Tuesday, April 28, 2015

zombie smash

 We expected that day one of renovations - bathroom demolition day - would involve exactly that. We didn't take into account the perfect storm of the no-nonsense efficiency of our contractors, combined with the revelation that there was no mold behind those bathtub walls after all. Bathroom demolition - which no longer necessitated any structural restructuring - was therefore complete in a couple of hours. So they kept going.

Before we knew it, huge hunks of carpet had been ripped from the upstairs hallway and staircases and hauled to the dumpster. Spindles and newel posts and handrails were disassembled and stacked for painting. Debris was swept up and spirited away almost as quickly as it was formed.

And then came the query. Is it okay if we go ahead and rip out the bedroom carpet now, too? A few seconds of panic and holy shit glances passed between the Spousal Unit and I, and then the git-er-dun attitude kicked in. Mattress, bed frame, dressers and book shelves were wedged into any spare nook we could find. Clothes were pulled out of the closets and jammed into half-full closets in other bedrooms. Some articles of clothing even remained on the hangers. Twenty minutes and that bedroom was empty. Twenty minutes after that, the carpet was gone. 

We have never used a contractor before, but judging from six day per week, 7:00am to 5:00pm renovations that stretched on for six months at the Heisenberg house next door last summer, our contractors are a bit of an anomaly. The two brothers were here from 8:30-3:30 and did not take a single break. No lunch, nothing. Not even sure if they peed.

Today, subfloor day, is perhaps a wee bit less dramatic, but so far seems to be every bit as productive.

Perhaps the resident kitty won't spend the entire summer hiding behind some boxes under the deepest corner of the basement stairs after all. Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

ode to the lepus

Age keeps you tucked into your shallow bed most days, under the neighbour’s spruce tree where you camouflage with the landscaping of boulders and river rocks and mulch. For weeks you have been ignoring the posse of younger hares as they pose and cavort and defy gravity - a thousand slinky-toys leaping and spinning down the centre of the road.

They have never met fear, these young upstarts, thumbing their twitching noses at automobiles that pause for them,ignoring the house cats who give them a wide berth.

But you have seen too much to be that carefree. Your caution has served you well, made you the doyenne of the lepus townsendii campanius of the Fish Creek region.

I see it in your chiselled face, sharply angular even by jack-rabbit standards. I sense it in your bulging eyes as you survey me warily, standing your ground but ready to bolt at the first sign of danger - watching me as I sit on the front steps watching you, happy that you have emerged from your shallow bed to sample the fresh growth of the spring lawn.

We both scoff silently at the folly of the teenaged hare fifteen feet away who feeds with his back toward me.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

what a wonderful world

Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You 
- Dan Riskin

We are all meat robots, nothing but transfer systems for our DNA, whose only goal is to replicate itself. That drives the actions of all living creatures and it can result in some utterly ruthless behaviour. Humans, despite our opposable thumbs and self-awareness, are not above this drive.

That, in a nutshell, is the premise of Dan Riskin's book. It's a rollicking good read, especially if you are fascinated (like I am) by all the wonderfully gory and ruthless methods that creatures use to stay alive and stay ahead of the competition.

Riskin - the co-host of Daily Planet (my favourite televised science show) - is an evolutionary biologist who grew up in Edmonton and who is bat-shit crazy about bats. He did his doctorate research on the mechanics of bat locomotion. Essentially, a man after my own heart. 

In Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You, Riskin mines much of his own life for examples of the ways in which ... well, mother nature is trying to kill you. He begins the book with the cheery little tale of the time he came home from a bat-studying expedition in Belize with a botfly maggot lodged in his head. For two weeks, the maggot (which his friends named Georgia) provided Riskin with a neat little party trick with which to amaze and gross-out his friends before he finally had it removed. Riskin uses this tale to demonstrate the cool life-cycle of the botfly and the complex strategy (using mosquitoes as carrier systems) that it uses to propagate itself. 

And that's merely the introduction. The body of the book is divided into chapters named for the Seven Deadly Sins, chock-full of examples of ways in which nature is greedy, lustful, slothful, envious .. well, you get it. Riskin provides fascinating examples of the ingenious and often deadly ways in which living creatures commit these sins in order to make sure that their own DNA is passed on to the next generation. Riskin, being a meat robot for DNA just like every other creature, even questions his own motives behind the love he feels for his young son. Is this fraternal emotion merely a technique utilized by his DNA to ensure that Sam (the recipient of Riskin's DNA) survives to propagate and pass that DNA to the next generation?

Not afraid to court controversy, Riskin occasionally editorializes, using his innate sensibility and scientific understanding to take the piss (sometimes gently, sometimes less so) out of delusional zealots, like the man who claims to have subsisted on nothing but sunlight since 1940 or the waitress with whom he used to work who would only take drugs that "came from nature". His thoughts on GMO crops were so sensible that I wanted to hug this well-spoken and thoughtful meat robot.

Meat robot or not, Dan Riskin has written a highly readable and fascinating treatise. From cannibal spiders to gang-raping ducks to fire-ants to parasites in all their clever guises, Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You gleefully covers all the good stuff.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

ring the bell

Hanging out in an unfinished National Music Centre lends itself to photo ops that are rife with compelling shapes and unexpected colours. 

Just wait until the place is filled with sound.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

the hunter and the hunted

I have started to crawl out of my office again. It's been a very productive two and half weeks, with a tonne of articles under my belt, as well as a rush website editting job. I've got a few more articles to write over the next week, but for the next few days it's going to be all reno decisions all the time. 

I've got a mitt-full of paint chips spread out on the dining room table, in the hopes that they will start speaking to me and assert themselves as the only possible choices. Right now they are still duking it out for my love. 

In a couple of days, the Spousal Unit and I are going on a reconnaissance excursion, which will hopefully result in some tough decisions quickly made - toilets, vanities, faucets, tiles, lighting and paint for three bathrooms, plus a bath/shower combo for the main. The contractor is drumming his fingers, waiting for our decisions. So, no pressure.

In more magazinely news, the new spring issue of Latent Image has hit the stands. I've contributed a story and a photo and - in a case of the hunter becoming the hunted - I also got a chance to dish on Calgary culture. Check it out.