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Saturday, December 31, 2011
Technically, I think it's all there, but some of the smaller items are probably not visible as they're being obscured by other ones. Still, you can certainly get a good sense of just how much stuff we received!
Here's my best attempt at a rundown of this year's presents:
Vicki - a Natalie Maclean book, cheese grater, sewing box, 2 video games (Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, and Ico), gift certificates to a craft store and a cooking class, candy treats, Game Over t-shirt, special edition of Game Over, necklace & bracelet, puzzle calendar, chocolates, chocolate candle (but don't eat it, the girls tell me!), gardening hand lotion, a book set in Australia (I wonder why?), Lush hand cream, Cooper & Finley coffee mug, The Help (on DVD), leather traveling case filled with Fruits & Passion lotions & potions, gift certificate to a tea store
Matt - 3 superhero movies on Blu-Ray (Captain America: The First Avengers, Thor, X-Men: First Class) from someone who knows the way to my heart, Silver Age Thor comic book (ditto!), Superman watch (double ditto!), socks, candy treats, Peter Gabriel concert DVD (New Blood), several super-comfy t-shirts, How to Fix Everything for Dummies book, Spider-Man body wash, basement joke gifts (mop, latex gloves, stopper), The Story of Math (TV series on DVD), a sleep journal (to help me sleep better), Cooper coffee mug and Cooper photo calendar (from someone who knows my soft spot!), Life Ascending by Nick Lane (book), Moneyball by Michael Lewis (book), Spider-Man hot/cold pack specially ordered by my chiropractor who apparently thinks I'll use it more often just because it has a superhero on it (as if I'm that gullible!... although, on second thought, I mean, just look at it: it has Spider-Man on it!!!!!), Best Buy gift certificate for anything that I didn't already get!
both of us - chips & popcorn (for a Movie Night), Angela's Ashes and Thunderhead (both books), family photo calendar, movie DVDs (Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, Winter's Bone, Vampire Dairies Season One, The King's Speech, Human Planet), Beyond Good and Evil (video game)
Now, with that big a list, it's almost a given that I've missed something. But if so, it was entirely unintentional. We loved every single item we received! Thanks so much to all the friends and family members who made Christmas 2011 so utterly enjoyable, including Tammy who managed to 'gift us' from 16,400 kms away!!
Finally, a couple personal observations. You might notice that the photo is somewhat dominated by a t-shirt (one of a pair) that I had custom made for my brother, Richard, and I. It shows the two of us posing for a studio shot from a long, long time ago (I'm guessing I'm about 4 in which case he would be 13) along with the slogan "TOGETHER AGAIN". This was beyond a doubt one of my favourite gifts to give this year. I was glad to have thought of it, but more importantly I was happy that our lives have re-intertwined such that it was even a possibility.
I was also delighted to find out that the Game Over t-shirts I had made up, which several loved ones received from me, were something that Julie had planned to do, as well. She simply thought of it too late to pull it off in time, and so was going to get one for me for my birthday, instead. Knowing that someone else came up with the same idea validated my own wacky notion. And it was awfully sweet of Julie to have that brainstorm, too.
Here's another part of the room around the same time, including lovely Vicki taking it all in. In the foreground of this one is 5-year-old Bruce, who spent most of the evening punching me, kicking me, jumping on me, and trying to convince me that he wasn't about to throw up on me due to over-excitement (as his mother, Peggy, kept assuring me he would). I might've also been punching, kicking, wrestling and otherwise bullying him, but there's no proof of that at all! Bruce is actually a total blast to play with, and every time we get together I end up spending way too much time with him... but I'm still waiting to make him vomit! He did tell me last night that if he came over to my house, he would definitely puke in my face. So I've still got that to look forward to!
Vicki and I had a great time, despite the overwhelming nature of the day (keeping in mind that Christmas has historically been Vicki, Tammy and I... and maybe a cat or two!). Richard and Meena really know how to throw a Christmas party, and we can hardly wait for next year's! (They'll both be cringing if they read that last bit!)
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Following dinner and our traditional chocolate cookie and whip cream dessert, it was time to open some presents! As you can see for yourself, both of my female companions were primed and ready for the gift exchange, and probably didn't even appreciate having to pause long enough to allow me to snap this shot!
Cooper had two presents, one from each of Vicki and I, and both had been carefully prepared in SuperCooper's favourite wrapping material: newsprint! He loves ripping that stuff to bits, and he proceeded to do that while the rest of us looked on in amusement. He got a new squeaky toy - which Julie, for some strange reason, decided to leave at our place so that it would be here for him when he comes for visits! - and a hard rubber chew toy which he spent much of the rest of the evening pulling pieces off of.
Finley, who has always loved Lucy's toy that features a fake mouse inside a circular frame that can be whirled around by a curious paw, got a similar setup from us. Cooper of course tried to play with it before Finley could even get close to it, but eventually that got sorted out and the animals were both happy and distracted. So much so, in fact, that neither of them was biting when Vicki tried to get their attention!
Then it was the humans' turn, and we had about 20 gifts between us to get through. I'd put little clues to each of Julie's gifts on cards taped to the bags, and that prompted all of us to take a little bit of time with each parcel trying to guess what it was before opening it. Julie didn't come close to figuring out this item from Vicki: a 'cinnamon tin' that you can store foods in if you want them to taste like cinnamon (or something like that... they tried to explain it but I wasn't really getting it). Once she saw what it was and sniffed it, though, she seemed to love it!
I got a big smile out of my favourite chiropractor when she saw that I'd bought her a Key Finder, just the sort of thing that's perfect for the woman who occasionally (often) misplaces (loses) her keys. She was quite impressed by the device, and we even tested it out moments later by having me hide her keys somewhere in the house... and she found them in seconds flat! This electronic gadget should completely revolutionize her life, I'd say!
Many more thoughtful and impressive gifts came out of all those sundry packages before we were done, but I should probably do another blog post later in the week summarizing all that Vicki and I were lucky enough to receive this year. Tammy did her usual great job providing us with interesting movies to watch, for example, so I really must get that list together here before the New Year. My favourite one that I gave was to Vicki and Julie both, and it was special copies of Game Over that I'd created and printed which contain the original three chapters that I wrote back in the summer of 2009. Both women were quite fascinated by the thing once they realized what their new editions actually were - Vicki's first comment was, "But we already received this book, honey!" - and looked eager to read the fifty or so pages that neither of them had ever seen before. That gift was every bit the hit that I'd hoped for!
Eventually the festivities settled down into our more-typical mode of conversation (after we'd picked up the mess made by Cooper as he shredded anything resembling paper). Vicki lasted until around 1:00 a.m., at which point she left the rest of us to carry on while she headed off to bed. Around 4:45 she returned, though, to tell us that the wind was howling outside and she thought that Julie should just stay the night rather than driving home in the blizzard that had developed while we talked. Julie and I went outside and quickly determined that it wasn't all that bad (considering Julie only lives a few kms away), and so our three guests took that opportunity to pack up and hit the snowy road.
This was the second annual Christmas party for the three of us as friends, and it was every bit as much fun as last year's. Julie puts just as much time, energy and careful consideration into her gifts for us as we do for hers, and that fact really makes the whole experience unforgettable. Here's to good friends!
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Aren't they just cute as a couple of buttons?! The two of them baked up several dozen cookies after our Christmas lunch and gift exchange today, while I played Spider Solitaire and watched a little basketball on TV. And yes, Susan really does wear scarves around the house... It's a fashion thing, I'm told.
[By way of Bleeding Cool, obviously.]
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Yesterday we had both the basement/drainage people here and a technologist from the city (think City Engineer but not quite the same). The drainage company scoped out the drain line that backed up on Nov 29th and flooded our basement (for the first time in, we're guessing, 25 years or more). They had a long rigid hose with a camera and light at the end of it, and fed it down through the cleanout that's located a few feet from the drain that overflowed. We got to watch this, and what we saw was a fairly clean, unbroken pipe that ran about 75 feet and ended in a sewer at the street. There was one very small tree root visible at one point over that length, but it was obviously not affecting anything. We had expected to see a break of some sort, as a result of the destruction that the city did to our front yard over the summer, but there was really nothing to see.
At that point, Vicki called the city. She told them that the scope had revealed nothing that could explain the problem, and asked if that meant that the city sewers simply couldn't handle the volume on Nov 29th. And if so, were they going to do anything about it before it reoccurred? She also told him that the people who had done the investigation were now about to install a backflow preventer and sump pump. He explained that there was a municipal grant program in effect that would reimburse home owners for part of the cost of both those additions (75%, up to a dollar maximum that really meant it was more like 50% given the actual costs). This is available because it's cheaper for the city to do that than to spend the millions on re-engineering the sewers.
However, the catch with the sump pump installation is that, in order to get the grant money for it, you have to ensure that your weeping tiles are disconnected from the city sewers. In other words, the city is only willing to pay if you take your runoff ground water out of the common system and deal with it yourself (by spraying it onto your yard, as output from the sump pump). The person telling us this, when he learned that the work was being done right now, said that he'd be out within the hour as he wanted to talk to the contractors and also speak to us in person.
Sure enough, he showed up about an hour later, and was very helpful. He brought the application forms for the grants, as well as some other pamphlets related to it and copies of the diagrams that had been filed away when our house was built! These latter items showed where the drains in the house were, were everything attached to the weeping tiles, and so on. He explained to the workers that they'd have to disconnect the weeping tiles from the sewer line, which they weren't planning to do, and that they needed permits for the work they were about to do, which they didn't have. He also reminded them that an inspection would have to be done on the job when they were finished, meaning that an inspector had to be lined up. They then ran the scope through the line again, so that he could see it. By this point they'd jackhammered a huge hole in our basement floor over the cleanout, and had begun digging a hole in our backyard just outside the room that was going to house the sump pump. When he pointed out that they needed permits which they didn't have, all work stopped. Nothing has resumed since.
So now we're trying to figure out what we really need. The more I've learned about the sump pump addition, the less I've liked it. For one thing: our problem was caused by the drain backing up, which a backflow preventer (installed into the pipe where the cleanout is) should take care of. We've never had water get into the basement through the foundation, meaning that the weeping tiles have always done their job and drained the groundwater, during wet periods, into the pipe that runs to the sewer. By installing the sump pump and disconnecting that line, we run the risk that our new pump won't function as well as the tiles did. It can't possibly function any better, as the water was always taken away from the house that way. So we could spend thousands only to have worse results than we've had for the past 13 years. And then there's the fact that the tiles only rely on gravity to work, whereas a sump pump runs on electricity, has moving parts that can wear out, requires a working float (or equivalent) to detect when to come on, could blow fuses on us, etc., etc., etc. Therefore I'm thinking we don't want the sump pump, but of course if I'm wrong, we risk future water damage in the basement.
As for the backflow preventer, the catch there seems to be that, when it's 'engaged' (meaning the valve has closed to prevent water from coming into the house from the sewer) we may not be able to flush our toilets, have showers or run water in general in the house. That's bad enough, but we also have no way of knowing that it's engaged unless we go down into the basement, lift the device's cover up, and look to see what position the valve is in. What are the chances that we'd think to do that every time it rained? And how many times do you check during a period when it rains for several days? What happens if you don't check, and you fill the pipes with potentially dirty water that can't leave the house through that pipe? I suppose one way to look at it is that, without the backflow preventer, water would be running into the basement anyway, so we're no worse off. Also, since that's only happened once in 13 years, maybe the chances of it happening again in the future are very slim. But what if something changed making it more likely? Then what? I'm completely out of my element when it comes to house-related issues like this, and so everything about this worries me. I barely got any sleep last night, thanks to yesterday's events.
So that's where it stands now. I hope to talk to my brother Richard about this soon, as he's about a million times more knowledgeable about such things than I am. Not that that's hard to do, unfortunately.
There are way too many cool things to talk about there, but for starters, how about:
- just how amazing everything in that trailer looks?
- the title forming the same way Alien's did, over 30 years ago?
- the briefly-glimpsed giant statue head
- the grainy video toward the end, again suggestive of earlier Alien films
- the scale of several of the shots
- "You don't understand" / "It was so wrong" / "I'm so sorry" / "Please!"
- Charlize Theron!
- the throbbing sound effect, suggesting an alarm sounding as well as your heart pounding!
This is just about a perfect trailer, if you ask me. It's provocative without giving anything away, and it makes me want to see the movie... like, now! This is the way studios used to promote their flicks before somebody decided that it would be a good idea to tell the entire story over the course of the trailer.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Anyway, here's the first trailer for it, due out on Tammy's 26th birthday. I especially like the... precious... way it ends.
[Update later that day: From Bleeding Cool once again, here's a nice dissection of some of the images from the trailer.]
Monday, December 19, 2011
I always used to say, in situations like this, "Don't suspect a conspiracy when simple incompetence will explain it all away." But I'm starting to think that some of this ignorance may actually be anything but. It's beginning to seem pretty willful, at the very least.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Anyway, tonight I/we finished Chell's adventure against GladOS and Wheatley, bringing another thrilling Portal experience to a close. I still have some Co-op left to do, including some free downloadable content that I've had installed for months. I suspect Portal 2 will end up winning some Game of the Year awards over the next few weeks, and if so: it's well deserved! This game rocks! We got many dozens of hours of entertainment from it.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Here are a few fairly-general ideas worth thinking about if you're the type who does the whole resolution thing around year-end:
Be more considerate of others - This sounds like a "motherhood and apple pie" type resolution, but I wish more people would actually spend some time on this one. For example: this morning, Vicki is crafting a very polite letter to circulate through our neighbourhood shortly about the person who honks his/her horn several times as they leave the house every weekday morning. This is around 8:00 a.m., when retired folks like us are likely to still be sleeping. Her letter kindly asks that whoever is doing it please just wave instead, since that's not likely to bother anyone. It boggles my mind that anyone would be that rude in the first place, but we have daily proof to the contrary. This is, I suppose, just a more extreme example of one of my biggest pet peeves: people who lock their vehicle by repeatedly pressing the lock button on their keyfob until the horn blares. Apparently they're too stupid to realize one press will work, or too lazy to care. Whatever the case, they basically don't give a shit who they bother, and that's behaviour that's definitely worth changing by way of a New Year's resolution.
Waste less water - About 15 or 20 years ago, I stopped running the tap while I was brushing my teeth. I'd turn on the water whenever I put the toothbrush under it or to wash stuff down the drain, but the rest of the time I'd just be brushing away and there'd be no need for water to be running. I'm so used to that mindset of water conservation now that it floors me whenever I see someone wasting the stuff. In a public restroom, for example, it's not uncommon even today to see some idiot running the faucet while he combs his hair or admires himself in the mirror. Vicki and I recently watched Blue Gold: World Water Wars on Netflix, one of several documentaries out there on the frightening topic of our depleting fresh water supply. Granted, one person conserving a few litres a day isn't going to save the world, but it's like anything: we can all lead by example. And if you need a little bit of mental help on this one, try imagining that water cost as much as gasoline, because someday soon it may (in some parts of the world, it already does).
Be sure to pay your way through life - In this age of online piracy, self-absorption and instant gratification, it's easier than ever to fall into a pattern of believing that "it's all about me," or more specifically, "it's all about me getting what I want." That's all well and good, but there are a whole lot of other people out there, too. So if you're the type of person who justifies downloading content because you think corporations are evil and you're "sticking it to the man," then find a way to send some cash directly to the sorts of artists whose work you're enjoying. It's never been easier to find ways to do so than it is right now, between Kickstarter-type projects, local/indie concerts and shows, self-published authors (hello!!), and "pay what you can" homegrown offerings. Anyone who uses the rationalization that "hardly any of my money goes to the artists anyway" to explain away their pirating lifestyle is a complete hypocrite if they're not funding the creators directly nowadays. I know of several people who are shining examples of what I'm advocating; I suspect I also know lots of people who aren't. If you're in that second camp, maybe 2012 is your chance to make a change for the better?
Those are just a handful of simple changes we all could stand to make. Or, I guess, we could all just resolve to go on a diet, eat more vegetables, or get to the gym more often... but those hardly ever seem to stick!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
But none of that really matters. What's important is that our 'little girl' is now a quarter of a century old, and boy, has time ever flown for that to be true! Hopefully she had a great day (it's already well into the day after her birthday where she is) and I'm sure the fact that it was her first birthday in a strange land will guarantee that she'll always remember it.
Happy 25th birthday, Tamara Holly Driscoll!!
Getting more and more excited about this film, the more I read about it. Love the tagline: "The search for our beginning could lead to our end." The Prometheus of legend stole fire from Zeus and gave it to us humans, and look at how well that worked out, after all!
Less than 6 months to go now!!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011
As part of the process, they'll be scoping out with a camera the drain line that overflowed in order to determine why it did so. We're hoping that the cause is revealed to be something broken by the city workers who dug the immense hole in our front yard this summer as part of their water line maintenance. Weeping tile damage seems to be a popular refrain that we hear, so I'm crossing my fingers that it's that. All we know is that we had 13 years without a drop of moisure in that part of the basement, then after the city ripped the crap out of our yard with a giant backhoe, suddenly we got an inch or more of water during the first heavy rain. If it does turn out to be something they did, then it'll come down to: will they cover our costs for dealing with it? If not, we're out the $4400 in addition to the $500 deductible on our house insurance that's paying for the carpet and drywall to be replaced, the pool table to be disassembled, stored and reassembled, as well as any other surprises still to come.
We're really on some kind of lousy roll as far as house maintenance is concerned. It's been almost non-stop since not long after I retired, in fact. I guess the universe is trying to tell me something!
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
[Update Jan 6/12: Or maybe not. The NHL Players Association appears to have blocked it, possibly delaying the realignment until the 2013/14 season.]
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Saturday, December 03, 2011
It naturally brought to mind the two Wagner pieces Vicki and I bid on and won in Chicago a few years ago, now proudly on display in our front foyer and shown below (left and centre):
Friday, December 02, 2011
I finished Chapter 1 of the 2nd novel last night, and sent it off to Julie for her consideration (no word back yet). My brother Richard got to hear an earlier version of it on Wednesday, and kindly helped me out quite a bit with one part of it. As of right now, only he, Julie, Vicki and I know what it's about, and I plan to keep it that way for awhile.
The fact that I'm already through one chapter, two weeks into the writing, is good news. However, I threw a bunch of balls up into the air in that first chapter, some of which I'm still not quite sure where they're going to land. Also, once Julie reads it and provides some feedback, it's possible I may be back to the drawing board. But for now, I'm feeling positive about it. Richard certainly seemed to enjoy it.
[P.S. This is my 3300th post on this blog. That's a lot of stuff!]
Thursday, December 01, 2011
Since it was hard to get the extent of the water to show up in a still photo, I also took some video, as well as adding this 'action shot' of Vicki tapping her foot:
After the cleanup crew came yesterday to remove the ruined carpet down there, we finally got to see the culprit, just about exactly where Vicki had thought it would be:
Now we wait for someone to come who will snake the line out down that little bugger and determine where all the water came from. While it's tempting to say, "It came from all the rain we got," we'd had at least that much rain before without ever having a drop of it show up in that part of the basement. So something has changed, and we'd like to know what before we put any new carpet down.