Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I got the Laundry Day Blues!

I was doing laundry yesterday, and it occurred to me that I have come full circle.

First, it was just the two of us generating laundry, and I had a washer and dryer set that was over twenty years old.

Then we had a baby, and we bought a brand new washer and dryer set. It was a good thing we did, because I used cloth diapers on that baby and the next one. I did a lot of laundry.

Even after the diaper stage, I still did a lot of laundry, because they were girls, and girls wear a lot of clothes, especially when the teen years come. I actually had nightmares about laundry - piles and piles of laundry; ever growing, the colours getting mixed up with the whites, and I just couldn't sort them all - it was horrible! My friend Nita told me that I must have sorting issues.

So what do I do, with the laundry day blues?
I wrote a poem, of course! Now wouldn't you?

Laundry Day Blues
By Karen Gross, August 11, 2009.

Sheets and towels, pillow cases, jeans;
I see them in my sleep!
The loads are piling up again;
It makes me want to weep!

A load of whites, a load of darks;
Will this sorting ever stop?
And gentle care for underwear
So our knickers don’t end up in knots.

I check each label carefully;
Harsh lessons made me wise.
My brand new blazer, oh so chic;
Shrunk down to half its size!

I'm grateful for my laundry room;
For my washer and dryer too.
Grandma used a scrubbing board;
For nine babies, not just two!

Oh yes, I have the laundry blues;
And whites and pinks and purples too.
All washed and dried and folded nice,
Next week it starts anew!

July 16, 2014: Hard to believe it, but my girls are all grown up now.  Megan still lives at home, but she has been doing her own laundry for the last couple of years, ever since I accidentally put a load of her drip dry clothes in the dryer.

I was thinking about this yesterday, while I was sorting laundry. I am back to doing laundry for two again, and once again I have a washer and dryer set that is more than twenty years old. Yup. Full circle.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How many Canadian Politicians does it take to change a light bulb?

We’re sorry, but the Government of Canada cannot answer your query at this time. We are putting a committee together, and they will hire specialized light bulb procurement consultants to research the most efficient means for light bulb replacement.

The Committee on Light Bulb Procurement will garner bids from light bulb replacement professionals based on the recommendations of the procurement consultants.

The selected bid must then undergo an audit by the national ethics committee to investigate any possible conflicts of interest. The ethics committee will then submit their report directly to the Procurement Committee. The Committee must then prepare and present a parliamentary bill before the House of Commons.

A bill must go through 5 stages in the House of Commons, any of which could stall the procedure indefinitely. If it survives that process the bill is sent to the Senate where the same 5 stages must be repeated for a sober second look. Any piece of legislation that survives both the House of Commons and the Senate is then sent to the Queen of England or her representative in Canada, the Governor General for royal assent, when the bill is finally signed into legislation.  

In the event that Parliament is in recess, or has been prorogued, the Light Bulb Replacement project will be tabled in queue when seating is resumed. Barring protest by the official opposition party or veto by the senate, the light bulb will be changed posthaste, unless of course the Prime Minister has called an early election, in which case all outstanding bills will be cancelled and a new Light Bulb Procurement Committee will need to be convened by the new government.

Nous sommes désolés, mais le gouvernement du Canada ne peut pas répondre à votre requête en ce moment...

(All Government of Canada communication must be fully presented in both official languages, English and French.)

The preceding rant was inspired by a report on the CBC News. Apparently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plan to cut the Canadian deficit, as per his election promise, was off to a swift start. The Conservative party had hired an outside firm of consultants to research the best way to cut the deficit. This firm was awarded a seven month contract that would cost Canadian taxpayers approximately $19.8 million (about $90,000 a day).

In my opinion, if that consultant firm is worth their salt, their first recommendation ought to be to stop hiring outside consultants.

To answer my original question: “How many Canadian politicians does it take to change a light bulb?” Let’s see...about a hundred members of Parliament, thirty or forty senators, and the Governor General or the Queen to sign a royal proclamation, and finally the public servant who is authorized to actually change the bulb – it’s no wonder nothing ever changes in Canada. Our politicians are all in the dark!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Get Fit: Go Shopping!

I have been trying for years to convince my husband that shopping is an aerobic activity. Yes, it can get expensive, but so is fitness equipment and gym membership. You just can’t put a price tag on your health.

I have seen mall walkers. They walk in a straight line, at a steady pace, with their arms pumping. They can be identified by a conspicuous lack of shopping bags. That is not aerobic shopping.

With aerobic shopping, I only walk briskly in a straight line when I see a red sign with the word “sale” and/or “50% off.” Then I do a circuit of side stepping around racks of clothing. To increase the intensity, I add arm movements, pushing hangers back and forth, hunting for something in my size. Walking around the store, picking up and carrying items to try on, adds weight training.

Trying on clothes in those little fitting rooms is the endurance training. Having stiff joints and arm and leg muscles that don’t always cooperate makes for a challenging exercise.

One round of aerobic shopping is complete with handing the cashier my credit card, signing the slip, and then picking up the bag. The more you buy, the more intensive the rest of the circuit becomes. For a complete workout, I recommend at least three rounds per session, and three or four sessions per week.

Disclaimer, this article is meant to be taken with a large grain of salt applied to your funny bone. Unless you have the income to afford a workout like this, I am not actually recommending that you adopt this as your fitness regime. I wouldn't want your husband to sue me for damages.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Me and Technology

I think that I know just slightly more about computers and technology than my cat. When did I get so far behind?

I thought I was getting a good head start on my future in this technologically-obsessed culture. I took computer science in high school. Our school was well funded, and we had some of the latest technological equipment. We had a main frame computer, and our typing classrooms were equipped with electric typewriters. (The other high school in town was still using manual typewriters.)

In my grade eleven computer science class, we were taught to write programs in Fortran, which back then was on the cutting edge of computer languages. We wrote our little programs one line at a time on paper cards with bubbles that we filled in with soft pencils, and then fed the stack of cards into the mainframe. We had user cards which, as I recall, allowed us eight seconds of computer time. (This put a limit on our favourite infantile trick: run a program with an endless loop of “skip a page”, which would result in the computer spewing out blank sheets of paper until our time ran out.)

Then in grade twelve, we advanced to a computer language called Cobalt, which as I recall, contained more words than Fortran. Twelfth graders were allowed to use the keypunch machine, which was just a keyboard which punched holes in the paper cards, so we didn't have to use a pencil to mark the bubbles. Now we were really moving up the ladder of technological prowess! I somehow managed one day to get the machine to spew out reams of unpunched cards. I had to unplug the machine to end the projectile vomiting of paper cards.

I found this tutorial video on YouTube. Four minutes and fourteen seconds of deadly dull footage, but it brought back fond memories for me. It starts with plugging in the machine and locating the 'on' button. Good to know!

One day, our teacher brought in something called a “personal computer” or just PC, as a show and tell object. We had never seen anything like it. He had written a fun program in which we entered data for a motorcycle stunt: the angle of the ramp, speed of the motorcycle, objects to try to jump over; and the computer would calculate whether or not your stuntman survived, and if he did, what bodily injury he suffered. No graphics. Cutting edge technology!

While in university taking my bachelor of education, I got a job in the library. We had an astonishingly new program for signing out books. We just waved a magic wand over something called a barcode, and about one scan out of three  it actually worked! (The other two times, we had to manually enter all of the numbers on the barcode – I think there must have been about 16 digits.) I was really advanced now! Except when it came to logging in or out of the system. I usually had to get help to get all of those steps in order.
In my second year of  teaching, my principal put a computer in each classroom! My class got one with a pink monitor! I used programs that captivated the students and motivated them to learn. There was one for spelling practice: I had to enter a list of words, then the student would see one word at a time, copy it three times, and then it would vanish and the student had to type it from memory. If it was correct, a yellow smiley face would show up. If not, they had to start over. They loved it! :)

For my own use, I had access to a word processing program called “Q”. Basically, I used the computer as a glorified typewriter. Sometimes I got so frustrated with not being able to get the printout to match what the screen showed, so I would go back to my typewriter. At least then I could control where the words would end up on the page. I had no idea how to use the features of the program. Cutting and pasting? Not so high tech - I used scissors and a glue stick.

I took a five-year maternity leave, and when I came back, everyone else was using computers with something called Microsoft Word. I was overwhelmed with all of the little pictures, and couldn't figure out what this attachment called a “mouse” was for. My first attempts to use it were hilarious!

Somehow, in those five years I had been at home watching cartoons and reading “The Cat in the Hat” so often I had it committed to memory, the whole technological world passed me by.

By the time my kids were teenagers, they were helping me to use the computer. The role reversal just felt wrong. They got frustrated with my inability to remember what they showed me to do countless times already. I only got to use the computer when they were at school or asleep.

I am slowly adapting to life in this age of information overload. My kids are thriving in it.They are on the cutting edge of technology, which I have learned is a very expensive edge to stay on. All of these gadgets and gizmos they so desperately need are practically obsolete by the time they get the packages open. 

Video Attribution: YouTube "Punching Data on Cards" by UQ Centenary
Photos by author. 
Pink computer courtesy of

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Theories Regarding Weight Gain

Theory #1: The Gremlins in my closet.

It is not me getting bigger, it's my clothes getting smaller. There are Gremlins in my closet. During the winter months, they shrink my summer clothes. Then they take a break from the Canadian winter to go to Australia to my cyber friend Duffy's house. It is winter there when it is summer here, and the Duffster says that they wreak the same havoc in his closet.

Then the Gremlins migrate back here for the summer and they shrink my jeans.

And speaking of genes, here is my second theory. It sounds a bit more scientific, for those of you who don't believe in closet gremlins.

Theory #2: Nature vs Nurture:

I call this one my "Rubber Band Conundrum." 

 These two rubber bands represent nature - the genes that you inherited. These are the genes that are responsible for the size of your jeans. 

Some of us inherited a set of genes like the thick rubber band, or even like those short fat ones that they put around broccoli in the produce section of grocery stores.

Others were blessed with a set of genes like the skinny rubber band.

We hates them, them, those skinny ones!

Sorry for that last line. I think one of the Gremlins put that in. 

 Back to my theory of the genes. Humans come in all sizes and shapes, but we think that it should be possible to all look like the skinny rubber band.

Both of the rubber bands that represent nature can be stretched out by nurture, which for this theory represents all of the sane and insane ways that we try to change what nature gave us.

The people whose genes are represented by the skinny rubber band can lose five pounds by skipping breakfast. 

We hates them, them skinny ones. And we hates their precious skinny jeans.

No we don't hate them - get back in the closet, or better yet go visit Duffy. I hear that Australia is lovely this time of year!

Sorry for that. Ahem. The people whose genes are represented by the thick rubber band could eat nothing but salad with no croutons or salad dressing for a month, and we might lose a pound, but as soon as we just look at ice cream or chocolate that pound will come back and bring all its friends.

As you can see in the photos above, the short stubby band can be stretched to be almost as long as the skinny one, but it takes a lot of effort. And then when the skinny one gets stretched, it easily stretches much longer.

When the stubby rubber band stops making the effort to stretch, it goes immediately to a lumpy, misshapen version of its old self.

Theory #3: Weight loss and gain do not obey the laws of mathematics.

Did your gym teacher in high school tell you about the law that said:"Calories in minus calories out equals weight gained or lost"?. It all sounded so... mathematical. Well, my gym teacher did, and she was wrong!

The only law that governs weight loss and gain is Murphy's Law. For example, when my first child was a year old, I decided that I would probably never get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, so I gave away most of my career clothes, and invested in sweat pants with elastic waist bands and comfy t shirts. 

A few months later I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight. I was regretting the decision to give away my nice clothes, because I was doing some subbing at school, and didn't really want to wear the same dress every time. 

But then I got pregnant again, and even though my weight was the same, I couldn't fit into most of my maternity clothes. I think that babies leave a hollow inside that makes you bigger.

I suppose that there is another law at work with weight - the law of gravity. This law is unkind to women, especially women with the stubby rubber band genes. I used to have an hour glass figure, but now the sand is all in the bottom. By the time baby number the second one was a year old, I was 20 pounds lighter than I was when I got married. So I tried on my wedding dress. I could get the zipper done up, but the dress was kind of empty in the top and significantly tighter in the bottom.

Disclaimer: the parts of the preceding article that are not just made up have been disguised by the author for dramatic effect. Did it work?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Random Canadian Thoughts – A Day Late For Canada Day

Canada Day was yesterday, July 1. I tried to write a humorous Canadian poem to share with my fellow Canucks yesterday, but since Canada Day is a stat holiday, I had to give my muse the day off. 

So this is as far as I got:

Some Random Thoughts for Your Canada Day:
Thinks to tickle your funny bone; 
Thinks to make you say, “Eh?”

Well, today my muse called in sick. Apparently she is having problems with bursitis in her funny bone again. I think maybe she was out late last night partying. She should know better – she is almost as old as I am.
So Happy Belated Canada Day, eh? I hope to have something better for you next blog day.