Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fatigue, alas

I think the hardest part of being a new mom was the unrelenting lack of sleep. It was brutal. I am very, very happy my kids are past the age of constant nocturnal wakefulness. Thanks, kids.

So any current fatigue is self inflicted. The inflictor was a terrific concert. Leonard Cohen. Our own Canuckistan crooner, putting on a series of shows across N American to replenish his funds, after his "agent" stole his $$$.

Should I thank the agent? Naw. I'll just be grateful for a few lovely accidents.

1. My dad, a luddite, got up early and bought tickets at the box office.
2. My dad, a luddite, mismanaged his calendar and double booked himself.
3. My dad, a singer, chose rehearsal over Cohen.
4. My mom called me to see if I wanted to go. Oh yes please and thank you very much.

The concert was 3 hours of amazing. Cohen was great. His doo-wap trio was terrific. The 6 guys playing everything from accordian to double bass to harmonica to clarinet along with the usual guitar/bass guitar/drums/saxophone were great. He sang every song I wanted to hear, and then some.

Other good stuff.

Connor's room in the basement is done. Done! He's sleeping down there, along with Domo, Labbit and his drums. Labbit is a stuffed rabbit with a mustache. Domo is google-able. I don't know what he is, but Connor likes him.

TIF is black. I visited a very funny dermatologist who lied and said liquid nitrogen would hurt. It stung a tiny bit, but it was not at all painful. Now the bit of TIF I can see is black. Yeah, it's kind of gros, and there is a chunk o' TIF under the nail looking like she always has, but it'll be nice if the quarter inch sticking out dies and falls off. I go back to the dermatologist in a month. I really liked her can of liquid nitrogen. I wonder what other cool toys she has? I honestly hope I don't ever need to find out...

My dentist is still happy with my teeth. No more visits for 9 months! His only concern is that an old filling I have is slightly discoloured, but it's a cosmetic concern, and if I haven't noticed, it's not important.

I am enjoying Marianne now. Before it was Everybody Knows, then Famous Blue Raincoat, then Who by Water (I think - I know the lyrics, not always the song names). I expect Suzanne to show up, and Chelsea Hotel. Maybe even Hallelujah. I may be tired, but I'm happy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Patience: A missing virtue

I'm not the most patient of people, although I've learned to fake it over the years.

We spent the weekend - guess where - in the basement. I am beginning to hate my basement. I like the part with finished floor. I hate the visible Dricore. Also the carpet on the stairs, which reminds me that it's super ugly and I am in a state of debt that has killed ye olde inner Scot. It's true - I never wake up worried about debt. Maybe it's because 11 hours of painting trim causes me to lapse into unconsciousness.

I had budgeted about $150 for the trim - it's just a few strips of pine, right? Wrong. I spent about 20 minutes in the trim aisle at Home Depot, before going into trim overload and piling the cart high with trim that was close enough to what we have upstairs. I did my best to measure out 139 feet of the trim, and 168 feet of corner round. Plus 5 pieces of door casing. It cost $508. I just about fell over, then paid and staggered out to the car. My transport technique for items too long for the car is to open the passenger side front window and stuff everything in. We only live 6 blocks away. It worked fine.

Did you know that car repair in an older vehicle is dramatically different than in a younger one? Our check engine light came on. So we checked the oil. It's fine. I am recalling this happening on big red - we used black electrical tape to block the light, it's very distracting. So far, with the green machine, we have been more successful at not being distracted. We checked the engine, right? So until it actually develops symptoms, I assume the light came on because of a broken sensor. Denial, something Bush taught us all.

I think the children had a good long weekend. I know I fed them 3 times, and Connor and Zoe actually each cooked twice. Amazing what skills can be imparted through neglect. Maybe I should write a book about it - super passive parenting, or how to force your kids to raise themselves. It's actually terrible for their nutrition. Connor ate 2 boxes of fudgesicles. With some help from Westley. Zoe was luckier - she has a very active social life, and got actual cooked food at a friend's house. Plus she's in a health phase, imparted no doubt by her teacher in a class that used to be called home economics but now has a name I can never remember.

My garden is calling to me, really loud. But there's still trim to paint, as despite 11 hours of work it's not done. It's almost done, just about 6 pieces left. The flooring is mostly in, thanks to Hugh, who is barely mobile after 3 days on hand and knee whacking in tiny bits of highly warped floor. They say it's engineered. I say it's engineered in the same way a sanitary engineer is an engineer. It's designed and produced, no doubt to specifications, but if it's actually engineered, the engineers are drunk. Every piece is warped. Every 60th piece is mis-shapen and can't be used. I have to admit it looks great, though. Maybe one day I'll have the energy to put batteries in the camera and take pictures. Or get Zoe to take a few.

Mike and Hugh will be back at it. Maybe tonight the door will be in. We kind of left the doorway unfloored, as we have 4 options to choose from and need Mike's opinion. He'll have one, it will be option 5, and it will look good but take hours to do. Poor Hugh. Glad I have a day job!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Springtime (not for Hitler)

It's spring in Ottawa, my absolute favourite time of year. The leaves are unfurling. The grass and weeds are growing. Tulips, daffodils and crabapples are in bloom. Lilacs and bearded iris are about to pop.

The last few weekends have been a gardener's misery. Damp. Even wet. Which has allowed me to finish painting the basement, and will allow me to install flooring tomorrow.

I did not buy bamboo. I tried. According to the salesman, 1.1 billion Chinese are refusing to ship Guo Ya bamboo to Canada. I suspect the truth is closer to limited supply for carbonized bamboo, higher prices in the US and less paperwork = send it there. It doesn't really matter, apparently any engineered flooring can go in a basement.

So Connor and I headed off to Home Depot, to peruse their selection of idiot proof click install engineered hardwood. There are several systems, many finishes, and no sales. Of the 3 that were in stock and had a click system that actually looked like it would hold a floor together, Connor chose the most expensive. He liked the more mottled graining and the warmth of the finish. This, from a child whose idea of fashion is a slightly ripped t-shirt and pants so large he stole my belt. I have to admit the graining on the acacia wood is nicer than oak, which, while lovely, is a bit strong.

So you'd think we're done, right? We have 30 boxes of flooring in the basement. Mike is dropping off a saw so we don't have to use a jigsaw. The basement is painted, and the trim removed from the one spot that had trim. But we have a very important decision to make.

What direction should the planks go?

This is a seemingly obvious question. I assumed they would go east-west. Mike assumed they would go north south. Hugh likes the idea of a diagonal. But only in one of the two rooms. My plan is to lay out a few planks and try to guess what will look best. Mike's theory is that the outside walls are straight, so going N-S would mean fewer cuts. Having installed the subfloor, I can tell you with absolute confidence that in no section of the basement are the outside walls straight.

We will resolve this, far more easily than the Irish resolved their "troubles", and far sooner than anyone will resolve the constant middle east crisis. Which reminds me of a lovely Dan Quayle quote - the global importance of the middle east is keeping the near east and the far east from infringing on eachother. The US really needs to stop electing politicians who prove that anyone can grow up to become president. Obama was an awesome start. Wish we weren't headed in the opposite direction - go Iggy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I have a terrible habit of reading a website called what's the harm.net. It publishes incidents of people following non-scientific practices and being harmed as a result. This includes dead children whose parents' religious faith resulted in denied or delayed access to effective care.

I know these parents loved their kids, and didn't want them to die. So how brainwashed were they, to believe some ill-educated church representative would save their kid?

There are side effects to medical treatments. Some of those are permanent, and in some instances are worse than the illness they were intended to treat. But the risks are, to a large extent, known and documented, as are the risks of the illness. Why is comparative risk analysis such a difficult concept for most people to grasp?

Here's a nice, simple example. Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is an auto-immune response that can be triggered by vaccines, although it's more commonly triggered by an illness (possibly one a vaccine would have prevented!)

The risk of developing Guillain-Barre syndrome after a flu vaccine is about one in a million.
The risk of dying of the flu is about 4%, or 1 in 25. Most of those 4% will be in a higher risk population - the very young, very old, or already ill. So for a healthy adult, it's a lot lower than 4% for most flus. But it's still a LOT higher than one in a million. And Guillain Barre, horrible though it is, is treatable and the individuals with it usually get 100% better. Eventually.

I'm probably taking a much larger risk by painting my basement. The primer is really stinky! Smells like ammonia.

Other risks more likely to result in death than vaccination:
1. Driving to the store to buy beer
2. Flying anywhere
3. Smoking
4. Excess drinking
5. Being overweight
6. Not exercising
7. Not wearing a helmet when you cycle/rollerblade/skateboard (for me, walk!)
8. Seeking and following medical advice from an "alternative" practitioner when you are actually sick
9. Swimming unsupervised
10. Having unprotected sex in a non-monogamous relationship

Now, a lot of these things are way more fun than a needle. And you can choose to do them or not - so these are controllable risks. But choosing vaccination instead of disease is a harm reduction strategy, kind of like needle exchanges - there is a risk, but it's WAY lower than the risk of the disease.

I think Jenny McCarthy may prove that having lovely sweater puppies and a terrible brain can be a deadly combination. Check out the Jenny McCarthy body count site. Stupidity kills. Don't listen to it!