Flash Fiction # 129

Steampunk

PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

EASY RIDER

Hurry up, already. We’ll be late for lecture.  Why don’t you buy an electric moped?

There was no use saying it out loud. It was always the same.  It took Lenny as long as it took, almost ten minutes.

In that amount of time, we could have walked across campus and got a coffee with the blonde twins.

I really don’t understand some people’s enthralment with Steampunk. What genius builds his own steam-powered bicycle, and carries coal around in his backpack?  Where do you even buy coal??

Finally, like the Little Engine – I think I can, I think I can….

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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Sassin’ The Sassenach

Union Jack

The grandson, ‘Thorn Smith’, has finished his three-year welding apprentice course, and is now licensed to work anywhere in Canada.  He recently accompanied his fiancé to Ottawa, ON (545 Km – 340 Mi. – 5 ½ hour drive) so that she could attend university there.

Before they each take this big life-step, they decided that they should see a bit of the world first. He saved money from his placement employment, and she from her job as a Starbucks barista, and they flew to London, England for a week.

One of the big attractions was a chance to see the new Harry Potter play, ‘The Cursed Child.’ On the day that tickets were released, they crouched over their computer, waiting for the floodgates to open.  When it happened, they quickly found that the system would respond to PCs, but not to their Apple.  In the slightly less than an hour that it took them to physically move to where there was an available PC, ALL TICKETS for the entire run were sold out.

Still, money had been saved, and plane tickets had been bought, so off they went. A tiny, unexpected payment from a retirement fund allowed us to gift them with £100 in ten-pound notes, because vacations are always costly, and London is said to be expensive.

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Aside from the missed play, they enjoyed all the touristy London things – London Bridge, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye Ferris Wheel, Curry In A Hurry, and fish and chips.

Even before the Brexit from the E.U. England had not accepted Euro notes or coins, especially after (relatively) recently having switched over to decimal coinage. The grandson brought me back a complete set of coins.  They descend from the bi-metal 2-Pound, to the single, round-Pound, heptagonal 50-pence and 20-pence, quarter-sized 10-pence, dime-sized 5-pence, 50-cent-sized copper 2-pence, and a copper penny.

Around the edge of the 2-Pound coin is inscribed, “On The Shoulders Of Giants”, a reference to Sir Isaac Newton. Around the 1-Pound coin’s edge is, “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” the royal Stuart and a Scottish motto, meaning, “No-one attacks me with impunity.”

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Not knowing that I had one, he also brought me back a 5-Pound note. Different from mine, I find that British notes are now not only color-coded, but size-coded, as well; the smaller the denomination, the smaller the bill.

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I also have a Scottish 1-Pound note, and a British Armed Services 1-Pound Scrip bill not to be used anywhere but, or even removed from, Armed Forces bases. I have a surprising number of items like that, Russian Rubles and Kopeks, Cuban Pesos.

Ten pounds

There’s a lot of separation going on over there. Britain has left the E.U.  Scotland wants to separate from England, and may independently rejoin it.  They are allowed to print their own money.  Ireland wants little to do with either, and also prints up their own greenbacks.

When grandson and fiancé were first driven to Ottawa to take possession of their apartment, they found a Starbucks, literally visible from their front window. When they drove over for a caffeine-break, her mother got the first coffee, and stepped back to wait.

Perhaps recognising new customers, the female manager approached to welcome and ask how things were. The mother said that her daughter worked at a Starbucks in Kitchener, and would be looking for a position in Ottawa.

“She’s an experienced barista??! I’m short-handed and hiring.  Have her manager email me, and I’ll have a job for her as soon as she’s available.”  Going to class and working part-time will be busy, but they’ll have income until he finds a decent job.  I love it when a plan comes together.

[Hopefully, the grandson is reading this on his Smart-Phone. Thanx for all your past help.  We miss you already.  Good luck, and keep in touch.]   😀

Flash Fiction #95

Rats

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

RATS! CURSES!

“The moon is made of green cheese. Pass it on.”

What??!”

“Don’t mind me. That’s just something I say, to pass time while I’m stuck in a line.  Sometimes people ‘get it’, and pass it on.  I hate being in long lines.  We’re just like those birds, only without a guiding wire, or a string of elephants, each holding the tail of the one in front.”

“Don’t you touch my tail buddy!”

“Well, the wait is worth it. I look forward to my morning Starbucks latté.”

“Starbucks??! That’s that line mister.  This line is for Justin Bieber concert tickets.”

Aargh!!!

***

Got to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Plastic Surgery

#446

Just over two years ago, I wrote a Coming Home piece about how my old auto-parts plant was being given a cosmetic makeover.  An engineering firm was ready to move in, and an electronics firm was considering renting space.

Google had set up in a nearby, refurbished, gentrified tannery building, steadily increasing their local presence till they occupied the entire top floor, but was looking for still more room, and was considering a move to my old plant.

Google Building  Google’s ultimate dream

‘Considering’ is over, and money is being spent.  Not satisfied with mere lipstick and eye shadow, they are paying for a pair of implants.  On top of the three-storey section where I used to make Jeep parts, they are installing a partial two storey addition, set at a rakish, artistic angle.  They plan to occupy this entire ‘new’ (1956) end, as well as the complete top floor of the older 1906 brick section.

Prehistoric section  front

Indoors  rebuilt inside

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It fronts on a street named for a German pioneer, Henry Breithaupt (brite-up), so it’s now called the Breithaupt Block, 200 feet wide and a block long.  The tank which was white, and held vinyl chips when I worked there, has been painted Gawdawful Orange, and now probably holds enough Starbucks coffee to fuel all the offices.  Note the gorgeous new (expensive) Thermo-pane windows.

Nothing is too good for Google employees.  They will have a spa, a gym, a nap/rest/reading room, several lunch rooms, c/w microwaves, stoves and refrigerators, and a staff of fulltime cooks in a cafeteria.

I have taken, and lifted, several pictures for those few who are interested, showing then, now, and near future, above.  The second photo below, shows the deteriorating brick facing and cracked windows.  During several really cold spells over the years, we would come in, to a couple of rented, jet-engine-type propane heaters on each floor.  Other photos show the facings stripped off, and the new upper floors, getting ready for a new look, taken from several angles.

SDC10701  New joining old.

Jeep building  Old Girl with her clothes on.

Jeep stripped  Stripping down to essentials.

SDC10698Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Jeep goiing upEnd-on from the main drag.

The strange angle is because the side street doesn’t meet the main one at 90 degrees.  The bus is crossing railroad tracks, and the road is currently being dug up to lay tracks for the new LRT.

This is all located right beside the upcoming bus/train/LRT transit hub, and just at the edge of the Technology Circle, envisioned, promoted and coming to fruition in the core of Kitchener, Ontario.

The old girl looked pretty good when I visited her a couple of years ago.  These new additions and improvements proceed apace.  She’s looking so much better and more functional now, and may be open for Google business by the time I publish this post.

Sharp Saturday

 

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We had planned to go to a knife show in Toronto on a recent Saturday.  The son’s medical emergency on the Friday afternoon seemed to put that in jeopardy, but when he survived the Attack of the Killer Kidney Stone, we decided to proceed, with the grandson and fiancée, and him well medicated.

The regular Canadian Knifemakers Guild spring show has been suffering, so, this year, they decided to do something different.  They waited till mid-summer, moved it downtown, to an upscale hotel, and made it an invitational Art Knife Show.

This show had as many makers as the usual one, but instead of tables with 50 or 100 hunters, skinners, or steak knives, each maker displayed only 1 or 2, or a few, but worth what a whole table of those others were.  Prices started in the high hundreds of dollars.  The most expensive single knife I saw went for $14,500.

There were makers from Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as France, Germany, Austria, Brazil and South Africa.  Most shipped their knives ahead, some using the Post Office, others by courier.  One guy packed his two knives with his socks and underwear, and checked his baggage with the airline.  TSA will X-ray it, but only worry if there are firearms or an explosive device.

Almost all of these knives were decorated with gold, silver, various jewels, ivory or titanium.  One maker also does his own beautiful scrimshaw.  I have read about the South African maker in my knife trade magazines for years.  Many of these makers can afford to make such expensive knives because they already have prestigious jobs.  They do it for the satisfaction, the creativity, and the bragging rights.

The top Canadian maker is a Nuclear Physicist, somewhat more than a Homer Simpson.  The fellow from South Africa displayed a folder with exquisitely carved hippo-tooth ivory.  It’s easy for him. He’s the country’s best dentist.  Another, with a price tag of $4500, was made of 4.5 Billion year-old meteorite-based steel.

Despite any decoration, or price, he insists that all of his creations are working knives.  A lady asked him if “the meteorite” was sharp.  He picked up a scrap of paper, and shaved a couple of strips off it.  The knives in the teaser photo at the top are his.  For those interested, return tomorrow when I will publish a mostly photo post, with shots I took at the show.

****

After we had sated our eyeballs, it was time to think about our stomachs.  I was willing to try either of the hamburger/French fry wagons across the street.  We couldn’t afford to eat in this hotel. The grandson has a friend with Toronto relatives, who has treated him to downtown tours.  He insisted that we walk a couple of blocks over to the Eaton Center, and he treated us to a lunch at an upscale burger joint in the lower level.  We got to see the impressive old 1850 sandstone City Hall, framed against the new monstrosity, which looks like a flying saucer coming in for a landing in a bay of the Mother Ship.

UFO Old

UFO

Watching TV out of British Columbia recently, I saw an ad for Mucho Burrito Grill.  My regulars know my fascination for Tex/Mex food, 🌯 so I researched the chain online, and tried to find out where they were.  The “locate restaurants” button didn’t locate anything for me.  Instead, it asked me where I was, and offered to show nearby outlets.

I specified a 500 kilometer range, and asked about Vancouver.  The map showed several in Washington State, and a covey in B.C.  Similar queries showed a bunch, centered on Edmonton, Alberta, and also Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  There were only two in Manitoba, both in Winnipeg.  I could find nothing in Ontario or further east.

Big Smoke Burgers’ burgers are served on actual plates, with metal cutlery, and their fountain drinks in glass glasses, a refreshing change from the usual food-court cardboard and Styrofoam.  As I sat, inhaling their gourmet creation, with mushroom gravy, and spicy cole-slaw dressings, I looked up across the huge eating area, and my eyes fell on a Mucho Burrito Grill.

Since it sat in the direction of the washrooms, when I was finished eating and wanted to wash up, I stopped over to investigate.  Mostly, it was as much of a disappointment as the Del Taco restaurant in Detroit.  I could get as good or better at Taco Bell….all except for a plate of nachos a customer carried away, that actually looked as good as the advertising picture – perhaps if we do this again next year.

Since it had begun raining outside, we decided to make our way back the few blocks to the subway through the warren of underground tunnels and shopping areas beneath the streets and buildings.  Fiancée works at Starbucks, and needed a coffee fix.  She used her employee discount card, and stopped at a Starbucks beneath one bank building.  We walked to the next building – and there was another Starbucks.  We turned, and walked under the street to the next building – and there, was another Starbucks.

Starbucks makes good coffee, and runs a nice corporation, but I regard them as pretentious.  These outlets were all in the financial district, beneath big banks and investment houses.  You decide.

All in all, a most enjoyable and educational day.  Pics, or it didn’t happen, so remember to come back tomorrow for photographic proof.

We’re Not QUITE Hoarders

I previously published a post titled Something For Nothing, where I listed several of the things I do to conserve or make a little bit of money, to help us, and others, in our retirement.  This one shows another facet, with some ideas some of you might want to think about, and maybe try, for a couple of reasons.

Less garbage = more money!

Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reap rewards. Really!

Hoarding gets a bad rap from many.  Some are joking, but many are serious.  Some of my behaviour could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.  I even prefer to use the word frugal, instead of cheap or miserly.

I save or scavenge things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between me and a true hoarder is that I use them, instead of letting them pile up — and they save me “a significant amount of money.”  In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.

For example:

  • The less waste  you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy, and the lower your  disposal bills might be.
  • Buying in bulk  to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
  • Putting  leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil,  plastic wrap or food-storage containers.

Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My mother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.

These tactics work

In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that “more thoughtful living” could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags?  Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction.  We do things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing our own water and coffee containers.  You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks, overflowing with single-use paper cups.

I do many of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last us a couple of years.  A used piece is often not “dirty.”  Wipe it with a damp cloth, to clean and flatten it, and fold it, ready to hold the next sandwich, or piece of pizza. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred.

We repurpose empty jars for storage, buying things like spaghetti sauce in Mason-mouthed glass jars, which later hold things like bulk cornmeal.  Wide-mouth plastic jars which held cheap crackers when we bought them, now hold bread crumbs and potato flakes, for cooking.  Not that we attend them anymore, but I have found Tupperware in the free-box at yard sales. A pile of reusable shopping bags lives in a plastic shopping basket in the car trunk.

We buy in bulk when we can, and choose large sizes the rest of the time. We make our own jam (sometimes using foraged fruit).  I’ve mentioned about buying condiments like ketchup and mustard in gallon cans or jugs, and repeatedly refilling the small squeeze bottles, for a fraction of the cost.

Adding less to the problem 

Not that I’m a green saint, mind you. For example, we drink a lot of Pepsi, and buy individual yogurts, both for the wife, who has a small eating limit, and for the son to pack in his work lunch. However, we do recycle the cartons and the plastic containers.

The municipal recycling committee recently complained about the cost of sending around a truck to pick up “air.”  I stomp flat, any plastic bottles or other containers.  As three adults, we often put out less than a Blue Box full of recycling.  The two adults, and two small children next door put out three, or even four boxes every week!

Recycling is not mandatory here in Kitchener, but I can feel it coming.  All allowable organic matter goes into our composters, but the Committee is also bitching that residents are not putting out enough in the City-issued Green Bins, to cover the cost of the disposal contract, so I guess I’m not the only cheapo in the city.  Compost includes tea-bags, coffee grounds and filters, citrus rinds and banana peels.

Bananas contain magnesium.  It’s good for you, and good for plants too.  The tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which also feeds plants, and breaks down the paper to produce good, rich loam to be used in the gardens.  We buy unpeeled shrimp (when we can afford a bit), for considerably less than pre-peeled.  The wife peels them and the casings also go into compost.  As the Indians taught the Pilgrims, seafood makes rich plant food.

We use cloth bags where we can, because local cities allow stores to charge five cents each, for plastic bags. We used to use those in the cupboard-door-mounted garbage container, but recently purchased a new model, and the wife prefers to use the ones specifically intended for it.  I save bags from trips to stores and vendors who do not charge, and use them for kitty litter waste, or carrying newspapers to the crazy cat lady for flooring in her kennels.

Clean ones are flattened and folded and given to our bookstore lady, to cut down on the number of new ones she must purchase.  Soiled or torn ones are accumulated and put out with the blue box, so that someone else can melt them down and re-use the plastic to produce new products.  One of our shopping bags has a little sign on it that says, “I used to be a milk jug.”

While I don’t kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than we must. Also, it’s nice not to have to shell out cash for things like more aluminum foil, or sandwich bags, and reduced retirement income goes a little further.

Gratitude

To show their gratitude for our providing them with decorated Christmas cookies and fruitcake for their family Christmas breakfast, our Chiropractor and his family send us home with an over-abundance of lovely gifts.  One we’ve appreciated for several years is a gift certificate for a local Chinese buffet restaurant, simply named “Kings.”  There is another chain restaurant named “Mandarin”, but the range of choices and quality of food is about the same, only the price is 50% higher.

Husband, son, daughter, grandson – the birthdays all crash down like that Russian meteor, Sept. 21, Oct. 1, Oct. 3, Oct. 6.  We barely catch our breath from blowing out one set of candles, when it starts all over again.  The wife’s birthday is on Feb. 19.  It gives us time to save up our pennies, the ones that are now officially out of circulation.  The four adults do the work on the cookies, so we use the gift certificate to pay ourselves back.  The grandson and his fiancée are old enough to develop their own plans, so the rest of us have an evening out.

Ontario has established a new statutory holiday.  The third Monday in February is now, Family Day.  This year it fell on the 18th.  If we were to go out on a Saturday or Sunday, the prices for the same food are 25% higher, and the crowds are thick.  Had we gone out on the Monday, the prices are better, but the place would still be packed.  We waited till the wife’s birthday on Tuesday.

We don’t tell anyone at the restaurant that it is.  If you’re foolish enough to do that, you get – Clap, Clap – It’s your – Clap, Clap – Birthday – Clap, Clap – You’re real – Clap, Clap – Centered out – Clap, Clap.  You get a chocolate muffin with a candle, they stick a cardboard tiara on your head that makes the one from Burger King look real, and they take a Polaroid for future blackmail.  We did it last year when the son turned 40.  The wife says she’ll admit to it next year, when she turns 65.

Waiting to use the gift certificate till the middle of February serves several purposes.  The hustle-bustle and over-eating of the Christmas/New Year’s season is over.  The son is the only one with a job, but we all need a middle-of-the-winter holiday.  The weight-watch dieting has been back in force long enough to justify a “just-one-time” exemption.  It is the wife’s birthday, and she deserves one night where she doesn’t have to plan/cook a meal, and the daughter doesn’t get left, eating leftovers all alone, while the kids invade their favorite Starbucks for the evening.  It’s another evening like the ones we spent making cookies.  We enjoy a communal meal, laugh, talk, tell lies and jokes and catch up on each other’s lives.

While only able to afford to do this once or twice a year, we’ve developed a bit of a relationship with one white male server.  Even if we’re not seated in his section, he stops over to see us when we pop in.  The son was startled when he showed up at his shop one night, working through the temp agency.  Son was worried that he’d lost his job, but, while stressful, the reason was more prosaic.

Several of his friends had decided to go on a trip to Europe, or Nicaragua, or Newfoundland.  He wished to accompany them but didn’t have the funds for the fare, or the time off, so he signed up for a second job.  He got off work at ten at the restaurant, and went to the son’s shop for an 11 to 7 shift.  He did this for six weeks, to earn enough money….and the other guys couldn’t agree on where or when, and the trip fell apart.  Wisely, he invested it in a restaurant management course.

Our chiropractor has found out about my blogging, and has become a regular follower.  He goes down to his den in the basement, and gets on his computer before clients begin to arrive.  This post will be up early Tuesday morning, when wife, daughter and I have an 11 AM appointment.  I’m using it as another way of expressing the family’s gratitude for facilitating a most enjoyable evening out.  Good morning, Peter.  Let’s talk about comments.

How ‘bout the rest of you?  I’d show gratitude for some comments.