The strange satisfaction of a new coffee table

I went to IKEA and bought a Lack, which is their made-up name for a coffee table. It was cheap–only $25–and easy to assemble. It’s a little narrower than the one it replaces and much lighter. It’s dark and has clean lines. It is very Swedish. And it looks sharper than the heavy, glass-topped table it replaces, which looked more appropriate to something you might find in your grandparents’ home around 1975.

I also replaced my dresser, a piece of furniture that came with me when I first moved to Vancouver in 1986. So this is not just a piece of furniture that looks like it came from the 70s, it actually did come from the 70s (I had it for a few years back in Duncan). Of late it had gotten incapable of containing all of my clothes, with my running gear and jeans piled on top. But it’s one of those things you never really think about until you finally do and then you’re navigating the IKEA maze, picking up the three boxes of boards, screws and braces that will take hours to assemble and voila, I have a new giant dresser that fits this century and holds all of my clothes. And it smells nice, too.

My current nightstand is a stack of six cardboard boxes in a pair of 2×3 stacks. These are filled mainly with books I will never look at again and covered with a blue bath towel to give it a “level” surface. This doesn’t look like grandma furniture, because it lacks any style at all, even simple kitsch value. It does look a bit like what a poor student might slap together (the boxes were cheap because, like IKEA furniture, they had to be assembled). I’m going to replace this soon with an actual nightstand.

I have no idea why I literally waited decades to replace some of these things, much like I have no real idea why I am suddenly doing it now, but it feels right and good and I feel a little less tacky and very slightly more stylish for having done so.

Also, now that I look at my computer desk, I suddenly want to replace it, even though I don’t need to. Like I need a drawing table next to it or a separate place for the printer or…something. It’s suddenly inadequate. But we’ll see. It’s actual furniture, so it isn’t as high a priority as a stack of boxes. That was a bit of clever improvisation that was never meant to be permanent, but much like the dresser, it’s just there and I never thought about it, but now that the thinking has started, the furnituring will continue.

Merry Thanksgiving!

Yes, most Canadians actually celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday and not the actual holiday (today), but today is the official day and we’re celebrating with…chicken. Because cooking turkey for two is only a good idea if you REALLY like turkey. And while I don’t mind turkey, I’m not a big fan of turkey for weeks.

To commemorate the holiday, here is a vaguely disturbing animated gif I found on the internet. Enjoy!

September spring cleaning as reported in October

I’m going to write about the spring cleaning I did in September in October.

It all makes sense. Mostly.

Last weekend I went to fetch some dirty clothes from the spare bedroom and it was…untidy (it’s usual state). I noticed a crate had slipped from the bed (don’t ask) and was leaning hard into my bike, which was leaning against other stuff. This didn’t look good for the bike. I straightened the crate and wheeled the bike out to the living room (which is really very clean now, actually).

And then I got hit by spring fever, four months late. I’d been meaning to start going through a lot of my old stuff–the things packed into boxes and bags that travel from one move to the next and never come out of their boxes and bags–and finally start tossing them. I’d read that shedding possessions is liberating. And I’m a liberal guy.

I started with the clutter surrounding my “nightstand.” I put that in quotes because my nightstand is six artfully arranged storage boxes with a blue towel on top. This actually works reasonably well as a nightstand, and it hides a lot of storage in plain sight. But surrounding this was a collection of old tech boxes (iPad Air, etc.) that I had no reason to keep. I gathered them up into a cloth grocery bag. I had some small piles of notebooks and photos I wanted to keep and stashed them in a temporary holding space in one corner of the room. I then moved to one of the “closets” in the bedroom. I put that in quotes because there is no door and without a door I’m not sure this counts as a closet, but it’s a nook with a bar for holding jackets on hangars, so I call it a closet. This one is filled with all kinds of junk, including many old books, a bunch of unsorted coins, a Boggle game from the 1970s (really) and more. I tidied up the coins and put them into a box (labeled “Heavy” as it is), then worked on the books, dividing them as follows:

  • books I would keep
  • books I wouldn’t keep

The latter was further divided into hardcover and paperback. Some of these books date back almost 40 years, having followed me from Duncan to the dozen or so homes I’ve had in the Lower Mainland, ending here in New Westminster. Most books I’ve read. Some are in near-mint condition, though the paperbacks tend to be yellowing due to the cheaper paper stock. The books I kept were a small handful, hardly enough to make a single volume of a Steve Erickson novel. I also found a giant stash of old game manuals and had no hesitation in turfing the lot, with a few sentimental exceptions, including:

  • Doom II. The manual is actually nothing special, but this evokes real nostalgia for me.
  • Tribes. Full color and reflecting of a game that never was, thanks to skiing. Again with the nostalgia, too.
  • Fallout. Spiral bound and includes recipes. A classic for the (atomic) ages.

I also kept a few GTA maps, though I’ll never play (or buy) another Rockstar game again, because the maps are kind of neat. They’ll probably go in the next cleaning, though. The attachment is not strong.

In all, I ended up clearing out nine bags of stuff, plus boxes for an Xbox 360 and Xbox One. This is a lot of boxes.

And you know what? I do feel liberated! And I can’t wait to tackle the “nightstand” (and get a real nightstand), empty out my dresser, toss a bunch of old clothes, then get a new dresser that looks like it was made in this century instead of 1919. After this, I’ll move on to the computer nook, the bathroom cabinets and anything else I can find (the spare bedroom is Jeff’s task, though I will probably help once a safe passage is carved through the space).

All of this started because I was looking for dirty socks. It’s like some variation on the butterfly effect, but with stinky clothing and fewer butterflies.

The bitey breeze

Today it was sunny. But it was also windy. And the wind felt cold.

Now I must truly admit that summer is over. The summer wind doesn’t feel bitter, it feels playful, except when it’s whipping up forest fires that burn down half the province. But still, it’s at the very least pleasant to feel against your skin. The summer wind, not the forest fires.

What I’m saying is I’m glad I wore my hoodie today.

A side effect of taking lots of nature-type photos is I’m paying a lot more attention to seasonal changes, so I’m noticing things like the leaves on trees changing color, or flowers starting to fade and die a lot more than I did before. Some things, like so many chestnuts on a sidewalk it feels like the sound stage of a slapstick comedy, are harder to miss even without my new heightened awareness.

I swear the next post will not be about the weather.

Hello again summer

It got into the 20s today and actually felt a bit warm. It was nice.

Judging by the 10 day forecast this may be the last hurrah for summer this year. I’m not complaining, mind you, just looking back wistfully on the long, warm days of yore. You know, earlier this month. And today.

But I’ll admit, a lot of the trees are very pretty right now, even as we prepare for The Rains.

It’s three months until Christmas

And that means eggnog has started showing up at Save-On Foods. Fallnog, perhaps.

Also, it just seems weird that a few weeks ago it was 30ºC and now it’s cold enough at nights that drinking hot chocolate is inviting and my little desk fan is gathering dust.

I even started looking at base heaters on the Home Depot website.

The transition from spring to summer, on the other hand, is this teasing, long build-up where the days gradually lengthen and get warmer, flowers bloom, trees bud and blossom, and finally you bask in the verdant green of summer.

Summer to fall is more like admiring the view from the top of a flight of stairs, then someone pushes you down and at the bottom it’s suddenly 15 degrees cooler and everything is turning brown.

And this is why I’m not a poet.

Fall on me

It’s the first day of fall and everything is falling into place (see what I did there?)

Anyway, the trees are already donning their orange, red and yellow coats, the nights are now cool enough to make the air conditioner optional and the opportunity to wear shorts outside when not going out for a run are dwindling.

It’s also raining again semi-regularly.

So it’s very fall-like and now it’s official. And I’m okay with that. Early fall is something like my fourth favorite part of a season, when everything is balanced on the edge between the last days of summer and the first days of autumn, but we are still a ways from the trees being bleakly devoid of leaves, the sky perpetually gray, and the threat of snow becoming all too possible. For the moment it can still be sunny and pleasant, everything is green and splendid and I’m not both leaving for and coming back from work in the dark (it’s now dark, but the sun is still up for over an hour yet when I get home).

If I was a poet I’d write something eloquent about fall, but I ain’t, so you get a haiku:

Fall is in the air
Sun, rain, wind and shorter days
Just say no to snow

Birthday: Bread, but no cupcakes

As always, I am most grateful; on my birthday for having made it largely intact to another birthday.

It was even nice enough for me to go out in a t-shirt and shorts, possibly the last time I will do that this year without questioning my sanity or prepping for a polar bear swim in January (the forecast promises mostly sunny and 23ºC a week from now, but the weather in the second half of September can change in a whimsical and abrupt manner).

I thought it might be cute to buy a cupcake and put a single candle on it (mostly to take a picture of it), but Save-On Foods sadly was only selling a half-dozen of aggressively overdecorated cupcakes. I might have settled for a chocolate muffin instead, but they had none of those, either. I came home instead and, as the kids say, had a sad. I also made bread, which was yummy.

Part of me still wants to go out and find something, but I think the “it’s your birthday, just laze around and very slowly burn calories” part will probably win.

So here’s an image I found on the internet instead. I searched for “sad birthday cupcake.”

And here’s the image in its original context on flickr:

Weird rain

Weird in that today is the first time in a long while that we have had fairly steady rain during the day.

School kids were probably fuming. This is the first weekend since classes started.

Other signs of impending fall:

  • The swimming pool at Hume Park is closed for the season, and has been drained. The slide is still in place, so if someone really wanted to, they could climb up it and slide down into a nearly four foot deep concrete hole. Probably not recommended.
  • Likewise, the bubble over the tennis courts at the Burnaby Tennis Club (which I can see on my runs at Burnaby Lake) has been put back in place. It looks like a big oval marshmallow. Mmm. marshmallows. People would have been able to play tennis today because it’s up, so good timing there.
  • The sunset tonight was at 7:37 p.m. The post-dinner walks are going to be spooky pretty soon.
  • It never got past 20ºC today. In fact I don’t think it got past 16. Brr, relatively speaking.

I’m not complaining about the change in weather, mind you, as we need the rain and despite a slow start in July, the summer has been pretty dry overall. Still, I always lament this season’s passing. The world just feels so alive and vibrant in the summer.

I will now count the days until next summer. Actually, thanks to a Google search, I now know it’s 265 days. I’m undecided on whether this precise level of knowledge is a good or bad thing.

Request for Summer 2018 in Haiku form

I know this is almost like asking for winter to start in October, so I want to make it very clear I AM NOT ASKING FOR WINTER TO START IN OCTOBER.

That said, my Haiku:

Summer you burned me
And half the province as well
It’s fine to stop now

By coincidence the forecast is calling for showers tomorrow.

The one rule about typing club…

…would probably be “don’t make typos.”

On a whim I plugged in my old Filco 87-key keyboard with brown switches to see how they felt after not using the keyboard for awhile and it’s actually better than I remember. The keys are tactile without the same CLACK as blues, but still satisfying to a certain degree, and less noisy.

With the Filco still plugged in and in the mood for some typing, I did a search for “learn to type” and landed at It was eager to invite me to take the first lesson, which consisted of typing F and J a lot (the home keys, as the billions of people who can touch type already know). I dutifully went through Lesson 1 and got the following results:

I’m not sure what real accuracy is, other than the apparent opposite of fake accuracy. But look, I passed all the requirements and was invited to move on. This scares me, because Mavis Beacon started out very encouraging, too, before basically saying I was slow and a bit dumb, but I’ll let you skip ahead so you don’t cry and make a scene, okay?

26 wpm compares to my usual three-fingers-look-at-the-keyboard-a-lot method’s average of 45 wpm or so. The gap between the two is sadly not that great to close, testimony to how slow I currently type.

I may try Lesson 2 or another program, or just recall Mavis’s cruel smile and switch to voice dictation. We’ll see.