Friday, July 31, 2009

My own scarlet A!

I noticed a few atheist blogs had a scarlet A on them, and, in a desire to spend my limited time on earth in a highly valuable and productive way, clicked on one.

Now I have my very own A!

Click on it if you, too, wish to learn more about the A; the link is to the out campaign. Not out, as it outing someone for their sexual preferences when they'd prefer not to have those publicly known, but out as in the truth is out! I'm an atheist!

Not exactly a point of pride with me. I'm an atheist because I don't believe there is a god. The more I learn about the world, the more I realize my previously unthinking atheism sure seems a better fit than some "I can do everything but won't because, um, free will" living up in the sky not intervening. Never intervening. Letting the wee children die.

Enough of that - it's Friday afternoon before a long weekend with a decent weather forecast.

I will be gardening.

I probably won't be driving the new Lexus much - like all of Hugh's cars, it's comfortable with a terrific suspension and all the excitement of a warm bath. Alone.

I also plan on cycling. Finally, my bicycle is not stuck to the garage wall, but on the ground, where I can tinker until the brakes work and then hop on.

Life is good. I plan on living it as well as I can for as long as I can, and hope that when I die, people say that I was fun to be with. There's enough serious crap in the world that we really need to grab every chance at fun we can. With the usual responsibilities first I might attack the old couch with a crowbar, but I will be responsible (deep sigh) and try to give it away first.

If you think you want my couch, it's really crappy, and it would be much better to let me trash it, OK?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sweaty garden love

I've been mucking about in the garden. Despite forecasts threatening still more rain, it's been dry today. So I moved hostas. And ferns. And divided a sedum. They have got to be the easiest plant to divide.

More of my hostas and ferns are now where they'll be happier, in dappled shade, and more of my sun loving plants are now in the sun. I'm looking out at my garden, thinking gee, in 5 years everything but the tree will be in a different place. I'm one of those gardeners - the ones who will dig up an entire bed and replant everything 4" to the left, because it looks better that way.

Gardening is free. This makes me very, very happy, because buying a used Lexus is not free. We signed the papers this morning. Thursday we can pick it up. I've felt slightly ill ever since - borrowing $22K for something that isn't a house is literally painful. Now we need to set up a HELOC so we can pay of the car loan at 8.19% and move it to 3.25% - we only need to keep it at the higher rate for a month.

Rearranging furniture is also free. After I gardened for a few hours, I cleaned our bathrooms. They were revolting. Revolting. That is a fabulous word. Revolting! Fungible! Revolting fungible bathroom! Then I went into our revolting living room, and attempted to make it look lovely by moving things around. Now parts of it look better than they did. And I don't think anything looks worse, so while it won't be in Architectural Digest, it also won't be in Trailer Park Quarterly, the only design mag in comic book format. Heck, too many words in dem other fancy magazines, eh?

Maybe I'll feel better once we actually have a Lexus in the driveway, instead of a much larger than I'd like debt. Note I used a Lexus, not the Lexus - I still don't actually believe we bought it, although the debt feels far too real. My inner Scot was obviously in a coma. Damn. I'll have to grab him and choke him with his sporin.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Things I didn't know.

This is not an exhaustive list - just a few tidbits of previously unknown unknowns now known, to abuse a truly bad Rumsfeld speech.

1. Hugh is fully capable of spending foolish sums of money on a car
2. Twitter is fun

We haven't actually purchased the Lexus. All the money for it is still in our bank accounts.

I lie.

The money for it is still to be borrowed. If I had $30K kicking around, my underwear wouldn't have holes in it.

Hugh visited Import Car Centre on Tuesday. Eddie was off - eye surgery. Ouch.
Wednesday. He just missed Eddie.
Thursday. Eddie and he chatted, Hugh agreed to go back.
Friday. Hugh returns. Eddie gets him to take the kids for a drive.

Hugh's comment? The steering seems looser. Of course, he's been driving his brother's minivan. A '95 Caravan, on its 4th transmission. The power steering has long since ceased to have any power - turning right is a true workout.

I think a race car's steering is loose in comparison.

Hugh knows this - it was a joke. He really wants that Lexus.

His rationale for today? We haven't looked at any other cars, ergo we must want this one.

He is right. We do. I do. The kids do.

Eddie knows he sold a car with one sentence - humour me - drive a Lexus.

I'm looking at the above post, realizing it seems to consist solely of one sentence paragraphs. Is Twitter changing the way I write? Can I go past 140 characters? Will any thought of substance ever leave my head again?

Can I write an entire post consisting entirely of questions?

If you wish to read the tweets of a new twit, I'm teragram42 on Twitter. If you wish to read the tweets of someone who is at least semi literate, may I recommend Stephen Fry?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mud glorious mud

Despite our Lexus detour, I did much mucking about.

Mucking about is a highly accurate term for the end result of gardening - tools and gardener covered in muck.

I weeded. Nails filled with muck.

I trimmed most of the rest of the hedge. Hands covered in muck.

I divided 2 perennials and moved chunks to where the hedge between us and our neighbour's driveway used to be. Much muck, on hands arms and feet.

I weeded by the side yard. Hands, arms, feet and eyes mucky. Lots of small black flies, which go under my glasses into my eyes, hence the mucky eyes.

Moved 2 grasses. Muck, as noted above, on hands and arms.

This was all before car shopping. I did change my shirt and shoes - orange Crocs are not for driving. Or leaving the yard. Or anything involving other people seeing you, really.

I divided 2 more daylilies after. More muck. Is it allowable to wash your feet in the bathroom sink? Our main floor bathroom has a sink and toilet just inside the back door, where I leave the crocs. The sink seems a wee mite more civilized for washing than the toilet.

car hunt

I decided to get serious about the car hunt. Keep in mind that the term grown up makes me giggle when you consider the term serious.

We went to the nearest Toyota dealer and test drove a 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan, an eminently practical vehicle. We're practical, right?

The steering was loose. Brakes? Soft. Soggy, even. Road feel? Van like. It felt like a minivan, and everyone reviewing them commented on how car like they are. Fucking liers. They were just brainwashed - roadwashed - by the other crappy driving vans they had.

Minivans suck. That's why families turned en masse from them to the SUV, which looks like a truck. And sucks gas like, well, like our current car.

We then headed off to Import Car Centre. located beside XXX adult videos - must be 18 or older to enter. Lovely neighbourhood. We shop in it when we need to buy something at a pawn shop. Imagine my surprise when we saw row upon row of not beaters but beemers. By import car centre, then mean high end imports.

So we asked them about the 2004 Sienna's they had advertised. Sold. So we told him what we wanted, a vehicle that seats 6 or 7. We chatted briefly. He asked us if we'd do him a favour - test drive a Lexus SUV. What can you say when it's put that way? I mean, we're not dumb enough to actually buy a fucking SUV just because some smooth salesguy gets us to drive it.

We drove it.

Hugh raved for 30 minutes, then made me drive it back to the dealership. It's a very nice ride.

We chatted with Eddie, the used car guy. He's the half owner of Import Car Centre. They also have an 8 car garage a few blocks over, and own the land the lot is on. He's been working there for 21 years. I mentioned my concern that an SUV and a sedan don't offer much difference, but an SUV is a lot more money. What happened? Before I could say "must leave, hair needs washing", we were in a Toyota Avalon, winging around Ottawa. We both agreed the suspension just wasn't as nice, the brakes, as firm, the ride, as lovely, as the Lexus.

What to do?

Well, we chatted a while, and left.

Hugh may play the sucker well, but for him to spend nearly $30,000 on a car is not a spur of the moment thing. He buys things on the spur of the moment because they are cheap. Not because he loves them.

But he loves that Lexus.

I am in a very odd, and entirely unexpected space.

I don't really want to spend more than $15,000 on a car. If we do, it means we can't pay off the line of credit until next February, at the earliest, and so we can't replace the kitchen counters. Or my underpants, which meet the maternal criteria of throw out those underwear they're full of holes what if you get in an accident category. DISCLAIMER. They are really comfortable. Like going commando. Not that I would....

So I am in the odd position of trying to convince my stay at home no income husband that he should buy a Lexus. He drives a lot. He doesn't buy himself anything luxurious, or even nice. This is a man who will wear used underwear. I know, too icky to imagine. But I've never seen him love a ride like he loved that Lexus. I want him to have it.

Even though I hate SUVs, and think luxury cars are a silly way to spend too much money on a utility. Would you buy Evian hot water for your shower? High octane gas for your '99 Ford Econoline van? Swarovski crystals for your white trash neighbour? Well, um, no, idiot. Yet I want my husband to buy this car, and feel like he made the right decision every time he drives it.

This is not a place I thought we'd be in our car hunt. I pictured Hugh wanting to buy his friend's 2000 Cadillac Seville, or an old crappy cheap minivan, and me trying to convince him to upgrade to a 2004 Toyota Sienna with 140,000 km and rust.

Life, sometimes, has nice surprises, and this may be one! Some would claim deities. Yet why would a god intervene on something as trivial and humanly controllable as a car, when kids die of entirely preventable causes. Atheism is more reasonable, the more you know about our world. That, and extreme gratitude for the luck of being born in a rich country. Thanks, oh Palframan ancestors, for deciding England/Ireland/Scotland/Wales sucks. Cause Canada doesn't. Even though I still think Pat Buchanan's term, Soviet Canuckistan, is hilarious, we are no 'stan country.

I will, of course, let you know if end up with a Lexus or something more suited to a trailor park.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

perfect day

Today was amazing. Sunny, not too hot, not at all humid.

Naturally, I decided I had to wash all the towels. But I also gardened until it started raining. Lovely, it were.

The front NE bed is now kidney shaped. Sort of. I yanked out the ornamental onions, which means most will still come up next year. I also removed weeds. We've had a mess of rain. That's the technical term, honest. And it's helped the quack grass and other weeds to thrive. Amazing how well rooted grass not on the lawn is. Weeding is one of those things people who pass by always say that's a lot of work. As I tell them - it's only work if you don't like it. And I love it.

I seeded more lawn between the flower beds, as the bits I seeded July 2nd are a wee mite sparse. My inner Scot is dead - I can splurge on grass seed. Honest. I haven't smelt so much as a wiff of sporin.

I also did some hedge trimming.

I realize most people use an electric hedge trimmer. I do not use power tools, my experience in the basement nothwithstanding. I spent an entire summer mowing our not insubstantial lawn with a push mower - it worked fine. So I trim hedges with manual clippers, which are never sharp enough. Yes, I sharpened them, I have a file specifically for that purpose. But it doesn't seem to do much.

My hedge trimming technique is effective, if unorthodox.

1. Trim bits you can reach.
2. Jump to trim bits you can't.
3. Get large shaky wooden ladder. Trim half of top you can reach from that side.
4. Whack hedge periodically to dislodge trimmed bits.
5. Use trimmed bits as mulch under pine.

I got half done, so it looks even less tidy than before - now it has odd bits sticking up on half of the top. I'm not going back out there - the mosquitoes are fierce. Fierce, I tell you, fierce. And standing on a rickety ladder with freshly sharpened clippers swatting mosquitoes is even less smart than not swatting mosquitoes.

To further improve a perfect day, the blackberries are ripening, and I managed to creep through the entire patch without any bleeding. They were delicious. I laughed at the berries at the grocery store, priced at $2.99 per half pint. Hah! I ate half a pint before I even got into the patch.

So now I will head back to work, with a composter full of weeds, a half trimmed hedge, a nicely seeded new chunk o' lawn and blackberries to look forward to when I get home. The clean towels are OK too, but not exactly life altering.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Car obsessions

I have a tendency to obsess when a task is open.

Witness posts on finishing the basement. It filled most waking thoughts. Now that it's done, I can barely remember we have one.

I remember the last time we "had" to buy a car. My old Tercel had died. Murdered, actually, by a cruel and incompetent owner who failed to check the oil. That would be me. Did you know that a Tercel driven at 100km/hour without oil sounds like a jackhammer? And that if you then put 4 litres of oil in the engine, it sounds like a machine gun is mounted to the roof?

It was the Tercel's premature demise that introduced me to the stress of the car hunt. I lucked in, after a couple of weeks, to baby blue, who I traded for $130 and a bus pass. I still have the bus pass.

So now the green machine is dead, Hugh and I have driven 2 compact hatchbacks, and I've coaxed out of him that he wants something safe, with lots of seats. Minivan! Party on! Excellent!
After learning of my husband's desire for something with many seats, I identified appropriate vehicles. Then he told me he wants to test drive his buddy's old Cadillac. I was revolted. Revolting is a wonderful word. So is fungible. So are ergo and ergot.

I don't want a 10 year old Cadillac. I don't want a Cadillac of any age. The thought makes me ill. Clearly this is not rational, but to me a Cadillac represents stupidity and ostentatious displays of wealth and old men that smell a little bit like pee. I don't want to own one. I will not drive one. I have told Hugh he's more than welcome to try it out, but he better not buy it. I didn't tell him about my negative Cadillac associations, he'd probably suggest therapy. I did my boring old gas mileage whine.

Tomorrow, if all goes according to my nefarious plan, we'll head out to Stittsville, where #1 son has his drum lessons. There is a used car dealer there that has a few Odysseys and Siennas. Might as well drive one, and see if we hate them or not. Of course, the nefariousness of my plan is negated somewhat by the fact that I told Hugh my plan, test driving old cars isn't illegal, and it's actually quite convenient to make the trip to Stittsville count twice.

I will try not to bore the world with my car hunt. I will succeed, if only because most of the world is completely unaware of my existence. This is a good thing. I like being able to garden in orange crocs and purple gloves and dirty clothing without seeing my picture at the grocery store checkout counter.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green machine dies

It's official - the green machine, our 1996 Grand Marquis, has died. Revival estimates start at $1,000, well above our willingness to spend on repairs. So the fire fighters of Ottawa will gain a new practice vehicle. I bet they could make $$$ selling tickets to watch them break into/smash up/stack cars.

Now our car hunt will start in earnest. We've never done this before, at least not for a family car. Our last 2 vehicles were my father in law's old Grand Marquis. Grand Marquises? Grands Marquis? English and pluralization, that's an exercise in illogic. So the last car we actually researched, found, test drove and bought was baby blue, a 1995 Eagle Summit. It was a terrific car.

My goal is to buy a fuel efficient hatchback or small station wagon.

I have no idea what Hugh's goal is.

This could present problems. He does the driving, so I should back off and let him decide. But I am likely to find this impossible. I could say it's because I'm a control freak, or because it's an expensive purchase and I should have a say in it, or because I've done the research so he should just shut up and do what I say. But the truth is that I like the way the little hatchbacks look, and want one.

Can you spell superficial?

Hugh will do exactly what I do - find logical, compelling reasons to buy what he likes.

This actually won't be much of an issue - we're both car averse. He once called the CAA and couldn't remember the make or model of vehicle he drove. I didn't own a car until I was over 30. As long as it fits 5 people and has a trunk, we should be happy. Hugh will also want something he's comfortable driving, a not unreasonable requirement.

A final thought. Zoe, our unnaturally responsible and lovely daughter, will be driving in under a year. A vehicle she really, really, really doesn't want to be seen in might be a plus. I did find a 1966 wood panelled station wagon that made her recoil in horror. The Chevy Astro van performs a similar function. Alas, both require nearly the entire oil output of Saudi Arabia to fill the tank, so choosing one to reduce Zoe's driving seems, well, dumb.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My summer vacation

Yes, I am FAR too old to write an essay on what I did on my summer vacation. But isn't that why I blog? To barf out what no human wants to hear?

The vacation started well - much mucking about in garden. The wounds have almost healed. Which means, of course, that I didn't get nearly enough gardening in. I blame our extremely wet weather.

Spousal unit headed over to a friend's house, in town for the weekend. His friend talked him into going out to lunch with other in town people, as it was his high school's 50th anniversary reunion. High school reunions are for people who, um, went to the high school. Not spouses. This I know. Yet my spouse insisted I go to the lunch. Fine. Drinking beer on a patio on a lovely day in June is not exactly hardship, so I went, and it was fine. Then he insisted I go to the dinner that night. I have to admit it wasn't as horrible as I imagined, but watching old people fail to recognize each other and complain about the small print on name tags is not fun.

Sunday, more mucking in dirt. Then the rest of the family headed up to the cottage as Zoe invited 2 friends and our car only holds 6. I stayed home and cleaned and watched Bon Cop, Bad Cop - much fun. Very Canadian. Worth renting, if you're in the mood for low budget humour with occasional subtitles.

My brother drove me up to the cottage the next day, meaning I got to spend an hour holding Adrian, my new nephew. It were nice, it were. He was in that rarest of newborn phases, alert and quiet. Definitely a treat. We got to the cottage, and the kids informed me the car broke. Sigh. Our vehicle was fun when it had a bit of character. It's less fun now. I'd noticed the "suspension not working" light, and assumed that it was the sensor. Or the suspension. Either way, I wasn't going to do anything about it. But driving over gravel roads in a large vehicle with 6 people and no suspension isn't good for the car, and Hugh hit a rock and the tailpipes separated.

We spent some time Tuesday lying under the vehicle, attaching wire to the tailpipes. By "we", I mean Hugh did it as I reluctantly assisted. He managed to drive the vehicle back to town, and my brother left, leaving me at the cottage, in the rain, with 3 teenage girls and 2 boys. The girls don't like bugs, and we made them mad by bringing them a large toad and an enormous spider to show them. Yes, I should grow up, but it was too much fun to resist.

Wednesday Hugh returned, with his dad's car, and I left him up there with his brother and 1 boy. He showed up at home about 2 hours after we got back. Nice timing - gave me enough time to do all the laundry and put everything away. And feed the kids.

Thursday the rain began in earnest. We used my brother in law's vehicle to do some errands, including shopping with boy #1 for a cell phone. This is a child who would rather saw off his arm than call a stranger, but he needs a cell. Ah well, it's his money. Sort of. He buys the phone, I pay the $25 a month for unlimited text and highly limited talk. So far he's texted his sister and her friends, as his friends are at camp and not textable.

While at Future Shop getting Zoe a new cell - because you know, after almost a year, the "old" one is so, like, uncool, cause, like, everyone, like, has the, like, same one, you know? I bought myself an early b-day present. I am now the proud owner of the game active, Personal Trainer for Wii. It is very cheery. I want to create an abusive personal trainer game for Wii. The trainer would be highly sarcastic and insulting. Move it, you fat slob would be the trademark line. Much better than keep it up! You're doing great! Wow, that's real energy! You're a track star! Fuck off - I'm in my bedroom, pretending to jog with a remote in one hand and a nunchuck strapped to my thigh. Track star I am not.

So, dear imaginary reader, that has been my summer vacation to date. I left out the thrilling housework, but would like to report that our basement storage area is gradually looking less cluttered. I anticipate a return to work on Monday, to be followed by a call from spousal unit informing me that our mechanic has deemed our vehicle unworthy of repair. As we don't want to spend more than $200, and it needs a new suspension, tailpipe and power steering, odds are excellent our mechanic will not do the repairs. Fortunately, said mechanic is located only 2 blocks from Cohen's, where you can drive your old junker onto the scale and get CASH for it. Baby blue, my tiny commuter bug, fetched me $130, which I promptly spent on food. That was fun. That was also at the peak of the market, when scrap metal was so valuable people were stealing manhole covers. The green machine, while easily 4x the size of baby blue, might get us $50. That's OK. It's better than spending hundreds to allow it to limp for another week or so, until the next bit breaks.

I think I'll have to take another week off, later this summer. For now, it's off to the airport to drop off my parents, who are spending 2 weeks hiking in Newfoundland. We will use their car. Yeah!