Sunday, August 31, 2014

Little Updates

The diet worked.  I lost two pounds off my belly, and I am once again a lean bean.  I'm happy about it and feeling extra-vain, which is  fine by me.  I'll take it for as long as it lasts.

My hair is growing out nicely (from pixie cut to... until I decide it's long enough).  I was getting frustrated with my stylist's plan for growing out the layers, which seemed to consist of growing the sides but leaving the back kind of short and choppy.  I want it LONG-long, so that I can braid it and put fun little doodads in it (bows and clips and suchlike).  None of this angled-bob nonsense.  Give me all-out, flowy Rapunzel locks!    Finally, we agreed that it's time to let the back grow out too.  It's just past my ears now, and headed south fast.  I see doodads in my future.

Also in the hair department, I am firmly committed to baking soda and apple cider vinegar in place of shampoo and conditioner.  My hair hasn't been this smooth and well-behaved since I was a kid.  A little dab of coconut oil goes a long way if it gets a bit too dry.  It's actually "wavy" instead of frizzy now.  Awesome.

The lawsuit in my workplace has not yet been resolved.  It still sucks.  It's still putting a strain on my family relationships, because it's a family business.  I still wonder at least once a week whether it's worth the stress.  However, on account of I'm going to inherit the mess in a few years no matter what, I may as well stick around and stay informed.  That might make it a little easier when my step-dad pops his clogs and I have to sort out his estate.

I'm looking forward to a birthday in a few weeks.  I'm going to be 42, which is excellent.  I have been waiting to be this age ever since the early 1980's, when I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which 42 is stated to be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.   What does this actually mean?  Your guess is as good as mine, but it makes me happy.

That's about it for news, which is fine by me.  Enjoy your long weekend!  I'm enjoying mine.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Steampunk Fair

I went to a Steampunk Fair this weekend. 
According to Wikipedia, "steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century."  Picture people dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, gizmos made of clockwork-type gears, and general whimsy.  If you're still confused, check out these photos of the fair, or Google "steampunk" and check out the Images.
It was the first year for this particular fair, although there are plenty of others to be found.  Therefore, it was a modest affair, with a dozen or so vendors, and some scheduled entertainments, such as Victorian-era belly-dancing (don't ask me, I have no idea), and the very-exciting making of SPONGE TOFFEE from scratch.  (Scratch = sugar, water, corn syrup, and baking soda.  All the magic is in the baking soda.)  Yes, I did get to try the sponge toffee, but from an earlier batch that had been cooling for 2 hours. SAFETY and COMMON SENSE, I haz dem.
I didn't take a lot of photos, because, I don't know.  I didn't feel like it.   Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for photos.  I was into experiencing the fair without the filter of my phone.  Anyway, cell phones are totally not steampunk.
I did take a few shots inside the Historic Zion Schoolhouse, on whose grounds the fair was being held.  The schoolhouse was built in 1869, and has been restored to its approximate appearance in 1910.  There were some original posters on the walls, such as this map that has seen better days.

My favourite was the Physiology poster.  Here is a stomach, in good health.

And here, the stomach of an inebriate.  You can see that it is dark and full of wiggles, showing the evil nature of alcohol.

Alcohol will also give you a creepy, drooping gaze.  Smoking may give you cancer, which looks like little bits of paper.  The anatomy is a bit off, especially those square vertebrae with hieroglyphs on them, but it is surprisingly wise for people of that era to be aware of the dangers of tobacco.

A photogenic cow, having its weight estimated.

When estimating the volume of a pile of grain, one must use a different equation depending on whether the grain is in a cone-shaped pile, heaped against a wall, or stored in a flared crib.  Good to know.

I didn't wear a costume to the fair, because I don't have one.  I had no idea that just about everyone there would be in full gear, from hats, to boots, to a teacup and saucer in a custom-crafted leather holster. (A proper steampunk character must always be prepared for a cuppa, apparently.)  Maybe next time? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fresh Piglets and Other Attractions

The Canadian National Exhibition is an annual summer fair.  I associate it with squinting up into blindingly bright sunlight while watching a roller-coaster loop upside-down, getting sun-burned at the air show, and paying ridiculous sums for bottled water.  This year, however, it was cloudy, rainy, and wickedly chilly.  I can assure you that I didn't sweat a drop.

Auntie N and I have a long history of going to the CNE together; she used to take me when I was a kid, when the fair was still gritty and unpredictable.  I remember riding The Flyer with her; a wooden roller coaster that has since been taken down since it did not meet today's standards of either thrills-per-minute or safety.  Mostly what I remember is feeling like I was going to fall out if I didn't hold onto the lap bar with all of my strength (Harness?  What harness?  This was the '80s!) or that, if I did manage to ride it out, all of my teeth would be shaken loose.

When Auntie N and I were at the CNE last year, she decided that for her 60th birthday (this year) she would ride the zip line.  The zip line runs from a platform 125 feet above ground level.  At first it was just an idea, but the more she talked about it the more excited she got, and the more it became a sure thing.   Her:  "I'm gonna do it!"  Me:  "I'll stay down here and hold your stuff!"

We both remembered her promise all year.  When I was on the CNE grounds for the One of a Kind Show before Christmas, I remarked to my mom that I'd be back in a few months to watch Auntie N ride the zip line.  Auntie N told a bunch of people too.

So what do you think happened?  When we arrived on the fairgrounds, the first thing we did was go to the zip line tower to check it out.  It was around twice as tall as I had remembered.  Auntie N took one look at it and was like "No way!  I'm not going up there!"  Later, when she talked to her boyfriend on her cell phone, she told him that she'd changed her mind.  There was a pause.  She told me "He's saying 'Don't be a baby'."  But she stood firm.  No zip line.  I think it was probably for the best.

We had a great time anyway.  We went to the food building to get grossed out by the novelty food.  If I had been hungrier I might have tried the waffle wrapped around a full Thanksgiving dinner, but the burger that's contained within two (!) Krispy Kreme donuts instead of a bun just looked nasty.  We went to the farm building and saw tiny piglets that couldn't have been more than a couple of days old.   We watched little kids lose their ever-lovin' minds when they had a chance to interact with a friendly, singing, "dancing" robot.  Whoever was remotely controlling Ex Bot gets a gold star for improv skills.  I like how he told people "May your batteries always be charged."

My souvenir for the year was this necklace, personalized with a photo of the moon at the phase it was in on on the day I was born.  It even glows in the dark!  Isn't that fun?  I've never seen anything like it before.  Go ahead, get one for yourself, and support a Canadian business.

Maybe I'll ride the zip line when I turn 60.  I don't have to worry about that for a while.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I love my cozy, little home.  When I have the opportunity to speak to my neighbours, in the same condo complex, I appreciate it even more.  I think that Ken and I lucked into the best unit on the entire property.

The complex consists of condo town homes that run in a circle around a driveway, on both sides of the drive.  The property is bordered on 3 sides by fences with metal gates that lock.  The fourth side is covered by two high-rise apartment buildings, and, between them, a guard house and the entrance to the underground parking garage.

The townhouse buildings are four stories tall.  The first floor consists of two-bedroom flats.  The top three floors are three-bedroom homes.  Ken and I are in one of the flats.   Our perfect little hide-away.

When summer storms come through, we don't have to worry about a basement flooding.  (Underneath us is the parking garage.)  We don't have to worry about the roof.  (That's our upstairs' neighbours' problem.)

Our front door opens onto a tiny patio.  Our back door opens onto a corridor that leads to the trash chute and the elevator to the parking garage.  It's a house at the front, an apartment at the back!  The best of both worlds!

We're not near the trash chute, so we don't have to listen to bags of garbage rattle and clunk inside our walls.  We're not near the elevator, so we don't have to listen to it heave and ping.  We're not near any of the metal gates, so we don't have to listen to them clang shut every time someone goes through.

We don't face onto the pretty green park at the centre of the circle of buildings.  That's actually a good thing, because the security cameras show that people have been dealing crack in the gazebo.  Charming!  Also, there are some young couples who take shelter to there... To paraphrase our condo board chairman "If I wanted to show you those security tapes on TV, I would have to first display a warning of graphic images."

There are kids who use the central park as their personal play area.  By "play" I mean running around screaming all evening until bedtime.  I can hear them from my home when my windows are open in the summer.  I would hate to be even closer to their shenanigans.  The parents have been notified that this creates a disturbance, but apparently they couldn't care less.

We have a few families on site that enjoy having raucous barbecue parties, involving drinking, music, and sometimes the viewing of sports games with the accompanying roar of cheers.  None of those families live on my block.

We have heard stories of people abusing the property in various ways, such as tossing their cigarette butts off balconies to land on the patios of neighbours below.  How rude!  My upstairs neighbours have never done that.  There was also someone in another block who emptied a kitty litter box down the trash chute directly, without pouring the litter into a garbage bag first.  Nice!

Our block is generally quiet and polite.  There are some wailing babies, and whiny dogs, but that's par for the course.  Last weekend, the neighbours across the way woke me up at 5:30 am.  They had their car out on the driveway, and were slamming the doors and speaking in raised voices to each other.  I couldn't tell if they were home very late from a night out or setting off early for a camping expedition, because they were speaking in Korean.  Fortunately, this was a one-off situation.

Therefore, I declare my home to be perfect, and I plan to possibly never, ever move.  How about you?  How satisfied are you with your home?

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Weird Brain

Back in the days when I was suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression, I used to get a symptom that I never mentioned to anyone, because it was the least of my worries.  When one can barely manage to stand upright, that tends to trump everything else.  However, I used to get this strange sensation, as I was falling asleep, of receiving mild-to-medium electrical shocks to my brain.

I would hear a sound that went "GZZT!", at the same time as seeing a burst of static (like that on a TV that's not tuned to any station), and feeling an unnamable sensation affecting every nerve in my body.  It would last a fraction of a second, as though I had reached out and touched a live wire and then instinctively pulled my hand back.  Sometimes it would happen several times before I drifted off to sleep.  I had no idea what it was, but it wasn't terribly uncomfortable, so I more or less ignored it.

Imagine my surprise when, in the course of some random internet explorations, I happened across a list of symptoms for SSRI medication withdrawal.  Among them was something called "brain zaps", the description of which fit to a T the symptoms that I describe above.  Apparently they are caused by a shortage of dopamine.  Since I had not yet been on psychiatric medication at the time, I can only have been "in withdrawal" from my own natural dopamine supply.  Now that I think on it, I stopped experiencing brain zaps when I started taking paroxetine.  Clearly I am on the correct medication!

I had another "aha!" moment when I discovered connections between narcolepsy (a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness), cataplexy (a neurological disorder that causes one to lose conscious control of one's body, therefore collapsing into a limp heap, while remaining awake and aware), and depression.  I have been watching a series of BBC documentaries on YouTube called "Extraordinary People".  They are really worth a look-see.  I warn you that some of them are medically kind of gross, if you're squeamish.  The one I'm referring to here was called "I woke up in a morgue".  This one lady lapsed into such a deep state of unconsciousness during her cataplexy episodes, with such minimal vital signs, that she was declared dead on three separate occasions.  Oops.

Anyway, what interested me personally was the similarity of cataplexy symptoms to sleep paralysis (a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep characterized by a complete loss of muscle tone.)  If you've never experienced sleep paralysis, it's pretty much the most frustrating experience you can imagine.  You're half-awake, and conscious of lying in bed, but completely unable to move a muscle.  I don't know how long I lay like that this morning, willing myself with every ounce of determination to wiggle a finger or flop an arm, to no avail.  It felt like ages.

These days, I only experience sleep paralysis on days when I sleep in.  Since I usually take my medication around 8:30 am, this means that I'm late for my dose, which probably accounts for my brain screwing up.  Interestingly (at least to me), sleep paralysis actually runs in my family, through the same branches that contain the most colourful and moody personalities.  IMHO a lot more of my relatives should be medicated than actually are.

Apparently there's some kind of connection between sleep disorders and depression, which isn't fully understood because the research in this area is still ongoing.  The statistics are that narcoleptics are six times more likely than average to be clinically depressed.  I can tell you, with all the trouble I had staying awake and upright during the worst of my depression, I might actually have qualified as a quasi-narco/cata-leptic.  I had trouble staying awake during the day; trouble sleeping at night; and loss of muscle tone to the point where I was practically disabled.

I'm not sure if this is at all interesting to anyone other than myself, but I do feel that it goes a long way to explaining some of my mysterious experiences.  It helps to know that science is on the road to discovering more about my weird brain, and that I am not alone.  I am quite happy and healthy on my current low dose of medication, but it's good to know that if life throws me any curve balls, medical science might be on track to help me again when I need it.