Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rough Day

Things didn't start off so badly today.  I was running a little bit behind, but I wasn't too worried, since I had made blueberry muffins to bring in to work.  The weather was ok, so I rode in.  I realized that my shoelace was about to get jammed in my spokes, but I pulled over before anything terrible happened.  Nonetheless, I probably do need to buy a pair of shorter shoelaces.

I had a meeting up at College and Bay.  I debated just taking the TTC, but decided to bike up.  I didn't want to bring the full pannier, since I only had a notebook to bring, so I tossed it in a bag on my front handlebars.  This ended up being a costly mistake.  While it's never a great idea to have stuff hanging on the handlebars, this was a large notebook and incredibly stiff.  About two blocks away from College, it jammed up under my knee and I lost control of the bike.  I rolled the entire bike.  It really was just like one of those 360 movies, but happening in real life.  I basically jumped up, untangled the bike and got over to the sidewalk.  I was incredibly fortunate this happened north of Dundas where Bay St. widens a bit (and also most cars avoid the right-hand lane, which is technically reserved for bikes, buses and taxis).  If it had been south of Queen, I absolutely would have been hit by a car, though I also might have been travelling a bit slower.  I was pretty shaken up, as you can imagine, and quite sore.  Once again, I was saved by my helmet, though I mostly hit my elbow and side on the pavement.  A couple of people (a pedestrian and another cyclist) stopped to ask what had happened (and to hand over my bike lock, which got separated from the bike) and to ask if I had been hit by a car.  I said that No, I had just been very foolish.  I probably ought to invest in a backpack or a messenger bag for these small things that don't need to go in the pannier.

I walked my bike on the sidewalk the rest of the way.  While I was certainly shaken up, it could have been a lot worse.  I went ahead and went into the meeting.  It was fine, though I did have a bit of trouble focusing.  There was someone there who was going back to our offices, so I handed over my notebook.  While I wasn't super eager to get back on the bike, it wasn't too bad (aside from some soreness in my side and a small bit of scabbing on my elbow -- it could have been a lot worse).  I don't want to get too spooked or I will just stop riding altogether.  (Probably my next serious accident will be the last time I get on the bike.)

As it happens, there was a terrible crash (caused by an Uber driver) with several pedestrians hurt, but I think they must have gotten the time wrong in the article.  This must have happened closer to 3:15 rather than 2:30, since I had to cross that intersection to get my bike after the meeting was over, and it was definitely not closed off.  Here's hoping for a full recovery for everyone involved in the accident.

I did wait an extra hour before leaving work, since Front Street is just too hard to deal with with the traffic at 5 and even 6.  It was a fairly uneventful ride home, which was fine by me.  I did decide to skip the gym, given that I am pretty sore.  And I will take the subway tomorrow, though this is only partly due to my mishap today, but also because I will be taking the GO train to a BBQ after work.  Anyway, I am definitely hoping there are no more incidents like this next week.  I have enough to deal with already without falling off my bike into traffic again...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Back in the Saddle

I've actually been riding my bike quite a bit lately.  In fact, last week I rode every day to work and then on Saturday rode in to Union Station (in the rain no less) and parked my bike in long-term storage while I took the Via train to Ottawa.*  This week I'll probably not ride tomorrow (Wed.) due to the rain, but I will probably ride the rest of the week.  This may seem pretty incredible to anyone who remembers my bad biking accident from last September.  But the truth is I just don't remember the crash, so I don't get all anxious about riding.  I'm probably a slightly more cautious rider than I was, but you pretty much have to be somewhat aggressive or you simply can't bike downtown.

In any event, I meant this a bit more metaphorically in terms of going back to the gym.  I had one thing after another come up to prevent me from going (I think the last time I went was last Thurs, but it might actually have been Wednesday), and then Sunday I really was just too weary after replacing the ceiling fan.  While I had a bit of adrenaline left after biking home on Monday, I basically just wanted to lie down on the couch.  However, I forced myself to go to the gym.  Once I am at the gym, it isn't so bad after I actually start working out, and I do feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards.  I had wanted to free up Tuesday evening in case I went to the Shakespeare in the Ruff at Withrow Park, but in the end, I decided I was again a bit too tired and there was a 40% chance of rain.  At this point, I'll aim to see Shakespeare on Thurs.

The good news is that I have been able to lose (and keep off!) 30 pounds.  That's a solid achievement, though I really ought to lose another 20-30 pounds.  However, to do that (and keep it off), I need to make more lifestyle changes.  I would need to add in another form of exercise (like jogging on days I am not at the gym -- or swimming laps and so far that has not gone well at all!), go to sleep sooner (and not stay up half the night reading) and change my diet even more.  I have to be honest that this is probably not going to happen, so I am trying to focus more on maintaining the original weight loss.  I really shudder to think what kind of shape I would be in if I hadn't done so much biking over the years...

* As it happens, I dithered around for a week or two before finally booking my Via tickets and the price went up by $30 dollars, which was extremely annoying.  However, at over $3 a ride on the TTC (even with Presto), I actually saved myself over $30 with all this biking.  At least that is one way to think about it.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Lost Weekend

It wasn't lost so much (getting so blitzed that I don't recall anything) as I just had quite a bit to do and this squeezed all my other plans out.  This was particularly true for Sunday, whereas Saturday more or less went off as originally planned.

Friday evening, I had some folks from work over for a casual BBQ.  The weather was supposed to be ok (certainly compared to the previous year where my event was rained out).  It did sprinkle for about 10 minutes as I was setting up the grill, but fortunately it passed quickly.  In the end, only about 5 people showed up, so I had too much food left over (particularly as one of them brought chicken to throw on the grill and this took ages to cook).  It didn't go quite as planned, but it was still a reasonably fun time.  Perhaps next year, I'll book my slot a bit earlier and more people will plan around my BBQ.  It's a hard thing, since I probably don't want more than 10 people, but I had to cast a pretty wide net just to get 5...  Anyway, this Friday there is another event (at my previous manager's place) that has been in the works (and Outlook calendars) a bit longer, so more people will make it, and it is more of an indoor potluck, so it won't matter too much if it rains.

Sat. I got up fairly early and got myself ready to take the Via train to Ottawa.  I probably should have pushed through and left at 6:30, but I just wasn't quite ready.  I ended up leaving at 7 am and got pretty soaked.  I had enough time to change at Union Station and then get on the train.  It was supposed to get in at 1:15 or so, though it wasn't until 2 pm that we actually left the train.  There is still quite a bit of construction around Kingston, and then the Kingston-Ottawa leg seems to be down to a single track, so trains have to pull over onto a siding to let the other train go.  So frustrating.  Amtrak's on-time performance isn't much better (outside the Northeast corridor and the Chicago-Milwaukee run), but somehow it still seems run a bit better.

I was reasonably well prepared for the delays, though I didn't have enough food with me (I couldn't really bring a tub of left-over potato salad along...).  I had spent a fair bit of time updating an old iPod mini.  I probably hadn't used it in a couple of years, but the battery was still about 25%!  Anyway, I wanted to add both of Glenn Gould's recordings of the Goldberg Variations, since this played a fairly big role in Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I had selected for my on-board reading.  I also added Tafelmusik's recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Handel's Water Music.  In the end, I didn't get around to the Vivaldi, but I did make it through the 1955 Goldberg a couple of times and the 1981 recording once, along with the Handel, most of Beethoven's violin sonatas, some jazz and a bit of rock music I've been listening to recently.  The iPod still is about 50% filled with New Wave music, but it's probably a bit more balanced now.  After the trip, I removed the 1981 Goldberg as it didn't speak to me quite as much, and I wanted to make room for U2 and David Bowie.

At any rate, I can report back that the iPod held up well on the trip (maybe better than me) and the battery still had a tiny bit of life as we pulled into Union Station.  That's right, I actually did the round trip in one day for pretty close to 9 hours on the train, including the various delays (the return trip was delayed roughly 25 minutes).  I did read the entire book on the train.  Perhaps I should have left just a bit (maybe the coda) for the TTC journey home (it was far too late to justify biking home...).  It's been quite a while since I have done that much concentrated reading on a train, though I must have read something last year when I went from Ottawa to Montreal and then on to Quebec City on the train.  Not sure what that would have been, however.  I might have finished up Sun of a Distant Land, but I would have wanted something longer.  When I was much younger, I did the Chicago-New York run a few times on the train and often got through a couple of books.  Given that I did read the while thing in one pretty large gulp, I'm still sorting through what I thought about it, but I'll write a review fairly soon (certainly before I have to take it back to the library at any rate).

I was making this trip to get over to the National Gallery to see the Gauguin portrait exhibit.  After I started, I was worried that it was only a couple of rooms of self-portraits (and hardly worth my while), but then it settled down with several more rooms, including a few of his famous paintings from Tahiti.

Paul Gauguin, Christ on the Mount of Olives,1889

Paul Gauguin, Melancholic (Faaturuma), 1891

I was pretty hungry after getting through the exhibit, but it was late by this point (3 pm) and the little cafeteria was shutting down, so I just grabbed some fruit salad.  I had planned to meet a friend who lives in Ottawa at 4:30, so I had 90 minutes to get through the main galleries.  Fortunately, I do go about once a year and most of the permanent collection isn't changed up that much, aside from the contemporary galleries.  It's also true that I don't really think the pre-1850 European art they have is all that great, so I can just dash through those galleries.  I did note that the Chagall piece that caused all the fuss last year is not up on the walls any longer, which is a shame, as it is nicer than the other Chagall, which is still up on the wall.  (Below is the painting that the National Gallery foolishly tried to sell off to get the funds for a particularly ugly religious painting of St. Jerome by Jacques-Louis David.)

Marc Chagall, The Eiffel Tower, 1929

I came very close to buying a jigsaw puzzle of Stuart Davis's The Mellow Pad in the gift shop, though I have to admit, I am just not really enjoying doing the Monet puzzle that I have started.  I think it's a combination of my interests have changed and just not having the space to do the puzzle properly and spread out the pieces.  I'm guessing that between this Monet and a Van Gogh puzzle that I never finished, I may well be puzzled out.  But who knows.  I may change my mind on my next visit.

I met my friend and we went to a cafe, where I wolfed down a panini.  We chatted about a lot of things, including the miserable state of the world and how it will be so much worse in another 15 years...  He also told me that the LRT still hadn't opened (it was supposed to open a few days before).  There is a Tremblay stop which is right near the Via rail station, so hopefully I can take that on my next visit.  I did see them testing the trains, but didn't have a chance to get my camera out in time.  I grabbed a bit more food for the return journey, and he dropped me off at the train station, where I had a fairly uneventful but long ride home.  It was sort of amusing and sort of annoying that due to the delay, I ended up catching the subway just as huge numbers of Kiss fans emptied out of their concert and filled the train.  Being Canadians, they were well-behaved, however.

Sunday I slept in relatively late, but I guess I was finally moving by 9:30.  I had had a few things on the agenda, including going to the gym and then stopping by Robarts Library and then Union Station to retrieve my bike.  However, the main thing I had planned was to replace this overhead light/ceiling fan in the kitchen.  In the end, it took about 3 hours just to remove.  I came very, very close to smashing the glass bulb, since that was stuck on (basically the main reason I had to replace the thing in the first place). 

The nadir

The old fan is finally down!

Then I had to make two trips to Home Depot - the first to pick up wire cutters, since I couldn't remove the safety anchor any other way and then at the end of the installation to pick up new light bulbs.  I have some 40 watt bulbs that should work fine, but the instructions claim that anything over 35 is unsafe and will result in the shutting down of the overhead light!  Of course, then the only bulbs are these new "dimmable" LED lights that flicker like crazy when you try to dim them.  Basically, this is why I hate the environmental regulations that are trying to phase out all the old light bulbs without making sure that 1) the replacements really are as good (and they just aren't), 2) there is a way to dispose of the new fluorescent bulbs (again, nope) and 3) there is an actual effort to make sure that the new lighting systems work with the new bulbs.  The instructions of the new fan basically say outright that the dimming feature only works with standard bulbs, so why are they even selling this in the first place?  Shouldn't it be illegal?  I don't care quite enough to take this down and ask for a replacement, but I am severely pissed off.  In the end, I managed to get the new light/ceiling fan up right around 6 pm, so several hours more than I had bargained for, and then I still had to make the run for the new light bulbs, as I just mentioned.  I was too tired and sore to go to the gym (my arms had been over my head for hours), and Robarts was closed by that point.  The whole day was quite horrible, and I'm glad it's over.  I suppose I will feel some accomplishment later on now that I have a working kitchen light, but it certainly shouldn't have been nearly this hard.


So that was my lost weekend.  I'm exhausted just rereading everything I got up to.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

(Henry) Needs a New Pair of Shoes

Appropriately enough, since I named-checked The Lowest of the Lowest in the last post, I had a pair of shoes fall apart on me and I had to replace them pronto.  I believe I've seen TLOTL play the song live twice.  It's not my very favourite song, but it is up there, and it is certainly the song I know best from its inclusion on a Q101 sampler from way back in the day.  Here's a relatively recent performance (with the current lineup, I believe), though I wasn't at this Lee's Palace gig.

Anyway, this is how the shoe peeled apart.

So obviously I needed some replacement shoes.  I stopped by Winner's at lunch but didn't like what they had on offer.  On the way home, I stopped by a different Winner's and found some black tennis shoes that are pretty similar to this pair.  I'm not in love with them, but they'll do.

As it happens, this is the change room at Regent Park Aquatic Centre.  I was trying out a new pair of goggles, but they leaked water like crazy, so I had to stop after one lap.  So incredibly frustrating.  In any event, I returned the new pair and more or less sulked for the rest of the evening.  It just doesn't seem like I will be doing any swimming any time soon.  I really need to track down my old goggles.  Hopefully they are hiding in the basement somewhere.

Musical Interlude - Danforth Music Hall @ 100

I had no idea that Danforth Music Hall had been around for 100 years.  Of course it was more of a vaudeville & movie house in the early days.  This article discusses a bit about its legacy.  It sounds like it was still operating in the early 90s, though I wouldn't have considered coming out that far.  Then there were some dark days in the early 2000s when it came close to going under, but it's been under new management since 2014 and is in better shape than ever.

I've been to see The Lowest of the Low twice, Psychedelic Furs and the Irish comedian Dylan Moran.  It appears there is a bit of a birthday celebration this weekend, and The New Pornographers are playing.  There are still some tickets, but I can't actually make it unfortunately.

I think I will pass on Adam Ant as the tickets are a bit steep for a nostalgic act, but I will check out Tinariwen in late September.  I don't always remember to check their listings, but it's definitely a convenient place to go see a show.  Hopefully it will be around for at least another 50 years, before inevitably being replaced by a condo tower...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

13th Canadian Challenge sign-up

Anyone who has been reading the blog for a while knows that I still review Canadian books on a routine basis.  While I certainly comment on other books I have been reading, I don't typically write out full-blown reviews of them.  It's fairly likely that I wouldn't have kept up with the blogging without the structure of the Canadian Challenge to provide a bit of a skeleton (and a raison d'etre) for the blog.

I haven't been quite as good this year as in year's past.  My first review was actually supposed to be the last review for the 12th Challenge, but I got shut out in the last minute or two of June.

At any rate, the host of the Challenge itself has switched, and sign-up information is here.  There's still plenty of time (9.5 months to read 13 books), so do check it out if interested.  (There are occasional prizes for posting enough reviews as well as for fulfilling the challenge.  Indeed, I won some poetry books from Brick Books during the 12th Challenge.)  There do seem to be a few bugs to work out with the linking software, but I think I've more or less figured out how to handle it.  I shouldn't have too much trouble getting to 13 this time around.  I'll probably get through two more books in August.  I'll definitely be reading more short stories by Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant.

I see that I didn't really get through too many of the books on this list, with the main exception being the two Russell Smith novels, so I'll probably start there.  I'm almost certain to get to Sandra Beck and Basic Black with Pearls, but I do need to decide fairly soon if this is the year I tackle Atwood's dystopian trilogy, starting with Onyx and Crake.  It might be.  I'd rather read that than reread A Handmaid's Tale and the sequel, The Testaments, which is really too depressing for me at the moment, given the state of the world.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Another week gone...

I am getting so far behind on the blog it isn't funny.  Indeed, there are times that maintaining the blog, to the limited extent that I do, gets to be more of a drag than anything.  In any event, I'll fill in a few of the more important things from the past weekend, and then perhaps add a second post covering other things on my mind.

Sat. was mostly a day of chores.  I hadn't felt up to going to the gym on Friday, so I went fairly early on Sat.  I then ran up to Danforth to drop things off at the library and to pick up some holds.  I really wanted to get there before noon, since I didn't want to deal with the Taste of Danforth.  I went over to Circus Books and asked about selling used books.  They seemed somewhat receptive to the idea that I bring Musil's The Man Without Qualities by and they'll take a look.  Perhaps if it hadn't been for the Taste I would have run back right then, but it will just have to wait.  Later in the afternoon, I did laundry and grabbed the groceries.  Since the rest of the family is travelling to Chicago, I'll pretty much be on my own for meals, so I didn't have to bring a lot back, which was fine with me.  I did just a bit of weeding and staked the beans growing the backyard.  While I don't think I'll be able to eat anything from the garden (in the unlikely event something grows, the raccoons will get it), it's an interesting experiment.

Sunday I went over to Regent Park Aquatic Centre.  Unfortunately, I couldn't locate my swim goggles.  I borrowed a pair from my son, though they didn't fit well.  I pulled the straps tight to try keep water from leaking in, and the strap broke!  I only managed to swim half a lap and then had to swim back basically with my eyes closed!  They don't even sell goggles here, which seems kind of odd.  So that was a huge bummer, since I've wanted to try to add a bit more exercise into my routine.  When I got to work, I took a look at Sports Chek, but they basically didn't have anything other than Raptors gear.  I'm not going to bother going into that store again...

I got some work done, and then around 4:30 I set out for Ontario Place.  I've been to Exhibition Place for the CNE, though not very often, but this was the first time I went over to Ontario Place.  I have to agree it is pretty run down.  I actually had biked over, and finally found a place to lock up my bike. The path to get there isn't great (far too narrow and no separation from walkers/joggers).

I was there a bit early and checked out the Night Market.  It was a little classier than the one in Richmond (no stalls selling cell phone cases or socks), so mostly food stalls and less fried food overall.  That said, the food was way overpriced, and I settled for just having roast corn and a cannoli filled with Filipino flavouring.

Then I went over to the Budwiser stage to see the show.  I was there to see Beck and Spoon was opening for them.  Actually, there were four bands on the line-up!  Sunflower Bean was ok, but not particularly memorable.  I liked Spoon a lot, though I wish they had another 10-15 minutes, as their set was just too short.*  About every third show they sing "Can I Sit Next to You?" instead of "Hot Thoughts."  I was hoping this would have been one of those nights, but it was not to be.  Sad...

While the crowd was really into Cage the Elephant, I didn't care for them at all.  I thought they tried way too hard (they had fire on stage, lasers, smoke machines).  The lead singer seemed to be trying to channel Mick Jagger.  I definitely would have preferred it if they had switched places with Spoon.  I gave up listening after a while and worked on a short playlet for September's Sing-for-Your-Supper.

I should probably mention that in terms of other disappointments, I had brought along a new SF road adventure (FKA USA) and I ended up getting about halfway through the book when I finally decided to drop it due to a combination of the very annoying footnotes and the endless "How can you top this?" impossible situations that the author put his characters through.  I decided it was basically a cynical mash-up of The Wizard of Oz, McCarthy's The Road, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Ready, Player One.  It definitely reads as if one eye was on the movie rights, and indeed, it has already been optioned... While I had quite a few issues with Ready, Player One, that at least felt like it was written by someone who understood and loved video games/puzzle games/quests. This feels like it was written by someone with only the most cursory understanding of or appreciation for dystopian SF as a genre.

Anyway, Beck's set was great, if a bit too short.  He seems quite re-energized on this tour after a few somewhat down years.  The music was surprisingly loud, and if anything, the vocals probably should have been a bit higher in the mix.  While Beck has been kicking off every show with "Loser," he did mix things up a bit this time, moving "Devil's Haircut" and "The New Pollution" towards the end of the show.  I definitely appreciated the live version of "Saw Lightning."  The show ended just a bit before 11.  I had some trouble finding my way back to Union Station, but finally made it.  I dropped my bike off, and then found out that there was a silly shuttle bus to King Station (I was probably only one more block away at that point), though it could have been worse.  There was a fatality on Lakeshore West, snarling GO Trains for hours.  However, I was not pleased to find out that even though I didn't get to Pape until after midnight the bus service still hadn't been restored from the Taste disruption, so I had to walk the rest of the way home.  So that was my not very restful weekend...

* I also would have liked to hear "Do I Have to Talk You Into It."  This video is a fairly good representation of what the show could have been if they had had another 10-15 minutes.