Thursday, May 31, 2012

Domestic log (April & May)

This is not quite a diary or journal, but merely some observations about my boring daily life -- either posted directly as it happens (in many separate posts) or retro-blogged from the scribblings in my notebooks (compiled into one large post). I don't think this will have any interest for any people other than myself, establishing a chronology of my life events to help my future failing memory...

I really have the feeling that, until I'll be able to relocate my work-place closer to home, I won't be able to do anything worthwhile at home... The long commuting hours leave me quite tired each day. (4/11)

In mid-April, we experienced the invasion of tiny ants (that I have identify, with the help of the Insectarium's website [in french], as Pharaoh ant). I didn't have to do anything as they all died by themselves, which is rather worrysome (whatever killed them could also have adverse effect on us. Although it is probably simply because they were out of their usual environment). There was also a brief surge of my old adversary (we had plenty of them in our old apartment in Hochelaga): the speedy gonzales (that's the name I gave them since I couldn't identify them). However I have finally been able to identify this extremely quick, etheral and almost alien creature (when you squish them there only a bunch of legs left): they are known as “Scutigera coleoptrata” (or Scutigère véloce en français, thanks again to the Insectarium's website). Although they might look a little scarry, they are apparently totally inoffensive. All those tiny creatures probably woke up for spring and I have barely seen them after that. (4/12)

The “Halal chicken” scandal is brought to my attention. I won't comment further on this subject because I want to dedicate a full post to it later (along with two other quite irritating subjects that dominated the news: more language debate in Montreal and the beginning of the students' protest about university tuition). I am baffled and outraged by the way people think these days (particularly the younger generation). I don't seem to understand people (and the world) anymore.

The first big rainfall of spring (4/23) brings back the problem of water infiltration in the back of the house (and the previous owner was saying there was “NO” problems; what a swindler!). We will have to take care of that sooner than later. The day after we even got some hail. And finally we had more snow a few days later (4/27). Quite a weather!

My wife sighted a fox in the nearby park (4/23). I was rather sceptical at first, but after googling “fox sighting in Montreal”, I realized that there was indeed foxes on the metropolitan island. There was even video proof of their presence at the Botanical garden and the Cote-des-Neiges cemetery! Either they came by themselves from the suburbs, walking through the railway or highway bridges, or maybe they were introduced to curb pests like rats and pigeons. I wish I would have been with her and take a few pictures (or video) myself. We tend to forget that the city's many parks support a lot of wildlife (more than the usual skunk or racoon that we see once in a while). Incidentaly, a week later, my wife spotted a racoon riping through the neighbor's garbages (that's why I have always told people they should use a hard garbage can -- either plastic or metal -- instead of plastic bags).

For some reasons, some drain pipe got blocked, which prevents either of us (me and my sister, who lives upstair) to use our kitchen sinks. We have to wash our dishes in a bucket (which my wife usually do in summer anyway in order to keep the water for watering the garden). It took my a while to figure out and take care of the problem, since I was so busy at work and quite tired. I first tried chemicals to dissolve the clogging, then a plunger, but nothing worked. I had to go to Canadian Tire to get a small drainpipe auger. The metal springwire coil is shoved into the pipe and, as we rotate the auger, it goes down the pipe clearing the clog. Finally, the auger succeeded were Drano had failed. Hurray! (4/28) Unfortunately, there is still a small problem: the aeration pipe (needed to evacuate the air pushed by the water moving down the pipe and insure a good flow) must be clogged also, since when the upstair's sink is getting emptied, it makes a bubbling sound in ours. I'll probably have to eventually get on the roof to work the auger there too.

One of the movies I've watched in May (5/3) and that impressed me most was Never let me go. Based on the 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (Japanese-born but now considered as a British novelist, mostly known for its 1989 novel The Remains of the Day), this 2010 movie directed by Mark Romanek is a well-crafted dystopian science fiction drama. In this alternate reality England (where cloning was successfully developped in the fifties), some children are cloned and raised in special boarding schools for the specific purpose of becoming organ donors for normal citizens. The story follows three of the children from the Hailsham school in East Sussex (Ruth, Tommy and Kathy) as they grow up, try to adapt to the outside world as adults, develop romantic relationship (forming a sort of love triangle), try to find a dispense from their final outcome and eventually become repeated donors. It is more than a film about the ethics of cloning. Like any good science-fiction, it is about our human nature, trying to explore it in a specific context. The cast is excellent, but I already knew only two of the actors (Keira Knightley and Charlotte Rampling). I don't know how different the movie is from the book (I borrowed it at the library, but haven't had time to read it yet), but from the little I've read so far it seems quite similar. It's really an excellent movie and I hope I'll have more time later to comment this movie in a separate post.

And now a funny anecdote. My wife regularly receives from a friend in Japan issues of a movie magazine. This month the package was late and when it was finally received it contained an issue of a french magazine. A quick call to Tokyo confirmed that my wife's friend did not send this magazine and yet it was it her enveloppe. The only conclusion possible is that an official, either of Canada Post or from the Canadian customs, opened the parcel to check it out and the wrong content was put back into the enveloppe. Someone, somewhere, is probably greatly puzzled to have received a Japanese magazine instead of a French one. I know how lazy and careless public workers can be (I am one and I work with many lazy and careless people). The loss of a bunch of Japanese magazine is far from being dramatic, but the loss of the personal correspondance included with it is sad. Fortunately, the cost of a phone call to Tokyo is ridiculously low (at least now with my phone service provider, Primus, but I remember paying ten times that with Bell ten years ago) and our privacy was probably preserved (I doubt that the people who received the letter could read Japanese). But I've lost all the trust I had left into our federal institutions.

For the first time this year, we went to visit the botanical garden (5/7). We have seen two wood-peckers, one cardinal, a few geeses and ducks, many squirels and, of course, plenty of flowers. Luckily we took advantage of the excellent weather while it was possible (The next day it was raining hard). We went back again two weeks later (5/21).

Lately I've been having lots of problem with Videotron, my cable provider. Whenever I switch to the channel Oasis and use the close-captioning, the cable terminal crashes and reboot. It was apparently a bug in Sisco's programing. The only solutions: switch provider (I was probably not the only one thinking about that considering the amount of Bell service trucks I am seeing lately in the neihborhood; many people are probably switching to their new Fibe service) or get the Illico second generation not yet available. Switching provider is lots of trouble (even if you save money; and I previously had lots of problem with Bell anyway), so I decided to stick with Videotron and, in order to prepare for the new Illico OS, I had to get a new cable terminal. To be safe, I decided to rent instead of buying. When I received the terminal by special delivery I installed it (when I came back from work) following all the instructions. But it didn't worked. I called the technical service and the guy told me that my signal was too weak and that they needed to send a technician (which they had done at least a couple of times before). Fortunately, it was working the following day (I guess it just needed more time for the OS to load; the signal is “weak” after all), so I cancelled the appointment with the technician. Now, all I had to do was to program the setting, the remote and my recordings... and wait for Illico 2.0 to be available (I was told that it should be around the end of the month). Of course, it was not the end of the problems, but that's another story.

For my birthday, I took almost a week off. I anticipated that I would be needing that long to get over this huge life-time milestone (I was getting fifty year-old) and, being springtime, I needed to make lots of work around the house. I installed the air conditioning, took out the garden furnitures, shop for new shoes and clothes, had an hair cut, etc. The deshumidifier broke down and I had to deal with lots of water being spilled on my nice hard-wood floor (I was not happy!). We went to visit the Samurai exposition at the Point-à-Caillère museum (5/24). That was quite a nice collection (from the prestigious Dr Béliveau; it's amazing that a guy can accumulate so many pretty nice pricey stuff: not only samurai armors but many katana as well)! Then heavy rain caused flooding in my garage again! (5/25) I had to call the city again to complain (default in the sidewalk cause the rainwater to fall into my driveway instead of flowing toward the sewage drain) and set up a deshumidifier in the garage to remove all that humidity before it made its way into the house.

Late January, I was offered a new permanent position in another library. It was not my first choice of library (having worked there before and gone through bad experiences, I certainly didn't like the place and it was quite far from home) but I couldn't refuse such an opportunity (and I was hoping that, with the help of new staff members, the place would have improved since the last time I worked there). Unfortunately, it proved to be quite a hell. The working atmosphere was often almost toxic, communication between staff and management was poor, there was lots of disrespect toward the staff, and many of the benefits I was promised remains unseen (unused day-off from my previous position were to be transfered or paid, the extra-hours bonuses for the first three months are still unpaid, and I calculated that, with the extra deduction I have to pay for retirement and union, I am paid less than before!). Fighting to get any answers on my status is getting tiring and depressing. We get disrespect from the patron, from the management, even from the union. At least I have job security. Things are improving a bit, but the worse is the long commuting hours. I really hope to get a mutation to a closer location. Actually, I have already postulated on a new job (located at about fifteen minutes from home, with a different job description [a desk job, with no dealing with the customers], possibility of flexible hours) but without success. I guess I just need to be a little more patient.

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