Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Deus wrecks machina

I'm not exactly sure when or why I became the Goddess of Random Equipment Malfunctions.  I think it was largely a matter of "It's a dirty job, but Someone has to do it."

Or not do it, as the case may be.  If I have any divine power at all, that power consists largely of finding things to be in charge of that don't actually need My help.

Exhibit #1:  The Vernal Equinox, but only in the Northern hemisphere.  Essentially all I have to do is a ceremonial "Ta-Dah!" whenever a northbound sun crosses the equator, and then get back to playing Minesweeper or whatever the heck I was doing the moment before the Equinox.

Exhibit #2:  Chocolate.  Chocolate happens, whether or not I'm there to buy it, eat it, cook with it, or wax poetic about it.

Exhibit #3:  Punctuation.  This is mostly under control, thanks to wonderful books like The Elements of Style (Strunk & White) and Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Lynne Truss).

Now, about those random equipment malfunctions...

It's appropriate that I drive a car with an intermittent trunk latch release lever and a digital dashboard clock that only shows the time near the end of a really, really long drive.

Speaking of clocks, the digital clock on My microwave is apparently conducting some sort of relativity experiment in cahoots with the cable TV box and the stove, because it consistently sneaks a minute or two ahead of them no matter how often I adjust it.

My tenure on Earth is noteworthy for devices spontaneously breaking or un-breaking for no apparent reason, and sometimes for no reason at all.  I've had elevators stop and wait for Me when I called out "Wait wait wait!"  Street lights blink out just as I'm driving underneath them.  I've sweet-talked a photocopier into giving Me copies when everyone else thought it was broken.  I once walked into a computer lab, and the computer I had come to fix started working the moment I appeared in the doorway.  Coffee machines jam.  Printers catch fire.  Ovens regard the control panel as some sort of choose-your-own-adventure book, baking the cake at 214°F instead of 325°F.

I also get a feeling of impending doom every time I get a new day job, pay raise or other financial windfall.  That's the cue for a whole wave of Random Equipment Malfunctions as moribund machinery and ancient appliances seize the opportunity to demand divine intervention.  January 1989 was particularly bad, costing Me a water heater element and a pump for the washing machine.  I managed to fix the toaster for free, by giving it a good cleaning and bending a lever back into place, but it was a close one.

No, I have no clue how this works.  I'm not omniscient.  I do, however, know exactly where My toolbox is at all times.

Friday, December 4, 2015

You like... what?

(Springy G comes limping in with two chocolate-covered graham cookies and a hot buttered rum toddy, and slouches into Her desk chair)

I have a confession to make.

I love baroque music.  Bach, Scarlatti, Lully, Vivaldi.  Love, love, love it.

I can't stand Handel's Messiah.

Tonight, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra played the aforementioned Handel oratorio. I'm not a stranger to the piece -- In fact, back in 1973 in My last year of high school I sang in the choir, and we performed the Hallelujah Chorus at the Christmas concert.

I had no idea the whole thing was so long.

And dreary.

And monotonous.

Oh, and did I mention 'long, dreary and monotonous'?

Essentially what you've got there is a string section condemned to play a 17th century ringtone loop, soloists with bafflingly complex vocal acrobatics, and a very well-meaning chorus singing lyrics that, while purportedly in English, are mostly incomprehensible.

In fact, in Part the Second, in a choral section entitled "All we like sheep have gone astray," My brain decided it had had quite enough of that and started rewriting the lyrics of the oratorio.

From that point onward, all I could hear was an 80-member SATB chorus cheerfully proclaiming "We like sheep!"

That's when I started to laugh, stifling the giggles in the sleeve of the long overcoat I had draped around My shoulders (+3 protection against Concert Hall air conditioning system).

After that brief candle in the darkness, it was back to the baroque ringtones for a while.

Then came the Hallelujah Chorus, and to My utter amazement, virtually everyone in the hall stood up, blocking My view of the stage.  Apparently standing for the Chorus is a tradition, but I was not impressed.  I also stayed seated.  (It also didn't help that My right leg adductors had gone into spasm, so for the remainder of Messiah I was alternately massaging a sore lump in the leg muscles and trying to avoid kicking the seats in the next row.)

I finally did stand for the ovation at the end of the show,  as there was some very fine musicianship this evening.  The bass soloist, the trumpet soloist, the choir and the tympanist were particularly good.  As soon as the applause died down, though, I was out of there.

Next time Messiah comes up in My season ticket package I'm swapping it for something else.  Anything else. Literally anything else -- Tuba klezmer, impressionist punk, Finnish death metal played by a chamber music ensemble.

Hallelujah indeed.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I didn't mead that sink anyway.

Well, that was interesting.  All I wanted to do this evening was bottle the midsummer mead -- which I did.

I wasn't expecting to spend part of the evening under the kitchen sink, 'though.

And I hadn't even tasted the mead yet.

You see, I have a useful little brass gizmo called a bottle washer, suitable for power-rinsing empty bottles before sterilizing and filling them.  In theory, you unscrew the aerator from a tap and screw this thing on instead, and then you can just fit a bottle neck over it, press gently, and bombard the inside of the bottle with hot water to rinse it out.

In theory.

Unfortunately, My kitchen faucet doesn't work like that.  This is the first batch of mead that I've brewed since the kitchen renovations, and the first time I tried to use the new sink for preparing the bottles.  I took the bottle washer out of My box of brewing equipment, unscrewed the head of the tap...

...and the hose attached to it immediately retreated up the spout and around a very long bend, taking with it the fitting that actually secures the spray hose to the spray head.  I tried fishing it out with a souvlaki skewer.  I tried banging on the pipe in various interesting ways.  I tried feeding the spray hose back up from the bottom in the hopes that it would catch on the trapped part and pull it back down to the end of the spout.  I tried poking, prodding, and even duct tape.


Then I sighed heavily and actually removed the tap, in the hopes that I'd be able to shake the part loose.  I got the correct screwdriver on the third try, an evil omen if ever there was one.  For reasons that remain a total mystery at press time, first I thought I saw a slot-head screw.  Then I thought it was a #2 Robertson screw.  It was actually a Phillips screw, so after trips downstairs and upstairs and downstairs again I had an appropriate star-head screwdriver and was able to loosen the retaining ring for the faucet.

To make a long story short, the faucet is in a gazillion pieces, the stuck part is still stuck somewhere in the pipe, and I managed to twist the hot and cold water feed hoses into such topographically improbable knots that I'm scared to use them lest they spring a leak.

In the end I washed the bottles in the bathroom sink, filled 22 of them and put them in a safe place, cleaned up the kitchen, and raised a mug to the Æsir and Vanir and called it a night.

Tomorrow morning, when the hardware store opens, I'm going to buy a new tap.

One that works with a bottle washer, of course.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


I'm not quite sure where things went so horribly, horribly weird last night.  I'm not even sure that 'weird' is adequate to describe what I experienced.  Calling it 'transcendent' is marginally more accurate, inasmuch as 2 is probably closer to +∞ than 1 (input from mathematicians welcome).


There I was in the Concert Hall, listening to the Winnipeg premiere of Mahler's 10th symphony (completed posthumously by Deryck Cooke).  Somewhere around the 4th  or 5th movement, amidst soaring violins and auditorium-shaking drum hits, I started thinking about plumbing.

Specifically, I started thinking about a part I had to add to the bathtub water lines, to make it possible to tighten up the connections to the bathtub tap.

And then I started visualizing the blue flame of a propane torch.

And then I said to Myself, "Well, I'll probably finish that bathroom before the heat death of the universe."

 I don't know if it was the Mahler or the fact that I've been staying up entirely too late all week, but I honestly didn't think My brain was capable of integrating French horns with soldering flux and time travel.

Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

One bag of cat litter to go --

-- No, this is not some kind of weird take-out order.  What I'm saying is that in My quest for a leaner, healthier Springy G, I now only have to lose the equivalent of one more bag of cat litter in order to attain My target weight.

Thanks in no small part to the supportive crowd at the Nerd Fitness Rebellion, over the past year I've managed to drop approximately 40 pounds, or the weight of an 18-kilogram bag of cat litter.

How?  By confusing the living Niflheim out of My body, that's how.  Just when it got used to the walking and the stationary bike and the swimming and the roller rink, I dragged it into the gym for six weeks of bench press and squats and deadlifts.

Then I went tap-dancing, and then I went to a Pilates class for a while.  I did bodyweight squats and machine-assisted chin-ups.  I tried to figure out how juggling worked.  I did demolition and construction and carried bags of limestone gravel around in the garden.  I lifted, stretched, cycled, swam, balanced (and unbalanced, often with a curse and a thud), and generally caused total mayhem from head to toe.

Oh, and I also cut virtually all the flour and sugar out of My diet.

It's actually alarming to think that only a year ago I was carrying a proverbial 40-pound bag of cat litter around with Me 24/7.

It's even more alarming to consider that 12 years ago I was carrying nearly two bags of the stuff.

And one day in the not-too-distant future, I intend to have one less bag of cat litter on My body, and the Gams of My Dreams.

(Springy G wanders off in search of boxing lessons and other things She hasn't tried yet)

Sunday, July 26, 2015


(Springy G reaches for jeweller's screwdriver and makes micro-adjustment to a very, very tiny screw)

*honk* *rumble* *sing*

Ah, that's better.

In the spirit of My philosophy "It never hurts to ask for what you want," it gives Me great pleasure to introduce Ada, the newest member of My family of musical instruments.  Ada is an alto clarinet (a Buescher), acquired second-hand this afternoon and already played for a couple of hours.

I've wanted an alto clarinet for... Well, for as long as I've known that there was such a thing as an alto clarinet.  I began to get suspicious that this wasn't just a passing fancy when I went "Squee!" every time I encountered one in the wild (first in a clarinet choir at International Band Camp a couple of years ago, and more recently in a community band here in town).

The search is over.  Now the hard part:  Learning how to play it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Think Like a God Day 2015: One or Many?

Welcome to the 2015 edition of Think Like a God Day! This is an ongoing thought experiment designed to get You into a divine frame of mind and ponder the big picture from 10 gazillion feet up.

This year's question is a simple one: Would You prefer to be a monotheistic deity, or is a pantheon more Your style?

In defence of monotheism: No one to tell You what to do.

The downside: No one to snuggle up with on the couch during a cold Fimbulwinter night.

In defence of polytheism: Brainstorming with Your peers. Double- and triple-teaming Your enemies, mortal and immortal alike. Epic parties.

The downside: Not liking what Your peers have come up with. Being double- and triple-teamed by the other gods. And yes, epic parties.

So, what say You? Is it more appealing to be the only show in town, or are You willing to spread the worship and adulation around a little bit for a few perks (and epic parties)?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Winnipeg on $75 a night

Or "Springy G's Amazing 4-Hour Staycation."

It's the end of the symphony season, at least as far as My envelope full of season tickets is concerned, so I decided to give Myself a treat.  I left the car at home and took the bus to the Concert Hall --

-- Yes, I said "bus."  I know that doesn't sound like much of a treat, but work with Me on this.  I had Ulterior Motives, namely to attend the symphony this evening and enjoy a glass of champagne, and drinking and driving are Something This Goddess Simply Does Not Do.

After disembarking from one of Transit Tom's fine conveyances I stopped in at one of My usual Old Market Square haunts and had some pre-concert noms, then toddled over to the show.  Enjoyed Japanese pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii’s performance of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto.  Had a glass of sparkling white wine.  Discovered that I rather like Shostakovich's 5th Symphony.  Grabbed a cab home.

Tallying up the cost of the concert ticket, a bus ticket, a cab ride, snackies, wine and gratuities, My grand night on the town cost $74.65 all-inclusive.  Much better than driving hundreds of miles, eating at roadside chip stands, and sleeping attempting to sleep on a narrow cot in a dorm where people are coming and going at all hours and there's always someone chatting a couple of cubicles away.

Why yes, I am still miffed about that trip to band camp.  *mutter mutter grumble snark*

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Meme Factory

In order to accept, facilitate and preserve future success, I think that it's important to be able to clearly visualize what we want.

More important still:  Once we have that vision, we have to support it with thoughts and actions.

I didn't just wake up one morning with the ability to play musical instruments.  First I had to know about music, and only when I realized how much I loved it did I start paying attention to the musicians I saw on TV.  Then, and only then, I was able to say "I want to do that."

And that's when the long slog towards musicianship started.  First came an attempt to play a steel-string acoustic guitar, at age 7 (hands too small, and those steel strings hurt).  A year later, piano lessons.  Returned to guitar at age 13 and finally started to get it.  2-week summer course in flute.  Songwriting.  A Wall of Many Keyboards.  Choirs.  Violin lessons. Taiko drums.  Finally, about 11 years ago at age 46, I picked up a second-hand clarinet in a music store and found a teacher and just kept going.  I took exams.  I joined bands.  I started to get it.

I didn't just wake up this morning with the ability to play the clarinet.  I woke up on literally thousands of mornings with the intention and vision of becoming a competent player, one song, one note, one lesson, one rehearsal, one gig at a time.

Whatever we seek to become, we earn it in instalments -- Tiny, often imperceptible increments of action and vision.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Evil Geniuses Club

This portrait of Me and Frey Kittehson and Clara III is from a photo shoot done last Sunday.

Ernst Blofeld, eat your heart out.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

That's not what I meant by 'spring'!

Last week it was shaping up to be a truly awesome Vernal Equinox (and, for our readers in the Southern Hemisphere, Autumnal Equinox).  After a couple of days of increased solar activity and some awesome auroras, I learned that some fortunate folks in Europe and northwest Atlantic would be seeing in the seasons with a total solar eclipse.

Little did I know that the universe had Other Plans.

I started to suspect something was up on the night of Wednesday the 18th, when the F/C key on the left side of the lower joint of My clarinet Clara III went dead.

A spring had come unsprung.

Quite obviously the universe has a sense of humour, although it isn't the kind of humour one appreciates when trying to play anything with a clarion-register E♭, as there's inevitably a left-sided C that goes along with it.  I took Clara III home that night, studied her with furrowed brow for a while, read the relevant pages in My clarinet manual, tinkered a bit with a small screwdriver (hiding the minuscule screws and pins in a suitably deep container to keep them away from the cats), and finally sighed heavily, put everything back together, and went looking for Clara II so that I would have an instrument for Thursday rehearsal.

I celebrated the equinox with a hot rum toddy, oohing and aahing at the eclipse pictures on the Internet, and then called it quits for the night.  Saturday morning I got up early -- That is, before noon -- and took Clara III in to have her repaired.  Fortunately nothing was actually broken, and I was out of there in half an hour.

And then, just as I was getting comfortable in the new season, it snowed again.

Happy spring to one and all!  I'm sure we'll get it right eventually.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Come to the Springy side. We definitely have cookies.

On the eve of the Northern hemisphere vernal equinox, it's My tradition to create various sweets to share with the folks in the household, with My co-workers, and with the members of the community bands I hang out with.

Accordingly, I walked in the door after work this afternoon with single-minded Purpose.  I have band practice this evening, and last Thursday I promised them cookies.  With about an hour and a half to spare before rushing out to rehearsal, I hung up My coat, washed My hands, and proceeded to keep My promise, because there's nothing sadder than 40 musicians with no cookies.

Especially the oboe player and the two chaps with the euphoniums.  I think they play that way on purpose.

4:25 PM:  Toss butter into large bowl.  Microwave for 28 seconds.

4:26 PM:  Start measuring out brown sugar and white sugar.  Cream slightly.  Throw in an egg and the rest of a bottle of vanilla.  Pause briefly to start the oven.

4:28 PM:  Batter is somewhat mixed.  Let Frey Kittehson out onto the front porch; wash hands again.  Measure out the flour, baking soda and salt.  Tumble in a bag of milk chocolate chips and mix up with a spoon.

4:31 PM:  Let Caramon Cat out the back door.  Crunch the last bits of brown sugar into the mixture in the first bowl, then dump in the contents of the second bowl.  Mix like crazy.

4:33 PM:  Check to see if Frey wants to come in.  He's quite content, but thanks for asking.  Roll up sleeves a bit more and wash hands for at least the fourth time in the past 10 minutes.  (Does Lady Macbeth have any good cookie recipes, perchance?)

4:36 PM:  Put a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and scoop out 12 lumps of batter.  Into the oven they go.  Find a second cookie sheet and start setting it up.

4:40 PM:  Second pan of cookies goes onto bottom rack.  Let Caramon Cat back in.  Wash hands and prepare the third and final cookie sheet.

4:47 PM:  Stove timer beeps. Cookies look a little pale; add 3 more minutes.  Get a cooling rack ready.

4:51 PM:  Finally, the first batch is out.  Third tray goes in.  Start washing up all the bowls and spoons and putting them away.

4:55 PM:  Second batch is done.  Somehow I make room for them on the rack.

4:56 PM:  Frey mews for ingress, and I stop rearranging cookies on the rack and go to let him in.

4:59 PM:  Start packing the first batch into a tin.  Step out onto the back landing to contemplate tree pruning.  Come back in and finish the dishes.

5:02 PM:  Listen to a couple of minutes of the evening news.

5:04 PM:  Put most of the second batch of cookies into the tin.

5:06 PM:  Third batch of cookies is done.  Turn off timer, oven, and oven light.

5:15 PM:  Add four more cookies to the tin and put it by the back door, ready to grab on My way out to the car in...

(Springy G glances at computer clock, which has just changed to 6:00 PM)

...about five minutes.  Gotta run!  (types in post tags, hits "Publish," grabs clarinet gear, and makes a break for it)

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Power of Meh

I've been on a bit of a personal development kick as of late -- Sorting through boxes of neurons to see what I've got, and trying on old ideas to see if they still fit.

I never realized I was such a creature of habit. Be it the passage of time or be it decades of denial finally wearing off, a few days ago I came to the conclusion that having stable routines actually decreases stress rather than increasing it.  Witness, for example, Springy G's weekday routine:
  • 6:40 - Clock radio comes on with local CBC Radio One morning show.  Acknowledge it begrudgingly but stay in bed, stretching legs and petting any cats who happen to be in the area.
  • 7:00 - Out of bed.  Really.  (If I'm really fast, I can hit the "off" button on the clock radio before hearing the obnoxious news theme.)  Straighten bedspread to keep pillowcases from getting totally obliterated by cat hair in My absence.  Head for bathroom, stopping at nightstand for glasses and the thong on which I wear My oath ring and Mjölnir, and turn on the stairway light.
  • 7:10 - Morning ablutions complete.  Am now dressed and headed downstairs, sometimes with a cat escort.  Fill tea kettle and turn on.  Scrape cats' food plate and put in sink to soak.  Turn on dining room light and turn off nightlight in living room.  Feed fish.  Raid fruit bowl in dining room  and select 1 or 2 pieces for coffee breaks and lunch.  Grab a can of soda for lunch as well.
  • 7:15 - Pour hot water for tea.  Finish washing and drying cats' plate, and serve up half a can, calling out "Food for the bay-bees!"  Get lunch bag from hook on back door; insert drinks and fruit; add other items from fridge (ideally, some leftovers packed the night before).  Put filled lunch bag in purse.
  • 7:20 - Breakfast, usually cereal, tea and milk.  Eat standing up at the kitchen counter.  Pause to put on shoes or boots, then finish eating.
  • 7:26 - Put on coat, grab purse, lock house, walk to bus stop.
It's appalling, it really is.  7:26?  Oddly enough, though, it works.  I don't have to rush around in the morning; I just toddle around from point A to point B in sequence, go for a short walk, make My bus connections, and arrive at work safely and on time, in proper business casual wear and carrying a homemade lunch.  Such is the power of *shudder* habit.

I didn't just wake up one Monday morning and decide that I had to do things in that order at those times, though.  This weekday routine got built up out of necessity, piece by piece, and I keep using it because it works extremely well.

Ironically, I never thought I would like having such a predictable, formal routine.  Its power, though, is undeniable.  That got Me thinking:  What else can I use habitual behaviours for?

Well, how about using a habit to break a habit?  Specifically, how about cultivating deliberate indifference to make one's cravings less alluring, and dreaded tasks less daunting?

"Want to go out for a burger?"

"It's 12:30 in the morning.  I'll just play one game of Spider solitaire and... Meh."

"Forecast is for rain this evening, and all day tomorrow.  I don't really want to mow the lawn, but... Meh."

Preliminary investigations indicate that raging apathy seems to work better than attempting to fight one's passions to the death.  In fact, I've found that the passions seem to naturally weaken through attrition -- If you don't entertain them, they'll eventually get bored and wander off all by themselves.

I could probably write a whole self-help book about this, but -- *Meh* Better just finish this post and get ready for bed.