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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Many years ago a friend of mine told me that she believed that 99% of the population of the world is stupid.  I laughed at the time because she always had the flair for the dramatic and I thought that was pretty much over the top. Years later, I think I better understood what she was trying to say then. Ignorance is a dangerous thing, even if it's only 25% of the population.  The other 75% have to be vigilant enough not to be drawn in by the scaremongering of a few.  Otherwise, it really could turn us all stupid.

"There's been a shooting on Parliament Hill."  I was up really early on Wednesday morning, as I have been all week, and had the morning news on the television in my downstairs office.  There wasn't much more information at the time, so I switched over to CBC News Network.

Sure enough, they were carrying everything live and some of their parliamentary reporters were actually in the middle of the mayhem as it was happening.  The next few hours were a tangle of live hits from whoever could report with more and more bits of information very slowly coming to light. But there were mostly questions.  How many shooters were there, what was going on in the halls of the parliament buildings?  We knew that one fine, young man, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, standing unarmed and guarding the National War Memorial, had been shot and taken to hospital where he later died. But was there anyone else?  And who could do such a thing?

The Canadian media did their best to resist temptation to call it a "terrorist" act.  But the American media, CNN especially were all over it, claiming before anyone else that the shooter was a terrorist with "known ties" to terrorist organizations.  I read that myself on their website. There was no such evidence of any ties as it turned out, but CNN said it so it must be true, right?

I mostly sat there, stunned throughout the first hour or two, unable to believe that this was actually happening in our country.  Not that I'm naive...I know there are a lot of crazies everywhere in the world, including Canada.  But never in our generation's lifetime have we seen someone actually run in the front doors of our parliament and start shooting.

In the dictionary, the word "terrorism" is defined as: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.  As time went on we all came to learn that the lone shooter, although he had converted to Islam seven years earlier, had no political aims.  He had a drug problem.  He had even been thrown out of a couple of mosques he had tried to join because he was on drugs and made everyone uncomfortable.  The guy was a petty criminal and unstable.  So was he a terrorist?  Some people, the ones who want more jails and tougher immigration laws and a whole slew of other legal changes, will call him a terrorist because the word frightens the public.  It's in their best interest to use the most extreme language in order to prove their point that the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket and we'd better get ready for it.

There will always be the ignoramuses, the haters who are so stupid that they don't even realize that hate makes things worse, not better. A couple of days after the parliament shooting, in Cold Lake, Alberta a mosque was smeared with spray-painted anti-Muslim slurs, likely the work of one or two idiots. But a whole slew of locals came out to help clean it and to post their own positive and inclusive signs.  That's the Canada I know and love.

Some pundits and bloggers say that after this event, we will be changed.  Others say we shouldn't let it change us.  I think we should make it harder for someone to run into the parliament buildings with a gun, that's for sure.  But what we should never do is let that 25% convince us to come over to their stupid side.

The rest of us are smarter than that.  Let's be sure to stay that way.

IJ
(P.S. those percentages are somewhat arbitrary, so fill in whatever percentage suits you...)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday In My Pajamas

It is now 9:40am on a Sunday morning.  I'm sitting in the living room, still in my pajamas because I refuse to get showered and dressed before 10am on Sundays.

There is only one closed kitchen door between me and two strange men painting my kitchen.  Other than one sleeping daughter upstairs, I am alone.

They sing in weird voices and one of their paint rollers has an annoying, repetitive squeak.  My cat is as equally on guard as I am.  She's under the table staring towards the kitchen, on high alert.  Don't you dare come through that door, she's thinking.  Me too.  I'm in my pajamas.  I want my Sunday morning to myself.  One of them has started whistling.  They are equally as good at whistling as they are at singing. I realize that they have brought in a radio tuned to some kind of rock station, which explains the singing.

I have run out of coffee.

It is now 9:50am.  I only have to hold out for ten more minutes in order to achieve my goal of not getting dressed before 10am.  I just heard the back kitchen door close.  Are they gone?  Ah, nope. More whistling.  I want to take a peek at what the new paint looks like.  I hear the door close again and it becomes silent once more.  I walk gingerly up to the one door between myself and the men in the kitchen.  As I pass the dining room window, I see one of the painters outside, checking his iPhone. Maybe they are both outside. The cat cautiously approaches the door with me.  Do I dare?

I put my hand on the knob, slowly turn it, and open the door a crack.  And a bit more.

I take a peek.

Wow...it looks fabulous!

10:05am.  Time to shower.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

From Rags To Kitchens Part 4

Funny how the horror stories come out when you start talking about home renos.  We've been hearing all kinds of them from everywhere since we started talking about our kitchen reno...nobody tells you about the time something went perfectly and like clockwork...it's always disaster.

One guitar student of mine relayed his reno story, explaining how their renos were so extensive that they moved their young family out to the in-laws while it was being done.  He decided to go to the house and check up the day after the demolition, only to find beer cans strewn about, cigarette butts and used chewing gum stuck to walls.  The door was left unlocked too.  What a nightmare!

The only glitch for us so far has been the timing of the cabinets, although that one glitch has changed everything.  We were originally expecting them the week of October 13th, and found out that they wouldn't be arriving until the week of the 21st.  I had to re-book the delivery of the appliances for after the cabinet installation, which wasn't a big deal. But there will be a bigger gap between the prep work and the cabinet arrival.  And that also delays the quartz counters, which are installed after the cabinets because the counter installers have to take a final measurement only after the cabinets are in. Then there's another 1-2 week wait for them to be made.  And you can't have a sink in until the counters are in, so we'll only be able to use the kitchen in a half-assed way.

In spite of the cabinet delay, the kitchen demolition and re-design began this week anyway. Wednesday morning my husband and I stood in the kitchen, now completely stripped of everything except the cupboards and appliances, wondering how we were going to feel about the next month or two. ( I say "or two" because everyone tells you that whatever time you expect it to take, double it.)

Here's one corner of the kitchen as it appeared early Wednesday morning:



And here it is at the end of the day:


The first thing that had to be done was to move the fridge into the dining room and the stove outside.  We have sold them to someone my husband works with, and at this writing the stove has already been delivered to him.  We'll hang on to the fridge while we still need it. It took about 4 hours to tear down the old cabinets, counters and an old-fashioned pantry, along with the removal and clean up, which was pretty close to what our contractor estimated.

Day two, Thursday, was a little crazier, and certainly longer.  The electrician came in with his two guys and then the process of figuring out all of the bits and pieces that had to be done began.  The stove will be in a different place, the baseboard heater moved, new outlets, pot lights under the upper cabinets, decommissioning old outlets, moving old wires around or replacing them entirely.  Will this fit there?  What height should the outlets be?  Do you still need this here?  That there?  How many? The questions were coming at me fast and furious and after having not slept well for several nights, I was hoping I was answering them all intelligently.

Thank goodness for our contractor Steve, who helped me think through some of the choices.  For instance, do you lower the light switches to what is now a standard height?  He suggested that since the outlets in the rest of the house were still higher, it would make sense to keep them all that way.

As the electricians were working, Steve was on the phone talking to the plumber and drywaller. He had them come in and checking things out while everything else was in progress. The plumber did some preliminary work on the pipes for the taps, moving them from where they were, protruding out of the wall as old taps used to be, to coming up from below. At one pointed I counted six guys working in our little kitchen. This was just three of them, the other three were to the right, out of the shot:



On Friday morning before my husband left for work, we poured over the kitchen and all of the changes that had been made.  We still had some questions about the plumbing and drywall, so I made a mental note and when Steve arrived to do some work on his own, I bombarded him again.  We have some friends who had gone through their kitchen renovation in a more do-it-yourself manner, basically doing what they could on their own and hiring labourers for things they couldn't do.  I think having a contractor has worked better for us simply because we don't have the experience to know the process well enough.  If you have a misstep, you might have to back-track or re-do something you weren't planning to.  Not that I expect everything to go completely smoothly, but there's less of a chance of us screwing it up!

I found out that the ship carrying our cabinets had broken down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and that's why they were delayed.  They actually had to send another container ship out to the broken down one, and transfer all the containers over.  That takes at least a week!  Can you imagine the logistics of that?  What a nightmare.

Anyway, besides that, everything has been relatively smooth.  The only inconvenience is our makeshift kitchen in the dining room.  It took us a couple of days to get used to the temporary configuration and we're still tripping over each other a bit, but besides the mess and clutter, we're just fine.  We wash our dishes in the bathroom sink with a neat little scrub brush that has a handle holding detergent in it.  I think it's a camping gadget, but it's perfect for our situation too.  Everything is washed as soon as it is used.  We got a cheap little hot plate and a used toaster oven so really, there is nothing we can't do.

Except a turkey. Fortunately, we have generous friends who have invited us there for Thanksgiving :-)  What more could we possibly need?

IJ