Thursday, August 24, 2006

Where Are All The Male Nurses? (Part 2)

A Male Nurse Action Figure.
Remember my first post on male nurses, or the lack thereof? It seems as though I'm not the only one who wondered about this. There's an actual Male Nurse action figure from Accoutrements.

Adventures in House Sitting (Part 5)

A few weeks ago someone from my church was going on vacation and they asked me to house sit for them. Actually, it was more of a dog-sitting job. The impression I got was sort of like "I don't care if you burn down the house, just take care of the dog."

This person, whom I shall call Dennis Walters, showed me the ropes of his house, how to feed the dog. (The sad thing is that the most elaborate recipe I know is for a dog. That doesn't speak to the complexity of the recipe for the dog's dinner as much as it does my incompetence in the kitchen.)

Overall, it was a nice time. I got some time alone in an air conditioned house. I would have had more time for chem, except it happened to coincide with the time my parents were in town, so I took a lot of time to spend with them.

Every house has it's own quirks. This house was no exception. The faucet in the upstairs bathroom needed a new washer or something. When turning the tap off, getting it to turn on 100% was a bit of a task. There was often a drip, or even a small stream when the tap was off. There was also a small leak on the top side of the faucet. So small you would hardly notice. You would see the effects. After washing hands, brushing teeth, etc. there would be a small puddle on the counter top. Nothing big. Nothing major.

Then one day, after coming home from work, then going out to dinner with my parents I came home and used to washroom downstairs. The vent on the ceiling was leaking. I found the mop and cleaned up the floor. I got a bucket and put it beneath the leak.

At the time it was raining cats and dogs outside. We were under a severe weather warning from Environment Canada. It had hardly rained my time in the house. I figured the water was coming in from outside or something. But that night Dennis called and I talked to him about it. As we were talking I thought to go upstairs and check the bathroom upstairs.

When I got upstairs the entire counter top in the sink was covered in water. There was a small puddle forming on the floor. I opened up the cupboard and found water had gotten in there too. Dennis may have lost a couple of rolls of toilet paper out of that ordeal.

He may also have to replace the counter unit. He may also have to replace the faucet. He said it was getting old and would have had to replace that soon anyway. Of course I still really feel bad about that whole thing. I offered to help Dennis out with the fixing. He told me not to worry about it. (Thanks Dennis! But if you change your mind, I'll be around for a while.)

Well, that's it for my Adventures in House Sitting. Now, I know some of you out there have your own adventures. Please share! We'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Adventures in House Sitting (Part 4)

This house sitting adventure takes place last summer. I was living with the McQueens, but my uncle, Uncle Joe, asked me to take care of his place while he went away.

Uncle Joe has an old house in Ottawa relatively close to one of the post-secondary schools. He rents the basement out to a student every year.

On the first or second day there I came home from work to find a note on the door from the power company saying that they had to shut off power to the water heater for some reason, and to turn it on again they would have to actually have access to the water heater. All I had to do was call them and set up an appointment.

The next morning I took a shower, but the water wasn't cold. I thought it was odd, but figured there may have been some mix-up, and maybe I didn't have to actually call the power company. Now, for some reason I spent the next couple of nights at the McQueen's house. I assumed the water was still warm at Uncle Joe's.

When I returned my first shower was _cold_! I had to call the company.

Now, the water heater was in the basement, so I had to coordinate a time that I could be there, and that the tenant downstairs could be there too. That could prove to be difficult.

It finally happened. That poor student! Cold showers several days in a row!

It would figure that the company would do that in the two weeks I'm taking care of the place. Of course, it occurs to me if they're going to around shutting off people's hot water, why wouldn't they make appointments? That way they can catch people at home, so they can shut the hot water off, do what they need to, and turn it back on at one time so they wouldn't have to come back? It seems so inefficient. Sure, if they're doing that to a whole neighbourhood it may appear to make sense to do it all at once, rather than mess with appointments. But, they're going to have to make appointments to turn the power back on anyway! Why not do it all at once?

Adventures in House Sitting (Part 3)

My next house sitting experience was a little different. In fact, it wasn't even house sitting. It was apartment sitting. It wasn't just an apartment unit, it was the whole building.

At one point I had been subletting an apartment for a couple of friends who were out of town for the summer. While there, I met their supers who seemed to take a liking to me. They were a couple in their late twenties or early thirties.

When I moved out of that apartment into my own, it was in the building next door. And the super-wife was in one of my classes in university. They were wanting to go away at Christmas time for about two weeks. That year I decided to not go home for Christmas, and instead I would spend it in Sault Ste. Marie with the McQueens. The supers asked if I would house-sit for them, meaning I'd be the superintendent of this apartment building for about two weeks. I said I would.

When it rains, it pours.

At first, it snowed for days at a time. When you're taking care of an apartment, you have to stay on top of that. You have to shovel the walk ways, and salt them. If someone slips and falls, you're looking at a law suit. So, all notions of free time were buried under about three feet of snow.

Finally, on Christmas day the sun was out. There was not a cloud in the sky. I headed over to the McQueens to spend the day with them. When I got there, it turned out that Robin was sick. She had the flu. Not the stomach flu, but influenza. As I was shoveling all that snow it occurred to me that if I got sick I'd have to take care of the building whilst sick. I really didn't want to shovel all that snow while being sick. At this time, Norwalk was going around in a bad way. Lots of diseases to avoid. This was also the time SARS was running rampant.

So I spent the day trying not to get too close to Robin, trying not to pick up the flu. I figured that night "As long as I get a good night's sleep, it should all be good."

So I went to bed when I got home. At three thirty in the morning I woke up to the fire alarm. We had a pyromaniac living in the building at the time. This morning he rolled up a big ball of paper, threw it in the stairwell, and lit it on fire. Pretty soon the fire department was there putting the fire out. Everyone else could go back to bed, but noooooo not me. I was the super. I had to hang with the fire marshal and answer questions, etc. So, finally at about four thirty I got to bed.

How long do you think that lasted?

At about seven in the morning there came a knock at the door. I got up to answer it. It was a young boy, about 7 years old. He had locked himself out of the laundry room. So I had to let him back in.

On the walk towards the laundry room there was a puddle of dried up puke on the floor. Awwww nuts! Something else to clean up! And of course, cleaning that up got me worrying. "What if this is Norwalk puke? I might get sick! Then I can't take care of this building!" So I cleaned that up, and it was really gross.

After that I went back to bed to try to sleep. Guess how long that lasted! That's right, maybe an hour. (For those of you unfamiliar with the sleep cycle, a cycle is 90 minutes. Not all sleep is the same. You need cycles of 90 minutes to get any benefits from sleep. And hour here and there doesn't really do anything for you.) So I answered the phone. It was the supers calling to check to see if it was all good.

After talking to them I decided I had had enough interruptions. Luckily my apartment building was next door. I walked back home, and took a snooze in my own bed, and slept well.

It all turned out alright in the end. I didn't get sick. There was little snow after that. The only other incident was that someone smashed a bottle in the entrance way on New Years Eve.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Adventures in House Sitting (Part 2)

My second house sitting experience was for the McQueens. It was in Sault Ste. Marie. Jack, Wendy, and Robin had taken off to go somewhere and asked me to "take care" of Jane, Bruce, Max, Cerberus, and the house.

It was mostly uneventful, except for the time Bruce and I made a frozen pizza. These frozen pizzas come on a cardboard disc. You're supposed to take the pizza off of the disc and then put the pizza in the oven. We neglected to do that, and we put the cardboard in the oven with the pizza. But there was no fires or anything.

However, the back yard was fenced off to allow the dogs to run freely and answer nature's call. The fence had a gate at the front of the house. The door to the fenced-off portion was in the back of the house. The back yard extended to the side of the house, beside the garage where there were no windows.

Before going out I would open the gate and allow the dogs out to do their business. After a few minutes they would come and want to be let back in. If they didn't come back I could call their names and clap my hands twice and they would come.

One day while Bruce and Jane were at school, I had a few things to do in the city. I let the dogs out and waited. And waited. And waited. "Where the heck are those dogs?" I opened the door, looked out back and I didn't see them. I called their names and clapped my hands. Nothing.


This was during the autumn. The weather wasn't all bad yet. Perhaps they were lying around the side yard where I couldn't see them. I got my shoes on and attempted to make my way through the mine-field that was the McQueen's backyard. (That is to say, the main thing the backyard was used for was a latrine for the dogs.) I turned the corner to find the gate had been unlatched, was now opened, and no dogs were in sight.

Awwwww nuts! (I'll refrain from singing "Who Let The Dogs Out.")

So For the next while I ran through the otherwise quiet yelling "Max! Cerberus!" I went back to the house to call some people that might know where the dogs would go if they ever got away. No answers.

I ran around the neighbourhood again. Eventually I gave up. I would have to explain to the McQueens that their dogs had run away. As I got home, who should I see hanging around the front of the driveway to the McQueen's house, but Max and Cerberus! I then had the task of getting them back in the house and giving them a stern talking to.

Adventures in House Sitting (Part 1)

I am starting to run short on McQueen stories. This is good because it means things aren't breaking down, or going horribly comically wrong. However, it does make for some slow blog-writing. As you've noticed I've started ranting about various things, mostly about web browsers. (Don't worry. There'll be more browser-related rants to come in the future, I'm sure.)

However, having mentioned I was house sitting in The Door Is A Jar, just after I posted it, someone commented within about 2 minutes. They asked about house sitting, so I thought I'd take some time and talk about my adventures in house sitting.

For the uninitiated, house sitting is when someone asks you to look after their house for a while. They're usually going on vacation, and insurance would go up if no one is there. So they can either hire a professional house sitter, who's been bonded and all that, or they can ask someone they trust.

I've known a number to go with the second option, and the someone they trust has been me.

Now, the thing about house sitting is that it's usually only for a week or two. With the exception of the McQueen household, if you took a two week snapshot of someone's house most of the time nothing would go wrong. But stuff always seems to happen anyway. (So perhaps the McQueen residence isn't all that different?)

My first house sitting experience was taking care of someone's condo in Sault Ste. Marie. It was a two month job. The owners were in and out for the summer. Actually, that summer nothing went wrong. It was great!

I didn't understand the insurance thing at the time, so I thought they were doing me a favor by giving me a place to live for two months rent free!

Anyway, there are more (exciting stories) to come. But, if you have a house sitting story, please feel free to share! We'd love to hear from you!

It's Getting Colder Out

I got home from work the other day to find the fridge that had been in the garage was now in the kitchen, and the fridge that had been in the kitchen is in the garage.

It seems the McQueens acquired a dolly to move the fridge. I was not there for this fridge-moving adventure. I assume using a dolly would be a heckufalot easier than putting the fridge onto a rug and dragging it across the floor like we did with the last fridge-move.

But it's nice to have a "full-sized" fridge, with a freezer right in the kitchen. Of course, I use the term "full-sized" loosely. The fridge is still small. The last fridge didn't fully work. The fridge part didn't work at all. The freezer part only partially worked, making it the fridge part. Our "fridge" was smaller than a bar fridge. And this was for a house of seven! This fridge works, it's just a little small for a house of seven.

Of course, brother Jack has moved home, and Jane is soon leaving for school.

A Shrinking House

Change is in the air at the McQueen residence. My brother has gotten a job back home and has moved out. We're down to having one Jack in the house now. I have commandeered brother Jack's old cubicle (ie: bedroom) and made it my office. There's a nice desk in there, and a bed. It's perfect. My bedroom is right beside my office, and my office has a bed in it. All I need downstairs is a bathroom, and I'd be set!

As the summer comes to a close, Jane is preparing to head back to University. Oh how we will miss her!

Bruce has graduated from high school and will be starting on his path to higher education soon.

And I'll be sticking around at my job, at least until Christmas, on another co-op work term. I have decided against getting my honours degree.

Friday, August 18, 2006

French Cuisine, Anyone? (Part II)

A few weeks after my first incident we went back to the same place. This time, it was a similar experience, but the potatoes were burnt, yet cold.

Then when she (same waitress) gave me the change, she gyped me again. Not the twelve or thirteen cents like before, but rather about thirty five cents.

35 cents is not just not wanting to mess with pennies. I thought "Wow! This is a terrible waitress! I'm surprised she still working here!"

So this time I wrote down on the bill something to the effect of "If you didn't hold out your hand, you would have gotten a tip." and I walked out of the restaurant. When she saw the bill with the note said "What's this?" and gave the bill to a coworker, who passed it onto Craig, who gave it back to me outside the restaurant.

That time, others were unhappy with the quality of the food, so we decided that restaurant was cut. We wouldn't go back.

Now, a couple of years later, I have been to a few other restaurants in the area, and none of them seem to be able to calculate proper change. I'm wondering if the French have different math than the English folk. Or perhaps they don't teach math in Quebec or something? (Its a good thing no French restaurant owners read my blog. "Yes, I'll have toast with jam and spit, please.")

UPDATE: A year later, and I have found most places are pretty good. Although I just had another experience tonight, so look forward to a future blog post.

French Cuisine, Anyone? (Part I)

I work in Quebec. My office is very close to Ontario. I can see the Parliament Buildings from my window. In my time here I've noticed a difference between the Quebec restaurants and the English ones I'm used to. The first time I noticed this was when I went to a local Bistro.

Often times, on Friday morning, the team in which I work will take a bit of time and have a staff breakfast. We used to go to this one particular Bistro. My first experience there happened to coincide with my first experience eating in a Quebec restaurant.

I walk in the front doors and there's a bunch of tables. I notice the ash tray's, and the smoke that permeates the air. I think "That's odd. They have the smoking section at the front, rather than the back." Now, in Sault Ste. Marie, smoking has been banned in all public places. Same with Ottawa. But not Gatineau. So, seeing smoking in a restaurant took me by small surprise at first, but whatever. No big deal.

But, we were lead past those tables, through a hallway, up a few stairs into another room. Nobody was in that room. "Cool!" I thought, "Not just a non-smoking section, but one that is sufficiently divided from the smoking section. This is sweet!"

As more people came in and occupied the other tables, they lit up. There was no non-smoking section at all! Isn't that illegal? Perhaps not in Quebec. After all, apparently giving yourself, and those around you, cancer is deeply rooted in the French culture. I'm told by various people "Smoking is such a social thing. Normally I don't smoke. But I do when I'm at a party."

To that I say "Ahhh, yes. What better way to spend time with your friends than by slowly killing them."

Anyway, I digress.

So, as we're finishing our breakfasts, we're given the bill. Each of us gets a bill. The bills are placed on little plastic trays, and given to each of us. I look at the cost. I had two eggs, bacon, homefries, toast, and a glass of orange juice. It came to over $7.00! How do they justify that?! Were those eggs golden eggs?! At my university I could get the same thing for just over $4. This was over a three dollar difference. Furthermore, the quantity at this Bistro was a lot less than at the university.

So I look in my wallet. All I have are twenties. So I put one on the tray. The waitress comes back and people start paying. Most are giving her money and saying "keep the change." Now, I'm not about to pay with a $20 for a $7 breakfast and tell her to keep the change. Especially after I've just lost six months of my life due to all that cigarette smoke.

So, she gives me some change back. Not the proper change, mind you, just some change. She's off by about 13 cents - not in my favor. But it's 13 cents. Big whoop-di-freaking-do.

Now, I understand that they probably don't want to deal with pennies, but if the bill was $7.43, and a $20 is given, then err on the side of the customer. Give them $12.60 or $12.65. It's only a few cents. But if you err on the side of the business that looks really bad. If you err on the side of the customer they think "Cool. They gave me a couple extra cents!" and then they're inclined to tip more.

The other thing about tips is that I like to be surreptitious about it. It's part of our North American culture. We tip, but we don't talk about it. When you leave a tip behind, you leave it as you're leaving. You don't calculate the tip in front of the waitress either, unless you're telling her to keep the change.

So, as she's taking our money, after she had taken mine and given me the change, she was stacking the bill trays. She didn't take mine. The stack was right beside me, so I put my tray on top of the stack. She took it off and gave it back to me.


When she left I asked the table why she did that. Someone told me "Because you didn't tip her."

"WHAT?!?!?!" I had been planning on tipping her before that. I left a few pennies on the table. I figured she already got her tip when she gave me the incorrect change. They already stole enough of my money with the grossly over-priced breakfast.

To be continued....

I Don't Know How Much Mow I Can Take!

If you recall, the McQueens have had a terrible time trying to get a working lawnmower. As I mentioned in Don't Mow My Lawn, they finally got a working lawnmower.
They used it this summer. After I had come home from house sitting I was told that the lawn mower was broken.

Huhh?!?! How did that happen so fast?! They just got it?!

Apparently, someone had gone over a root whilst mowing the lawn. This bent the blade a little.

Well, there's more to the story than that. It turns out that Bruce is really fortunate he still has all his fingers.

He decided he'd take it upon himself to fix the blade. He put something below the blade, something to act as an anvil. He got something to act as a hammer to hammer the blad back to it's original shape. Tap tap tap. I believe he got the blade back to it's original shape. Job well done, right?

But then the mower didn't run smothly. Or even at all. I'm not certain as to the exact state of the mower.

When Bruce told me this story, Pastor Jack said "I think all that tapping on the blade sent the vibrations up the crank-shaft, and that may have distorted it."

I sighed saying "Not the crank-shaft! You don't want to ruin that. That's the most expensive part of the engine!"

But then something occured to me. "Wait a sec. You mean you didn't take the blade out of the moter?"


"Oh boy! Please please tell me you disconnected the spark plug while doing this."

"No. The engine was off."

I started feeling faint. "Oh boy. Bruce, count yourself fortunate you still have all your fingers! You always disconnect the spark plug when working on the engine." In fact, you should disconnect the spark plug when the lawn mower is not in use, and when filling the gas tank with fuel.

Pastor Jack insisted that the engine was off. I explained to him that that didn't matter. "Look, when you start the engine what are you doing? You're pulling on that cord. That cord is wrapped around the flywheel. The flywheel is on the cranshaft. You pull on the cord and it starts the cycle. Part of that cycle is the spark, which ignites the fuel and gets the engine started.

"That's how they used to start airplanes. By turning the propellor. It's the same principle. In fact, at Sault College we were charged a $10 fine for leaving the key in the ignition when we weren't in the airplane because if we did, and someone went to move the plane, and they moved the propellor enough, they could start the engine, and that would bad: for their hands, the airplane, and anything it happened to drive itself into.

Always, always disconnect the spark plug when working on the engine!"

Of couse, ever since the Slippery Pete incident it has been assumed I know nothing of mechanical devices work. So I had to insist that, not only had I studied this in aviation, but I had taken a small engine repair class in high school.

Now the mower doesn't work like it's supposed to.

The Door Is A Jar

While I was away house sitting, the McQueen's garage door had been opened, and then closed. Unfortunately, there was something under the door of the garage. The door closed on this something. This broke the garage door.

A garage door is really heavy. The garage door is really a complicated piece of equipment. It has counter balances, cables and whatnot to make it so you can easily lift this 300 lbs door with one arm with ease.

When the door brook, one of these cables snapped. This made opening the door a difficult task indeed. The garage repair man had to be called. He came and fixed it. It's all fixed now.

The Family Vacation

A while ago the McQueens packed up and took a vacation. I didn't go with them. In fact, I wasn't even at their house when they returned. I was house sitting for someone else. (It follows that the next few blog stories I wasn't there for, so I'm relaying what I've heard.)

I'll give you a guess as to what happened when they went on vacation.

That's right. Car troubles. Even though they had the cars checked out before leaving, that didn't stop the car from acting up. While driving through Toronto, Jane was driving the Intrepid. She recalls "Even when I had the petal to the metal I couldn't get the car past 80kph."

Pastor Jack also told me they had to get the brakes fixed while away.

But, all in all, they had a good family vacation. They all got plenty of rest.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ain't I A Louse?

If you move your mouse over the title of my blog posts then you'll see something funny. And, now that scientists have invented magic, even if you turn off Javascript, it still happens!

Wot's this, you say, "Nothing's happening! What are you talking about?"?

I'm going to use my mind-reading capabilities and guess you must be using Internet Explorer. tsk tsk, you didn't read Browser Wars, did you?

For the love of the internet, please, for heaven's sakes, please download Firefox or Opera.

Both are absouletly fantastic browsers. The other day at work, after working long and hard to get pages looking right in all three browsers, my boss printed off some of my pages, and they looked awful. So I started doing "Print Previews" of my pages, and saw yet another area where Internet Explorer falls short. Firefox and Opera do fine, but not IE.

Sorry folks, but IE is so bad it's not ready for the home-user's desktop, let-alone the corporate desktop.

Not only is it feature-poor, it's bad at what it's supposed to do. (Case in point, you can't see the trick I'm playing on you.) And it has a really bad security track record. As of this post, there are 21 unpatched security vulnerabilities with Internet Explorer 6, only 3 with Firefox, and 0 with Opera. With Internet Explorer the highest criticality of the vulnerabilities is "high criticality". With Firefox it's "less critical".

Trust me. Try the other browsers for a bit and see what it's like. Get used to them. Then ask yourself how you lived with IE for so long.

If someone can give me a good reason to use IE, please comment. Lets hear the reasons. I've given you plenty to not use it (security, extensibility, advanced features, proper HTML/CSS rendering, etc.). Let's get a dialogue going.

Here's yet another reason to make the switch: The internet will improve. Right now web developers such as myself have to hold back on what we can do because 85% of the viewing public can't handle what we're doing. But if IE usage goes down, then web authors will start to branch out and do things they couldn't do before. They can start to do their jobs properly; they can stop spending so much time on throwing hacks together to make pages work in Internet Explorer. Then they can spend more time on making pages look good, and work better, etc.

Then Microsoft will realize that people have stopped using their browser, and they might actually make it with quality in mind. The downside then is that I'll have one less thing to complain about.