Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yet more Lego!

So a follow up from my greatest yard sale find ever. Saw a yard sale ad in the local paper that mentioned "lego castle", checked the address and discovered it was the same place as my big lego score at the beginning of the summer. A priority yard sale stop again, except we were away for the weekend visiting Leaf's family. Some google-fu, tracked down and email address, happy to find out the lego hadn't sold, made the trip out to buy it.

This time he wasn't getting rid of loose lego, but the castle and keep he had built from scratch. The castle is huge - probably more than 3 feet tall, and absolutely brilliantly made. Plus it has a little village 'keep' around it. Did I mention the castle also opens up like a dollhouse? Also a big pirate ship that Mars loves and has already managed to break apart several times. Managed to add another 85 pounds of lego to the collection, and will keep the castle/keep together until kids are big enough to play with it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Am I a TV Freak?

I remember the excitement of getting cable for the first time. . I remember getting up early Saturday mornings to watch cartoons with my brother. As a kid I also remember begging to stay up that little extra bit to watch a television show. Maybe it was the A-Team, Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, or Airwolf. Or maybe it was The Love Boat or Fantasy Island, which I seem to remember came on later.

It sounds like a lot, but we certainly didn’t watch tv every night. Once, when I was a kid, the television set was 'broken'. We didn't watch any tv for over a year. Turned out the picture knob was cranked all the way to dark. I don't recall missing it too much. Various other times, for various other reasons, I didn't watch a heck of a lot of tv, including a big chunk of my teenage years.

I had a media studies class in high school. I saw my first and only episodes of The Cosby Show, Murphy Brown, and Rosanne in that class. The seemed to be pretty popular shows at the time. When I headed into the world on my own, I watched even less tv. I didn't even have a set. Various roommates did, but cable was usually deemed a luxury rather than a necessity. I frequently went months or even a year at a time without watching any television at all.

Even when Leaf and I shacked up in Maynooth we didn't watch TV. We had a set but mostly used it to watch movies. The 3 movies 3 days 3 dollars kind. We had an antenna that let us get 2.5 fuzzy stations depending on the weather and I watched an occasional hockey game. After three years like that, we got satellite for the first time. Just in time for World Cup 2006 (cough, cough), when I came down with a thirty-day fever and watched 58 of 64 matches. We've cancelled it a few times since then, including for almost a year after we moved to our new place (much to the dismay of various teenage foster kids!).

We mostly stick with the $20 a month 'basic' that the satellite company doesn't seem to promote much. They claim we get 40 stations, but I don’t think ten different feeds of CBC should count as ten different stations when ninety-nine percent of the time the exact same shows are on. CPAC and the Shopping Channel are not real channels either. Ignoring those and a big handful of other duplicate feeds or unwatchable stations (Gospel TV or CMT) I figure we really get 15 channels. We have tried a 'bronze' package a few times. Although I can't imagine the research dollars that went into ensuring that each of the 'bundles' I can pick has only one station I would actually watch.

Recent article says Americans have tv on more than 8 hours a day, Canadians almost four hours. Per day! I watched Bones the other day with Leaf. That put me at a little over four hours of tv in the last three months. (Along with two football games. Note football meaning the game where you kick a ball with your foot, not that stupid sport where you carry a giant leather egg shaped object with your hand.) Spending time with other people makes me realize that makes me a tv freak. We have one tv set. Well, two actually, but only one gets any tv stations. Neither is a flat screen, or HD, or connected to a sound system. The one we watch is actually getting pretty sucky due to its planned obsolescence, but can't see the point of spending a thousand dollars on a freaking television.

Other people we know watch more tv. They have giant flat screens in the living room, little flat screens in the kitchen and the den and the office and the basement and the bedroom and a million stations on satellite. They talk to people about their favourite television shows. When they get together to spend time with family and friends the television is on. It’s on during meals and during conversations (which are often about episodes or storylines or 'famous' people I've never heard of from their favourite televisions shows). I am especially flummoxed by "Have you seen that commercial where...". Sometimes I want to say "Hey, did you see that commercial where they tried to brainwash you into buying that thing you don’t need and can’t afford but still makes you fat?"

I'm not sure if I don't watch tv because my brain is wired differently than everyone else, or my brain is wired differently than everyone else because I don't watch tv. If I choose to believe the various statistics that can be found online, I've seen 350,000 fewer acts of violence than your average person. I've also seen almost a million fewer commercials. That makes me pretty different from 'average', or as I prefer to say, 'lowest common denominator'. Television certainly doesn't appeal to me the way it seems to the masses. I found a list of the 100 most popular TV shows of all time. I have never, not once, not ever, seen a single solitary episode of 83 shows on the list. There are only 5 or 6 there that I've seen more than a handful of episodes.

What is the up side of not watching tv? I haven’t been bombarded with brainwashing for the last 20 years. Thus I’m not a consumer - we have zero dollars of consumer debt. My attention span is longer than 30 seconds. I get more exercise. I have hours and hours of extra time for my other addictions. I’m smarter. I’m not obese. I don’t turn off my brain four hours a day. Most important, I don’t sound like a F’ing idiot talking about faux famous people, stupid tv shows, and moronic commercials all of the time. By the way, apparently today is the last day of TV turnoff week. I know you missed it… try it for the next week instead.

Post Script 1: Reality TV? I saw exhibit at AGO years ago that had some photos of people in the American south. Morbidly obese people sitting on a couch in front of a television drinking beer and eating junk food. In a trailer park. I’d like to see a tv show that shows that reality.

Post Script 2: Photo is Emma's old television. Television as art. I wanted to keep it, knock out the tube, and put an aquarium inside instead. I think Marussia ended up with it instead though...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fat belt to skinny belt!

Woohoo! After a number of years, I've finally managed to strap my 'skinny belt' around my waist. Had it for ages but had to replace it with a bigger one after I put on the pounds. Good, because my 'fat belt' was starting to wear out. It was a cheapy... stamped "Genuine Leather" but only about a millimeter of leather covering cardboard or some crap like that. Realized this weekend that I needed a new hole in the fat belt, figured I'd try skinny belt instead, and voila!

I weighed myself for the first time in a few weeks, I'm down to 177 lbs. For some reason its been easy this summer to lose weight, 33 lbs since I came home from school. Nice. Still a little bit of a belly but I feel much healthier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What the heck happened to my counter?

I was all pleased to be at 275, suddenly pushing 12,000. What the heck?

Harvest time

Driving the dogs to the kennel the other day (another story in itself) and noticed leaves had started to turn at the very beginning of September. Growing season is so short here.

It certainly doesn't help that we don't get full sun anywhere. South side of the property is fully treed, as is the west. Eventually I'll figure out where to put a garden for the most sunshine yet still away from septic, but for now its container planting on the deck.

I started seeds inside this year, then moved them to the little plastic greenhouse, then to pots on the deck. Also cheated and bought some seedlings as well. I plant mostly tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Some other stuff to play around with. My broccoli flowered the first week it got hot, my cauliflower formed heads (the first time I've managed that at least) but rotted, as did the cucumbers and zucchini because it was such a wet year. Everything was beaten up by the hail storm. All in all, not the most productive season.

Yesterday I went out and picked some stuff to make some salsa for nachos. Neat because I grew everything I needed. It was very delicious, tomatoes were especially good. Heritage varieties that I got as seed from my MIL and seedlings from a local farmers market. Strange to realize how little food I actually manage to grow, and how our yard could easily (in theory at least) grow all the food we needed to be self sufficient. Gardening is more of an occasional hobby for me. Fun, but I don't put enough effort in.

At least my basil varieties turned out better than last season. I love pesto and have started making and freezing my own. I'm thinking I would like to try growing basil and other herbs indoors under fluorescent lights. Nothing beats fresh herbs for cooking, and it will keep me entertained for the 3/4 of the year they won't grow outside. I figure a four shelf wire rack unit with a 3 foot multi-spectrum light at each level would do well. We'll see.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Trip to Kelowna: Airport security

First time flying for the kids, and strangely (considering how much I used to travel), the first time I've flown in almost eight years. Since shortly after 9/11 actually. September 11th 2001 I was at the library to book airline tickets online (also for travel to Kelowna). All the airline websites were basically saying flights were canceled & no new flights would be booked, and it wasn't until I overheard people talking that I found out something was going on. I've successfully avoided air travel and travel to the US since then. A cross Canada trip by train and another by car, but didn't have the time or money for a slow trip to my brother's wedding.

"Because of 9/11" has become my most hated phrase. On my September 2001 flight I had a dull plastic camping knife confiscated (of course I got a nice metal one with my in flight meal...). Seriously though, "because of 9/11" no airplane will ever again be successfully hijacked with a boxcutter. Not because they are all confiscated, but because anyone who tries again will get pummeled to death by angry passengers. So why bother confiscating scissors or nail clippers or string? Safer flights, or the illusion of safer flights? Airport security is like locking the door of your house. It will discourage honest people, stupid people, and incompetent people, but not someone who is organized and determined.

Spent hours checking out requirements, double checking contents of suitcases, and putting gels and liquids in zip lock baggies. Its a bit of a scam. I can't bring a bottle of water, but I can pay $3 for one on the airplane. Talk about passengers held hostage. At the 'pre-screen' table I started to put containers of pudding into a ziplock. We had searched to find ones under 100ml, kept them seperate, and were ready to present them to screeners first thing to comply with the regulations. Guy at the pre-screen says not to bother. "Just tell them it is for the baby" (they weren't, but we did, it was faster.) Return flight however, screener guy was full of questions about a little carton of milk - allowed for infants - because he thought Odin was too young for real food. Personally, I was expecting the anal probe. Strange looking guy with long beard shows up sweaty and nervous looking at security checkpoint. Sweaty because I just downed an extra large double double I couldn't take thru in a rush because we were late and and nervous because I had just heard the pre-boarding call as we arrived at security. I didn't even beep. However, two year old Mars got wanded and had to remove his boots for closer inspection. He took it pretty well, but seemed confused by it all, despite many stories and explanations before we travelled. Leaf and baby Odin were also wanded.

I like Benny Hill's old joke: “The odds against there being a bomb on a plane are a million to one, and against two bombs a million times a million to one. Next time you fly, cut the odds and take a bomb.”