Tuesday, 10 December 2019

On Broadening One's Dipsomaniacal Horizons, Part Two

Previous instalment here.


I never attained the coveted title of Modern Drunkard.  While I'm no tee-totaller, my alcohol consumption isn't anywhere near the level it was in the first instalment all those years ago.  Having a wife, child, and responsibilities other than the mortgage will do that.

This will probably never change.  Having said that, I do enjoy a tipple every now and again, whenever friends stop by.  My liquor cabinet is still in dire need of a refresh, but I'm slowly working on it.

I never did find a reliable local source for soda bulbs (I won't support Amazon).  A moot point, as my soda siphon has disappeared!  Not long after writing Where Everybody Knows Your Name, I set out to find my siphon, but it was nowhere to be found.  It probably disappeared when we moved.

I thought about buying an antique soda siphon/seltzer bottle, but the really neat ones are expensive and likely no longer food-safe.  Great for decorative purposes, but not much else.  Rather than spend time looking for a modern replica or retro-styled siphon, I went another route.

We bought a Sodastream.

Campari and... Sodastream?!

Canadian Tire had the Sodastream Source on sale for 50% off back in June, so I jumped at the chance to buy something I never thought I'd buy.  I'd been meaning to try my hand at making Italian Sodas for a long time, so we bought the Sodastream along with three flavouring syrups.  Cutting down on the amount of plastic pop bottles we used was an added bonus.

If you're ever thinking about buying a Sodastream to make pop, listen to me now:  It's a lot of work, and takes a lot of practice to get the ratios just right (CO² to water, syrup to carbonated water), and even then you're not likely to produce anything remotely close to the quality of No-Name pop.  Store-brand, even.  If you're just in it to make cheap pop, don't!  Unless you drink a truly massive amount of pop, the Sodastream is not a cheaper option over time.  Stick to the store brand pop and buy 'em when they're on sale for two-for-a-buck.  If you're in it to cut down on plastic use, well, godspeed to you.

For my purposes, though, I like the thing.  It's great for making seltzer water that's every bit as good as my old soda siphon, and I don't have to hunt for those fucking bulbs locally.  The fresh suds make for a zippy Campari & Soda, and I'm really looking forward to mixing long drinks without having to worry about flat soda.

Now, if you'll excuse me, the ice is melting and my drink is getting watered down.  Join me Friday for our Musical Interlude.  Until then, stay lubricated and stay sane.










Friday, 6 December 2019

Musical Interlude: Don Morrow - Like Hansel and Gretel

My thirties were a weird time, man.

My martini days were especially... interesting.  I'd met a number of interesting people, grew my social circle, and was even asked to be the bartender at a friend's swanky New Years' Eve party!

Interesting friends aside, I'd taken an interest in Mid-Century Modern design, and started collecting retro barware and goods for the Space-age Bachelor Pad themed wet bar I planned to build in my unused garage.  I'd listened to Esquivel for years by then, and started seeking out similar mid-century bachelor pad tunes.  My travels led me to internet radio station LuxuriaMusic.com, where I fell in love with their kitschy, corny old tunes.

This track is my favourite of the era, a beatnik version of a classic fairy tale.  Here's Don Morrow's Like Hansel and Gretel, from the album Grimm's Hip Fairy Tales.

Craaaaazy, man!





Wednesday, 4 December 2019

It Ain't Over Yet...

2019 started with a bang.

Jillian was involved in a car accident in January, resulting in our Elantra being written off.  It wasn't the end of the world, the Elantra needed front-end work and was starting to smell, and we ended up with an arguably better Kia Soul, which we both love to drive.

This early January event set the stage for what would become a mixed-bag of a year.

Our hot water heater went full tea kettle on us in May, the top seal popped and it was blowing steam and leaking water everywhere.  The shut-off valve going into the tank was seized, and it was only through a combination of bike chain oil, swearing, and slip-joint pliers I was able to shut the water off.  Thankfully, the water leak was minor and flowed directly into our drain without getting anything else wet.  The new water heater cost a bundle, but we ended up with a better model than the one we had.

May had me knocking a couple of items off my cycling bucket list.  I primarily rode my 1960s vintage Auto-Mini folding bike, exploring new cycing routes and generally just bombing around.  I also finished restoring a 1970s Peugeot NS Pliant, another vintage folding bike.  While ready-to-ride, as I write this, I still have yet to take the Peugeot on her maiden voyage.

Our daughter Astrid finished her first year of Kindergarten well.  She was able to read better than some of the fifth graders who were her reading buddies at school, and she captured the hearts of many.

Jillian began to explore Judaism.

I was promoted at work in June, stepping back from the inside sales desk to move up to the company's IT department/internal help desk.  It's required a real change of mindset and is no less hectic, but it gives me a chance to really grow and work to my full potential.  I'd spent a couple of days at our head office in BC for training in July, and I'd gotten back home just in time...

My mother-in-law, Jeanne, passed away suddenly in mid-July.  She'd been staying with us after an unrelated hospital stay, and were sitting around relaxing when she suffered a stroke.  We recognized the signs and reacted quickly, and paramedics were there in minutes.  My sister-in-law Melanie flew in from Toronto to be with her.  Despite receiving medical attention in the very early stages of her stroke, she left us a few days later with us by her side.  She is very dearly missed.

While Jillian took care of her mom's estate, Melanie took care of her mom's apartment, doing each single-handedly while working through their grief.  Words can't express how proud I am of them both.

Astrid handled her grandma's passing remarkably well.  They had a real, powerful, spiritual connection, and when we told Asti that "Ogie" (as she called her) was in Heaven now, she seemed to know.

Simultaneously, our air conditioner finally stopped working and was irreparable... on the hottest, most humid week of the year.  When we had no money to replace it.  Of course.  Jillian's health problems necessitated replacing the unit immediately (seriously, he has literally been prescribed air conditioning by her doctors!), meaning we had to borrow money from family, which was a kick in the nuts when I was already feeling low.  It worked out in our favour, though, as the AC unit the vendor quoted us was out of stock, so they upgraded us to a much better model for the same price.

After a week's bereavement, I headed back to work to train my order desk replacement.  He caught on fast, and after a month, I moved upstairs to my own private office.  It's taken a bit to get up to speed on my new position, there's so much to learn... best-practices to follow, pricing/discount structures, fixing uncommon problems, etc, but it's a welcome change after thirteen years of inside sales.

As Jillian began a new period of life after her mom, she chose to mark this new chapter by changing her name (which she's always disliked) to Rachel.

Astrid began Grade One in September, and is doing well.  She's in several Autism programs outside of school and is really thriving.  She even sang a solo at her school's Remembrance Day assembly!  We're both very proud of her and how far she's come.

The federal election came and went, and neither mine nor Rachel's parties came close to winning.  We're not especially happy that Trudeau was re-elected, but are very happy that Scheer was not elected either.  We get to keep the child tax benefit we rely on for Astrid's programs for another four years!

Speaking of Remembrance Day, Rachel and I celebrated the ninth anniversary of our first big date (I'd propose to her a month later) on Nov. 11th.

So, here we are at the beginning of December.  Rachel has converted to Judaism, and we're raising Astrid as a Jew.  I, however, remain the non-practicing Anglican I've been for most of my life (apart from six years as a practicing Roman Catholic).  The only real changes to our lifestyle are not having pork in the house, and spending Saturdays (the Sabbath) relaxing and not spending money.  We're celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, an amalgamation Rachel has dubbed "Christmakkah".

Well, that's our 2019 in a nutshell, although we still have twenty-seven days left in the year.  With all we've been through this year (including things I haven't written about), we're hoping it's quiet until the new year.

As you can imagine, blogging has taken a backseat for another year.  I'm still soldiering on, in fact I'll be back this Friday with a new Musical Interlude, which I will continue posting every Friday from here on in.

Until then, stay lubricated and stay sane!  Never neglect the liquor cabinet.




Friday, 21 June 2019

Musical Interlude: I Should Know

The turn of the millenium saw me travelling frequently for work.  I'd spend weeks at a time in other cities, cross-training new staff and helping to implement their logistics and warehouse operations.  Being away from home was fun at first.  I was in my mid-to-late twenties, living on my own with no responsibilities other than paying my rent, and travelling to different cities on the company dime was an exciting proposition.

Every trip was great... for the first week or so.  Typically, I'd go out after work with members of the local staff and management, sampling the local cuisine and nightlife, and generally getting to know everyone on a personal level.

After that first week or so, the novelty would wear off.  The local staff and management would need to go back to their normal lives, and I would start to get bored.  Not being the most sociable person at the best of times, I'd tend to wander, sightseeing and trying out new restaurants and lounges on my own.  Despite making a few local friendships of a, er, ahem, temporary nature, I'd get bored by the end of the second week, wishing I could go back home, sleep in my own bed, hang out at my own hangouts, and eat my own local food.

During my outings, I'd hear a certain song nearly everywhere I went.  It would be played in the bars, clubs, and lounges... its popularity increased (despite being a couple of years old) by being featured in a Mitsubishi car commercial at the time.  The song was Days Go By by Dirty Vegas.

I'd hated the song at first, but the stupid commercial made me love it.  So, eventually I bought the album.  It was one of the first CDs I uploaded to my (then) new iPod, but only Days Go By ever saw any action.  The album was quickly forgotten.

Fast forward a few years. Feeling nostalgic, I uploaded the album to my (then) new iPhone, but this time actually LISTENED to the whole thing.

The first song, I Should Know, contained a line that summed up that period of my life perfectly:

Playing away from home is fun
This food is cooked, but it isn't done!

Over the course of my many travels, I learned one thing:  There's no place like home.




--

I'm going to post these musical interludes every Friday.  It's my way of getting back into my music, and also back into blogging.  Can't promise that I won't be wistful or overly sentimental, however :)









Thursday, 20 June 2019

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

A week ago, I finally got off my ass and built the Ikea Brusali cabinet that's been sitting in our laundry room for four years.  That is to say, I finally had a use for it...

Yes, dear readers, I have finally set up my liquor cabinet!

It's been a long time coming.  Apart from the sole time I waded through boxes of liquor to make myself a Martini, I haven't had the opportunity to practice my mixology skills.  With the cravings increasing and for the sake of regaining my magic, the decision was made...

It took the better part of a Sunday afternoon to build the cabinet, rearrange other furniture, move the cabinet into place, load it up and organize it in a logical manner.  It took another few minutes to rearrange everything in order to cat-proof (and child-proof) it.

Happy with the result, but approaching bedtime, I opted to forego a celebratory drink.  I waited until last Friday to christen the new setup with what was to be the signature drink of the (long-abandoned) Speakeasy: the Vermouth Cassis.



Grabbing a long glass, I dropped in a couple of rocks, poured in a half-ounce of Creme de Cassis, 2-1/4 ozs of dry Vermouth, filled the rest of the glass with club soda, and stirred.

The first sip was a bit flavourless, probably due to the fact that my Highball glasses were, as I discovered, mislabelled Collins glasses and thus an inch taller.  Still, for a watered-down cocktail made with decade old booze and ice that's been in the deep-freeze forever, it wasn't half bad!

I nursed the first one for an hour, then made a second once dinner arrived.  Adjusting the ratios to account for the taller glass, my second (supersized) Vermouth Cassis was almost perfect.  Fresher ingredients will help in that regard.

Saturday afternoon, I felt a craving for a Negroni.  If you've been following my blogs for any length of time, you'll know I have a fondness for Campari...the chief ingredient of a Negroni.  This time, however, I went with another recipe, the Punt e Mes Negroni, which replaces the Campari with Punt e Mes, an equally bitter herbal aperitif.

I winced from the bitter taste as I took the first sip.  The cocktail also had a slightly leaden taste due to the age of the ingredients, the last bit of sweet vermouth in the bottle being at least fifteen years old!  It wasn't terrible, I sipped on it for an hour while reading through the latest issue of Metropolis.  I am, however, making it a point to restock the cabinet with fresh bottles when possible.

At this point, I'm satisfied with my cabinet setup.  I have room to move, room to work, and most of my ingredients are close at hand.  I'm confident it'll work until we decide we need a wet bar downstairs... but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!


Join us next time, where we discuss your neighbour's lawn obsession.  Until then, stay lubricated and stay sane!

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Links Updated

It took the better part of yesterday, but I've gone through eighteen years worth of posts and fixed any broken links contained therein.

It was an arduous process, and I made heavy use of the Internet Archive.  Sadly, some links (mostly to my own stuff) were not archived and are sadly lost to time.

I have also deleted a few posts that were placeholders for something I was planning to post, others that were drafts or unfinished posts I'd mistakenly published, and a few more I wasn't happy with.  In the interest of full disclosure, however, I left up a few posts where I was in the wrong, and a few more I was ashamed to have written.  I'll leave it to any interested parties to find them.

(I also updated the FAQ again)




Monday, 17 June 2019

Never Let Your Magazine Run Dry (Conclusion)

Previous installment here.

The deadline came and went, and digital magazine app Texture is no more.  I wasn't too upset, as things change and the lifecycle of apps like this is relatively short.  Besides, I still had all the backissues I'd downloaded from the Texture app saved on my tablet.  I'm free to peruse them at my leisure.

Or so I thought...


Imagine my disappointment when, as I fired up Texture, I was greeted with the above screen.  I couldn't access the issues I'd previously downloaded via the app, and the files were no longer on my tablet.  Every trick I tried showed an empty folder.  The magazines are gone.

I was pretty upset, to say the least.  When I finally calmed down (spoiler alert: I haven't), I looked at things logically.  Ultimately, Texture wasn't a retail app, it was more like a rental:  you paid the monthly fee, and in exchange you had free access to all their magazines and back issues for as long as the service was offered.  Now that the service is no longer offered, the free access is gone.

So, I'm still a bit bummed.  This brought to mind something I'd written in the third installment of this series:

"What I don't like about digital magazines is you can't leave one out on the coffee table.  You can't lend it to someone.  You can't draw mustaches and beards on the female athletes, or Hitler mustaches on all the politicians and businesspeople.  There's no sense of wonderment when you find one in a box in your closet.  There's no scent.  You don't get free rub-on samples of cologne in them.  Worst of all, you have no physical artifact to leave to posterity."

The last line is the kicker, and is the big problem I have with digital media distribution in general: there's no physical artifact when all is said and done.  What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?

What do you have once the battery runs out?  What's left when your hard drive or device is dead?  What's your recourse if media is deleted and the vendor is no longer in business?

Nothing.

Some people might like that: no piles of old magazines cluttering the house, basement, attic or shed.  No non-recyclable glossy pages blowing around the landfill (lol, like dead electronics are much better!), no cleanup once the media is no longer of interest.  There's nothing to throw away in a digital throw-away culture.  Once it's gone, it's forgotten.  Progress!  Hooray Capitalism!

Not me though.  I'll keep my physical media and enjoy my ever-growing library of magazines, books, DVDs and CDs, sitting in my rocking chair in front of my mammoth tube TV and reading by candlelight.

Thus ends a multi-year journey into the consumer side of digital publishing.  I began the journey with pre-conceived notions and ended having validated them in my own mind.  I gave it a shot, saw the benefits and convenience, but also the many downsides.  Thanks for tagging along.

Thanks to Bubbermiley (of New Winnipeg fame?) for letting me know about the Winnipeg Public Library's online mag subscription service!