Monday, April 18, 2011

Secret weapon

My favourite store in Ottawa is the T&T Supermarket, which opened about a year and a half ago. It's just 2 miles south of us, and I walk there and back at least once a week for exercise, and to shop for Asian groceries. James Lileks did a post awhile back about the strange things you can find on grocery shelves, like Grass Jelly, and you can certainly find all that and more at T&T. I got a can of Rambutan on Friday, because I wanted a tropical fruit for my Indian fruit salad. The recipe calls for guava, which is okay but not my favourite, and I'd already tried lychees, and this looked interesting. It turned out to be very nice - very like lychees, just a bit sweeter and smoother.

Well, up at the front they have a place where you can buy ready-cooked food to eat there or take home. Every now and then for a treat I buy a barbecued duck, because you just can't make that sort of thing in your own kitchen. They also have some packaged cooked food, and it changes every day - salted chicken, barbecued beef tendons, duck feet, you name it.

Last time I went there I wandered through this section, and my attention was caught by some packages of sliced meat strips. The label read "Pork Bungholes". I looked again; the meat DID have a sort of bullseye in the middle of the slices, but I thought this can't be what I think it is. When in doubt, consult the French - when I studied translation I learned that French is a much more precise language than English, and it's harder to conceal the truth in French. For once our bilingual labelling laws came to my rescue, and I checked the French version on the label. Sure enough, there it was: "Rectum du porc".

Well, now we have the ultimate weapon to defeat the jihadis. Attack them with volleys of Pork Bungholes. It's just wrong on SO many levels, even to me, that I think the mere thought that such a thing exists is likely to make jihadis spontaneously combust. The Chinese will save the world; maybe "Firefly" was prescient in foreseeing a future in which America and China have melded to run the universe.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

And now for some good news

March wasn't all disasters. For the last few weeks, I've been working on a new project. Years ago, we had an interesting bookcase probably from the 30s, with sliding glass doors. James tipped it over and it broke (yeah, I can't entirely keep out the scarlet thread of James's destructiveness). One of the glass panes shattered, and the whole top of the bookcase broke off as well as part of the base. We didn't know what to do with it, so we pushed it into the cold cellar and left it lying on its side. I finally decided it was uselessly occupying space down there, and I'd like to build a potato bin in its place.

I pulled it out and figured that maybe it wouldn't be that difficult to fix myself. The foot was easily put back on, and then top fitted back on top, except that a few fragments of wood had been lost. Unfortunately, during its years in the non-climate controlled cold cellar, it had warped slightly, so the sides are not perfectly perpendicular anymore - I could tell when I put the sliding glass doors back and realized that when they overlap, they don't entirely line up straight. It's not a big deal, though.

While I was regluing the pieces, I figured that perhaps I could strip and refinish it as well, so that's been the job for the last week. Stripping was quite easy, and I put a maple stain on it. I'm not sure what the wood is, but it's some sort of hardwood; could be maple or pine. I'd post pictures, except that I need the Mac for photos, and, well...you know what happened to that.

I've now got the final coat of sealant applied, and it's just got to dry before we try to haul it upstairs again. Oddly enough, the small windows gave me much more trouble than the actual bookcase. The varnish seems to dry oddly in places, leaving a sort of whitish bloom - I may have to do an extra coat to get it to look quite smooth and even. I think I'll get the glass replaced on all of them; the old glass feels sort of thin and cheap, and now we have safety glass which would be much more sensible for our family.

The other thing I've been working on is losing weight. Of course it's for health reasons, but the immediate cause was because I need new clothes and I hate having to shop for fat clothes. They're always such dull colours and so styleless. I still have perfectly nice things that no longer fit, and I figured I'd rather try to wear my old clothes than invest in new ones I won't like.

I'm glad to say it's going quite well. I did Weight Watchers about 10 years ago when we lived in Boston, and was very successful - I lost about 70 lbs. I'm following the same program, but I'm not doing it officially - I've tried once or twice since we moved back to Ottawa, but I don't like the WW program up here. In Boston, the meetings were great - everyone was very supportive and enthusiastic - just the American character, I think, very generous and happy for other people's success. Here the directors are rather cool and brusque, and the people who attend are usually claques of middle-aged ladies who do this as a sort of social event, and have no interest in anyone outside their own set. It felt more like checking in with one's parole officer than going to a support meeting.

Anyway, since the beginning of February, I've lost over 20 lbs, so I'm thrilled with the way things are going. I hope to lost another 30, but that will probably take the better part of a year. Twenty pounds in 2 months is very creditable, but it certainly can't continue at that rate.

My next job is to try to sync the subtitles I did for 'Marguerite de la nuit' to the dvd version of it - I think I may have figured out a way to do it, but it's long and complicated and I have to have a lot of uninterrupted time to work on it.

Meanwhile, the snow is retreating, Canada geese are returning, and the first tips of rhubarb are starting to poke above the ground. In a few more weeks, I'll be doing garden cleanup and starting to think about planting peas.

March Madness

Well, March is over at last, and a mad month it certainly was. Sorry I've been so dilatory in posting, but things have been a bit hairy around here. Just as March break was starting, Emma dropped out of college. The program was just overwhelming her, and now she wants to change to a different one. We have to think carefully about this; I'm afraid that it might be the same story with ANY program - OK the first year, then it gets progressively harder until it's too much for her. It took a week or two, but I'm finally over the shock, and now we can use our heads coolly. I keep telling myself that there are thousands of people in Japan who would trade problems with me, and it's not that bad, but it still threw me for a loop.

Then last week, James struck with his typical criminal brilliance. He took a pair of scissors and cut the electric cord of the iMac computer! Fortunately the cord is removable and I guess I can get a new one, but there's no way of telling if the computer itself was damaged until I can reconnect it and examine it. I first realized what had happened when he came upstairs carrying the iMac and I saw what had happened to the cord - obviously he wanted an audience. When I went downstairs, I found that he had also cut the cords of the keyboard and the mouse, so those will have to be replaced. He had also shorted out all the lights and outlets on that circuit; I tried to fix it, but it was too dark in the garage, and all the switches on the fusebox seemed to be in in the ON position. Finally I gave up and told Dean we'd have to call an electrician the next day.

The electrician found the fuse - it WAS off, but it wasn't visible. But while they were here we got them to fix another outlet that had never worked, so it wasn't a wasted call.

The followup to the Mac destruction came the next day. James came up to me with a piece of paper on which he'd written in very large letters: DELL. Dell? Dell? So that's what all this was about? He didn't want to use the Mac, so he figured if he sabotaged it I'd have to buy him a Dell instead? That little &$#@**@@!! Just for that, I decided I'd leave him without ANY computer for a week, so he'd appreciate it more, but he doesn't seem repentant. He's very tranquilly gone over to watching his "101 Dalmations" tape, and still wants a Dell. Now I'm afraid to bring back the Mac - what if he throws it out the window to REALLY finish it off? Perhaps I should just wait until he's asking for it to come back again. It's weird, because he used the Mac like an expert, and never betrayed any hint that he didn't like it. I don't know where he gets his ideas.

Oh, and he's also clogged up one of our toilets, and even the mighty auger can't free it. I suspect that he flushed a towel down there, because I managed to extract a tiny fragment of terrycloth. It's probably time to replace that toilet with an uber-toilet like the one we have on the ground floor. They'll all go that way eventually, I suppose.

Finally, the clothes dryer has reached the end of the line. It's the last appliance in the house that was here when we moved in. Over the winter, it was getting feebler and feebler - over an hour to dry underwear? Ridiculous. Then a few days ago, this odd, scary smell started coming from it - a kind of oily smell, so I think the wires are overheating. It's time for a new one, so on Thursday I went to the Maytag store, where we'd bought our washer several years ago. The new dryer will arrive Wednesday night. Meanwhile, it's warm and sunny out, so we can dry clothes outside, which I prefer anyway.

So that's my recitation of woes for the past month.