Death By Dyson

Every fall, thousands of lady bugs or boxelder insects launch an invasion force against the south side of all the apartment buildings. The little buggers sneak in through the tiniest cracks and crevices if the windows or sliding doors are open and make themselves at home.  The only way of keeping them out is for we apartment dwellers to hermetically sealed ourselves inside until the first frost comes, which is usually November.  And having all the windows closed on a nice fall day makes me grumpy.

So I have a new plan.

For the past few weeks I’ve kept my sliding door open and camped out in front, where they congregate the most.  Then I turn on my Dyson and suck them up.  They never knew what hit them.

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The Terminator stands guard.  Buddy doesn’t care.

I stand victorious.

(Because I know you’re burning with desire to watch the bugs in action, here’s a video.  You’re welcome. 🙂

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Planned Obsolescence

Back in the 80’s when I was attending university, I took an economics course. While I found most of it painfully boring, I did learn about a rather Machiavellian process called planned obsolesence:

[Planned Obsolescence is] a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time. The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as “shortening the replacement cycle”).

Since manufacturers know that consumers want their product (and money) to last as long as possible, they also decided to create a duplicitious bit of chicanery called the “extended warranty” option, a money-grabbing ploy designed to make consumers pay extra for the longevity they should have had in the first place. (I have never and will never buy an extended warranty; when I’m offered one, I’ve been known to get testy.)

Anyway, this all leads to my latest gripe.  There was a time when one could purchase a couch or a bed and, with regular use, know that it would last years. Last year I had to buy a new mattress to replace the one I had purchased less than 5 years ago.  That one had a huge butt divot in the centre. (And my butt is not THAT big).  This week, I had to buy another sofa, my second in two years.  The one I’m replacing, a power reclining sofa, had a stroke mid-recline, seized up, and died.  I phoned Teppermans, the furniture company where it was purchased, and was told the couch was out of warranty.  As a “courtesy”, they would send someone out in a week. A repair, should one be possible, would take months.

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Exhibit A: My Apoplectic Sofa

I couldn’t envision having the couch extended like this for months (it’s sticking out into my small living room and Buddy the arthritic dog jumps off it like a launch pad) and I also didn’t want to pay big bucks for the repair, so I told them no thanks.  I went furniture shopping and stayed clear of the franchises.  I bought another sofa at a family-owned store which sells pricier, higher end furniture.

Damn thing better last a several lifetimes or I’m sitting on the floor, zaisu style. Actually, I think this looks rather comfortable:

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The Historian & The Beatles

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For the past year I’ve been co-administrator and sometime contributor to a great new blog, The Historian and The Beatles.   The Historian is Erin Torkelson Weber, who teaches American History at Neuman University in Kansas and who is the author of The Beatles and The Historians , upon which the blog is based (note the change-up in title).

In her book and blog, Erin reviews Beatle biographies with an historian’s eye. She examines how the story is constructed–for example, what data sources are used, by whom, and for what purpose.  In a blog Q and A, Erin described the utility of applying historical methods to Beatle biography this way:

I believe fans and an increasing amount of Beatles authorities are already judging new works by historian’s standards, even if they don’t specifically identify them or recognize them as such. On various forums, you’ll see fans debating the merits of certain memoirs and/or biographies, and a lot of the standards they use – balance, documentation, objectivity – are fundamental building blocks in historical methods. Thirty years ago, none of the most widely acclaimed books on the band even contained a bibliography; now all the recognized major works – You Never Give Me Your Money, for example – not only include bibliographies but also cite sources, and some Beatles authorities, such as Doggett or Lewisohn, are beginning to apply source analysis.

If there are any Beatle fans out there, or readers interested in history and the use of historical methods applied to pop culture and orthodoxy, you should pop by.  We’d love to hear from you.

Eclipse 2017

We didn’t have a total eclipse of the sun here in Canada, but the partial eclipse was pretty cool. Friends came up for the day and we managed to snap a few shots before beers and chinese food.  Taking the photo was tricker than it sounds.  One person located the sun looking through the eclipse viewer and then held the viewer in place while the other person slipped in the camera and snapped. Took several tries but we got `er done.

Speaking of eclipse viewers–they were nowhere to be found by the Friday before the Monday eclipse.  (Some entrepreneurs on Amazon were even selling them for $100!) Acting on a tip from a local camera store,  I found mine inside Sky News magazine as a free insert.)

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Partial eclipse at 2:00

 

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Buddy and his friend Monty wanted to see too.

 

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Carnage Alley

Last year at this time I wrote a post about how treacherous the driving was on the southern leg of highway 401 in Ontario.  Aptly named “Carnage Alley”, it has been the site of some pretty horrific crashes.

To make matters worse, parts of the 40l along this southern leg have been under construction.  For 20 kilometre stretches, the highway is down to one lane, bordered by concrete barriers.  This creates a bottleneck of traffic along an already busy section of highway.

Unfortunately for me, driving on this highway is a necessity in order to visit my father, who lives in a retirement home in Amherstburg, a small town some 200 kilometres away.  Not one to push my luck,  I restrict my visits to Sundays, when there’s less traffic and fewer 18-wheelers.  This past Sunday I made the trip down, leaving first thing in the morning. My father and I had a nice visit and I left by midafternoon, thankful that my drive down was uneventful and hopeful that the trip back would be similarly peaceful.

But no.

About 70 kilometres outside of Amherstburg, the traffic slowed to a stop. Shit, I thought; an accident. I and the other drivers peered anxiously in our rearview mirrors, hoping the guy behind us didn’t rear-end us before we made our way off the highway. Thankfully everyone was paying attention.  I said a quick prayer for the unlucky driver(s) and hoped they were ok.

Our caravan of vehicles followed two large 18-wheelers off the highway and into town. (During a detour, always follow a trucker.  They’re usually the only ones who know where they’re going.) We followed them about 40 kilometres to the next highway ramp, which was in the neighbouring town of Chatham.  The ramp was open for business and mercifully past the construction zone. I got back on the highway and hoped that was the worst of it.

When I got home, I googled “401 highway closure”, curious about the accident for which I and many others were diverted. Apparently it was one of three, all occuring within a few hours of the other. The first one was the one for which I was diverted, and involved several vehicles.  There were minor injuries. The second one was an hour later, 40 kilometres ahead but going west, in the opposite direction from me. The third was the worst. Apparently stopped for the second accident, drivers in the westbound lane of the SAME ramp which an hour earlier I took to get back ON the highway were rear-ended by an inattentive driver.  A woman and her son were killed.

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One of several construction zones, 401 near Chatham

I ended my trip vowing I would find an alternate route home.  It might take longer, but at least I would arrive alive.