Category Archives: Musings & Miscellany

General musings on life, whatever doesn’t fit anywhere else

Serendipity (a.k.a. The Case of the $88 Couch)

New Couch (2013): Dude Approved

Comfort, Bohemian style.

Sometimes things appear when you least expect them. In the case of our newest acquisition, we were nearing the end of a woefully unsuccessful bookshelf hunt. As one is wont to do when in a furniture store, we were wandering around listlessly, gazing wistfully at all the ridiculously over-priced things we could never possibly afford, when we espied a comfy, homey-looking couch that looked just right for a brief respite. We sank into it, and noticed with surprise the $88 price tag. Obviously that couldn’t be for the couch we were sitting on, unless there was some glaring structural integrity issue (especially given that there was an identical couch across the room marked at $799).

New Couch (2013): Just Arrived

Before adornment.

On a whim, we flagged down the nearest sales guy, and asked what the deal was with the mark-down. Could it really be because of one little tear in the front left-hand corner? As it turns out (the friendly sales guy explained), their latest advertising scheme proclaimed discounts up to 90% off. So, to skirt any potential nasty legal issues, there had to be at least a couple of items in the store that genuinely were reduced by 90%.

Still wary, we pressed further. No structural issues, no bad smell, no stains. It was, indeed, what it said on the tag. We thought about the sad, sagging, ripped-up, disintegrating thing that our old couch had become; I thought about how I had (more than once) considered tossing said old couch out on the lawn and setting fire to it. We looked at the price tag.

Alien demon cats take over the new scratching post.

Invasion of the alien demon cats.

A few minutes later, we were signing the paper and handing over the cash. A few days later, two cheerfully robust moving guys were hauling it up the steps into our house. (We were both amazed to notice that the younger of the two did most of the hauling on his own, with the couch literally over one shoulder; that’s what lugging furniture around for a living does for you.) The old couch was unceremoniously shoved out onto the porch where it now resides in its temporary role as cat-paw-warmer, and the rest is (admittedly very brief) history.

It may not be the most beautiful colour, but it’s amazingly comfortable, and laughably tall when compared to the other chairs in the room (think Gandalf sitting with hobbits; at last, something made with long-legged people in mind!). We think the plethora of colourful blankets adds a bit of bohemian flare, although they’re mainly there to discourage Dude from scratching the new fabric (he’s partly the reason the old couch looks the way it does). It has been nap-tested, lounge-tested and bounce-tested (from a seated position only), and so far has passed with exemplary marks in all categories.

(Oh, and we did eventually find a bookshelf. Even with shipping and taxes added, the couch still came to less – and was a far more satisfying story.)

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Birds, Bees, Flowers & Things

We let our backyard go a bit wild this year (life got ahead of us, in more ways than one), but the flowers and pond plants seem to be happier than ever. We have a ton of bees this year, which is heartening to see, given how hard up bees are world-wide lately. You can see one of them (if you look closely) in the second picture down. (Click for hi-rez)

Purple flowers in sunbeam

Purple flowers - with visitor

Coneflower (Echinacea) and False Sunflowers

Pond Lillies - August 2013

Backyard Pond 2013

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Cedar Grapes 2013

Our highest grape yield of any year so far – thanks to a complete and utter lack of any sort of pruning for two years straight. I suspect that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. This year, the grapes got especially friendly with our resident cedar trees (click for bigger).

CedarGrapes 2013 Look Waaaay Up...

CedarGrapes 2013 At home in the trees

CedarGrapes 2013

CedarGrapes 2013 Getting friendly with the other vines

CedarGrapes 2013 ReadyToEat

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New Outside Room Completed!

The cats enjoying their brand new outside room.  Click for bigger.

Miss Kitty Fantastico in her new outside room

Miss Kitty Fantastico looking pretty on her new perch.

Miss Kitty trying out the new shelves

All three cats love the new shelves, but MKF has totally owned them. To be fair, she totally owns the entire room; the other two are just tolerated guests. ;-)

Miss Kitty in the new outside room, May 2013

Look ma, no leash!

Dude and Miss Kitty

Mister Grumpy (aka Dude) hangin’ with the wee lass. She’s keeping an eye on him, as he’s had a tendency to swat at anyone who comes nearby. Still needs to work on his outdoor etiquette.

Jake and Miss Kitty

Miss Kitty and her best bud. Jake is still a little freaked by the new space, but likes being back in the fresh air again. And the shelves are pretty darn cool, too.


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Living in the Future: Relax and Recharge

solar powered rockerIntroducing the SOFT Rocker: The solar powered rocker that recharges your electronics.

Article here.

Upgrading everyday objects to produce power is hardly a new idea.

Edison famously had a turnstile installed at his summer estate that all guests were guided through.  When they wondered why so much effort was required to move the turnstile, Edison replied that each rotation of the turnstile pumped eight gallons of water into a tank on his roof (although more conservative estimates put it closer to three).

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Living in the Future: Making Fuel out of Thin Air (sort of)

Photo: Andrew McFadyen/Al Jazeera

Yes, it’s an article from Aljazeera about a CO2 harvester in Aberdeen, Scotland.   Gotta love the Internet.

(photo credit: Andrew McFadyen/Al Jazeera)

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Living in the Future: Introducing the Filabot 3D Printer

Star Trek replicator anyone?  Now all we need is a time-travelling Delorian that runs on garbage…


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Today, in real life:

M: “A Clockwork Orange! There are so many things in that movie…”

T: “…that I never, ever want to see ever again.”

(took me nearly a decade before I was able to listen to “Singing in the Rain” without images of Malcolm McDowell in a bowler hat coming back to haunt me)

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The prodigal writer returns… (ish)

I’m only sort of back, will be back properly in November.  This is likely the last year I’ll be doing the November challenge for a long while (never say never, but…), so I’m going to make the most of it.  We’ve got a great connection with the local library this year, which is something I’ve been trying to wrangle for the last 3 years.  Now that we have that, I feel I can gracefully step aside once Nov. 30th rolls around.  The plan is for this winter to be all about getting my foot in the ring – sending my stuff out into the world, editing the heck out of Fractal Theory (which is *really* close to being finished; and WILL be by the end of this month, come hell or high water), and tying up a lot of loose ends (darned annoying, all this grown-up house-owner stuff that keeps insisting it needs dealing with).

Off to feed the cats, and continue digesting a lovely Thanksgiving dinner (mmm, pumpkin pie).

‘Til November 1st (or possibly sooner)
– T.H.

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Nightwatching – A Review

I’ll let you in on a secret.  Known to festival buffs and die-hard collectors, it’s a fact of which much of the general public is sadly ignorant. Musicians still record albums.  And movie-makers still make films.  It may be hard to believe, given the seemingly endless stream of forgettable popcorn sequel remakes, but it’s true.  I was lucky enough to see two of them in this past month alone.

The first was the latest, heavily condensed version of the John le Carré classic, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring the inimitable Gary Oldman as George Smiley.  The other was Nightwatching, a film by Peter Greenaway, starring Martin Freeman as Rembrandt (yes, you read that right).  It’s a story about art, politics, sex and love, and a famous painting (The Night Watch) with a mystery at its core.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, there was a time when you could look at a single frame of film and know instantly what movie it was, or who directed it – when good movies and good directors had a signature look that was as unmistakable as a fingerprint.  Even the earliest of the classic Disney movies had it (although you’d never guess that these days).  Movies that so perfectly captured an era, or a mood, or a thought, that they were forever stamped in the public consciousness as a result.  Now, I’m not saying either of the films I saw quite made the eternal classic-to-be grade, but at least it’s nice to know that somewhere out there, people are still trying.

Nightwatching is one of those films that defies genre to the point where you’re left wondering how to describe it afterwards.  Is it a film, or a painting in motion?  A work of art, or an act of theatre? A profound what-if, or merely a self-reflexive daydream-cum-nightmare?  From the first scene, it’s shot and lit like a play; you half expect to hear people in the audience shuffling and clearing their throats.  Every frame is tone-coloured to feel like you are living inside one of Rembrandt’s paintings – visceral, rich, dark, intimately real, yet unreal.  The dialogue is that strange admixture of naturalistic (to the point of crass) and highly stylized, that makes one wonder what Shakespeare might have sounded like if he had been working rated R instead of PG.

The pacing of the film is, as you might suspect, much like watching a painting in progress.  It could easily bore one person to tears, while keeping the next on the edge of his/her seat.  I found myself oddly mesmerized by the gradually increasing tension, the way it sucks you in, starts you guessing, begins with vague hints that devolve into brutal directness as the film progresses.  And there was no small amount of beauty in the sheer look of the thing. The statements, and criticisms, the characters make about the famous painting throughout the movie could just as easily apply to the film itself.

Even the role of the audience is unclear.  At times you feel like a trusted confidante, a fellow conspirator; at other times, like a voyeur, witnessing things you were never meant to see, scenes that would make an HBO movie blush.  Yet despite its excesses – and yes, it has it all – it never feels gratuitous.  Perhaps because of the way it builds, adding layers and depth as it goes, tempting you to look closer, so that you don’t realize the disturbing nature of what you’re looking at until it’s too late.

It’s not a movie for the faint of heart, or the prudish, or the easily bored (for the ADHD-afflicted, I recommend re-watching The Transporter).  But I think I can say it achieves what it sets out to.  In the end, love it or hate it, it is a work of art.  Derivative it may be, but you could do far worse than deriving your inspiration from one of the greatest painters of all time.  You won’t come away from this movie feeling happy.  You might not even like it.  But if you stick with it to the end, it’s a safe bet you won’t ever forget it.

Speaking of albums – Hugh Laurie’s “Let Them Talk” is worth a listen.  Check it out.

– T.H.


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