why are you acting skeptical? It’s a garment bag, not a Tauntaun that you cut open for warmth.
Ken: What?!
Me: Nothing. Do you think three pairs of black flipflops is too many?

Random Star Wars references aside, Ken and I are T minus 11 hours away from departure. We’re also minus T, because he’s having a last farewell with his girlfriend, the lovely V, before he goes off the grid for a few days. But he promised to be home for Ken’s birthday dinner.

Meanwhile, Ken decided that he wanted to take photographs to submit to a contest held by a local ice cream company. His grand plan was to use Titus and me as models on the porch of our garden house. I had to sit there in the boiling sun with a “Yukon Bar” dripping down my arm until Titus decided he’d had enough, grabbed it out of my hand, and pulled the whole thing off the stick:

Me: What the f*ck??!!
Titus: Did you seriously think you could keep waving that at me and I WOULDN’T steal it? Whoa—ice cream headache!!
Me: Serves you right, you dick. Also, it was chocolate ice cream, so don’t come crying to me if you get sick.
Titus (whispers): It was so worth it.

Anyway, that sh*t is boring AF for you, so I’ll get to the point. I’m vacating the country for a while, and it occurs to me that I don’t really want to go anywhere else. I know that Canada isn’t perfect and that there are horrible people here too, but in the last couple of days, I’ve had some particularly Canadian experiences.

1) Yesterday, I was waiting in line for the train at Union Station in Toronto (the biggest train station in the country). When the line started to move, the woman in front of me looked down at some bags at her feet, then moved them to one side, and we all kept walking. The guy behind me was a little worried and said to me, “Do you know who those bags belong to?”

“No,” I answered, “but this is Canada. No one’s going to take them.”

“True enough,” he agreed. A couple of minutes later, I saw a man come running over breathlessly and grab the bags, smiling at the people in line, who smiled back and let him in. Which is a big deal, because Canada has some pretty stringent line protocols.

2) Over the course of the last two days, I’ve had a door held open for me by at least 10 people, some of them young people, which doesn’t surprise me—I mention it only as a counter-measure against those who continually whine about millennials.

3) This morning I was in the neighbouring city getting a few things for the trip. A couple had a shopping cart at the top of the stairs leading to another plaza. They carried two of their bags down but left three cases of water in the cart. As I walked by, the people behind me said, “Oh, someone’s forgotten their water!” Then the couple came hurrying back. “Don’t worry,” I said. “No one’s going to take it.”

“Oh, I know,” the woman replied. “I was just worried that the cart might be in someone’s way. Plus if someone DID take it, I guess they needed the water more than me, so that’s OK.”

4) I went to Shopper’s and forgot my points card. The cashier said, “Don’t worry—it’s Senior’s Day” which initially had me like ‘Dear God, do I look that old?’ but then she explained that she gave my points to the woman ahead of me in line who was a senior and who HAD her points card, and gave both of us the senior’s discount. “I pretended that you were her daughter and gave you the discount. Just say ‘Thanks, Mom’ to her, and we’ll call it even,” she said. So I did.

5) My hairdresser is openly gay, and her partner is a transgender person. We all live in a small town of 500 people, and no one gives a sh*t. Try getting an appointment with this girl—she’s booked solid every day. Although she DID fit Ken in for a straight razor cut because she just took a course and he’s one of the few guys in town who shaves his head.

And while I imagine these kinds of things happen in other places in the world, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that they happen in Canada. But that worries me too, because there are good people everywhere, and things are still pretty sh*tty in other countries, so who’s to say that Canada won’t be next, or whether to some people, we’re already as bad as other countries? You can blame social media all you want for giving assholes a platform that they never had 20 years ago, but the fact is that assholes still existed then—they just made the people in their IMMEDIATE vicinity miserable instead of tweeting out their idiocy to a wide audience, or making ludicrous and ill-informed comments on national news articles.

At any rate, it’s time to see more of the world and find those little pockets of decency where I can. Because I know they exist. So have a great week–I’ll be coming to you from the UK for the next installment of mydangblog at the point where I eventually have wifi.

And now here’s a throwback to November 2014 that you might not have read on the weirdness of mail-order catalogues…

Wednesday: I wonder who exactly buys things from mail-order catalogues.

On occasion, we get mail order catalogues delivered to our house. There’s Added Touch, which features jewellery, clothes, and furniture. Why would I order anything from them, when I can buy the same things from actual stores, without having to pay shipping? We also get Signals, offering logic games and clever T-shirts with saying like “Don’t trust atoms—they make up everything” on them, and Bits and Pieces, which sells really cheap plastic garden ornaments and jigsaw puzzles of kitty cats and thatched-roof cottages. But the icing on the mail-order cake came on Wednesday, when we got, for the first time, a catalogue called Hammacher Schlemmer, which I think is German for “sh—t that you’ll never buy because it’s stupid and way too expensive”. Aside from the assorted remote control spy drones, the ultrasonic jewellery cleaner, and the washable cashmere bathrobe (only $399.95, y’all), there were some really bizarre things available for purchase. Here are a few of my favourites:

Page 5: The Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter, $129.95. It’s a tiny doghouse for cats, which comes with a heated floor. It’s waterproof and can be plugged into any grounded electrical outlet. This, to me, is a paradox. You don’t like your cat enough to let it in the house when it’s cold or wet out, but you’ll pay $130.00 for a cathouse? Do you love your cat or hate it? Maybe it’s like Schrodinger’s cat—you simultaneously love AND hate it—either way, you probably shouldn’t have a cat.

Page 60: The Faux Fireplace, $69.95. The description of this item reads: “The removable fireplace decal that instills instant ski lodge coziness to a room otherwise devoid of winter’s most heart-warming tradition.” While the prose is lovely, let’s be clear—it’s a STICKER that looks like a fireplace. You just paid seventy bucks for a giant sticker, friend. It will not warm your room. The flames don’t move. The picture in the catalogue is of a man sitting in a wingchair, staring at the fireplace. Let’s be realistic—he’s staring at the wall. For the same money, you could buy a space heater, if it’s warmth you’re looking for, or for another hundred bucks, you could go to Canadian Tire and buy an electric fireplace with fake flames that actually move. If I was ever going to stick anything on my wall, it would be a life-size Johnny Depp. (I asked Ken if he was OK with that, and he said only if he got a life-size sticker of someone too, but he wouldn’t tell me who because he “didn’t want to be judged”).

Page 64: The Cyclist’s Virtual Safety Lane, $39.95. This ingenious invention consists of two laser beams that you mount on your bicycle to provide motorists a “visual indicator of a cyclist’s riding width”. This is also known as the “target zone”. Don’t people on bicycles already have enough problems with inconsiderate car drivers almost knocking them off their bikes without providing them a clear indication of exactly where you have to drive to do that? I admit, I’m not a huge fan of fanatical cyclists who zip around in their fake sponsorship outfits and torpedo helmets (I went through a post-Olympic phase of yelling “Where’s the peloton?!” out my car window when Ken and I would pass one of them on the road), but still, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. And neither does Hammacher Sledgehammer, because on page 71, for an additional $199.95, you can also get a Bicycle Rear View Camera, just so you can see who’s bearing down on you and the rest of the peloton.

Finally, the most incredible and most useless item in the catalogue can be found on page 59. For the low, low price of only $345,000 (yes, over a third of a MILLION dollars), you can order a 6 foot tall robot. In the catalogue, it’s described as a “Celebrity Robot Avatar”, and has apparently appeared in movies, TV shows, and music videos. As a purveyor of pop culture myself, I have never seen this robot anywhere on screen. And just to clarify—it’s not actually a ROBOT. It’s a battery-powered, remote control metal can. It doesn’t do anything on its own. It’s controlled with “an intuitive wireless remote that is small enough to escape detection”. You can make it move forwards, backwards, and spin, as well as make it seem like it’s talking by speaking into a “discreet wireless microphone”. What kind of money do you have to make to spend $345,000 on a puppet? For 50 bucks, I’ll dress in a robot costume, come to your party, and have ACTUAL conversations with your guests. That’s right—I’m your robot butler, baby. Your swear-y, angsty robot butler.

My Week 148: Family Vacation, Star Wars Casting Choices, TBT (Throw Back Titus)

It’s been a kind of crazy, hectic week, what with us taking a mini-vacation to Blue Mountain with T and his girlfriend, the lovely V. The trip was in honour of T’s 19th birthday, and the best part was at midnight on the Wednesday, when we went into a local bar. At exactly one minute after midnight, T ordered a glass of scotch, and when the waitress asked for his ID, he whipped out his driver’s license like a boss. She read it, her eyebrows shot up, and she laughed. “Congratulations!” His next goal is to go into the liquor store that he and Ken were recently kicked out of, because Ken was letting him carry some of the alcohol and there’s a ridiculous rule in Ontario that people under 19 aren’t even allowed to TOUCH anything, so they got told to leave. Seriously. My poor husband, who’s never done a single illegal thing in his life, got tossed from the LCBO. (Actually, he DID run a red light once, but in his defense, I was in labour, it was 3 in the morning, and who WOULDN’T run the light with an insane woman next to you screaming, “For f*ck’s sake!! Do you want me to have the baby in the car?! Why are you stopping?!”) So T’s plan is to go in and very obviously touch  as much liquor as he can and carry bottles around until someone confronts him, then he’ll whip out his ID again in the manner he’s been practicing, which is to say, very confidently and smugly.

If you’ve never been to Blue Mountain, the resort there is fantastic, with mini-golf, ziplining, treetop adventures, the Apex bag jump so you can pretend to be a stuntperson, and the Ridge Runner, which is like a combination rollercoaster/bobsled run down the mountain at top speeds (there are plenty of cheesy homemade movies on Youtube if you want to see how it works). Mini-golf is always a great family activity, but I have to admit that we take it seriously and play by the rules, UNLIKE the family behind us, who were playing “best ball” and kept dogging us at each hole, tapping their feet and sh*t because we were actually trying to make par and keep score instead of PICKING UP THE BALLS FOR YOUR KIDS AND PUTTING THEM IN THE HOLE IN A CAVALIER FASHION, LADY.

There was also a swimming pool where I would have been able to show off my awesome swimming prowess if it wasn’t for Ken:

Me: I’m going to do the Australian crawl. Spot me so I don’t smash into anything.
Ken: OK. Off you go. I’m watching.

10 seconds later:

Me: OWW. OMG, I just smashed my hand on the ledge. Why are you holding onto my ankles?! Are you trying to drown me? Let go!!
Ken: I was trying to help you straighten out. You were going all crooked.
Me: Are you drunk?
T: We were yelling at him to push you away from the concrete, but he kept trying to grab your feet.
Ken: It seemed like the best option. Plus, you’ve been drinking too—no wonder you can’t swim straight.
Me: Sigh. Fair enough.

(Before I go on to the next bit, I just want to quickly add that Blue Mountain has the best gift shops. I bought a pair of socks that say “This meeting is bullshit” on them, and I am totally wearing them to the next meeting about whether or not the percentages on the pie chart are accurate.)

Anyway, aside from the “pool incident”, we had a great time, and were pretty exhausted on the way home. At one point, we got passed by a truck, and the sign on the side said ‘Underground Investigations”, which got me thinking—what kind of business is that exactly? Private detectives? Sewer inspectors? People who work at cemeteries making sure that the holes are dug properly (or that the people in the coffins are really dead)? A secret agency that looks into other secret organizations? (of course, if you do that, it’s kind of stupid to advertise it on your truck). When we got home, I looked it up, and it turns out that it could also be a heavy metal band, or a TV reality show that follows the adventures of 4 plucky men who “follow clues to the source of hazardous liquids that flow into storm drains.” And now I really can’t decide which one I’d rather be—a rock star or a sewer detective—because both sound pretty cool, and there’s not technically much to choose between them aside from the hazmat suit, but that could also be your trademark as a heavy metal band. I mean, there are bands that perform in clown costumes, and bands that perform dressed like space aliens, so why not orange jumpsuits and gasmasks, am I right?

But an even better choice is “bucket or truck?” which I asked Ken as we passed a road crew trimming trees along the highway using cherry pickers:

Me: Bucket or truck?
Ken: Huh?
Me: Would you rather be the guy in the bucket or the guy in the truck controlling the bucket?
Ken: The guy in the bucket controls the bucket. The guy in the truck just sits there hanging out. So I’m going to say “truck”.
Me: The guy in the bucket gets to control the bucket?! I’m totally saying “bucket”. I’d be up and down and swooping around—it would be fun.
Ken: You’re just supposed to trim the trees.
Me: Seriously? F*ck that. That sounds boring and labour-intensive. I change my choice to “truck”.
Ken: We can’t both be in the truck.
Me: Fine. You go in the bucket then.
Ken: But I don’t want to be in the bucket…
Me: Stop being a baby and get in the damned bucket.

But later, in revenge for making him be the guy in the bucket, Ken informed me that I had to make T’s birthday cake yesterday, instead of today like I’d planned:

Me: Why? I was going to make it tomorrow morning.
Ken: No. It needs time to cool down before you ice it.
Me: Do you think I’ve never made a cake before and don’t know how to do it without all the icing soaking into the hot cake?
Ken: I’m just saying.
Me: You realize that if I make it now, you still don’t get to eat it until tomorrow, right?
Ken (pause): Yes. Sigh.

Friday Night: I ponder casting choices

On Friday night, we were tired from the trip and decided to rent a movie. The kids wanted to see Star Wars: Rogue 1 again, but as we were watching it, it occurred to me that the casting is pretty random when it comes to the aliens:

Director: OK. For this scene, give me a girl with elephant trunks for ears. Make her blue and half-naked. Also, I want a giant white sloth.
Costume Person: We need more fake fur!! Someone get to Len’s Mill Store, stat!
Director: Not too much fur–he needs to have cyborg parts.

Later…

Director: Now, for this scene, I’m gonna need a guy with a squid head, a woman in a toga, and a frog wearing a beehive for a hat.
Costume Person: We’re all out of beehives.
Director: NO! Don’t tell me that—it won’t be authentic without the beehive. FIND ME ONE! Oh, and give Forest Whitaker an oxygen mask to suck on.
Costume Person: What about the blind Asian ninja? Should I find him giant red shoes or something?
Director: Don’t be ridiculous! There’s such a thing as overkill, you know.

People have very strange ideas about what aliens might look like. Personally, I think if there ARE aliens living on other planets, they’re probably invisible. Either that, or they look like the members of a heavy metal band.

Throw Back Time

It occurs to me that many of you who only started following in the last year or so might have never seen some of these earlier posts, so I present to you a throw back to November 2014, when Ken and I first got Titus:

Friday: I realize that my dog is a bit of a dick.

So let me just say first that I love my dog. He’s awesome. We got him about 2 months ago, and he’s this big, black Labrador Retriever that another family had to give up. Now I know why. No, just kidding. Titus is actually like the best dog ever, but he has some bad habits that make me crazy, and I’m just going to vent a little.
• Tonight, he licked my pants FIVE times. Seriously. Five times. Do you know why? Because I dropped a Dill Pickle flavoured rice cake on my pants. I picked it up and gave it to him, which apparently is dog-ese for “lick the pants that the thing landed on.” (When Ken read this, Titus was sitting next to me and tried to lick my pajamas. When I objected, Ken told me that Titus had called me “a human smorgasbord.” He gives the dog a little too much credit.)
• Two days ago, he ate an entire bag of pitas. He has a voracious appetite. Since we got him, he’s eaten 2 full unopened bags of dog treats, a package of tortilla shells, 4 boxes of chicken bouillon cubes and a can of beef bouillon powder, a bag of grapes, a box of cherry tomatoes, an unopened box of Vegetable Thins crackers, and so on and so on. We have learned the hard way to make sure there is no food left out ANYWHERE, because he also has no issue whatsoever with vomiting. When there is no food, however, he will steal dishes out of the sink and carry them around the house, licking them lovingly. (Just for the record, we DO feed him his own food.)
• He likes to sleep on our bed. We’ve never had a dog that wanted to do this. I wouldn’t mind, except that he weighs almost as much as me, and insists on sleeping between Ken and me. And he likes to SPOON.
• He thinks the cat is another toy. She, however, does not appreciate his playful nature. Have you ever heard a very small cat growl from the depths of her soul, like a demon? Titus doesn’t seem to understand her objections to him, and wants to smell her ladyparts whenever possible. Naturally, this is putting up a barrier between them.

You’d think this would be another “worst case scenario”, but he also does this thing like when you’re petting him and you stop, he puts his nose under your hand and flips your hand up, so you understand that he still wants you to love him. And whenever he eats something he shouldn’t, he looks guilty (right before he throws everything up.) And when he jumps on the bed, slides over and puts his head on your chest and his arm around your neck, you’d forgive him just about anything. Well, I would. I can’t speak for the cat.

*As of right now, we’ve been well-trained to no longer leave food out, so the vomiting is a thing of the past. He and the cat have made their peace, and sleep together with us on the bed. Also, as it turns out, he’s a great conversationalist.

My Week 147: I am Descended From Royalty, Deadly Distractions

I am descended from royalty

A couple of weekends ago, Ken and I went to a local Highland Games. I love the Highland Games for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the music. I can never understand when people object to bagpipe music and cover their ears, or make jokes about the sound of cows dying, because to me the sound of the pipes and drums is thrilling. The best part is the band competition, where you can hear them approaching, and then they walk onto the field in formation, stop, circle up and play their hearts out. If you look around at the crowd, you can see that almost everyone watching is subtly moving one of their feet up and down to the rhythm. Because it’s Scottish, so no one’s getting all excited and doing the pogo, or breaking out into spontaneous flings (mostly because it’s the middle of the day and the drinking hasn’t started yet). Nope, just the understated foot tap, but we all know that means the soul is awake.

This year, they also had a sheep herding competition which was kind of interesting. The trainer had different border collies for the demonstration, and the one thing they had in common was that they only cared about the sheep. I’ve never seen dogs so focused—it was like if instead of sheep, I was holding a hamburger, and Titus was watching me eat it. That’s how intense these dogs were, but without all the requisite drooling.

Of course, if you’ve ever been to a Highland Games, you’ll know there’s also the heavy events, where men, and women now too, do things like toss giant poles into the air, or see who can throw a massive stone the furthest, because that’s what Scottish people used to do back in the old days:

Scottish Man 1: Och aye! I need to build ma hoose, but I dinnae know how tae get this log from here to there!
Scottish Man 2: Dinnae be daft. Just toss it.
Scottish Man 1: Och! Good idea, Jimmy! How will I nail the logs together?!
Scottish Man 2: Just throw the hammer after them!

So apparently, all the Highland Games heavy events are based on Scottish construction techniques.

There was also Highland Dancing, which I longed to do as a small child. Once, when I was about 5, my mother, in a misguided attempt to save my soul, sent me to Sunday School at the local church. It was in the basement, and literally this is my only memory of the entire event: I told the Sunday School teacher that I knew how to do highland dancing, and she asked me to show everyone. Of course, I had absolutely no f*cking idea how to do it, but I’d just been to a local highland games and had watched the dance competition. Back when I was five, I wasn’t quite so introverted as I am now, so I stood up, walked to the middle of the circle of kids, and flailed my arms around, kicked my feet randomly, then bowed. Because that’s how I used to roll. All the other kids clapped, but the Sunday School teacher looked confused:

Sunday School Teacher: You don’t really know how to highland dance, do you?
Me: Yes.
Sunday School Teacher: But that wasn’t really highland dancing, was it?
Me: Yes it was.
Sunday School Teacher: Did you take lessons?
Me: No. I learned it myself.
Sunday School Teacher: Sigh. Jesus hates liars.
Me: Who’s Jesus?

OK, I made up that last part, but it was really what we were both thinking—her, that this five-year-old was full of sh*t and would be punished in the afterlife for being a crappy highland dancer, and me, why the hell was I sitting in a basement with a lady who doubted my dancing prowess?

Anyway, back to this weekend. As the band competitions were nearing a close, the sky was looking ominous and thunderstorms were in the forecast, so I said to Ken, “Let’s take a look at the vendors before it starts to rain.” There were a lot of booths, with pottery, and baked goods, and so on, but then I saw a sign that said, “Have you ever dreamed of owning land in Scotland?” and I was like, “We’re going to that booth, Ken!” The booth was mostly clothing, and I kept looking for a real estate agent, until finally I just asked the guy who was running it, “Where do I buy the land?” So he showed me these packages where you can buy so many square feet of Scottish property, and then he said the BEST THING OF ALL: “If you buy this land, you can become a lord or lady of Scotland.” I thought I was going to die from happiness, and I bought the 10 square feet package which would entitle me to legally change my name on all my banking information and credit cards to “Lady mydangblog”. But then I thought to myself, “Who might get a bigger kick out of this than me?” and also, “Who’s more legitimately Scottish than me?” and I immediately thought of my Dad, who was actually born in Scotland and who just had a milestone birthday. Also, if I made my dad a Scottish lord, it would totally beat out my brother, who travels a lot and once, for Christmas, gave my parents plane tickets to Hawaii with his points, while I was like “Here’s a gift card to The Keg.”

So I registered the land ownership to my dad, then I called my brother to tell him:

Me: I just bought Dad land in Scotland and now he gets to call himself a Lord.
J: That’s awesome. And the best part is that I get to inherit it.
Me: No. The rules of primogeniture have changed so that women can inherit. I’m the oldest, so it goes to me.
J: We’ll see. I have to look up the legal precedents…

(Later, when I told my dad about this, he said, “I can’t believe you guys. I’m not even dead and you’re already arguing about my estate.”)

I really wanted it to be a surprise, but the company had to have his email address. Mom and Dad were coming over for dinner that afternoon, and when he walked in, I said, “Greetings, my lord!” and he said, “What’s going on? I just got some spam email calling me Lord D__ and inviting me to tour my new property in Scotland!”

When I explained it to him, he was pretty chuffed, but he said, “What could I possibly do with 10 square feet? That’s just a little over 3 by 3.” So I thought about it, and here are some suggestions:

1) Pitch a tall, narrow tent and sleep sitting up in a camp chair.
2) Yoga. You can do the Lotus, the Hero pose, and the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose. Also, the Standing Up Straight pose, and the Curled Up in a Tight Foetal Position pose.
3) Solitaire.
4) Picnic for One. Or two, if you hug each other while you eat.
5) Narrowly Focused Highland Dancing. I’m an expert, so I can show you how.

When I told T about it, he was intrigued, and the next thing you know, he bought himself his OWN 10 square feet of land in Scotland. So now, I’m surrounded by royalty. Luckily, we’re going to Scotland in a little over two weeks, and the company will give us the GPS coordinates for T’s land so that we can visit it. And huddle tightly together while we survey all that is his.

Saturday: I am distracted

Yesterday, we were downstairs getting ready to go out, when T said, “Hey, do you hear that? It sounds like something is scratching inside the wall in the back room.” So I listened, and sure enough, there was some kind of creature making a lot of noise, like it was trying to escape. But it wasn’t coming from inside the wall—it was coming from inside an old chimney that has an access door into the top cupboard of a wall unit that Ken built. So we did what any normal person would do—we called Ken/Dad. Which is to say that Ken was taking a shower, so we both ran towards the bathroom, simultaneously yelling, “Ken!” and “Dad!” Ken came out of the shower, and tied a towel around his waist, then went to the back room to look.

“Okay,” he said. “I’m going to have to open the cupboard door.” I immediately ran outside and locked myself behind the gate leading into the vegetable garden, and T hid behind the door to the backyard, where we taunted each other:

Me: Once that thing gets loose, it’s going to eat your feet off.
T: No—it will eat your face off.
Me: No—it’ll hit the floor and go straight for your feet.
T: Haha—that’s what you think—it’ll go straight for the exit and fly at your face!
Ken (opening the door): I can’t see anything—the chimney is full of bird skeletons.
Me: Someone wake me up from this hellish nightmare.

A couple of years ago, Ken had wrapped chicken wire around the top of the chimney to stop creatures from getting in, but apparently the wire had fallen down, and now it was a graveyard. The only thing he could do was pull all the dead stuff out and put it in a bag, and hope that whatever was still alive in there would be able to finally make its way into the cupboard. Which meant that for the rest of the day, we had to keep the door to the back room shut, because I was terrified that some manic squirrel would push its way out and kill us in our sleep. As of this morning, there’s still no sign of anything and I’m super-distracted. The only person who was happy about the whole situation was Ken:

Ken: Hey, check this out!
Me: Why are you digging through all that dead sh*t?!
Ken: There are some awesome skulls in here! I can use them for a photography project.
Me: Are they maggoty? Stop digging in the bag—you’re kicking up dead animal dust and I don’t want it to get in my wine!
Ken: Ooh—this one is really nice. So clean! Oh look—a perfectly formed leg…
Me: I need more wine.