Aruba, 2012

Aruba, 2012

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Is Here

Yesterday was rather hot and muggy in the Lower Mainland.  It was as if Mother Nature looked at the calendar, realized that it was July 1st, and decided to turn up the thermostat.  The heat was so bad at work that they tried turning off some of the lights in the back to cool off.

I walked to Safeway on my way home, and while I was paying for my groceries, the woman behind me in line asked for carry-out service.  Jokingly, I asked if she thought the carry-out lady would carry my groceries the ten blocks to my house for me.

"Ten blocks!? You're walking ten blocks in this!? I can give you a ride, your food will melt, it's really hot out there," offered the woman behind me.

I assured her that I could walk, no problem, had nothing frozen to carry, and pointed out that I only had two bags and that most of my walk was through the forest, which is shaded and therefore not as affected by the heat.  Both the woman and the cashier stared at me agape and pronounced that walking through the forest was even worse... dangerous even!  I laughed this off, assuring them that it was perfectly safe during daylight hours, and I walked through it daily on my way home.  The Semiahmoo Trail is a well-known and well-traveled walking trail that starts near my work and has a pathway leading from it less than a block from my house.

"No really, I can give you a ride," she insisted after some back and forth. "I promise I won't try to kidnap you.  I have enough kids at home, I don't want or need any more!"

I laughed, said thanks anyways, and walked home as planned, chuckling the whole way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Aquarium 2.0

Trooper chasing fish in the old 20 G tank
My awesome landlady C and her youngest son N took me to pick up my new aquarium the other day. 

It was quite the adventure, filled with a few mishaps, all punctuated with N's endless chatter.  Almost seven year old boys can be extremely chatty!

I was panning on getting a 46 gallon tank with a bow front, but the one I'd picked went up in price since I'd been in a week before, so we looked at the other tanks available.  The 60 gallon tank was on for $50 less than the 46G, and C was quick to point out that it would fit in the car, no problem... so my arm was twisted and I got the bigger tank.  N and his mom helped pick out some decor for the tank, and the staff loaded the tank into the car... then realized that with N in the back seat, there wasn't enough room for the tank and its stand (which comes assembled and not in the box as we'd assumed) so we unloaded the tank, loaded in the stand and drove it and the myriad of items that we got to go with it and took our first trip home.  C and I unloaded the stand and other items, she fed the kids, and we headed back for round #2.  I should note that nearly the entire time, N was chattering away and asking questions that only almost seven year olds seem capable of coming up with, punctuated by the constant refrain: "How much longer?!"
The 20 G tank looks so tiny next to the 60 G!

We loaded the tank into the car, got ready to head home, and noticed 2 chips in the corner of the tank.  Several phone calls later, the staff at the Strawberry Hill store had located another tank... in Langley, given me a nice discount because of the inconvenience, unloaded the damaged tank, and sent us on our way.  I should point out that C is awesome and barely flinched at the thought of detouring to Langley. Luckily the new tank was in mint condition - the staff there and C, N, and I all checked thoroughly! 

N picked out the Chinese Dragon.
We used our awesome girl power and got the tank downstairs to my suite without incident or any male assistance (other than ten year old L closing the door behind us) and put it in place.

The rest was up to me.  You may have read my How To Set Up Your Tropical Aquarium post, if not, go check it out to see what it was basically like to set up the tank, only 3 times bigger. :)

It took what felt like a thousand trips with buckets of water to fill it up, not to mention setting up all of the cords and tubes so that they'd be as unobtrusive as possible, and I used some of the tank water and other items from the old tank to help jump start the biological filter.

The tank is now set up and after getting the levels and temp in the correct range, I just transferred a few Zebra Danios and my Pleco into it.  I think Danio's are ninja fish.  They are very good at eluding human attempts to capture them.  I suddenly see the value in the over-sized nets that the local fish store staff use! 

Pleco expertly hiding behind a very short green plant.
True to form, I've seen Pleco move only once since going into the tank.  Eventually he's going to realize that he has a lot more room than usual, and will probably redecorate the interior of the tank as he likes to do, but for now, he's "hiding" behind the shortest plant in the tank... he's not going to win any awards for hide-and-seek anytime soon.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spiders, Raccoons, and Frogs... Oh, My!

For months now, every time I go to take a bath or shower I find a spider in the bathtub. Every. Single. Time. I don't know what it is about my bathtub that is such a draw to spiders, but it seems that there is some sort of spider law that a single spider must take up residence in there at all times.  I carefully remove the spider using a yoghurt container and a piece of paper, relocating little Igor or Charlotte to the back yard, yet the next time I go to use the tub, there is inevitably another eight-legged critter in there waiting for me.  It's like my bathtub has a vacancy sign that only spiders can see: 
Spider residence now available!  
Must fill immediately!  
Move-in ready! 
Disclaimer: Slight chance of free relocation to a more outdoorsy abode.
Take possession Today!

It's funny, I seem to have a history of critters of various sizes entering my homes (or yards) uninvited.  I've had frogs, raccoons, squirrels, hummingbirds, cats, bunnies, and dogs appear in our house or yard without invitation... not to mention the numerous critters our cats used to catch and release in the house when I was a kid, or the animals our neighbors would bring to my mom to rehabilitate.  We wound up with several unusual birds that way... golden pheasants, crows, ducks... 

I've written about the frogs who have not only appeared in my garden, but have hopped right in the door and across my living room floor - more than once! I actually thought that the little frog was one of the kids toys left out during a recent visit with N&J, until I saw it leap a couple of feet up and to the right.

I've mentioned the hummingbird that I had to rescue from the eating area of our house, and the squirrels who ate from my hand.  I learned how to patch up drywall when mom and I cut several holes in the wall to rescue a baby squirrel who got stuck in the wall of our house. 

Let me see if I can clear up some of the other animal appearances...

There was a giant neighborhood dog that used to break into our backyard and patiently wait there for me to come out and give him pats and scratches behind his ears.  He knew how to push open the gate latch in order to enter the yard, where he would visit with our dogs.  He showed up on the sundeck a couple of times, scaring the begeesus out of me before I realized that it was my furry and unnamed (to me) friend.  Our neighbors across the street had a black lab named Shadow.  He had an electric collar linked to an invisible electric fence around his yard.  He would carefully weigh the discomfort of the shock he knew he would receive if he left the yard (provided the fence was turned on, which it often wasn't) against how much he wanted to visit his neighbors.  I found him lurking in our carport numerous times.  Often I wouldn't know he was there until he was nudging his head against my hand to tell me he wanted to be patted, RIGHT NOW!  He managed to scare each of us more than once because he just blended into the shadows, so you rarely saw him coming.  He loved our neighbor Mr. G.  Mr. G was a quiet neighbor who usually kept to himself, but when Shadow was around he would just light up like a little kid, and made a point of visiting Shadow in his own yard every day so that he wouldn't get zapped crossing the invisible fence.

It was Mr. G who found a tiny baby black and white bunny in his garage, thought it was ours, and asked me to come retrieve it.  While we did have a rabbit matching that general description, Domino was about a hundred times the size of the little guy I found hiding in Mr. G's carport.

A few years ago we had a raccoon mama that moved into the shed in our backyard.  She found a large Tupperware container and used it to create a nest for her babies.  She let me take several photos of her, cooperating as long as I didn't try to get too close.
raccoon babies
When I was a teen, my mom stayed up late one night baking several dozen muffins to take to work the next day.  She left them out on the counter to cool overnight.  We woke up the next morning to find that every single muffin had at least one bite missing from it.  We scolded the cats, thinking that was the end of it.  A week or two later, I was in my bedroom downstairs when I heard a rustling sound in the hallway.  The bag of cat food was kept there, so naturally I assumed that one of the cats had gotten into the bag and was helping herself to a snack.  I called out an admonition, but the rustling started again after a brief pause.  I peered down the hallway to find two beady little eyes staring back at me.  Those eyes didn't sit on the face of one of my cats, but on the masked face of a rather large raccoon.  The raccoon had discovered the cat door, let itself in, and not only helped itself to the cat food, but to the muffins mom had made earlier.  To get the muffins, the raccoon had to go through the cat door, up the stairs, onto the kitchen counter and back out again without being discovered by one of our dogs or cats.  I really don't know how the furry little bandit managed it!

Speaking of our cats... around the time of the raccoon invasion, we had two cats, Quixote Anne (not to be con fused with our former kitty, Don Quixote) and Kira.  Kira appeared one afternoon in a nearly empty flower planter on our sundeck.  We went outside, heard a pitiful mewling sound and found a tiny, very dehydrated kitty curled up in the dusty planter.  How she got there, where she came from, and how she instinctively knew that ours was a safe place to go, we will never know.  We called the vet, described her condition and were told to try to give her some water via syringe or turkey baster, but not to hold out much hope.  If she made it through the night we were to bring her in, but not to bother right away as she was unlikely to make it. (In hindsight, it seems like the vet on duty was not very compassionate.  I've met vets since then who would have insisted we bring her in immediately, planter and all in order to avoid jostling her.)  Against the odds, we managed to get Kira to drink some water, and she gained enough strength to curl up in our laps and purr like mad.  The vet was quite surprised when she went from deathly ill to remarkably healthy in a short span of time.  Her growth was stunted, but she was a lovely and affectionate little kitty who liked to curl up next to our dog Gandalf. At nap time, she acted as if he was her mama, he in turn tolerated her unassuming presence.  Quixote on the other hand, he avoided like the plague after an unfortunate encounter in the eating area (of hummingbird fame) where he cornered her, then didn't know what to do with her, so he kept barking while lunging at her while she swiped her claws at his nose.  She won the battle, he skulked off with a few nasty war wounds, and that was the end of their chances at a lasting inter-species friendship.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thundering Word Heard

In 2004, when I was a student at UBC I was given an assignment for my Canadian Poetry class: Go see a live poetry reading, interview a published poet and write a review of the performance. I went to what was at the time a weekly gathering of spoken word poets, “Thundering Word Heard.” T. Paul Ste. Marie was a poet well known in the Vancouver community, and I had had the honour of meeting him and Shane Koyczan at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival a year or two earlier when they were there as performers. Backstage, we joked in the lunch and dinner lines for volunteers (me) and performers (them) while we waited for our free meals. Their unique personalities and senses of humour led me to seek out their performances at the festival, and they did not disappoint. I quite enjoyed their slam poetry at Folk Fest, so when I needed to find a poetry reading for class, it seemed natural to go to a poetry slam hosted by T. Paul and frequented by Shane - who you might recognize from his performance at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. I absolutely LOVE Shane's Remember How We Forgot:

I had a great time at Thundering Word Heard, and meant to go back repeatedly, but only made it out to one other performance. T. Paul passed away unexpectedly in 2007. He used to open every TWH night with his slam poem “Invocation,” insisting on audience participation.

Here is the review I wrote, followed by the Q&A's I managed to get some of the performers to participate in. I wish TWH was still a weekly event, as I am sure it would be a treat to re-immerse myself in that world.  I would be sure to raise a glass to T. Paul, while remembering not only his passion, but that which he insisted upon inspiring in others.

 March 14th, 2004

Café Montmartre: Thundering Word Heard
Enter a dark, low-lit Parisian-style café, narrow yet deep. Tea lights on each narrow table are flickering in the breeze caused by the door propped open to Main St. at 28thAve. A combination of pop-art, photographs, mirrors and prints cover the walls as an old-fashioned tricycle and a pair of gauze and feather wings hang suspended from the high ceiling. The audience fills the many tables, reaching far into the back of the narrow café. It is 9pm on a Sunday at Café Montmartre.
T. Paul Ste. Marie steps up to the microphone as his theme music plays. He asks the audience "what do we need?" "Passion!" is the weak but unanimous reply. "I'm sorry, what do we need?" "PASSION!" shouts the audience. This play between host and audience evolves into T. Paul's weekly recitation of his poem "Invocation." He pauses intermittently to ask the audience what is needed. Each time the response is "PASSION!" "We've got to EXPAND on this vocabulary, form a mental constabulary arresting ignorance at hand because knowledge IS power." T. Paul finishes his invocation with the following lines: "And some days they split atoms. And some days they kick stones. Today they find our voice."
After completing the introductions, T. Paul calls to the feature performer of the night, Paulie Lipman, an American spoken word artist currently touring the West coast. Lipman has been writing poetry for 18 years, has produced two chapbooks, You Are Here and Evolution of a Dork In Progress, and two CD's Doing the Door and What's With All The Shouting!? All of Paulie Lipman's published works are available through his website
Before taking the stage, Paulie climbs atop his chair in the middle of the café and shouts "I am feeling the spirit tonight! Now the subject for this evening's sermon is rooted in the utterance of the Lord communicated unto Larry who occasionally dabbled in prophecy. And on the eve where Larry contemplated whether or not to give this prophet gig a shot, the hand of the lord doth appeared in the heavens and the lord doth proceeded to righteously bitch-slap Larry. All the while proclaiming: BE NOT HALF-ASSED!" This is the beginning of Lipman's poem "Potential Damnation" in which he preaches not religion, but individuality. The poem holds a caution to measure people by their actions, not by their "potential."
This touching poem is followed by the comical "Lacka-Assa-Tosis" in which Paulie Lipman describes his "medical condition" of having no behind. While his poems contain a substantial degree of humor, Lipman has a number of insightful messages to share with his audience. Having dropped out of college, Lipman believes in the school of life. "Sometimes ya gotta quit reading and writing… get out and live." When asked if he had any words of wisdom for aspiring poets, Paulie Lipman replied: "Keep at it. A goal to strive for is to be personal and universal at the same time." He certainly achieves this goal in his own work.
Following Lipman's performance, the open mike portion of the evening begins. Poets and musicians are each given ten minutes to perform. Some performers choose to combine poetry with recorded tracks of music and background noise, while others read from their own chapbooks. The most entertaining moment of the evening occurs when accordion-playing Rowan Lipowitz asks if there are any requests from the audience. A joker in the back of the café calls out "Hit Me Baby, One More Time!" Instead of going on to a more serious suggestion, Rowan indeed begins playing and singing the pop song. There is little in this world that can compare to a thirty-something Jewish, accordion-playing man singing one of the best-known and most-hated songs to emerge from the commercial pop-music industry.
Once the crowd has contained their laughter, Vancouver poet Fernando Raguero takes the stage and performs a number of his works, many of which can be found in his chapbooks two dragonflies mating on my toe and one hand tied behind saturn. "Ode to Suburbia" scoffs at the cookie-cutter style of suburban greater Vancouver. Raguero's single-line poem "Warm" paints a vivid image of downtown Vancouver. "It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling when I see two crack dealers overcome their differences and embrace." His poetry contains simple, everyday language which does not hide the message with "too many big words." Raguero encourages poets to "keep things simple, there is great beauty in the ordinary, things don't have to be complicated to be great." Raguero's final poem "Measuring Stick" is a tribute to "all those who have been called weird of strange or whatever." Through the poem, Raguero points out that the "weird" and "mad" person's perspective can be a wonderful thing.
The night continues with a number of performances both of spoken word and music. Cole Robertson performed for the first time, reciting his poem "What can we know of another?" T. Paul encouraged Robertson and the other first-time performers to return and share more of their work in the following weeks. Cole Robertson's self-published Chapbook "What Happens" is currently only available through the author. If his performance is any indication of his ability, his work will soon be found in more established publications. Cole's advice to other new spoken word poets? "Write all the time. Perform even if you think you aren't good. You'll get better."
As the evening draws to a close, Laughs are had, tears are shed, and Thundering Word Heard founder and host T. Paul Ste. Marie brings a special energy to the evening. New performers are given warm support and encouraged to return. Returning performers of varying skill and renown are welcomed back to the stage. The audience is energetic and supportive of all performers. The food and coffee are amazing. I recommend attending Thundering Word Heard's open mike night each Sunday from 9 to midnight. Those wishing to perform should arrive at 8 to sign up. Arrive early as the tables fill quickly.

****************** Q&A ************************
Cole Robertson:
What poem(s) are you performing tonight?

"What can we know of each other?"

How long have you been writing poetry? Do you write prose as well? Do you prefer one over the other?

3 years. Yes. No.

Do you have any published work? Chapbook(s)?

Sort of. (He gave me a copy of his chapbook "What Happens")

How long have you been participating in spoken word?

This is my first one.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for the aspiring poets of tomorrow?

Write all the time. Perform even if you think you aren't good. You'll get better.

Paulie Lipman (Featured Performer):

What poem(s) are you performing tonight?

"Potential Damnation," "Lacka-Assa-Tosis," "First Ever," "DJ," "Orion's Example," "History After Hours," "Slowly Written Suicides"

How long have you been writing poetry? Do you write prose as well?

18 years. Not really, no.

Do you have any published work? Chapbook(s)? If yes, where would one find these works?

Yes 2 chapbooks (You are Here and Evolution of a Dork in Progress)
2 CD's (Doin the Door and What's With All The Shouting!?)
Available at

How long have you been participating in spoken word/ poetry slams? What drew you to this particular form of poetry?

About 4 years, slams I heard about from a friend of mine. What drew me to it was the energy and honesty of the audience.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for the aspiring poets of tomorrow?

Keep at it. A goal to strive for is to be personal and universal at the same time.

Any other information you feel would be beneficial to English Lit. and Writing students at UBC?

Sometimes ya gotta quit reading and writing… get out and live for that is what inspires the writing.

Fernando Raguero:

What poem(s) are you performing tonight?

Some old, some new.
Among them were: "Ode to Suburbia," "Warm," "Bukowski Can't Save Me," "Measuring Stick"
How long have you been writing poetry? Do you write prose as well? Do you prefer one over the other?

I've been writing for twenty years, just poetry, prefer poetry.

Do you have any published work? Chapbook(s)? If yes, where would one find these works? Under what title(s)?

Two chapbooks, [you can] get them from me.
"two dragonflies mating on my toe."
"one hand tied behind saturn."

How long have you been participating in spoken word?

4 years, [I] heard about it about 4 years ago.
I like it because it's spoken, you are forced to listen.

Do you have a favorite Canadian poet/writer? Have they influenced the content or style of your own writing?

Favorite Canadian poet: Leonard Cohen.
I am influenced by Charles Bukowski.

Do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for the aspiring poets of tomorrow?

Keep things simple, there is great beauty in the ordinary, things don't have to be complicated to be great.

Any other info you feel would be beneficial to English Lit. and Writing students at UBC?

Don't use too many big words.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fires & Free Furniture

My mom was in a house fire when she was an Au Pair in her 20's.  She has understandably been hyper-aware of fire hazards and fire safety ever since.  When I was a kid, we had household fire drills where we would have to list and then use specific escape routes should one be blocked.  Those drills ended in tears when her 8-year-old daughter adamantly refused to climb out of her second story window onto a precariously placed ladder leaning against a flimsy wooden flower planter.  What?!  It was SCARY! I was 8!  14-year-old me would have loved the excuse to climb out the window, but 8-year-old me was rather wary of heights and enough of a daddy's girl to have a working knowledge of math and rudimentary woodworking.  She took one look out the window at that ladder and that planter, did the math, and said NUH-UH!  NOPE! NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

When we moved out of the house I grew up in, mom chose a place directly across the street from a fire hall. She maintains to this day that this was merely a coincidence. I think not.

Me & N visiting said fire hall (& fire men!)
The ironic twist?  Shortly after moving into the new house, my mother - the one who fiendishly drilled into our heads that we shouldn't leave unattended candles burning, or heating pads plugged in - after years of these warnings to groans of "I KNOW Mom!  Duh!" she left a plugged-in faulty heating pad on the couch and left the house.  It melted a quarter-sized hole through the fabric of the couch before I woke up and noticed the burning plastic smell, ran upstairs to investigate, and yanked the damn cord out of the wall.  Unfortunately, there wasn't really any smoke to speak of, so the firemen across the street never saw signs of distress and never ran to the rescue... Alas, my dreams of being "rescued" by handsome firemen were dashed. A few months later I posted an ad on Craigslist to get rid of the couch and a few other items.  I wrote the following (mostly true, though not contiguously so) story to advertise them waaaaaaay back in 2007.  I have slightly edited it, only to remove glaring spelling and typographical errors.  Sadly the accompanying pictures have disappeared, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Title: (free stuff) FREE Furniture - you pick up.

Picture this:

It's my day off, so I have lazily stayed in bed until around 10:30am. 

Finally resigned to getting up, I swing my legs over the side of my bed.  My feet do not reach the ground, as the mismatched Queen-sized Mattress set I've had for a couple of years and the new bed frame I've had a few months put the bed top to about waist height.  I jump off of the bed and land on a soft, warm rug.
The "Rug" Kaila

The "rug" gives a yelp and limps off out of the way, favoring one of her rear legs.  Yes, that's right, it's my dog, not the fuzzy rug that's supposed to be covering the floor by my bed.  No - that has migrated to the other side of the room, due to the dog's midnight need to dash back and forth (barking of course) through the house chasing fairies or gremlins, or whatever it is that dogs noisily chase in the middle of the night when the household is desperately trying to sleep.

Having convinced the dog that she is in no danger of being stepped on again, I coax her over and am able to ascertain that she isn't seriously injured, just understandably cautious of feet falling from the sky.

I start up the stairs to get that much needed mug of tea from the kitchen, only to trip over the same dog as she decides that she needs to occupy the same part of each step that I do, at exactly the same time as I occupy it.

Halfway up the stairs, having only tripped over the dog four more times, I smell something that isn't quite right.  I struggle with the "child proof" baby gate we have installed at the top of the stairs to keep my niece and nephew from an unwanted tumble, and with a final yank, manage to open it.

Trying to place the smell, I follow it into the family room where I can see that the heating pad on the couch is emitting an unwelcome waft of smoke.

I rush over and unplug the heating pad, trying to avoid the grotesque smell of melted plastic and fried electronics.  After rushing the melting heating pad to the kitchen sink - only tripping once over the dog, who is quite interested in the intriguing smells emitting from both furniture and heating pad - I rush back to the couch, thinking it must also be on fire.

Attempting to sidestep the dog, and thus avoid tripping over her for the umpteenth time, I misjudge the width of our dining room table and catch the leg of one of the dining room chairs on my way past.  You can probably guess by now that the cair and I both take a dive, with the dog bouncing back and forth, voicing her excitement over the entire situation, and punctuating it with a big doggy kiss on my cheek.

Figuring that the potentially burning couch is a priority, I don't even glance at the toppled chair until much later.

Now limping to match the dog's earlier gait, I make my way over to the couch.  To my amazement and relief, it is not on fire, nor has it been too badly damaged.  The couch does have a small discoloured area, but is otherwise in good shape considering it's brush with certain firey death -er- destruction.  I won't lie to you, there is still the small matter of the smell to be attended to, but at this point I am just glad the house hasn't burned down, and I haven't killed the dog or been killed by tripping over said dog. 

Yes, for months my friends and I have been constructing elaborate fantasies involving ways to run into the firemen across the street, but smoke billowing out of the family room window is NOT how I want to grab their attention.

I should probably note here that the heating pad in question was one of those heating pads that is supposed to automatically turn itself off after a set amount of time, and is supposed to cut out if anything goes amiss.  Yeah, right.  My mother had left it plugged in (but turned off) the previous night, and had gone off early in the morning to some appointment or other, blissfully unaware of the coming excitement.

Nursing my bruised shin, I open the windows to air out the room, and make my way back to the toppled dining room chair.  It did not fare so well.  Somehow in tripping over it and landing partially on it, I managed to break one of its legs in half.  I don't know about you, but a three-legged chair just doesn't quite work for me.  Apparently my mom agreed, because she later replaced the dining room chairs with simple, yet much sturdier wooden ones.

This was not the way I'd planned to spend my one day off.

Since the day these events took place, we've made a few changes around here.

Sadly, the heating pad did not survive the ordeal.  It went to the place where all heating pads who have exhausted the ability to serve their owners wind up - the city dump.

The broken dining room chair and it's remaining 4 relatives were relegated to the garage while the garage-sale sturdy wooden ones took their place.  They're what many craigslisters might call "retro."  Personally I think they're gawdaful ugly, but I'm not one to judge other peoples opinions, and you may like the design... Or maybe you've tripped over one or two of them yourself, and need more to make a full set.  You could always recover them to match your decor.

The Queen-sized Box-spring Mattress has been removed from my bed, and placed in the garage for storage.  Note that this is only the box-spring part of the mattress, the other part is happily residing on my bedframe.  Now my feet can actually touch the ground when seated on the bed.

The dog has since passed away.  No, this was not a result of being stepped on or tripped over.  She was 10, and she had a relatively good life with us.  The mattress was removed a couple of months before she passed away, so for those months she was only bumped by feet leaving the bed, not jumped on as in the past.  Though I should note that her habit of being literally underfoot never was resolved.  She tripped many a person in her remaining months.  We loved her anyways.

The Couch on which the melting heating pad was found was placed in the rec room downstairs, where it is now taking up too much space to allow the room to actually serve its purpose.  The couch is in surprisingly good shape.  As you can see from the pictures, there is a discoloured area, but the fabric did not melt through.  The odour is long gone.  If you throw a blanket over the couch, you'd never even guess that anything had ever happened to it.

If you can provide any or all of these items (the RECLINING LOVESEAT, BOX-SPRING MATTRESS, 4 INTACT DINING ROOM CHAIRS, even the 1 BROKEN CHAIR) a home, and a ride to that home, please contact me.

I don't intend to have another day off like the aforementioned one anytime soon.  I've still got the scar on my shin to remind me of this one.

I had fun with this post, getting several positive responses before some holier-than-thou people decided they (and I quote) "didn't want to read a book" to find out what I was giving away.  So they flagged it and the post was removed.  Funny how I could get ten emails from people saying that they were nominating the post for "best of" and thanking me for giving them a chuckle, then two emails from people who couldn't be bothered to read the post (newsflash, ya don't have to read it if you don't want to...) and then the post was deleted by automatic flagging. 
I did get responses from people who wanted the couch and chairs, and someone took the box-spring when we leaned it against the fence, so it was ultimately a win.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Call Me Snow White...

When I was a teenager my mom and I spent hours upon hours building up a relationship with the wildlife that frequented our sundeck.  I spent several hours each day for a week or two one summer sitting on the sundeck with a book in one hand and birdseed sprinkled along the other, ending in a pile of seed in my palm, and seed scattered nearby.  It took a while, but I got the Chickadees to happily land on my hand and eat to their hearts content, and even got a couple to land on my shoulder with regularity.  They are so small and so lightweight that I could barely feel their little talons on my skin.  For years after that summer the Chickadees would land on my hand looking for food.

I spent hours getting the little brown squirrels to trust me, especially one I named Skittles, and like the Chickadees he would climb up to my shoulder and chatter away whilst devouring whatever treats I had with me.  He even brought his babies to meet me, teaching them that this was the easy way to food.  Their mom would stay a few feet away, occasionally braving the journey to my outstretched hand only to grab a nut and dash to safety, but the babies and Skittles would sit right next to me, or on my arm and chow down.

I think it was mom who first convinced our favorite Steller's Jay "Buddy" to eat from her hand, but I was quick to join in the fun.  He became so tame that he'd land on my hand or wrist and chow down on whatever seed or nuts I had on hand... even if they were meant for the Chickadee's or squirrels. In addition to food and mimicking sounds, Buddy liked having his head scratched.  He liked to sit on the bracket that once held our air conditioner just outside the eating area, and receive his meal through the window.  If he saw that mom or I were home and horror of horrors, NOT feeding him, he would sit on the bracket, shriek, and tap his beak against the window to let us know he was hungry.  If this didn't work, he would follow us from room to room outside the window, and squawk as loudly as he could, going through his repertoire of imitations of other birds and man made devices like phones until we acknowledged him.  He especially liked to sit in the fir tree just outside the kitchen window and watch us, becoming increasingly cheeky if he was ignored.

My single most memorable instance involving a feathered friend from the great outdoors involved an entirely different type of bird, and for years afterwards this bird and his friends and relations were sure to remind me of the incident frequently.  One afternoon while mom was at work my dad and I were in the family room, likely working on homework - mine the studying for a test type, his more of the marking tests variety - when we heard the oddest sound.  Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding... it continued until I finally got up and followed the noise to the kitchen eating area.  A tiny little green hummingbird had somehow gotten into the kitchen through the hole in the screen door and couldn't find a way back out.  He was repeatedly flying into the window, rather persistent in his quest to get outside.  When I approached he stopped and sat on the window ledge.  He made no protest as I scooped him up, then checked him for any sign of injury.  He let me gently pat his tiny head and back, as his heartbeat thrummed against my palm. He seemed fine, if a bit stunned, so I carefully carried him over to Dad and told him what I'd found.
"Wanna see?" I asked, lifting my top hand to show him my quarry.

"Hmmm.  Uh huh," was his enthusiastic and clearly intrigued response.
"You know, Mom would think this was awesome..."
"Mmm hmmm."

I gave the hummingbird one last pat as I opened the screen door, and he sat on my hand until we cleared the doorway, where he cocked his head at me once, then took off to the safety of the nearest tree.  I figured that was the end of it, thought about the amazing speed at which his heart seemed to beat, and smiled as I went back inside.  From that day until the day we moved out of the house, EVERY TIME I was on the sundeck and there was a hummingbird around it would either hover directly in front of me or buzz past my head missing by mere inches.  We would joke that the humming birds were dive-bombing me, and it really seemed to be the case.  They didn't do it to anyone else, just to me, as if that one little hummingbird had told all his friends and future relations about me and they were doing fly-bys to thank me for helping him.  

Don't ever tell me that small critters like squirrels and birds aren't intelligent.  I had Chickadees, Brown Squirrels, Steller's Jays and Hummingbirds who remembered me year after year and brought their babies to me to teach them that I was a friend who they could trust.  The hardest part of leaving that house was knowing that my furry and feathered friends were being left behind and it would take months of patience and calm determination to ever build up that kind of relationship and trust with wildlife again.

To this day, whenever I hear the telltale thrum of a hummingbird flying overhead I reflexively duck ever so slightly, and then I smile as I think of my little green friend and imagine him telling the other neighbourhood hummingbirds all about the girl who gave him a helping hand just as I tell others about the wonder I felt holding such a perfect and tiny creature in my hand for those few minutes.  Regardless of the mood I am in, I cannot hear that sound without smiling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tales From The Fishtank

Happy April Fools Day!

I know I ought to be writing a brilliant and insightful post right now, but I've been chasing Pokemon characters in Google Maps on my iPhone.  You never know how long these April Fools Day gags will continue, and I've caught 47 of  the 150 Pokemen. :)

Since most of my attention is otherwise occupied with this extremely important and time sensitive task, here is my favorite April Fools Day prank followed by a brief look into the lives of my fish. (No, really!)

My all-time favorite elaborate April Fools Day hoax:
The Spaghetti Harvest, The BBC 1957.


Tales From The Fishtank:

From FB before the Great Fish Plague of 2014:
I released the baby guppies into the main tank as I couldn't just pick a few to keep in sequester, so i figured they could fend for themselves in the plants and let nature take it's course - some will survive, some won't. They were all swimming around the top of the tank when I went across the room to use my computer. About 40 minutes later I looked over and couldn't see a single baby fish. Not one. I went over to the tank thinking there was no way all 40 babies could have been eaten in 40 minutes, and boy was I right. All of the babies (and I do mean ALL of them) were swimming in a group in the corner behind the plants and the Plecostomus. They seem to have adopted the Pleco as their Nanny/Guard Dog and whenever he moves, so do they, following as one. It's quite cute really.

From FB a couple of months ago after the Great Fish Plague of 2014 ,which only Pleco survived:Right now Pleco is going to town on a piece of broccoli. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I took away the tattered remains of the slice of zucchini that he devoured while I was at work today. The day before yesterday he discovered that he could eat the skin of the zucchini as well as the innards, and boy does he like it!
Also, today he murdered the last remaining live plant that was in his tank... he thrashed his tail against it until it fell apart and had no hope of survival, so it too has been removed... so much for things he can hide behind. Now all he's got is a TARDIS (it's tall, but not sufficiently wide enough to properly hide a pleco) and a bubble curtain (that he rearranged twice to form an arch instead of a solid curtain of bubbles from the bottom of the tank up). He's "hiding" under the bubble arch now, and newsflash: I CAN SEE HIM!

More recently: 
My little orange guppy has decided that unlike the 4 new guppies, he is a pink danio. He keeps following the 3 new pink danios around and trying to "school" with them, while they're like..
"Uh... what's up with this dude following us? Yo, guppy! You're a GUPPY, not a danio!"
"But I wanna play with you!"
"Dude! you're not one of us. Go play with the other guppies."
"But we're practically the same colour and everything! Puhleeeeeeze?!"
"Meh, fine, you can follow us around if you really want to, I guess..."

Meanwhile there's a new yellow guppy, and the orange guppy (the veteran) keeps looking at him like he's doling out warnings.
Yellow: "OOOOOOHHHH! Look! A big spotted rock! I'm gonna check it out!"
Orange, while following danios around: "Dude, you don't wanna go over there..."
Yellow: "I think some food fell on this rock... I'm gonna chow down!"
Orange: "That isn't a rock..."
Yellow: "Oh! Look there's a space under the rock... I'm gonna go check it out!"
Orange: "Not a good idea..."
Pelco: "Now seems like a good time to stop contemplating my nonexistent navel in complete silence and stillness... I think I'll go for a swim. VOOSH!"
Yellow: "YOWZA! OMG I'm gonna die!!!!!!! AAAACK! What happened to my rock!?"
Orange: "I told you so!"

That brings us up to today.

I am pretty sure I have a pair of gay guppies.  I have only male guppies as female guppies cause the male guppies to go gaga and chase them relentlessly until they finally stress out so much that they die.  Also, female guppies have babies, LOTS OF BABIES, and I just don't have a big enough tank to go through that again.  My point is, the guppies I have are all male.  Two of them seem to be pretty chummy.  At first I thought it was a one-sided thing, as one of the boys has a dark belly, making him look a little like a female guppy...  to a myopic and horny male guppy that is...  So I thought: okay, dude is horny, so he starts to chase the only fish that looks like it might possibly be a viable route to procreation... but I watched them closely today and the fishy affection is clearly not one-sided.

My favorite fish in the tank right now are the baby Panda Cory Catfish.  They are very cute little guys who scour the bottom of the tank for any food that the others don't eat before it hits bottom.  There is a small problem with these adorable little fish though: they blend into the gravel so well that I keep thinking I've lost a couple of them.  The other day I frantically searched the tank, moving plants and other decorations, but could only find two of the four babies.  Resigning myself to the idea that the other two didn't make it, I finally gave up.  Two hours later, I looked in the tank and saw three of the little buggers.  I can only seem to find three at a time right now, so I don't know if I have three or four, but given their incredible ability to blend into the gravel when not in motion, I am holding out hope that the fourth is still alive and swimming.  He or she could always be hiding under Pleco. :)