I hate the cost of saving a few bucks!

In January of 1993 some idiot kicked in my door and stole all of my cameras and my VCR. I was a student of photography at Concordia U. at the time, so losing my cameras was a real blow, on top of the fact that the woman I was married to had walked out a week earlier.

Aside from the trauma of the violation, which included a boot print on one of my pillows and a couple of horrified cats, it turned out to be like winning the lottery, because I was insured.Basically, I traded in an armload of broken and shopworn early-80s-era Minoltas for a full and up-to-date Nikon kit that I had previously not even dared dream of.

In there somewhere I also got a new VCR. I decided to save $50 by buying the non-stereo version of the very expensive 4-head Sony VCR that I had selected. What was the point, considering my TV had only one speaker? (Historians will note that I did, however, toss an extra $200 for half an f-stop on the 50mm f1.4 lens that I chose over the more conventional f1.8 model.)

Two years later I was much better paid at work, had a much bigger TV, and was able to run a VCR through my stereo had it been a stereo VCR! In the meantime, I had taken maybe one or two photos with the 50mm 1.4 lens, prefering instead the more natural–for me–28mm wide-angle lens.

Alas, my VCR was not stereo. So I spent several years in mono (occasionally running a split mono feed through the stereo speakers). Then, a year or so ago my (then) girlfriend suddenly found herself without a VCR. She was still running a straight-to-(20-year-old)-television feed, so my mono machine was perfect for her, and it was still running like it was brand new.

So I jumped at the opportunity… I passed the Sony machine on to her (in exchange for many smooches) and upgraded my VCR. Not long after that I went insane and ended up with a 5-channel stereo receiver, 5.1 speaker system, DVD player, etc.

OK, OK, so I got over the woes of my $50 savings from 1993. What I didn’t tell you is this. Just before my recent sound-system upgrade rampage, I bought a 5-disk carrousel CD player for the insanely low price of about $120 (CDN). I got the cheap, but widely regarded, RCA RP8065. For a few dollars more I could have gotten the RP8070. The only difference is that the RP8070 has an optical output for pure digital delivery to the receiver. Big Freakin’ Deal sez I. I don’t even have a freakin’ digital receiver!

A month later I had a digital receiver.

OK, frankly, I doubt I can tell the difference aurally. But the difference smashed me over the head last night when I went to transfer a mix CD I had made on my PC to a MiniDisc. My MD recorder is a portable player/recorder that came with an optical cable for direct digital recording from a CD player to MD. But I can’t do that because my CD player doesn’t have an optical output! My only workaround is a bunch of analog patches. Can you spell D-E-G-R-A-D-E? REM never sounded so fuzzy.

Alternatively, I can buy an RCA-to-¼inch patch cord for not much less than I would have paid for the upgrade to the more expensive machine with the optical feed, and suffer only minor analog humiliation.

As much as I like to think of myself as something of an anti-materialist, this is a lesson learned and unlearned and relearned, over and over: Think ahead!

Bye bye Oreo…

Sadly, I’m here today to once again eulogize a cat. You may recall that back in February, my faithful 14-year-old cat Larry took sick and was euthanized. (Check the archives.) Larry was part of a loopy threesome of cats I shared with Kathy ten years ago. First there was Larry, who we got in the fall of 1987. Then Oreo came along in 1989 (I think…maybe 88). Finally, Spiff joined the club in 1991.

When Kathy moved to Vancouver in early 1993 she took Oreo with her. Well, more accurately, I delivered Oreo when I visited not long after she moved there.

I had to give Oreo a tranquilizing pill, which the Vet had perscribed, before putting her on the plane. It was an early flight, and I was quite poor back then, so I gave her the pill before leaving the house. Then I carried her in the cold winter air to the Metro, where I rode with the going-to-work crowd all the way to the Lionel-Groulx station. From there I hopped the 211 Express bus to Dorval, and then another bus for the short hop to the airport. Oreo, who was normally very quiet and introverted, howled like a banshee the whole way.

Finally, at the airport, the pill kicked in. It was kind of funny, actually. She looked drunk. She was awake, and somewhat alert, but her reactions were very slow and her tongue was sticking out of her mouth a bit, making her look a bit stunned. I handed her over and she was checked into the special animal compartment. She survived the flight and was as cool as a cucumber when I picked her up in Vancouver.

Kathy informed me today that Oreo, so-named because of her cookie-like black and white fur, was struck by a car and killed yesterday. She says she didn’t suffer.

I haven’t seen Oreo in many years, but I remember her very well. She got along reasonably well with Larry, but Spiff was a terror as a kitten (still is) and he used to drive her crazy. Oreo, as I said, was quiet and introverted, but very affectionate. She didn’t talk much unless you put her in a car or took her on the Metro, in which case she would yowl so loud your eardrums would rattle. She was soft and a bit chubby and had thick lucious black fur with white highlights here and there, such as on her paws and her chin and belly.

When we first got Spiff I was about to enter Concordia University to work on a BFA (part time) with a major in Photography. One day I was looking for something to photograph, and there was Spiff, terrorizing Larry and Oreo, so I got down to cat’s eye view and photographed the shenannigans. It went on for hours. I ended up making a little book about it. It begins with a formal portrait of each of them, then ten fighting shots (Spiff is in every one–it’s always Spiff against one of the others), and ends with a picture of the three of them napping at the foot of the bed.

Here’s one of the pictures of Spiff (left) getting ready to pounce on the much larger Oreo, who is trying to defend herself:
rrrrrrRRROOWWWRRRRR!!!!

Geekend

What a wierd weekend, marked almost entirely by geekiness. On the other hand, I made a lot of small transitions of the sort that change a bit of the top-level texture of daily living. I got through some serious items on my "to do" list, getting some big-time monkeys off my back.

For example, I’ve complained for a few years now that I think my bicycle doesn’t fit me well, that the handlebars are too low, although they are at their maximum extension (which is not much). I causes my arms and wrists to hurt when I ride, meaning I don’t ride as much as I would like. Finally, I took the thing to a bike shop and had them install a handlebar post that’s a bit longer, granting me perhaps an extra two inches. What a difference that makes. Exit one monkey.

Then there’s my damn computer–the dog that I bought from IPC last year. It’s been dragging its ass for months now, slowing to a crawl and acting strangely, something that brings a little bit of aggravation into every one of my days. Come to think of it, it’s never really functioned properly, but lately it’s just been stupid.  I suspected the hard drive was giving out, so on Saturday I bought a new hard drive and another 128 MB of RAM. I then spent the rest of the day (and night, until 4am) backing up, swapping out the old drive, installing the new one, re-installing Windows, etc. It’s been a lot of work, and even now at the end of Sunday night I’m not finished. I have over 20 applications to re-install and configure, which takes time. I still haven’t set up my email accounts.

However, the machine is now lightning fast and as fresh as spring rain. There goes another monkey. I now have 40 GB of disk space, most of which I’ll never use, but what the heck. 30 gigs of that is on my new 7200 rpm hard drive, and the other 10 gigs is from my "old" drive, which now seems to be working just fine. No worries, I’ll use the 10 GB drive as a backup.

I ended the evening my going to the Paramount to see Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. What a fabulous monkey-fest! There is no point in comparing it to the original, so I won’t even go there. Suffice to say it was a hairy-knuckled blast, a simian sensation. I can seriously say that Tim Roth should get an Academy Award nomination for best ape.

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Know your friends…

A certain someone emailed me this “do you know your friends” thing, which involves answering a bunch of personal questions and then emailing it to your friends. Each recipient then copies the questions and fills in their own responses and sends it on, ad infinitum.

She listed me as “least likely to respond”, because she (correctly) knows that I don’t like chain email. (I’m convinced that somewhere, someone is data-mining this for spam purposes.) Interestingly, many of her answers are exactly what I would have said.

So, I will simultaneously prove her both wrong and right by posting my answers here. Note that as a Gemini (and as an Ed) I find it really, really hard to commit to any of these answers. If you choose, you may copy the questions and forward your answers to your friends as you see fit. If you do so, please include the official instructions, reproduced in blue, below:

Here’s what you’re supposed to do…and DON’T BE LAME and spoil the fun.

COPY(not forward) this entire e-mail and paste it onto a new e-mail that you will send. Change all of the answers so that they apply to you. Be honest!

Then, send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known facts about your friends. Remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you.

1. LIVING ARRANGEMENT? Two-bedroom apartment in Westmount (Quebec, Canada) that I share with an orange cat named Spiff.

2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Canada Made Me by Norman Levine, England Made Me by Graham Greene, Wanderlust by the travel editors at Salon.com, Paris: True Stories of Life on the Road from Traveller’s Tales Guides, The Collected Traveller–Paris.

3. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Don’t have one. Hate ’em. (I use a track ball at home and a nice smooth desk at work.)

4. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? It’s a fist-fight between Scrabble and Pictionary. (There’s this guy named Dave who lives on the Plateau in Montreal. When we team up we rule the Pictionary game!

5. FAVORITE MAGAZINE? Wrasslin’ match between Harper’s and the old Saturday Night (pre-National Post). I also read Utne Reader, Geist, and occasionally the UK edition of Esquire. My guilty pleasure is Maxim, but to preserve my sanity I only buy it about twice per year.

6. FAVORITE SMELLS? Fresh basil. Clean skin. My own farts (it’s theraputic).

6b. LEAST FAVORITE SMELLS? Anyone else’s farts.

7. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Birds chirping as I go to bed at 5am. The sound of a loved one sleeping. Spiff purring.

8. WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? Utter dispair. Fortunately I rarely feel this, but I get it vicariously through the dispair of others.

9. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING? It’s Saturday, right? It’s gotta be Saturday. What happens if I stay here until Saturday?

10. FAVORITE COLOR? Three-way sumo match between burnt orange, maroon, and almost any shade of green (except lime).

11. HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU ANSWER THE PHONE? Two.

12. FUTURE CHILD’S NAME? Don’t understand the question.

13. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE? Self respect.

14. FAVORITE FOOD? Dinner.

15. CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA? Vanilla–one of our palate’s most under-rated flavors. I also like it because it’s not the obvious choice.

16. DO YOU LIKE TO DRIVE FAST? Oh, baby! (One of my favorite fast-driving memories is five hours non-stop at 150 kph from southern France to Paris, in a tiny four cylinder Renault 102 with U2’s Zooropa playing over, and over, and over.)

17. DO YOU SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL? No, but with five stuffed pillows.

18. STORMS – COOL OR SCARY? Both. The scarier the cooler.

19. WHAT TYPE WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? 1970-something Datsun B-210 with a bent frame and trouble turning left.

20. IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON DEAD OR ALIVE WHO WOULD IT BE? My first inclination is towards Oscar Wilde, but he’d blow me off as an ignorant provincial. I have undying respect and admiration for Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, because of all they stand for, but I would be so humbled in their presence that I wouldn’t actually enjoy myself. The Marquis de Sade would be interesting and titilating, but I’d only want to meet him as a young radical libertine, not as the sweaty pervert he became in later life. Then there’s Bono from U2 but I’d probably try to kill him and assume his identity, if for no other reason than to stop his being so smug. Realistically, I’d love to kick back with the late Brian Moore, my favorite novellist, because I think he’d not only be a brilliant and engaging conversationalist, but would be personable too, and could hold his Guinness. Barring that, I’d go for Jennifer Lopez but only if I was allowed to put my hands on her ass.

21. FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK? Clash of the following Titans: Guinness, Scotch whiskey, whatever you’re buying.

22. WHAT IS YOUR ZODIAC SIGN? Gemini. Both of me.

23. DO YOU EAT THE STEMS OF BROCCOLI? No, but I toss ’em in the freezer for later use in soup stock.

24. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB YOU WANTED WHAT WOULD IT BE? Professional (and well-paid) curmudgeon.

25. IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR WHAT WOULD IT BE? I can dye my hair any color. I choose not to.

26. EVER BEEN IN LOVE? Oh yeah.

27. IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL? Hey! There’s stuff in the glass!

28. FAVORITE MOVIE? Bare-knuckle slug-fest between Casablanca, Gone With The Wind, The Matrix, and Ronin. (Note that I am influenced by recently-seen films, but Ronin is the only movie I’ve ever spent an entire weekend watching. Hail DVD!)

29. DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS? Of course!

30. WHAT’S UNDER YOUR BED? Dust. Spiff hair.

31. FAVORITE NUMBER? The phone number I actually remember when I need it.

32. FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH? Whatever game is ending.

33. SAY A NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Great knockers! A thoughtful, compassionate, rational, romantic. (She’d make a good Gemini.)

34. PERSON YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Doesn’t apply directly, but I suspect Suki will copy this and send her version around.

35. PERSON YOU SENT THIS TO WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Doesn’t apply directly, but I think there’s some guy in Kentucky who’s really pissed off and confused because he thinks this is Björk’s weblog.

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