Monday, December 30, 2013

she shoots

The table top air hockey game has proven to be an inspired addition to the Christmas games collection. Fun for the whole family, evidently. Now we just need to find a little jersey for the SRK to wear, as she triumphantly accepts the Zombie Cup for winning this tournament.

I shall be taking the laptop in for repairs today, as I haven't really been doing much work on it anyway (unless by "work" you mean rising to the tops of the rankings in Free Cell and Bejeweled), a situation which is more likely to change next week than this. So I shall be set adrift on the great computerless ocean for up to ten days. I foresee books in my immediate future.

I leave you with a snap of this year's Christmas mystery parcel. As anticipated,it is a depiction of eleven pipers piping, surprisingly tasteful and well constructed. The SRK quite likes the feather, too, so thank you to the mystery sender for that cat-friendly addition.

I wish you all a stellar New Year. Catch you on the flippety flip.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

touching down

We have begun the descend into slothdom, hopefully not past the point of no return. I am hopeful that with today being Get Your Own Damn Supper Day (and for some family members, the parallel high holiday of Wear Your Pyjamas All Day Day) perhaps tomorrow will bring a renewed interest in the world beyond the discarded Christmas wrappings.

My annual Christmas board game purchase has gone rather more high tech this year, with the addition of a table top air hockey game to the games cupboard. I expect that once I establish dominance by slaughtering all family members with my dining room table hockey prowess, the game itself will eventually be transported out to the lake place, where it will bring a little culture to the internetless wilds.

In the meantime, my only nod to civility has been to use a china tea cup and saucer passed down from my mother-in-law, as an accompaniment to the Christmas squares scarfing.

Good thing I exercised by playing a couple of games of air hockey.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

into the dark

My computers have a history of crapping out around Christmastime. Subversively singular entities, they just know, deep in their hardware, that the best time to strike back against the human intruders is when all repair shops are closed for days at a time.

My current laptop has not yet crapped out entirely, but it is definitely considering the possibilities and rubbing its digital hands together in glee. The A/C plug seems to have loosened or something, so that the connection to electrical sources is tenuous, at best. And with my battery being highly unreliable (it can last 5 hours or it can last 5 minutes, you never know which), I like to keep it plugged in whenever possible. Lately, I pretty much have to press the plug in place with one hand, while pecking away at the keyboard with the other. 

However, with the Offspring now safely at home for Christmas (after a harrowing snowstorm run to the airport), screen time will mostly be replaced with face time anyway. And with board game time, and cooking up a storm in the kitchen time, and cookie scarfing time.

As we head into the depths of the longest night of the year, I wish you all warmth and comfort and tranquility. And a rapid return to the light.

Monday, December 16, 2013

peeking in windows

Looking Around: 
A Journey Through Architecture
- Witold Rybczynski

When I came across Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture at a book sale earlier this year, I knew I had to buy it, not just because it was only $3 for a hardcover, but because Witold Rybczynski writes such compelling architectural criticism. I remember getting quite absorbed in his earlier books, Home and The Most Beautiful House in the World.

Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture is divided into three sections: Houses & Homes (a treatise on the history of houses and how domestic spaces affect us and define our culture), Special Places (airports, museums, malls and shrines), and The Art of Building (the history of architecture and its feuding architects). At times, particularly in the final section, Rybczynski's writing does devolve a bit into what I call begatedness (name listing reminiscent of the Bible's endless so-and-so begat so-and-so lists). But these paragraphs are relatively easy to skim over (as I did) and they did pique my curiosity enough to do a little back-checking into some of the more prominent names. 

This is how I discovered that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who coined the term "less is more", was the architect whose clean-lined glass and steel designs ushered in the era of modernity. His buildings never fail to fill me with a sense of peace.

Rybczynski wrote this particular book over twenty years ago, and while it is predictably dated in places, at other times it proves to be remarkably prescient. He predicts, for example, that unrealistic expectations for housing prices, coupled with increasingly easy financial credit, could lead to dire consequences in the housing market. Which, of course, is exactly what happened when the American housing market crashed a decade later.

Architecture being so visual, it would have been nice if this book had contained some photographs. But even lacking the coffee table aspect, Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture will interest anyone with an interest in the sociological implications of how we design buildings. Worth a read.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

pass the pipe (and all eleven pipers)

It has arrived. For the eleventh year, without fail, the annual mystery parcel has appeared on our doorstep. There it was, at 5:00 AM, before the newspaper had even arrived.

No postage mark this year either, so either the sender is local (the Spousal Unit's suspicion) or the sender has friends in town (very good friends, evidently) who hand-delivered the parcel in the middle of the night.

Part of me is impressed by someone who can maintain a secret for so many years; part of me is creeped out by someone who can maintain a secret for so many years.

I do hope that after this wraps up, with a flourish of twelve drummers next Christmas, the sender of the mystery parcels reveals themselves. I know I am not the only one who is curious about the originator of this tradition. 

As long as they don't decide to start all over again in year thirteen.

For those curious about parcels received in years past, here's the chronology:

-  (2012) ten leaping lizards, errr ... frogs
-  (2011) nein injured dancers
-  (2011) the arrival of nein
-  (2010) eight milk maids and one unibomber
-  (2009) the swan has escaped from the castle
-  (2008) alaying those six geese
-  (2007) those five golden rings only get a #7 mention on the list
-  (2006) four calling birds from Philadelphia photographed on a mantel 
The three French hens, two turtledoves and the partridge in the pear tree all arrived prior to the invention of the internet. Or at least before I began blogging.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

awesome and holding

Rather than a lakeside deck in bare feet, the Spousal Unit is celebrating his birthday with a pre-dawn downtown commute through gusting snow over ice-packed roads.

It's a cruel season. But the sun will eventually return to linger in the sky and sparkle off the lake. And we will bask in the warmth of summer.

Meanwhile, we don fuzzy slippers in front of a roaring fire and a sparkling tv and take turns doling out belly rubs to the resident lap cat. And we wait for the OFKAR to return home for the holidays. (soon, soon)

Tonight there will be cake.

Happy Birthday, Spousal Unit!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

face value

You know those people (mostly men, it seems) who grow into their ugliness as they age? Maybe ugliness is a bit harsh, but you know what I mean. People with awkward faces - asymetrical perhaps, or raw-boned, goofy, just generally not what you could call conventionally attractive.

Then you look at them twenty some years later and you realize that hey they've really got that ugliness/awkwardness/goofiness working for them somehow. You know that moment? 

Yeah, that doesn't seem to be happening with me.

I was never much of a beauty, although like Liz Lemon (minus the sense of humour), there were about two weeks in university when I was pretty hot. I keep hoping that I will grow into my face, turn into an adorable old lady, but really all that's happened is I see pictures of myself from five years ago (which at the time I thought were abominable) and think hey I looked pretty good back then. 

I guess I will be saying the same thing five years from now. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

winter of mixed mulch

The composting, I suspect, has stalled. 

Two days of blizzard, Trans-Canada Highway closure trapping people in their cars for eighteen hours, snow drifts isolating entire communities. And when the winds finished polishing the snow banks covering the sidewalks to a nice solid crust (perfect for igloo construction, if anybody is game), the plummeting mercury freezes nostrils shut. 

This is why they invented shortbread.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

cars big as bars

Maybe it was just the fact that, with the calendar officially clicking over into December, all shopping restraint gets tossed by the wayside. Maybe it was the blizzard warnings that we have been hearing all weekend, the certainty of being pounded mercilessly with snow and wind and ice. Maybe it was just the final dregs of all that Black Friday nonsense dragging people from their beds and into the stores.

All I know is that there were far too many people at the grocery store today. Sure, canned Christmas music may have been piped through the PA system, but the hohoho factor was a trifle negligible. Judging from the piled-high grocery carts snaking around the checkout area, most of the population of the south-end of Calgary is ready for snowmageddon. Or the zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first.