Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cruel and unusual punishment

A friend recommended I do a 3 day cleanse from the Dr. Oz website. He said it would make me feel great, would reset the salt and sugar receptors in my taste buds, reboot my metabolism and eliminate my food cravings. Sounded good to me - I could sacrifice 3 days to boost my metabolism. I had already done the 3 day all fruit cleanse a couple of times so I knew I had the discipline to get through it.

I printed out the one pager from the Dr. Oz website that I found for the 3 day detox cleanse and went shopping at the health food store and stocked up on everything I needed. Here's the link: http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dr-ozs-3-day-detox-cleanse-one-sheet

I was really looking forward to getting started so I prepared the breakfast smoothie for the first day before I went to bed the night before. I made the mistake of forgetting to grind my flax seeds and threw them in whole which I found out (the hard way) was not a good idea.

On the morning of the first day I woke up excited to get started and prepared the required cup of green tea with lemon slices and Stevia. Of all the sweeteners I have ever tasted Stevia has got to be the worst - it's HORRIBLE! I know its supposed to be the best sweetener out there but honestly, if that is the case it must be because the taste of this crap is enough to turn you off sweeteners all together. If Stevia was the only sweetener available I would go without - seriously it is nasty.

Anyways I forced myself to drink my disgusting green tea while I ground my flax seeds using my Magic Bullet (by the way the tea was only disgusting because of the Stevia - I should have just poured it down the sink and made another cup without the Stevia). I figured since the whole flax seeds I had put in the night before wouldn't be useful because I hadn't ground them that it wouldn't hurt to add another tablespoon of ground flax seed which at least my body could use. I also took my probiotic and multivitamin.

Onto my first smoothie! I added my ground flax seeds and took a gulp. I immediately realized that those whole flax seeds that I had accidentally tossed in the night before were going to cause me grief. You would think that after sitting overnight in the smoothie mixture that the outer seed casing would have started to soften. Nothing doing. However every flax seed had developed a gelatinous slime around it, so even when I tried to chew the seeds they kept evading my teeth and slip-sliding around in my mouth. The taste of the smoothie was great. But as I sat down at my computer after that first gulp I suddenly didn't feel well. My mouth was filling up with saliva faster than I could swallow it and I knew I was going to heave.

Off to the bathroom I ran and proceed to upchuck my green tea, my vitamin, my probiotic (which merrily floated to the top, still encased in it's capsule) and that first mouthful of smoothie. After emptying my stomach I felt great. I wondered if it was my liver trying to tell me something?

So I went back to my breakfast smoothie and although it took me 2 1/2 hours to get through, it didn't make me sick again. I was pretty sure it was that foul Stevia in my tea that my body so violently rejected and I vowed never to add Stevia to anything that passes my lips again.

The lunch smoothie also tasted good, but it had a texture that was very difficult for me to like. I tried watering it down, but that just made more of it that I had to choke down. Eating it with a spoon was somewhat better, but there was no way I was going to get through the quantity I had made. After working on it for over 3 hours I gave up and decided to keep the rest for my lunch the next day. There was no time to make a snack smoothie because it was almost supper time, plus I really wasn't hungry at all. So I just took the rest of my vitamin and the Omega as a snack.

During the day I had read a blog where someone mentioned that the cayenne pepper kind of ruined the taste of the supper smoothie and they recommended putting the whole 1/4 tsp into a couple ounces of the supper smoothie and shooting it down before drinking the rest of the smoothie - that way the rest of the smoothie wouldn't have the peppery kick. Sounded like a good idea to me. But I figured it would be easier to just take it down in one gulp, so I decided a mouthful would be enough. I took a tablespoon of the supper smoothie, topped it with the 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper and shoved it in my mouth. Bad idea. As my tongue came up to swallow it pushed the cayenne pepper onto the roof of my mouth where it stuck in a thick paste. The roof of my mouth began to burn, so I tried to rub the paste off the roof of my mouth using my tongue. Not a great idea either...because then my tongue was on fire too. So I started gulping down the supper smoothie (which tastes great by the way) and around half way through it the burning had finally subsided.

(Note to self - do not repeat that stupid move tomorrow.)

I ended the day, as recommended, with an Epsom salt and lavender bath. It was nice, but my bathtub is really not comfortable and it was a struggle for me to sit there for 30 whole minutes. Afterwards I went to bed with expectations of having a great sleep because that's what Dr. Oz said would happen, but I tossed and turned for hours (and this happened all three nights). I think I know what it was - the damned cayenne pepper. Pepper is a stimulant for me and I'm pretty sure that taking it at supper time was keeping me awake 'til the wee hours of the morning.

The next day went well. The morning green tea was much better without the damned Stevia and stayed down no problem. The morning smoothie is really good and I really enjoyed it. For lunch I choked down what I could of the green smoothie but I just couldn't bring myself to finish it and ended up throwing some of it down the sink. Once again I really wasn't hungry enough on day two to bother with the snack smoothie so I skipped it. For supper I mixed the cayenne pepper into about two inches of smoothie in a small glass and drank it down in one shot. It was a lot less hot that way and I could still feel it but at least my mouth wasn't on fire. Then I proceeded to really enjoy the supper smoothie.

On the morning of day three I was pretty proud of myself for sticking with it and was looking forward to my breakfast and supper smoothies - the lunch smoothie...not so much. I really didn't know how I was going to bring myself to stomach it again. I know what you're thinking - come on - just one more time. Surely you can do it! But no matter how I tried to convince myself, I couldn't bring myself to throw all of those ingredients into the blender.

I compromised by making myself a salad with the lunch smoothie ingredients instead. I chopped up the kale, celery, cucumber and green apple and whizzed up a dressing in the blender using the coconut oil, the pineapple and a bit of the almond milk. I squeezed the lime over the salad, drank the remaining almond milk and tossed the salad with the pineapple dressing. Finally I proceeded to eat the salad. It was pretty good - actually it was very edible when compared to the smoothie! But after eating all that salad I wasn't hungry enough for a snack smoothie. I wasn't really hungry for the supper smoothie either but I had it anyway.

Over the three days I was never hungry, I did not feel weak nor wiped out like some people claimed they were and I didn't crave or miss anything really.

On the morning after I was done with the Dr Oz 3 day detox cleanse I'll admit that I was really glad it was over. Nothing miraculous happened - I didn't poop out anything spectacular and I didn't really notice any difference as far as detecting saltiness nor sweetness was concerned. I was down 5.8 pounds and overall I felt good. I can't say I felt noticeably better than usual because I pretty much always eat fruits and vegetables so it wasn't that much of a departure for me. I suppose I would have felt a bigger difference if I was in the habit of eating a lot of junk food.

Would I do this again? Yeah, I might. But if I do I will make a few changes.
1) I won't waste any money buying Stevia because it is absolutely vile.
2) I will put the ingredients for the lunch smoothie through a juicer instead of blending them. I am pretty sure it will be a lot easier to drink a smooth juice made from these ingredients than it is to try to scarf down that awful smoothie. I really found this to be the hardest part and I am really not the type of person who puts a lot of emphasis on texture - ever.
3) I will try to find a way to incorporate the cayenne pepper into either the breakfast or the lunch drink. For me having it at supper more than likely counteracted any beneficial effect the Epsom salt/lavender bath might have had on helping me to get a good night's sleep.

I know - those of you who read my blog regularly are no doubt wondering where the "big end of the stick" is in this story.

Well the next time I saw my buddy who had suggested that I try this cleanse I mentioned to him that the green lunch smoothie with the coconut oil was the hardest part for me and asked him if he felt the same. He looked at me weird and said no - there was no coconut oil in the cleanse he did and the one he had trouble with was the one with the swiss chard and the clementines. I was confused - there was no swiss chard nor clementines in the cleanse I had done. After talking a little while we realized that I hadn't done the cleanse he had recommended. He had done the Joe Cross 3 day weekend juice cleanse - not the Dr. Oz 3 day detox cleanse!

So what it comes down to, is that because I am a sucker for punishment and I will do just about anything I can to boost my metabolism, I will eventually go out and buy myself a juicer and try the Joe Cross 3 day weekend juice cleanse.

Every time someone drops a stick I just can't resist picking it up and beating myself with it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's only Rock and Roll but I like it!

Ah - I finally got to see the Rolling Stones in concert during their "50 and Counting" tour. Ticket prices were absolutely ludicrous, but being a huge Rolling Stones fan I managed to get $85.00 tickets back on April 20th through rollingstones.com. I had told a few of my Stones-fan friends about the $85.00 tickets but most weren't interested - saying that they would most likely be nose-bleed seats and wouldn't be worth the $85.00.

Wouldn't be worth the $85.00? We're talking about the Rolling Stones here guys!

I think it's a shame that they went overboard and that the best seats in the house were selling for $635.00 - that's steep....like crazy steep! Unjustifiably steep. It's comparable to back in the 70's when Madonna charged $32.00 a head for her show which was completely out of range for what we normally paid back then. I can remember my best buddy Steve who, upon hearing the $32.00 ticket price snorted "for that price she'd better be naked".

With Mick Jagger about to turn 70 on July 26th and Keith Richards turning 70 on December 18, 2013 I certainly didn't feel the same way that Steve did about Madonna. Actually I didn't know what to expect. Mick and Keith are 69 years old - Ron is 66 and Charlie is 72 years old!!! I can't believe they are still on the road. I can't believe they still have the energy. It's hard to believe they are still talking to each other after all these years.

It just blows my mind. I couldn't wait. Every few days I would check rollingstones.com to see what the set list for each city was. Every day I counted down how many days 'til I would get to see my beloved Rolling Stones. I didn't care where my seats would be, I would be in the same room with the legendary Rolling Stones, listening to them play. It would be awesome.

On the Friday before the show we got to vote for the 'by request' song of our choice. I had to chose Dead Flowers, which is one of my all-time favourite songs from the Sticky Fingers album (actually that whole album is great). I so wanted to hear them do Dead Flowers - words can't even explain...

Waiting for Sunday to roll around seemed endless. I can't remember the last time a weekend seemed to drag on so slowly. Finally it was time - we drove downtown and went to Firegrill for a steak supper which was great and helped pass the last interminable hours before we could go and line up to get our tickets.

Things were a disorganized mess outside of the Bell Center - as it always is prior to any show. We got into the line up for the box office and were then told that the $85.00 tickets were being assigned at different entrance so we moved over there. The line moved fast and when our turn came we were told that we were being given seats in the reds! Better than I had hoped for. We were given our tickets and security wrapped a bracelet around our wrists and we were off to find our seats.

I really couldn't complain - across from the stage, 12 rows up from the floor, we had a perfect view of everything. I was very pleased. Denis went to get a couple beers while I chatted with a couple who were sitting behind us. We drank our beer and 8pm came and went - not that I really expected them to start playing on schedule or anything, but it would have been nice. Each minute after that crept by slow as molasses. It was really hot in there.

Nothing to do but wait.

...and wait...and wait.

Come on guys!

Finally - maybe around 9pm...not sure exactly...the lights went down and we were treated to Get Off My Cloud as the show's opener. It was great - everyone was up and singing and moving and I had goose bumps all over. I felt like I was going to cry. This was it. I was getting to see the Rolling Stones! The next couple of hours would be monumental in my life and will stay with me forever.
 

The set list was superb - a great selection of their hits. It's Only Rock and Roll, Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Wild Horses. It was amazing - I was just loving it. And then the moment I had waited for and hoped for - the song that Montrealers had chosen by request was...DEAD FLOWERS !!! I stomped my feet and clapped my hands. Tears spilled from my eyes - I sang out every word at the top of my lungs, chills ran up and down my spine for the entire song. I was in heaven - this was worth way more than $85.00!

The show continued with The Last Time with special guest Win Butler of Arcade Fire. I kind of expected more. It was good - but not as great as it could have been. This was followed by Emotional Rescue which had the crowd on their feet again. Then they did Doom and Gloom and One More Shot which were good, but I couldn't sing along because I never really got into the new stuff on the GRRR album I guess.

Honkey Tonk Women was next and I loved it. After that Keith did a great rendition of You Got The Silver with Ron followed by Happy and the crowd showed their appreciation. Mick Taylor joined them for Midnight Rambler which was insanely good. Then they did Miss You, Start Me Up and another of my favourites Tumbling Dice. I wish I had been to their Dec 12, 2012 show in Newark when Bruce Springsteen joined them on stage for Tumbling Dice. At least I get to see it on YouTube - it's fantastic...I just love Bruce! That would have been the ultimate for me to get to see the Rolling Stones AND Bruce Springsteen all in one night. But you can't have everything I guess.

Based on the set lists for the other shows I knew when they started Brown Sugar that we were nearing the end of the show, followed by Sympathy For the Devil which was the last song of the show. It had been awesome but we all knew they were coming back for a three song encore so it wasn't over yet.

A local choir joined them for You Can't Always Get What You Want, then they belted out Jumpin' Jack Flash and Satisfaction with Mick Taylor for our listening pleasure. It was all great. I enjoyed this show beyond my wildest expectations.

The reviews in the newspaper were accurate I suppose. Yes I agree that Ron Wood carried most of the guitar work (and he was fabulous by the way) while Keith just played along from time to time - but I enjoyed seeing how happy he looked on stage and I had to smile when he said that he 'loves this shit'. Mick and Charlie have still got it - I don't care what anybody says. I would love to have Mick's energy when I get to his age (although I don't have it now so that will never happen). Seeing Mick Taylor on stage was a treat that I will always cherish.

Agreeably I never got to see the Rolling Stones in their prime - had I been in a position to compare perhaps I would have been disappointed. But I had nothing to compare to and I thought it was a great show and I am so glad that I didn't miss it.

You know, life is short. Shit happens. People pass away when they get to a certain age. Will they be back? Who knows. I think we were all blessed to be able to see them this time around. Sometimes you just need to be grateful for what you've got and keep your expectations reasonable. Everyone seems to be taking up a lot of writing space speculating whether they'll be back again. Why bother? Why can't everyone just enjoy the fact that they came, they were awesome, they've still got it and we all got to enjoy it?

$635.00 for the best seats with a sold out show? Yup, I think this proves that these guys have got the big end of the stick. They know it's only Rock and Roll...and we like it, like it, yes we do!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Skirting around the truth

I would really like to know who the smart ass is who decided that it would be a good idea to put a round-about on St-Luc boulevard in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu at the intersection of du Lac and Douglas streets.

I'm sure our city planners have been congratulating themselves and giving each other pats on the back, all the while being completely oblivious to the fact that what they have done is to install a dangerous road hazard in an extremely busy area.

Did they really think that St-Jean-sur-Richelieu was ready for something like this? In some countries round-abouts are commonplace and people grow up understanding how they work. But around here there are no round-abouts so people are not used to them, they don't know how they work, and nobody has any interest in investing their time and energy to learn how to navigate a round-about safely.

The round-about they built on St-Luc boulevard is not a single-lane round-about, it's a two-lane round-about. Two-lane round-abouts have specific rules that need to be adhered to. Ignorance of these rules causes total chaos.  

I have to put the blame on the city for not making a proper effort to inform and educate drivers on how to use a two-lane round-about. I happened to be reading through the local leisure activities booklet when I spotted the following on the very last page:


Are you kidding me? This is where you decide to put the critical instructions on the usage of a two-lane round-about? In a local booklet that most citizens toss into the recycling bin without even opening? I checked on the city's website and you know what they have? A video (that they probably pilfered from somewhere) showing how to navigate a single-lane round-about. Come on guys, you couldn't put in the proper effort and make a video showing how a two-lane round-about works?

Unfortunately I have to use this road to get to the grocery store. Every time I have to go through the round-about I watch in total horror as people behave like complete assholes. On a regular basis I see drivers throwing themselves into the circle without yielding to cars that are already going around. Although the rules specify a single lane and no passing, the number of times I have had someone speed past me in the right lane with their tires screeching, so that they could cut me off and go to the left while I am exiting to the right totally blows my mind. Instead of calling this thing a round-about they should be honest and call it the circle of Russian Roulette.

And summer hasn't even arrived yet! I don't even want to think what's going to happen when we add a bunch of pedestrians, bicycles, in-line skaters and dare-devils on skateboards into the mix.

What's it going to take for drivers around here to get with the program and make an effort to learn how to use a round-about? A fender-bender? One whole side of their car bashed in and scraped up? A few days of inconvenience while their car gets repaired? A hike in their insurance rates?

And what is it going to take for the city to realize that they made a huge mistake? Some serious injuries? Perhaps a death or two? Because if it's statistics that they're looking for I am sure they will soon have more than they need to approve a budget to undo the mess they've made. They need to abolish this stupid round-about and put up traffic lights instead. Sad but true - that's what they should have done in the first place. You can't just throw a two-lane round-about into a busy area and expect everyone to know how it works. If you are not willing to make the effort to do it properly, then you shouldn't do it at all.

Unfortunately the city has the big end of the stick and until somebody's child gets run over and killed nothing is going to change. Realistically, even if there are hundreds of accidents and numerous serious injuries and deaths caused by this round-about the city probably still won't do anything about it. That would mean they would have to admit that they were wrong, and there will be none of that!

I am tired of stressing out every time I have to drive through that death-trap. I'm particularly worried that while I am preoccupied concentrating on the idiot driving on my right (who isn't exiting like they're supposed to and will probably end up cutting me off or side-swiping me) that I will be distracted from seeing a pedestrian or a cyclist who is trying to cross. So from now on I will be taking a huge detour to avoid the round-about. I'll be taking highway 35, turning off at Pierre-Caisse then turning on de Normandie to get to the grocery store. It's bad for the environment and it will cost me more in gas, but at least it will save me from the terror of having to drive through what has basically become a potential bumper-car lot.

Last week I sent a letter to the local newspaper expressing my thoughts on the matter and yesterday I was thrilled to see that they had published my letter (although they had to chop a lot of the good bits out in order to fit it into the allotted space). I am sure there will be some people who will read it and agree with me. What I hope is that those who have no clue how a two-lane round-about works will read the part where I explain that although two lanes lead into the round-about, there is only ONE LANE in the round-about and NO PASSING.

I know - it's like duelling against the big stick using a measly toothpick, but there's really not much else I can do.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The fine line between getting mail and getting our mailbox smashed to smithereens

One of the first things we noticed when we were interested in buying this house in the country was how plain and pathetic the non-descript country mailbox looked, sitting sad and alone on it's pole at the end of the driveway by the road. The previous owners took a lot of pride in decorating the house and bragged incessantly on how much they spent on everything, so the poor old grey galvanized mailbox just didn't fit in. We never questioned the previous owners about it, but resolved to replace the bland, boring mailbox with something cute and country-like after we moved in.

The previous owners explained how the mail system around here works. When the mail car puts something into your mailbox they put the red flag up. We can't see it from the house, but at least we see it when we come into the driveway. The really cool part is that when you want to send out mail, instead of dropping it into one of those big red boxes (of which there aren't any around here) you just put it in your mailbox and put the red flag up. This signals the mail car to stop and pick up your mail. Cool eh?

What we found out pretty quickly when shopping for a country mailbox is that there really aren't many stores that sell them around here, but we did manage to find a cute white mailbox with a red cardinal design on it. So we took down the ugly grey galvanized mailbox and proudly put up our new one.

I think it lasted all of 3 passes of the snow-plow before it got shattered to pieces. Undaunted, we bought another one, but a few weeks later it suffered the same fate as the first one. After rooting around the ditch for the pieces of our fourth mailbox we finally understood why the previous owners didn't have a nice mailbox. The reality of living on a country road with an 80km speed limit is that you really shouldn't get attached to your mailbox...because you aren't going to have it for very long.

On April 1, 2012 we will have been living here for 11 years. I wish I had kept all the receipts, because I am pretty sure in those 11 years we have gone through about 38 mailboxes and my husband and I have had about 34 fights over it. The fights always start the same way. My husband storms into the house, pissed off and ready to kill someone...carrying the remains of our latest mailbox. "That's it! We're not doing this anymore. We're getting a post office box and that's final! No more home mail delivery for us - it's over!" Then he takes his coat and boots off, ceremoniously throws the mailbox into the kitchen garbage, stomps up the stairs and disappears into his office to pout and feel sorry for himself. I have learned the hard way that he is best avoided for two to three days after one of these episodes.

Under different circumstances I would give in. Fine let's get a post office box - whatever! But I know full well that if we do that it will become my job to drive the 24km round trip to the post office to pick up our mail all the time...and it will be my fault if I don't go on a day that he was expecting to receive something in the mail. Don't get me wrong - my husband is a complete sweetheart, but he gets really impatient and crabby when he orders something by mail and he gets completely inconsolable if it doesn't arrive on the day he decides that it's supposed to.

I have spent countless hours online shopping for mailboxes and I have learned one thing. We are not alone. The pole-mounted country mailbox is probably the single most frequently replaced fixture on country homes across North America. There is all kinds of cool stuff out there. There's a mailbox that swings, which is basically a device that swings your mailbox around a 360 degree circle when it gets hit by the plow. Here's a YouTube video that shows how it works:

It probably works fine when your mailbox gets hit at 50km per hour or less, but at the speed ours gets hit, the mailbox will swing around for sure, but it will also get crumpled up and busted.

I also found (but I've lost the link now) a place that sells cast iron mailboxes that weigh in at 300 pounds. They are GUARANTEED to put a dent in the snow-plow!!! But alas there are rules around here. We can't actually have one of those because if a car hits it, or a motorcycle hits it, it has to be installed in a way that the pole will break off instead of slicing the vehicle/motorbike in half. And any pole that would hold up a 300 pound cast iron mailbox would be massive and would have to be planted in cement. So sadly it's not a choice that is available to us.

I did find a really interesting candidate - it's called the indestructible mailbox. There used to be a wickedly fun video to watch about the indestructible mailbox. It was some news reporter who was doing a review on the mailbox. It started out with a professional baseball player breaking his bat with a single, well placed smash to the mailbox. Then it showed a mailbox getting run over by a bulldozer and the mailbox didn't collapse, didn't get crushed or anything. It was pretty amazing. But the really fun part happened when he took the indestructible mailbox out to an army base and had them put a some explosives into it. The first explosion managed to blow out one of the welds, but the mail box was basically still intact. Very impressive. But the guy doing the review wasn't satisfied so he had them put even more explosives into it and this time they managed to blow it to bits. It was awesomely funny to watch. I tried to find the video it but it looks like it's gone :o(

Anyways, over the years we have tried every kind of mailbox available in our area. We were hesitant to spring for the indestructible mailbox because it was something like $250.00USD and it weighs about 50 pounds. We have made numerous inquiries about shipping costs, but we never get any response. So we just keep buying whatever we can find out here - plastic, rubber, metal - whatever and put it out there to face it's fate.

About 4 years ago the snow-plow driver really did a number on us. When we went out to find the mailbox we couldn't even find the pole it was bolted to! The mailbox pole had been amputated so cleanly and completely that we couldn't even tell where it used to be...sliced it clean off at the level of the gravel. Admittedly even I got upset that time and blasphemed against the snow-plow driver, against the city, against winter, the clouds and even against the poor little snowflakes. Now what were we supposed to do?

I drove to the post office and asked their advice. They gave me the low-down on the rules about how the mailbox needs to be set-up in order to receive our mail. The rules were very specific because you can't put the mail delivery person's life in danger, and the mailbox has to conveniently sit where they can access it from the open window of their delivery vehicle. But the most important little tidbit of information I got from the post office lady was that we could call the city and they would make the snow removal company replace our pole and our mailbox! I drove home feeling triumphant - we were going to be getting a brand new mailbox and a new pole too - at the expense and effort of someone else. Finally a little justice!

I think I got transferred around to about 12 different people at the city before I finally was put in touch with the person who actually took down my address and said they would take care of it. And sure enough, the next day a red pick-up truck stopped at the end of our driveway and a couple of guys started digging up the ditch. At first I couldn't figure out what was going on, but then they managed to unearth our crumpled mailbox, still firmly bolted to it's pole. I expected them to throw it into the back of their truck and take off to buy us a new one.

Nothing doing. To my shock and dismay, they started pounding the frozen gravel with a pick axe and replanted the amputated pole - with it's crumpled mailbox still intact.

That's it? That's how you're going to fix my mailbox? Are you kidding me?

When I called the city back and complained they told me it was fixed. I argued my case but they said they had fixed it the best they could - the ground was frozen and that was all they could do. The snow-plow contractor had the big end of the stick -  they were washing their hands of me and my mailbox problem.

The mailbox was no longer at the specified height required by the post office and I was sure our mail would not be delivered anymore. But luckily, our mail carriers - bless their souls - would contort their bodies to get the mail into our dilapidated mailbox...except on windy days. Because the mailbox pole was  round and planted in a round frozen hole the wind could catch the mailbox and swing it around like a weather vein. And on the days that the mailbox wasn't facing the road when the mail car came by, we wouldn't get any mail :o(

So I spent the rest of that winter trying to remember to go out and set our bashed in mailbox-cum-weather-vein at the right angle so that we could get our mail. I didn't bother to do it on really windy days (which is about 50% of the time out here) because by the time I would get my coat and boots off it would have swung around in the wind again.

My husband and I also got busy making plans on how we would install our new mailbox post in the spring. We decided to plant the post in the grass, back from the road with an arm sticking out onto which we would hang the mailbox at the height and distance from the asphalt prescribed by the post office. We figured that  with the post so far back from the road that it wouldn't be in danger of getting hit like it was when it had been planted in the gravel. As spring neared my husband got to work and when he was done he planted this beauty at the end of our driveway:

Pretty sweet eh? All legal-schmegal and up to code and compliant with every requirement that the post office could invent.

Yeah, well don't get excited - we made that mistake. Because, you see, the post office height requirement puts the mailbox - you guessed it - right in range of the business end of the snow-plow. So it doesn't matter where you put your post - your mailbox is still going to get smacked around. We still go through 3 or 4 mailboxes every winter. Thanks to the chains we rarely have to dig around in the ditch to find it though - a good, swift hit from the plow will now send the mailbox spinning up, over and around the arm from which it hangs. After a few good hits the mailbox starts to look pretty pulverized and it usually only takes one snowstorm to rip the door off and make the little red flag disappear.

We've tried everything to try to make the mailbox more visible - we've tried buying colours that contrast with the snow, we've stuck reflectors on the mailbox, we've tried plastering the mailbox with reflective tape - nothing helps. We just seem to be in a bad spot - either that or the plow driver LIKES to smash our mailbox to bits. Maybe he doesn't realize how pissed off it makes my husband. Maybe he doesn't understand that every time we have to replace that damned mailbox that we have a huge fight over it. But more than likely he just doesn't care. If you were out there at 3am, wiping the sleep from your eyes and trying to find the road amongst the snow drifts in a blizzard would you care about hitting some stupid mailbox?

Exactly - probably not.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If you must disturb the peace with your damn snowmobiles, go do it somewhere else!

Whoever decided it would be a good idea to produce snowmobiles that are inexpensive enough to be used for recreational purposes should be shot, after they have been properly tortured.

I completely understand the need for snowmobiles for daily life up north and I know that without snowmobiles many lives would be lost after avalanches and skiing accidents. But there is absolutely no reason that snowmobiles should be used for recreation.

Snowmobiling has got to be the most useless of all recreational sports. It does not benefit the health of the individual, it pollutes, it's noisy and it annoys the folks living close to trails and waterways.

Honestly, I don't understand what happens to normally civilized, well-educated human beings when they park their ass on the back of a snowmobile. Respect and common sense go out the window and they become the most arrogant, stupid creatures on the face of the earth. They have no respect for private property, they blind on-coming drivers with their headlights, they frighten wildlife and they generally behave like a bunch of juvenile delinquents.

I read an article a couple of days ago that mentioned that there have been five fatal snowmobile accidents in Quebec so far this year. Not surprising to me, all five were males over 40 years old. Every winter our news reports contain a smattering of stories about snowmobile drownings, high-speed crashes, fatal accidents caused by snowmobiles crossing highways and the like.

I remember one particularly grisly story many years back about a family of four who went out for a ride on a very cold day, with mom and dad on the snowmobile and the two children being pulled in a sleigh behind. As the parents zoomed around at high speeds having a good time, the children were freezing behind them on the sleigh. The children were screaming for them to stop, but the parents couldn't hear them. When they finally stopped, both of their children's eyes were completely frozen, and they both lost their sight. I have always wondered how that couple managed to live with themselves after doing such a deplorable thing to their precious offspring.

We live out in the cornfields and unfortunately snowmobile clubs in the area make trails through the farmer's fields around here each winter. I don't know if the clubs get permission to make these trails, or if they just do it because like most snowmobilers, they don't consider anything off-limits and they have no respect for anything or anyone.

It only takes one idiot to leave the groomed trail, zoom around our backyard like a maniac, then tear out, full throttle, directly under our bedroom window. Once the snow is broken and that new trail is blazed then every other asshole on a snowmobile has to follow their bad example. Doesn't matter if it's private property, doesn't matter that it's 2am, doesn't matter that we're sleeping. I am so sick and tired of getting torn out of my sleep by snowmobiles on my property, whizzing around with their engines screaming like sewing machines on crack.

I would like to put up signs saying

       PRIVATE PROPERTY

SNOWMOBILES WILL BE USED
     FOR TARGET PRACTICE

 ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK

but I don't like to issue empty threats and apparently it's against the law to shoot at them. It's not against the law for them to ransack my property, to disturb the peace and to pollute so it's pretty obvious who's got the big end of the stick here, right? So much for moving away from the suburbs to get a little peace and quiet.

But wait a minute - hmmm why lookie here - there are rules. Check out this information from the Quebec government site concerning snowmobile operation:

Speed Limit

Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit for snowmobiles is 70 km/h. The speed limit is reduced to 30 km/h within 30 m of a residence, even if no signs are posted.

Riding Near Inhabited Areas

It is illegal to ride within 30 meters of a dwelling, a health establishment, or an area that is reserved for cultural, educational, or sports activities. However, the Act provides for certain exceptions. Snowmobiles must slow down when approaching one of these locations, and be careful not to make too much noise, especially at night!

Respecting the Environment

Snowmobiling is a privilege. In light of this, it is important that users act in a manner that shows consideration for neighboring residents and the environment. Always be sure to respect neighboring residents, the environment, and wildlife.

Respecting Property Rights

MTQ expects you to obey the law and be civic-minded, and asks you to travel on the trails that are marked and maintained by the clubs in your federation. Unfortunately, snowmobilers do occasionally damage the fences installed by MTQ along road rights-of-way in order to travel off marked trails and operate illegally on public roads. The fences and other installations are there for a reason and are intended to ensure your safety and that of road users.

In addition, you must obtain the owner’s permission to ride on private property. Infractions are subject to a fine of $250 to $500.

source: http://www.mtq.gouv.qc.ca/portal/page/portal/grand_public_en/vehicules_hors_route/securite/motoneige

Well-well, well-well-well. So there are rules! It's just that the majority of snowmobilers around here choose to ignore them. So how do I change that?

I can't. The one thing that the government site doesn't bother to mention is how these rules are enforced. Who exactly can I call at 3 in the morning after I've been ripped out of my sleep by some ignorant, disrespectful rule-breaker? The cops? The last time we called the cops it was because there was a poacher out in the woods in our backyard randomly shooting at anything that moved. First the cop on the phone argued with me that it was probably fireworks...like I am too stupid to know the difference between the sound of fireworks and shotgun shots. Ahem. Then they showed up four hours later, sat in their car in our driveway for 5 minutes and left. If we call them for a snowmobile infraction, by the time they get here the snowmobile will be 300 km away.

Oh well, at least there are 5 less snowmobilers so far this year. I know this sounds heartless, and honestly my condolences go out to their families. But it means there are 5 less nuisances who could, potentially, zoom through my backyard showing off just how badly they can behave.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Listen up people - this is important

I don't know why it started or how long it's been going on. All I know is that I've been hearing it more and more often and it has started driving me crazy. This has got to stop.

It's everywhere on American TV these days although it seems to be most rampant on reality shows. What's causing my rant today is the seemingly contagious and almost epidemic corruption of the pronunciation of the word...important.

When did the first of the two T's in the word important become silent? Can somebody explain to me why everybody seems to think it's acceptable to say impor-int instead of important? WTF people!

Does some actor with a speech impediment say it like that and because you think they're cool, you think you'll be cool if you say it like that too? Is it a backwoods, barefoot, hillbilly thing that's gone viral? Is it a black thing? Is this how teachers teach children in the school system to say this word? Help me out here because the cause should be identified so that it can be corrected - and quickly because like a forest fire on a windy day, it's spreading out of control.

I tolerate a lot of mispronunciations on a regular basis. One of them that comes to mind is axe instead of ask. I don't know if people say axe instead of ask because they genuinely do not possess the linguistic ability to make the S and K sounds together in the same word or if it is simply laziness. I guess I would have to find someone who habitually says axe instead of ask and get them to read the following sentence out loud and see what comes out:
      The skinny skank wore a skimpy skirt
If they say "The skinny skank wore a skimpy skirt" I will attribute their axe to laziness, where as if they say "The x-inny x-ank wore a x-impy x-irt", well then they're off the hook I guess.

But people who say impor-int can obviously make a T sound - they're doing it at the end of the word. Why would anybody choose to say this word wrong? I just can't wrap my head around it. Seemingly normal, intelligent people massacring a word as important as...important?

If you tell me something is impor-int to you how on earth am I supposed to take you seriously?

Come on parents! Encourage your children to speak properly and start setting the example to follow. You've got the big end of the stick, and every time you hear one of your children saying impor-int you should correct them so that they learn to say the word the way it is meant to be pronounced. When you go to parent-teacher meetings you should manoeuvre the teacher into saying the word important during your conversation. If they say it wrong let them know that you would appreciate if they would make the effort to pronounce the word correctly because your children's futures depend on being able to present themselves professionally and intelligently, and having correct pronunciation is key to showing that you have a good education.

And for those of you reading this who have no idea what I'm talking about - the correct pronunciation of the word is im-por-tant! There are two Ts and neither of them is silent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Altima (ultimate) piece of krap

Back in the 90's I had an amazing car. It was an Olds Calais quad 442. I loved that car. It was fast, solid, comfortable and the engine growled oh so nicely. It was a real good looking car too. The photo below is not my car (I don't have any good pictures of mine). This photo is of Buddy Norton and Peter Farrell's car - thanks guys for posting this picture on the net! Mine was white and looked exactly the same, spoiler and all - except without all the adverts and cool racing decals.

Man - is that a good looking car or what, eh?

I drove my 442 for thirteen of the best years of my life - from 1991 to 2004. Like all good things, the joys of owning that car had to come to an end when it rusted out and started falling apart. It also started having some pretty serious mechanical problems and like an old beloved pet, with a heavy heart, I decided I had to let it go. It was a really hard decision.

I sold the car to a guy who did ice racing in the winter. The car wasn't running when he bought it and I cried the day he towed it out of the driveway and I watched it disappear down the street for the last time. I was never to see the car again nor to hear anything from the guy who bought it. So I don't know it's ultimate fate. Perhaps he has fixed it all up and it is still racing today, or maybe it was demolished during a race. Who knows? I just hope it went out with a blaze of glory - the car deserved that.

I don't think I can ever love another car as much as I loved that awesome quad 442.

I shopped around quite a bit but there was nothing out there that really got my heart pounding. I ended up leasing a 2005 Nissan Altima for three years. I was in mourning and wasn't ready to make any long-term commitments so that's why I leased it. It was a 2.5SE model - and I ordered it in black. When it came it was charcoal gray - apparently the salesman had misunderstood my colour choice. Whatever. I had no intentions of falling in love with this car so it didn't really matter what colour it was.

The car was OK I guess. Nice and roomy and the engine was all right. The one thing I discovered very quickly, though, is that gray is a really bad colour choice for a car. It began as a subtle thing at first. I would be driving down the street and people would back out of their driveway and almost hit me. But I also noticed when I was driving on the highway that people would change lanes right on top of me...like I wasn't even there. The full realization hit me when birds kept slamming into the car. My gray Altima was invisible...I was a road hazard. I was probably going to die in this car - and because my car was invisible, my dead body would probably never be found.

But as fate would have it, that car and I were not destined to be together. After a couple of months the "Service Engine Soon" light went on. When I got it serviced they said I hadn't screwed on the gas cap tight enough. I drove the car home, but the next day the light came on again (the gas cap was screwed on tight - so it wasn't that). So I took it back and they did whatever they do to turn it off again. When I drove it home it was fine...but the light came on again the next day.

Nissan service kept dicking me around but after the seventh time they finally admitted that the computer was generating an error code that was undocumented by the manufacturer. So what does that mean? Well the girl in the service department explained it to me like this: "You don't need to worry about the light - just keep driving the car and ignore the Service Engine Soon indicator. But if the engine starts stalling for no reason, or if it starts smoking excessively, or if the engine catches on fire, then you should definitely bring it in."

IF THE ENGINE CATCHES ON FIRE???

And she said it to me with a matter-of-fact, straight face like she told this to people every day. Anyways, I thought screw that! I'm not driving this mobile road hazard any more. So I turned around and walked over to a salesman, pled my case and traded up on my lease to a different car. There was no way in hell that I was going to drive around in that ticking time bomb any longer.

I traded up to a black 2005 2.5SL Altima. It was a black beauty with heated leather seats and an awesome Bose sound system. It drove straight as an arrow and was super well insulated and amazingly quiet to drive. It was no 442, but I was managing to really like this car. It was a 4 year lease and during those 4 years I never had any problems with the car and I was really starting to think of purchasing it when the lease expired.

But of course, car manufacturers don't want you to do that. Before the lease expired they invited me in and started schmoozing me and trying to get me to sign a new lease instead of letting me purchase my 4 year old car. They used all kinds of good arguments and admittedly, the new 2-door Altima coupe was a really nice looking car. So I test drove one...it was OK, but the back seat was really small and hard to get into and I was having to drive my aging parents around to doctor's appointments and the like more and more often, so the coupe wasn't a good choice for me.

For the regular 4-door 2.5SL they had a new sporty Aero package that added some spoilers and made the car look a little more sexy, so I let myself get suckered in. I let my 2005 go and got a 2009. What a mistake!

The 2009 Nissan Altima is a cheap piece of junk! A real piece of krap - a mobile scrap heap. I only have myself to blame because I didn't test drive it. It is so cheaply made that I can't even get over it! I don't even know where to start.

Road noise. I guess I'll start here because this is the most aggravating thing for me. After 4 years in my practically sound-proof 2005, I can't believe the number of decibels of road noise that I have to endure in my 2009. I swear that I'm going to end up burning out all of the electric window motors because I keep trying to close the (already closed) windows thinking that one of them must be open and that's why I'm hearing all this horrendous, distracting road noise all the time. There is not one iota of insulation in this car...NONE! One day I bought a case of beer and put it in the trunk. As I drove home I could hear the bottles clinking together in the case as if it were in the seat next to me. How could that be - the case of beer was in the trunk. What the heck are the back seats made out of? Rice paper?

Rattles. Ugh - rattles. I hate rattles, squeaks, buzzes and other annoying noises. I never had any rattles in my 2005. The 2009 is full of them. I spent countless hours at the dealer getting rattles fixed during the first year. There is still one in the dash, another one coming from the back passenger side somewhere, plus every time I turn a corner something goes "hoooo" right next to my left ear...it's driving me f*cking crazy!!! But I give up. Every time you fix a rattle in this car you discover that it was hiding the sound of another rattle, buzz or squeak.

Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap. Everything in this car is cheap. The metal is thin, the leather is thin, the carpets are thin, the plastic is thin and flimsy - everything is cheap and flimsy. They cut so many corners to make this car inexpensive that it is just a cheap piece of krap now. A far cry from the 2005 I had before. Nissan should be ashamed - they took a good car and turned it into a cheap piece of garbage. And no, I'm not just exaggerating because I hate this car - it really is a cheap piece of garbage. You know how cars usually have metal wheel wells? My 2009 Altima does not have metal wheel wells...the wheel wells are made out of felt. I know what you're thinking, but no, it's not felt that is glued to rigid plastic or to metal - hell no - that would count as insulation and there will be none of that! It's just flimsy felt...the kind you make crafts with in elementary school. Flimsy felt with nothing behind it but air.

I've had my fair share of krappy cars in my lifetime, but this one is the biggest disappointment of all. After 4 years of pleasurable driving in my 2005 Altima I can't believe how horrible the 2009 is in comparison.

Now, of course, my bitching and griping has not gone un-noticed at my Nissan dealer. I have literally BEGGED them to let me upgrade to a different car...but this time they won't let me. They say it's not them (the dealer), but that it's Nissan Canada who have changed the wording in the lease so that, in order to get out of the lease, you have to pay it out in full. Nissan has the big end of the stick, see? You can no longer cancel a lease in order to get a new lease...unless of course, Nissan wants you to...like when it is in their best interest. But when it is to keep a long-term, loyal customer happy? Not a chance. Sorry, no can do!

One smart-assed salesman told me "Your mistake isn't that you got a 2009 Altima. Your mistake was that you had a 2005 Altima first." Really? Gee thanks pal. You can crawl back into your cubicle and go back to playing with your dick now.

So I've been stuck with this piece of krap and counting down the number of days until I can rid my driveway of it. Oh Nissan have offered to let me turn it in early, after two years of making me suffer, but only if I got a brand new Nissan - they even offered to waive the vehicle inspection and to give me all kinds of incentives.

But you know what? They've blown it. They don't deserve to have me as a loyal customer anymore. They made me suffer for two years with a car that I don't like, so they can dry-jam it up their exhaust pipe. Now I have the big end of the stick. I'm keeping this piece of garbage until May 1st, 2012 when the lease expires. When I take the car back to them the brakes will be finished, the tires will be worn out, the batteries in the remotes will be dead, the car will be dirty, the gas tank will be empty and the car will be so full of rattles, squeeks and buzzes that they might just drown out all the f*cking road noise. I wish I could max out the mileage too, but I just can't stand driving the damn thing enough to max it out.

Apparently the 2009 was a disaster and they put the quality back in the 2010 and 2011 models, but I am not really in a position to vouch for that because they wouldn't let me change my car. They needed suckers to pawn off their krappy 2009s to and I was one of them.

I don't know what to expect with the 2012s and I don't really care either. After dropping off my Altima at Nissan next May, I will be walking across the street to Dodge to treat myself to a brand new Charger.

Sayonara Nissan!