Tuesday, 20 July 2010

On the passing of Happy

I was sad to learn that Dominique and Philip had Happy the cocker spaniel put to sleep. He was more than 15 years old (which is older than average for a cocker spaniel), somewhat blind and deaf as well as rather grumpy towards Désirée. He wasn't a bad dog by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, I found him to be a very friendly and agreeable dog. (My take on his dislike of Désirée is that he didn't like her uncoordinated intrusions into "his space" rather any jealousy. Then again, I could be wrong.)

His short tail was often in motion and to see him sniff out scents by the roadside was to see a happy dog. He wasn't smart by any stretch of the imagination but then a smart cocker spaniel is almost an oxymoron. He was reasonably smart by cocker spaniel standards.

Another of his shortcomings was that he and Philip's cat Lucky had to be kept apart. I asked Philip if Happy's passing meant more of the house was now open to Lucky. He said yes but that she hadn't quite realized it yet. Lucky has always been a very timid cat. Thinking back, she was about a year and half old when Philip inherited her from (Great) Aunt Lorna. She and her brother Toby (short for October) were found abandoned near Aunt Lorna's house in October of 1993 when they were a few months old. Being a very kind soul, Aunt Lorna adopted them. (Toby was hit by a car the following summer.) This makes Lucky about 17 years old. Older than Désirée's half sister!

Goodbye, Happy.

Friday, 16 July 2010

On Floria die Fledermoose getting screwed

People wise and/or foolish enough to ask me for advice about bike tires will know that I have no compunctions about recommending Kevlar tires of one variety or another (Schwalbe's Marathon series and Specialized's Armadillo series are my favourites). In short, I believe the cost/benefit ratio is very much in their favour. The money you invest in the extra cost, you will recoup in the prolonged life of the tire and the reduction in the number of replacement inner tubes you will have to buy. As well, you will spend less time changing punctured inner tubes.

There are, however, limitations to the abilities of Kevlar tires. I don't know if they degrade over time or if it was simply too much to ask of the Nimbus Armadillo tires that had first been used on the Castafiore. However, last night as I rode to my friend James' house, I heard, then felt something get into my rear wheel. I stopped and was annoyed to discover that a 2 inch wood screw had pierced the edge of the bottom of my rear tire and then came out again through the side wall. In addition, the tip of the screw had scratched the rim!
Very annoyed and recognizing that my rear tire was finito, I phoned James for a lift. While, I was waiting, I carefully removed the screw by unscrewing it from the tire. To say the least, I was miffed. I rode Leonardo to work and on the way home, I bought the "basic" Schwalbe Marathon HS 368 tire. From the Schwalbe website, it appeared to come closest to meeting my personal requirements for a commuting tire out of the Schwalbe lineup. I also considered two different Specialized tires, namely the Nimbus Armadillo and the All-condition Armadillo. I think the tipping factors in my decision was the legendary quality of Schwalbe Marathon tires and the fact that that the basic Schwalbe Marathon was cheaper than either of the Specialized offerings.
Another damage photo
The screw re-inserted into the holes

I must confess that I have borrowed somewhat risqué elements in the title from my friend James and a passage in an obscure song sung by Stan Roger and written by Royston Wood, namely, The Woodbridge dog disaster:

Now, if there's a moral to be gained from this song,
It's that innocent language might sometimes sound crude,
And as in the case of the carpenter's mate,
Your linguistic enlightenment might arrive late,
And you could end up getting screwed, boys!
And you could end up getting screwed!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

On a clever bit of jobbering with odds and ends

My brother Stephen uses the verb "to jobber" which loosely defined as "doing something to something". It usually is used in as the verb equivalent of "doohickey", as in the command "Jobber that main sheet".

In any case, one of the library clerks has recently started biking to work and asked me for advice. I was quite happy to fill her in on some of the tricks of the trade as it were. She has an elderly mountain bike of no particular distinction with next to nothing in the way of accessories (i.e. racks, fenders). Fortunately for her, she lives fairly closely to the Library so she has only about half the distance that I have to travel. As her resources fairly limited (library clerks do not make as much as librarians), she is currently unable to invest much in biking stuff.

When she came into work today, she spoke of having to ride slowly to avoid a stripe up her back (it rained this morning). For some reason, I was wondering how I might make her a rear deflector from coroplast all day. When I got home after watching a Korean movie about kimchi (very good by the way), I had a flash of inspiration. I took the attachment pieces of the rear deflector that I had removed from die Fledermoose. I then removed the actual reflector, folded the arm down and put two bolts through the holes. I then punched a couple of holes through a scrap of coroplast and attached it to the reflector holder. Voilà! El cheapo rear rain deflector.Not too shabby for five minutes of jobbering, mostly looking for the parts. I will trim the corroplast fit when I see my co-worker.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

On my photos from Britain, beer and translations

Photos from Britain
The collection is nearly complete. I only need to do a few more from the last segment and I am done.

I have just finished reading Nicholas Pashley's Cheers! an intemperate history of beer in Canada. Having just returned from Britain where one of my techniques for finding food was to go to pubs that featured real ale, I found it a fascinating read. (My ad hoc rule-of-thumb in Britain was that pubs with real ale generally had good food. "Good food" being defined as stick to the ribs, keep-you-going-tomorrow, but not nasty food.) I must note the brewpubs Nicholas Pashley recommends in places that I may yet visit as part of AMUAM JuNITO. These include Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg as well as St-John's.

I was in a pub (probably in Coniston) when I witnessed a barkeep trying to describe what the local oatmeal stout tasted like to an older, Midwestern-American couple. After listening to his poor efforts (he was no poet) I piped up with that it was rather like Guinness, a.k.a. the only stout that most Americans know about. This earned me something of a black look from the barkeep as he was most insistent that it was different (and better) than Guinness. However, my point was that to these beer illiterate Yanks, Guinness was the best reference point to describe the local product.

Similarly, I acted as a translator a fair bit whilst I was in Britain. Some of it was quite blatant translation, such as the time a confused French tourist turned to me to ask if I knew French, as couldn't understand what the staff person at the youth hostel was trying to tell her. I think she was pleasantly surprised when I replied in fluent French, even if it was Québécois French. I spoke a surprising amount of French on my trip, though this included Donald and Dominque's French au pair.

As well, I overheard a conversation between some Spanish(?) tourists and a tourist information officer at the Glasgow tourist office which appeared to revolve around which currencies they could pay for a tour in. The information clerk kept on talking about Sterling and Euros. As the tourists seemed a bit confused, I quietly suggested to the clerk that maybe he should refer to the local currency as "pounds" rather than "Sterling".

I guess the point of these anecdotes is to say that I had to act as an interpreter in more ways that one whilst in Britain.

Friday, 9 July 2010

On just how hot it has been in Montreal this week

Not only did I spend my nights in a friend's basement where it was a bit cooler for sleeping and only a third of the distance to commute, but I also installed a water bottle cage on my city bike to keep hydrated. Thankfully, the heat wave broke at lunchtime today.