I'm Trying, Here

I realize we're not supposed to be drinking bottled water anymore.  Deep down, I am a dirty hippie, so I am trying to break myself of this habit.  My switch to bottled water was recent - it's part of a 900 step program to wean myself off the soda pop. 

I'm down to one can of diet a day, incidentally.  When you think about the fact that I don't drink coffee, I'm doing pretty well.  I need that small hit of caffeine in the morning that Diet Coke provides, or I find myself doing a face-plant into my keyboard around 2:30, and yes I eat lunch and get enough iron and all that.  I tried tea in the morning but it makes me nauseous, as does any sufficiently complicated food before 9 A.M.

So the bottled water thing:  Yes, It's Bad.  And I'm Cutting Back.  The Sportswear Company recently handed out free reusable water bottles to all the staff, not out of a sense of stewardship, but because they had a printing error in the logo.  I picked up two, but I think I need more because they're in the dishwasher all the damn time.  So I'm praying for another promotional-item goof-up.

So why not drink tap water?  You ask.  Our tap water comes out of the North Saskatchewan River, which is heavily populated all along its considerable route through the western provinces.  It's big and fast and fed by glaciers, but, um, I wouldn't want to swim in it.  You're likely to meet a former someone who jumped off the High Level Bridge, broke their legs on the ice and froze to death, or you might take in a certain volume of effluent, or get stabbed with a stray needle full of the Hep.

Of course our water is kept to a very high standard and is perfectly safe to drink.  The last aspect that keeps me from drinking out of the tap is the high level of chlorine added to our water.  Some mornings in the Spring, when the runoff is coming in from the mountains, you can nearly gas yourself to death by taking a hot shower.  Or at least, that's how it seems to me. 
  • Current Music
    Audioslave - The Shape of Things to Come

Did You?

So anyway, this whole handmade gift thing.  Who's with me?

I channeled my Etsy fever into making some more handmade gifts this year, specifically, for my boss and three cow-orkers in my department.  I made them all the fingerless gloves from Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, which should be considered a classic.  Here's something they don't tell you about handmade gifts...shhhh.....come closer.....they're really cheap.  They cost me about $1.50 to make, since I got the yarn on sale and I already had all the notions.  The "wow" factor was huge, with many refrains of You Made These???  Which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and cancels the frustration I had working small-diameter tubes with my giant hands.

Working in our building is a bit like having menopause:  You're Hot!  Cold!  Hot!  Cold!  All days of the year.  My less racially-well-suited office neighbours, however, are cold cold cold all the time, and they bitch about it to me because I'm the only one who knows how to operate the thermostat (I shit you not).  The fingerless gloves are partly an attempt to keep the bitchery down to a dull roar, and partly to keep them from putting their icy fingers on my warm person in order to prove how cold our office has become.  They are left free to type (and smoke 50 feet from the building or whatever it is now) by the fingerless aspect.  (I should have included a lecture on how smoking lessens the circulation in the extremities, but in the interests of peace I'll pass on that.)

The last day before Christmas is a combination of fun and frenzy in my business. Salespeople from apparel suppliers drop by on the half-hour loaded with gifts to thank us for our business, so the last week has been a giant cookie/chocolate/doughnut orgy. I learned to temporarily skip breakfast to leave room for day-long dessert! The lunch-lady and the Sportswear Company's owners came with rounds of shots at mid-day. My boss cranks the Kenny G Christmas album and endures the howls of derision it brings. And best of all, the owners come back with a Christmas card that contains everyone's favourite bill colour - Brown.

And the frenzy part? Was really low-key for me this year, because we started cutting off Christmas orders at November 30, or at least trying to....There's always someone in a damn hurry, standing at the front counter yelling at the salespeople because the parka they wanted is in Quebec and it's December 20th. People don't realize our business is run on lean principles, which means we don't stock anything. I'd be happy to tell those customers to make like a tree and leave - but salespeople insist on making promises that it is up to others to keep. Thanks to prudent planning and lots of saying No there was no repeat of the Humvee excursion of last year, thank you Universe.
  • Current Music
    Ella Fitzgerald - It's Too Darn Hot

We Hardly Knew Ye

Not Martha directs us to the MetaFilter inquiry about fuel efficient, reliable used cars.  A couple of people mention the Toyota Echo, which is what Mr. Sparkle was...is.  That thing was utterly reliable.  It started without being plugged in at -35 and only had a couple minor problems with knobs and switches that were covered under the warranty.  The only thing I didn't like about it was the rate at which it consumed fan belts, but I think that's splitting hairs.  I drove the shit out of that thing for five years and I gotta say, for a car with a teeny engine, it could be fun to drive.  Tires for a tiny car are cheap, and it got 35 mpg at five years old.

So, if you're looking for an inexpensive car, say, something for your teenage daughter to drive, a used Echo is ideal.  Get the earlier models - Toyota sucked all the design ingenuity out of the later ones because they were too weird for the North American market.

I just wish the centre-mounted speedo had caught on and been adopted in more cars.  I still hate having to look through the wheel at my dials.
  • Current Music
    Goldfrapp - Strict Machine

Is Your Car The Three of Diamonds?

Let me take you back to 80 days ago, when Mr. W and I got our oil-change bill for Mr. Sparkle, our 2001 Toyota Echo. It had 130 000 km on it and it was time for some of the major maintenance to happen. This particular bill was $650, which came only four months after the previous maintenance bill of $1000. There was nothing wrong with it - it's just that the scheduled maintenance on a six year old car can add up. In the last year or so, it was starting to add up to a car payment.

We were kidding around about buying a new car 80 days ago. I'd heard radio ads about BMW's Certified used car clear-out happening in November, so I took Mr. W to the BMW dealership in a non-serious way to see what could be had for a reasonable price. I never wanted a BMW myself because they're rear-wheel drive, and I live in the land of ice & snow seven months of the year. My last rear-wheel drive car was 15 years ago and I ain't goin' back. Anyway...the BMW dealership. Our first mistake was driving up in an Echo, of course. We wandered around the place for half an hour, and left with no one having spoken to us. I guess they lost a sale that day.

We couldn't find any BMW's in our price range online, so we started to think about a new car. What was in our price range that we liked? We need a car that's fuel-efficient. We need a car with a long warranty. And we want a car that doesn't scream "Volvo-Driving Soccer Mom" (sorry all you soccer moms out there, nothing personal). It took me a week to remember Mr. W drooling over the new Mitsubishi Lancer.

Mr. W has a soft spot for Mitsu because, well, Jackie Chan owns part of the company. Also Mr. W is what is called an "egg" - an Asian male born in a Caucasian male's body. The boy is nuts about anything Chinese or Japanese. This was a strong influence in our purchase of Mr. Sparkle, in spite of the catcalls of our truck-drivin' friends. (I noticed their laughter dying down when gas went over $1 a litre.)

Today Mr. W drove up in our shiny new Tarmac Black 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS. It is a shiny, sexy, dangerous looking car. The front bumper has fangs. We got every option, even the insane stereo upgrade, rice-rocket spoiler and low-profile tires.  It's a car for a 25-year-old rig pig to tune and bag on the weekends, and here we are enjoying the hell out of it.  I hope to have a picture of it for you when the sun comes back into our lives.

Mr. W worked really hard this year.  He had some long hours due to a staff shortage, and he'd amassed a large amount of vacation pay.  This money, plus the meager trade-in on good old Mr. Sparkle*, allowed us to swing it.  Now I've got car payments again, after being rid of them for more than a year.  This is my only complaint - having to pay for it.

* If you need to buy a used car, come to Alberta.  Apparently everyone's got so much money that used cars are practically worthless around here.  What they don't tell you is that they ship the cars to parts unknown where the market's better and mark them up.
  • Current Music
    Van Halen - Hot For Teacher

Ahhhh*Rubs Hands Together*

Is this cool, or uncool?

If I could find a way to hide the cord, I'd totally have one in my bedroom. I don't care that it's fake. I can't afford a real fireplace, and have nowhere to put one besides.

Our bedroom has three outside walls, so it's bloody freezing in there when it's -20 out. It also faces North, and we live on the Northern edge of the city, so whatever's blowing down from Inuvik basically hits our house first. What we really need are new triple-glazed windows, but a lot of blankets seems to cost much less.

On the bright side, we sleep very well because the room is so cool. The other bright side is that Mr. W, like many men, heats up to 5000° after he falls asleep. I think this is an evolutionary adaptation to prevent a man's womenfolk from freezing to death at night - feet first, of course.
  • Current Music
    Habib Kotié - I Ka Barra (some Windows Vista sample music)

Help Me Out Here

Has anyone ever seen, or known someone who's owned a ROM Machine? I see this ad in the backs of magazines all the time. The price is splashed right next to every photo: $14 615. I want to meet the person who paid $15K for an exercise machine. They'd better look like a freakin' Bowflex model times ten.

How many of these things can they sell? Who has that kind of money laying around for such a machine? If fitness clubs are buying them, then where are they?
  • Current Music
    We Are Wolves - Fight And Kiss

Bell Carol Earworm

Yes, I, Queen of Earworms, have a little difficulty with the Christmas season. Especially since, as a wee sapling, I played in a concert band that did Christmas gigs at the local malls. So I know every carol inside-out. Damn, I miss those gigs, they were always great fun. I also miss having a reason to sing carols, even though I'm not about the whole birth-of-our-Lord thing.

You can't sing away the Bell Carol. NA na-na-na. NA na-na-na. etc. etc.

Or you could just go with the Ding Fries Are Done version...but I don't recommend it.
  • Current Mood
    crazy crazy

We Dance Whenever We're Able

In the interest of karmic balance, I will now tell about a group of women I knew and admired.

My first "career" job in my late teens/early 20's was as a lab tech. After graduation I worked the bottom rung at a locally well-known company that was doing immunological research on breast, pancreatic and lung cancer.  They were trying to develop a cancer vaccine. 

I only stayed in the business for 2 1/2 years after graduation.  I got laid off from my job at the cancer vaccine place due to funding cuts, as did thousands of techs with more experience in the belt-tightening 90's.  When it became impossible to find a job in the biz I was forced to move on.

Anyway, I shared an office with 7 other female techs.  We didn't actually spend much time in there - we came in to do our data entry in the afternoons, and ate lunch there.  They varied in age from 21 to 60-ish.  I have such fond memories of these women.  They are my Knights of the Round Table.  Maybe it was because of my age at the time, but their opinions, manners and thoughts still inform my own, even now.  They were all highly intelligent, patient, charming and even beautiful in different ways.  They all got along like a house on fire.  They were amazing cooks and bakers.  And to top if of, they were really good at their jobs.

I spent many afternoons in my office with a sore stomach from laughing.   I learned how to make strangers comfortable and how to be a lady without acting like an ignorant, empty-headed woman.

Unfortunately, I knew the day I was laid off that I would never hear from any of these women again, and I never have.
  • Current Mood
    hot hot

Trouble Ahead (And Behind)

I used to think I had trouble making friends, but now I think it's more about keeping friends.  I also used to blame myself for this, so I made some changes in myself gradually, over many years, trying to fix the things about myself that annoy the shit out of everyone.

But you know what?  I can't shoulder all the blame for this anymore.  I was lashed into shape by some of the meanest mean girls in history.  Here's the story of one of them:

When I was 11, my best friend of 7 years had someone call me to tell me "S. doesn't want to be your friend anymore".  Where we once walked to school side by side, she then made certain to always be ahead of or behind me.  She didn't speak a word to me again until high school, where she acted like nothing had ever happened between us.  I later realized this was because all the cool girls were in with me, and if she wanted to be friends with them, she had to be friends with me.

Our mothers are best friends, so I still hear about S.'s life now and then.  We went our separate ways after high school, and a couple of years ago I got the chance to visit her mother, who is like an aunt to me.  S.'s mom still lives in the house where I spent many happy, wonderful hours playing with S. and our circle of friends.

When I stopped by to visit, S. was there.  I was with my parents, so we sat and talked with S.'s mom and dad.  S. stayed in the basement for my entire visit.  She didn't even pop her head around the corner to say "hi", and believe me, she knew we were there.  This happened a few years ago and it still bothers me.  What did I do to her to make her ditch me over and over again?  

I feel like I try and try with some people, but I always want to make friends out of people who can't stand me.  "Girls can be so cruel" is the refrain we can recite ad nauseam, but I find myself in the same situation as an adult.  It's hard not to feel like a social leper.  I corrected my top 100 ridiculous social faults (out of 1000)  many years ago, whatever they were, so I am a presentable human female for the most part.  I'm not the shy type, or a snob, or in any way unfriendly.  I'm also not pushy and clingy, I think.  I wish I knew *what* it was about me, so I could fix it.  I want more friends and I'm having trouble.

Sorting My Thoughts

1.  I'm going to miss you all when NaBloPoMo is over.  I know you won't be posting for like, three weeks due to burnout, and I will curse you for it.

2.  A friend believes that, because mandarin orange season and the flu season coincide, one is the cause of the other.

3.  I have a cranky, stubborn cow-orker with back problems who takes too many pills and is slipping a bit.  This month's Yoga Journal has a great article on treating back pain with gentle poses and specifically mentions cranky cow-orkers.  What are the chances of me getting him to read it?

4.  A sharp-shootin' paramedic shot a guy he was called on to retrieve from a car accident.  The guy was a criminal escaping the scene, and the paramedic was a literal ex-army sharpshooter who treated the GSW's immediately after.  Yay, everyone wins!!  Oh wait except for one guy.  (Fox News in Detroit is my favourite source of un-fucking-believable American news.)

5.  More ~~parts~~ for my ~~rig~~ arrived today.  Back in the olden days, computer components were meant to be shut away forever, so they all looked the same.  Now they all have fancy pimp logos and shit.  My heat sink looks like, and is the size of, a turbocharger.

6.  Went to the Sex Show (speakers off!) again this weekend.  Met no one I knew but later found out that many, many people I know also went.  The ones who didn't go questioned me endlessly, like I'd been to Paris or something.

  • Current Music
    Big Sugar - Turn the Lights On