’19 A To Z Challenge – E

 

Letter E

AtoZ2019

 

Canada’s entertainment has (almost) caught up to the USA’s.

First, we dumped cable TV, as content deteriorated, and prices soared. Later we ditched satellite TV, when their charges approached Cable’s. We have YouTube as part of our internet package. The wife signed up for Netflix – considerably cheaper than either of the other two. Later, she enrolled in Amazon Prime, which not only gives us advantages with the increasing number of things that we purchase online, but provides another cheap platform for videos.

I watched episodes of Babylon 5 on TVs in Detroit hotels, five years before it became available on Canadian television. About 3 years ago BrainRants made me aware of an epic series, on SyFy in the US. We couldn’t access it here, but I began reading the 7-book series about The

Leviathan Wakes

Expanse

I have read the first three books, with the 4th on order. Each book becomes a year’s series. So far, the first 3 seasons are available on Amazon Prime. Pleasantly, the wife finds that she likes it. We have watched though the first season, and into the second. They are big, 700-page books. I’d better get reading, to stay ahead of the Canadian video releases.

Are there any other sci-fi fans out there, also watching this series? What do you think of it? Many TV series, including science fiction are consecutive; what happens in this week’s episode occurs after what happened in last week’s, but usually has no direct connection. This series, like many European series, is sequential. There are some flashbacks, but you can’t miss an episode, or you don’t understand what’s happening next.

I am ecstatic that I finally get to watch The Expanse. Thanx Rants! 😀

Oh, Grow Up!

Rink

On an irregular basis, the local newspaper allows 500-word articles from members of the Youth Editorial Board. These are intelligent high school students.  I am often impressed with their knowledge of social problems, and their mature suggestions.

I was recently sadly disappointed by a female Catholic student’s rant, titled Complaint About Rink, Masks a Bigger Problem.  A family in this hilly little town had found a large enough flat spot to build a small rink in their front yard.  By-law Enforcement had become aware of it, and the City gave them two weeks to dismantle it.

I share her opinion that Canadian kids are overweight and out of shape, and need all the outdoor exercise they can get. The City has sufficient good reasons to specifically make this behavior illegal, and mentioned several of them in their media release.  To ensure compliance, a possible fine was stated.

Not one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, she went on to paint the family, not as lawbreakers, but as Phys-Ed heroes, and later, as downtrodden victims.

If she built a snowman on her lawn, would someone file a complaint about that too? If it were eight feet high and blocking sightlines at an intersection – Yes!

She felt that vanity(?) was triumphing over enjoyment.  All exercise and fun obtained in a back yard would be just as enjoyable – and less dangerous.

She felt it was unfair that they had to dismantle the illegal structure because just one person filed a complaint. It’s possible that the entire street narc-ed out these people, or that only one did, with the knowledge and support of many others. How dare the City threaten a fine?  It wouldn’t be imposed, if they just obeyed the directive.

The list of weasel-word excuses that she used to rationalize her denigration of the complainant was long and impressive. She listed: intimidation and oppression, lowering self-esteem, verbal and physical abuse, criticism can follow creativity, attack with negative words, victims, power and control, lonely perpetrator craving attention, jealousy, compensating for their own troubles, anger, unfair, bullying, and frustration.

The City’s main stated reason for not allowing this behavior centered around the 14 inch steel tent pegs used to anchor the frame boards. Things like this, driven into the ground, could damage telephone and cable lines, power cables, and water and sewer pipes.  These would not happen if the rink were situated in the back yard.

Not mentioned by the City, were things like wobbly figure skaters or body-checked little hockey players crashing into passing pedestrians and baby carriages, or even worse, onto driveways, as cars pull in or out. Hockey pucks or frozen rubber balls can break windows and dent cars and garage doors.  Kids chasing them into the street can easily be run over.

The midnight-shift worker who tries to sleep during the day would be none too pleased with a noisy crowd of kids beneath his front bedroom window. None of these things have anything to do with vanity or oppression, merely safety and good manners.

Just wait till she gets older, gets married and moves into her own little house in the suburbs, next to a neighbors-from-Hell family like the one she’s currently defending.  The people who casually violate City ordinances about front-yard rinks, do it so that their kids have fun, not so that neighbor kids get exercise.

These same people are the ones who own a dog which is tethered outside 24/7, to bark its head off, or a cat that they let run loose to shit in your carefully tended garden beneath your living room window. They think nothing of having an illegal campfire in their backyard, which fills your house with smoke, and forces you to close all your windows on otherwise lovely days.

They feel entitled to blast loud music from their stereo out through windows and French doors, all day and night, while they throw loud, drunken parties on their deck, or in the pool or hot-tub. Now who’s intimidating, oppressing or bullying?  Ah, the joys of living in the city, there’s one on every block.

When we moved in here, the 10-year old from across the street wanted to play one-on-one street hockey with his friend, using their driveway and ours as ‘goals.’ I told him clearly that I would not allow it.  I didn’t want our car, or the house, dinged and marked, or the work and expensive garden plants wasted and ruined.

We left to go shopping one day and came back to a hockey net blocking our driveway, and the two boys resting on the curb. He jumped up and moved the net – the first time. I repeated that it was ‘my’ driveway, and I didn’t want him playing here.

We had lunch and went back out. On returning the second time, there was the net, blocking our access again, and he was now too tired to get up and move the net.  My son got out of the car and threw it onto the boulevard.

Not five minutes later his mother came over to accuse the son of ‘putting a hole’ in it.  It’s a hockey net.  It’s all hole!  And I don’t care how much healthy exercise he’s getting, it doesn’t belong on my driveway.

I think our little ‘fitness and fun’ defender’s entire screed “masks a bigger problem.” She needs to grow up, and I think when she does, our rose-colored-glasses wearing, sheltered little Catholic, is in for some nasty surprises about urban reality.

Graffiti Grabbers

Executioner

I read about 250 books in the above series over the years. It started with a Special Forces soldier coming home from Viet Nam to avenge his family, murdered by ‘The Mob.’  Seeing the limitations of this story arc, after about 30 books, the hero ‘died’ and was reborn as an independent Government agent, fighting terrorists, although this was back in the ‘80s.  They weren’t called that, then.

In one book, the hero pursued an agent who was bombing American Federal Government buildings and installations, all the way to Detroit. He then crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, just in time to see a bomb blow up a blue, street mailbox.

Mailbox

I’m still not sure what value the author felt blowing up a Canadian mailbox had – a few pizza shop flyers destroyed and somebody’s unemployment cheque (check, for Americans) lost.  What caught my attention was the fact that the (American) author had described the Canadian mailbox as blue.  American mailboxes are blue, Canadian mailboxes have always been British Red.

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Graffiti taggers’ ill manners and lack of respect for the property of others started leaking north across the American border, like the Emerald Ash Borer, and deer ticks with Lyme disease. The more OCD at Canada Post began to be concerned about the look of their mailboxes.

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They began a program of refinishing them with a glass crystal surface like that applied to subway cars in the movie Turk 182. It’s so smooth that, if the paint doesn’t fall off on its own, it can be wiped off with a dry cloth.  The only problem is, taggers just hate an empty surface, and will keep tagging, no matter how many times it’s cleaned.

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Canada Post solved that problem by adding random, jumbled Postal Codes, so that the boxes look like they’ve already been pre-graffitied – so neat – so clean – so much better. Right….

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Apparently they were not eagerly accepted, so Canada Post has come up with something a little more artistic.

I recently pulled into the subdivision, and there was a van parked, and a man in a work uniform in front of the neighborhood cable TV junction box. I thought someone might be upgrading to the new fiber-optic service.  As I drove past, I saw that the worker had a small paint tray and roller.  The name on the van was ‘Graffiti Grabbers.’  He was painting over the taggers’ marks.

When I got home, a quick research revealed that graffiti ‘artists’ created enough vandalism to keep the above, and two more cover-up companies busy. I guess we can’t all be bloggers and only sully each others’ cell phones, tablets, and computer screens.

More Ice And Snow

I published this post by error the other night.  I immediately removed it and posted the correct one.  The next morning, I found that it was not deleted from those of you who get my posts by email.  If you’ve already read this one, I apologise.

Even for those of you who live where ice and snow are a normal winter occurrence, I have a few more observations, suggestions and idiosyncrasies.

I wrote of cleaning off windshields, side and back windows, and mentioned about being able to see where you’re going.  Cleaning off your entire vehicle is also important because it make you visible to other drivers.  If someone wishes to pull out, and looks up the street and sees nothing but white, they assume you’re an unmoving snow bank, and pull out. You may have the legal right-of-way, but you’re still the cause of an accident.

When you clear your car, clean off the headlights and tail-lights so that others notice you.  Clean off the grille so that the engine breathes better.  With today’s computer-controlled cars, yours will still start and run, but will use less fuel, produce less air pollution, and warm up faster (and so will you) if it inhales better.

Clean out the recessed wiper trough, or air-intake vent near the windshield.  If you don’t do this, the snow will melt as the engine warms, get sucked into the cabin, and re-deposit as frost on the inside of the glass.  You’ll either spend extra time scraping it off the inside, or extra time in hospital when you don’t see the truck.

How to shovel snow: Be rich enough to pay someone else to do it for you.  Failing that, when you begin shovelling snow early in the winter, throw it as far back as you can.  More snow will accrue, and if the first lot is piled at the edge of your lawn or driveway, not only will you have to throw subsequent lots back, you’ll have to do it over the piles at the edge, making it that much harder.

As I was digging out after our most recent storm, I watched the teen-age boy across the street.  He dumped his first shovelfuls only as far as he had to.  By the time he was finishing the job, he was carrying them over and struggling to toss them over a pile as tall as he was.

We don’t use salt to melt ice on sidewalks or driveways.  It kills grass, and flowers in the wife’s gardens, and doesn’t do cars, clothing or footwear any good.  We use crystal urea.  It melts like salt, but is itself a fertiliser.  It means I have to mow or weed more often, but that’s a lot easier and warmer than shovelling snow or chopping ice.  We buy it in fifty-pound bags at an agricultural-supply store near the farmers’ market.  Because it’s a fertiliser, they sell it during the summer.  We forgot to get a bag last summer, and I’ve barely got enough to get through the winter.

With a dog in the house, I have to shovel not only out the front, but out the back too.  We own the left side of a semi-detached house.  The builder didn’t bother to purchase left-hand French doors for deck access.  When we moved in, the sliding portion did so on the outside.  If we had a heavy snow or ice storm, the door was almost impossible to move.  Our four cats have learned to use two kitty-litter boxes, but the dog insists on going outside.

I have to shovel a couple of paths across the deck, and an 18 inch tall dog has trouble with two-foot piles of snow in the back yard.  A couple of times each winter, I have to shovel/tramp down, a big looping path through the back yard, and a landing area, so that he has someplace to leave his buried treasure. It keeps the odor away from the house, till I can get out and scoop it up in the spring.

Several years ago, we went from cable TV to satellite.  Fortunately, the dish is only mounted on my front porch roof.  Last night I had to take a broom, to the end of which another broom-handle is taped, wade across my hip-deep front yard, and reach up to clean off ¾ of an inch of wet, clingy snow.

When there’s no snow, the daughter can at least make short runs in her power wheelchair.  When winter closes in and sidewalks are not shoveled, it can range from difficult to impossible to get certain places.  She lives in one of two wheelchair accessible units in a housing complex right off a community trail.  The sidewalk plows the city uses sometimes have the trail clear before the street in front of the complex is done.  The biggest barricade is often the sidewalk from her unit to the trail.  The neighbor shovels as far as his van, in front of the units, for his wife’s wheelchair, but it’s about another two-hundred feet to the trail, and heavily used by many of the school-children and non-car-owning low-income residents.  It gets packed down quickly and thickly after a storm.

The grandson is now 20, and a great help, but it’s not unusual, a couple of times a winter, for me to stop in and use her shovel, and a chopper or scraper to clear back enough of a track that she can roll out to the nearest supermarket or the postal outlet when she needs to, to prevent cabin fever.

Not much humor or trivia in today’s post, just the rants and rambles I promised you above.  The only thing you may have learned is to sit a little farther from the computer screen when the curmudgeon is on a tear.  I’m having a wonderful winter.  How has yours been?

 

Ice And Snow

I went to my daughter’s place today, and discovered another blog-theme.  It may be of interest to some of you.  Canada has ice and snow in the winter.  Despite what some folks think, only places wayyy up north have ice and snow year round.  I’m not as much of an expert about it as you might suspect.  I live almost as far south as Detroit.  Sparklebumps, in Minnesota, is north of me.  ByronicMan, on the Left Coast, is north of me, but all the lit doobies out there keep the temperature up.

My blog-friend, Nicole, in Phoenix, just went through a cold spell.  The thermometer dropped all the way from 75 F, to 65.  She has to go to the fridge to see what I’m talking about.  Meanwhile, I’ll get comments from SightsnBytes and Benzeknees, saying, “Wimp!”  TheHaremsMaster, whose back door opens on the North Pole, is too busy choking with ironic laughter, to take my rant seriously.

For you lucky people in warmer climes, I’d like to make you aware of things that we have, that you don’t.  Things that get us through the winter, both personally, and for our vehicles.  Snow falls on our cars and obscures the view.  Some of it will melt, and then, while we’re out of the car, it refreezes on the glass.  When we go to use the car, the first thing we have to do is remove that ice and snow.

We have windshield scrapers.  These are two-foot-long wooden or plastic handles, with a brush on one end, and a scraper on the other.  My “Don’t Yell” blog tells of using one in the summer, to convince a road-rager to stay away from my car.  You use the brush to clean the snow off the car, and then the scraper to get the ice off all the windows.  At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  All too often I see idiots who have swiped a small patch off the driver’s side, but the rest of the glass is obscured.  It must be like trying to drive through a drinking straw.  If you don’t brush the snow off the hood and roof, the windstream just blows it back onto the front and rear glass.

Something else that most vehicles, sold in Canada, have, are block-heaters.  These are little electric heaters, which are installed in the bottom of engine blocks.  You plug them in when the car sits in the cold, so that the oil doesn’t congeal from the cold, and lack of lubrication causes engine damage.  In Sudbury, which is 500 miles north of here, but still not above the big 49th parallel border, many of the parking meters downtown have electrical plugs provided.

We have a TV show called Ice Road Truckers.  These are guys who deliver goods to the northernmost, often Indian and Eskimo villages, on or near the Arctic Ocean shore.  This stuff can’t move by truck when it’s warm, because there are no roads through the swamps and muskeg.  In the winter, they bulldoze up the snow and spray water on it to create a drivable surface, literally made from ice.

They bore holes in the ice of lakes that would be too thin to support these big rigs, and keep spraying it on the road path, till it’s feet thick.  There are several of these ice roads, some of them 1500 Kilometers long.  It’s so cold that often, the trucks are never shut down.  If they sit in the cold too long, they’re almost impossible to restart.  If they do have to sit for an extended period, just before they are needed, small fire pans are placed under the engines to warm them.  Some truckers have been known to pry off a hub-cap, and fill it with diesel fuel to burn.

Driving in the winter is very different from summer.  Plows remove most of the snow from the roads, and pile it on the edge, narrowing the available driving room and blocking vision.  Much salt, and a little sand is applied to the roads by works crews in spreader trucks.  This damages the road surface, nearby vegetation, and car bodies.  A new and better system has them spraying liquid brine, before a snow or ice storm is expected.  It uses less salt and causes less damage, and works better, because it melts the problem from the bottom.

Much attention must be paid when there is ice and snow on the streets.  Going up or down icy hills can be an adventure.  Sometimes you go down, even when you try to go up.  You can’t pull out into traffic as quickly.  You have to take turns more slowly.  You should think, and drive, ahead.  Will the road be slick at the stop light or sign?  Streets conditions can change so quickly.

I was driving the daughter and grandson to our house.  We were on a two lane street.  The outside temperature and the volume of traffic had the road surface bare and damp.  As we came around the inevitable bend in the road, for the last half-block before a T-intersection, the road widened to include a left-turn, and a right-turn lane.

Combined with a more open area, the entire street was a skating rink.  I made the anti-lock brakes do what they could, but still slid broad-side in front of a driver trying to get up a small hill.  One moment of inattention caused $3800 worth of damage, just to our car.

When we visited South Carolina, I noticed a sign on each bridge which said, “Bridge freezes first.”  I asked a native how often that occurred.  Only about every three years, but we have to keep reminding the fools, so they don’t fall off the road.  If you live where ice is in drinks with little umbrellas, and the only snow you see is on the TV when the cable connection comes loose, count yourself lucky.  I have to go take the snow-scoop and shovel, and clear my driveway.