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Monday, August 20, 2012

Can money buy happiness?

Last Friday, the Max Millions lotto drawing was $50 million. 

A jackpot this size always draws more players than usual.  Some people can’t be bothered with $10 or $15 million, when they win they want to win big and $15 million just doesn’t cut it.

Me, I play every week, twice a week.  I play the Max Millions on Fridays and 649 on Saturdays.  Having a regular set of numbers I can’t afford not to play.  Imagine not playing and recognizing the winning numbers as “my” numbers ... I wouldn’t survive the shock.

Yet this is exactly what happened ... last Friday, I forgot to play.  This in itself was a shock.  $50 million up for grabs and I didn’t buy a ticket! 

I’m sure there are others like me, faithful players who buy a ticket every week with a regular set of numbers.  I wonder if they ever won anything sizable.  I don’t mean a free ticket or $5 or $10 here and there, I mean a sum that makes a difference.

Whenever I read about Lotto winners I find there are four categories:

  • people who state that this was their first time playing;
  • people who only play when the jackpot meets their expectations;
  • the elderly; and
  • the disabled.

Since I don’t fit in any of the four categories, I wonder about my chances.  I also wonder what I would do with $50 million. 

People say that money doesn't buy happiness, but I’d sure would like to put that theory to the test.  $50 million would make me VERY happy and I can think of quite a few people and one organization with whom I would share that happiness.

I shall persevere and try again next Friday ...

Monday, August 13, 2012

How was your weekend?

Upon greeting, people often ask “How are you?”, while on a Monday morning, the question changes to “How was your weekend?”  Do they really want to know, or are they merely being polite? 

Assuming that you care about my health, let me recapture my weekend in a nutshell.

Saturday was laundry and cleaning day.  I popped a Tide capsule in the washing machine, added a load of shirts and towels, poured in fabric softener and pressed the “ON” button.  Nothing happened.  I pressed the “ON” button again.  I jabbed at it a few times more but the machine stayed stubbornly quiet.

"Stupid thing, what's the matter with you?" I asked.

No response, which is was a good thing because if the machine had spoken I would have run for the hills.

And then I noticed it ... the door wasn't closed.  Once I pressed that firmly into place, a gently whoosh of water indicated that the washing cycle had started.

While the washing machine did its thing, I was going to do some vacuuming.  A task not to be underestimated, because the vacuum cleaner weighs a ton.  It almost requires a trained bodybuilder to move it from here to there.

I was halfway through sucking dirt from the carpet - all the while swinging to the beat of Jennifer Lopez - when the machine suddenly stopped.  Hold on Jennifer, we seem to have technical difficulties.

I check the "ON" button, I checked the bristles, I peered in the dirt container ... everything seemed to be in order.  So what was the matter with this thing?  Ah, the electrical cord had come unplugged.  That ought to do it.

When everything was clean and tidy I fired up my laptop for some writing.  32 emails awaited me.

Junk, junk, more junk, a message from the UK informing me that my email account had won 32 million Euros, a blog entry about how to be a better writer (must get to that later) and ... ah, a message from a friend who was kind enough to have a look at chapters 1, 2 and 3 of a new story.

I do say "Chapters 1, 2 and 3" because the story held six chapters at the time, but chapters 4, 5 and 6 were not quite approved yet.

After I read the edited chapters - much better this time around - I did a "Save As" and clicked the file name.  OMG !!! too late I realized that I had just saved over the entire document and chapter 4, 5 and 6 were now gone.  Stupid, stupid, STUPID!!!  All that work for nothing.

Finally Sunday night arrived.  This unfortunate weekend was almost over.

When it got a little chilly, I got up and closed the balcony door.  Don't ask me what I did, because I still can't get my mind around it, but in the process I managed to squash two of my fingers.  A scream of pain, followed by holding of the damaged fingers.  And damaged they were.  Not only were the cuticles on both fingers bleeding, they rapidly began to swell to the extent that the knuckles disappeared.

As you can see though, no real damage was done as I can still type.

How was my weekend?  Well, let's just say I've had better.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shooting in Toronto

It was an ordinary day.  The heat had finally broken, gray clouds hung low in the sky, promising much needed rain.  I settled in front of my computer, preparing to write yet another article when suddenly ... bang, bang, bang, bang!

What the hell was that?  A car backfiring ... fire crackers ... gun shots?  Surely not, not in our sleepy part of Toronto. 

The noise had my full attention and that of the cats.  Mickey, awoken from a sound sleep, sat up straight.  Clearly confused.  Chanel and Charlotte stayed safely where they were (in a cabinet), while Gabriel dove under the bed.

An hour later (I had already forgotten about the loud noise) the superintendent’s voice came over the intercom.  Nobody was allowed to out through the back of the building. 

So there had been shots ...

I peeked through the bedroom window and saw that part of the parking lot was cordoned off with yellow tape.  Interesting.
Research online revealed that a 19 year old male had been shot in the stomach, steps away from our condo building.

In no time the place was packed with police, forensic units and television crews.  Inside the building it was swarming with police men and women.  From what I heard they were going door to door, asking if anyone had seen or heard anything.

They only visited condos facing north and up to the 10th floor though.  Since I’m on the 11th floor and facing south, nobody was interested in what we had to say.

This is the third shooting in two months.  First a gunman opened fire in a busy shopping mall, next a lunatic with a gun fired shots at a barbeque gathering, now this.

Is this Toronto or the wild, wild west?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Do I have a mental problem?

I received a comment today, asking if I had a mental problem.  This person was doing research for an essay and had stumbled across my blog.

I briefly considered defending my point of view, but then I thought ... neih, it’s not worth it.  If I say something, he/she is going to say something back, and then I’ll say something back and before you know it a simple comment has turned into a heated argument.  So, I left it alone and moved on.

The comment got me thinking though ... do I have a mental problem?  If I do, there’s a perfectly good explanation for it.

There was a time that I occupied myself with cleaning, cooking and gardening.  In my spare time I wrote a weekly letter home, did some knitting, crocheting, embroidery and beading.
The house was always spotless, something was simmering on the stove and my family and I had plenty of sweaters, scarfs and hats.  Even in the bathroom there was evidence of my creativity ... the spare toilet roll was kitted out in an original jacket.

With the arrival of the computer – and especially the Internet – everything changed.  Suddenly there was a fine layer of dust on the furniture and the windows had lost a bit of their sparkle.  Occasionally we would have take-out and bought sweaters replaced hand knitted ones.

I don’t even know how or when it happened, but suddenly I spend my days writing.  If I don’t write articles, I research articles.  If I don’t surf from website to website, I write emails or answer emails.  In between, I post this, that and the other on Facebook and leave comments on other people’s posts.  Via Facebook I visit blogs and leave comments there too.  Write, write, write, that’s all I do.

Okay, I play a fair amount of games on Facebook too, but that’s beside the point.

When I finally retire and go to bed, I have to share my space with two or three cats.  They curl up or stretch out and I have to adjust my sleeping position accordingly. 

It wouldn’t be so bad if they were quiet sleepers, but they’re not.  Mickey snores, Charlotte sighs and Gabriel makes funny little meow noises. 

In addition, Mickey has a tendency of kicking me when I don’t give him room to stretch, Gabriel swats his fury tail in my face, while Charlotte walks all over me.  She tramples over my chest, pushes her cold wet nose in my ear and says “krrrrrr, krrrrr, krrrrr!”  You try sleeping with that lot.

(Meantime, Dieter sleep with Chanel, a perfectly good and quite kitty cat ... even she too has a tendency to snore.)

Finally we all go to sleep, but only until dawn.  As soon as the sun rises Gabriel awakens and his theory is ... if I’m awake, so should everybody else.  So, he starts meowing.  Not softly mind you, but loud and insistent, and increasing in volume.  In fact, his meowing is like singing an aria from Aida.  Verdi would be proud of him.

After they had their breakfast, the kitty cats go back to sleep and so do I.  Not for long though, their internal clock is finely tuned and sooner or later they decide that it’s time to get up.  So I get up.

If you think I can shower and brush my teeth in peace and quiet, think again.  It doesn’t take long before there’s scratching on the door.  I open the door and Mickey walks in.  He takes a look around and wants to go out.  I open door.  He hears the water being turned on and he wants to come back in.  I open the door.  The bathroom is too hot for him and he wants to go back out.  I open the door.

There’s more scratching at the door.  I open the door.  Charlotte walks in.  She wants a drink at the sink.  She too decides that the bathroom is too hot and wants to go out.  I open the door.  Jeez Louise, these cats need a concierge.

For the remainder of the day I have peace and quiet.  The evening though brings a flurry of activity.  While I try to concentrate on writing, the cats play games.  Games that increase in roughness as time goes by.  Occasionally I have to yell “Guys!  Calm down!”

For a few minutes they behave themselves until the madness starts all over again.  They’re favorite game being racing, NASCAR style.  They sprint from room to room, jump on chairs, fly over tables, only to go sprinting from room to room again. 

I yell again for them to calm down when there’s a loud crash ... that was my favorite lamp.  (I can’t tell you how many pieces have bitten the dust at the hands/paws of my fury kids.

Writing and cats ... not a good combination.  Is it any wonder that I have a mental problem?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baking bread

Over the years I’ve tried all kinds of bread and I have yet to find one that makes a tasty sandwich.  Some are too soft, some too hard, some too sour and some have no taste at all.

When I heard about a bread maker, I thought this to be the perfect solution.  With such a machine I could make my own bread.  The website made it sound so easy.  Just put the ingredients in the machine at night, push a button and by morning the perfect loaf of bread awaits you.  What can be easier?

Reviews of bread makers showed that it wasn’t quite that easy.  All kinds of things could go wrong.  Not only could the pedals get stuck, some said that a recipe for bread making had to be followed just so, other said that the user had to figure out what worked best for him.

Since I am one of those people who lives under Murphy’s Law (if anything can go wrong it will), a bread maker might not be for me.

That’s when I started looking for a regular recipe, one to make bread by hand.  Friends supply me with all kinds of easy recipes, but let me assure you, with me nothing is easy.

One fine day I got my courage together though and got started.  I had the ingredients and set to work.

Things got complicated right from the start.  The recipe asked for 3 cups of flour.  Okay, what kind of cups?  Cups come in all kinds of different sizes, could they be a little bit more specific?  So I took a guess.

When all the ingredients were mixed I was looking at a rather disgusting paste.  Was it supposed to look like this?  Why didn’t recipes come with pictures?

Again I took a chance.  I spooned the mixture into oiled baking trays and shoved them in the oven.  After a few minutes I took a look and ... nothing much was happening.  I waited some more and ... yes, the dough was rising.

As time passed the house was filled with a delicious aroma.  If the bread tasted as good as it smelled, I was in business.  Unfortunately it didn’t.  The taste wasn’t bad, but it was a bit salty. 

The next week I tried again (can't give up after one go, right) and I’m happy to say that the second attempt was much better.  The structure of the bread still needed some work, but the taste was good.  In fact, the first loaf is almost eaten and there’s every chance that the two loafs in freezer will turn into sandwiches too.

And the best thing is ... I didn't have to call 911.