After nine years of preparatory yard work, a perfect backyard evening with kids making s’mores over a fire, friends, family, beers, and no mosquitoes.
Sometimes you just need a few days off. Summer hit, and with our schedules being what they were, we just never got around to booking any out-of-town trips for our week off. And then we realized: we live in an awesome city, have an awesome yard, and really just needed some time to relax. This is what we did.
Saturday July 20
Saturday turned into something of a mellow day and despite the threat of all-day rain we ended up hanging out in the neighbor’s backyard for most of it, enjoying some good food and good company. But more about that in a bit.
Our Saturday morning ritual resumed as per usual, but with one minor snag.
We wanted pancakes but we were out of milk. Shortly after six in the morning I found myself driving over to the local convenience store –a store that is just a little too far for an impromptu morning walk for a jug of milk– to buy some cow juice.
It’s a ritual. A tradition. A stabilizing factor in our otherwise busy lives. Claire and I get up early on Saturday mornings and make pancakes. Sometimes they are plain. Often they are peppered with chocolate chips. And almsot always they are moulded into a variety of shapes… and not just the standard “round” for those of you out there who are more literal than others.
I got the milk. I heated the grill. And I mixed the ingredients.
But Claire… she was no where to be found. And when she finally hobbled downstairs to join me was a little miffed that I had resorted to a single-shape morning: round.
“You don’t help, you don’t get shapes.” I told her.
Our next door neighbor had one of those milestone birthdays and his family threw him an “almost” surprise party. I write “almost” in quotes because despite her careful efforts sneaking around quietly arranging all of it and even going so far as to store a bunch of the food in our freezer, her son let slip… and the jig was up.
We clambered through the hole in the fence a little after noon.
We ate some more.
We stumbled through a lot of awkward mixed-language conversations (they are Francophone and obviously so are a lot of their friends).
And we drank some more.
The kids played in a chaotic hustle that spanned three yards. They ate too much. They watched a movie. And then they came back outside and caused even more chaos.
It was after six when we finally stumbled back through the hole in our fence and called it a day. A very quiet, inactive, rest-of-the-day.
A “reloaded” post is a quick-clipped summary of a bunch of small things from the past few days. I want to write them down, but I am either lacking in (a) details or (b) time. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Enjoy.
On Family Walks
Our polling station is roughly a kilometer from our house, and somehow election day as of late is always a lovely — weather-wise — afternoon for a leisurely family stroll. We hitch up the daughter and the dog, wander along the park towards the Catholic Church that has been seconded into a voting depot, and poke along contemplating life, the universe, and local politics. Yesterday was no exception, and in the mid-twenties warmth of a late-April weekday, we grabbed our photo identification and meandered over to cast our ballots. Karin took the first shift, hauling Claire along for the election experience inside the booth and behind the curtain while I waited outside with the dog, texting with a variety of politically-interested friends on my impending choice. Then I took my turn, rolling my eyes at the lacklustre performance of the two (well-meaning) old folks manning the booth for my poll, who managed to fumble not once, but twice in my ballot cast. On our walk back home we even encountered the neighbors, out for the same walk as us, and played some not-so-subtle political bantering until we had hinted enough that we were probably casting in the same direction.
On Daughter Talks
Claire of course is curious at the process… or at least the effort and odd behaviour of her parents. Trying to explain politics and an election to a four (AND A HALF!) year old is not really too easy, though. See all these signs, I started my explanation, all of these have names for someone who wants to be the boss of the province. I then went on to explain how we need to listen to what all the people want to do if they are the boss, who would make the best boss, and how all the grown-ups need to go to a special place and put our favorite name on a piece of paper for someone to count. Whoever gets the most pieces of paper with their name, I explained, gets to be in charge. She looked as though she was struggling with the details, despite my attempted super-simplification, but when the radio was playing this morning at breakfast she seemed to ask the right questions: who was the new boss of Alberta, she inquired as the voices chatted about votes and seats and turnouts.
On Whinging Balks
Of course one could ponder the various reasons for this and that — politics being such an unimaginably complex game of nuance, personality, and whims — and the radio voices, television heads, and media word-smiths were all a-flutter for the bulk of the day doing just the same. “Strategic voting” was blamed and chided, celebrated and awed for it’s power — as if there could really be some kind of vast conspiracy to crush one party over another by the not-quite-organized electorate casting their million votes. The losers tossed around terms like “fear-mongering” and “shifting-loyalties” to sooth their fresh and still-bloodied wounds while the winners sang the praises of a broadening “tent” or the appeal of new-found moderate positions while measuring up their new offices. I dislike all the analysis, as much as I continue to watch, listen and read it. Just like the hard-core political spinners, paid and otherwise haunting social medias and blog comments with their angry rants and vicious venom for the bulk of the campaign, the collective opinions of intelligent people making individual choices is clouded by an eagerness to simplify and codify the infinitely complex. I sometimes have my doubts about a society moving in a self-destructive direction, but I still have hope in one fact: that I so very, very, very rarely meet an individual in that crowd who is so truly irrational or deeply misguided by ideology that they cannot at least have a discussion. On the other hand there will always be those rare few ideologues — the kind who poke their noses out during the buzzing of a campaign — who use every ounce of their persuasion to muster the shrill cry that none of us is smart enough, informed enough, or otherwise capable of understanding the various so-called truths that are so evident in their minds — and thus our opinions cannot and should not matter. Tsk-tsk, I say. See where that attitude has left you now?
I launched right into my photo-per-day un-project and yesterday discovered the challenge of photographing tiny critters at night.
The thing about macro photography — at least when you do it with a middle-of-the-road moderate-but-not-high-quality lens like mine — is that while you have access to nearly all the cool and wonderful features that a macro lens affords, you are generally stuck with only a medium-sized piece of glass. A very expensive macro lens would have a magnificently large piece of glass, and that piece of glass would suck up the light like a thirsty mop at a four-year-old’s birthday party. The bigger the glass, in other words, the less light you need to take a photo. And while my lens is awesome in so many ways, really when you do macros you need to add a lot of light: usually the sun, a very bright lamp, or a well-aimed flash.
The thing with macro is that you need to balance the light just so. That is true of all photography, but since in macros you are usually dealing with very small things, that also means you are dealing with less light. So, you get in close and you do a little math: the less light you have, the bigger the aperture you need. But the bigger the aperture, the narrow the depth of field will be. The narrower the depth of field, the less of the image will be in sharp focus. And the less of your image in sharp focus, the more people look at your picture and say, “meh…”
So lights and a flash are your friends.
But sometimes you just don’t have the option of the flash. Like last night. It was after eleven in the evening. It was dark, and the neighbor’s lights were all off. There was a spider clinging to the window of my back door. A big spider. A spider with abdomen the size of a marble and a leg-span of an inch and a half. (Well, it’s a big spider for around Edmonton in August — how about that.) And wanting to spook neither the spider nor the neighbors — both an unknown possibility — a flash was not exactly the direction I was going for. I mean, my neighbors are cool and all, but a few dozen bright bursts of light outside their windows when they are just getting to bed is not a good way to keep friends in the suburbs.
I back-lit with the kitchen and porch lights. I maxed the ISO. I nuzzled the settings just so, trying to balance my depth of field with the exposure time. And over a fifteen minute span, while the spider munched away on a black lump of what was, presumably, the remains of an unfortunate insect, I snapped about a hundred pictures, framing the action across a wide array of exposures and settings.
I captured five that I liked, and none that I’d call stellar. The depth of field was never as good as I’d hoped. There was at least one leg out of focus in each… though given the conditions just… merely… only a couple legs out of focus is amazing. That said, something tells me that spider is not going anywhere for a long while; It looks like I have a challenge on my hands.
It’s not that the gas mower is broken, or anything. I figure the reason I went out an bought the cheapest (albeit brand new) rotary push mower I could find was this eclectic penchant for the anachronistic I tend to secretly nurture. It’s not an old mower, of course, but it is a kind of old-style mower: and it’s kinda kitchy out there in the yard, whilst the neighbors fire up their screamingly loud gas mowers, to get that whirring buzz of the push-powered grass-chomper out front and do just as good of a job clipping.
Plus all the environmental do-gooder-etc yadda-yadda-yadda…
I got carried away this morning and started clipping the neighbors lawn. It was really more of a momentum-meets-inattention thing, and I did a six foot strip into their yard.
It was a little bit obvious, and looked a bit lame — as if he’d started and just got really lazy; which is not the case, of course. But tell that to the judge. He’s not, y’know, particular or anything about his yard, but about five minutes after I cut the original swath and had decided to just buck-up and finish their whole front yard, he came staggering out the door in his pajamas, and I couldn’t tell at first if he was upset or grateful. I am going to dismiss the suspense and say as the conversation went on it was revealed to be the latter. Or at least I am going to continue assuming. It’s tough to say. Lawns in the suburbs are like this, holy-rite sacred-ground no-go-zone. If he had asked me to mow it, no-prob-bob, right? But I just kinda did it: and how does one interpret that? Is he in his house right now thinking I did it to be nice because his wife just had surgery and since he works on weekends I just thought, impromtu and resulting form my original carelessness, I’d help out? Or is he thinking I’m pissed, because his lawn is a haven for dandilions and I’m stepping in to be a prick? …of which I don’t really care about dandilions, anyhow.
It’s just funny. All this suburbia politics that come into play, our little postage-stamp-size chunks of grass. Weird, y’know.
When I make it back from Victoria after this weekend I might have more interesting stories to tell. However, things being how they are — a typical sort of uneventful week — I only have a few things to say. Not that it will stop me, or anything…
It’s the end of the month and so I guess that means everyone needs to find a new apartment and move. At least that’s what it sounds like around here. I wasn’t here at the end of last month (Florida, remember!!!) so I don’t really have a point of reference or anything.
But here’s what I figure: about half the people in this building have decided to move out this week and they apparently don’t care if they piss off the neighbors. My north wall is shared by one of these people who I will politely refer to as *! because anyone who keeps me up until well past my bedtime with some sort of random banging on the wall with what sounded like Riverdance does not deserve a real name.
*! and *!’s friends have been very noisy, barricaded the doors, monopolized the elevator and made a mess of the place with little bits of packing tape all over the floor.
My only consolation is that *! no longer is my neighbor…
Chris, if you are reading this, I am quite jealous that you went to E3 and didn’t invite any of your “FRIENDS” along with you. You would think that if you wanted to keep those “FRIENDS” you would have used some of your enormous paycheck and brought all those “FRIENDS” to E3 with you. Since you didn’t, I’d better get a pretty cool birthday present: ie a PS2 or Xbox or something… hint hint hint…
Stupid magazine subscriptions
I don’t subscribe to a lot of magazines. Really. I used to.. Oh yeah, ask my family.. they’re still storing boxes of magazines at their house. (I’m coming to get them soon… really!!)
But alas, I have a word of advice: if you ever feel that those nifty brochures that they hand out all over university saying that you can get awesome deals on magazines through them, are in fact a good deal, then think again…
I bought a WIRED subscription through this Clegg company (any company called Clegg has other issues anyhow… ) back in September 2000. In November, I got a letter from them, thanking them for my subscription, but telling me that if I actually wanted the magazine I still owed them some stupid amount like $3… (their fault: they misprinted the price, but I figured it was easier just to pay the little extra)
I finally got my first issue in March of this year, and when I found out that I was moving, I sent a change of address: today, the new issue arrived: in Edmonton….
Am I impressed, or what?