Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu.

Later, 2008. You can suck it. I've got a new year. Its name is 2009.

It seems like I did a lot of stuff this year. At the same time, it would be nice to be a little more stable. I don't mean 9-to-5 and PTA-wise, but maybe income-wise.

So, let's see:

1)This year I went to:

And Ottawa, which I can't think of an abbreviation for.

2) I'm adding this in later, because I still surprise myself by forgetting: I had eye surgery this year, and lasers vaporized some of my corrupt flesh to alow me to see the light... Something about a plank... I dunno - this is all too Biblical. It's still shocking that I take it for granted, or forget.

3)Having never been crapped on by a bird, I was hit twice this year, and on two separate continents, which I consider excessive. Once was on the dirty corner of Lansdowne and College in Toronto, and the other was in the dirty Liecester Square in London. And each time, the poop hit my hair, not my shoulder or my shoe. Nice.

WTF, birds? I thought we were friends.

4)In June, I happily quit my job (or, as my EI application would state, "I didn't renew my contract"). While I am still wallowing in unemployment, I don't for a second regret leaving the terrible administration at that crooked and self-important school. Everyone (students, teachers, parents) got a raw deal except for the owner of the school.

My claim with the Ontario labour board for unpaid wages is being processed.

5)I finally finished my GD screenplay, which I started in the last year of my Master's, so, in 2005.

Now that it's done, though, I have no clue what to do with it. I watch the cursor mockingly blink at me after the words "THE END."

6)I took a course in commercial and documentary voicework and enjoyed it very much. In the new year, I'm hoping to volunteer for Voiceprint, and I'm going to put together a demo reel so I can try to get an agent and hopefully get some auditions for radio and TV ads.

I'm not interested in or comfortable with all the self-promotion and networking that I'm probably going to have to do. Bah. For some reason, I'm excited about auditions, though.

7)One of the things I was most proud of this year was the little urban garden we had at our old house.
(not an actual photo... idiots)
I'm looking forward to putting in a more ambitious garden this year. Now that we have more room, I'm planning to plant space-sucking zucchini, pumpkins, and summer squash along with beets, carrots, peas, beans, and two types of tomatoes.

I'm collecting jars and I'm going to read about preserving vegetables. Did you know that it takes about 30 litres of water to get one litre of frozen vegetables to your freezer? I'm not comfortable with that, so I'm going to try to offset some bought veg with beauties from my backyard.

8)I had terrible luck with flights this year. I know that's a little near-sighted after all the trouble folks have had this holiday, but still, I spent 16 hours waiting for a trans-Atlantic flight in June, missed altogether a flight to Dublin, and was stranded (at a friend's flat) in Switzerland after an unceremonious cancellation.

(Don't worry. I have some perspective. I know it was lucky I was able to travel at all, but in the context of travelling memories, all the flight BS tainted my reckoning of this vacation.)

9)To change the subject, I fell in love with my ukulele. Duke and I have spent many happy hours together since June. I've lost feeling in the fingertips of my left hand, an unhappy side-effect of my uke callouses. Still, the other side-effect is joy in my many unoccupied hours. Exhibit a: the maniacal grin in photo, right.

I've chastised myself a few times, thinking that I should have been doing something better with my "free time," but I was reminded that I did teach myself how to play a new instrument, and that's not nuthin'. Plus, I can accompany myself singing and heartily irritate my housemates.

My uke heroine, Julia Nunes:

10)Seriously, this year, I have got to lose some weight. I'm starting to get concerned about my heart and my pancreas. I have to eat more veg and less sugar. I have to move more. That's it, really: eat less crap, move more. That's my 2009 mantra.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jiggedy Jog, 2008 Christmas Edition.

I think I have to start being more specific when I write "Jiggedy Jog" to signify my return home.

My Dad's mum lived with us for many winters, and, later, a couple of full years before whe went into the home, and every time we returned to the house Grammy Sweet would say, "Home again, home again, jiggedy jog."

Now, though, even though it's been many years since she left our house and a couple of year since she died, it's hard to drive into that garage without thinking of that little verse.

Anyhow, I am now back on Prince Edward Island and the weather outside is frightful.

"They" were calling for a storm last night, starting at midnight, 20-30cm of snow. I was at a par-tay, and lost track of time, but when I looked outside and saw a hairy storm a-blowin', I bolted out of there, uke in hand. I drove a couple of kids home, and what should have been a 10 minute drive turned into a half hour at 30 km/h in second gear.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sorta Working.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been volunteering at a little company that installs renewable energy systems in homes and businesses. It's run by two men who design and hire people to install the technology. I got in touch with them a while ago, asking if they needed any admin work. It turns out they did, but they weren't sure if they could afford to commit to hiring someone.

So, as a show of good faith, I asked them to let me come in on a "work experience term" (read: volunteer) to learn how the place works and show them, hopefully, how indespensible I am so they'll hire me in the new year, if only part time.

I like it there a lot. They talk a lot about profit margins and returns on investments, but they tell me that telling potential clients about environmental benefits isn't worth it because people really are more interested in saving (or making) money than the planet. Fine by me, as long as they're thinking about saving energy.

Anyhow, I'm mostly doing data entry, but the spreadsheets I'm working on are tracking clients' energy use and costs. Soon, I might even have a handle on what a Kwh means in a practical sense. Does it power a lightbulb or a fridge? I dunno.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why "Top Gear" Is A Great Show.

Top Gear is the kind of show that would never fly on North American television. It's too long, too niche, and too crude.

It is, however, possibly the most beautiful show I've ever seen. The production value is off the charts. This is what the BBC reaps from each and every TV owner in the UK paying a licence to own their set. (The fee goes toward programming and cuts down on the need for ads, which makes for just one commercial break in each show. The break, it is said, is the exect amount of time it takes to boil the kettle and make a cuppa.)

Maybe that's why it's not being made in North America. We can't afford to make it look that good. Or can't be bothered...

It's ostensibly a car show. Or a vehicle show, I guess, but for me, the love is all about the hosts*. I would like to hear how it came to be that these three men are hosting this show.

The main host, I suppose, is Jeremy Clarkson. He's a giant who likes cars. Powerful cars. Sexy cars. He holds romantic notions about what cars should be and how they should sound. He is fond of superlatives. He likes cars with character and history, and he mercilessly makes fun of cars he doesn't like. He also likes to make fun of his two co-hosts.

Pound for pound, Richard Hammond is the sexiest man I know. (I can't believe he wasn't in The Two Towers. He would have made it to Mordor in 3 days.) He's all about speed. He likes to drive race cars which have about one inch of clearance off the ground. Often, he is paired up to race a car on a bicycle or a dog sled. Needless to say, he's the fit one. He almost died a couple of years ago in a horrific crash involving a car called the Vampire Dragster. (I don't think I could ever get in a car which is so ominously titled.) He survived, but lives with the aftermath of serious brain injury. Watch it here at 48 minutes in.

James May seems to be the voice of reason. The other two hosts tease him and call him "Captain Slow" because he'd rather admire the aesthetics of a vehicle than break the sound barrier with it. He has been quoted as saying, "I like luxury. It's the new performance." He brought foie gras to the North Pole, but also told Jeremy that if he ate the Spam (that he was saving for his victory meal), he'd "return home to his wife and children with a hatchet buried in [his] head." That's what I like: a refined badass.

The chemistry that these three men have is unparalleled. There is an obvious affection amongst them, one that must come from years of enduring challenges together. I don't mean like a rough economy or a dying pet, but challenges that the show's producers have them do.

For example, the Polar Special saw them racing to the North Pole. No kidding.
They flew to Resolute, N.W.T., and James and Jeremy set off in a tricked-out car (Toyota Hilux) while Richard raced them on a dogsled. They were the first pair to drive to the North Pole, and, as Jeremy had to point out, James was probably the first to make it to the Pole who didn't want to be there. Watch here.

They also went to the deep south in America and were, no joke, almost killed by a gang of rednecks.

Other challenges were more local but not less interesting. They had to convert cars into boats, which was interesting on its own, but then they had to drive to France! They had to race across London using car, bike, boat, and public transit, and they had to drive giant cargo trucks through a series of challenges.

Between challenges, the hosts discuss new cars, test speed on a closed track, test features and foibles, use a unique character called The Stig as a control driver, and put celebrities in reasonably-priced cars and get them to drive fast. Michael Gambon nearly flipped the car and had a corner named after him.

I like cars, but am not a connesseur. Their titles have too many single letters and digits and combinations thereof for me to keep them straight. Really, the only car I really know is a Mini. The Coopers, the Cooper Ss, yeah, I know those.

But, if you want to indulge in a little high-brow gear-headedness, Top Gear is for you. You'll be surprised by how entertaining it is.

*And a little for the cars.